Tag Archives: Church History

Luther’s Failure and the Success of Pentecostalism 

German reformer Martin Luther is often heralded as the founder of Protestantism and one of the most influential Christians ever. Historian Bernd Moeller has even described him as the most influential European who ever lived, with millions of followers and a massive readership, his reformation project has had an overwhelming success – even though it ultimately failed to reform the Roman-Catholic church.[1]

However, this notion has recently been challenged by other historians. Hartmut Lehmann writes in his contribution to Radicalism and Dissent in the World of Protestant Reform, an anthology on the so-called radical reformation:

True, Protestantism has become a major world religion, with congregations on all continents. In the course of the twentieth century, however, not all branches of the Protestant family grew at the same rate. In Europe and North America, Lutheran churches, that is the churches directly descending from the German reformer, stagnated. Some are in decline, like many other mainstream churches. In contrast, the various branches of Baptist churches blossomed and attracted many new members, and so did numerous Pentecostal churches.

In Africa and some parts of Asia, in particular, congregations that can best be described as charismatic, fundamentalist, or evangelical (I am aware that all of these terms are disputed), are strong and vibrant. While Europe’s traditional Protestant churches are afflicted by progressive secularization, the much younger Protestant churches in the southern hemisphere experience vitality, and their leaders speak of unheard blessings.

In looking at what the British-American historian Philip Jenkins, in his book The Next Christendom, has called ‘The Coming of Global Christianity’, one may ask what has become of Luther’s heritage and what of his theological legacy. Luther never accepted the baptism of adults and was among the fiercest opponents of the early Baptist movement. Furthermore, Luther strongly rejected any kind of charismatic or emotional religious performance. For him, those who believed that they should follow sensational inspirations, were nothing but enthusiasts who could not be trusted.

However, not in the early years of the Protestant Reformation, but over the centuries, these unreliable enthusiasts have succeeded in unforeseen ways. By the twentieth century, ‘Martin Luther’s unruly offspring’ could proudly claim ‘mass’ success, or ‘Massenerfolg’, to use Bernd Möller’s phrase.[2]

Continue reading Luther’s Failure and the Success of Pentecostalism 

The Pentecostal Pacifism of Arthur Booth-Clibborn

The son-in-law of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, Arthur Sydney Clibborn-Booth and his wife Kate joined the Pentecostal revival and spread the Gospel in the power of the Spirit their entire lives. Like most Pentecostals of their day they were committed pacifists, and Arthur wrote a book on why Christians shouldn’t kill called Blood Against Blood.

The worldling knows only one kind of brotherhood– that in Adam. The Christian knows two, that in Adam and that in Christ. In war the worldling denies one kind of tie in killing his fellow-creature; the Christian denies two kinds–he kills his fellow-creature and his fellow-Christian. Besides, the former has ever a “field” (a battlefield), open to him which the latter has not: He can sacrifice his life as a missionary, and, if needs be, as a martyr, and “sow himself” thus a seed of righteousness and life-producing life rather than as a seed of sin and death-producing death, which every sacrifice of life on the carnal battlefield inevitably is! – Blood Against Blood

In the book, he shows deep knowledge of the pacifist early church, quoting not only Scripture but also early church fathers to show that Christians originally refused to wage war: Continue reading The Pentecostal Pacifism of Arthur Booth-Clibborn

Was the Early Church Pacifistic?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

In Crucifixion of the Warrior God (CWG) I argue that Jesus and Paul instruct Christians to love and bless their enemies and to unconditionally refrain from violence (e.g. Matt 5:39-45Rom 12:14-21). Moreover, I argue that this was the prevailing attitude of Christians prior to the fourth century when the Church aligned itself with the Roman Empire. In his critique of CWG that he delivered at the ETS in November, Copan argues against this, contending that I give “the false impression that Christians were uniformly pacifistic until Constantine.”

He cites the work of David Hunter and several other scholars who note that we find a number of references to Christians serving in the Roman military in the writings of Tertullian, Lactantius, Clement of Alexandra and Eusebius.[1] Not only this, but we have found a number of tomb inscriptions to Christian soldiers in the second and third centuries. On this basis, these scholars argue that the earlier scholarly consensus that the early church was uniformly pacifistic must be nuanced. At least some Christians were apparently not opposed to Christians serving in the military.

The first thing I’ll say is that it is a bit odd that Copan would raise this objection against me, for while I defend “the predominant nonviolence of the early church” prior to “the Augustinian revolution,” I also explicitly note that the earlier unqualified depictions of the early church as uniformly against military service “were not sufficiently nuanced” ((CWG, 24, n.45). Indeed, I refer readers to some of the same works that Copan cites against me (and add a number that he omits). Continue reading Was the Early Church Pacifistic?

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