In his groundbreaking book Pentecostal Pacifism, Jay Beaman gave the world clear evidence that most early Pentecostal denominations were officially pacifist. In the newer book Pentecostal and Holiness Statements on War and Peace, co-edited by Beaman and Brian Pipkin, they find that “there is evidence of pacifism in almost every Pentecostal group” (p. 5).
Nonviolence, conscientious objection and enemy love used to be just as Pentecostal as Spirit baptism or the gift of tongues.
Below are some examples, taken from Beaman’s work.
Assemblies of God
Resolution Concerning the Attitude of the General Council of the Assemblies of God Toward any Military Service which Involves the Actual Participation in the Destruction of Human Life.
While recognizing human Government as of divine ordination and affirming our unswerving loyalty to the Government of the United States, nevertheless we are constrained to define our position with reference to the taking of human life.
WHEREAS, in the Constitutional Resolution adopted at the Hot Springs General Council, April 1-10, 1914, we plainly declare the Holy Inspired Scriptures to be the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice, and
WHEREAS the Scriptures deal plainly with the obligations and relations of humanity, setting forth the principles of “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14); and
WHEREAS we, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, believe in implicit obedience to the Divine commands and precepts which instruct us to “Follow peace with all men,” (Heb. 12:14); “Thou shalt not kill,” (Exodus 20:13); “Resist not evil,” (Matt. 5:39); Love your enemies,” (Matt. 5:44): etc. and
WHEREAS these and other Scriptures have always been accepted and interpreted by our churches as prohibiting Christians from shedding blood or taking human life;
THEREFORE we, as a body of Christians, while purposing to fulfill all the obligations of loyal citizenship, are nevertheless constrained to declare we cannot conscientiously participate in war and armed resistance which involves the actual destruction of human life, since this is contrary to our view of the clear teachings of the inspired Word of God, which is the sole basis of our faith.
Weekly Evangel, August 4, 1917, p. 6.
Church of God in Christ (founded by C. H. Mason)
We believe the shedding of human blood or taking of human life to be contrary to the teaching of our Lord and Savior, and as a body are adverse to war in all its various forms.
Walter J Hollenweger, “Black Pentecostal Concept,” Concept Journal, special issue no. 30 (June 1970) pp. 27-28.
Church of God (Cleveland, TN)
If any of our members should in any way advocate war, or try to persuade any of these registrants to go on to war, or urge or enthuse them into a desire to fight, such members will be considered disloyal to the Church and alas to the Church of the Bible, and a continuance of the same may lead to the necessary action (expulsion) under our laws and principles.
“War Notice,” Evangel, 4 Aug. 1917, p.3
The Weekly Evangel
The Weekly Evangel (which changed name back and forth to “The Christian Evangel”, today it is called “Today’s Pentecostal Evangel) was the magazine of the Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States (Note that most of the following texts are written between 1914 and 1918, that is, during World War I).
From the very beginning, the movement has been characterized by Quaker principles. The laws of the Kingdom, laid down by our elder brother, Jesus Christ, in His Sermon on the Mount, have been unqualifiedly adopted, consequently the movement has found itself opposed to the spilling of the blood of any man, or of offering resistance to any aggression. Every branch of the movement, whether in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, or Germany has held themselves to this principle. When the war first broke out in August of 1914, our Pentecostal brethren in Germany found themselves in a peculiar position. Some of those who were called to the colors responded, but many were court marshaled and shot because they heartily subscribed to the principles of non-resistance. Great Britain has been more humane. Some of our British brethren have been given non-combatant service, and none have been shot down because of their faith.
“The Pentecostal Movement and the Conscription Law,” The Weekly Evangel, 4 August 1917, 6.
He said of disciples on another occasion, ‘They are not of this world, even as I am not of the world. . . .’ ‘Our citizenship is in heaven.’ (Phil.3:15 R.V.). . . . Let us be loyal to Him. . . . ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.’ It is not those who delight in war, but those who are so permeated by the Spirit of the Prince of peace, and who seek to bring others into a blessed condition of peace with God and with their fellow man that inherit the blessing of the Master. . . . ‘But I say to you, That ye resist not evil. . . . Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you. . . .’
“The Crisis,” The Weekly Evangel, 21 April 1917, 7.
The nations [should have]….spread the Gospel of Peace and made known the rule of Jesus…. ‘the King of Peace’ instead of obeying the ‘traditions of men’ and preparing big guns, air craft, rapid firers [sic], submarines, a big navy, and bigger army for the destruction of human life.
“Tithes and Free Will Offerings,” The Weekly Evangel, 10 July 1915, 3.
The Pentecostal people, as a whole, are uncompromisingly opposed to war, having much the same spirit as the early Quakers…. Indeed, some have already urged us to arrange for a great peace council among the Pentecostal saints, to put ourselves on record as being opposed to war at home or abroad. The Gospel Publishing House is now in possession of a powerful book entitled, “Blood against Blood,” written by Arthur Booth-Clibborn, an English Pentecostal brother who has been the means of a glorious ministry in Germany before the opening of the war. We recommend that you purchase it and become imbued with the spirit of its contents, in complete opposition and protest against war and the shedding of blood.
“Pentecostal Saints Opposed to War,” Weekly Evangel, June 19, 1915, p. 1; Weekly Evangel, July 10, 1915.
A most striking, realistic and forceful book by Arthur Sydney Booth-Clibborn, an English Pentecostal Evangelist and Elder who has put into words the principles burning in the hearts of all the Pentecostal saints on the subject of whether a Christian should go to war or not. This book presents war from a Christian standpoint and is not intended for those out of Christ. Should the United States go to war with Germany what will be the attitude of the Pentecostal people. Send for a copy of his wonderful book make a decision.
“Blood Against Blood,” The Weekly Evangel, 3 July 1915, 3. “Blood Against Blood,” The Weekly Evangel, 10 July 1915, 3.
Arthur Sidney Booth-Clibborn
Arthur Sidney Booth-Clibborn was one of the leaders of the early Pentecostal movement in England and son-in-law to the founder of the Salvation Army. He wrote the strongly pacifistic book Blood Against Blood.
The worldling knows only one kind of brotherhood– that in Adam. The Christian knows two, that in Adam and that in Christ. In war the worldling denies one kind of tie in killing his fellow-creature; the Christian denies two kinds–he kills his fellow-creature and his fellow-Christian. Besides, the former has ever a “field” (a battlefield), open to him which the latter has not: He can sacrifice his life as a missionary, and, if needs be, as a martyr, and “sow himself” thus a seed of righteousness and life-producing life rather than as a seed of sin and death-producing death, which every sacrifice of life on the carnal battlefield inevitably is!
Arthur Sydney Booth-Clibborn, Blood Against Blood, 3rd ed. (New York: Charles C.Cook, 1914).
Justin the Martyr, in the second century, says: “The devil is the author of all war.”
Tatian says the same.
Clemens of Alexandria spoke emphatically in the same sense.
Tertullian wrote: “Jesus Christ, by disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier afterwards, for custom never sanctions an illicit act.” And he further writes: “Can one who professes the peaceful doctrine of the Gospel be a soldier, when it is his duty not so much as to go to law?” And again: “Our religion teaches us that it is better to be killed than to kill.”
Cyprian declares war, like all other Pagan customs of his times, to be repugnant to the spirit and letter of the gospel. It is he who seems to have first asked of the whole world the unanswerable question: “Why is it that when a single murder is committed, it is deemed a crime, but that that crime shall be a virtue if multitudes are slaughtered?”
Lactantius, the next eminent writer in order of time after Cyprian, says: “It can never be lawful for a righteous man to go to war, whose warfare is in righteousness itself.” And again: “It can never be lawful to kill a man, whose person the Divine Being designed to be sacred as to violence.”
Origen, Ambrose, [Irenaeus], Chrysostom, Jerome and Cyril gave it also as their several opinions that it was unlawful for Christians to go to war.
Arthur Sydney Booth-Clibborn, Blood Against Blood, pp 106-107
General Sherman: ‘War is hell. . . .’ George Fox, when offered a captaincy: ‘I cannot fight, for the spirit of war is slain within me.’ Sydney Smith: ‘God is forgotten in war: every principle of Christianity is trampled upon.’ Tertullian: ‘Our religion teaches us that it is better to be killed than to kill.’ John Wesley: ‘Shall Christians assist the Prince of Hell, who was a murderer from the beginning, by telling the world of the benefit or need of war?’
Arthur Sydney Booth-Clibborn, “What is War?” The Weekly Evangel, 21 April 1917, 2.
Find me in the New Testament where Christ ever sent His followers on such a mission? On the contrary He sent them out to save men—not to butcher them like cattle. . . . No! as far as the Christian is concerned, the “eye for an eye” system has given place to the “Turn to him the other cheek also” of Matt. 5:39-44.
Samuel H. Booth-Clibborn, “The Christian and War. Is it too Late?,” The Weekly Evangel, 28 April 1917, 5.
Charles F. Parham
Charles Fox Parham (4 June 1873 – c. 29 January 1929) was an American preacher who was instrumental in the formation of Pentecostalism.
The past order of civilization was upheld by the power of nationalism, which in turn was upheld by the spirit of patriotism, which divided the peoples of the world by geographical boundaries, over which each fought the other until they turned the world into a shamble. The ruling power of this old order has always been the rich, who exploited the masses for profit or drove them en masse to war, to perpetuate their misrule. The principle teachers of patriotism maintaining nationalism were the churches, who have lost their spiritual power and been forsaken of God. Thus, on the side of the old order in the coming struggle, will be arrayed the governments, the rich, and the churches, and whatever forces they can drive or patriotically inspire to fight for them. On the other hand the new order that rises out of the sea of humanity knows no national boundaries, believing in the universal brotherhood of mankind and the establishment of the teachings of Jesus Christ as a foundation for all laws, whether political or social.
Charles F. Parham, Everlasting Gospel, pp. 27-28.
For over twenty years we have seen these present wars coming and it has been as real to us as it is now. All this time we have taught that true Christians must not fight for “he that taketh the sword shall perish with the sword….” It is hard for those who sincerely believe that we are nearing the end of this age and the shedding of blood to be of no avail, to fight for the perpetuation of these nations, which we know will fall as the Gentile age will close and the millenium come, when the nations of the world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Sarah T. Parham, The Life of Charles F. Parham (Joplin, No.:Tri-State Printing Co., 1930), pp. 273-274.
To Murder a fellow creature! To receive therefore even less than thirty pieces of silver, and perhaps live to receive the plaudits and honor of a more cowardly country and imbecile nation; for that nation is imbecile which retains its existence through out the struggling exploits of war. We hang our heads in shame to see Christian nations of the Moloch-God, Patriotism, whose principal doctrine was honor (?), there to have consumed in that death struggle the feeling of philanthropy and humanity; spending millions to build the fires for the consummation of these virtues, while the cause of Christ languishes, heaven loses, hell opens her jaws, and so-called Christian nations feed (by war) to satisfy her gluttonous appetite.
How much more far reaching the influence would be, for time and eternity, if nations and individuals could really become imbued with the teachings of Jesus, whom they profess to follow, and spend the millions and the men in the world’s evangelization. Yet, while thousands of men will volunteer and suffer the hardships and privations of an earthly war for glory, few, indeed, will volunteer and endure the slightest privations for the Master’s kingdom and eternal glory. Where is your faith brethren?
Charles F. Parham, The Everlasting Gospel.
Donald Gee (1891-1966) was an English Pentecostal Bible Teacher. Donald wrote the book Wind and Flame, which is the story of Pentecostalism in Europe in the 20th century. He was called “The Apostle of Balance.”
Then the only answer for the Christian is contained in the immortal words of Peter, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29. Conscientious Objection then becomes the only possible course, however serious the consequences. The Bible puts clear before us the magnificent example of Daniel and the three Hebrews. Daniel 3 and 6. He who said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” also said, “But unto God the things that are God’s.” The two are to be combined to the last possible limit, but when further combination of allegiance becomes impossible–then God must come first.
The Christian’s true citizenship is in heaven, Phil. 3:20.
The writer has observed as a solemn fact that those of our Pentecostal brethren who took a strongly patriotic attitude in the last war have mostly gone backwards in spiritual power and influence ever since, while those who put Christ and His Word before all have advanced by divine grace….
However passionately patriotism may overwhelm everything else in time of war, the world certainly expects the Christian church to take a stand against war, and it is deeply disappointed at heart when that stand is not taken, however much it may persecute for the time the “conscientious objector.”
The Old Testament provides no justification for the Christian to go to war. Its history comprises “times of ignorance” at which God winked (Acts 17:30); its spiritual dynamic was a law written on tables of stone, and enforced by heavy physical penalties on every hand (e.g., Leviticus 26, etc.); the very bringing in with Christ of a New Covenant of which the keynote is the word “better” (Heb. 8:6, etc.) was a proof of its temporary character.
Donald Gee, “War, the Bible, and the Christian,” Pentecostal Evangel, Nov. 8, 1930, p. 6.
Frank Bartleman was born Dec. 14, 1871, and died Aug. 23, 1936. As an Author, Evangelist, and Missionary, he was very influential in the early Pentecostal revival.
The War Church is a Harlot Church!
Frank Bartleman, “War and the Christian,” circa 1922.
One of the greatest crimes of the late war was that of robbing the church of her sacred calling and “pilgrim” role, turning her aside from the saving souls, to plunge her into the vortex of world politics and patriotism, with all its fallen prejudices preferences, avarices, cruelties, hates and murder.
The Church has no place to flaunt flags of national preference. God’s grace and gospel are international. Christ died for all men. Antichrist means to run the church by government edict. Then we will have state and Church. The State will dictate to the Church. The flags represent fallen nations, with fallen nationalistic, sectional prides, ambitions, etc., that breed strife, enmity, jealousy, and war, for they are without Christ. We do not belong to them.
Government is squarely up against God in its demands on Christians during war time. And Christians are squarely up against the question whether they shall obey God or man.
Should those in authority forbid the preaching of practicing of the Gospel, which Gospel forbids to the Christian the exercise of war, there is but one thing for him to do. He must obey God.
Frank Bartleman, Christian Citizenship, (Los Angeles: Author, n.d.) 2 pages.
A. J. Tomlinson
Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson (1865-1943) was the first general overseer of the Church of God of Prophecy.
I could not take a gun and fire it at my fellow men even at the command of a military officer. I could submit to the penalty inflicted upon me for refusing, but I cannot kill. I doubt if I could take the obligation to become a soldier in the first place.
A.J. Tomlinson, “Days of Perplexity,” Evangel, 26 Jan. 1918, p.1.
The church…objects to its members going to war.
A.J. Tomlinson, “The War Draft,” Evangel, 2 June 1917, p.2.
My interest in politics vanished so rapidly that I was almost surprised ay myself when campaign year came around and found nothing in me craving the ecvitement of conventions, rallies and public speakings. I was so taken up with Jesus, and so bent on electing Him, that one day as I was walking along the road two gentlemen met me and shouted out just like I had usually done, “Hurrah for M—-!” With hardly a thought, and no premeditation, and yet with real enthusiasm, I shouted back to him, “Hurrah for Jesus!” He was so startled and amazed that as he rode on and looked back at me he looked as if he wondered if I had just escaped from the lunatic asylum. But he sad no more, and went on.
My friends and neighbors begged me to at least go to the polls and vote, but I said, “No, I will only vote for Jesus.” Their kindness, their friendship, their entreaties and reasoning had no more effect on me than if I had been in another world. I was dead to the world and the world was dead to me. I never have taken any part in politics since, nor gone to the polls and cast a ballot.
A.J. Tomlinson, Answering the Call of God, 9-10.
Yes, the awful war seems near but we cannot fight in carnal warfare when Jesus taught differently, both by precept and example. The Church must shine and bless humanity, regardless of the World War …War is butchery and contrary to the spirit of Christianity. We as a nation, make a boast of being a Christian nation, but how little the spirit of Christianity prevails. We are a boastful, proud nation, running to many excesses, and spending much of our time in mere play.
The secular newspapers are full of the spirit of the world and calculated to inflame the minds of the American people with patriotic zeal. If war is declared public speakers will soon be infesting our country to enthuse the war spirit into our young men to induce them to volunteer to fight for their country, but we must guard against such things as much as possible on account of our religion.
A.J. Tomlinson, CHURCH OF GOD EVANGEL, Vol.8, No. 13, March 31, 1917
Stanley H. Frodsham
Stanley Frodsham was a famous Pentecostal writer and a friend to the famous Pentecostal evangelist Smith Wigglesworth. In 1920 he became the editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.
National pride, like every other form of pride, is an abomination in the sight of God. And Pride of race must be one of the things that pass away when one becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus.
When seen from the heavenly viewpoint, how the present conflict is illumined. The policy of our God is plainly declared in the Word, “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” The nations who have drawn the sword to kill those of the same blood in other nations, for God “hath made of one blood all nations of men,” are not merely fighting against one another, but with their police of “War on earth and ill will toward men,” they are, without knowing it, again fulfilling the Scripture, “The Kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His anointed.” Is any child of God going to side with these Belligerent kings? Will he not rather side with the Prince of Peace under whose banner of love he has chosen to serve?
Stanley H. Frodsham, “Our Heavenly Citizenship,” Word and Witness, Oct. 1915, p. 3.
When one comes into that higher kingdom and becomes a citizen of the ‘holy nation’ (1 Peter 2:9), the things that pertain to earth should forever lose their hold, even that natural love for the nation where one happened to be born, and loyalty to the new King should swallow up all other loyalties. …
National pride, like every other form of pride, is abomination in the sight of God. And pride of race must be one of the all things that pass away when one becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. . . . When seen from the heavenly viewpoint, how the present conflict is illumined…
The world, especially the religious world, has no use for the children of God, but the Lord taketh pleasure in his people. . . . It is important for the saint of God to remember that his citizenship is in heaven.
Stanley H. Frodsham, “Our Heavenly Citizenship,” The Weekly Evangel, 11 September 1915, 3.
Burt McCafferty was a Pentecostal evangelist who responded to an article in the Evangel that supported Christian participation in World War 1 (“Is European War Justifiable?,” The Christian Evangel, 12 December 1914, 1-2 – that was by the way the only article in the Evangel which supported Christian warfare between 1914 and 1916).
We are not contending with flesh and blood. Our warfare is waged against the host of spiritual darkness. Our armor is not the spiked helmet, the suit of mail, etc., but the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the breastplate of righteousness. Our feet are not “swift to shed blood,” but are shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. I Thess. 5:8. Eph. 6:11, Oh Christian, “put up thy sword into his place, for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Matt. 26:52.
Our citizenship is not of this world, our citizenship is in heaven. Phil. 3:20. We belong to the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world are not allied….”
In Luke 22:49, the disciples asked Jesus, ‘Lord shall we smite with the sword?’ They prayed, but, instead of waiting for an answer, one immediately drew the sword and went to battle…. Let us wait for an answer from God. Let us not begin to reason from the natural point of view…. What was the answer of Christ to the disciples (Christians) to this question? (Matth. 26:51) ‘Put up again they [sic] sword into his place.’ This is what God is saying to the Christian of today, ‘Ye followers of the Prince of Peace, disarm yourselves’ for ‘the weapons of our warfare are not carnal.’ (the musket, sword, siege gun or cannon). 2 Cor. 10:4.
The argument that we must go to war in behalf of the weaker nation because of its being in the right, is not consistent with the doctrines of Christ. It is also against the teaching of Christ to fight in self-defense. ‘For even hereunto were we called, because Christ also suffered leaving us an example that we should follow His steps, who did no sin ( violence, Isa. 53:9) who, when he was reviled, reviled not again….’
Jno. [sic] 17:16. Our citizenship is not of this world, our citizenship is in heaven. Phil. 3:20. We belong to the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world are not allied…. Christians are separate from the world and are subjects of God’s kingdom, a kingdom of peace….
Burt McCafferty, “Should Christians Go To War?” The Christian Evangel, 16 January 1915, 1.
Want to Know More?
For more quotations and information about Pentecostalism’s rich pacifist heritage, have a look at the various books in Wipf & Stock’s Pentecostalism, Peacemaking and Social Justice series.
18 thoughts on “Early Pentecostal Pacifism”
On pacifist Christians, I can admire their motivations but have a small caveat. One of Jesus’ last commands to the his disciples before his ascending stands in contrast. He asked them, “When I sent you out before, without purse or scrip, did you lack anything?”
‘No” was the reply. ‘BUT now, take your purse and scrip, and, if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and BUY one.’
He introduced the sword into the list. It wasn’t there before. To sell one’s cloak to buy a sword makes it an imperative, to me. Although I am not a warmonger, I think it is a good Idea to not let yourself be martyred before your time, against your will, or at all. He did say we could flee to another city when persecuted. A sword could be a necessity in some cases.
See Luke 22:35-37 and Matthew 10:23
Hi! Excellent timing of raising that issue, I recently made a video about it: https://youtu.be/wOF_X2kYMp8
Whatever our interpretation of Luke 22:35-37 is, there’s one thing we can be absolutely sure of: Jesus did not intend the swords to be used for violent self-defense. That’s why he rebukes the disciples when they do so in verses 49-51 of the same chapter.