Tag Archives: Bible study

Was the Early Church Really Pacifist?

The topic of the pacifism in the early church is something I have written about before for PCPJ. However, in our world it often needs repeating and restating. The Church has often fallen into the temptations of politics and militarism. This is clearly seen in the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement, which leaned towards pacifism in its early years, but became tolerant towards nationalism and militarism within only a few decades.

In the United States, we are in the midst of two events that make the topic of Christian pacifism relevant: 1. We are in the midst of a very brutal election season, and 2. We are approaching the 19th anniversary of the War on Terror, specifically the war in Afghanistan (which officially began October 7, 2001). It is the longest war in American history. Of course, PCPJ is an international organization, just as the Church is an international organization, but I think these are universal issues, and the war in Afghanistan includes many countries (including all of NATO). Additionally, PCPJ was founded in that time and context.

Considering that we have been in constant war for almost 20 years, I think it is time for Christians in the West to look back to our roots again and to not be seduced by politics or nationalism. What would Jesus say and do if He was here today? What would He say to a supposedly “Christian nation”? What would the prophets, apostles, and church fathers say in this time? Specifically, we should look at the early church. After all, Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity is primarily about revival – an attempt at recovering the Christianity of the apostolic age. Continue reading Was the Early Church Really Pacifist?

Biblical Justice: Making Things Right

by Katie McRoberts. Originally published at the blog of Churches for Middle East Peace, reposted with permission.

Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote:

“Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”

As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard. 1 Kings 21:7-10, 15-16

While many consider the stories of the Old Testament, often framed by punishment and retribution, to be an example of God’s justice, the reality is that a comprehensive picture of justice is much more complicated. The Bible shows justice as not only an appropriate consequence for sin but also as an expression of appropriate concern for others. Righteousness before God means being in right relationship not only with God but others as well. Continue reading Biblical Justice: Making Things Right

Why Christians Should Support the Marches Against Racism

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

One of my recent posts showed the local protest march in which my wife and I participated, and which our teenage daughter helped organize. One honest question has come up so often in response that I want to address it here.

Would Jesus have attended such a march, some have asked? Marching in parades aside, some feel that marching for racial justice, for the unborn or for other specific causes that suggest protest are inconsistent with proper Christian meekness. (I am assuming that those asking the question are also pacifists, since violence, and especially lethal violence, seems much less meek than nonviolent protests.) So, in consultation with my daughter Keren, I offer the following considerations.

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The Keener family

Why march?

First, it may be helpful to note the purpose of marching. Marching commands public attention in the way that individual voices often cannot. It also provides solidarity for the hurting and fearful. It lets them know that they are not alone; for the sake of the unity of the church that has too long been divided by race, now is an opportunity for non-black Christians to stand with our African-American brothers and sisters. Continue reading Why Christians Should Support the Marches Against Racism

God’s Non-Violent Ideal in the Old Testament

By Greg Boyd, originally published on his blog ReKnew.

While God condescended to working within the violent-prone, fallen framework of his people in the Old Testament (OT)—as I argue in Crucifixion of the Warrior God—the OT is also full of references to how God worked to preserve his non-violent ideal as much as possible. He did this by continually reminding his people not to place any trust in the sword, but to rather place all their trust him.

For example, as Judah was facing impending doom, the Lord told Hosea that he would save them “not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I the LORD their God will save them” (Hos 1:7).

So too, through the Psalmist the Lord encourages his people by saying:

        Do not put your trust in princes,

        in human beings, who cannot save.

        When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;

        on that very day their plans come to nothing.

        Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,

        whose hope is in the LORD their God (Ps. 146:3-5).

Continue reading God’s Non-Violent Ideal in the Old Testament

Did God Really Want Billionaires in His World?

Ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Oxfam has released a devastating report that unveils the extreme economic inequality of our world today. The report shows, among other things:

  • The 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa.
  • Women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day —a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year, more than three times the size of the global tech industry.
  • Getting the richest one percent to pay just 0.5 percent extra tax on their wealth over the next 10 years would equal the investment needed to create 117 million jobs in sectors such as elderly and childcare, education and health.

Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar commented on the report by saying:

“Women and girls are among those who benefit least from today’s economic system. They spend billions of hours cooking, cleaning and caring for children and the elderly. Unpaid care work is the ‘hidden engine’ that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses and societies moving. It is driven by women who often have little time to get an education, earn a decent living or have a say in how our societies are run, and who are therefore trapped at the bottom of the economy.

“Our broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women. No wonder people are starting to question whether billionaires should even exist”.

Continue reading Did God Really Want Billionaires in His World?

Why Did Jesus Tell His Disciples to Buy Swords?

Why did Jesus command his disciples to buy swords in Luke 22:38?

Now, however,” He told them, “the one with a purse should take it, and likewise a bag; and the one without a sword should sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about Me is reaching its fulfillment.”

So they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That is enough,” He answered. (Lk 22:36-38)

A lot of people assume that it was in order to defend themselves, and use this as an argument for warfare and liberal gun laws. But if it’s one thing we can be sure of, it is that Jesus definitely didn’t intend the swords to be used for self-defense.

Continue reading Why Did Jesus Tell His Disciples to Buy Swords?

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

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!

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