Pope Francis’ View on Miracles

Pope Francis blesses a sick man, right before praying an exorcist prayer

Pope Francis blesses a sick man, right before praying an exorcist prayer

As you may know, I’m writing a thesis in systematic theology about belief in miracles according to three church leaders: Surprise Sithole, K.G. Hammar and pope Francis. This is what I’ve found concerning the pope’s view on miracles:

Jose Mario Bergoglio, who would become Pope Francis, was born in in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1936. After a brief career as a chemical technician and a bar bouncer, he studied theology to become a Jesuit and a priest. In 1992 he became bishop of Buenos Aires and in 1998 archbishop of the same. He became known for his care for the poor and marginalised and was called “bishop of the slums”.

In Latin America, the charismatic movement is growing fast, both outside and inside the Catholic church. After Bergoglio became a pope, he would reveal how his view of the charismatic movement changed during the 80’s and 90’s, from skeptical to welcoming:

I’ll tell you something about the Charismatic Movement … at the end of the ’70s and in the ’80s, I wasn’t a big fan. I used to say they confused the holy liturgy with a school of samba. I was converted when I got to know them better and saw the good they do. In this moment of the life of the church, the movements are necessary. They’re a grace of the Spirit, and in general, they do much good for the church. The charismatic renewal movement isn’t just about winning back a few Pentecostals, but it serves the church and its renewal.

In 1996 to 1999, bishop Bergoglio was involved in the process of verifying a eucharistic miracle, where a host had allegedly turned into a piece of flesh in a church in central Buenos Aires. According to an article in Catholic magazine Love One Another, Bergoglio ordered that the host should be photographed and scientifically analyzed. The article says that Dr. Ricardo Castanón sent it for analysis in New York, and he was told that the substance was a fine slice of a heart muscle. Dr Castanon speak about this himself in a video that can be found on YouTube:

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Did Yasser Arafat Become a Christian Before He Died?

Yasser Arafat

Yasser Arafat

RT Kendall, a preacher known for his zeal to combine evangelical and charismatic Christianity, says in an interview that he wouldn’t be surprised if he met Palestinian freedom fighter/terrorist Yasser Arafat in Heaven. In fact, he has met him here on earth five times, bringing him closer and closer to Jesus. Premier reports:

The first time RT Kendall was granted rare access to Arafat,the Christian writer and speaker told him he had prayed for him every day for 20 years. According to Kendall, the 20-minute appointment turned into an hour and 45 minutes, and an unlikely friendship began.

The third time Kendall visited Arafat, the pair watched The Passion of the Christ together, along with 30 members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Arafat wept during the viewing and allowed Kendall to pray for him at the end. During each of his five visits, Kendall was able to speak to Arafat about Jesus’ death and resurrection, and of how to accept Christ.

Kendall says that, despite Arafat’s translator attempting to intervene, the Arab leader was determined to hear more about Jesus and the gospel.

Now, there are no evidence that Arafat ever became a Christian. Of course, even if he did convert there are tons of reasons why he and PLO would keep silent about it. Kendall doesn’t say he know that Arafat received Jesus, but he “wouldn’t be surprised” if he did. And this is primarily because of two prophetic visions (I told you he’s charismatic!): Continue reading

Theology of Miracles in the History of the Church

Francis of Assisi casts out demons from a city

Francis of Assisi casts out demons from a city

I’m writing a minor thesis about belief in miracles, where I compare a charismatic, Lutheran and Catholic church leader (namely Surprise Sithole, Swedish Archbishop Emeritus KG Hammar, and Pope Francis). This is and extract from the theoretical background:

Theology of Miracles in Church History

The New Testament describes how both Jesus and his disciples experienced “wonders” (Greek: τέρας) and “works of power” (δύναμις), such as healings of blindness and deafness, casting out demons, hearing the audible voice of God and raising the dead. These were not new claims in the Jewish culture, since the Old Testament talks about “wonders” (Hebrew: פֶ֑לֶא) like parting the red sea, healing the sick and raising the dead (Ps 77:14, Ex 13:17ff., 1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 5). The apostle Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit bestows miraculous gifts to all believers (together with non-supernatural gifts like wisdom or faith), and encouraged his readers to seek such gifts together with love (1 Cor. 12:4-14:1).

Fathers in the early church believed that miracles were possible, and many argued that they or their church members had experienced them. Justin Martyr argued that the prophetical gift had remained with the church to his day, and that “numberless” persons plagued by demons had been healed by Christian exorcists (II Apol. 6, Tryph. 82). Origen made parallels between the miracles of the Bible and Christians of his day who “expel evil spirits, and perform many cures, and foresee certain events” (Cels. 1.46). Similar claims were made by many other church fathers.[1]

The great African theologian Augustine was the first to argue that one of the miraculous gifts had ceased, namely xenolalia – to be able to speak an existing language one has never studied like the early disciples did on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4-12). Augustine did however argue that other Biblical miracles were still happening in his days, in his City of God he gives numerous examples of people being healed from blindness, breast cancer, paralysis, demonic possession and other torments, and he gives four examples of Christians in the area who were raised from the dead (City of God 22.8). Augustine argued that miracles are not contrary to nature, but what we know as nature – hence he did not want to differentiate between the natural and supernatural (City of God 21.8). Continue reading

Scientists, Journalists, and Doctors on Healing

I’m currently writing on a minor thesis in systematic theology on belief in miracles. I will compare Pentecostal pastor Surprise Sithole in South Africa, former arch bishop of the Swedish Lutheran Church KG Hammar, and pope Francis. One of the books I’m reading as a background for my study is Craig Keener’s excellent Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. For the thesis, I’m mainly interested in his church historical and philosophical chapters, but for my life I’m interested in every single page of this 900-page book. Here’s a very interesting excerpt from Chapter 11: Supernatural Claims in the Recent West:

Scientist, Journalists and Doctors

John Polkinghorne, the scientist-theologian noted in chapter 5, reports a woman whose left leg was paralyzed from an injury. Her doctors had given up trying to do more for her, indicating that she would remain an invalid for life. In 1980, she reluctantly and without any positive expectation agreed to meet with a priest conducting a healing meeting. On their second meeting, she had a mystical vision in which she was commanded to arise and walk. “From that moment she was able to walk, jump and bend down, completely without pain. Her husband, an orthopaedic charge nurse, on examining his wife, found that a large ulcer, which he had been dressing, had also healed spontaneously.” Polkinghorne concludes that one may think what one will, but the account “cannot simply be dismissed on a priori grounds as not having possibly happened.”

Others have collected further claims, and some have investigated them. As in Jamie Buckingham’s supportive follow-up of claims involving one ministry (see below), some popular authors have investigated some of the claims available to them. For example, one investigative reporter for the Eire Daily Times recounts that he did follow up and confirm numerous reports of healings, as well as debunking some others. Some of the confirmed cases were instant and dramatic answers to prayer, and some involved cures never attested as occurring apart from claims of miraculous intervention. Some other investigators have gone further.

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Irenaeus of Lyons (120-202) on the Miraculous Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Irenaeus

Irenaeus

As I mentioned last week I’m reading Jeff Doles’ Miracles and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the History of the Church, and it’s amazing to see what God has been doing continously in His church throughout world history. The book is basically only made up by quotes from older works, and it gives clear proof that cessationism – the idea that miraculous spiritual gifts ceased with the apostles – hardly existed before Luther and Calvin. For example, take a look at what Irenaeus of Lyon, the second century bishop who was a disciple to Polycarp – who in turn was a disciple of John the evangelist – says concering miraculous gifts when he refuted the Gnostics in his famous work Against Heresies:

“Those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform [miracles], so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole.

Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and which she exerts day by day for the benefit of the Gentiles, neither practising deception upon any, nor taking any reward from them* [on account of such miraculous interpositions]. For as she has received freely from God, freely also does she minister [to others]**. (Against Heresies, book 2, chapter 32, section 4)

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Three Awesome Books on Wealth, Miracles and Community of Goods

three awesome books

I got three amazing books in my hand that I can’t wait to read! Let me introduce them to you:

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity by Ron Sider

Being one of the most popular books during the Jesus Movement in the 70′s, and according to Christianity Today, it’s the seventh most influential book that have shaped evangelicals. Sider goes against the commonly held view that it’s absolutely fine for Christians to be rich while thousands of people are starving to death, using Bible study, statistics on economic inequality and examples of radical Christian groups that have taken the economic teachings of Jesus seriously. Sider’s ideas are very similar to those I express in my series God vs Wealth, but to this point I have actually never read him – I got my ideas directly from the Bible.

A reader called Kelly writes on GoodReads:

“I was really floored by this book. The author first presents some startling and informative statistics on world hunger and poverty, where we have been and what is projected. Then he talks about God’s intense love for the poor, and that if we want to “be imitators of God” we must as Christians learn to share in that love. I left this book really wanting to do more to make a difference… even with specific ideas how! The best thing about this book was also the worst thing – sooo much information. Never before have a seen a pastor… talk so intelligently about ALL facets of poverty. Politics, economics, environment, sociology, religion – these topics were all included in great detail and from a Christian perspective. I have not seen anything more complete out there. That said, it was also very overwhelming (as it probably should be).”

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Revival Report from Maramba Healing Campaign, Zambia

10380743_10152465131196785_4340425607818732265_n Cristopher Alam is a Pakistani-Swedish-American evangelist who is travelling around in Africa and Asia to preach the Gospel, heal the sick and cast out demons. He prioritizes to minister to the poor, and just the other day he wrote on his Facebook page about simple lifestyle:

“Wise Words from the Apostle Paul:

Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. 1 Tim 6:5-12″

Just recently, Alam has been on a healing and Gospel campaign in Maramba, Zambia, and experienced countless miracles and salvations. Here is an excerpt of all the images and texts he published on Facebook:

10405285_10152464208866785_9198923058727630022_n

Maramba, Livingstone, ZAMBIA. Our Gospel Crusade here began tonight. A large crowd came out to hear the Gospel preached. Thousands responded to the altar call to receive Jesus and then many were healed….. A girl who was deaf since she was a baby received perfect hearing. Another girl who had badly blurred vision was received perfect sight. Others were healed in their legs ad different parts of their bodies. Demon possessed people were set free.

All Glory to our Lord Jesus! This was our first night. Let us join together in faith for great things from God during the rest of this week! Continue reading

Movie Review: Holy Ghost

There are three things that basically all Christian youths I know of here in Sweden are aware of: Hillsong music, Shane Claiborne’s books, and Darren Wilson’s F-movie trilogy: Finger of God, Furious Love and Father of Lights. These charismatic documentaries are extremely popular among the kids I hang around with, I have seen them all and love them. Finger of God focused on amazing miracles like manna appearing from thin air and dead people being raised, Furious Love focused on exorcism and bringing the love of God to the darkest places, and Father of Lights focused on the heart and nature of the heavenly Father and how His supernatural actions bring people to faith in Him. Two days ago, Darren Wilson released a new documentary in the same style and format: Holy Ghost.

The concept is simple: no script, no plans, just going wherever the Spirit leads. Wilson and his team travels to the Mormons in Salt Lake City, the Hindus in Varenasi and the wealthy in Monte Carlo to see what the Holy Spirit will do. Without spoiling too much, I can reveal that you will witness some really crazy stuff – countless salvations, healings and prophetic foretellings. One of my favourite moments was when two street healing evangelists recieved tons of words of knowledge about a guy in Salt Lake City – sharp, specific bits of information concerning his problems – and he got healed from a ten-year-old injury as well!

The film discusses the nature, character and role of the Holy Spirit, cessationism and the Western split between the Word and the Spirit (which from a Swedish perspective is quite unusual, here the split is rather between Christians who believe in both the Word and the Spirit and Christians who believe in neither), and how Christian culture and art must be less cowardly and dare to be real and wild. One of the most memorable parts of the film is when the documentary crew follows Head and Fieldy from the metal band Korn together with street healing evangelist Todd White, as they pray for people who are entering the Korn concert.

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TESTIMONIES – live performance at the Uttini Festival

A few months ago me and my friends Andreas and Sandra were invited to a local music festival to sing a few songs about the Jesus Revolution. TESTIMONIES was the first song we sang, and it’s the first one in our – God-willing – coming album. You can listen to and download it on Soundcloud.

testimonies no eyesNow here’s some testimonies that will fill you all with awe
‘Cause nothing is impossible for the almighty God
The testimonies are a sign of His amazing grace
Let’s turn to Mr Hip-hopper and listen to what he says.

There’s no wonder-worker like Jesus Christ
He gave sight to the blind and turned water to wine
Five breads were sufficient for five thousand guys
When He was crucified, He just went alive

He taught His disciples to do the same
To cast out demons and heal the lame
To prophesy, speak in tongues and life proclaim
They could even raise the dead in His holy Name

TESTIMONIES!
The dynamic living witness of the power of the Holy Spirit
TESTIMONIES!
Gotta love em keep em spread them on

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The Supernaturalist and Naturalist Worldviews

I couldn’t help but notice that when I had written about my friend Simon Adahl and all the miracles he is experiencing, and the post was share within the MennoNerds network that I am a part of, a brother who has studied theology and is a part of a Mennonite church asked why MennoNerds was sharing stuff like that (“reading it is a waste of time”). I understand that people who have not met Simon or others who experience the power of the Holy Spirit can have a hard time trusting them, but to me it’s very strange for a Christian to think it’s waste of time to read testimonies about miracles. After all, that’s basically what the four gospels are all about.

I won’t speculate in how this individual was thinking, but generally a lot of Christians are impacted by the naturalist worldview that has been quite dominating in Western society for the last two hundred years. Even though it is clearly non-Christian in its reasoning, it has impacted especially academic theology but also “liberal” churches that do not have much charismatic, Spirit-filled life. The consequences is a type of Christianity that is extremely different from the original, biblical Christianity.

In May this year, I had to privilege of holding a lecture at a Christian student organization in my home town of Uppsala, Sweden. I spoke about the supernatural worldview that has been dominating most cultures throughout world history and that most people still believe in today, but that has been challanged in recent years, especially in the Western world, by naturalism. Naturalism is, according to Oxford English Dictionary, “the idea or belief that only laws of nature (physical law) (as opposed to supernatural or spiritual) and forces operate in the world; the idea or belief that nothing exists beyond the natural world.”

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“Is He a Medium?” “No, He’s a Christian”

Simon Adahl

Simon Adahl

A few days ago I attended a meeting with Simon Adahl, a musician and evangelist that has experienced many miracles. I have already written about how he was saved after his atheist wife saw the apostle Matthew, and how he and his friend Orjan prophesied in a Californian bar and told people stuff about them that they heard from God, which resulted in that four people received Jesus. Let me share with you some other cool things that they have experienced.

Simon loves missions, and when he attends the big Pentecostal conferences here in Sweden he is usually not on the platforms bragging about all the cool miracles he experiences, instead he is sitting in a booth marketing IBRA, a Swedish media missions organization, or Dagen, the biggest Christian newspaper. But of course, the Holy Spirit is active even when you’re not on a platform (thank God). This summer, a lady came to Simon and said that she had been healed from asthma.

“That’s great!” Simon said. “When did that happen?” “Two years ago, in the chair over there”, the lady responded and pointed inside Simon’s booth. This lady had been suffering from severe asthma since she was a little child, and had been using inhalers every night. She said that since the moment she was prayed for in the booth, all asthma disappeared and she hadn’t had a need for inhalers for two years.

Orjan was also at the meeting and he told us about how he and his wife went with Simon and his wife together with some friends from church on a holiday on a ferry to Finland. They were dancing at a club and when they sat down to have something to eat, they sat right by a man they hadn’t met before, who introduced himself as Peter. Orjan felt the Spirit of the Lord coming upon him and he told Peter “Right now, God is renewing your life!” And he commanded him to prophesy over them.

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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

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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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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