Protestantism emerged in the 16th century as a direct consequence of the Reformation movement that was sparked by Martin Luther. The word protestant has its origins in the Protestation at Speyer that happened in 1529. This protestation involved a group of German princes and some representatives that were protesting against some of the decisions from the Holy Roman Empire on religious freedoms.
Pentecostalism, on the other hand, emerged as a distinct movement within Christianity in the early 20th century. It started as a small movement during the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles but quickly gained traction until it became a distinct group of denominations that believed in the same doctrines as influenced by the revival.
What are the differences between Protestantism and Pentecostalism?
Protestants and Pentecostals have one main difference – their view on the Holy Spirit. Pentecostals emphasize the importance of the Holy Spirit in the modern church. They believe in speaking in tongues as well as a public demonstration of all of the charismatic gifts of the spirit. This is quite unlike most protestants who may not promote the expression of the gifts of the spirit.
Let us have a deeper look at the differences in doctrine, beliefs, and practices between these two groups.
Doctrines and beliefs
The theological emphasis of protestants vis-a viz that of Pentecostals is a bit different and that is one of the most important differences between the two. For starters, Protestants emphasize the authority of the Bible. They believe the Bible is not only infallible but also the only source of instruction and doctrine in matters of Christian faith and doctrine. This is important for protestants because it distinguishes them from the Catholics who believe the papacy plays an important role in the determination of doctrine. For protestants, doctrine can only be based on the Bible and not the decision of the clergy.
Even though Pentecostals also believe in the authority of the Bible, they place a lot of emphasis on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is believed to plan a vital role in the study and interpretation of scripture. Pentecostals rely on the revelation and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to study and understand God’s will as revealed in the scriptures. Apart from helping them in Bible Study, the Holy Spirit is also believed to be a source of God’s power which is then demonstrated through healings, miracles, and other charismatic gifts.
Another point of emphasis for the protestants is the concept of justification by faith. This doctrine asserts the fact that any individual that seeks salvation can attain it but only through faith in Jesus Christ. Individual salvation is emphasized in Protestantism which means that every believer not only pursues salvation but also continues to work out their salvation through personal devotion. Pentecostals also believe in individual salvation but unlike protestants, they also believe in corporate salvation. They believe that Christ’s redemptive work extends to the entire community of believers as a unit. They emphasize the idea of the body of Christ, where each member is interconnected and has a role to play in the salvation and spiritual growth of the community.
Apart from the theological differences, Pentecostals and Protestants also differ in some of their practices like baptism, communion, and speaking in tongues. Let us have a look at this in more detail.
Protestants have different views on baptism. Some baptize by sprinkling water while others do immersion. Additionally, some baptize both infants and adults while others only baptize infants. Pentecostals mostly baptize by immersion and they also do not believe in the baptism of infants. For Pentecostals, Baptism symbolizes the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, unlike protestants, Pentecostals do not emphasize water baptism. On the contrary, they believe the baptism of the Holy Spirit is more important. As such, Pentecostals teach that every Christian should be baptized in the Holy Spirit and also experience the gifts of the Spirit.
- Speaking in Tongues
Speaking in tongues is arguably the most important difference between Pentecostals and Protestants. For the most part, protestants do not believe in the doctrine of speaking in tongues, especially during the worship service. Granted, there are some protestant denominations that recognize speaking in tongues but they seldom encourage it in congregational worship. On the flip side, Pentecostals believe that speaking in tongues should be encouraged in worship. They believe that speaking in tongues is a spiritual gift that is given by the Holy Spirit as an outward sign of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
- Worship styles
Protestant churches typically have liturgical services that are guided by liturgical books. For instance, Anglicans rely on the Common Book of Prayer for the order of their services. Most protestant churches have similar elements that may include hymns, reading of scriptures, sermons, as well as administration of the sacraments (Baptism and Eucharist). The sacraments are administered almost in every service although that may vary from denomination to denomination.
On the flip side, Pentecostals have a less rigid worship style. For starters, they do not rely on liturgical books for their services. Some churches may use hymns but most of them sing contemporary music. The Pentecostal service is usually highly spirited and energized with a lot of physical expressions of worship like clapping of hands, shouting, lifting of hands, kneeling, etc.
- Manifestation of charismatic gifts
Pentecostals emphasize the manifestation of the nine gifts of the Holy SPirit as taught by Apostle Paul in the Book of Corinthians. These gifts are the word of knowledge, word of wisdom, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, discernment of spirits, healing, special faith, prophecy, and working of miracles. Pentecostals believe that these gifts are just as relevant today as they were in the new testament church. This is unlike the doctrine of most protestants who do not emphasize the gifts of the Holy SPirit. In fact, most believe that these gifts were only necessary during the laying of the foundation of the church by the apostles and are therefore no longer needed in the present times.
Protestantism and Pentecostalism are cut from the same clothe so to speak. Both emerged from unique movements – one from the movement of Reformation (the protestant church) while the other was from the movement of the Azusa Street revival (the Pentecostal church). However, the two differ in their approach to some foundational truths. While Pentecostals emphasis the Holy spirit, protestants emphasize the authority of the Bible and salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.