Eight Myths of Primitive Salvationism

Eight Myths of Primitive Salvationism
 – Major Stephen Court (from armybarmy blog)

Though it is the oldest of Salvo traditions, the recent re-emergence of Primitive Salvationism and its relative grassroots press has given rise to some misconceptions of the movement. I thought I’d try to dispel eight of the myths of PS.

1. PS is all about bonnets and bass drums.

This isn’t exactly true. Yes, high collars are back in style, but it’s not about what’s on the outside. As far as bass drums are concerned, I HID the bass drum in my closet at my first appointment! It has so little to do with music, for example, that you could easily have turntable worship at one place and brass band at another.

PS is NOT about superficials.

2. PS is flaky charismata.

This isn’t exactly true. Yes, it sometimes gets flaky, and is often fairly charismatic (by definition, PS is charismatic-flavoured, mission-focused heroism). That said, we’re not nearly as charismatic as some salvos I know or have read- there has been no dead-raising in any meeting I’ve attended, yet; there has been no levitation, yet; there has been no transporting, yet, and so on.

Glory fits, yes, glory to God. 

3. PS is revisionist history.

This isn’t exactly true. Nearly every salvo ‘school’ tries to base itself in the founders and early days. We’re no different. But, I suspect that we’re on solid ground because we know the history as well as almost anyone. Booths, Railton, Booth-Tucker, Cadman, Pearson, Lee, Dowdle, Brengle, and the gang all fit our description of PS. There is good evidence of the charismatics in the early days. There is good evidence of mission focus back then. And there is ample evidence of heroism.

It is pretty difficult to dispute the basic tenets of PS.

4. PS is narrow-minded.

This isn’t exactly true. Sure, we’re unpopular because we believe certain things that might be untrendy these days. We believe in the doctrines of The Salvation Army- even 10, and, yes, 11 (i.e. we believe in holiness; we believe in hell). We believe that covenant is a powerful means of releasing the trust of God on the world. We believe that The Salvation Army is a revolutionary movement of covenanted warriors exercising hole passion to win the world for Jesus. And we believe Catherine’s prophecy;

“The decree has gone forth that the kingdoms of this earth shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and that He shall reign whose right it is from the River to the ends of the earth. We shall win. It is only a matter of time. I believe that this Movement shall inaugurate the great final conquest of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

5. PS is the latest Third Wave trend dressed up in uniform.

This isn’t exactly true. Yes, we’re into the prophetic, but not because of TW. We’re into it because PSers were. Catherine’s Salvo DNA prophecy (see #4) is the driving force behind the SA Movement. William Booth’s VISIONS, has been described by General Brown (PtG) as ‘Booth at his best’. Yes, we’re into apostolic, but not because of TW. William Booth wrote an article in 1859 called ‘Apostolic Ministry’ predating, by nearly seven score years, the TW apostolic movement. More importantly, he filled the Ephesians 4 office. Yes, we’re into cells, but not because of TW.

The original PSers started the Ward System (the latest O+R for WS was 1914, to my knowledge), which is what we call a cell system.

6. PS is theologically shallow.

This isn’t exactly true. Those who think this way suspect that we’re all about souls at the expense of justice and caring for poor people. Yet, it was the original PSers who went for souls AND went for the worst. And it is some of the current ones who are living as slum brothers, starting justice wings, experimenting with common purses, reaching out to the widow and orphan, and trade marking simplicity and humility. But, yes, we’re looking for people to repent and follow Jesus.

We’re looking for them to ‘get saved, keep saved, and get someone else saved’.

7. PS is one of many salvo options.

This isn’t exactly true. It is the only proven option for accomplishing our mission. Nothing else we’ve tried – from church growth to emergent/missional churches, from big bands to Sunday School buses, from drop-ins to rehabs, from adherency to musicals, from donuts to radio shows – separated from the PS philosophy, has worked.

So, yes, you can enjoy another version of Salvationism, but unless it is a part of PS (and most or all of the examples I’ve suggested can be, so please don’t take this as a criticism of any of them) it has proven that it hasn’t worked in winning the world.

8. PS is a fad that will not last.

This is not exactly true. I know some true believers, warriors who already drank the cool-aid. My guess is that either we see Catherine’s prophecy fulfilled or we’ll all die fighting. 

I hope this doesn’t come across as arrogant.

It is merely a dispelling of myths by a confident assertion of the truths of PS on its best days.

Much grace to you all,

Stephen Court

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