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A Charismatic Looks at the Birth of Pentecostalism

Another unusual element was that instead of “tarrying” for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the revivalist would lay hands on the supplicant’s head for the impartation of the Spirit. In July 1948 there was a weeklong camp meeting in the Canadian town of North Battleford widely attended by Pentecostal laypersons and ministers from all over Canada and the United States. By 1949 the revival had spread to dozens of churches north and south of the border, especially among churches that were independent of the major denominations.

In fact, many pastors in the established Pentecostals denominations looked askance at this new movement and found fault with its emphasis on prophecy. They could point to trivial and false prophecies being uttered, as if this was anything new. Some Pentecostal leaders called the movement heretical, because of its prophesying, and because of the new use of laying on of hands for impartation of the Holy Spirit.[41] This was an overkill for a movement that was bringing thousands of converts to Christ, having major healings, and imparting the Baptism of the Spirit to other thousands. In spite of opposition, the Latter Rain revival continued to spread and influence many churches, and many of those touched by it became the leaders of the coming Charismatic Renewal. For example, the editors of Logos Magazine, which became the first and most important journal of the early Charismatic Renewal, came from of Herald of Faith/Harvest Time which was the journal of the Latter Rain Movement.

On reflection, in spite of its mistakes, “irregular ideas” and failures of its leaders, the Pentecostal revival ushered what is perhaps the greatest move of the Spirit since Apostolic times. Ironically, it began with a mistake and an exaggeration, that tongues was xenolalia, and that tongues must always be the initial evidence for anyone who had the Baptism of the Spirit. The noted Pentecostal historian William Faupel carefully studied the documents of Pentecostalism’s first decades and concluded that the confusion of tongues as xenolalia was indeed a major cause of its ridicule and rejection by the majority of Evangelicals of the period.[42] But God was in the movement, amidst its human frailties and theological imperfections. And Pentecostalism, combined with its later sibling, the charismatic movement, ultimately became the most important and widespread church reformation since Apostolic times.





[1] The literature on the origins of Pentecostalism is vast and growing, as even mainline scholars and theologians are awakened to the fact that Pentecostalism is a major Christian movement. It is a complex story, and more facets are uncovered constantly. This chapter gives only a brief summary of its beginnings. For a look at the multifaceted origins of Pentecostalism see the now classic work by Walter J. Hollenweger, Pentecostalism: Origins and Development Worldwide (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1997).

[2]On this revival see: Harold Hunter, “Spirit-baptism and the 1896 Revival in Cherokee County, North Carolina,” Pneuma 5 (2, 1983); 1-17. And especially, Charles W. Conn, Like a Mighty Army: A history of the Church of God (Cleveland, TN: Pathway Press, 1977), chapters 1-3.

[3] A. J. Tomlinson, The Last Great Conflict (Cleveland: Press of Walter e. Rodgers, 1913), 184. Cited in William K. Kay and Anne e. Dyer, Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies (London: SMC Press, 2004), 8. Dr. Vincent Synan, the dean of Pentecostal historians, believes there is little evidence of a real tongues outburst at the Cherokee revival, and that memories of tongues at that revival rely on evidence gathered decades after the event – and thus suspicious. I respectfully disagree with Dr. Synan. In my years as a charismatic scholar I have met several persons who spoke in tongues as children or youth, but did not know what it was, and discontinued the tongues. Later, when they came into contact with the charismatic renewal and understood the phenomenon, they resumed tongues. My friend and prayer partner, the Rev. Dean David Collins, the former president of the Episcopal House of Deputies (1988-1991), had an experience of this type. When he was ordained to the priesthood in 1948 he felt a great wave of power on him as the Bishop laid hands on his head, and immediately after the words out of his mouth seemed to be an incomprehensible babble. He struggled to “get control of himself” and was then able to speak normally. Only decades later, when he came into contact with charismatics and again spoke in tongues, was he able to understand that initial babble to be tongues. See: David B. Collins, There Is a Lad Here (Darien, GA: Darien News, 1996), 84-85. For the same reason it seems that the assertion by Maria Woodsworth-Etter, the great Holiness and Pentecostal revivalist, that she spoke in tongues long before Azusa St (1906) is credible, although there is no documentary evidence in her early writings to prove it. As a mature saint of God, she would not lie about this. People do not generally write about phenomenon they do not understand, or would feel foolish in disclosing.

[4] On the rise and fall of this revival see: Barry W. Hamilton, “The Corsicana Enthusiasts: A Pre-Pentecostal Millennial Sect,” Wesleyan Theological Journal, 39 #1 (spring, 2004) 173-193.

[5] On Parham see: J. Goff, Fields White Unto Harvest: Charles F. Parham and the missionary origins of Pentecostalism (Ph.D. dissertation University of Arkansas, 1987).

[6] Goff, Fields White, 49.

[7] Goff, Fields White, 68.

[8] On the Faith-Cure Movement see my work, Quenching the Spirit (Lake Mary: Creation House, 1996).

[9] Goff, Fields White, 123.

[10] Hunter, “Spirit-baptism,” note 3, p 13.

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Category: Church History, Fall 2014

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include Quenching the Spirit: Discover the Real Spirit Behind the Charismatic Controversy (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015), and The Public Prayer Station: Taking Healing Prayer to the Streets and Evangelizing the Nones (Emeth Press, 2018). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He continues in his healing, teaching and writing ministry and is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook

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