The traditional (classical) Pentecostal movement began just before the turn of the century. Evangelical Christians with a desire to recapture God’s plan for his Church and to reaffirm the cardinal principles and doctrines of historic Christianity in all their pristine power and glory sought God for his fullness. They were greeted with an outpouring of the Spirit that was to be the start of a world-wide movement.

Although most of these early believers had no desire to leave the established churches, they were ostracized because of their Pentecostal experience. They had a broad area of agreement doctrinally with the evangelicals, but there was a strong resentment to the “tongues experience.” Therefore, they had to establish Pentecostal fellowships in order to have freedom of expression of their new-found experience. Pentecostals in time became a strong sector of evangelicalism.

In those days, a non-evangelical who claimed to be a Pentecostal was almost unheard of. But the picture is quite different today. Some evangelicals have readjusted their level of tolerance so as to accommodate Pentecostals within their fellowship. The emergence of Pentecostal claimants among non-evangelicals has been received with tolerance or acceptance. There is a claim to the Pentecostal experience among the liberal movements and Roman Catholics as well. Pentecostal movements in these groups have been labeled the “new Pentecostalism” or “neo-Pentecostalism.”

Defining “new Pentecostalism” would be almost as difficult as defining fundamentalism. In its brief existence it has been variously interpreted according to the religious background of the recipients. For example, to the Catholics it is a “charismatic renewal,” which implies that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not a new experience but an “actualization” of an experience received objectively in the baptismal celebration. It is an experience of reaffirmation, rather than initiation, not necessarily accompanied by speaking in tongues. Very simply, for them it is a renewal in faith.

For most evangelicals who embrace the new Pentecostalism, it is an added dimension in spiritual living. They perceive the baptism in the Spirit as a crisis experience subsequent to the new birth, and not a renewal of a previous experience.

To many liberal church people who have known Christ only nominally prior to their contact with the new Pentecostalism, it has an altogether different meaning. It is an act of regeneration or a conversion experience that has transformed their lives.

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When Pentecostalism was confined mostly to evangelicals or to new converts, the issues with which we dealt were generally not fundamental in nature. But since some non-evangelicals now claim the Pentecostal experience, new questions have arisen. Let us consider a few of these.

The Question Of Doctrine And Commitment

An accepted concept among many new Pentecostals is that since Pentecostalism is not a denomination, not a doctrine, but an experience, it can be accommodated within any doctrinal framework. If this theory holds true, one could conceivably possess the Pentecostal experience regardless of his belief or doctrine.

This raises a serious question: Does belief or doctrine have any bearing on experience? If not, then does it matter what one believes? I submit that we cannot separate faith and commitment, for what we believe determines our experience. We proceed from doctrine to experience. The Apostle declared, “Ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Rom. 6:17). A serious problem arises if we divorce experience from doctrine.

The Word of God is the means by which experience is authenticated. On the Day of Pentecost, when 120 believers received the infilling of the Spirit, Peter related the experience to the Word: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). While the observers focused on the experience, Peter presented the scriptural basis for the experience. Any experience that falls outside the framework of Scripture must be identified as spurious, no matter how impressive it might appear.

The Word of God sets forth not an experience-oriented Pentecost but a Word-centered Pentecost. Scripture is not verified by experience; rather, experience is tested by Scripture. Since man is an emotional being, it is a safeguard for him to validate his experience by the Word. Scripture provides guidelines for translating the experience into forms of effective service. God does not give one an experience for the sake of experience; therefore, there must be a balance between experience and doctrine. One’s experience can always be challenged on the authority of Scripture. If this were not so, man would be the ultimate authority, and his experience would be unchallengeable or the last word.

The Corinthian church was somewhat experience-centered, and the Apostle Paul pointed those believers back to the Word: “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, and “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

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Admittedly, those who receive the experience must be given time to grow and develop; but when the Spirit possesses a person, He guides him into all truth. The Spirit-possessed person will not remain in error. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God” (John 7:17). Christianity is based upon doctrine and where doctrine and teaching are lacking, error occurs. First-century Christians based their experience on the doctrine of the apostles and continued steadfastly in this doctrine, to the point that the complaint against them was that they had filled Jerusalem with their doctrine.

I submit, then, that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is an experiential doctrine based upon Scripture and dependent upon man’s faith in and obedience to the Word.

The Question Of Normativeness

Traditional Pentecostals believe that speaking with tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance is the initial outward, physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. A number of the new Pentecostals teach that speaking with tongues is not necessarily linked with the reception of the baptism. In other words, they do not believe that speaking with tongues is the normative experience. The argument against considering tongues-speaking the normative experience for Spirit-baptized believers is that it should not be classified as a binding doctrine because it is not categorically stated in the Word of God. In fact, traditional Pentecostals have been accused of making laws for the Holy Spirit when they set forth the pattern in the Book of Acts as the model for receiving the baptism in the Spirit. To take this approach has been called exegetically untenable, a case of “passage picking.” These critics say that at best these could be only “faith texts.”

However, the cumulative evidence of the scriptural experiences of the baptism in the Holy Spirit corroborates the doctrine of speaking in other tongues as the normative experience. In three instances out of five, the Scriptures definitely state that the recipients spoke in tongues. In the other two cases where speaking in tongues is not recorded, there were outward and observable signs of the Spirit baptism.

The two occasions where the Scripture does not record speaking with tongues were those of the Spirit baptism of Paul at Damascus and of the disciples at Samaria. One reads in First Corinthians that Paul spoke in tongues more than all the Corinthians. I submit that this experience had its origin at his Holy Spirit baptism in Damascus. The terminology used in Acts 8 to describe the Samarian experience suggests to me that they spoke in tongues. There was some physical manifestation accompanying the experience that attracted Simon the Sorcerer. When he saw it, he offered money to purchase it. I think that Simon saw what the people of Jerusalem saw on the Day of Pentecost.

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In addition to an outward, observable sign in Samaria, the terminology of the context connotes a like experience to those in the household of Cornelius. The Samaria record states, “(For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:16, 17). At the household of Cornelius it is recorded that “while Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word” (Acts 10:44). And recounting this occasion Peter said, “As I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). I conclude, then, that if they spoke with tongues when the Holy Ghost fell on them at the beginning (Pentecost) and when he fell on them at the household of Cornelius, they also spoke with tongues when he fell on them at Samaria.

Pentecostals are charged with tending to absolutize Lukan theology. Critics who make this charge point out that speaking with tongues is not set forth in the Epistles and the Gospels. However, for me this raises another very serious point: that of the inspiration of the Scriptures. Was not the Acts record of Luke inspired by the Holy Ghost and therefore infallible? Why would there have to be further supportive Scripture to verify and validate his record? Is theology of one portion of the Scripture more authentic than another? Is Johannine theology more authentic than Lukan theology?

I hasten to say that while traditional Pentecostals do hold that speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance is the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Ghost, they also believe that it is by no means the final evidence. The Spirit does not come merely to speak, but his speaking is his announcement that He has come to the believer and will accompany him in carrying out the Great Commission. This experience is not the apex of Christian service but the genesis. It is the beginning of a life of full service in Christ Jesus.

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The Question Of Unity

Many of the new Pentecostals have expressed hope that the commonality of experience will be the rallying point for the unity of all believers. It sounds good to say that we are joined together in a common brotherhood beneath our doctrinal differences. But I am not aware of a historical account where a common experience has brought about unification in the Body. The Spirit is the agent that brings us together. He is the agent that ministers unity. He unifies men around the faith and brings them together in Christ.

Therefore, while the Spirit brings us together, it is the “like precious faith” that holds us together. We come together under the banner of the Word and not upon a commonality of experience. While we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, this unity is posited in one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Some who profess an experience of glossolalia do not subscribe to the tenets of Christianity. In fact, religious movements through the centuries, even the Satanists, have had their so-called glossolalia. So I submit that glossolalia or other spiritual phenomena cannot serve to unify. The New Testament Church rallied around the faith: “All that believed were together” (Acts 2:44). “They spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul” (Acts 4:31, 32). With heart and soul blended together in faith and experience, they focused upon the Word of God.

The charismatic Corinthians, who had a commonality of experience, were urged to be of the same mind and of the same judgment (1 Cor. 1:10), because the Apostle knew that those who are at variance ideologically and theologically cannot maintain harmony for long. Those who are experience-oriented tend to glorify the experience and call attention to phenomena or signs and not to Christ and his Word. The Spirit focuses attention not upon himself but upon Christ: “For he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me”. (John 16:13, 14).

In Christian circles there is a general awareness of the need for unity. The answer will not be found in a commonality of experience, however. Neither will it be found in mergers, amalgamations, federations, or unions that form a superstructure with no heart or soul—a joining of hands over a division of hearts. Unity will be found when we gather around the Word and rediscover the scriptural foundations of New Testament Christianity.

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The Question Of Life-Style

Another question that has come into focus among the new Pentecostals is: What are the effects of the baptism in the Holy Ghost upon one’s manner of life? The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not to be identified with cleansing, redemption, and forgiveness of sins, but with power for service. The world (or sinners) cannot receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit; for Scripture tells of “the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17). Therefore, one must have a personal knowledge of Christ and must have experienced the transforming grace of God in his life prior to the experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The rule throughout the Scriptures is that purity precedes power. The Apostle Peter, in explaining the Spirit baptism of the Gentiles, pointed out that their hearts were purified by faith: “God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us” (Acts 15:8). “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 4:7, 8).

Some of the new Pentecostals testify that they have been set free from certain sins through the Pentecostal experience. Testimonies are often cited from persons who were cured of dope addiction or cleansed from gross iniquity by the baptism in the Holy Spirit. While I do not wish to judge these testimonies, I must test them by the Word of God, and nowhere does the Word of God set forth the forgiveness of sins as a result of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, the Spirit is given unto them that obey him (Acts 5:32). While we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith, as we do all things which come from God, it is also true that there are limitations and requirements to the reception of the Spirit.

The Spirit of God is the Spirit of Holiness. It follows, then, that one who is filled with the Spirit will live a life of holiness. Therefore, it is incongruous with the experience of the baptism in the Holy Ghost for one to live a life after the flesh. A body controlled by lust and sinful habits certainly could not be inhabited by the Holy Ghost. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost, and it is unthinkable that the Holy Ghost would dwell in a temple that is unholy. “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor. 3:17). A valid experience (the key word in this sentence is valid) of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance is evidence that God has control of one’s life and that one is yielded to him.

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The Question Of Relation To The Church

For one reason or another, the new Pentecostals have formed “renewal communities,” “households,” or other such groups directed by informal leaders outside their churches. It is not uncommon for a charismatic person to attend his church on Sunday morning and meet with a prayer group or a renewal community in the evening. One wonders why these exclusive gatherings are necessary if these persons are involved in the life of their churches and the churches are allowing them freedom of expression and opportunity for service. The Word of God demands involvement in the church and participation in the ministries that build up the body. How can one fulfill the body ministries and work to build up one’s church while operating apart from it? Moreover, those who seek Pentecostal fellowship in a group that is not under church supervision leave themselves open to error and to spiritual excesses. In most cases these groups do not have the guidance of one who is experienced in the Word. Therefore, in some of these groups there have been unscriptural practices, and the name of Christ has been blasphemed.

The New Pentecostalism

These five questions I have raised are a matter of concern to the traditional Pentecostals. Let us review them in the light of some of the specifics of the new Pentecostalism.

In relation to the question of doctrine and commitment, consider these two areas of concern: the manner and means of the baptism in the Spirit; the use of the charismatic experience to affirm doctrines or to reinforce traditions.

The new Pentecostals use the same terminology as the traditional Pentecostals, but do not always mean the same thing. Catholics, or the sacramentalists, hold that:

The baptism in the Holy Spirit, as we use the term, has been poured out in the church since Pentecost Sunday and through every complete baptismal celebration still today. The church is filled with the Holy Spirit as the Body of Christ. It has already received all the gifts and the fruits of the Spirit. What this new pentecostal movement seeks to do through faithful prayer and by trusting in the Word of God is to ask the Lord to actualize in a concrete living way, what Christian people have already received. It is an attempt to respond in radical faith to the Spirit, who has already been given, so that His life, His gifts and His fruit may be actualized in the lives of the members of Christ’s Body [Kevan and Dorothy Ranaghan, Catholic Pentecostals, Paulist-New-man, 1969, p. 141].

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As I understand it, the Catholic Pentecostals are saying that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is received in a complete baptismal celebration by every Catholic. It is at this point that one has a rebirth and receives the Holy Spirit, whether or not he is aware of it. One receives the baptism in the Holy Spirit objectively, when he is sacramentally baptized. But in addition to this hidden communication of the Holy Spirit, there is also a manifest communication that may occur later. This is called the actualization of the experience. Tongues may or may not occur in the actualization. This position poses a serious problem for traditional Pentecostals; they believe that what it says about the experience of salvation does not have a scriptural foundation.

The next area of concern is the use of the charismatic experience to affirm, doctrines and reinforce traditions. According to a number of Catholic writers, Catholic Pentecostals tend to go back and begin using avenues of contact with God that they had abandoned—the rosary, the Real Presence, devotion to Mary. Some return to the practice of frequent confession and daily mass and communion. The whole of the church’s sacramental and liturgical life becomes more meaningful to them, and they tend to work out the theology of Pentecostalism in a sacramental and liturgical context. They have found themselves more attached to the structural church after receiving the baptism in the Spirit. Some report that the actualization of the Spirit comes during the rosary; for others, it comes during the singing of a hymn at Mass; for still others, it comes in prayer to the Blessed Virgin.

Since the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, traditional Pentecostals cannot understand how claimants of the Pentecostal experience can continue to subscribe to traditions and doctrines that are not scripturally based. The concern of many traditional Pentecostals is that many sacramentalists have never been brought to an effective personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Many who are desiring the experience really need an experience of the new birth, or conversion, which is a prerequisite to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

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Now, let us consider the question of speaking with tongues as the normative experience for those who receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. At this point some of the neo-Pentecostals and the traditional Pentecostals disagree. For example, most Catholic Pentecostals reject the necessary link between the baptism and speaking in tongues. For them, anyone who asks for the baptism receives it, whether or not he speaks with tongues.

One of the problems is the failure to distinguish between speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance as the evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues as set forth in First Corinthians 12 and 14. A proper understanding at this point would, in all probability, answer some of the questions on the nqrmativeness of speaking in tongues.

Let us proceed to the question of unity. At this point, the concern of the traditional Pentecostals is the differences that exist on fundamental doctrines. We cannot be unified by a common experience. For example, at the charismatic conference on the campus of Notre Dame University in 1972, there were non-Catholic charismatics who insisted on water rebaptism, while on the other hand, in the closing session of the conference, the “separated brethren” were told they would not be allowed to partake of the Eucharist.

At that same conference, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph McKinney of Grand Rapids, Michigan, said that one worry of some of the bishops was the belief among charismatics that all faiths are equally valid. He went on to say that “Roman Catholicism has a fullness of the Christ tradition found in no other denomination.” Catholics declare that they are not Pentecostals but Catholics who have had a Pentecostal experience; the experience they have received makes them better Catholics. The very term “neo-Pentecostal” or “new Pentecostal” suggests a difference or cleavage in the Pentecostal ranks.

It has been said that this is an era of interpreting, explaining, reaching toward one another. May God grant it to be so in reality and not in mere word. There is much talk about unity in charismatic circles, but some very divisive elements are apparent.

Possibly, one of the most painful concerns among some traditional Pentecostals is the life-style of some who profess the baptism in the Spirit. Most of the traditional Pentecostals believe in a “separated life,” and many of the new Pentecostals do not. The Ranaghans write in Catholic Pentecostals:

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We must not confuse the baptism in the Holy Spirit with cultural forms of religious expression common in pentecostal denominations. The righteous life is characterized by clean living; therefore, no smoking, drinking, dancing, makeup, theatre going, or other amusements. While considerably tempered over the last several decades, the revivalistic culture continues to pervade denominational pentecostalism. It is perhaps the gift box in which the gift comes among those people—but it is not to be confused with the gift itself. In its own cultural setting and development, this religious life-style is quite beautiful, meaningful and relevant. But it is not essential to nor desirable for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, especially among people of far different religious backgrounds [p. 154].

Traditional Pentecostals believe that holiness is Christ-likeness and that holiness is of the heart. They also believe that the transformation of a person’s heart will effect a change in his lifestyle. The transformation will produce a life of nonconformity to the world that is apparent in everyday living. It is true that we must not confuse holiness with cultural mannerisms; but at the same time, Christ must be reflected in our lives, and men must know that we have been with Jesus when they see our manner of living. It is not simply a matter of keeping clear on certain things because they are traditional; it is a matter of obeying them because they are scripturally true.

As for the practice among new Pentecostals of meeting in groups that are not under the auspices of the church: the main concern of the traditional Pentecostals is the error that usually occurs in such groups and the divisiveness that ensues. There is also a concern that this exclusiveness will seem to signify spiritual elite or create a spiritual superiority complex.

New Pentecostals who are zealous for others to receive the experience sometimes attempt to impart the gift. Edward Plowman tells of a book by a charismatic priest in which “youths preparing for confirmation are advised to ‘make sounds like baby talk, gibberish,’ or to copy someone who speaks in tongues ‘until your gift flows’ ” (“The Spirit Is Moving,” CHRISTIANITY TODAY, June 22, 1973, p. 37). Certain phonetics have been suggested by some who instruct persons seeking the baptism in the Spirit.

There is also the tendency to place revelations on a level with the Word, or even above it. It must always be pointed out that true revelations are not contrary to the Word, nor do they supplant the Word.

Some use speaking with tongues as a psychological release or catharsis, a personal refreshing with which they begin each morning. But there is no biblical premise for this type of human control of speaking in tongues. Tongues are a purposeful gift and not given to be manipulated according to the fancies of men nor to satisfy the curiosity of men. Tongues come not from man but from God; man is merely the vehicle for the transmission of the divine message.

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