Ultimate Reality and Divine Beings
Written by: Arlene Sanchez WalshPentecostals are a part of the conservative wing of Protestant Christianity, and thus believe in the traditional doctrines of the divinity of Jesus, salvation by faith alone through Jesus' sacrifice, and the divine inspiration and authority of the Bible. Pentecostals believe in the Trinity-the three Persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in One God. Oneness Pentecostals, however, believe that God is Jesus, and that the other titles are just that, titles. They thus reject the notion-established in the Nicene Creed-that there are three distinct persons who together are the Godhead.
Pentecostals are biblical literalists; in their reading of the Bible, God exists, has always existed, and always will. God created all things (some Pentecostals adhere to the six-day creation narrative) and yet humanity rebelled; because of the stain of original sin, God has made a way to reconcile humanity through the sacrifice of Jesus, who is God incarnated in human form. Belief in Jesus then becomes the only way that one can truly understand what "ultimate reality" is, and how one can be removed from the alternative to that reality, which is a life under the influence of Satan. The Holy Spirit is viewed as emanating from God and operating in peoples' lives under the direction of God.
Pentecostals believe in the reality of Satan as a fallen angel, who is viewed as the source of all evil in the world. They also believe in demons and angels. Angels serve a different role than they do in Catholicism, for example. There are guardian angels, but personalizing a particular angel (unless they are specifically named in the Bible) is not normative practice. Angels do play a role, however. Historically, angels appear in similar ways as they do in the Bible. For example, Charles Parham had a vision that God was sending a guardian angel to protect the U.S., which apparently had a role to play in Parham's view of the end times. Many of the key Pentecostal leaders have had angelic visions.
The problem of angels vexes Pentecostals, as this example of the Assemblies of God demonstrates. For the Assemblies, these ministering spirits play a very different role than they do in the popular religious imagination, which often portrays them as independent agents. What precipitated this doctrinal statement clarifying the role of angels was a healing revival that took place in 2008 in Lakeland, Florida, where a Canadian evangelist, Todd Bentley, was said to have mentioned an angel named Emma as one of his ministering spirits. There is much to this report that troubled the Assemblies leadership, so much so that a public statement concerning angels became necessary. Naming an angel in such a way, as mentioned previously, strikes many Pentecostals as heterodox, since there is no mention of an angel Emma in the Bible. Furthermore, the Assemblies believe that there are no female angels. However, Pentecostal discomfort with angels stems mostly from a desire to keep folk religious practices and theological aberrations from gaining ground among the people and moving their churches away from evangelical Christianity.