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The Peril of Pentecostalism

By Bill Lockwood

religion, articles, christianity

Pentecostal religious organizations cover a wide field of various churches, sometimes harboring contradictory beliefs within their own ranks, but each claiming to have special religious experiences which they mistakenly suppose to be authored by the Holy Spirit of God. "The Pentecostal experience may be defined as seeking and receiving the gift of speaking in tongues as a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit" (Encyclopedia of Amer. Religions, Melton, vol. 1, p. 243). I state here, that the phenomenon of tongue­speaking is only a self­deception among them, for the Bible teaches that miraculous gifts, including this one, ceased after the first century. Besides, the tongues of the New Testament consisted of known languages, not charismatic gibberish (the tongue talking I refer to later in this piece is not really so). It is my intention to demonstrate by fair reasoning and Scripture why such a belief as the above poses a danger-it is to lean upon a "broken reed." First, note the history of this movement; second, the hazard of such rash belief.

History of Pentecostalism

The first manifestation of tongue­talking in the modern era occurred in 17th century France during state suppression of Protestants. In the 18th century the Quakers also believed in these manifestations of the Spirit. In the 1830s the Mormons, led by Joseph Smith, claimed miraculous gifts were worked through them.

The current affair of tongues began in 1901 in Topeka, Kansas. Charles Parham, the director of a school, led his students on a search for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. They concluded it was for today and on January 1, they claimed to have received it. From that day to this, Pentecostalism has become extremely popular in spite of the fact that their adherents have divided up into MANY different factions, some of them holding contrary doctrines to one another. Consider:

All charismatic groups have been founded upon so­called revelations from God; but they are 1900 years too late to be the church of the Bible.

Do Pentecostals, who claim to have the Spirit, accept such groups as the Mormons who pretend the same? Mormons are more consistently wrong than other charismatic groups because they teach that if signs are still occurring today, then twelve apostles must also still be living! As a matter of fact, if apostles, or miracles continue now, Scripture is still being revealed! Will Pentecostals endorse Mormons? Why or why not?

The splintering within Pentecostalism is frequently over points of doctrine. There is a variety of Pentecostal groups, each claiming to be miraculously led by the Spirit, which teach a variety of doctrines contrary to one another. This alone proves that the Spirit is not the author of their excitement. Otherwise, the Spirit would be the author of confusion.

Dangers

A belief that miracles are performed today on earth endangers the soul who so believes it. First, simply because it is false doctrine.

Jesus said the truth makes one free, not error. One apostle told a congregation that those who teach a different doctrine have "cut themselves off from Christ" (Gal. 5:1­4). A person cannot be saved who holds to error.

Pentecostals believe that "tongue-speaking" is the evidence that they have the truth. The United Pentecostals say "tongue-speaking is the initial evidence of Holy Spirit baptism" and without tongues "you have not had the baptism" without which you cannot be saved. The harrowing hazard here is that when participants "come to themselves" and realize they have been duped, they suppose there is no foundation for faith at all.

Most Pentecostals think that the miracles they claim today are the same as the apostles gave in the first century. When the discovery is made that the miracles are either faked or that they are not miracles at all, they may commit the blunder that the apostles never did any real miracle either. Hence, the New Testament is without miraculous confirmation in their mind.

There is also the acute danger in the modern "miracles" since the effect is to cause people to place more confidence in their own feelings than in the Word of God and thereby jeopardize their souls. Not only does the Bible teach that miracles have ceased, but the hyper-emotional nature of their meetings are designed to spark the emotions of individuals. I attended a meeting in Arkansas of this sort, and if the Spirit was the one causing the hopping and bopping and shouting amidst the blare of pop­style music on stage, then I must confess the Spirit does the same thing at any rock concert. With friends whirling you about, music reverberating through your very spine, preachers squeezing your head like a cantaloupe while shouting, "Receive the spirit," in your ear, hands clapping in beat, and bodies sweating swaying, and swinging-it was a first­class emotional display falsely called "movement of the Spirit."

Those who participate in such scenes usually care not what passage of Scripture you may place your finger upon which teaches that miracles have ceased, their reliance is upon what they feel.

John Sherrill, a popular Pentecostal writer, was even instructed: "It is not logic but an experience that lets us know who Christ is." (They Speak with Other Tongues, p. 2). He was further taught that "you can't approach Christianity through your mind or your intellect. Instead," he was told, "Say yes to Christ, accept him as your personal Savior, and take the leap of faith. Without understanding, without even knowing why, say 'Yes to Christ'" (p. 3).

Pentecostalism destroys faith in the Christ of the Word, and insists that you disengage your mind, and makes you lean upon your own feelings.

(Editor's note: A reporter recently visited a Pentecostal type service called "The Toronto Blessing." It is put on at the Airport Church in Toronto. The article said, ''[O]thers responded to the prayer by yelling, grunting, yelping, screaming, coughing, twitching, doubling over with cramps or taking what looks like a fit.")


Published May 1997