Describe the influence of Pentecostalism in Brazil. What advice would you give for engaging with Pentecostalism?
The great majority of evangelicals in Brazil are Pentecostals. Pentecostalism in Brazil, however, is extremely varied. There are the classical Pentecostal churches, such as the Assemblies of God, with an emphasis on the baptism with the Holy Spirit followed by speaking in tongues, prophecies, revelations, and aggressive evangelization. There are also neo-Pentecostal churches that emphasize the prosperity gospel and spiritual warfare and who do not follow the model of worship of the classical Pentecostal churches. In these neo-Pentecostal churches, there are many who call themselves apostles and who exert almost absolute authority in their congregations. The doctrines and practices of these churches are very widespread in Brazil. Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals are, for the most part, Arminian when it comes to soteriology. Many Pentecostal leaders are very aggressive against the Reformed church and the doctrine of predestination, which they consider heresy.
Dealing with Pentecostals has not been easy, for they see the Reformed as heretics who do not have the Spirit or intimacy with God. The most efficient way of dealing with Pentecostalism is biblical exposition. Many Pentecostals have stopped to listen to the biblical exposition of Reformed pastors on social media and have even become convinced of the five solas of the Reformation and the five points of Calvinism. There are a great number of Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals that follow, with regularity, Reformed pastors through the internet.
What challenges does the Reformed church in Brazil face?
I believe that the main challenges, first, are avoiding division in Reformed churches due to factionalism. Second, maintaining the Reformed faith in its purity and at the same time having it be relevant to contemporary Brazilian society. Third, to win against spiritual pride and intellectual arrogance and use the theological preparedness of Brazilian Reformed to serve the Brazilian church. The Reformed are probably the best-prepared theologians in the Brazilian church, and they should see this as a blessing from God for the entire evangelical church in Brazil.
What is the state of theological education in Brazil?
The seminaries of historical churches are contaminated by liberal theology and Neoorthodoxy, as well as hermeneutics focused on the reader. The influence of Marxism is also very great. However, some historical churches, such as the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, have been able to avoid having liberal theology dominate their theological education until now. Some Pentecostal seminaries have been greatly influenced by the historical-critical method and the theology associated with it. However, there are independent seminaries that have been able to offer a good theological education based on the Reformed faith.
What can the church in America learn from the church in Brazil?
I believe that the problems and challenges that the evangelical American church is facing now are similar to the ones that we, Brazilian evangelicals, are facing here too: the growth of secularization, the radicalization around politics dividing the evangelical field, the advance of gender ideology, the temptation to accommodate to culture, the discussions about social and racial justice, and the everlasting challenge of theological liberalism. On the other hand, the evangelical Brazilian church seems to be more conservative in theology and in practice. For example, there are only a small number of evangelical churches that accept gay marriage and homosexual pastors. The absolute majority of evangelicals are against abortion. The number of churches that adopt the theologies coming from Marxism is also small.