I’ve read a good number of books since my last “What I’ve Been Reading” post, but have failed to write about them.  I hope to write about these books in the coming days or months, but for now I’ll just write about my most recent reading escapades.

I recently finished reading Christianity without the Cross: A History of Salvation in Oneness Pentecostalism (thank you Michael for purchasing this for me from my Ministry Resource List!).  Historian Thomas Fudge has written a well-researched history on the history of the doctrine of salvation in the United Pentecostal Church.[1] Fudge documents the evidence that those involved in the merger of the Pentecostal Church International (PCI) and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ (PAJC) into the United Pentecostal Church (UPC) in 1945 held two different views of salvation.  The majority believed that one is born again only after they have repented, been baptized in Jesus’ name, and baptized in the Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues.  A sizable minority (mainly from the PCI), however, believed one was born again at the point of faith/repentance.  While they believed in baptism in Jesus’ name and receiving the Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues, they understood such to be the result of salvation, not the cause of salvation.  The two groups agreed to fellowship their soteriological differences, not contending for their own views to the disunity of the new fellowship.

Fudge contends that there was a concerted effort within the UPC to stamp out the PCI view of salvation (in violation of the spirit of the merger), and that such efforts have largely been successful—so much so that today the soteriological perspective of nearly all the UPC constituency is that of the PAJC.  The evidence he presents for both the historic presence of the PCI view, as well as the efforts to stamp it out is compelling.  He documents how a series of political moves (yes, politics exist in the church too) and changes to the Articles of Faith have been instrumental in accomplishing a more monolithic view of soteriology within the UPC (something Fudge laments).

I am a relatively young man (34) who has only been in the UPC for 18 years.  I was largely ignorant of the history of this organization, so I found the information both relevant and enlightening.  I have to admit that given my experience, it was quite a shock to learn that in days past, many in the UPC believed in salvation at repentance.  In 18 years I have never been part of a church or personally known a minister who held to such a soteriology.  Reading Fudge’s book was like meeting an organization I never knew.

I do not agree with all of Fudge’s assessments of the data, and cannot say my experience with the UPC has been one of a “Christianity without the cross,” but I do think this book is a gold mine for historical information on the UPC.  And given the fact the author was an insider-turned-outsider makes his perspective quite unique.  I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the history of the UPC, or anyone who doubts the diversity that exists/existed within our ranks.  Contrary to what many believe, the movement is far from monolithic, even if we have been moving in that direction over the years, particularly in our soteriology.

P.S. You can read some of this book online at Google Books.

[1]It’s important to note that Fudge fellowshipped in UPCI circles for 20 years, but has since left the organization (his father, however, continues to minister in the UPCI).  His history with the organization, however, does not appear to have overly colored his research.