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?→
For Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians, the day of the Pentecost as described in the book of Acts is the gold standard for the life of the Church. There are various types of Charismatics, of course, so there are different emphases, but all look back to Pentecost. The movement that started at Azusa Street about one hundred years ago has spread across the world and has found itself among Christians of all varieties. From Oneness Pentecostals to Charismatic Catholics, they all look back to Acts, to the life of the apostolic church, but many do not look at the full picture.
Most Charismatics love to talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit described in the first couple of chapters of Acts. Speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, and repentance are all deeply cherished, but there is another gift of the Spirit that is neglected in many of today’s Charismatic circles – economic equality. Continue reading All Things Common: The Economic Equality of Pentecost→
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 5:39-45; Rom 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. 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?→
You thought that we had enough wars, hunger, and diseases. You thought that the current refugee crisis was big. You thought that natural disasters were too severe already.
Well, you were wrong.
The recent IPCC report cannot be taken lightly. It is based on 6,000 scientific studies and has received input from 40,000 peer-reviews. This is the scientific consensus. It’s time we stop getting distracted by climate change deniers and face the facts.
And the facts are that we are heading right into enormous environmental disasters that will kill and hurt hundreds of millions of people.
There is still time to change course, but it has to be done immediately. The modern, Western lifestyle is doomed. Either we choose to abandon it, or we will be forced to do so when the climate crisis hits. Many are confused as they are not sure how they ought to live in order to reduce their ecological impact on others.
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→
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 Warby 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.
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.
Pentecostals & 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!
Generosity, in Christian understanding, goes further than simply the wallet – it reveals the condition of the soul. There is a natural selfishness in our conditioned responses, which instinctively says spend and not give. But is this really the mindset that we want to pass on to our children? As someone has said, “we must teach them the greater joy of giving before they figure out the lesser joy of receiving.”
One very early Christian text can back this up. The ‘Didache‘ (pronounced “didder-key”, it’s Greek for “teaching”) is of uncertain date, but internal evidence leads most commentators to place it at the latest AD 100. It is a short handbook of moral and practical governance for churches, perhaps in Syria, and it is anonymous. Continue reading The Early Christian View on Generosity Was Incredibly Radical→
Charismatics like myself love to talk about revival. Revival is usually defined as an “awakening” of the church, when it goes back to it’s original state. If the church doesn’t look like the book of Acts – where a lot of miracles happened, thousands were saved and Christians were living a holy, passionate life – it’s basically sleeping and needs to be revived.
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→
My reading gives me the impression that sustainability is being taken more seriously by Christians, particularly the ‘millennial’ generation. Sustainable living is a Christian calling, declares Calvin College. Tearfund and the Jubilee Centre have produced five Bible studies on Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living. There is even a network of Christian leaders advocating sustainability: check out their webpage.
Basically put, sustainability is the belief that there are enough resources on earth to provide for its population, if only these resources could be used wisely and equally. This clip from the Breathe Network will give you a flavour – read the comments too.
So, is this a new fad? Could it be that sustainability is in the New Testament mandate? It is certainly the thought behind 2 Corinthians 9:8. God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.Continue reading ‘Always Enough’: Basil of Caesarea and Sustainability→