Tongues As The Initial Physical Sign Of Spirit Baptism

Tongues As  The Initial Physical Sign  Of Spirit Baptism

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Tongues

as “The Initial Spirit Baptism

in the

Glen Menzies

175

Physical Sign”

of Thought

of D. W. Kerr

As a Pentecostal people, we hold that the Bible evidence of the Baptism with the Holy Ghost, which is promised by the Lord Jesus Christ to His and to all them that are afar

disciples,

off, and as many as the Lord our God shall call, is speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance. We have found that whenever we, as a people, begin to let down on this particular point, the fire dies out, the ardor and fervor begin to wane, the glory departs. We have found where this position is held and wherever it is proclaimed, the Lord is

working. working.

is its doctrine

the

Holy Spirit”

is described ers who seek

tongues

constitutes a visible

sign, inferences recorded the book

This

Spirit baptism

Pentecostals

– D. W. Kerrl I

in the

movement,

as “the

The chief distinctive and sine

qLCa non

of the Pentecostal movement

that “an enduement with

power”

called “the

baptism

in

in

Scripture

and is available to all believ-

it.2 2

Moreover,

Pentecostals maintain that

speaking

in

warranted

by

the

descriptions

and

of Acts, that one has been

baptized

in the Holy Spirit.

with the evidence of

speaking

in tongues

is often referred to,

by participants

Pentecostal

experience.”

have

always

understood

vide evidence of

baptism

in the

Holy Spirit.

On the other

hand,

this

theology

of “evidence” has not

always

been articulated in

exactly

the same

way.

a

of the full

panorama

of Pentecostal

explanations

of tongues

Pentecostal

theology.

discussion

gifts”

apostolic age.

speaking

in

tongues

to

pro-

That is a hallmark of

While

1D. W. Kerr, “The Bible Evidence of the

Baptism

with the

Holy Ghost;” Pentecostal Evangel, 11 August 1923, 2.

– Before the eruption of the charismatic movement in the 1960s, Pentecostals would also have differed from most other Christians in maintaining that the gifts of the Spirit described in such

of

passages as Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12-including

the “oral

tongues, the interpretation of tongues, prophecy, the word of wisdom, and the word of

knowledge-are

available to the church today, just as they were in the

In contrast, most Christians regarded glossolalia in particular as a token of fanaticism and emotional excess. But due to the eruption of the charismat- ic movement in the 1960s and its widespread success in popularizing this Pentecostal

of spiritual gifts outside of Pentecostal circles, the notion that all of the

of the Spirit are available to the contemporary church no

of Pentecostalism. And while Pentecostals

longer constitutes a “distinctive”

rejoice that in this regard the rest of the church has moved in their direction, this “success” has only intensified the need for Spirit baptism and evidential to

to Pentecostalism.

tongues provide distinctive identity and internal cohesion

understanding gifts

1

176

as evidence would be both

interesting

and

useful,

this article will attempt something

much less ambitious.

In this

study

the views of Daniel W. Kerr, an

early

Assemblies of God

leader,

will be

explored

with a

single key question

in mind: Did Kerr believe that

tongues

as “the initial

physical sign”

of baptism in the Holy Spirit always

occurred

simultaneously

with that

Spirit baptism? Or was it possible that the

sign

sometimes followed the

Spirit’s

work? There is another

way

to state this

question:

Would Kerr have

disagreed with the

following

sentences from the 1981 Assemblies of God

position paper

entitled “The Initial

Physical

Evidence of the

Baptism

in the Holy Spirit”?

The expression initial physical evidence of the Baptism refers to the first outward sign that the Holy Spirit has come in filling power. A study of

indicates there was a

by which observers knew that believers

Scripture

had been

baptized

in the physical sign

Holy Spirit.

The evidence

always occurred at the very time the believers were baptized in the Spirit and not on some future occasion.3

_

3Where We Stand:

The

Official Position Papers of

the Assemblies of God (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing 147. While the

House, 1994; originally published in 1989),

emphasis

of this paragraph is clearly upon the simultaneity of the of

tongues with baptism sentences in the

a measure of tension between the three sign in the Spirit,

is also evident.

logical

According to the first sentence, the “tirst outward

sign”

indicates that the Holy Spirit has come

paragraph

upon

the believer,

filling him the believers had been

or her.

Similarly,

the second sentence notes that

baptized.

The perfect

tense of the first sentence and the pluperfect of the second indicate that the sign follows

the baptism. These assertions in the first two sentences seem to contra- dict the assertion of the third sentence: “The evidence always occurred at the very time the believers were baptized in the

Spirit

and not on some future occasion: ‘ There has been some question about the status of

of God. Where We Stand: The Official Position Papers of the Assemblies of God

position papers in the Assemblies begins

with this sentence: “The statements on the issues in this book were approved as the official statements of The General Council of the Assemblies of God by the General Presbytery, the ruling body of the Assemblies of God, over the past twenty years.”

This affirmation seems to conflict with a which was

to Status of Position and Their report Use in Dealing With

given by

the “Committee

Study Papers

Deviant Doctrines” at the 1991 General Council held in Portland, Oregon and an

resolution (24) approved by the General Council. The committee was chaired

accompanying

Richard Dresselhaus, D.Min.

Both the committee by

report and the resolution make a distinction between (1) posi- tion papers which have both been approved by the General Presbytery and also rati- fied by the General Council, and (2) position papers which have

approved

the General Presbytery. In the report, this statement

only

been by appears:

“The committee is of the opinion that a paper which may be the basis for credentialing, discipline, or

decisions should result from some involvement of the General Council in membership session.” Moreover, the resolution describes papers approved only by the General Presbytery

as “primarily information” and not “the official position of the Assemblies of God.” As of 1991 one position paper had been ratified by a General Council, the one entitled “Divorce only and Remarriage,” and this status of one approved paper by the General Council still seems to be the case.

2

177

In a sense, this article also constitutes an informal historical com- mentary

on Article 8 (Article 6 according to the

original numbering

of 1916)

of the Assemblies of God’s Statement of Fundamental Truths, presently

entitled “The Initial

Physical

Evidence of the

Baptism

in the Holy

Ghost:’4

Hopefully, by examining

other

writings

of D. W.

Kerr, the

primary

author of the Statement of Fundamental

Truths,

additional clarity

will be achieved

concerning

how he understood the affirmation that “The full consummation of the

baptism

of believers in the

Holy Ghost and fire is indicated

by

the initial

physical sign

of

speaking

in tongues

as the

Spirit

of God

gives

utterance.”

The

Special Significance of D.

W. Kerr

Daniel W. Kerr was an able

pastor,

an

early

Pentecostal

publisher and editor, and a fine teacher. One of his most

significant

contributions to the Assemblies of God, however, has to do with his role in the com- position

of the Statement of Fundamental Truths-and the attendant triumph

of trinitarian

theology

over Oneness

theology

in the Assemblies of God-in 1916. A

gifted teacher,

Kerr was instrumental in founding three Assemblies of God schools:

Bethany College

of the . Assemblies of God, Southern California

College,

and Central Bible College,

and he continued to exert influence in the Assemblies of God until his death in 1927.

In October of 1916 the fourth General Council of the

fledgling Assemblies of God was held in St. Louis. The

all-consuming

issue of the

day

was the “New Issue” or “Oneness.” To deal with this issue Chairman John W. Welch

appointed

a committee of five men to prepare a statement of fundamental truths.

They

were T. K.

Leonard, S. A. Jamieson, S.

H. Frodsham, E. N.

Bell,

and D. W. Kerr. These men faced the enormous

challenge,

not

only

of a divided

fellowship,

but also of a endemic fear of “creedalism” within the Council. “Each member of the committee contributed to the eventual committee

report, but the

greatest

contribution came from D. W.

Kerr, pastor

in Cleveland,

Ohio.”5 Kerr, who was

something

of a Greek scholar, had been

preparing

himself

assiduously

for the Council because he

recog- nized the

magnitude

of the issue.

According

to Lewis

Wilson,

… he spent hours in his Greek Testament and his theology and church his-

books studying the new doctrine. Satisfied that it was error, he wrote for the Weekly Evangel and worked with the presbytery on a statement tory

4The title of Article 8 has undergone revision over the years. It was originally enti- tled “‘The Full Consummation of the Baptism in the Holy Ghost.”

5William W. Menzies, Anointed to Serve (Springfield, MO:

Gospel Publishing House, 1971 ), 119.

3

178

which could unite the young fellowship. At the 1916 Council, he was assigned

the opening sermon and was one of a five-member committee appointed

to prepare a statement of fundamental truths. The finished prod- uct, largely the work of Kerr, assured that the Assemblies would remain orthodoxly

trinitarian.6

Kerr’s influence on the Assemblies of God

by taking

the lead in writing

the Statement of Fundamental Truths can

hardly

be overesti- mated, yet oddly

to this

point

in time

relatively

little effort has been expended clarifying

the intent of the Statement of Fundamental Truths through

examination of his other

writings.7

The Full Consummation

of the Baptism

in the

Holy

Ghost

Nearly

as long as all of the Statement of Fundamental Truths’ other sixteen articles

combined,

the

great length

of Article 13

(“The Essentials as to the

Godhead”)

reflects

quite clearly

the

degree

to which the Oneness

Controversy

dominated the attention of the 1916 General Council. While we do not have a

transcript

of the Council’s debate, Article 6 (“The Full Consummation of the

Baptism

in the

Holy Ghost”) likely generated

little debate

by comparison.

As

approved

in

1916,g

it read:

6. THE FULL CONSUMMATION OF THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY GHOST.

The full consummation of the baptism of believers in the Holy Ghost and fire,9 is indicated 10 by the initial

[physical] 11 sign

of

speaking

in

6Lewis Wilson, “The Kerr-Peirce Role in A/G Education,” Assemblies of God Heritage

10 (spring 1990): 6.

7For a discussion of Kerr’s eschatology and a comparison with Article 14 Millennial

(“The

Reign

of Christ”) of the Statement of Fundamental

Truths, see Glen Menzies and Gordon L. Anderson, “D. W. Kerr and Eschatological Diversity in the Assemblies of God” Paraclete 27 (winter 1993): 8-16.

8The wording of the form. The

original article differed makes this clear: If one considerably from the

counts all of the words present contained in the current Article 8 of the Statement of Fundamental Truths

following statistic

the title, but excluding

numbers from the

count)

and then

compares

them with the (including words in the original,

it becomes evident that exactly half, 32 of 64 words, did not occur in the original The

1916 form of this article.

phrase “and fire” disappeared from this article through a resolution the General Council held passed by

September 9-14, 1917 (cf. note 11 below), although it does in the article entitled first “The Promise of the Father” and subse- appear regularly “The

quently Baptism in

the Holy Ghost.”

I 101n 1927 the word “witnessed” replaced the word “indicated.” The word “physical” does not actually appear in the Statement of Fundamental Truths published in the minutes of the General Council held October 1-7, 1916. The minutes of the General Council held in St. Louis from September 9-14, 1917 explain

4

179

tongues,12 as the Spirit of God gives utterance.13 Acts 2:4. This wonderful is distinct from and

subsequent to the experience of the new birth.

experience

Acts 10:44-46; 11:14-16; 15 :8, 9.14

The

phrase

“the full consummation is

enlightening.

These words

suggest

that a

process

is

being described,

the

completion

of which is marked

by speaking

in tongues.

Apparently

Kerr has in mind a set series of events. Note how Kerr elsewhere describes the consum- mation of this

process:

… it is said that “while Peter was yet speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word.” And “Paul laid his hands on them and the Holy Ghost came upon them.” The terms fell on and came

upon

as used in these passages express the result of the pouring out or the shedding forth of the

It seems Spirit. clear that the Baptism with the

Holy Spirit is the result of the outpouring;

at least it is

plain that the Baptism

is the consummation of the sovereign

act of God in bestowing the Promise of the Father upon believers.

Looking

then from the viewpoint of the sovereignty of God, we see four specific

terms which the Scriptures use to express the method of

bestowing the Promise

upon the Promisees; viz., giving, pouring, falling, and baptiz- ing,

is the result of the Spirit falling upon the believer. Further, these terms are never used interchangeably; that is, each term has an individual

that particular phase and the

meaning whereby stage of

believer’s experience as dis-

from the other phases and stages in the process, is expressed. Hence it is not necessary that all the terms should be used uniformly in the tinguished

record of New Testament experience, because (the terms being logically

that “By an oversight last year the word ‘physical’ got left out before the word in reference to

`sign’

tongues as the initial physical sign of the Baptism with the Holy Ghost.” A resolution correcting this error, the phrase “and fire” (cf. note 9 above), changing

the

expression “gives

utterance” removing to “gives them utterance” (cf. note 13 below), and adding a sentence to the end of the article

passed “with

three or four dissenting votes”

only

(p. 21).

? 2By

action of the General Council which met September 4-11, 1918 the

in

phrase “speaking

tongues” was changed to “speaking with other tongues.”

l3In 1917 the word “them” was inserted between “gives” and “utterance” (cf. note 11 above).

l4ln subsequent years several changes were made to this statement. In 1927 the initial four words of the first sentence (“The full consummation of’) were deleted and “witnessed” was substituted for “indicated.” At the same time the second sentence

(“This wonderful experience” etc.) was moved to the article entitled “The Promise of the Father.” In 1917 an additional sentence was appended to this article: “It is also distinct from the gift of tongues, 1 Cor. 12:4, 10, 28.” This new sentence was then

in 1918 with the following sentence: “The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the

replaced

and use.”

gift of tongues, 1 Cor. 12:4-10, 28, but differ- ent in

The title of purpose this article has also changed a couple of times. In 1927 it was

of the in the Ghost.” In it was

changed to “The Evidence

Baptism Holy

1983

changed to “The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Ghost.”

5

180

related) the use of one term will naturally suggest the other terms. [Bold indicates Kerr’s own emphasis; italics mark emphasis added.] 15

While this account is more

cryptic

than we would

desire,

certain points

are clear. Kerr is

describing

God’s bestowal of the Promise of the Father

upon

believers,

that

is,

those who are

already

Christians. This divine bestowal is described as a process which has several

phas- es and

stages. Presumably, speaking

in

tongues

indicates the

comple- tion of this

process.

In 1916 the Assemblies of God had not

yet

achieved a clear con- sensus as to whether sanctification was a crisis event or an

ongoing process.

While the “finished work”

theology

of William H. Durham seems to have been in the ascent, the use of the term “entire sanctifica- tion” in the Statement of Fundamental Truths seems intended to make room for those Pentecostals who had been influenced

by

the

theology of Charles F. Parham and who believed in three

separate

works of grace:

the new

birth,

entire

sanctification,

and an

empowering

for wit- ness called

baptism

in the

Holy

Ghost. To add to the

confusion,

while the Assemblies of God

emphasized empowering

for witness as the chief feature and

purpose

of the

baptism

in the

Spirit,

other

blessings were also claimed to flow from this

experience,

some of which were described with

language usually

connected with sanctification. For instance,

D. W. Kerr

says:

The Holy Ghost has not taken full control until He has

Who has a

got your tongue.

right to your tongue, the devil or the

Ghost? The devil control of Eve’s tongue at the and used it to Holy

got

If the tongue was the first member that the devil used, is

beginning bring about the trans- of Adam.

it a wonder that the Holy Ghost takes this member first? 16

gression

In a similar vein he also

says:

Now this baptism of the Holy Spirit is most wonderful. The more I study about it the more amazed I am, and I see how little we understand about it. … There are unexplored possibilities in our beings; there are realms, like subterranean caverns, way down deep in our natures that are crying after God; and it is a most marvelous thing

when God, the Holy Ghost, the Almighty

God whom the heavens cannot contain, comes down into this great deep

of the heart and begins to move there, and hold of that little member, that unruly member that no man can the gets tame, tongue. It is amaz-

that He gets possession of the will, loosens the moorings, cuts the shore- lines and launches the spirit out of the self-life up into God, 17 ing

W. Kerr, Waters in the Desert (Springfield, MO:

Gospel Publishing House, 1925),41-42.

16D. W. Kerr, “The Basis for Our Distinctive Testimony,” Pentecostal Evangel, 2 September

1922, 4.

from a sermon by D. W. Kerr delivered in 1914, published as “‘The Selfsame Thing,”

Pentecostal Evangel, 31 December 1950, 6-7.

6

181

If some saw a little bit more sanctification in the

baptism

of the Holy

Ghost,

and some saw a little

less,

if some described the

experi- ence more with the

language

of

process

and others with the

language of crisis, it did not matter a

great

deal. A

degree

of doctrinal

fluidity and accommodation was considered desirable as long as the central and salient features of a Pentecostal witness were held forth.

The Initial

Physical Sign Following

the Pentecostal Fullness

As a consequence of Kerr’s

concept

that the Promise of the Father was bestowed in a process comprised of a set order of events, he some- times describes evidential

tongues

as following

the

baptism

in the

Holy Spirit.1

Observe this discussion of Acts 19:

In [the instance of the Caesarean believers] special emphasis is placed on speaking

in tongues as the evidence of the outpouring of the

the fact that the

Holy Spirit, thereby incidentally establishing speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance was regarded in those days as the initial phys- ical sign, following the Pentecostal fullness of the S irit.

[Bold indicates Kerr’s own emphasis; italics mark emphasis added.] I

What is

perhaps

the most

striking

case where Kerr describes evi- dential

tongues “following” Spirit baptism may

be found in a

rough draft of a proposed “Declaration of Fundamental Doctrines,” written in 1925 in Kerr’s own hand.20 When a new constitution for the General Council was

being

drafted

prior

to its 1925

meeting,

Chairman J. W. Welch

assigned

Kerr the task of writing a new doctrinal statement to be included in this constitution, no doubt based at least in part on his

pre- vious success in 1916 in

producing

an

acceptable

statement. Eventually

the decision was made to retain the

existing

Statement of Fundamental Truths rather than Kerr’s new

composition

in the consti- tution

presented

to the 1925 General Council.

Moreover,

when it was presented,

the Council refused to

approve

Welch’s new constitution. Nevertheless,

as an indication of Kerr’s own

views,

the “Declaration” is instructive.

The sixth article of this “Declaration” reads:

.

,

Sixth.

Baptism by the The Spirit.

Baptism by the Spirit, as a present possession obtained through the

of comparison, I know of only one passage where Kerr describes tongues as 18By way

“accompanying” Spirit baptism: “…take every experience with the the

in is the

Baptism of the Holy Ghost, and speaking tongues clearly accompanying sign.”

Kerr, “Bible Evidence,” 3.

l9Kerr, Waters,

44-45.

20Glenn Gohr of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center deserves special thanks for providing me with a copy of this manuscript.

7

182

obedience of faith (Acts 5:32), is evidenced [indicated]2 ? the initial ical of

by phys-

sign tongues (Mark 16:17) following the intilling of the believer with the

Spirit according to (Acts 2:4; 10:44-46; 19:6; Eph 5:18-20) [sic]. The essential condition for the infilling with the Spirit is the obedience of faith (Jno [sic] 7:37-39)

and the consequent inward revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal 1:16; 3:1,2; Jno 15:13-15).

The immediate purpose of the gift of the

is the revelation of the things of God ( Cor 2:9-16); a victori- ous life (Luke 4:1-13;

Holy Spirit

Rom 8:1-14; Gal 2:20); power for service (Luke 4:14-19; Acts 1:8); and the redemption of the body (Rom 8:23-25; 2 Cor 5:4,5; 1 Pet 1:3-5) [emphasis added].

This statement affirms without hesitation or embarrassment that

speak- ing

in

tongues follows

the

infilling

with the

Spirit according

to the model of Acts 2:4.22 Note also how in Kerr’s

thought

the domains of Spirit baptism

and sanctification

overlap.

The idea that evidential

tongues

are

logically subsequent,

as

opposed

to temporally subsequent, to baptism in the

Spirit

is a common idea even

today

in the Assemblies of

God, although

it is not

usually stated in these terms. For

instance,

the

logical subsequence

of eviden- tial

tongues

is

recognized

in the

position paper,

“The Initial

Physical Evidence of the

Baptism

in the

Holy Spirit” approved

in 1981

by

the AG General

Presbytery,

when it states that “…other

tongues

is conse- quential

to the

baptism

in the

Holy Spirit….” [emphasis added].23 Similarly,

William W. Menzies has discussed the

problems

raised in 1918 when F. F. Bosworth denied that

tongues

had

any particular

evi- dential value after

witnessing

too

many

who

sought

an

experience

of tongues

rather than the

Holy Spirit.

He observes that “It

might

have been

salutary

if Acts 2:4 had been

thoroughly reexamined,

with a fresh recasting

of priorities

according

to the

scriptural pattern.

The

infilling of the

Spirit

is prior to

tongues,

not the effect:’24

21 In the manuscript the word “indicated” is written as a superscription over the word “evidenced,” apparently indicating that Kerr had not yet made a firm choice between the alternatives.

22E. N. Bell expressed the matter in 1918:

the means to You have similarly

“Speaking in tongues is not

getting the Spirit.

to the first, and the in

is one of the results that follow. Yield get

baptism speaking

yourself fully to God and let Christ Himself become your satisfying portion.”

tongues

See E. N. Bell, “Questions and Answers [427],”

Christian Evangel, 15 June 1918, 5.

23 Where We Stand. 153.

24Menzies, Anointed

to Serve, 127.

8

183

The Initial

Physical Evidence of

the

Baptism

in the

Holy Spirit

Today

in the Assemblies of God the shorthand term “initial evi- dence” is

widely employed.

In

fact,

it is so

commonly

used that one encounters

surprise

if he or she insists on the formulae “initial

physical evidence” or “initial

physical sign.”

In other

words,

the word

“physi- cal” seems to have lost all

significance.

That was not true for the founders of the Assemblies of God. For D. W. Kerr in particular, the alternative to something

“physical”

is nor- mally something “spiritual.”

He

says:

In Mark 16:17, we read, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; in

name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new

shall take

my tongues; they

up serpents; and if

drink it shall not hurt them; they shall

hands

they any deadly thing,

lay

on the sick and they shall recover.” We have here five signs that are mentioned. These signs are what I call

that take

physical signs, signs place on the physical side, and every one of them can be seen.25

He also

says:

The Pentecostal signs may be classified as “spiritual” and “physical.” We

confine ourselves in our “digging” to the physical signs, and more

to the record of “the manifestations of the Spirit,” as

specifi-

cally given in Acts

10:44-48. Here we see tongues as “a sign” dissociated from all the other

of Pentecostal power and life. They are a

which is

signs

altogether

unaccounted for

place and prominence

except

on the given

ground that they are in

their very nature different from all other spiritual and physical signs. In this

particular

instance, as also in other instances of record, tongues are given an

office and function which no other sign was capable of filling or perform-

ing.26

The clear attraction of

“physical” signs

is that

they

are visible and objectively

real.

They

are not mere

subjectivity.

Claims can be made for all sorts of subjective religious experiences, but how are such claims to be validated

by

others?

Physical signs

are not limited in this

way: “When the Lord Jesus has

performed

His office work in baptizing those that

obey

God

according

to the

Scriptures,

the finished

product

can be seen and heard

It is unfortunate that Kerr never

really

elaborates what constitute the

“spiritual signs”

of

Spirit baptism

which he

distinguishes

from “physical signs.” Perhaps

this lack of elaboration is because, not

being physical

or visible to others, these

signs

are not as

easily

described or categorized

as the

physical signs.

25Kerr, “Bible Evidence,” 2.

26D. W. Kerr, “‘The,’ ‘A,’ or ‘An’-Which?” Pentecostal Evangel, 21 January 1922, 7. 27Kerr, “Bible Evidence,” 2.

9

184

The

question presently

at hand, of course, is whether the authors of the Statement of Fundamental Truths intended to allow for

non-physi- cal

signs

of

Spirit baptism prior

to the “initial

physical sign”

of

speak- ing

with other

tongues.28

I suspect that

they did,

for

why

else would the

qualifier “physical”

have been included in the statement? For instance, could a person

receive an internal witness of the

Spirit

con- firming

his or her

Spirit baptism prior

to

manifesting

the outward evi- dence of

tongues?29

baptism.

281t is evident that some early Pentecostals allowed for non-physical signs of

Either A. S.

Spirit

Copley or J. Roswell Flower

the words in 1910:

penned following

“[God] deals with souls in His own sovereign way.

Let us not interfere with Him.

Certainly, the voice of the Word and Spirit within are more sure than the without. When God

of tongues speaks within, we

do well

sign

to leave hands off.” [Emphasis added.]

For further discussion of this quote, see note 30 below. 29The Holiness movement had taught many that greater and deeper experiences of God were available to those believers who

sought

God for such

were for a “second blessing” called “the baptism in the

experiences. Consequently, many

Holy

Ghost”-identified as sanctification hungry

by some and as an empowering for witness by

others. When someone would

experience exceptional “blessing”

at the altar of prayer,

it was difficult not to attach

theological significance to this phenomenon. When such a blessing would precede speaking in

tongues, it is not surprising that sometimes the affected

person would view the arrival of this “blessing” rather than when

he or she first began to speak in tongues as

marking Assemblies of

the moment of his or her have

Spirit baptism.

Nor is it

surprising

that the

fledgling

God to

been willing to

appears

accept the Pentecostal claims of such people once they had also spoken

in

An illustration of this tongues.

early flexibility may be found in E. N. Bell’s response to a query

from a reader of the Evangel: “I have been wonderfully blessed and feel the Spirit

within, and feel that I have the baptism, but have not yet spoken in Have I

tongues.

the baptism as

Bell “God knows them that are His, but we do not

yet?”

responded:

no man is authorized to answer

always know even this. So with the baptism,

certainly for others. After God, you are the one most interested. In cases similar to yours some the Spirit came and

stayed continuously

until a

day,

three

days

or three weeks after testify broke out speaking in tongues. I see no reason to doubt such testimony. But in other cases they where they thought they had Him, His presence disappeared and they seemed just the same as before their blessing. I advise against grieving the Spirit by denying His also advise against stopping short of God’s

presence

when you feel it, rather rejoice, believe, praise and bless God for it. But I

sign, against being so easily satisfied. With praise press on for the fullness.” See E. N. Bell, “Questions and Answers [414],” Christian Evangel, 1 June 1918, 9.

The generous spirit evident in Bell’s

that Bell minimized the

response should not be misconstrued to sug- gest importance of speaking in tongues as the initial physical sign

of baptism in the Holy Spirit. He begins a tract entitled The Baptism with the Spirit (Springfield,

MO: Gospel Publishing House, n.d.) by stating that “The baptism in the Holy Spirit [is] accompanied now, as in Bible times,

always

with the

speaking in other tongues….” He even asserts his own view that the

pattern by which the is

Spirit poured out in the Book of Acts Spirit

and speaking in

suggests

an “immediate connection” between baptism tongues.

Nevertheless, as his “Questions and Answers”

10

185

It is a characteristic of doctrinal statements that

they

are

always both inclusive and exclusive at the same time. Whenever a standard is set,

it serves as a sort of

ideological perimeter fence,

which identifies what is alien and

provides protection

from

it, and also marks off on the inside a range of beliefs and/or behaviors which is considered

accept- able. The

phrase

“initial

physical sign”

strikes me as

just

such a “perimeter

fence.” It attributes a

unique

status to

tongues

as an out- wardly

visible identifier of

Spirit baptism,

useful for

community judg- ments. Those who

deny

that

tongues provide

evidence of

baptism

in the

Spirit

are excluded from Pentecostal

orthodoxy.

On the other hand, the

phrase

“initial

physical

evidence” allows for a wide

variety

of

pri- vate

experience.

Thus someone such as J. Roswell

Flower,

who claimed to have been

baptized

in the

Spirit

weeks before first

speaking in

tongues,3°

fell within the

standard, just

as did those whose

only

speaking speaking

response indicates, a claim of some separation in time between Spirit baptism and in

tongues was neither

nor

especially problematic.

Moreover,

in tongues marks the “fullness” of surprising

(=”full consummation of’?) Spirit bap- tism and appears to complete a

30pver the

process.

years Flower, who served as General from Secretary of the Assemblies from 1914 to 1916 and again 1935 to 1959 and as Missions Secretary from 1919 to 1925, probably had as an influence on the Assemblies of God as any single per- son. His account “How I Received the great

Baptism in the Holy Spirit” was first in the Pentecostal in 1933 and then in the with the addition of published a few details in 1952. More than two decades Evangel

again after his death Evangel an

abridged version of this article, which conveniently omitted the controversial portions, was again lished in the Pentecostal in 1993. A of the 1933 version also

pub-

Evangel reprint appeared in Bread of Life in 1972.

In his article, Flower maintains that it is important to claim one’s baptism on the basis of faith and that the evidence of will soon follow. He

reports repeated- ly

that he claimed to be

baptized

in the tongues

Spirit although he had not yet spoken in As Frank Macchia has

tongues. pointed out in private correspondence, the 1933 ver- sion

suggests that a gap of at least two months separated Flower’s Spirit baptism from the first time that he

spoke in tongues.

Flower

the exact of this

may at times have been inconsistent when describing

length gap, however, since Prof. James Allen of North Central Bible College remembers a course taught by Flower in 1954 at Central Bible Institute in which Flower stated that he was baptized in the Spirit and two weeks later first spoke in tongues. The basic point of the testimony given in class was the same as his written testimony, however.

Even in the mid-1950s this testimony was considered controversial. Allen remem- bers students remarking that only someone like J. Roswell Flower could

like that. It should be

kept

in mind

though

that Flower’s tes- get away with saying something

had not been too controversial to reprint in 1952 and that he continued to serve as General Secretary until 1959. Flower’s involvement in the leadership of the timony

Assemblies began when he was only 26 years of age and his values had been formed by

association with an earlier than most of the AG leaders in the 1950s. See J. Roswell Flower, “How I Received the generation

Baptism in the Holy Spirit,” Pentecostal Evangel,

21 January 1933, 2-3; 28 January 1933, 6-7;

reprinted with additions, 7 September 1952, 5-7;

14 September 1952, 5, 12-13; abridgment of the 1933 article

11

186

assurance of baptism in the

Spirit, considering

all

possibilities

whether physical

or

non-physical,

was evidential

tongues.

While the founders of the Assemblies of God did not

simply

build their

theology

on

experience-although

this claim is often

they

often did search the

Scriptures

in order to make sense of their

alleged-

own experience.

Each had his or her own

testimony

of divine encounter, and

certainly

the details of these testimonies differed

widely. By

mak- ing

claims

only

about “the initial

physical

evidence” of

baptism

in the Spirit,

the founders not

only

were sensitive to the biblical evidence but also

wisely

avoided the maelstrom of

needing

to evaluate the

validity of various

subjective religious experiences.

This lack of

physical

vali- dation had been one of the difficulties associated with the

teaching

of an

experience

of entire sanctification as a second definite work of grace.

When

gathered

at a church

altar,

how could

anyone

know whether someone’s claim to an

experience

of entire sanctification was valid or not?

The

Silencing Sign

While for Kerr

tongues

were the “initial

physical sign”

of

Spirit baptism, tongues

were not its

only sign. If,

as

already

mentioned, the purpose

of

Spirit baptism

was

“power

for service,” “revelation of the things

of

God,”

and the

ability

to live “a victorious

life,”

then over time the

signs

of this

baptism

could

hardly

be limited to speaking in tongues.

Recognizing

that some

mistakenly

believed the Pentecostal mes- sage

to consist

exclusively

of enthusiasm for

glossolalia,

Kerr insisted – -..p ,–

reprinted, 18 July 1993, 18-20.

Also see the reprint of the 1933 article in Bread of Life,

October 1972, 5-6, 10-13.

in 1910 the spirit of Flower’s testimony seems to be reflected in some unti- tled editorial remarks published in The Pentecost.

Already

had

By this time Flower had left Kansas City and A. S. Copley

replaced him as Editor of The Pentecost.

Flower had assumed Copley’s old role as Associate Editor. While the following remarks can- not be attributed definitively either to Flower or to Copley, they are nevertheless wor-

of note:

thy

“Faith holds the answer. Faith only pleases God. Believe you do receive and God for the

praise

baptism.

Cease teasing and coaxing God. Praise Him and tongues will

follow. Praise Him for the presence of the and steadfastly believe Him for the

invariably

new

tongue.

For it is written that the new Holy Spirit

tongue shall follow them that believe.

(Mark 16:17.)

Dear workers, if a soul has truly believed God for the

baptism,

let us not discour- age

that one

by telling

him that he has not received the baptism simply because he has not spoken in another language. Let us not assume the place of God. He deals with souls in His own sovereign way. Let us not interfere with Him.

Certainly, the voice of the Word and Spirit within are more sure than the sign of tongues without. When God speaks within, we do well to leave hands off.” See “Untitled Remarks,” The Pentecost, 1 April 1910, 4.

12

187

that it was much more. He claims: “…we can

consistently say

that ‘tongues

are not the

only sign

of the

baptism,’

and

yet

be just as con- sistent in

saying

that

‘tongues

are the

sign

of the

baptism.”’31

His evi- dence is drawn from Acts 10:44-48, the account of the

reception

of the Spirit by gentiles

at the house of Cornelius:

… “they (the believers) spake

in tongues and magnified God.” The

character and office of

pecu-

liarly striking tongues is at once recognized by “those

of the circumcision” and Peter. For

clusive evidence of the “like

they at once received this “sign” as con-

gift” of the Spirit having been given to the “uncircumcision” as to the “circumcision.” This

is given with

such and

recognition

promptness credence, and with such artlessness and simplicity that

one can scarcely escape the conclusion that at this period in the history of

the Pentecostal movement of the New Testament,

been accepted without

controversy

as “the

tongues as “a sign” had

(silencing) sign” of all disputes

touching

the promise, “I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh.,,32 Whatever other

signs

of Spirit baptism might be

offered, only

one

sign provides

conclusive evidence to other believers, and this

sign

is

speak- ing

in

tongues.

Some

may

claim to have been

baptized

in the

Holy Spirit,

but

only

when

tongues

serve as evidence will the

question

be settled

conclusively.

Thus

tongues

are “the

silencing sign.”

In this

passage

Kerr does not state

categorically

that if one has not spoken

in

tongues

he or she has not been

baptized

in the

Spirit,

but in other

passages

he seems almost to approach this

position.

For

instance, in another discussion of the Cornelius

story,

Kerr

says:

“They

of the circumcision were astonished BECAUSE THAT ON THE

GENTILES ALSO WAS POURED OUT THE GIFT OF THE HOLY

GHOST. FOR THEY HEARD THEM SPEAK WITH TONGUES AND

MAGNIFY GOD.”

That statement says to me that the SIGN OF TONGUES WAS THE ACCEPTED EVIDENCE OF THE BAPTISM, among all the disciples and

to that time; that they were ENTIRELY FAMILIAR WITH THAT SIGN; that it was always present; that

apostles up

in

they were not astonished when they

heard anyone speaking

tongues, but that God had poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles. [CAPITALS indicate Kerr’s emphasis; italics indicate emphasis added.]33

Here

tongues

serve as an

apostolic

litmus test.

Speaking

in

tongues

is evidence of

Spirit baptism;

lack of such evidence

suggests

that

Spirit baptism

has not occurred.

Spirit baptism

evidenced

by speaking

in tongues

is the

pattern

recorded in the Book of Acts, so

apparently

this

31 Kerr, “‘The,’ ‘A,’ or ‘An’-Which?,”

7. 32Kerr, “‘The,’ ‘A,’

or ‘An’-Which?,” 7. 33Kerr, “Bible Evidence,” 3.

13

188

sign

was the universal

pattern

in the

Apostolic Age. Consequently,

this experience

of evidential

tongues

should be the

present pattern

as well.

A

Concluding Synthesis

But how can Kerr

portray speaking

in

tongues

as a litmus test of Spirit baptism given

what he has said elsewhere? He has

portrayed

evi- dential

tongues

as the consummation of a process. Tongues “follow” baptism

in the

Spirit. Tongues

are the first physical

sign

of

Spirit bap- tism, but

possibly

not the first

sign

when

“spiritual signs”

are taken into account. How can

they

then serve as a litmus test? Because sooner or later

they always

occur.

Kerr never

attempted

to resolve in print some of the tensions inher- ent in his

thought.

Nevertheless,

some conclusions are

possible.

Kerr can envision someone

baptized

in the

Spirit

who has not

yet spoken

in tongues,

but he cannot envision this situation on a long-term or perma- nent basis.

Logically, tongues

are

subsequent

to Spirit baptism and

per- haps

in the

very

short-term

they

are

temporally subsequent

as

well, but tongues

and

Spirit baptism

are as connected as

throwing

a ball

up in the air and

having

it come down. If a person is baptized in the

Spirit,

then he or she will

certainly speak

in

tongues,

for

tongues

are

“always pre- sent” when someone is

baptized

in the

Spirit.

Yet there is

certainly doubt about whether Kerr would have been comfortable with

saying,

as does the Assemblies of God

position paper

mentioned

above,

that “[evidential tongues] always

occurred at the

very

time the believers were

baptized

in the

Spirit

and not on some future occasion.”

Instead,

he would almost

certainly

have

agreed

with the broader view, common among early Pentecostals,

and so

ably expressed

in 1909

by

J. O. Lehman in The Pentecostal, a paper edited

by

J. Roswell Flower:

Now, while we believe according to the written word that all those who are baptized

with the Holy Spirit will either at the time of their baptism or shortly afterwards speak

in tongues, yet we must with great care and humil- ity

teach this truth not too dogmatically or we shall be before we are aware, preaching tongues

and thereby obscure the Christ. [emphasis added]34

Like

Kerr,

Lehman is concerned that the true

purpose

and

power

of the Pentecostal

experience

not be lost

through

undue

emphasis

on tongues. Tongues

must never detract from Jesus the

Baptizer,

and

34J. O. Lehman, “The Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit,” The Pentecost, 1 November 1909, 2.

Special thanks are due Wayne Warner of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage

Center for directing my attention to this article and to others published in The Pentecost.

14

189

tongues

must never overshadow the

transforming presence

of the

Spirit which endues the believer with new

power.

More

germane

to the

present

discussion, however, is Lehman’s

sug- gestion

that

tongues might

either

accompany

or follow

Spirit baptism. Tongues

are a

sign

of what God has

done,

not a

sign

of what He is doing

at that

precise

moment. As the evidence

presented

above

sug- gests,

Kerr’s view

may

not have been much different from this one

sug- gested by

Lehman.

Clearly,

D. W. Kerr

represents

an early stage in the

development

of Pentecostalism, a

period

when there was

great

fear of creedalism and when

theological

formulations were characterized

by greater fluidity than is characteristic

today.

In some

ways

Kerr’s discussions are unso- phisticated

and rather

imprecise. Still,

he cast a monumental shadow across the Assemblies of God with his

churchmanship,

his involvement in the

training

of

ministers,

and

perhaps

most of all

through

his

leading role in the initial

production

of the Assemblies of God’s Statement of Fundamental Truths.

Certainly

a portion of Kerr’s

legacy

is his endur- ing

witness to a seminal

period when,

within the context of a

strong commitment to the Pentecostal

distinctives,

a great deal of

theological variety

was tolerated. Not

every aspect

of Pentecostalism in the teens and twenties was

salutary,

but

certainly

Kerr’s commitment to biblical truth melded to a generous spirit is in the best tradition of Pentecost.

15

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