This is a summary of a longer mini-book as a proposal for a full-length textbook on Alliance Foundations: Alliance Theology & Hermeneutics. Dr. Paul King is a retired ordained C&MA Official Worker, pastor, theologian, historian, adjunct professor at Crown College, and former Member of Southwestern District C&MA LO&CC. He has taught Alliance History and Theology for the Canadian Central District of the C&MA, conducted ordinand and consecrant seminars on Alliance heritage, authored numerous articles and books on Alliance history and theology, served as Scholar-at-Large at Alliance Theological Seminary, and was awarded the 2006 Scholar of the Year at Oral Roberts University

Note: For brevity, documentation has not been cited in this summary, but extensive endnotes will be included in the fuller paper.



By Paul L. King, Th.D., D.Min.


As I read and study the wealth of writings from A.B. Simpson and other early Alliance leaders, what richness and depth I encounter, far beyond the basics of the great foundation of the Fourfold Gospel than most have read. As I have dialogued with other Alliance leaders on Facebook, over Zoom, telephone, and in conferences and seminars, I have seen how little many Alliance leaders really know about our heritage.

Dr. Arnold Cook, former president of the C&MA in Canada warned about what he calls “generational slippage” or “historical drift,” “the inherent tendency of human organizations to depart over time from their original beliefs, purposes, and practices, which in the Christian context results in the loss of spiritual vitality.” Of course, what one person calls drift and another person calls drift may vary. This study is intended to ferret out what Simpson and the early leaders intended to be the essential standards and distinctives of the Alliance from which to avoid drift, and what are open questions or secondary issues which have greater flexibility.


That is a question that has been simmering and perhaps coming to a boiling point in the 21st century. Because of the nature of the Alliance “big tent,” Alliance theology and hermeneutics have not been articulated clearly across the board through the years. Consequently, various theologies and hermeneutics have been propagated as “Alliance”, some of which are actually in conflict with Alliance theology and hermeneutics, or have been elevated to the level of 1st or 2nd tier doctrines, when our founders intended them to be 3rd tier non-essential open questions.

Since we are a big tent, pastors and leaders coming into the Alliance from other varied backgrounds have brought with them their favorite Bible teachers and preachers, on every end of the theological spectrum, such as John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Paul Washer, John Stott, C. Peter Wagner, and Bill Johnson, to name just a few, who often have great biblical teaching in some areas, but unfortunately do not share Alliance beliefs and values; and some of their teachings or emphases actually conflict with Alliance theology and practice. I have also heard others say regarding a vast array of issues that they want to move away from, dis-identify with, significantly modify, and/or discard some historic Alliance doctrines and practices:

  • “Well, this is what the Alliance believed in the past, but we know better now.”
  • “We can’t go back to the past.” We need to look forward, not backward.”
  • “Since we are a denomination now, we can’t go back to the flexibility and exceptions we made when we were a movement. We have to get things in order.”
  • “We have learned from the mistaken theology of Simpson and the early Alliance.”
  • “I am not interested in old dead guys.”
  • “Early Alliance exegesis and theology was loose; ours is more precise today.”

These are statements I have actually heard some Alliance leaders make. What comes to my mind is the Scripture: “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). Of course, the first clause does not apply, because this new generation does know the Lord. However, the second clause may apply in a way. They do know the Lord, but later generations often do not know the mighty works of God He had done in and through the early Alliance and truths He had revealed to Simpson and the early Alliance.

Thus, I would rephrase this as, “All the original generation of the Alliance passed on, and a new generation arose who know the Lord, but don’t know the Lord like A.B. Simpson did and the mighty works the Lord did in and through the early Alliance.” They don’t have a personal understanding and appreciation for the foundations of our wonderful message and ministry.

I shared this about a year ago with a couple I consider mentors in my life, Bob and MaryK Petty (Bob has since become the Superintendent of the Alliance Midwest District). They urged me, challenged me, even commissioned me as it were, to present the wealth of writings and Higher Life message of A.B. Simpson to this generation and mentor this new generation in the rich heritage of Simpson and The Alliance. This study is as a result of that challenge.

This is not to say that we should not be critical of Simpson and early Alliance leaders if they had some unsound teaching. Certainly, there are aspects of some teachings and practices of Simpson and early Alliance leaders that we need to adjust or abandon. I admit that I tend to be a Simpson-ite and a Tozer-ite, but I assure you that don’t agree with everything Simpson or Tozer taught. I like what another District Superintendent once said, “I would die for Jesus, but not for the Alliance.” (Although sometimes I might come close to dying for the Alliance as well!).

Nonetheless, we miss a lot of the depth and richness of our heritage if we become too critical or indifferent about our past. Dr. Arnold Cook cautions those who would “celebrate drift”:

If this becomes the first response to drift, we would be doing an end run around the Holy Spirit’s commitment to renewal. Unlike secular structures, the church is first an organism, secondly an organization. God designs organisms for renewal. Organizations can only be restructured.

     Second, much of drift is intertwined with generational issues. God is committed to working through generations, the art of Christian leadership, not around them. The art of Christian leadership is the challenge of blending in generations into dynamic synergism to a watching and fragmented world.

      These issues are not easy to discern. When is something an end run around the Holy Spirit, and when is the Holy Spirit doing something new? To what things of the past should we be anchored, and what things should be let go of for new generations? Are we like Tevya in the classic Jewish musical Fiddler on the Roof, bound to the past, for “without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof?” What are the legitimate anchors to which we need to hold, regardless of generations? This study explores those anchors for the Alliance.

Partly as a response to Dr. Cook’s book, I was commissioned in 2000 by Dr. K. Neill Foster (Board of Managers member and publisher of Christian Publications) and Dr. Donald Wiggins (then Vice President of Church Ministries) to research and write a document on Hermeneutical Implications in the Christian and Missionary Alliance Statement of Faith, that would be co-authored by the three of us and possibly be used in ordination studies. It was never published, in part due to the closure of the Alliance publishing house, but several Alliance leaders have affirmed to me that the need for a similar book is even more pressing now.

The intent of this study is to provide a valuable Alliance theological and hermeneutical resource for Alliance seminary students, Licensing, Ordination, and Consecration Councils members, and candidates for licensing, ordination, and consecration, as well as for pastors, elders, boards, and lay leaders. When I served on Licensing, Ordination, and Consecration Councils, we did not want to know only what the interviewee believed, but why he or she believed and howthey articulated it, to have scriptural support, but also why that Scripture supports it and how to communicate it with others

An Alliance Theological Hermeneutic

Every denomination or theological group has its own theology and hermeneutic, its own perspective of doctrine and interpretation: a Reformed theological hermeneutic, a Wesleyan theological hermeneutic, a Pentecostal theological hermeneutic, a Baptist theological hermeneut-tic, a Lutheran theological hermeneutic, etc. The Alliance hermeneutic is none of these and all of these! The Alliance theological hermeneutic is comprised of three tiers that give liberty to all of these theologies, expressed in one dimension or another or to one degree or another without fully embracing or dogmatizing any of them. The Alliance theological hermeneutic is not Reformed or Lutheran or Methodist, or Arminian, or Episcopal, or Quaker, or Baptist, although, as we will see below, it may be in some ways inclusive of all of them in the 3rd tier.

Because of the nature of the Alliance “big tent,” Alliance theology and hermeneutics have not been articulated clearly or consistently across the board. Hence, various theologies and hermeneutics have been propagated as “Alliance”, some of which are actually in conflict with Alliance theology and hermeneutics or have been elevated to the level of 1st or 2nd tier doctrines, when our founders intended them to be 3rd tier non-essential doctrines and practices to be held as open questions. What has sometimes happened is that one side begins to emphasize and to push, so then the other side feels a need to push back. Our strength, having an inclusive harmonized unity of doctrinal viewpoints, has also been a weakness when the lack of a strong, clear centerpiece of the three-tier doctrinal foundations has allowed for one theological viewpoint to rise up and take dominance.

Some in the Alliance try to impose a Reformed hermeneutic or an Arminian hermeneutic or a dispensational hermeneutic, etc., upon the Alliance. The Alliance “big tent” allows for each of these hermeneutics to “co-exist” in the Alliance without imposing that particular conviction upon all. By “co-exist,” I do not mean compromising our essentials, but rather living in harmony while disagreeing on secondary or tertiary issues.

Simpson’s “Living Theology.” A.B. Simpson was not a systematic theologian in the academic sense. He did not try to systematize theology. Rather, all theology needed to relate to life. He was a practical biblical theologian. He was not interested in abstract concepts, but in concrete application to Christian living in the world. Although he believed in the ideal, he recognized the real, the living.

Living Truth or Dead Theologies? Introducing the first issue of his periodical Living Truths in 1902, Simpson asserted that there are “living truths and dead theologies.” Theology had to be alive and had to relate to life. Preeminently, theology related to Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Simpson’s theological hermeneutic included these principles (summarized here and elucidated in the proposed book). For Simpson, “Living Theology”:

  • Is Christocentric.
  • Is Confirmed in Experience with Christ.
  • Must Be Biblical.
  • Sustains the Essentials.
  • Is Flexible in the Non-Essentials.
  • Is Demonstrated in Typology.
  • Can Be Drawn from or Confirmed by Diverse Sources.
  • Calls People to a Deeper and Higher Life


 Early Alliance “Big Tent” and “Ecumenical” Fraternalism. From its inception in 1887, The Christian and Missionary Alliance was formed to be an “ecumenical” (in a positive way) interdenominational organization (including Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Mennonites, Quakers, Salvation Army, among others, and later, Pentecostals), focusing on missions and the Higher Christian Life with the motto of Jesus Christ as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. The terms “ecumenical,” “fraternal,” “inclusive,” “broad platform,” “big tent,” among others, are terms that have been used throughout Alliance history to describe endeavoring within evangelical orthodoxy to live the motto: “Unity in things essential; liberty in things non-essential; love in all things.” The adaptability of Simpson is observed in his 1900 policy: “God’s methods in matters of outward form are flexible enough to allow for exceptions and adjustments.”

Covenant Theology—The Theological-Historical Foundation for The Alliance Hermeneutic

Although the Alliance is not distinctly Reformed in theology (as we will see that Calvinism and Arminianism are 3rd-tier open question doctrines), certain aspects of Alliance theology and hermeneutics are rooted in Covenant theology. Developed by Reformation leaders such as Zwingli and Bullinger, Covenant Theology set the foundation for much of the 19th century Higher Life teaching. It was adopted by one strain of the Calvinist Reformed tradition and especially found its consummation in the Dutch Puritan theology of Cocceius and the Scotch Covenanter movement. Anabaptists and Wesleyans also adopted elements of Covenant Theology. Its appeal to diverse theological groups also laid a foundation for Simpson’s ecumenical “broad platform.”

The Covenant Theology hermeneutic is centered around God’s covenants as a central theme of Scripture. It interprets from Scripture that the Church is spiritual Israel in covenant relationship with God. The promises of God to the nation of Israel are fulfilled on a higher, spiritual plane through the Church, through what Covenant Theology writers called the “covenant of grace” and “covenant of redemption” through Jesus Christ. Just as Israel had covenant rights and privileges through their covenant with Yahweh, so through these covenants from Christ the Church has similar parallel rights and privileges.

These doctrinal foundations of the Reformation period were further developed by the Puritans and Pietists, were adopted into nineteenth-century Reformed holiness beliefs, and provided a foundation for nineteenth and twentieth-century Higher Life movements, as taught especially by William Boardman (Presbyterian), Andrew Murray (Dutch Reformed), A.B. Simpson (Scotch Presbyterian), A.T. Pierson (Presbyterian), and others in the Higher Life/Keswick Reformed holiness movement, as well as by Charles Spurgeon (Baptist), who is sometimes called the last of the Puritans. Simpson promoted Covenant Theology through the Alliance, which became a major stream of the Higher Life movement

The Alliance Ecumenical Hermeneutic: Essentials, Non-Essentials, Loving Liberty in Unity

Simpson and the early Alliance sought to represent unifying factors within evangelical orthodoxy, living the motto: “Unity in things essential; liberty in things non-essential; charity in all things.” Simpson and the early Alliance modeled a “unity-in-loving-liberty” big tent biblical hermeneutic that allows for varying viewpoints on the role and meaning things considered to be non-essential or secondary or “open questions.”

Unity in Things Essential—Non-negotiables and Distinctives (2 Thess 2:15). These were the non-negotiables of the faith passed down through the apostles and the New Testament writers. Regardless of denominational or theological persuasion, we are united around the central doctrines and issues of the Christian faith, about which we will not compromise. In addition to the non-negotiable essentials of the faith are the distinctives that make the Alliance “The Alliance.” These are not essentials to faith in Christ, but they are essentials to the vision and ministry of The Alliance, core values and doctrines that are unique and specific to The Alliance.

Liberty in Things Non-essential. Romans 14:5-10, 22 give us principles and examples of freedom of personal convictions and beliefs without judgment. Paul recognizes that a variety of beliefs and practices are not essential doctrines of the faith. Paul stipulates, “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God” (Rom 14:22). On this basis, A.B. Simpson and The Alliance granted people “liberty to present the truth … in such phases and phrases as their convictions warrant.” Many other doctrines and issues are secondary, and in those The Alliance has granted liberty of conscience and belief. These secondary issues can be interpreted in different ways by evangelical, Bible-believing Christians, and thus regarded as “open questions.”

Charity in All Things (Col 3:14-15). The Alliance gave liberty to teachers in presenting various opinions, so long as they “shall not be pressured in an aggressive or controversial spirit toward those who differ,” and “with the understanding that any spirit of antagonism and strife toward those who may hold different opinions is discountenanced.”Alliance leaders agreed to disagree peacefully on those things in an attitude of love, charity, and acceptance.

 Historical Background of the Alliance Statement of Faith

  • Original Official Statement of Faith, 1892: “I believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, in the verbal inspiration of the Holy Scriptures as originally given, in the vicarious atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the eternal salvation of all who believe in Him, and the everlasting punishment of all who reject Him.’”
  • 1906 Statement of Alliance Testimony, expanded upon this statement, principles of the Fourfold Gospel, Alliance distinctives, and what constitutes open questions.
  • 1910—The 5 Fundamentals—Affirmed by the Alliance: 1) verbal inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, 2) Virgin Birth, 3) deity of Christ, 4) substitutionary atonement of Christ, and 5) the resurrection and the literal, visible Second Coming of Christ. Note: don’t confuse “The Fundamentals” and Fundamentalism. Many who affirm the Fundamentals of Faith would not be considered “Fundamentalist,” including the C&MA.
  • Expansion of the Fundamentals to 9 points in 1919: (1) verbal inerrancy of the Scriptures, (2) personal, premillennial, imminent return of Christ, (3) one God in three persons, (4) deity of Jesus, (5) sinfulness of man, (6) substitutionary atonement, (7) bodily resurrection of Jesus, (8) justification by faith, (9) bodily resurrection of the just and unjust.
    • Note: C&MA Leadership Played a Prominent Role in Drafting the FundamentalsPaul Rader (2nd president of the C&MA) and Dr. Charles Blanchard (President of Wheaton College and an honorary Vice President of the C&MA)
  • 1922 Board statement: “the distinctive testimony of the Alliance” for Alliance schools, reaffirmed the 1906 declaration as well as “the historical fundamentals of the faith as embodied in ‘The Apostles Creed’ and ‘The Niagara Creed’ [The Great Fundamentals].”
  • 1927 document: “The Message of the Christian and Missionary Alliance” included the “Great Fundamentals,” as well as Alliance distinctives. This document became the basis of the 1928 C&MA Statement of Faith for Alliance schools.
  • 1928 Statement of Faith for Alliance Schools: (Fundamentals plus Alliance Distinctives embodied in the Fourfold Gospel. Note: Separation from Fundamentalism: since the Alliance doctrinal statement included an article about belief in healing and the Alliance believed in all of the gifts of the Spirit, it parted company from the World Christian Fundamentals Association (WCFA) in 1928 when the WCFA passed a resolution against Pentecostal teaching, including speaking in tongues and healing.
  • Official Statement of Faith—1965. The C&MA Statement of Faith of 1965 was adapted almost completely from the “Doctrinal Statement of 1928,” adopted by General Council and the C&MA Bible schools. It is also the Statement of Faith of the Alliance World Fellowship.
  • Canadian Statement of Faith—1985, 1998, 2000. The book will discuss adaptations.


Hermeneutical Principles For All Tiers 

  • The authority and inspiration of the Bible as God’s infallible and inerrant Word is the biblical foundation for the Alliance hermeneutic.
  • Use of the basic accepted principles of grammatical-historical exegesis: Plain Intent; Scripture Comparison; Literal Priority; Grammar, Syntax, and Context; Culture, History, and Genre; reverent, discerning use of critical methodology; and being Spirit-taught, not just Word-taught.

2nd Tier Hermeneutics of Alliance Distinctives

  • Maintain the principles of grammatical-historical exegesis mentioned above.
  • Stay Christocentric: “Jesus only is our message.”
  • Affirm All Scripture as Useful for Doctrine (didaskalia) and Practice (2 Tim 3:16), thus we can get doctrine from both didactic (Epistles) and historical Scripture (Luke/Acts).
  • Maintain the Essential Distinctives Flexibly without Compromise. The Alliance Distinctives are what make The Alliance “Alliance”—non-negotiable essentials to the foundation and ministry of The Alliance, but not essentials of the faith at the same level as the Fundamentals. They are non-negotiable yet flexible in expression.
  • Follow the Principle of “We Believe This, But We Allow That.” Strong belief, but with loving allowance without disharmony for certain differing views.
  • Be Flexible, But Not Loose. “The Alliance cannot afford to compromise…. Loose views about sanctification, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and Divine Healing through the name of Jesus are out of place on such a platform.”—A.B. Simpson
  • Beware of Drift: “We should deeply deplore any drift from this high and established standard.”—A.B. Simpson

3rd Tier Alliance Ecumenical Hermeneutics—Open Questions/Non-Essentials.

 General Principles

  • If it does not qualify as a 1st Tier Essential or a 2nd Tier Distinctive, it is a 3rd Tier Open Question Non-Essential.
  • Be as inclusive as Scripture allows and as exclusive as Scripture mandates.
  • Foster interdenominational evangelical harmonious cooperation, diversity and unity with Christ-centered bridge-building across denominations and theological viewpoints.

 Tozer’s Principles for Determining What Is Essential and What Is Non-Essential.

  • Distinguish between majors and minors.
  • Recognize that truth has two wings.
  • Don’t hold tightly to one text.
  • Balance Scripture with Scripture.
  • Maintain the Spirit of the Word, not the letter.
  • Follow the principle that internal essence is most important.

 Other Alliance 3rd Tier Hermeneutical Principles

  • Harmonize seemingly contradictory texts. Hold both in balance.
  • Acknowledge that normal does not necessitate a norm. That which is common does not automatically make it binding. Consider a broader, more charitable hermeneutic.
  • Maintain the principles of grammatical-historical exegesis mentioned above.
  • Yet realize “The final exegesis is not always found in the lexicon and grammar.”—J. Gordon. Even by using sound grammatical-historical hermeneutical principles, evangelical Christians disagree over how to interpret certain texts.
  • Leave room for divine ambiguity in Scripture for non-essentials/open questions.
  • Don’t try to make a 3rd Tier non-essential an Essential or a Distinctive or an open question a closed question.
  • Maintain The Alliance Hermeneutical Ethic: Maintain unity, liberty, and love.


 All denominations or theological groups have a hermeneutic, a perspective of interpretation of Scripture: a Reformed hermeneutic, a Wesleyan hermeneutic, a Pentecostal hermeneutic, a Baptist hermeneutic, etc. The Alliance hermeneutic is none of these and all of these! The Alliance hermeneutic embraces or gives liberty to all of these, expressed in one dimension or another or to one degree or another without fully embracing or dogmatizing any of them.

Recognizing that godly people who use sound biblical hermeneutics disagree on how to interpret the same Scriptures, The Alliance allowed for these variances to be downplayed for the sake of harmony and the greater purpose—evangelizing the lost. Because of the nature of the Alliance “big tent,” Alliance theology and hermeneutics have not always been articulated clearly across the board. Thus, as stated earlier, various theologies and hermeneutics have been propagated as “Alliance,” some of which are actually in conflict with Alliance theology and hermeneutics, or else have been elevated to the level of 1st or 2nd tier doctrines when our founders intended them to be 3rd tier non-essential open questions.

From its inception in 1887 and throughout our history, The Alliance has had an informal 3-tier hermeneutic, although not always expressed in a clear or consistent manner. These three tiers have been determined from numerous Alliance documents from various sources, including Simpson’s writings, Alliance periodicals, official Alliance documents, such as board minutes, Council documents, etc. These three tiers are as follows:

1st Tier: Essentials/Non-negotiables: “Unity in things essential” (2 Thess 2:15; 1 Cor 15:1-4)

  • ·      Belief in the three persons of the Trinity
  • ·      Divinity and humanity of Christ—Incarnation and Virgin Birth
  • ·      Divinity and personhood of the Holy Spirit
  • ·      God as Creator and the nature of creation
  • ·      Saving Work and Substitutionary Atoning Death of Christ
  • ·      Physical Resurrection of Christ and Ascension
  • ·      Scripture is verbally inspired and inerrant as originally given
  • ·      Man’s original creation in the image of God
  • ·      The fall of man through sin and sinful nature
  • ·      Lostness of man and need of salvation/new birth through Christ’s atonement
  • ·      The state of the lost and believers.
  • ·      Salvation by grace through faith has been provided through Jesus Christ for all men
  • ·      Imminent, physical and personal, visible Second Coming of Christ

2nd Tier: Alliance Distinctives

  • ·      Christocentric Fourfold Gospel (“the rallying point”—A.B. Simpson)
  • ·      Continuism—Christ the same in all ages (Heb 13:8), gifts of the Spirit continue
  • ·      Theological Foundations: Covenant Theology and Higher Life
  • ·      Jesus Christ as Savior—The Gospel of Full Salvation
  • ·      Believer’s baptism by immersion—2nd tier practice with 3rd tier liberty
  • ·      Jesus Christ as Sanctifier—the sanctifying baptism in the Spirit and progressive work
  • ·      Jesus Christ as Healer—of the whole person
  • ·      Jesus Christ as Coming King—premillennial with 3rd tier liberty

3rd Tier: Non-essentials, Open Questions

“Liberty in things non-essential; Love in all things” (Rom 14; Col 3:14-15)

  • ·      Church government (polity, ordination, roles of women in ministry)
  • ·      Worship practices (hymns vs modern, Sabbath,foot-washing, musical instruments0
  •        Fasting
  •        Communion
  •        Dedication of children
  • ·      End-times (tribulation, rapture, interpretation of Daniel and Revelation, etc.)
  • ·      Expressions or views of sanctification
  • ·      Varying views of creation (but not Darwinian evolution)
  • ·      Practices of tongues (but not tongues as THE evidence or anti-tongues)
  • ·      Calvinism and Arminianism
  • ·      Water baptism (2nd tier with 3rd tier liberty. Universal practice became baptism of believers by immersion, but not required for membership)
  • ·      Catholicism vs Protestantism
  • ·      Views on Israel (such as Zionism and the Anglo-Israel theory)—but not the replacement theory—that the church replaced Israel, or unorthodox British-Israelism
  • ·      Various views on tongues permitted except: 1) insistence on tongues as the initial evidence of the baptism in the Spirit and 2) tongues are not for the church today.
  • ·      Regarding dos & don’ts: “operation of a principle rather than application of a rule.”

Modeling a “unity-in-loving-liberty” hermeneutic, The Alliance has allowed for varying viewpoints on the role and meaning of things considered non-essential, secondary, or open questions. The early Alliance was thus as inclusive as Scripture allows and as exclusive as Scripture mandates.


According to A.B. Simpson these are the “great essential principles that we cannot compromise,” what Alliance theologian George Pardington calls the “fundamental doctrines,” based on the “Great Fundamentals” of 1910ff.  The US and Canadian Alliance Statements of Faith are based on these, citing scriptural support from the grammatical-historical hermeneutical approach. They are the cardinal doctrines of evangelical Christian faith:

Trinitarian Essentials

  • Belief in the 3 persons of the Trinity
  • Divinity and humanity of Christ
  • Divinity and personhood of the Holy Spirit
  • God as Creator and the nature of creation as fundamental

Christological Essentials

  • Deity and Humanity of Christ
  • Incarnation and Virgin Birth
  • Saving Work and Substitutionary Atoning Death of Christ
  • Physical Resurrection of Christ and Ascension

Pneumatological Essentials: The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit 

  • The divinity and the personality of the Holy Spirit as a member of the Triune Godhead
  • The Holy Spirit is not an “it,” not an impersonal force, not a law or principle, but is a person.
  • Stands against unorthodox teachings and religious groups at the time that denied the Trinity and the divine personhood of the Holy Spirit, regarding the Spirit a force, such as Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Oneness (“Jesus Only”) Pentecostals, or Seventh-Day Adventists who regard the Holy Spirit as “the Law.”
  • Lays the foundation for the Alliance distinctive of sanctification and baptism in the Spirit.

Scripture Essentials: Inspiration, Authority, Infallibility & Inerrancy

A.B. Simpson: “The Bible is either everything or nothing. Like a chain which depends upon its weakest link, if God’s Word is not absolutely and completely true, it is too weak a cable to fix our anchorage and guarantee our eternal peace.” From statements throughout Alliance history by Alliance leaders, we can observe that The Alliance holds to the following:

  • Scripture is verbally inspired and inerrant as originally given.
  • Errors may occur in transmission of texts, but the original manuscripts are without error.
  • Original autographs are inerrant in both in basic truths and in historical matters
    • Historicity of creation, the flood, the exodus, the defeating of Jericho
    • Authorship of the book of Isaiah by one Isaiah, not two or three
    • Authorship of the Book of Daniel in the 6th century Babylonian period, not the 2nd century
    • Genuine authorship of letters attributed to Paul

From studying statements throughout Alliance history by Alliance leaders, it can be determined that the C&MA takes the position H. Wayne House identifies as complete inerrancy and what David Dockery identifies as absolute and critical inerrancy.

Inerrancy views that the C&MA does not embrace include: mechanical dictation, limited inerrancy (or qualified or nuanced inerrancy), inerrancy of purpose or function, irrelevancy of inerrancy, biblical authority only.

Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Although the Alliance has no official statement regarding the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, statements by leaders throughout Alliance history have affirmed the contents of the Chicago statement, in particular, Article 10 on the original autographs.

  • Accuracy of Available Texts
  • Copies and Translations as the Word of God
  • No Faith Tenets Are Affected by Lack of Autographs.
  • Lack of Autographs Does Not Make Inerrancy Invalid or Irrelevant.

Soteriological Essentials:

  • Man’s original creation in the image of God
  • The fall of man through sin and sinful nature
  • Lostness of man and need of salvation/new birth through Christ’s atonement
  • The state of the lost and believers.
  • Salvation has been provided through Jesus Christ for all men
  • Those who repent and believe in Him are born again of the Holy Spirit, receive the gift of eternal life, and become the children of God.
  • The story of the fall of man in Genesis 3 is viewed by The Alliance as a literal true event, not merely a symbolic myth

Ecclesiologcal Essentials

  • The doctrine of redemption through the blood of Christ as stated in 1 Peter 1:1-2.
  • Christ as the Head of the Church as His body
  • Priorities/essential activities of the Church: worship, teaching, fellowship, prayer, the breaking of the bread (Acts 2:42).
  • Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are essential 1st tier ceremonies, not to be neglected.
    • Yet varying beliefs and practices regarding baptism and communion are not regarded as 1st tier doctrines and practices.

Eschatological Essentials

  • Reality of Heaven and Hell: Eternal salvation of those who believe in Christ and the everlasting punishment of those who reject Him; Bodily resurrection
  • Second Coming of ChristVisible “all eyes shall see him.” Physical and Personal–not merely a vision, but a real appearance. Imminent–could come very soon—in this very generation if the gospel is preached to all people—Matt 24:14
  • Premillennial Is Not 1st Tier Essential Doctrine of the Faith, but a 2nd Tier Distinctive, with 3rd tier liberty—see under 2nd and 3rd tiers

Challenges to the Essentials: Application to Theological Areas of Controversy Today 

Unorthodox Theological/Trinitarian Teachings Not Acceptable as Open Questions

  • “The doctrine of creation is fundamental to every other doctrine in the Scriptures.”—A.B. Simpson. Essential, non-negotiable, not open to question. Direct ex nihilo—out of nothing by the power of God, not by Darwinian evolution. The C&MA accepts “without question the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis.”
  • Open Theism: opposed to any form of openness theology that makes God less than God.
  • Modalism: Alliance “Jesus Only” is not similar to and does not accept modalistic Oneness Pentecostal “Jesus Only.” 

Unorthodox Christological Teachings Not Acceptable as Open Questions

  • Unorthodox kenotic theories that make Jesus less than God or that He gave up being God—the doctrine of “kenosis” based on “Christ emptied (kenoo) Himself” (Phil 2:7).
    • Note: Sub-kenotic theories, such as those held by A.B. Simpson and A.W. Tozer, are orthodox and acceptable. Simpson and Tozer maintained that Jesus did His miraculous works, not as God but as man, yet he never ceased to be God. Rather, He gave up or suspended His rights to exercise His power.
  • “carnality of Christ,” the teaching that Jesus had a sinful nature, but did not sin.
  • Alternative atonement theories that conflict with substitutionary atonement. For example, some current theology holds to what is called a “non-violent” view of the atonement, which appears in conflict with the substitutionary view. Such a view would not be considered an open question if it conflicts with or waters down a substitutionary view of the atonement.
    • Note: On the other hand, so long as another view of the atonement accepts also the substitutionary view, the views can be held concurrently. For example, while affirming substitutionary atonement, Simpson also accepted the ransom theory of atonement. Both views can be held without conflict. 

Unorthodox Soteriological/Eschatological Teachings Not Acceptable as Open Questions

  • Annihilationism (John Stott)
  • Inclusive Pluralism.
  • Another chance after death.

2ND TIER: ALLIANCE DISTINCTIVES (with some 3rd tier liberty)

These Distinctives are what make The Alliance “Alliance” the doctrines considered essential to the ethos and vision of The Alliance as founded by A.B. Simpson. These include the Fourfold Gospel and vital related truths. A.B. Simpson maintained, “The points essential to our united testimony are Salvation, Sanctification, Divine Healing and the Lord’s Coming.” They are based on the foundations of Scripture, the Higher Life message and Covenant Theology.

  • Christocentric
    • “Jesus only is our message.” The hermeneutical grid for The Alliance is “Christ in the Bible,” interpreting all of Scripture—every book—Christologically.
    • Not a doctrine, but a person: “This is not a doctrinal affirmation, this is an invitation to enter into the divine life and experience God’s fullness.”—Dr. Franklin Pyles, former president of The Alliance in Canada
  • Christological Continuism
    • High Christology, emphasizing the unchangeable character, purpose, and work of Christ (Heb 13:8).
    • A.B. Simpson: “If the Christ of Christianity is the same yesterday, today and forever, the Chris­tianity of Christ ought also to be the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
    • The clear implication is Continuism: all supernatural gifts of the Spirit continue today vs. cessationism or dispensationalism, the belief that certain gifts of the Spirit ceased after the end of the apostolic age or the completion of Scripture.
    • Implicit 2nd Tier Distinctives in the sanctifying filling of the Spirit and Christ as Healer
    • The Alliance Hermeneutic believes in an end-time Latter Rain revival.
    • The Alliance Hermeneutic affirms power evangelism.
    • The Alliance Continuist Hermeneutic has a strong biblical basis.
    • 2nd Tier Alliance Distinctive: Tongues is not THE evidence of the Baptism in the Spirit
    • The Alliance continuist hermeneutic is expressed in “Expectation Without Agenda”
    • 2nd Tier Continuist Distinctive with 3rd Tier liberty. “Don’t be too wary; don’t be too wild; be watchful and wise.”
  • The Fourfold Gospel—“The Rallying Point”
    • Fourfold unity is essential—with diversity and balance. A.B. Simpson
      • 2nd Tier Fourfold Unity with 3rd Tier flexibility and freedom. Limits to liberty:
      • Avoid side issues. Don’t make minor points into major points.
      • Don’t drift from these standards.
      • Avoid antagonism and attack.
  • Foundations for the Fourfold Gospel—Covenant Theology and the Higher Life 
    • Covenant Theology: The Church as spiritual Israel has responsibilities, rights and privileges in the New Covenant.
    • Higher Life: Seated in heavenlies with Christ, called ever higher (Eph 2:6; Phil 3:10-14)
  • Jesus Christ Our Savior
    • Salvation of the whole person—spirit, soul, and body—“the gospel of full salvation.” Jesus saves from sin and hell, but also lifts the believer into a higher life.
    • A Supernatural Salvation with a Supernatural Savior.
    • A Person, Not a Doctrine.
    • A “Whole” Gospel, Not a Merely a “Holistic” Gospel.
    • A Distinctive Within a Distinctive: Full Salvation Experienced Through Believer’s Baptism by Immersion.
      • 2nd Tier Distinctive With 3rd Tier Liberty—“We believe this but we allow that.
  • Jesus Christ Our Sanctifier
    • 2nd tier doctrine with 3rd tier liberty allowing for different terminology and variations of understanding.
    • The essence of Christ Our Sanctifier: the sanctifying baptism or filling with the Spirit and the progressive work of the Spirit following that “crisis” experience.
    • 1906 C&MA Statement for Christ as Sanctifier:
      1. a definite second blessing, distinct in nature, though not necessarily far removed in time, from the experience of conversion.
      2. the baptism of the Holy Ghost as a distinct experience, not merely for power for service, but for personal holiness over the world and sin.
      3. the indwelling Christ in the heart of the believer as a distinct experience
      4. sanctification by faith as a distinct gift of God’s grace to every open and surrendered soul
      5. growth in grace and the deeper filling of the Holy Spirit as distinct from and the            result of the definite experience of sanctification.
    • Firmly a 2nd Tier Alliance Distinctive. A.B. Simpson cautions:
      • “Loose views about sanctification, the baptism of the Holy Spirit are out of place.”
      • “We should deeply deplore any drift from this high and established standard.”
    • A Distinct, Subsequent “Crisis” Experience of the Spirit: “a second definite work of grace—a crisis as radical and revolutionary as the crisis of conversion.”—Alliance theologian Dr. George Pardington
    • A Sanctifying Experience—1 Thess 5:23; Rom 12:1-2; 2 Cor 6:14-7:1
    • Baptism in the Holy Spirit and Fire (Luke 3:16-17)
      • The language used by A.B. Simpson and early Alliance leaders, though a variety of other terminology was also used.
      • Baptism means immersed, saturated, overwhelmed.
      • “and fire” is the Holy Spirit’s work of cleansing, purifying
      • Not at conversion, but distinct–There is good exegetical and historical theological evidence for using the term “Baptism in the Spirit.” (provided in a separate paper)
    • Acts 1:4, 5, 8. Jesus identifies this baptism in the Spirit He gives as the Holy Spirit coming upon people for the purpose of power to be a witness—a 3-fold power:
      • Power to speak a witness with boldness, wisdom, effectiveness, and anointing from the Holy Spirit
      • Power to live a witness through transformed holy living, overcoming sin and the devil
      • Power to demonstrate a witness supernaturally through the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit
    • Crisis and progressive–“Deeper, fuller baptisms,” “Pentecosts and second Pentecosts”—A.B. Simpson
    • Sanctification is not eradication or suppression of the old self, but the law of lift—lifted into a Higher Life through “Christ in you.”
  • Jesus Christ Our Healer
    • Presents healing as a provision of the atonement is a 2nd Tier Doctrine with some 3rd tier liberty, allowing variations or nuances of interpretation and practice.
    • 1887—Alliance founded with the Fourfold Gospel motto. A crippled woman was mira-culously healed at the founding of the Alliance, confirming the healing ministry calling.
    • Key Scriptures exegeted include Isaiah 53:3-5; Matthew 8:16-17; 1 Peter 2:24; Psalm 103:1-5; James 5:13-17; Exodus 15:26, among others.
    • 1906 Board of Mgrs statement on Christ Our Healer: “the Alliance holds and teaches:
      1. The will of God to heal bodies of those who trust and obey Him by His own direct power without means.
      2. The atonement of Christ for the body.
      3. The life of the risen Christ for our mortal frame received by faith.
      4. The ordinance of anointing and laying on of hands with proper recognition of the necessity of faith on the part of the individual anointed.
      5. Power over evil spirits through the name of Jesus.
      6. The disclaiming of merit or individual power on the part of the worker, and the constant recognition of the name of Jesus as the source of all supernatural power.”
    • Additional Alliance Principles and Concepts of Christ Our Healer
      • Whole Person Healing (Psalm 103:1-5).
      • A Covenantal Redemption Right
      • Healing in the Atonement Not an Absolute. “A man is immortal until his work is done”—Simpson quoting Spurgeon and Cromwell
      • The Overlapping of the Ages—The Kingdom Here Now, But Not Fully Here Yet
      • There is a place for medicine and doctors.
    • Deliverance Ministry as a Part of Alliance Healing Ministry
      • “Power over evil spirits through the name of Jesus”—1906, 1922 Board Statements
      • “Deliverance from demons stands right alongside divine healing and stands or falls with it.”—A.B. Simpson
      • Satan is not currently bound on earth (Rev 20:1-3). Believers are thus called to bind and loose—A.B. Simpson, Robert Jaffray, John MacMillan, Ethan O. Allen
      • We have the authority of the believer—taught by A.B. Simpson and John MacMillan
      • There are varying degrees of demon presence and power—William C. Stevens
      • Christians can be demonized, but not possessed, i.e., owned by demons.
      • Sources of demonization of believers include: Involvement with the occult; transmission of unclean spirits; generational bondages and curses; counterfeit supernatural manifestations; passive, undiscerning acceptance of demonic forces
      • Be Christ-conscious, not devil-conscious—A.W. Tozer
    • Note: Some of the major opponents of the Alliance position on healing in the atonement include B.B. Warfield, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Hank Hanegraaff, Tim Challies, etc.
  • Jesus Christ Our Coming King
    • Premillennial 2nd Coming: a 2nd tier doctrine with 3rd tier liberty. The founding Constitutional Statement of The Alliance, August 1887, reads: “Inasmuch as many persons who desire to become members of this Alliance and are in full accord with its principles in other points, cannot yet fully accept the doctrine of Christ’s Pre-millennial Coming, it is agreed that such persons may be received into full membership provided they receive the first three points of testimony, and are willing to give this subject their candid and prayerful consideration.”
      • This is a case of “We believe this but allow that.”
      • During Simpson’s life, he did stress that the Alliance was premillennial but did not make it a condition for fellowship or doctrine. His attitude and teaching were more like, “this is a great truth and here are good reasons for believing it.” One of those good reasons was that all of the earliest church fathers before Origen viewed the Second Coming as premillennial.
    • Simpson—An Amillennial Premillennialist. Simpson believed in a dual millennium—both now and future—the beginning of a personal spiritual millennium for the believer now and a physical millennium for the church in the future:
      • “There is a sense in which His coming to each heart will bring a millennial blessing to that heart. There is a millennium for the soul as well as for the Church. There is a kingdom of peace and righteousness and glory into which, in a limited sense, we can enter with Him here. There is a Kingdom of God which is within us.”
      • He taught the principle of the “kingdom here now, but not yet,” calling it “the overlapping of the ages”:
        • “We may press forward to His coming… by anticipating already in some measure the millennial life. Even here and now we may receive a foretaste of the coming kingdom.”
        • “God permits us to live under the powers of the age to come and come into the border zone.”
        • “As in the past God was always overlapping the coming age, so is He today overlapping the next age…. All this is the overlapping of the millennial day…. We shall find nothing awaiting us yonder that we have not begun to find in our experience here.”
        • “Let us begin the millennial life here if we expect to enjoy it by and by.”
        • “To each of us, like Esther, God has given a kingdom of influence and power…. Our king has given to each of us a trust to occupy…. Have you claimed all your kingdom?”
  • Note: In Simpson’s framework, a person can be both an amillennialist and a premillennialist—thus, an amillennial premillennialist, making room for both in Scripture without sacrificing a literal interpretation of Scripture. So we see that some features of amillennialism and post-millennialism can be compatible with premillennialism and fit into a premillennial framework. A premillennial framework can be malleable enough to encompass some amil and post-mil aspects.
  • Of course, some elements of post mil and a mil are not compatible. For instance, some brands of amillennialism teach that Satan is currently bound on earth, according to their interpretation of Revelation 20:1-3. The Alliance does not hold that Satan is currently bound and not deceiving the nations. Satan is very much active in harassing people’s lives and deceiving.


Third tier doctrines and practices are termed in Alliance documents as “secondary” or “side” issues that are “non-essential,” “open questions.” With a hermeneutic of “unity in loving liberty,” the early Alliance was as inclusive as Scripture allows (based on Romans 14) and as exclusive as Scripture mandates, building bridges of interdenominational cooperation in “harmonized diversity,” avoiding extremes and side issues such as “fads, frauds, phases, and hobby horses.”

What Are Not Considered Open Questions—The Essentials and Distinctives

  • Any belief that watered down the Trinity; the sovereignty of God; God as Creator (vs. evolution); the authority, infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture; the lostness of man; the deity, humanity, incarnation, virgin birth, death, vicarious atonement, physical resurrection, ascension, and second coming of Christ.
  • Any belief that watered down or compromised the Alliance distinctives of Christ-centeredness, supernatural continuism, Christ as Savior, Sanctifier (the sanctifying baptism/filling with the Spirit), Healer, and Coming King
  • Anything that would disrupt unity on the points above.
  • 3rd tier flexibility was allowed in terminology and understanding of “phases and phrases,” but no laxity or excessive latitude that would compromise any of these points.

3rd Tier Principles Regarding Open Questions

  • The Principle of a “Broad Platform” and “Bridge-Building.
  • The Principle of Flexibility, Not Rigidity: “God’s methods allow for exceptions and adjustments.”–A.B. Simpson
  • The Principle of Family over Religious Formality—“fraternal vs. ecclesiastical”
  • The Principles of Harmonious Disagreement and Harmonious Liberty.
  • The Principle of Keeping to Biblical Terminology as Much as Possible
  • The Principle of “We Believe This But Allow That.” How practiced in The Alliance?
    • The Alliance believes in the premillennial 2nd coming of Christ, but allowed for other viewpoints so long as open to premillennialism.
    • The Alliance believes in believer’s baptism by immersion, but “No one was excluded from membership whose conscience was satisfied with their infant baptism.”
    • The Alliance believed that men are usually elders and pastors but allowed for women to be pastors and elders if the local church so desired and the woman was under authority and had an anointing from God.
  • The Principle of Balance: “Overstress the minors, and you have chaos; overlook the majors, and you have death.”—A.W. Tozer.

How Are Disagreements Over Open Questions To Be Handled?

  • Let there be no controversy or argument on these issues—agree to differ, not divide.
  • Don’t make a major over a minor even if it is a major in your eyes.
  • Don’t become dogmatic and warlike over your position.
  • Do not judge one another—be one in heart.
  • Do not be aggressive or pressure others with your viewpoint.
  • Avoid any spirit of antagonism.
  • Avoid attacking those who differ.
  • Don’t let a narrow, sectarian spirit divide us.
  • Don’t speak a reckless word against another believer—don’t speak unkindly, don’t slander, don’t be bitter.
  • Have an attitude of humility—none of us have the whole truth.
  • Don’t force your interpretation of Scripture on others.
  • Even if separation is necessary, like Paul and Barnabas, separate in a spirit of mutual love.

Tozer: The Main Difficulty—Disagreement Over What Constitutes 3rd Tier: “I have seen the motto, ‘In essentials unity; in nonessentials charity,’ and I have looked for its incarnation in men and churches without finding it, one reason being that Christians cannot agree on what is and what is not essential. Each one believes that his fragment of truth is essential and his neighbor’s unessential, and that brings us right back where we started.”—A.W. Tozer

Issues Considered 3rd Tier “Open Questions” for the Alliance

Through thorough research of Alliance documents, the following have been documented historically as considered “open questions” or “side issues” in the Alliance, among others:

  • Church government (polity, ordination, women in ministry).
  • Calvinism and Arminianism (either may be held, but agree to disagree harmoniously)
  • Various worship practices
    • Water baptism. (The almost universal practice became baptism of believers by immersion, but not required for membership—2nd tier with 3rd tier liberty)
    • Views regarding communion
      • open or closed communion (most practice open communion, but decision rests with the local congregation).
      • theology of communion—3rd tier liberty except for Catholic transubstantiation
    • dedication of children
    • modern hymns and tunes (use of musical instruments, etc)
    • when to worship (sabbath, etc.)
    • fasting
    • foot washing
  • Roles of the ministry of women: open question, not to be aggressive about. The decision rests with the local congregation. An ecumenical middle path that was both egalitarian and complementarian, affirming male headship and at the same time granting virtually full freedom for women in ministry, including pastoral ministry and performance of all pastoral functions, providing latitude for both personal liberty of conscience, unity, and tolerance. Weighing differing interpretations of pertinent biblical passages, Alliance leadership determined that there was sufficient ambiguity in the Scripture so as to have no clear example or sanction to ordain women, yet sufficient biblical evidence to allow practically complete latitude for women to serve in virtually any capacity of ministry as long as they were submitted to appropriate authority. The position of the C&MA until 1998 US change.
  • Catholicism vs Protestantism: Some Roman Catholic theology was not accepted (transubstantiation, relics, baptismal regeneration, purgatory, and salvation by works), but an appreciation for the evangelical Catholic mystics. The Alliance understood that some people had a real deep relationship and fellowship with God even with defective theology. Avoid arguing over doctrines, but rather lead people to Christ.
  • Varying views on Creation (but Darwinian evolutionary theory was not accepted)
  • Views on sanctification: “liberty to present the truth of sanctification in such phases and phrases as convictions warrant,” but with the understanding that views “shall not be pressured in an aggressive or controversial spirit toward those who differ.”
  • End-times, 2nd Coming and rapture: The C&MA held to a pre-millennial eschatology, but not rigidly, giving liberty to teachers in presenting various opinions about the end-times
  • Views on Israel: (such as Zionism and the Anglo-Israel theory)—However, The Alliance did not believe in the replacement theory—that the church replaced Israel.
  • Various views on tongues permitted except: 1) insistence on tongues as the initial evidence of the baptism in the Spirit and 2) tongues are not for the church today.
  • Regarding dos & don’ts: “operation of a principle rather than application of a rule.”


  • Apply the Two Wings Principle.
  • Recognize that the final exegesis not in the lexicon and grammar.
  • Recognize a divine ambiguity.

Ultimately, agree to disagree harmoniously. Accept that there are good godly people on both sides of these issues.One can take a position on one of these issues without being argumentative, dogmatic, or hostile toward those taking an opposing view.

  • In the Alliance 3rd Tier Ecumenical Hermeneutic, one can be
    • a Calvinist without being argumentative, dogmatic, or hostile toward Arminians.
    • an Arminian without being argumentative, dogmatic, or hostile toward Calvinists.
    • premillennial without being argumentative, dogmatic, or hostile toward amillennialists.
    • amillennial without being argumentative, dogmatic, or hostile toward premillennialists.
    • complementarian without being argumentative, dogmatic, or hostile toward egalitarians.
    • egalitarian without being argumentative, dogmatic, or hostile toward complementarians.
    • young earth, 6 day-24 hour creationist without being argumentative, dogmatic, or hostile toward old earth, day-age or other creationists.
    • old earth, day-age or other creationists without being argumentative, dogmatic, or hostile toward young earth, 6 day-24 hour creationists.
    • fond of traditional hymns and worship without being argumentative, dogmatic, or hostile toward those who love contemporary worship music.
    • fond of contemporary worship music without being argumentative, dogmatic, or hostile toward those who love traditional hymns and worship.
    • And the list of applications goes on!