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.

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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

The Multicultural Multitude of Revelation

by Craig S. Keener, originally published on his blog.

While there is some debate about the identity of the 144,000 in 7:1-8, everyone agrees that the innumerable multitude in the next vision refers to believers from all peoples—a vision that ultimately includes all of us who believe in Jesus.

These people are “from all nations and tribes and peoples and languages” (7:9). Revelation uses this fourfold formula, in varying sequences, seven times. The formula echoes the book of Daniel. Daniel has the threefold formula six times; the Greek translation of Daniel makes the first instance (Dan 3:4) fourfold, as in Revelation. That context applies to Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian empire.

By the time of Revelation, however, people would no longer think of “all nations” as part of the Babylonian empire. Another passage in Daniel predicted an innumerable multitude from all nations serving the Son of man (Dan 7:13-14). Yet despite the hyperbole of Roman imperial claims, most people in John’s urban audience in the Roman province of Asia knew about many other parts of the world beyond the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire had trade ties with India, China, parts of Africa as far south as Tanzania, and northern Europe perhaps as far west as Iceland. The idea that members of all peoples would stand before God’s throne would have been unthinkable! Continue reading The Multicultural Multitude of Revelation

Religion Causes More Peace Than War

Article published in the Christian Post:

Once again, the Nobel Peace Prize has gone to a religious person: the Ethiopian Prime Minister and Pentecostal Christian Abiy Ahmed. I write “once again” because if you exclude the occasions when the Peace Prize has gone to organizations, only about four percent of recipients have been atheists. Monks like the Dalai Lama, archbishops like Desmond Tutu, pastors like Martin Luther King Jr., and religiously driven activists such as Malala Yousafzai and Denis Mukwege dominate the list of Nobel peacemakers. 80 percent of them are Christians.

This is in sharp contrast to the idea that religion only brings war and misery. Such thinking was popularized after 9/11 by atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. They believed that “religion poisons everything” and that a world without religious beliefs would have been much better.

And sure, many horrors have happened in the name of religion. One of last year’s Nobel laurates, Nadia Murad, has testified to the horrific repression that the islamic extremism of ISIS brings. Still, Murad herself is motivated by her Yazidic faith.

When Alan Axelson’s and Charles Philipp’s ambitious work “Encyclopedia of Wars” gathered information on 1,763 historical wars, only seven percent of them could be categorized as religiously motivated. Few, if any, of the most destructive conflicts that we have seen in modern times (such as the First and Second World Wars, the Vietnam War and the Second Congo War) have been caused by religion.

How, then, can people claim that religion “poisons everything” with war and oppression?


For my answer to this last question, as well as some thought on atheisticly motivated violence, read the rest of the article in the Christian Post.

Micael Grenholm is editor-in-chief 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!

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?

Should Christians Kill Each Other?

I talked to a brother the other day who was a conscientious objector in the 1960’s. I asked him why he refused to do military service.

“Because I don’t want to kill a Christian brother. And it would be unreasonable to first run and ask an enemy soldier what he believes before you eventually kill him. So I can’t kill anyone.”

I found this argument for pacifism very interesting. Now, I think it’s clear that Jesus doesn’t want me to kill anyone, regardless of their faith. He wants me to love my enemies (Mt 5:44) and not use weapons of war (2 Cor 10:3).

But obviously, other Christians disagree. They think that we are sometimes warranted to kill others. But do they seriously think that we should kill other Christians?

Did Jesus envision his disciples to ever kill each other?

I think the answer is obviously no. But I was curious if my non-pacifist sisters and brothers think differently. And so I asked them on Facebook:

If Jesus envisioned his disciples to sometimes kill each other, why didn’t he talk about it?

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So far, I have received hundreds of comments, and not a single one addresses why Jesus doesn’t talk about his disciples killing each other if he really envisioned it. Most people have asked me questions instead, of how I would stop Hitler or a murderer attacking my family etc. Interesting questions for sure, but this time I wanted an answer from them.

Some did address when they found it appropriate for Christians to kill other Christians. It was when a Christian is defending themself from an attacking Christian. This scenario is of course hard to identify. Most people who are “attacking” others do it in perceived self-defense, be it a preemptive strike or due to a perceived threat.

What’s worse for this theory of just fratricide is that it is completely detached from the Bible. Not only is Jesus silent on the matter of disciple-killing, but the rest of the New Testament also abstains from discussing it. It is as if the early Christians only expected them to love and care for one another rather than taking each other’s lives.

Contrary to popular belief, the Bible doesn’t even talk much about self-defense. The two views on violence one can reasonably deduce from the biblical text, is that it is either OK when a political leader demands it, or that Christians should be pacifists. The Just War theory that distinguishes between different kinds of wars originated with the pagan Cicero and was later adopted by church father Augustine without much input from the Scriptures. Before him, most church leaders were pacifists.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jesus doesn’t want his followers to slaughter one another. I find it even harder to imagine that he wants us to kill non-Christians, condemning them to eternal punishment. And so, I think that when he asks us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek, he really means that we should not kill anyone.

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!

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!

Is Salvation More Important than the Environment?

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

This post was originally published at Just Theology.

When many Pentecostal and charismatic Christians use the word “salvation,” the first image that comes to mind is the gift of personal healing and “coming home” to God that he has made possible through Christ, made known to the believer through the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, when the apostle Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit he is able to proclaim, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NRSV). The change of life that comes through knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior is the core of our faith. But God’s plan of reconciliation expands beyond individuals, and even beyond human beings. So when we look to the biblical witness, we realize the question, “Is salvation more important than the environment?” actually represents a limited view. A better question is, “Why must salvation include the environment?”

A theology that views the environment as somehow separate from salvation stems from the modern Western temptation toward individualism. Many of us inherited a theology in which “being saved” seems like an entirely private affair. But we must remember that, while salvation through Christ is absolutely personally transformative, that transformation is always intended to be lived outward, in community, for the benefit of all creation. Continue reading Is Salvation More Important than the Environment?

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