An article recently appeared in the Christian Post entitled, “Why is the country moving left? The social gospel”. In this article, Nathan Cherry argues that the American church and society has moved to the “left” as a result of mainline churches embracing what is known as the “Social Gospel”. He also states that the Social Gospel is a “reimagining” or “replacement” for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mr. Cherry says:
Many years ago, mainline Protestant churches began to embrace what is now understood as the social gospel. This reimagined understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ centered on social and economic equality, as well as racial reconciliation and poverty. This new gospel replaced the atoning work of Christ on the cross for the sins of people with a politically charged version of the gospel in which correcting social ills was the highest good and ultimate goal.
I want to offer a brief rebuttal to Mr. Cherry’s article. The Gospel of Jesus Christ has and will always be partially political or social, and the Social Gospel is not a replacement for the Gospel.
When Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity emerged a century ago, many conservative Christians denounced the movement. Part of this was due to the egalitarian and counter-culture nature of the movement. Another part of it was that the incorporation of the gifts of the Spirit into worship seemed crazy – perhaps even demonic. At this point, Christians were mostly used to some variety of ordered worship, so when Charismatics came into church services and started speaking in tongues or dancing, it made a lot of people uncomfortable. They thought that Charismatic Christians were deceiving people and obstructing proper worship. A term was coined as an insult towards Charismatics – Charismania.
Charismania is commonly used as an insult to describe Charismatic Christians as unstable. People may perhaps see our prophetic visions, speaking in tongues, and claims of supernatural healings as delusional. It is a criticism of the Charismatic Movement that I know well.
While I do not think that Charismatic spirituality and worship are false, I must say that as a Charismatic looking into the wider world of Charismatic Christianity, we do have a serious problem. The movement has for a long time been infested with false doctrines such as end times theology, prosperity preaching, and cults of personality. The movement is also infested with false prophets, false healers, and con artists. And like the early church, the movement has been twisted in order to serve the empire. We have a very serious problem of not “testing the spirits” (1 John 4:1).
I wanted to wish all members, fans, and readers of PCPJ a happy Easter. Even though secular culture tends to emphasize Christmas, the most important day in the Church calendar is actually Easter, when we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. It is in the events of Easter that Christ becomes the victor. Our Lord has looked sin, injustice, death, and imperial power right in the face, and He defeated them. These things led to His torture and execution, and Jesus rose from the dead anyway. In Easter, Jesus is declared the Lord of lords and the King of kings. He is more powerful than Herod and Caesar, principalities and powers. He has defeated even death itself.
2020 and 2021 have been dominated by the powers of sin and death it seems. In the United States, the news cycle has been suffocating due to COVID-19, the presidential election, political corruption, police brutality, the protests and counter-protests, wars and rumors of wars. It has been a dark year. We couldn’t even properly celebrate Easter last year. But Christ is victor.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. – Matthew 7:15
Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. – 1 John 4:1
American Evangelicalism has been taken over by hypocrites. It is not new as this trend started several decades ago, but now we can see clearly the corruption before us. Conservative Christians, who claimed to be standing up for “traditional Christian/family values” supported a rich, womanizing con-man for president. People like John MacArthur, Wayne Grudem, and many leaders of American Evangelicalism made claims that Trump was the lesser of two evils since he was supportive of “traditional Christian/family values” despite being a flawed candidate. MacArthur in particular likes to take shots at LGBT people and said that he endorsed Trump in 2020 due to Trump’s social conservative views. However, Trump doesn’t seem to agree with MacArthur:
John MacArthur, like many of the leaders of American Evangelicalism, is a hypocrite and false prophet. Which I know this is strong language, but I am genuinely upset over the sad state of the Evangelical Church, and its hypocritical ways. How these people claim to follow Jesus but seem to ignore everything he said. How they are “pro-life” while against welfare services, pro-war, and anti-pandemic relief. Continue reading False Prophets and False Idols: The Sad State of American Evangelicalism→
300 years ago a movement of revival started within British and later American churches. This movement called the Church to return to the Gospel. It called the Church to share the message of Jesus with others and to follow Jesus more boldly. This movement was very diverse for its day. It affected most Christian denominations in the English-speaking world, and it touched many Christian communities. It was an international, interracial, intercultural, and interdenominational movement.
This movement promoted education, social reform, and inclusion in the Church. This movement was one of the main forces behind social justice movements for much of its history. Abolitionism, poverty-relief efforts, the Social Gospel, Labor Movement, Civil Rights Movement, and many other important causes were at least influenced by this movement.
The movement that I am talking about is Evangelicalism, but despite Evangelicalism having such a long and noble history, most don’t recognize it today – at least not in the United States. There are a number of factors that contributed to this:
First, Evangelicalism has always had a white supremacist wing. Even though Evangelicalism was indispensable in the abolitionist and civil rights movements, there was also always a segment that opposed those movements. On the one hand, you had John Wesley who argued strongly against slavery, but on the other you had Jonathan Edwards who owned slaves. There are still schisms in American churches over this exact issue. The Southern Baptist Convention is an example of an American Evangelical church founded on white supremacist principles. Continue reading It’s not Evangelicalism Anymore→
I waited to write this article for PCPJ as I wanted to see who the winner of the US Presidential election would be. This morning (Saturday, November 7th), the news broke that former Vice President Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump.
Full disclosure: I am a member of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, and I donated to Joe Biden’s campaign. I am happy that Trump has lost this election. Donald Trump has always concerned me, and all of us at PCPJ have been critical of President Trump on numerous occasions. Having said that, I am also disappointed in Biden’s election. Joe Biden is simply the lesser of two evils rather than the person we need to advance the Reign of God. Biden’s election could be seen as a battle won rather than the winning of a war. Continue reading Will Biden Really Promote Peace and Justice?→
During the 2012 presidential elections in the United States, there was moment during the Republican primary debates that struck me. Ron Paul paraphrased the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Another way of stating it is, treat others as you would want to be treated. This statement is very important because it is the foundation of almost every moral system. It is something that is taught to most small children, in many cultures and by most religions and philosophies.
Most importantly, the Golden Rule was taught by Jesus. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus said, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets”, and in Luke 6:31 He said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Ron Paul paraphrased Jesus Christ in the 2012 Republican primary debate. He specifically cited this teaching in reference to war, as Congressman Paul has been pretty consistently against war. What happen to Paul is remarkable. The entire audience booed him! A US congressman and presidential candidate was booed for quoting Jesus, and this was in the Republican Party, which is supposed to be the party of Christian values. This incident can be viewed in several places online. I suggest watching it:
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.
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→