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What is the Coptic Orthodox view on Presbyterian and Pentecostals?
And will they enter the paradise??
Requested by Bishoy Ibrahim and Answered by Billious-MicMek on 27-Jul-2005 03:41 (2173 reads)
These are two very different groups.

Presbyterians are a Protestant denomination or Church which emerged out of the Church of Scotland founded by John Knox in 1560. The name "Presbyterian" is nicely explained in the World Book Encyclopaedia:

The term Presbyterian refers to a distinctive pattern of church government. Presbyter is the New Testament term for elder. Presbyterian congregations are governed by boards, called sessions or consistories, composed of the minister and lay elders. The sessions send representatives to church councils, called presbyteries or classes, which oversee the congregations of the district. The presbyteries are represented in regional synods or assemblies. Lay elders participate equally with ministers. All the ministers have equal rank.

In Australia, around the middle of the 20th century, the Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Methodist Churches agreed to unite under one banner, and together they became the "Uniting Church". However, many Presbyterians did not agree to this, so there remain some purely Presbyterian parishes in Australia.

We consider the Presbyterians to be a mainline Christian Church: ie. a church that believes in the basic concepts of Christianity such as One God, the Holy Trinity, the literal death and resurrection of Christ, etc. However, like other Protestant churches, they do not believe in very important concepts such the Sacraments, saints, intercession, tradition and so on.

The Coptic Church believes that any mainline Christian can go to Heaven, since they believe in the basic things required by the Bible. However, there is a bit of grey area where the sacraments are involved. For example, John 3:3,5 and John 6:53,54 seem to make it very clear that being baptised, receiving the Holy Spirit and receiving Holy Communion are essential for eternal life. Where does this leave Protestants who do not believe in these sacraments, but take them only to be symbolic acts that are not compulsory? Thus, we say that Orthodoxy is the most sure, or safest route to eternal life, since it holds very closely to the original teachings of the Bible and the traditions of the ancient Christian Church from the time of the Apostles.

Pentecostals or Charismatics refers not to a denomination or a church, but rather to a way of doing things. The name refers to their dependence on the 'gifts of the Spirit' given the Holy Spirit to the disciples on the day of Pentecost, most notably, the gift of speaking in tongues. "Charismatics" comes from the Greek word, "charisma" meaning "gift". Thus, there are Pentecostal Catholics, Pentecostal Baptists, Pentecostal Methodists and so on. The fastest growing Pentecostal Church in Australia at the moment is the Hillsong Church, which belongs to a denomination called the "Assemblies of God".

The main feature of a Pentecostal Church is that they practice things like speaking in tongues, laying on of hands to heal diseases, and 'prophecy', which means the person enters a trance-like state and supposedly receives instructions directly from God.

There is a huge question mark about these practices. Do they really come from the Holy Spirit, or are they just a con trick? Perhaps they represent some sort of strange mental disease, or could they even be a supernatural power given by the devil to deceive people? There is no doubt that there are many documented cases of con artists practising Pentecostal activities. But there also seem to be some very sincere people who none the less have these abilities. What are we to make of them? One thing that worries me deeply is the case of a lady who grew up as a Pentecostal and had the ability to speak in tongues and heal from the age of 14. Later, she went to university and was influenced by the atheistic teachings there, until she lost her faith and no longer believed in God. The weird thing is that even when she stopped believing in a Holy Spirit, she was able to do all the Charismatic things she could do before, speaking in tongues etc! How do you explain that? Would the Holy Spirit continue to work through a person who doesn't believe He exists? Another worrying thing is that it often happens that at these meetings, a certain phenomenon called "holy laughter" occurs. Here a person laughs uncontrollably, even rolling on the ground, for hours and hours on end. There have even been examples where people roll on the ground and make animal noises. I find it difficult to believe that this is the work of the Holy Spirit. Either it is some form of mental illness, or it a work of the devil, who delights in making his followers look foolish.

The gift of speaking in tongues was given to the apostles to allow the largely uneducated men to preach in many countries with different languages. This is no longer needed today, since we have Christians who can speak all these languages, or who can easily learn them. Even in St Paul's time, when he wrote 1 Corinthians around 56 AD (only 23 years after the resurrection of Christ), he was already discouraging people from speaking in tongues since it had become an unnecessary waste of time (see 1 Corinthians chapter 14).

As for the gifts of healing and prophecy, these continue on in certain people who live unusual and totally unworldly lives of poverty, chastity and total obedience to God's will. A person like Pope Kyrollos VI often did miracles of healing or foretold to people what would happen in their future, but when you look at this personal life, this is not surprising. Churches like Hillsong, for example, instead preach a "health and wealth" gospel; which means that if you are good, God will give you lots of money and possessions and won't let you get sick or suffer. Their ministers live in beautiful beachfront mansions. This is not wrong, but it is a very different lifestyle to the total unworldliness of someone like Pope Kyrollos VI!

From the point of view of the Coptic Church, we advise people to stay right away from this sort of strange behaviour. As for a Pentecostal going to heaven, it depends more on their actual beliefs. If they belong to a mainline Christian church (as above) then the same applies to them as applies to the Presbyterian Church. The only difference is that if these phenomena turn out to be a work of the devil, then obviously, they are in a much worse position!

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