Tag Archives: poverty

The Early Christian View on Generosity Was Incredibly Radical

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

Why American Pentecostals Stopped Being Pacifists

By Roger E. Olson, originally published on his Patheos blog in 2015. Reposted with permission.

In my opinion, many evangelicals have neglected, if not denied, the supernatural due to a general search for respectability. Nowhere is this evangelical search for respectability more evident to me than among Pentecostals. All Pentecostal Christians pay lip service to miracles, but how many actually believe in and pray for miracles? Many do, but I would guess their number is fewer than fifty years ago. To a very large extent, according to my observations, American Pentecostals have blended in with American society and lost their particularity—except on paper.

One notable feature of Pentecostalism that is gradually changing is its anti-intellectualism and that I consider a positive sign of maturation. In the past, intellectually inclined Pentecostals had to work outside their tradition (in non-Pentecostal evangelical organizations and institutions) or leave Pentecostalism altogether. Today there is a rich and growing intellectual subculture among American Pentecostals evidenced by the large and flourishing Society for Pentecostal Studies and its scholarly journal Pneuma. Pentecostal leaders are far less devoted to anti-intellectualism than fifty years ago. It’s not difficult to identify Pentecostal scholars with reputations beyond the movement’s borders: Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Amos Yong, Gary Tyra, Frank Macchia, Gerald Sheppard, Russell Spittler, Cheryl Bridges Johns, Stephen Land, Gordon Fee, Craig Keener, James Smith. Continue reading Why American Pentecostals Stopped Being Pacifists

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 Jesus Agenda

by Craig M. Watts. Originally published at The Yoke, reposted with permission.

Clarity brings trouble.

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Few ministers would bother preaching a second sermon if they got the reaction Jesus received after his first one in his hometown synagogue. Many preachers have had people respond to a message with anger but not with attempts on their lives. Jesus roused passions with his preaching. And some of those passions were deadly. Continue reading The Jesus Agenda

The Politics of Pentecostalism

by Luis Aránguiz Kahn. Originally published at Pensimiento Pentecostal.

Pentecostalism is a movement that surged in the beginning of the 20th century simultaneously in different parts of the world and in the middle of the diversity of the protestant and evangelical churches. In general terms, its social base was made of the poor, marginalized and discriminated. In the case of South America, there were two points of beginning. In Brazil by the hand of Luigi Fransescon, and in Chile it was brought about by Willis Hoover. From there on the movement has expanded geographically to the entire Southern Cone, but it has also had a notable quantitative growth in the different countries in the zone. There has also been an influence from external Pentecostalism, especially from The United States.

By the nature of movement there coexists an ample heterogeneity of churches, practices and believes in the interior of the Pentecostalism. This, in methodological terms, complicates the analysis of the phenomenon and the possibility of offering an explanation that stretches over its diversity. Therefore once more, if we speak in general terms, it is possible to notice that the Pentecostalism has arisen from a political derivation that can reveal itself in two ways, and which will not be unknown to anyone familiar in any way with this type of church.

On the one hand, it is possible to observe the existence of a Pentecostalism which calls itself “apolitical”. Within this category every church and believer would fit who, in the name of a moral dualism which sees the behaviors of non-Christians as mundane, rejects the political field (especially in its partisan version ) by considering it mundane, that is to say sinful. In those who maintain this form of thinking, there exists a tendency to reaffirm the status quo. Even when the political field is avoided, the “apoliticals” tend to champion the political groups which uphold the conservation of order.

In this way, for example, it is not strange to encounter Pentecostals who support anti-Marxist dictatorships in the previous century, as seen in the cases of Guatemala and Chile. In the same way today it is possible to encounter Pentecostals who support parties which are morally conservative, in order to avoid legislations which approve homosexual marriage, abortion and euthanasia. In a certain way, whether they want it or not, the “apoliticism” ends up being more a distant horizon than a way of living, well examples like these show that although one avoids forming parties or participate in them, inevitably one will participate in the public square. Therefore the query that remains is understanding this apoliticism as a fundamentally political act. Continue reading The Politics of Pentecostalism

An Angel of Mercy Appointed by Prophecy

UK banknote commemorating Elizabeth FryFrom 2001, her face was on every Bank of England £5 note, but who was Elizabeth Fry? She was born into a banking family in Norwich, England, in 1780. When she was 18, she heard a Quaker preacher and was converted. She joined a Quaker assembly, where a woman had a prophecy for her: “You are born to be a light to the blind, speech to the dumb and feet to the lame.”

Immediately, Fry was moved to charitable acts. She collected old clothes for the poor, visited those who were sick in her neighbourhood, and started a Sunday School to teach children to read. Marriage took her to London, and motherhood kept her so busy that after 12 years she lamented: “I fear my life is slipping away to little purpose.” How wrong she was!

Another Quaker minister told her of the horrifying conditions in the capital’s prisons. Fry went to the infamous Newgate jail to see for herself. She found hundreds of women and their children living violent lives in unsanitary conditions and sleeping on the floor without bedding.

Fry sprang into action. Immediate practical needs had to be met. She enlisted local women to make clothes for the children. She got permission to start a school for prison children. She founded an organisation of women who would visit prisoners, pray and read scriptures with them, and provide them with materials to sew and knit goods which could be sold to give them some income. Continue reading An Angel of Mercy Appointed by Prophecy

How Needy is ‘Needy’? Some Early Church Views

Basil of Caesarea  (330-379) was a highly influential leader in the Early Church, who laboured and wrote extensively for the rights of the poor. His stance on wealth and poverty is blunt and uncompromising. It is also very relevant to today, where consumerism has achieved almost god-like status.

This piece shows that Basil was also a keen and unflinching observer of human nature – and human excuses. The writer identifies ‘the human tendency to adjust the definition of “need” to fit one’s current level of income.’

Basil was on to this 1600 years ago. His homily (practical sermon) on the man in Jesus’ parable, I Will Tear Down My Barns [and Build Bigger Ones], treats the barns not so much as symbols of wealth but rather as representing our definition of needs based on our circumstances.

‘In effect’, continues the article, ‘Basil says that if we never have any extra to share, this is due to the fact that whenever we find ourselves in possession of a surplus, we immediately adjust our definition of need to fit the new situation.’ Continue reading How Needy is ‘Needy’? Some Early Church Views