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→
These days, love of God is often mixed up with love of country, patriotism and national pride. This was not the case with most early Pentecostals. In line with their pacifism, many influential Spirit-filled leaders criticized patriotism and nationalism. Here are some examples:
Charles Fox Parham (4 June 1873 – c. 29 January 1929) was an American preacher who was instrumental in the formation of Pentecostalism.
The past order of civilization was upheld by the power of nationalism, which in turn was upheld by the spirit of patriotism, which divided the peoples of the world by geographical boundaries, over which each fought the other until they turned the world into a shamble. The ruling power of this old order has always been the rich, who exploited the masses for profit or drove them en masse to war, to perpetuate their misrule.
The principle teachers of patriotism maintaining nationalism were the churches, who have lost their spiritual power and been forsaken of God. Thus, on the side of the old order in the coming struggle, will be arrayed the governments, the rich, and the churches, and whatever forces they can drive or patriotically inspire to fight for them. On the other hand the new order that rises out of the sea of humanity knows no national boundaries, believing in the universal brotherhood of mankind and the establishment of the teachings of Jesus Christ as a foundation for all laws, whether political or social. Charles F. Parham, Everlasting Gospel, pp. 27-28.Continue reading Early Pentecostals on Patriotism and Nationalism→
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→
Hopefully, you’ve already discovered our resource pages filled with free articles, book recommendations, and links to other great ministries and podcasts. We’ve just added our first free e-book on the Books section: The Early Christian Attitude to Warby Cecil John Cadoux.
Published almost 100 years ago in 1919, Cadoux did the first – and many argue still the best – comprehensive review of basically everything early Christian leaders and church fathers said regarding war, violence, soldiers and peace. His conclusion is that most of them were pacifists, and that the strong Christian commitment to nonviolence was overturned by the Constantinian influence in the fourth century.
It’s amazing to see how Cadoux debunks arguments still used today by non-pacifist Christians, for example the idea that Tertullian only became a pacifist after he joined the “heretic” Montanist movement, or that Origen supported Christians becoming soldiers even though he wrote:
“You cannot demand military service of Christians any more than you can of priests. We do not go forth as soldiers.” (Against Celsus VIII.7.3)
Cadoux’ book is a well-worth read if you want to understand how the earliest Christians interpreted the Sermon on the Mount. Also, it’s very interesting to see that when Christians abandoned pacifism in the fourth century, the charismatic gifts and ministries also faded. The Holy Spirit clearly doesn’t like when God’s children start killing others.
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!
Generosity, in Christian understanding, goes further than simply the wallet – it reveals the condition of the soul. There is a natural selfishness in our conditioned responses, which instinctively says spend and not give. But is this really the mindset that we want to pass on to our children? As someone has said, “we must teach them the greater joy of giving before they figure out the lesser joy of receiving.”
One very early Christian text can back this up. The ‘Didache‘ (pronounced “didder-key”, it’s Greek for “teaching”) is of uncertain date, but internal evidence leads most commentators to place it at the latest AD 100. It is a short handbook of moral and practical governance for churches, perhaps in Syria, and it is anonymous. Continue reading The Early Christian View on Generosity Was Incredibly Radical→
In recent news, the term “Evangelical” has been used a lot. It was used during last year’s American elections due to Donald Trump and the Republican Party, and recently, the term has come up in response to scandals involving politician Ray Moore.
Whenever I see the term “Evangelical” used today, it always refers to a very specific group of people. It is always used in the context of politically/socially conservative American Protestants, especially from the southern United States. However, this use of the term is both historically and theologically inaccurate, and I believe that this needs to be addressed. This is especially true because of this organization — Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice. The Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is in fact a part of the wider Evangelical tradition, so I think that we need to discuss what that term means in its wider context. Continue reading What Do We Mean By “Evangelical”?→
Antony of Egypt was a true pioneer, whose influence is still felt today. What makes him so remarkable is that he did what he did long before it made sense to do such things, but by doing it he blazed a trail for posterity.
Evangelical Protestant historians explain the migration to the desert by thousands of monks, nuns and hermits as a reaction against the political “Christendom” created by Constantine I and his successors in the 4th century. Yet Antony had already made his statement a generation earlier, at a time when the Early Church was still supposed to be in its bloom. Continue reading Battling Demons and Possessions: The Life of Antony of Egypt→