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Peter Althouse: Wesleyan and Reformed Impulses in the Keswick and Pentecostal Movements

The Keswick movement…was absolutely crucial to the development of Pentecostalism. Thus, I find it necessary to reject the central thesis of Synan…. To the contrary, the wing of the Pentecostal movement which had earlier connections with Wesleyanism became Pentecostal by accepting Keswick (i.e. Calvinist) teachings on dispensationalism, premillennialism and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This acceptance led logically to their ostracism by the “orthodox” Wesleyan Holiness movement, which held them guilty of the “Third Blessing Heresy.” The majority of Pentecostals were entirely consistent when they later rejected the Wesleyan view of sanctification as a second act of grace. Those Pentecostals who did not follow suit in this rejection, however, cannot be called Wesleyan since their doctrine is an amalgam of Wesleyanism and Keswick-Calvinism. In short, the Pentecostal movement was as much a departure from the Wesleyan tradition as a development from it.77

The desire to recover the more Calvinist stream of Pentecostal theology, as modified by New School Calvinist and the Keswick Conferences, was a concern for Blumhofer as well. She too recognized the non-Wesleyan elements in the development of Pentecostalism,78 and therefore offered a more balanced view. Thus the early Pentecostal understanding of sanctification was not simply a version of Wesleyan perfectionism, but was, in fact, a view emanating from the Keswick understanding of consecration and surrender to the Holy Spirit. Yet to date, the literature examining the Keswick-Pentecostal connections has been limited.79

Briefly, the birth of the Pentecostal movement has been tied to Methodist preacher, Charles F. Parham, who conducted a prayer vigil at his school for healing in Topeka, Kansas, on December 31, 1900. In this meeting, Agnes Ozman and several of Parham’s students “spoke with other tongues,” which Parham theologically linked to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Several years later, in 1906-7, another Methodist, William J. Seymour, one of Parham’s students, preached the Pentecostal message in Azusa Street, Los Angeles. It was in the Azusa Street revival that the Pentecostal message took root and started to spread throughout the United States and to the rest of the world. Both Parham and Seymour held a version of the Wesleyan-Holiness view of sanctification and therefore developed a doctrine of salvation which consisted of three acts of grace,—conversion, the “second blessing” of sanctification and the “baptized in the Holy Spirit” with speaking in other tongues as an enduement of power—each involving an experiential encounter with Jesus Christ.

Yet Keswick theology impacted the Pentecostal movement, for those who would provide leadership for the early Pentecostal movement had direct personal, contact with a number of Keswick leaders. Alexander Dowie, a man with Scottish Presbyterian roots who later pastored at a Congregational Church in Australia, was, according the early Pentecostal writer Donald Gee, an exponent of Keswick ideas.80 After emigrating to the United States in 1888, Dowie founded the Christian Catholic Church and established Zion City, a religious community near Chicago which emphasized divine healing. In 1900, Parham visited Zion, probably because he was interested in Dowie’s healing ministry. The impact that Dowie’s community was unclear, but the articles of faith at Zion included statements that a candidate for membership was expected to be a believer (conversion) and that the believer needed to “witness a measure of the Holy Spirit.” There was no evidence that an experience of sanctification was required. Although Dowie rejected a number of Pentecostals who, in 1904, sought membership in his community, the collapse of Zion as a result of his increased authoritarian control saw many of Dowie’s followers drifting into Pentecostal groups.81

The most influential person with Keswick leanings was A.B. Simpson, the man who founded the Christian and Missionary Alliance in 1887 and the Nyack Missionary Training Institute. Simpson’s fourfold gospel of Christ as Saviour, Healer, Sanctifier and Coming King and his emphasis of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit were views accepted wholeheartedly by the Pentecostal movement. There was little emphasis of an experience of “second blessing,” but Simpson defined sanctification along Keswick lines. Sanctification involved the “indwelling of Christ,”82 “separation from sin,” dedication to God,” “conformity to the likeness of God and to the will of God,” “consecration,” “complete surrender,” and personal indwelling of Jesus.”83

Nearly forty-five early Pentecostal leaders came out of the Christian and Missionary Alliance church. Early Pentecostal Thomas B. Barrat had not only read both Moody and Torrey’s sermons, but had met Torrey and Simpson in 1905-6 when they toured throughout the United States. Early Pentecostal George N. Elderidge had known Simpson personally and both Canadian Pentecostal A.H. Argue and Stanley H. Frodsham’s wife were healed through Simpson’s ministry. Agnes Ozman, the woman first credited with speaking in tongues at Parham’s watchnight service, was once a student at Simpson’s Bible School in Nyack, New York. Francisco Olazabal and Marie Burgess both attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and Frank Bartleman, one of the earliest Pentecostal leaders, spent some time at the Moody Institute and worked with Moody in the Philadelphia campaigns of 1891 and 1892.84

Yet the connections between the Keswick and Pentecostal movements did not rest solely on contact between the leaders of both. Holiness leader S.B. Shaw’s book The Great Revival in Wales, Also an Account of the Great Revival in Ireland in 1859, included reports by Keswick leaders Mrs. M. Baxter, F.B. Meyer and R.A. Torrey, a book which was circulated widely in the Azusa Street revival.85 The Bible school of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church, Georgia, one of the earliest Pentecostal denominations, based its curriculum on the Keswick works of James M. Gray’s Synthetic Bible Study and the writings of A.T. Pierson. The Pentecostal Holiness Advocate, an early Pentecostal periodical, advertised the works of Moody and other Keswick writers regularly. Furthermore, the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination with Reformed/Keswick leanings, was dominated by Christian and Missionary Alliance people such as Elderidge, J.W. Welch and D.W. Kerr. The Assemblies of God course for ministers also included works by Moody, Torrey, Simpson, Murray and Pierson. Probably the most important influence of Keswick thinking on early Pentecostalism was the popularity of C.I. Scofield’s edition of the Bible, which provided a vehicle for Keswick ideas, premillenialism and dispensationalism.86

The Keswick view of sanctification started to dominate the Pentecostal movement in 1908 when, William H. Durham, a man of Baptist heritage who had substantial interaction with Seymour after receiving the Pentecostal blessing, articulated a view of sanctification which seemed to diverge from the Azusa Street version. Known as the Finished Work of Christ, Durham rejected the Holiness Pentecostal view that the second act of grace was for the perfection of the believer. He opposed this doctrine by stating that salvation did not “mean that we shall be partly saved by having our outward sin forgiven. This would not be salvation. Salvation [was] an inward work. It mean[t] a change of heart.”87 Instead, he argued for a two act of grace doctrine, where the believer was believed to be made holy at the moment of conversion, in that both inward and outward sin was cleansed by the blood of Christ. The baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues was consequently considered the second act of grace. Sanctification was thus realized at both the moment of conversion and in the ongoing of the activity of the Spirit in the life of the believer. Of course, Seymour and other Holiness Pentecostal leaders opposed his “two stage theory.” When Durham toured Los Angeles, he was refused admittance to Elmer Fisher’s Upper Room Mission. Although Durham was able to preach at the Azusa Street mission while Seymour was away on a preaching tour, when Seymour returned he immediately locked Durham out. Durham’s untimely death in 1912 would, however, leave the debate to other Pentecostals, but a fair number of Pentecostals had taken up Durham’s message.88

Durham’s Finished Work doctrine was crucial in the development of Pentecostalism, for those of a more Reformed or Keswick view who were uneasy with the more Arminian theology of Holiness-Pentecostals could readily accept the two works of grace position. In 1913-14, a call was published in Word and Witness for a Pentecostal convention in Hot Springs Arkansas. The convention was convened at the insistence of Howard Gross and a number of Finished Work advocates who wanted to stabilize the movement, but the attempt to establish a fellowship seemed to violate the Pentecostal insistence that organization would grieve the Spirit. Even Durham contended several years earlier that organization would destroy the Pentecostal work.89 Nevertheless, M.M. Pinson, a Finished Work advocate, delivered the opening message on “The Finished Work of Calvary,” and the movement started to shift to a two works of grace position. Sanctification was therefore believed to occur instantly in conversion, but only realized in the ongoing process of the Spirit in the life of the believer. The outcome of the convention in Hot Springs was the establishment of the Assemblies of God, the denomination which was to become the largest in the United States.90 Thus the Keswick understanding of sanctification was significant in the development of early Pentecostalism, for it completed the shift away from the Wesleyan-Holiness belief in the “second blessing” as the moment of perfection, a shift that had already started in the Holiness Pentecostal interpretation, to an understanding that the second work of grace was, in fact, the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The second act of grace doctrine of Reformed/Keswick Pentecostals appealed, for the most part, to those Pentecostals who had Baptist, Presbyterian, Keswick and Anglican backgrounds. While they had a certain uneasiness about professing sanctification as the second act of grace, they quelched that uneasiness for the sake of the more important message of Spirit baptism. However, while they had reservations concerning sanctification as a second act of grace, they had no qualms in the notion of a second act of grace. “Most had come to believe there was a second act of grace,” remarked Anderson, “but that it was an enduement of power, not a cleansing from sin or purification of spirit. On the other hand, the whole notion of a third act of grace, however defined, had been overwhelmingly rejected by these same people before their conversion to the Pentecostal movement.”91

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Category: Church History

About the Author: Peter F. Althouse, PhD (University of Toronto), is Assistant Professor of Religion at Southeastern University. He is the author of Spirit of the Last Days: Pentecostal Eschatology in Conversation with Jürgen Moltmann (T & T Clark, 2003), and has written many articles on eschatology, pneumatology and Pentecostal studies. Faculty page. Facebook.

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