Living in Bible times : F.F. Bosworth and the Pentecostal pursuit of the supernatural.



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This study examines American pentecostalism using the healing evangelist F.F. Bosworth as an interpretive lens. Bosworth’s formative experiences, long-running success, and influence on pentecostal culture situate him as a representative leader. Yet his resistance to majority doctrine and lack of durable denominational ties challenges traditional definitions of pentecostalism, driving to the conclusion that pentecostal identity lies in the pursuit of the supernatural inherited from the nineteenth-century holiness movement rather than in doctrinal markers or connections to the Azusa Street revival. Bosworth’s life story structures the dissertation, providing the most comprehensive biography of Bosworth to date. Experiences with Methodist revivalism, divine healing, and spirit-baptism reveal Bosworth as a typical pentecostal leader-in-the-making. Like numerous influential pentecostals, Bosworth had no significant connections to the Azusa Street revival. His early ministry and facilitation of a crucial revival in Dallas in 1912 established him as a leader in the young pentecostal movement, and his work with the Assemblies of God placed him in the mainstream who sought organizational stability for pentecostalism. In 1918, Bosworth publically rejected the tongues evidence doctrine, forcing his departure from the Assemblies of God. But his subsequent fame as a healing evangelist and the impact of his Christ the Healer (1924) demonstrate that he continued to represent and shape the supernaturalist impulse of pentecostalism. And while Bosworth’s British-Israel teaching was widely disparaged by full gospel believers, this teaching was embraced by many influential early pentecostals. In his last decade, Bosworth became a major contributor to the post-World War II healing revival, shaping a new generation of independently-minded pentecostals in the same pursuit of the supernatural that had animated his entire career. Bosworth’s thought centered on the continuity of God’s activity, which helps explain his positions on tongues, divine healing, and biblical prophecy. While Bosworth popularized much of the thought of E.W. Kenyon, Bosworth also came to many of the same positions independently. As a unique living link between the late-nineteenth century divine healing movement and the postwar healing revival, as a leader who valued independence, and as an evangelist who focused on healing, Bosworth embodied the ethos of popular American pentecostalism.