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Anthropology (Theology of Humans)

Anthropology is the study of humankind. The academic discipline of anthropology studies human origins, human nature, and human diversity in an empirical manner. Pentecostals have very different, theological, ideas on human origins and human nature. They also have beliefs about the destiny of humankind that are central to their faith.

Human Origins
Pentecostals adhere to fundamentalist teachings on the issue of creation and reject the idea of evolution. Following the book of Genesis in the Bible, they believe that there was a being called God who created the heavens and the earth and all living things, including Adam and Eve, the first humans, who were fashioned in His image. Unlike anthropologists, Pentecostals believe that humans are a separate creation, set apart from other creatures, and the climax of creation. They preach that only humans have free will and an immortal soul and believe that God gave humans the power to rule over the earth.

According to Pentecostals, God created woman so that man might have company, making Eve from Adam's rib. This provides a foundation for the idea that men and women are meant to be together as monogamous couples, as well as for a belief in the superiority of men. According to Pentecostals, Adam and Eve were created without sin. It was God's plan for them to dwell in Paradise forever, but they disobeyed God and tasted good and evil from the tree of knowledge. God then punished Adam and Eve by casting them out of the Garden of Eden and condemning them and their descendants to suffering and death. Because of this Fall, men know the burden of labor and women the pain of childbirth and the duty of submitting to their husbands. Both have the burden of choosing right from wrong.

Human Nature
Pentecostals believe that every individual is made lovingly by God and is therefore a divine creation. Because God is responsible for the abilities they enjoy and the disabilities they have to bear, they believe that both should be cherished as parts of His divine plan. In the Pentecostal worldview, God determines the destiny of every individual, although He does not often reveal His reasons. Taking a life, even one's own, is sinful, because it interferes with God's plan.

Reproduction is also part of God's plan. The Assemblies of God, for example, says that sexuality is a "God-given desire." On the other hand, Pentecostals are opposed to homosexuality, believing it to be unnatural or contrary to God's plan. Also, according to Pentecostal teaching, life begins at conception; therefore, abortion is murder and a sin.

Although they see themselves as God's creations, Pentecostals believe that they come into the world tainted with the sin of Adam and Eve. Because sin is a fundamental part of human nature, humans are destined to suffer. But the purpose of suffering, as Pentecostals see it, is to bring people to God, who provided them with the gift of healing to relieve suffering.

Pentecostals believe that, because of the fall of Adam and Eve, they are born into a world of temptation and sin. The world as they know it is not the one that God created, but a man-made world under the rule of Satan, who surrounds them with temptations to make them sin and offend God. The world they live in is therefore a challenge. Pentecostals preach that Jesus came to earth to bear their sins for them, asking only that they accept Him as their savior.

Pentecostals believe they are called to "holiness" by God-that is, to live life according to "the Word," which is the Bible. They believe that God also gave them His Holy Spirit to guide the way. The Holy Spirit is said to dwell inside everyone who accepts Christ as their savior. The Spirit serves as a guide to living a moral life in an immoral world. The Spirit may bring the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as well as the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues.

Pentecostals consider the body to be the temple of the Holy Spirit and say that it should be kept clean and pure because the Spirit will not dwell in an impure body. Likewise, the demons of the world cannot dwell in a spiritually clean body. Pentecostals believe that in order to maintain purity, they should abstain from alcohol, tobacco, narcotics, and the use of profanity.

Pentecostals place special emphasis on sexuality, which they believe has a place only in reproduction. Sin and sexuality are virtually synonymous in the Pentecostal world, and sermons often dwell on fornication and adultery. Social dancing and gambling are discouraged and sometimes prohibited because they take place in "sinful" surroundings, and cosmetics, jewelry, and fancy hairdos and clothes are discouraged because they call too much attention to the physical self. Pentecostals are family-centered and place a high value on raising children. They believe the two-parent nuclear family is a key part of God's plan for humanity.

Pentecostals see their lives as a constant struggle to choose between sin and holiness, Satan and God, and eternal damnation and salvation. They say that those who choose to become Christian must accept Jesus as their personal savior and live in a Christ-like manner. Christians turn their backs on the past and are born again as new, changed people, kind, loving, humble, and obedient people, pure in thought and deed. This experience of spiritual rebirth not only erases past sins, it also changes the nature of the reborn person. A saved person is a "saint" who has a personal relationship with God.

Being a Christian is a constant struggle because Christians have to face the devil and the temptations of the world, and they are naturally inclined to sinful pursuits. A Christian needs to pray, study the Bible, follow the Holy Spirit, avoid the world, and seek the fellowship and support of other Christians to stay on the path of salvation. Salvation is based solely on faith in Jesus and not on good works.

Human Destiny
Pentecostals believe that death is God's punishment for the sin of Adam and Eve, but that it is God's plan to put an end to death itself and restore the initial state of immortality in Paradise. Pentecostals are premillennial-that is, they believe they are living in the Last Days before the end of the world. In the Last Days, it is prophesied, there will be a decline in morality and "signs and wonders" or miraculous events (the "Latter Rain") signaling the imminent Rapture of the Living Saints, when Christians will be taken to heaven. Pentecostals therefore interpret social decay as a sign of impending glory.

They believe that the Rapture will be followed by a period called the Tribulation, when the world will be ruled by the Antichrist. It will begin with prosperity and end in plagues. After seven years, Jesus will return (known as the Second Coming) and vanquish Satan in the Battle of Armageddon, casting him into the Bottomless Pit. Christians will enjoy a thousand-year period of perfection on earth they call the Millennium. Satan will then be released from the Bottomless Pit as a final test. The living and the dead will be judged by God, and those who are saved will live for eternity in the Holy City of New Jerusalem, while those who are not will be cast with Satan into the Lake of Fire, to burn in Hell forever.

— William Wedenoja

Further Reading

Anderson, R. M. (1979). The Pentecostal message. In Visions of the disinherited: The making of American Pentecostalism (pp. 79-97). New York: Oxford University Press.

Brodwin, P. (2003). Pentecostalism in translation: Religion and the production of community in the Haitian diaspora. American Ethnologist 30 (1), 85-101.

Faupel, D. W. (1996). The everlasting gospel: The significance of eschatology in the development of Pentecostal thought. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press.

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