When an Apostolic Isn't

by E.L. Anglin

Modern Oneness Pentecostal preachers label their beliefs "Apostolic Identity." Those who submit to their new birth formula of repentance, water baptism and speaking in tongues - as well as the holiness standards of the local church - are declared Apostolic. Those who reject any of those teachings and practices are not.

In the introduction to his web series, "Upon This Rock," former Oneness Pentecostal Dr. Thomas Fudge says, "Would your church be okay, would it be comfortable, if Jesus showed up on Sunday morning? Would Saint Paul fit in were he to come? Would he even recognize your church as Christian? I think it's essential for us to go back to the beginning rather than assuming that Christians have always been just as we are today."

I find that quote fascinating.

Many of the things we've been told are "Apostolic" aren't historically Christian. First century Apostles didn't have pianos, bass and electric guitars, sound systems, or Bibles. The disciples didn't speak English. They weren't whites of European descent. Women didn't attend in dresses and men didn't show up in suits and ties. There were no Sunday School classes, no praise and worship teams, no aisle running, no seeker-sensitive invitations to "Like us, please like us!"

None of those things are truly "Apostolic." They are things the early church would find foreign and, in some cases, offensive. This extends to the core soteriology of Oneness Pentecostalism, too.

Obviously, the Apostolic label is horribly applied by men either ignorant of church history or possessing evil intent to revise it to look like the present.

Contemplate the photo attached to this article. Oneness Pentecostals should be listed at the top of the tree among "Holiness" movements, but aren't. Most would be offended at any attempt to connect the movement with any other historical sect.

Attempts to revise history are only necessary because Oneness Pentecostals have so effectively separated from the rest of Christianity that they are now completely cut off. Their only connection to historical Christianity is based upon a misunderstanding of the Apostle's doctrine.

It's not necessary to be exactly like the Apostles in every way, or to prove an unbroken genealogical connection to them, but Oneness Pentecostals believe that no other Christians are Christians. By extension this means that the men who founded other Christian movements weren't really "Apostolic," either. This ends with no connections to church fathers. With connections to admittedly imperfect church fathers severed so, too, is the connection to those who predated them. As a student of genealogy that left me with a profound sense of loss.

That's what happens when an Apostolic isn't.

denomination tree


This writing is the copyright of E.L. Anglin and is reprinted on this site by permission. View all of his available articles here.


Page added March 8, 2015

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