The Surprising Fingerprints of John Calvin on Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper, Sanctification, and Polity

Posted: December 2, 2009 by Rick Hogaboam in Calvinism, Ecclesiology (Church Stuff), Pentecostal/Charismatic Interests, The Mysterious World of American Evangelicalism
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Growing up Pentecostal and still considering myself a “neo-Pentecostal” of sorts, I wish to honor Calvin’s influence upon Pentecostal theology in this the year of his 500th birthday. I see his influences mostly in regards to the  Lord’s Supper, Sanctification, and Ecclesiology.

First, in regards to the Lord’s Supper, note the following from “Foundations of Pentecostal Theology” written by Foursquare stalwarts Nathaniel Van Cleave and Guy Duffield:

2. Regarding the nature of the element of The Lord’s Supper, there are four views:

a) Transubstantiation, the view of the Roman Catholic Church. According to this view, the elements, when blessed by the priest, are changed into the actual physical body and blood of Jesus. This view is contradicted by experience, for it has never been shown by any test that the elements are anything but bread and the fruit of the vine. It is also contradicted by logic, for Jesus was still in His physical body when He instituted the ordinance and said of the bread, “this is my body.”

b) Consubstantiation, held by Martin Luther. According to this view, the elements are unchanged, but the actual body and blood of Jesus are “present with” the elements. These views are nowhere upheld by Scripture. Further, they encourage superstition and overemphasize the physical over the spiritual blessings of The Lord’s Supper.

c) The observance of the supper is merely a memorial act that mediates no blessing. This is the other extreme to the Catholic and Lutheran views.

d) The elements, when received by faith, mediate to the believer the spiritual benefits of Christ’s Death, held by Calvin and the majority of the reformers. The elements in themselves are only tokens, but when received by faith, real communion with the Lord is experienced and the benefits of that communion may be mediated. This seems to be the more scriptural view. (See 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:27, 28, 29.)[1]

You will note that Calvin’s dynamic presence view of the Supper is preferred. This makes Pentecostals more akin to Reformed Sacramentalism than the traditional Baptistic memorial view of the meal. I have always thought Pentecostals to be experientialy more sacramental with regards to baptism and the supper than to most Baptists and I am grateful for this heritage where the meal was received as something sacred and a real “communing” with the Lord.

With regards to the doctrine of sanctification, the early Pentecostal movement was influenced greatly by the Holiness movement and actually held to 3 works of grace: salvation, entire sanctification, and baptism with the Holy Spirit. The Assemblies of God and Foursquare opted to do away with the Holiness view of entire sanctification (Christian perfection) and instead opted for the Calvinistic view of sanctification as being positional in salvation, progressive and imperfect throughout this life, and only complete and entire at the translation of our bodies. While the Wesleyan-Holiness movement emphasized the need for entire sanctification as a second work of grace wrought in a Spiritual crises where the believer yields his body wholly and completely to the Lord, never to commit a sin of commission again, the Pentecostals saw this as unbiblical and I would say was benefited by Calvin and the protestant doctrine of sanctification. I am again grateful for this heritage over-against the Holiness heritage, where I would still be looking for my entire sanctification, only to be quickly disappointed after I thought I got it.

Lastly, with regards to Ecclesiology and Polity, neither Assemblies of God or Foursquare are entirely independent autonomous bodies. In fact, the AOG abides by a modified Presbyterian model, whereas Foursquare abides by a modified Episcopalian model. Calvin is obviously instrumental in popularizing Presbyterian polity and the AOG has been influenced by such.

There are other obvious influences of Calvin in certain aspects of Pentecostalism, but I found these to be interesting.

[1] Duffield, G. P., & Van Cleave, N. M. (1983). Foundations of Pentecostal theology (437–438). Los Angeles, Calif.: L.I.F.E. Bible College.

  1. Scott Kistler says:

    Surprising indeed. Thanks, Rick.

  2. Sharad says:

    Don’t forget the way that Calvin ended up in Geneva in the first place- he thought God was speaking to him through a chance encounter. His doctrine of meticulous providence cashes out to a kind of Pentecostal premium on experience in a way that would make many contemporary calvinists uncomfortable!

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