Category Archives: Economic Justice

What Kind of Pentecostal Am I?

by Sam Lee.

I have quite an interesting Christian life. Some of my fellow Pentecostals think I am liberal, and they often ask themselves “Is Samuel still a Pentecostal?” Here are my answers to the question they ask:

Indeed, I am a Pentecostal, but I wholeheartedly believe that the Pentecostal movement needs serious reform. Just like any other religious movement, it has its own blind spots and makes its own errors, yet, at the same time, it shines in its own beauty. Whenever I say that I am a Pentecostal, I do not mean that I belong to a Pentecostal religious system, organization, or denomination. Instead, I believe in the very essence, the very foundation of our faith as it is based in the Pentecost documented in the Book of Acts.

I am a Pentecostal because I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit as it was revealed in the Bible. Nevertheless, I do not agree with some of my Pentecostal friends who use the name of the Holy Spirit in a simplistic and even abusive way, i.e., to engage in a form of ethical escapism, as license to do and say what they want and hurt anyone who does not think or is like them. The greatest sign of the Holy Spirit  is not speaking of tongues but the power of Unconditional Love. Love is indeed a power; it forgives, liberates, and heals. The Holy Spirit empowers us to love even the unlovable, to reach the unreachable.

I am a Pentecostal because I believe in the miracles of the Holy Spirit. I cannot deny them. I have seen them in my own life. At the same time, I disagree with some of my fellow Pentecostal friends who merchandize the works of the Holy Spirit: the commercialization of His miracles is sacrilegious. I disagree with the overemphasis on miracles, signs, and wonders, at the expense of justice and the righteousness for the poor and oppressed. I disagree with those who practice Pentecostalism while their own personal character shows little or no sign of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. I disagree with those who pretend to be super Pentecostals but do not know how to treat their spouses, neighbors, or children. True Pentecost-experience changes our characters and leads us to humility, grace, peace, and love. These are as important as signs and wonders. Continue reading What Kind of Pentecostal Am I?

How Needy is ‘Needy’? Some Early Church Views

Basil of Caesarea  (330-379) was a highly influential leader in the Early Church, who laboured and wrote extensively for the rights of the poor. His stance on wealth and poverty is blunt and uncompromising. It is also very relevant to today, where consumerism has achieved almost god-like status.

This piece shows that Basil was also a keen and unflinching observer of human nature – and human excuses. The writer identifies ‘the human tendency to adjust the definition of “need” to fit one’s current level of income.’

Basil was on to this 1600 years ago. His homily (practical sermon) on the man in Jesus’ parable, I Will Tear Down My Barns [and Build Bigger Ones], treats the barns not so much as symbols of wealth but rather as representing our definition of needs based on our circumstances.

‘In effect’, continues the article, ‘Basil says that if we never have any extra to share, this is due to the fact that whenever we find ourselves in possession of a surplus, we immediately adjust our definition of need to fit the new situation.’ Continue reading How Needy is ‘Needy’? Some Early Church Views

“Acts 2 is the Solution”

Erika Akimana from Kigali, Rwanda, has been living in the New Humanity Mission Community since 1997, founded just a few years after the genocide. I interviewed her on what made her make such a commitment, and what a central African Christian community is like.

IMG_20170320_130731 (1).JPGWhat is your community like?

We are 16 adults and 16 children. Half of the adults live with me and my husband Rukundo in Kigali, while the others live in a community house on the countryside. We come from both middle class and poorer class backgrounds, sharing all possessions and praying together every evening. Since 2013 we have a business, selling porridge, which some members from the Jesus Fellowship recently helped us with.

Why do you live like this?

I personally grew up in a divorced family and was very unhappy, I wondered why there were so many problems in the world. People are selfish, some are rich and others poor, there are orphans and divorce. I wanted to stop these problems, but I didn’t know how. Continue reading “Acts 2 is the Solution”

The Jerusalem Project: Starting a Christian Community from Scratch

The Jerusalem Project is based on the radical idea that biblical followers of Jesus should live like the followers of Jesus in the Bible. Specifically, we don’t think that the community of goods that Jesus practiced with his disciples (John 13:29) and that they then continued to practice in the apostolic church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-45), was a mistake or has gone obsolete. On the contrary, since Jesus is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and the apostles are the foundation of the church (Eph 2:19), we believe we should live like them.

Most Christians would agree that the apostles has ultimate authority on who Jesus is, what he did for us and what he wants us to do for him. In fact, this authority is so great that the words they or their associates wrote down in letters and books are considered to be the Word of God!

That’s basically as much authority one can get.

But if they have this much authority, shouldn’t we view their lives and works as expressing God’s will as much as their words? Not that they would be sinless, but they had spend a lot of time with the sinless Son of God. He had taught them not only doctrines but practices, not just orthodoxy but orthopraxy. And so, they continued to heal the sick, preach the Gospel and have everything in common just as Jesus had trained them. Continue reading The Jerusalem Project: Starting a Christian Community from Scratch

‘Always Enough’: Basil of Caesarea and Sustainability

My reading gives me the impression that sustainability is being taken more seriously by Christians, particularly the ‘millennial’ generation. Sustainable living is a Christian calling, declares Calvin College.  Tearfund and the Jubilee Centre have produced five Bible studies on Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living. There is even a network of Christian leaders advocating sustainability: check out their webpage.

Basically put, sustainability is the belief that there are enough resources on earth to provide for its population, if only these resources could be used wisely and equally.  This clip from the Breathe Network will give you a flavour – read the comments too.

So, is this a new fad? Could it be that sustainability is in the New Testament mandate? It is certainly the thought behind 2 Corinthians 9:8. God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. Continue reading ‘Always Enough’: Basil of Caesarea and Sustainability

A Charismatic Christian Wishing He Were a Mennonite

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Aaron D. Taylor

My name is Aaron D. Taylor and I’m a charismatic Christian. If you ever see me driving with my glasses on, I may look dignified, but don’t let my appearance fool you. Throughout my life I’ve been slain in the Spirit and drunk in the Holy Ghost on numerous occasions. I’ve felt the anointing, laid hands on the sick, cast out devils, and been prophesied over countless times.

It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable in my Pentecostal/charismatic skin, but I can honestly say today that I wouldn’t trade my Pentecostal/charismatic heritage for anything. I’ll admit it’s been a very long time since I’ve “shaken under the power” or “danced in the Spirit”, but to this day I pray in tongues, lay hands on the sick, and if I ever need to get the devil off my back, I’ll gladly pull out the “Sword of the Spirit” and start quoting Scripture. We Pentecostals and charismatics have a lot to be proud of. We were a miniscule, lower class fringe movement 100 years ago and now there are over 600 million of us around the world!

So why do I wish I were a Mennonite? Yesterday was my 30th birthday and when I think about the past 30 years of history, on nearly every moral issue that speaks to how Christians are supposed to live as a peculiar people surrounded by a godless culture, the Mennonites have been right and we’ve been wrong. While charismatic leaders were “naming and claiming” plush clothing, fancy cars, and million dollar mansions, Mennonites were teaching their children to live simply so that others could simply live. While charismatic leaders were petitioning the government to keep under God in the pledge of allegiance, Mennonites were warning their children about the dangers of nationalism. While charismatic leaders were building “apostolic networks” to win the world for laissez-faire capitalism, Mennonites were sharing possessions, building communities, and identifying with the poor. While charismatic leaders were putting bowling alleys and coffee shops in their multi-million dollar church buildings”, Mennonites were providing a decent living for third world farmers by setting up international co-ops and selling fair trade coffee. Continue reading A Charismatic Christian Wishing He Were a Mennonite

The Anti-Community Conspiracy in Biblical Scholarship

Extremely few Protestants live in a community of goods similar to that of the apostolic church in Acts 2 and 4. In fact, many Protestant denominations don’t have a single community connected to them. Just like charismatic, supernatural gifts used to be a rarity within Protestantism due to cessationism, something that has drastically changed over the last century, so is having everything in common. Both miraculous power and community life are biblical practices that many Christians simply don’t want, and both charismatic cessationism and economic cessationism have been defended and strengthened by forms of academic theology which quite frankly use very bad arguments.

Reta Halteman Finger
Reta Halteman Finger

Mennonite scholar Reta Halteman Finger wrote an excellent paper back in 2004 called ”Cultural attitudes in western Christianity toward the community of goods in Acts 2 and 4” (Mennonite quarterly review, vol. 78, no. 2). It’s a baffling read. An obvious mistake from Catholic and Orthodox theologians during pre-Reformation times was to equate the apostolic community of goods in Acts with the community of goods in the monastic movement, even though the latter is only available for celibates.

When Luther and Calvin protested in the 16th century, they rejected the monastic movement and thereby community of goods. Both argued that the only lesson we should learn from Acts 2 and 4 is that we should give a little gift sometimes to a poor person, not that we should have everything in common with them. They criticized Anabaptists for wanting to live apostolically; Luther argued that it is impossible to do what the apostles did for modern believers. The Hutterites proved him wrong, having lived in total community for over 400 years. Continue reading The Anti-Community Conspiracy in Biblical Scholarship