Tag Archives: Church History

The Absence of Racism and Xenophobia in the Early Church

by David W. T. Brattston.

Any article on attitudes to racism in the Christian church’s foundational period would be necessarily short. There simply was none. The matter was sometimes different for foreigners and strangers in general.

Racism was absent in the earliest church and in the non-Christian society surrounding it.  Christians and other subjects of the Roman Empire simply did not make distinctions based on race.  In fact, mentions of a person’s skin color are so rare as to be insignificant.  For instance, the Christian Bardesanes in early third-century eastern Syria mentioned the fact that people come in different colors as an example of what everyone agreed was inconsequential.

The only discriminations were based on cultural factors.  Jews divided the world into themselves and Gentiles, while for Greeks the distinction was between themselves and “barbarians” i.e. people who did not share Greek language or culture.  The Romans divided people between citizens and non-citizens, and then among various economic classes of citizens.  The main Roman xenophobia was of hostile peoples outside the Empire.  Continue reading The Absence of Racism and Xenophobia in the Early Church

The Multicultural DNA of Pentecost

God is not a nationalist. He does not only speak English, or Chinese, or Swedish or Hebrew or Swahili. He knows all our languages – and more.

He dramatically demonstrated this when he sent his Holy Spirit to baptize the church on the day of Pentecost. The disciples “began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). This included Latin, Arabic, Greek, Coptic and many other languages (vv. 5-11).

The Holy Spirit is an international Spirit. Or rather, non-national.

Shouldn’t Spirit-filled Christians reflect this? Shouldn’t we be examples of international, multicultural love rather than tribalism and isolationism?

Jesus’ command was clear: make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19). Pentecost was a Tower of Babel in reverse to equip the church to do its job. We need to migrate, study other cultures and even be a part of them in order to share the Gospel effectively.

This is why Paul was a Jew to Jews and a Gentile to Gentiles (1 Cor 9:20-21). He didn’t put his ethnic identity before his missionary task. In fact, he viewed his achievements from Phariseic Judaism as a “loss for the sake of Christ.” (Phil 3:7).

As a Christian, his focus was on something else: inviting people to become citizens in another state, another Kingdom. Heaven (Phil 3:20).

This is why Pentecost shatters nationalism and tribalism. It was repeated on Azusa Street, where the Holy Spirit once again enabled people to speak other languages. The power was real: the first issue of Azusa’s magazine, The Apostolic Faith, relates the following amazing miracle:

A Mohammedan, a Sudanese by birth,a man who is an interpreter and speaks sixteen languages, came into the meeting at Azusa Street and the Lord gave him messages which none but himself could understand. He identified, interpreted and wrote in a number of the languages.

Did you catch that? So many saints at Azusa spoke real foreign languages as they were spirituall baptized, that an interpreter who knew sixteen languages was overwhelmed and even heard messages directed specifically to him!

Azusa Street was a rare multi-racial and multicultural church, led by a team of different ethnicities. As Frank Bartleman said, “the ‘color line’ was washed away in the blood.”

Don’t we need some more washing today? Come, Holy Spirit, and fill us with your colorblind power and love!


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!

Free E-Book on Early Christian Pacifism

Hopefully, you’ve already discovered our resource pages filled with free articles, book recommendations, and links to other great ministries and podcasts. We’ve just added our first free e-book on the Books section: The Early Christian Attitude to War by Cecil John Cadoux.

Published almost 100 years ago in 1919, Cadoux did the first – and many argue still the best – comprehensive review of basically everything early Christian leaders and church fathers said regarding war, violence, soldiers and peace. His conclusion is that most of them were pacifists, and that the strong Christian commitment to nonviolence was overturned by the Constantinian influence in the fourth century.

cadoux
Cecil John Cadoux (1883-1947)

It’s amazing to see how Cadoux debunks arguments still used today by non-pacifist Christians, for example the idea that Tertullian only became a pacifist after he joined the “heretic” Montanist movement, or that Origen supported Christians becoming soldiers even though he wrote:

“You cannot demand military service of Christians any more than you can of priests. We do not go forth as soldiers.” (Against Celsus VIII.7.3)

Cadoux’ book is a well-worth read if you want to understand how the earliest Christians interpreted the Sermon on the Mount. Also, it’s very interesting to see that when Christians abandoned pacifism in the fourth century, the charismatic gifts and ministries also faded. The Holy Spirit clearly doesn’t like when God’s children start killing others.

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!

Battling Demons and Possessions: The Life of Antony of Egypt

Antony of Egypt was a true pioneer, whose influence is still felt today. What makes him so remarkable is that he did what he did long before it made sense to do such things, but by doing it he blazed a trail for posterity.

Evangelical Protestant historians explain the migration to the desert by thousands of monks, nuns and hermits as a reaction against the political “Christendom” created by Constantine I and his successors in the 4th century. Yet Antony had already made his statement a generation earlier, at a time when the Early Church was still supposed to be in its bloom. Continue reading Battling Demons and Possessions: The Life of Antony of Egypt

‘The Cry of Slaughtered Millions’: William and Catherine Booth’s Aggressive Christianity

Image: inspirationalchristians.org

William Booth preaching
Image: inspirationalchristians.org

William Booth (1829-1912), Founder-General of the Salvation Army, certainly favoured the ‘in your face’ approach. With these words he began the front page article of the first issue of The War Cry, on 27 December 1879: Why a “War Cry?” Because The Salvation Army means more war!”

Today, the Army’s ‘fight’ against poverty and marginalisation takes many forms, from questions in parliament to individuals giving a few pounds to a homeless charity. But Booth’s radical eye saw deeper than mere deprivation and squalor: he saw inner lostness, people without hope because God’s love was not made real to them. Some churches tried, but in the main, Christians ‘walked by on the other side’. Not so the Salvation Army!

Continue reading ‘The Cry of Slaughtered Millions’: William and Catherine Booth’s Aggressive Christianity