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Gerald W. King: Streams of Convergence

This paper sketches a broad outline of the relationships governing fundamentalism, modernism, and Pentecostalism in the first half of the twentieth century in the United States. Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism were tangentially aligned through a common nineteenth century evangelical ethos via the holiness movement. Modernism shared with Pentecostalism certain aspects of Pietism but diverged dramatically in its rationalistic approach to Scripture. Fundamentalism and modernism agreed in this rationalist endeavour but parted over the role of the supernatural in Christianity. A mutual distrust of modernism and their shared evangelical ethos led ultimately to cooperation between fundamentalists and Pentecostals by the beginnings of World War II.


PentecoStudies, vol. 7, no. 2, 2008, p. 64-84

Gerald W. King, Streams of Convergence

ISSN 1871-777691

Streams of Convergence

The Pentecostal-Fundamentalist Response to Modernism


Gerald W. King
University of Birmingham


In his presidential address to the twenty-second gathering of the Society for Pentecostal Studies in 1992, William Faupel postulated that Pentecostalism was a reaction to Fundamentalism rather than to Modernism and in fact had more in common with the latter than with the former.1 With George Fry (1976), he contended that both Modernism and Pentecostalism “…[were] rooted in Pietism as mediated through Wesleyanism” (Faupel, 1993: 23). While there is merit in this suggestion, I would argue that the resemblance here is more incidental than substantial. True, as Faupel points out, both movements emphasized the Spirit and had an aversion to creedalism. No doubt both would have agreed with Methodist evangelist Sam Jones that creeds belonged to museums and not churches. But Pentecostals desired freedom in the Holy Spirit while Modernists sought freedom of the human spirit. Pentecostals did not want creeds to prevent their experience of worship; modernists did not want creeds to prevent their experience of society. In short, the pentecostal perspective was otherworldly while the modernist one was this-worldly. Furthermore, Faupel underestimates the degree to which Pietism as mediated through the Keswick movement effected Fundamentalism.

Pentecostals were opposites to Modernists in many ways. They danced in the Spirit during worship while Modernists danced in the flesh outside of it. Pentecostals took their vacations at Bible camps while Modernists vacated to the boardwalks of Atlantic City. Pentecostals sang boisterously and out of key while Modernists sang solemnly and in tune. Pentecostals bought and distributed gospel tracts while Modernists purchased Dickens and Freud. Pentecostal magazines advertised tents for evangelistic campaigns while modernist ones advertised bookshelves for reading groups.

And though the relationship between Fundamentalists and Pentecostals was initially antagonistic, this should not obscure the similarities they possessed. They shared a common heritage in nineteenth century Evangelicalism, identified by David Bebbington (1989: 2-19) as having four emphases: biblicism, conversionism, crucicentrism and activism. Applying studies in population ecology to religious movements as Robert Wuthnow and Matthew Lawson (1994) have done, one notes that similar groups often compete for the same resources, namely the time and money of parishioners. In other words, the rivalry between them was one of proximity rather than of distance. At the early stages, Modernists were not much concerned with Pentecostals and vice versa while Fundamentalists engaged with both. This paper briefly explores the relationship amongst these three groups.

Fundamentalism and Modernism

Modernism in America represented an accommodation to scientific developments of the post-Civil War era. Three planks supported its position. First, Modernists applied the techniques of higher criticism to the Bible, treating it as a product of time and culture rather than as a supernatural product inspired by God. Many came to doubt the accuracy of its historical rendering and accounts of God’s intervention in nature, preferring instead to see miracles as a result of natural causes. Second, Modernists’ intellectualism reconciled Darwin’s theories of human origins with the creation story recorded in Genesis. ‘Theistic evolution’ fit tidily with their assumption concerning the progress of man, disseminated through works like Henry Ward Beecher’s Evolution and Religion (1885), Lyman Abbot’s The Evolution of Christianity (1892) and Henry Drummond’s The Ascent of Man (1894). Third, the social gospel came to replace revivalism as the means of salvation. Proponents like Washington Gladden (1901) and Walter Rauschenbusch (1907) claimed that society could be reformed through mass program rather than through individual redemption.

Modernism grew most quickly in northern churches with Calvinist backgrounds: Baptists, Congregationalists and Presbyterians. Those who advocated these ideals from pulpit and lectern came increasingly under pressure from conservatives. David Swing, a Presbyterian minister in Chicago, was the first to be tried for heresy in 1874 (Hutchison, 1976: 48-53). The popular preacher however escaped censure by resigning his post and establishing an independent church of some 3000 members. Congregationalists would successfully block the instillation of James Merriam in 1877 and unsuccessfully that of Theodore Munger in 1883 (Hutchison, 1976: 77). Baptists barred Ezra Gould in 1882 and Nathaniel Schmidt in 1896 from teaching in their seminaries (Marsden, 1980: 105). However, conservatives could not prevent the tide of liberalism from sweeping over their denominations as their power waned towards the end of the century. The two groups maintained an uneasy tension until after World War I when ‘all hell broke loose’, literally or figuratively depending on your disposition.

For its part, proto-Fundamentalism coalesced around premillennial and higher critical themes in the prophecy movement, which had two leading venues, Niagara (1880-1899) and the sporadically produced International Prophecy Conferences (1878-1918) – known at first as the American Bible and Prophecy Conference (Beale, 1986: 23-33, 47-67). Unlike postmillennialists, who predicted the amelioration of the world through advances in medicine and education, premillennialists expected the conditions of the world to worsen before Christ would rapture the church prior to his millennial reign. A more distinct version of premillennialism called dispensationalism gained currency with many pre-tribulational premillennialists. The death of Niagara founder James Brookes and a subsequent dispute between pre- and post-tribulationalists concerning the timing of Christ’s advent spelled the end of the conference. However, a dispensationalist conference under A.C. Gaebelein and C.I. Scofield at Sea Cliff, New Jersey (1900-1910) took its place and resulted in the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909 (Beale, 1986: 35-36).

To this concern was added the conservative scholarship of the Princeton theologians B.B. Warfield and A.A. Hodge, who defended the inerrancy of Scripture against higher criticism in a series of articles in the Presbyterian Review from 1881-1883 (Noll, 1991: 15-27). Historian George Marsden (1980: 15-18) has traced the philosophical roots of the fundamentalist movement to Thomas Reid and Scottish Common Sense Realism, which famed lexicographer Samuel Johnson once demonstrated by kicking a rock and stating, “See, it’s a rock.” As a result, a strict literalism developed in Fundamentalism which would have made A.A. Hodge’s father Charles uncomfortable. As the perennial critic of Fundamentalism James Barr (1981: 263) has noted, higher criticism left little ‘wiggle’ room for conservatives to compromise. This has led some to judge Fundamentalism for its extreme rationalism.2 To counteract higher criticism, A.C. Dixon, Louis Meyer and R.A. Torrey edited a twelve volume series called The Fundamentals (1910-1915), financed by oil magnates Lyman and Milton Stewart.3

A third element, the Keswick movement, had its origins in the American holiness movement, exported to England by Robert Pearsall Smith in Oxford (1874) and Brighton (1875) and propagated by his wife Hannah in The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (1873), which had sold over 150,000 copies by 1895 (Barabas, 1952: 17-18). Mediated through Reformed Anglicanism, the Keswick convention in England’s picturesque Lake District formulated a distinctive spirituality which emphasized the Holy Spirit’s empowering the believer to overcome sin and to work more effectively for God (Faupel, 1996: 85-86). Surrounded by nature, Keswick had something of the Romantic in it.4 The teaching was shipped back to America by F.B. Meyer at the invitation of D.L. Moody at his Northfield Conferences in Massachusetts and was quickly imbibed by associates like A.T. Pierson, R.A. Torrey, and C.I. Scofield.

The events of World War I confirmed Fundamentalists’ predictions concerning the demise of civilization, but more importantly to the movement, exposed the moral threat which evolution and atheism posed (Weber, 1979: 105-108). Liberal postmillennialists and conservative premillennialists found themselves in a pitched battle over the future of America. Evangelicals were at the beginning of the war overwhelmingly pacifists who believed a Christian America had no right to participate in a degenerate European war which anticipated the coming of the antichrist.5 Such pacifism led University of Chicago professor Shirley Case Jackson to hint that premillennialists had secretly been funded by the Kaiser to keep America out of the war (Weber, 1979: 120). Torrey replied that while Jackson could not prove his false allegations, he knew exactly from whence higher criticism had been imported: Germany.

Further, supposed German atrocities reported in the American press provided proof positive that evolution and scepticism would result in moral collapse. In their eyes, social Darwinism had been played out on a national scale to devastating effect. The often inflammatory baseball evangelist Billy Sunday declared that if you turned hell upside down you would find ‘Made in Germany’ stamped on the bottom (Marsden, 1980: 142). Fundamentalists were alarmed that American culture was headed in the same direction, and the fight to ban evolution from being taught in public schools became the personal crusade of W.J. Bryan, culminating in the Scopes trial in Tennessee in 1925 (Larson, 1997: 31-59).

Responding to the attacks of postmillennialists, leaders in the prophecy movement decided to broaden their approach to meet the liberal challenge on the cultural front. They met in the conference home of R.A. Torrey in Montrose, Pennsylvania in the summer of 1918 and planned their assault in the form of a World’s Christian Fundamentals Conference in May 1919 held in Philadelphia. The World’s Christian Fundamentals Association (hereafter: WCFA) was birthed with William Bell Riley as its president.6

Pentecostals and Fundamentalism

Theologically, Pentecostals were closer to Fundamentalists than other groups in their eschatological views.7 Both were ardent premillennialists who believed that a great revival would precede the rapture of the church in glory. Early Pentecostals saw themselves as the last great push to world evangelization through the gift of missionary tongues and predicted the return of Christ within a few years (Anderson, 2007, 58-62). Aside from isolated cases, however, it soon became apparent that most missionaries would have to endure the strains of language learning. This disappointment was coupled with a realization that Christ had not come back as soon as some had hoped. With the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909, the gloomier aspects of dispensationalism crept into pentecostal journals. The Bridegroom’s Messenger [edited by Elizabeth Sexton from the Pentecostal Mission in Atlanta, Georgia (1907-1916)], for instance, introduced “The Laodicean Age” in March of that year (Sexton, 1909: 1), while Albert Norton proclaimed that the professing church had ‘drifted into apostasy’ in June (Norton, 1909: 3), and in June 1911 it highlighted “The Growing Apostasy” (anonymous, 1911: 4), themes absent in pre-1909 issues. By the time of World War I, many periodicals had adopted the dire outlook of dispensational thought.

Fundamentalist terminology also found its way into pentecostal literature. One obvious example was the Assemblies of God ‘Statement of Fundamental Truths’, fashioned in 1916, just one year after The Fundamentals had been completed. In the same issue announcing the council which formed this statement, the Weekly Evangel approved of the Presbyterian Church’s affirmation of the ‘fundamentals’ in its doctrinal statement. The editors noted, “The churches are awakening to the danger confronting them through the attacks of deluded ministers on the Fundamentals of the Faith” (anonymous, 1916: 7).8 In a less obvious rapport, the Massachusetts paper Word and Work titled its column regarding campmeetings ‘Echoes’, the same appellation used by Northfield Conference to publish its meetings a short distance away.9 Furthermore, articles were often reprinted from fundamentalist magazines such as King’s Business (BIOLA), Christian Workers Magazine (Moody), Christian Alliance (CMA) and Our Hope (New York).

At the same time, Pentecostals came under severe criticism from the Fundamentalists. A.T. Pierson, editor of Missionary Review of the World, initially approved of reports by Minnie Abrams (1906: 619-620) of pentecostal phenomenon at the Mukti Mission in Pune, India, but in July 1907 turned against the movement, remarking on the ‘hysteria’ to which women were susceptible (Pierson, 1907a: 487-492; Pierson, 1907b: 682-684). A.C. Gaebelien, editor of Our Hope, reprinted this article the following month and himself became a vociferous opponent of Pentecostalism (Pierson, 1907c: 35-42). William B. Riley, pastor of First Baptist in Minneapolis, preached against the movement in August, although he did not reject the possibility of tongues outright. At the conclusion of his sermon he encouraged those who did possess the genuine gift to praise God for it ‘as an additional evidence of the enduement of the Spirit’ (Riley, 1907: 16). A.C. Dixon, pastor of Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, spoke against the movement sometime in 1908. A voice however rang out from the gallery at the end in protest, “Dr. Dixon, this is the rottenest sermon you ever preached!” (Urshan, 1967: 85-86). In all these condemnations, none except Gaebelein would use the ‘cessation of apostolic gifts’ argument against the movement. Many Fundamentalists at the time believed in the continuation of miracles as a defense against Modernism and advocated divine healing in their ministries.10

In the early 1920s healing however became a major issue around which both groups rallied. The touchstone of this controversy was Aimee Semple McPherson. McPherson held healing revivals in fundamentalist related churches in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia amongst Methodists and in San Jose, California amongst Baptists. McKendree Memorial Church pastor Charles Shreve hosted McPherson in Washington in March 1920 (Shreve, 1920: 13; Shreve, 1922: 13-15). At the end of the year in Philadelphia, L.W. Munhall, a senior leader among Methodist Fundamentalists, spoke glowingly of McPherson’s crusade at Mount Airy Methodist and licensed her for ministry (Wilson, 1920: 20; McPherson, 1921: 14). In San Jose, pastor William Keeney Towner was baptized in the Spirit in August 1922 after having ordained a willing McPherson into his church earlier in March (Sutton, 2003: 172-73; anonymous, 1923a: 10-11). Shreve became an evangelist and brought Santa Cruz Baptist preacher J.N. Hoover into the Pentecostal experience at Towner’s church in 1925 (Hoover, 1930a: 7). Through McPherson’s efforts, Pentecost was making in-roads among Fundamentalists at a nationally recognized level.

In 1921, McPherson published her sermons on healing through Lyman Stewart, using the same press that published The Fundamentals (Sutton, 2003: 171). W.J. Bryan, who had spoken at Angelus Temple, confessed that he had changed his thinking on healing after hearing her preach (Sutton, 2003: 180). R.A. Torrey, dean at BIOLA, was not so approving. In Divine Healing (1924), he objected not so much to the doctrine as to the practices of certain ‘adventurers and adventuresses’ (Torrey, 1974: 6-7). Jesus did not hold mass rallies to draw attention to himself, nor did anyone he touch fail to be healed. Bosworth responded with Christ the Healer (1924), a compilation of sermons hurriedly published after his Toronto campaign in May. He pointed out to detractors that healing events were often the avenue through which conversions came (Bosworth, 1924: 73). Church of God overseer F.J. Lee added his own thoughts on the subject with a twenty-eight page pamphlet in 1925, although his content differed little from other Pentecostals. Other Fundamentalists weighed in on the issue, with A.C. Gaebelein arguing against it in The Healing Question (1925) and John Roach Straton arguing for it in Divine Healing in Scripture and Life (1927). Straton, the ‘pope’ of Fundamentalism, hired pentecostal ‘child-evangelist’ Uldine Utley for the youth of his Calvary Baptist, where his son received the baptism in the Spirit (anonymous, 1927a: 9).

In the 1920s the Assemblies of God as a denomination was looking more like their fundamentalist peers. Dispensationalism was taught at Central Bible Institute, the Scofield Bible was ‘highly recommended’ to Bible students and regularly advertised in the Pentecostal Evangel (except for a two year ban from 1924-1926), and prophetic messages were given throughout churches with dispensational charts by evangelists like Finis J. Dake and Ora De Von (anonymous, 1926: 2-3; anonymous, 1927b: 15-16). ‘Prophetic’ by this point did not mean utterances in the Spirit but studies on Daniel and Revelation. Bible conferences, which had been foreign in the early years, became standard events. A.S. Copley began one in Kansas City in 1924, where only two books were discussed – Daniel and Revelation (Franklin, 1969: 80-81). The first regional Bible conference in the Assemblies of God was for the Southern Missouri District in 1924 (anonymous, 1925: 12). From 1920 onwards Stanley Frodsham published a column in the Pentecostal Evangel successively called “The Editor’s Notes”, “The Passing and the Permanent”, “The Outlook and the Uplook”, and “The Dying World and the Living Word”, culled from fundamentalist periodicals and contemporary newspapers, reporting events of apocalyptic import.

David McDowell declared that Pentecostals were ‘Fundamentalists plus’ in 1924, meaning that they had the power of the Spirit and the Word of God. Frodsham added that they stood ‘one hundred per cent’ with those who taught the inerrancy of Scripture (Frodsham, 1924: 4). The WCFA voted to repudiate Pentecostalism in 1928, although the motion did not pass unanimously (Spittler, 1994: 115-16). It is likely that they were responding to Modernists attempts to lump the two movements together (Riley, 1926: 31-35). Frodsham took umbrage in an article titled “Disfellowshiped”, again voicing Pentecostals’ affinity with fundamentalist theology (Frodsham, 1928: 7). Though officially ostracized, he reminded the saints to refrain from bitterness and to love and bless those who put them ‘without the camp’.

The Church of God evinced a growing shift towards Fundamentalism as well – albeit belated compared to the Assemblies of God. The Church of God declared their solidarity with Baptist Fundamentalists when the latter gathered in Indianapolis in 1922. A.J. Tomlinson noted that most of them were premillennialist and therefore ‘stick to the Old Time Religion’ – even if they didn’t practice everything in Scripture such as tongues (Tomlinson, 1922: 24). He repudiated dispensational theology at the end of World War I, but by 1937 overseer S.W. Latimer openly promoted its theology in a series of articles (Tomlinson, 1918: 1; Latimer, 1937: 1, 14). The Scofield Reference Bible made only one appearance in the Church of God Evangel and one in The Faithful Standard, a ministerial magazine initiated by Tomlinson (anonymous, 1922: 17; anonymous, 1936a: 16). Tomlinson’s successor F.J. Lee, a Baptist convert in 1908, shared dispensationalism’s obsession with the book of Revelation, visiting churches with his own dispensational chart and penning a question and answer volume on St. John’s vision in 1923.

The two ministers who brought dispensational themes in the late 1930s before the Church of God were both transplants from the Assemblies of God. Sam Perry wrote an apocalyptic column in the Church of God Evangel which he called the ‘Perry-scope’ much as Frodsham had. Perry had started with the Church of God, joined the Assemblies of God for a time and returned to Church of God. F.J. Dake, a graduate of Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri, also joined the Church of God in 1937 after a six-month spell in a Milwaukee prison. Dake had frequently taught on the book of Revelation since joining the faculty of Texico Bible School in Dallas and later opened his own school in the former home of John Alexander Dowie in Zion, Illinois. His lectures, Revelation Expounded (1931) were a pentecostal counterweight to the Scofield Reference Bible and formed the basis for Dake’s Annotated Bible in 1961. Dake however did not remain in the Church of God for very long before embarking on independent ministry.

Pentecostals and Modernism

Pentecostals have never been friends with Modernists. Rarely did Modernists become pentecostal preachers with the notable exception of Charles Price. But even Price had been tempted by Pentecostalism when it first emerged at Azusa Street, though discouraged by a fellow minister (Sumrall, 1995; 125-126). Price fell into Modernism and in 1922 went to San Jose to discredit McPherson’s ministry. He was surprised when Dr. Towner, a ministerial friend, greeted him with a ‘Praise the Lord’ (Price, 1922: 4). With no other space available, he sat among ‘the cripples’ (with whom who could identify spiritually) and was impressed with the response to Sister Aimee’s sermon and altar call. Putting aside all pretensions, he sought the baptism for himself. The prayer meeting at his own church increased from fifteen to three hundred in six months, and soon he was preaching the pentecostal message around the country and correcting his old false notions about the virgin birth and physical resurrection of Christ.

Harry Stemme, a Congregational minister like Price, also came to Pentecostalism after opposing it. Stemme was born a vagrant of the Chicago slums. He converted to Christ in his teens through a local mission organized by a professor from Moody Bible Institute and credited Fundamentalism with providing him ‘fore-gleams’ of Pentecost (Stemme, 1938; 5-9). At Wheaton College, President Charles Blanchard encouraged him to enter ministry. Stemme became attracted to Modernism through his association with older ministers and his involvement in the Young Men’s Christian Association (Stemme, 1938: 13-16). Of the three seminaries he considered, he chose the most conservative, Biblical Seminary in New York, and became a thorn in his professors’ sides. Afterwards, Stemme returned to Illinois and sought a deeper spiritual life when F.F. Bosworth conducted a crusade nearby in Joliet. Though cured of illness through reading Christ the Healer, he vigorously opposed a Pentecostal group from gaining a foothold in his town (Stemme, 1938: 19-21). His efforts however were stymied by the local authority, and when a destitute woman whom Stemme had tried to convert was glowing with pentecostal praises, he repented and joined their ranks.

J.N. Hoover on the other hand was a devout antimodernist. His sermons covered the same themes that Fundamentalists promoted. Evolution, communism and church mergers were among his favoured targets. In a sermon titled “Bible Bolsheviks”, Hoover singled out Modernism as the primary culprit for the rise of atheism. “Infidels masquerading as men of God have done more to take the Bible out of public schools than all the theories of evolution…,” he charged (Hoover, 1930b: 3). Another evangelist who adopted fundamentalist tactics was Otto Klink. In 1931 Klink wrote two lengthy pamphlets titled “Why I am not an Evolutionist” and “Why I am not an Atheist”. It was not until 1938 however that he came out with “Why I am not a Modernist”. For Klink there were only two approaches to Scripture – the fundamentalist, which takes the Bible literally, and the modernist, which tries to ‘deheart’ it (Klink, 1938: 3).

Early Pentecostals had little cause to defend the integrity of Scripture, but by the 1930s they were turning to archaeology to prove its reliability (anonymous, 1932a: 5; anonymous, 1932b: 10). In 1931 Myer Pearlman feared that the rage of criticism would shake the faith of many unless the foundation of Scripture was re-examined (Pearlman, 1931: 3-4). Drawing on a number of Fundamentalist authors, Pearlman established the Bible’s authority through fulfilled prophecy, divine inspiration and its moral influence over readers. Charles Robinson, assistant editor at Pentecostal Evangel, engaged his ink against modernism in a book-length treatise in 1939, God and His Bible. Robinson relied on the ‘Bible numerics’ of Ivan Panin for much of his defense and charged sceptics of possessing much ignorance in their attacks on the Word. Mae Eleanor Frey, a former journalist and Baptist evangelist, took a more unorthodox track, authoring a novel titled The Minister in 1939 in which a modernist preacher succumbs to the charms of a pentecostal congregant.

Pentecostal worship was antithetical to mainline formalism. Homer Tomlinson wrote a provocative caricature of ‘Dr. Gush’ - a salaried minister supported by the ‘Ladies’ Raid Society’ (though he meant ‘aid’; H. Tomlinson, 1915a: 3). Their church may be ornate but the Savoir cannot be found there (H. Tomlinson, 1915b: 3). Modernist churches hosted ice cream socials to raise money and dances to entertain the young people to the opprobrium of Pentecostals. Methodist churches in particular came under fire, especially from former Methodists like J.N. Gortner and W.E. Moody. The idea that a Sunday School teacher could treat his pupils to a movie was unconscionable (Fostelew, 1929; 14-16). Pentecostal churches by contrast were alive – a bulwark against Modernism as one church in Missouri deemed itself (anonymous, 1921; 13-14; anonymous, 1937: 10). Meanwhile, the apostate modernist church would be plunged into eternal darkness if it did not repent (anonymous, 1931: 1-2; Webb, 1932: 1).

From the mid-1930s the Assemblies of God Sunday school cartoonist lampooned Modernism. In one he depicted ‘Rev. Dr. Dryasdust’ at his desk tearing pages from his Bible marked ‘miracles’, ‘healing’, and ‘speaking in tongues’ under the caption ‘He wants a shorter Bible’ (Ramsay, 1940: 4). In another, one man survived on a paltry meal while another feasted on a large portions, allegorizing the modernist versus pentecostal approaches to Scripture (Ramsay, 1936: 5). Dissatisfied with the plans of the International Sunday School Lessons, which most denominations used, the Assemblies of God teamed up with Fundamentalist curriculum provider Standard Publishing of Cincinnati to produce ‘whole Bible’ lessons to their children starting in January 1937 (anonymous, 1936b; 1, 8; anonymous, 1936c: 8-9) . They named their study after an earlier 1923 Sunday School project of the WCFA: “The Whole Bible Course” (anonymous, 1923b; 1). Thus, towards the end of the 1930s Pentecostals and Fundamentalists were becoming more concerned with the mutual threat of Modernism than they were with combating one another.


Formalism in the mainline churches and the rationalism of the Spirit among Modernists was repulsive to the pentecostal mind. Such an intellectual approach obscured the reality of God and the power of the Spirit in their lives. The difference between them is what Roger Olson has called an ‘Arminianism of the heart’ versus one of the head (Olson, 2007: 16-18). For the most part they did not share in the elitism of industrialists like J.D. Rockefeller or the intellectual pursuits of Shailer Mathews and were repelled by the liberal spirit of Harry Emerson Fosdick. This rationalism was also evident in fundamentalist circles, but at least with them they shared a commitment to the Word of God as literally true and a belief in a supernatural world where Satan could deceive and angels could minister.

To Pentecostals, Modernists were Sadducees and Fundamentalists were Pharisees. In the dispute between these two they sided with the Pharisees – and really were not so different from them. They read fundamentalist literature and adhered to strictures against ballroom dancing, the cinema and frequenting the pool hall. The area they held most in common was in revivalism and premillennialism. After World War I, the Assemblies of God had become largely dispensationalist in its outlook, with the Church of God following a decade later.11 And with Fundamentalists they found a common enemy – Modernism. This became apparent in the 1930s as Pentecostals vilified the movement as the greatest menace to the church. Meanwhile, many ‘old guard’ Fundamentalists like Torrey and Dixon had passed from the scene, leaving less strident neo-evangelicals like Harold John Ockenga and Carl F.H. Henry to succeed in their place. As World War II dawned, there had been sufficient movement in both groups to justify their joining forces in the National Association of Evangelicals ( hereafter: NAE).

That Pentecostals shifted towards Fundamentalist thought should come as no surprise. Every period has a dominant religious branch that influences the others. Much of the nineteenth century belonged to the Methodists; the first half of the twentieth century belonged to the Fundamentalists. Holiness groups like the Nazarenes and pentecostal groups like the Assemblies of God were ‘leavened’ by the teachings of Torrey, Gray and company (Bassett, 1978: 65-91; Carpenter, 1984: 257-288). There was a lag however between the more Reformed-minded Assemblies of God and the more Wesleyan-minded Church of God. The Assemblies of God drew several of its leaders from the Christian and Missionary Alliance, founded by ex-Presbyterian A.B. Simpson, and from the Christian Catholic Church, founded by ex-Congregationalist John Alexander Dowie. Further, the Assemblies of God had more churches in the urban North and West, the same centres where Fundamentalism gained its strength.12 The Church of God was noticeably more Southern and rural, and Fundamentalism never held sway in the South the way it had in the North.13 Still, by the late 1930s the Church of God had shifted enough to join the NAE.

Whether this union was beneficial or not is another question. For decades Pentecostals of both stripes had yearned for recognition from fellow Fundamentalists.14 This was more acutely felt in the Assemblies of God, who drew upon fundamentalist sources more heavily than the Church of God. The stretch toward Fundamentalism was a step further for the Church of God and consequently affected them more.15 Still, the call to join the NAE was vindication of their long-held convictions that they were neither heterodox nor fanatical. Pentecostals made up sixty percent of the hybrid organization, with the Assemblies of God and Church of God as its largest constituents. But sixty percent of the leadership remained in fundamentalist hands. David du Plessis lamented the lack of influence Pentecostals had over the NAE, pointing out that no fundamentalist pastor had been baptized in the Spirit up to the 1960s (Howard, 2004: 285). In his view, by wedding itself to Fundamentalism, Pentecostalism had missed out on the charismatic movement. On the other hand, Russell Spittler has rightly commented that the roles have since been reversed. The earlier period from the 1920s onwards he described as the ‘evangelicalization’ of Pentecostals, but since the 1980s one may speak of the ‘pentecostalization’ of Evangelicalism (Spittler, 1994: 112-113). As Fundamentalists had once leavened the Christian world, it has since become the role of Pentecostals.

It is really only within the last two decades that Pentecostals have become critical of this marriage, and even dispensational premillennialism is falling out of favour. Peter Prosser found it ‘supremely ironic’ that Pentecostalism, essentially a religion of freedom, should have adopted the gloomy aspects of fundamentalist eschatology (Prosser, 1999: 275). To the historian the marriage appears at least natural if not inevitable. Today’s criticism has been merited by its shear strength in numbers and by increased attention to critical, biblical exegesis. Pentecostals, no longer dependent upon the intellectual props provided by fundamentalist thinkers, are freer to criticize the past. In doing so, Pentecostalism has also freed itself to explore new theological directions as evidenced in the recent work of scholars like Frank Macchia and Amos Yong among many others.

Faupel’s remarks nearly fifteen years ago have the air of prophecy about them. He saw an emerging spiritual movement no longer moored to its fundamentalist underpinnings (Faupel, 1993: 26). Still, I cannot see how Pentecostalism can be separated from its evangelical ethos, at least not in the United States. The emerging pentecostal movements in other parts of the world, especially those not bound to US-dominated agencies such as the myriads of African Initiated Churches (AICs), may provide in time ample room for new theologies. Will Global Christianity be largely an expression of a world charismatic community fifty years from now? The question “Whither Pentecostalism?” is certainly worth returning to time and again.


1 ‘Modernism’ will refer to its theological and not its cultural expression throughout this paper.

2 Barr, Fundamentalism (passim); Kathleen Boone, The Bible Tells Them So (London: SCM Press, 1989), 13.

3 Dixon edited the first six volumes, Meyer seven through ten, Torrey the final two. Dixon left for London in 1914 to pastor Spurgeon’s old church; Meyer died while still editing.

4 D. Bebbington highlights the connections of Keswick and Romanticism in Holiness in Nineteenth Century Britain (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster Press, 2000), 73-94.

5 Pentecostals shared this aversion to war but remained pacifist for much longer.

6 At least six others met with Torrey: John Campbell, W.H. Griffith Thomas, R.M. Russell, H.W. Jones, William Evans and Charles Alexander (Weber, 1979: 161). Beale (1986: 100) adds Riley and Dixon, but Dixon was in London at the time.

7 Many holiness groups such as the Nazarenes leaned towards postmillennialism.

8 The Presbyterian resolution first passed in 1910 and was reaffirmed in 1923, but not thereafter.

9 E.g., “Echoes from Camp Montwait,” Word and Work 35:7 (July 1913): 209-11.

10 Contra J. Ruthven, I find that B.B. Warfield in Counterfeit Miracles (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1918) responded differently to Modernists and Pentecostals (and other healing sects) in limiting miracles to the apostolic age. Modernists tried to take the supernatural out of the biblical narrative, which Warfield attempted to preserve. Pentecostals on the other hand extended the supernatural beyond the apostles. See Ruthven, On the Cessation of the Charismata (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 2003), 54-55.

11 With William Menzies, I believe that dispensationalism was the major venue through which Fundamentalism permeated Pentecostalism. See Menzies, “The Non-Wesleyan Origins of the Pentecostal Movement” in Vinson Synan, ed., Aspects of Pentecostal-Charismatic Origins (Plainfield, New Jersey: Logos International, 1975), 81-98.

12 Ernest Sandeen has shown in The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism, 1800-1930 (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1970) that Fundamentalism originated in northern cities like Chicago and Philadelphia in the denominations most effected by the modernist controversy, the Baptists and the Presbyterians. Los Angeles became another centre through the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, where Torrey served as dean after leaving Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

13 Nancy T. Ammerman, Bible Believers: Fundamentalists in the Modern World (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1987) notes that Southern theology was generally conservative among Baptists and Presbyterians and never suffered the controversies in the North. Thus, they did not adopt biblical literalism and premillennialism as tenets of their faith (pp. 21-22). In the 1926 census of religious bodies in the United States, 49% of Assemblies of God churches were located in urban areas while in the Church of God it was only 26% [Religious Bodies 1926: Separate Denominations, vol. 2 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1929), 60, 358].

14 Faupel, The Everlasting Gospel, 260, argues from Frank Ewart that William Durham’s Reformed view of sanctification made pentecostals more acceptable to nominal churches, but adds that Wesleyan pentecostals were also ‘enmeshed in the emerging fundamentalist mentality’ and craved their acceptance as well. I agree but would note that during the 1920s the Church of God largely ignored fundamentalist issues, especially compared to the Assemblies of God. This began to change in the 1930s with the shift toward dispensationalism.

15 Steven Land, Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), 50-51, comments that “…the Wesleyan agenda ‘spreading scriptural holiness throughout the land’ was reduced to rescue missions, storefront churches, soup kitchens and other kinds of person-to-person involvement” [cite Melvin Dieter, “The Wesleyan-Holiness and Pentecostal Movements: Commonalities, Confrontations, and Dialogue (unpublished paper, Society for Pentecostal Studies, 1988), 2-4].




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