PHILIP ALMOND. Five aspects of Pentecostalism that shed light on Scott Morrison’s politics

Prime Minister Scott Morrison began his victory speech on Saturday with the words, “I have always believed in miracles”. This was no mere hyperbole. Morrison appeared to be declaring his belief that God had actively intervened in the political process to bring about his re-election.

Morrison’s Pentecostal Christian faith is at the centre of his understanding of political life. He invited cameras to film him while worshipping at his church, Horizon, in southern Sydney. And in his maiden speech to Parliament in 2008, he described Pentecostal Hillsong Church leader Brian Houston as his ‘mentor’ and himself as standing for “the immutable truths and principles of the Christian faith”.

In Morrison, the marketing man joins the evangelical preacher. When he tells his listeners, “I will burn for you”, this references the Biblical text, “Never let the fire in your heart go out,” (Romans 12.11). And, if he stays true to his church’s Pentecostal doctrine, he presumably believes in a personal Devil “who, by his influence, brought about the downfall of man”.

What then, are the key aspects of Pentecostal belief that will likely shape Morrison’s actions as a re-elected Prime Minister commanding huge authority in his party?


Morrison’s Horizon Church is part of the broader Pentecostal movement that emerged in the United States in the early 20th century. That miracles happen is a central tenet of Pentecostalism. As a religion, it sees itself as re-creating the gifts of the Spirit experienced by the earliest Christian worshippers. Along with the working of miracles, these included speaking in tongues and healings. They remain central features of Pentecostal belief and worship today.

Divine providence

Morrison’s mention of an election miracle coheres with the Pentecostal belief in the divine providence. Put simply, this is the belief that, in spite of the apparent chaos in the world, as the old song puts it, “He’s got the whole world in his hands”.

According to Pentecostal theology, all of history – and the future – is in the control of God; from creation, to the Fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden, to the redemption of all in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In turn, this will lead to the second coming of Christ, the end of the world and the final judgement.

This is why further action on reducing carbon emissions to counter the environmental damage wrought by climate change may have little intellectual purchase with the PM. If the end of the world through climate change is part of God’s providential plan, there is precious little that we need to or can do about it.

Prosperity theology

In keeping with his theology, Morrison appears to see himself as chosen by God to lead us all towards his understanding of the promised land, which as we know means, “If you have a go, you get a go”.

This “have a go” philosophy sits squarely within Pentecostal prosperity theology. This is the view that belief in God leads to material wealth. Salvation too has a connection to material wealth – “Jesus saves those who save”. So the godly become wealthy and the wealthy are godly. And, unfortunately, the ungodly become poor and the poor are ungodly.

This theology aligns perfectly with the neo-liberal economic views espoused by Morrison. The consequence is that it becomes a God-given task to liberate people from reliance on the welfare state.

So there is no sense in Pentecostal economics of a Jesus Christ who was on the side of the poor and the oppressed. Nor is there one of rich men finding it easier to pass through the eyes of needles than to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. On the contrary, God helps those who are able to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.


That said, in some ways, Pentecostalism is pretty light on beliefs. Rather, it stresses an immediate personal connection with God that is the exclusive property of those who are saved. This leads to a fairly binary view of the world. There are the saved and the damned, the righteous and the wicked, the godly and the satanic.

In this Pentecostalist exclusivist view, Jesus is the only way to salvation. Only those who have been saved by Jesus (generally those who have had a personal experience of being “born again” which often happens in church spontaneously during worship) have any hope of attaining eternal life in heaven. At its best, it generates a modesty and humility; at its worst a smugness and arrogance.

So only born-again Christians will gain salvation. Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, and non-born-again Christians are doomed to spend an eternity in the torments of hell.

Thus, as the website of the Christian group to which Scott Morrison’s Horizon church belongs puts it, “We believe in the everlasting punishment of the wicked (in the sense of eternal torment) who wilfully reject and despise the love of God manifested in the great sacrifice of his only Son on the cross for their salvation”.


In principle, the PM’s faith is “pietistic”. It is about the individual’s personal relationship with God. So faith is focused “upwards” on God in the here and now – and the hereafter. The result is that Pentecostalism is weak on the social implications of its beliefs. Social equity and social justice are very much on the back burner.

So you would not expect from a Pentecostalist like Morrison any progressive views on abortion, womens’ rights, LGBTI issues, immigration, the environment, same sex marriage, and so on.

Pentecostalists are not fundamentalists. Unlike them, they are especially concerned with the direct experience of the Holy Spirit as the key to salvation. But like fundamentalists, they believe in the Bible as the inerrant word of God in matters of ethics, science and history.

Thus, they hold to a social conservatism reinforced by an uncritical approach to the Bible, which reveals everything necessary for salvation. It would be difficult, for example, for a Pentecostalist to reject the Biblical teaching that homosexuals were bound for hell. The Prime Minister recently did so. But only after first evading the question and then through very gritted teeth.

This article was first published in The Conversation on 23 May 2019.

Philip Almond is Emeritus Professor in the History of Religious Thought, The University of Queensland


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6 Responses to PHILIP ALMOND. Five aspects of Pentecostalism that shed light on Scott Morrison’s politics

  1. Brent Egan says:

    Personally, I would love to have a Tridentine Catholic or at least a Anglo-Catholic for PM. The sight of the PM surrounded by clouds of incense billowing from an enormous thurible, surrounded by priests and deacons wearing splendid vestments, gesturing to the sounds of gorgeous choral polphony of Palestrina would be far more preferable to the fickle, wishy washy interpretations of Christianity we receive from Scott Morrison.
    The sight of him jumping up and down to happy-clappy Pentecostalism in “The Shoire” with dreadful music and newly affluent materialists is nauseating. It gives the tradition of 2000 years of Christianity a bad name!
    Dear Lord!, Grant us a traddy PM!

  2. I’ve been watching this one carefully, Philip, in relation to the Right trying to use up Israel Folau. As far as I can see Scott Morrison’s mob at Hillsong is the only church to criticise Folau. In other words, the only church to do the right thing.

    I have not seen anything from the established churches — Roman Catholic and Anglican. By their silence they are giving tacit approval to Christian fundamentalism. By extension, they are not objecting to Muslim fundamentalism.

    So if is OK for Christians to threaten sinners about going to hell it is OK for Muslims to chop off their heads and stone them to death. Thus I am more worried about the Anglicans and Romans than the Pentecostals. Perhaps I have missed something from the Archbishops. I hope so.

    There is a lot at stake here — civilisation.

  3. Graeme Alastair McLeay says:

    subscribing thank you

  4. John Thompson says:

    The other notable Pentacostal in the Liberal Party is Stuart Robert, a close friend of Scott Morrison. It seems that Morrison is willing to overlook some of the transgressions of his fellow believer, and re-appoint him to the Cabinet from which he was previously removed.
    Robert has had a very spotty parliamentary career so far.
    He and his wife both accepted a Rolex watch valued at $50,000 each from a wealthy Chinese political supporter, and only returned them when it became known.
    He was found out participating in an official signing of a mining company contract in China, posing as a ministerial representative.
    His father admitted that Robert had appointed him to a company without his knowledge, and the company obtained Commonwealth Government contracts.
    He and his wife (who is pastor of his local Pentacostal church) sold tours of the Holy Land and provided the guiding and education services during the tour.
    Robert was found to have claimed grossly excessive home internet expenses and, only when this was exposed, he refunded some of the expenses.
    This latter misdemeanor is particularly ironic now that his elevated role is to make best use of technology and digital applications to improve government service delivery.
    I suspect those with strong ambitions within the Liberal Party may now be considering a Pentacostal conversion.

    • Malcolm Andrews says:

      “Robert was found to have claimed grossly excessive home internet expenses” You are too kind.

      Why are incompetent people allowed to organise their own Internet and phones, surely there is a Department better equipped to do this.

  5. Malcolm Crout says:

    The next three years seem gloomy prospects for ordinary people with Government leadership by a religious nutter. Almost as terrifying as having Trump in possession of the launch codes. No where to hide. What in the hell have we done?

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