Stones Folly and a Dangerous Mixture
Robert Wurtz II
…having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2Timothy 3:5)
Our passage is taken from a familiar context towards the end of Paul’s last letter to Timothy. Here he gives a long list of sins similar to Romans 1:29-31, but adds this aspect “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” That is to say, having the outward form of a godly life but devoid of the inward reality. In this state a person effectively denies the power or virtue embodied in a life of holiness. They may give lip service to holy living, but deny it in any practical way. It is all theoretical to them. They agree with holy living in principal, but deny it in practical (practicable) ways.
Recently I made a pilgrimage of sorts to three important sites related to the modern day Pentecostal Movement. I began at what was once the old warehouse where the Azusa Street Revival took place in the early 1900s. Today the building is long gone and all that is left is a sign strapped to a light pole marking the spot.
It was on this spot that holiness preacher William J. Seymour (1870-1922), a dear black minister blind in one eye, started meetings that became what we know today as the Azusa Street Revival. Most modern Pentecostal Denominations and Charismatic Movements trace their history to this spot. However, there is more to the story.
William J. Seymour
William Seymour was born to former slaves in Louisiana. Around 1905 he moved to Houston, Texas and attended a Bible College led by Charles Parham. It was here that he learned the doctrines of the Holiness Movement as well as the belief that speaking in tongues (glossolalia) was the initial evidence of having received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Although he had not experienced this phenomena, Seymour and a small group of followers relocated to the home of Richard and Ruth Asberry at 214 North Bonnie Brae Street in Los Angeles, California. Even white and Hispanic families from local holiness churches began to attend these house church meetings. This group would gather together regularly and pray to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The Bonnie Brae House, as it came to be known, is the place where holiness preacher William J. Seymour received the Holy spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues. It is said that many received the Holy Spirit in this house, shouting for joy until the foundation nearly caved in. people would stand on the porch trying to see what was going on in the house. Revival had broken out. However, there is more to the story.
Charles Parham and Stones Folly
Charles Parham was one of the five sons of William and Ann Parham. He was born in Iowa in 1873 and moved with his family to Cheney, Kansas at the age of ten years by covered wagon. His father William Parham was successful in business, but his mother died in 1885 when he was around twelve years old. The next year his father married Harriet Miller, the daughter of a Methodist circuit rider. This fact is important because of the holiness teachings of the Methodists as preached by John and Charles Wesley. Circuit riders were rugged tough men that traveled from church to church on horseback preaching to churches that had no pastor. many died young from the brutal beating this ministry caused on their bodies. Nevertheless, Charles Parham adopted holiness views and was a holiness preacher from the age of fifteen years old.
In 1897 Parham and a family member fell sick. Attributing their healing to Divine miracle, he began preaching healing and praying for the sick in addition to holiness. Some say he renounced secular medicine all together. He lived by faith and refused to ask for money, only believing that the Lord would provide for his needs. This would be the basis upon which he started Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas in the months following. Some forty families forsook all and joined the College that once existed at 17th and Stone street. Today a Catholic church occupies the spot.
It was on this property that the old Stones Folly Victorian Mansion once stood. It burned down just months after Charles Parham moved out in 1901. Nevertheless, this is where Agnes Ozman at the age of roughly thirty years old received the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues on January 1, 1901. From here Parham developed the doctrine of what Pentecostals know as “Initial Evidence.” He was a holiness preacher that had added healing and baptism in the Holy Spirit to his doctrine.
A Dangerous Mixture
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since January 1, 1901. In fact, the churches of God would live to see whole healing “ministries” come about in the next forty years. Tongues would be emphasized, the gifts of the Spirit, Apostolic faith, you name it. everything except one foundational teaching. You might have guessed what it is? Holiness. The very holiness movement, built on the doctrine of the Methodist’s John and
Charles Wesley’s teachings, which gave birth to what is today the Modern Pentecostal Movement, has been largely if not completely abandoned in the main stream. What does that mean?
It means that there was a time when holiness of life was the norm and people that operated under the gifts of the Spirit were sanctified to the Lord. Today the emphasis is on grace to the point that people believe they can live in rife sin and still move in the gifts. People can prophesy and if they “miss it” ask God to forgive them as if it were any other sin. Not that God cannot forgive these things, but there is a recklessness going on in many circles that is the result of merging “Baptist” notions of Eternal Security with Pentecostal operations of the gifts of the Spirit. This would not fly with old time Pentecostals. These men believed you must live a holy life in order to be used of God. They believed a person needed to truly be born of the Spirit in order to be a Christian.
A Change in Emphasis
I must admit that once the Pentecostal churches adopted the “Billy Graham method” of salvation (sinners prayer, etc.) the door flew open to multitudes of people coming into the churches that were born of a decision and not of the Spirit. Christians began trying to operate under the gifts that were not even born again. What happened? The old timers were maligned and marginalized as “legalists” and “strict” in their doctrines and methods. Cynical remarks were made to throw people off from asking for the old paths. Soon almost nobody preaching on holiness in the main stream. Thousands of ministries based on healing. Thousands based on personal prophesy. Thousands based on prosperity. Where is the emphasis on holiness? Where are the preachers of righteousness? Or are we living in an era of …having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2Timothy 3:5)