Why are many American Pentecostals disobedient regarding efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19? Are Pentecostals and Charismatics in other parts of the world behaving differently? How was the strong faith in healing that characterized early Pentecostals impacted by the pandemic known as the “Spanish Flu”?
A few weeks ago, PCPJ gathered a panel of scholars and Pentecostal leaders to discuss these important questions. The panel consisted of:
– Jörg Haustein, doctor of World Christianities, University of Cambridge. – Erica Ramirez, president of PCPJ, director of applied research, Auburn Seminary. – Daniel Isgrigg, director for the Holy Spirit Research Center, Oral Roberts University. – Niclas Lindgren, director, PMU Interlife. – Andrea Johnson, Assistant Professor of History, California State University DH. – Micael Grenholm, pastor, editor at PCPJ.
Everybody brought interesting food for thought to the table. Isgrigg compared Pentecostal reactions to the Spanish Flu with what we see today. Ramirez spoke about what aspects of the Pentecostal faith makes it vulnerable to conspiracy theories. Haustein pointed to the nuance between different Pentecostal and Charismatic groups even in the same country. Johnson gave a historical backdrop to how American Pentecostals view politics.
I was recently published in the Christian Post where I argued that Christians should live simply, generously and sustainably to address global hunger. Three million children die annually, while the rest of the world has much more food than we need (and throw away large portions of it).
I didn’t expect much opposition to what I wrote, but it turns out that in some evangelical circles, feeding the hungry is a sensitive topic.
Jeff Maples at Reformation Charlotte wrote a passionate response in which he, among other things, calls me a heretic and say that I preach a demonic message that might lead to me losing my salvation. Let’s see if he has any Biblical support for these accusations:
Evangelicals are lining up at the door trying to make the case that Jesus is all about a socialistic government that makes everyone equal. One of the stupidest articles I’ve seen in a long time is an article recently published at the Christian Post by Micael Grenholm titled How would Jesus respond to global hunger? In the article, while he doesn’t use the word “socialism,” Grenholm argues that Jesus taught a form of socialism based on the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31￼.
The prosperity gospel, or “health and wealth” preaching, originated about 70 years ago in the United States. At various tent meetings connected to Voice of Healing and similar ministries, preachers like Oral Roberts and A. A. Allen started to teach things like financial sowing and reaping, the prosperous power of faith and that God wants us to be rich.
Their theology was influenced by Baptist theologian E. W. Kenyon, who in turn was highly influenced with ideas from New Thought. This American movement is quite similar to New Age and emphasizes, among other things, the power of the mind to influence physical reality by, for example, naming and claiming health and wealth before it actually has materialized.
Of course, a believer in the prosperity gospel will probably reject the brief historical review above and claim that they believe in these things because it is what the Bible teaches. And so, we must deal with the Biblical material. In this article, I will go through two passages that challenge prosperity teaching, and two that’s being used in its defense. Continue reading The Problem With Prosperity→
This series of posts is dedicated to (re)considering basics of Christian faith, and today we examine one regularly misconstrued topic: tithing.
The Church persistently preaches that Christians must tithe, meaning give 10% of their income to the local church. Of course, there’s a whole sub-genre on whether or not 10% means from net or gross pay. Churches tend to push gross.
And lest we think this is a minor concern, churches often organize around this compulsory practice. I’ve been on staff at churches, in fact, that would not allow churchgoers into leadership positions until they tithed, even though other less concrete aspects of their lives were not as unequivocally scrutinized.
So the question I want to consider is whether or not tithing is a prescribed Christian practice, especially within the contemporary Church context where tithing (or at least giving of some sort) is the one message that is preached every single week during the offering portion of the service. In what follows, I will suggest that tithing is actually not a Christian prescription. But before we delete our online giving profiles, we’ll also discover that Jesus’ actual invitation is much more profound and “costly.” Continue reading Do Christians Have to Tithe?→
Poverty is one of the most pressing issues in the world today. Despite our best efforts we still have a very long way to go. Children continue to die of hunger, people still make the choice between food and education, some will never have the opportunity to fulfill their potential, simply because there’s not enough.
In an era when it has been reported by the bank, Credit Suisse in November 2017, that the world’s richest 1% own half the world’s wealth, the other side of the coin is that the 3.5 billion poorest adults each have assets of less than $10,000. These people, who account for 70% of the world’s working age population, own just 2.7% of the global wealth.
None of us can fail to notice that there are crises at the gates of every culture and nation. War and famine produce refugees in numbers that are untenable. Our broken economies are driven by the greed of those for whom the almighty dollar has far greater value than the life of one small child, one refugee, one trafficked woman, one homeless person.
Not the least of our problems is the lack of good leadership. When the prophet Daniel was interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about his future insanity, he pleaded with him to change his ways (Daniel 4:27) in order to avoid the catastrophic effect of his pride. His key point was that he ‘break from his wicked past and be merciful to the poor’. Integral to really good leadership is mercy for the poor. Continue reading Living Generously→
It’s a pretty scary thing asking an external body to do some research for you and having absolutely no control over the findings. What if you don’t like what they come back with?!
So it was with some nervousness that we decided at Tearfund to team up with the research firm Barna Group to look into connections between caring for people in poverty and spiritual growth.
In particular, we wanted to look at what we call a ‘whole life response’ to poverty. Tearfund is absolutely committed to helping Christians, in the UK and around the world, respond to poverty in a ‘whole life’ way: through prayer, giving, advocacy, lifestyle, and other actions such as volunteering. We summarise that as Pray, Act, Give.
Are you tired of being able to travel almost anywhere in the entire world? You don’t want open doors and red carpets wherever you travel? Are you tired of Mexican beaches or job opportunities in Johannesburg? Do you want to sink Caribbean cruise ships and blow up airports? Is it closed borders for your own people you want?
Let us end our little blog series on why wealth is wrong. We have already looked at the mathematical argument, where we saw that it is impossible to keep wealth while giving the same wealth to the poor. Then we discussed the economic argument, which says that it is better to invest in goods and services beneficial for the poor rather than superfluities like luxury and entertainment. And last time, I brought up the Bill Gates argument, which states that it is the quantity of what we keep, rather than what we give away, that measures our generosity.
In each post we have started with an argument for why wealth is right, and we shall do the same in this post. The most common moral argument I hear when people defend wealth is: “Rich people have worked hard for their wealth, and deserve therefore to have it and do what they please with it.” It is often combined with “We only have a moral obligation for ourselves and our families, not for the entire world.”
When (rich) Christians defend mammonism, the idea that Christians may or should be rich, they often include arguments that aren’t necessarily based on Bible study – such as the arguments I discuss in my God vs Wealth series – but rather in philosophy or economics. These are the sorts of arguments I tackle in my Why Wealth is Wrong series. You can also read my discussions on the economic argument and the mathematical argument.
The Bill Gates argument for why it’s OK to be rich is a variant of the mathematical argument that involves billionaires. Look at Bill Gates, the mammonist says, he’s so generous! He has his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that does so much good for the world’s poor. This is because Gates is the richest man in the world, with his net worth of 75 billion US dollars. His abundant wealth allows him to be abundantly generous, and thus he as a rich man should not be condemned but celebrated both for his skills in computer invention and business, and his philanthropy.
The problem with the argument is that it tries to eat the cake and give it away at the same time: wealth is good, because you can give it away. This is the same error as the mathematical argument makes. Saying that wealth is good because billionaires can give lots of money to the poor, is like saying that it’s good to be fat because then you can lose a lot of weight. It’s trying to rationalize a phenomena by arguing that you can get away from it. Continue reading Why Bill Gates Doesn’t Prove that Wealth is OK→
Two weeks ago we looked at how it is mathematically impossible to spend the same money on superfluities (i.e. unnecessary stuff) and aid to the poor, and from that we concluded that statements like “You need to be rich in order to give money to the poor” or “It’s good to give money to the poor, but there’s nothing wrong with being rich” either cannot refer to the possession or consumption of superfluities, or they are simply self-contradictory.
In this blog post I want to address another argument rich people use when defending their wealth, namely that all consumption is good for the economy and in the end also beneficial for the poor; there is really no need to point out consumption of superfluities as something bad, since the money one pays eventually trickles down to the poor.