Baptist vs. Foursquare: What’s the Difference?

The Baptist denomination and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel are two Christian traditions that have flourished in America and grown in influence worldwide. Each tradition has a storied history and a bright future. Yet many people know that Christian traditions can have unique features. This reality makes many people wonder about the difference between Baptist and Foursquare churches.

The Baptist tradition, which consists of multiple denominations, started in 16th-century Europe. It values “Believer’s Baptism,” the local church’s autonomy, and the separation of church and state. The Foursquare tradition, which is about 100 years old, holds to Pentecostal beliefs and practices.

What do the names “Baptist” and “Foursquare” mean? When did they start? Do they have conservative or liberal views? How do their beliefs about the Bible, the Trinity, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and the end times compare? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more.

Also, see What’s the Difference Between Baptists and Catholics? to learn more.

Baptist church
How many members does the Foursquare denomination have? See below

Comparison: Baptist and Foursquare Denominations

The word “Baptist” comes from the practice of “Believer’s Baptism,” i.e., which is the conviction that only youth and adults who can profess faith in Jesus Christ should be baptized in contrast to infants.

The term “Foursquare” came from a sermon McPherson preached in 1922 on Ezekiel. “As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle” (Ezekiel 1:10, ESV).

McPherson said the man represents Jesus as Savior; the lion represents Jesus as Baptizer with the Holy Spirit; the ox represents Jesus as Healer, and the eagle represents Jesus as Coming King.

OriginThe Baptist tradition has roots in English Puritanism and the Anabaptist tradition in Europe, yet saw explosive growth in America.Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944) founded the tradition. She was a Canadian Pentecostal evangelist and celebrity who started the Foursquare Church in the 1920s and led the denomination until her death.
Early influencer(s)John Smyth (1554-1612) in England, Roger Williams in America (1603-1683)Aimee’s son, Rolf K. McPherson (1913-2009), took over the denomination’s leadership when she died.
Significant writing outside the BibleThe London Confession of Faith (1689), the New Hampshire State Baptist Convention (1832)McPherson’s doctrinal statements: “Declaration of Faith of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel” and “Creedal Statements of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.” The latter is a concise summary of the former.
OrganizationOne of the Baptist tradition’s central convictions is the local church’s autonomy. Baptist churches have congregational forms of church government.The Foursquare denomination isn’t congregational. Local churches aren’t autonomous in relation to the denomination but are in relation to the government. The denomination’s oversight model is closest to Episcopalian, which is rooted in McPherson’s requirement of having the final say in all matters.
What are the largest denominations in the tradition today?The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has about 17 million members. The National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. (NBCUSA) has about 8.5 million members.The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is a single denomination. It has between 8 and 9 million members worldwide.
DivisionsThere are dozens of Baptist denominations that affirm the tradition’s core convictions but disagree about other matters of faith and conduct.The Foursquare Church hasn’t experienced any significant splits in its 100-year existence.
Theological and Social worldviewIt depends on the denomination. The SBC is theologically and socially conservative. Others, like American Baptists Churches USA, welcome liberal and progressive ideas and practices.The Foursquare Church is generally conservative on theological and social issues. However, like the Assemblies of God, the denomination ordains women, which some Christian traditions consider modern and progressive.

Also, see What’s the Difference Between Baptists and Southern Baptists? to learn more.

Baptist Church
What do Baptists believe about spiritual gifts? See below

Baptist and Foursquare Beliefs on God and the Bible

TheologyThe Baptist tradition is one of the most doctrinally diverse denominations in Protestantism. Baptists agree on Believer’s Baptism, the local church’s autonomy, and the separation of church and state.Foursquare churches are Protestant. Theologically, they are Arminian and Pentecostal. The tradition dates to the Holiness movement, which is rooted in Methodism.
BibleBaptists believe in the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Many conservatives accept and defend the terms “inerrancy” (i.e., Scripture has no errors) and “infallibility” (i.e., Scripture can’t lead astray in belief or practice).The Foursquare denomination has a conservative and high view of Scripture. Its belief statement reads, “We believe that the Bible is God-inspired (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).”
GodBaptists believe in the Trinity; one God exists in three persons. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each fully divine.Foursquare churches are also devoutly Trinitarian. Their doctrinal statement reads, “We believe that God is Triune: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14).”
JesusJesus is the second person of the Trinity. He is God in human flesh. He is 100% God and 100% man. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died as an atonement for sin, and was physically resurrection on the third day.Foursquare churches also believe in the deity of Christ, his atoning death, and his resurrection from the dead.
SalvationHistorically, Baptists have believed that Jesus is the only way to be saved. They can be Calvinists, Arminians, or something else.“We believe that we receive salvation when we come to God through faith in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. Salvation is God’s gift to us (Eph. 2:8).”

Also, see What’s the Difference Between Baptists and Evangelicals? to learn more.

Foursquare Christian church
Does the Foursquare denomination teach perfectionism? See below

Baptist and Foursquare Beliefs on the Holy Spirit and End Times

Holy SpiritThe Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is fully divine. The Spirit applies the salvation that the Father planned and that the Son earned for sinners. He bestows spiritual gifts on believers that they are to use for the edification of the Church.Likewise, the Foursquare tradition teaches that the Holy Spirit is fully divine. It embraces Pentecostal theology regarding the present operation of all spiritual gifts.
PerfectionismBaptist churches don’t commonly teach the doctrine. Non-perfectionist traditions believe that sanctification is perfected at death for the believer.“Perfectionism” is the Wesleyan belief that Christians can be freed from sin in this life. The Foursquare church believes in the doctrine of perfection.
Spiritual GiftsThere are diverse views on spiritual gifts among Baptist denominations, churches, and individual members. Some embrace charismatic beliefs and practices, but others don’t.The ongoing operation of all spiritual gifts is central to Foursquare theology: “We believe that the Holy Spirit has gifts to bestow upon Christians (1 Cor. 12:1-11) and that we should show spiritual fruit as evidence of a Spirit-filled life (Gal. 5:22-25).”
BaptismSometimes referred to as “credobaptism” (credo = “I believe”), the sacrament is for professing believers who have trusted Christ for salvation.The Foursquare church practices “Believer’s Baptism.” “We believe that baptism by immersion in water is an outward sign of an inward work (Matt. 28:19; Rom. 6:4).”
The Lord’s SupperAlso called “communion,” most Baptists believe consuming the bread and cup is a memorial of the atonement of Christ.Foursquare holds to the memorial view: “We believe in commemorating the Lord’s Supper by the symbolic use of bread and fruit of the vine (1 Cor. 11:24, 25).”
End timesBaptists hold various views on the end times. Some believe in the rapture; others don’t. All believe in the Second Coming of Christ.Foursquare holds to the Premillennial, pre-tribulation rapture of the Church. It believes in the Second of Christ. “We believe that the second coming of Christ is personal and imminent (1 Thess. 4:16, 17; Titus 2:11-13).”

Also, see What’s the Difference Between First and Second Baptists? to learn more.

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Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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