When I first let the Oneness Pentecostal church I had been a part for 15 years, I wrote in my exit letter to the pastor a statement that has been mirrored by others many times over, and something that I have commented on several times since. I wrote, “Only the Catholic Church holds more ‘works for salvation’ than we as Pentecostals seem to have created.”

My intent was to say that the Oneness Apostolic Pentecostal church almost mirrors the practices of old-time medieval Catholicism, while at the same time declaring it [Catholicism] heretical and blasphemous. The irony isn’t lost on me. And it’s wrong.

Other people have mentioned to me, ‘Have you ever noticed how similar the church (Oneness Pentecostalism) is to Catholics, Mormons, JW, Scientology, etc?’

This article is not to denigrate any religious group. This is written to those who have left Oneness Pentecostalism and see the similarities, and have requested for a more factual study into those similarities. To clarify, I am focusing on the Medieval Roman Catholic Church and the similarities adopted in Oneness Apostolic Pentecostalism. I am not writing about Catholics as a whole, nor Pentecostals as a whole, nor as a whole claiming all doctrine and dogmas to be erroneous.

1. Claimed Authority

First and foremost, the Roman Catholic Church then and now believes in Papal Authority or Papal Supremacy. That is to say, the Pope is the supreme leader, the Vicar of Christ (Christ’s chosen and divine mouthpiece) who has full authority, and universal power over the entire universal church system, and may exercise his authority unhindered. They consider the Pope infallible, a Prophet, and Apostle. Today that power is exercised more carefully due to global scrutiny, but in medieval times it was a power none could question.

In Medieval Religion/Catholicism, the words of the Pope were final and unquestioned. A bishop or priest could accuse people of wrongdoing without repercussion, even if wrong. Think of the great Witch Hunts of the 16th century. Their integrity was without question.

To the Medieval Roman Catholic, they [Pope, Bishop, Priests] were directed by Most Holy God, and while they used incredibly superstitious methods to prove the will of God, the people still bent to their will. To cross the church was to cross God, and to cross God was to bring damnation and the loss of Heaven’s promise. To the life that was already meager and balanced on a knife’s edge, any threat of things getting worse was taken very seriously.

Enter Oneness Apostolic Pentecostalism and the doctrine of Delegated Authority/Spiritual Fatherhood.

We wrote a piece called The Fallacy of Spiritual Fathers/Delegated Authority to address this point specifically, but it is something very real and rampant in the Oneness Apostolic arm of the Pentecostal denomination.

Spiritual Fatherhood misappropriates the Scriptures that call out the endearing term of ‘father’, such as in I Corinthians 4:15 where Paul says, ‘…ye have not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you.” and turns them into claims of rulership authority, such as the Pope has.

Paul claimed this ‘begetting‘ of Timothy as well as I Timothy 1:2 when he said, “Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith…”

They also use (wildly out of context) the examples of Church Discipline, which in context was a decision made by the body of believers, not the ‘elder’ in Matthew 18:18, as a promise that whatever they [Oneness Pentecostal Preachers] declare to be binding in the Church, God will honor and bind in heaven.

Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. – Matthew 18:18

The Delegated Authority doctrine provides a modern Oneness Pentecostal pastor with two ultimate permissions and authorities.

  • Like the Pope, they claim to have been given the hereditary authority of Apostleship, which allows them to create new regulations, rules and church dogmas that are equal in weight to written Scripture. Thus, if the Pastor teaches it, and you do not follow it, you have sinned against that Pastor’s authority, and God, even when the teaching is outside of or in addition to written Scripture.
  • Like the Pope, the Apostolic Oneness pastor takes the self-claimed role of Lord and Leader over God’s heritage (1 Peter 5:3), sitting in the seat of Moses (Matthew 23:2) rather than following the model prescribed in Scripture which is to be a supplier, to feed the flock, and most importantly, to be an example. (1 Corinthians 11:1, 4:16) An example isn’t a demand for obedience nor did Paul ever ask for obedience.

I’ve heard Oneness Apostolic Pentecostal preachers say, “If I’m teaching something outside of the Book [Bible] and I’m wrong, you need to simply obey and follow me anyway. To get outside of my headship would be rebellion, but God will bless you for obedience, and take care of me later.

That alone is a heretical teaching, shrouded within the principle of ‘Obedience is better than sacrifice‘ (1 Samuel 15:22). Yet, it displays the similarity in the claims of Authority between Catholicism and Oneness Pentecostalism, as well as other modes of religion that fall under the list of cults.

2. Works for Obtaining or Maintaining Salvation

Secondly, in Medieval Catholicism, priests were able to require anything they chose of the penitent in order for he/she to gain atonement for sins. This could be sacrificial giving, special favors to the church such as the giving of land and possessions, of unavailable time in service, giving of servants, monies, etc.

In medieval times, life was very hard, and the Roman Catholic Church dominated the lives of people, from peasant to Lord, Nobles and even Kings.

Consider this quote;

The control the Church had over the people was total. Peasants worked for free on Church land. This proved difficult for peasants as the time they spent working on Church land, could have been better spent working on their own plots of land producing food for their families.

The Medievel Church

While the Roman Catholic Church at the time held the same standard doctrine that nearly all of Christianity shares, as it is Scriptural, that Salvation is by Faith alone, by Grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) they created unique secondary liturgical requirements in order to please God and this evolved into becoming necessary for the penitent.

Things crept in such as confession, the Rosemary, and other traditions that became a liturgical necessity in order for one to feel absolved of sins and to maintain their right standing (salvation) before God.

The Oneness Apostolic Pentecostal church has declared the same standard in the Christian Faith, that Jesus alone can save, and that salvation comes through Faith in Christ, by His Grace, but they go on to list out the (works) requirements that must be met in order for that faith to be made whole and complete.

For instance, the Oneness Apostolic Pentecostal church interprets Acts 2:38 as the only acceptable (by God) mode of obtaining Salvation, that the penitent must repent of sins (lifestyle/holiness changes, explained later), be baptised in Jesus name (no titles Father, Son and Holy Ghost) by full immersion, performed only by a licensed denominational minister, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which must be evidenced by the penitent speaking in tongues. No tongues, no salvation.

Without completing those three steps, the penitent has not completed the requirements of Faith in order to gain the saving Grace of God found in Ephesians 2:8-9.

Furthermore, the Oneness Apostolic Pentecostal church has adopted the John Wesleyan Holiness standards called, ironically, the Second Works of Grace. This is to say, that certain lifestyle changes must be made in order to both complete the first step of repentance needed for salvation in Acts 2:38, but that these changes must be an on-going penitence.

These lifestyle changes are the way in which one ‘stays saved‘. These standards are things such as women never cutting their hair, or wearing makeup/jewelry, or wearing pants. Men never letting their hair grow long, and the more fundamental groups outlaw things such as facial hair, wedding rings, watching any television or movies, etc.

The church believes that once one breaks any of these standards, their salvation is immediately ripped from them until through repentance, they return to the standards of holiness (repent).

3. Financial Requirements

Arguably, one of the most defining marks of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, aside from the great Witch Hunts, Wars, Crusades, Inquisitions, and burning religious heretics, was their thirst for money. We have evidence of this today in the massive cathedrals that have withstood hundreds of years of time, weather and use. A testament to the money and quality put into construction. Those massive cathedrals did not build themselves on a budget.

The medieval Roman Catholic Church required the 10% tithe, even upon the poor, which would have been crushing to most people in those days, above and beyond the crushing taxation of Kings who need to fund wars. It was taught that without paying the church the tithe, one’s soul would be eternally damned, and the church, like the state, had collectors.

The church also required payments for absolution of sins, for marriage ceremonies, for funeral and burial ceremonies, etc. This was one of the earliest forms of Pay to Win in religious history. Arguably, Tithing was a taxation upon the theocratic nation of Israel and was not to be adopted by New Testament Christians. But, when power and prestige are to be had, money is the vehicle by which it is achieved.

The Oneness Apostolic Pentecostal church also declares Tithing to be a requirement necessary unto salvation, that one who does not tithe (and give offerings) is robbing God (Malachi 3) and thus,  is cursed, just as the nation of Israel was (prophetically) in Malachi 3.

This is most unfortunate due to clear Scriptural evidence that Jesus did not want His disciples out for money (Matthew 10:9), the Tithe was for the priesthood of the nation of Israel (Numbers 18:26, Malachi 1:1, Malachi 2:1, etc) not the ministers of Christ and Paul taught a very different message when he said to ‘give as you have decided in your heart to give, not under obligation. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

In the Oneness Pentecostal church I attended, they requested (nice way of saying required) a 10% tithe and 5% offerings on your monthly income, pre-tax. The 10% went to the Pastor for his benefit, and the 5% went to turn the lights on at the church. Then there were additional offerings, for missionaries, Sunday School/Bus Ministry, benevolence funds, evangelists, etc.

The striking similarity, however, between Medieval Roman Catholicism and Oneness Pentecostalism is that those at the top are always the wealthiest. Our Bishop and Pastor, and their wives only drove BMW’s and lived in very, very nice houses. What most would consider mansions, million dollar homes. Most families struggled, but it was clearly and definitely taught, that you give your tithes and offerings first each month, then pay your bills and feed your family. God will provide.

These are unfortunate perversions of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Disciples. Paul took up offerings, but never for himself (1 Corinthians 9:15), it was to feed the widows and fatherless, to provide for the impoverished and the church of Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-4). Peter and the early church took up offerings to create a communal living system, where people with hunger were fed, families in need of shelter, were sheltered, etc.

Both use fear to coerce or convince others of the absolute and pressing necessity to give their money to the preacher/priest, to a) continue to be saved and b) to avoid suffering the condemnation and wrath of God. To the mind convinced that God will truly cause horrible things to happen in the life of the non-giver (they always use Ananias and Saphira from the book of Acts to make this case), opening the pocketbook becomes a necessity to stave off God.

Contrarily, there is the prosperity Gospel that the more you give, the more God will provide you with this life, and in the life to come, turning God into a candy machine. Put a quarter in, get a handful of treats out. This should be the most blasphemous idea of them all, and yet it continues to this day. We believe God will bless our efforts in this life, but if we think we can invest in God like a stock market or 401K, we have most definitely missed the mark of His high calling.

Conclusion

It can and will be said, that this isn’t restricted to these two sects within the Christendom. These things can be applied to so many other groups, and each of them will point the finger at each other and declare them wrong, and themselves right. Then, they go on to behave as the other does.

What makes this so poignant is that the Oneness Pentecostal movement declares the Catholic church its daughter works heretical.  Primarily in the points shown here today, and for their doctrine of the Trinity, or triune Godhead. Their response? Create their own counter-doctrines (salvation by works, following liturgical processes) and then persecuting by judgment those who are different.

The point of this writing is to illustrate how nothing has changed since the early days of Church history except that there are far more opinions and we are able to voice them! Thankfully so, for in the medieval days, opposing opinions was enough to get you hung, or burned at the stake.

Yet, I believe we should be very careful not to attempt taking the role of God in defining what He wants from us, from His role as Judge, and His role as savior. We cannot make doctrines for God (Mark 7:7), we must study to learn His doctrines, rightly divide the Word, and then for ourselves (Romans 14:22) live for Him in the best ways we can.

The real mission of Christ was to spread forgiveness (John 8:11), and hope (1 Corinthians 1:7), and love for one another (John 13:34), which is support and acceptance. Not condemnation of each other (John 3:17), not judging each other (Romans 14:4) and certainly not to be the divider the brethren (Christians), for this is the job of our enemy. Why would we fight, alongside the enemy of our souls?

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Posted by dividinghisword

I am the father of two, husband of one, and lover of Christ! I simply seek to spread the Word of God unadulterated, not filtered by denominational interpretation. I have a degree in Theology from Texas Bible College but more so I have His Word!

7 Comments

  1. Some very good points. So sad to see the people turned into merchandise. The demanded tithe really hurts people and if they can’t keep up they feel they have failed God. Such an abuse over so many people.

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    1. Hello Christina and thank you for stopping by and for commenting! I agree with you absolutely, they (religious leaders) have made merchandise of God’s flock.

      You are also correct about the result of the ‘demanded tithe’. It creates three sets of people in those mini-kingdoms.

      First, are the ones that give the most and are self-righteous because they do better than all the others, and believe that God is a gumball machine that will be pouring out blessings because of it.

      Secondly, there are people who give all they can, faithfully, believing that God will fill them with material blessings because of it. When those blessings don’t come, or troubles do come, they give more and more attempting to stave off trouble. They bleed themselves for the benefit of the ‘leader’ who becomes well to do off anothers fear and misfortune. These people become dissolusioned because the promises don’t come out like candy from a 25c machine.

      Lastly, there are people who simply cannot give and they are made to feel like less than human, sub-par, certainly not a true Christian if it takes giving your money to be a Christian. These people give up. Why try? If I can’t please God, and my Pastor, and get blessings from life because I’m too poor to pump dollars into the church, why would I attempt to make this work?

      It’s an unfortunate and vicious cycle and all of them are deadly. I’m thankful to know the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:7

      “Let each one give [thoughtfully and with purpose] just as he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver [and delights in the one whose heart is in his gift].”

      Giving does not have to be money! God bless you,

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  2. fantastic points altogether, you simply gained a new reader. What would you suggest in regards to your post that you made some days ago? Any positive?

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  3. Hi David,

    To single out the Oneness Pentecostal movement and compare it to Medieval Catholicism is unfair. I would see your point as being fair if we were the only ones that practiced some of the things you mention in your post. As an example tithing is not something that is only practiced and taught by oneness pentecostal, it is not unique to our movement. Another example is baptism, I know that many Baptist believe that it is fundamental to salvation and although the formula in which they administer baptism may be different, nevertheless it is required. As far as the comparison to papal authority that would be a stretch. I am a oneness pastor and do realize that many pastors have abused their role as a pastor, Lording instead of shepherding over the flock. Again, spiritual abuse is not unique to one movement, I would dare to say there isn’t a movement that can say it doesn’t have some history of spiritual abuse. My point is that this post is unfair because it singles out practices in particular tithing and baptism that are not unique to Oneness Pentecostals. These practices you mention are widely practiced throughout Christendom, including Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, other Christian denominations.

    Blessings,

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    1. Hello Daniel –

      My name is Ralph – but no worries, I would actually prefer David!

      I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment. While I humbly disagree with your position of what is fair or unfair, I can understand fully why you take the stand you do. And I respect you more so for the way in which you disagree.

      My disagreement would be that your argument says, ‘It’s unfair to liken the Oneness Pentecostal movement to Medieval Catholicism…because of other Denominations practice some of the same dogmas or doctrines.” That to me feels like, “Other people do it to so don’t blame us for it.

      However, after interviewing hundreds, perhaps thousands of people and having documented the personal stories of trauma that have arisen from spiritual abuse in the United Pentecostal Church, or other break-away (Independent) Oneness Pentecostal churches like the one I attended, I find Oneness Pentecost to be one of (one of..) the most detrimental and damaging sects of Christianity in existence. It is listed #10 in the Top 10 Cults of the United States, and while some label it so for their denial of the doctrine of the Trinity, it is so much more than that. The errant doctrines lead to the poison of legalism, which ultimately leads to control of humans and their behavior, their lives and their faith, and when you do that, you destroy the freedom that we have in Christ. (Galatians 2:4)

      While Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists and other Christian denominations practice tithes, they don’t spend time in the pulpit bullying people (with the exception of fundamental Baptists) with Malachi 3:8 that God will curse them if they don’t give the preacher their money. Do they ask for tithes? Yes, but they do it under the Pauline model of 2 Corinthians 9:7, which is an offering. The word ‘Tithe’ is overused and misunderstood.

      Thus, with respect, I appreciate your comment, and I also recognize not all UPC or Oneness pastors abuse their position, but it is an overwhelming majority who do, and thus, creates a system of worshipping Dogma, Obedience, and Money rather than Christ.

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      1. Ralph,

        I apologize for calling you David, I don’t know why I decided to refer to you as David. My apologies.

        Let me start off by saying that in no way I am I inferring that because other people do it that we should not be blamed for it, especially in regards to spiritual abuse.

        With that said, it is unfair to single out one group and not hold others accountable if you truly are unbiased. You infer in your response that only Oneness Pentecostals demand the tithe, I think with a little research you will notice that a big majority of Evangelical churches demand the tithe. Two of the more prominent ones are Saddleback and Willowcreek.

        As far as spiritual abuse, I do believe spiritual abuse is a problem in the Oneness Pentecostal movement but it is just as much a problem in the Evangelical and Protestant movements. Again a little research will show just how prevalent spiritual abuse is in much of mainline Christianity. Here are some articles outlining the problem in the Evangelical community and none of them are referring to the Oneness movement:

        https://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2010/September-2010/Spiritual-Abuse

        https://www.newyorker.com/news-desk/on-religion/silence-is-not-spiritual-the-evangelical-metoo-movement

        My point is that if you want to make a comparison to Medieval Catholicism than a big part of Christianity would fit your description. Again, my point is simple, you have taken some issues that are common in modern Christianity and used them to single out one movement.

        Blessings,

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hey Daniel

        Thanks again – I appreciate the rarity of a Oneness Pentecostal minister having such a clear head and respectful comments, it sadly doesn’t happen often.

        I admit, had I said, “Oneness Pentecostals, and other denominations known for…” it would sound less biased, but I have focused much of my work addressing some of the core issues, false doctrines and abuses within the Oneness Pentecostal church so you can say, this is biased.

        Also, the links you referred are both old, and irrelevant to the conversations I have had and made, in that they are referring to sexual abuse. I am not talking sexual abuse, though I have heard many stories of that within the UPC. I do not believe that is symptomatic of UPC – sexual abuse is a human condition and happens everywhere. I do believe the extreme obedience to pastors that is typically taught within the UPC makes it easier for men to abuse people, I don’t claim that to be a point of contention when singling out the UPC individually.

        The UPC is a legalistic system. They claim their ‘standards’ are not salvific requirements, but they then declare them necessary to be members of the club (church), and furthermore, declare that disobedience to the standards set by the (pastor) is equal to disobedience to God, they have created new and false doctrines, which can only lead to abuse of power, people and the Word of God. The UPC is rife with abuse, and I could point you to hundreds and hundreds of articles displaying the sheer depravity of love for people that occurs in quantities not seen in any other denomination. I have spoke to hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormoms, and Scientologists who I’m sure you would agree are cults, and or non-Christian, and abusive. All of them, when faced with the stories, requirements, legalism and full picture of Oneness, are blown away and say, ‘That’s worse than we had it.’

        With much respect, I agree, I did single out Oneness Pentecostal – and I believe it to be justifiable, but will in future articles ensure to add disclaimers that I am not declaring the Oneness group to have a market on abuse.

        With all respect,

        Like

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