by Stuart Murray
Originally Published in Anabaptism Today, Issue 8, February 1995, and on the Anabaptist Network website.
What would sixteenth-century Anabaptists have made of the “Toronto Blessing” that has impacted many churches in Great Britain in recent months? How did the Radical Reformers respond to such spiritual phenomena’? The charismatic aspect of Anabaptism has not received much attention from historians, but evidence of spiritual phenomena in early Anabaptist groups is substantial. Some welcomed manifestations of the Holy Spirit, while others were wary and attempted to regulate or discourage such expressions. Basic to the Anabaptist view of charismatic gifts, however, was a belief that a transformed life was the true measure and sign of Holy Spirit presence.
A charismatic view of discipleship
A sixteenth-century Anabaptist named Leonhard Schiemer wrote that believers receive “a power about which they have to say that things that were once impossible are now possible”. Christians lacking such a change, he argued, “are not yet horn again of water and spirit, even the Holy Spirit”.1 Schiemer’s quote indicates two distinctive emphases in Radical Reformation theology: a preference for the term “horn again” rather than “justification by faith”, and a focus on the experience of new life. In contrast to other Reformers, Anabaptists spoke of power to live differently rather than mere freedom from guilt and assurance of forgiveness.
Anabaptists accepted the notion of “justification by faith”, but did not find this term adequate to describe their experience of Christ and his Spirit. Through the death of Christ their sinful past had been forgiven, and now they wanted to live a Christ-centred life in the power of the Spirit. Common Anabaptist terms for salvation were related to the work of the Spirit and the expectation of a changed life. Words that frequently occur are: new birth, conversion, illumination, enlightenment, the new creature, and regeneration2 Continue reading Anabaptism as a Charismatic Movement
Over and over again I see how some fellow Christian activists want to de-emphasize the importance of Heaven. It is often claimed that the reason why traditional evangelical and charismatic churches have not been so involved in promoting peace and justice is because there is too much focus on Heaven, salvation and evangelism – they don’t want to waste their energy and time on politics and activism when they can use it to save souls instead.
To challenge this heresy, some Christian activists go to another extreme. They might argue that giving people eternal life wasn’t Jesus’ main concern, that the Kingdom is mainly here and now and not there and then, that evangelism is not so important, etc. God’s focus is primarily earth, not heaven, and we should mimic that, they claim.
However, Paul wrote:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Col 3:1-2)
Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Phil 3:19-21)
Continue reading On Earth as it is in Whatever?
Photo from the Donald J. Trump state park, by Emily Guendelsberger.
An adaption of 1 Kings 22, by Ramone Romero.
The president of America brought together the prophets from the eighty percent of the house of the Lord who had supported him. He sought their blessing, their prayers, and their further support as he moved ahead with his plans to expel foreigners, tax the poor, favor the rich, exploit the environment, prepare for war, and more.
“Go forward,” the charismatic prophets answered, “for the Lord has given you victory.”
But someone asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?”
The president answered, “There are still some, but I hate them because they never prophesy anything good about me, but always bad—fake news.”
So the president called one of his officials and said, “Bring me one of these. Bring me a Micaiah.” Continue reading The Micaiah of America
For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. – 1 Cor 2:11
Hi. I’m (almost) 28 years old, I grew up in a Christian family, up until this day I have been part of six (!) different Pentecostal and Baptist churches, visited a lot more. A few years ago I took a one-and-a-half-year break from church life to retreat, refocus, re-scrutinize my life of faith. Oh, the questions from my brothers and sisters I had to answer during that time. I didn’t necessarily intend to go back to church life the way I was used to it (I did, but that is a different story). So, I really had a time off.
It felt like quitting an unwanted job, finishing school or ending a friendship that was no good to you. Suddenly there was a relief, like an invisible burden had been taken off of me. Which made me wonder what kind of burden I have dealt with. Such a big one, I know now.
Growing up in a Christian environment, I considered myself a spiritual person that is used to take part in church life. I attended Sunday service, ministered in worship, prayer, preaching, painting, cooking, cleaning, smiling, shaking hands… countless sermons I’ve heard, courses, classes, groups, I’ve attended. Nice things, you know. They helped me a lot along the way. Continue reading Hearing God’s Truth in Silence
by Hye Sung Francis Gehring.
What is the Charismatic Movement?
Many people make sweeping statements about the Charismatic Movement without much comprehension of the diversity among Charismatics, as evidenced by the multitude of books cautioning believers of this broad movement. In 2013, neo-reformed Baptist preacher and author John MacArthur held a conference that attracted thousands of participants that was dedicated to villifying the excesses of Pentecostals and Charismatics. This conference, “Strange Fire”, assumed Charismatics to be at least gravely deceived, if not hell-boundand blasphemers.
Thankfully, this sort of rhetoric is not as commonplace as it once was in the Church and is progressively losing its steam, as about 26% of the global Church is considered charismatic, and as different charismatic practices have been normalized and adopted by non-charismatic traditions (such as “listening prayer”, “prayer teams”, raising arms in worship, and even speaking in tongues, or the more sanitized “prayer languages”.) That said, people still have strange assumptions about what charismatic spirituality is, and many often are shocked when I claim that Quakerism is actually a thoroughly charismatic tradition.
The Charismatic Movement was initially a renewal movement across the Church rather than a distinct denominational tradition. In many ways it was influenced and informed by its predecessor, the Pentecostal Movement, but was distinct from Pentecostalism because its malleability and its desire to not start a new religious group but instead renew the participants’ respective churches in the power of the Holy Spirit. Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, and virtually every Church tradition was impacted by this movement. Continue reading Quakerism as a Charismatic Tradition
by William De Arteaga.
The gun control debate
Gun control is regularly debated in the United States, not the least when horrible mass shootings occur in schools, cinemas and other places. What is lacking in the dispute is a consideration of the spiritual dimensions of gun control. The silence from the pulpit on this issue is especially notable. Perhaps it is because the clergy dislike weighing in on issues that are not specifically defined in scripture, and because American Christians often have very different and passionate opinions on this issue.
In this blog let me offer some thoughts on one dimension of the debate that has received little clergy attention: the demonization (obsession or possession) of many of the mass shooters.
Right at the start let me say that talking about the demonic realm for the Christian is both necessary (if one is true to the Gospel) but difficult due to its multifaceted complications. As Christians, we are in a state of constant spiritual warfare against the demonic realm. But as in most wars, there is a “fog of battle” in which our intelligence of and knowledge of the enemy is limited. Some Christian writers claim more than we can know about the demonic, as in the exact order of hierarchy and functions of the “thrones, principalities, powers, etc.” Especially difficult is the demarcation between psychological issues, chemical imbalances, etc., and demonic activity in and through a person. Continue reading The Demonic Factor in Mass Shootings: Exorcism as Gun Control
by Micael Grenholm
I’ve been a peace and justice activist now for eight years; campaigning, advocating and debating for things like disarmament, pacifism, economic equality, poverty reduction, sustainability, environmental protection, gender equality, open borders and religious freedom. My motives are Christian: I believe this is what Jesus wants me to do and that it makes the earth represent God’s goodness and love better. Still, I’ve stood side by side with atheists, agnostics, Muslims, New Agers, Buddhists and others in a common fight for a better world for all.
I’ve found that activism for peace and justice can serve the role of a common denominator and a platform for cooperation between different worldviews and beliefs. That’s why it plays such a prevalent role in different ecumenical and interreligious councils – we might not agree on who God is, but we all agree that no child should starve to death. It’s why many people who aren’t Christians will still agree with Christians on one thing concerning Jesus: that he was a good moral teacher.
Hence, morality can be viewed as one of the least exclusive claim of any religion. In fact, it can be viewed as one of the least religious! I’ve had several friends who, when they doubt their Christian faith, becomes activists for a while and emphasises Jesus’ ethical teaching, before leaving the faith altogether and becoming atheists or agnostics. Continue reading Why Activists Need God to Make Their Case