by David W. T. Brattston.
Any article on attitudes to racism in the Christian church’s foundational period would be necessarily short. There simply was none. The matter was sometimes different for foreigners and strangers in general.
Racism was absent in the earliest church and in the non-Christian society surrounding it. Christians and other subjects of the Roman Empire simply did not make distinctions based on race. In fact, mentions of a person’s skin color are so rare as to be insignificant. For instance, the Christian Bardesanes in early third-century eastern Syria mentioned the fact that people come in different colors as an example of what everyone agreed was inconsequential.
The only discriminations were based on cultural factors. Jews divided the world into themselves and Gentiles, while for Greeks the distinction was between themselves and “barbarians” i.e. people who did not share Greek language or culture. The Romans divided people between citizens and non-citizens, and then among various economic classes of citizens. The main Roman xenophobia was of hostile peoples outside the Empire. Continue reading The Absence of Racism and Xenophobia in the Early Church
by Lora Angeline Timenia, originally published at Engaged Pentecostalism.
The Acts community gives us a wonderful picture of women being actively part of the community of the Lord in the last days. In Biblical times, the idea of female speakers was acceptable due to God’s use of prophetesses like Sarah, Deborah, Miriam, and Huldah. Luke, the evangelist who wrote the two-volume corpus, Luke-Acts, even began his Gospel with a series of prophecies uttered by the most unlikely women: the barren, the widowed, and the pregnant-before-marriage. Amid societal taboos, God displayed a unique reversal of norms, when he spoke through the barren Elizabeth, the widowed Anna, and the virgin, Mary. Clearly, the Bible demonstrates that God uses women as agents of his revelation.
Unfortunately today, some churches, who stand by a traditional male hierarchy view, do not permit women to speak as pastor-teachers or preachers. In my opinion, these groups miss out on the fullness of what God wants do in their assemblies. Deborah was a judge in the Old Testament, who prophesied, taught, counseled, and even led the community to victory (Judges 4). What can they say about Deborah’s role? What can they say about the role of Philipp’s prophesying daughters in Acts? Could it be that people who do not permit women to speak in the assembly do not recognize the eschatological reversal that God initiated when Jesus triumphed over sin and death? Continue reading Let Women Speak in the Assembly: Towards the Inclusion of Women in Verbal Ministries
by Bob Ekblad.
Violence in Gaza is once again on the rise as the Israeli Defense Forces battle Palestinian protesters outraged by inhumane living conditions in what is often referred to as the world’s largest outdoor prison. The last time tensions flared Israel brutally bombed Gaza in response to Hamas’ missile attacks in 2014— killing over 2000 Palestinians and wounding thousands more. The story of Abraham’s conflict and reconciliation with the ancient king of Philistia (located in modern day Gaza) in Genesis 20-21 is an invitation to Jews, Muslims and Christians to each other through the eyes of faith.
Genesis 20 tells the infamous story of Abraham’s residence as an alien in Gerar, where he lies to Abimelech, king of Philistia, about the identity of his wife Sarah, saying she was his sister. Abraham expects the worst from this foreign king, assuming he will kill him and take Sarah for himself– since she is so beautiful. But after Abimelech takes Sarah into his harem God confronts him in a dream and Abimelech proves attentive. He dialogues with God, defending himself as innocent– and God affirms his integrity (20:5-6). Abimelech confronts Abraham about his lie: “You have done to me things that ought not to be done” (v. 10). He gives Sarah back along with many gifts, 1000 pieces of silver and a welcome to settle wherever they please (20:14-15). Continue reading Peacemaking in Gaza: Abraham’s Model
by Paul Alexander. Originally posted at Evangelicals for Social Action.
Jesus’ mom rocks. In Luke 1, Mary has the nerve to say that, because God is at work in the world, “The hungry have been filled with good things and the rich sent away empty-handed.” Very few people have the courage to say that God is at work to send the rich away with empty hands. Neither Democrats nor Republicans dare talk this way about rich people. (Full disclosure: I am rich.)
When a young Palestinian Jewish girl in occupied Galilee is filled with the Spirit to carry, birth, and rear the Messiah, amazingly bold things get declared. This teenage phenom from the backside of the Roman Empire made a claim that can be reacted to in at least two ways. Continue reading Mary and Money
by Craig Keener, originally posted on his blog.
Here are my first impressions of Paul: Apostle of Christ. First of all, I am very grateful that such films are being made. That gratitude overwhelms reservations on any other points. As you might guess (because I am a biblical scholar), movies about biblical themes are my favorite, and among the few kinds of movies I must see.
The various scenes of Rome are splendidly done; they make ancient Rome look like ancient Rome. For modern viewers far removed from the world of the New Testament, this provides an invaluable benefit. The film also dramatically captures the horror of people being murdered for their faith (or because the powerful in society deem them expendable). I appreciated the numerous echoes of Paul’s letters (and a crack about the Corinthians), although sometimes when Paul tells Luke to write something down it comes from Paul’s earlier letters, not from Acts. Continue reading Biblical Accuracy and Nonviolence in Paul: Apostle of Christ – Movie Review
by Andrew Meakin.
Frank Bartleman was a discontented church-hopper, seemingly looking in vain for a perfect church. He ended up at the Azusa Street revival.
William J Seymour was broke and homeless, dependant on the hospitality and support of others when God used him to initiate the Azusa Street revival.
Evan Roberts was a Bible School dropout, diagnosed by a psychologist as having ‘religious mania’. He went on to be the primary leader in the Welsh Revival of 1905.
Seek God with your whole heart and let history be your judge.
It takes discernment to tell a visionary from a delusional.
I felt God challenge me. If I’d actually met intercessory-prayer firebrands like Leonard Ravenhill or Frank Bartleman before they were well-known would I have wanted to be their friend or would I have dismissed them as legalistic and critical?
Pastors, I believe this is a word for this hour. Many of you have people in your church who are like uranium rocks. Knowing they could blow up the church if ever used, you see the risk as too great so you simply leave them in the ground. But nuclear energy can also be used to power a city if properly utilised! Continue reading The Key to Awakening
by Bob Ekblad, originally published on his blog.
For the past two weeks Gracie and I have ministered alongside our African partners to run four-day trainings for pastors and leaders in Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. We have been delighted to see widespread negative images of God dramatically give way to our teachings and group Bible studies on God’s love and grace, exciting us to further equip people to proclaim good news.
Negative images of God are common in places of poverty and hardship. Christians, Muslims and adherents of traditional African religions are all inclined towards legalism and performance. Known “sinners” usually do not feel welcomed in church services, until they first make required changes. Once inside the church they will often hear messages of condemnation, and promises that a life of purity and sacrifice will lead to financial and personal success. Continue reading Challenging Prosperity Theology and Legalism in Africa