Originally posted at PCPJ.
I used to think that Pentecostalism started with the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles 1906, preceded by events at Charles Fox Parham’s Bethel Bible College in Kansas 1901. From the US, Pentecostalism then spread rapidly across the world, impacting Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America so that it became the global phenomenon we know of today.
I know realize that I was severely wrong.
To be fair, the Azusa revival had a tremendous impact and is surely among the roots of Pentecostalism. But it’s not the only one. In fact, it is not the earliest. Frank Bartleman, one of American Pentecostalism’s most important pioneers (and a pacifist), acknowledged that “The present world-wide revival was rocked in the cradle of little Wales. It was ‘brought up in India, following; becoming full-grown in Los Angeles later.” While the Welsh revival was quite different than what Pentecostalism became known for, the Indian revival wasn’t. (more…)
I was recently interviewed on the Rethinking Hell podcast who talked with me on how I got saved and what my thoughts on life after death look like. As I was born again, I quickly realized that Jesus is the only way to eternal life and that we cannot live without him. Eternal life is a gift, not something we already possess:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)
“Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“Jesus… has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Tim 1:10)
Thus, from Day One of my Christian journey I’ve believed that immortality is conditional, not universal: it is something imparted to us through the grace of God in Jesus Christ. This means that those who reject the grace of God will not inherit eternal life but will instead die, and be dead forever:
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt 10:28)
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Mt 25:46)
“He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction, reducing them to ashes as an example of what is coming on the ungodly.” (2 Pet 2:6)
This of course goes against the Platonic idea that the soul is innately immortal and that hell therefore would be some alternative form of eternal life, but in torment rather than in bliss. This idea, known as traditionalism or tormentalism, I’ve never found any strong support for in the Bible.
More on this in the podcast episode, which you can listen to here!
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.
Sounds familiar? (more…)
This sentence from The Guardian has to go down in history as completely unimaginable concerning a U.S. president just a few years ago:
Over an ensuing half-hour rant, Trump trucked in antisemitic tropes, insulted the Danish prime minister, insisted he wasn’t racist, bragged about the performance of his former Apprentice reality show, denied starting a trade war with China, praised Vladimir Putin and told reporters that he, Trump, was the “Chosen One” – all within hours of referring to himself as the “King of Israel” and tweeting in all caps: “WHERE IS THE FEDERAL RESERVE?”
What really concerns me is the “Chosen One” and “King of Israel” part. The Guardian even leaves out something even more disturbing, namely that Trump welcomed the comparison between him and the second coming of God:
A lot has already been written on Trump’s apparent pathological narcissism, and the tweets above provide additional evidence that his view of himself is severely disturbed. Any sane person, regardless of their own religious beliefs, would reject any comparison between themselves and the Creator of the universe.
The only people I can think of who actually view themselves as being on a divine level are authoritarian dictators of modern communist countries as well as ancient empires in Biblical times. We read in Daniel 6 how the administrators of Babylonian King Darius suggested to him that he signs a decree stating that “anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den”. Rather than saying “That’s outrageous! Do you think I have some kind of god-complex?”, Darius finds it to be a reasonable idea and signs it. As a consequence, the prophet Daniel is later thrown into said lions’ den.
Even in New Testament times, we read in the book of Acts: ”On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, ‘This is the voice of a god, not of a man.’ Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:21-23 ).
This is obviously not something that happens to everyone who perceive themselves as divine, as we would have got rid of a lot of dictators if that had been the case, but it clearly expresses how serious the sin of pride is. The original sin in the garden was that Adam and Eve appreciated the temptation of Satan, saying that they would “be like God” if they ate the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:5).
I turn now to my Pentecostal and charismatic brothers and sisters who have welcomed and praised Trump, even saying that resisting him is resisting the will of God, and I ask you: where is your condemnation of blasphemy? Surely, that is a sin according to us all? I’m well aware that our views on peace and justice differ, as well as our interpretation of how well the president is promoting such things.
But even if one agrees with Trump’s policies, surely him announcing himself as the chosen one and welcoming the description “like the second coming of God” should be viewed as utterly blasphemous? How could it be anything else?
Christians might have reasons to suspect that aliens don’t exist – one could reasonably expect God to say such a thing if it were true in His holy Word – but naturalists generally have no need to reject the possibility of E.T. existence. There might be naturalists who personally find it unlikely, but very few would claim that it is impossible or that belief in aliens is like believing in Santa.
However, this seems to be incompatible with naturalism. If there is no way for an atheist to exclude the possibility of intelligent life in our universe, how can s/he exclude the existence of intelligent, spiritual life outside of it? Openness to alien life seems to be necessarily combined with an openness to the supernatural.
The naturalist might respond that we have no objective reference point to non-physical persons, while aliens can be viewed as simply animals that happened to evolve elsewhere. To this objection I would point out that we can imagine vastly different aliens in out universe, and if we add possible parallell universes – that most naturalists are open to – there’s really no limit to what creatures we can conceive as possible.
Hence, openness to alien life seems not to rest on references to earthly animals but on what’s logically possible. And there is no logical contradiction in imagining non-physical, spiritual beings. To those who think that non-physical beings are impossible I would simply point out that that’s a circular argument that presupposes naturalism.
We have no evidence for the existence of alien life, or the existence of other universes. Yet most atheists would say that it’s entirely possible for aliens or other universes to exist. I find it arbitrary to view the existence of supernatural entities as impossible due to (perceived) lack of evidence when one does not draw that conclusion concerning aliens.
So just to be clear: I’m not saying that I know that aliens exist, or that God is an alien. What I’m saying is that a naturalist either must say that alien life is impossible, or cease to be a naturalist. There is no middle ground.
Article published in the Christian Post.
Can prayer be scientifically measured? In 1872, English intellectual Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, attempted to test the effects of prayer in a famous experiment. He hypothesized that the royal family, whose health the faithful prayed for every Sunday in Anglican parishes, would live much longer than the rest of the British population.
He found that the contrary was true, and concluded that prayer doesn’t work.
The royal diet and lifestyle did not factor into his equation, nor did Galton question the hierarchical theology of God favoring those privileged enough to command an entire nation to pray for them.
In more recent times, Richard Dawkins has hailed the “Great Prayer Experiment” as the definitive proof against prayer efficiency. The Experiment was a 2006 study conducted by Herbert Benson and team, showing that cardiac bypass patients who received prayer did not suffer from less complications after surgery than those who didn’t. In fact, the opposite was true!
What Dawkins doesn’t tell you in his book The God Delusion was that not all who prayed were Christians. A significant number of them belonged to Silent Unity, a New Thought group with unorthodox views on prayer. One of their leaders, James Dillet Freeman, has said that your purpose in praying “is to quicken into activity the creative processes that lie at the root of being and out of which the world takes shape.”
Mixing prayer methods like this when trying to measure prayer is a bad move. Other prayer studies that only included born-again Christians have received more positive results. But there’s a serious flaw with these kinds of prayer studies: they cannot guarantee that the control group they use don’t receive prayer. When you’re in a religious country, that’s impossible to guarantee. Thus, if weird or no differences emerge between patients who “receive prayer” and those who “don’t receive prayer”, it might be because all of them receive prayer!
I suggest another strategy. Over the last year, I’ve collected examples of people being cured after prayer in a way that medical science cannot explain. There are a lot of these cases. Some of them can be found in works like Testing Prayer by Candy Gunther Brown and Miracles by Craig Keener. They sometimes get published in scientific journals like this one. I’ve also spoken to people in my native country of Sweden, asking for their permission to confirm their stories with their medical records.
I’ve found blind people that see, deaf people that hear, cancer patients who were told that they were about to die that instantly got well, as well as allergies, brain damage, blood diseases and ulcers disappearing as people pray. I’ve also spoken to a man who was diagnosed with ALS, a fatal motor neuron disease, in 1987 but lives a healthy life today after a pastor prayed for him at the hospital. The doctors were sure that their diagnosis was correct, and could not explain his recovery.
These cures are too radical to be explained away by placebo or spontaneous remission. They are SICAPs: Scientifically Inexplicable Cures After Prayer. Such phenomena, I argue, are excellent candidates for miracles. Hypothetically, if God would heal someone in response to prayer, it will look exactly like a SICAP.
A naturalist (someone who does not believe in miracles) will argue that SICAPs are the result of unknown natural phenomena. Science is evolving, and what’s inexplicable today might be super obvious in the future. But here’s the problem. The naturalist cannot say that most SICAPs are the result of these unknown natural phenomena – that leaves room for some miracles to exist. No, all SICAPs must be natural phenomena. And that’s very unlikely. One could even call it miraculous.
The SICAPs we observe are simply too diverse to be easily dismissed as a scientific oversight. Furthermore, many of them occur at the very moment someone prays, and several have connections to prophetic visions or other spiritual experiences. Attributing both that and an inexplicable cure happening simultaneously is stretching naturalism to its limits.
On top of this, we generally view unknown explanations as quite unlikely. Why is the day generally hotter than the night? Is it because of the sun, or some other explanation we haven’t come up with yet? Both are theoretically possible, but I think we all know what’s more likely.
Thus, I conclude that affirming the existence of SICAPs logically leads us to affirming the existence of miracles. Miracles that happen in response to prayer. Who said that faith and science are opposed to each other?
Micael Grenholm is the editor-in-chief for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice and pastor of Mosaik Church in Uppsala, Sweden.
Every Good Friday I usually go outside to pray when the time is approaching 3 PM. That’s when he died. He who transformed my life.
There was a time when I didn’t care at all about Jesus. He was cool, sure, but he didn’t have as many superpowers as Superman and he was far less badass than Samus Aran. The church, in my opinion, was a boring museum. The Bible was hard to read and lacked pictures.
But when I was confronted with my own mortality and understood the message of Easter – that he died for us to live forever – then I could not get enough of him. I opened the gospels and read. I can honestly say that I have never encountered so much wisdom and love from any other person, before or after.
Some want to reduce Jesus to a non-divine moral teacher. As C. S. Lewis has pointed out, it is impossible. A reasonable moral teacher does not claim to be the Son of God, the light of the world, and the door to eternal life – unless it is true.
But I understand why people recognize Jesus as wise and moral. He is! That’s what makes the painful killing of him so incomprehensible and wrong.
God died on that cross. God himself died for our sake so that we would have the eternal life we in no way deserve. This eternal life, in eternal happiness, is greater than anything we can imagine. No other gift is so great and as wonderful as the gift of living in paradise.
All the peace and justice we long for will be realized to its fullest in heaven. That’s no reason to stop promoting such Kingdom-values here. On the contrary, when we truly have the eternal perspective we will become even more zealous to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. As John says:
“Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure.” (1 Jn 3:1-2)
What I realized 13 years ago is that when we celebrate on Sunday that Jesus arose from death, it is not just that we are happy for His sake. His resurrection shows where we are going if we follow him. His path is the path of life. A life that never ends. It is because of his painful death on the cross that we can go that way.
Today at 3 PM, think of Jesus and pray to him. He loves you so much that he was subjected to one of the world’s most evil execution methods. He gave everything for you. You are too precious and loved to be lost in the bottomless darkness of death. God, your Creator and Friend, calls you to eternal happiness.
What does Matthew 10:34 say? Which things are forbidden according to Christianity? Can you describe the sacraments?
If these questions seem hard – even unanswerable – to you, you’re lucky not to be a Christian asylum seeker in Sweden.
Since many years back, the Swedish Migration Board tries to differentiate between “real” converts from Islam to Christianity that risk persecution in their countries of origin, and “fake” ones who only seek a cheap way to gain asylum, by asking various questions.
Sweden being a very secular country, most officials who come up with these questions are not Christians themselves. Furthermore, they don’t have much knowledge about Christianity – even though they might think so themselves. (more…)
In 2016, I released a book in Swedish together with pastor Stefan Swärd called Jesus Was Also a Refugee. We commented the recent migration debate, providing the biblical teaching on loving, welcoming and blessing strangers (Lev 19:33-34, Mt 25:35).
I was not at all prepared for the huge amounts of Christians who would object to the book title. “Jesus was certainly not a refugee!” The same thing happened as the Christian Post published my Christmas reflection, inspired by Shane Claiborne, urging people to welcome refugees as they would welcome Christ. The comment section on CP’s Facebook page overflooded with arguments against the asylum status of our Savior and his parents.
Most of these arguments are bad. I mean, really bad. Here are the five weirdest ones I’ve come across so far: (more…)
I’ve just had the privilege of listening to Dr. Denis Mukwege as he visited Stockholm. PMU and Läkarmissionen, two Christian aid organizations that have supported Mukwege and the Panzi Hospital for decades. We celebrated Mukwege with music, speeches and donations. Among other things, we sang Mukwege’s favorite hymn, “The Promises will Never Fail” (Löftena kunna ej svika) by Swedish Pentecostal leader Lewi Pethrus, in Swedish and Swahili.
Missionary and nurse Kerstin Åkerman pointed out how prophetic Mukwege is. He has this ability – naturally or supernaturally – to have a visionary mindset and see things before they happen. For example, he stressed the importance of starting the building process of the Panzi Hospital quickly in 1998. Nobody understood why. (more…)
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the ”War to End All Wars”: World War One. It directly killed nine million combatants and seven million civilians. Furthermore, it contributed to the spread and severity of epidemics that killed an additional 100 million people.
And here’s the really embarrassing part: with few exceptions, WW1 was a war in which Christians killed other Christians. Catholics fought other Catholics; Protestants fought other Protestants. People who claimed to follow Jesus slaughtered their supposed brothers in the trenches because their leaders – many of which claimed to have been appointed by God – ordered them to.
Madness. Utter, disgraceful madness. (more…)
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.
What if I told you that we as Christians have had the solution to this problem for 2,000 years? What if I told you that if we simply lived like the early Christians, there would be no climate change? (more…)
For too long, the wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been destroying millions of lives. It is the deadliest conflict since World War Two, fuelled by conflict minerals used in our electronics and cars. Rape is a weapon of war; eastern Congo is one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a woman.
In the midst of this chaos, darkness and death, a bright light is shining. That light will now receive a Nobel Peace Prize.
Dr. Denis Mukwege is the son of a Pentecostal pastor who has a strong and robust faith in Jesus. The Swedish Pentecostal Mission funded his medical studies and, together with organizations, helped him build and run the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, the capital of the conflict-ridden South Kivu province. Over 50,000 survivors of sexual violence have been treated at the hospital during the last 20 years. (more…)
“How can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” – James 2:1.
3,000 people died because of the horrible terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. 3,000 people died because of the horrible hurricane of September 2017.
We all know President Bush’s response to the attacks on World Trade Center. War on terrorism. The Patriot Act. Fear.
The attacks were framed as a national tragedy, Muslims were portrayed as the enemy, violence and surveillance were offered as the solutions.
The contrast to President Trump’s response to hurricane Maria couldn’t be greater. Trump recently denied on Twitter that 3,000 people died because of the hurricane. He has described the federal relief as “fantastic” even though the infrastructure on the island still is malfunctioning one year later and many children haven’t been able to return to school. (more…)