Ten Opportunities for Future Assemblies of God Research

A question was asked today in an Assemblies of God scholars group I am a part of concerning what areas in the AG needed more scholarship. While doing my own research on the AG, I would often come across information or topics that I recognized were still gaps in AG research.  Here is a list of topics that I thought of that future researchers and young scholars could explore at the masters or doctoral level.

1). Institutional History: The last denominational history was written in 1989 by Edith Blumhofer. The republished version of People of the Spirit by Gary B. McGee has added to that story. But, I still believe that a full history with updated information on the history and doctrinal development of the movement is needed. Likewise, I believe there is a need for a doctoral level study of the history of AG Bible school and universities. There is some work on P.C. Nelson and SAGU, as well as a few studies in Heritage on them as a whole. These institutions have been such a large part of the ethos of the denomination that the history and philosophy of these universities would be a fantastic study.

2). We need an updated systematic theology. Sometime back, I wrote a post on the history of Bible Doctrine books. The first full bible doctrines book was P.C. Nelson’s in 1936 (republished by GPH in 1948).  Myer Pearlman wrote Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible in 1937 and E.S. Williams followed that in 1953 with his Systematic Theology.  But it wasn’t until William Menzies wrote Understanding our Doctrine, which became the basis for Stanley Horton’s republished work Bible Doctrines (1993), that the AG had a modern theological exploration of AG doctrine by a PhD level scholar. The later  Systematic Theology (1994), edited by Stanley Horton, was a suitable systematic text, yet it is now nearly 25 years old.  It is time for a more mature and updated theological text based on the AG’s theological orientation and reflecting contemporary understandings of key AG doctrinal issues.  I hope my work on AG eschatology is a seed toward this goal.

3). There have only been a couple major studies of individual doctrinal beliefs of the Assemblies of God: Various ones on Initial evidence, Sanctification by Bruce Rosdahl and mine on Eschatology. More studies based on the doctrinal history of our other doctrines is needed. Also, while most studies of the AG include a history of the Statement of Fundamental Truths (including a whole chapter in my dissertation), no single study has yet to fully research the history of this document and its doctrines.

4). The genre of Pentecostal biographies has grown in the past few decades, but there is still much work to do, especially on important AG figures. We still need biographies leaders like E.N. Bell, S.A. Jamieson, Stanley Frodsham, E.S. Williams, and many others. The most recent was David Ringer’s short bio of J.R. Flower. Before that was the biography of Stanley Horton by Lois Olena. Many more like it could be produced.

5) In the topic of biographical study, I could see the potential of a volume on the women of the Assemblies of God.  The topic of women in ministry was covered brilliantly by Joy Qualls and there has been some short studies by the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. However, there is certainly a need for more biographies some of the AG’s significant female ministers. The stories of women like  Alice Flower, Elizabeth Sisson, Alice Luce, and others have yet to be told. I particularly think someone should study the phenomenon of the female child evangelists like Louise Nankeville and Edna Jean Horn, could be explored.

6). Someone needs to do a study on the two genres that GPH published in many books: Poetry and Junior Fiction Novels. I was surprised to find out how many poems were published in the Pentecostal Evangel and how many christian poetry books by AG ministers were published by GPH. I was equally surprised to see the number of junior fiction novels the GPH published. Someone needs to do a literary analysis of these interesting genres in AG history.

7). Someone needs to do a study of first generation AG PhD’s such as Stanley Horton, William Menzies, Klaud Kendrick, John Wycoff, etc. and how that impacted the way the AG did theology.

8). Nearly 30 years ago, Margaret Poloma declared that the AG was at a “crossroads” in the charismatic ethos of our local churches.  Where have we gone since then?  I think we need an updated sociological study similar to Poloma’s in 1989, with statistical data charting the prevalence of charismata in the AG. (editing note, Peter Althouse reminded me that Poloma and Green produced a 2010 updated study of the AG).

9). Someone needs study the rise of neo-reformed theology among AG ministers. In 1993, Blumhofer suggested that the growing educational level of our ministers is leading to outside theologies working among our ministers. This may be much more the case now. Many younger pastors are drawn to the neo-reformed movement for theological stability. But what consequences does that have on Pentecostal orientation of our ministers? A good empirical study on this is needed.

10). Someone needs to look further into the issue of race and the AG. There are a few studies , and some discussion in books but a comprehensive investigation that includes dialoging with the CoGiC historians needs to be written.

Advertisements

A Directory of Early Pentecostal Papers

Since I began my studies in Pentecostal history, have come to love early Pentecostal literature. All of the students in the Bangor PhD program engage the early papers from across the spectrum of the Pentecostal movement in their dissertations. This process of “reception history,” or the examining the first hand testimonies and teachings of early Pentecostals, has given me a great love of these papers.  Almost every major Pentecostal group and leader had their own multi-page weekly or monthly paper filled with teachings, missionary reports, and testimonies of people being saved, sanctified, healed and baptized in the Holy Spirit. Through reading these papers, one can immerse themselves in the world of early Pentecostalism in a way that is not possible in any other medium.

The practice of publishing Pentecostal periodicals was not limited to early Pentecostals; it has continued to be an important part of our moment, continuing into the healing revivals of the 1950’s and into the Charismatic Renewal of the 1960s–1970s. In my role as director of the Holy Spirit Research Center at Oral Roberts University, I serve as a steward of many of these treasures in our own collection. It is one of my favorite parts of my job.  I love to thumb through the pages and read what God was doing is all corners of the earth through all of these different groups.  The HSRC has one of the most diverse holdings of Pentecostal and Charismatic literature in the world. It truly is a special place.

As I have worked to familiarize myself with the various papers and the groups who published them, I have wondered if anyone had ever made a comprehensive list of early pentecostal papers.  So far, I haven’t found one. However, I was delighted to find a list of early Pentecostal papers in one of the early papers called The Pentecost, a paper published by A.S. Copley and J.R. Flower from Indianapolis, Indiana.

In several of the 1908 editions of The Pentecost, Copley listed all of the early papers associated with the Apostolic Faith Movement.  There are, of course, many more papers in this era. But I have yet to find in these early papers a comprehensive list like this one.  Some of these titles are lost to history. Some are available to researchers through the Consortium of Pentecostal Archives: https://pentecostalarchives.org/collections/    I am hoping this list can become a seed of a comprehensive list to come.

The following is a list of papers from the  The Pentecost 1.2 (December, 1908), 12. I also attached the image and the PDF of the page containing the list. (Information in parentheses was added by me)

  • The Pentecost – Indianapolis, IN, A.S. Copley; J.R. Flower
  • The Pentecostal Witness – Zion City, IL, Thomas G. Atteberry
  • The Latter Rain Evangel – Chicago, IL, William H. Piper
  • The New Acts – Alliance, OH, (Levi Upton)
  • Household of God – Dayton, OH
  • The Bridegroom’s Messenger – Atlanta, GA, (G.B. Cashwell)
  • The Apostolic Witness – Dallas, OR
  • Trust – Elim Home, Rochester, NY
  • The Apostolic Faith – Houston, TX, (W.F. Carothers)
  • The Apostolic Faith – Portland, OR, Florence Crawford (formerly of  Azusa Street Mission, Los Angeles, CA, William Seymour)
  • The Pentecostal Record and Outlook – Spokane, WA, H.R. Bursell
  • The Apostolic Standard – Beulah Home, Doxey, OK
  • The Christian Assembly – Cincinnati, OH
  • The Pentecostal Trumpet – Denver, CO
  • The Midnight Cry – Seattle, WA
  • The Latter Rain – Watertown, NY, J.E. Sanders
  • The Spirit of Truth – Emsworth, Hants, England, W.L. Lake
  • Confidence – Sunderland, England, A.A. Body
  • The Cloud of Witnesses – Bombay, India, Max Wood Moorehead
  • Pentecostal Truths – (Chinese) Hong Kong, China, Mok Lai Chi
  • The Apostolic Light – (Japanese) Tokyo, Japan, M. L. Ryan
  • God’s Latter Rain – Johannesburg, South Africa, (John G. Lake)
  • Spade Regen – Amsterdam, Holland, G.R. Polman

I hope this list is helpful to those interested in the literature of this era. I also hope together we can better document the papers of the early Pentecostal movement.

1908_12 Directory of Pentecostal Papers

A Summer Update

It is July and I haven’t mentioned much lately about the progress on my PhD. I have had several people ask about my PhD and am I done yet.  Well, the answer is yes and no.  I finished writing my dissertation back in March and my supervisor has read it and given the OK for it to be submitted.  However, I am actually trying to submit a year earlier than my acceptance letter had indicated. So, even though I am done, I am still waiting for Bangor to approve me to submit. We are trying to work through the red tape as we speak. Meanwhile, I am just sitting here waiting, thesis in hand.  So please pray with me that I can receive favor to submit as soon as possible. After that, I can proceed on with the Thesis defense process and finally move on.  (Although at times I miss working on my thesis!)

On another note, I am also please to announce that as of August 1st, I am officially the new director of the Holy Spirit Research Center. While this was a large part of my job when I came to ORU in November, I didn’t receive my official appointment until a few weeks ago. I am so excited about this opportunity. I cannot imagine a job I would enjoy more than being the director of the HSRC.  I simply love what I do and feel so privileged to be the steward of what is perhaps the largest and most comprehensive collections of resources on the Holy Spirit in the entire world.  I praise God for his grace in bring this opportunity my way and am grateful to Dr. Mark Roberts for believing in me. I stand on incredibly strong shoulders as I take over this responsibility.

Finally, I am very excited about some other writing projects I have been working on.  I have three pieces on Oral Roberts coming out later this fall in a special edition of Spiritus: ORU Journal of Theology in recognition of the centennial of Oral’s birth.  The first is a bibliography of Oral’s works that is intended to provide scholars with a list of items we have at ORU that are available for Oral Roberts studies. The second is a historical piece I wrote with Vinson Synan about an early account of Oral’s healing that was published in the Oklahoma Pentecostal Holiness newspaper, in which his account is curiously different than his later recollections of his healing from tuberculosis.  The third article is a study of the role that the baptism in the Holy Spirit played in shaping the healing ministry of Oral Roberts.  I am so excited about these pieces and look forward to producing more studies of Oral and Oral Roberts University in the future.

What can I say except I feel really blessed right now. This season of my life is a good one for me and my family.  I am pleased to agree with Oral Roberts; “God truly is a good God.”

A Proposal – by James Smith

In the past few weeks,  I have been reading proto-pentecostal books about the Holy Spirit. These works about the Holy Spirit are remarkable. Their passion for the Holy Spirit is unequaled even among modern Pentecostals.  During the mid-1800’s, pastors from many traditions were awakened to the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

This is an excerpt from a chapter called “A Proposal” in the book The Early and Latter Rain by the Rev. James Smith in 1856.  Smith pleads with his readers to join him in praying that God would awaken in the church their awareness of the Holy Spirit and that pastors and laypeople would seek the outpouring of the Spirit. At the end of the chapter, challenges those who are willing to “snatch a few minutes from this greedy world and plead with God to pour out his Spirit” upon the church to take this pledge:

Will you take your pen and sign the following:

“I, __________ being deeply convinced that the church in general, and myself in particular stand in need of the putting forth of the power of the Holy Ghost, do hereby solemnly engage, in the sight and presence of God, who searches the hear, once at least, in each day, to go directly to the throne of grace, on purpose to plead with my God and Father, that He will pour out His Spirit in all the fulness of His gifts and graces upon the church in general, and upon my own soul particularly.”  Witness my hand this _____ day of _______1856

The sincere call to prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit in books like this one may have been the very catalyst that would eventually result in the what we know as the Pentecostal movement. They prayed for us.  As we approach the season of Pentecost, I am challenged by this proposal by the Rev. James Smith and am inspired to join him in this prayer that God will indeed pour out His Spirit in all his fullness of His gifts and graces on the church for a future generation. Will you join me in this proposal?

How Eschatology Shaped AG Social Ethics

This week I attended the annual meeting for the Society for Pentecostal Studies. It was a wonderful meeting.  The theme this year was “Pentecostals and the Poor”.  This theme appealed to me because one of the questions my thesis attempts to answer is how Assemblies of God eschatology translated to how they engaged in social issues.  Did their belief in the soon coming of Christ mean that they ignored issues such as poverty?  I submitted this paper and I was grateful it was accepted.

My paper was given on Friday afternoon in the History interest group. I was excited about sharing my paper, but I was also excited because there were three other excellent papers that were also scheduled during my session: a history of Church Mothers by Jane Coulton, a history of the Church of God by historian David Roebuck and a paper about the origin of Oral Robert’s doctrine of healing by the renown Pentecostal historian Vinson Synan. Needless to say, it was a great crowd and I felt so honored to be in the same session as these excellent scholars. My paper was well received and people seemed very interested in my research.

Isgrigg – Interpreting the Signs of the Times SPS

Abstract:

This paper will seek to explore how the AG’s premillennial beliefs affected the way they interpreted three primary social issues: political attitudes, economic issues, and responses to social and moral issues.  I had to limit the time frame and issues covered because of length, but my thesis looks at these attitudes all the way up to the present. This paper give just a taste of what I found. To aid in this task, commentary on social issues through the lens of eschatology in the Pentecostal Evangel will be analyzed through the first two periods of AG history: Formative Period (1914-1926), Scholastic Period (1927-1948).

Explaining a PhD to a 9 year old

Over the course of the past 3 years, my boys have become very aware of the fact that daddy is writing a PhD thesis.  Early on I described what I was doing as ‘writing a book’. Will is perhaps the most interested in what I am doing and will often come into the room where I am writing and ask, ‘Are you done writing your book yet?’ My answer over the past 3 years has been, ‘Not yet son. But I am trying to finish soon.’  I know they get tired of this thing having my attention.

The older my kids get, the more they are starting to understand that what I am doing is more than just writing a book.  They are starting to understand that a doctorate means you can become a professor or scholar.  Getting a job at ORU has really helped them understand why I have been working so hard on this.  The idea of a PhD as an expert is starting to resonate with Will, who is 9 years old.  He is an avid reader and fancies himself as an expert on a number of things like Legos and Star Wars. In fact, he said told Amonda he wants to get a PhD in Legos.

indiana-jonesThanks to a set of junior novels Will got for Christmas, the newest subject he has become an expert in is Indian Jones. We already have the movies and the Lego Indiana Jones Video Game, but now he has the novels that give more details and he loves to tell me what he is learning about his new favorite hero. We talked the other night about the fact that Indy is a different kind of hero because he is imperfect. He makes mistakes, gets caught, fails, gets shot, get tricked and so forth.  That is what makes Indiana Jones so cool. He’s not your typical hero.

Tonight, as I was writing, Will sat next to me and once again asked, ‘Are you done yet?’  I told him once again that I was very close.  He asked, ‘What are you writing about?’  I decided to use his new found knowledge of Indian Jones as a way to teach him what a PhD dissertation is about. Here is the illustration I gave:

A PhD thesis/dissertation is an original contribution to knowlege on a topic that no one has explored before.  Lets say that every book you read talks about Indiana Jones as a ‘perfect hero.’ But when you the stories about him, you notice that he is portrayed as an imperfect hero.  What you have noticed, that no one else has noticed, becomes the subject of a thesis. So you decide to gather evidence to support your thesis and present a case that your view of Indy is more accurate than what others have said. Here is what you do:

You come up with your thesis statement:  Your thesis is that Indy is an imperfect hero.

You review the literature: You show what other people have said about Indy.

You collect your evidence: You demonstrate in all the stories all the various ways that Indy is portrayed as an imperfect hero in contrast to what people have said about him.

You make your conclusions:  You talk about what your study has found and what it means to the conversation about Indiana Jones.

You submit your thesis:  A group of experts on Indian Jones reads your thesis and decide if you made your case convincingly. If you have convinced your thesis committee, they approve your thesis and you publish your findings so that other people who study Indiana Jones will have to include your research in their studies of the character.

Bingo! That illustration helped Will to understand why his Daddy has been working so hard and why this process makes you a scholar.

Its hard to believe, but as I near the end of this thesis I think I am finally fully comprehending what I am doing myself. It is definitely something I am not sure I fully understood starting out. But, it sure felt good to be able to articulate it so clearly today. Maybe this explanation will help others want to become scholars too! (Perhaps even Will!)

As I am in the finals stages of completing this degree, I feel so thankful for Amonda and my boys. They have been so supportive of this pursuit.  I am few weeks away from having a final draft. I am so thankful for those of you who have supported me and the times so many of you have asked me how things are going.  I feel you all cheering me toward the finish line. Thank you.  Please keep me in prayer as I finish strong.

A New Season

Over eight months ago, we left a church we loved and I laid down my calling as a pastor in order to seek out what God had next for our family.  It has been a difficult 8 months and we often have been tired from the waiting, from what seemed to be open doors that inexplicably shut, and from living in scarcity.  Yet, even in the difficulty of these past months, God has been faithful and we have not only survived, but we have thrived through our transition.

I am excited to announce that this time of transition has finally came to a close.  20 years ago, in a freshman class at ORU, I heard the Lord say to me, “You are going to get a PhD”.  10 years ago, as I finished my masters degree at ORU, I started my journey toward getting my PhD believing that one day God would lead me back ORU. That day has arrived.

For the past several months I have been in talks with Dr. Mark Roberts, the new dean of the ORU Library, about joining his team.  After months of waiting and unexpected challenges, last Friday things finally came together. On Monday morning I began a new career as a Faculty Librarian at ORU.  I am so thankful to Dr. Roberts showing me favor in offering me this position.  My primary job is to help the Theological Librarian acquire new scholarly books for ORU’s new PhD program that will begin soon.  In addition, I will  support other outstanding librarians and assist Dr. Roberts with the Holy Spirit Research Center.  (In short, God gave me a job where I get to buy books and help students to do research on the Holy Spirit! How awesome is that!) This opportunity couldn’t be a better fit for me and I give God all the praise for making this happen.

In addition to this awesome development, during this transition time I have received several opportunities to share about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in several churches in the Tulsa area. I have been given opportunities to preach in Sunday services and have given several seminars on Holy Spirit in Wednesday night services, small groups and Young Adult groups and have seen God do some amazing things.  God’s people are so hungry for solid teaching as well as authentic experiences with the Holy Spirit.  Some of the talks I have given have been: Three experiences with the Holy Spirit,  the Baptism in the Holy Spirit,  Reasons you should pray in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus, and the nature of Spiritual gifts. In every session, the Holy Spirit has stirred up weary believers, filled hungry hearts, and truly brought times of refreshing and renewal to believers.  Everything God has taught me through my education, writings, and ministry in the church are being used to help stir up a passion for Spirit-filled ministry in other churches. What an honor God has given to me to have these opportunities.

This is definitely a new season for the Isgrigg family.  I am so thankful to God for his goodness. And thankful to those who have prayed for us and supported us during this time.  I am especially thankful to God for a wife who was courageous enough to step out in faith and who has been my rock though it all.  I still have one more goal to achieve, that is to finish my PhD.  I am nearing the end and it is just in time. I am truly excited about my new season and what God has for me to do.