Pentecostalism: a descriptive history of the origin, growth, and message of a twentieth century religious movement
Nichol, John Thomas
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The purpose of this dissertation is to present a descriptive history of the origin, growth, and message of Pentecostalism, a twentieth-century religious movement which stresses the belief that a Holy Spirit baptism, accompanied by some sort of charismatic manifestation like glossolalia, ought to be the normative religious experience of all Christians. However, information about Pentecostalism, which in little more than a half century has emerged from a small decentralized fellowship to an evangelistic movement that today nearly encompasses the globe, has not kept pace with its growth and influence. Most books on church history, religious encyclopedias, and periodical and newspaper indexes have seemingly ignored the movement; therefore, it has been necessary for the author to locate and consult rare collections of Pentecostaliana both here and abroad. Many of these materials-yearbooks, minutes, pamphlets, periodicals, monographs, and tracts-are cited for the first time in what is perhaps the most exhaustive bibliography on Pentecostalism that has yet appeared. Based on the aforementioned data and supplemented by firsthand observation--attendance at Pentecostal worship services, revivals, camp meetings, national conclaves, and international conferences-this work accomplishes the following: (1) It reviews those characteristics of faith and practice that are unique to Pentecostalism, that set it apart from other types of Protestant Christianity. (2) It traces modern Pentecostalism from its modest beginnings in Topeka, Kansas, in 1901, to its rather rapid expansion throughout the world. (3) It offers reasons for the widespread extension of Pentecostalism during the early decades of this century as well as for the severe opposition which it encountered. (4) It classifies the scores of groups which comprise contemporary Pentecostalism and, at the same time, suggests causes for such frequent proliferation. Furthermore, it provides a country- by-country chronicle of many foreign Pentecostal groups about which little or nothing has been written heretofore. (5) It surveys the most significant trends that have taken place within Pentecostalism since World War II. The following conclusions have been reached through this study: 1. The teachings which distinguish Pentecostalism from all other religious movements are (a) its declaration that a baptism in the Holy Spirit accompanied by the evidential sign of glossolalia or some other charismatic manifestation ought to be normative to the Christian religious experience, and (b) its emphasis on healing. 2. The present size of Pentecostalism with its world-wide adult membership of more than seven million certainly qualifies it to be called the largest of all the charismatic-healing movements in church history. 3. Whereas most American denominations are the result of the migration of sectarian groups from Europe, Pentecostalism is almost wholly American in origin. 4. Pentecostalism has been experiencing changes, slowly but nonetheless perceptibly during its brief history. Charismatic spontaneity has been replaced by a modified institutionalism; the adherence of many groups to a rigorous puritan ethic has abated somewhat; the principle of independency has been replaced by a belief in local, national, and even international organization. 5. It is difficult to classify the entire movement either as a sect, or a cult, or a denomination because of its eclecticism and diversity in matters of faith, liturgy, and organization. 6. American Pentecostalism appears to be segregative. Although Negroes contributed greatly to the early development of the movement, Negro leaders and Negro groups like the massive Church of God in Christ are today conspicuously absent from associations like the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America. 7. Reports that adherents to Pentecostalism have been excessively fanatical or grossly immoral appear to be greatly exaggerated. 8. Pentecostalism has emerged as the leading "Third Forcen group in Christendom. It needs to be reckoned with rather than ignored.
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RightsCopyright by John Thomas Nichol 1965.