What is Bernardianism?
It's the simplest way I know how to describe the influence David K. Bernard's work has upon all minds and hearts within "the movement."
Before you cry "bitter!," or assume that I am attacking the good reverend, you should know that while I disagree with Bernard's soteriology, (doctrine of salvation) I admire his intellect, passion and effort. His ministry fruit proves his heart for God and love for people.
While there are other scholars within Oneness Pentecostalism, some very capable and learned, the volume of other works, and their influence, pale in comparison to Bernard's.
Long before he became General Superintendent, he was the voice of the movement. His books 'The New Birth,' 'Justification and the Holy Spirit' and 'A Handbook of Basic Doctrines' are primers for Water/Spirit doctrine. 'Practical Holiness' is the definitive defense of Apostolic standards. 'The Oneness View of Jesus Christ' is an attempt to explain 'Jesus Only' to the outside world. All told, he has written 34 books(1)
There was a time when I held those works in high regard. When someone asked me a tough question, I used Bernard's books as part dictionary, and part encyclopedia. I don't think it's hyperbole to state that most of the movement does the same.
That's the point of this article.
While it is not Bernard's fault that he enjoys apologetics, it is unfortunate that so few Apostolic ministers read books written by other Oneness and non-Oneness authors.
Instead of reading to explore, learn and grow, most read to confirm Bernard's beliefs.
The testing performed prior to licensing proves that applicants comprehend his material.
One's signature upon the license application and, later, the affirmation statement, ensure allegiance to Bernardianism.
No diversity allowed; Bernard thinks for you.
Of the ten required reading books for aspiring local licensed ministers within the organization, five were written entirely by Bernard.(2) I'm pretty sure that he wrote portions of the 'Word Aflame Elective Series,' too. Of the twenty-six required reading books for all levels, (local, general, ordination) eleven are Bernard's compositions. That's 42%.
Further, other than the Bible, there are no required reading books written by non-Oneness Pentecostals. This means that unless a person attends a seminary outside of the organization, one never reads a dissenting view.
Bernard's view reigns supreme, completely unchallenged.
What happens when people trained to recite Bernardanism, rather than study the unfiltered history of Christianity and the core doctrines of the Bible, aren't able to defend Bernard's beliefs?
For some that experience is pivotal. It propels them to search elsewhere, driven by a desire to know. This was true of men like
Bernie Gillespie(3), Dr. Thomas Fudge(4) and David Wasmundt(5).
Others hit the "unfollow" button, drown out all dissent, and retreat to familiar recitations. They are perfectly willing to let Bernard speak for them. Sometimes those "others" assign evil motivations to those who've arrived at different conclusions.
I am no longer a Oneness Pentecostal because the narrow answers I was given previously were no longer sufficient. I took responsibility for my own education and discovered other answers, much more logical, much more defensible, from prayer and other theological sources.
2 2012 Reading Requirements
3 How God Opened My Heart To The Gospel by Bernie Gillispie, former UPCI minister
4 Why I Wrote The Book "Christianity Without The Cross" by Thomas Fudge
5 Letter From David Wasmundt
Read part twelve here.
This writing is the copyright of E.L. Anglin and is reprinted on this site by permission. View all of his available articles here.