Hi, Joe —
Well, there are the basic differences that are found with between all Protestants and Pentecostals. For that, our data base has several answers.
- Pentecostals believe in justification by faith alone, and
- Scripture Alone as the sole authority etc.
- They also don't believe the seven sacraments as we have them.
They have two sacraments, like the other Protestants — Baptism and The Lord Supper
(as the call it) but they are simply symbolic. There is no reality behind them; nothing actually happens. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church acknowledges their Baptism if it is done with the correct form and matter.
- Like all Protestants, they don't believe in purification after death or that the saints in Heaven can pray for us.
Unlike mainline denominations, they focus much more heavily on the Holy Spirit. That's a good thing but they tend to seek the experience and make more of the phenomenal gifts (healing, tongues, and prophecy) than mainline denominations. In fact, some mainline denominations reject the gifts entirely and that's the other extreme.
The Catholic Church embraces the spiritual gifts as well but it doesn't center the Liturgy around them. Our Liturgy is centered around the most important Spiritual Gift, Jesus Christ Himself made present in the Eucharist, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecostal services are sermon centered, but are a lot looser. People from the congregation will give prophecies. Typically they will have an altar call for healing as well as "salvation", as they would say. People openly pray in tongues. These sorts of things happen in Catholic Charismatic Prayer groups too, but not during the Liturgy. Of course, we don't have an altar call for salvation because salvation is dynamic. It's not a one time event. Yes, we believe Jesus Christ is our personal Lord and Savior and it's only by His Blood and Grace that we can be saved. And we know that it is through faith that we receive this grace, but we know that Grace works in us to continue the process and we must cooperate with it in order to persevere in the faith. Hence, we don't believe all that is required is saying a sinner's prayer and you're done. Any good work that we do is a work done by grace and by the power the Holy Spirit who gives us the grace to overcome the flesh.
Now there is a separate group of Pentecostals called the United Pentecostals. They are wonderful people but technically are not Christians because their baptism in not valid. They are also referred to as "Jesus only" Pentecostals. They don't perform Baptisms in the name of the Trinity but in the name of "Jesus only". This is not the proper form for Christian baptism so they are actually more like catechumens. They've expressed faith in Christ, but have not yet been baptized, unless of course they were previously validly baptized as infants or by another Church as adults. The United Pentecostals don't accept Trinitarian Baptism so when you join their church they baptize you again.
Like all Pentecostals, Baptists, and Evangelicals they don't perform infant baptism. They wait until someone first professes faith in Christ.
The Salvation Army folks have the same issue, because they don't baptize at all. That doesn't mean we are saying that in the end they won't be saved. Catholics leave the question of everyone's salvation up to the love, grace and mercy of an ever-loving, ever-gracious, and ever-merciful God. Short of Satan, the Church has not dared to say anyone is in Hell. We know some people may go there, but we don't dare to presume the salvation, or lack thereof, of any individual person. Judgment belongs to God.
The "Jesus only" Pentecostals, or at least some of them, reject the traditional understanding of the Trinity. They don't believe three Persons in One God of one substance. They believe Jesus is also the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is actually close to a third century heresy known as Modalism or Sabellianism.
Again, this is just some of the Pentecostals. Most of them are indeed baptized Christians.
There is another strain of Pentecostals who take the gifts to such an extreme, they insist that if someone doesn't speak in tongues, they aren't "saved".
Finally, the Pentecostals believe that the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit", as they call it, must be evidenced by Tongues. Catholics and Orthodox understand that the Holy Spirit is received sacramentally at Confirmation or Chrismation; that God gives these gifts and others, but the manifestation of tongues is not a required evidence of them.
I myself have been given that gift. I'm a former Pentecost Minister and now consider myself a charismatic Catholic but the gifts need to be placed in their proper perspective.
I hope this helps.
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