Basic Battle Training


Chapter 19:  Diversions: Pentecostal “Theology”


Though we realize that some reading this chapter will have differing beliefs about this subject, we still feel compelled to put forth what we have learned concerning this movement. Though this may separate us from some, this is not our intent.


In the previous chapter we looked at claims that the miraculous occurrences recorded in Scripture have continued unchanged since Christ. We then compared the so-called miracles of today with the written record of the Bible and found great divergence. These findings have led us to the inescapable conclusion that today’s claims are largely fraudulent in nature, and that great care should be taken in assessing them otherwise.


Roots of Pentecostalism

The modern Pentecostal movement began on January 1, 1901 in Topeka, Kansas, in a building called “Stone’s Folly.  It was here that, Charles Parham, a former Methodist preacher turned Bible school instructor and his 40 students first prayed to receive the “baptism of the Holy Ghost” and the gift of tongues. The first to receive the “blessing” however was a woman named Agnes Ozman.

There are two accounts of this initial “speaking in tongues”: one by Agnes, and one by Parham. Parham wrote that Agnes spoke in Chinese for 3 days, and was unable to speak or write in English that whole time. Agnes, on the other hand, wrote that she spoke in Bohemian (among other languages, including English?). Whatever the case, eventually Parham and all of his students received what they described as “a double dose of the Holy Ghost” and spoke in what they reported were foreign languages.

Parham initially believed that, as in Acts 2, the  “tongues” being spoken was the miraculous ability to speak in foreign languages without having learning them by normal means (at this time, there was no concept of a “prayer language” or a “heavenly language”). His mission and desire then evolved to sending his students to foreign fields to evangelize the lost, utilizing their gift of “tongues.”

To give supposed credence what was happening, his writings document that language experts attended his sessions and verified that they were indeed speaking in known languages.

But then an ever so small problem surfaced. As he sent his students to foreign countries with the gift, none of the locals could understand them! With this small setback, tongues as it was first understood, lost its original meaning and eventually became re-defined to what is now known as a “prayer language.”

So who was this Charles Parham?

Amazingly, Parham was actually a racist and a KKK sympathizer. He also taught the Anglo-Israel / White Supremacist heresy: that white people were the lost tribes of Israel (and therefore the superior race). With this understanding, he would never allow black people in any of his meetings. He was also a pacifist during World War I, and a socialist. He further taught that Christ would return before 1925, denied the doctrine of eternal punishment and instead taught that the lost would be annihilated.

In addition to these things, Parham pioneered many of today’s Pentecostal doctrines. He was the first to teach that baptism in the Holy Ghost is “a second work of grace”, that tongues is “the only sign of receiving the Holy Ghost” and that “if a believer has not spoken in tongues he has not received the Spirit”.

William Seymour and the “Azusa Street Revival”.

In 1905, while Parham was teaching at a school in Texas, a black man named William Seymour heard of him and desired to attend his classes.  But since he was black, Parham would not let him in the classroom, so Seymour had to sit out in the hall and listen to the lectures through the open door. There, in the hall, Seymour learned of Parham’s doctrine of tongues and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Taking these things to California in 1906, Seymour (who was blind in one eye) moved and led the famous “Azusa Street Revival”

Advertising with a series of papers that went to his 50,000-member mailing list, the “revival” continued for the next three years. Thousands were caught up in it and came to receive the “baptism of the Holy Ghost” and “speak in tongues.”  People came from all over the world to participate, were “baptized, and went back to start satellite Churches. As a result of this revival and Seymour’s efforts, all the Pentecostal denominations that we see today were begun.

So what was the Revival actually like?

For 3 years the “Azusa Street Revival” was packed, all day everyday, 7 days a week, with 3 altar calls per day. Excepting the alter calls, there was no schedule or regular sermons. The building was filled with people singing, babbling, jerking, holy rolling, barking, laughing, moaning, “holy kicking,” and shrieking. While all this was going on Seymour sat in the middle of the building with his head in a shoebox; occasionally looking up to yell, “Repent!” or quote a couple words from the Bible, then stick his head back in the shoebox again (We are NOT making this up!). Occultists even came to conduct séances and Hypnotists started to take the place over.

With things now wildly out of control, Seymour was finally concerned enough to send back to Texas for Parham to come and sort the mess out. Parham arrived and, horrified at the spectacle, set to work. But after preaching a few sermons offering his solutions, the congregation (mostly black) resented him trying to take over and ran him off. He eventually returned to Texas, where he was later arrested for sodomy (the case was later dropped).  As a result of these things, Charles Parham, the man who actually started the Pentecostal movement, called the Azusa Street Revival “spook-driven,” and spent the rest of his life preaching against it.

As time went on, the blacks and whites in Seymour’s congregation could not get along so the whites ended up leaving. Following this, his congregation eventually dwindled down to about a dozen black people listening to him on Sunday mornings. Today, over 500 million people are part of the Pentecostal movement; hold varied beliefs concerning the Holy Spirit and “speak in tongues.”

Tongues Observations


Acts 2: Tongues, in the beginning, was a clearly understood language.


The first incident of tongues clearly defines the doctrine and practice. Here the apostles began preaching to an international crowd in Jerusalem, and each one in the audience heard them speak in their own language. Contrast this with modern "Glossolalia", which sounds like mumbo-jumbo and communicates nothing intelligent to anyone.


The case for and against a further definition?


For the most part, Glossolia is substantiated only by the individual experience of its adherents. There are however, several places in the Bible where explanations for this phenomenon are attempted.

Rules of Order!

Though we do not believe the supposed tongues of today to be valid, 1 Corinthians 14:27-35 establishes clear rules for tongues in a church service if it were to occur. Even with it’s supposed practice today, these rules are violated with reckless abandon in almost all Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches today. The Biblical rules are:

  A History of those who claim the gift of Tongues

Loyal Papists: A major portion of the list is made up of Roman Catholics, and especially Catholics loyal to the Pope, (and especially during the time of the Inquisitions, which makes for an interesting discussion).  Are we really to believe that God gave miraculous gifts of the Spirit to the persecutors of Bible believers, to those who promoted the primacy of the Pope, and veneration of Mary, infant baptism, and all the other heresies of the Roman church?  The following are the Catholic leadership or groups recorded to have spoken in tongues:

      Other cults and assorted wackos

 Note: For summaries of the beliefs and histories of the following groups we consulted standard reference works and religious encyclopedias such as Schaff-Herzog, McClintock & Strong, Hastings, etc.


Mormons:  Some of the followers of Joe Smith, who taught that God was once a man, men become gods, baptism for the dead, polygamy, etc spoke in tongues. Cutten's book gives several pages of examples of early Mormon tongue-speaking experiences, showing that they were obviously bogus.  In one case a Mormon Choctaw Indian spoke his native Choctaw, but left the church after hearing another Mormon pretend to "interpret" it: the interpretation was nowhere near what the Indian had said.


 Ranters:  These guys taught that they were God and Christ, denied the existence of the devil, heaven & hell, & declared Christ to be a deceiver. The Scriptures they regarded as cast-off fables.


Radical Anabaptists:  This bunch burnt Bibles and practiced 'lewdness & unchastely...and fratricide by decapitation.


 Camisards/Cavenois/Huguenots:  These folks were assassins who killed Catholic priests, burned churches, & falsely predicted the end of the world.  Their "tongues" consisted of French peasants who supposedly suddenly spoke in "pure French instead of the local dialect"


Shakers:  This sect traces its origin back to the Camisards; the followers of Ann Lee, who claimed God is male and female. They also claimed that she (Ann) was the 2nd incarnation of Christ and repudiated a physical resurrection. In their religious tenets, they deny virtually every specific Christian doctrine.


Irvingites: These people were followers of a Presbyterian preacher who was excommunicated for heresy ("under the suspicion of having asserted the sinfulness of Christ's humanity"). They used tongues and “healings” as a sign that they were the restored church that had fallen away since the Apostles.  They further taught transubstantiation and falsely predicted the return of Christ (1864).

  The more Mainstream? 

This list is short and still debatable in some points, as we shall see.


Methodists/Great Awakening:  Upon examining the sources of the claims that early Methodists spoke in tongues we could find no clear solid evidence that they actually did.  But since they did practice barking, jerking, shrieking and the like, it seems probable that they also spoke in tongues.  Clear indisputable claims seem to be lacking, however.


Quakers:  This is the best of the lot that, while containing some oddities, cannot be quickly written off as a heretical cult.  While the quote following took some digging, we did find a writing of Edward Burrough, an early Quaker, who, in 1658 wrote, "...we received often the pouring down of the spirit upon us...and we spake with new tongues....” The early Quakers were street preachers (and some chose to even walk the streets stark naked, using Isaiah 20 for justification). They preached against the excesses of their time and were bitterly persecuted by both Catholics and Protestants. (In addition to these, Sherrill's book also lists some individuals from the 19th century who report tongues-speaking occurring: V.P. Simmons, Robert Boyd (during Moody's meetings), R.B. Swan, W. Jethro Walthall, Maria Gerber, etc.  John Sherrill's book gives no bibliography or sources of any kind, so his statements cannot be verified.)

  Observations from this History

          If Pentecostals use the above groups to authenticate tongues, it obviously raises a few questions:


While we find in mainstream Christianity claims of “tongues” before 1900, we still re-iterate that these things are highly dubious. Likewise the post 1900 history does not give the rational (and theological) mind much to hold on to. While God is free to give His gifts to whom He will, all we have seen from our Pentecostal brethren today can be easily faked and certainly does not fit the Biblical Acts 2 and 1 Cor. 14:27-35 definitions of the gift.   ...Let the buyer beware!


Books used in this study:


“They Speak With Other Tongues” by John L. Sherrill

“Glossolalia: Tongue Speaking in Biblical, Historical, and “Psychological Perspective” by Frank E. Stagg.

“Speaking In Tongues: A Guide” by Mills

“Speaking With Tongues: Historically and Psychologically Considered” by George Cutten.


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