A Faith That Rings Hollow

Isaiah 58:1-12

Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

Often in my childhood growing up in a Pentecostal and Charismatic setting I heard teachings that connected faith with prosperity.  Somehow, if I had the right amount of faith and I never really knew how much was really enough, well then I could obtain health or wealth.  Having enough faith also included having one’s relatives saved.  And I see where these ideas come from in the scripture as the Bible often uses the words faith in connection with healing and the supplying of our needs.  But something always seemed a bit off for me.  Continue reading A Faith That Rings Hollow

The Dangers of Baptizing Our Politics

A couple of days ago, President Donald Trump met with a group of inner-city pastors to discuss policy (especially regarding the criminal justice system). Interestingly, most of the pastors present at this meeting were Pentecostal and Charismatic, and they praised the president during the meeting.

Here at PCPJ, we are deeply critical of President Trump’s policies. We have discussed many of them at length, and we even wrote (and I co-signed) a letter criticizing the president several months ago. In this article, I do not want to beat a dead horse and simply further criticize the Trump administration on policy. However, I do want to address a much larger issue — the baptizing of our partisan politics.  Continue reading The Dangers of Baptizing Our Politics

Why You Shouldn’t Keep Your Wealth for Yourself as a Christian

Let us end our little blog series on why wealth is wrong. We have already looked at the mathematical argument, where we saw that it is impossible to keep wealth while giving the same wealth to the poor. Then we discussed the economic argument, which says that it is better to invest in goods and services beneficial for the poor rather than superfluities like luxury and entertainment. And last time, I brought up the Bill Gates argument, which states that it is the quantity of what we keep, rather than what we give away, that measures our generosity.

In each post we have started with an argument for why wealth is right, and we shall do the same in this post. The most common moral argument I hear when people defend wealth is: “Rich people have worked hard for their wealth, and deserve therefore to have it and do what they please with it.” It is often combined with “We only have a moral obligation for ourselves and our families, not for the entire world.”

The moral argument for why wealth is wrong, on the other hand, is brilliantly summarized by the apostle John: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 Jn 3:17). As I explained in my article about a Christian World Vision, Jesus-followers should without doubt apply the same moral standpoint on non-believers as well. Continue reading Why You Shouldn’t Keep Your Wealth for Yourself as a Christian

Why Bill Gates Doesn’t Prove that Wealth is OK

When (rich) Christians defend mammonism, the idea that Christians may or should be rich, they often include arguments that aren’t necessarily based on Bible study – such as the arguments I discuss in my God vs Wealth series – but rather in philosophy or economics. These are the sorts of arguments I tackle in my Why Wealth is Wrong series. You can also read my discussions on the economic argument and the mathematical argument.

The Bill Gates argument for why it’s OK to be rich is a variant of the mathematical argument that involves billionaires. Look at Bill Gates, the mammonist says, he’s so generous! He has his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that does so much good for the world’s poor. This is because Gates is the richest man in the world, with his net worth of 75 billion US dollars. His abundant wealth allows him to be abundantly generous, and thus he as a rich man should not be condemned but celebrated both for his skills in computer invention and business, and his philanthropy.

The problem with the argument is that it tries to eat the cake and give it away at the same time: wealth is good, because you can give it away. This is the same error as the mathematical argument makes. Saying that wealth is good because billionaires can give lots of money to the poor, is like saying that it’s good to be fat because then you can lose a lot of weight. It’s trying to rationalize a phenomena by arguing that you can get away from it. Continue reading Why Bill Gates Doesn’t Prove that Wealth is OK

The Union of Heaven and Earth

Each time we recite the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew chapter 6:9-13 we pray these words, “your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” 

We thoughtlessly recite this prayer without paying a whole lot of attention to just how astounding these words really are.  That’s what I want us to dive into today in this blog post. 

The Beginning

In the beginning God created a beautiful world where he would dwell with his people.  Then he created human beings and put them in the world that he created.  The Biblical authors called this world a garden because garden best describes what life is like in the presence of God.  It is a flourishing world within which God’s people partner with God in doing the will of God.  God’s people partner with him as image bearers—tending the garden, reigning in union with God and bringing life and filling the earth with people.  Continue reading The Union of Heaven and Earth

Why Trickle-Down Economics Doesn’t Work

Two weeks ago we looked at how it is mathematically impossible to spend the same money on superfluities (i.e. unnecessary stuff) and aid to the poor, and from that we concluded that statements like “You need to be rich in order to give money to the poor” or “It’s good to give money to the poor, but there’s nothing wrong with being rich” either cannot refer to the possession or consumption of superfluities, or they are simply self-contradictory.

In this blog post I want to address another argument rich people use when defending their wealth, namely that all consumption is good for the economy and in the end also beneficial for the poor; there is really no need to point out consumption of superfluities as something bad, since the money one pays eventually trickles down to the poor.

Continue reading Why Trickle-Down Economics Doesn’t Work

Early Pentecostals on Patriotism and Nationalism

These days, love of God is often mixed up with love of country, patriotism and national pride. This was not the case with most early Pentecostals. In line with their pacifism, many influential Spirit-filled leaders criticized patriotism and nationalism. Here are some examples:

parhamCharles Fox Parham (4 June 1873 – c. 29 January 1929) was an American preacher who was instrumental in the formation of Pentecostalism.

The past order of civilization was upheld by the power of nationalism, which in turn was upheld by the spirit of patriotism, which divided the peoples of the world by geographical boundaries, over which each fought the other until they turned the world into a shamble. The ruling power of this old order has always been the rich, who exploited the masses for profit or drove them en masse to war, to perpetuate their misrule.

The principle teachers of patriotism maintaining nationalism were the churches, who have lost their spiritual power and been forsaken of God. Thus, on the side of the old order in the coming struggle, will be arrayed the governments, the rich, and the churches, and whatever forces they can drive or patriotically inspire to fight for them. On the other hand the new order that rises out of the sea of humanity knows no national boundaries, believing in the universal brotherhood of mankind and the establishment of the teachings of Jesus Christ as a foundation for all laws, whether political or social.
Charles F. Parham, Everlasting Gospel, pp. 27-28. Continue reading Early Pentecostals on Patriotism and Nationalism

Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice