What Are the Differences Between Baptist and Pentecostal Beliefs?

by Boze Herrington

The first signs of the Baptist religion emerged in the 17th century, in Amsterdam, but the religion found its way to colonial America in 1638 with Roger Williams and his colony. Today the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in America. The Pentecostal tradition emerged at the turn of the 20th century and still plays a major role in the global Charismatic movement.

Cessationism vs. Continuationism

Officially a significant number of Baptist denominations teach that gifts of prophecy ended in the time of the apostles, a doctrine known as *cessationism*. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas issued a strongly worded statement in 2006 condemning the contemporary charismatic -- pentecostal -- movement. But a study done by Lifeway Research indicates that half of all Southern Baptist pastors believe that some people can speak in tongues, a spiritual phenomenon associated with spiritual baptism. All the denominations within the Pentecostal movement are *continuationist*, believing that prophecy, miracles, speaking in tongues and healing have been a part of the church's experience since Christ's resurrection.

The Trinity

Like most Christian traditions, the Baptist faith maintains belief in the mystery of the Trinity, one God in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Within the Pentecostal church, there is a significant division over the nature of the Trinity, with the majority of denominations, including the Assemblies of God, holding to the Baptist's view, while the United Pentecostal Church International and several other smaller branches teach that God is one being who manifests in three different roles or offices. For this reason they are sometimes labeled as *Oneness Pentecostals* or *Jesus-Only Pentecostals.*

End-Times Theology

During the early 20th century, both Pentecostals and Baptists accepted a *dispensationalist* end-of-times framework, in which the return of Jesus is preceded by the rise of the Antichrist -- a world leader masquerading as a peacemaker -- who ultimately reveals himself to be a tyrant on a scale never before seen in history. Today this belief, along with the rapture of true believers before the worst years of the tribulation, is still widely taught in churches of both faiths. One minor difference is a widespread belief among some Pentecostals in *latter-rain theology* -- a doctrine that the last generation before Christ's return will receive a special outpouring of prophecy, healing, signs and wonders, but the Assemblies of God has condemned this teaching as heretical.

Morals and Ethics

Within the multiple Baptist doctrines, there exists significant diversity with respect to moral teachings, from the justice-oriented Progressive Baptist Church to the socially conservative Southern Baptist Convention, which courts national controversy with statements on homosexuality, the Jewish people and other social issues. Independent fundamental Baptists -- much like the United Pentecostal Church International -- endorse a strict moral code, including long dresses for women and repudiation of most forms of popular culture, though some Baptists also teach the supremacy of the King James Bible over all other translations. The majority of Baptists and Pentecostals do not accept these rules as binding.

About the Author

Boze Herrington is a writer and blogger who lives in Kansas City, Mo. His work has been featured in Cracked and "The Atlantic."

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