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What is the difference between a Pentecostal and Charismatic?


I am a classic Pentecostal and I am often accused of being a Charismatic. I know there are worse things to be called (and I have) but I have come to believe that most people, especially outside of the expression of faith knows the difference because on the surface, they can look very similar.

However, there are some foundational things that are very much different and people need to realize this. In reality, Pentecostals can be have as much as common with them as the Baptist church down the street. There is a reason that the Charismatic churches did not just join the local Assembly of God.

On the front end, I want to make very clear that most of them are scripturally sound and follow the Apostle’s Creed. I also want to say that most of them are deeper lovers of the thing of the Spirit. There is no debating this.

This is not an us vs them thing. In fact, I have many friends in both sides of this discussion and I have been in churches on both sides of this issue as well. This is more for the critics that I write this so they can quit calling me and other Pentecostals as Charismatics.

Charismatics do not have a theological framework

Most Pentecostal churches hold to the 1916 St. Louis statement in some form. It might be a little different. The Assemblies of God has taken it word for word and made it their statement of faith. Other Pentecostal movements have statement that are very close to it with a difference here and there. Church of God (Cleveland) for example disagrees on the issue of sanctification. Foursquare reads just a little different to but basically the same statement.

Charismatic churches on the other hand have no uniformed theology. Every ministry might have something totally different to say about any view. This is especially true about eschatology. However, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and another issue that many churches have different ideas about. For example, Vineyard churches teaches on one baptism while word of Faith churches would hold a more Pentecostal position.

There is no way to really say “this is what Charismatics believe.” This is one reason that i am not one. It is a free for all when it comes to doctrine and I do not think this is positive.

Charismatics do not believe tongues is the evidence

Pentecostals will hold to the death that the initial physical evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a private prayer language. We have drew a line in the sand and said this is what we believe. Many Charismatics disagree. Randy Clark would be an example that would say that any spiritual gift in operation is the evidence.

This is one of the things that what people believe can be all over the place. Anything from tongues to prophecy to no evidence at all. You will also find that some believe as John Wimber did that there is no baptism of the Holy Spirit to what Kenneth Hagin Sr taught that was close to the Pentecostal view save the initial physical evidence.

The issue of Pneumatology is probably the most divisive and thorny issue that divides the two groups that look close to the casual outsider. Everything from how the Spirit moves to the newborn to the infilling can become highly debatable issues between the Pentecostal and Charismatic people.

In my view, this is part of the issue I discussed earlier about there being real doctrinal framework these church operate from so you never know what they really do believe or don’t believe on the issue.

What about eschatology?

In the same vein, what each group believes about the coming things can be quite different. Most Pentecostals, if not all, are going to hold to a Pre-Tribulation Pre-Millennial catching up of the saints. (i.e. rapture) However, in the Charismatic side of things; it could go from everywhere from the same position to Full Preterism (that I consider heretical) The idea of a Post-Trib catching up is become quite popular in their churches currently.

Many Pentecostal will demand a theological framework for anything to do with the last things while some Charismatics will accept prophetic words from well known ministries as just as good. Pentecostals are not going to make Smith Wigglesworth the next Joseph Smith anytime soon.

Another area of difference is some of these Charismatics will do a buffet line type thing when it comes to end times. They will take this from amillennialism and that from Partial Preterism and then another thing from Premillennialism. In the end, they have one confusing mess of what they believe based on many traditions, interpretations and a few prophecies thrown in there.

What do they have in common

They actually have more in common than they have different. Both groups are going to hold to some pretty important emphasis:

  • The Word of God is alive and active
  • Spiritual gifts are for everyone
  • We need renewal in the churches
  • We must reach the lost with the gospel
  • Prayer is critical to all we do.

Many times when revival does break out in Pentecostal churches, Charismatics quickly come to receive what God is doing with the brethren. If anything, it is easier for one of them to come to a Pentecostal revival than it for the other way around. Most of us would struggle with the loose interpretation of scripture and in some cases, biblical text completely out of context.

One more than one occasion I have been in meetings and hear things that borderline heretical from people. I am not talking about barizee claims of heavenly trips by Todd Bentley, either. I am talking issues concerning Christology and Soteriology. Things that would never fly in the Pentecostal churches.

However, with all our differences, we do find much common ground….especially when revival breaks out in the land. We care more about harvest and the miracles than we do our doctrinal differences.

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