William H. Durham And Early Pentecostalism

William H. Durham And Early Pentecostalism

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PNEUMA 37 (2015) 224–243

William H. Durham and Early Pentecostalism A Multifaceted Reassessment

Christopher J. Richmann Baylor University, Waco, Texas



Scholars recognize William H. Durham as responsible for introducing a non-Wesleyan theology of sanctification into the early pentecostal movement. Because the contro- versy over Durham’s “finished work of Calvary” theology precipitated a rift in early Pentecostalism that had lasting institutional ramifications, Durham occupies a crucial place in pentecostal historiography. Yet, scholarly treatment of Durham has been hin- dered by misjudgments in three areas of inquiry. First, a series of unsupported historical details has led to a dubious timeline for the unveiling of the finished-work teaching. Second, the chronological errors have obscured the role of A.S. Copley in the early stages of pentecostal anti-Wesleyan theology. Third, a Durham-centered interpretation of the origins of Oneness Pentecostalism has distorted Durham’s basic soteriological insights.


William H. Durham – Albert S. Copley – finished work – sanctification – Oneness Pentecostalism – historiography

For one who was involved in the pentecostal movement for only five years, William H. Durham casts an exceedingly long theological shadow. Commen- tators unanimously identify Durham as the first thinker within Pentecostal- ism to promote a non-Wesleyan theology of sanctification that rent the early pentecostal movement, played a major role in bringing like-minded indepen- dent Pentecostals into organization in 1914, and set the theological trajectory that developed into Oneness Pentecostalism. Because of these grand claims, his work and thought deserve careful analysis, which they have occasion-

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2015 | doi: 10.1163/15700747-03702018


william h. durham and early pentecostalism


ally received.1 Yet, the shape of his thought and his historical significance remain largely clouded in misunderstanding and unsubstantiated assertions. Durham scholars have made misjudgments in three main areas of investiga- tion. First, a number of unwarranted assumptions have led to a faulty time- line that gives Durham an unjustified pride of place in introducing an anti- Wesleyan theology of sanctification into the pentecostal movement. Second, because of the errors in chronology, scholars have overlooked the work of A.S. Copley, who constructed a similar but distinct theology of sanctification that attacked Wesleyan assumptions. Third, a Durham-centered interpretation

1 The original scholarly interpretation of Durham was that he articulated the concerns of

an increasing number of Reformed Pentecostals. William W. Menzies, Anointed to Serve:

The Story of the Assemblies of God (Springfield, mo: Gospel Publishing House, 1971), 75–77;

Edith Lydia Waldvogel, “The ‘Overcoming Life’: A Study in the Reformed Evangelical Origins

of Pentecostalism” (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1977), 183–189; Robert Mapes Anderson,

Vision of the Disinherited: The Making of American Pentecostalism (Peabody, ma: Hendrick-

son, 1992), 166–175. Allen Clayton critiqued this interpretation, arguing that Durham’s impor-

tance lay in his recovery of Christocentrism within the pneumatocentric pentecostal context.

Allen L. Clayton, “The Significance of William H. Durham for Pentecostal Historiography,”

Pneuma 1, no. 2 (September 1, 1979): 27–42. Further detailed studies include David W. Fau-

pel, The Everlasting Gospel: The Significance of Eschatology in the Development of Pentecostal

Thought, Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series 10 (Sheffield,uk: Sheffield Aca-

demic Press, 1996), 229–270, which analyzes Durham’s theological breakthrough in terms

of a theological crisis connected with his spirit baptism; David A. Reed, “In Jesus’ Name”:

The History and Beliefs of Oneness Pentecostals, Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement

Series 31 (Dorset, uk: Deo, 2008), 77–107, which highlights Durham’s thought as setting the

course for the development of Oneness Pentecostalism; Thomas George Farkas, “William

H. Durham and the Sanctification Controversy in Early American Pentecostalism, 1906–

1916” (Ph.D. diss., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1993), which compares Durham’s

theology of sanctification to other major theological streams, labeling Durham’s position

“radicalized Wesleyanism”; Edith L. Blumhofer, “William H. Durham: Years of Creativity,

Years of Dissent,” in Portraits of a Generation: Early Pentecostal Leaders, ed. James R. Goff

and Grant Wacker (Fayetteville, ar: University of Arkansas Press, 2002), 123–130, which con-

tributed to our knowledge of Durham’s pre-pentecostal years, and the possibility that at

least the slogan “finished work” could be traced to his involvement with the World’s Faith

Missionary Association; Douglas G. Jacobsen, Thinking in the Spirit: Theologies of the Early

Pentecostal Movement (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003), 136–164, which offers

a broader and more contextualized reading of Durham’s theology beyond the narrow focus

of sanctification; and Bruce E. Rosdahl, “The Doctrine of Sanctification in the Assemblies of

God” (Ph.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 2008), which argues that the Assemblies of

God theology of sanctification should also be classified as Wesleyan rather than Keswick-


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of the origins of Oneness Pentecostalism has led to an overestimation of the christological theme in his thought.

Chronological Issues

The notion that Durham unveiled his attack on Wesleyan sanctification in a famous sermon entitled “The Finished Work of Calvary” at the Stone Church convention in May of 1910 seems to be an aggregate of unverified information. The earliest source, which is neither a firsthand account nor based on historical research, gives us the germ of these claims, saying that “three or four years” after the initial outpouring at Azusa Street,

there was a certain pastor who had done some splendid work. He was revered and honored by all who heard him. He was invited to address an important gathering of Pentecostal people in the Middle West. At this meeting, where all was unity and blessing and all were melted together in love—this beloved pastor made an address that has been mightily important to the Pentecostal Movement. In fact, it caused the first great schism in the hitherto unified ranks of the Pentecostal Movement. He preached a sermon to nullify the blessing of sanctifica- tion as a second definite work of grace.2

This account is vague and hardly objective, coming as it does from a publication of the Wesleyan pentecostal organization the Church of God (Cleveland, Ten- nessee). Wanting to seem above the fray, the writer, probably editor A.J. Tomlin- son, does not name the person referred to, but William Durham is undoubtedly intended. Tomlinson had a vested interest in portraying Durham as a firebrand who single-handedly, unexpectedly, and uncaringly disrupted the unity of the early pentecostal movement. Although Durham was not the only—and prob- ably not the first person, as this essay argues—to preach against the Wesleyan sanctification scheme from within Pentecostalism, he was the best known and actively cultivated an image of being the pioneer of this theory. For Durham and his disciples, this image marked the man as a courageous prophet; for his opponents, this imagemarked him as a theological innovatorhungry for notori- ety. Both sides of the controversy had reasons for establishing a “lone gunman” theory of the origin of the finished-work teaching.

2 “History of Pentecost,”Faithful Standard, November 1922, 8.

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Upon Tomlinson’s sparse account (which gave no year, date, location, or specific occasion), historians have added one unverified detail upon another. ThedatingofDurham’ssermonto1910waslikelyintroducedinCarlBrumback’s 1961 history of the Assemblies of God and seems to have begun without proper historical accountability.3William Menzies’s denominational history a decade later gave the same year while also adding that the convention took place in Chicago.4 In his 1979 article Allen Clayton repeated the year 1910, adding that the title of Durham’s sermon was “The Finished Work of Calvary.”5 David W. Faupel’s 1989 dissertation accepted these details and further claimed that the sermon had been preached in May at the Stone Church Convention—a conglomerate of details that has been followed by a handful of influential scholars.6OnescholarclaimsthatDurhampreachedthissermononMay10and even quotes from the supposed sermon as if it were extant.7 These unverified details have reinforced the notion that the finished-work dispute “can be traced to one person: William H. Durham.”8

Setting aside the issue of inadequate citation, a number of facts seem to contradict the narrative that has developed. First, the July 1, 1910 edition of Durham’sPentecostal Testimonymakes no mention of the finished-work teach- ing or even addresses sanctification in a substantial way. If Durham really preached what historians, misquoting A.J. Tomlinson, call “a shot heard round the world” in May, it seems unlikely that Durham unthinkingly omitted refer- ence to it weeks later.9 Second, none of the reports of the convention in the

3 Carl Brumback, Suddenly … from Heaven: A History of the Assemblies of God (Springfield, mo:

Gospel Publishing House, 1961), 98.

4 Menzies, Anointed to Serve, 75.

5 Clayton, “The Significance of William H. Durham for Pentecostal Historiography,” 1–2. 6 David W. Faupel, “The Everlasting Gospel: The Significance of Eschatology in the Develop-

ment of Pentecostal Thought” (Ph.D. diss., University of Birmingham [uk], 1989), 280. The

claim is repeated without primary source citation in Farkas, “William H. Durham and the

Sanctification Controversy,” 135; Faupel, The Everlasting Gospel, 1996, 237; Robin Johnston,

Howard A. Goss: A Pentecostal Life (Hazelwood, mo: Word Aflame Press, 2010), 83; Rosdahl,

“The Doctrine of Sanctification in the Assemblies of God,” 29.

7 Reed, In Jesus’ Name, 87, 101. That the sermon was preached on May 10 seems quite unlikely,

since the convention began on May 15. See W.H. Cossum, “A Glorious Convention,”Latter Rain

Evangel2, no. 9 (June 1910): 2–5.

8 Jacobsen,Thinking in the Spirit, 136.

9 Tomlinson called it a “shout heard round the world.” Emphasis added. “History of Pen-

tecost,” 8. Cf. Faupel, The Everlasting Gospel, 1996, 237; Reed, In Jesus’ Name, 87; Farkas,

“William H. Durham and the Sanctification Controversy,” 135. Douglas Jacobsen claims that

the article “The Great Crisis” from a collection of undated pieces by Durham is the same

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Stone Church’s Latter Rain Evangel mentions Durham’s participation. Third, Durham himself never mentions this supposed address. Fourth, the synopsis of Durham’s career in Pentecostal Testimony immediately following his death (July 1912) stated that “eighteen months ago God led him to fearlessly proclaim the great truth, the finished work of Calvary.” This would put Durham’s pub- lic stand for the teaching in early 1911.10 This corresponds to Durham’s own account, which notes the article “Identification with Christ” from issue num- ber six (which was published sometime between August 1910 and February 1911, since the July issue is number five) as the first of his publications that “had stirred up considerable opposition.”11

The claim that Durham took his public stand for the finished-work teaching at the May convention needlessly posits a dramatic “gauntlet” scenario that may not have happened and has led scholars to misconstrue subsequent events in Durham’s ministry. Specifically, numerous writers have claimed that Howard Goss invited Durham to “defend his views” at a camp meeting in Malvern, Arkansas, in September of 1910.12 Bruce Rosdahl claims that Durham was a “keynote speaker” at the Malvern convention.13This is possible, but the sources

10 11 12 13

as that mentioned in the July 1910 issue of Pentecostal Testimony, putting its date some- time between December 1909 and July 1910. Jacobsen, Thinking in the Spirit, 144, 379, n. 16; William H. Durham, Articles Written by Pastor W.H. Durham Taken from Pentecostal Testimony, n.d., 29–35; William H. Durham, “The Great Crisis Number Two,”Pentecostal Testimony 1, no. 5 (July 1910), 2. In this article, Durham criticizes the “error that sancti- fication was a definite, second work of grace, thus divorcing it from the Cross of Jesus Christ.” Durham, Articles Written by Pastor W.H. Durham, 30. If this is the same article that is referred to in the July 1910 issue, then Durham was clearly taking his stand against holi- ness sanctification earlier than July. Yet the question remains why Durham was silent on the issue of sanctification in the July issue if he had already begun his attack months ear- lier. William H. Durham, “Editorial,”PentecostalTestimony1, no. 5 (July 1910), 1. Not only did he not attack holiness theology in the July issue, but he even commended Methodists for “thundering forth the truth concerning sanctification.” Durham, “The Great Crisis Number Two,” 2. Also, Durham published at least three articles carrying the title “The Great Crisis,” and the version in the undated collection lacks the subtitle (“What is the Plan of God?”) that is attributed to the article in the July 1910 reference. The article in question was more likely that which was republished in inWord and Workin March, for this article carried the subtitle as Durham referenced it. This article makes no particular argument about sancti- fication, holiness theology, or the finished work of Calvary. See William H. Durham, “The Great Crisis: What Is the Plan of God?”Word and Work32, no. 3 (March 1910): 80–82. “In Memoriam,”Pentecostal Testimony2, no. 3 (July 1912), 2.

William H. Durham, “The Gospel of Christ,”Pentecostal Testimony2, no. 1 (January 1912), 9. Anderson,Vision of the Disinherited, 166; Faupel,The Everlasting Gospel, 1996, 240, 242. Rosdahl, “The Doctrine of Sanctification in the Assemblies of God,” 30.

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only indicate that he was one of a number of preachers.14 The main source for Durham’s participation in the Malvern meeting is Howard Goss’s memoir, which also does not ascribe to Durham a central role:

Many leaders came for this Camp. There were Brothers Canada and Jack- son who at that time worked together as an evangelistic team; S.D. Kinne of St. Louis, who did a large part of the day teaching; D.C.O. Opperman, and Brother Durham from Chicago also helped with the preaching.15

Even more important is how Goss described the discussion of sanctification that occurred at the camp meeting. Far from giving an impression that Durham came to “defend his views,” Goss paints a picture of a robust discussion without identifying any person as a particular lobbyist for one side or another:

As there were so many ministers in attendance, and all [were] interested, the “Finished work of Calvary” vs. “The Second Work of Grace” was offi- cially discussed. In the controversy that ensued, as I watched both sides impartially, I soon saw that the doctrine of the “Finished work of Calvary” was right.16

While Durham was possibly an advocate for the finished-work teaching by this time, nothing in this body of evidence necessitates this claim or the central role scholars give to him at this point.

A.S. Copley: Forgotten Theologian of the Finished Work

These leaps in historical detail would remain matters of bare historical veracity had they not led to a larger historiographical problem: failure to see A.S. Copley as a co-architect of the teaching. Faupel mentions that Copley became an advocate of the teaching after hearing Durham’s sermon at the Stone Church convention, subsequently publishing his own explication of it in June of 1910. Faupel fails to notice, however, that Copley published this article earlier in the




A.J. Benson, “Reports,”Evening Light and Church of God Evangel1, no. 17 (November 1, 1910), 6.

Howard Archibald Goss, The Winds of God: The Story of the Early Pentecostal Days (1901– 1914) in the Life of Howard A. Goss(New York: Cornet Press Books, 1958), 126.

Ibid., 126–127.

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May 1 issue of the Pentecost.17 This means that either (1) Durham unveiled his finished-work teaching earlier than the May 1910 Stone Church convention, providing a foundation for Copley’s exposition, or (2) Copley beat Durham to the punch by at least two weeks. A brief comparison of the theologies of Durham and Copley can establish that Copley’s thought should be included in the story of the origins of finished-work Pentecostalism, even if it cannot entirely solve the chronological problems.18

William Durham’s thought was guided by a rejection of the need for a second definite work of grace—the center of Wesleyan holiness theology.19 Durham centered his theology of holiness on what he called “identification” with Christ. Through faith, the old sinful creature is crucified and a new righteous creature arises; and all this is dramatically represented in believer’s baptism. While the reigning holiness theology separated the negative aspect of salvation (pardon) from its positive aspect (holiness) into two distinct works of grace, Durham saw that scripture incorporated both aspects as the outcomes of dying and rising with Christ. Durham summarized his position in the slogan “finished work of Calvary,” emphasizing Christ’s redemptive work as a historical fact appropriated once and for all by faith and thus requiring no post-conversion experience of grace.

Albert Sidney Copley came into contact with Pentecostalism in 1906 and experienced spirit baptism in Warren, Ohio in early 1907. An experienced min- ister by the time he joined the Pentecostals, Copley had worked with the Evan- gelical United Brethren and spent more than a decade with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. As a Pentecostal, he worked briefly alongside J.R. Flower in Indianapolis.20In late 1908, he began work in Kansas City, Missouri, eventually





Faupel,The Everlasting Gospel, 1996, 268. A.S. Copley, “Pauline Sanctification,”Pentecost2, no. 6 (May 1, 1910), 5–8. Rosdahl places Copley’s article in his bibliography (citing the May 1 edition), but does not explore either its theological or historical significance. Rosdahl, “The Doctrine of Sanctification in the Assemblies of God,” 244.

The comparison of Durham and Copley presented here, while hopefully suggestive of fur- ther avenues of research, is intended only to establish that Copley had a similar theology of sanctification with distinct emphases.

The basic contours of Durham’s theology of sanctification can be found in William H. Durham, “Sanctification: The Bible Does Not Teach It as a Second Definite Work of Grace,” Pentecostal Testimony 1, no. 8 (July 1911), 1–3; William H. Durham, “Second Work of Grace People Answered,”Pentecostal Testimony1, no. 8 (July 1911), 7–9.

“On the Home Stretch,” Christian and Missionary Alliance 25, no. 23 (June 16, 1906), 11; “ConventioninFlushing, Ohio,”ChristianandMissionaryAlliance25,no.24 (June23,1906), 13–14; A.S. Copley, “Pentecost in Toronto,” Apostolic Faith (Los Angeles) 1, no. 5 (January 1907), 4; A.S. Copley, “In My New Coat,”Pentecost2, no. 4 (March 1, 1910), 5–6.

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becoming pastor of the Pentecostal Christian Assembly. He took on the role of teacher, printing intricate Bible studies in the Pentecost, which he edited with Flower. In the May 1, 1910 issue of the Pentecost, Copley took his stand against holiness theology.

In “Pauline Sanctification,” Copley argued that holiness sanctification theol- ogy resulted from “a mistaken, or an incomplete view of the work of Calvary.”21 Copley said that holiness theology was “Jewish,” meaning that it understood sanctification in Old Testament terms as cleansing. On the other hand, “Chris- tian” sanctification is understood as “crucifixion.” He went on to detail other discrepancies. While the holiness conception hoped for a subsequent blessing, “Christian sanctification believes a fact, viz; our death with Christ.” The holiness method relies, in part, on human works, aiming at imitation of Christ, while Christian sanctification is “wholly by grace” which “is a reproduction of Christ.” The holiness approach seeks to “repair the old creation,” while Christian sanc- tification reckoned the old person dead. According to Copley, holiness thought limited Christ’s death to vicarious atonement, while Christian sanctification rightly understood Christ’s death “as a substitute … but much more.” The cruci- fixion means “identification” with Christ: believers have “died to sin in Him and are alive unto God in Him forever.” As an antidote to harmful introspection and self-righteousness bred in holiness circles, Copley insisted that “[w]e no longer expect any good from ourselves and are not disappointed, or surprised at our own failures,” and likewise, “We do right, but his indwelling causes to do it. God will not leave room for a whit of self glory.”22

Emphasizing the past tense in scriptural references to Christ’s work, Copley argued that Scripture’s grammar “tell[s] us of the finished work of Christ.” “So there remains nothing more for us to do but to believe what God says.” While essentially forensic, “[t]his reckoning becomes actually real in us by the power oftheHolySpiritaswecontinuetobelieveGod.”Copleyfaultedholinesspeople in their attempts to “die” to one sin or another, instead of simply believing “that our death, burial and resurrection with Christ is an accomplished fact.”23

Copley’s theology echoed Reformation thought more than the dominant holiness-pentecostal heritage. In an attempt to balance the movement’s the- ological dependence on Luke-Acts, Copley suggested that “we need to study Pentecost in the light of Pauline Christianity.”24 Like Luther and Calvin, Cop-

21 22 23 24

Copley, “Pauline Sanctification,” 6.


Ibid., 7.

A.S. Copley, “The Pauline Gospel,”Pentecost2, no. 6 (May 1910), 4.

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ley had a very theocentric understanding of salvation; yet he could not escape the appeal to the agency of human will that even Luther’s protégé Philip Melanchthon stressed. “Certainly, there is a surrender of the will else we could not believe.”25 Copley did not deny a progression in the Christian life, but he insistedthatsuchobedienceoryieldingtoGod“doesnotsanctifyus,”butallows God to “develop the graces of the Sprit in us and use us to his glory.”26 Growth in the Christian life, according to Copley, was utilitarian rather than salvific.

Copley’s attack on holiness theology was in many ways similar to Durham’s teaching. Like Durham, Copley used the phrase “finished work” to emphasize that Christ has accomplished sanctification already for believers and “iden- tification” as shorthand for how believers are made holy. But Copley’s work bears the stamp of original thought. While Copley attacked the holiness posi- tion, his theology was more exegetically based than Durham’s, which, Durham admitted, was founded on revelation as well as proofs from scripture. Cop- ley was more systematic, resisting Durham’s digressions into personal attacks and anecdotes.27 Copley was more pointed than Durham in his attack on the Wesleyan doctrine of eradication, deliberately juxtaposing the theory of erad- ication with crucifixion in the Pauline sense: “the old man, or carnal mind is never eradicated. He is judicially crucified with Christ on Calvary and is held in the death state as we count on this fact.”28

Whether developed independently or in conversation with Durham and others, the timing of Copley’s writing and the level of sophistication and dis- tinctiveness strongly suggest that he was not simply elaborating on Durham’s

25 26 27


Copley, “Pauline Sanctification,” 8.


Durham, “Sanctification: The Bible Does Not Teach It as a Second Definite Work of Grace,” 1.

Copley, “Pauline Sanctification,” 5. Scholars disagree whether Durham intended a type of eradication. Reed argues that Durham “was not implying a form of eradication” (In Jesus’ Name, 89, cf. 99), while Farkas argues that Durham’s doctrine of crucifixion was “the same as eradication” (“William H. Durham and the Sanctification Controversy,” 238). At least for Copley, a crucial distinction seemed to exist between eradication and crucifixion. As Copley stresses, something that is crucified still exists, though dead and impotent. But that which is eradicated is in a state of non-being. The crucifixion motif helps explain how sin can reemerge after sanctification, while the eradication label left people doubting their sanctification experience. Durham’s stress on returning to first grace through repentance suggests that he chose the crucifixion terminology over eradication for just this reason. This is the essential flaw in Farkas’s designation of Durham’s sanctification theology as “radicalized Wesleyanism,” for his interpretation rests on identifying eradication and crucifixion in Durham’s thought (259).

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theme.29 This brief exploration into Copley’s earliest explication of sanctifica- tion should also lay to rest the claim that Durham was the sole “author” of the finished-work teaching or that he “was the one original theologian of the Amer- ican Pentecostal movement” until the 1970s.30

On the weight of all this evidence, I propose a different timeline for the launch of the finished-work teaching. By the spring of 1910 (or earlier), some pentecostal circles had begun debating the merits of the Wesleyan second work of grace doctrine.31 In May, Copley published his attack on holiness sancti- fication teaching. The discussion continued through the summer of 1910, as evidenced by reprints of Copley’s article in A Call to Faith (June) and Confi- dence (July). Based on Confidence editor A.A. Boddy’s remarks, however, some found the designation of holiness theology as “Jewish” too abrasive.32But Cop- ley’s theology had found a ready audience, as the new teaching became a major topic of discussion at the Malvern, Arkansas camp meeting in Septem-





Contra Faupel, The Everlasting Gospel, 1996, 268. While hardly conclusive, it is also worth noting that Copley nowhere admits indebtedness to Durham.

Reed, In Jesus’ Name, 83; Walter J. Hollenweger, The Pentecostals: The Charismatic Move- ment in the Churches(Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1972), 25.

Mary Lindley, “The Beginning of Days for Me,”Pentecost 2, no. 2 (January 1, 1910), 1, 3. This article is not a direct attack on second work of grace theology, but carries the themes of dying with Christ, reckoning oneself as dead, and simple faith that would appear more polemically in Copley and Durham. As some scholars argue, E.W. Kenyon’s teaching on the “finished work” of Christ may have influenced Durham. Kenyon’s teaching is peripheral to the present discussion, though, because (1) Kenyon did not actively propagate his teaching among Pentecostals;and (2) Kenyonput the slogan tosuch different use. Rather than sanc- tification, Kenyon was concerned with the legal rights to spiritual authority. E.W. Kenyon, The Father and His Family, the Story of Man’s Redemption(Lynnwood,wa: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1964), 195. Too many scholars assume that Durham and Kenyon meant the same thing when they used phrases like “finished work” and “identification with Christ.” For example, Reed,In Jesus’ Name, 102–103; Dale H. Simmons,E.W. Kenyon and the Postbellum Pursuit of Peace, Power, and Plenty, Studies in Evangelicalism 13 (Lanham, md: Scarecrow Press, 1997), xi–x, 28–29, 292–296. Kimberly Alexander makes similar claims about Carrie Judd Montgomery’s finished-work teaching. Yet the similarities here are also superficial, since Montgomery’s teaching generally focused on healing rather than sancti- fication. Kimberly Ervin Alexander, Pentecostal Healing: Models in Theology and Practice, Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series 29 (Blandford Forum,uk: Deo, 2006), 45–46, 70, 151, 160, 211, 227.

A.S. Copley, “Sanctification—‘Jewish’ and Christian,” Confidence 3, no. 7 (July 1910), 168– 169. Boddy’s disclaimer on Copley’s terminology: “The Editor of ‘Confidence’ feels that a better designator might have been found than the word ‘Jewish.’ He would have perhaps used the term ‘mixed’ as contrasted with ‘pure’” (168).

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ber. Around this time and perhaps as a result of the Malvern debate, Durham began to formulate his own explication of the teaching, and sometime toward the end of the year, but perhaps as early as the Malvern meeting, he gave promi- nence to the slogan “the finished work of Calvary” to summarize the position and rally support.33 Then, going into print between August 1910 and January 1911 and combining this with his travels to spread his ideas, Durham became the spokesperson for the new theology. Durham quickly outpaced Copley in his outspoken advocacy for the teaching and leadership of the finished-work movement, but this should not overshadow Copley’s contribution. While this proposed chronology is circumstantial, its plausibility should cause scholars to rethink the picture they have constructed.

Durham and Oneness Theology

In addition to Durham’s priority in the origins of the finished-work teach- ing, scholars have argued that his thought unintentionally “set the stage” and “forged the internal logic” for the development of Oneness Pentecostalism.34 This is not to say that Durham’s thought inevitably led to Oneness Pente- costalism or that Durham was its sole source. As Reed argues well, nonpen- tecostal evangelical speculation on the harmony of biblical baptismal formu- las and the theological import of Jesus’ name were crucial to later Oneness doctrine. Rather, Durham’s finished-work teaching was the “immediate Pente- costal context.”35Nevertheless, the Durham-centered thesis of Oneness origins is potentially problematic in two ways. First, this thesis downplays evidence of embryonic Oneness tendencies developing independently of Durham. Most historical accounts of the origins of Oneness Pentecostalism begin with the events of the 1913 Arroyo Secco gathering, with a nod to Charles Parham’s ear- lier teaching about baptism in Jesus’ name. According to the standard story, Durham’sthought providedtheseed that grewintothe revelationthat occurred in 1913.36 But in 1912, Durham was refuting a number of “false doctrines” that bore remarkable correspondence to later Oneness doctrine. Specifically,


34 35 36

Goss claimed that the Malvern meeting discussed “the finished work of Calvary,” but this terminology could have been an anachronism. Goss,The Winds of God, 126.

Reed, In Jesus’ Name, 79, 135.

Ibid., 3.

Anderson,Vision of the Disinherited, 176–177; Faupel,The Everlasting Gospel, 1996, 281–282; Reed, In Jesus’ Name, 67, 138.

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Durham denounced the belief that those who receive Christ simultaneously receive the Holy Spirit (spirit baptism), the concern that those who separate salvation from spirit baptism are “dividing the Trinity,” and the practice of bap- tizing in Jesus’ name only.37 While it is far from certain that such practices would have created a full-fledged Oneness movement on their own, such stir- rings should be given more consideration in the movement’s origins. Durham’s impassioned opposition to these teachings must also be better accounted for if Durham be held as the immediate backdrop of Oneness Pentecostalism.

Durham’s Soteriological Center

The second concern deals with the interpretation of Durham’s thought. Noting that Durham’s theology of sanctification was distorted by early Pentecostals, but wanting to maintain his central role, most scholars argue that Durham’s chief contribution was not a specific theology of sanctification per se, but a christological emphasis that had been lacking in early Holiness Pentecostal- ism.38 This reemphasized Christology is said to be the “organic connection” between finished-work and Oneness theology.39But identifying Christology as the link between Durham and Oneness thought tends to impose a teleologi- cal reading on Durham, distorting the theological core of his writings. A fresh investigation of Durham’s theology on its own terms reveals that his central concern was soteriological. While this message had christological implications, such effects should not be allowed to overshadow his soteriological frame- work.

37 38


“False Doctrines,”Pentecostal Testimony2, no. 2 (May 1912), 6–7.

Stated most forthrightly in Reed,In Jesus’ Name, 362. Clayton, “The Significance of William H. Durham for Pentecostal Historiography,” 39; Farkas, “William H. Durham and the Sanctification Controversy,” 186. Farkas notes that “for all practical purposes, the original Finished Work doctrine and its unique trajectory died with Durham” (286), but he does not connect this to developments in Oneness Pentecostalism. Ewart mistook Durham’s theology as a “gradual advancement that one made after having received the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” But Durham consistently taught that sin after conversion is dealt with not by seeking a subsequent infusion of grace (whether instantaneous or gradual) but in “return[ing] to their first state of grace.” Frank J. Ewart, The Phenomenon of Pentecost (Hazelwood, mo: Word Aflame Press, 1975), 100; Durham, “Sanctification: The Bible Does Not Teach It as a Second Definite Work of Grace,” 2.

However, Aaron Freisen helpfully argues that Durham’s greatest contribution is more likely the simplification of complex experience-based theologies. Aaron T. Friesen, Norm- ing the Abnormal: The Development and Function of the Doctrine of Initial Evidence in Clas- sical Pentecostalism(Eugene,or: Pickwick Publications, 2013), 89–94.

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Durham’s theology stemmed from a rejection of the Wesleyan ordo salutis, which rested on a peculiar distinction between justification and sanctifica- tion.40 In what was probably Durham’s first unequivocal printed attack on holiness theology, he forthrightly said, “the misunderstanding seems to be as to what justification really is.”41Soteriology, from a Pauline perspective, was both theologically prior in Durham’s theology and chronologically prior in the devel- opment of his thought.42 For Durham, justification and sanctification were linked—one could not have one without the other. While Wesleyan theology distinguished “outward iniquities” from “inbred sin,” saying that conversion dealt with the former and sanctification as a separate experience dealt with the latter, Durham taught that conversion bestows both.43 “God never saves a man from outward sins that He does not save him from inward sin at the same time.”44 Rather, Christ is “a complete Savior to all that believe, as soon as they believe.”45 While holiness adherents placed sanctification subsequent to jus- tification, Durham proclaimed that “the only foundation for our justification is that our old man was crucified with Christ.” Sin does not remain in those who are in Christ, since “God has put our old man into Christ, and nailed him to the Cross.” Durham’s term for this was “identification,” which is appropri- ated to the believer by faith.46 Thus, the conversion experience was the only






45 46

Although Durham was raised a Baptist, he indicated “that from my conversion … I have continually associated with holiness people; and that for years, in my preaching, I referred to sanctification as a second work of grace.” Durham, Articles Written by Pastor W.H. Durham, 15. Therefore, his theology was more a rejection of Wesleyanism from inside than a refutation of holiness theology from outside.

Ibid., 27. For approximate dating of this article and Durham’s admission that it was the first of his writings to stir opposition, see Durham, “The Great Battle of Nineteen Eleven,” 6.

Faupel’s interpretation that for Durham “the narrative of Acts provided the key to under- standing the whole plan of redemption, while the Epistles elaborated on that plan” is, in part, based on an erroneous attribution to Durham of a July 1910 article inWord and Work. Without the confusion created by this misattribution, one can see that Durham’s theo- logical center is Pauline soteriology, for which Durham found a helpful shorthand in the book of Acts. Faupel,The Everlasting Gospel, 1996, 305, 306.

William H. Durham, “The Two Great Experiences or Gifts,”Pentecostal Testimony 1, no. 8 (1911), 6.

William H. Durham, “The Finished Work of Calvary: Identification with Jesus Christ Saves and Sanctifies,”Pentecostal Testimony2, no. 1 (January 1912), 2.

Durham, “The Great Battle of Nineteen Eleven,” 6.

Durham, “The Finished Work of Calvary: Identification with Jesus Christ Saves and Sanc- tifies,” 2.

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Christian experience that dealt with sin: “When one really comes into Christ [in conversion] he is as much in Christ as he will ever be.”47

Durham saw a danger of works righteousness in Wesleyan anthropocen- trism. “It is a sad mistake,” Durham opined, “to believe that any one, or even two experiences, as such, can ever remove the necessity of maintaining a help- less continual dependence on Jesus Christ.”48An experience of sanctification is no escape from one’s daily cross, for “it requires just as much faith to keep right with God as it did to get right in the first place.”49If a believer feels that she has strayed, what she needs is not a sanctification experience but what Durham preferred to call “reclamation”—repentance and return to original grace.50This is remarkably similar to how one scholar describes Luther’s theology of sancti- fication as “constantly apprehending anew justification.”51 Durham also urged those who had no immediate need for repentance just as urgently to “abide in [Christ] in living, continual faith.”52

Durham anticipated that many would think his soteriology was merely “judi- cial.” He said these critics did not understand the power of faith, for such salva- tion is “an actual experience to all who have exercised living faith in Christ.”53 In this sense, Durham’s soteriology relies on an eschatological distinction— “eschatological” meaning the “end” of the sinner and the birth of a new righ- teous creature. “A converted person is to reckon himself dead,” said Durham, “Such a one is exhorted to present himself to God as alive from the dead.”54 Anything less “lowers the standard of justification.”55


48 49 50 51

52 53



Durham, “Sanctification: The Bible Does Not Teach It as a Second Definite Work of Grace,” 2.




Charles P. Arand, That I May Be His Own: An Overview of Luther’s Catechisms (St. Louis, mo: Concordia Academic Press, 2000), 141. Citing Albrecht Peters, “Die Theologie der Kate- chismen Luthers anhand der Zuordnung ihrer Hauptstücke,”Lutherjahrbuch43 (7–35): 25. Scholars have debated whether Durham’s theology is in some way Lutheran. For a review of arguments, see Farkas, “William H. Durham and the Sanctification Controversy,” 199– 207.

Durham, “The Great Battle of Nineteen Eleven,” 2.

Durham, “The Finished Work of Calvary: Identification with Jesus Christ Saves and Sanc- tifies,” 2.

Durham, “Sanctification: The Bible Does Not Teach It as a Second Definite Work of Grace,” 2.

Durham, Articles Written by Pastor W.H. Durham, 27–28.

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Although constant “reckoning” of oneself as dead to sin and alive in Christ through faith was all that was necessary for salvation (both justification and sanctification), Durham taught that spirit baptism enables the holy life sepa- rated unto God. Here Durham borders on contradicting himself with regard to the soteriological import of spirit baptism as an experience distinct from con- version. “A sinner is in the flesh,” said Durham, “and a believer is in the Spirit; and God makes conversion the dividing line between the two states. In the old life, the old creation in Adam … rules. The new life in Christ is supposed to be lived entirely in the Spirit.”56 Durham felt that ideally the Christian should be water baptized immediately after conversion and spirit baptized “when we come up out of the water,” in order to be “[s]ealed in the Spirit as proof of His finished salvation.”57 Durham’s Pauline focus may have led him into theologi- cal terrain he was not prepared to traverse. Since Paul assumes that those who are justified “live by the Spirit,” Durham added the modifier “supposed” to give room for a reception of the Spirit subsequent to and distinct from conversion: “So we being dead, and raised from the dead in Christ, one time, are supposed to live unto God in the Spirit.”58Durham could not assume, as the Pauline epis- tles seem to, that justification is organically linked to life in the Spirit.

Reed ponders the irony that Durham’s intense Christology and baptismal emphasis “did not also lead him to adopt the christocentric baptismal name” that later became central to Oneness Pentecostalism.59 Similarly, Faupel remarks that “the surprise is that so many Finished Work advocates did not [identify with the name of Jesus in the waters baptism].”60But if one recognizes that Durham’s theology is focused on soteriology rather than Christology, the irony—or surprise—dissolves.61 Durham viewed baptism as a representation of his eschatological understanding of justification (death and rebirth), not as an expression of Jesus-centered piety. Durham was not contending against a loss of christological focus, but against the experiential timeline and hamar-


57 58

59 60 61

Durham, “The Finished Work of Calvary: Identification with Jesus Christ Saves and Sanc- tifies,” 3.

Durham, “The Gospel of Christ,” 9, 10.

Ibid., 9. Durham expresses similar sentiments in Durham, Articles Written by Pastor W.H. Durham, 28.

Reed, In Jesus’ Name, 93.

Faupel,The Everlasting Gospel, 1996, 306.

That Durham’s battle was for “salvation itself” has been mentioned by Farkas, as he com- ments on Frank Bartleman’s observations. But Farkas does not draw out the implications of this insight. Farkas, “William H. Durham and the Sanctification Controversy,” 163–164 (n. 131), 172.

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tiological basis of holiness theology.62 Opposing the teaching that salvation “takes more than one work,” Durham emphasized the completed historical, past tense, nature of redemption. While historians have emphasized “Calvary” in Durham’s slogan, the more appropriate emphasis should be on “finished work.”

Oneness Debt to Durham: Some Observations

Reed claims that the “Finished Work doctrine remained undeveloped” at Durham’s untimely death in 1912.63 Durham did not live to harness his influ- ence into an organized movement, and some tensions existed in his thought, but a careful reading of his theology does not suggest incompleteness or that it was “frozen in its infancy … leaving many themes like loose threads waiting to be woven into a tapestry of doctrine and practice” by Oneness theology.64 Although Durham was not primarily concerned with christocentric piety, One- ness theology was indebted to the christological implications of his teaching. Just as important for Oneness origins, however, were Durham’s tendencies that reflected broader pentecostal culture, such as biblical restorationism, super- natural revelation, and doctrinal confirmation through spiritual blessings.65

Oneness thinkers were concerned with reestablishing the “Bible plan” of salvation. They took this theme of restoration further than other Pentecostals, even to the point of rejecting the classical doctrine of the Trinity. Like Durham, Oneness Pentecostals were worried that human theories distorted biblical truth. As Durham put it, the finished-work teaching “rules out all the confusing theories of men.”66 Durham and Oneness leaders longed for what they called


63 64 65


Critiquing holiness theology as lacking in christological emphasis is too broad a gen- eralization to be useful. Holiness exponents frequently used christocentric language to describe the second work of grace: “entire sanctification wrought in an instant by a divine act conditioned alone upon a specific act of sanctifying faith in the Blood of Christ.” See John G. Lake, “Sanctification and Holy Living,”Pentecost1, no. 7 (June 1909), 8. Reed, In Jesus’ Name, 106.

Ibid., 135.

Historians have not ignored these elements, but given the present reassessment of Durham’s thought, they deserve renewed attention. Ibid., 116–135. Interestingly, before Clayton’s article influenced Reed toward a more christocentric and Durham-centered the- sis on Oneness origins, he pointed to three very similar elements within Pentecostalism “that were conducive to the emergence” of Oneness Pentecostalism: reliance upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit, hunger for new ideas, and the centrality of the book of Acts. David Reed, “Aspects of the Origins of Oneness Pentecostalism,” in Aspects of Pentecostal- Charismatic Origins, ed. Vinson Synan (Plainfield,nj: Logos International, 1975), 157–158. Durham, “The Great Battle of Nineteen Eleven,” 6.

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the“simpleGospel” evidentalsoin anemphasis onActs2:38.67Thesimplicityof the gospel was dramatized in baptism, which both spoke of as “identification” with Christ. But careful distinctions should be made. As important as baptism was for Durham’s theology, it remained a “symbol” of the identification with Christ that occurred in faith, whereas Oneness Pentecostals gave it first-order salvific significance.68

Durham felt that his epiphany on the finished-work teaching was an escha- tological signifier, as it hastened the “Great Crisis.”69 Durham believed that God was working to restore “the portions of truth,” such as the finished-work teaching, that had been neglected by most Christians.70 Although confirmed by his search of the Scriptures, Durham testified that his initial understanding of the doctrine was by revelation.71 Durham could not have given later One- ness Pentecostals a better justification for their “new” teachings than when he said, “We are living in a wonderful day. God is moving rapidly indeed. The rev- elation of one precious truth follows another so closely that only those who are in very close touch with the Lord seem able to grasp these precious truths as fast as they are revealed.”72 Oneness Pentecostals like Frank Ewart wrote of their teaching’s place in this scheme: “The last great crisis is now upon us. God is moving for the complete restoration of His Holy Church … What He com-




70 71


William H. Durham, “An Open Letter to My Brother Ministers in and out of the Pentecostal Movement,”Pentecostal Testimony1, no. 8 (July 1911), 13. For Oneness use of the phrase, see Reed, In Jesus’ Name, 128.

Contra Jacobsen, Thinking in the Spirit, 156. Jacobsen claims that for Durham “the act of water baptism actually played some role in effecting” justification and sanctification. But see Durham, “The Finished Work of Calvary: Identification with Jesus Christ Saves and Sanctifies,” 3; Durham, “The Two Great Experiences or Gifts,” 5. As much as Durham stressed Acts 2:38 as a summation of salvation, he always interpreted this through a Pauline lens, especially Romans 6. See Durham, “The Finished Work of Calvary: Identi- fication with Jesus Christ Saves and Sanctifies,” 3, which, after mentioning Acts 2:38 as the “scriptural order,” turns to a fuller discussion of death and resurrection appropriated in identification with Christ. In general, Reed gives Acts 2:38 too much consideration in his interpretation of Durham, although at certain points, Durham came close to giving sote- riological significance to each of the three events of conversion, water baptism, and spirit baptism. See Durham, “The Gospel of Christ,” 9.

William H. Durham, “The Great Crisis: The Finished Work Is Hastening It,” Pentecostal Testimony2, no. 2 (May 1912), 4–6.

Durham, Articles Written by Pastor W.H. Durham, 47.

Durham, “An Open Letter to My Brother Ministers in and out of the Pentecostal Move- ment,” 13.

Ibid., 12; Jacobsen,Thinking in the Spirit, 151.

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manded in the beginning of the church is true at the end of the church age.”73 These preferences for biblical restorationism and revelation were, of course, the substance of the “evening light” and “latter rain” hermeneutic that all Pente- costals accepted. But Oneness Pentecostals seemed to take this to the extreme, and in many ways they were faithful Durhamites in this regard. Ewart inter- preted Durham’s teaching as the first in series of end-times revelations that would “get this movement back in doctrinal fellowship with the apostles.”74 If interpreters are looking for reasons why the Oneness movement emerged from the finished-work camp of Pentecostalism, this thirst for new revelation may be a powerful clue.75Having rejected the “new” teaching of Durham, Wesleyan Pentecostals established themselves as preservers of heritage, even within the innovative pentecostal community. For those in the finished-work camp who had accepted Durham’s teaching as an end-times revelation, a precedent of openness to new doctrine was established, making them more receptive to the Oneness message.

Durham and his followers believed that his message was confirmed by the renewed spiritual blessings it engendered. According to Frank Bartleman, when Durham began preaching at Azusa Street in early 1911, “the fire fell at old Azusa as at the beginning,” but with William Seymour’s rejection of Durham’s message, “‘Azusa’ became deserted.”76 Durham concurred: “we have not seen anything like a revival among those who oppose the ‘Finished Work’ and stand for the second work theory.”77 In the same way, God seemed to set a seal of approval upon the Oneness message. When Durham declared that “[w]hen [the Holy Ghost] reveals truth we must accept it, or we will lose out. When He exposes error we must drop it, or we will go into darkness and confusion,” One- ness adherents could easily apply this logic to accepting the revelation of Jesus’ name and rejecting the traditional teaching on the Trinity.78E.N. Bell reported







Frank J. Ewart,The Revelation of Jesus Christ(St. Louis,mo: Gospel Publishing House, n.d.), 34.

Cited in Clayton, “The Significance of William H. Durham for Pentecostal Historiography,” 39, n. 2.

Clayton critiques Reed’s 1975 analysis for being unable to account for the fact that Oneness emerged in the finished-work camp. Ibid., 40.

Frank Bartleman, How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles: As It Was in the Beginning (Los Angeles: F. Bartleman, 1925), 145, 146.

Durham, “The Finished Work of Calvary—It Makes Plain the Great Work of Redemption,” 4.

Durham, “An Open Letter to My Brother Ministers in and out of the Pentecostal Move- ment,” 12.

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of his work in the embryonic Oneness movement that he had “never seen the power of God fall and the candidates as a whole get so happy.”79 The implica- tion was clear: resisting such messages was tantamount to resisting God and missing out on latter-day blessings.

One cannot doubt that the prominent Oneness thinkers were influenced by William Durham. But this is not the same as saying that Oneness theology is the end of a “chain reaction” set off by Durham.80Much less can his Christology— for Durham a contingent theological point—be given privileged status in the story of Oneness origins. If Durham’s thought was a major source of Oneness Pentecostalism, it was largely in that Durham was the immediate conveyor of ideas that were cherished by all Pentecostals.


The original historiographical debate on Durham, resting on the assumption that he was the author of the finished-work teaching, centered on whether or not his theology of sanctification represented a larger reaction from the Reformed element in early Pentecostalism. Noting that few early Pentecostals comprehended or agreed on what Durham’s theology of sanctification was, scholars began looking elsewhere for the theme in Durham’s thought that was so successful in banding independent Pentecostals. They found this in Durham’s supposed christological piety, which could be seen as a “correction” of Wesleyan pneumatocentrism. But this assumption and conclusion can be called into question on a number of accounts. The timeline of the unveiling of the finished-work teaching is not as tidy as scholars have often presented it. This, coupled with evidence that A.S. Copley was just as important in the teach- ing’s earliest stages, means that it is no longer so clear that Durham was the first to publicize the finished-work teaching on sanctification from within the pentecostal camp. This lends support and sophistication to the original thesis that Durham was a spokesperson for a wider subset of Pentecostals who were unhappy with the Wesleyan understanding of sanctification. Furthermore, the “christological correction” theory has led historians to exaggerate the impor- tance of Christology in Durham’s thought, especially as seed for Oneness Pente- costalism. A more attentive read of Durham’s theology reveals that his guiding concern was not a Jesus-centered piety, but a Pauline soteriology. On the other

79 80

E.N. Bell, “Davis City Camp-Meeting Report,”Weekly Evangel, no. 105 (August 28, 1915), 2. Reed, In Jesus’ Name, 362.

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hand, the more pervasive themes of biblical restorationism, doctrinal revela- tion, and supernatural confirmation of doctrine are equally important arenas of continuity between Durham and Oneness thought.

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