AN APPEAL TO PENTECOSTALISTS
AN OPEN LETTER TO A MEMBER OF THE ELIM FOURSQUARE
By ALBERT G. TILNEY, B.A.
Thank you for so kindly letting me have the three books* by Pastor Barratt and Principals Parker and Jeffreys. I have read them with much interest, and not without profit. For they deal pretty thoroughly with a most important matter which Christians in general ignore or are ignorant of. And they deserve to be heard. I trust that they themselves would listen to friendly yet cautious inquirers who neither charge them with trickery nor accuse them of being the servants of Satan. I am sure they are good and sincere men to whom I respond considerably. I am sure, too, that they have had supernatural experiences, but goodness and sincerity are no guarantee of infallibility.
* 1. In the Days of the Latter Rain by Thornas Ball Barratt, Revised Edition, 1928, London, Elim Publishing Co. 2. The Model Christian, setting forth the Fruit of the Spirit of Christ and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, by Principal Percy G. Parker (of the Christian Workers’ Bible Correspondence School), Victoria Press, Park Crescent, Clapham Park, May, 1933. 3. Pentecostal Rays, the Baptism and Gifts of the Holy Spirit, by George Jeffreys (Founder and Leader of the Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance), London, Elim Publishing Co., Park Crescent, Clapham Park, July, 1933. These are briefly but respectfully quoted as B, P, J respectively.
You have told me you are sure I have been born again but my sincerity and goodness are no safeguard against my error (in your judgment) in thinking they may be partly mistaken. As a language master (realizing only too well how little French or German can be learnt in four or five years), I am satisfied that to be able to speak overnight any tongue untaught is really a miracle, and both professionally and spiritually I frankly confess I wish I knew the secret of it. Personally, I am still after these gifts we are told to covet earnestly and to desire, with inspired emphasis laid negatively upon tongues and positively upon prophecy (1 Cor. 12: 31; 14: 1, 5, 39). For they were not called temporary, and were never more needed than to-day. Moreover, every Apostolic church was thus supernaturally endowed, and these and other gifts probably lasted at least into the third century of our era. So far I entirely agree with our authors. But have they unchallengeably demonstrated that their own supernatural manifestations (which I neither doubt nor despise) are, in reality, the Pentecostal succession of the Latter Rain, swelling the grain in the ear just prior to the Harvest which is the end of the Age?
It is a momentous claim, and demanding the most convincing proof. And the authors attempt to prove their claim along two main lines: first, by the alleged similarity to the Apostolic of their present-day phenomena, linked doubtfully,* at intervals in this dispensation, with the Montanists, Camisards, and Irvingites (B. P. 77, pp. 60-69, endorsed by P. P. 113 J. pp. 196-200; the last-mentioned acknowledging, P. 181, “In the present-day revival with its signs and wonders we are continually reminded that this is another outbreak, only on a larger scale, of the Irvingite movement”) next, by the deduction that since their fellow-members exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (which we are most happy to admit), the Gifts they possess must therefore necessarily be the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. For, they say in effect, good people cannot possibly be under the power of bad spirits. (B. 96, 106, J. 148-150). You dear people are undeniably elect, that is, the very kind of people our Lord foretold would be deceived by Satan in these last days, if it were possible.** But how could Satan deceive the very elect except by an appearance of most satisfying piety and scripturalness? As the king and god of this world he is as religious as he is resourceful. Who, then, can unmask this expert, all-deceiving, counterfeit-chris? who expose this subtlest, most elusive spirit? Transforming himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11: 14), he is quite capable of doing good that evil may come, with serpent-wisdom yielding more than pawns to win a queen. A bad spirit may undetected lurk behind a good man, for where evil is unsuspected it can exist with impunity.
* Vide Irvingism, and the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, D. M. Panton.
** Not “if it were impossible.” if you say you will come to-morrow, if possible,‑ that implies a positive possibility.
Now this implies mixture, which our authors, quoting James 3: 11-12, try to show is impossible. But the very context, vv. 8-10, reveals (like 1 Sam. 10: 10; 18: 10 and 2 Cor. 6: 14-16) the mixture, not indeed of plants or waters, but of the deceived or deceitful human tongue, the actual point in question. B., however, does admit mixture, though only of the divine and human (pp. 107, 135); in this he seems followed by P. (p. 161) who considers that Paul’s injunction to “let the other judge” the prophets (1 Cor. 14: 29) is a proof that even in Apostolic days oracles were of mixed origin, human and Divine (instead of doubtful, Divine or demonic). The same writer (PP. 173-182) apparently believes that, as on a gramophone, “many hundreds of sentences” can be at will repeated in an unlearnt tongue. But J., speaking of tongues, is clear (p. 148) that “that which tens of thousands of believers in our day experience must either be of Divine or satanic origin, for there are only two sources from which the power can emanate.”
Let us note that Satan and his spirits can acknowledge Christ, indirectly preach the Gospel (Acts 16: 17-18), announce the second Advent (2 Thess. 2: 2), and quote Scripture while omitting an essential condition (Matt. 4: 6). Then, too, Satan can enter and fill believers, as Peter or Ananias; he can cast out Satan (Luke 11: 19; Matt. 12: 26); he can bind and so, presumably, unbind or cure, in addition to healing lunatics (Luke 13: 16); he knows and acknowledges Jesus and Paul, and can expose false exorcists (Acts 19: 13-18). Hence we cannot always tell him by his badness. On the contrary, he is an adept at mixing, and thoroughly baits his hook and conceals himself with a fleece. So he gained admittance among the gifted Corinthians, (2 Cor. 11: 4). The Gibeonites deceived Joshua and the elders, and because, too, they “asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord” (Josh. 9: 14). They trusted their eyes, their ears, and their feelings instead of God’s oracular test, far more effective than our mere praying. Have we to-day a reliable Urim and Thummim (Num. 27: 21) that, neglected, allows deceit and defeat? It is not enough to say that the Lord is our Shepherd, He will keep us. True, He is ABLE to keep us from falling, and He WILL keep us only IN ALL OUR WAYS. For we are not merely sheep, surely; we are disciples, students, servants - intelligent and responsible human beings with definite instructions to guide us. We neglect them at our peril. Satan, however, will shrink from exposure, forbidding tests, or suggesting others that are worse than useless. He will declare they are unnecessary, irrelevant, even blasphemous. While God aims at self-revelation, Satan aims at self-concealment, avoiding the light (John 3: 21). And while blasphemy in the early days consisted of attributing to Satan the works of God, in the latter days blasphemy will consist of attributing to God the works of Satan. Hence the arch-deceiver will especially resent and resist the successful application of Divine challenges framed infallibly to unmask him. But better mistake Jesus for a ghost than a ghost for Jesus, Who welcomes (Matt. 14: 26; Luke 24: 39) verification.
Now healings that are not mere nervous adjustments possible to doctors and psychologists, but which include the claim to raise the dead (J. P. 202), need to be incontestably verified. Are they? Were not our Lord’s cures impossible to physicians, and immediate, complete, free from convalescence or relapse? Why then does J. (p. 125) assert – “The root meaning of the word ‘healing’ is a gradual recovery”? Can this be an accommodation? For neither Young’s Concordance nor Parkhurst’s Lexicon thus attempts to alter the Scripture record. If healing depended entirely upon faith, it might be said that the faithful could be independent of at least spectacles and artificial teeth. Concerning outsiders, however, we read (J. P. 233) that the evangelist “lays hands on the sick, regardless of the particular person’s faith or obedience, and the signs follow,” though in the Church “outsiders may continually come to be prayed for and not be healed.” Are then the uncured faithful always faithless, disobedient? And are outsiders mostly healed abroad, in distant lands?
What a pity, too, that prophecy is reduced so often from foretelling to forthtelling! But can real prophecy be simulated by preaching or by recitation and quotation? “The message is nevertheless from God; that is, if it is consistent with the general teaching of the Bible” (B. p. 108), and “Anyone who has a natural flow of speech can closely imitate prophetic utterance” (P. p. 160). Again we are tempted to suspect accommodation of the higher to the lower. If we really had a heavenly telephone, could we possibly ring up our loving Father too often? (1 Sam. 23: 2, 4, 10, 12). Could we bore the One Who numbers the very hairs of our head? Yet B. (pp. 131-132) criticizes the mistake of “trying to be guided in all the affairs of life by that means,” preferring prayer, common sense, and a decided force of circumstances (if revelation fails), even in more important matters. Following him, P. agrees (p. 161) – “Neither should the prophetic gift be sought for individual guidance.” For things are not what they were “in those early days, when the gift was still in its virgin purity” (B. p. 132). Must that be a good and perfect gift come from above that, less than useless, is sometimes harmful? But as a matter of fact, are any of the ‘prophecies’ really worthy of a place in an appendix to the Word of God?
Coming now finally to Tongues, we reach at once, perhaps, the
highest and the lowest gift; lowest in Biblical order and easiest to
counterfeit, but high enough to be considered by many a proof of the Baptism of
the Holy Spirit, and, despite Babel, Balaam’s* ass, and probably Moses, Solomon and
others, the only and characteristically New Testament miracle or sign. In
*The cases of Balaam, Saul, Caiaphas and the corrupt Corinthians show there is no necessary connection between spirituality and inspiration.
But the chief danger of all seems to me to lie in the very method of “getting under the power”, as B calls it. Is all this emptying, scouring, and abandonment, really Scriptural? Have we a right to resign our bodies and wills in such a way? And are Christians anywhere in the Epistles taught to wait or pray for the Spirit? What is to stop a dusky spy from slipping past a sleeping sentry who even when awake has no password, is unarmed, forgetting disguises or pretence? (1 Sam. 14: 6-16 and 1 Kings 12: 22). “Spirituality and numbers”, confidently replies J. (pp. 227, 255 *). B’s equally restless answer is desperate and ominous. “Even if he [Satan] did try to make use of ‘tongues’ when we, in seeking our Pentecost, are under the Blood, and are abiding by the Word, and have sought Divine protection against the onslaughts of the enemy, God would be no better than the gods of the heathen, if He delivered us to the cruel tyranny of our most bitter enemy - the Devil.” Yet he repeatedly scents danger. “A lying spirit has been at work in some cases that have appeared” (pp. 172, 156, 154, 127); “there have been Satanic counterfeits in this, as in all religious movements”. P. echoes (pp. 114, 167) a similar confession of fear. And while B. and J. emphasize the misgivings and opposition of Christian leaders (B. p. 154, J. p. I52) - B. lamenting that “even Holiness teachers are condemning this whole movement as of the Devil” - what they fail to see is that there may be a cause. For one thing, the logic and assumptions, particularly of B., are most unsatisfying. There seem, too, to be actual errors in spite of the bold and disarming title of FOURSQUARE. In spite of the claims to supernatural guidance, Foursquare Gospellers seem divided on British-Israelism, which is not commended to the universal Church; there are those, too, who cling to the superseded Sabbath and the Law of Moses; their attitude to women’s public ministry is unscriptural in the light of 1 Corinthians 14: 34, 37, 1 Timothy 2: 12; and the notorious Mrs. Aimee McPherson does not appear to have been disowned by them.
* “There can be no danger,” he says, “of any person receiving an evil spirit if he is seeking the baptism with the Holy Spirit,” though on page 171 he admits that “the protection of God against the powers of darkness cannot be claimed even by the child of God if he persists in adding to or taking away from this pattern” (of the N.T. Church). Is 1 John 4: 1-6 included?
But let us come at last to THE BIBLE TESTS THEMSELVES, the oracle and ephod of the Law and Testimony. These are to try the spirits speaking through the prophets, for “many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess NOT that Jesus Christ is come (and is coming) IN THE FLESH”; a significant omission in the original ‘revelation’ through the Sunderland Boddy girls (B. p. 184), as also in Ferrar Fenton’s daringly erroneous rendering of the crucial Shibboleth of John’s Epistle. Now an honest man, even when he has successfully made purchases with suspected banknotes, will surely submit to having any others in his possession examined by experts, who while not questioning his integrity, will trust nevertheless only to what the microscope reveals. We know that you dear friends yourselves would pass the tests of 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 John 4, but we urge you to do what we fear you have never been able to do, viz., to get the spirit you have received to confess by its personal positive answers to God’s own criteria that it is the Spirit of God, under no Divine embargo of silence as in the Gospels (Mark 1: 34; Luke 4: 41). All other tests are out of place or out-of-date. Our sole, safe, sure touchstone password and watermark must be the Lord’s HEREBY! We respectfully but resolutely insist on seeing the heavenly image and superscription, before we can pay tribute to what J. (p. 226) describes as “the greatest and most continuous revival since the days of the apostles.”