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The Side by Side Lens allows you to create an easy to read comparison chart for up to three differing religious traditions. Select your traditions from the drop down menus. You can click on the major sections on each chart you build, in order to see more detailed comparisons.

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Quick Facts
Formed

1879 CE

1529 CE

1900 CE

Adherents

400,000

75,000,000

105,000,000

Origin

United States

Switzerland

United States

Deity

one God (Father-Mother God)

Christian God

God (Trinity)

Sacred Text

Bible, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (Mary Baker Eddy)

The Bible (Protestant Canon)

Bible

Headquarters

Boston, MA (USA)

Louisville, KY USA (Presbyterian USA)

None / multiple headquarters

Details
Origins

Christian Science Origins

Presbyterian Origins

Pentacostal Origins

Beginnings

The teachings of Christian Science date to 1866, the year Mary Baker Eddy reported recovering from the severe effects of an accident after reading a passage in the Bible's New Testament.

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Reformed and Presbyterian churches are one of the main branches of Protestant Christianity. They were founded in Switzerland in the 16th century by Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin.

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Pentecostal activity has a history as old as Christianity. Groups claiming the same supernatural activity as described in the Bible exist from the early Church through the development of Protestantism.

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Influences

Eddy's Calvinist upbringing was her deepest early influence. Grappling with illness, she studied homeopathy and sought healing from Phineas P. Quimby, both profoundly significant contributions to Christian Science. Her papers show the Bible to be her most intimate, lifelong companion.

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Zwingli and Calvin were strongly influenced by Renaissance humanism, late medieval nominalism, and lay communities practicing mysticism. Many social changes in the 16th century also created an environment ripe for new religious forms.

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Methodist, Pietist, and Holiness influences were chiefly responsible for giving Pentecostalism its distinct emphasis on the Holy Spirit as an agent for spiritual regeneration.

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Founders

Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) is termed the "Discoverer, Founder, and Leader" of Christian Science and its institutional home, the Church of Christ, Scientist.

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The Reformed tradition was begun by Huldrych Zwingli, a contemporary of Martin Luther's, independently of Luther's reform. It was shaped decisively by John Calvin.

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Pentecostalism's founders, specifically William J. Seymour and Charles F. Parham, contributed theological innovations to the movement. Parham taught "initial evidence doctrine," and Seymour began a radical experiment with racial and gender egalitarianism.

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Scriptures

Christian Scientists consider the Christian Bible to be their Holy Scriptures. Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures is termed the "textbook" that explains the Scriptures.

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The Bible is the most important set of writings for Reformed and Presbyterian churches. In addition, Reformed churches share a set of important writings called creeds and confessions that set them off from other branches of Christianity.

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Pentecostals elevate the Book of Acts and parts of Paul's first Letter to the Corinthians; they interpret the Old Testament as part of a continuum of supernatural activity that occurs today.

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Historical Perspectives

The historiography of Christian Science is storied and complex. Polemics appeared in an offensive/defensive pattern through the 1960s, when more balanced scholarship began to emerge. Scholarship has been scarce compared to other denominations and is focused largely on Eddy's biography.

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Historical scholarship on Reformed and Presbyterian churches often reflected the theological battles of the people writing the scholarship. Recently three trends have emerged: a focus on the medieval nature of the Reformation, attention to the lives of all classes of people at the time of the Reformation, and a debate about the meaning of changes to worship space inaugurated by the Reformers.

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Pentecostal history has until recently suffered from reliance on the accepted providential narrative of its history. With mainstream acceptance, current scholarship has matured to be more critical and analytical.

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Historical Development

Christian Science Historical Development

Presbyterian Historical Development

Pentecostal Historical Development

Early Developments

Highlights of the faith's early history, from 1866 to 1910, include the publication and revision of Science and Health; the dismantling and restructuring of the church organization; and the further development of Christian healing practices and the funding of periodicals, including the Christian Science Monitor.

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The Reformers faced challenges not just from the Catholic Church, but also from a movement of Anabaptists. After a period of enthusiasm, Reformed churches entered a period of focus on correct doctrine that has come to characterize many people’s opinions of them today.

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There is no fixed center to Pentecostalism's origins; Pentecostalism began with small groups of dedicated followers intent on spreading the faith globally.

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Schisms, Sects

A series of rifts have occurred between onetime adherents and Eddy's church. Internal disagreements have resulted in both division and dialogue among adherents.

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In Europe, Reformed and Lutheran churches failed to unify. In the United States there have been a series of divisions, centering on the Reformed churches' responses to various revival movements, and on the issue of race.

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Schisms are a natural process in Pentecostalism, a movement characterized by fluidity, innovation, and practicality. The development of sects occurs as a reaction to that theological innovation.

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Missions, Spread, Changes, Regional adaptations

The Church of Christ, Scientist, is the institution designed to both shelter and spread Christian Science. Members do this through several avenues outlined in the Church Manual and adapted to local needs.

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Reformed churches spread quickly in Switzerland, parts of Germany, the Netherlands, and North America. United by a common belief system, the churches took on slightly different forms based on local context.

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Pentecostal missions began and to some extent continue as an eschatological enterprise. Regional adaptations and changes to the faith demonstrate the effect of local socio-cultural influences.

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Exploration, Conquest, Empire (incl. violence, persecution)

Eddy believed that Christian Science allowed exploration and "demonstration" of the divine reality lived by Jesus. She also saw it challenging conventional science, theology, and medicine. Both have been at issue in controversies, polemics, and court trials involving adherents.

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Reformed and Presbyterian churches played a role in most of the major colonial and imperial expansions of Europe and North America. They are implicated in all the positive and negative aspects of these conquests.

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Pentecostal views of missions have not changed much since their first foray into missions over 100 years ago. Evangelism is the goal of all mission activity.

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Modern Age

Recent Christian Science history, from 1910 to the present, includes the development of military, humanitarian, journalistic, and nursing ministries; key court decisions in 1922 and the 1990s; a peak and decline in western membership, and an increase in African membership.

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Like all mainline denominations, the Reformed and Presbyterian churches are experiencing numerical decline in Europe and North America, and growing in the global south.

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Pentecostalism is one of the movements within Protestant Christianity that is growing. Since the 1970s, Pentecostalism has become a largely two-thirds world phenomenon, with Latin America, Asia, and Africa benefiting most.

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Beliefs

Christian Science Beliefs

Presbyterian Beliefs

Pentecostal Beliefs

Sacred narratives

The life, teachings, and healing work of Christ Jesus are the key narratives for Christian Scientists. The Christian Science textbook is thought to restore the spiritual and original meaning of the scriptures, so it, too, is considered sacred.

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The emphasis of Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin on the claim that forgiveness of sin is entirely a gracious (free) gift from God, and that humans can do nothing to cooperate with this gift, sets the Reformed narrative of salvation off from that of many other Christians.

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Aside from the Bible, which is the basis of their faith, Pentecostals have made testimonial narratives sacred through repetition in order to promote certain doctrines.

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Ultimate Reality and Divine Beings

Ultimate reality is created and governed by a sole, supreme God and peopled by God's image or reflection, "man," both male and female, distinct from humanity. Christ Jesus is the divine mediator between God and humanity.

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Reformed Christians have a very strong doctrine of God's sovereignty. This doctrine is the cornerstone of Calvin's theology. Calvin also had a traditional view of Jesus as fully human and fully divine, and he believed in angels and the devil.

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Pentecostals believe in traditional Christian teaching about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and angels. Differences emerge with the Oneness branch's view of the Godhead.

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Human Nature and the Purpose of Existence

Humanity, unlike spiritual "man," often acts sinfully. These are not two beings, but one perfect creation obscured by the "mist" of sin. The point of human existence is to yield to Christ, which clears the mist and saves humanity.

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Humans were created in the image of God, but since the fall, human nature is sinful—fundamentally self-centered. The purpose of existence is to be in relationship with God, which is possible only through God's free forgiveness for sin.

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The biblical story of the "fall of humanity" defines Pentecostal understandings of our separation from God and our need for a mediator.

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Suffering and the Problem of Evil

Suffering is an error produced by sin or fear. Overcoming sin requires repentance and reformation. All human suffering is ultimately resolved by the victory of Love, God, over evil. Every Christian Science healing is a step in this ultimate direction.

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Suffering is the result of evil, which is the result of sin. Responsibility for sin rests entirely on humans. We do not and cannot know why creation was set up in such a way as to allow for sin.

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Pentecostals have not developed a complete answer to the complex issues surrounding evil. For Pentecostals, the reality of evil is tangible and can be overcome.

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Afterlife and Salvation

Individuals are thought to "pass on" to an existence similar to that experienced before death, where they can continue making strides toward eternal salvation. Death is considered the "last enemy" that does not offer any advantage toward salvation.

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Presbyterians, like most Christians, believe in a traditional idea of an immortal soul that will spend eternity either in a literal place of blessedness called heaven or a literal place of torment called hell. One's destination depends on whether or not one is saved, that is, by God's grace forgiven for sin.

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Pentecostals fundamentally maintain that one must believe in Jesus to be saved. Heaven is exclusively for believers.

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Ritual, Worship, Devotion, Symbolism

Christian Science Ritual, Worship, Devotion, Symbolism

Presbyterian Ritual, Worship, Devotion, Symbolism

Pentecostal Ritual, Worship, Devotion, Symbolism

Sacred Time

Time is a mortal concept that Christ redeems to imbue human life with a degree of eternity. This results in holy times or occasions: special healing moments and experiences when humans are governed by spiritual law rather than mortal laws.

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Reformed sacred time is organized by a liturgical calendar that celebrates all the major events in the life of Jesus and of the early Church throughout the course of each year.

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Without a liturgical calendar to guide their sacramental lives, Pentecostals rely on the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit to bridge the gap between chronological and sacred time.

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Sacred Space

Space is a mortal concept that Christ redeems to imbue human life with a degree of infinity. Christian Scientists recognize sites where this has taken place. Congregations gather to welcome the Holy Spirit, but not to delimit Spirit.

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Sacred space in the Reformed tradition is characterized by a relatively austere aesthetic, and is designed to focus attention on preaching and on the two sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper.

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Pentecostals sacralize spaces that have historical significance to them or spaces where healing occurs. Unlike some other Christians, however, they do not wish to imbue material objects with supernatural powers.

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Rites and Ceremonies

Christian Science worship calls for no rites, ceremonies, or rituals. Adherents celebrate the sacraments of baptism and communion spiritually, in prayer, without material components.

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The meaning of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper have been among the most important and contentious aspects of Reformed theology, setting Reformed Christians off not just from Catholics but from other Protestants as well.

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Aside from the two traditional rites of baptism and the Lord's Supper, Pentecostals have added the baptism of the Holy Spirit, healing, and prophecy to the rites of the church.

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Worship and Devotion in Daily Life

Praying and studying the Christian Science Bible Lesson are foundations of daily worship.

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Reformed daily life is shaped by the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers (which in Calvinism leads to idea of vocation and the Protestant work ethic), by an increased focus on all aspects of the personal lives of parishioners, and by a requirement for increased levels of education.

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Pentecostal worship and devotional life are essential to the theological foundation of the movement. As an experiential faith, Pentecostalism thrives on innovations in worship and an intense devotional life.

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Symbolism

The symbol of Christian Science is the cross of Jesus crowned with the victory of salvation, understood as available to all through the science Eddy discovered within Christianity. Symbolism is minimal and invested with representational significance, but not spiritual power.

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Reformed symbolism tends to be fairly austere, and directs attention to the key doctrines of salvation by faith (as a gift of the Spirit), the priesthood of all believers (and so a downplaying of symbols setting aside ministers as different from others), and sola scriptura (the importance of the Bible).

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Key Pentecostal symbols—fire, doves, and water—are all associated with the Holy Spirit, who, as the main spiritual catalyst for Pentecostals, is the most visible expression of Pentecostal faith.

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Ethics, Morality, Community

Christian Science Ethics, Morality, Community

Presbyterian Ethics, Morality, Community

Pentecostal Ethics, Morality, Community

Community Organization and Structure

The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, MA, known as The Mother Church, is the center of the worldwide community of Christian Scientists. Adherents congregate in democratically governed "branch" or local churches, societies, university organizations, and on the internet.

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Reformed churches are designed to share leadership between ordained clergy and lay people (elders and deacons). Each Congregationalist church is independent. Presbyterian churches have regional and national governing bodies that consist of elected representatives.

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Pentecostals view their role in their communities as being the spiritual refuge and a resource for that community. Pentecostals operate within a variety of denominational and parachurch structures.

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Leadership/Clergy

Mary Baker Eddy leads the Christian Science church through her writings. Church officers are not leaders but executors of church bylaws. Instead of clergy, the ordained, dual Pastor is the Bible and Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

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Reformed churches do not have priests, but ministers. This is because all Christians have equal status in God's eyes, there is no special class of Christians. But some people's gifts are well suited to the tasks of preaching and pastoral care, and these people are "called" to the ministry.

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Two of the most notable developments in Pentecostal leadership have been the changing role of women and the professionalization of the Pentecostal clergy.

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Principles of Moral Thought and Action

The Ten Commandments of Moses and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, particularly the Beatitudes, are considered the core of moral thought and action. Individual study, prayer, and inspiration are indispensable to applying these rules to daily life.

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Reformed Christians do not expect perfection from Christians, but do expect effort and improvement. Moral principles are derived from scripture, but there is diversity on what scripture requires.

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The primacy of piety has surfaced as integral to Pentecostal morality. Social justice has historically been and is now a part of that moral action.

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Vision for Society

Christian Science calls for healing societal problems (such as sexism, racism, and environmental distress) as much as personal sins and bodily ills. This healing is considered an effect of Christ and one aspect of salvation, broadly understood.

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Reformed visions for society tend to take the tone of cautious optimism, based on the belief that humans are depraved (even the saved ones), but that God will provide for enough order and morality in the world to allow the Church to preach and celebrate the sacraments.

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Pentecostals believe that individual conversion will make society better. Other visions encompass a broader view of early Pentecostals' aspirations to ethnic diversity and progressive causes.

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Gender and Sexuality

The term Father-Mother God is metaphorical; God is unsexed, not androgynous. Expectations for human sexuality (including homosexuality) emphasize the emulation of biblical and spiritual standards and patterns. Chastity, marriage, fidelity, and equality of the sexes are strongly supported.

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Like other Protestant denominations, Reformed churches are divided on questions of gender and sexuality. European churches tend to be more liberal than American ones. In the U.S., Reformed churches tend to have a conservative wing that wants to limit the role of women and prohibit homosexual acts, and a liberal wing that wants to push for total equality.

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Pentecostals base their views on traditional readings of the Bible. Pentecostals tend to view gender roles as divinely ordained and sexuality as reserved for marriage.

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