Category Archives: Spirituality

Most Swedish Pentecostals Used to be Pacifists… But Their Eschatology Was Extremely Violent

“War is not the will of God, this we know.”

– Folke Thorell, Evangelii Härold, 1967.

“God will let the satanic rearmament of nuclear weapons and biological warfare strike the godless themselves in forms of plagues that will exterminate large portions of humanity.”

– Folke Thorell, Evangelii Härold, 1968.

Pentecostals were the largest religious group among conscientious objectors in Sweden between 1967 and 1971, a time characterized by passionate debates on the ethics of war in the shadows of Vietnam and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In my master’s thesis on church history, I aimed to review and analyze how the Pentecostal periodicals Evangelii Härold and Dagen described and ethically motivated military violence and pacifism during this period.

The purpose was to identify potential motivations for pacifism and/or military support during a time when a large number of Pentecostals refused to bear arms, with a particular interest in how these motivations related to ethical evaluation on contemporary wars.

Swedish Pentecostals at a revival meeting in the 1960’s. The informal leader of the movement, Lewi Pethrus, can be seen to the right.

The findings were fascinating. Pacifism and conscientious objection were regularly promoted and seldom criticized, while most contemporary military violence was condemned with one glaring exception: Israeli warfare.

Folke Thorell, quoted above, thought that God principally is against war, but allows them to fulfill his eschatological plans and even engages himself in warfare. He envisioned two-thirds of all Jews to die in a future third world war involving nuclear bombs, a genocide so brutal it would make the Holocaust seem “minuscule” in comparison.

A Bible Study in Evangelii Härold titled “A Nuclear Physicist Interprets Revelation”, illustrated by a nuclear missile being fired from a submarine.

Unlike the American war effort in Vietnam, Israel’s wars were commonly viewed as eschatologically significant and biblically predicted holy wars, with several writers suggesting that God himself has waged and will wage war on Israel’s behalf. Pacifism was primarily motivated by obedience to the Bible rather than empathy, fitting with Lisa Cahill’s theory of obediential pacifism being distinct from empathic pacifism in the Christian tradition.

Support for Israeli warfare was also derived from biblical interpretation, primarily based on Old Testament texts. It was further motivated by ideas of Jewish suffering and death being part of God’s plan, with several Pentecostal writers speculating that an apocalyptic genocide would precede the second coming of Christ.

Many Pentecostals did not see this as standing in conflict with personal pacifism and conscientious objection, as both views were perceived as biblical.

Future research could further explore the relationship between Pentecostal eschatology and empathy, along with how mid-century Pentecostal Zionism might have been influenced by antisemitic ideas from the 1930’s.

Download the thesis here!

Micael Grenholm is a Swedish pastor, author, and editor for PCPJ.

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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!

Advent Practices for Spiritual Resiliency

These past two years have put an incredible strain on Christians working for God’s peace and justice. In my own experience, I have seen too many pastors and faith activists worn down by spiritual burnout. Of course there is no easy fix, no single factor that will “solve” our current personal and social crises. But I personally have found strength and renewal while at my most despairing when I have opened myself to the Holy Spirit and let Her work renewal in me.

Advent is almost upon us. Christians worldwide will enter into a season of expectant hope–hope that comes only through the flesh-and-blood entry of God into our world through Jesus. What better time to open ourselves to the hope-filled renewal of the Holy Spirit?

This desire for the Spirit to fill and guide us inspired me to contribute to a spiritual practice-centered Advent calendar with Red Letter Christians UK. Each day has a reading, reflection, or practice to help ground spirit-led justice activists in God’s healing, renewing presence. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, I invite you to join us in a season of expectant hope, against all odds.

The calendar is free to download, copy, share, and print, provided you do not sell it for profit. It is designed for either personal devotion or to share in together as a faith community (especially the candle lightings each Sunday). You can learn more about the calendar and download it here. I hope it blesses you this season.

Faith Van Horne is a doctoral researcher in Theology and Religion at University of Birmingham, UK.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & 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!

Why Millionaire Televangelist Kenneth Copeland is Suddenly Begging You for Money to Buy His Fourth Private Jet

The prosperity preaching televangelist and multimillionaire Kenneth Copeland has stirred a lot of controversy lately. He tried to blow away the coronavirus, was one of the first pastors to deny that Joe Biden won the election (in an extremely bizarre way) and now he is begging people who are millions of dollars poorer than him for a new private jet.

Now, if you’re familiar with Copeland you know that he already has a private jet. In fact, he has three. He stores them at an airport called Kenneth Copeland Airport, right next to his million-dollar mansion in Texas.

The motivation he recently gave at the extremist Christian show Flashpoint is that he can’t fly commercial because he refuses to get vaccinated for Covid and many airlines require vaccination these days. “That’s the mark of the Beast”, he said.

This is clearly not the real reason Kenny is begging for your money, as there are several airlines in the US that does not require vaccination (even though it definitely can be argued that they should), and we know that Copeland argued against flying commercial long before the pandemic in order to motivate his love for private jets. Then, the reason was that that commercial planes are “tubes full of demons“.

The real reason Copeland is acting like this is, I think, that his self-worth is in those jets, they communicate success to himself and to a huge part of his audience. Practically, he doesn’t need four private planes any more than you and me, but on an existential and spiritual level he they are like oxygen to him. He is terrified of the thought of not being able to buy luxuries and status objects with other people’s money, since he himself has been preaching for decades that such a lifestyle is the ultimate evidence that God is with you.

It is just as the apostle Paul expressed it thousands of years ago:

“Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this!” – 1 Timothy 6: 9-11

Kenneth Copeland is stuck in this trap of wealth, and it is consuming him. Like most other preachers, he has likely lost a lot of income during the pandemic—he warned his audience early on that even if they lose their jobs, they should continue tithing.

I’m guessing most of them didn’t.

And as Kenny has become one of the primary laughing stocks on the internet due to his bizarre statements and performances, he has a hard time attracting a younger audience. His empire is crumbling, and it destroys his self-worth.

That is why his friend Jesse Duplantis lied about how gifts to Copeland’s will “speed up” Jesus’ return. In their world, that’s true. Now, I’m not defending this craziness. It is unbiblical, catastrophic spiritual abuse. But my point is that these men are broken, afraid and have plunged themselves into ruin and destruction, and they’re so addicted to their wealth that they think that only more wealth can solve their problem.

We need to pray for them, for healing and repentence. But whatever you do, don’t give these millionaires more money. That’s just like handing a bag of cocaine over to a drug addict.

Micael Grenholm is editor and contributor for PCPJ.

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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!

The kingdom of God – a dance parade

This text was originally published on PCPJ:s Swedish sister blog Hela Pingsten, and translated from Swedish by Karin Ranieli.

I see a people dancing along a long, straight road. Their voices form a chorus of praise to the king who gave his life to set them free. 

Along the road there are lots of little stalls and shops. They are all arranged in such a way that the dancers can look inside and see all the thrilling goods and shining things for sale. The salesmen are also turned towards the throngs of people and have exciting offers: ”Take a thing now, pay later!” ”Have a look around!”, ”Come, satisfy and fulfill all your dreams!”.  Beautiful clothes of the latest fashion. Sparkling jewels. Delicious foods as far as the eye can see. But strange things were also for sale. High positions. Power. Glory. Bodies.

Entrances were made to walk into, but not to find one’s way out. The shelves in the shops lead you into alleys, backstreets and sidetracks. And there, people live in darkness.

Some people in the jubilant parade get curious and stop at the sight of something interesting. Others take a few steps further in. Still others try on different things and even start shopping, but some of them soon regret it all and find their way back to the parade. Because they have seen something far better than every tempting thing trying to get their attention. They have their eyes fixed on the destination: the horizon far ahead, the shining bright sun with sunbeams shining on the road they are walking on. They know that it gives far more joy and deeper peace than anything the world has to offer. You can tell it by their looks!

Those still living in darkness now and then see the light in their faces and repent. Sometimes greedy salesmen can see their sincerity and are drawn to them. People are caught up by the whirl of happiness and leave all their possessions behind. Even those whose families want to stay on, still choose to leave. Some dancers have to endure mockery, beatings and persecution from those who remain, since they love darkness. But it rarely keeps the dancers from continuing. For the light carries them!

And it does not stop there. The people are not just dancing for themselves. The light that they are receiving wants to shine into the darkest backstreets. And so many dancers let themselves be led there. Once there, they share their plasters, their food and drink and their shoes with all those in need. They chant out stories of what they have seen and experienced and invite those listening to dance with them. Whenever someone joins them, they are met with rejoicing. And all around them beauty is bursting forth where beauty has not been seen before, life is born from what used to be dead and darkness is driven away by light. 

The parade consists of all kinds of people: women and men, rich and poor. But they are all broken. They all have scars – some have many scars and others just a few scars and they long for the complete healing. Some are heavily burdened, while others have let go of their burdens along the way, received lighter clothing from above and so can dance more quickly and easily. But the most important thing is not how fast one can move but in what direction. If you try a move that has not been given to you, one which is too difficult or too fast, you are in danger of stumbling and falling. But if you stay on the road, there is always strength to get up. Indeed, sometimes you need help, even a lot of help. Hands reach out, eyes see and ears listen. The wind caresses cheeks, opens lungs and breathes in new life. And when you raise your eyes once more, you can brush off the dirt.

Love is what most of all characterizes them. It sets their hearts on fire and encourages them to give their lives for each other.  It shapes them into one people under one and the same king, one family with one and the same Father, one temple for one and the same Spirit, one bride to one and the same Christ. 

————

A year ago or so I had a vision of the coming of the kingdom of God, born out of a longing to see the church transformed. The above text is an attempt to share what I remember from my vision with some creative additions. I hope this will inspire you!  

Why People Look for the “Mark of the Beast”

by Ramone Romero.

I’ve written before about the “mark of the beast”, but it seems that every few years, especially around election cycles or the advent of some new technology, some Christians see circumstances that they believe will lead to “the mark of the beast” from Revelation 13. 

So here are some thoughts about “the mark” versus the gospel of Christ’s love. Because the common understanding of “the mark” is not compatible with the gospel. One will invariably overtake the other in the end.

Did Monster Energy Drink Hide Satanic Symbols on Their Cans?
Attempt at showing that the Mark of the Beast is energy drinks

1. The Dividing Issue

Firstly, the crux of “the apocalypse”, the central issue, the great “controversy”, is about Christ’s love.

It’s not about some overlooked ritual, the knowledge of a more correct doctrine, name, or command.

Instead it’s what sounds so simple, too simple, too elementary. It’s what the apostles proclaimed from the beginning, and what they wrote “we are nothing” if we do not have.

It’s not about the mere profession of the name of Jesus Christ, for he said that in the end many will call him “Lord, Lord” but will not do what he commanded them to do. (And we’ve seen that all too often throughout history, up to the present day.)

It’s not about proclaiming the doctrines of the gospel *unless* that gospel is backed up with living out grace in love for others. Of course many of Christ’s statements about himself offended religious leaders, and his miracles offended them, too. But what upset and offended them most was in all of those things he was giving grace and mercy, proclaiming God’s justification and love for the “sinners” that they felt above, for people they believed were undeserving.

Continue reading Why People Look for the “Mark of the Beast”

Critical Race theory and faith

When my children were in grade school and high school I wanted to get involved in their learning.  I had been fearful of some of the new things emerging in education and with little understanding, I ran for a seat on the board of education.  Some of the issues at that time were similar to the issues that are being discussed today except they had different names.  At the time I served, one of the big issues was multi-culturalism.  Critics were concerned that their children would be exposed to diverse views in History and that what we needed to do was return to a Western view of History.  Today, when the term Critical Race Theory is tossed about, I am reminded of my time on the board of education.

What is Critical Race Theory?

Here is a description from Education Week:

“Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.”

What is curious to me is that critics of CRT believe that no injustice exists within our legal systems and policies.  As a Christian who takes sin seriously, it is logical that sinful humans can create structures and systems that are also unjust and oppressive.  The Bible is full of stories within which real humans experienced injustice at the hands of cruel leaders and within nations that were oppressive.  We see this most clearly in the Exodus narrative when God’s people were enslaved for 400 years. 

Continue reading Critical Race theory and faith

The Gospel is a Social Gospel

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.

Continue reading The Gospel is a Social Gospel

The Only American Who Prophesied the 2020 Election Accurately Has Some Harsh Words for Trump Supporters

While over 25 American Christian leaders prophesied that Trump would win the 2020 presidential election, only one predicted the opposite. It turns out that he has been involved with Bethel Church in Redding – and he’s not very happy with how prophecy is being misused these days.

His name is Eric Rossoni and I got to speak with him a couple of months ago. He actually used to support Donald Trump and was convinced in 2016 that God was using him. But when the Stormy Daniels scandal blew up and almost no Christian leader condemned the president for sleeping with a porn star and paying hush money to hide his sin, Eric realized that something was terribly wrong with the Christian Trump movement.

In 2020, he received a prophetic word that Trump would lose, something he also wrote about on Twitter (several hours before the election results were announced):

Eric seems to be the only American prophet who got the election prediction right, but he’s not the only one worldwide. Nigerian pastor and self-proclaimed apostle Johnson Suleman also prophesied that Trump would lose back in March 2020. However, he viewed it as a tragedy, while Eric Rossoni is thankful that Trump isn’t president anymore.

Eric is convinced that Trump has revealed the hearts of many Christians, and it’s not pretty. He hopes that Christians should abstain from strongly aligning with political parties and leaders even as we try to make the world a better place.

In order to remain politically and prophetically sharp, the church must avoid Trumpism at all costs.

Micael Grenholm is a Swedish pastor, author, and editor for PCPJ.

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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!

The Two Walls of Israel

(a thought, and a prayer, by Ramone Romero)

If only…

I was thinking

If only all the prayers in that wall

The Western Wall

Were put into the West Bank Barrier instead

If only all those prayers

At the ruins of the temple

Were put into the lives of people

Who live among ruins

In the West Bank

In Gaza

Whose homes and lives

Have been left in ruins

If only

If only the wishes that the temple still stood

Were put into seeing the temples of people

Who are standing next door

If only their temples could be rebuilt

In lives

As living stones

If only the temples where we seek God

Were the temples of our neighbors

If only we saw

That the holy temple of God

Is people

Is one another

And our prayers were changed

Into a desire to see them blessed

If only our devotion to religion

Was a devotion to one another

To loving our neighbor

Instead of putting walls between us

If only

Think of what a holy place it could be

When our neighbor is as sacred to us

As the holiest temple of God

If only

I thought, and I pray, in hope

“If only.”

Charismania, COVID, and the 2020 Election

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).

Continue reading Charismania, COVID, and the 2020 Election