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The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century

, 1997
ISBN: 9780802841032
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Called “a pioneer contribution” by Church History when it was first published in 1971 as The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States, this volume has now been revised and enlarged by Vinson Synan to account for the incredible changes that have occurred in the church world during the last quarter of the twentieth century.

Synan brings together the stories of the many movements usually listed as “holiness,” “pentecostal,” or “charismatic,” and shows that there is an identifiable “second blessing” tradition in Christianity that began with the Catholic and Anglican mystics, that was crystallized in the teaching of John Wesley, and that was further perpetuated through the holiness and Keswick movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to the appearance of modern Pentecostalism. Synan then chronicles the story of the spread of Pentecostalism around the world after the heady days of the Azusa Street awakening, with special attention given to the beginnings of the movement in those nations where Pentecostalism has become a major religious force. He also examines the rise of various mainline-church charismatic movements that have their roots in Pentecostalism.

Because of the explosive growth of the Pentecostal movement in the last half of the century, Pentecostals and Charismatics now constitute the second largest family of Christians in the world after the Roman Catholic Church. “This could well be the major story of Christianity in the twentieth century,” writes Synan. “Pentecostalism has grown beyond a mere passing ‘movement’ . . . and can now be seen as a major Christian ‘tradition’ alongside the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Reformation Protestant traditions.”

The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition will continue to be an important handbook for shaping our understanding of this phenomenon.

In the Logos edition, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition is enhanced by amazing functionality. Scripture citations link directly to English translations, and important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Powerful searches help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

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Key Features

  • Examines the developments in the Pentecostal movement
  • Discusses Pentecostalism around the world

Top Highlights

“William Law’s Treatise on Christian Perfection and Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life.” (Page 3)

“From the beginning, Methodist theology placed great emphasis on this conscious religious experience” (Page 2)

“Bohler told Wesley that ‘saving faith brought with it both dominion over sin and true peace of mind—both holiness and happiness.’ Without having yet gone through this experience of conversion and perfect holiness, Wesley began to preach and to seek it.” (Page 4)

“Jeremy Taylor’s Rule and Exercises of Holy Living and Dying” (Pages 2–3)

“Sanctified Christians came to believe that slavery was a blot on society and the church and that it should be abolished” (Page 19)

Praise for the Print Edition

An indispensable and highly readable account of the origins and growth of what is clearly the most significant movement in the twentieth-century church. . . . With the growing ‘charismaticization’ of the contemporary church, this book should be of interest to Christians in all academic disciplines.

Christian Scholars Review

A fine historical work that will interest those engaged in the history of the American church. . . . This is a book that makes for fascinating reading and is well worth the investment of time and money.

Clergy Journal

This revision of a book originally published in 1971 incorporates five new chapters and further strengthens Synan’s detailed and highly readable history of the various ‘second-blessing’ movements that form a major branch of Christianity. . . . Synan provides an authoritative, highly documented and nuanced survey of a tradition that continues to thrive worldwide.

Publishers Weekly

Product Details

  • Title: The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century
  • Author: Vinson Synan
  • Publisher: Eerdmans
  • Publication Date: 1997
  • Pages: 352

Professor of Church History Dean Emeritus, Regent University.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition


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  1. Richard



    If you want to know the history of the Pentecostal movement then this will be a great book to read or to consult. Important to see is that the holiness movement lies underneath the modern-day Pentecostal movement. The history of this church movement is quite complex as it is often chaotic. It seems like a movement that is always on the run. Then what we can learn from the early tongues is that it was almost always recognised as a known language. The book talks primarily about America and also touches quickly other parts of the world. Since the USA can be seen as the womb from which the movement was born. Pentecostalism is for many people an exciting religion with many signs and wonders. However, much is based on the subjective, while the Reformed teachings are based mainly on the objective point of view. This subjective aspect can be also responsible for the many heresies that sprung out of the movement. For example, what the book called the “Jesus Name” sermon. Explanation from the book on page 157: "According to Ewart’s view there was only one personality in the Godhead—Jesus Christ—the terms “Father” and “Holy Spirit” being only “titles” used to designate various aspects of Christ’s person. Therefore, the idea of a “trinity” was a mistake which had been foisted on the church by the Bishop of Rome at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325." The danger is that someone charismatic is getting a vision and declares with much power a heresy where many untrained members will blindly follow. As happened with the example above. Next, the book explains the theology well of the Pentecostals. Added that the Pentecostal movement later on also got much ground in the Catholic Church and many Protestant church denominations. Even David Wilkerson is related to the movement. The strange things for me are (for some churches) the prohibition of medicine, holy laughter, animal sounds, grabbing poisonous snakes and other manifestations. The author is himself a Pentecostal and I noticed a very positive note towards the movement. I think one of the strongest arguments Vinson Synan gives for the movement is the extreme growth it had and has. While, I missed the manipulative tendencies that often appear when doctrine has not the last word, but the pastor or prophets word. The movement also feels a bit like postmodernism, mixing what suits best and a low emphasis on the rational part of life. Still, Pentecostalism brings people to action and the movement has many sincere followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.


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