One of the things we do a lot of here at J&G is set the record straight when people start misrepresenting the facts.  We want to remind people that not everybody who sounds like they know what they’re talking about really does.  This is true for scientists, politicians, educators, ministers, and apologists.

Recently I came across an audio of a guy “explaining” the history of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.  I was stunned by how much he got wrong, either by inaccuracies or omission.  I’m not picking on the guy.  In fact I’m not going to provide a name or a location for him.  I’m simply interested in addressing misinformation.

  1. About 1:15 in he says that Pentecostalism is the view that the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit that occurred on the Day of Pentecost is “normative … yea REQUIRED”.  In fact very few Pentecostals view the experience as required for salvation.  It’s encouraged, for sure.  But required?  No.  He didn’t say what it’s required for, but I think the implication is obvious.
  2. About 4:50 in he claims that the third wave (think Word of Faith movement) teaches that bad things could never happen to Christians.  I’ve never heard anybody teach that.  This is one of those straw man arguments that WoF opponents use.
  3. About 9:30 in he states that Charles Parham was accused of sodomy.  While that is true, it’s also true that the San Antonio prosecuting attorney dismissed all charges against him, stating that there was absolutely no evidence.  It’s also true that Parham said that the accusations were brought by a jealous member of a church association who lost his church members to another association.  If you’re going to resurrect rumors that are over a century old you shouldn’t omit pertinent facts like these.
  4. At about 9:55 in he says that Agnes Ozman, the first person reported to have spoken in tongues at Parham’s bible school, was described as “a basket case”.  I can’t find anything on that, but if you’re going to offer that description you might also offer the description of what happened with her.  She was reported to have spoken in Chinese.  She was described as having a halo around her head.  She was also reported to have been unable to write or speak in English for three days.  She was also described as an evangelist.  That might have been useful information to include.
  5. About 10:50 in he characterizes speaking in tongues as a metaphysical idea.  “Metaphysical” can either mean “beyond the physical” which would apply to angels, demons, God, and Satan.  In that sense Christianity is a metaphysical concept.  But the way it’s usually used, “metaphysical” refers to New Thought, an unbiblical movement from the 19th century.  Speaking in tongues has nothing in common with New Thought whatsoever.  This is just another case of labeling.
  6. Right after that he says that William Seymour went to San Francisco.  He repeats that at about 11:55 and adds that he went to Azusa Street.  Azusa Street wasn’t in San Francisco.  It was and still is in Los Angeles. He then spells Azusa for us … A S U Z A … WRONG!
  7. He then says that Seymour predicts judgment to San Francisco if they don’t repent, and shortly afterward the worst earthquake in the history of the US hit San Francisco.  I don’t know if Seymour predicted any earthquake or not but again, he was in Los Angeles, not San Francisco.
  8. 15:30 in he claims that Aimee Semple McPherson divorced her second husband.  In fact, he was the one who filed for divorce.
  9. About 16:45 he says that Aimee Semple McPherson died in her early 40s.  She was 53.
  10. About 17:30 he claims that Aimee Semple McPherson faked a kidnapping to cover up a tryst in Mexico with Milton Berle.  While Berle did claim to have had an affair with McPherson, he certainly didn’t claim to have been with her in Mexico.  He said that they met at her apartment in Los Angeles, and he recalled seeing a crucifix in her apartment.  It’s highly unlikely that a Pentecostal would have had a crucifix in their home given their view toward Catholicism.  Berle was known to fabricate stories of his sexual exploits, and her daughter says that she never had an apartment.  Authorities who investigated McPherson’s kidnapping story strongly suspected that she was in Mexico with a radio engineer named Kenneth G. Ormiston, not Milton Berle.
  11. At 21:20 he says that there are only four recorded times between the first century and the 20th century where tongues occurred.  Not even close.  History records dozens of cases of the manifestation of tongues and other spiritual gifts throughout the church age.

In 22 minutes of audio he got 11 things wrong, and I’m not including the doctrinal issues that I think he’s wrong about.  We’re just talking about factually wrong.  That’s one every two minutes!  This is actually quite common with apologists when they go on a rant about something that bothers them.  Facts take the back seat, and they end up losing credibility.  And what do you have when you lose that?

A Little Pentecostal History

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