Modern Pentecostalism began in 1901 under the leadership of Charles Fox Parham (1873-1929), and spread rapidly around the world in the 1970s. It continues today with some changes to its doctrines.
This brief article looks at some of the more interesting aspects of Pentecostalism.
The pentecostalism we have today had its beginnings in 1901 and is properly titled, neo-pentecostalism. Neo meaning new. It is new because there have been several pentecostal movements in the past. One notable movement involved Edward Irving. Erving was a Presbyterian minister who served in London from 1822 till his early death in 1834. I won't say Irving led the movement, because, although he was a very capable preacher, he took seriously the several charismatic voices in his Church, with ultimately,disasterous consequences. The final disaster for him eminated from his taking notice of a prophet in his Church who, speaking 'in the Spirit', declared that he was to leave London and go to Glasgow because God had a great work for him to do there. Irving set out on the journey, even though he was in poor health. He believed God would not only heal him, but would work powerfully through him in his ministry in Glasgow. Irving arrived in Glasgow in the middle of winter in a very weak condition. The powerful display of healing and preaching under the power of God did not eventuate. Irving was able to preach on just two Sundays to a small congregation while seated in a chair. He was soon confined to a bed where he ultimately died at the age of just forty-two. Given the several failings of this group, it is no surprise that pentecostalism did not gain a solid permanent presence in England until after an African-American congregation in Los Angeles engaged in 'tongues' in 1906.
The interesting story of the English Charismatic/Pentecostal group is told in "The Life of Edward Irving" by Arnold Dallimore (Banner of Truth, 1983).
The Azusa Street Revival
In 1906, an African-American preacher by the name of William Seymour who was a follower of the teachings of Charles Fox Parham, took his small congregation to a rented building at 312 Azusa Street, Los Angeles, California, USA.
The teachings of Charles Parham included the idea that speaking in tongues was the essential evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit having taken place in the individual. This teaching is in opposition to that of Jesus who gave the promise that all those who believe in him would receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:38). 'Whoever' means everyone, not just some of those who believe in him.
Seymour’s (mostly African-American) congregation placed a lot of emphasis on personal experiences, especially the experience of speaking in tongues. The services were loud, emotional and out of control. Seymour invited Parham over to Azusa Street to bring some decent order to the services. This he failed to do.
The fact that people were speaking in tongues - a real novelty in those days - caused many to investigate, including the newspapers. Among those who decided to blend in with the congregation were people from the occult.
Frank Bartleman, a supporter of the work, gave a detailed written account of the events at Azusa Street. His report is available today in a book titled, “Azusa Street”, in this book he tries to put the happenings in the best possible light, however, he had this to say, “We had the most to fear from the working of evil spirits within. Even spiritualists and hypnotists came to investigate, and to try their influence. Then all the religious sore-heads and crooks and cranks came, seeking a place in the work. We had the most to fear from these.” This comment shows that the Holy Spirit was not present in a powerful way at Azusa Street.
When the Holy Spirit comes upon a group in a powerful way, evil practices are banished. See Acts chapter eight. Bartleman goes on to say, “... This condition cast a fear over many which was hard to overcome. It hindered the Spirit much. Many were afraid to seek God, for fear the devil might get them. ... We dared not call the attention of the people too much to the working of the evil. Fear would follow.” (Frank Bartleman, “Azusa Street”, Whitaker House, 1982, p. 47).
No sound Christian can believe for a moment that the apostles were fearful of evil spirits after their baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8, 2:1-4, 4:13). It is amazing that a group of Christians can believe the Holy Spirit was at work in a place where a fear of the devil is dominant. What the people at Azusa Street had was glossolalia, not the speaking in tongues (other languages) as described in the book of Acts, (Acts 2:5-11, 10:44-47). Glossolalia, “... is the spontaneous utterance of uncomprehended and seemingly random vocal sounds” (Glossolalia, The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 415).
As for tongues which are a genuine work of God, we are informed that God gave tongues to the Apostles in this manner, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:4). This passage is clear on the point that the Apostles spoke in other tongues, not in a tongue which they had previously learned. Furthermore, this was done by the power of the Holy Spirit; “... as the Spirit enabled them.”
I emphasise the above point because many of those who engage in glossolalia try to claim that the Apostles simply uttered incomprehensible sounds, and the listeners had a miracle of hearing in their own language. However, this claim is completely at odds with Acts 2:4. This blessing by God whereby his specially appointed men (the Apostles) speak in another language so that others understand and are blessed, is the opposite to the incident at the Tower of Babel where He brings a form of punishment on the God-rebelling workers so that they speak, but are not able to understand each other (Gen. 11-6-8).
With respect to the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon the early Church as recorded in Acts, it is helpful to understand that it followed a logical progression. The baptism of the Holy Spirit went to the Jews before any other group, and followed a logical order:
Regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles, the Bible states, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, ‘Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.’” (Acts 10:44-47).
In this passage we see that the Gentiles were speaking in tongues and praising God. Praising God requires intelligible tongues. This is the same type of tongues as in Acts chapter two where it is noted that the Apostles, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, spoke in languages. They ... began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:4).
When Gentiles spoke in tongues for the first time, they had the same type of tongues experience as the Apostles. The Bible reports, “... these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”(Acts 10:47). (emphasis added).
- The Jews (Acts ch. 2).
- The Samaritans (Acts ch. 8).
- The Gentiles (Acts ch. 10).
What is not often understood is that the tongues of 1 Corinthians chapter fourteen is quite different to that of the incidents recorded in Acts. The tongue speaker in 1 Corinthians fourteen is edified, “... He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. (1 Cor. 14:4). The big question here is, what sort of edification is it? It can’t possibly be an intellectual edification, because the speaker does not understand what he is saying, nor does anyone else. “... he utters mysteries with his spirit.” (1Cor. 14:2). 'Mysteries' in the sense that nobody understands what is being spoken.
Please note that it is not God who is doing the edification, the Bible states that he ‘edifies himself’ (14:4). Furthermore, he utters the mysteries with 'his spirit'. The mysteries are not uttered by the power of the Spirit of God. The argument is extended to prayer and singing. "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful." (14:14). A literal translation of 'my spirit prays' is 'spirit of me prays'. The Corinthian Church had departed from the teaching of Christ who said, "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words." (Matt. 6:7). Jesus informs us, "This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in Heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done ..." (Matt. 6:9-10). Note; we are to communicate to our heavenly Father in a clear intelligible manner.
Regarding singing, the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthian Church. " ... I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind." (14:15). Clearly, mindless praying and singing is condemmned.
Back in the 1970s and 80s, out of curiosity, I occasionally visited Pentecostal Churches where there was 'singing in the spirit'. The belief at the time was that the singing was under the influence of the Holy Spirit. In reality, it was the spirit of man uttering sounds in a random mindless manner.
This chapter condemns the practice where there is an emotional edification without intellectual gain. For more on this point, see my paper, “Tongues In The Light Of 1 Corinthians 14".
I have been investigating tongues from time to time since I first came across the practice in 1969. What I look for in Christians is a change which is of real substance, not just superficial enthusiasm. What I have discovered in the more than forty years of investigation is that overall, tongues (glossolalia - ecstatic speech) is of no real benefit, in fact, in many cases, it appears to be a hindrance to real growth. There are countless cases where people have grown in the faith since leaving the tongue speaking practice (glossolalia) behind.
Glossolalia grew in the Church from 1906 (the Azusa Street revival) until February 1988 when Jimmy Swaggart, who was a prominent Pentecostal TV evangelist, publically confessed, “I have sinned” (‘Time’ magazine, 21 February 1988). It later emerged that he was engaging in sexual acts (not sexual intercourse) with a prostitute. Soon after that time, the Assembly of God denomination ceased estatic speach (glossolalia) in their services and made efforts to get back to teaching the Bible.
There are many cases of non-Christians engaging in golssolalia. I will mention one documented case below.
(Uploaded on 07 April 2016).
Glossolalia and the case of Norma Holt
Norma Holt tells of her spiritual journey in a self-published book titled, ‘Religion Versus God’ (© 2000). Her experiences included healing of her sinus problem and glossolalia - although she rather inaccurately refers to it as speaking in tongues. On page seventeen of her book, she states that she was “led to offer healing and miracles became almost common place.” She reports that, “... learning increased power as visions and revelations came in abundance. I was hungry for knowledge and was fed only by the Spirit.” (p. 17). Norma resigned work in March 1984 to be more fully engaged in presenting the teaching she was receiving in visions. A Pentecostal pastor delivered a message which confirmed that it was God’s will.
On page twenty-three of her book, Norma reports that she was healed instantly of a common cold in a Pentecostal service. She states that the ‘Spirit flooded me.’ She also had water baptism at the same church. One does not have to read far into the book before it becomes apparent that Norma is trying to convey the idea that she is one very spiritually powerful lady. She speaks of power increasing within her (p. 17) and of having a powerful witness. On one occasion, overwhelming power forced her to lie down (p. 18). She even reports twice on the one page that she received power (p. 27).
Norma further reports that a tongues message was given at her Pentecostal church, and the man who was deemed to have the gift of interpretation said to her, “Fear not my daughter, what you are doing is my will and I am with you. I will lead you in a new and difficult teaching. Many will turn away from you and be put off but don’t despair. I will lead and guide you ...” (p. 24).
The discerning Christian will reject the claim that the above message was from God because of the many false visions which indicate they are not from God. For instance, on page twenty-five of her book and on the front cover we have the false claim that Jesus should have been taken off the cross to escape suffering. She reports, “A month after my baptism and while in that same place. I stood waiting while communion elements were being distributed. The power increased when suddenly before me stood a man on a cross. His head hung when he lifted it and looked me in the eyes and called my name, ‘Norma’. Inside I heard the words: ‘Take me off the cross.’” (p. 25). She reports that this revelation was given to her in 1985.
For large image of the book, click on link Go
Other false ideas Norma promotes in her book are:
The number of non-Christians engaging in glossolalia is quite large. In the 1970s, many in the Charismatic and Pentecostal group of the Church became excited when large numbers in the Roman Catholic Church gained what they thought was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. However, when conversations started with the Charismatic Catholics, it soon became apparent that they did not have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The experience of glossolalia drove many Catholics to religious devotion, including a devotion to Mary. Their religious experience was devoid of any real work of the Holy Spirit which always leads to a repentance of sins, and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. A true work of the Holy Spirit leads the Christian away from error as he studies the Word of God.
- There is no Son of God (p. 3).
- The second coming of Jesus Christ is a lie (p. 15).
- The New Testament is a deception and there is added material in the Old Testament (p. 18).
- Heaven and Hell are nothing but mystical places. Death is pleasant (p. 7).
- There is no Father God or crucified saviour (p. 7).
- The Spirit communicates through tongues (not the Bible). (p. 8).
- The New Testament supports idolatry (idols) (p. 10).
The growth of glossolalia in the 1970s was quite rapid. Several things were promised to those who gained the glossolalia experence. Firstly, the baptism of the Holy Spirit; referred to by many in the early 1970s as 'the second baptism'. Other benefits followed such as; power to witness, power to overcome sin and protection from attacks from the devil. Basically, if you had glossolalia, you had a victorious Christian life because you were now a more spiritually powerful person. I kept a close eye on Christians around me to see if the claim matched the evidence. My observation was that the claim did not match the evidence. Those who were weak and insecure in the faith were the first to gain the experience of glossolalia. One chap who was in my bible study group (around 1972, we were both in the Air Force at the time) was quite excited about gaining the glossolalia experience. Apparently his Church was also excited because they got him to preach on a few occasions - which I thought was strange because he was a fairly new Christian. One day he left his car out in a thunderstorm and it received hail damage. For some weeks, he stopped going to Church because God did not protect his car! At that point, I began to doubt the claim that those who engaged in glossolalia were stronger Christians.
The Pentecostal/Charismatic message has a major and dangerous flaw with its claim that a certain experience can make the Christian strong. Mainstream Christianity is correct when it claims in the words of a hymn, 'I am weak, but thou art strong'. In other words, the direction of faith is not to the supposedly 'strong self', but rather, to almighty God. The eye of faith looks outward, not inward.
Thankfully, the message that a Christian must engage in glossolalia as evidence of being spiritually strong is not prevalant today. It was a message which didn't make sense because men who were greatly used of God to proclaim the faith didn't engage in glossolalia. Men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Wycliffe, George Whitefield, John Wesley, Hudson Taylor, Charles Haddon Spurgeon - known as the prince of preachers, Dwight L Moody, and Billy Graham who was the world's foremost evangelist in the1950s through to the end of the 1980s.
Such men prayerfully relied upon God to sustain them in their work which they performed with great success. Not only were the above men successful in the work God gave them to do, they were also successful in their personal lives in that they did not fall to the temptations of this world. They were men of good character.
An investigation of tongues in the United States
In the 1970s when the practice of engaging in glossolalia was spreading rapidly in the Churches, the American Lutheran Church engaged two psychologists and a professor of NT studies to examine the phenomenon. The investigation was thorough, and included the recording and examination of tongues from various speakers across the North American Continent. John Kildahal, a clinical psychologist and part of the team, published a book titled, “The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues”, © 1972. It is based primarily on the conclusions of their study, one of the conclusions being that the tongue speakers were not speaking a foreign language. There was nothing in the supposedly miraculous speech that indicated information of any type was being conveyed. A concern at the time was over whether or not the activity produced psychological harm. The conclusion was that it (glossolalia) is benign in its psychological effect on the speaker (no psychological harm).
Regarding its doctrinal effect, my observation and that of many others is that glossolalia has no effect in shaping the doctrinal position of the speaker – it does not of itself, move the speaker in any particular doctrinal direction, although it can give a greater enthusiasm for the doctrines and practices held to by the speaker. For instance, when Roman Catholics began to speak in tongues, many reported a greater devotion to the mass, and to the worship of Mary. While glossolalia may give added devotion to currently held ideas – even false ones, the practice does not necessarily prevent a radical change from one idea to another. I will explain what I mean by this from personal experience involving a couple of boarders I had in my house a few years back. One of the young men spoke in tongues regularly in the early hours of the morning. His glossolalia started roughly between 05:30 and 06:00 am, and lasted for around half an hour. He gained his glossolalia abilities thorough a Pentecostal Church he regularly attended. My other boarder (a Christian) was concerned about the mutterings coming from the next room. His concern was that it could be communication with evil spirits. I was able to assure him that his glossolalia was not coming from any outside spiritual activity, but rather from his own spirit.
After several weeks, the man engaging in glossolalia was having significant personal struggles. Because his problems were not alleviated in the way he desired, he turned his allegiance away from Christ. I overheard him convey to two people on separate occasions that he had decided to abandon Christianity and follow Satan. In doing this, he reasoned that things would turn out better for him. He had made a good outward show of being a Christian through going to Church carrying a Bible, however, when troubles came, he left the Church and went back to the ways of the world. The interesting thing through all this was his glossolalia. While he presented himself as a strong Christian, he engaged in glossolalia in the early hours of the morning, and it lasted for around half and hour. When he switched allegiance to Satan, he started his glossolalia at the same time, and it was of the same duration, and of the same intensity. There was not the slightest change in his glossolalia, it became clear to people who heard him that it was something he loved to do regardless of the beliefs he was holding to at the time. This is further confirmation that glossolalia comes from the person’s own spirit, and not from the Holy Spirit as is sometimes alleged. In acts chapter two, we are informed that the tongues of the apostles conveyed an intelligent message. “… we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:11). Modern day tongues (glossolalia to use the correct term) do not convey an intelligent message. The clear teaching of 1 Corinthians 14 is that Christians should not engage in glossolalia in Church. If what is conveyed can’t be interpreted, the practice should not continue. The Bible warns us, “… Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.” (1 Corinthians 14:9). The message here is clear, don’t engage in glossolalia.
Pentecostalism is very open to emotional experiences. The 1970s saw a rapid growth in the number of people engaging in glossolalia. Those who spoke in tongues typically presented themselves to others with a big smile on their faces, of having an extra measure of the Holy Spirit, and of being on top of the world. Never mind that a close examination of the lives of some could reveal no change in a wrong attitude and behaviour since taking on the practice of glossolalia. In the context of the hype at the time around speaking in tongues, and the expectation that in some instances, a person could feel a very strong presence from God if he prayed hard enough in a location away from the distractions of the world, a Baptist Pastor decided to get close to God through a time of quiet meditation and prayer on top of a mountain. He prayed and prayed that he might feel God’s power come upon him. Eventually he found himself in the middle of a very powerful experience. It was a wonderful experience of very powerful love. He described the experience as “wave after wave of powerful divine love flowing over him”. He was immersed in the experience when it occurred to him that he should test the spirit as commanded in the Bible to see where it is from (1 John 4:1-3). He asked the spirit, “Did Jesus Christ come in the flesh to die for sinners?” Very suddenly the experience stopped. At this point it was obvious to the pastor that the experience was not from God, but rather, from the evil one. The pastor repented of blindly seeking an emotional experience, and dedicated himself to following Christ, even though it may require some hardship on his part and times of not feeling wonderful. This shared experience through an article he wrote in a Christian paper is a sober warning to not follow the path of feelings. If the pastor had decided to follow the path of ‘wonderful feelings’, the evil one would have had an excellent opportunity to divert him from the path of an important ministry. Regarding experiences, I will hasten to add at this point that every Christian has the inner assurance coming from God that he or she is a child of God (Galatians 4:6). Also, Christians will have various experiences arising from that relationship. The most important experience that a person can have is to know Jesus Christ as savior, and to grow into the likeness of Christ. The experience of growing into the likeness of Christ should not be set aside in favour of a cheap emotional experience offered by the evil one. Many great saints shine after being forged in the fiery trials of this world (James 1:2-4).
(Uploaded on 01 July 2016, Expanded in November 2016, April 17).
Albany Creek 4035