LARRY R. MCQUEEN. McQueen in his work Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology47 provides the most comprehensive study of the eschatology of the early Pentecostals in light of their publications. McQueen examines a great variety of periodicals from both the Wesleyan Holiness stream and the Finished Work stream. Given the overlap between his study and the research questions of this dissertation, I will interact with McQueen on a number of issues.
At this point, I will summarise his views on the relationship between early Pentecostalism and dispensationalism. With respect to the Finished Work stream, McQueen concludes that ‘classical dispensationalism was the only model of eschatology articulated in the early Finished Work stream of the movement.’48 In regard to the Wesleyan Holiness stream, McQueen concludes that ‘no single model or system dominated the articulations of eschatology in this stream.’ In addition, he highlights an approach within the periodicals that incorporates a ‘discerning process’ led by the Spirit’s work within the community.49 In his view, a tendency may be observed within this stream: those positions which emphasise the ‘discerning process’ tend away from classical
45 French L. Arrington, ‘Dispensationalism’, in The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, ed. Stanley M. Burgess and Ed M. van der Maas, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002).
46 Oliverio, L. William, Jr., Theological Hermeneutics, 115.
47 Larry R. McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology: Discerning the Way Forward, Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series 39 (Blandford Forum, UK: Deo Publishing, 2012).
48 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 293.
49 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 141.
dispensationalism, whereas those which focus on ‘reasoned principles of interpretation’
move towards it.50
McQueen, in another publication, examines The Apostolic Faith from 1906 to 1908 to ascertain ‘how influential dispensationalism was during the earliest period of the movement.’51 McQueen gives three reasons for which he believes that ‘The eschatology of early Pentecostalism is not a non-critical assimilation of classical dispensational categories’. These reasons include the ‘Latter Rain’ concept, in which spiritual gifts were restored. According to McQueen, this idea does not combine well with the dispensational system. He also finds difficulties with the differences in the number of dispensations (e.g. three or seven). Finally, he believes that Pentecostals applied certain passages directly to the Church, which cessationist dispensationalists believed applied only to Israel. 52
McQueen’s writings provide a nuanced view of the relationship of early Pentecostalism to dispensationalism. Nonetheless, McQueen orients his thinking in line with the contours suggested by Sheppard. 53 With respect to the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ view, he suggests the importance of investigating ‘beyond the early 1920s to discover the reasons why classical dispensationalism finally became the single model of eschatology in those groups in which the discernment process was still ongoing.’54 This comment indicates that for McQueen dispensationalism is directly linked to a certain instantiation of the system. He does not entertain the possibility that dispensationalism could be a broader eschatological position within which both Pentecostals and cessationists lived and moved and had their being.
50 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 142.
51 Larry R. McQueen, ‘Early Pentecostal Eschatology in the Light of The Apostolic Faith, 1906–1908’, in Althouse; Waddell, Perspectives in Pentecostal Eschatologies, 139.
52 Larry R. McQueen, ‘Early Pentecostal Eschatology’, 154n69.
53 The section on Sheppard opens the final section of his literature review, providing a framework
for evaluating ‘constructive contributions’. McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 33–35.
54 McQueen, Toward a Pentecostal Eschatology, 296.
This select literature review gives evidence of the influence of the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ view amongst leading Pentecostal scholars who have interacted with the relationship of early Pentecostals to dispensationalism. Whilst not all scholars accept this view completely, its influence continues to be felt. Sheppard’s views have overshadowed the conversation since 1984, obscuring for many the possibility that early Pentecostals were dispensationalists, albeit not of the cessationist school.55
Thus, in spite of some dissenting voices, the majority view amongst Pentecostal scholars today may be outlined along the following lines: 1) Pentecostals were not originally dispensationalists; 2) The influence of fundamentalism in the 1920s led to an infiltration of Pentecostalism with dispensationalist ideas; 3) The result was a fundamentalised, dispensationalist Pentecostalism.
Methodology and Scope
The second research question of this dissertation is whether this portrayal of the history and theology of early Pentecostals conforms to the historical data. Are these points confirmed by an examination of the primary sources of the movement? Does the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ perspective faithfully narrate the history of the movement?
The scope of this study must be limited to a manageable set of historical data. I will limit my research especially to the North American, classical Pentecostal context, and following McQueen’s lead, I will focus especially on classical Pentecostal periodicals in the first two decades of the 20th century. Of the many periodicals surveyed by McQueen, I will examine the three that provided the strongest evidence for the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ view: The Apostolic Faith, The Bridegroom’s Messenger and The Church of God Evangel. I will also discuss The Christian Evangel, the official periodical of the AOG, due to the importance of this denomination in Sheppard’s argument.
55 The ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ view is also accepted by some cessationist dispensationalists. E.g. Thomas D. Ice, ‘The Calvinistic Heritage of Dispensationalism’, Liberty University, accessed September 8, 2018, http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/pretrib_arch/11, 8.
Outline of the Dissertation
In chapter one, I will provide a brief discussion of competing eschatological systems of the early 20th century. This section will allow us to place the Pentecostal approach within the theological context of competing visions. Once the contrasting systems are examined, the ‘family resemblances’ of Pentecostal eschatologies to other systems may be evaluated. In chapter two, I will examine the four periodicals mentioned above in light of the ‘latecomer to dispensationalism’ view. In chapter three, I will bring out some implications from this research in assessing the relationship of early Pentecostalism to dispensationalism. My hypothesis is that if we read the primary sources in light of a ‘broader dispensationalism’, we may see substantial ‘family resemblance’ to other dispensationalists of the early 20th century without negating the differences amongst them. On this reading, the changes seen in Pentecostal eschatology after the first two decades may be understood as adjustments rather than major changes.