Why I Wrote The Book "Christianity Without The Cross: A History Of Salvation In Oneness Pentecostalism"
by Thomas A. Fudge, PhD
In 1996 I decided upon undertaking a major study in modern theology. My principal professional training is in the area of church history and historical theology but I had previously taught modern theology at the graduate level. Among possible subjects considered was Oneness Pentecostalism. A literature survey revealed the bulk of scholarly attention lay with Trinitarian bodies. Most existing scholarship tended either to be apologetic or polemical; either defending particular points of view or attacking other perspectives. Moreover, it seemed clear that writers were either interested principally in issues surrounding the doctrine of God or the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I chose to focus on the doctrine of salvation in Oneness Pentecostalism for it appeared to me that an original contribution to knowledge in that area was possible. I elected also to restrict that treatment to the United Pentecostal Church in order to maintain a reasonable focus.
Naively, I believed I possessed a very extensive knowledge of the subject. In that assumption I was quite wrong. The history of the doctrine of salvation in the United Pentecostal Church and its immediate predecessors was more complex than I imagined and not nearly as straightforward as I expected. As the research deepened and obtained focus and direction, it became clear to me that what I was involved in would be much more significant and important than my original idea. After surveying all of the literature written and published by the United Pentecostal Church I became aware of gaps which I could not bridge with published documents so I undertook a task previously unexplored in my own work; that of oral history and I set out to interview men and women who had lived through the important years of the 1930s, 40s and 50s especially. What I learned from them, and the documents they were able to place in my hands, completely changed the nature of my original research plans.
The introduction to my book (pp. 1B8) deals with the specifics of my travels and inquiries and need not be repeated here. Several anecdotes, however, may help to clarify why I wrote this book. In August 1997 I traveled to Caldwell, Idaho to interview C.H. Yadon who had been a Oneness Pentecostal preacher since 1927. In the course of that conversation Yadon revealed that he did not believe it was essential to be baptized in Jesus Name nor yet to speak in other tongues in order to be saved. So that there will be no misunderstanding, Yadon did baptize in this fashion and did believe in Spirit baptism, but only as post-salvation experiences. He claimed that while the UPC taught Acts 2:38 as the plan of salvation, he had in fact never held that position. I began to wonder if Yadon was an exception to the rule or if there were others of similar persuasion. C.H. Yadon died three months after that interview. His family granted me unrestricted access to his papers and library. Among those literary remains I discovered a hand-written manuscript containing this sentiment: There were different views on this [new birth] before the merger . . . . However, through the years one area has been heard again and again until a new generation has come who does not know nor have they heard what has been the original thinking of some of us through the years. I desired to know what that other original thinking had been.
In my interviewing across North America I began to see clear lines of contrast (in general terms) between ministers with PCI roots and those of PAJC roots. Certainly there were exceptions to the general trend but a clear pattern emerged. When I compared material I was collecting with the written histories of UPCI writers I noted that little if anything of substance on the PCI tradition could be found. When I asked older PCI men about this I was essentially told that those histories were unreliable, one-sided, limited or inaccurate. I also began to wonder why certain perspectives were omitted, why some areas of North America were ignored and why obvious luminaries like Howard A. Goss, A.D. Gurley, C.H. Yadon, Wynn T. Stairs, W.M. Greer and others were rarely if ever mentioned. I had personally witnessed changes in the Pacific Northwest having lived and studied there and having known many of the UPC ministers there. When I made inquiries about Atlantic Canada I began to see clear definite parallels. My interest in eastern Canada stemmed from the fact that I had spent the first 19 years of my life there. Along the way I kept hearing about Tennessee and thus I determined to go there as well, which I eventually did on several occasions. In the end, eastern Canada, the Pacific Northwest and Tennessee became geographical focus of the study.
By 1999 the focus of what was now going to be a book was settled: I had determined to try and recover for the historical record some of the heritage of the old PCI. This was not a bias against the PAJC tradition, but the latter had been dealt with fairly enough already. I wished to take this approach in order to contribute to balancing the historical record. I was also motivated by other stimuli. In April 1999 I arrived on Dunn Road in Hazelwood, Missouri and began work in the Historical Center of the United Pentecostal Church. J.L. Hall, upon inquiring about the focus of my research and being told it was a history of the doctrine of salvation, informed me that it had already been done. I could find no trace that this was in any sense true. I am still not sure what he had in mind.
Later that month I drove from St. Louis to Austin, Texas to interview David Bernard and I used that occasion to try out some of my ideas on him as purely hypothetical. Bernard has written more than anyone else in the UPC on historical and theological topics. At numerous points he judged my thinking inaccurate, erroneous or a series of unsubstantiated assumptions, the classical non sequitur. I suspected that I was on to something for the knowledge and materials I was collecting did tend to suggest that the official histories Hall, Bernard and others had written were quite incomplete.
Then I became further motivated when Nathaniel Urshan wrote to me on 19 November 1999 (I had interviewed him as well) informing me that there were concerns about my inquiries (he neither specified the nature of the concerns nor those involved) and that word had gone out from Headquarters advising ministers to be wary of talking to me. I wondered what I had stumbled onto. Then in July 2000 I returned to Hazelwood but was effectively banned from further work in the Historical Center. J.L. Hall explained to me that the only way I could be granted continued access was to supply him with three items: a list of names of all those I had interviewed, my interview tapes, and a copy of the provisional book manuscript as it then existed. Concerned about censorship, I declined to supply any of these items. By 2000 I had written up enough of the research to know that while my forthcoming book might well be controversial it was entirely defensible.
Sensing that a factional special interest group within the UPC might try to derail my research agenda I doubled my efforts. Documents denied by Headquarters officials were rounded up elsewhere through other means. For example, I flew to northern Mississippi to inspect papers in attics after being advised that potentially valuable historical materials lay therein. Some readers would scarcely believe the church cellars and attics I explored, the filthy sheds I crawled through in the midwest and even less the valuable documents I rescued from the insects, dirt and elements. I did not hesitate traveling to Africa in 2001, for example, when it became clear that once there I could put my hands on more primary sources no one else had seen for a very long time. There were attempts to undermine my efforts but these all came to naught. There were other initiatives which appeared to call into question my integrity, motivation and the validity of my methodology. Happily, these had little effect and I was even asked to preach to a UPC congregation during my travels; an invitation I accepted.
Giving Honor Where Honor Is Due
I wrote the book to give recognition to men who, in the words of Kenneth Reeves, had been allowed to die as though they had never lived. Men like C.H. Yadon, W.M. Greer, A.D. Gurley, Howard A. Goss, Wynn T. Stairs, John Paterson, E.P. Wickens, Earl Jacques and others of the old PCI tradition. I recently received an email from a well-known minister which read in part: I am grateful for your exhaustive research because I think you have balanced the scales of justice. The PCI side of the story has had so few defenders in the past, and the kind old gentleman of grace just slipped away into the shadows and allowed their bellicose brethren to take over their organization. So thanks for bringing these men from the shadows and giving them their place in history. I appreciated that sentiment because it was in part the aim of my efforts. In the book I quote frequently from those I interviewed and from rare, unpublished sources because my efforts unwittingly, at least in the beginning, have helped to record and retain remnants of a vanishing past. The PCI tradition is effectively gone. Time soon may well erase it forever. Of the several heroes in my book all but one has left this life and the one who remains is past the age of 85.
The Affirmation Resolution
One of the large chapters in the book deals with the Affirmation Resolution introduced in 1992 by the General Conference. The late Raymond Beesley, former superintendent of the Atlantic District, urged me to think about this matter as long ago as January 1998. After much study, consideration, collection of material and many interviews, I was able to determine that the resolution was indeed relevant to the subject of the book. I wrote about that resolution on those grounds but also to reveal (and the interested person will have to read the book) the true nature of the resolution and to demonstrate how incompatible it was with the history of the United Pentecostal Church and to show that it did violate the constitution of the UPC as well as the merger agreement itself. David Bernard can argue to the contrary all he wishes but the minister or lay person interested in more than pat answers will need to read beyond his essays. I am not dismissing him or his views but I am arguing that they do not constitute a full and complete understanding. I also noted that many of the ministers who opposed the resolution either by leaving the organization completely or through silent opposition were of PCI stock. The connections seemed too obvious to ignore, even though certain ministers had the temerity to tell me the resolution had nothing to do with doctrine whatsoever. I forged ahead anyway.
Why This Book is not an Attack on the UPC
I wrote this book to refute the unfair generalization of some critics that the United Pentecostal Church is a cult, that it has no evangelical component, and to draw attention to the diversity in its historical progression. I wrote this book in the interests of truth, justice, a more balanced historical record, as well as to honor the men, women and traditions once so vital, vibrant and important but today ignored, occasionally ridiculed but more or less forgotten.
In recent weeks I have received many pieces of correspondence from readers and commentators. One letter dismissed the book as a cheap and cowardly attack. The writer, however, had not read the book and I suggested he might like to do so before commenting too widely. This book is not an attack on the United Pentecostal Church. If readers come to that conclusion I shall be deeply sorry for that was never my intention. This book does not imply, either implicitly or explicitly, that the UPC is a cult. This book does not adjudicate the UPC as utter heresy or sub-Christian. This book cannot rightly be dismissed as a polemic. My book originated and came to publication as a result of investigation into the development of the doctrine of salvation, historically understood, in Oneness Pentecostalism, as exemplified in the United Pentecostal Church. What I have tried to do, through reading UPCI literature, books, etc., attending their churches throughout North America, and interviewing their leaders as well as quite a number of pastors, has been to bring to light an elaboration of the diversity within its own heritage, something the UPC has tried to ignore or downplay and to trace the development of the doctrine of salvation. What I have not tried to do in this book is to teach any particular doctrine or understanding of salvation and certainly not to promote anything I personally understand about the subject. The book is historical in nature in terms of its inquiry and is theological to the extent that it examines what has been, what has developed and what is the present situation in the UPC on the matter of salvation.
Summary of Intention
I wrote this book because some said I should not do it and others claimed I could not do it. I wrote this book to try and bring balance to an important topic. I wrote this book to draw attention to the PCI tradition and to honor its historically significant leaders. I wrote this book because no one else with the proper qualifications appeared prepared to do so any time soon and once alerted to the nature of the historical revisionism which characterizes much of what has been published I was loathe to leave the Yadon's, the Greer's, the Goss's and the rest of them to languish in the darkness of oblivion. Even if they were wrong, it seemed a shame to willingly ignore their contributions to American Pentecostalism in general and the United Pentecostal Church specifically. I decided to write this book to give them a voice which would last for a very long time to come.
Finally, I wrote this book, "Christianity without the Cross" as a two-fold challenge to the constituency of the UPC. First, to know their own history better, more honestly and more completely and, second, to stimulate discussion and thought about where and how the work of the cross of Jesus Christ fits in with their own doctrine and theological understandings. I undertook this aim to reinforce, perhaps in an unusual way, the admonition of St. Paul that all might know him not just in the power of his resurrection but in the fellowship of his suffering.
This article is the copyright of Thomas A. Fudge, was originally written in early 2003, and is posted with his permission.
Thomas Fudge released a second UPC related book in March 2014, Heretics and Politics: Theology, Power, and Perception in the Last Days of CBC (Conquerors Bible College). CBC closed abruptly in 1983. The UPC attributed the failure to financial causes. Fudge "argues that the financial crisis was rooted in theological controversy, church politics, conflicting models of education, and sustained suspicions of heresy." Former UPC minister Don Fisher is featured in the book as he was one of the presidents of the college.
You may read thoughts and opinions about the book from Joseph Howell, Dan Lewis, Tim Landry (all former UPC ministers) and others. Ronna Russell, one of Don Fisher's daughters, has shared her personal reflections in this blog.
You may read Daniel Lewis' book, The Journey Out of the United Pentecostal Church, referenced several times in Heretics & Politics, in PDF or Word formats. Much thanks to Dan Lewis for his permission to distribute the book.
Click here to order Christianity Without The Cross from Amazon.com.
Click here to read an article from a Canadian newspaper which describes the then forthcoming book.
To listen to an interview with Thomas Fudge, where he discusses his book, background, UPC beliefs and why he titled it 'Christianity Without The Cross,' click here. (This appears to no longer be available. I am leaving the link for when I may have time to further research it.)
Click here to read a former UPC member's review of the book.
To read a review by David S. Norris, current United Pentecostal Church minister, click here.
To read a review by Darrin Rodgers of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, click here.
To read a review by Danny Rodriguez, a former UPC member, click here.
To read a review by Andrew Degraffenreed, a Oneness Pentecostal believer, click here.
To read a review by Jason Dulle, a member of the UPC and graduate of one of their Bible colleges, click here.
To read a review by J.R. Ensey, a UPC minister, as well as responses to his review, click here.
To read all the reviews on Amazon.com, click here.
Thomas Fudge is also on the staff of The University of New England. To see their page on him, click here.
A series of lectures by Fudge on church history are available on YouTube below:
Page added July 8, 2006 & Updated March 18, 2016
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