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Founding the Four-Fold Gospel
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by A B Simpson
The Fourfold Gospel (Orlando, Florida:  Bridge-Logos, 2007.  339p.)

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I bought this book in a Christian book warehouse store in Kempton Park, South Africa, one Saturday in October 2008.  I did not know A B Simpson's name, but as I read the liner notes I became more interested.

I recognized the reference to the Christian and Missionary Alliance, which the liner notes informed that Simpson founded.  C&MA is an association of churches that cooperate for worldwide Christian mission.   C&MA is now considered a Christian denomination.

I have known various personnel of the CM&A (or CMA) over the years since the 1980s.  I had contact with many of them who came to courses I taught in language self-directed language learning techniques at the Toronto Institute of Linguistics.  On several occasions in the 1980s-90s I was an instructor of cross-cultural communication techniques in various summer sessions of TIL (held at Victoria University of the University of Toronto).  Some of our students came from the CM&A, and some of our TIL personnel were staff members at the C&MA college, at Nyack.

A B Simpson was the founder of what became the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  He originally had no intention to found a denomination, but was intent on organizing an mission support system, founded out of the mission focus of his church, the New York Gospel Tabernacle.

This book is a compilation of various of Simpson's notes and writings, prepared by a compiler and an editor.  The text is often unclear exactly what was written by the compiler or editor as an introduction or explanation, and what text is actually from Simpson's hand.  The style overall is Simpson's, as indicated by the old language (written in the 1800s or early 1900s) and the focuses and concerns reflecting that era.

Old Style
I found it repetitive or redundant in places.  This is probably due to the collection being compiled from disparate sermons, lectures or notes from Simpson on similar topics.  The organizing principle of the texts is the set of four focuses Simpson developed as the four pillars of the Gospel.  He develops these in the four sections of the book:  Jesus as Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer and Returning Lord.

The whole last section is a statement of the premillennial view of the second coming, and at this point in history reads like a pedantic rehash of the same stuff we have been seeing for decades.  One thing, however, the sensitive reader will perceive is the high note of victory and freedom that sings through Simpson's words.  He is a fluent writer, though the older more academic and pedantic style will put some off.

The more formal and stock vocabulary will also make for tedious reading if you try to read only word by word and line by line.  But if you let yourself coast lightly through the pages, you find there is a multi-layered sophistication here that celebrates the personal sense of deliverance that Simpson felt epitomized the Good News of Jesus.

CD Summary
The compilers have also provided a CD of recorded summaries that present the key features of the "four-fold" gospel the long texts lay out in Simpson's wording.  Some history of the life, calling and ministry of Simpson and of the Christian and Missionary Alliance are bonuses in the price of this book.

The text is replete with practical examples from various lives that Simpson knew and interacted with, which illustrate the practical results of following this Four-Fold Gospel.  Variations of this four-fold analysis are found in several current Christian denominations, notably the Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

The editors have provided one section in each topic on Practical Approaches to implement the discipline of each of these four focuses.  But since these are also still from Simpson's older more "stodgy" style, I found these – in 21st century terms – also more abstract and formal.

There are practical aspects that can be garnered from Simpson's writings by those hungry for a deeper spiritual life.  This will appeal especially to those younger, less experienced Christians who have not yet experienced what Simpson (and older generations) referred to as Sanctification.  For Simpson, in his explanation of the first "fold" of the four-fold gospel, Sanctification is a sense of holiness that derives from the internal deep presence of the Holy Spirit.

Simpson gives some practical helps on how to focus, study, wait and meditate, readying the mind for the filling of the Spirit.  Simpson differs from classical Pentecostals on some aspects of sanctification and healing.  His views on divine healing are balanced.  His early context in the Scottish Reformed movement shows through in his rational consideration of implications and even in the same attention to detail that might seem tedious to some.

He has a good rational balance that most readers will appreciate, avoiding radical extremes with some warnings on what he had observed in his lifetime as misunderstandings or out-of-balance emphasis on only on aspect of a matter.

The editor provides a good introduction that helps put into historical and social context this collection of works from this influential Christian leader of a century ago.  The missionary organization resulting from Simpson's initial efforts, first out of his Kentucky congregation then the New York Tabernacle, is testimony to the intensity of Simpson's fervour and energy.

From his own hand, now collected for us in this volume, Simpson strengthens the historical facts by his own personal testimony of physical healing and spiritual liberation, as expressed in these textual testimonies.

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Written and posted on OJTR 14 November 2008
Posted on Amazon 1 March 2009

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2008 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

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