I first read F. F. Bosworth's book, Christ the Healer, about 25 years ago, while I was a student at Central Bible College. Nothing about it stuck in my memory for it was, I believed, another in the long line of books advocated and read by Pentecostals from New Jersey, where I grew up, to North Carolina, where I lived at that time when not at C. B. C. Books such as Faith That Prevails and Ever Increasing Faith by Smith Wigglesworth; Smith Wigglesworth: Apostle of Faith, by Stanley Frodsham; Prayer Changes Things and All Things Are Possible Through Prayer, by Charles L. Allen and yes, even books by E. W. Kenyon such as The Blood Covenant and Jesus the Healer.
But we were then, both as individual believers and as a Fellowship, very pragmatic in our theology as well as eclectic in our reading habits in those simpler, more trusting times (emphasis mine). Much of the appeal of Bosworth's book to A/G believers, at least in the 1950's through the1970's, was, I think, that we were as pragmatic in our believing as he was in his writing!
Pragmatic not as dealing with philosophical pragmatism, but in the sense of, "relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters: practical, matter-of fact"(Webster's 10th Collegiate Dictionary. ) Pragmatic as defined broadly in the A. G. T. S. course, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, with Dr. Railey, as "a literal understanding of Biblical materials, understanding the texts in their plain meaning, accepting that if the Bible says it we believe it, for the patterns set for the N. T. church are for the whole church and are in truth and deed normative for us" (class notes, 6/12/02 - 6/13/02. )
Brother Bosworth says, " We see, from almost every conceivable angle throughout the Scriptures, that there is no doctrine more clearly taught than that it is God's will to heal all who have need of healing so that they may fulfill the number of their days according to His promise. " (page 50) Scripture says it, that settles it. That type of pragmatism is not bad, just uncritical and naive.
As we learned in Dr. Railey's BTH 534 class, 'uncritical' and 'naive' are not to be seen as pejorative designations, but simply explanatory terms. The difficulties these Biblical Pragmatists, and F. F. Bosworth, face today is not that they are wrong, but perhaps too narrow in their perspective and unequivocal in their presentation. "We can be sufficiently enlightened by the promises of God by simply believing that our prayer is heard before we have experienced the answer (Mark 11: 24). Following this with the observance of Hebrews 10: 35-36, we can always bring to pass the fulfillment of any (emphasis mine) divine promise.
It is God's will for every (emphasis mine) Christian to successfully practice Hebrews 6: 11-12" (page 18). These assertions by Bro. Bosworth provide the reader with no room to wiggle as to an individual perspective on the issue of Divine Healing or God's required performance of His promises, but at least he's consistent. 'Always', 'any' and 'every' are rather inclusive terms to bandy about yet our text abounds with many similar instances (for example: "The repeated reading and wholehearted daily practice of this message will make the fulfillment possible.
You can receive the fulfillment of any promise or requirement in the Bible. This practice is an increasing blessing to me every day, and always will be") (page 157 ). But, then there's this problem I have critiquing someone like Brother Bosworth. It is not a recognized category in logic that I can find, but I call it a 'Fallacy of Anachronism. ' We tend to pass judgment on practically any issue according to 'today's standards,' even when the book we may be considering may have been written before say, 1924, as Christ the Healer was.
We, or rather I, think Bosworth should have used a more accurate and up-to-date translation in sharing his Scripture quotes (NASB, NIV? ), all the while neglecting to remember that he had a very limited selection of versions available for use. Of course I know that 'that was then and this is now,' but too often I don't act accordingly. To view his perspective with any perspicacity I need to consider the various contexts of Bosworth's life. Have I had a personal relationship with J. A. Dowie, or C. F. Parham, or Wm. Branham? Did I attend the first General Council in 1914?
Have I put myself at risk for befriending Blacks and integrating my congregation? No, no, no, no, no and no. Just how aware am I of the social context, the historical context, the theological context that he functioned within during the course of his life or ministry? I am too ignorant still, to truly appreciate the nature of the work F. F. Bosworth accomplished, for my interpretive matrix is not positioned in the 1920's but in the 21st century!
Does that mean I can't know Bro. Bosworth, both enjoying and learning from his work? No, of course not. But I must not be too hasty in my generalizations (or judgments) about Bosworth and his writings. When I ask 'Why did you write this,' or 'Why did you write like this,' it is my responsibility to know more than just what is now transpiring in the world of Pentecost, I must see Bosworth using scripture then to combat Liberal Theology as well as shore up the stand of Pentecostal, miracle believing Christians.
I need to picture him taking a stand as to the "normalness" or "normativeness" of tongues as initial physical evidence and leaving the A/G in 1918 because of that stand. The more I learn of F. F. Bosworth the more I see He couldn't have preached his sermons any differently or compiled his Christ The Healer any other way. Today we sophisticated, intellectual Pentecostals might look askance at Bosworth's book while commenting as to its trite argumentation or over-use of scripture references (proof-texting? or his use of anecdotes to prove a point, but just as we keep discovering new uses for that old Native-American remedy from the inner layer of Birch bark that we now call "aspirin," so too we just may discover new treasures from this text as we read with the eyes of Christ the Healer himself. Just as Jesus said in Matthew 13: 52, "... Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old," F. F. Bosworth today presents us with treasure both new and old, too. But treasure nonetheless.