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Pentacostal Deliverance

09-01-2015, 06:05 PM #1
Robert Baird
Status: Offline Posts:914 Likes Received:281
I admire honesty among Christians and any form of cultish behaviour. Brother B was not only honest he saw the falsehoods of pure pedantic claims of being something people DO only when they talk - in short lie about.

The psychological or growing up issues demonstrated by this man are a common cause of people joining cults. Should we teach people enough about these things (comparative religious history) to improve the life of so many people who get hoodwinked by religion? Usually there is a modicum of knowledge which these cults build upon, and that can be gleaned to improve the life of a person interested in further research.

"My connection to this controversial "cult" (as it has been labelled) goes back to the late sixties. I was one of the "absurd" generation of the sixties, a "hippie" -- dark-haired and gloomy complected, unsure-of-myself, searching for meaning to my life, a cause to live for, and help for my own tumults and urges. Brother B. (Bishop Whitlock) was already an outcast among many of the churches of Fresno, regarded as a bit suspect, a bit too pentecostal or shamanistic. Before he founded Trinity Institute, he had been Chaplain at what was then "Fresno General Hospital," working with an old time Presbyterian Calvinist named Russell Knight.

The rumors of outsiders about Bishop Whitlock (or Brother B. as we called him) were of several general types. One was that he strayed too far from orthodoxy in bringing to life a gnostic or "Alexandrian" cultishness. One complaint was that his teaching was too "soulish"; another that his intercessory (shepherding) style was too "Freudian." Some churches forgave his exuberant "holy roller" background, but were horrified by rumors that he was Pelagian, and preached a form of works, rather than Reformation-style "salvation by faith alone." (Which actually goes back to Saints Augustine and Paul, though perhaps not to Jesus himself.)

Well, (like Monica the mother of Augustine) my mother had been prayin' mightily for her errant son (me), and she had come into the orbit of Bishop Whitlock. She did not regard him as occultish, or gnostic, or antinominian. In fact, she found his teaching to be fundamentally sound and scriptural. As I became more desperate, I finally cried out for myself, then asked my mother to pray for me, too. I also reached out to Russell Knight, the co-chaplain.

Meanwhile, half the continent away, an evangelist by the name of Clarence Shannon was ministering in Springfield Missouri at the home of one William Branham. See Clarence Shannon. Brother Branham, a mighty man of God in his own right, referred Clarence to a Fresno chaplain by the name of Bishop Whitlock. Through a series of circumstances, the entire Shannon clan wound up living in the Ferger Street house of Bishop Whitlock. The Shannons' daughter Linda became my wife.

Laying the axe to the root: Whitlock's teaching
Far from teaching a gnostic or sexual gospel, Brother B. merely taught that true Christianity is a straight and narrow path, and few there be that find it. He taught that you have to humble yourself, lower yourself, allow the Father to discipline you, and cleanse you. He taught deliverance, and purgation, and the prayer closet. I know of nothing he ever taught that was contrary to the fundamental core of Christian faith, at least the first five or six councils of the early Church, even up to the formulation of the Trinity doctrine.

Nevertheless, the church is in need of continuous reformation. If salvation got you in the door, the real work for us is an ongoing work of sanctification. White churchianity is oh-so-good at cleaning the outside of the pot, focussing on appearances. But the real need is to clean the inside of the pot. (See, Jesus washed dishes.)

Sola scriptura is a fine reformation doctrine. (But only a start.) Truth be told, rigid doctrine is not what we need. You got to roll up your sleeves for the real work. What we need is inner cleansing, depth cleansing, a deeper work. Theology's dead letter killeth. What is needed is a return to the Spirit, to the basics of our faith. The word must live! White christianity looks down on native wisdom for its heathenism and its stress on the body. As if there is something subversive or mystical about "the Spirit" -- the Holy Ghost. Yet does not the Bible point us to the body, to the life of the Spirit? Look at Genesis. Look at the words of Jesus.

Native spirituality teaches that wisdom must be lived. That means this world, and it means this body. White "civilization" looks down on the influence of native and African spirituality as if it is contaminated by earthy (read sexual?) influence. Supposedly the eagerness for the miraculous is suspect, too superstitious due to its craving for the supernatural. There must be something barbarian in the exuberant or existential and non-intellectual stirrings of these people of the earth. But is the smugness justified? The fact is, Jesus taught that it is not hearing his words, or concocting dogma, or constructing some elaborate religious edifice, is the way to salvation. Rather, it is DOING his words. That means, dare we say it, the body. The word made flesh. It's something to think about.

Disallowed indeed of men
It is true that Brother B. practiced laying on of hands. It is true that he sought to go deeper, to delve into the roots, the underlying causes behind the cries of the sin-sick who came seeking help. Only in that sense might we brand him, A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn. Yes, there was a focus on the body, not dogma and form. Thus the accusation of holistic believism. Of seeing "God" as both male and female. (And of seeing us humans as composed of both male and female.)

Whitlock's independence and integrity meant too much to him to sacrifice on the false altar of conformism and "to-be-seen-of-men." He was an enemy of the smugness of conventional "churchianity." He seemed at odds with the complacency and self-satisfaction of the respectable churches. Even among the socalled "full gospel" movement, Brother B. preferred the lowliness of the blunt self-designation "Pentecostal" to the niceness of "charismatic." He hated the pretension of those preachers who strained so hard to win the acceptance of man, that they forgot the reward that comes from God only. Is not much of the disdain which the "proper" folk, the pious and respectable folk have for "pentecostal" type manifestations, at heart simply a matter of prejudice?

I think there was something in Brother B. that recoiled from the priggishness and prudery of the hypocrites. The work of the prayer closet is blunt exposure, and opposing false modesty and self-delusion. The Deliverance Pentecostalism of Brother B. surely has much in common with the exorcist healings of older churches and bygone times, but beyond merely laying on of hands, Brother B. taught inner cleansing and purification. He urged us onward. We must "go on to perfection.""