Is Salvation More Important than the Environment?

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

This post was originally published at Just Theology.

When many Pentecostal and charismatic Christians use the word “salvation,” the first image that comes to mind is the gift of personal healing and “coming home” to God that he has made possible through Christ, made known to the believer through the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, when the apostle Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit he is able to proclaim, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NRSV). The change of life that comes through knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior is the core of our faith. But God’s plan of reconciliation expands beyond individuals, and even beyond human beings. So when we look to the biblical witness, we realize the question, “Is salvation more important than the environment?” actually represents a limited view. A better question is, “Why must salvation include the environment?”

A theology that views the environment as somehow separate from salvation stems from the modern Western temptation toward individualism. Many of us inherited a theology in which “being saved” seems like an entirely private affair. But we must remember that, while salvation through Christ is absolutely personally transformative, that transformation is always intended to be lived outward, in community, for the benefit of all creation. Continue reading Is Salvation More Important than the Environment?

Why Did Jesus Tell Violent Parables?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted in 2016 at his website ReKnew.

Some try to argue that Jesus did not make loving enemies and refraining from violence an absolute mandate. They make their case on the basis of several passages from the Gospels. The first concerns the cleansing of the temple which we addressed here, while the second is about how Jesus spoke harsh words to the Pharisees, which was covered here.

A third argument cites several eschatological parables of Jesus to argue that he believed God would act violently in the final judgment. A classic example is the parable of the unforgiving servant (Mt 18:21-35). Jesus begins this parable by comparing “the kingdom of heaven” to “a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants” (v. 23). One servant owed him “ten thousand bags of gold” (talents, v. 24), and it’s helpful to note that each talent was the equivalent of what a servant would typically earn over twenty years.

The servant of course could not pay the king, so the king intended to sell off everything the servant owned and to sell his family into servitude. Yet the servant pleaded with the king for “patience,” promising to eventually “pay back everything” (vv. 25-6). As a result, this king “took pity on him” and not only postponed payment, but “canceled the debt” altogether (vv. 27). Continue reading Why Did Jesus Tell Violent Parables?

The Syrian crisis: Comforting and defending the vulnerable, exposing and confronting the powerful

by Bob Ekblad, originally published on his blog.

The crisis in Syria has been on my heart in a new way this past week, when Gracie and I were in Beirut, Lebanon. We were part of a team that offered four days of training in evangelism and prayer appointments to 65 Syrian Christians who came over for Damascus.

We were deeply impacted by the humility of these Syrian believers, who have gone through devastation on so many levels. Everything that could be shaken has been shaken, and yet a vibrant faith remains, visible in a thirst for God and eagerness to learn more.

One woman told how over 13,000 bombs fell on her city over the past nine years, but only 100 were killed (a small but still horrific number considering the number of bombs). She attributed this to her faith community’s constant intercession. She said that there are many testimonies of people deciding suddenly to walk away from a particular place that was subsequently hit by a bomb. She said many came to believe in God due to widespread stories of protection.

We met people from Aleppo who saw their city destroyed by the fighting. It seemed everyone had lost people they knew or had family that lived abroad as refugees- some 2 million of which are in Lebanon. We visited a Lebanese Christian outreach to Syrian refugees near the Syrian border that brought education, clothing, food and medical care to thousands of vulnerable people. Continue reading The Syrian crisis: Comforting and defending the vulnerable, exposing and confronting the powerful

Patriarchy and the Jezebel Narrative

Narrative is the story through which we view reality.  We all have narratives that help us interpret our lives.  The Bible also is a narrative that helps us interpret reality.  There is a narrative that has floated around Charismatic and Pentecostal circles whenever anxiety surfaces around women co-leading with their husbands in marriage and having leadership roles in the Church and political world.  The Jezebel Spirit teaching comes from a false narrative drawn from 1Kings 16-21. 

Who was Jezebel in the Bible? 

Jezebel was the wife of Ahab who descended from a number of wicked kings who had each become progressively more evil in their ways.  Ahab was the son of Omri who was the son of Zimri who was the son of Elan who was the son of Bassash.  Each of these kings were idolaters, men of violence who did not keep the Torah, in fact this was said of each king:

“Baasha had done what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” 1Kings 16:7

Of Zimri, “ for he, too, had done what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” 1Kings 16:19

 “Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.” 1kings 16:25

“Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.  1Kings 16:30

Ahab had come from a family of wicked kings who had long practiced idolatry with each subsequent generation becoming more and more evil in the site of the Lord.  The intent of the author was to show that Omri was more evil than the kings before him and Ahab even more evil that Omri and all the others before him. Continue reading Patriarchy and the Jezebel Narrative

Luther’s Failure and the Success of Pentecostalism 

German reformer Martin Luther is often heralded as the founder of Protestantism and one of the most influential Christians ever. Historian Bernd Moeller has even described him as the most influential European who ever lived, with millions of followers and a massive readership, his reformation project has had an overwhelming success – even though it ultimately failed to reform the Roman-Catholic church.[1]

However, this notion has recently been challenged by other historians. Hartmut Lehmann writes in his contribution to Radicalism and Dissent in the World of Protestant Reform, an anthology on the so-called radical reformation:

True, Protestantism has become a major world religion, with congregations on all continents. In the course of the twentieth century, however, not all branches of the Protestant family grew at the same rate. In Europe and North America, Lutheran churches, that is the churches directly descending from the German reformer, stagnated. Some are in decline, like many other mainstream churches. In contrast, the various branches of Baptist churches blossomed and attracted many new members, and so did numerous Pentecostal churches.

In Africa and some parts of Asia, in particular, congregations that can best be described as charismatic, fundamentalist, or evangelical (I am aware that all of these terms are disputed), are strong and vibrant. While Europe’s traditional Protestant churches are afflicted by progressive secularization, the much younger Protestant churches in the southern hemisphere experience vitality, and their leaders speak of unheard blessings.

In looking at what the British-American historian Philip Jenkins, in his book The Next Christendom, has called ‘The Coming of Global Christianity’, one may ask what has become of Luther’s heritage and what of his theological legacy. Luther never accepted the baptism of adults and was among the fiercest opponents of the early Baptist movement. Furthermore, Luther strongly rejected any kind of charismatic or emotional religious performance. For him, those who believed that they should follow sensational inspirations, were nothing but enthusiasts who could not be trusted.

However, not in the early years of the Protestant Reformation, but over the centuries, these unreliable enthusiasts have succeeded in unforeseen ways. By the twentieth century, ‘Martin Luther’s unruly offspring’ could proudly claim ‘mass’ success, or ‘Massenerfolg’, to use Bernd Möller’s phrase.[2]

Continue reading Luther’s Failure and the Success of Pentecostalism 

10 Things Christian Women are Tired of Hearing

I still remember my first experience of being told I couldn’t do something I wanted to do.  I was only four years old and my Sunday School teacher asked us to go around the room and share what we wanted to be when we grew up.  Without any hesitation I blurted out “I want to be a pastor.”  My teacher, who was warm and friendly, stooped down, put her arm around my shoulders and said “honey, women can’t be pastors.”  I remember being utterly confused.  I had always enjoyed lining my teddy bears up after church on the steps of my house, singing Bible songs, and pretending to preach sermons.  This is something I liked doing and that my parents always encouraged in their own ways.  Obviously, four was too young to understand the theological implications of such a bold statement – there was no possible way I could have known at the time that this has been a grey area debated over the centuries with Bible believing Christians on both sides of the fence.  All I knew was that I was being told I couldn’t do something that in my very core I felt I wanted to do, that I was called to do, that I was meant to do.

Since then, I have occasionally faced discouragement as a woman in other areas and I know that I am not alone.  Thus, when I was asked to write this blog for PCPJ, I opened up my Facebook by posting an open question: “To all my Christian Women friends, what are you tired of hearing?”  The results poured in and surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly) nearly everyone said the same things but in different ways.  I also took this offline by asking Christian and non-Christian women alike what they were tired of hearing, and I discovered that these very same issues often permeate into the lives of even those who are not religious.  That is to say, culture and tradition, often overshadow the truth and sometimes churches lose sight of what is Biblical and historically accurate in favour of what has simply been passed down to them or what they have been taught without further investigation.

Although this list is not exhaustive, here are some of the most common themes that women addressed when asked this question: Continue reading 10 Things Christian Women are Tired of Hearing

Hillsong Shouldn’t Put Their Trust in Powerful Men

by Jacob Schönning.

This summer it was reported that the Australian liberal prime minister Scott Morrison was welcomend on  stage at a gigantic Hillsong meeting during their annual conference in Sydney.  He led the congregation of 30-35000 people in prayer and confessed his faith in a miracle working God. Andreas Nielsen, lead pastor of Hillsong Sweden, affirmed that the prime minister ”is a devout Christian”. He also said that that ”his participation in the conference is a recognition of the important role that the church in general plays in Australia and that it makes a difference.”

Fantastic, isn’t it?

Bildresultat för morrison hillsong

I am not so sure about that. On the contrary, I think that it is very dangerous for the soul of the Church in Australia. Last winter Magnus Malm wrote in Swedish Christian newspaper Dagen that God is not on the side of the powerful. In fact God says in Psalms 146,3: ”Never put your trust in powerful men.”  For centuries, Catholic and Orthodox churches have often been close to political power. That was the case when Spanish and Portuguese conquerors went ashore in South America, and it is the same today in countries like Russia and Poland. Continue reading Hillsong Shouldn’t Put Their Trust in Powerful Men

Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice