Dr. André Gagné
Professor, Scholar, and Author
Professor, Scholar, and Author
In the fourth chapter of his book, C. Douglas Weaver focuses on Branham as “healer.” Now, Branham's belief in the reality of healing for today was rooted in a form of biblical literalism, where the beliefs and practices of Apostolic Christianity were being restored among the Pentecostals who adhered to the “full gospel” (Jesus is Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King; some Pentecostals add: Baptizer in the Holy Spirit).
In his theology of healing, Branham emphasized on the relationship between sin, sickness, and the demonic. For him, demons were real spiritual entities.
Weaver notes that traditional Pentecostals generally understand sickness as being the result of the Fall; when sin entered into the world, so did sickness. For Branham, Satan was the author of all sickness, and thought that diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, cataracts, tuberculosis, etc., were the physical forms of evil spiritual entities; in other words, they were manifestations of demons.
On occasion, Branham indicated that God could allow sickness as a chastisement or a test of faith. But if a sick person was not healed in one of Branham's services, it was either due to some unconfessed sin or the presence of a demonic spirit. Branham also believed that sin could be generational in nature, that is, having been committed by an ancestor from previous generations. To be healed, demon-possessed individuals were subjected to exorcism.
Deliverance evangelists, however, had to contend with the fact that many people who sought healing did not experience the miracle they were seeking. Branham blamed this on a lack of faith. Some reported healings were at times gradual and temporary; these, for Branham, could even be lost. Healings would las only as long as one’s faith remained unwavering.
Early Pentecostals were suspicious of medicine, and Branham was no exception. On occasion, he did praise the work of medical science, but still insisted that medicine never really cured any sickness, only God could perform healings. In fact, Branham believed that recourse to medical treatment most often indicated a person's lack of faith, a perspective which he shared with the famous F. F. Bosworth.
Branham said to have received his “healing” method at the time of his “angelic commission” (see previous blog post). He used “prayer lines” during his revival meetings, where people lined-up to receive healing prayer from him.
Like some Pentecostal deliverance ministers, Branham provided anointed handkerchiefs or ribbons and instructed people to apply them to the diseased areas on their body, praying for healing. As we know, this is still practised by some “healing evangelists” today. For example, “biblical” justification for these “points of contact” rely on texts such as Acts 19:12 and 2 Kings 4:8-37.
In his “healing methodology,” Branham relied on the role of the “Angel” and his “two-signs gifts” (the vibration in his left hand and the gift of discernment of the secrets of the heart). Branham said to be unbale to heal if he was not conscious of the Angel with him on stage. The Angel’s role in Branham’s ministry was similar to that of the angelic being who worked miracles through Moses.
Concerning Branham’s second-sign gift (discernment of the secrets of the heart), he said this was different from people understood as the “word of knowledge” and the “discerning of spirits” (see 1 Corinthians 12). According to Branham, his second-sign gift it was a special empowerment, just like what Jesus did when he revealed the secrets thoughts of Nathanael in John 1:48.
Branham clearly saw himself as a “prophet” chosen by God, commissioned to bring a healing message to the world. He also believed that his gift of visionary discernment was the modern equivalent of Jesus’ own healing technique. Branham considered that this second-sign gift was only bestowed on him, among his entire generation.
William Branham saw himself as the mouthpiece of the “Angel,” just like Moses, and pronounced healings using the prophetic formula: “Thus saith the Lord.” As a result of this prophetic self-awareness, Branham required the sick to affirmatively answer this question while praying for them: “Do you believe me to be God’s prophet?”
In order to be healed, people had to have faith in Christ the healer AND in Branham the “prophet” through whom healing was mediated.
I'm doing lots of reading in preparation for my next book-writing project and I just finished this fascinating study of William Branham's life (1909-1965) by C. Douglas Weaver. The book is probably the only academic reference in existence on this enigmatic figure of the mid-20th century. I read the reprinted paperback edition published by Mercer University Press in 2000. Weaver’s book is titled, The Healing-Prophet. William Branham: A History of the Prophetic in American Pentecostalism.
With all the so-called “prophetic” voices who predicted Trump's victory, Weaver's book is a must-read to understand the profound impact William Branham still has on some modern-day “prophets” and the “Prophetic Movement.” Weaver's book presents the life of Branham in an objective way; it is not an apologetic treatise for or against Branham.
The healing revival of the mid-20th century was marked by the ministries of two great giants: William Branham and Oral Roberts. David Edwin Harrell Jr. estimates that the healing revival lasted from 1947 to 1958 and that Branham was understood to be the main leader and pacesetter of the revival.
In the first chapter of his book, Weaver explains what he calls the “prophetic element” in Pentecostalism. One notes that Pentecostal theology is essentially “Christ-centred, experience-certified theology,” where the emphasis is not on “doctrine” but on “experience.” This does not rule out the fact that Pentecostals still embrace a “fundamentalist view of the infallibility of Scripture and the ultimate authority of biblical revelation.” With this comes the idea of the experiential nature of faith and the belief in continuing revelation by the Holy Spirit.
The idea of continuing revelation in Pentecostalism is manifest in the spiritual authority exhibited by many of its leaders, who sometime become spiritual autocrats. Even if some of the influential Pentecostal leaders of the early 20th century would not admit of holding a “prophetic office,” they nonetheless functioned and seen as such by those who followed them unconditionally.
The rise of Branham is to be understood in the context of this “prophetic element” present in the Pentecostal tradition; a tradition where selected leaders could serve as “mediums of continuing Holy Spirit inspiration.”
Chapter two of Weaver's book focuses on how Branham came to be viewed as a “prophet” Weaver notes that the early life of Branham reads like that of a hagiography, thoroughly embellished with supernatural account – which reminds me of the early life hagiographical accounts of Kansas City “prophets” Paul Cain and Bob Jones.
Weaver recounts the story of Branham's angelic commission, an encounter which turned an anonymous, small-town independent Baptist preacher into an international faith healer. Branham interpreted the supernatural signs in his life as God’s preparation for his unique “prophetic” ministry. Throughout the years, Branham's self-understanding evolved to the point where he even applied certain biblical prophecies to his own ministry. Branham was 40 years old when he received the angelic commission in 1946; something he though was similar to the prophets of the Bible.
But Branham is said to have had an earlier supernatural experience during a baptismal service he performed in the Ohio River in June 1933. At that event, Branham received from God the end time “message” that he would be the forerunner to the Rapture. In the last days of his ministry, this event took precedence over the angelic commission of 1946.
In 1933, Branham also gave predictions – through a series of visions – concerning seven future world events. The first three visions focused on politics: (1) Mussolini would invade Ethiopia and his own people would turn against him; (2) Roosevelt would play an important role in causing the world to go to war; (3) Nazism, fascism and communism and their fate on the world scene; the first two would merge into Russian communism, which he called the “King of the North”; (4) science would progress especially in the world of car manufacturing; (5) moral degradation of women; God revealed the downfall of America women began when they were allowed to vote, and their vote would pollute the nation by electing the “wrong man” (which for Branham was Kennedy). Branham said that the last two visions would be fulfilled by 1977: (6) a woman would rise to power in the United States, this was a beautiful but cruel woman; Branham believed that the woman was probably symbolic of the Roman Catholic Church; (7) the last vision concerned the fate of America just before the end of time; Branham saw a great explosion which destroyed the entire country, only craters and smoke piles of debris remained.
Note that at the time of Branham's angelic commission, he did not perceive himself as the “end-time prophet.” Later, after revisiting these events, Branham strongly hinted to this idea, especially though his interpretation of Malachi 4. We will return to this later.
Weaver's third chapter concerns Branham and the Healing Revival (1947-1955). The author explains how the social, cultural, and religious context of the 1940s paved the way for healing revivalism among Pentecostals. The pacesetter of this revival was clearly Branham, who preached across the US and was extremely successful in attracting crowds to his meetings. His success was due Branham’s humble character and the ecumenical nature of his healing Pentecostal meetings, where doctrinal differences were minimalized. Branham's lack of organizational skills was greatly compensated by the help of Gordon Lindsay and Jack Moore, and Branham received ministerial support from F. F. Bosworth. It was also a time when Pentecostals were hungry for miracles.
Branham was the first American to have a profound impact in Europe due to his deliverance ministry. His reputation as “a man sent from God” was built on his unique healing exploits. Branham used his “two-sign” gifts to confirm healing: (1) the detection of disease through the vibration of his left hand; (2) the revelation of the secrets of a person’s heart. His reputation was worldwide and even foreigners traveled to the US to get healed by Branham; many believed that no disease was beyond his reach. Branham had to retire from the healing revival for a brief moment due to exhaustion. When he performed healings, he experienced a profound loss of strength which sometimes forced him to leave meetings after one or two healings. Branham was nonetheless at the forefront of the revival until 1955. He and Oral Roberts were the two central figures of the revival, but Branham was the one who was most revered.
More to come on this “Healing Prophet.”
Gifford et al. open chapter 8 of their book, Exporting the American Gospel, with this quote from the late and famous “tent evangelist” Reinhard Bonnke:
“Take the continent for Jesus. From Cairo to Capetown”
This is exactly what U.S. American Charismatics by spreading their influence throughout Africa through mergers, crusades, conferences, Pastors’ workshops, Bible schools, and the media.
Because of Africa’s fragile economy, African Independent Churches (AIC) became financially more dependent on U.S. churches. African pastors and their churches have been forced to write to US churches to establish links with them, which often meant they would offer to convert the church into the African branch of the American church. What is most significant in these “mergers” is the theological impact this has on African churches. There is also a willingness on the part of US churches to “expand their share of the market” by seeking to implement themselves overseas. The easiest way to accomplish this is to “take over” an already existing church or movement.
The U.S. fundamentalists have also left their mark through “crusades,” where evangelists preach to large crowds in various African cities. People like the late Reinhard Bonnke, Paul (David) Yonggi Cho and the late Billy Graham have all imported their brands into Africa. Bonnke has been extremely successful by involving African churches in the preparation and organization of his local crusades. Bonnke and Yonggi Cho also participated in “Pastors’ workshops.”
The use of “conferences” has had an appeal on African churches, and where the impact of US “new” fundamentalists has been felt, with key speakers such as Loren Cunningham (Youth With A Mission), Gloria and Kenneth Copeland, the late Wayne Meyers (educated at Moody Bible Institute) and Ralph Mahoney, Ray McCauley (educated at Hagin’s Rhema Bible College in Tulsa), the late Benson Idahosa (Church of God Mission International) and Myles Munroe (trained at Oral Roberts University), Jerry Homer (former dean at Pat Robertson’s Regent University) and the late Morris Cerullo.
The “media” is another point of contact between African churches and the new US fundamentalist churches. CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network ) and TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) have made inroads into the African continent. These featured programs with famous televangelists such as the late Robert Schuller and D. James Kennedy, Kenneth Copeland and even Jimmy Swaggart (in happier times), whereas CBN broadcast Robertson’s 700 Club. Already in the mid-90s, evangelical bookstores in some African countries had a wide array of booklets, tapes and books by figures (many who are influential charismatics and some have passed away) such as Kenneth Hagin, Ralph Mahoney, Paul Yonggi Cho, Roberts Liardon, Watchman Nee, John Osteen (Joel’s dad), Colin Urquhart, Smith Wigglesworth, E. W. Kenyon, Fred Price, Morris Cerullo, Josh McDowell, Ed Roebert, James Dobson, Bill Subritzky, Robert Schuller, John Avancini, Reinhard Bonnke, Lester Sumrall, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, T. L. Osborn, Oral Roberts, Gordon Lindsay, and Benny Hinn. The authors noted that some of this influence has also been seeping into some Catholic groups in Africa.
In the last part this chapter, Gifford et al. tease out some elements in Africa’s New Charismatic Christianity. The feature is its “demonology”. Here’s a long section I think is worth quoting (I added some links in the quote):
In African cultures, belief in spirits witchcraft, and spiritual agency of many kinds is widespread. Likewise, a highly developed demonology has evolved in Africa's modern charismatic Christianity. The best known of these is Emmanuel Eni’s Delivered from the Powers of Darkness, which recounts his story as a servant of “the Queen of the Coast,“ at whose orders he killed several people. However, in 1985 Jesus appeared to Eni and saved him, since then he has worked for Jesus. Eni’s account is from Nigeria, but a similar and almost equally famous account is Snatched from Satan's Claws: An Amazing Deliverance by Christ, by evangelist Mukendi of Zaire. Mukendi claims to have been born through magic and breastfed by a mermaid. His father initiated him into advanced degrees of sorcery. In the early 1980s Mukendi was introduced to Satan himself, who invited him to the international satanic school, where he began on January 1, 1981. … He was due to die in 1987… but just before his appointed death, Mukendi was saved by the power of Jesus. Through the help of a pastor, over a period of seven years, Mukendi was completely delivered from the power of Satan.
Some of you might recall a piece I wrote in Religion Dispatches on Stella Immanuel’s references to “demon sperm.” It’s also the kind of language used by Paula White-Cain in her warfare prayers. This “Spiritual Warfare” rhetoric is characteristic of the demonology that one finds in some of these new African charismatic churches and networks.
The other element identified with these new African charismatic churches is their emphasis on the “faith gospel.” Here the influence of U.S. “Prosperity preachers” like Kenneth Copeland is being felt, as many African pastors are now preaching a message of health, wealth and success.
The dualist worldview of the new Christian fundamentalists is also marked by an exclusivist attitude towards other religions. Traditional African religion and Islam are seen as under “the domain of Satan.”
At the end of this chapter, Gifford et al. also note the role that some of these groups are now playing in African politics. Politicians have encouraged missionary work in their countries, knowing that this would please many of these new African charismatic churches. Governments who allow evangelization are often simplistically assessed as being good governments. Some politicians were shrewd and took advantage of this, being able to garner support from growing charismatic churches and their members.
More to follow...
There's an interesting open access article by Marloes Janson (Professor of West African Anthropology at the University of London's SOAS) entitled "Crossing Borders: the case of NASFAT or 'Pentecostal Islam' in Southwestern Nigeria", published in August 2020 in Social Anthropology / Antropologie sociale. In her article, Janson notes that how the spread and impact of Pentecostalism in Nigeria has seen some Muslim organizations become increasingly 'Pentecostalized.' She presents the case of NASFAT (Nasrul-Lahil-il Fathi Society in Nigeria) who have been copying Pentecostal worship and prayer styles, missionary techniques, references to 'spiritual warfare,' Prosperity Gospel themes, miracles and healings. According to a NASFAT official, they are admittedly willing to learn from Pentecostal leadership styles:
"If we do not want to lose our grip on the Society (NASFAT), we must copy Christian management structures. Only then can we deliver on our mandate of providing strong leadership to the Muslim umma in combating the onslaught of Pentecostalism."
Janson states that even if the leadership of NASFAT admits to have borrowed the Pentecostal prayer methods and techniques - which it sees as being necessary to compete with Pentecostals - NASFAT still breaks away from the kind of Pentecostalism which focuses too much on charismatic leaders in the movement.
For those who are interested, here are the English and French abstracts of the article:
*Originally posted on Blogger
The authors of Exporting the American Gospel (see my previous blog post) dedicate the first two chapters of their book to the impact of Christian fundamentalism in the US from the 17th to the 20th century. According to the authors, to understand the global diffusion of new forms of Christian fundamentalism, one must see how the Christian faith in the US has been infused with the idea of “fundamentalist Americanism.” This is the belief that U.S. Christianity “sanctifie(d) American nationalism and the American gospel of success, wealth, and prosperity” (13).
Those who adhere to “fundamentalist Americanism” believe that God has a plan for the US and its citizens, making them superior to other nations, guaranteeing unlimited growth and prosperity. Christian US missionaries have in many cases embraced this “superiority complex” and consider that America has something greater to offer to the rest of the world. Those targeted by US evangelistic endeavours have been thoroughly mesmerized by the sheer financial resources of missionary and para-church organizations, as well as with the overall entrepreneurial spirit of American missionaries.
The belief in the so-called “divine” destiny of America is at the core of “fundamentalist Americanism.” The authors recall the preaching of Cotton Mather in Massachusetts in 1692, as well as this reference to the “Manifest Destiny” by William Gilpin, governor of the Colorado Territory in 1846:
"The destiny of the American people is to subdue the continent.
Unite the world in one social family.
Divine task! Immortal mission!
America leads the host of nations as they ascend to this order of civilization…
the industrial conquest of the world."
During the 20th century, this ideal is what also led the fight against communism. Billy Graham, like many other US preachers, saw communism as a threat to the American way of life. For Graham, “one of the great goals of Communism is to destroy the American home and cause moral deterioration in this country” (17). He also equated the Christian good with anti-communist Americanism and evil with Communism itself: “My own theory about communism is that it is masterminded by Satan.” At the end of the 20th Century, the “Manifest Destiny” of America was also cherished by evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell Sr. and Pat Robertson.
The other idea that was sanctified by US Christianity is the American gospel of wealth and prosperity. Prosperity as a sign of God’s blessing has early roots. In fact, the 17th century Calvinists provided the “religious precedence for the unequal property relations in America” (20). Winthrop offered a rationale for “class division among the settlers and for taking land away from the indigenous people.”
"God Almighty in his most holy and wise providence hath disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich some poor, some high an eminent in power and dignity; others mean an in subjection."
The authors then give an excursus of the relationship between US Christianity and prosperity after the Civil War. Industrialization permitted the accumulation of personal fortunes, which eventually led to the pursuit of the “American Dream.” It was in the late 19th century that Dwight D. Moody, the most influential evangelist of his time, managed to fuse American civil religion with what would become the foundation of Christian fundamentalist theology: individual salvation and evangelization.
All this will eventually lead to the rise of “prosperity gospel” preachers such as Oral Roberts, T.L. Osborn, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Jim Bakker, etc. As the authors clearly show in the rest of their book, it is not surprising that the “prosperity gospel” has been the most impactful “brand” of new US Christian fundamentalism export to Latin American, African and Asian countries.
This explained the success of the new US Christian fundamentalists across the world: their “prosperity gospel” coupled with the idea of “American exceptionalism,” which embodied a sense of destiny, success, and prosperity made the envy of the world.
Stay tuned… more to come!
*Originally posted on Blogger
I’m currently re-visiting a dated but still an extremely relevant book co-written by Paul Gifford, Steve Brouwer and Susan D. Rose, Exporting the American Gospel. Global Christian Fundamentalism (Routledge, 1996). The work is thoroughly interdisciplinary in nature, with insights from sociology, history, religion and politics. It deals with the connections between American corporate imperialism, U.S. foreign policy and Christian missionary activity. The authors clearly show how the greatest U.S. export has been its religious culture, from which stems its values and worldview:
"As the pressure of globalization are crushing local traditions, millions of uprooted people are buying into a new American salvation product. It is a fresh hybrid of Pentecostal fervor, mainstream evangelicalism, and Bible-believing millennialism distributed by modern means: innovative megachurches and parachurches, televangelism, and computerized crusades. … Christian fundamentalism has taken hold in many nations in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
One of the most significant cultural influences exported from the United States, this fusion of popular religion and politics supports new capitalist and patriarchal structures and a global culture of consumption and consumer gratification. Engaging in spiritual warfare with their global competitors—Islam, socialism, feminism, secular humanism, and Catholicism—the new fundamentalists are helping to reconfigure the role of the United States in the 'new world order.'”
From time to time, I will blog on some of the most insightful elements from the book. It is important to note that the term “fundamentalism” is applied to some modern Christian groups beyond those of the early 20th century, the “Fundamentalists” who distinguished themselves from liberal Protestants. The authors define “fundamentalists” as Bible-believing Protestants who have a specific mission to win converts in every country across the world. They label themselves as “born again” and view the Bible as the inerrant word of God. “Fundamentalists” adhere to strict standards of personal behavior and hold to social conservative views. In terms of their beliefs, “fundamentalists” tend to look for the miraculous and adopt God-centred interpretations of history, views which would usually fall under Biblical millennialism and dispensationalism.
An intriguing question for the authors is this: “How is it possible that people in the rest of the world are adapting their beliefs to precepts developed in Oklahoma, Texas, and California?” One answer is that the US still has the potential to shape much of the world. If one looks at its popular media culture, its military might, its spread of corporate capitalism: all of these things are unmatched. In a world where political and social entities feel the pressure of globalization, America is a leader in economic development, and can offer many countries a better integration into the world system. Also, US evangelists and their brothers in other countries are marketing a supra-national and supernatural solution to religious uncertainties. Christian entrepreneurs are selling a new international belief system. The authors end the introduction of their book with this poignant quote from Salomon Nahmad of the National Indigenist Institute of Mexico, who qualifies the new Christian fundamentalists in these terms:
Those Americans are the Franciscans and the Dominicans of our time. They may not see it that way, but they are the religious arm of an economic, political, and cultural system.
*Originally posted on Blogger
As a professor in a Theological Studies’ department at a secular university, I am often asked about whether or not I have faith. This question has been directed at me several times over the years, and I recently decided to produce a video series explaining my journey.
I was born and raised in Quebec, Canada, in a French speaking non-practicing Catholic family. In my childhood years, my parents did encourage me and my two younger brothers to attend mass and receive the sacraments. Catholicism had no real impact on my life, and I found myself introduced to Pentecostalism by a distant aunt at the age 12. After “accepting Jesus as my personal savior,” I began going to a non-denominational Pentecostal church with my aunt and immediately engaged in regular reading and study of the Bible. In the first two years of my new faith, my knowledge of the Bible increased exponentially. Like many new converts, I was especially fascinated with the Book of Revelation and the signs of the “End Times,” and I adopted a “dispensational premillennialist” view on eschatology.
In my mid-teens, I went through a period of “backsliding,” where I stopped attending church, but around the age of 18, a personal crisis led me back to evangelicalism. At first, I went to a Baptist church and quickly realized that it lacked the dynamism to which I was accustomed in Neo-Pentecostal circles. I finally found a church affiliated with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC). This 500+ member church had upbeat music, a youth group, inspiring preaching and was filled with kind people. In the first year, a group of friends and I began holding a weekly house gathering, where we prayed and sang, and I could teach what I studied from the Bible. These house meetings were not officially sanctioned by the church leadership, so eventually, we were asked to stop. The pastors encouraged me to get involved in Sunday school if I wanted to teach, which I did, for about two years.
Now, the pastors of this Pentecostal church began recognizing a “call of God” on my life for full-time ministry work. On several occasions, I was even given “prophecies” of a future ministry accompanied with “signs and wonders.” As a young adult, this naturally filled me with a sense of purpose. I, therefore, got more involved in the youth group under the mentorship of the charismatic youth pastor at that time, and was able to develop some preaching skills and even led an important outdoor evangelistic outreach ministry.
As a Pentecostal, I believed in the plenary inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible and experienced what is called the “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” evidenced by “speaking in tongues.” Our church also embraced other “manifestations of the Spirit,” such as prophecy, healing, words of knowledge and other phenomena. When I prayed for people, some would sometimes fall under the power of the Spirit – what is referred to as being “slain in the Spirit.” At the time, I also adhered to “Spiritual Warfare” ideas and believed in the existence of modern-day “apostles and prophets.”
I met my wife and got married in the early 1990s. In 1993, our Pentecostal church went through a serious split. After a power struggle with the senior pastor, the charismatic youth pastor left the church with half the congregation (about 250 people) to start a new church nearby. As a result, I was asked to step-in as the new youth pastor of our church. During my full-time pastoral ministry at our church, I went through some changes in my understanding of two major points of doctrine: pneumatology and soteriology. I started having problems with the unruly manifestation of “spiritual gifts” in our congregation. It was my contention that “speaking in tongues” and “prophecy” were not practiced according to Paul’s recommendations in 1 Corinthians 14. I also began questioning our denomination’s stance on salvation, and I was moving away from an Arminian view towards a more Calvinistic perspective. This last point was more problematic for the senior pastor who clearly believed that Christians could “lose their salvation.” I tried having a reasonable discussion with the senior pastor and elders of the church, but they decided that I should leave for the good congregation. It was a very difficult time for my wife and I; we were shunned from the church and lost most of our friends.
About a dozen people were still somewhat interested in knowing more about my new found understanding of salvation, so we began a house meeting which lasted a couple of weeks. About a month or so after leaving our Pentecostal church, I received an unexpected call from the provincial Superintendent of the Associated Gospel Churches of Canada (AGC). He had been formerly affiliated with the PAOC, but quit the denomination for some of the similar reasons I had left. The AGC invited me to “pastor” a small church in my area. I gladly accepted the call and was ordained with my new denomination. I pastored this AGC church for about five years. My study of “spiritual gift” during my time eventually led me to a “cessationist” view.
Things radically changed for me when I decided to return to university to get a B.Th. in Biblical Studies. During my tenure at the AGC church, I met a long-time friend who had done a Master’s degree in Biblical Studies at l’Université de Montréal. He strongly encouraged me to take some classes on the Bible in university. My wife thought I had nothing to lose, so I unrolled for a summer course. I was completely blown away with what I was learning – most of which I had never heard before as an evangelical. I definitely wanted to know more!
Now, doing a degree in a secular university did not fare well with the elders of my church, nor with the leaders of the AGC. They gave me an ultimatum: either renounce the idea of a university degree or leave the church. Guess what? My young family and I decided to leave! Once again, we lost many of our friends and it took several years to re-socialize and create new meaningful relationships. After about 10 years of pastoral work, I left the “ministry” to study full-time in university.
To make a long story short, I started my B.A. in 1999 and completed my Ph.D. in 2008. I am now a tenured full professor in the Department of Theological Studies at Concordia University in Montreal. I do not hold to any faith position, but my life experience informs my own work on the interpretation and reception of the Bible, fundamentalism, the Christian Right, evangelicalism, and Neoharismatic-Pentecostalism. The essence of my work as an academic is to help people unfamiliar with these various Christian groups understand their beliefs and practices, as well as their impact on society and politics.
*Originally posted on Blogger
Dr. André Gagné