Pentecostalism vs Lutheranism: What’s the Difference?


Pentecostalism and Lutheranism are both traditions within Protestant Christianity. As children of the Protestant Reformation, the denominations, churches, and people in each tradition have many similarities in doctrine and practice. However, they have differences as well that shouldn’t be ignored.

Pentecostals and Lutherans both affirm the core beliefs of Christianity like the Trinity, the inspiration of Scripture, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Pentecostals have unique views on baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and miraculous gifts. Lutherans have unique views on salvation and the Lord’s Supper.

How do the origins, churches, and worldviews of Pentecostalism and Lutheranism compare? Do they believe the same about the Bible, God, the Holy Spirit, and the end times? How do Pentecostal and Lutheran views of baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and miraculous gifts compare? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.

Pentecostal Lutheran comparison

Pentecostalism and Lutheranism: Comparison

One of the biggest differences between Lutheranism and Pentecostalism is their age. Lutheranism is over 500 years old. The modern Pentecostal movement is just over 100 years old.

LutheranismPentecostalism
FounderMartin Luther (1483-1546)Pentecostalism doesn’t have a single founder like Lutheranism.
Origin16th-century GermanyHistorians conventionally date the origin of the modern Pentecostal movement to the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California in 1906.
NameLutheranism is named after its founder, Martin Luther.The word “Pentecostal” comes from the word Pentecost, which describes the unique and powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the early church, as recorded in Acts 2.
Branch of ChristianityLutheranism is Protestant. Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation, which spread in Europe, and eventually America and around the world.Pentecostalism is Protestant. Many of the ideas it embraces are rooted in the Protestant Reformation, led by Martin Luther of Germany, Ulrich Zwingli of Switzerland, and John Calvin of France.
Early contributorsPhilip Melanchthon (1497-1560)William J. Seymour (1870-1922), Agnes Ozman (1870-1937), Charles Parham (1873-1939)
Important literatureLuther’s shorter and large catechism, the Book on Concord, the Augsburg ConfessionPentecostalism doesn’t have any literature that is unique to its tradition that is of great significance to the establishment and definition of the movement.
OrganizationChurches exist in “synods,” i.e. conferences or districts; some denominations have bishops, some don’t; congregations typically vote on pastorsPentecostalism isn’t a denomination, but a belief system that certain denominations hold. The largest Pentecostal denomination is the Assemblies of God. Pentecostal churches tend to be congregational in their church government.
Theological and social worldviewIt depends on the synod; the LCMS is conservative; the ELCA is moderate to liberal depending on the congregation.Pentecostal denominations and churches tend to be conservative theologically and in relation to social issues.
Pentecostal church sanctuary
What do Lutherans believe about speaking in tongues? See below

Pentecostal and Lutheran Beliefs: Similarities and Differences

LutheranismPentecostalism
AuthorityThe Bible alone is authoritative for establishing doctrine, guiding the church, and defining righteous Christian living.Pentecostals also believe in the complete authoritativeness of the Bible.
BibleConservative synods affirm the authority, inspiration, and inerrancy of Scripture; moderate-liberal synods view the Bible as a helpful guide to belief and practice, but an imperfect one at bestPentecostals believe God inspired the biblical authors. Many conservatives use the term “inerrancy” to describe the nature of the text.
GodTrinitarian; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each fully God, yet there is one GodLike Lutherans, Pentecostals are devout Trinitarians
ChristChrist is the second person of the Trinity who became a man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death for sinners, and was resurrected from the dead.Pentecostals believe the same as Lutherans concerning Christ’s person and work.
AtonementConservative synods affirm the truth of the Gospel and believe that Christ took the place of sinners and paid their penalty on the cross; moderate-liberal synods see the death of Christ as an example of dying for something you believe inPentecostals also affirm the penal-substitutionary view of Christ’s atonement.
SalvationAll Protestants believe salvation occurs by grace through faith and in Christ alone. Lutherans are neither Calvinist nor Arminian, but “Lutheran”; conservatives believe in election, but don’t define it the same way as CalvinistsPentecostals are mostly Arminian, although there are some Calvinist or Reformed Christians who believe in the miraculous gifts of the Spirit (more below).
Holy SpiritMost Lutheran synods and churches are cessationist, meaning they don’t hold to charismatic and Pentecostal expressions of Christianity; some small movements like Lutheran Renewal advocate for continuationism.*Pentecostals, by definition of the name, are continuationists.*
SanctificationLutheranism doesn’t teach that sanctification can be perfected in this lifetime.Some Pentecostals believe that sanctification can be perfected in this lifetime, though the largest denomination, the Assemblies of God, doesn’t.
View of the Ordinances Baptism and the Lord’s Supper Baptism and the Lord’s Supper
Lord’s SupperThe real body and blood of Christ are believed to be “in, with, and under” the bread and cup; this view, unique to Lutheranism, is often called “consubstantiation”Pentecostals believe the bread and the cup are memorials of Christ’s death. They don’t believe Christ is present in the elements in any way.
BaptismPastors baptize infants who receive the gift of regeneration of the Holy Spirit; faith is necessary for grace to be conveyed (unlike Catholicism)Pentecostals practice “Believer’s Baptism” as opposed to infant baptism. Baptism isn’t required for salvation.
The end timesLutheranism is amillennial, meaning it interprets the 1,000-year period described in Revelation 20:1-6 figuratively and defines it as the time between Christ’s first and second coming (i.e. the Church Age)Pentecostalism is premillennial, meaning it interprets the 1,000-year period literally. The millennium occurs after the rapture, the seven-year tribulation, and the Second Coming.
Second ComingLutheranism teaches that Christ will literally return to the Earth. It is a core belief of the tradition.Likewise, Lutheranism teaches that Christ will literally return to the Earth. It is also a core belief of the tradition.

*What is the difference between continuationism and cessationism? Continuationists (from the word “continue”) believe all spiritual gifts are operational today. Cessationists (from the word “cease”) believe that only some spiritual gifts are operational today because the purpose of the so-called “miraculous gifts” was to establish the church and accredit the Apostles, which has been done.

PentecostalismLutherans
Spiritual giftsPentecostals are continuationists, not cessationists.Though there are a few congregations of Lutherans with Pentecostal convictions and practices, the vast majority are cessationists.
Baptism in the Holy SpiritA central belief for Pentecostals is that baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs sometime after conversion.Lutherans, like other Protestants, believe baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs at the time of conversion.
Speaking in tonguesAnother central belief for Pentecostals is that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.Lutherans believe that speaking in tongues was a gift for the first-century church only.
Miraculous giftsPentecostals affirm the present-day use of so-called miraculous gifts like healing, words of knowledge, speaking in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.Lutherans believe that miraculous gifts were for the first-century church.

References:
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