3.B.2 The Bosworth Role in the Declension from Pentecostal Doctrine and Experience

Part III – Application to Pentecostal Theology

Subpart B – The Latter Rain Revival

Article 2

The Bosworth Role in the Declension from Pentecostal Doctrine & Experience

By Daniel Irving

This article may be viewed in video form through the following link:


a.  The Prominent Pentecostal Figure of the Latter Rain

b.  Zion City

c.  Bosworth’s Rejection of Initial Evidence

d.  Bosworth’s Refutation of Pentecost: “Do All Speak with Tongues?”

e.  Examining Bosworth’s Arguments:

                     i.   “Any manifestation of the Holy Spirit Should Constitute Sufficient Evidence”

                      ii.   That “The True Operation of the Gift of Tongues is Limited to ‘As the Spirit Gives Utterance’.”

                      iii.  That “Faith is the Only Evidence of the Spirit’s Baptism”

                      iv.  That an Explicit Doctrine is Not Stated in the Epistles 

e.  Reverted Doctrinal Thrust; Healing Through the Atonement

f.   Christ, the Healer   

g.  Leavened-Doctrine of a Compromised Pentecost

Bosworth FF

Article 2

The Bosworth Role in the Declension from Pentecostal Doctrine & Experience

a.  The Prominent Pentecostal Figure of the Latter Rain

In the late 1940’s there arose an extraordinary movement known as the Latter Rain Revival, which began with a dramatic and powerful outpouring of God’s Spirit in the Canadian town of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, on February 12, 1948.  Sharon 1948While similar to Azusa Street in its breadth and influence, the outpouring bore some distinction from Azusa Street as characterized more so by the use of the laying on of hands for the impartation of spiritual gifts, rather than by a “tarrying” before God and petitioning for the Holy Spirit through prayer.  The gift of prophecy was also much more in operation, particularly personal prophecy.  The Sharon Orphanage of North Battleford sent out teams of emissaries, who spread revival fires across North America.  Those persons and organizations received the Latter Rain movement, would tend to have tremendous involvement and influence in the charismatic movement that would follow a short time thereafter.

There remained very few of the original pioneers who had experienced the events at Azusa Street and its secondary outpourings that occurred prior to World War I.  Of the small hand-full of those left from early Pentecost, was Fred F. Bosworth.  While the North Battleford assembly was associated with the Foursquare denomination founded by Aimee Semple McPherson, and while the Hawtin brothers had a background in the Canadian Assemblies of God, the most notable figure from early Pentecost to have a leading role in the Latter Rain movement, was Fred F. Bosworth, that pioneer who had most clearly and dramatically rejected that doctrine fundamental to the Pentecostal movement, the doctrine of Initial Evidence.  This doctrine (as related in an earlier article) held that the baptism of the Holy Spirit would always be evidenced by the “speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance” pursuant to Acts 2:4.

Bosworth’s separation from the Pentecostal movement in 1918 over his rejection of the teaching, his publishing of pamphlet refuting the doctrine of tongues as initial evidence, his influential radio ministry, and his dramatic evangelistic healing crusades, brought his ministry into distinction as being the most undermining to the early principles, which, according to Pentecostals, had been established in Topeka, Kansas on January 1, 1901.  Recall that the outpouring in Topeka occurred under circumstances in which the doctrine of Initial Evidence was clearly affirmed at the moment the outpouring was received.  According to Stanley Frodsham, while the spontaneous occurrence of speaking in tongues occurred many times at various places prior to the Topeka outpouring, its meaning was not understood.  Frodsham writes:Frodsham - Stanley

There were many who received the supernatural speaking in tongues toward the close of the last century.  Most of them did not associate the phenomenon with the Baptism in the Spirit received at Pentecost.  They considered it one of the signs promised by the Lord in Mark 16, or one of the gifts of the Spirit referred to in the 12th chapter of first Corinthians.[1]

While the supernatural phenomenon of Tongues, did not first occur at Topeka, this is where the Pentecostal movement first occurred, that movement being established when the experience was brought into clear association with the doctrine.  Therefore, while the label Pentecostal is often used to describe anything supernatural in Christianity, this would be incorrect.  This was a movement which was clearly established in the doctrine of Initial Evidence.

After the Pentecostal movement seem to run its initial course, its chief objector, F.F. Bosworth would realize a remarkable resurgence in his ministry and go on to become the common thread linking the powerful movement of God which began the twentieth-century, to the powerful movement of God which began the second half of the twentieth century. Because his ministry was marked by a rejection of the Pentecostal teaching of his time, his was the most ministry most responsible in the twentieth-century for the digression away from classical Pentecostal teaching and practice.

b.   Zion City

Bosworth was one of the early-converts to Dowiesm.  Dowie 01Recall that John Alexander Dowie (a world-traveling faith-healer who had immigrated to America in 1888) had been brought into national prominence during the 1890’s through an aggressive sensationalizing of his healing ministry.  In the earlier years of his ministry he seemed to operate a genuine miraculous gift.  During Dowie’s years in Chicago he had developed a wide following from all over the United States.  On New Year’s Day of 1900 he unveiled his plans for a utopian Christian community just north of Chicago, to be called Zion City where Biblical-principles would be enforced; a sort of city of God he would rule as the first apostle.  As the community was built, it became populated by the most devout of Dowie’s followers.

After seeing one of Dowie’s many newsletters, Fred Bosworth and his wife traveled to Dowie’s Chicago church and thereafter became residents of his utopian-community.  Bosworth 01He played in the band of Dowie’s Christian Catholic Church and soon became its director.  During this time Dowie became increasingly autocratic and egocentric, declaring himself to be “Elijah the Restorer,” demanding the absolute obedience of all within his realm, and grossly-mismanaging its various business-affairs.  This led to the financial collapse of ZionCity and a membership revolt which ousted Dowie from control over his organization.  This occurred in the very same month (April of 1906) that Pentecost descended at Azusa Street in Los Angeles.

Dowie had been a fierce-opponent of the Pentecostal message.  In 1904 one of his members, a Mrs. Waldron, received the baptism of the Holy Spirit through Charles Parham’s Kansas ministry.  She returned to Zion City and assisted a “Mrs. Hall” in receiving the same experience.  Dowie acted quickly to force both women and their families from his community.[2]

Shortly after Dowie’s iron-fisted-rule collapsed in 1906, Charles Parham traveled to Zion City in the hope of taking advantage of the opportunity presented by the void in leadership to introduce Pentecost to that community,[3] the morale of which was extremely low.  Fred Bosworth attended Parham’s meetings and received the Pentecostal experience with dozens of other Zionites, including John G. Lake, who would be powerfully utilized to spread Pentecost in South Africa.[4]  Azusa MinistersWithin a year thereafter, he and Lake visited the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles.[5]    This photograph was taken of Lake and Bosworth with William Seymour, during that visit.

Bosworth moved to Dallas in 1910 in order to pioneer a church. In June of 1911 he was reporting that a strong Pentecostal revival was occurring.  William Durham, in his Pentecostal Testimony newspaper, relates a letter he received from Bosworth during this time:

Up to the date of Brother Bosworth’s letter, no less than one hundred and eighty five had received the Holy Spirit and spoken in tongues.  What is still better, there was no waning of the power, but rather an increase and the weekly average of baptisms was increasing, all glory to our blessed God, and His adorable Son, Jesus Christ. [6]

Shortly after making this report to Durham’s Pentecostal Testimony, Bosworth traveled to Indiana to convince the healing-evangelist, Maria Woodworth-Etter to conduct revival services in his church.  Etter 02Woodworth-Etter had operated a miracle-ministry since the early 1880’s that was characterized by extraordinary of signs and wonders. She assumed his pulpit in July of 1912 and stayed until December.  She conducted lengthy and momentous meetings characterized by dramatic supernatural phenomenon.  Stanley Frodsham writes of many baptisms.  Bosworth writes of; “slaying power . . . balls of fire & lights in & around the tent . . great host of angels just above the audience.”[7]

When Pentecostals organized their primary denomination, the Assemblies of God, in 1914, Bosworth was one of its founders.  And there is no other Pentecostal figure with quite the pedigree of F.F. Bosworth, who personally knew and served under the notorious healing ministry of John Alexander Dowie, received the Pentecostal experience under the ministry of Charles Parham (of the Topeka outpouring,) who traveled to Azusa Street in the midst of the outpouring there, and who would be a founding member of the main Pentecostal denomination.       

c.   Bosworth’s Rejection of Initial Evidence

But all was not well in Bosworth’s reception of the Pentecostal teaching.  And so, in 1918, Bosworth entered into conflict with the Assemblies of God on the issue of the Pentecostal doctrineThis conflict led to his separation from the denomination and therefore (organizationally) from the Pentecostalism in general.  The conflict began when Bosworth invited Alfred Garr to fill-in for him at his Dallas church.  Garr-Alfred SrGarr was a powerfully anointed missionary-evangelist who had received his baptism at Azusa Street in 1906.

Upon commencing his duties in Dallas, Garr discovered that Bosworth’s congregation lacked zeal, was in confusion concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that controversy existed on the issue of whether tongues was even the necessary evidence of Spirit baptism.  He took matters into hand and began to zealously preach the doctrine of Initial Evidence to Bosworth’s congregation.   Naturally this divided the congregation between those hungry for the baptism and angered those who were resistant to the doctrine.  The result is related by Garr’s biographer, Steve Thompson:

Within weeks, the elders of the congregation wrote a letter to the Assemblies of God implying that Bosworth should no longer be their Pastor.  In response, F.F. Bosworth wrote a letter to the Assemblies of God, implicating Alfred [Garr] as the source of the letter.  He was obviously hurt and felt betrayed by the letter and by Alfred.  Bosworth resigned as pastor of the congregation in April 1918 and from the Assemblies of God three months later.  He would go on to become one of the foremost healing evangelists of the twentieth century.[8]

F.F. Bosworth was not merely neglecting the restored truth of Pentecost to the detriment of his congregation, rather, he was in rejection of that truth.  Rejecting the fundamental doctrine of Pentecost, Bosworth could not keep his credentials with the Assemblies of God.  For, he stood in rejection of the main article of faith peculiar to Pentecostals – the doctrine of Initial Evidence.  This is apparent both in his inability to maintain credentialing with a Pentecostal body, and evident by the fact that he shortly thereafter published an argument refuting the doctrine of Initial Evidence entitled; Do All Speak in Tongues? in which he uses the same reasoning as had A.B. Simpson several years previous which refused distinction between the sign from the gift.  Bosworth himself maintained that he received the gift of tongues under Charles Parham’s ministry, and that he continued to operate the gift.

d.  Bosworth’s Refutation of Pentecost: “Do All Speak with Tongues?”

Bosworth denounced the Pentecostal teaching as “serious doctrinal error,”[9] arguing that there was absolutely no distinction between tongues as what occurred in the evangelistic accounts from the book of Acts wherein it was given as a sign of the Holy Spirit’s initially reception by men, and the doctrinal instructions given by Paul to the Corinthians concerning the operation of tongues as a spiritual gift.  He began his argument with the proposition that some of those most anointed for ministry had never spoken in tongues,[10] and expressed his belief than many who had received the experience, had not  likely been baptized in the Holy Spirit.[11]  Bosworth argued that any “manifestation of the Holy Spirit” should be sufficient to constitute the evidence one had received the Holy Spirit, and stated that the manifestation of any gift is such evidence.  He writes:

God’s definition of a gift is “the manifestation of the Spirit.”  The speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost was “the manifestation of the Spirit,” and therefore is identical with the gift of tongues, about which Paul writes to the Corinthians . . . We therefore contend that this was the gift of tongues that God set in the Church.[12]

Thus for Bosworth, there was essentially no particular sign of the Spirit’s baptism; only the gifts which the Spirit left the believer as a token that hey had received the Spirit.  Bosworth further reasoned that since prophecy is identified as a gift superior to the gift of tongues, then, logically, prophecy should constitute equal if not greater evidence of the Spirit’s baptism.  He writes:

Why not consider the more valuable “manifestation of the Spirit” as at least as good an evidence that One is Baptized in the Spirit as the less valuable manifestation? . . . Why should we say that the man who is superior and has the more valuable “manifestation of the Spirit” is not Baptized in the Spirit, and the inferior man is, because he has a “manifestation of the Spirit” less in value?[13]

Although he argued that prophecy should logically constitute equal or greater evidence of the Spirit’s reception than would tongues, Bosworth, ultimately denied there should be any outwardly observable evidence, stating:

The word “evidence” in the Scriptures is never used in connection with a spiritual gift, or manifestation, making faith to depend upon any sign or physical manifestation, but the Apostle distinctly states that “faith is the evidence.”  Anything that is to be received in answer to prayer is to be received by faith.”[14]

Bosworth also argued that the true operation of the gift of tongues is not “at will,” but only “as the Spirit gives utterance.”  He writes:

The fact here mentioned that the gift of tongues is always “the manifestation of the Spirit,” refutes the theory held by many that the gift of tongues is the ability to speak in tongues at will.[15]

Perhaps the strongest argument made by Bosworth, was the lack of a specific rule laid down in Scripture to expressly establish tongues as the universal sign of the Holy Spirit’s reception.  Bosworth writes:

Then is it not strange that not one of the inspired writers of any of the epistles to the New Testament churches, preachers and saints scattered abroad, ever made the slightest reference to that kind of speaking in tongues which, as many allege, is the evidence of the Baptism?  Think of it, and then think again, all the New Testament epistles and not a single mention of this doctrine. . . . It is nowhere taught in the Scriptures, but is assumed from the fact that in three instances recorded in the Acts they spoke in tongues as a result of the Baptism.[16]

e.  Examining Bosworth’s Arguments

            i.  “Any manifestation of the Holy Spirit Should Constitute Sufficient Evidence”

This argument has at least three significant flaws, beginning with the fact that it is circular.  The argument presupposes that what is manifesting is the Holy Spirit.  The second flaw of the argument is that it disregards the fact that miraculous operations of the Holy Spirit through men were given well prior to the Christ’s death and resurrection, and operated well-prior to the day the Holy Spirit was given to the Church.  The seventy elders of Israel prophesied under Moses,[17]  and men would prophecy at any such time the Holy Spirit came upon them, even hundreds of years before Christ’s resurrection and the day of Pentecost.[18]  In fact, all the spiritual gifts were demonstrated before Christ ascended, such as healings, miracles, and demonstrations of faith.  Just read the eleventh chapter of Hebrews!  Faith in God has produced miracles since the days of Enoch.  Divine knowledge was exercised by many prophets, and even the manifestation of true prophecy is no evidence one has received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The great antagonist of Israel, Balaam, prophesied by the Spirit of God.  Even unbelievers, may truly prophesy, as evidenced by those who murdered the Messiah.  Of Caiaphas, we read:

And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;                  John 11:51 

While prophecy is certainly a “manifestation of the Holy Spirit,” it is not peculiar to the Pentecostal baptism, and cannot be regarded as specific evidence one has been baptized.  What is peculiar to the Pentecostal era, is the sign of tongues, that not having occurred until Christ was resurrected and ascended.

  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive;  for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)                                                                                     John 7:39

The Lord’s glorification was the necessary precursor to the Holy Spirit being given to men.  And the only sign which occurred peculiar to this new dispensation from heaven was tongues.

ii.  That “The True Operation of the Gift of Tongues is Limited to As the Spirit Gives Utterance’.”

Contrary to Bosworth’s assertion, tongues are normally not exercised in this way as it relates to the operation of a gift in the Church.  Bosworth included prophecy and any manifestation of the Holy Spirit as operating only as the Spirit wills, rather than as the gifted individual wills.  But this is contrary to Scripture, as Paul’s writes:

  And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.               I Cor. 14:32

This must necessarily be the case, otherwise, it would make little sense for Paul to direct the proper order of prophecy or tongues within the Church.  While Bosworth mentions this as a common argument from Pentecostals, he does not make much of an attempt to actually address the argument.  Clearly, the gift of tongues (as also the gift of prophecy) did not operate within the first-century churches “as the Spirit gave them utterance,” although the sign of tongues as evidence of Spirit-baptism clearly did operate in this way:

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues,  as the Spirit gave them utterance.                            Acts 2:4

The source of Bosworth’s error was his failure to distinguish a sign (which operates independent of human volition,) from a gift (which operates in subjection to human volition.)

iii.  That “Faith is the Only Evidence of the Spirit’s Baptism”

That Faith is the only evidence of the Spirit’s baptism, would appear contradicted most clearly by Acts chapter ten, wherein Peter, and later the other apostles,[19] did, in fact, use the demonstration of Tongues as evidence that the Gentiles had received the Holy Ghost .  The incorrectness of Bosworth’s assertion is also clear from the account of the 120 that received the Holy Ghost in Jerusalem, and the account of the twelve disciples of John in Ephesus.[20]

We might perceive that in making this assertion, Bosworth engages in a common fallacy of Bible teachers, sometimes called “believism,” wherein the assertion of one’s belief, makes the thing true, regardless of outward evidence.  Bosworth writes that, “Anything that is to be received in answer to prayer is to be received by faith,” and quotes Hebrews 11:1, which states:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.                                                                                      Heb. 11:1

However, the context of Hebrews chapter eleven is not the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but the procurement of things “hoped for.”  Paul writes:

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?                                      Rom. 8:24

Hope relates to things not as yet obtainedThese are things that require Faith.  But while belief in Jesus Christ is a necessary precursor to our receiving the Holy Spirit, this is not to say that the experience itself must be a matter of “believing” without the benefit of a real experience.  God does not leave us to doubt in this regard.  Otherwise, what sense would it make for Paul to ask people whether they had received the Holy Spirit?  For he asks the twelve in Ephesus:

“Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?               Acts. 19:2

The Galatians, as well, clearly had demonstrable evidence they had received the Holy Spirit, otherwise it would not have made sense for Paul to reason with them as follows:

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?                                           Gal. 3:2

Did they receive through the means of Faith?  Of course they did.  But were they required to accept their baptism as somehow mystically accomplished despite some tangible evidence?  Such a conclusion would fail logic.

iv.  That an Explicit Doctrine is Not Stated in the Epistles 

Bosworth pointed out that the New Testament epistles are silent on the subject of what constitutes prima facie evidence of the Holy Spirit’s baptism, and therefore neither should the Church lay down a doctrine of what constitutes the evidence.  While Mr. Bosworth is correct in his observation that the epistles are silent, his conclusion would seem faulty.  While it is granted there is no expressly stated doctrine, the doctrine nonetheless has the support of Scripture.  We know without a doubt, that tongues constitutes at least “a” sign of the Spirit’s baptism, because the apostles accepted that it did:

and they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For they heard them speak with tongues, & magnify God. Then answered Peter, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized,  which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?                                    Act 10:45-47

Think of this: We have no direct teaching from the epistles that Tongues constitutes any sign at all of receiving the Spirit.  Nevertheless, we know that it does constitute a sign of Spirit baptism based upon the record from the book of Acts.   What this means, is that the historical record in Acts is a sufficient bases upon which to found doctrine.  For who can deny this as the meaning of Acts chapter ten?  The issue which remains is whether or not Tongues constitutes the conclusive evidence of the Spirit’s baptism.  There is a myriad of things that constitute “some” evidence for anything.  For instance, a man’s attendance at a Pentecostal church is some evidence the man has received the baptism.  But it is by no means conclusive evidence.  Even observing a man speak in tongues is not conclusive evidence, because no one can assuredly know what is happening within another person, except that other person.  Only for that individual, may Tongues constitute a conclusive sign, which is really the only important concern, ie. that the person baptized into Christ, comprehend the fact of his/her baptism.  Therefore, to the outside observer, Tongues constitutes some evidence, just as Prophecy constitutes some evidence.   The problem for Mr. Bosworth was that prophecy and generalized miracles of faith occurred prior to “the Holy Ghost (being) given, and . . .  Jesus (being) glorified,” while of Tongues, we have no mention of its occurrence until the day of Pentecost, after which it constituted a sign of something.  Because of its sudden appearance upon Christ’s glorification, therefore we know it as the peculiar sign of the Spirit’s reception.  Thus, it is reasonable to receive one’s own experience of “speaking of tongues as the Spirit gives utterance” (ie. the non-volitional manifestation of the phenomenon) as even conclusive evidence of the Spirit’s baptism.  If one is content to satisfy themselves in working a miracle or prophesying as evidence of their own baptism by the Holy Spirit, they may do so.  However, they have slim support in Scripture.

It is ironic that the greatest damage to the restored teaching came through a man who had received his baptism under the teaching of the doctrine’s original messenger, Charles Parham himself.  The doctrine that was so clearly confirmed in Topeka, preached by Parham, and which led to the Azusa Street outpouring, was rejected and publicly undermined, all the while Bosworth carried on a fantastic ministry of signs and wonders, which included many receiving the baptism in spite of his erroneous teaching.   But since Bosworth did not declare the full truth, his meetings, while full of power and other evidences of God’s willingness to act, became characterized by phenomenon which strayed from that strictly Pentecostal.  He writes:

Proper instruction followed by consecration and prayer will, in every instance, bring down the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, but it will not always bring down the manifestation of tongues.[21]

But if the Pentecostal doctrine of Initial Evidence was correct, then Bosworth’s leavened teaching was resulting in power and demonstration absent the sealing by the Holy Spirit.  Bosworth’s teaching on receiving the Holy Spirit not only ran inconsistent to Pentecostal doctrine, but it began to run astray from the teachings of Christ.  Bosworth:

Repeated seeking and methods never used in the Scriptures have been employed to get all the seekers through to the “Bible evidence,” so called . . .[22]

But the teaching of Christ, was just the opposite.  As to receiving the Holy Spirit, Jesus said:

“….yet because of persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.  And I say to you, “Ask, & it shall be given to you, seek, and you shall find;  Knock, and it shall be opened to you.   For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.  Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?  Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?   If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”       Luke 11:8-13

Jesus clearly taught “persistence” in “asking” as the property means of receiving the Holy Spirit.  Bosworth counseled men otherwise.  While other men teaching like Bosworth would simply be mistaken, Bosworth’s teaching must be regarded as false, given that his teaching came with the manifestation of signs and wonders.

e.   Reverted Doctrinal-Thrust;   Healing Through the Atonement

After his separation from organized Pentecostalism, Bosworth became the forerunner of a genre that was to come.  He began conducting faith-healing campaigns in large tents sponsored by (oddly enough) the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) – the organization which had only recently rejected the restored truth of Pentecost.  As the CMA was abandoned in droves by the Spirit-baptized, who were entering the ranks of such organizations as the Assemblies of God, Bosworth went the reverse-direction.   In so doing, Bosworth’s teaching digressed in substance back to the pre-Pentecostal message of the late-nineteenth-century healing-movement in which the CMA had played such a principle role.   The CMA was now the publisher of Bosworth’s pamphlets and publications.

With his clearly anointed ministry in doctrinal declension in respect to the Pentecostal renewal, his message narrowed upon a theme of healing for the natural body.   While his message was certainly an evangelistic call for salvation through Jesus Christ, it became diminished from the fuller message so recently restored that God would baptize men into the body of Christ if they would but ask.

The principle doctrine for which the Healing Movement is associated might be regarded as the doctrine of Healing Through the Atonement. Gordon AJ 02This was a doctrine that had originally been advanced by Baptist theologian Adoniram J. Gordan in his 1882 book; The Ministry of Healing.  The doctrine maintained that the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary not only atoned for sin, but constituted the basis of our Divine healing as well.   When the doctrine was taught during the Holiness movement, it was generally intended to be an encouragement for the sick to continue to hope in God for their healing –  elevating healing for the body to the same theological standing as that upon which the atonement for sin is founded.   The doctrine had been controversial even within the Holiness Movement – not necessarily through a disbelief in Divine healing, but through a sense that it detracted from the central message of the cross as addressing the issue of sin rather than health.  There was also concern over the fact that Scripture tending to support the doctrine was sparse, and even absent from the teachings of Paul.

Given its lineage from the Healing Movement, the Doctrine of Healing Through the Atonement came into wide acceptance by Pentecostals early in the movement, and stories abound of Pentecostal families choosing suffering and sometimes death rather than to resort to medicine for the cure, under the apprehension that to allow another-than-Christ to heal was tantamount to allowing-another-than Christ to save.  For instance, in 1919 the Pentecostal Holiness Church was divided when a southern preacher dared publish an article maintaining that going to a doctor implied no lack of faith.  This raised a great furor in the church given the deep sensibilities of many Pentecostals toward this doctrine.  The preacher, Hugh Bowling, was expelled from the church given his published statement:

I do not believe in lying about divine healing.  I do not believe that sickness is evidence of unbelief.  I do not believe that healing is paralleled with salvation in the atonement.[23]

Thus the doctrine that had been controversial in Holiness circles became controversial in Pentecostal circles as well.

Working now in close-association with the CMA, an organization that by this time had rejected the restored Pentecostal-truth of Initial Evidence,[24] Bosworth’s supernatural ministry and message became narrowly focused upon its non-Pentecostal aspects, e.g., a generalized exhortation to salvation through faith, Divine healing, and a pre-Pentecostal era message on spirit-baptism which relegated the experience to the ambiguity that existed during the nineteenth-century.  His preaching on the baptism of the Holy Spirit (given his rejection of the doctrine of Initial Evidence) necessarily rendered his message sufficiently vague so as to fit within the doctrinal abstraction  held by the CMA, which having lost the blessing that accompanied its original thrust, now had a genuine Pentecostal leader to re-invigorate its traditional message of healing.

f.  Christ, the Healer

In 1924, Bosworth published his well-known classic; Christ the Healer – wherein he emphatically asserted the doctrine that had been popularized by the Healing movement many years earlier known as; Healing Through the Atonement.  In his book, Bosworth aggressively promoted this doctrine not merely as an encouragement to faith, but as a “redemptive right” which men must exercise.   He writes in that book:

Since Jehovah-Shalom, “The Lord is our peace”, is one of Christ’s redemptive names, has not every man a redemptive right to obtain peace from Him?  Has not every man, likewise, a redemptive right to obtain victory from Jehovah-Nissi?  Has not every man a redemptive right to obtain “the gift of righteousness” from Jehovah-Tsidkenu, etc.?  If so, why has not every man a redemptive right to obtain healing from Jehovah-Rapha? [25]

He characterized this doctrine as “God’s Word”, the non-acceptance of which, being tantamount to non-acceptance of the same, and an affront to God.   This rather extreme form of the doctrine reveals one reason why there was significant concern originally over its orthodoxy.  Besides its relatively sparse support in the apostolic writings, the doctrine was controversial due to the specter of its logical extension, and Bosworth’s zealous promotion of this doctrine brought him into approving some of its problematic and non-orthodox implications.  While he made an exception for those committing willful sin, and those upon whom sickness was a form of Divine chastisement for sin,[26] Bosworth maintained that it was always God’s will to heal. He writes:

. . . since “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law,” how can God justify us and at the same time require us to remain under the law’s curse?  . . . . If healing was not provided for all in redemption, how did all in the multitude obtain from Christ the healing that God did not provide? “He healed them all.”

As it was always God’s will to heal, the only reason men were not healed was a want of faith.  This correlation of sickness and disease with a want of faith, when cast into the same theological framework with the atonement, necessarily led to the conclusion that if we have not the faith to be healed, we have not the faith to be saved. Conclusion:  To be unhealed is to be unsaved.  Thus, Bosworth’s teachings were beginning to lose their apostolic-ring.  He writes:

Sin and sickness have passed from me to Calvary – salvation and health have passed from Calvary to me.[27]

With bodily health standing as a sign of the Divine favor, Bosworth found new significance in certain OT passages that seemed to assure the godly man of life and health. Bosworth argued that it was God’s will for men to fulfill their years, citing such verses as: [28]

I will take sickness away from the midst of thee . . . The number of thy days I will fulfill.                                                                                      Ex. 23:25-26

The days of our years are threescore years and ten.                    Ps. 90:10

Take me not away in the midst of my days.                                   Ps. 102:24

Why shouldest thou die before thy time?                               Eccles. 7:17

Even a man’s death (Bosworth maintained) should not occur through sickness, but rather, through the sterile act of God withdrawing the spirit from the man.  He uses the verse:

Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.               Ps. 104:29

And we might interject that this was decidedly not the outcome for Christ, of Whom the Pentecostal message was:

In his humiliation his judgment was taken away:  and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.                      Acts 8:33

Bosworth’s message became increasingly one of a gospel for the natural man, as the message of the cross became rather the secret to health and longevity.  He writes:

. . why were the Israelites required to eat the flesh of the Passover lamb for physical strength, unless we, too, can receive physical life, or strength from Christ?[29]

Bosworth asserted  that a man should always be in perfect health, or else he was not serving God.  For instance, he naturalizes Paul’s reference to “grace”,[30] writing; “No man can abound to every good work while confined to a sickroom.”    Rather than evidence of the coming of the kingdom of God, Divine healing became regarded as an end in itself, and God’s word – the means.  As Bosworth asserted the verity of this doctrine as constituting God’s infallible Word,[31] faith in this doctrine became, for him, the seed, with a view to a material reaping.

Praying for healing with the faith-destroying words, “if it be Thy will,” is not planting the “seed”; it is destroying the seed. [32]

“No longer can the Church pray for the sick with the faith-destroying, qualifying phrase ‘If it be Thy will’.”[33]

But this was manifestly false teaching.  No longer was it; “Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death”,[34] the message became; “God, you have promised me life in the body!”  His message was a gospel of “good news” for the natural man; a rather extreme slant upon an already controversial doctrine, which seems to have paved a road which many would follow, making ever-more-bold assertions upon what was God’s preordained will for the natural man that would allow him continuity of strength in this world.

Bosworth’s book became something of a primer for healing evangelists in the glory years to come in the wake of the Latter Rain Revival which swept North American before going abroad.   After his healing crusades of the 1920’s and 1930’s, Bosworth retired to Florida in 1947, but only for a short time.  He would come out of retirement to join a list of over sixty healing-evangelists loosely-affiliated under The Voice of Healing banner.[35]   After a long and fruitful ministry, his life ultimately ran true to his oft-quoted verse:

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,  yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.                                           Ps. 90:10

When Bosworth reached eighty years of age, he announced, “This is the greatest day of my life.  God has shown me that I’m going home.”[36]  Consistent to his doctrine, he would live out his days to become virtually the last of the original Pentecostal pioneers.  F. F. Bosworth died on January 23, 1958, six days after achieving; “fourscore years”.

g.  Leavened Doctrine of a Compromised Pentecost

Although F.F. Bosworth is most commonly associated with the doctrine of Healing Through the Atonement, this doctrine was not original with him.  Neither were his expansions upon the doctrine his own original inventions.  Bosworth borrowed heavily from other writers and most notably from the very controversial Positive Confession theologian, E.W. Kenyon.  Kenyon is widely regarded as the father of Word of Faith and Prosperity Message teachings that would savage much of the Pentecostal world in the latter twentieth century, and which continues to stand as a substantial doctrinal underpinning in the modern Prophetic movement.  Bosworth included much of Kenyon’s teachings in the chapter of Bosworth’s book entitled “Our Confession,” and recommended Kenyon’s teachings at the end of that chapter.  Bosworth writes:

Most of the thoughts expressed in this sermon I have brought together, by permission, from the writings of the late Reverend E.W. Kenyon.[37]

Although F.F. Bosworth is most commonly associated with the extremes he advanced upon the doctrine of Healing Through the Atonement, this arguably misapprehends his role in the progression (or rather, regression) of theology.  Rather it was Bosworth’s rejection of the doctrine of Initial Evidence which would seem the most pertinent legacy of his ministry, and that which had the more significant effect upon the course of Church history.  In the interest of perspective we should understand that for an original pioneer of early Pentecost to cast aside the doctrine of Initial Evidence would be of like-principle (if not like-degree) to Calvin or Knox casting aside the pivotal truth of their own time and movement – justification by faith..

Whether he was correct or incorrect in his doctrines of healing, Bosworth’s almost exclusive emphasis on doctrine and practice relating to healing of the body would seem to have been the logical avenue of travel for a miracle ministry in rejection of Initial Evidence.  This seems apparent for a couple of reasons.  To begin; Initial Evidence was that doctrine most singularly responsible for severing Pentecostalism from the Holiness and Healing movements.  It was certainly the doctrine responsible for finally severing Pentecostalism from one of its last remaining allies, the Christian and Missionary Alliance (which was the principle then-existing organ of the Healing Movement).  Therefore, having rejected Initial Evidence, Bosworth was re-positioned (theologically) with the Holiness Movement of which healing was a primary thrust.

But this is not to suppose he was in like-orthodoxy.  For Bosworth’s position was as ‘the Holiness Movement under the Pentecostal-anointing’; an anointing that had been denied-it from heaven once the truth of Pentecost was delivered and rejected.[38]

Secondly, if it was true that tongues constituted the initial evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit, Bosworth’s teaching to the contrary would certainly have re-introduced the confusion that God had removed by virtue of the circumstances of the outpouring in Topeka.   Can any deny that the purpose of receiving the Holy Spirit is primarily the advancement of the kingdom of God within the believer (meaning our sanctification and thence a resurrection)?[39]  But Bosworth had cut a doctrinal leg out from under Pentecost.  This left his only viable direction of ministry as being the pursuit of healing; which digressed into a gospel for the natural man.  While healing for the body is certainly an mark of the evangelistic message (irrespective one’s view of the theological basis for healing), it is not, in and of itself, the full Gospel of God.

Bosworth represented the return of a dispensation, cut off in an essential part by a rejection of the restored truth.  Bosworth’s story is disturbing given his prominence in the Pentecostal Restoration, as a great apostolic truth was restored to the Church among a relatively small handful of persons who then became powerfully anointed messengers of the true seal of God, the baptism of the Holy Spirit – a seal that awakens men to the reality of sanctification and the hope of a glorious resurrection.  For one of those anointed few to do an about-face on this truth is a disquieting thought.  Jesus said:

  He that is not with me is against me; & he that gathers not with me scatters abroad.                                                                                      Matt. 12:30

The decades following the Pentecostal-restoration would be characterized as an era of the scattering of this vital-truth.

[1] With Signs Following, by Stanley Frodsham ©1928, Revised by Frodsham ©1946, Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, MO65802, at pgs. 14-15.

[2] Fields White Unto Harvest; Charles F. Parham and the Missionary Origins of Pentecost by James R. Goff, Jr. © 1988 The Univ of Arkansas Press at pg. 121

[3] It is noteworthy that in traveling to ZionCity, Parham seems to have broken his promise to William Seymour that he would immediately travel to the Azusa StreetMission in Los Angeles for the purpose of promoting unity between the various local missions there.

[4]JohnG.Lake became a powerfully-anointed evangelist who brought Pentecost to South Africa and for many years thereafter operated a miraculous-healing ministry in Spokane, WA.

[5] Healingandrevival.com biography of F.F. Bosworth taken from website on 7/25/11.

[6] The Pentecostal Testimony Vol. I, No. 8; Article is; A Great Revival in Dallas, Texas, by William Durham.  The article relates information in a letter to Durham from F. F. Bosworth.  The letter was dated by Bosworth “June 28th”.

[7] Survey of 20th Cent. Revival Movements pg. 88.  See also Frodsham’s ltr in Woodworth collections 429

[8] A 20th Century Apostle; The Life of Alfred Garr, by Steve Thompson © 2003 Morningstar Publications at pg. 123

[9] Do All Speak with Tongues?, by F.F. Bosworth:  “The purpose of this letter is to point out what I consider a serious doctrinal error.”

[10] Ibid.  Bosworth writes:  “After eleven years in the work on Pentecostal lines (during which time it has been my privilege to see thousands receive the precious Baptism in the Holy Spirit,) Ii am certain that who those who receive the most powerful Baptisms for service do not receive the manifestation of speaking in tongues.”  Bosworth continues: “The fact is that hundreds of the greatest soul winners of the entire Christian era, without the gift of tongues, have had a much greater enduement of power and have been used to accomplish a much greater and deeper work than has Mr. Parham.”

[11] Ibid. Bosworth writes:  “. . . many who seemingly speak in tongues, are not nor ever have been Baptized in the Spirit.”

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Numbers 11:25-26

[18] I Samuel 10:10

[19] ie. Acts chapter 13 wherein Peter relates the matter in Jerusalem.

[20] Acts 19:1-7

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23]  Is There a Healer in the House?  A Historical Perspective on Healing in the Pentecostal/Charismatic Tradition, by Vinson Synan, from the Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies 3/2/2000, pg. 198

[24] Dealing with the Charismatics in Today’s Church (1977) by Keith Bailey, from CBC/CTS Archives.   Excerpted from The Man, the Movement, & the Mission; A Documentary History of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, compiled by Dr. Charles Nienkirchen, Canadian Theological Seminary, May 1987.

[25] Christ the Healer, by F.F. Bosworth © 1924, 1948, published by Chosen Books – paperback ed. © 2008 at pgs. 95-96

[26] Christ the Healer, by F.F. Bosworth © 1924, 1948, published by Chosen Books – paperback ed. © 2008 at page 69-70 “Does God sometimes chasten His people through sickness?  Decidedly yes!  When we disobey God, sickness may be permitted, through the Father’s loving discipline.”.

[27] Christ the Healer, by F.F. Bosworth © 1924, 1948, published by Chosen Books – paperback ed. © 2008 at page 37

[28] Christ the Healer, by F.F. Bosworth © 1924, 1948, published by Chosen Books – paperback ed. © 2008 at page 50-51

[29] Christ the Healer, by F.F. Bosworth © 1924, 1948, Chosen Books – paperback ed. © 2008 at pg 26

[30] II Corinthians 9:8  “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”

[31] Christ the Healer, by F.F. Bosworth © 1924, 1948, published by Chosen Books – paperback ed. © 2008 at page 16-17  “Until the person seeking healing is sure from God’s Word that it is God’s will to heal him, he is trying to reap a harvest where there is no seed planted. . . . . Freedom from sickness comes from knowing the truth.” 

[32] Christ the Healer, by F.F. Bosworth © 1924, 1948, Chosen Books – paperback ed. © 2008 at pg 17

[33] Christ the Healer, by F.F. Bosworth © 1924, 1948, published by Chosen Books – paperback ed. © 2008 at page 56  Bosworth is quoting Episcopalian scholars with whom he is in agreement.

[34] Philippians 1:20

[35] F.F. Bosworth’s name is listed among its affiliated ministries which the magazine confirms as proven in the work of divine-healing.   See (i.e.) The Voice of Healing Dec 1951 at pg. 6

[36] The Name of Jesus, by Kenneth E. Hagin © 1958, 1987, 2006 RHEMA Bible Church (Forward)

[37] Christ the Healer, by F.F. Bosworth © 1924, 1948, published by Chosen Books – paperback ed. © 2008 at page 159.

[38] See account of A.B. Simpson and the Christian and Missionary Alliance as example.

[39] e.g. I Thessalonians 4:3-8, II Thessalonians 2:13, and I Peter 1:2


About Lamp-Stand

I was converted to the faith of Jesus Christ in 1982 at which time I received water baptism and Spirit baptism. In the Spring of 2008 I was led of the Spirit through a process of repentance upon which I had an encounter with Christ that worked a profound change upon my inner being. I became aware that I had been forgiven a great debt of sin. I soon felt the Lord's direction that I close my office that my energies not be divided from the study of doctrine.
This entry was posted in 3B. NEW ORDER OF THE LATTER RAIN (Application to Pentecostal Theology) and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 3.B.2 The Bosworth Role in the Declension from Pentecostal Doctrine and Experience

  1. Nathan Brown says:

    I enjoyed your analysis of of his doctrine. However ever the lack of supportive Scripture for initial evidence doctrine is a big red flag to me. Why would something so important salvation have no support in Bible? Thank You

  2. The leaders of the Pentecostal renewal (most of them) did not correlate Pentecost with salvation. One may be saved, having never heard of Pentecost. Likewise, one may be condemned after having received the experience. This is because ‘Salvation’ relates to the forgiveness of sins and is as fundamental as faith in the heart at such time God’s Spirit requires. However, Pentecost relates to a people “called out” from the world. Thus Peter announced its coming with the explanation that the experience was for “as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:39) Tongues as initial evidence of the Pentecostal baptism occurs in most of the accounts of Pentecost being received. Even in the one incident tongues is not mentioned, there was clearly a demonstrative sign which allowed observers to conclude the Holy Spirit had been received.

  3. Alan Latta says:

    There are more examples in the Book of Acts of people being filled with the Holy Spirit than just in Chapters 2, 8, 10 and 19. If we will read the whole book by itself, with pentecostal interruptions or insertions – anyone can see the F. F. Bosworth was actually right. Speaking in other Tongues is not the only initial sign that a person has been filled with the Holy Spirit.

    • Alan Latta says:

      CORRECTION: There are more examples in the Book of Acts of people being filled with the Holy Spirit than just in Chapters 2, 8, 10 and 19. If we will read the whole book by itself, without any “pentecostal” interruptions or insertions – anyone can easily see that F. F. Bosworth was actually right. Speaking in other Tongues – as the Lord gives utterance – was not the only initial sign that a person had been filled with the Holy Spirit.

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