The Nature and Extent of the Pentecostal Movement
Jack D. Zwemer, D.D.S., Ph.D.
It is not possible to
understand the problem posed by Pentecostalism without briefly considering
the nature of a Christian man. Like all other men, the Christian
man possesses a carnal nature that is utterly and hopelessly vile,
unclean, impure and unrighteous. But unlike other men, the Christian
man also possesses a spiritual nature. This nature is wholly clean,
pure and righteous.
Thus the Christian is
at the same time both clean and unclean, pure and impure, righteous
and unrighteous. In such a man there rages an unrelenting conflict
between his two natures. "For the flesh lusteth against the
Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh . . . so that ye cannot
do the things that ye would." Gal. 5:17.
should recognize that this conflict continues without remission
all through this mortal life. At the end as well as at the beginning,
they are accepted in the Beloved — solely through what the Saviour
has done for them. They live by faith in His merits and in hope
of final release from the conflict when Jesus shall come to "change
our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body"
Down through the centuries
there have always been those to contend, however, that a Christian
may ultimately attain release from the conflict in this life through
the full eradication of the carnal nature by the work of the Holy
Spirit in him. Such exponents believe that they need not always
occupy the mourner's bench, content with the righteousness which
they have in Christ in heaven, but may eventually reach the choir
loft and sing of the righteousness which they have within themselves.
These are the apostles
of the "victorious life," the "second blessing,"
the "baptism in the Holy Spirit." They are the spiritual
kindred to the holiness movement which swept America and England
in the last century.
Despite all its claims,
the holiness movement had a problem. How could final Christian victory
be certainly attested to the believer himself and to his brethren?
How could one be sure that the carnal nature indeed had been wholly
vanquished? Subjective experience and testimony alone could be questioned
and doubted and, on the other hand, readily counterfeited.
For those on the fringes
of the holiness movement in the nineteenth century, this problem
was resolved by "spiritual gifts," or manifestations,
such as holy clapping, shouting, laughing, shaking, barking, dancing
or rolling, which witnessed to the inner experience. These demonstrations,
however, were such crude excesses that they belied the victorious
life rather than confirming it.
It was not long, therefore,
until these earlier "gifts" were supplanted by the "gift"
of unknown tongues, which ostensibly had a firmer Scriptural basis
and provided more authentic evidence of the believer's condition.
To its devotees, the
gift of tongues symbolized a higher plane of spiritual attainment
which transcended the testimony of the Word of God to them and firm
reliance on the objective work of Christ for them. The gifts of
the Spirit were more coveted than the fruits of the Spirit. And
while faith alone sufficed for Christian initiation, it had to be
coupled with a variety of works to achieve the "second blessing"
— the "baptism in the Holy Ghost."
Rather than constituting
the "full" gospel, these pretensions are nothing but a
perversion of the gospel. They presume to take the very righteousness
of God in heaven, accounted to man, and actually compress it into
a puny, fallen human vessel. Thus they cast the truth to the ground.
In the face of this terrible
fallacy and many blatant and persistent indications of personal
carnality, the movement survived and increased in vigor from its
beginning at the turn of the century. Since the Scriptural gift
of tongues was granted the apostles on the day of Pentecost, when
the Holy Spirit was poured on the infant church, the modern tongues
movement assumed the name, "Pentecostal."
By 1960, numerous Pentecostal
bodies had extended from America throughout the world, had claimed
more than eight million members and had become, in the words of
Henry P. Van Dusen, "the great third force in Christendom."
The vigor and vitality
of the movement then attracted both leaders and laymen in mainline
Protestant churches alarmed over the dead orthodoxy of their communions,
the spiritless tokenism of the social gospel, and their own deep
Since 1960, the tongues
and the so-called baptism in the Holy Spirit have invaded all the
Protestant bodies. Millions, both of clergy and laity, have embraced
the phenomenon in the neo-Pentecostal, or charismatic, movement.
It has achieved new respectability to become the most pervasive
and potent force in modem Protestantism.
Then, in 1967, neo-Pentecostalism
penetrated the bastions of Rome. In Catholicism the charismatic
movement has been met with open arms. It is regarded as the fulfillment
of the medieval mystical ideal of Thomas Aquinas. It is hailed as
the new Pentecost promised by Vatican II. It is extolled as the
great ecumenical dream of the church. This very year it has been
lauded at the Eucharistic Congress in Melbourne, Australia. It will
also provide considerable impetus to the greatest evangelistic outreach
America has yet seen, under the slogan, "Key '73." In
this endeavor, Roman Catholics and more than 130 Protestant denominations
are united under the chairmanship of the Assemblies of God president,
Meanwhile the charismatic
movement has already moved beyond the pulpit and the pews into the
highways and byways of the earth. Here it has met and captivated
the youth culture and generated much of the now famous Jesus Revolution.
Thousands of youth in America and elsewhere who once turned on to
drugs and to sex are now turning on to Jesus with ecstatic tongues.
Soon it seems that all
the world will be swept into this delusive wonder. Of multitudes
revelling on the street corners over their supposed deliverance
and new found experience and powers, it can be said, "Verily
... They have their reward." Hidden from human eyes, the Christian
man will be in his closet, crying, "God be merciful to me a
sinner!" This man will go down to his house justified.