My name is Aaron D. Taylor and I’m a charismatic Christian. If you ever see me driving with my glasses on, I may look dignified, but don’t let my appearance fool you. Throughout my life I’ve been slain in the Spirit and drunk in the Holy Ghost on numerous occasions. I’ve felt the anointing, laid hands on the sick, cast out devils, and been prophesied over countless times.
It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable in my Pentecostal/charismatic skin, but I can honestly say today that I wouldn’t trade my Pentecostal/charismatic heritage for anything. I’ll admit it’s been a very long time since I’ve “shaken under the power” or “danced in the Spirit”, but to this day I pray in tongues, lay hands on the sick, and if I ever need to get the devil off my back, I’ll gladly pull out the “Sword of the Spirit” and start quoting Scripture. We Pentecostals and charismatics have a lot to be proud of. We were a miniscule, lower class fringe movement 100 years ago and now there are over 600 million of us around the world!
So why do I wish I were a Mennonite? Yesterday was my 30th birthday and when I think about the past 30 years of history, on nearly every moral issue that speaks to how Christians are supposed to live as a peculiar people surrounded by a godless culture, the Mennonites have been right and we’ve been wrong. While charismatic leaders were “naming and claiming” plush clothing, fancy cars, and million dollar mansions, Mennonites were teaching their children to live simply so that others could simply live. While charismatic leaders were petitioning the government to keep under God in the pledge of allegiance, Mennonites were warning their children about the dangers of nationalism. While charismatic leaders were building “apostolic networks” to win the world for laissez-faire capitalism, Mennonites were sharing possessions, building communities, and identifying with the poor. While charismatic leaders were putting bowling alleys and coffee shops in their multi-million dollar church buildings”, Mennonites were providing a decent living for third world farmers by setting up international co-ops and selling fair trade coffee. Continue reading A Charismatic Christian Wishing He Were a Mennonite→
Extremely few Protestants live in a community of goods similar to that of the apostolic church in Acts 2 and 4. In fact, many Protestant denominations don’t have a single community connected to them. Just like charismatic, supernatural gifts used to be a rarity within Protestantism due to cessationism, something that has drastically changed over the last century, so is having everything in common. Both miraculous power and community life are biblical practices that many Christians simply don’t want, and both charismatic cessationism and economic cessationism have been defended and strengthened by forms of academic theology which quite frankly use very bad arguments.
Mennonite scholar Reta Halteman Finger wrote an excellent paper back in 2004 called ”Cultural attitudes in western Christianity toward the community of goods in Acts 2 and 4” (Mennonite quarterly review, vol. 78, no. 2). It’s a baffling read. An obvious mistake from Catholic and Orthodox theologians during pre-Reformation times was to equate the apostolic community of goods in Acts with the community of goods in the monastic movement, even though the latter is only available for celibates.
When Luther and Calvin protested in the 16th century, they rejected the monastic movement and thereby community of goods. Both argued that the only lesson we should learn from Acts 2 and 4 is that we should give a little gift sometimes to a poor person, not that we should have everything in common with them. They criticized Anabaptists for wanting to live apostolically; Luther argued that it is impossible to do what the apostles did for modern believers. The Hutterites proved him wrong, having lived in total community for over 400 years. Continue reading The Anti-Community Conspiracy in Biblical Scholarship→
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→
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→
The late 1100s were a time of great social upheaval in Western Europe. Thousands left agriculture and migrated to the towns, which grew rapidly and a new ‘middle class’ of merchants and craftsmen evolved. Also, the Crusades had led thousands of men to their death, leaving an imbalance of women.
The Church was not well placed to cope with this new climate. For centuries, the beating heart of the faith had been in the monasteries, which were almost always in the country, sticking to ancient traditions and out of touch with new social developments. Women who wanted to live radically for God had few openings. The time was ripe for a new expression of the kingdom of God. A group called the Beguines rose to the challenge.
This was a spontaneous movement that began with a group of praying women in Liège, Belgium, in the 1190s. Not wanting either of the usual options of marriage or a nunnery, these radical women pioneered a new form of community. They pledged themselves to prayer, poverty and celibacy. Seeing how society was changing, they chose to stay in the towns, especially the poor suburbs, where they could serve the people with Jesus’ love. Continue reading The 12th Century Nuns who Demanded to be Free→
I have discovered that few things are so controversial among Christians and met with such incomprehension (and ignorance) as veganism. “Do you eat only salad?” is a question I often get, or “you don’t eat wheat flour, right?” Not to mention all the extremely hilarious meat jokes (sarcasm intended). But I have discovered that most times people have preconceptions about what it means to be vegan and the reasons behind it.
When I tell people that I’m vegan, most assume that it is due to the animal ethics. And to be honest, it was probably how it started. Twelve years ago, I became a vegetarian because I loved animals, and felt like a hypocrite towards them when I ate meat. But over time I began to think about whether this really was a sufficient reason. As a Christian, I believed that humans have been appointed to manage creation and that we have a higher value than animals. If an animal’s death would be the prerequisite for human life, it would be a morally acceptable thing to do (as it turns out this is not the case today, as I will explain below).
The Bible doesn’t condemn meat eating or consumption, it doesn’t forbid us to kill animals. Jesus ate fish. Paul ate meat. I know. But this is not directly applicable to today’s society; partly because of the meat industry’s impact on climate change, but also because of hunger.Continue reading It Should be Natural for Christians to be Vegan→
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→