2. Puritan; or, Nonconformist.
3. Wesleyan Arminian; or, Wesleyan.
7. Third Wave; or, Evangelical Charismatic.
If someone were to ask me, “What kind of a Christian are you?” My quick answer would be: “Pentecostal.” But seeing that there are many varieties of Pentecostalism today, I think its necessary for me to define what kind of Pentecostal I am. That way, there is clarity for my own spiritual walk, and for others who might want to know where I’m coming from. I will take a historical-theological look at church history and explain how this has an influence on my faith in Jesus and the Gospel. ASSEMBLIES OF GOD takes views of the Bible and Christian experience which I generally consent to, but as I am not a member of that denomination, I consider myself…
1. Protestant. That is, I believe in justification by faith alone; the doctrine of salvation preached by Martin Luther (d. 1546), Thomas Cranmer (d. 1556), John Calvin (d. 1564), John Knox (d. 1572), and other great reformers of the 1500s. To me, this is the foundation of my faith; it is the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That salvation from sin, death, and Hell is, as it is described by the words of Christ and Romans 3-8, by faith alone in the cross of Christ. What this means is that the sin in my life is forgiven by God on the condition that I, 1. Repent, and 2. Believe in the Cross. (Mark 1:15). If I turn away from my former ways, my evil ways, and I turn to the cross in faith for the forgiveness of sins–in this way only can I trust to have my sins forgiven, and my soul reconciled with God. Because only on the cross is the wrath of God satisfied at sin; only at the cross is there salvation from wrath, judgment, and eternal damnation in Hell. Only at the cross can my “enemy of God” heart be converted into a “friend of God” heart.
2. Puritan; or, Nonconformist. I would use this term rather loosely, but I admit, acknowledge, and identify with the spiritual heritage of the Puritans of the 1500s and 1600s. Although most of them were Calvinists, I have to highly regard the work that God did among them to clarify the Gospel, and standards for living a godly life, and to continue the work of reformation in the Church of England and Western society. Although my favorites among them are John Goodwin (d. 1665) and Richard Baxter (d. 1691), who held Arminian views, and were outside the pale of normal Puritanism–and were even regarded as “heretics” by some Puritans, because they either totally or partially rejected the T.U.L.I.P. Calvinism doctrines. Yet still, I highly regard Calvinistic Puritans like William Perkins (d. 1602) who was a soteriologist (though he believed in double predestination), Thomas Watson (d. 1686) who wrote extensively on the subject of godly living; and John Bunyan (d. 1688) and Jonathan Edwards (d. 1758) for their detailed expositions they have left us on the doctrine of Hell, and for laying the foundations of Evangelical revival.
3. Wesleyan Arminian; or, Wesleyan. I largely accept the theology of John Wesley (d. 1791) as my own; particularly his soteriology. While I struggle to steer clear of his doctrine of “Christian perfection” because I don’t believe sinlessness is attainable in this life–I am aware that some see Wesley as preaching a progressive sanctification only while still defining it in Biblical terms of perfection (that is, a Christian is one who is “perfecting” himself by the grace of God); while others insist that Wesley taught perfectionism, or the possibility of attaining sinlessness. Whoever interprets what about Wesley’s doctrine of Christian perfection, in my personal Christian life the end result is: I don’t believe sinlessness is attainable in this life. On all other points of Wesleyan Arminian soteriology, however, I clearly agree with Wesley (the order of salvation): Original Sin, Repentance, Faith, Justification, Regeneration, Sanctification by growing through imperfect obedience to the moral law and using the means of grace, and Conditional Security. I believe all of these doctrines of salvation accurately, but not perfectly, convey the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Bible with such precision, that no other theologian outside of the Wesleyan tradition has been able to arrive at it. Click here for an in-depth presentation of Wesley’s soteriology.
4. Holiness. I would identify myself with the spiritual heritage of the Holiness Movement of the 1800s, led by the likes of Phoebe Palmer (d. 1874) and evangelist-revivalist Charles Finney (d. 1875). I understand there were those who taught Wesleyan perfectionism in this era, but I don’t care for that. What was good that came out of the movement was a genuine hunger for God, experiencing the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power operating in the heart, holiness and righteousness in the Christian life, and an openness to divine healing, which was influenced by a sister movement called the Faith Cure Movement, led by Andrew Murray (d. 1917), A. B. Simpson (d. 1919)–founder of the Christian & Missionary Alliance, A. J. Gordon (d. 1895), and others.
5. Pentecostal. I am definitely a Spirit-baptized Pentecostal Christian who speaks in tongues, agreeing with William J. Seymour (d. 1922). In keeping with Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14, I believe that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I see this as “praying in the Spirit” or ecstatic vocal prayer. (This is not to be confused with the work of regeneration in a born again believer’s heart, which is the foundation of salvation.) The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a second work of grace, in addition to moral regeneration, which adds power and love and holiness, with miraculous gifts such as prophetic dreams, visions, the voice of God, discernment of spirits, and faith to pray for healing, miracles, exorcisms, and the ability to feel the presence of God, especially during concentrated worship. This causes exultation and excitement, and sometimes makes me want to shout “praise the Lord!” or “praise You Jesus!” with joyful emotional meaning from my heart. HOWEVER, I REJECT THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL AS A HERETICAL DEVIATION FROM TRUE PENTECOSTALISM.
6. Charismatic. I accept and identify with the work of the Holy Spirit in the Neo-Pentecostal or Charismatic Movement in the mainline churches during the 1960s and 1970s. However, I have to be picky about any teachings or teachers coming out of this movement, because, several of the books and teachers that have come out of this movement, especially a lot of the Catholic Charismatics, have liberal or pluralistic or universalist influences–and are clearly deceived by the devil about this (they may mix Buddhist meditation ideas with Christian spirituality). The liberal Charismatics usually seem to receive their pluralistic influence from the writings of Thomas Merton (d. 1968) and the combined influence of Vatican II (1962-1965) which came to accept a political and religious friendship with members of world religions. So, clearly liberal Charismatics could be said to be part of the New Age Movement, and are not quite members of the mystical body of Christ (although God’s prevenient grace may still be drawing them to a full revelation of Himself). But not all Charismatics are liberal syncretist pluralists. The ones I have some respect for are Dennis Bennett (Episcopalian), Larry Christenson (Lutheran, ELCA–but he does not support gay marriage), Harald Bredesen (Lutheran/Reformed Church in America [Classical Calvinism]–I had the privilege of meeting him just before he died), and theologically conservative yet Catholic Charismatics like Bert Ghezzi, Edward O’Connor, Kevin Ranaghan, and Kilian McDonnell. These people have published some great books on the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and experiencing miraculous gifts! And they have pointed out that various Catholic saints (mystics) in church history experienced spiritual gifts such as prophecy and healing. However, I would say, to Bennett’s and other’s shame, in the Charismatic Renewal, drinking, smoking, and cussing are much more tolerated or allowed than in the classic Assemblies of God and Pentecostal churches (see Dennis Bennett’s Nine O’Clock in the Morning, ch 5, note 1; Edith Blumhofer’s Restoring the Faith, p. 226; Amy Hungerford’s Postmodern Belief, p. 45).
7. Third Wave; or, Evangelical Charismatic. John Wimber founded the Association of Vineyard Churches in the late 1970s and early 80s, with a focus on Biblical discipleship, charismatic worship, divine healing, and the operation of spiritual gifts, leaving us with his many Vineyard resources, and his theology expressed in Power Evangelism and Power Healing. The Vineyard spread internationally and became the new force to be reckoned with in Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity. There was a stronger focus on Biblical theology than found in other charismatic ministries. (Sadly, the Vineyard turned into an LGBT-affirming church in 2014. I don’t believe Wimber would have agreed with that.) Mike Bickle, now the pastor of IHOP-KC, was at the center of the “Kansas City prophets” movement in the 80s, and is in my opinion one of the few charismatic leaders with moral integrity. Out of his pains and struggles in pastoring the prophets, and learning the ways of divine communication, he published Growing in the Prophetic. John Arnott, the founder of Catch The Fire Toronto, was at the center of the “Toronto Blessing” movement, which emphasizes the presence of God and the joy of the Lord. Both Bickle and Arnott branched off of the Vineyard for their own reasons, and now have their own independent ministries. With all of these ministries, the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit are welcomed and pursued, and so, there is flesh that has sometimes gotten in the way of the Spirit’s move, and caused controversy, and sometimes scandals–but I believe for the most part, God is moving in these ministries, regardless if they may consist of mixed blessings. Personally, I favor Bickle’s ministry the most, because it seems he has more of a grounding in conservative evangelical thinking.
8. Non-Denominational. All of the previously mentioned categories are really about my faith and spirituality; they are not denominational or organizational affiliations. I’m as much a “non-denominational Pentecostal” as an Assemblies of God Pentecostal is a “denominational Pentecostal.” With reservation, godliness being the main point of agreement, I would consider being in fellowship with ministers who belong to some denominations. Especially with pastors in the Assemblies of God and the Christian & Missionary Alliance. I have chosen to withdraw fellowship from the Vineyard because of their acceptance of “gay celibate Christians” (but I still respect Wimber’s old writings and videos). I currently have my eyes on the Assemblies of God, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), and non-denominational charismatic churches as my preferences.