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“War is not the will of God, this we know.”
– Folke Thorell, Evangelii Härold, 1967.
“God will let the satanic rearmament of nuclear weapons and biological warfare strike the godless themselves in forms of plagues that will exterminate large portions of humanity.”
– Folke Thorell, Evangelii Härold, 1968.
Pentecostals were the largest religious group among conscientious objectors in Sweden between 1967 and 1971, a time characterized by passionate debates on the ethics of war in the shadows of Vietnam and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In my master’s thesis on church history, I aimed to review and analyze how the Pentecostal periodicals Evangelii Härold and Dagen described and ethically motivated military violence and pacifism during this period.
The purpose was to identify potential motivations for pacifism and/or military support during a time when a large number of Pentecostals refused to bear arms, with particular interest in how these motivations related to ethical evaluation on contemporary wars.
The findings were fascinating. Pacifism and conscientious objection were regularly promoted and seldom criticized, while most contemporary military violence was condemned with one glaring exception: Israeli warfare.
Folke Thorell, quoted above, thought that God principally is against war, but allows them to fulfill his eschatological plans and even engages himself in warfare. He envisioned two-thirds of all Jews to die in a future third world war involving nuclear bombs, a genocide so brutal it would make the Holocaust seem “minuscule” in comparison.
Unlike the American war effort in Vietnam, Israel’s wars were commonly viewed as eschatologically significant and biblically predicted holy wars, with several writers suggesting that God himself has waged and will wage war on Israel’s behalf. Pacifism was primarily motivated by obedience to the Bible rather than empathy, fitting with Lisa Cahill’s theory of obediential pacifism being distinct from empathic pacifism in the Christian tradition.
Support for Israeli warfare was also derived from biblical interpretation, primarily based on Old Testament texts. It was further motivated by ideas of Jewish suffering and death being part of God’s plan, with several Pentecostal writers speculating that an apocalyptic genocide would precede the second coming of Christ.
Many Pentecostals did not see this as standing in conflict with personal pacifism and conscientious objection, as both views were perceived as biblical.
Future research could further explore the relationship between Pentecostal eschatology and empathy, along with how mid-century Pentecostal Zionism might have been influenced by antisemitic ideas from the 1930’s.
It’s easy to laugh at all the insane conspiracy theories floating around right now, with people claiming that coronavirus vaccine will kill you, change your DNA or transform you into a satanist. But really, it’s nothing short of a catastrophic tragedy that millions of people seriously believe these kinds of things.
As Christians, we should be extra alarmed by the fact that evangelicals seem to be more prone to believing and spreading COVID conspiracy theories than others.
YouTube, TikTok and other Internet platforms have no lack of Christians claiming to “prophesy” that the vaccine will insert microchips or that nurses will try to kill you if you don’t want to get vaccinated.
Apparently, the fact that many Pentecostals got their Trump prophecies wrong has not kept Internet preachers from using prophecy to push their own agenda.
To combat this pandemic of misinformation, Christian leaders need to speak up. This is exactly what the superintendents of the Pentecostal churches in the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – decided to do last week. In a joint statement, they warned against conspiracy theories and YouTube prophets, telling their flock to listen to medical authorities and take the vaccine.
Here’s an excerpt of what they wrote:
Parts of those who sort under the Pentecostal-Charismatic umbrella in the body of Christ, must be self-critical in their evaluation in regard to their promotion of prophecies and conspiracy theories. No significant prophetic voices did foresee the arrival of the virus. We urge those prophets who now spend energy on scaring people with the consequences of the virus, and warning against taking the vaccine, to be more cautious. The church and the world need prophetic voices, but not “YouTube prophets” who do not stand accountable to anyone but themselves.
Therefore, we ask the Pentecostal churches in the Nordic Countries to be in prayer, and make aticons based on love for our neighbor, and not based on fear. There is no contradiction in devoting one’s life in prayer, at the same time as we listen to the advice from the health officials. The political leaders are not combating the churches, they combat the virus.
For the five of us this means that we will follow the advise of the health officials in our respective countries in regard to social distancing for as long as it is needed, as well as taking the COVID-19 vaccine when it is our turn in line. At the same time we will continue to pray and remain vigilant in our calling, serving God in caring for the people around us.
The question is: when will we see similar statements from Pentecostal leaders in other countries?
In a time where it was controversial at best and impossible at worst for a woman to preach, Swedish evangelist Nelly Hall (1848-1916) gathered crowds of thousands of people as she preached about salvation, holiness and discipleship.
She was part of the holiness movement, and according to church historian David Bundy, the Holiness Union of Sweden would probably not have existed without her (1).
After being inspired by the preaching of American Methodist evangelist William E. Boardman, and after visiting the Salvation Army’s headquarters in London, Hall decided to become a full-time preacher (2). (more…)
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…)
My name is Micael, and I believe miracles are happening today. I’ve seen some amazing things on missionary journeys as well as here in Sweden, where I live. As an evangelist and apologist, I long for others to discover that God is alive and active today.
However, when I have talked to other Swedes about this, it has been difficult to convince them. As residents in the most secular country in the world, people here are skeptical and require evidence. For a long time, I have wanted to be able to refer to a single book in Swedish that collects the most well-documented, inexplicable answers to prayer that we know of.
Such a book is not available today. So I’ve decided to try to write one myself.
A Gold Mine for Documented Miracles
Sweden has an extensive welfare state, with free, advanced healthcare accessible to all citizens. Swedish Christians rarely have a problem combining their prayers for healing with medical checkups and care. (more…)
Originally published at PCPJ.
The Jerusalem Project is based on the radical idea that biblical followers of Jesus should live like the followers of Jesus in the Bible. Specifically, we don’t think that the community of goods that Jesus practiced with his disciples (John 13:29) and that they then continued to practice in the apostolic church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-45), was a mistake or has gone obsolete. On the contrary, since Jesus is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and the apostles are the foundation of the church (Eph 2:19), we believe we should live like them.
Most Christians would agree that the apostles has ultimate authority on who Jesus is, what he did for us and what he wants us to do for him. In fact, this authority is so great that the words they or their associates wrote down in letters and books are considered to be the Word of God!
That’s basically as much authority one can get.
But if they have this much authority, shouldn’t we view their lives and works as expressing God’s will as much as their words? Not that they would be sinless, but they had spend a lot of time with the sinless Son of God. He had taught them not only doctrines but practices, not just orthodoxy but orthopraxy. And so, they continued to heal the sick, preach the Gospel and have everything in common just as Jesus had trained them. (more…)
I can’t remember what kind of Google search or hyperlink that first led me to the website of Jesus Army almost seven years ago, but I remember how thrilled I was to finally encounter an evangelical, charismatic church that has complete community of goods. The closest resemblance to such an apostolic church that I had previously discovered was in a dusty, old book in my father’s home library called In His Footsteps. I was so excited as I earnestly turned the pages and read about this amazing church in the middle of nowhere which took Jesus seriously, had everything in common and led countless people to the Lord. Then I came to the last page which revealed that it was all fiction.
But the Jesus Army was real! I sent them an email, asking to come and visit them in Northamptonshire for a few days in April 2010. I was interested in the Training Year they offer and wanted to get a feeling about what New Creation community life was like. It was amazing; as I’ve previously shared I was baptised in the Holy Spirit during that trip, and I was so encouraged to see that community of goods is not just possible in the western world today – it’s very effective!
Without giving any convinced promises I told the Jesus saints that I wanted to do a training year (or rather, six months) in 2011. But after some time I told them I wasn’t going. I was feeling too young, insecure and inexperienced to take such a step. God was good and let me experience some amazing things in Sweden during that time. But I now know that of course I would have enjoyed and benefited a lot from a Jesus Army training year back then. I’m not luring myself into believing that whatever my life ends up like is what God wanted all along. He wants me and everybody else to share our possessions from the day we are saved. But even as we fail God can lead us onward, never forsaking us but faithfully caring for us.
With the rise of individualism in the West there has been an increasing trend of “private Christianity” where people believe in Jesus but they never attend any church. Some of them acquire teaching and/or worship songs via the Internet at home, while others just pray sometimes. I encounter several of these “secret Christians” when I’m out evangelising, and most of them seem convinced that church meetings really are unimportant, that it’s perfectly fine to be a Christian alone.
The Bible, on the other hand, clearly commands us “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebr 10:25). Even as the early Christians went on missionary trips they weren’t alone. Jesus commanded us to pray “Our Father” in plural, Paul emphasises in 1 Cor 12 that we’re all body parts in one body, dependent on one another.
But let’s face it, Christians who leave church aren’t doing it because they have a special Bible interpretation, but because church has disappointed them. As a house church leader I have seen several people go during the last five years, some of them to other congregations but a substantial number have become private Christians. Some of it is due to mistakes from our parts, other times we have been too radical. (more…)
Sarah and I have spent the weekend in the small village of Åsele in northern Sweden, doing evangelism with the pancake church at a big market fair. We’ve had the opportunity to talk to, pray with and love hundreds of people, mostly youths. One girl received salvation there and then after she was healed in her neck, many others received Bibles and were very interested in getting to know God more.
On Saturday evening I hung a paper plate around my neck that said “Evidence for God in 2 minutes”. Needless to say it caught lot of attention, and I got to have apologetic and evangelistic discussions with at least 25 people. I illustrated my points using my phone, which was very effective and increased the attention rate of my listeners even more.
“This phone is very unique”, I said, “because it has no cause for its existence. It popped into being out if nothing without a cause, and now I use it to call people and take photos. Do you believe me?” Nobody said yes, some looked at me as if I was a madman and others just laughed out loud. Then I explained that of course this is not the case, everything that begins to exist must have a cause. “So what do you think is the cause for the big bang and the origin of the universe?”
At least one Sunday a month we have “Come in, go out”-meetings in my house church, where we firstly gather in my living room for some worship, prayer and Bible study, and then we go out on the streets of Uppsala to hand out coffee and evangelize. Yesterday, we had two remarkable encounters during the outreach phase.
A Kurdish man came, received a cup of coffee and then loudly announced “I don’t believe in religion! Not in Islam, Christianity or anything else!” Thinking that this was an atheist, I started to bring up some apologetic arguments for God’s existence, but they fell flat to the ground. “I do believe in a creator! But not in religion! It is impossible for humans to understand God and to have contact with him!”
Oh, so it’s a deist then, I thought. My friend Tryggve and I then started to question him on how the Creator is able to create an entire universe without being able to cure a disease or talk to those that He has created, but our attempts were unsuccesful as the man repeatedly just stated “It’s impossible! It’s impossible! You don’t understand!” I then started to testify about miracles that I have witnessed and how Jesus revealed Himself to me, but I could hardly finish a sentence before the man shouted “No! Those are just illusions! You don’t understand the truth!”
The man furthermore claimed that we all believe what we believe because of our upbringing, whereas I told him about the amazing church growth in Nepal, where millions have converted to Christianity during the last 30 years mainly due to visions, healings, signs and wonders. Again, his response was that it was impossible. I asked him how he knew that it was impossible, and he claimed that “everybody” knew miracles are impossible. When I pointed out that this was a lie since we Christians know that miracles exist, he again said that miracles are impossible and that God does not reveal Himself to people. (more…)
Every weekend, an evangelistic group known as the Pancake Church occupies the central square in the Swedish town of Uppsala to hand out free pancakes and share the Gospel about Jesus. For three years now I have had the privilege of leading this group. We’re not an own, independent church but an evangelistic organization that gathers Christians from different churches who want to share the Gospel in a fun and culturally relevant way to the youths of our town.
I can honestly say that every evening is an amazing evening. We get to speak to so many people, pray for them, discuss God and life with them or sing gospel songs with them. We hang out with the poor and homeless as well as the rich and lonely. And the Holy Spirit is with us. We have seen several healings and conversions during the years, and some who have been saved on the streets join us and helps us to further spread the Kingdom of God!
There are over 20 Pancake Churches in Sweden, connected though the Pancake Church National Organization. We print our own Pancake Bibles (which are normal New Testaments with some testimonies and pictures), t-shirts and organize events and summer tours. A friend from the Jesus Army contacted me and wondered how one organizes a local Pancake Church and what one should think about. So here are my tips: (more…)
The Jesus movement in the 1970’s impacted Sweden quite a lot. Lonnie Frisbee and other American Jesus hippies visited the country, multiple communities called “Jesus houses” sprung up, and Jesus people were evangelizing in the streets and parks. People like Ylva Eggehorn, Stefan Swärd and Ulla Österjö-Jansson arranged Jesus conferences and Jesus marches – no wonder they were called Jesus freaks.
In my hometown of Uppsala, a theology student called Hans Sundberg were impacted by the Jesus movement and started to evangelize. Once, he was sharing the Gospel in the street together with some Christian friends, when an Iranian man who believed in Baha’i started to argue with them. Hans argued back, and their discussion went into sort of a stalemate until Hans’ friend Maria started to speak loudly in tongues. Hans was initially a bit embarrassed (after all, the Bible says that nonbelievers will think that we are lunatics if they hear us speak in tongues (which it is right about)), but he then realized that the Iranian man understood everything Maria said. She was speaking farsi, about how Jesus is the only way to God and salvation. Hans saw prophetically how an arrow came out from Maria’s mouth and gently hit the heart of the Iranian man with peace and eternal life.
Meanwhile, a small Swedish town called Surahammar (which means grumpy hammer) was struck with a youth revival as the Jesus movement came to town. Youths from the local Pentecostal church gathered daily in a bakery to pray, study the Word and then hit the streets to evangelize and heal the sick. One of the kids involved in the revival was Simon Ådahl, who after refusing military service due to theological reasons became a musician and, eventually, a prophetic evangelist. You can read more about him here. (more…)
Who needs buildings when you have homes? Here’s a video I made where I describe why I’m such a passionate promoter for house churches. The seven reasons are the following;
1. They’re biblical – Acts 2:46, 1 Cor 16:19, Col 4:15 and other passages tell us that the early Christians met in homes. The earliest archeologically discovered church, the Dura Europos church, was a house church. In fact, church buildings where people didn’t eat and sleep wasn’t constructed until the late third and early fourth century.
2. They’re utilized – again, people actually eat and sleep there. Most church auditoriums – the big room with a lot of pews – stands empty for the most part of the week. Homes, in contrast, are usually used daily.
3. They’re small – and this is a good thing! 1 Cor 14:26 tells us that everyone attending a church meeting should contribute with something. When was the last time you’ve experienced that? Frankly, you need a small group to have such a wonderful spiritual interaction. (more…)
The Maranata Church in Stockholm is probably the only charismatic church in Sweden that practises community of goods. A month ago when I visited the Jesus Army, one of very few British churches practising community of goods, I got to know two girls from Maranata: Anne-Lie and Elaine Vidén. Up to that point I had thought that no Christian groups in Sweden besides the monasteries had everything in common like the apostolic church in the book of Acts, but the Vidén sisters told me about how they had been living all their life in an extended family community. Yesterday, I paid them a visit.
The Maranata Church runs a hotel called Pilgrim’s Home close to Bromma Airport in Stockholm. Most of the community’s members work in the hotel or in a taxi firm that the church also runs. All the income the businesses generate goes to the account of the church, which pays for food and accommodation for the community’s members. On top of that, they also receive €70 every month to spend on what they want.
This system is very similar to how the Jesus Army works. They also run businesses which generate income to the community, they also pool their income into a common account and they also get pocket money – around 40 pounds a month.
‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Mt 25:35-40)
The New York Times has written about my little country, Sweden, and how we treat poor immigrants from Romania. It’s not a happy read:
From media reports, Expo has counted 77 attacks against beggars in the last 18 months, though charities assume such crime is underreported.
The attacks include one in Malmo, where tents in a Roma camp were set on fire; another in Boras, where a beggar was run over by a moped; and one in Skara, where at least one migrant was hit by a pellet from an air rifle.
I’m very involved in this situation; as I have shared previously I am almost daily helping poor Romanian immigrants. I have started a small organization with some friends to support them and help them to get housing and an income, and I personally know about 100 people in this situation. The hatred and racism that NY Times is reporting about is something I witness all the time, and I’ve had countless discussions with people who are convinced that these extremely poor beggars are rich, criminal liars who should be deported. (more…)