Uniting Historical and Modern Protestants

Summary

Historical Protestantism (Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, etc.) was born out of Martin Luther’s rebuttal of various Catholic malpractices: the Ninety-five Theses. Modern Protestantism (Pentecostals, Charismatics, Nondenominationals, etc.) was born out of the Methodist Wesleyan holiness movement and was popularized by William Seymour’s Azusa Street Revival. The 350M historical and 450M modern combined make up the 800M Protestants. Although both share the same core beliefs, the rift between the schools of thought became more widespread. This page shows how it is necessary for both groups to work together.

Endorsements

Martin Luther believed the Protestants Reformation was for the whole church. William Seymour believed the Pentecostal renewal was for the whole church.

Concepts

Both are Evangelical.

Both the Historical and Modern Protestants agree on the core beliefs of Evangelicalism:

  1. The Bible is the sole authority for Christians, also known as Sola Scriptura.
  2. Christians must have a personal faith, known as being “born again” (John 3:3).
  3. Christians must evangelize their faith (II Timothy 4:5).
  4. The Gospel is the God-man Jesus died for our sins so that we can be regenerated for eternal life.

The supernatural gifts are not core doctrine.

Arguably the largest divide among these groups is whether the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, such as speaking in tongues and prophecy, are active or have they ceased. Christians are only allowed to divide over the Gospel and those with specific unrepentant sins (I Corinthians 5:11-13). The gifts fall under “freedom in uncertainty,” for both do it in “honor of the Lord” (Romans 14:6,10). Read more about biblical division.

The Historical focus on the mind and the Bible.

Before Martin Luther, most Christians weren’t encouraged to study the Bible, but to hear it from the bishops (II Timothy 2:2). Although many were uneducated, Protestants believed that the best way to know God is from personal daily studies and devotion (Psalms 1:2; Joshua 1:8). Traditionally, most Catholics see the Bible as a great book, whereas Protestants equate the Bible with the Word of God, and the Word of God is also Jesus Himself. Historical Protestants often downplay the importance of the heart, focusing on its wickedness (Jeremiah 17:9) rather than its integral nature to trusting in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5). They sometimes trust in their own mind’s interpretation of the Bible (Proverbs 28:26). They have a huge focus on Jesus’ earthly example (Hebrews 4:15), but almost forget about the Holy Spirit’s regenerative work of the heart, not just the mind (Acts 7:51; Romans 5:5).

The Modern focus on the heart and the Holy Spirit.

Western society’s rational thinking and the Protestant Reformation’s focus on personal studies relegated the Holy Spirit to an impersonal conscience. While the Holy Spirit does guide us to truth (John 15:26), He actually speaks words that we can hear, just like the disciples literally heard Jesus (John 16:12-13). Prayer was never only a one-sided impersonal monologue: He literally wants you to hear his words (John 10:27; Hebrews 3:7). We cannot be born again only by studying the Bible like the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8:10,11,13) but also by the Holy Spirit’s regenerative work in our hearts (Romans 2:29; Titus 3:5; Romans 10:9-10). Unfortunately, this focus on the heart has led many modern Protestant churches to abandon preaching the Word (II Timothy 4:2). While it is good to put faith in supernatural works (John 10:38), it’s also important to renew our minds (Romans 12:2) with Holy Scripture (II Timothy 3:16).

God wants us to balance the heart and mind.

Science shows us that humans learn knowledge both through the logical faculty of the mind through deductive and inductive rational reasoning as well as the emotional faculty of the heart through unconscious intuition. To please God, we must seek knowledge of Him (Proverbs 1:7) in both ways (Matthew 22:37). This is why God often pairs the heart and mind together–because they teach us in different ways (Psalms 26:2; Philippians 4:7; Hebrews 10:16). Those who hate Pentecostals tend to be arrogant in their mind’s interpretation, and those who hate Baptists or Fundamentalists tend to ignore their heart that something about their belief is wrong. Read more about love-focused vs truth-focused Christians.

FAQ

Do charismatics think their prophecies are equal to the Bible?

While Charismatics believe true prophecies are perfect (II Peter 1:21), almost none of them would say they are equal to Scripture. They also believe that Scripture is confined to the Old Testament and the books of the New Testament written either by one of the 12 disciples or Paul. There are some Charismatic prophets who speak as if their words cannot be wrong, but this same arrogance is commonly found among many Historical Protestant teachers, too. Martin Luther’s own wife said he was too rude. His final words were to burn Jewish houses and drive those public enemies out of Germany, which unfortunately became the same rhetoric of Hitler. We respect Luther despite his extreme failures, just like the Charismatic movement.

Are apostles and prophets closed with the canon of Scripture?

All of the fivefold ministry (Ephesians 4:11) are to equip saints (Ephesians 4:12) until we measure up to Christ (Ephesians 4:13). The context of this chapter doesn’t denote this will end with the canon being closed, but rather when people aren’t “carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). Historical Protestants are still highly divided in doctrine.

Can teaching prophecies be fallible, contrary to Scripture (Deuteronomy 18:20-21,22)?

With this logic, then God should be smiting all the modern-day prophets who mishear (Deut. 18:20), but that isn’t happening. In the Old Covenant, the Holy Spirit didn’t indwell a person (Psalms 51:11) like in the New Covenant (I Corinthians 6:19). He audibly spoke as a separate entity (Ezekiel 11:5), now allowing error. In the New Testament, prophecies should be tested (I Thessalonians 5:20-21) because His primary role is to guide spirits into doing good (John 16:13). Because guidance isn’t forcing, errors occur (I Thessalonians 5:21-22). See John Piper’s opinion about fallible prophecy. He clarifies that a false prophet or teacher is one who hates God, whereas a teacher who repents of a false teaching is not a “false teacher.”