The topic of the pacifism in the early church is something I have written about before for PCPJ. However, in our world it often needs repeating and restating. The Church has often fallen into the temptations of politics and militarism. This is clearly seen in the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement, which leaned towards pacifism in its early years, but became tolerant towards nationalism and militarism within only a few decades.
In the United States, we are in the midst of two events that make the topic of Christian pacifism relevant: 1. We are in the midst of a very brutal election season, and 2. We are approaching the 19th anniversary of the War on Terror, specifically the war in Afghanistan (which officially began October 7, 2001). It is the longest war in American history. Of course, PCPJ is an international organization, just as the Church is an international organization, but I think these are universal issues, and the war in Afghanistan includes many countries (including all of NATO). Additionally, PCPJ was founded in that time and context.
Considering that we have been in constant war for almost 20 years, I think it is time for Christians in the West to look back to our roots again and to not be seduced by politics or nationalism. What would Jesus say and do if He was here today? What would He say to a supposedly “Christian nation”? What would the prophets, apostles, and church fathers say in this time? Specifically, we should look at the early church. After all, Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity is primarily about revival – an attempt at recovering the Christianity of the apostolic age. Continue reading Was the Early Church Really Pacifist?
My grandmother and aunt were both charismatics, and they worked at the local Christian television station. There were many times when I was growing up that I would watch that television station simply out of curiosity. This was before I became a committed Christian, and some of the theology that I saw on this station seemed very strange to me. It was through this television station that I was first introduced to the Prosperity Gospel.
I came across many shows featuring Mike Murdock, Rod Parsley, Jesse Duplantis, and Joel Osteen. I distinctly remember being turned away by their preaching. I was a big fan of Jesus at the time, but I wasn’t comfortable with Christianity. And they were a big reason why. I remember seeing their fame and fortune, and I had a very difficult time reconciling that with the poverty and humility I read about in the Gospels.
Unfortunately, for the last one hundred years or so, the American Church has become captivated by the Prosperity Gospel. This has especially been the case within Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. Continue reading Biblical Prosperity: Why the Prosperity Gospel Is Wrong
For Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians, the day of the Pentecost as described in the book of Acts is the gold standard for the life of the Church. There are various types of Charismatics, of course, so there are different emphases, but all look back to Pentecost. The movement that started at Azusa Street about one hundred years ago has spread across the world and has found itself among Christians of all varieties. From Oneness Pentecostals to Charismatic Catholics, they all look back to Acts, to the life of the apostolic church, but many do not look at the full picture.
Most Charismatics love to talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit described in the first couple of chapters of Acts. Speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, and repentance are all deeply cherished, but there is another gift of the Spirit that is neglected in many of today’s Charismatic circles – economic equality. Continue reading All Things Common: The Economic Equality of Pentecost
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
Immigration is often in the news, but over the last several weeks, it has been discussed at a higher frequency than usual when information about the Trump administration’s policies on immigration to the United States (especially from Mexico and Central America) came to light.
Many of the policies embraced by the Trump administration are not unique to current administration. The Obama administration deported many foreign nationals and migrants, and they were following precedents set by the Bush administration. In addition, the first significant jump in deportations took place under the administration of Bill Clinton, while Hillary Clinton went so far as to support a double-layered border fence (in addition to other increased border security measures). Over the last 20 years, they have progressively become standard US policy on illegal immigration from Latin American nations. However, a recent story shows that this can also affect people from Canada who cross the border outside of a legal port of entry.
What makes this issue particularly relevant for Christians — and those of us at Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice — is that Attorney General Jeff Sessions invoked the Bible in defense of these sorts of policies. Sessions is correct that most Biblical scholars understand Romans 13:1-7 to be discussing submission to governing authorities. Christians, who are supposed to love our enemies (Romans 12:17-19, 13:8-10), are supposed to love the state that persecutes them (as would have been the case in Paul’s context). This passage is not about blind allegiance to governmental policies that may be unfair, unjust, or unholy. Continue reading The Bible on Immigration: Jeff Sessions Has It Wrong
“I really believe that if Jesus was physically on the earth today he wouldn’t be riding a donkey. Think about that for a minute. He’d be in an airplane preaching the gospel all over the world.”
— Jesse Duplantis
Recently, Charismatic televangelist Jesse Duplantis said that God wants his congregation to raise tens of millions of dollars for him to buy a private jet. Unfortunately, this mentality is not unique to Duplantis. Creflo Dollar got himself a $70 million jet, and Kenneth Copeland recently got himself a new jet. In the following video, both Duplantis and Copeland talk about the multi-million dollar jets they have had over the years, and why God allegedly wants them to have them:
Unfortunately, this mentality is not new in the Charismatic world, and it is quite widespread. It is especially common if you turn on a Christian television station. There are far too many examples of these preachers — from Joel Osteen to Mike Murdock.
The theology that these preachers build upon is known as “prosperity theology” or the “prosperity gospel”. The major distinction between this school of thought and mainstream, orthodox Christianity is the claim that God wants his people to have material wealth and prosperity. Health and wealth are seen as evidence of God’s blessing in your life. So, Duplantis buying a mulit-million dollar jet isn’t a sign of greed, but of God’s blessing. Continue reading Jesse Duplantis’ Jet Dream is Unchristian.
American foreign policy is always in the news. After all, the United States currently has the largest military in the world, and frequently serves as the globe’s police force through alliances such as the United Nations and NATO. The recent appointment of John Bolton as National Security Adviser for the Trump administration simply reinforces this as Bolton was very supportive of the US invasion of Iraq and supports further military aggression towards Iran and North Korea.
On that last point, the Korean War also happens to be in the news again in response to recent nuclear testing by the North and now peace talks in Korea between both Korean nations.
War is in the news. It usually is, and I don’t see any chance of that changing any time soon. It is very unfortunate, but those of us in Christian peace and nonviolence organizations also have to talk about war. This is a great sin in our world, and it expresses the spirit of the Wicked One rather than the spirit of the Anointed One. Continue reading Conquering the World Through Love
Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, or as many Christians call it, Resurrection Sunday or Pascha, for the Western Christian Church. Considering the importance of the day, I wanted to share a reflection on what exactly this holy day should mean to Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians who care about peace and justice.
I have been looking at the passages related to the resurrection of Jesus in the Bible. There are some very important teachings that are of direct relevance to Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians. I have been meditating upon these passages, and I am really beginning to realize just how important they are, and just how central the resurrection is to Christianity (cf. 1 Cor. 15:14). Continue reading Christ Has Risen; Jesus Is Lord!
Quite consistently in my life the issue of Christian pacifism has been a subject of interest. Even well before I became a Christian, I held to a deeply pacifist morality. I distinctly remember one conversation at a family gathering when I expressed disagreement with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. My brother (an enthusiastic Charismatic Christian at the time) said something that stuck with me; he called me “the family Democrat”. To him at the time, pacifism was not a Gospel or Biblical issue. Pacifism was entirely partisan (despite Democrats engaging in just as much violence as Republicans).
For many people, this continues to be the case. Regularly with my work in the church and wider community, the issue of Christian morality comes up, and this inevitably leads to a discussion about pacifism. As I observed with my brother many years ago, pacifism is often understood as a somehow disconnected from Christian values. For many, there is simple ignorance about the teachings of peace found in the Gospel, and for many others, they are aware of such teachings, but find them unrealistic, and do not believe that they are relevant for post-New Testament Christians. Continue reading The Biblical and Apostolic Foundation of Pacifism
There is a tendency to take Gospel values and try to lump them into a particular modern political category. It is something I am often guilty of myself. Not too long ago, I was a very politically sectarian individual, and if you did not agree with my specific political ideology, then you must be personally for oppression and/or sin. Lately, I have been reconsidering this stance heavily. I see the Spirit of God telling me that in Christ there is no longer progressive or conservative, left or right.
In Christ, we have a common King and a common Kingdom, and we must unite together behind the Gospel. One can be a loving, Christ-like conservative, and one can be a hateful, unchristian progressive, and vice versa. The Kingdom of God transcends man-made boundaries, as the Apostle Paul said:
For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body—though many—are one body, so too is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit. For in fact the body is not a single member, but many (1 Cor. 12:12-14).
For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28).
Here there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all (Colossians 3:11).
Continue reading Learning About Peace and Justice from Christian Conservatives