Category Archives: History

‘The Cry of Slaughtered Millions’: William and Catherine Booth’s Aggressive Christianity

Image: inspirationalchristians.org

William Booth preaching
Image: inspirationalchristians.org

William Booth (1829-1912), Founder-General of the Salvation Army, certainly favoured the ‘in your face’ approach. With these words he began the front page article of the first issue of The War Cry, on 27 December 1879: Why a “War Cry?” Because The Salvation Army means more war!”

Today, the Army’s ‘fight’ against poverty and marginalisation takes many forms, from questions in parliament to individuals giving a few pounds to a homeless charity. But Booth’s radical eye saw deeper than mere deprivation and squalor: he saw inner lostness, people without hope because God’s love was not made real to them. Some churches tried, but in the main, Christians ‘walked by on the other side’. Not so the Salvation Army!

Continue reading ‘The Cry of Slaughtered Millions’: William and Catherine Booth’s Aggressive Christianity

The Gift of Provocation? Tertullian Certainly Had It!

Tertullian (full name Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus) was born at Carthage in North Africa around AD 155, son of a Roman centurion. He trained as a lawyer and had a razor-sharp mind. Little of his early life is known, but at about 40 he became a Christian. Immediately, he began to write – and Christendom hardly knew what had hit it!

He didn’t ‘do’ much reasoned theology; he confronted. Wrong teachings, sloppy morals, lax leaders, cowardly faith, Tertullian laid into them all. His writing is passionate, with holy sarcasm – and at times still funny even today. You sense a ‘wildness’, a burning heart for integrity and justice, contemptuous of all compromise. Here are some examples:

At a time of fierce persecution, when many favoured fleeing, he wrote: The blood of the martyrs is [the] seed [of the church], adding that once you start fleeing, you will never stop fleeing!

Seeing the growing emphasis on education in church leadership, he cried: What has Athens [headquarters of Greek philosophy] got to do with Jerusalem!

He took aim at worldly pursuits: All public entertainment damages the spirit.

He castigated the folly of persecutors: If the Tiber rises too high, or the Nile too low, the remedy is always to feed Christians to the lions.

He understood the fleshly human nature that he was confronting: The first reaction to truth is hatred.

Perhaps most biting of all is his judgement on self-centred living: Whoever lives only to benefit himself, benefits the world only when he dies!

Yet Tertullian was more than a polemicist. He was deeply conscious of his personal failings; once, he wrote a piece on patience because he knew he had to learn it. Continue reading The Gift of Provocation? Tertullian Certainly Had It!

A Revival in Poland Began with Praying Children

Image: flickr.comIn the early 18th century, a revival took place in middle Europe that has received little attention. It had something most unusual about it: it was a revival among the children.

Lutherans were being increasingly marginalised by the Roman Catholic authorities in Silesia, (the borderlands of Poland and Czech today), but the schoolchildren would not accept this. Some time in 1707, the children of Sprottau (today Szprotawastarted to meet in the field outside the town, two or three times a day, to pray for peace in the land and for freedom of religion. They would read some Psalms, sing hymns and pray, some of them lying prostrate, and close with a blessing.

The old town of Sprottau with the fields where the children prayed

The movement spread through the mountain villages of Upper Silesia and into the towns. Not all adults were happy about this, fearing the consequences; some tried locking their children in the house, but they would climb out of the windows! In some villages, Roman Catholic children joined the Lutheran children to pray. Continue reading A Revival in Poland Began with Praying Children

Chile’s Prophetic Pentecostals that Refused to Support Pinochet

Prophetic pentecostalism: the case, challenges and hopes

by Luis Aranguiz Kahn.

“Prophetic Pentecostalism” is the name that a particular group of Pentecostal believers put to distinguish themselves from the main Pentecostal branch in Chile. So, what was the difference? In first place, it is necessary to say that Pentecostals in Chile has been mainly conservative in terms of politics. Before the coup d’etat of Pinochet, they used to declare themselves “apolitical” to avoid the political struggle between the strong leftwing winds that ultimately took Allende to presidency in 1970 and the rightwing counterpart.

In the middle of this complex political context, appeared a different kind of Pentecostal that was not apolitical but openly leftist. Highly influenced by Liberation Theology, they then faced the dictatorship and at the same time went against the general Pentecostal tide. Meanwhile in 1974 many important leaders of the biggest Pentecostals churches of the country signed a public letter supporting Pinochet, this little group was resisting in its denomination (Mision Iglesia Pentecostal – MIP) and its communities.

Prophetic Pentecostals were also involved in ecumenical activity, something very strange to find in Pentecostals of that time given the many prejudices about the World Council of Churches and the suspicion of some kind of Marxist influence inside it. Those were times of a deep split among Christians. Chile, as a post-colonial State was largely influenced by USA not only in political terms, but also political, cultural and therefore religious. Continue reading Chile’s Prophetic Pentecostals that Refused to Support Pinochet

The Nonviolent Reformer that Sadly Didn’t Have an Easy Name Such As Luther

chelcicky_petr3
Petr Chelčický

The following is an excerpt of Micael Grenholm’s upcoming book Charismactivism, due to be published later this year by Ettelloc Publishing.

The Protestants of the 16th century were far from the first who protested against Catholic errors and heresies, but this movement was the first one to escape being totally quenched by inquisitors and grow to a big, substantial size so that it was clear once and for all that Catholics and Orthodoxs didn’t have monopoly on the name of Jesus. This was primarily because unlike most previous Christian rebels, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564) did not question the state-church system — on the contrary they endorsed it! Thus, many Protestants weren’t persecuted; they persecuted others. Furthermore, while prophetic, charismactivist movements demanded believers to take discipleship seriously and actively seek holiness, Luther’s hostility towards works made it quite easy to be a Christian in his church.

Reformers like John Wycliffe (1331-1384) in England and Jan Hus (1369-1415) in Bohemia (which is now the Czech Republic) had already protested against Biblical ignorance, papal fundamentalism, ecclesial luxury, and indulgences. The latter refers to golden tickets to Heaven that you had to buy in order to decrease time in your or your loved one’s painful purgatory chamber, the existence of which was questioned by Wycliffe since it isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Wycliffe translated the Bible into English, and Hus translated some of Wycliffe’s writings. The Catholics burned Wycliffe’s books, and Hus’ living body. The pope initiated not less than five crusades against Hus’ followers in Bohemia, which they violently countered in the so-called Hussite wars.

In the midst of this destructive conflict, a Bohemian reformer called Petr Chelčický (1390-1460) stepped up and preached the message of the Sermon on the Mount: nonviolence, enemy love and good deeds. Instead of just reforming the church to a slightly better state, he wanted to restore the Biblical, apostolic church completely. He believed in the free will of the individual believer, criticized the marriage between church and state, and promoted economic redistribution and communalism (not to be confused with extremist revolution and communism). Continue reading The Nonviolent Reformer that Sadly Didn’t Have an Easy Name Such As Luther

An Angel of Mercy Appointed by Prophecy

UK banknote commemorating Elizabeth FryFrom 2001, her face was on every Bank of England £5 note, but who was Elizabeth Fry? She was born into a banking family in Norwich, England, in 1780. When she was 18, she heard a Quaker preacher and was converted. She joined a Quaker assembly, where a woman had a prophecy for her: “You are born to be a light to the blind, speech to the dumb and feet to the lame.”

Immediately, Fry was moved to charitable acts. She collected old clothes for the poor, visited those who were sick in her neighbourhood, and started a Sunday School to teach children to read. Marriage took her to London, and motherhood kept her so busy that after 12 years she lamented: “I fear my life is slipping away to little purpose.” How wrong she was!

Another Quaker minister told her of the horrifying conditions in the capital’s prisons. Fry went to the infamous Newgate jail to see for herself. She found hundreds of women and their children living violent lives in unsanitary conditions and sleeping on the floor without bedding.

Fry sprang into action. Immediate practical needs had to be met. She enlisted local women to make clothes for the children. She got permission to start a school for prison children. She founded an organisation of women who would visit prisoners, pray and read scriptures with them, and provide them with materials to sew and knit goods which could be sold to give them some income. Continue reading An Angel of Mercy Appointed by Prophecy

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