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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ecology of a Cracker Childhood: Janisse Ray's Religious Upbringing

Click on the image.

I have not said much about my family. However, I have a famous cousin, Janisse Ray, who is a published author and a naturalist. Janisse has dedicated her life to preserving the Georgia longleaf pine and other wild plants and wildlife. Janisse's father, Frank Ray, is the brother of my father, C. J. Ray, who is now deceased.

What her book, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, does not give much detail about is the religious tradition with which her father was and is affiliated. While the politically correct media moguls lament the horrible conditions of being ill fated to grow up in a religious home where religion is forced upon the children, the Christian world celebrates the idea that some families still read the Bible and pray.

That being said, I must say that my Uncle Frank's religion is a harsh and judgmental one in comparison to the rest of the Evangelical world. The irony here is that while the political left harshly condemns this sort of religion my uncle's religion is actually derived from an African American denomination considered as a heretical cult rather than an orthodox and mainline denomination. In fact, the tradition I am speaking of is the apostolic pentecostal movement or "oneness" pentecostal tradition. What makes this particular branch of the pentecostal movement especially controversial is the fact that the doctrine of the trinity is denied and instead a modalistic view of the godhead is adopted. The churches affiliated with the various oneness pentecostal denominations are extremely sectarian and fundamentalist, most using the King James Version of the Bible as the only "inspired" translation of the Bible there is.

However, Uncle Frank's denomination is even more sectarian than most because fellowship with other oneness pentecostal denominations, like the United Pentecostal Church International, is rejected. The name of the church Uncle Frank follows is The True Word: Apostolic Ministries of America, Inc., which was founded by a black man known as Bishop S.C. Johnson, who Uncle Frank listened to by AM radio and shortwave radio for years. Uncle Frank has not attended any church in many years because he believes that they are all apostate and false churches. This not only includes the apostolic pentecostal churches in the area, but also the oneness pentecostal churches.  The UPCI and TWAMA both do not fellowship with broader Evangelical denominations for the simple reason that there is a mutual animosity between the trinitarian denominations and the modalistic pentecostals. The True Word ministry was founded in Philadelphia and is now a somewhat successful ministry, aside from the fact that its doctrine is heretical and unorthodox.  But the UPCI and TWAMA reject each other as well.

Where to begin describing how the oneness pentecostals came about in the first place is difficult but I shall make the attempt. When the pentecostal revival broke out at the Azusa Street Mission, affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Los Angeles, California on April 14, 1906 under the leadership of a black man named William J. Seymour, it was fully trinitarian as all the Methodist churches were then and are today. While the African Methodist Episcopal Church was part of the Wesleyan holiness tradition, Seymour's theological training ironically came from a white Wesleyan holiness preacher named Charles Parham, who was extremely racist.

The genesis of the pentecostal movement was initially trinitarian since the majority of those participating in the Azusa revival were Christians from other denominations which were in fact trinitarian. The trinity is and has been one of the universally accepted doctrines of the Christian faith since apostolic times and was later more fully developed and fleshed out by the church fathers, including Tertullian. As the doctrine was attacked by those without and within the church, the first four ecumenical or universal councils of Christianity stated more fully what the churches believed the Scriptures teach about the trinity or tri-unity of God as one being and three distinct yet unified persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

What is interesting is that initially all pentecostals were trinitarians. However, when the New Issue broke out around 1914 that all changed. Until that point the Assemblies of God, one of the largest pentecostal denominations today, had no formal statement of beliefs. However, in 1916 after the controversial modalist view of the godhead threatened orthodoxy, the Assemblies of God formulated the Sixteen Fundamental Truths to counter charges of heresy against their pentecostal beliefs. While the Assemblies of God and other mainline and classical pentecostal denominations still formally deny the oneness teaching, the irony today is that the heresy of modalism is now tolerated and even embraced by leading pentecostal scholars at the Society for Pentecostal Studies and by the denominational leadership of the Assemblies of God (baptistic pentecostal in the line of William H. Durham) and the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee (wesleyan and three step pentecostal) and others. The reason for this is that the gifts of the Holy Spirit and Spirit baptism are seen as the sole basis for fellowship rather than a commitment to sound doctrine and the historic Christian faith as well as the orthodoxy espoused by the Protestant Reformation in England and Europe. (For a more indepth discussion of the theological roots of pentecostalism see Assessing the Roots).

The key doctrinal position of pentecostal teaching common to both wesleyan and baptistic pentecostals, is the doctrine of initial physical evidence, which says that the first or initial outward sign of the inward grace of Holy Spirit baptism is speaking in an unknown tongue. (See Acts 2:1-4; 10:44-48; 19:1-7). This doctrine is also part of the oneness pentecostal distinctives. However, the oneness pentecostals derive more from the wesleyan holiness side and also emphasize salvation as a three step process. Wesleyan pentecostals such as the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee believe that salvation is obtained by faith through justification, regeneration, and the new birth. This is the first work of grace. The second work of grace is in line with the wesleyan doctrine of entire sanctification where the heart is made clean. The third step is then the baptism with the Holy Spirit as evidenced by the initial physical sign of speaking in tongues. Spirit baptism is intended to empower the believer supernaturally to perform signs and wonders and to witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The baptistic pentecostals such as the Assemblies of God believe only in two steps of grace: new birth and Spirit baptism. The baptistic pentecostals also believe entire sanctification comes with the second work of grace, the baptism with the Holy Spirit.

However, the oneness pentecostals believe that salvation is only possible after three events are completed: repentance (deliverance from sin, i.e. entire sanctification), being baptized in water according to the formula in Acts 2:38 and being baptized with the Holy Spirit with the initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues or glossolalia (Acts 2:1-4). The following paragraph from the United Pentecostal Church International's website illustrates this view:

Salvation


Salvation consists of deliverance from all sin and unrighteousness through the blood of Jesus Christ. The New Testament experience of salvation consists of repentance from sin, water baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost, after which the Christian is to live a godly life (Acts 2:36-41).

In fact, it is the doctrine of water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ only which pushed the oneness pentecostals in the direction of modalism. What is particularly troubling is that the modalistic view was allegedly given by divine revelation during a camp meeting where evangelist R.E. McAlister emphasized Acts 2:38:

The Pentecostal movement was from its inception Trinitarian. It was from the revival at the Azusa Street Mission from 1906 to 1909 that the Pentecostal experience spread throughout the world. When this modern day revival had first occurred with the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues, it was upholding Trinitarianism.

Their message of Oneness was first delivered to the Pentecostals that fateful day on 1913 in a camp meeting in Arroyo Seco, California, where hundreds of preachers were attending. The truth of the Oneness of God was given accompanied by the new revelation of baptism in the name of Jesus. Evangelist R.E. McAlister was selected to preach on the subject of water baptism. He began with the accepted baptismal message and spoke on the different modes of baptism, mentioning trine immersion by which the candidate was immersed three times face forward. He summed it up by “they justify their method, by saying that baptism is in the likeness of Christ's death, and make a point from scripture that Christ bowed his head when he died.” that to them, it was necessary to baptize once for each person in the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost). He concluded his message abruptly by saying that the Scriptural answer to this was that the Apostles invariably baptized all their converts once in the name of Jesus Christ. He ended by stating the words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were never used by the early church in Christian baptism .

McAlister introduced in 1913 a “new thing,” a Jesus name baptismal formula-- that had no mention of the Father and the Holy Spirit. McAlister was taken aside at the time and told not to preach the this new theory about the “baptismal formula.”

However, many hearing McAllister speak received the new revelation of the name Jesus. Three important men attended and were influenced by this new revelation, these were Frank Ewart, G.T.Haywood, Glenn Cook.

By the spring of 1914, Ewart accepted the "new found truth" [and] became one of its leading advocates. Ewart reached the conclusion that the singular “name” in Matthew 28:19 was Jesus Christ. He came to believe that the one true God who had revealed himself as Father, in the Son, and as the Holy Spirit was none other than Jesus Christ. To support this view, he pointed to Colossians 2:9, which states that in Jesus dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

Ewart explained his discovery to other Pentecostal ministers, some of whom rejected his teaching, but others enthusiastically embraced it. On April 15, 1914, Ewart rebaptized Glenn A. Cook, his assistant and a veteran evangelist of the Azusa Street Mission, in the name of Jesus Christ, and Cook rebaptized Ewart. This would set in motion an issue that would divide the Pentecostal movement between the Trinitarians and the Jesus Name only, or Oneness, believers. After Ewart and Cook were rebaptized, they began to rebaptize thousands of Pentecostals with the shorter new found formula “in Jesus name.” Claiming those baptized with Mt. 28:18-20 were not valid, it must be “in the name of Jesus” (only). Anyone baptized in the threefold name of “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, must renounce that baptism and be rebaptized with the right words said over them, before they can be regarded as biblically baptized. Today it is added one must speak in tongues to have salvation. This evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit (i.e. speaking in tongues) must be present or they are not born again, and they cannot enter the Kingdom of God.

Many of you are now asking, "What does all this have to do with your cousin, Janisse Ray?" I have given all this background information to show that the theology of her father, who is a lay preacher in the apostolic pentecostal tradition, is extremely sectarian by anyone's doctrinal standards, including modern day pentecostals. Some oneness pentecostals, such as T.D. Jakes, have gone mainstream and charismatic. (See also T.D. Jakes). Jakes is widely accepted today among prosperity preachers and was even invited to pray at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The fact that some oneness pentecostals are willing to fellowship with other charismatics and vice versa is surely a sign that theological liberalism has set in even among fundamentalist oneness pentecostals. On this point at least, my Uncle Frank is consistent with the classical oneness pentecostals that separation is called for between trinitarians and modalists. Trinitarians are in line with the apostolic teaching of Jesus and the early church while oneness pentecostals are categorized by Sabellian modalism and a denial of the dual nature of Christ as both God and man. (See Gregory Boyd's critique of oneness pentecostal theology and problems associated).

But realistically the legalistic and sectarian and even cultic aspects of oneness/apostolic pentecostalism is what emotionally and psychologically damaged my cousin and ultimately turned her against Christianity. This is unfortunate. However, I would say that all Christian denominations have a potential to degenerate into legalism anytime that sanctification is emphasized above the doctrine of justification by faith alone and apart from good works. This is particularly true of the wesleyan holiness movement where outward obedience is emphasized over an admission that the heart is renewed while some aspects of the old nature remain. The standards of holiness for membership in the oneness pentecostal churches are generally these:


It is also expected that UPC members consistently comply with several "holiness standards," including, but not limited to, the following:
  • Women should wear skirts, but never pants or slacks.
  • Women should never cut their hair.
  • Women should not wear jewelry or makeup.
  • Men should only have short, conservative haircuts.
  • Men should not wear facial hair.
  • No one should own a TV.
  • No one should watch movies at a theater.
  • No one should wear shorts, or anything that would expose the legs.
  • No one should go swimming in a public place.

These "standards" vary a little bit from church to church, but most are consistently taught within the UPC (some of the more "liberal" Oneness churches do not teach these kinds of "standards.")

While many of these holiness standards were inherited from the wesleyan holiness churches and perpetuated in the classical pentecostal churches for many years, most classical pentecostal churches have since relaxed these legalistic and cultural guidelines. I graduated from Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God in 1991. At that time one of the codes of conduct was that students and professors would not attend theater or movies. Ironically, during one summer I violated that policy and went to see, "Dances with Wolves," the Kevin Costner movie when it first came out. Three of the professors from the college were also in attendance! I will not name them for the sake of privacy. For all practical purposes the rule was merely a symbol of the past which no one agreed with or even kept. I suspect that the rule has been changed at Southeastern University today. (Southeastern University is the new name of the school since its emphasis changed from a ministerial focus to a liberal arts focus).

While most of these standards are only practiced by small country churches, in the more classical Pentecostal churches most of these legalistic standards have died out, even in some large metropolitan oneness pentecostal churches. However, for the most part these standards are still in effect in the oneness/apostolic pentecostal denominations across the board.

Having visited pentecostal churches in both the oneness and the trinitarian traditions, I can understand the emphasis on being set apart from the rest of the world. However, the wesleyan arminian tradition in general has institutionalized legalism based on outward appearances despite the fact that their doctrine officially teaches that sanctification is a cleansing of the heart. Unfortunately, this teaching arises out of John Wesley's understanding of sin as a violation of a known moral law of God rather than as any inherent corruption, any sin committed in ignorance of God's moral law, any sinful thought, anything done in violation of God's law, or any omission of doing what God commands. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer's Morning Prayer service has an excellent exhortation, general confession, and general absolution of sin from a more Reformed perspective:


DEARLY beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us, in sundry places, to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness; and that we should not dissemble nor cloak them before the face of Almighty God our heavenly Father; but confess them with an humble, lowly, penitent, and obedient heart; to the end that we may obtain forgiveness of the same, by his infinite goodness and mercy. And although we ought, at all times, humbly to acknowledge our sins before God; yet ought we chiefly so to do, when we assemble and meet together to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul. Wherefore I pray and beseech you, as many as are here present, to accompany me with a pure heart, and humble voice, unto the throne of the heavenly grace, saying after me;

A general Confession to be said of the whole Congregation after the Minister, all kneeling.
ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou them, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou them that are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesu our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

The Absolution, or Remission of sins, to be pronounced by the Priest alone, standing; the people still kneeling.
ALMIGHTY God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness, and live; and hath given power, and commandment, to his Ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the Absolution and Remission of their sins : He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel. Wherefore let us beseech him to grant us true repentance, and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him, which we do at this present; and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure, and holy; so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sadly, those of the non-Christian world do not recognize the distinctions between the different traditions within the Protestant side of Christianity or the distinctions between Protestant denominations, Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. The main reason I am a Reformed Christian and Evangelical is that I understand that my salvation is totally based on God and not on my own obedience, sanctification, or efforts. Salvation is all of God from beginning to end. I can trust God to save me apart from my own merits or my own meager attempts at personal holiness. Sanctification and holiness are always partial and incomplete in this life and we can never arrive until the hour of our death and glorification. This is precisely why justification is objective, forensic, and outside of us. Our salvation and justification is completely founded upon the objective work of Christ for us on the cross and not upon anything we do. Even our faith is a gift of God. Salvation truly is an amazing grace.

Moreover, suffering in this life is a result of Adam's rebellion against God. Many times suffering comes from man's false attempts to build religious towers of Babel to reach God. The oneness pentecostal magnification of the sectarianism and legalism of the wesleyan holiness movement is just one example of this. Unfortunately, such cultic and manipulative religious beliefs turn people against God rather than toward His mercy, grace and kindness.

God's grace is irresistible, however (John 6:37-39, 44, 65; Romans 2:4). Once we realize that God is not eager to condemn the ungodly but rather to forgive us and accept us unconditionally, then we can experience His mercy and forgiveness. When God truly touches the heart we are drawn irresistibly into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I lament man's religious manipulations and pray that God would reveal His mercy to all of His elect and straying sheep who have not yet been brought into the flock. I pray that God will grant this grace to everyone in my family, especially Janisse.


GLORY be to God on high, and in earth peace, good will towards men. We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee, we glorify thee, we give thanks to thee for thy great glory, O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.


O Lord, the only begotten Son Jesu Christ; O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.


For thou only art holy; thou only art the Lord; thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.


(Agnus Dei, 1662 Book of Common Prayer).


I will comment later on John Wesley's doctrine of justification by faith alone and how that has been compromised in the modern holiness movement, especially in legalistic denominations like the oneness pentecostal churches.

[Note: For an excellent discussion of the sociological roots of pentecostalism among the lower classes see Vision of the Disinherited: The Making of American Pentecostalism, by Robert M. Anderson. (Peabody: Hendrikson, 1992).]

Addendum:  It should be noted that God is absolutely sovereign in both salvation/election and in reprobation.  He either has mercy and softens the heart or He hardens the heart to unbelief.  (Cf.  Romans 9:11-22; 1 Peter 2:8; Acts 2:23; Acts 4:27-28; Acts 16:14; Ezekiel 36:26; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, 2 Thessalonians 2:13).

See also:  Janisse Ray's Atheism.


3 comments:

hstrick said...

Was reading Ecology and got interested in Janisse. I was raised and live in southern Wayne county and can visualize much of her experience from memories of my own. Found your page while searching her. Your comments about God's grace and salvation are right on the money. Ain't God Good!? Don't give up on Janisse. God said no one can pluck his ppl from his hand. Her road is just winding.

Charlie J. Ray said...

hstrick, thanks for your kind comments. However, we trust that God's elect will be converted sometime on this side of eternity. Since Jesus died for His sheep, His elect, we can trust that all who belong to Him have been bought with a price and will come to know Him and follow Him as their shepherd. No one on this side of eternity is completely without hope since we do not know who really belongs to Christ until they come to believe and become baptized members of a Gospel/Bible preaching church. You are certainly right. No one can snatch one of God's elect out of His hands.

Sincerely in Christ,

Charlie

Charlie J. Ray said...

New York Times Review of Janisse's book.

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