III.A.7.c Durhams Over-Extended Refutation of Wesleyan Holiness Teaching

 

PART  III – Application to Pentecostal Theology

Subpart A – The Pentecostal Renewal

Article 7 – The Finished Work Doctrine as Unfinished Theology

Section (c) – Durham’s Over-Extended Refutation of Wesleyan Holiness Teaching

By Daniel Irving

 i.    The Tremendous Influence of William Durham Upon the Pentecostal Renewal

ii.   The Finished Work of Calvary Doctrine Brought to Los Angeles

iii.  The Pentecostal Doctrinal Divide

iv.  Durham’s Broad Refutation of Wesleyan Teaching

Indian Archer 01

Section (c)

DURHAM’S OVER-EXTENDED REFUTATION OF WESLEYAN-HOLINESS TEACHING

i.   The Tremendous Influence of William Durham Upon the Pentecostal Renewal

The seven sections of the previous article (2.E.2) dealt with that half of the Pentecostal doctrinal divide known as the Second Work. We now turn our attention to the opposite side of the divide to consider that doctrine to which most Pentecostals adhere today; the Finished Work of Calvary effectively advocated by William Durham as a response to the Second Work (aka Third Blessing) doctrine of Wesleyan Pentecostals.

The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements describes the ministry of William Durham following his baptism at Azusa Street as marked by phenomenal Pentecostal power:Durham 01

When Durham returned to his church in Chicago, the Pentecostal revival spread quickly through his ministry.  His overcrowded meetings lasted far into the night and sometimes until morning.  Durham reported in his periodical, The Pentecostal Testimony, that “it was nothing to hear people at all hours of the night speaking in tongues and singing in the Spirit.” (Brumback)  “A thick haze . . . like  blue smoke” often rested upon the mission.  When this was present, those entering the building would fall down in the aisles.”[1]

Not only was Durham’s ministry one of the most remarkable for the presence and power of God, it  soon succeeded the Azusa Street Mission and its Apostolic Faith newspaper as the primary mouthpiece of the Pentecostal Movement and became the most influential communicator of the Pentecostal teaching. Although Durham would live only a few short years following his baptism, during that time his ministry seems to have become the primary touchstone of the Pentecostal movement in terms of the proclamation of doctrine and the dissemination of the Pentecostal experience.  The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements relates further that:

“. . . thousands came to hear Durham preach, and all went away with the conviction that he was a pulpit prodigy.” (Frank Ewart)  At one point there were as many as twenty-five ministers from out of town at his meetings seeking the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Many people who later became prominent pioneers of the Pentecostal movement attended Durham’s meetings, including A.H. Argue; E.N Bell; Howard Goss; Daniel Berg, found of the Assemblies of God in Brazil; and Luigi Francescon, a pioneer of the Pentecostal movement in Italy.  Semple-Aimee 1910Aimee Semple, before her marriage to Harold McPherson, was instantaneously healed of a broken ankle through Durham’s ministry in January 1910.  Durham’s church soon became a leading center for the Pentecostal Movement worldwide. [2]

Along with the evangelistic doctrines of justification by faith in Jesus Christ, deliverance from sin, and holiness of life, Durham zealously preached the Pentecostal doctrine of Initial Evidence that had been restored at the Topeka outpouring of 1901.[3]  The difference however in Durham’s ministry was his Baptistic doctrine of the Finished Work of Calvary which dismantled the stance taken by the original (Wesleyan) Pentecostals that the baptism of the Holy Spirit must sequentially follow the Second Work of Sanctification taught by John Wesley.  The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements states that:

Durham became well known for his repudiation of the Holiness doctrine of sanctification as a “second work” of grace, arguing that the “finished work” of Christ on Calvary becomes available to the believer at the time of justification.  The benefits of Calvary are therefore appropriated for sanctification over the entire period of the Christian’s life, rather than at a single subsequent moment, as was believed by most Pentecostals in Durham’s day.[4]

Durham’s doctrine of the Finished Work reshaped classical Pentecostal teaching away from its original Wesleyan form which presented the Holy Spirit’s baptism as a Third Blessing sitting atop the Second Work of sanctification.

ii.  The Finished Work of Calvary Doctrine Brought to Los Angeles

As earlier stated, the Finished Work of Calvary was preached by William Durham as a response to the Second Work (aka Third Blessing) doctrine of Wesleyan Pentecostals.  This was the doctrine Durham preached to a beleaguered movement in 1910 resulting in the renewal known by early Pentecostals as the Second Azusa or the Second Shower of the Latter Rain.  Durham writes of the state of affairs he met with when arriving in Los Angeles:Azusa Building

The work in Los Angeles was in a sad condition. Those who had been the leaders, in most cases, had proven so incompetent that the saints had lost all confidence in them, and this had resulted in a state of confusion. Scores were really in a backslidden state, and yet in their hearts they longed to follow Jesus.  Scores of others were, and for months had been, crying to God to send some one who would preach the truth and lead His people on.  The suffering of many had been great indeed. [5]

God blessed Durham’s message directing the Spirit-baptized back to the cross of Jesus Christ as His provision for their sins and His provision for the sanctification of His Church.  Durham’s preaching refuted the Wesleyan teaching that a second work of grace awaited the believer, asserting rather that since the entire work of our justification – and so, our sanctification – was performed at Calvary, there is no additional “work” to be performed.   As related by The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements:

Sanctification for Durham was a gradual process of appropriating the benefits of the finished work of Christ, not a second instantaneous work of grace subsequent to conversion.  Durham therefore did not restrict the time of sanctification either to the moment of regeneration or to any other particular subsequent moment in the Christian experience.  He objected to the doctrine of entire sanctification because he felt it circumvented the need for an ongoing sanctification process in the life of the Christian.[6]

As Durham preached at the Azusa Street Mission in the absence of William Seymour large crowds returned to the mission that included many recipients of the earlier outpouring.  Garr-Alfred SrSuch notables as Alfred Garr and his wife were present having recently returned from their missionary work in Asia.  The gift of tongues had not been the answer to foreign missions as they had supposed.  Their experience was instrumental to conclusion reached within the Pentecostal movement that Parham had been incorrect in his assumption that the gift of tongues was given for the purpose of missionary work.

Once he was notified of Durham’s activities, and given his Second Work orientation, Seymour immediately returned to Los Angeles to lock Durham out of the Azusa Street Mission.  Durham thereupon took to preaching to large crowds elsewhere with further dramatic results which included conversions, healings, Spirit-baptisms, and the reclamation of many backsliders.[7]  Durham describes those subsequent meetings as follows:

One after another would stand up in the meetings and confess that they had gotten their eyes off Jesus, and go to the altar, and in almost every case the anointing of the blessed Spirit would be renewed, till soon the very air was filled with notes of praise and shouts of victory. Durham 01From the very first, sinners were saved, and an average of at least ten a week were baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke tongues, as He gave them utterance.  Week after week went by, and still the interest did not wane, but on the contrary the power increased, till the gory of God literally filled the place.  At times the Spirit would move upon the saints, and they would sing in the Spirit, and praise the Lord in the most wonderful way I ever heard.  At times there could be no regular order of service; no one could preach or even testify.  All we could do was to sit with our souls bathed in a sea of heavenly glory, and praise the Lord with all our hearts. . . . Some of the hardest sinners were saved.  I believe that literally hundreds who had more or less backslidden were restored, and many real cases of healing were witnessed. [8]

In the wake of the Spirit’s work in Durham’s ministry, the Azusa StreetMission lost significance overnight and the doctrine of the Second Work would fade into relative obscurity in the decades that would come.

iii.  The Pentecostal Doctrinal Divide

The tremendous early zeal of each side in advocating its viewpoint created considerable enmity.  In January of 1912, At the height of the controversy, the original leader at the Topeka outpouring of 1901 sought to invoke the Divine judgment and issued a severe ultimatum toward William Durham.  Parham 01Charles Parham published in his Apostolic Faith magazine his prayer that God would take the life of the man (either himself or William Durham) that was teaching error on the Second Work/Finished Work issue.  That July, William Durham died unexpectedly at just 39 years of age.  His newsletter, The Pentecostal Testimony attributed his death to a “terrific strain” which “brought about a general break down,” and stated:

His last request to God was that he might be given strength to travel home to Los Angeles and see his beloved friends before he died.  God graciously granted this request, and accordingly he left for Los Angeles on Tuesday, arriving here on Friday, July 5th, and early Sunday morning his Spirit went home to God.[9]

Upon his death, his newspaper, The Pentecostal Testimony recounts:

About eighteen months ago God led him to fearlessly proclaim the great truth, the finished work of Calvary.  It met with strong opposition, but God confirmed the truth in such a way that men were forced to listen.  In February 1910, he came to Los Angeles, the great Pentecostal centre, to deliver his message, and amidst persecution and opposition of every kind, God baptized hundreds in the Spirit in a few months, and established an assembly of over six hundred people who stand for the truths of the finished work of Calvary, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Last             February he went to Chicago much weakened by continual labors to hold a two weeks’ convention, and God gave him the greatest revival of modern times.  God thus signifying to the world his approval of his servant up to the last. [10]

The divide between Second Work and Finished Work Pentecostals was profound.  For many advocates of the Wesleyan Second Work, Durham’s teaching was a sacrilege against the Holiness principles within which the Holy Spirit’s baptism had been restored.  Nevertheless, the power of God followed Durham’s ministry, and those to whom Durham preached received the Holy Spirit’s baptism in large numbers.  According to The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements:

One of the reasons for the success of Durham’s viewpoint was that many people seemed to be receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit without first having experienced entire sanctification, despite the belief by second work of grace advocates that entire sanctification was a necessary prerequisite. [11]

This doctrinal divide grew wider as Second Work proponents and institutions withdrew from fellowship with those of the Finished Work.  This polarization of views relating to God’s purposes in the baptism of the Holy Spirit had the effect of pushing the two sides to doctrinal extremes. The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements continues:

Those who believed in sanctification as a second work of grace began to refer to the experience of entire sanctification as an eradication of their sinful nature, not merely a complete surrender to God. Finished work advocates, on the other hand, often minimized the need for experiential sanctification in the life of the believer, resting in the knowledge that provision for this had already been made by the death of Christ. [12]

The majority of Pentecostal assemblies ultimately accepted Durham’s doctrine of the Finished Work, and those denominations which held to his teaching have experienced far greater success in terms of numerical growth than have Second Work denominations; the latter tending toward static growth and denominational isolation.  Durham’s Baptistic perspective prevailed within the Pentecostal movement given the common experience of many recipients of the baptism.    Finished-Work denominations tended to be evangelically-oriented which factored heavily into outreach, church growth and church propagation.  On the other hand, a lack of discernable holiness has been a criticism that has followed the Finished Work denominations of Pentecostalism.

iv.  Durham’s Broad Refutation of Wesleyan Teaching

In addition to his preaching across the U.S. and into Canada, Durham also effectively promoted this doctrinal alternative to the Second Work through his periodical, The Pentecostal Testimony which promulgated the main thrust of Durham’s message, which was the classic Pentecostal doctrine of Initial Evidence and Durham’s doctrine of the Finished Work of Calvary.  In one article he writes:

. . there is not even one Scripture that teaches that sanctification is a second work of grace . . . To my mind the second work theory is one of the weakest, and most unscriptural doctrines that is being taught in the Pentecostal movement, and therefore ought to be ruled out as damaging. [13]

We might observe that Durham’s writings on the Finished Work of Calvary came primarily in the form of responsive arguments to Wesleyan teaching.  For instance, he writes:

Nor do the advocates of the second work theory today attempt to prove it from the Scriptures . . . Wesley - John 02Most of them however simply refer us to the teaching of Mr. Wesley, or some other good man, and seem to expect that we will accept them as authority, whether their teaching is Scriptural or not. . . . We believe that God raised up Mr. Wesley to preach holiness unto the Lord, and that his message was a great blessing to the world, but we do not believe that God sent him to preach that holiness or sanctification was and could be received only as a separate and distinct work of grace.  Again I can nowhere find where Wesley ever taught dogmatically that sanctification is and must be a second instantaneous work.  In his Plain Account of Christian Perfection, he admits that one can come into a state of sanctification in the first work of grace, and also that it may be entered by a gradual process.  Further, almost all of his teaching on this line, so far as we have had time to examine it, is based upon experience, and not upon the Word of God. [14]

Durham pointed to the bad fruit of the (Pentecostal) Second Work doctrine as evidence of its error:

It is a sad thing that so many, who never had any experience that they could call a “definite second work of grace” have been rejected and refused fellowship or started to seeking for an experience that is not to be found in the word of God.  Many have gotten into awful confusion on account of this very thing, and it is high time the truth was taught and the people undeceived. [15]

Rather than seeking for an experience that Scripture does not teach, Durham directed believers to “reckon themselves dead.”  He writes:Sacred Ht 01

The Scripture clearly teaches that a converted person is to reckon himself dead, Rom. 6:11.  Such a one is exhorted to present himself to God as alive from the dead, Rom. 6:13, not to seek for a second work of grace. . . . Living faith brings us into Christ, and the same living faith enables us to reckon ourselves to be “dead indeed” and to abide in Christ. [16]

Durham maintained that it was not a second work, but rather the original work of grace that would be provided upon repentance:

God will restore us over and over, if we truly repent when we fail, but it must be an insult to Him for us to teach that it takes more than one work for Him to save us from all sin if we meet His conditions faithfully. [17]

Although Second Work leaders came to Los Angeles to field a resistance to Durham’s message and stiff resistance was offered throughout the movement, the Finished Work doctrine would be embraced by the greater portion of the Pentecostal movement as the accepted doctrine relating to the baptism of the Holy Ghost.  By so doing the vast majority of Pentecostalism rejected that a definite work of sanctification as described by Wesley must necessarily precede the baptism.  The Pentecostal movement’s acceptance of the Finished Work viewpoint removed an artificial barrier to the baptism that had been erected by the Holiness movement’s interpretation of Wesley.  The Finished Work also removed a  significant point of doctrinal stumbling for those having received the baptism without experiencing an event they could call “sanctification.”  On the other hand, Durham’s criticisms of the Pentecostal Second Work tended to strike deeper against Wesleyan teaching than merely at its late-developing Pentecostal offshoot.  Durham’s preaching tended to strike against the principle of a definite work of grace distinctive to initial regeneration altogether.   In so doing, he sprang against a principle held largely responsible for 150 years of Spirit-empowered revivalism.  In objecting to what he perceived as doctrinal slavishness to Wesley among Second Work advocates, Durham carried his argument further.  He writes:Durham 01

Nor do the advocates of the second work theory today attempt to prove it from the Scriptures . . . Most of them however simply refer us to the teaching of Mr. Wesley, or some other good man, and seem to expect that we will accept them as authority, whether their teaching is Scriptural or not. . . . Further, almost all of his teaching on this line, so far as we have had time to examine it, is based upon experience, and not upon the Word of God. [18]

While refuting the late-invention of the Pentecostal Second Work – which at the time of his writing had an existence of a mere ten years – Durham inexplicably broadens his argument so as to incorporate the teachings of early Methodism and the Holiness movement.  By so doing, he castigated 150 years of remarkable revivalist history, Spirit-empowered preaching, and dramatic movements of God that occurred under the Wesleyan doctrine whose distinctive traits were  Christian Perfection and the Second Work of Grace.  The Wesleyan-holiness record in terms of its effectual use as a vehicle of the Spirit of God could be little more than envied by Durham’s own Baptistic tradition.   In coming against the Pentecostal doctrine of the Second Work Durham clearly swung his axe deeply, driving into the roots of the Holiness movement and early Methodism.

In considering Durham’s words, we must also consider the vital place he occupied in the historic restoration of apostolic doctrine.  After centuries of slow progress since the Reformation and Great Awakening, a Pentecost all but lost since apostolic days had been suddenly and dramatically restored on January 1, 1901.  azusaleadersThat message was carried to Azusa Street from whence it burst forth around the globe through a few key recipients of the baptism, Durham being perhaps the most key recipient if we judge the matter by tracing the global spread of Pentecostalism, the rise of key Pentecostal ministries, and the establishment of Pentecostal denominations.  There was certainly no other Pentecostal figure more key than William Durham in terms of establishing what would become the classical Pentecostal teaching on the baptism of the Holy Ghost.  Because of this key place Durham occupied in the restoration of Pentecost, his doctrine and presuppositions become tremendously significant, as does the historical and factual context within which his doctrine was brought.  Durham’s broadening of the scope of his argument against the Pentecostal Second Work doctrine to incorporate Wesleyan holiness teaching, requires his own Finished Work doctrine be – as well – judged in the light of the previous 150 years of Church history, rather than in the limited scope of a few years of then-existing Pentecostal history.  In so doing, we will find that while his teaching fairs well within the limited scope of Pentecostal doctrine, it begins to break down within the broader scope to which he carried it.

While Durham asserted the Pentecostal version of the Second Work teaching as an incorrect orientation upon the baptism of the Holy Ghost, he did not limit his attack to the Pentecostal version of the doctrine.  Durham 01Durham rather brought his Baptistic background to bear upon the pre-Pentecostal Second Work teaching as a misguided invention of Wesley and a mistaken path of the historic holiness movement.  While it was one thing to label the newly-contrived Pentecostal doctrine of the Second Work as error, it was quite another to lay the same label upon the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition which proclaimed a definite work of deliverance which one could expect as distinct to that of initial regeneration, ie. the Wesleyan Second Work.  And it is very easy to overlook the fact that the Pentecostal Second Work and the Wesleyan Second Work did not represent precisely the same thing.  And if Durham overstated his case by extending his attack so as to refute that doctrine which formed a substantial basis of revivalism throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this would understandably pose consequence for the Pentecostal Church of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in receipt of his teaching.  In light of this prospect, a reevaluation of this aspect of Durham’s teachings may be in order.


[1] Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Regency Reference Library Zondervan Publishing © 1988, pg. 255.

[2] Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Regency Reference Library Zondervan Publishing © 1988, pg. 255.

[3] See Part 1, Subpart G, Article 1 Topeka and the Re-advent of Tangible Experience for the account of the 1901 outpouring and its meaning in terms of Pentecostal doctrine.

[4] Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Regency Reference Library Zondervan Publishing © 1988, pg. 256.

[5] From article in the Pentecostal Testimony entitled; The Great Revival at Azusa Street Mission-How it Began and How it Ended, by William Durham. (Cir. 1911) Vol. I, No. 8, pg. 3.

[6] Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements © 1988 Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, pg. 308.

[7] According to witness Frank Bartleman; “The fire began to fall at old Azusa Street as at the beginning.”.

[8] From article in the Pentecostal Testimony entitled; The Great Revival at Azusa Street Mission-How it Began and How it Ended, by William Durham. (Cir. 1911) Vol. I, No. 8, pg. 3.

[9] The Pentecostal Testimony Vol. II, No. 3 (Summer 1912).  Article is In Memoriam, pg. 2.

[10] The Pentecostal Testimony Vol. II, No. 3 (Summer 1912).  Article is In Memoriam, pg. 2.

[11] Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements © 1988 Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, pg. 308.

[12] Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements © 1988 Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, pg. 308.

[13] From article in the Pentecostal Testimony entitled; Sanctification, by William Durham. (Cir. 1911) Vol. I, No. 8.

[14] Ibid. Sanctification, by William Durham.

[15] Ibid. Sanctification, by William Durham.

[16] Ibid. Sanctification, by William Durham.

[17] Ibid. Sanctification, by William Durham.

[18] Ibid. Sanctification, by William Durham.

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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.
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