Denominations: Pentecostals

Ascertaining accurate total numbers is difficult. Pentecostalism is not a single denomination, but an umbrella term which includes many denominations “The World Christian Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (2020) currently counts 644 million Pentecostals/Charismatics worldwide” (The Society for Pentecostal Studies at 50 Years, brill.com). Notice that this count combines Pentecostals and Charismatics. “According to a Pew Forum analysis of estimates from the center for the study of global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, there are about 279 million Pentecostal Christians and about 305 million Charismatic Christians in the world” (Christian Movements and Denominations, pewforum.org). [Pentecostals refer to members of denominations or independent churches which also believe in continued spiritual gifts, e.g. tongue speaking, prophecy, miraculous healing. Charismatics refer to members within non-Pentecostal churches who are Pentecostal to some degree in belief and practice. Certain churches have within them a charismatic movement, e.g. Roman Catholic Church].

In the U.S.A., there is an estimated 15-20 million Pentecostals (What’s an Apostolic Christian and Why is Kim Davis’ Hair So Long? by Emily McFarlan Miller, September 9, 2015, usatoday.com, referencing H. Vinson Synan of Regent University in Virginia). The largest Pentecostal Churches in the U.S.A. are: (1) Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. It is said to have 6 million members nationwide (COGIC leaders, members take hard hit from Covid-19 nationwide, April 24, 2020, NBC, WMA, Memphis, actionnews5.com). It is said to have 7.7 million members worldwide (COGIC Church Hit Hard By Coronavirus Deaths Among Its Leadership by Madison J. Gray, April 21, 2020, bet.com). (2) The Assemblies of God (AG) is headquartered in Springfield, Missouri. It is said to have more than 3 million members in this country (statistics – Assemblies of God (USA), ag.org). The World Assemblies of God Fellowship is said to have more than 68 million adherents worldwide (Five AG Stats You Need to Know, influencemagazine.com). The AG was formed out of the COGIC in 1914. The separation was along racial lines. The AG was primarily white. The COGIC was primarily black (church split – COGIC and Assemblies of God, Ready to Harvest YouTube). There are many more Pentecostal denominations in the United States, including: Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee); Church of God (Anderson, Indiana); International Church of The Foursquare Gospel; United Pentecostal Church International (UPC or UPCI); Church of God of Prophecy, et. al.

History

There have been those who have claimed to possess supernatural gifts, throughout history. (1) The Montanists. “The claim of the ‘gift of tongues’ was common among the Montanists. The heretical group was named for Montanus (c. A.D. 156), who was a priest of Cybele before his conversion. He would reach a state of ecstasy and gave (sic) forth utterances. These utterances were supposed to be oracles of God. Montanus claimed that the Holy Spirit spoke directly through him” (Jimmy Jividen, Glossolalia from God or Man?, p. 63). Montanus had two female prophetesses who worked with him, Priscilla and Maximilla. They prophesied that Christ would soon return to earth and reign from Pepuza, Phrgia, Asia Minor for a thousand years. When this did not occur, many turned away. (F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom, pp. 77-78; Ryan Reeves, Christian Apologists and Early Heresies YouTube). (2) The Second Great Awakening. At Cane Ridge, Kentucky in 1801 a great religious gathering occurred, with perhaps 30,000 attending. “Emotional excitement ran through the crowd producing physical reactions of various kinds. Some fell to the ground as though dead, others experienced the ‘jerks,’ danced, laughed, ran or sang. This supposedly was a manifestation of the Holy Spirit” (F.W. Mattox, p. 313). Unity was desired, but not achieved. “When (Barton W.) Stone stressed the fact that sinners had the power to turn to Christ a number of strong Calvinistic preachers opposed him” (F.W. Mattox, p. 313).

The modern history of Pentecostalism/Charismatic movement may be understood in three waves. These are:

  1. Classic Pentecostalism

The first wave dates to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Two characters are prominent in this history: (a) Charles Fox Parham (1872-1929). He was raised a Methodist. He attended Southwestern Kansas College, a Methodist College, to prepare for the ministry. He did not complete his education. However, he did serve as a temporary Methodist pastor (1893-1895). Dissatisfied with his experience, he left the Methodist Church. He believed that there needed to be a revival which “could only be achieved by another outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 14, p. 31 (c) 1979). He began to travel to various places to investigate rumors and reports of supernatural healings. In October, 1900, he opened Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas. About 40 students enrolled. He had the students study the topic: Baptism of the Holy Spirit. On January 01, a student named Agnes N. Ozman is said to have started speaking in tongues. On January 03, more are said to have done so, including Parham. Some students were not pleased and left the school. However, Parham was soon holding large Pentecostal meetings in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Texas. Britannica says, “The roots of the modern Pentecostal movements go back to a small religious school called Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas” (ibid).

(b) William Joseph Seymour (1870-1922). In December 1905, Parham opened another Bible College in Houston, Texas. Seymour met Parham and asked to attend his school. He was not allowed a seat due to the race issue; but he was allowed to listen to the lessons through an open door or window (William Joseph Seymour Biography, noteablebiographies.com). Seymour had bounced around religiously. He was sprinkled as an infant in the Catholic Church. He became a Methodist in 1895. He was ordained a minister in the Church of God in 1902. Then, he studied under Parham, where he connected baptism of the Holy Spirit with tongue-speaking, and not just holiness.

Seymour moved to Los Angeles, California in 1906 in order to work with a small holiness church. Due to his teachings on tongue-speaking, he literally found himself locked out of the church building, in his first month. He and a some others began to meet in the house of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Asberry on 214 North Bonnie Brea Street. A few, it is said, began to speak in tongues, on April 09, 1906. Then, on April 12, Seymour is said to have begun to do so, for the first time.

The group soon outgrew the house and moved into an unused AME church building, located at 312 Azusa Street. The Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909) became a mecca for the Pentecostal movement. The assemblies were interracial, unusual for the time. “Today, the following groups in the United States look to Apostolic Faith Mission that stood at 312 Azusa Street as having a role in their very existence: Church of God in Christ; International Church of the Foursquare Gospel; the Assemblies of God; the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World; the United Pentecostal Churches; Church of God (Cleveland, TN); the International Pentecostal Holiness Church; the Vineyard Christian Fellowship; Victory Outreach; the Macedonian International Bible Fellowship; the Apostolic Fe en Christo Jesus; and, the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ” (Azusa Street Mission, 312azusa.com).

2. Charismatic Renewal

The second wave comes in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It seems to start in California. It occurs within non-Pentecostal churches. “In 1959, Dennis Bennett, an Episcopalian clergyman, announced to his congregation in Van Nuys, California, that he had been baptized with the Holy Spirit and had spoken in tongues” (The Three Waves of Charismatic Christianity by Angus Steward, cprc.co.uk). It occurred within Catholicism in the 1960’s (Catholic Pentecostals by Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan). Charismatics, unlike many Pentecostals, do not believe that one must speak in tongues or manifest gifts of the Spirit (Ranaghan, p. 220; The Three Waves of Pentecostalism, ligonier.org). This wave does not have its roots in holiness churches. Therefore, Charismatics may dress differently than classical Pentecostals. They may wear makeup and cut their hair (Ryan Reeves).

3. Neo-Charismatics/Neo-Pentecostals

The third wave dates to the 1980’s. This wave emphasizes health and wealth (ligonier.org). The third wave emphasizes physical healing, inner healing, deliverance from evil spirits, prophecy and other signs and wonders more than tongue speaking (Committee to Study Third Wave, Pentecostalism II, p. 6, crcna.org). Many of today’s televangelist are Neo type Charismatics/Pentecostals.

[Among the works consulted for history: Jimmy Jividen, Glossolalia; F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom; Christian Apologists and Early Heresies by Ryan Reeves YouTube; Encyclopedia Britannica; Charles Fox Parham, encyclopedia.com; Who Was Charles Parham, gotquestions.org; William Joseph Seymour Biography, noteablebiographies.com; William J. Seymour, ihopkc.org; Pentecostalism: WilliamSeymour, christianhistoryinstitute.org; William Seymour and the History of the Azusa Street Outpouring, revivial-library.org; What was the Azusa Street Revival?, gotquestions.org; The Azusa Street Revival – 1906, apostolicarchives.com; Azusa Street Revival, blackpast.org; Miracle on Azusa Street, nytimes.com; The Influence of Azusa Street, scielo.org.za; Azusa Street Mission, 312azusa.com; The Three Waves of Charismatic Christianity by Angus Steward, cprc.co.uk; Catholic Pentecostals by Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan The Three Waves of Pentecostalism; ligonier.org; Committee to Study Third Wave Pentecostalism II, crcna.org].

Authority

COGIC states: “We hold the word of God to be the only authority in all matters and assert that no doctrine can be true or essential, if it does not find a place in this word” (What We Believe, COGIC.org).

AG states: “The Bible is our all-sufficient rule for faith and practice” (Assemblies of God 16 Fundamental Truths, ag.org).

Beliefs and Practices

It is impossible to cover what all varieties of Pentecostals believe and practice. “Pentecostalism” is a very broad umbrella term.

However, there are some common traits. Most are Trinitarian (However, there are Oneness Pentecostals, e.g. UPC). Most believe in the infallibility of Scripture. Many believe that man is born in sin. Most believe that man must repent and believe in Jesus to be saved. Most practiced water baptism by immersion. Most believe in the modern-day baptism of the Holy Spirit. Some practice feet-washing. Most are premillennial in eschatology.

Let’s consider what the two largest Pentecostal denominations in the United States say.

1. Salvation

COGIC: “We believe that man is saved by confessing and forsaking his sins, and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ” (What We Believe, cogic.org).

AG: “Salvation is received through repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ” (16 Fundamental Truths, ag.org).

2. Water Baptism

COGIC: “We believe that water baptism is necessary as instructed by Christ… However, we do not believe that water baptism alone is a means of salvation, but an outward demonstration that one has already had a conversion experience and has accepted Christ as his personal Savior. As Pentecostals, we practice immersion…” (What We Believe, cogic.org).

AG: “The ordinance of baptism by immersion is commanded by the scriptures. All who repent and believe on Christ as Savior and Lord are to be baptized” (16 Fundamental Truths, ag.org).

3. Lord’s Supper

Both believe that the Lord’s Supper is symbolic of Jesus’ suffering and death for us (cogic.org; ag.org). They do not state the frequency that it is offered.

4. Feet washing

COGIC: “Feet washing is practiced… These services are held subsequent to the Lord’s Supper; however its regularity is left to the discretion of the Pastor in charge” (What We Believe, cogic.org).

5. Eternal Security

AG: “The Bible also teaches that believers who have accepted Christ as Savior can be lost if they repeatedly disregard the teaching of scripture, continue to resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and finally reach the point where they turn away from their Savior” (Assurance of Salvation, ag.org).

6. Holy Spirit Baptism

COGIC: “We believe that the Baptism of the Holy Ghost is an experience subsequent to conversion and sanctification and that tongue-speaking is the consequence of the baptism in the Holy Ghost… we… believe that a Holy Ghost experience is mandatory for all men today” (What We Believe, cogic.org).

AG: “All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek… the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire” (16 Fundamental Truths, ag.org).

7. Divine Healings

COGIC: “The Church of God in Christ believes in and practices Divine Healing” (What We Believe, cogic.org).

AG: “Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers” (16 Fundamental Truths, ag.org).

8. Premillennialism

AG: “The second coming of Christ includes the rapture of the saints, which is our blessed hope, followed by the visible return of Christ with his saints to reign on earth for one thousand years” (16 Fundamental Truths, ag.org).

Organization

1.COGIC is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s government is episcopal in nature. The current presiding Bishop is J. Drew Sheard (J. Drew Sheard elected as COGIC’s New Presiding Bishop, Katherine Burgess, Commercial Appeal, March 21, 2021, commercialappeal.com).


2. AG is headquartered in Springfield, Missouri. It’s government is more congregational in nature. There are two types of AG churches. General Conference affiliated churches are autonomous. District affiliated churches, “are those which have not yet developed to the point where they qualify for full autonomy. All assemblies are required to adhere to the statements of fundamental truths and a biblical pattern of conduct” (structure, ag.org).

Posted in Church Organization, denominations, Doctrine, History, Pentecostalism, Premillennialism, Race, Restoration History, Stats | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Denominations: Methodist/Wesleyan Church (Part 2)

Authority

1.  Bible

“The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation;  so that whatsoever is not written therein, nor may be proved thereby is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or necessary to salvation” (The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church, Article 5; see also – The Confession of Faith of The Evangelical United Brethren Church, Article 4). 

2.  Book of Discipline and other Documents

“The Evangelical United Brethren Church’s Confession of Faith and the Methodist Episcopal Church’s Articles of Religion help us understand what we believe as United Methodists.  The writings of Methodism’s founder also continue to guide us.  John Wesley’s Sermons On Several Occasions, his Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament and the General Rules of the Methodist Church continue to inform our faith and practice” (United Methodist Foundational Documents, umc.org). 

“We do not see the Discipline as sacrosanct or infallible, but we do consider it a document suitable to our heritage… It reflects our understanding of the Church and articulates the mission of The United Methodist… The Discipline defines what is expected of its laity and clergy” (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2016, Episcopal Greetings, pp. v-vi). 

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Free Will   

“We believe man is fallen from righteousness and, apart from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is destitute of holiness and inclined to evil… we believe, however, man influenced and empowered by the Holy Spirit is responsible in freedom to exercise his will for good” (The Articles of Religion, Article 7).  This is called Prevenient Grace or Preventing Grace.  God provides to all enough grace to overcome the effects of the fall so that man has free will to respond to God.  “Wesley uses the metaphor of a house to describe our spiritual journeys.  Our justification he calls the door.  The conviction of our sins and the recognition of our need for salvation, he likens to a porch.  Prevenient grace is the grace of the porch.  It prepares our hearts and minds to hear and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to respond in faith” (God at Work Before We Know It: Prevenient Grace by Joe Iovino, umc.org; Also: What is Prevenient Grace: Seven Minute Seminary by Dr. Charles (Chuck) Gutenson, seedbed YouTube). 

2.  Justification or Salvation

“We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings.  Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort” (The Articles of Religion, Article 9).  Justification is considered the door way of salvation (Justifying Grace: Seven Minute Seminary by Dr. Charles Gutenson, seedbed YouTube). 

3.  Baptism

“Baptism is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptized; but it is also a sign of regeneration or the new birth.  The baptism of young children is to be retained in the Church” (The Articles of Religion, Article 17).  “We believe Baptism signifies entrance into the household of faith, and is a symbol of repentance and inner cleansing from sin, a representation of the new birth in Christ Jesus and a mark of Christian discipleship” (The Confession of Faith, Article 6). 

They do not believe that it matters how one was baptized.  Immersion, pouring, and sprinkling are all considered acceptable (What do I Need to Know About Baptism in the UMC?, umc.org).

They baptize infants.  “In all forms of Christian baptism, God claims those being baptized, whatever their age or ability to process their faith, with divine grace.  Clearly an infant can do nothing to save himself or herself, but is totally dependent on God’s grace, as we all are – whatever our age” (FAQs About Baptism, Membership, and Salvation, umcdiscipleship.org). 

4.  Lord’s Supper   

“Transubstantiation… cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of scripture” (The Articles of Religion, Article 18).  “We believe the Lord’s Supper is a representation of our redemption, a memorial of the suffering and death of Christ…” (The Confession of Faith, Article 6).

“Each local United Methodist Church determines how often to celebrate communion.  Many churches celebrate communion once a month, often on the first Sunday… Some churches now celebrate every week” (How Often Do We Have Communion?, umc.org).

5.  Sanctification

“Sanctification is that renewal of our fallen nature by the Holy Ghost… enabled through grace, to love God with all our hearts and to walk in his holy commandments blameless” (The Articles of Religion, Article 25).

This allows one to live in the house.  Preventient grace and convicting grace brings one to the porch.  Justifying grace is the door.  Santifying grace allows one to live in the house (Sanctifying Grace: Seven Minute Seminary by Dr. Charles Gutenson, Seebed YouTube). 

This is sometimes referred to as the second work of grace.  The first work of grace occurs when one is justified.  The second work of grace occurs in sanctification.  “God’s sanctifying grace changes us and leads us to increase our faith, which leads to good works.  Just as a one-sided marriage fails, a one-sided relationship with God fails, also.  We must participate in the relationship God offers us, and God’s sanctifying grace leads us to do that” (Distinctive Wesleyan Doctrines, fumcwf.org). 

Methodists do not believe in once saved, always saved doctrine.  “Our church teaches we can end up ‘losing’ the salvation God has begun in us, and the consequence of this in the age to come is our eternal destruction in hell” (Do United Methodist Believe “Once Saved, Always Saved?”, umc.org).

6.  The General Rules of The Methodist Church by John Wesley

“It is therefore expected of all who continue therein that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation, First: By doing no harm, by avoiding even of every kind… Secondly: By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power; as they have opportunity, doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all men… Thirdly: By attending upon all the ordinances of God… These are the General Rules of our societies” (The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2016, The General Rules of The Methodist Church).

7.  Women

“Women were given limited clergy rights in 1924 and were accepted for full ordination in 1956.  In 1980 the United Methodist Church elected its first woman bishop” (United Methodist Church, britannica.com). 

8.  Homosexuality

The UMC is nearing division over this subject.  A proposal is currently being considered to split the Church over this issue.  This is scheduled to be decided in the August 2022 General Conference (United Methodist Conservatives Detail Breakaway Plans Over Gay Inclusion, A.P., March 02, 2021, nbcnews.com).

SMU, accepting of lgbtq, has claimed that it is not under the authority of UMC.  This led to a lawsuit against the University (SMU sued as it moves to cut ties with United Methodist Church, religiousnews.com).  SMU won this lawsuit (Judge Rules for SMU Over Jurisdiction By Sam Hodges, March 23, 2021, umnews.org).

Organization

The United Methodist Church has an organizational structure greater than the local church.  “The United Methodist Church does not have a central headquarters or a single executive leader.  Duties are divided among bodies that includes the General Conference, the Council of Bishops, and the Judicial Council” (Structure, umc.org)

The local church does not fully control church property.  “All properties of United Methodist local churches and all other Methodist agencies and institutions are held, in trust, for the benefit of the entire denomination” (The Book of Discipline 2016, paragraph 2501). 

Types of Methodists

There are many types of Methodists.  Here are a few:

1.  United Methodist Church

The Methodists split over slavery in 1844-1845.  The two Churches which formed out of this split were: The Methodist Episcopal Church and The Methodist Episcopal Church, South (Encyclopedia Britannica).

These two Churches merged in 1939.  They became The Methodist Church (ibid).

The Evangelical United Brethren Church (Methodists of German heritage) merged with them in 1968, in Dallas, Texas.  They became The United Methodist Church (ibid). 

2.  African Methodist Episcopal Church

“This Church began in 1787 when a number of members of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal church in Philadelphia withdrew in protest against racial discrimination… The body was formally organized as The African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816” (Frank Mead and Samuel Hill Handbook of Denominations, p. 159).

3.  African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

“This Church dates from 1796, when it was organized by a group of members protesting discrimination in the John Street church in New York City… The present name was approved in 1848” (Mead, pp. 159-160).

Posted in Church Organization, denominations, Doctrine, History, Homosexuality, Race | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Denominations: Methodist/Wesleyan Church (Part 1)

Ascertaining accurate total numbers is difficult.  The Methodist church is greatly divided.  There are 23 separate Methodist bodies in the U.S. alone (Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill, Handbook of Denominations, p. 159).  “The World Methodist Council is made up of 80 Methodist, Wesleyan and related Uniting and United churches representing over 80 million members in 138 countries” (Our Worldwide Church Family, worldmethodistcouncil.org).

The United Methodist Church (UMC) numbers about 12.5 million worldwide.  Membership in the U.S.A. is almost 7 million (The Denomination’s Membership tops 12.5 Million by Heather Hahn, Jan. 29, 2018, umnews.org).  This is the largest branch of the Methodist Church in the U.S.A.. The most populous region of the USA for UMC membership is the Southeastern region (umdata.org). The top states by percentage of state population are: (1) Iowa, 7.7%; (2) Oklahoma, 7.5%; (3) West Virginia, 7.4% (2010 stats, thearda.com). The top states by number of members are: (1) Texas; (2) Georgia; (3) Pennsylvania; (4) Ohio; (5) Florida (ibid).

There are other churches which are of Methodist stock.  We will mention only four.  (1) The African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) has about 2.5 million members worldwide (Introduction, ame5.org).  (2) The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ) has about 1.4 million [African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church, crcc.usc.edu].  (3) The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME) has about 1.2 million members (About the CME church, thecmechurch.org).  (4) The Wesleyan Church (TWC) has about 138,000 (2018 TWC Statistics, wesleyan.org).  The first three are predominately black in membership.  All four were formed due to issues involving race or slavery. 

History

1.  John Wesley (1703-1791) and Charles Wesley (1707-1788).

These brothers were born in Epworth, Lincolnshire, Great Britain.  John was the fifteenth, and Charles was the eighteenth of nineteenth children born to Samuel and Suzanna Wesley (ten survived infancy).  The family struggled with poverty.  Samuel Wesley was Rector of Epworth, an Anglican minister.   

John, likewise, would become an Anglican minister.  He received a M.A. degree from Oxford in 1727.  He was ordained a priest in 1728.  He returned to Oxford for residency work in 1729. 

Charles Wesley followed the same path.  While a student at Oxford, he started a Bible study and prayer group with two other students.  When John returned to Oxford, he became the leader.  The group grew over time to fourteen.  Among the group was George Whitefield.  Some of the other students referred to the group as the “Holy Club.”  They were also called “Methodists.”  F.W. Mattox writes, “Due to the extreme worldliness of the university campus the little group suffered much ridicule and began to be called ‘Methodist.’  This name was given to them because of their insistence upon a ‘method’ of strict observance to all the prayer book demanded.  They contended that a satisfactory life before God required that they follow the method prescribed in the prayer book.  They fasted on all appointed days and took communion every Sunday.  They denied themselves every luxury and amusement, and saved all of the money possible to pass on to more needy individuals” (F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom, p. 286).  “They became known as ‘The Holy Club’ or ‘Methodist’ because of the methodical way in which they carried out their Christian faith.  John Wesley later used the term Methodist himself to mean the methodical pursuit of biblical holiness” (The Methodist Church, bbc.co.uk).  Charles received a M.A. degree from Oxford and was ordained a priest in 1735. 

2.  Georgia

The colony of Georgia received its charter in 1732.  It was the last of the thirteen colonies.  It was the brainchild of James Oglethorpe.  He wanted a place to resettle debtors from England.  King George II wanted a buffer between South Carolina and Spanish Florida (Georgia Colony, britishempire.co.uk).

In 1735, John and Charles accompanied Oglethorpe to Georgia.  John went as a missionary to the colonists and the natives.  Charles went as secretary to Oglethorpe.  They stayed two years.  The mission work was not very fruitful (Mattox, p. 286; Charles Jacobs, The Story of The Church, p. 330).     A controversy occurred in Georgia.  John developed an interest in Sophia Hopkey, the niece of the Governor of Savannah.  He decided not to marry her.  She, then, married William Williamson.  Her husband discouraged her attendance.  He did not want her near John.  After a lapse in attendance she attended, but John refused to serve her communion.  This led to controversy and an exit from Georgia (John Wesley Trial: 1737, encyclopedia.com, The Life of John Wesley, Ryan Reeves Youtube; New Standard Encyclopedia Vol. 10 © 1938; Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 19, p. 760 © 1979). 

3.  Change/Conversion

There are certain things which changed the Wesley’s religious thinking: (1) On their way to Georgia (1735) a series of storms were experienced.  In one storm John Wesley became frightened.  He wrote, “How is it that thou hast no faith?” (John Wesley, Journal, January 23).  Another storm came and many passengers became frightened.  However, a group of Moravian emigrants seemed to be at peace.  He wrote, “The Germans calmly sang on.  I ask one of them afterward, ‘Were you not afraid?’ He answered, ‘I thank God, no.’  I asked ‘But were not your women and children afraid?’  He replied, mildly, ‘No; our women and children are not afraid to die’” (Journal, January 25).  Why was he frightened and they calm?

(2) In Savannah, Georgia (1735-1738) the Wesleys continued to have contact with Moravians [The Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum or Unity of Brethren) has its beginnings in 15th century Moravia and Bohemia (Czechia).  The Church was influenced by Lutheran Pietism in the early 18th Century].  John Wesley asked about their calmness and his lack of calmness.  A Moravian names August Spangenberg replied, “’My brother, I must first ask you one or two questions.  Have you the witness within yourself?  Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?’  I was surprised, and know not how to answer.  He observed it and asked Do you know Jesus Christ?’  I paused and said, ‘I know He is the Savior of the world.’  ‘True,’ replied he, ‘but do you know that he has saved you?’ I said, ‘I do.’  But I feared they were vain words” (Journal of John Wesley, February 07, ntslibrary.com). 

(3) Back in England (1738) the Wesleys continued to have contact with Moravians.  Charles began to teach Moravian Peter Bohler the English language.  (Journal of Charles Wesley, February 20th, Wesley.nnu.edu).  On one occasion, Peter asked Charles some questions about his hope of salvation.  “He asked me, ‘Do you hope to be saved?  ‘Yes.’  ‘For what reason do you hope it?’ ‘Because I have used my best endeavors to serve God.’  He shook his head, and said no more.  I thought him very uncharitable, saying in my heart, ‘What, are not my endeavors a sufficient ground of hope…?’”  (Journal of Charles Wesley, February 24).    Peter also interacted with John.  On one occasion, Peter told him, “My brother the philosophy of yours must be purged away” (Journal of John Wesley, February 18).  He told him, “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it” (ibid, March 04). 

John preached to a man on death row.  He saw how this message of faith brought comfort to the man (ibid, March 27). 

Charles came to believe in the doctrine of justification by faith alone after reading Luther’s commentary on Galatians.  He wrote, “Salvation by faith alone, not an idle, dead faith, but faith which works by love, and is necessarily productive of all good works and all holiness” (Journal of Charles Wesley, May 17).  He found peace. He wrote, “I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ” (ibid, May 21).

John did the same three days later after hearing Luther read.  He wrote, “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans.  About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.   I felt that I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins” (Journal of John Wesley, May 24).

Prior to this change in John and Charles Wesley, they seem to be trying to achieve salvation by good works.  This brought no peace.

4.  George Whitefield (1714-1770)

Here are a few details concerning him.  He was born in Gloucester, Great Britain.  His mother was a tavern operator (The Bell Inn).  At Oxford he became a member of “the Holy Club.”  He led the group after the Wesleys departed for Georgia.  He received a B.A. from Oxford and was ordained a deacon in the Anglican Church in 1736.  He was ordained a priest in 1739.  He became a very popular preacher in the colonies, and a key figure in the Great Awakening during the 1740’s.  “In one year Whitefield covered 5,000 miles in America and preached more than 350 times” (Great Awakening, history.com).

Following Whitefield’s first trip to America (1738), he found few opportunities to preach in church pulpits.  He began to preach open-air meetings in the countryside to the poor.  Whitefield convinced the Wesleys to do the same.  John Wesley wrote, “I reached Bristol and met Mr. Whitefield there.  I could scarcely reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields… I had been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church (building – B.H.)” (Journal of John Wesley, March 31).  The Wesleys came to use this setting for preaching.    

Trouble occurred over Calvinism.  George Whitefield became a proponent of Calvinism.  This was in step with orthodox Anglican teaching.  The Wesleys opposed Calvinism.  John believed that it represented “God as worse than the devil; more false, more cruel, more unjust” (Free Grace. A Sermon preached at Bristol, quod.lib.umich.edu).  The difference turned into a controversy between 1739-1741.  Those with Whitefield were Calvinist Methodist.  They eventually dropped the Methodist name.  Some became the Presbyterian Church of Wales.  Others became a part of Congregationalism (Calvinist Methodist, oxfordreference.com; Ryan Reeves YouTube, Wesley and Whitefield).  Those with the Wesleys became the United Societies of Wesley (Ryan Reeves). 

Whitefield and the Wesleys eventually made peace between themselves.  They simply agreed to disagree on the subject.  John Wesley seems to have coined the phrase “agree to disagree” (10 Fascinating Facts About John Wesley and United Methodism, resourceumc.org). 

5.  Separation from the Church of England

The Wesleys set up societies within the Church of England.  They worked within the Church.  They attracted many who were not an active part of the Church of England – those who could not afford the pew rents or dress in the right clothes (John Wesley, The Faith That Sparked the Methodist Movement, Vision Video).  They did not desire to leave the Church of England.  Charles Wesley said before his death, “I have lived and I die in communion of the Church of England” (F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom, p. 288).  John Wesley said prior to his death, “I hold all the doctrines of the Church of England.  I love her liturgy and approved her plan of discipline” (ibid).  “After the death of John Wesley, the Methodist Conference which met in 1793 declared, “We are determined in a body to remain in connection with the Church of England” (ibid).    Separation was never formally declared, but did come.  (1) Methodist Societies had their own rules.  In 1743, John Wesley prepared, “General Rules” for the societies.  (2) They began to ordain their own preachers.  “After Anglican clergy fled America during the Revolution, Wesley was faced with caring for some 15,000 followers there.  The Bishop of London refused to ordain clergy for him, so Wesley ordained ministers on his own authority” (A Brief History of John Wesley and Methodism, trentonunitedmethodistchurch.org).  Wesley ordained Thomas Coke in 1784 to be Superintendent in America.  Coke, with authorization from Wesley, ordained Francis Asbury as joint Superintendent (Coke, Thomas, bu.edu).  The Methodist in America were in reality separated from the Church of England.  Charles Jacob writes, “The assumption by Wesley of the right to ordain ministers was a definite break with the Church of England, and once the break had been made, Wesley continued to ordain men, first for other British possessions, and finally for England itself.  At the same time with the first ordinations, he completed the Methodist Church organization by vesting in the General Conference all the authority which he had personally exercised over the preachers and the societies” (Charles Jacobs, The Story of the Church, p. 333).

6.  Work

There is no denying that the Wesleys worked with zeal in what they did.  John Wesley is said to have traveled 250,000 miles on horseback in preaching, and to have preached more than 40,000 sermons in his life (John Wesley, biography.yourdictionary.com).  Charles Wesley is said to have written more than 6,500 hymns (Charles Wesley, songsandhymns.org).  These include such well-known favorites as: And Can It Be That I Should Gain?; Christ, The Lord, is Risen Today; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; Jesus, Lover of My Soul; Soldiers of Christ, Arise.

(Among the helpful works consulted: Encyclopedia Britannica; New Standard Encyclopedia; The Journal of John Wesley, ntslibrary.com; The Journal of Charles Wesley, nnu.edu; The Story of the Church by Charles Jacobs; The Eternal Kingdom by F.W. Mattox; The History of Methodism, methodistheritage.org.uk; A Brief History of John Wesley and Methodism, trentonunitedmethodistchurch.org; 10 Fascinating Facts About John Wesley and United Methodism by Jeremy Steel, resourceumc.org; Methodist Church History, learningreligions.com; Wesley v. Whitefield, christianhistoryinstitute.org; Handbook of Denominations by Frank Mead and Samuel Hill; Ryan Reeves, YouTube, The Life of John Wesley; Ryan Reeves YouTube; Wesley and Whitefield; John Wesley, The Faith that Sparked the Methodist Movement, Vision Video, YouTube; Georgia Colony, britishempire.co.uk; Great Awakening, history.com; Coke, Thomas, bu.edu; quod.lib.umich.edu; John Wesley, biography.yourdictionary.com; Charles Wesley, songsandhymns.org; oxfordreference.com; umnews.org; worldmethodistcouncil.org.  These are some of the works I found helpful). 

Posted in calvinism, Church Organization, History, Stats | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Truly Wise

Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13).

The truly wise demonstrate their wisdom in two ways.  (1) They demonstrate it by good conduct.  True wisdom goes beyond intellectual learning.  Christians should seek to live by God’s word.  James instructed, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only…” (James 1:22).  Jesus stated, “Whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock…” (Matthew 7:24).  (2) They do their works in meekness of wisdom.   Guy N. Woods comments, “Meekness of wisdom (wisdom stripped of all arrogance, pride, and desire for worldly acclaim)… One may indeed be meek and not wise; but, one who is truly wise will be meek; and, where meekness is wanting there is evidence of the lack of wisdom also” (Guy N. Woods, The Epistle of James, p. 182).    It is possible, even likely, that the words especially apply to the ones who teach.  The chapter began by addressing those who would be teachers (James 3:1 cf. 3:13).  The term “wise” can be used to refer to spiritual teachers (e.g. Matthew 23:34).  Guy N. Woods comments, “The word ‘wise’ is from sophos, a teacher; and ‘understanding’ is from epistemon, one skilled.  Thus, the question raised is, who is really a skilled teacher?” (Woods, p. 181).  J.J. Turner comments, “The wise teacher will honor knowledge by putting it into practice in his everyday life” (J.J. Turner, The Book of James, p. 107).                

R.L. Whiteside commenting on another passage said this, “Any man is a poor teacher if he does not teach himself while he is teaching others.  He is a poor preacher that cannot preacher better than he can practice, but he is a poorer preacher if he does not try hard to live up to his preaching” (R.L. Whiteside, A New Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Saints at Rome, p. 60-61). 

But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not lie against the truth.  This wisdom does not descend from above but is earthly, sensual, demonic” (James 3:14-15).

Boasting of one’s wisdom does not make one wise.  In truth, it is evidence to the contrary.

Here are two signs that one is not truly wise.  (1) Bitter envy is a sign that your wisdom is not from above.  Here is how other translations render the original word: bitter jealousy ASV; NASB; ESV.  The original word, zelon, means here “an envious and contentious rivalry, jealousy” (Thayer).  Christians should not be envious of each other (cf. Numbers 11:25-29; Philippians 1:15-16, 18); (2) self-seeking is another sign, which is closely related to the first.   Here is how other translations render the original word: faction ASV; selfish ambition NASB, ESV.  The original word, eritheian, means “ambition, self-seeking, rivalry… party-making” (Vine’s).  “Used of those who electioneer for office, courting popular applause… a partisan and factious spirit” (Thayer).  We should not seek to make followers of self (cf. Acts 10:25-26; 14:11-15; 20:29-31; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; Titus 3:10-11).

Any wisdom which promotes envy and self-seeking is not from God (James 3:15).  It is earthly (of earthly origin), sensual (springing from human desires), and demonic (demon-like).  Such wisdom produces confusion (disorder) and evil (James 3:16).  It will lead to problems between brethren.  It will cause damage in the church. 

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).

Here is true wisdom, God’s wisdom.  It has these characteristics: (1) It is pure.  The origin word, hagne, means “pure from defilement, not contaminated” (Vine’s).  The word is sometimes used of sexual purity (e.g. Titus 2:5; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; 2 Corinthians 11:2).  It can also be used of purity from sin (e.g. 1 Timothy 5:22).  The wise seek to maintain purity (cf. James 1:27). 

(2) It is peaceable.  The original word, eirenike, means, “peaceable, pacific, peace-loving” (Thayer).  The wise seek to live at peace with their fellow man (cf. Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14).

(3) It is gentle.  The original word, epieikes, means, “seemingly… equitable, fair, mild, gentle” (Thayer).  Foy Valentine comments, “That is to say it is forbearing, patient under provocation, respectful of the feelings of others, considerate, moderate” (quoted by Rubel Shelly in What Christian Living is All About, p. 67).  The wise have this quality.  It is especially needed in teachers (e.g. 2 Timothy 2:24-25; 1 Thessalonians 2:7). 

(4) It is willing to yield.  Other translations read: easy to be entreated KJV; reasonable NASB; open to reason ESV.  The original word, eupeithes, means – “easily obeying” (Thayer).  Adam Clarke comments, “Not stubborn nor obstinate; of a yielding disposition in all indifferent things” (studylight.org).  The wise are of this nature (e.g. Romans 14:19; 1 Corinthians 8:13; 10:31-33). 

(5) It is full of mercy.  The original word, eleous, means – “kindness or good will toward the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them” (Thayer).  “The outward manifestation of pity” (Vine’s).  We are to be a merciful people (e.g. Luke 10:36-37; James 2:1-3, 13). 

(6) It is full of good fruit.  The fruit of the Spirit should characterize us (cf. Galatians 5:22-23).  We should bear fruit with patience (Luke 8:15).  We should be full of good works (Titus 2:14; 3:8; 3:14). 

(7) It is without partiality.  Other translations read: variance ASV; unwavering NASB.  The original word, diakritos, means – “to separate, make distinction, discriminate” or “to be at variance with one’s self, doubt” (Thayer).  Some take this to mean that one should not hold the faith with partiality (cf. James 2:1-4).  The wise views each soul as precious.  Others take this to mean variance within the person.  Guy N. Woods comments, “The wisdom which is from above enables one to be firm in his views, and to entertain complete confidence in God and in his word” (Woods, p. 194).  The word was used earlier in this book (James 1:6; 2:4).  The wise avoid both of these meanings of usages of the word. 

(8) It is without hypocrisy.  The original word, hupokritos, refers to – “an actor, stage-player” (Thayer).  We should not be simply playing Christianity; we should be genuine (cf. Romans 12:9). 

This wisdom does not produce confusion and evil.  It produces righteous behavior (James 3:18 cf. 1:20) and peace (James 3:18).  If every Christian lived by this wisdom, the church would be at peace among its members. 

One brother remarked, “Not everyone can have the IQ of a genius.  Very few will have the opportunity to achieve notoriety in science, education, or the professional world.  But everyone can have the wisdom described by James in this very beautiful passage.  We can all submit ourselves humbly to God and live under his control” (Rubel Shelly, p. 69). 

Posted in christian growth, Christian Influence, Preachers, Textual study, Word Study | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

7 Spiritual Tests

The book of 1 John was written for four stated purposes: (1) “that your joy may be full” (1:4); (2) “so that you may not sin” (2:1); (3) “concerning those who try to deceive you” (2:26); (4) “that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (5:13).  Notice the last stated purpose.  John wanted them to have confidence of eternal life.

John provided these with seven spiritual tests whereby they could evaluate their spiritual condition.  Let’s consider these tests, and apply these to self. 

1.  Is your Christianity more than words?

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7).

The word “darkness” refers to that which is contrary to God’s will (1 John 1:6 cf. 2:4).  The word “walk” is in the present tense.  It suggests a manner of life, a life-style.  It is impossible to maintain fellowship with God, while living a life-style that is contrary to God. 

The word “light” refers to that which is consistent with God’s will (1 John 1:7 cf. 2:3).  The word “walk” is in the present tense.  It suggests a manner of life, a life-style.  It is possible to maintain fellowship with God, through the blood of Christ, while living a life-style according to His will (cf. Psalm 119:105; John 8:12).  Guy N. Woods comments, “This is a state of grace – not human perfection – and we should be ever-more thankful that in spite of our imperfections we may through grace enjoy his approval” (Guy N. Woods, Questions and Answers, Vol. 2, p. 188).

How are we living?  Are we seeking to live in submission to His will? 

2.  Are you humble enough to admit your sins?

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

Some will not admit their sins.  They are self-righteous.  They have trouble recognizing their own sins (e.g. John 9:40-41; Luke 18:9-14).  Some recognize their sins, but hide such (cf. Proverbs 28:13). 

We need to be humble enough to confess, admit our sins.  Peter told Simon, “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22).  Proverbs says, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

How do we deal with our sins?  Are we willing to repent and pray, confessing our sins?

3.  How far are you willing to go to justify self?

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).

Are you willing to make God a liar?  The word “confess” (homologeo) literally means “to speak the same thing,” that is “to assent, accord, agree with” (Vine’s).  It is used to mean “confess, declare, admit… to confess by way of admitting oneself guilty of what one is accused of…” (Vine’s).

Some will not admit that they have done anything wrong, even when scripture is used to expose their actions as sin.  Such people make God a liar. 

How do we deal with sin?  Do we admit sin?  Or, do we deny what the Scriptures plainly say to defend self?

4.  Do you truly love God? 

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him.  By this we know that we are in Him” (1 John 2:3-5).

The word “know” is sometimes used of “favorable knowledge” or “fellowship.”  Consider: Matthew 7:21-23.  This is how it is being used here (1 John 2:3 cf. 1:7; 1 John 2:4 cf. 1:6).

The word “keep” is in the present tense.  It is describing how one lives, the consistent manner of life.

It is not enough to claim academic knowledge.  Do we really know Him as we should?  Do we have fellowship with Him?  Do we love Him?  We show our love for God by living a life of obedience to Him (1 John 5:3; John 14:15, 21, 23).

How is our love for God?  Do we love Him enough to live for Him? 

It is not enough to claim academic knowledge.  Do we really know Him as we should?  Do we have fellowship with Him?  Do we love Him?  We show our love for God by living a life of obedience to Him (1 John 5:3; John 14:15, 21, 23).

How is our love for God?  Do we love Him enough to live for Him? 

5.  Are you following Him?

He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

To “abide in Him” (cf. 2:6) is equivalent to “knowing Him” (cf. 2:4) and “having fellowship with Him” (cf. 1:6).  Roy Lanier Jr. comments, “Here, as well as in John 15, the word ‘abide’ (menein) means more than simply to be in Him.  It includes the idea of remaining in Him… The essence of the word is a permanent and intimate association, not temporary or superficial.  This union lasts” (Roy Lanier Jr., Epistle of John, p. 32).  On the word “abide” see John 15:1-8. 

Does our walk identify us with Him?  Paul instructed, “Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1).  Again, he wrote, “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). 

6.  Do you have hatred for your brother in your heart?

He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.  He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.  But he who hates his brother is in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:9-11).

The word “brother” may be used in different ways.  It may refer to brothers in a family (e.g. 1 John 3:11-12).  It may refer to fellow citizens in a nation (e.g. Acts 2:29 cf. 2:36; Acts 2:37; 22:1-3).  It is sometimes used of fellow humans, brothers in Adam.  It is used of relationship in Christ (e.g. Galatians 3:26-29 cf. 4:28).  In context, “brother” seems to refer to brother in Christ (1 John 2:7-8 cf. John 13:33-34; 1 John 3:16; 4:11).  However, other passages clearly show that we are to love our fellow man (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 10:25-37). 

One who hates his brother is in darkness (1 John 2:9, 11).  It is a serious thing to be in darkness (1 John 2:9 cf. 1:6).  Guy N. Woods comments, “Jesus commanded us to love one another (John 15:17); he made love the badge of discipleship (John 13:35); and without it, one remains in darkness – the element which characterizes all away from God” (Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistle of Peter, John, and Jude, p. 229).  Again, he describes the one in darkness, “The inner condition is one of darkness; the outward life is a walk in darkness” (ibid, p. 231). 

There are sometimes difficulties between brethren.  We should not hate one another.  We should endeavor to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3).  We should desire reconciliation (Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15).  We should be forgiving (Luke 17:3-4; Matthew 18:21-35).

Do we love our brother(s) as we should? 

7.  Do you love one another?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). 

The words “one another” seems to refer to love between brethren.  It is addressed to “beloved” (cf. 1 John 3:2).  It concerns “one another” relationship (cf. 1 John 1:7; 3:14-15). 

This was not written for the purpose of telling the non-Christian what to do to be saved.  Bill Lockwood, “The grand mistake of the Baptist pulpiteers in this is the utilization of passages (such as 1 John 4:7) that refers to the continued obedience of the child of God and trying to make them germane to the process of conversion of the non-Christian” (Hammer & Tongs, September-October, 1995, p. 6).

Love is essential in our relationship with God.  Love is not the only condition to continued fellowship with God, but it is a condition.  If we want to be spiritually related to God, we must love. 

Our love is to be more than words.  It is to be sincere (Romans 12:9; 2 Corinthians 6:6; 1 Peter 1:22).   It is to be fervent (1 Peter 1:22).  It is to be expressed in action.  “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

We are to be abounding and increasing in love (Philippians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).  We are spiritually nothing without love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).  How is our love for one another?

Posted in christian growth, Fellowship, Forgiveness, Humility, Love, Repentance, salvation, Sin, Textual study, Word Study | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Denominations: The Religious Society of Friends

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) numbered about 380,000 worldwide in 2017 (New Worldwide Quaker Map Released, Friendsjournal.org).  There were about 76,000 friends (Quakers) in the U.S.A. in 2012 (Worldwide Distribution of Quakers 2012, quakerinfo.com).  About 52% were located in Africa in 2012 (ibid).

History

1.  George Fox (1624-1691)

Fox was born in Fenny Drayton, Leicestershire, England.  His father was a successful weaver.  At age 12, Fox became an apprentice to a shoemaker.  However, he had other desires.

At age 19, he left home and began a quest seeking spiritual truth.  He failed to find it in the churches.  “He became a wandering Seeker, not attending churches – ‘steeple-houses,’ as he called them – but walking in the fields or orchards with his Bible” (Owen Chadwick, The Reformation, p. 241).  He claimed inner-light.  He asked, “Did not the Apostles say to believers that they needed no man to teach them, but as the anointing teacheth them (1 John 2:27)?”  (George Fox, An Autobiography, Chapter One, gutenberg.org).     

He came to believe that all have access to this inner-light.  “Now the Lord God opened to me by His invisible power that every man was enlightened by the divine Light of Christ, …and they that believe in it came out of condemnation to the Light of life” (ibid, chapter two).  He believed that he was “commanded to turn people to that inward Light, Spirit, and Grace, by which all might know their salvation and their way to God” (ibid).  The Religious Society of Friends was founded in 1652 (Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill, Handbook of Denominations, p. 113).        

Controversy and persecution occurred in England.  “Quakerism was revolutionary… To say that both state and church were wrong… that people need not attend ‘steeple houses’ to find God; that it was equally wrong to pay taxes to support the state church clergy – this was rebellion.  Fox and his early followers went even further.  They not only refused to go to church, but insisted upon freedom of speech, assembly, and worship.  They would not take oaths in court; they refused to go to war; they doffed their hats to no one, king or commoner; they made no distinction in sex or social class; they condemned slavery and England’s treatment of prisoners and the insane… Quakers were whipped, jailed, tortured, mutilated, murdered.  Fox spent six years in jail.  Others spent decades even dying there” (ibid). 

2.  William Penn (1644-1718)

Penn was born in London, England.  His father, Sir William Penn (1621-1670), was an English Admiral, a politician in the House of Commons, and of considerable wealth.

Penn became a Friend (Quaker) when he was 22.  He would become a close friend of George Fox.  Penn was persecuted for his beliefs.  “The persecution of Quakers became so fierce that Penn decided that it would be better to try to find a new, free, Quaker settlement in North America.  Some Quakers had already moved to North America, but the New England Puritans, especially were as negative towards Quakers as the people back home, and some of them had been banished to the Caribbean” (Brief History of William Penn, ushistory.org).

“King Charles II of England had a large loan with Penn’s father, after whose death, King Charles settled by granting Penn a large area west and south of New Jersey on March 4, 1681).  Penn called the area Sylvania (Latin for woods), which Charles changed to Pennsylvania in honor of the elder Penn.  Perhaps the King was glad to have a place where religious and political outsiders… could have their own place, far away from England” (ibid).  Delaware was also later granted to him (William Penn, britannica.com). These areas became refuge for the persecuted.

Name

They have referred to themselves by different names: “Children of Truth,” “Children of Light,” and “Friends of Truth” (Mead, p. 113).  The name “Friend(s)” is commonly used.  It is based on John 15:15 (Our Meeting, plymouthmeetingquakers.org).

The name Quaker predates its use for Friends.  “The name Quaker was first used in 1647 to describe women from Southwark, England who were not associated with Friends.  It had become a derogatory description of these women and others… referencing those who ‘swell, shiver, and shake’ when having a personal spiritual experience” (ibid). 

Here is how the name became applied to Friends.  “George Fox records in his journal (1650) that Judge Bennett used the period epithet “Quaker” to describe Fox and his followers in response to Fox bidding him ‘to tremble at the name of the Lord.’  Later, Robert Barclay records that the name came from the trembling of Friends under the powerful working of the Holy Ghost” (ibid). 

Authority

Friends General Conference says, “Most Quakers do not consider the Bible to be the final authority or the only source of sacred wisdom.  We read it in the context of other religious writings and sources of wisdom, including the Light within and worshipful community discernment.  Some Quakers have little interest in the Bible” (FAQ’s about Quakers, fgcquaker.org).  They “prefer to rely upon fresh individual guidance from the Spirit of God which produced the Bible, rather than follow only what has been revealed to others.  Some modern groups accept the Bible as the final authority in all religious matters” (Mead, p. 116). 

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Inner-Light

“The Creator has endowed each person with a measure of the divine essence… The revelation of God’s truth is continuing and ongoing… our inward experience of God transforms us and leads us into outward expressions of faithful living” (Arthur Larrabee, 9 Core Quaker Beliefs, quakerspeak.com).  “Quakers seek religious truth in inner experience, and place great reliance on conscious as the basis of morality… the light of God is in every single person” (Quakers, bbc.co.uk). 

2.  Community

“We also believe that if we are sincerely open to Divine will, we will be guided by a wisdom that is more compelling than our own more superficial thoughts and feelings… Following such guidance is not always easy.  This is why community is important to Quakers, why we turn to each other for worshipful help in making important choices, and why we read the reflections of other Quakers, who have lived faithful lives” (FAQ’s About Quakers, fgcquaker.org). 

3.  Baptism and Lord’s Supper

The do not practice baptism or observe the Lord’s Supper.  “Friends do not consider the observance of the sacraments to be wrong, but they do regard participation in such an outward rite as unnecessary to genuine Christian discipleship… Friends use the words “baptism and communion” to describe the experience of Christ’s presence and his ministry in worship…  

Worship reaches its goal when those who worship feel the baptism of the Spirit…  Communion occurs when the worshipper communes with God and with those who are gathered in the Lord’s name” (The Sacraments, firstfriendswhittier.org).

4.  Worship

“Quaker worship is based on silent waiting, where we expect to come into the presence of God.  In this living silence, we listen for the still, small voice that comes from God through the inward light… During silent worship anyone – adult or child – may feel inspired to give vocal ministry… After the person speaks the message, the silence resumes.  Such messages may be offered several times during a meeting for worship, or the whole period of worship may be silent” (FAQ, fgcquaker.org). Frank Mead and Samuel Hill write, “Worship may either be programmed or unprogrammed. ..The former more nearly resembles a simple Protestant service, although there are no rites or outward sacraments…In unprogrammed meetings …the service is devoted to quiet meditation, prayer and communion. Any vocal contributions are spontaneous. There are no uniform practice…” ( Mead, p.116).

5.  Heaven and Hell

“The emphasis… is on present time… Individual Quakers hold a variety of beliefs about what follows our lives on earth” (ibid).

6.  Christian?

“Many Quakers consider themselves Christian, and some do not.  Many Quakers draw spiritual nourishment from our Christian roots… Many other Quakers draw spiritual sustenance from various religious traditions, such as Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and the natural religions” (ibid). 

7.  Concerns

They want to make the world a better place.  “They are particularly concerned with: human rights… social justice, peace, freedom of conscience, environmental issues… community life” (Quakers, bbc.co.uk).

Posted in denominations, Doctrine, History, Stats | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Denominations: Baptist Church (Part 2)

Name

There are different ideas which have been set forth for the origin of the name Baptist.  (1) A few Baptists claim that the name is God-given.  It was given to John because of his mission.  Also, it is the name for baptized disciples.  “The name Baptist came from God, the name Christian came from the heathen” (baptistbecause.com).

(2) Some believe that it may have its origin in the Anabaptist movement.  F.W. Mattox writes, “Historically the Baptist church did not exist until after the Anabaptist movement of the sixteenth century from which its name is derived” (F.W. Mattox, The Eternal Kingdom, p. 306).  He says, “The second generation of reformers had not received baptism as children.  Accordingly, they refused the name Anabaptist, denying that they had been baptized again” (ibid, p. 266).

(3) More commonly, it is believed that the name finds its origin in the days of the English separatists, without direct connection with Anabaptist.  Baptist historian, Leon McBeth writes, “Many people assume that Baptists got their name from John the Baptist.  This is not the case.  Like most religious groups, Baptists were named by their opponents.  The name comes from the Baptist practice of immersion.  The first known reference to these believers in England as ‘Baptist’ was in 1644.  They did not like the name and did not use it of themselves until years later.  The early Baptists preferred to be called ‘Brethren’ or ‘Brethren of the Baptist way.’  Sometimes they called themselves ‘Baptized churches.’  Early opponents of the Baptist often called them Anabaptist or other less complimentary names.  Baptists rejected the name Anabaptist, not wishing to be confused with or identified with the people who bore that name” (Leon McBeth, Baptist Beginnings, baptisthistory.org). 

Particular Baptist, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) had this to say about the name Baptist.  “I say of the Baptist name, let it perish, but let Christ’s name last forever.  I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living.  I hope they will soon be gone.  I hope the Baptist name will soon perish; but let Christ’s name endure forever” (Spurgeon Memorial Library, Vol. 1, p. 168).

Authority

1.  Bible

“Baptists… claim to have no authoritative creed except the New Testament” (Edward Hiscox, The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches, p. 56).  Britannica lists six convictions that Baptists generally hold in common.  The first concerns the Bible:   “The supreme authority of the Bible in all matters of faith and practice.  Baptists are a non-creedal people, and their ultimate appeal always has been to the scriptures rather than any confession of faith that they may have published from time to time to make known their commonly accepted views” (Britannica, Vol. 2, p. 716 © 1979). 

2.  Creeds, Confessions, and Manuals

Gerald Foster lists 19 Baptist confessions of faith that have been used through the years (Gerald Foster, Following the Denomination Called Baptist, p. 613-ff).  “It is common… for the churches to have formulated statements of what are understood to be the leading Christian doctrines… These are not uniform among the churches… each church is at liberty to prepare its own confession, or have none at all… Members, on being received to fellowship, are not required to subscribe or pledge conformity to any creed-form, but are expected to yield substantial agreement to that which the church with which they unite has adopted” (Hiscox, p. 56).

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Six Convictions

Britannica lists six convictions that Baptists generally hold in common.  These include: (1) The supreme authority of the Bible in all matters of faith and practice.  (2) Believer’s baptism by immersion.  (3) Churches composed of believers only.  (4) Equality of all Christians in the life of the church; In other words, no clergy-laity system.  (5) Independence of the local church.  (6) Separation of church and state (Britannica, Vol. 2, p. 716). 

2.  Salvation

The Second Baptist Church of Houston says, “Salvation is God’s free gift to us.  We receive this gift through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone… Every person who truly is saved is eternally secure in the Lord Jesus Christ and will spend eternity in heaven” (Our beliefs, second.org).

Billy Graham taught that four things were needed.  “To receive Christ you need to do four things: (1) Admit your spiritual need.  ‘I am a sinner.’  (2) Repent and be willing to turn from your sin.  (3) Believe that Jesus died for you on the cross.  (4) Receive, through prayer, Jesus Christ into your heart and life” (Billy Graham, The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook, pp. 5-6).

3.  Baptism   

The Oakwood Baptist Church in New Braunfels, Texas says, “Baptism is for believers… Baptism is by immersion… Baptism is not necessary for salvation… The moment a person trusts in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he or she is and will forever be a child of God… Although it is not necessary for salvation, it is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in the crucified, buried, and risen Savior… It is a public sign of fellowship and identification with the church” (What We Believe about Baptism, oakwoodnb.com).  Edward Hiscox said, “Baptism is not essential to salvation” (Hiscox, p. 21).  I have not found the Baptist who believes that baptism is essential to salvation.  L.S. Ballard affirmed, “The scriptures teach that faith in Christ procures salvation without further acts of obedience,” and denied, “The scriptures teach that water baptism is for (in order to obtain) the remission of past sins” (Warren-Ballard Debate).  Bob Ross denied, “The scriptures teach that water baptism is for (in order to obtain) the remission of past sins,” and affirmed “The scriptures teach that salvation comes at the point of faith alone before and without any further acts of obedience” (Elkins-Ross Debate).  Bobby Sparks held a similar position (Wacaster-Sparks Debate).  Many other examples could be supplied. 

Still, “It is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper” (The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, bfm.sbc.net).  Think of the implications.  It takes less to be saved than it does to become a member of the Baptist church.  The Baptist church is unnecessary.  One can be saved without becoming a Baptist. 

4.  Membership

“It is most likely in the Apostolic age… the baptism of a convert, by that very act, constituted him a member of the church… Now it is different; and while churches are desirous of receiving members they are wary and cautious that they do not receive unworthy persons.  The churches therefore have candidates come before them, make their statement, give their ‘experience,’ and then their reception is decided by a vote of the membership” (Hiscox, p. 22). 

This is not uncommon.  The First Baptist church of Carthage, Tennessee says, “The names of the prospective members will be presented during the regular monthly business meeting for approval… The person will become an official member on a majority vote of the members present at the business meeting” (Membership 101, fbccarthage.com).

Membership has been rejected.  “An incident occurred in the Pilot Point church during Rev. J.B. Cole’s pastorate which… subjected Pastor Cole to criticism… Pastor Cole went fishing one day… Jo Ives… said to Pastor Cole, ‘Here is water, what doth hinder me from being baptized?’  Obviously Brother Cole thought of the story of Philip and the eunuch, and taking that incident as an example he led Mr. Ives out into the water and he baptized him.  Rev. Cole had been a Baptist but a short time and was not up on their conception of baptism, and how and when it should be administered… The following Sunday, Mr. Ives presented himself to the church, asking membership, and his application was rejected and he was hurt at the action of the church and turned to another church, which readily accepted his baptism.”  (J.N. Rayzor, History of the Denton County Baptist Association and the Sixty Churches in its Jurisdiction,” p. 82, denton.pdf, thywordistruth.com).  Pastor Cole was advised not to repeat the act (ibid).  Guy Woods brought this point up in the Woods-Nunnery Debate of 1946 (See p. 162-ff, p. 186-ff). 

5.  Lord’s Supper

“The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipated His second coming” (Baptist Faith and Message 2000).

The frequency varies.  “While quarterly observance of the Lord’s Supper is the norm for nearly 60 percent of all Southern Baptist churches, 1 percent observe the Lord’s supper weekly.  Eighteen percent offer it monthly and 15 percent from five to 10 times a year.  Another 8 percent conduct the Lord’s Supper less than four times a year” (Lord’s Supper, Lifeway Survey churches’ practices, frequency by Carol Pipes, Sept. 2012, baptistpress.com).

6.  Eternal Security   

“All true believers endure to the end.  Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end” (Baptist Faith and Message 2000, bfm.sbc.net).  A.U. Nunnery denied the proposition, “The Bible teaches that a child of God can so act as to be lost in hell” (Woods-Nunnery Debate, 1946).  Many other examples could be supplied. 

7.  Calvinism

Baptists are divided on Calvinism.  Marion Fox writes, “The Primitive Baptists teach all five of Calvin’s points.  The Missionary Baptists dropped ‘unconditional election’ and ‘limited atonement’… some other Baptists have dropped ‘total depravity’ doctrine while retaining the ‘irresistible grace’ and ‘perseverance’ doctrines.  Still others, such as the Freewill Baptists have rejected the ‘perseverance’ doctrine” (Marion Fox, The Work of The Holy Spirit, Vol. 1, p. 93). 

Organization

Baptist Churches are autonomous.  “A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers” (Baptist Faith and Message 2000, bfm.sbc.net).  The SBC and other conventions are fellowships of autonomous churches.  These conferences do not oversee local Baptist churches. 

Types of Baptists

There are many types of Baptists, as we’ve seen.  Here are a few to show the diversity:

1.  Primitive Baptist (Hard shell; Old School; Regular)

They are Calvinists.  Some practice feet-washing.  They reject instrumental music (Frank. S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill, Handbook of Denominations, pp. 51-52, Instrumental Music in Worship by Zack Guess, primitivebaptistssermons.org).

2.  Missionary Baptist

They reject “limited atonement” and “unconditional election.”  “Thus, they see the need for preaching and are labeled, ‘missionary’” (The Baptist Church: It’s Various Sects by Larry Ray Hafley, truthmagazine.com). 

3.  Freewill Baptist

“They believe Christ died for all and that one is free to accept or reject salvation.  They believe in the possibility of apostasy and are opposed ardently by other Baptists for this.  They have historically contended for foot washing” (truthmagazine.com).

4.  Seventh Day Baptist

“As the name implies, these Baptists observe Saturday, the Sabbath… The first Seventh Day Baptist church was established in England during the Cromwell era” (ibid).  They actually pre-date the Seventh-day Adventist, and the Church of God (Seventh-day).

Posted in baptism, Church Organization, denominations, History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Denominations: Baptist Church (Part 1)

Ascertaining accurate total numbers is difficult.  The Baptist church is greatly divided.  The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) indicates that their fellowship of 241 conventions and unions, in 126 countries and territories, comprised 47 million baptized believers in 2020 (members unions, baptistworld.org).  However, not all Baptists are counted.  The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), for instance, is not a part of the BWA.  Yet, the SBC “ranks among the world’s largest Protestant body in the United States” (Southern Baptist, christianitytoday.com). 

In the United States there are many branches of the Baptist church.  Baylor University lists 19 different types of Baptist Churches in America (Baptist Denominations in America, baylor.edu).  The Association of Religion Data Archives lists 22 different types of Baptist churches (Religious Groups: Baptist, thearda.com).  The Handbook of Denominations indicates that there are 27 different types of Baptist churches in the United States (Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill, Handbook of Denominations, p. 34).     The largest branches in the United States are (1) Southern Baptist (SBC) with 14.5 million in 2019 (Fast Facts, sbc.net).  Its numbers have declined for 13 straight years (Travis Loller, Southern Baptist See 13th year of Membership Decline, June 4, 2020, apnews.com).  (2) National Baptist USA (NBC USA) with about 8 million members (Members Union, baptistworld.org).  It is predominately a black convention.  (3) National Baptist of America (NBCA) which has about 3 million members (ibid).  It is predominately a black convention.  (4) Progressive National Baptist (PNBC) with more than one million (ibid), perhaps as many as 2.5 million (Who is the PNBC, pnbc.org).  Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader in this group.  It is heavily involved with civil rights activities. Its mission is “equipping pastors and churches to be effective in ministry and lift up our voice on behalf of the voiceless.”  It’s vision is to “unite African Americans to positively impact the community” (ibid).  (5) American Baptist USA (ABC USA), formerly known as Northern Baptist with more than one million members (Members Union, baptistworld.org).  Northern and Southern Baptist split in 1845 over slavery and other issues (Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill, Handbook of Denominations, pp. 54-55). 

The top states for SBC as a percentage of the population in 2010: (1) Mississippi, 30.5%; (2) Alabama, 29.1%; (3) Oklahoma, 23.6%; (4) Tennessee, 23.3% (Southern Baptist Convention, thearda.com). 

History

There are different ideas which have been set forth about the origin of the Baptist church.  (1) A few Baptists believe that the Baptist Church has existed since the first century A.D..  Landmarkism is a belief system that developed in the 19th century in America.  It holds that there has been a succession of Baptist churches from the first century to this day (See: Doctrinal Statement of the American Baptist Association 1905).  “Landmarkism for Baptists might be thought of much in the same manner that nineteenth-century Roman Catholicism was.  It was attempting to validate their claims to apostolic succession.  The name ‘Old Landmarkism,’ somewhat like the ‘Primitive Baptists,’ laid claims not only to truth, but also to historic precedent as well” (Gerald L. Foster, Following the Denomination Called Baptist, p. 400). 

(2) Most historians believe that it grew out of English separatism.  The American Baptist Churches USA says, “American Baptists, Southern Baptists and all the scores of other Baptist bodies in the U.S. and around the world grew out of a common tradition begun in the early 17th century… The earliest Baptist Churches (1609-1612), although comprised of English-speaking congregants, flourished in Holland, where religious toleration was much greater than in England.  Among their leaders were John Smyth, who led the first congregation of 36 men and women and Thomas Hewys, who returned to England in 1612 to establish the first Baptist church in England… In the early 1630’s Roger Williams, formerly a member of the Church of England, took up clerical responsibilities in Massachusetts.  However, he eventually became estranged from authorities in Massachusetts Bay Colony over the failure of church and civil functions to be independent of one another.  About 1638 he established the First Baptist Church in America in the then uncolonized Rhode Island (Providence), which became the first government in history founded in the premise of absolute religious freedom.  At the same time, John Clarke, also originally from England and also dissatisfied with religious practice in Massachusetts founded a Baptist church in New Port, Rhode Island.  Williams and Clarke secured a charter guaranteeing civil and religious freedom in Rhode Island from King Charles II in 1663” (Our History, abc-usa.org).  Baptist historian, David Benedict credits John Smyth as establishing the first Baptist church in London in 1607 (David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination, p. 304, archive.org).  Baptist historian, Henry C. Vedder also credits John Smyth, but locates the founding in Amsterdam (Henry C. Vedder, A Short History of the Baptist, p. 4 archive.org).

(3) Some think that there may be a connection with the Anabaptist.  Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press writes, “Most modern historians mark the birth of the Baptist movement at 1609… There is no question the earliest Baptist interacted with Anabaptist in the Netherlands – When John Smyth’s group left England for Amsterdam, they met in a bake house owned by a member of a Waterlander Mennonite congregation – but historians disagree over the extent of cross-pollination between the groups” (Scholars Disagree on Anabaptist, Baptist Connection, baptistnews.com). 

General Baptists and Particular Baptists (Regular Baptists or Reformed Baptists) have slightly different English histories.  General Baptist were separatists, wanting to completely separate from the Church of England.  John Smyth and Thomas Helwys were separatists.  “The earliest documented Baptist Church in England dates from the return to Spitalfields of Thomas Helwys in 1611” (Origin of the Particular Baptists by Gordon L. Belyea, thegospelcoalition.org).  Particular Baptists “Were non-separatist, forming their own (independent) congregations outside of the Church of England but seeking to maintain friendly relations with the Church of England” (What are Particular Baptists Churches? Gotquestions.org).   However, in time they too would separate.  “Historians have… concluded that the first Particular Baptist church dates at least from 1638, and possibly even from 1633.  Though their baptism was for believers only, at first it was administered by sprinkling or pouring… English Baptists recovered the practice of believer’s baptism in two steps.  By 1608/09, the General Baptists insisted that baptism was for believers only, and by 1638 the Particular Baptist reached the same conclusion.  At first, English Baptist baptized by sprinkling or pouring.  Immersion came a few years later” (Baptist Beginnings by Leon McBeth, baptisthistory.org). 

They are referred to by different names for a reason.  Particular Baptists are highly Calvinistic.  They believe in particular (limited) atonement.  General Baptists believe in general (unlimited) atonement (What Are Particular Baptist Churches? Gotquestons.org).   An example of a Particular Baptists would be the Primitive Baptist.  An example of a General Baptist would be Freewill Baptist.  The Southern Baptist are divided in their acceptance of the five points of Calvinism.  Since 1850 the sharp distinction between General and Particular Baptists has faded in most Baptist Churches (Gerald L. Foster, p. 410). 

Posted in baptism, calvinism, denominations, History, Race, Stats | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sound of Sneezing

The sound one makes when sneezing is natural, and involuntary.  Correct?

The answer is not exactly.  The sound one makes seems to be in large part a learned behavior.  The sound emitted is different around the world.  Achoo is common in English speaking countries.  Atchim in Portugese; Atchaum in French; Hatshi in German; Apchki in Russian; Hopsu in Greek and Turkish; Achhee in Hindi; Hat xi in Vietnamese; Eichi in Korean; Hakshon or hakashun in Japanese; Ha-ching in the Philippines (Don Lewis, The Surprising Story Behind the Sound of Sneezing, nowiknow.com; James Chapman, The Sound People Make When Sneezing Across the World, theuijunkie.com; Emma Tracey, Why Deaf People Sneeze Silently, bbc.com).

Moreover, the sound made by deaf people is noticeably different.  “British deaf people, particularly users of sign language, don’t think to add the English word ‘achoo’ to this most natural of actions” (Emma Tracey, bbc.com).  “To me, deaf sneezes sound more like this: a heavy breath is taken, then a sharper, faster sound of air being released as the sneeze occurs.  There is none of this ‘aahhh’ sound added as they breathe in.  And none of that ‘choo’ malarkey as said sneeze is released.” (Charlie Swinbourne, The Question: Do Hearing People Fake Their Sneezes? We Need to Know, limpingchicken.com).

People want to conform to the norm.  They are influenced by those around them.  Charlie Swinbourne suggests, “As they sense a sneeze coming, the hearing person’s brain sends out an alert saying: ‘Emergency! You are about to sneeze in public.  Make this sound normal” (Charlie Swinbourne, limpingchicken.com).

I don’t really care about the sound of your sneezes.  However, I do care about spiritual influence.  Who is influencing us?  “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20).  “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17).  The ESV Study Bible comments, “Since the word ‘face’ (Hb. Panim) can refer to the edge of an axe or sword (Eccl. 10:10; possibly Ezek. 21:16), the image is that the interaction with a good man (both as he encourages and corrects) hones one’s skill in handling challenges.”  “Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33). 

How much time are we spending with the best of all examples, Jesus?  Spending time with Jesus changed Peter and John.  “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled.  And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).  It will change us as well.  “We all, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Robert H. Mounce comments, “Taking the participle (beholding- B.H.) in the instrumental sense we read, ‘We all are being changed into the image of Christ by beholding the glory of the Lord.’  Transformation into the likeness of Christ is the inevitable result of gazing upon his glory.  We become like that which dominates our thoughts and affections.  Like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘great stone face,’ which shaped the life of the one who spent his days looking at the craggy representation of all that was held to be good and pure, so also does the believer gradually take on the family resemblance to his or her Lord as they spend their time contemplating the glory of God.  Notice that the participle is present tense.  It is a continual contemplation that effects the transformation.  As the participle is present tense, so also is the finite verb ‘are being changed.’  The transformation keeps pace with the contemplation.  They are inextricably bound together.  By continuing to behold the glory of the Lord we are continually being transformed into his image” (William D. Mounce, Basic of Biblical Greek Grammar, p. 298).  There is no other way.  Let us be ever “looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2).  “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).  He left us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21 cf. John 13:34; Philippians 2:5; Hebrews 12:1-4; 1 John 3:16-18).

Posted in Christian Influence, culture, Example, God`s word | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Denominations: Congregational Church/United Church of Christ

At the beginning of the 21st century, there were about 2.4 million Congregationalists worldwide (congregationalism, britannica.com).  There are about 802 thousand members of the United Church of Christ in the U.S.A. (2020 Statistical Report, ucc.org).  The top states for UCC membership: (1) Pennsylvania; (2) Illinois; (3) Ohio; (4) Massachusetts; and (5) Connecticut.  The top states by congregations: (1) Pennsylvania; (2) Massachusetts; (3) Ohio; (4) Illinois; and (5) California (ibid). 

History

Congregational Churches have their history in the English independent and separatist movement, in the sixteenth century. They believed that the local church should be left to govern itself.  Some fled persecution in England for Leiden, Holland.  They were among the Pilgrims of the Mayflower.  The Pilgrims of the Plymouth Plantation (1620) and the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony (1629) acknowledged their essential unity in the Cambridge Platform of 1648.  Both Harvard (1636) and Yale (1707) were founded by Congregationalists.

The Congregationalists were Calvinists like the Presbyterians.  From 1801-1852, the two denominations worked together in missionary activities under a Plan of Union.  “One of the reasons for the breakdown of the arrangement… was the growing liberalism of congregationalism, which become more and more pronounced as the century went on” (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 4, p. 1129 © 1979).     Mergers have occurred over recent years.  In 1931, the Congregational Church and the Christian Connection (James O’Kelly) merged.  In 1957, Congregational Christian Churches merged with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ.  Not all Congregational Churches have accepted these mergers.  The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches was formed in 1955 in response to the pending formation of the United Church of Christ.  These churches believed that the new denomination would create unwieldy bureaucracies and hinder the freedom of local churches.  These churches are more independent and self-directing than those of the UCC and tend to hold more liberal positions in doctrine and practice” (What is a Congregational Church/Congregationalism?  gotquestions.org).  “The third group is the conservative Congregational Christian Conference which was formed in 1948 in opposition to the liberal theology making inroads in other congregational churches” (ibid, see also Congregationalists: The Story, Puritan to Progressive, Read To Harvest, YouTube). 

[The following works were among the works consulted in presenting this material: Encyclopedia Britannica; Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill, Handbook of Denominations; The Congregational Christian Tradition, congregationallibrary.org; Congregational Church in the United States, familysearch.org].  

Beliefs and Practices

1.  Authority

Congregational Churches believe that the Bible is to be the rule of faith (Our Statement of Faith, fccmiddleboro.org).

They do not require that one accept a formal creed.  This is true of Congregational Churches (What It Means to Be a Member of a Congregational Church by Henry David Gray, ccclamasa.com).  This is true of the United Church of Christ Beliefs by Jack Zavada, learnreligion.com). 

2.  Continuing Revelation/New Light

The United Churches of Christ believes in continuing revelation.  Parkview United Church of Christ of White Bear Lake, MN says, “Basic beliefs of the United Church of Christ… 1.  God is still speaking.  “’Never put a period where God has put a comma’ – Gracie Allen.  We believe that revelation did not stop with the closing of the canon at the Council of Trent in 1546.   We believe that our faith is based on a biblical interpretation that includes new revelations and learning in science, art, music, literature, psychology, and the social sciences and other sources of knowledge that continue to evolve and change over time” (mnparkviewucc.org). 

3.  Sacraments

There are two sacraments in Congregational Churches.  These are baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 4, p. 1130).  These are generally regarded as symbolic (Sacraments, uccholyoke.org).

4.  Baptism

“Infants are baptized, normally by sprinkling” (Britannica, ibid). The United Congregational Church of Holyoke, MA says, “Baptism is a rite of entry into the faith offered to persons of any age” (sacraments, uccholyoke.org).  It is seen as “an identity claimed for the person… rather than a guarantee of protection” (ibid). 

5.  The Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper is normally celebrated once or twice per month (Britannica, ibid).  Most receive it as symbolic.  However, each are welcome to bring their own understanding to it” (sacraments, uccholyoke.org).

6.  Calvinism

Congregational Churches are Calvinistic.  “The English historian, Bernard Manning, once described their traditional position as ‘decentralized Calvinism’” (Britannica, Vol. 4, p. 1129). 

7.  Abortion

The United Church of Christ (UCC) “has joined with other faith groups to protect women’s equal and fair access to abortion” (Reproductive Justice, ucc.org). 

8.  LGBTQ

The UCC says, “Who ever [sic] you are, where ever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!” (LGBTQ Ministries, ucc.org).

9.  Politics and Social Justice

The UCC has been involved in many political issues.  They have called for gun control reform (Gun Violence, ucc.org).  They are an accredited NGO with the UN.  They say, “Our presence at the UN today focuses on a few key areas: global peace with justice, gender justice, racial justice, climate justice and global health issues like HIV/AIDS” (UCC at the United Nations, ucc.org). 

Name/Organization

Congregational Churches are so named for their organizational structure.  “Each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation” (Witness for Justice, Liberation, Freedom, Equity, and Justice for All by Velda Love, ucc.org).  First United Church of Christ of Northfield, MN writes, “The local church is the basic unit of the United Church of Christ.  That means that our congregation has a great deal of independence and autonomy in the conduct of our ministry.  We own our building, call our own ministers, and are responsible for the ways we worship and work… In our tradition (to quote our constitution) ‘The government of the church is vested in its members, who exercise the right of full and final control of all its affairs.  Each January, the whole congregation gathers to review and oversee the life of the church.  We elect officers, pass a budget for our local expenses, and conduct such other business as may come before the meeting.  Special congregational meetings are called from time to time, usually by request of the church council, to vote on particular matters” (How Our Church is Organized, firstucc.org).  The exact form of government in the local church seems to be left up to the local church. 

There is a General Synod of the UCC.  “Because of the UCC’s polity the General Synod speaks ‘to, but not for’ the UCC.  Thus, resolutions may call upon, urge, affirm, support, invite, recommend, request, ask, and encourage various settings of the church, but may not direct them” (Resolution Process Overview, generalsynod.org).  

Posted in Abortion, calvinism, Church Organization, denominations, Doctrine, History, Stats | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment