Early Christian Pacifism

Church Fathers

Church Fathers

Christianity is a pacifist religion. Most of the early church fathers wrote that Christians should not kill or join the military, and the idea of “just wars” first developed in the late fourth century, after Constantine’s reforms. The ante-Nicaene church was to a large extent a non-violent church. This was clearly shown already in 1919 when John Cadoux pubished his book The Early Christian Attitude to War, which is now available online. The research has been updated with Ron Sider’s book The Early Church on Killing, which was published last year. But only by looking at quotes from early church fathers, we see that these saints were far from the war-waging right-wing Christians that unfortunately are quite influential in the public debate today:

Justin Martyr wrote in 160 AD:
“We ourselves were well conversant with war, murder, and everything evil, but all of us throughout the whole wide earth have traded in our weapons of war. We have exchanged our swords for ploughshares, our spears for farm tools. Now we cultivate the fear of God, justice, kindness to men, faith, and the expectation of the future given to us by the Father himself through the Crucified One.” (Dialogue with Trypho 110.3.4)

Tatian (dead c. 185), Justin’s disciple, wrote:
“I do not wish to be king, I don’t want to be rich, I reject military service. I hate adultery”(The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Vol. II, reprint 1979, p. 69)

Athenagoras (133-190) wrote:
“What, then, are these teachings in which we are reared? ‘I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven, who makes his sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sends his rain on the just and on the unjust . . . Who [of the pagan philosophers] have so purified their own hearts as to love their enemies instead of hating them; instead of upbraiding those who first insult them (which is certainly more usual), to bless them; and to pray for those who plot against them? . . . With us, on the contrary, you will find unlettered people, tradesmen and old women, who, though unable to express in words the advantages of our teaching, demonstrate by acts the value of their principles. For they do not rehearse speeches, but evidence good deeds. When struck, they do not strike back; when robbed, they do not sue; to those who ask, they give, and they love their neighbours as themselves . . . We . . . cannot endure to see a man being put to death even justly.” (Legatio 11, 34-35 (Athens, 175))

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Violent Persecutions of Christians in Iraq

"N" in Arabic

“N” in Arabic

A number of houses in Mosul, Iraq, have been marked with the letter “N”. All of these houses belongs to Christians, and “N” is the first word in the Arabic word for Christian, “Nasrani”. Together with the symbol there is often also a text stating “Property of the Islamic state”. This is what pre-genocidal persecution looks like.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), also simply known as the Islamic State, is a fundamentalist islamist movement that has been sparked first by the war in Iraq and recently by the Syrian civil war, and that has taken control over a large area in eastern Syria and western Iraq. The movement has an extreme wahhabist interpretation of Islam and uses a lot of violence. It has cooperated with al-Qaeda, but allegedly, al-Qaeda has cut its ties with ISIS because they thought that ISIS was to radical.

Over a month ago, the islamist rebels took control over Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, which lies closely to the ruins of the biblical Nineveh. Christians have been living in this city for at least 1600 years, but now they were subject to severe persecutions. Besides the threatful “N” marks on their houses, ISIS gave them an ultimatum: convert to islam, pay the expensive jizya tax, or die. As a result, thousands of Christians have fled Mosul and are now internally displaced. Several Christians have already been killed.

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The Blind See and the Deaf Hear in Mbeya, Tanzania

Photo: Mission SOS

Photo: Mission SOS

Two friends of mine here in Sweden have studied a year at SOS Mission Bible School, and a few days ago my Facebook feed was filled with testimonies about miracles thay had seen in Mbeya, southwest Tanzania, where they had done a missions trip. Mission SOS have put several videos from this event on their Vimeo, and I would like to share these amazing testimonies with you:

Update 1 Mbeya 2014 from Mission SOS on Vimeo.

First we have an intro video, where the campaign coordinator shares that miracles are taking place even before the campaign has started.

Update 2 Mbeya 2014 from Mission SOS on Vimeo.

Then comes the report from the first night of the campaign, where many were healed and saved. A young girl shares how she prayed for another girl who was totally deaf, and she starts to weep of joy when she explains how she was healed! Continue reading

The Promised Land, part 5: Canaan or Heaven?

The borders of the land of Israel according to Numbers and Ezekiel. From Wikipedia

The borders of the land of Israel according to Numbers and Ezekiel. From Wikipedia

In this fifth part of the Promised Land blog series, we will look at what the Bible really says about the land of Canaan, a.k.a. the Holy Land, a.k.a. Israel/Palestine. Christian Zionists are often convinced that God wants the Jewish people to possess Gaza and the West Bank, since these areas were included in the biblical land of Israel that God gave to the Jewish people. They say that this divine promise is eternal, and that it must be fulfilled before Jesus returns. A few even think that Israel will possess an even greater area, from Egypt to the Euphrates (including Syria, Jordan, Iraq and parts of Saudi Arabia).

This belief is affecting the current conflict in the Middle East in huge ways. Jews and Christians who are convinced that Gaza and the West Bank rightfully belongs to Israel are often skeptical towards a two-state solution, and they do not criticize the Israeli settlements or the occupation and blockade of Palestinian territory. They have strong lobby groups in both Israel and the US, and even though politicians are more pragmatic, it has been shown very clearly that American and Israeli politics have been shaped by these ideas.

Let us look then at what the Bible actually says about this. The land of Canaan is first mentioned in the book of Genesis, when God calls Abram from modern-day Iraq to resettle in the west. “To your offspring I will give this land.” He said (Gen 12:7) In Gen 15:18, He clarifies what land we’re talking about: “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates”, and in 17:8, He clarifies how long this covenant will last – forever! “The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” This promise is later transfered to Jacob, or Israel (Gen 28:3-4). That settles it right? Israel has eternal, divine right to all Palestinian areas, as well as to Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Ka-boom!

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Stephen Sizer on Israel, Palestine and the Bible

Stephen Sizer is one of the most influential critics of Christian Zionism, and he has done some extensive research both on Israel and the holy land in the Old and New Testament, as well as the history of Christian Zionism and the present conflict in the middle east. I can highly recommend his Bible studies and other articles where he effectively challenges Christian Zionism and present an alternative Christian response to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that is based on peacemaking, reconciliation and love for all people.

Stephen Sizer

Stephen Sizer

In this video, Sizer is interviewed by Allan Lee, who is clearly pro-Israel but who tries to hold his arguments back in order to listen to Sizer’s reasoning. I’m very impressed by Sizer in this video, he gives a very balanced, respectful and convincing impression when he argues for peace, justice and a biblical viewpoint on Israel.

When Lee talks about the threat of islamist terrorism, Sizer points out that we should ask ourselves why people become terrorists and argues that if we want a secure and peaceful Israel, we should work for justice for Palestinians. When Lee discusses how several Palestinian leaders haven’t recognized Israel, Sizer agrees with that it’s a problem but points out that Israel has never defined its borders and has not recognized a Palestinian state. And when Lee brings up how Gen 12:3 says ” I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse” as an argument for standing with Israel, Sizer points out that those words were to Abraham, and according to Gal 3:16, it’s fulfilled not many people but in Christ.

In a time when many Christians are eager to support everything Israel does due to bad theology, Sizer’s input is very welcome to the debate, and I hope this video can convince some Christians to be more balanced, biblical and peaceful when it comes to Israel and Palestine.

The Idea of the Sinless Israel

Israeli propaganda, describing themselves as protecting civilians while Hamas use them as human shields

Israeli propaganda, describing themselves as protecting civilians while Hamas use them as human shields

As the conflict in Israel and Gaza is going on, conservative Christian friends of mine are posting videos and images that tell the message that everything is Hamas fault while Israel only defends itself, that Hamas wants to kill civilians and use them as human shields while Israel actively tries to avoid hurting civilians, that Hamas wants war while Israel wants peace, that Hamas is evil while Israel is good. Over and over again I hear that if Hamas lays down its weapons, there will be peace, but if Israel does it all Israelis will be killed. One Christian friend told me that Israel is righteous while Hamas has a demonic, Nazi spirit.

Now, there are indeed big differences between Hamas and Israel. Hamas is a fundamentalist organization where there is a lot of antisemitism and hatred, and they do indeed target civilians and use them as human shields. But to blame everything on them and nothing on Israel, is not a true portrait of reality. Israel has done attrocities (for example, the use of human shields) and many of them are on a structural level: the settlements, not letting enough goods through to Gaza in order to stop the humanitarian crisis, breaking international humanitarian law over and over again, etc.

And in the conflict, it is the Palestinians that suffer and die the most. People that are pro-Israel often point out how many rockets Hamas is firing into Israel, but they are often quite silent about the fact that very few die from them. During operation Cast Lead in 2009, 1391 Palestinians died and 5 Israelis. More than half of the killed Palestinians were civilians, while all five of the killed Israelis were soldiers. In the current conflict between Hamas and Israel, over 100 Palestinians have died and 77% of them are civilians. Continue reading

Treat Hamas with Social Justice, not Bombs

image

A bomb is exploding in Gaza

Once again, conflict is escalating between Israel and Gaza, and once again, Christians are blessing Israel and ignoring the suffering of Palestinians. My heart breaks when I look at Christians United for Israel’s Facebook page: while they pray for, bless and worry for Israeli victims of Palestinian terror attacks, which is great, there is no sympathy at all for Palestinian victims of Israeli bombings. There is great alarm about the rockets that Hamas fires at Israeli cities, which yet have not killed anyone in the current conflict, while the 70+ Palestinians that have died (including at least eight children) aren’t even mentioned!

Don’t get me wrong, what Hamas is doing is totally unacceptable and we need to pray and act for them to stop. But killing people is not the best way to stop them. It didn’t work in 2012, it won’t work know. When Hamas sees that Israel kills children, they won’t feel less keen to fire their rockets. Violence is a very bad way to end violence, Jesus taught us to love our enemies, do good to them and fight evil with love.

The best way to stop the conflict between Israel and Palestine is through social justice and economic equality. The relationship between Israel and Palestine is very unequal: Palestinians are poorer, live shorter, have worse health care, own less land and suffer more than Israelis. Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian crisis while Israel is enjoying Western standards. And much more Palestinians die in the conflict compared to Israelis.
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Cross My Heart and Hope…

An awesome article from Jesus Army’s Streetpaper.

The Jesus Army's famous red crosses

The Jesus Army’s famous red crosses

You can’t get away from it. It’s everywhere.

The cross.

In homes, in films, in paintings, in pop videos. Worn as an earring, on a necklace. Stitched or studded onto leather or denim. Tattooed onto skin…

What would Coca Cola or McDonalds give to own a symbol that millions wear round their necks every day?

The cross is the universal Christian symbol, acknowledged by millions of Christians everywhere as the single visual sign of their faith.

Which is weird, isn’t it? Because the cross was originally a symbol of suffering and defeat. The Roman Empire killed thousands of its enemies by nailing them to wooden crosses.

It’s like wearing a gibbet round your neck. Or hanging a little golden lethal injection from your necklace.

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Marc Dupont’s First Creative Miracle

Marc Dupont preaching in Stockholm

Marc Dupont preaching in Stockholm

My post about creative miracles has been very popular, mainly because it’s one of the top pages on Google when you search for “creative miracles”. A creative miracle is simply a miracle when God creates something, for example a missing bodypart. In the post, I shared Marc Dupont’s testimony about a creative miracle he saw in the 80′s:

A woman brought her young son, who had a clubfoot, to me for prayer at the end of a meeting. In fact, it was the last of four nightly meetings held while I was visiting a church in the mid-west of the United States. After four nights of extensive ministry I was very tired. So when she showed me his foot with the obvious deformity, my tiredness took over and I felt no faith whatsoever to pray for this five- or six-year-old boy.

As she explained that he could walk OK, but had never been able to run successfully in his life, my heart went out to him, but I still felt my tiredness upon me. To step into a faith mode and believe for the impossible seemed even more impossible at that point in time.

However, as I knelt down and began to pray for his foot, almost immediately right in front of my eyes it began to change shape. What had, more or less, appeared as a block of wood covered by skin began to change into a normal foot with toes, an arch etc, all in normal size and shape. It had taken place so quickly that I was a bit dizzy. I wasn’t sure whether I was actually seeing a miracle happen, or was imagining it. It took all about five seconds for the transition to take place.

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Glory Report from Iris Global in Mozambique

Iris Global is the best missionary organization I know of – they combine evangelism, poverty reduction and the power of the Holy Spirit, all soaked in worship and passion for Jesus. Last weekend they did an outreach in the “bush bush” (i.e. very rural place) of Mozambique to share the love of God – and it was truly a success. I follow Heidi Baker, the leader of Iris, closely on Facebook and found that she posted these amazing pictures:

“Pointing out scripture to a village chief and his mother. They both came to Jesus that day…..”

“Baptizing people in the ocean this afternoon near a remote village that never had a gospel witness before today…”

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Book Review: Pilgrims of a Common Life by Trevor J. Saxby

PilgrimsFor a long time, I didn’t want to read non-biblical Christian books. I thought that most of the time they were actually diluting the radical teachings of Jesus (and quite frankly I still think this is the case). But I discovered that there are two areas where I get very equipped by Christian litterature, namely church history and testimonies. This has helped me a lot both when I pursue signs and wonders, evangelize and work for peace and justice. I want to share with you some books that really has inspired me a lot and that I highly recommend. First out is Pilgrims of a Common Life: Christian Community of Goods Through the Centuries by Trevor J. Saxby.

Saxby has been a part of the Jesus Fellowship Church, or the Jesus Army, in the United Kingdoms since its beginning in the 70′s. The Jesus Army was the main fruit of the charismatic revival among hippies in the UK and they practiced community of goods, something Saxby was very attracted by. He doctored at Oxford in church history, writing his thesis about community of goods. In Pilgrims of a Common Life, he shows how community of goods has been practiced in all of church history in many different cultures, countries and churches.

In the first three chapters, Saxby effectively challenges the popular misconception that the apostolic church of Jerusalem was the only one practicing community of goods and that it was an exception rather than an example. He shows that community of goods is the logical consequence to the economic teachings of Jesus, he points at the fact that Jesus Himself practiced community of goods with His disciples, and he also looks at the cultural and historical context and shows how community of goods was not a foreign idea in first century Israel – the essenes practiced it and it was supported by both Greek and Jewish morals.
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Why Do I Call Myself a Jesus “Hippie”?

I took this photo just a week ago when me and some friends were preparing some evangelism at a music festival. See what we look like?

I took this photo just a week ago when me and some friends were preparing some evangelism at a music festival. See what we look like?

Hippies aren’t always popular among evangelical Christians. Mark Driscoll has famously said: “Some emergent types want to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. [...] I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” I do agree that Jesus wouldn’t shop shoes or be a Buddhist, but He surely would be able to beat up. In fact, that’s what they actually did with Him on Easter.

The hippie movement emerged in the 60′s and 70′s in the United States and spread quickly to Europe and other parts of the world. It was a youth movement with international influences that emphasized love, peace and understanding, freedom and environmentalism, music, sex and drugs. It was influenced by eastern religions and sparked both new age occultism and the sexual revolution. These latter bits make it understandable why Dricoll doesn’t like hippies very much.

However, in the early 70′s thousands of hippies were saved in what is simply called the Jesus Movement, or the Jesus People Revival. They protested against both drugs and occultism, saying that we should “get high on Jesus” and be baptized in the Holy Spirit instead, but they preserved the hippie passion for peace, justice and a simple lifestyle. Over 100 000 Jesus hippies lived together in communal houses, they were preaching the Gospel in the streets and on the beaches, and many miracles happened as they prayed for the sick and prophesied.

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Healings and Salvations in Kitwe, Zambia

I love to read reports about evangelistic campaigns in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and just two weeks ago my Facebook feed was filled with testimonies from my Facebook friend Tommy Lilja who organized a campaign in Kitwe, Zambia. Many were saved, healed and baptized with the Holy Spirit. Here is what he reported (translated from Swedish):

Resting after having eaten some french fries. A good first night. A little bit chilly. Many healings. A man around 25 years old had been blind since he was 10, he was healed, another young man shared how his ear “popped” when it opened and he received his hearing again.

Thousands came to receive Jesus. So many were baptized in the Holy Ghost, a real breakthrough. It was a life-changing meeting. Many came broken, sick and without hope. But they went home with Jesus and hope for a bright future. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was there and the Pentecostal revival is spreading across the world.

“At the cross the work was finished
You were buried in the ground
But the grave could not contain You
For You wear the Victor’s crown”
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Walking on Water

I was perplexed when I read the Gospel of Matthew for the first time and saw that Peter walked on water. I could not have imagined that in my wildest dreams. In all the children’s bibles and pop culture references I’ve read and heard, Jesus was portraid as the superhero who could even walk on water. But in reality, Peter also did this miracle, without being very super:

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” – Matthew 14:25-33, NIV

Now, Peter shows some amazing faith and courage here! I mean, I would have been fully satisfied with Jesus’ answer “It is I. Don’t be afraid” and said “Awesome, welcome into our boat.” Instead, Peter loves Jesus so much that he wants to join him on the stormy ways, as long as he knows that it truly is Him.
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Justice: Same for All, Reward for Work or Something Else?

You rarely find someone who says that s/he is against justice, but you do find a lot of different definitions of justice. Here are five definitions of economic justice, together with my comments on which is the best from a Christian perspective:

1. Same for All

This is the idea that in a just and equal world, everybody has the exact same amount of money. There are hints towards this perspective in Lk 3:11 and 2 Cor. 8:13-15. However, this definition has received a lot of criticism simply because different people have different needs – people in poor countries without social safety nets need more money than people in rich countries, for example. This why not so many actually agree with this definition, even if we who try to promote equality are often accused of this while we really mean definition no. 3:

2. According to our needs

This is how the early church viewed economic justice: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2:44-45) We can also see this in Ex. 16 where the people collect heavenly bread every day, and since the greedy are unable to store up a lot for themselves, everyone are able to collect what their family needs for that particular day. The socialist motto “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is based on the same line of thinking, but it was a biblical idea long before Marx was even born.

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