Category Archives: Spirituality

Politics and Bearing False Witness

This week I was disturbed once again by a post made by a well known Christian Evangelist who asserted that Christians who did not support the current administration were demon driven leftists. I have read various other articles also which stated that Christians who did not support President Trump were unsaved. This is labeling theory at work.

What is labeling theory?

Labeling theory is how one group defines another group as deviant. Those defining and labeling others can reduce the humanity, criminalize, or in some way otherize those they do not agree with. Labeling also allows those doing the labeling to control others who might be questioning or wondering, This creates group think and threatens a person’s sense of belonging. This tactic also creates division in the body of Christ. And real people with real thoughts, beliefs and opinions are dismissed. The body of Christ becomes less thoughtful.

Essentially labeling is setting up a false witness or testimony against one’s brother or sister in Christ to bolster self or validate one’s group. In this case it is the group that has God behind them. If a given Christian does not toe the political party line of a given faith community, then they are unsaved, or demon possessed. This does not require a relationship or knowing a person’s faith walk or allegiance to Jesus Christ nor does this require an understanding of how one has come to various beliefs. It does not take into account the deep study or conscience or experience of other believers who disagree. All those who are labeled as unsaved or demon possessed are lumped into a box and assumed to hold all of the same views as the candidate for party they voted for.

The Amplified Bible says it this way, “You shall not testify falsely [that is, lie, withhold, or manipulate the truth] against your neighbor (any person).” Exodus 20:16 AMP. This actually happens a lot in politics as real human beings are otherized, discounted and then dismissed.

And many have felt alienated within the body of Christ.

Many under 30 and 40 have deep concerns about climate change, real concerns about immigration, oppression and exploitation be it sexually or among corporations. These real concerns are unheard, discounted and once again labeled as part of some sort of communist, leftist or socialist agenda to take over the world. I believe there are real people who have real concerns and they are genuine people of faith who love and follow Jesus with their whole hearts.

And they have found little welcome in churches that continue in this group think and labeling. Some are leaving faith altogether. And as a pastor, I am deeply grieved by this. Many are experiencing a loss of trust toward the church and people of faith. This loss of trust affects all churches in some way.

We once defined a Christian by their relationship with Jesus Christ and the life that flowed from that relationship. Historically Christianity was defined with an essential orthodoxy that included certain core beliefs about the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. In the Charismatic renewal we saw the life of the Spirit flow and people of faith entering into a Spirit empowered life. Currently there is a new orthodoxy emerging among many Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians in the United States. This new orthodoxy is a political one. One must support the GOP platform and God’s “anointed” leader, President Trump. If one does not, they are considered not submissive to Apostolic authority, demon possessed or worse unsaved.

Labeling Theory: Labeling the Educated

I have also noticed how labeling theory is used to discount educated people as if somehow if one is educated one does not live by the Holy Spirit. I get that as the gifts of the Spirit emerged some theologians discounted and labeled pastors and other members of their congregation as fanatics and enthusiasts. That wound is real. However one cannot say that all educated people do not practice, teach and encourage the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I have read many books and listened to many podcasts by great and learned scholars who affirm these gifts and their proper use in the body of Christ.

I wonder sometimes if by labeling these people as unspiritual, we have lost the gifts they bring the church. And what remains is an echo chamber of talk show host theologians.

And talk show theology has become the core theology of many Christians.

I believe that when Jesus died on the cross he was enthroned as the King. And that God is not at this time appointing rulers as he did in the Old Testament and the Kingdom is not coming by political means. Jesus is King of a world-wide, multi-ethnic people who know and follow Jesus. A people who accept his influence and live in the Jesus Way. And the church has moved off the mark and embraced an unholy alliance with the state. Down through history, whenever the church has taken that stance, they have surrendered their witness and joined hands with the Empire.

We must return to the governance of Christ and stop discounting, dismissing and labeling the prophetic voices trying to speak into the body of Christ. We must stop the practices that exclude brothers and sisters in Christ because they vote differently. We must recognize that political parties are of this world and function in the way the world functions.

We as God’s people must always speak prophetically into these political entities, stand up for the vulnerable and participate as good citizens. (And there are other kinds of vulnerable people other than the unborn). We are strangers and aliens in this world, we are of a different kingdom whose salt and light make this world a little more whole. And our influence is not from using power over, but by power through the Spirit as we serve others in the way that Christ did.

 

How the Holy Spirit Supernaturally Helps Drug Addicts in Hong Kong

global-pentecostalism.jpgIn their book Global Pentecostalism, sociologists Donald E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori study what they label “Progressive Pentecostals”, Spirit-filled Christians who have an active social ministry to help people around them.

This is a growing phenomenon, especially in the Majority World. We have previously interviewed Dr. Miller about the exciting potentiality of Pentecostals and Charismatics to promote peace and justice.

The fourth chapter of the book looks at how Pentecostal faith transforms individuals and societies. Miller and Yamamori describe their visit to St. Stephen’s Society, Jackie Pullinger’s ministry in Hong Kong that shares the Gospel and helps drug addicts.

They were astonished to see what appeared to be supernatural intervention in the lives of these people:

”The remarkable thing in the testimony of these ex-addicts, however, was that they often reported the withdrawal process to be painless, or nearly painless, which is completely different from the wrenching process that addicts typically experience in prison or even in a hospital.” (p. 100)

”Something was happening to these individuals at the deepest level of their being. In our interviews with them, they claimed that the Holy Spirit had entered their bodies and a process of spiritual transformation was initiated.

They confessed that they didn’t know what was happening when they first spoke in tongues, but the fact that they came off drugs with little or no pain was so unusual that they acknowledged that a divine power was at work.” (p. 104)

Continue reading How the Holy Spirit Supernaturally Helps Drug Addicts in Hong Kong

A Decade of Disaster

As the 2010s are wrapping up, I can’t help but view the past ten years as a disaster. Around the world, there has been a rise of authoritarian nationalism, unlike anything we’ve seen since the end of World War Two. A movement that not only hates migration but also romanticizes war and inequality while disregarding climate change. This is particularly true of the “Western world”, but also of countries like Brazil and Russia.

As a Charismatic Christian, Acts 2 is of course one of my favourite Bible passages. What I read about there contrasts radically with my impression of the 2010s. I read about the Holy Spirit making people able to communicate across linguistic and cultural barriers, but around me I see xenophobia and wall-building. I read about nobody being rich or poor, but around me I see global inequality growing and climate change threatening to kill hundreds of millions in developing countries. I read about people being saved every day, but around me I see millions of millennials leaving the evangelical church as it has grown tired of hypocrisy and judgmentalism.

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I think about the heroes of faith who went home to the Lord this decade. Evangelist Billy Graham, who warned against marrying the evangelical faith to the political right and getting involved in partisan politics. Theologian John Stott who emphasized the importance of social justice in Christian discipleship. Missionary and healing evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, who was burning with passion for the salvation of millions of people with other skin colors and citizenships of his own.

We have inherited something beautiful from them and millions of other evangelical women and men who have gone before us. Will it all be wasted? As nationalism and partisanship grow, missionary zeal and biblical discipleship will most likely diminish. Everyone can see the difference between Jesus and Trump if they’re honest to themselves and to God.

“Evangelical” means to follow the evangelion, the Good News. Charismatic means to be filled with Spiritual gifts. We are called to follow the Sermon on the Mount – loving our enemies, helping the poor, doing to others as we would have them do to us – in the power of the Holy Spirit. If charismatic evangelicals instead choose to praise nationalism and inequality, the result will be disastrous for our movement. Not only do we fail at doing what Jesus called us to do – the younger generation, who march around the world for climate justice and peace on earth, will go elsewhere.

But there is hope. The Kingdom of God is spreading rapidly in the Majority World. There, Pentecostals and Charismatics value peace and justice to a much larger degree. Two of them even won the Nobel Peace Prize. While some “southern” Charismatics and Evangelicals are swept into partisan politics just as their “northern” counterparts, many make sure to base their Christian values in Scripture rather than in conservative rhetoric. In these nations, Acts 2 is being lived out in various ways, and loads of people are being saved as a result.

So even though the 2010s saddens me, I have hope for the 2020s. I hope for a new revival over the West, where chains to human-made ideologies will be broken and when we will passionately follow the Sermon on the Mount. The Holy Spirit has done so before, let us unite in prayer for him to do it again!

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

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!

Don’t Be a Functional Atheist at Christmas

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

All of us raised in Western culture have been strongly conditioned by what is called a secular worldview. The word secular comes from the Latin saeculum, meaning “the present world.” A secular worldview, therefore, is one that focuses on the present physical world and ignores or rejects the spiritual realm. To the extent that one is secularized, spiritual realities like God, angels, demons, and heaven don’t have a significant role in one’s thought or life.

Of course many of us continue to believe in things like God, Jesus, angels, demons, heaven, and hell. But as every study on the topic has shown, our beliefs tend to have little impact on our lives. The majority of Western people hold some sort of spiritual beliefs, but nonetheless continue to live much of their lives as functional atheists.

Let’s be honest. Most of us don’t think about God in most of our waking moments. Still fewer consciously surrender to God in most of our waking moments. Even fewer experience God’s presence in most of our waking moments. Our day-to-day lives are, for all intents and purposes, God-less.

This is the tragic affliction of secularism. Continue reading Don’t Be a Functional Atheist at Christmas

The Pentecostal Faith of Abiy Ahmed

Today, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed receives his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. We’re very excited here at Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice since this is the second time in a row that a Pentecostal is being awarded this prestigious prize.

Some have the impression that Ahmed is hiding his Pentecostal faith for diplomatic reasons: his nation is divided among both ethnic and religious lines. I recently spoke to Dr Jörg Haustein at Cambridge University who is an expert on Ethiopian Pentecostalism. He told me this wasn’t exactly the case.

Bildresultat för jörg haustein
Dr. Jörg Haustein

“I don’t think he de-emphasizes his Pentecostal faith, but he’s very aware of which audience he is speaking to”, Dr. Haustein says. “There are videos on YouTube, not put up by him but by others, where he’s very Pentecostal in his rhetoric. He knows how to employ his faith in a more plural religiously appealing manner, but it’s also empowering him in the bold things that he’s done. He actually feels that he’s doing God’s work, and that this is what he needs to be doing at this time.”

Ahmed is actually not the first Pentecostal Prime Minister of Ethiopia, his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn was a Oneness Pentecostal. Dr. Haustein has previously researched his faith and rise to power. I ask him how Pentecostals ended up as top politicians in the country. Continue reading The Pentecostal Faith of Abiy Ahmed

Is the Spirit Gender-Blind?

Throughout Christian history there have been stories of great heroes of the faith.  These heroes ranged from those who conquered social and systemic injustice and oppression, those who preached the Gospel courageously, those who taught children, and those who wrote theological tomes.  But what truly made these individuals heroes?  Aside from the fact that God greatly blessed these women and men and allowed them the opportunity to shine, the main reason these people changed the world, is because they lived into the calling and giftings that God assigned for them.

There are two main lists in the Bible looking at Spiritual gifts.  These are Romans 12:1-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-31.  Although there may be many additional gifts that didn’t exist in Biblical times (such as an uncanny use of social media and promotions for church work), the basics have stayed the same millenia later.  To give an idea of the various gifts which one  can possess, there are gifts of EDIFICATION (including: prophesy, teaching, exhortation, and encouragement), COMPASSION AND SERVICE (practical service, generosity, hospitality, mercy), and LEADERSHIP (apostleship, teaching, preaching, and evangelism).

Now in the church, the majority of gifts are not debated.  For example, both men and women can be able administrators, both can be encourage, and both can be generous with time, talents and treasures.  Yet, the issue arises when it comes to matters of leadership.  In some churches both men and women are able to accept roles such as deacon, elder, pastor or bishop, but in many others these roles belong solely to men.  Does that mean then that women were somehow bypassed when it came to giving out the spiritual gifts or does it mean that women are somehow inferior and therefore not eligible for these roles? Continue reading Is the Spirit Gender-Blind?

The Forgotten Origin of Pentecostalism Among Women in India

I used to think that Pentecostalism started with the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles 1906, preceded by events at Charles Fox Parham’s Bethel Bible College in Kansas 1901. From the US, Pentecostalism then spread rapidly across the world, impacting Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America so that it became the global phenomenon we know of today.

I know realize that I was severely wrong.

To be fair, the Azusa revival had a tremendous impact and is surely among the roots of Pentecostalism. But it’s not the only one. In fact, it is not the earliest. Frank Bartleman, one of American Pentecostalism’s most important pioneers (and a pacifist), acknowledged that “The present world-wide revival was rocked in the cradle of little Wales. It was ‘brought up in India, following; becoming full-grown in Los Angeles later.” While the Welsh revival was quite different than what Pentecostalism became known for, the Indian revival wasn’t.

Contrary to Bartleman, I would describe what they experienced as just as full-grown as Azusa. It also managed to remain much more egalitarian and racially inclusive, something American Pentecostalism ultimately failed at as the revival grew older.

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Pandita Ramabai teaching girls about the Gospel and their rights.

A key leader in the Indian revival was Pandita Ramabai, a theologian and women’s rights activist who translated the Bible into Marathi and started a community center for women and girls, Mukti Mission in Pune, while campaigning politically for women’s education and an end to British colonial rule. She was baptized in the Spirit in 1894, and the women at Mukti started to speak in tongues, prophesy and heal the sick long before William Seymour and his fellow believers even had access to the chapel on Azusa Street.

Pentecostal scholar Allan Anderson points out in the first chapter of his book To the Ends of the Earth that the Mukti revival had a huge impact in the region. Minnie Abrams, an Episcopalian missionary who joined Mukti and worked with Ramabai for many years, wrote a booklet called The Baptism of the Holy Ghost & Fire in 1906 which is likely the first published Pentecostal theology of Spirit baptism. 30,000 copies of it circulated during the early 1900s and influenced May Louise Hoover, who led the Pentecostal revival in Chile together with her husband Willis.

Another acquaintance of Ramabai, Shorat Chuckerbutty, was the one who prayed for Alice Luce when she received her Spirit baptism. Luce, who was a missionary in India at the time, went on to spread Pentecostalism in the southern US and in Mexico, pioneering the concept of indigenous churches that became very influential in Pentecostal missions.

Anderson also points out that the Christian Pettah revival led by John Christian Arulappan experienced “outpourings of the Spirit” with prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues as early as the 1860s in southern India. Ironically, the Brethren church which Arulappan belonged to later became hostile towards Pentecostalism, but phenomenologically they had experienced the same thing before Pentecostalism existed, according to Anderson.

Anderson goes on to point out that similar pentecostal-type movements sprung up in England, Estonia, Korea, China and Liberia with hardly any input from Azusa. Christians in Russia and Armenia experienced Spirit baptism and tongue-speaking as early as 1855, and were dubbed “Pentecostal Christians” by their countrymen fifty years before Azusa was a thing!

Long story short: Pentecostalism does not have one root, it has many. Just like the gift of tongues, the Pentecostal revival is truly an international miracle. And from the very beginning, God used women just as much – and sometimes even more – than men.

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

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 Did Jesus Tell Violent Parables?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted in 2016 at his website ReKnew.

Some try to argue that Jesus did not make loving enemies and refraining from violence an absolute mandate. They make their case on the basis of several passages from the Gospels. The first concerns the cleansing of the temple which we addressed here, while the second is about how Jesus spoke harsh words to the Pharisees, which was covered here.

A third argument cites several eschatological parables of Jesus to argue that he believed God would act violently in the final judgment. A classic example is the parable of the unforgiving servant (Mt 18:21-35). Jesus begins this parable by comparing “the kingdom of heaven” to “a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants” (v. 23). One servant owed him “ten thousand bags of gold” (talents, v. 24), and it’s helpful to note that each talent was the equivalent of what a servant would typically earn over twenty years.

The servant of course could not pay the king, so the king intended to sell off everything the servant owned and to sell his family into servitude. Yet the servant pleaded with the king for “patience,” promising to eventually “pay back everything” (vv. 25-6). As a result, this king “took pity on him” and not only postponed payment, but “canceled the debt” altogether (vv. 27). Continue reading Why Did Jesus Tell Violent Parables?

Patriarchy and the Jezebel Narrative

Narrative is the story through which we view reality.  We all have narratives that help us interpret our lives.  The Bible also is a narrative that helps us interpret reality.  There is a narrative that has floated around Charismatic and Pentecostal circles whenever anxiety surfaces around women co-leading with their husbands in marriage and having leadership roles in the Church and political world.  The Jezebel Spirit teaching comes from a false narrative drawn from 1Kings 16-21. 

Who was Jezebel in the Bible? 

Jezebel was the wife of Ahab who descended from a number of wicked kings who had each become progressively more evil in their ways.  Ahab was the son of Omri who was the son of Zimri who was the son of Elan who was the son of Bassash.  Each of these kings were idolaters, men of violence who did not keep the Torah, in fact this was said of each king:

“Baasha had done what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” 1Kings 16:7

Of Zimri, “ for he, too, had done what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” 1Kings 16:19

 “Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.” 1kings 16:25

“Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.  1Kings 16:30

Ahab had come from a family of wicked kings who had long practiced idolatry with each subsequent generation becoming more and more evil in the site of the Lord.  The intent of the author was to show that Omri was more evil than the kings before him and Ahab even more evil that Omri and all the others before him. Continue reading Patriarchy and the Jezebel Narrative

Luther’s Failure and the Success of Pentecostalism 

German reformer Martin Luther is often heralded as the founder of Protestantism and one of the most influential Christians ever. Historian Bernd Moeller has even described him as the most influential European who ever lived, with millions of followers and a massive readership, his reformation project has had an overwhelming success – even though it ultimately failed to reform the Roman-Catholic church.[1]

However, this notion has recently been challenged by other historians. Hartmut Lehmann writes in his contribution to Radicalism and Dissent in the World of Protestant Reform, an anthology on the so-called radical reformation:

True, Protestantism has become a major world religion, with congregations on all continents. In the course of the twentieth century, however, not all branches of the Protestant family grew at the same rate. In Europe and North America, Lutheran churches, that is the churches directly descending from the German reformer, stagnated. Some are in decline, like many other mainstream churches. In contrast, the various branches of Baptist churches blossomed and attracted many new members, and so did numerous Pentecostal churches.

In Africa and some parts of Asia, in particular, congregations that can best be described as charismatic, fundamentalist, or evangelical (I am aware that all of these terms are disputed), are strong and vibrant. While Europe’s traditional Protestant churches are afflicted by progressive secularization, the much younger Protestant churches in the southern hemisphere experience vitality, and their leaders speak of unheard blessings.

In looking at what the British-American historian Philip Jenkins, in his book The Next Christendom, has called ‘The Coming of Global Christianity’, one may ask what has become of Luther’s heritage and what of his theological legacy. Luther never accepted the baptism of adults and was among the fiercest opponents of the early Baptist movement. Furthermore, Luther strongly rejected any kind of charismatic or emotional religious performance. For him, those who believed that they should follow sensational inspirations, were nothing but enthusiasts who could not be trusted.

However, not in the early years of the Protestant Reformation, but over the centuries, these unreliable enthusiasts have succeeded in unforeseen ways. By the twentieth century, ‘Martin Luther’s unruly offspring’ could proudly claim ‘mass’ success, or ‘Massenerfolg’, to use Bernd Möller’s phrase.[2]

Continue reading Luther’s Failure and the Success of Pentecostalism