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Spring 1990 · Vol. 19 No. 1 · pp. 130–31 

Book Review

Pentecostal Pacifism

Jay Beaman. Hillsboro, KS: Center for M.B. Studies, 1989. 142 pages.

Reviewed by Walter Unger

Jay Beaman of Tabor College has turned his North American Baptist Seminary thesis into a brief but helpful book documenting the rise and fall of pacifism in the Pentecostal Movement.

The major conclusions of Beaman’s research are as follows: {131} Pacifism in Pentecostal circles was broad and deep in the early years of the movement. Their pacifism was closely related to their world view, especially their premillennial, pretribulation rapture eschatology.

Even as the Pentecostals’ literal approach to the scriptures led to the distinctive practice of speaking in tongues, asserts Beaman, they assumed the Sermon on the Mount as well ought to be taken literally with regard to nonresistance (as the early church did until the time of Constantine). The renewal of the church in modern times should include a return to the New Testament teaching of pacifism.

At the end of World War I the aforementioned convictions began to erode. Within two generations, patriotic accommodation had taken over. Beaman (as do certain Pentecostal leaders) concludes that Pentecostals have not altered their pacifistic views as a result of new Biblical insights, but as a result of cultural accommodation.

There are some poignant parallels between the Pentecostal loss of pacifist convictions and the erosion of the same among North American Mennonite Brethren. Post World War II upward mobility—a religious and social move into the mainstream—affected Pentecostal ethical values. In 1942, the Assemblies of God joined the National Association of Evangelicals, as did the American Mennonite Brethren later. Pentecostal historian William Menzies interprets this move in the light of his denomination’s participation in World War II.

Another Pentecostal scholar links the loss of pacifism with the loss of other Pentecostal distinctives. The following citation has great relevance to similar developments in Mennonite Brethren circles: “Indeed, we might see parallels between this personal cultural conformity and the denomination’s quest for national acceptance . . . Has not our earlier and socially unpopular pacifism been replaced by a rather uncritical support of the nation’s military and foreign policies? And a not unreasonable intuitive leap allows me to believe that we mute our Pentecostal zeal just sufficiently to guarantee increasing acceptance by the National Association of Evangelicals.”

Walter Unger
President, Columbia Bible College
Clearbrook, British Columbia

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