By Roscoe Barnes III
Author, F.F. Bosworth: The Man Behind Christ the Healer
Copyright © 2018
John G. Lake
F.F. Bosworth is mentioned in a paper that presents a scathing analysis of John G. Lake. The paper is titled "John G. Lake’s Formative Years, 1870-1908: The Making of A Con Man.” It is written by Barry Morton. The paper, in no uncertain terms, presents a highly negative evaluation of Lake. Morton unleashes a blistering critique, arguing that Lake and some of his biographers have misled readers about his life history. Lake was known for his work in South Africa, but the paper focuses on his early years, before he moved overseas. It is an attempt by Morton to set the record straight regarding the many claims made by and about Lake. His analysis of Lake's "formative years" is unsparing. He writes:
John G Lake, like his mentor John Alexander Dowie, was a master of both the big and small lie. His fairly extensive catalog of writings, most of it generated after his return to America in 1913, is a collection of banal religious dogma interspersed with as great a deliberate set of falsehoods as one could ever hope to find in writing. One turn-of-the-century debunker of John Alexander Dowie referred to the latter’s writings as “serial fiction.” The same could be said of practically anything written or preached by John G Lake. Additionally, faith healing disciples of Lake’s such as Gordon Lindsay and Wilford Reidt produced biographies of Lake that either perpetuated his old lies or produced new ones. These dubious writings have generally not been critically examined by religious scholars. Kent Burpeau, for instance, did not cotton on to Lake’s basic con in his recent, sympathetic biography.
Morton is a research fellow in the Department of History at the University of South Africa. He does not believe in divine healing or miraculous healings as preached by Lake. He does, however, believe “faith healing can cure psychosomatic diseases.” Morton’s belief is in science. Again, he writes:
This paper is not a labor of love. Rather, it is a much-needed corrective to a host of misleading writings that many other faith healing con men have invoked in order to increase the charismatic nature of their healing ceremonies. Despite centuries of scientific studies showing that faith healing and prayer cannot cure any organic disease or condition, many people obviously seek out these quacks for treatment.
The reality is that faith healers only trumpet invented successes and never mention the disastrous failures that attend their work. Faith healing can cure psychosomatic diseases such as depression and anxiety, given the right circumstances that faith healers train themselves to create. The danger for the cured is that they will be pressured to become members of the faith healer’s cult and subject to intense exploitation thereafter. If my efforts in researching Lake’s past can convince a single person to avoid seeking out a faith healing cure, then I would consider them worthwhile.
F.F. Bosworth is mentioned several times in the paper. Morton describes him as a close friend of Lake. He also notes the sentiments of Bosworth during the fall of John Alexander Dowie. As a young man, Bosworth and his family lived in Zion City, Ill., the town founded by Dowie. Bosworth played in Dowie’s band.
On page 20, Morton refers to Bosworth as one of the “Parhamites” who followed the teachings of Charles Parham. In the footnote, Morton calls Bosworth “another Dowieite” who would later become a faith healer. Morton writes:
Between late 1906 and 1907 Lake was associated with, and came to co-lead, the Pentecostal “Parhamite” sect in Zion. Because of the dramatic and lurid events that occurred there, Lake and other Parhamites such as F.F. Bosworth did their best thereafter to minimize any knowledge of their involvement with it.
On page 22, Morton notes Bosworth’s reaction to the Dowie controversy:
To say that Dowie’s followers were discouraged would be an understatement. Lake’s close friend, F.F. Bosworth, noted in the lugubrious language of Pentecostalism, “the time was at hand, when, as a Christian he was to wake up to the utter falsity of the claims which were even then developing in the mind and purpose of the mistaken, tho really great leader of Zion City, and to decline to have further association with so misguided a man.”
Morton’s tone is not unlike that of Hank Hanegraaff and John MacArthur. Pentecostal admirers of Lake will find much with which to disagree. Still, as a critical work on Lake, his research should be seen as a useful addition to the field of church history.
For a critique of Morton’s research on Lake, see 'John G. Lake as a fraud, con man and false prophet': critical assessment of a historical evaluation of Lake's ministry by Marius Nel (firstname.lastname@example.org), who works in the Research Unit of the Faculty of Theology North-West University. Nel’s paper, which refutes many of Morton's claims, can be read here.
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