Serpent Handling Endorsed by the Church of God

Ralph W. Hood Jr. and W. Paul Williamson

in Them That Believe

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780520231474
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942714 | DOI:
Serpent Handling Endorsed by the Church of God

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This chapter discusses the acceptance of both Hensley and his serpent-handling practice into the Church of God at a time when the church's primary concern was to convert the lost and to proselytize wayward Christians in search of convincing demonstrations of God's power. As the Church of God transitioned toward denominationalism, it marginalized the practice of serpent handling and eventually divorced it from its history, leaving the faithful to continue as independent churches. Hensley was simply a fortuitous instrument, appearing at a critical time in history, which modeled the role of a believer from a biblical text already held central in the theology of this emerging Pentecostal church. Once noted in the text, and observed by Hensley himself, a significant number of Church of God members and its leadership were convinced and followed his example, holding firmly for a time to the practice of serpent handling as a legitimate Pentecostal sign.

Keywords: serpent handling; Hensley; denominationalism; Pentecostal church; Church of God

Chapter.  11390 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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