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The Dividing Line

Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation
Chapter 10

Recent Trends

It is sometimes difficult today to see any distinction between Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement, but there are differences. Pentecostals have remained in their distinctive denominations. They belong to clearly Pentecostal bodies such as the Pentecostal Holiness Church or the Assemblies of God. Charismatics, on the other hand, generally belong to churches in the major denominations. Normally, Pentecostals insist on speaking in tongues as the mark of the Holy Spirit's baptism, but Charismatics are sometimes open on this question.4 Historically, Pentecostals have been stricter than Charismatics in personal and ecclesiastical separation. Pentecostal Ray Hughes notes that "one of the most painful concerns among some traditional Pentecostals is the life-style of some who profess the baptism in the Spirit. Most of the traditional Pentecostals believe in a 'separated life,' and many of the new Pentecostals do not."5 As we will see, lack of separation from false teaching and from disobedient Christians is one of the major weaknesses of the Charismatic movement. Despite these differences, the two movements generally cooperate with one another today.

The movements have continued to grow and to develop. The 1980s saw the emergence of what is known as the "third wave" or the "signs and wonders" movement. Just as Pentecostalism was the first wave of the Holy Spirit and the Charismatic movement was the second wave, so the signs and wonders supposedly represent a third wave of spiritual blessing. The third wave appeals to Evangelicals who want to be neither Pentecostal nor Charismatic but seek the same kind of spiritual gifts. Supporters of this position claim that miraculous signs and wonders are necessary to proclaim the gospel. They advocate "power evangelism," in which the preaching of the gospel is accompanied by alleged miracles such as healings and exorcisms of demons. Among the leaders of this third wave were John Wimber and his Vineyard Christian Fellowship.6 One of the most visible examples of the signs and wonders movement has been the "Toronto blessing," or "laughing revival," which grew out of the Vineyard movement. The mark of the Toronto blessing is the claim that periods of uncontrolled laughter are signs of the Holy Spirit's moving.7

Pentecostal and Charismatic growth has been even more spectacular outside the United States. D. B. Barrett reported in 1988 that Pentecostalism and its offshoots numbered 332 million adherents worldwide. Of this number, Barrett said, 176 million were Pentecostals, 123 million were Charismatics, and 28 million belonged to the third wave.8 Unquestionably Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement were among the most influential worldwide religious movements of the twentieth century. The question is whether their impact was good or bad.

The Dividing Line: Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation. By Mark Sidwell. ©1998. BJU Press. Reproduction prohibited. This work is available for purchase at the Bob Jones University Campus Store (phone: 1-800-252-1927; web address:

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