The Assemblies of God (AoG), the biggest Pentecostal denomination in the US, has famously argued that it is impossible for Christians to be possessed; no one who has received the Holy Spirit, they say, can be overtaken by demonic forces. This differs from the view shared by many neo-Pentecostals, charismatics, Catholics as well as many Pentecostals in the majority world (Asia, Africa and Latin America), who all say that Christians might actually become demonized.
When John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement, was asked if he believed that Christians could have demons, he provokingly replied “Well yeah, I’ve cast them out of pastors!” His wife Carol wrote in her biography about her husband something like: “When we encountered a demon, we simply cast it out – without checking baptismal records. What else could we do? Wait until they become Hindus and then cast them out?”
Now, AoG-folks and like-minded may object that such allegorical evidence does not mean much compared to arguments from Scripture. Which is generally true, although in this particular case the usual claim concerning extra-Biblical supernatural phenomena – it’s a demonic deception! – is quite counterproductive. But the Bible is always important in theological matters, so let’s have a look. (more…)
When (rich) Christians defend mammonism, the idea that Christians may or should be rich, they often include arguments that aren’t necessarily based on Bible study – such as the arguments I discuss in my God vs Wealth series – but rather in philosophy or economics. These are the sorts of arguments I tackle in my Why Wealth is Wrong series. You can also read my discussions on the economic argument and the mathematical argument.
The Bill Gates argument for why it’s OK to be rich is a variant of the mathematical argument that involves billionaires. Look at Bill Gates, the mammonist says, he’s so generous! He has his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that does so much good for the world’s poor. This is because Gates is the richest man in the world, with his net worth of 75 billion US dollars. His abundant wealth allows him to be abundantly generous, and thus he as a rich man should not be condemned but celebrated both for his skills in computer invention and business, and his philanthropy.
The problem with the argument is that it tries to eat the cake and give it away at the same time: wealth is good, because you can give it away. This is the same error as the mathematical argument makes. Saying that wealth is good because billionaires can give lots of money to the poor, is like saying that it’s good to be fat because then you can lose a lot of weight. It’s trying to rationalize a phenomena by arguing that you can get away from it. (more…)
Today is a historic day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Global Goals for sustainable development just a few hours ago. These goals are sort of a sequel to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which has been surprisingly successful in making the world a better place: extreme poverty has been cut in half, hunger too, more children go to school, less women and babies die in childbirth, and people live longer. Praise God! John Green, educated Youtuber and a Christian, explains briefly the achievements of the MDGs in this video:
The Global Goals step things up a bit though; the new ambition is to totally eliminate extreme poverty by 2030 and also make sure that nobody goes hungry. Other goals (there are 17 of them) include global gender equality with no more discrimination against women anywhere, reduced economic inequality, reasonable consumption, action against climate change and environmental pollution, etc.
Should Christians support the Global Goals? Duh, obviously. Helping the poor and caring for God’s creation is extremely Biblical, isn’t it? Well, some brothers and sisters do object against the goals in general and the first one about ending poverty in particular. The general critique against goals like this is that we should not imagine ourselves being able to turn this world into a paradise, since all men are sinful (Rom 3:23) and the Kingdom of God is not of this world (Jn 18:34). The particular critique against the idea of ending poverty is that Jesus actually said:
The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. (Mark 14:7)
When the Lord miraculously helped an Israelite woman named Hannah to bear a child, she praised Him in a prayer that is recorded in 1 Samuel 2. It says, among other things: “The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.” (v. 7) Like basically every Bible verse ever, it has often been taken out of context to be used as a proof text for people’s personal views. In this case, it has been argued that 1 Sam 2 divinely sanctions the poverty of the poor and the wealth of the rich, as well as promoting fatalism. I’ve heard several times “It’s not wrong to be rich, it says that the Lord sends wealth”, and sometimes also “It’s useless to fight poverty, it says that the Lord sends it.”
Here’s a radical idea: Let’s look at the context! Hannah says in verses 4 and 5: “The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away.”
Thus, Hannah argues that there is a transition of fairness at work, where the first will be last and the last will be first. And who’s responsible for this?
An amazing response to people who are anti-immigration and claim to follow Jesus at the same time.
Originally posted on Rumblings:
I have a bone to pick with Christians this morning. Not allChristians. Not even themajorityof Christians in my (limited) circles. Not by a long shot. No, my concernis with a smaller subset of Christians that tend to make a disproportionate amount of noise. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of conversations with Christian people about the Syrian refugee crisis. I’ve observed a lot of reaction and response from Christian people online. And I’ve noticed some of these Christian brothers and sisters buying into thefear and the hysteria that attempts to convince us that we need to keep our nation’s doors resolutely closed to refugees from this part of the world.
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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.
There are many problems with the dualist expressions “conservative” and “progressive”, and this political discourse should be left out of the church altogether.
As you may know I’m part of a vlog series hosted by MennoNerds, and about two weeks ago I responded to a question in our MennoNerds Facebook group on why some Bible-believing Christians support Donald Trump. My answer was that such Christians are similar to pharisees; paying attention to some Bible passages but not those which emphasize love and giving money away.
In the vlog discussion that followed we criticized “conservative Christianity” from various perspectives: its openness to racism and sexism, its stubbornness and judgmental attitude – all which are valid to a large extent. However, Darnell Barkman pointed out the risk of “othering” conservative Christians. And this got me thinking about why we use this political discourse – conservative, progressive, liberal etc. – when it comes to us Christians. So in my new vlog I argue that Christians should neither be conservative nor progressive:
William Lane Craig is in my view a very good Christian apologist and philosopher, and I regularly listen to his Reasonable Faith podcast. Even though I think he could use some more revival fires and hands-on mission work in the dirt, his intellectual defense for the Christian faith has undoubtedly helped many and led several people to the Lord. In a recent podcast, Craig and Kevin Harris discussed miracles and whether it is rational to believe in these. As a charismactivist, I find the topic highly interesting.
There are many different forms of philosophical and theological objections against the existence of miracles that all are quite easy to respond to. Cessationism is a Christian view which says that miracles did exist in the times of the Bible but then ceased when the Bible was written; ironically, this idea is not found in the Bible. Naturalism is the idea that the supernatural – obviously including miracles – does not exist, but this cannot be proven just as atheism cannot be proven. In fact, as long as the existence of God is not disproven and thus possible, it is entirely possible that miracles exist, as Craig points out in this short video:
In the podcast, Craig and Harris discussed another form of objections against miracles that is quite unique. Philosopher Hans Halvorson has argued that under no circumstances should one believe that a miracle occurs today: “for any event you experience in your life, no matter how strange, surprising, or wonderful, you should not believe that it is a miracle. Similarly, if somebody tells you that a miracle occurred, you should not believe him.” Yet, he also says “it can be rational to believe in the miracle stories of the Bible—because the miracle stories in the Bible are relevantly different than the purported miracles of today.” This is some kind of secular cessationism – miracles don’t happen today, but it’s possible to believe in Biblical miracles because they’re different.
Listen to Craig’s and Harris’ response to Halvorson’s article below:
Earlier this summer when I was preparing my lecture Jesus vs Xenohpobia, I went to my favourite Bible study site biblehub.com and searched the Scriptures for the word “refugee”. Two passages touched me in a special way, both being from prophet Isaiah’s book.
Isaiah 16:3-4 says: “Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees. Let the Moabite fugitives stay with you; be their shelter from the destroyer.” This is in the middle of a prophecy against Moab, that warns the kingdom for an upcoming disaster. In the previous chapter, God says: “My heart cries out over Moab; her fugitives flee as far as Zoar, as far as Eglath Shelishiyah. They go up the hill to Luhith, weeping as they go; on the road to Horonaim they lament their destruction.” (Is 15:5).
It is thus clear that even though this catastrophe is described as being the result of God’s judgment due to the idolatry of the Moabite people, He still cares for them and wants people to give them shelter from the ones who destroy them. Even people who do not worship the Lord still deserves love, care and humanitarian aid. (more…)
The Mediterranean genocide is nothing new , over 25,000 people have drowned when they have tried to cross the sea to reach Europe during the last 20 years. European politicians have known about this problem for centuries, yet it is still ongoing. The reason for this is that they simply want it to be like this: they are stuck between being insanely evil or sacrificially merciful, and then they chose a deadly middle-way instead. That’s why Syrian children die in Mare Nostrum: it’s because of politics.
First of all, why do refugees die in the Mediterranean? It’s because they travel with extremely fragile boats provided by smugglers. These crooks usually demand lots of money – often around 1,000 euros and sometimes even as much as 10,000 euros. So why don’t the refugees fly with airplanes? Well, because they aren’t allowed to. As professor Hans Rosling explains in the video above, an EU directive has made sure that airlines must pay the costs of all immigrants who aren’t refugees and therefore are to be deported. Since no airline wants to take the risk of paying these costs, they simply deny all people from developing countries that don’t have a visa, entrance to their planes. And visas aren’t granted to refugees.
This is why all refugees must enter the EU illegally, on dangerous boat rides across the Mediterranean or inside trucks from Turkey to Greece. It’s illegal because there is no single way for them to enter legally. Still, since refugees must be granted asylum according to UN conventions that European countries have signed as well as EU:s own decisions, many who do enter a EU country will be granted asylum, and then suddenly become a legal immigrant. Pretty messed up system, isn’t it?
Yesterday I met a very friendly brother from England, Mike O’Leary, who is in Sweden for two weeks on a short missions trip. We’ve been in contact for at least a year on social media, and it’s evident that he’s on fire for Jesus. Yesterday when we went back to my place for some tea (my experiences from the Jesus Army has taught me that Brits like that drink), I asked him something that I often try to ask brothers and sisters I don’t know well: how did you became a Christian? His story was truly amazing, and I asked him if I could record it when we got home:
Mike used to be an atheist who found belief in God ridiculous. As he says in the video, he loved to debate with theists and show them how wrong they were. However, in 2007 he heard the external, audible voice of God three times, saying “Follow Me”, when he was out in his garden. That changed things.
We have this wonderful little missions organization in Sweden called Go Out Mission, which regularly organizes evangelistic campaigns in Africa and Asia. The following report is from one of their local leaders, Oury Sow, who shares about a campaign they recently had in Guinea-Bissau, where the lame walked, the blind saw and Muslim leaders gave their lives to Christ. Here’s his report, translated to English:
First, we had the opportunity to hold a campaign in a small town inside the country. Already at the first evening there was about 1,500 people gathered during the sermon, and during prayer it increased to about 2500 people. 300 responded to salvation when I made the call, and after we prayed for the sick was three people who had the courage to come up to the stage to testify. A Muslim man from Gambia contacted me after the meeting and told me that he had come to Guinea-Bissau in order to get money, but now he said: “I have found Jesus instead and I feel so rich!”
The campaign continued to grow; many children were there early and were quick to the scene to respond to the invitation. A little girl who was now five years old had been born both deaf and dumb, but after prayer she both heard and she spoke her first words in life! What joy for the mother to hear her daughter say her name. What a Jesus we have! One woman who came to the first meeting had had problems with bleeding for 32 years, but after prayer the night before, she had gone home and all the bleeding had stopped! The woman and her husband were so thankful to God.
The third evening there was over 3000 people on site who heard a clear Gospel. The atmosphere then exploded when a 15-year-old girl who was unable to walk since birth, suddenly stands up, causing such a joy chaos that we had to let go of control and could not give testimonies from the stage. The girl’s mother fell to the ground in fear of God and people danced completely wild with joy just everywhere!
I’ve understood that people currently talk a lot about migration in the United States; Donald Trump has brought up the issue in his presidential campaign and I have seen many Americans on social media and in the commentary section of this blog. They often express severe xenophobia, particularly towards Latin American migrants from Mexico whom they emphasize are “illegal aliens.” My very conservative friend Rick Lamascus who is a very faithful reader of this blog even though he disagrees with most of what I write, has argued:
“Controlled Immigration is not a problem. What is a problem is illegal aliens pouring across the US border. It is like poison to our schools, hospitals, and jobs.”
“We have at least 30 million illegal aliens. Our schools systems are flooded and the hospital emergency rooms are flooded with illegals who pay NOTHING. Our sorry politicians are such prostitutes. They constantly pass legislation to give the illegals more and more.”
As you can see, to him “illegal” is not just something you do, it is something you are. Instead of talking about “people” or “neighbors” (which Mexicans obviously are to US Americans), Rick talks about “illegals” – as if it was a job or ethnicity.
Benjamin Corey has written a very good article on why Christians should stop talking about “illegal immigrants.” His reasons are: