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NUREL-L DISCUSSION OF PENTECOSTALISM AS A NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT
The following discussion took place on NUREL-L
Sender: Roger Olson
On Mon, 11 May 1998 22:09:33 GMT,
Duncan Scrymgeour wrote:
> If, however, we look as Roger Olsen has suggested on more than
>one occasion at something like the forms of Pentecostalism that are
>sweeping this continent and our neighboring continent to the South, a
>very different picture emerges. This Postmodern pentecostalism, that is
>often allied with large groups in the States, but just as often is not,
>represents one of the most significant religious movements in this
>century with profound socio-political implications. It is discussed
>frequently on some of the Spanish language discussion lists I belong to,
>but I seldom see it mentioned here.
So...rather than complain and suggest (as I have done in the past) let me
attempt to begin a discussion thread related to Pentecostalism as a NRM.
After all, why shouldn't Pentecostalism be considered a NRM? Although a
form of Christianity, it is relatively new and its tremendous growth has
happened for the most part only in the last few decades. Many groups
generally considered NRMs are also forms of Christianity and older and much
smaller than Pentecostalism.
There is a growing debate among scholars who study Pentecostal history
about the date or even year of its birth. Should the birth of the modern
Pentecostal movement be considered December 31/January 1, 1901 as many
Pentecostals have claimed or 1906 as many non-Pentecostal scholars claim?
The former date, of course, is significant because it represents the first
day of the first year of the new century--the beginning of the "latter
days." The event was an all-night prayer vigil ("tarrying meeting") at
Bethel Bible Institute in Topeka, Kansas and the leader was a white
Holiness preacher named Charles Parham. The 1906 date refers to the
beginning of the Azusa Street Revival led by African-American Holiness
preacher William Seymour. A distantly related question has to do with
whether the beginnings of the Assemblies of God--the largest white
Pentecostal denomination--and whether its founders in Arkansas in 1914
gathered to begin a new denomination partly out of racist motives.
Another question worth discussing is the sine qua non of "Pentecostalism."
What exactly distinguishes it from related movements? Many uninformed
persons might all too quickly say "speaking in tongues." But many
Charismatics believe in a practice speaking in tongues and are not exactly
the same as Pentecostals. I suggest the sine qua non of classical
Pentecostalism is belief that speaking in tongues is the (necessary)
"initial physical evidence" of an experience known as the "Baptism of the
Holy Spirit" which is also embraced (without the sign of tongues-speaking)
by many other groups such as many Holiness and "Higher Life" churches and
I am not very well versed in the political dimensions of Pentecostalism.
As a boy growing up in classical Pentecostalism I experienced only a vague
kind of right-wing ideology that shunned Catholic and "liberal"
politicians. Most white Pentecostals who voted at all (and many did not)
opposed John F. Kennedy for both reasons. I suspect most African-American
Pentecostals who voted voted for Kennedy.
Any takers for a discussion of these or other questions related to
From Irving Hexham
Roger Olsen wrote:
> There is a growing debate among scholars who study
> Pentecostal history about the date or even year of its birth. Should the
> birth of the modern Pentecostal movement be considered December
> 31/January 1, 1901 as many
> Pentecostals have claimed or 1906 ...
Or even earlier? The answer surely depends on whether we are talking about
the growth of certain American denominations or a type of religious
experience involving speaking in tongues.
> Another question worth discussing is
> the sine qua non of "Pentecostalism."
> What exactly distinguishes it from related movements? Many uninformed
> persons might all too quickly say "speaking in tongues." But many
> Charismatics believe in a practice speaking in tongues and are not
> exactly the same as Pentecostals. I suggest the sine qua non of
> classical Pentecostalism is belief that speaking in tongues is the
> (necessary) "initial physical evidence" of an experience known as the
> "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" ...
If this, i.e. "speaking in tongues" as "initial physical evidence' of an
experience known as 'Baptism of the Holy Spirit'" distinguishes
Pentecostalism then surely the movement must be traced to non-American
religious groups prior to 1900. For example, there is evidence of the
Pentecostal experience among Africans in South Africa from the 1850's on.
There is similar evidence from Armenia in the 19C. So perhaps most
Pentecostal historians are simply ethnocentric.