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F.F. Bosworth Mentioned in Josh McMullen's Under the Big Top: Big Tent Revivalism and American Culture, 1885-1925

Book Notes His Prolific Output as a Writer

By Roscoe Barnes III

Author, F.F. Bosworth: The Man Behind Christ the Healer

Copyright (c) 2018

 

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F.F. Bosworth's name is sprinkled in several places in the 2015 book by Josh McMullen titled, Under the Big Top: Big Tent Revivalism and American Culture, 1885-1925 (Oxford University Press). McMullen is assistant professor of History at Regent University. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Master's degree in Theology and Church History from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

In McMullen's view, the tent preachers played an active role "in the shift away from Victorianism and helped in the construction of a new consumer culture in the United States." He grapples with the idea of the United States becoming "the most consumer-driven and yet one of the most religious societies in the western world." He describes in compelling terms the use of entertainment by evangelicals to support their revival meetings, along with their effective use of various media to grow their respective ministries. In short, McMullen sees a strong link between revivalism and consumerism.

Information on Under the Big Top is available here.

McMullen mentions Bosworth in several places. He gives a summary of Bosworth's life history with brief comments on his teachings as a healing evangelist. McMullen writes about several people that had an impact on Bosworth's development as a revivalist. Those people included John Alexander Dowie and Maria Woodworth-Etter. McMullen notes the role that Woodworth played in Bosworth’s revival meetings in Dallas, Texas, that reportedly lasted 10 years. He writes:

It is through her writings that Woodworth became acquainted with F.F. Bosworth. As a pastor in Dallas, Bosworth had read Woodworth’s autobiography, calling it the greatest record of God’s victory over sin and sickness since the Bible. In 1912 Bosworth invited Maria Woodworth to Dallas to help lead a tent revival, which extended from July to September of that year. The joint effort between Bosworth and Woodworth drew people from across the United States as well as England and Canada. Other divine healers even traveled to Dallas to witness the miracles that were said to be occurring nightly at the hands of these two evangelists.

McMullen cites the personal letter of Bosworth that discussed the beating he suffered for preaching to blacks in Hearne, Texas. He also recounts Bosworth's departure from the Assemblies of God over the issue of tongues as the initial evidence of Spirit baptism. Despite breaking fellowship with the Pentecostal denomination, "Bosworth continued to be a major proponent of divine healing," McMullen writes.

McMullen's research includes other commonly known reports about Bosworth, such as the death of Bosworth's first wife, Estella. He correctly notes the importance of Bosworth's book, Christ the Healer, and the evangelist's prolific output as a writer. He explains:

Bosworth was also a prolific writer. His articles on divine healing and revivals appeared constantly in religious periodicals; however, it was the book Christ the Healer for which Bosworth became best known. Written intentionally in “the vocabulary common people understand,” Christ the Healer turned out to be the leading guide of the divine healing movement.

McMullen's study extends to 1925, a time period that saw notable growth and success in Bosworth's ministry. His book, Christ the Healer, was published in 1924. His biography, Joybringer Bosworth, was first published in 1921. It was written by Eunice M. Perkins. It was during the 1920s that Bosworth held some of his largest healing campaigns.

Whatever one thinks of McMullen's argument -- and his views regarding consumerism and revival meetings -- his work shows that Bosworth matters in conversations about church history. McMullen points to him as an important proponent of divine healing whose ministry and writings made a significant contribution to revivalists and the divine healing movement in the United States.

 

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For more information:

Visit the F.F. Bosworth page here. Questions about the research and commentary on F.F. Bosworth may be directed to Roscoe Barnes III, Ph.D., via email at doctorbarnes3@gmail.com or roscoebarnes3@yahoo.com. For updates on F.F. Bosworth history, simply follow this blog or @Roscoebarnes3 on Twitter. #ChristTheHealer

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