A few have been wondering why I left the Christian & Missionary Alliance, and to be honest I haven’t been good at providing a defense as I had no desire to offend those who are still in the C&MA. In all honesty, I did not leave the C&MA due to any conflict, but rather due to theological differences. Below are a few of the reasons for my departure.
Reasons why I left the Christian & Missionary Alliance
1) The founder, Albert Benjamin Simpson was an extreme charismatic.
After being healed at one of Charles Cullis’s faith healing conventions, Simpson was convinced that divine healing was a promise for one’s faith in Christ. Simpson believed this so strongly, that he did not condone the use of medicine and physicians as that showed disbelief in Christ. He argued, “God has nowhere prescribed medical means, and we have no right to infer that drugs are ordinarily His means.”1 Simpson held healing services for 38 years; modeling healing faith homes after those of Cullis.2
Although I do believe that God heals today, I do not believe that it is a promise for one’s faith nor specifically through the wounds of Christ that we are healed. Rather, healing may come only through God’s gracious response through our petitions in prayer.
2) A.B. Simpson believed in a second blessing experience.
The second blessing experience (also known as the second baptism) in its extremity teaches that believers can attain sinless perfection. This heresy was taught by John Wesley, and later by Charles Finney.3 In fact, Simpson was highly influenced by the charismatic works of Finney, Dr. Charles Cullis, and William and Phoebe Palmer.4 Although Simpson’s views of the second blessing experience may not have been as extreme as Finney’s, Simpson did believe that faith could bring about a second blessing providing greater experiences from God, such as divine healing and higher sanctification. This second blessing experience can be seen in the C&MA’s view on sanctification. Here the C&MA believes that there are two kinds of Christians: “the filled” and “the unfilled.”5 They make this argument from 1 Corinthians 3:1-4. However, Paul is not making a distinction between two types of believers, instead, Paul is admonishing the Corinthians for their lack of Christian conduct. He still calls the Corinthians Christians, however, their conduct is not in step with the work of the Spirit in sanctification. They have not resisted their fleshly appetite towards divisiveness. This is indeed an issue of sanctification, but the C&MA goes too far in seeing this as a distinction of being filled and unfilled. Sanctification is distinct, but it is not separate from justification.
3) A.B. Simpson’s Four-Fold Gospel has erroneous teachings.
Every licensed pastor in the C&MA has read the fourfold gospel, it is the foundation of the C&MA—teaching Christ as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming Lord. In it, Simpson states: “Salvation gives us a new heart. It brings to us regeneration of the soul, “6 however, Ephesians 2:1-9 clearly states that regeneration precedes faith, as the believer is Spiritually dead, incapable of bringing themselves to a saving knowledge of God. In describing the blessings of salvation, Simpson contends that “Salvation opens the way for all the blessings that follow it. It is the steppingstone to sanctification and healing, and the peace that passeth understanding.”7 Contrary to Simpson, the Bible teaches that salvation brings justification, sanctification, and glorification. Nowhere does Scripture indicate that salvation is a prerequisite for healing. Instead, salvation opens the door for hardships of many kinds as stated in 2 Cor 6:1-11 (also see 1 Peter 4:12-19).
Simpson also denies the teachings of predestination, stating: “Because of the fact that every man’s salvation is hinged upon his own choice and free will. It is an awful thing to have the power to take salvation and to throw it away. And yet it is left to our choice. We are not forced to take it. We must voluntarily choose it or reject it.”8 Human beings do have a free will, however, ones free will is limited to one’s nature. For instance, I cannot will myself to live under the sea, or in space, likewise, we cannot will ourselves from spiritual death to spiritual life. That is left to God’s sovereign choosing as indicated in Romans 9. Furthermore, John 6:44 states that no one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him. The word “draw” in the Greek does not mean to entice, but rather “drag;” as in “to drag a statue.”
Simpson also contends that “Sanctification is to be received as one of the free gifts God desires to bestow upon us.”9 I do believe that sanctification is a free gift, but it is one in which is accompanied by faith. Believers are sanctified immediately as a result of their faith in Christ and do not obtain it later on by choice. Therefore, I also believe that Simpson has spoken falsely when he states that not all believers who are regenerated will be sanctified.10 In reality, all who are regenerated will be sanctified by the Holy Spirit, for Romans 8:32 states: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
4) Weak theological distinctions
Some enjoy the minimal theological distinctions within the C&MA, as its purpose is to not divide over secondary theological issues. This allows for other denominations to partner with the C&MA. Although these benefits are admirable, I do have a few concerns. First, theology must naturally divide, for if something is true, the opposite must be false. This is not to say that theology is incapable of uniting, for there will always be unity and joy in embracing the truths of God. Secondly, a minimal theological distinction implies that God has not revealed himself clearly in the Scriptures. However, if God has revealed himself in the world (general revelation), how much more should believers be revealing what the Scriptures proclaim? Lastly, as ministers of God’s Word, as ambassadors of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, how can we not make known the truth of God? I contend that ministers cannot simply be neutral or idle on a certain theological position. I think it’s appropriate to say that one doesn’t know, but ministers should strive to do the hard work of allowing scripture to interpret scripture to come to a conclusion on a theological position.
5) Divine Healing
Simpson states in his book, Gospel of Healing: “Jesus Christ has SURELY BORNE AWAY and CARRIED OFF our sicknesses; yes, and even our PAINS, so that abiding in Him, we may be fully delivered from both sickness and pain. Thus ‘by His stripes we are healed.’ Blessed and glorious Gospel! Blessed and glorious Burden Bearer.”11 In holding to divine healing Simpson actually limits the work of Christ in the believer. For instance, if a Christian is not healed through the means that Simpson prescribes, then is Christ’s work not sufficient? Is Christ too weak to heal a blind man in this present age after confessing Christ? Sure one may blame the believer’s lack of faith, but even in Scripture, there are accounts of healing prior to faith. Simpson is belittling the power Christ by usurping what Christ has not intended for the Church today. He neglects God’s providential work within the believer to persevere through trials and suffering. He creates a divide between those who have been “healed” and those who have not experienced this healing because of their “lack of faith.”
But what of James 5:14? Simpson offers an interesting interpretation. He states: “…observe to whom this power is committed. Not the Apostles, who are now passing away, not men and women of rare gifts and difficult of access, but the elders, the ordinary officers of every single church, the men who are within reach of every sufferer, the men who are to continue till the end of the age.”12 Granted, healing does occur in the present age in the context prescribed by James, however, not through the means of any gifted person. The concern with Simpson’s position here is his statement that the power of healing is committed to the elders of the church.13 The elders do not possess healing power, rather those in the office of the care of the Church naturally should pray for the people. James prescribing a means to receive God’s grace in the midst of their suffering. It may come to pass that God is gracious to provide healing, but it may be withheld for a time. Regardless, the believer is called to persevere.
In closing, I believe that B.B. Warfield offers a wonderful insight. He states, “The seeds of a consequent Perfectionism are sown, indeed, wherever the Higher Life doctrine is preached…”14
1 A. B. Simpson, The Gospel of Healing, (Harrisburg: Christian Publications, Inc., 1915), 5. The C&MA resources page also has a PDF of “The Gospel of Healing.” You can find this quote on page 21 and point 9 of the PDF.
2 Mrs. Edward Mix, Faith Cures and Answers to Prayer (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2002), xxviii.
3 Fred G. Zaspel, The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 466. “The “fury” which pursued Finney was B.B. Warfield. Of course, Finney had other Princeton theologians opposing him in his own lifetime and many other Calvinist as well. His definitive Princetonian opponent, however, was Warfield whose Studies in Perfectionism traced perfectionism from the Arminian root in John Wesley to its full Pelagian fruit in Charles Grandison Finney.” cf. The Works of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, 8:61,67. As stated in their beliefs, the C&MA contends that the New Testament teaches two kinds of Christians, those self propelled (unfilled) and those Spirit-driven (filled).
4 Rev. G. P. Pardington, Twenty-Five Wonderful Years: A Popular Sketch of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (New York: Christian Alliance Pub. Co., 1914), 13-17. Quote from page 15: “In this country Charles G. Finney stood quite as much for the entire sanctification of believers as the for the full salvation of sinners. Indeed, in many ways Mr. Finney’s wide ministry seems to have been a forerunner of the work of the Alliance.” Pardington contends that the Christian and Missionary Alliance in its teaching and testimony embodies and exemplifies the spirit and purpose of five spiritual movements of the nineteenth century. First is Gospel Evangelism with Charles G. Finney; Second the Holiness movement also with Finney, George Muller, and Walter and Pheobe Palmer; Third, Divine healing with Dr. Charles Cullis, Carrie Judd Montgomery, and Mrs. Mix; Fourth, Foreign missions (great missionary awakening) with William Carey; and fifth Pre-millennialism with Dr. James H. Brooks and Dr. A. J. Gordon.
5 This distinction finds its origin in Oberlin perfectionism. The second leading feature of Oberlin perfectionism: “that there are accordingly “two kinds of Christians, a lower kind who had received only justification, and a higher kind who had received also sanctification…”(Zaspel, The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary, 466.)
6 A. B. Simpson, The Fourfold Gospel, (Harrisburg: Christian Alliance Pub. Co., 1890), 6.3.
7 Simpson, The Fourfold Gospel, 7.7.
8 Simpson, The Fourfold Gospel, 9.1. Simpson continues by stating: “Because of the tremendous responsibility to which we are held accountable for the salvation of our soul (9.2)… God has provided all the resources, even the grace, repentance and faith, if man will take them. God has provided all the resources, even the grace, repentance and faith, if man will take them (10.6).
9 Simpson, The Fourfold Gospel, 15.3.
10 Simpson, The Fourfold Gospel, 12.1. Simpson states, “Regeneration is the be-ginning. It is the germ of the seed, but it is not the summer fullness of the plant. The heart has not yet gained entire victory over the old elements of sin. It is sometimes overcome by them. Regeneration is like building a house and having the work done well. Sanctification is having the owner come and dwell in it and fill it with gladness, and life, and beauty. Many Christians are converted and stop there. They do not go on to the fullness of their life in Christ, and so are in danger of losing what they already possess.”
11 Simpson, The Gospel of Healing, 5.6.
12 Simpson, The Gospel of Healing, 7.10.
13 Simpson, The Gospel of Healing, 7.10. Simpson states, “Again, observe to whom this power is committed. Not the Apostles, who are now passing away, not men and women of rare gifts and difficult of access, but the elders, the ordinary officers of every single church, the men who are within reach of every sufferer, the men who are to continue till the end of the age.” I at least appreciate that Simpson’s Presbyterian background in valuing the local church and the authority of the elders.
14 Zaspel, The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary, 474.