Category Archives: Spirituality

Fundamentalism & Nationalism: Two Dominant Heresies in American Christianity

by Maximus Nyssen.

As I continue to survey the American Christian landscape regarding responses to the coronavirus pandemic, my disappointment and bewilderment grows daily. Much of the responses from the Evangelical community – and especially those within the Pentecostal-Charismatic framework – have been frankly dangerous, conspiratorial, hyper partisan, scientifically illiterate and theologically bankrupt.

There are two dominant heresies alive in American Christianity today, which would be fundamentalism and nationalism.

Fundamentalism advocates an entirely unhistorical theological viewpoint that the Bible is a scientific textbook, and that any scientific hypothesis, theory, or fact that “opposes” some supposed scientific principle believed to be written in the Bible must be rejected as some sort of atheist attack on the faith.

This is a fairly modern heresy, one that entirely rejects historical theological discovery and exegetical studies, and only really came into prominence in the earlier part of the 20th Century. No one in antiquity, the early church, or the vast majority of the history of the Church held to any notion of fundamentalism.

Nationalism advocates the view that America is God’s “special nation” and that this nation is the best nation that’s ever existed anywhere, and implicitly propagates that all other nations, peoples, and races have something defective, lacking, wrong, or even evil in them. Continue reading Fundamentalism & Nationalism: Two Dominant Heresies in American Christianity

Pentecostal World Fellowship Aims to Inform 100 Million People in Developing Countries About COVID-19

The Pentecostal World Fellowship has produced some excellent material about COVID-19 that will be handed out in areas with limited access to information. Through Pentecostal churches and networks, it will hopefully reach 100 million people.

“As far as I know, this is the first time ever that the Pentecostal global network has coordinated an informational campaign about an urgent crisis in society in this way. We hope we will reach out to people in churches all over the world and be able to contribute in limiting and reducing the spread of COVID-19 in societies. This is a chance to be there for marginalized groups who might otherwise not be reached,” Niclas Lindgren, director of Swedish organization PMU that has helped producing the material, said in a statement.

Some examples of the advice provided in the material:

  • If someone gets COVID-19, it does not mean they have a spiritual ailment or they are punished by God.
  • No person should be stigmatized for contracting COVID-19 or blamed for having had little faith.
  • Encourage those who are very sick to seek medical attention according to the national health guidelines (see the example set by Jesus in Luke 17:14).
  • No person should be condemned for having practiced caution, remained home or avoided physical greetings. Instead, the exemplary behavior should be highlighted in the church.
  • The importance of praying for the affected; comforting and encouraging those who are experiencing fear and anxiety.

Download the material here!

Some Great Charismatic Bible Teaching to Keep You Occupied in Self-Quarantine

I have a tradition: when I get sick, I listen to John Wimber. The former leader of the Vineyard movement who went home to God in 1997 is my absolute favorite theologian and he often talks about healing and hope, which is encouraging when one’s own health fails. His Bible studies on evangelism, poverty reduction and discipleship are just as good.

I especially love when he connects these topics with his charismatic theology as a true charismactivist! Wimber’s charismatic ministry is characterized by a great deal of realism, caution and humility, where suffering finds room alongside healing.

My wife Sarah and I are, like millions of others around the world, isolated in our home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In my case, this means more time for writing and reading, but I also like to listen to good teaching and this is a golden opportunity for me to return to John Wimber’s fantastic lecture series from the “Signs, Wonders and Church Growth” conference in Pasadena 1985. Fortunately, these lectures are still on YouTube.

In addition to teaching, Wimber devotes much time in these videos to his “clinic” with prophetic words and prayers for the sick, where several healings are captured by the camera in real-time. Continue reading Some Great Charismatic Bible Teaching to Keep You Occupied in Self-Quarantine

The Five Worst Christian Responses to the Coronavirus Pandemic

We love the church. We love how beautiful, fun, messy and weird she is. She is the body of Christ, the city on a hill, the messenger of salvation.

However, this very love also compels us to point out when some of her bodyparts do things that are very, very wrong.

As the coronavirus pandemic marches on, we’re sad to report that the response of some Christians has been outrageously damaging. Either by using the crisis to earn money, spreading wild conspiracy theories or encouraging their church members to infect each other.

We must not forget that many other Christians do an amazing job of combatting the virus, helping the vulnerable and preaching the Gospel.

That being said, let’s have a look at the five worst Christian responses to the pandemic. Continue reading The Five Worst Christian Responses to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Holiness, Healing and Helping the Poor: The Ministry of Nelly Hall

In a time where it was controversial at best and impossible at worst for a woman to preach, Swedish evangelist Nelly Hall (1848-1916) gathered crowds of thousands of people as she preached about salvation, holiness and discipleship.

She was part of the holiness movement, and according to church historian David Bundy, the Holiness Union of Sweden would probably not have existed without her (1).

After being inspired by the preaching of American Methodist evangelist William E. Boardman, and after visiting the Salvation Army’s headquarters in London, Hall decided to become a full-time preacher (2).

For 20 years she traveled around Sweden, Norway, Germany, and the US. As she preached the Gospel, she also prayed for healing. Opera singer Ida Nihlén joined her to sing hymns and Gospel songs.

She was a frequent speaker at the Torp conference, a center for revivalist spirituality in central Sweden that still occurs annually to this day, gathering thousands of believers.

Bundy concludes:

”From the Holiness revivalists in London, she brought elements of social justice and ministry to the poor, the freedom of women to preach and teach, the use of healing as an evangelistic tool, and the understanding of baptism in the Holy Spirit as a gift of God that transcended denominational boundaries as well as an international network of ministry.”(3)

Hall clearly shows us that it’s not only possible to combine a charismatic, evangelistic ministry with a passion for justice and women’s rights – it’s the best way to do ministry!

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!

References

(1) David Bundy, Visions of Apostolic Mission, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2009, p. 114.

(2) Gunner, Gunilla, “Nelly Amalia Hall”, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon, https://skbl.se/sv/artikel/NellyHall

(3) Bundy, Visions, pp. 114-115.

The Baffling Errors of The Trump Prophecies

As another presidential election is on its way in the US, Christian Trump supporters are stepping up. At Charisma Magazine and other Trump-friendly Christian media houses, the president’s major character flaws, lies, and hurtful policies are swept under the rug and instead it is emphasized that he’s doing the will of God and that it was prophesized that he would be president.

Yes, prophecized.

And while it is possible that God informed prophetic Christians that Trump would be president in order to just inform (or even warn) them, this is often taken to mean that God really likes Trump’s presidency and that his people should vote for him again.

William de Arteaga takes a closer look in Pneuma Review at the most important Trump prophecies people constantly refer to – the ones shared by Mark Taylor – and shows that there’s a lot in there that are factually incorrect and morally dubious.

Hardly the work of the Almighty God.

Here’s an excerpt from the article: Continue reading The Baffling Errors of The Trump Prophecies

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