Talking to Pentecostals about Origins and Evolution

Pentecostals are the fastest growing denomination in the world. Why do we hear so little about their views on origins? How can we thoughtfully engage them?

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Lovely! It was encouraging to see 22% of Pentecostals are EC. Thanks for making this article available.

If I could have a small wish, I would love to see a conversation between Peter Enns and Craig Keener on how the history of spiritual awakenings might help inform our reading of Genesis 2.

  • I had a spiritual awakening the other night; whaddya wanna know? :wink:
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  • Personally, I was a bit surprised to read Professor Tennesen’s claim: “Pentecostalism is the fastest-growing religious movement in the world.” My surprise is born out of my personal history; so I googled and came across this article: Are the End Times near? How Pentecostal Christianity is taking over the world. So it would seem that Professor Tenneson’s claim is reasonably accurate.

A Pentecostal EC.

As a Pentecostal myself, I was not raised in the church and became a Christian at age 18. For many of us, there is a unique and very palpable “born again” experience which changes how we think and feel about God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) after this experience. . Having no history of attending church and no education with the O.T., I put Genesis and other parts of the O.T. out of my mind for many years. I had an experience which was proof enough to me - why complicate things? By not knowing the O.T. all that well, I could bow out of discussions with non-believers regarding human origins. Well, time goes by, and the desire to understand gnaws. So, almost 30 years later, I find myself rejecting YEC as to the timing of the Earth’s creation and man’s creation, but at the same time recognizing something special about the timelines that come out of the Bible (Christian tradition – Bishop James Ussher from 17th century / Jewish Tradition - Seder Olam from 3rd century). I certainly wish more evangelical pastors (or pastors period) explored the fantastic coincidences that match up between those timelines, archaeology, Mesopotamian myths and the Hebrew Bible. More and more, I am of the belief that much of Genesis 1-11 is much older than most scholars concede and constitutes very old polemic rebuttals using pre-existing Mesopotamian mythology to profess God’s displeasure and judgment upon very real individuals, people groups and cultures with certain time periods. I confess that when first introduced to the concept of Mesopotamian mythology parallels to scripture, I was very mentally antagonistic - i.e. fear of a copy-cat God. However, the differences between scripture and the Mesopotamian mythology are as important as the similarities. I believe God indeed has an excellent sense of humor and is the greatest of all authors. After all, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” His rebuttals could be understood by people at the time (likely first in oral tradition) and subsequently stood the test of time and appropriated the mythology of competing gods. Kind of like Whitney Houston’s remake of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” except that God did not have to pay any royalties from His version. And as creative as Gen. 1-11 is from a rebutting literary standpoint, I also find the historical parallels remarkable. No other culture gives us an accurate timeline and peak into the ancient past. I would submit that the Jewish scribes of the 1st millennium BC are either the greatest historians of all time or that there is a divine hand in Genesis and the Jewish people who preserved what were likely oral traditions at first and later commited to the written Pentateuch. Specifically, I find parallels between (1) Gen. 3/the Fall and the Ubaid culture in Eridu – part of Adam’s curse is to “eat bread” daily; this was a good description of the transition between Ubaid culture and the subsequent Uruk period; the 7th temple at Eridu had a serpentine libation device and men and women in the Ubaid culture were buried with a Ophidian figurine with a snake-like head but with arms and legs; the “knowledge of good and evil” of scripture and the “eye idols” of the Ubaid period; (2) Cain and Abel and the Uruk period – grain harvesting was the currency of the period and led to the first city in history and led to the capture of slaves from surrounding tribes of shepherds; (3) Noah’s flood and Sargon (32 battle victories and 1st military conquest) and Enheduanna, high priestess of Ur (first recorded earthly woman married to a God); s.f. for Noah’s ark are within 250 s.f. +/- the footprint to the great Ur Ziggurat; admittedly no flood at the same time period but arguably God is using an older flood narrative to indict the culture of the time; and (4) the Tower of Babel with the collapse of Sumerian culture / Sumerian (a language isolate) was effectively a dead language by the time period associated with the Tower of Babel). The foregoing are just a sample of the parallels. Sorry for the long rant. But for me, Pentecostalism is not necessarily inverse to a much, much older Earth.


I probably approach my discussions with them, and I’ve studied the Bible with a handful of people who
Was Pentecostal, and especially those who grew up Pentecostal but as they got older begin to question some of the practices they seen. But outside of a major chunk of my approach, I just approach it like I approach anyone who does not understand the basics to science.

Enjoyed your discourse. Indeed, it seems Cain does herald the rise in agriculture and the cities it made possible. Genesis may well correlate with the rise of modern city states and with the differentiation of Israel from the other people groups of the area,

  • So let me ask you, if I may:
    • First. Are you a “pentecostal”, or are you a “Pentecostal”?
      You’ll wonder what the difference is, so I’ll get right to it, as best I can and without offense intended.
      • Professor Tenneson surprised me with his claim that the Assembly of God folks are “Pentecostal”; and I just have a hard time buying his claim. You see (I hope) … In my recently revised dictionary, all Pentecostals, Assembly of God, charismaatics (Protestant and Catholics, alike), and now I suppose Seventh- Day Adventists, too, are “pentecostal”, but–as I see it–only the Pentecostals are Pentecostals.
      • The Pentecostals are of at least two types: (1) The “Oneness” Pentecostals, and “Trinitarian” Pentecostals.
      • All, pentecostals, as far as I know, believe in “full immersion” and “adult” (or “consensual”) baptism,
  • Personal historical note: My Deaf stepmother and I attended First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, until my stepmother took offense at something another Deaf woman said, and left that church because the Preacher wouldn’t side with her in the dispute. As a consequence, we were unchurched for long-period of time until we started attending the Zion Lutheran, Deaf Church a couple of blocks away. Until we did, I went to church with neighbors who would take me, … for a while to the Nazarenes, then to the Pentecostal Church.
    • As a rule, in those days, the Deaf didn’t go to either one, because they didn’t have interpreters for the Deaf or preachers who knew sign language. Moreover, the Pentecostals, at least, would try to get the Deaf person to sit still, while members would lay hands on them and pray for healing. Kinda takes the pleasure out of going to church about the second or third time that happens.
    • The Assembly of God folks, on the other hand, had interpreters and/or preachers who signed.
    • I have learned that some Pentecostals finally figured out that “being deaf” isn’t something to always be prayed away, and there are more Deaf attending Pentecostal Church, but I don’t have the demographics for that.
    • Second question, if you’re still with me: “Did you notice anything odd or that stands out, in Professor Tenneson’s article? Specifically, down in the " What Pentecostals Bring to the Table” Section.?

I am probably missing some context in your question about “pentecostal” or “Pentecostal”. I’ve never thought too much about partial versus full immersion, but I was baptised in a small lake near the church I attended at age 19, and the immersion was definitely “full”. Originally from Oklahoma myself, I found myself living in Michigan shortly after my born-again experience and did not come to experience AG churches until about 15 years later when back in the OKC area. I attended an AG church for 11-12 years. I suspect that AG is more diverse in the USA than abroad in terms of the extent to which pastors address the fruits of the Spirit. Many AG churches probably acknowledge a continuation (versus cessation) of the gifts of the Spirit while at the same time not necessarily “seeking” all of the gifts of the Spirit as commanded by Paul. I suspect that abroad, the AG church is generally speaking more charasmatic. Hoping that this addresses your inquiry. While I no longer attend an AG church, the church I do attend actively “seeks” gifts of the Spirit. Admittedly, my brain goes through mental gymnastics on a frequent basis reconcilling obediance to the Word versus what seems to be a large number of healings which seem within the orbit of autoimmune diseases and similar conditions. I cannot say that I have seen an ear put back in place immediately after removal by a sword. I am among countless thousands of charismatics and Pentecostals who have yet to be healed of the need for eye glasses. I can certainly see the frustration which would arrive from a constant desire of others within the church to pray for a deaf congregant. I’m sure that I’ve also heard the painful words of other believers who wrongfully assert that the person receiving the prayer “must not want to be healed.” The Church can be a messy business at times as attested to by Paul. As to the trinitarian issue, I am definitely in the trinitarian camp but would not be the greatest conversationalist as to defending that point of view.

I cannot say that I noticed anything highly unusual in Tenneson’s article in the section about what Pentecostals Bring to the Table. I did notice the bold and italicized quote from an earlier section addressing revelation from God through Science. I doubt many Pentecostals think in those terms. I do relate to the comments about reliance upon the Holy Spirit but confess that I do not have a high degree of confidence in myself with seeking and relying upon the Spirit and with interpreting guidance from the Spirit. However, there are times where his direction and presence seems clear in hindsight.


I’ll respond privately.

Pentecostals are mainly congregational, meaning that the wider church organization (if there is such) does not dictate what the local congregation teaches. A congregation with a fundamentally deviating teaching of core beliefs may be excluded from the group of assemblies but otherwise, most pentecostal congregations are independent. I am not familiar with episcopal pentecostal churches, they may be an exception. The people within a congregation are also a quite heterogeneous group in their thinking, although social pressure may sometimes limit the expressed opinions.

Therefore, I think there is no silver bullet that would suit to all local pentecostal congregations or individuals. A proper way might be to listen to the person and then start from what he/she says.

By the way, pentecostals are sometimes subconsciously labeled as ‘substandard’ thinkers among theologians and other academic people. A pentecostal theologian I know, an academic professional, has sometimes told about the funny(?) reactions she has experienced when telling in an academic meeting that she is a pentecostal. Why would we need a special way to speak to pentecostals if they are just as smart as other citizens? Many pentecostals are not used to academic approaches/thinking but that is also true in the wider population.

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I think it’s because of the ways they generally carry themselves. I went to a number of Pentecostal and apostolic churches as a kid. In my experience, they were very much all satanic panic driven. Goosebumps and horror in general would open up doorways to satanic portals along with things like accepting fortune cookies from a Chinese restaurant and eating the cookie after reading the “prediction”. Services would end up falling into people having visions, speaking in tongues and people laying their hands on people and they would fall down being “slain” in the spirit. Peoples visions were of angels flying around and blowing on people and rivers of heaven going through the door to the outside where they would all end up dancing around. It’s also one of the congregations I went to for years as a kid where they would every few months have this crippled kid come up and everyone would pray over him and lay hands on him commanding demons to release his legs and command him to get up out of his wheelchair and walk and sometimes it would frustrate the pastor or whatever random “prophet” that showed up and they would berate him about not having enough faith.

It seems to show that those who have a hyper fixation on the supernatural have a harder time rejecting a supernatural origins to the world.

The blog mentioned “getting them to take sides” but for me that is basically what I do. I’ve studied with dozens of Pentecostals and Apostolics the way it usually goes is first working through baptism. CoC and APs both believe that baptism is essential in salvation and being added to the church. They believe that all baptisms most be proven through speaking in tongues at baptism proving a spiritual baptism happened. So I study with them about laying on of hands and why I don’t believe in apostolic succession. About 1/4th of the ones I’ve studied with ended up dropping many of their views. Which leads them to preteristic views and most of them just as a byproduct of new worldview ended up being more open to science.

A Pentecostal group I knew of actually decided to burn a tapestry (worth over $1k) because it had an image of a minaret in the background.

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I have a slight sun allergy, something to do with selenium deficiency so I have to take it or use selsun blue medicated shampoo, ( once every other month or so I just rub it all over myself and let it stay on for like an hour ). It started happening when I was a kid. So the congregation prayed over me. Because it did not work the pastor said he felt it on his heart he needed to check my room. So like 4 of them and my parents went through my room and burned almost all of my books. I was like 10. They burned all the goosebump stuff. I use to doodle monsters and stuff and they burned all of that. Few years later we were at another church like that and I mentioned what I thought was demons bothering me. I later realized it was just sleep paralysis. This new congregation’s pastor also wanted to come and “bless my room” to exorcise the demon. I went ahead and hid a lot of my books before they showed up. But this one for some reason thought my rocks were evil ( I collected a lot of rocks then ) and I had some stuff like arrowheads given to me by the Creeks and and the pastor smashed them all. He also convinced my parents that my black cat was a demon or something. Raised it from a kitten. Had it for several years. They took him “ Moon “ and gave him to some older lady in the church that was a “prayer warrior “ and could keep it in check. I was like 12.

When I was 14 I learned where the cat went and found out she still had him So I went to her house and took him back. Had him for several more years. Luckily sometime after that my mom stopped going to those kind of churches. The whole “satanic panic thing”
Only lasted a few years.


May be tinea versicolor. In any case, Selsun Blue does well. They make a lotion that may be better on the body than shampoo, though I use the shampoo for a little seborrheic dermatitis in my beard.

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That’s part of it. I’ve taken medication for it and it goes away but always comes back. Been that way since really little. My skin has never been perfectly pigmented too in places. Always been a bit sensitive to sunlight or bright light in my eyes too. Not sure if it’s all related. I almost never have headaches or anything. Just noticed throughout my life I always have kept things darker. Usually just natural light for the most part. Strobing lights or like light going through a fan creating that kind of vibrating shadow look makes me feel sick though. I can still go out into the sun perfectly fine usually though. Sometimes I’ll be out there for just like 10 minutes and will will feel like I’m on fire and get super bad headaches and will even get some blisters and skin will be reddish looking in spots , even unexposed spots. But that happens only like every other year. Normally it’s never anything serious.


I’m Pentecostal and pastor in a Pentecostal denomination. Oh, and as of recently I started teaching in a Pentecostal Bible college. And EC.

How do you have the conversation? Depends…

The best place to start might be to talk about the role of the Holy Spirit in Creation (and “re-Creation” for that matter, both individual and universal) and how that gets missed when we are restricted by the YEC lens.


@DOL Dr Lamoureux is a leader in EC (maybe the father of EC?) He is also a Pentecostal. :slight_smile:


Yup. I have worshipped at Pentecostal churches since 1985. But I look the other way when anti-evolutionists are invited to speak. I have offered to talk to the university students in my church, but have never done so. And I have lectured in the sci-rel course at the Pentecostal college, but I am no longer am invited to do so. Oh well . . .


Such is life. Sometimes you have to both give and take grace.