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The Nature and Extent of the Pentecostal Movement
Praise the LordJack 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.

Steadfast Christians 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" (Phil. 3:21).

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 spiritual declension.

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, Thomas Zimmerman.

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.