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Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal Paperback – August 17, 2015
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''The important role played by Agnes Sanford in the history of healing ministry is one that needs telling, and De Arteaga is well placed to tell it. . . . Anyone interested in the history of Sanford or who wants to understand how to encourage healing ministry in the life of the church will find this book a very rewarding read.''
--Justyn Terry, Dean, President and Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity School for Ministry, Ambridge, PA
''This inspiring book shows how one dedicated person can, by persistence, change the mindset of an entire group of people. From healing prayer being the activity of a small group, it has now become ordinary, especially in family members praying for one another.''
--Francis and Judith MacNutt, Founders of Christian Healing Ministries, Inc.
''De Arteaga's perspective on the move of God in healing for the denominations is never overshadowed by the rise of Pentecostalism in non-denominational churches alongside the Charismatic Movement. . . . De Arteaga brings honor to a great lady in Sanford.''
--The Rev. Dr. Jack Sheffield, co-founder of Deep River Ministries, Director of the North American branch of the Order of St. Luke
''Agnes Sanford--a name still recognized as a twentieth century pioneer & practitioner--evoked and still evokes much controversy. . . . I welcome this book as one which both promotes and encourages reflection and ministry.''
--Sean E. Larkin, Archbishop, The United Anglican Church Province II
''De Arteaga is a remarkable scholar. . . . [O]ne need not agree with every aspect of his historical theological approach to explain the importance of Agnes Sanford, but his big picture view makes this book a 'must-read.'''
--Dr. Gottfried Sommer, church historian, pastor, guest lecturer for historical theology and apologetics, Germany --Wipf and Stock Publishers
About the Author
Rev. William De Arteaga is both an Anglican priest and historian. His articles, blog posts, and books, especially Quenching the Spirit (1996) and Forgotten Power (2002) have long attracted attention among Pentecostal and charismatic audiences. He pastored two Hispanic congregations, and has been the chaplain the Order of St. Luke in Georgia for over a decade. He and his wife, Carolyn, have ministered healing, inner healing, and deliverance together for over three decades.
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Top Customer Reviews
"As time passes and it is easier to evaluate her work with historical perspective, it is clear that she was one of the most important and original theologians of the twentieth century. The list of her accomplishments in the field of theology and innovations in healing ministry is astounding." ...
The author follows with what is indeed an impressive list of Agnes Sanford's books, leadership roles and initiatives, students who themselves became prominent, and even her pioneering role in ecological spirituality.
If Agnes Sanford is as important as all that, why is she rarely quoted and anthologized and included in seminary courses? De Arteaga has thoughts on that:
"Mrs. Sanford's relative obscurity today is due to several factors. One is that her theological writings, like that of her contemporary Pentecostal brethren, were simply written and based mostly on reflections on Scripture which were formed from comparisons and analogies to her experiences in prayer and the healing ministry. This is very different from the expectations people have as to what "serious" theology is supposed to be. These assumptions include that theology must be written by an academically credentialed person, have many comparisons and citations from other theological works, and include references to the latest theological trends. Mrs. Sanford did none of this.
"But perhaps the more important reason for her obscurity today is that even in her most influential period, 1950-1970, her theology was considered suspicious by many Christians."
The background for this suspicion forms a major part of De Arteaga's fascinating book. His scope is the whole history of Christianity, and within that movement, the influence of three dynamic trends that have affected the way the church views Agnes Sanford's central concern -- healing prayer -- to this very day.
First, the "Galatian bewitchment": For De Arteaga, it is a given that in the period of Jesus and the apostles, the gift of healing, and other extraordinary gifts, were active. But in succeeding generations, those gifts were increasingly marginalized. Among some Christians, the gifts themselves were subordinated to the virtue of humility, and were to be practiced second-hand, exercised only by special "holy" people or by saints through petitionary prayers. This "bewitchment" alienated believers from their own rightful authority, affecting both the Catholic and Orthodox families in various ways.
Second, "cessationism": In contrast to the Catholics, the Reformers and their descendants took a somewhat different approach to marginalizing or denying gifts such as healing. In confronting what they saw as abuses in the Catholic church connected with the monopolization and ritualization of healing, they tended to deny that anyone after the apostolic era had these gifts. This approach, cessationism, was usually intended to strengthen believers in their biblical faith. (After all, the apostle Thomas was told, "... blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.") Ironically, the corrosive effect of belief without access to authenticating spiritual power or experience was what De Arteaga labels "the gifts deficient church and the secularization of Europe."
Cessationism dominated both of the major movements within European Protestantism. The theological conservatives "maintained the cessationist hermeneutic at all cost" for their own reasons, while theological liberals adopted one or another form of Schleiermacher's "myth hermeneutic" by which historical miracles of any kind were demoted to edifying stories. The much vaunted scientific method didn't extend to theologians investigating whether any claims of healing were actually true; those claims had already been defined as untrue.
The third dialectical trend proposed by De Arteaga is the "Marcion shove," the potential of heretical movements to break through orthodox complacency and restore a more balanced and genuine orthodoxy. The original Marcion (whose theology was, De Arteaga says, "both destructive and insightful") pushed the church toward a more adequate stewardship of its holy writings. It took a generation of more recent heretics to help Christians break through centuries of "bewitchment" and cessationism to a rediscovery of miraculous gifts. But it was precisely those modern Marcions who are also responsible for the context of suspicion that has helped obscure Agnes Sanford.
The central chapters of De Arteaga's book are a parade of the fascinating characters who represented that modern "Marcion shove" ... spiritualists and Christian Scientists, mystical entrepreneurs and gurus, many of whom played a role in what is sometimes called "New Thought." De Arteaga describes how, in his own view, each of them combined elements from Christianity, other religions, freelance mysticism of all kinds, and (sometimes) sheer force of personality to begin satisfying the popular appetite for spiritual power that respectable mainstream Christianity was often leaving utterly unsatisfied.
Sanford's crucial role was to take that legitimate hunger and show how a believer's prayer, shaped by biblical faith (and by mentors with similar biblical grounding) could meet the need. She and the relatively few others who were having similar insights began creating associations, seminars, and camps, ultimately reaching hundreds and thousands who became leaders in their own turn in the modern healing movement in Christianity. De Arteaga shows how that movement overlaps with Pentecostals and the charismatic movement, but is not wholly confined by either.
This brief summary doesn't do justice to the care and complexity of De Arteaga's book. Aside from the value of his historical and theological treatments of healing, for me the book gave me an amazing sense of being back in touch with my beloved mentor, Canadian Quaker Deborah Haight (1911-2004), who first told me about Agnes Sanford. Some of the people Deborah and I talked about in my very first months and years as a Quaker, are mentioned in this book: George Fox, Frank Laubach, E. Stanley Jones, and Rufus Jones. Other people mentioned in the book, such as Dennis and Rita Bennett, George Maloney, Ruth Carter Stapleton, Francis and Judith MacNutt, and Morton Kelsey, are also people I first learned about in those years.
A related engaging feature of this book: the delightful juxtapositions of people usually not mentioned in the same breath -- Augustine, Cassian, Calvin, St. Gregory of Palamas, Emanuel Swedenborg, Jonathan Edwards, Mary Baker Eddy, Karl Popper, Albert Einstein, Max Planck, John MacArthur.... As De Arteaga says about Agnes Sanford and her breakthrough syntheses, she was aware that, "like many others in CNP [Christian New Perspective], she was in two apparently incompatible camps at the same time." I've been there!
One of the contradictory undertones of the book is its withering references to western liberal Protestantism. The mainstream seminaries come in for frequent condemnation as self-serving academic guilds and as hotbeds of skepticism and reductionism. Some of this is no doubt deserved, but not all, and it's hard to reconcile that snide tone with the same author's argument that God's sovereign power can transform heresy into something good, and his willingness to find good features in even the oddest heretics of the Marcion Shove. I don't disagree with his historical generalizations, only with their blanket application. I've met many faithful praying people from these sorts of seminaries.
Unfortunately, the book has a large number of distracting typographical errors. I don't know who does quality control for the publisher, but someone was asleep. This certainly shouldn't dissuade you from getting William De Arteaga's delightful book, meeting Agnes Sanford's fascinating companions in healing, and maybe even becoming one of them.
This book is written first and foremost as a history, although occasional anecdotes and syntheses do provide a description of the prayer techniques that were involved and which proved successful and which did not.
I had previously read the biography of Joy Davidman Lewis (Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C. S. Lewis) and wondered why she and her first husband had explored the early attempts at healing promoted by L. Ron Hubbard of Scientology fame prior to his elaboration of the Scientology doctrine. They actually started with some initial success as "new" Christians in following Hubbard's advice in healing before finding problems with it. Reading DeArteaga's book provided me with the needed context to "connect the dots" between the various attempts of late 19th Century and first-half 20th century efforts to explore biblical, psychological and various spiritual attempts of healing outside of modern medicine.
Agnes Sanford was a mentor to me through her books and tape recordings. She is the one who inadvertantly helped me discover CFO and introduced me to Tommy Tyson, Glenn Clark, Francis MacNutt, and others through her talks. I am so grateful to her.
When this book was recommended to me by a friend, I could hardly wait to get a copy. I am about half way through it and am so excited about what I have learned so far! What Mr. de Arteaga does in the book goes way beyond my expectations! He lays the foundation and gives the background of how the things I have learned from so many sources over the years fit together.
I highly recommend this book.