My wife and I decided to visit some different congregations’ services on Sunday nights. I have no doubt that this will only reinforce my opinion that Lutherans just about* have everything right! My wife comes out of a non-denom background, and so she misses the clapping and raising hands. (I don’t really have a problem with either of those things, they’re both Biblical. It’s the songs with which they’re associated that are problematic!) To be clear: we’re not church-shopping, just getting first-hand experience of different denominations.
So anyway, we decided to visit this huge church, First Pentecostal, just off the highway here in Little Rock. If you ever come into Little Rock via Highway 40 east, you cannot miss it.
I thought it was going to be very strange when we came in. The lights were down and there was a large group of people standing down in front kind of humming and making other noise. I’m still not sure what that was about. After a little while, they turned the lights on and some children’s choirs began singing songs like “Soon, and Very Soon.” Nice and cute.
I was looking around at the church, and on one of the arches in the ceiling it said, “Repentance, Jesus Name Baptism, Holy Ghost.” That’s when I knew what kind of Pentecostal church this was.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, how about this line from one of the songs, called something like “Let me tell you who Jesus is”: “I know Jesus is the Father, I know Jesus is the Son, I know Jesus is the Holy Ghost, and all these three are one!”
Later, before another youth choir began singing, the director “testifies” about a wedding of one his friends. During the wedding, “the priest, or whatever he was” was apparently attempting to get the groom to say “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” This was making the choir director “mad.” But the testimony was that the groom finally said, “loudly,” “In the Name of Jesus!” That got everyone going.
There were some other weird, non-theological, things: like, after one guy testified about being healed, some guys started running around and down the aisles. Anyone know what that’s about?
If you didn’t know, United Pentecostalism/Oneness/Jesus’ Name is simply a reworked heresy from the second and third centuries called modalism (more info than you wanted; see number II. Some of the leaders of various forms of this heresy are here and here). It has the twist of Jesus being the one God rather than the Father, but it’s basically the same.**
As far as I can tell, from here, Jesus is the one God and he presents himself as the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Ghost at various times. (Although, First Pentecostal is not associated with the UPCI, I cannot tell that there is any difference.)
The whole experience was kind of surreal, actually experiencing an openly heretical church. It is sad that they believe they are worshiping the real Jesus, but, then, so do Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
I put my name and address on a visitors’ card (they were very friendly); perhaps they’ll call. I did not, however, mark the box that said, “Would you like to study the Word with someone?”
*Actually, as far as I can tell, Lutherans have everything right (if you don’t think your denomination has things right, why are you in it?). But we’re not God, so I also have no doubt that God will tell us we got something wrong. I’m just not sure what.
**Chemnitz on these heresies: “Third, the Praxeans, the Sabellians, and the Noetians recognized the true divine nature in Christ, but because they taught that there is only one person in the Deity, they asserted that God the Father Himself had become incarnate and was crucified. Hence they are also called Patripassionists or Patripassians.” It seems that these new groups are not Patripassian, but, as I said, they put the new twist on it of Jesus being the One God.