The Problem With Prosperity

The prosperity gospel, or “health and wealth” preaching, originated about 70 years ago in the United States. At various tent meetings connected to Voice of Healing and similar ministries, preachers like Oral Roberts and A. A. Allen started to teach things like financial sowing and reaping, the prosperous power of faith and that God wants us to be rich.

Their theology was influenced by Baptist theologian E. W. Kenyon, who in turn was highly influenced with ideas from New Thought. This American movement is quite similar to New Age and emphasizes, among other things, the power of the mind to influence physical reality by, for example, naming and claiming health and wealth before it actually has materialized.

Sounds familiar?

Of course, a believer in the prosperity gospel will probably reject the brief historical review above and claim that they believe in these things because it is what the Bible teaches. And so, we must deal with the Biblical material. In this article, I will go through two passages that challenge prosperity teaching, and two that’s being used in its defense. Continue reading The Problem With Prosperity

Does the Old Testament Justify “Just War”?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted in 2015 at his website ReKnew.

For more of Boyd’s thoughts on Old Testament violence, check out his book Cross Vision of The Crucifixion of the Warrior God.

Since the time of Augustine, Christians have consistently appealed to the violent strand of the Old Testament to justify waging wars when they believed their cause was “just.” (This is Augustine’s famous “just war” theory.)

Two things may be said about this.

First, the appeal to the OT to justify Christians fighting in “just” wars (if there are such things) is illegitimate for the simple reason that the OT knows nothing of a “just war” policy. The wars that Yahweh had the Israelites engage in were not fought on the basis of justice. They were fought simply because the Israelites perceived that Yahweh told the Israelites to fight them. They were holy wars, not just wars. Continue reading Does the Old Testament Justify “Just War”?

Shifting Our Focus from Rules to Mission

1On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.  Luke 13:10-17 

Is the main point of this passage about healing?  Is the main point of this passage about our focus and mission as God’s people?  These are two of the many questions I puzzled about as I reflected.  And the answer is yes… This passage is about healing and yes this passage is about the focus and mission of God’s people.

Continue reading Shifting Our Focus from Rules to Mission

How Much Presidential Blasphemy Can We Tolerate?

This sentence from The Guardian has to go down in history as completely unimaginable concerning a U.S. president just a few years ago:

Over an ensuing half-hour rant, Trump trucked in antisemitic tropes, insulted the Danish prime minister, insisted he wasn’t racist, bragged about the performance of his former Apprentice reality show, denied starting a trade war with China, praised Vladimir Putin and told reporters that he, Trump, was the “Chosen One” – all within hours of referring to himself as the “King of Israel” and tweeting in all caps: “WHERE IS THE FEDERAL RESERVE?”

What really concerns me is the “Chosen One” and “King of Israel” part. The Guardian even leaves out something even more disturbing, namely that Trump welcomed the comparison between him and the second coming of God:

69218578_967140533624187_984150842019938304_n.jpg

A lot has already been written on Trump’s apparent pathological narcissism, and the tweets above provide additional evidence that his view of himself is severely disturbed. Any sane person, regardless of their own religious beliefs, would reject any comparison between themselves and the Creator of the universe. Continue reading How Much Presidential Blasphemy Can We Tolerate?

The Pentecostal Pacifism of Arthur Booth-Clibborn

The son-in-law of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, Arthur Sydney Clibborn-Booth and his wife Kate joined the Pentecostal revival and spread the Gospel in the power of the Spirit their entire lives. Like most Pentecostals of their day they were committed pacifists, and Arthur wrote a book on why Christians shouldn’t kill called Blood Against Blood.

The worldling knows only one kind of brotherhood– that in Adam. The Christian knows two, that in Adam and that in Christ. In war the worldling denies one kind of tie in killing his fellow-creature; the Christian denies two kinds–he kills his fellow-creature and his fellow-Christian. Besides, the former has ever a “field” (a battlefield), open to him which the latter has not: He can sacrifice his life as a missionary, and, if needs be, as a martyr, and “sow himself” thus a seed of righteousness and life-producing life rather than as a seed of sin and death-producing death, which every sacrifice of life on the carnal battlefield inevitably is! – Blood Against Blood

In the book, he shows deep knowledge of the pacifist early church, quoting not only Scripture but also early church fathers to show that Christians originally refused to wage war: Continue reading The Pentecostal Pacifism of Arthur Booth-Clibborn

The Cosmic Scope of Spiritual Warfare

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

We live in the midst of spiritual warfare. This is the reality of being a part of creation where Satan prowls like a roaring lion (1 Pet 5:8-9). The Scriptures make it clear that all of creation is in need of redemption. While most Christians assume that the cross was only about saving humans, the scope of Christ’s saving work was far vaster than that. It is cosmic in nature.

Paul teaches that in Christ, God was at work to “reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:19-20, emphasis added). Similarly, Paul says the whole creation has from time immemorial been groaning to be “liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).

One can only reconcile two parties if these parties are currently hostile to each other, and one can only liberate something if it’s currently oppressed. These passages are thus teaching us that everything in creation is, at least to some degree, currently out of sync with the Creator and oppressed by hostile powers. Christ died not only to reconcile and liberate humans, but also the whole of creation. Someday we will see his victory fully manifested. At the present time, however, the world remains under the curse and is not reflective of the Creator’s good designs. Continue reading The Cosmic Scope of Spiritual Warfare

Do Christians Have to Tithe?

by Joel Daniels, originally posted at Engaged Pentecostalism (follow them!).

This series of posts is dedicated to (re)considering basics of Christian faith, and today we examine one regularly misconstrued topic: tithing.

Tithing Mandate?

The Church persistently preaches that Christians must tithe, meaning give 10% of their income to the local church. Of course, there’s a whole sub-genre on whether or not 10% means from net or gross pay. Churches tend to push gross.

And lest we think this is a minor concern, churches often organize around this compulsory practice. I’ve been on staff at churches, in fact, that would not allow churchgoers into leadership positions until they tithed, even though other less concrete aspects of their lives were not as unequivocally scrutinized.

So the question I want to consider is whether or not tithing is a prescribed Christian practice, especially within the contemporary Church context where tithing (or at least giving of some sort) is the one message that is preached every single week during the offering portion of the service. In what follows, I will suggest that tithing is actually not a Christian prescription. But before we delete our online giving profiles, we’ll also discover that Jesus’ actual invitation is much more profound and “costly.” Continue reading Do Christians Have to Tithe?

Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice