Israel and American Pentecostalism.

This paper is for the serious Spirit-filled reader. The dissertation is 481 pages. This is the Hebrew University of Jerusalem dissertation by Dr. Raymond L. Gannon, Ph.D.


The Shifting Romance with Israel:
American Pentecostal Ideology of Zionism and the Jewish State

The beginning of the twentieth century witnessed the nativity of fraternal twin movements: Zionism and American Pentecostalism. Both newborns, initially treated as weak and infantile in a religiously hostile world, had a basis of ideological support in three centuries of American myth and motif. The burgeoning Pentecostal movement of the early decades of the century, with its chief distinctive of speaking in tongues as initial evidence of Spirit-baptism, had great difficulty persuading Christian contemporaries of the legitimacy of their
idiosyncratic doctrine or of their raison d’être on historical or theological grounds. To assure the perpetuity of the Pentecostal movement, a Latter Rain ideology was quickly created which used the contemporary Zionist revival as corroborating evidence of the concomitant divine undertakings to restore both Israel and the Church. Israel was to be restored to Zion even as the Church was restored to its radical first-century apostolic essence. These divinely initiated twin restorationist efforts would bring Israel and the Church back full-cycle to their first-century points of departure as immediate prelude to the culmination of salvation history. My research analyzes the one-sided and shifting romance of American Pentecostalism with Zionism and the Jewish State from the birth of the Pentecostal movement in 1901 till the end of the twentieth century. Past historical scholarship has carefully considered the different ideologies of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism as they touched upon the question of Israel’s role in the eschaton. Thorough analyses, too, have been made of the Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christian devotion to the Zionist enterprise in light of their eschatological perspective on the Second Coming. But my research is the first to analyze the century- long intellectual history of American Pentecostalism over several periods of romantically shifting sentiment on Zionism and the Jewish State as Pentecostalist ideology has been impacted by political, economic, and missiological developments. The American Puritans had come to the New World ostensibly to function as God’s New Israel. However, this Puritan outlook did not preclude the importance of a nationally
restored Israel in the eschaton. Some Puritan writers concomitantly anticipated a new Pentecost to be outpoured upon the spiritually revived Church to affect increased sanctity and divine empowerment for Gospel global conquest. God’s American chosen had experienced spiritual phenomena during the Great Awakening and related American revivals of the eighteenth century ostensibly as a means to intensified piety and power. But Jonathan Edwards’ postmillennialism only envisioned a restored Jewish State at the climax of a
thousand-year march to the Christian redemption of the world. The nineteenth century’s newly
introduced scheme of dispensationalism ideologically afforded a revitalized Jewish State acrucial role in the future utopian millennial age Kingdom of God. This multifaceted heritage predisposed American Pentecostalism to eagerly salute the rising banner of Zionism particularly since Pentecostals viewed themselves as playing their own vital role in the eschaton. As the initial Pentecostal “Latter Rain” movement gained momentum over its first generation to the end of World War I, its disposition toward Zionism soared according to the dramatically sequenced events of the war, the Balfour Declaration, Allenby’s capture of
Jerusalem, and the preliminary infrastructural developments in Zion. British political backpedaling combined with rising western anti-Semitism to both anger and frighten Pentecostals. Over time some began to question the inevitability of Zionism’s success since Israel had yet to come to faith in Christ. While reaction
against anti-Semitism stiffened in Pentecostal circles in the 1930s and 1940s, enthusiasm for a Jewish State persisted, as did continued pockets of Pentecostal doubt.
After World War II, Pentecostals could pride themselves in new levels of acceptance in the Evangelical world and wanted nothing to jeopardize their new status. In part to allow for the potential demise of the infant Jewish State within Pentecostal ideology, the Assemblies of God (AG), the leading Pentecostal denomination, found itself prepared to move away from its Latter Rain moorings in favor of a dispensationalist perspective shunting Israel’s divinely promised destiny off into an uncertain eschatological future. The years of international threat against Israel immediately preceding the wars of 1948-49, 1956, 1967, and
1973, found Pentecostals dramatically stepping back from strong identification with an Israel in jeopardy. But the glorious Israeli victories in 1949, 1956, and 1967 resulted in temporary Pentecostal euphoria and celebration of the pending restorationist climax of the ages. The Yom Kippur War of 1973, however, was a watershed event that motivated the AG to organizationally fully disassociate from the Zionist enterprise for political, economic, and missiological causes. Only within the past two decades has there been a renewed call to a certain sense of eschatological partnership with Israel in Pentecostal ideology, as it has been recognized that the classical Pentecostal distinctive and very raison d’être are inseparably bound to the success
of the Jewish State.