For those unfamiliar with Pentecostalism, it is not a denomination but was considered a “movement” back in the early 20th century which sprouted into several main denominations: Christian and Missionary Alliance, Assemblies of God, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, Vineyard, Elim (UK), Church of the Nazarene, Church of God in Christ, Oneness Pentecostal (cult more than it is a denomination), to a much lesser extent, Calvary Chapel (typically anti-cessastion in pneumatology but not pentecostal in liturgical ecclesiology), Disciples of Christ, and many others.
Today, pentecostalism has coalesced into a pervasive belief system whereby the belief that the vocal gifts: tongues, prophecy, word of knowledge, are all available in practice today. Often times, the preachers, teachers, pastors, prophets, and “apostles” of Pentecostalism assert that the word they speak is “God-given” and therefore on an equal par (or sometimes superior) to the Bible. Pentecostals and charismatics try to use Greek words like “Rhema” for a “fresh word – which in essence is usually a contradictory word versus the “Logos” which is a stale old “old manna”. This has resulted in error after error in doctrine and heresy after heresy among those churches that practice Pentecostalism, which is why today we start a new series called the “Foundations of Pentecostalism” whereby we examine where Pentecostalism came from and how it came to have the beliefs it has today. Who were the movers and the shakers which shaped the movement’s founders and modern practitioners?
MONTANUS: The first person in church history to come along with an eerie likeness to modern day Pentecostal Pastors was a man named Montanus who, around 170 A.D. declared himself a “prophet” and direct speaker by the Holy Spirit which he referred to as “the Paraclete”. He would deliver his prophecies, speaking as the Holy Spirit in person, in a state of ecstatic fervor, similar to the Pentecostal movement of early 20th century. He believed in the equality of men and women in use of prophecy and as ecclesiastical leaders which is continued down to today (we’ll examine some early women leaders in subsequent posts).
Montanus gained a great following starting in his home area of Anatolia, where he was rumored to have been a pagan priest prior to his “prophethood” and followers of Montanus called their movement “The New Prophecy”. He held that all members could/should be prophets which was opposed by many church leaders, one of which was Tertullian an early church father. His two primary followers were both women: Priscilla and Maximilla who also spoke prophecies in an ecstatic state just as he did. Montanus, like the church of orthodoxy, rejected a hierarchy of clerical structure which hadn’t really yet taken root in the decentralised church and wouldn’t do so for another 200-300 years. He discouraged marriage in favor of devotion to God (a doctrine later to catch on with the Western Roman Church) and he became extremely apocalyptic believing the return of Jesus to be imminent and whose Kingdom would be set up in Phrygia. It is for this reason that his group was referred to as the “Phrygians”. Sadly, one of the early critics of this heretical group became one himself. Tertullian would join this group after a while and remain with it for a considerable time, eventually only leaving them due to what he felt was a “lack” of asceticism (Montanus’ followers lived Spartan lifestyles but were not ascetics). This movement would slowly die out but was around long enough for Augustine to mention them in his writings in the early 5th century.
VINCENT FERRER: Another significant contributor and “mentor” to early pentecostal grandfathers was a Spanish Dominican monk who traveled with the Catholic “gospel” message all over Europe around 1415 A.D. and supposedly converted many Jews to Catholicism. Ferrer was a Roman Catholic mystic who found himself entangled in the “Great Papal Schism” where three Popes all sat in supposed supreme infallible authority of the Catholic Church. Although he is said to have only spoken Valencian, many historians/biographers claimed he had an ultra rare “gift of tongues” in his ministry to the Jews. He is also purported to have raised many from the dead which leads some Catholic writers to claim his ministry to be the most miraculous since the Apostles. Ferrer is credited by the Vatican Museums with healing a lame woman, raising of a rich Jewish woman from the dead, also a child killed by his pregnant mother who had lost her mind etc. He was apocalyptic and believed the antichrist was alive during his time. He was granted “sainthood” by the church in 1458 and according to the Vatican Museums, he was a “Spanish saint canonized in 1458, who was commonly worshipped in Bologna.” Ferrer’s mystic approach and ministry are often looked to by modern Catholic, and non-Catholic Charismatics alike as evidential and/or justification for speaking in tongues and seeking miraculous experiences. However, much of what Ferrer embraced was, and is, not found in the Bible rather is contrary to 2 Tim. 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate–equipped for every good work. This declares Scripture to be “God breathed”, and that the man of god is “thoroughly” equipped for “every” good work (not just some) This view of Scripture has been opposed and rejected by both Ferrer, the Roman Catholic church and the Charismatic so-called Christians today.
With Montanus we see a disregard for Scriptural authority and a self-appointment to the office of prophet. In both Montanus and Ferrer we see a mystical approach to Christianity whereby God talks directly to them outside of or in place of, His perfectly and divinely inspired Word. Both men would go on to espouse ecstatic “tongues” which were not practiced during the Apostolic age nor after but somehow these men didn’t see a need to adhere to the Scriptural practice whereby the gift of tongues was a known language for the purpose of glorifying Jesus and demonstrating His power over sin and death to further the Gospel. Mysticism – Ecstatic Speech are two mainstays of Pentecostalism. Stop by next week as we take a closer look at George Fox, another brick in the foundation of Pentecostalism.