Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

How Richard Twiss helped me to believe in revival again

Community Transformation

This post is my second contribution to the MennoNerds Anabaptist Missional Spirituality Synchroblog event.

Before discussing such a dreamy topic as “revival” or what others call “renewal,” I must come clean. Every time I hear or read the word, “revival,” I run and get my gun. Yes me a pacifist who desires to not own any lethal weapons, reach for my imaginary gun. Why you say? Because everytime I hear or read that word “revival” coming from conservative evangelicals, more often than not, its from an imperialist Dominionist point of view. Revival understood in this manner is when Christians are lead by white Conservative (more than likely Reformed) evangelical men, who give minimal head nods to Charismatics and multiculturalism with dreams of hegemonic, violent takeovers of the national culture (Conservative Republican political means). Two examples of this are the Acquire the Fire movement and Methodist but hardly Wesleyan Institute for Religion and Democracy.

As a Baptist Christian, as a continuationist with Charismatic tendencies, I do hope for a Spirit-led, Christ-centered renewal of our national culture in general. As James Cone called for in Black Theology and Black Power, there needs to be an exchange in value systems. See the problem with the popular versions of revival is that they resort back to the days of Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finley, and imagine that God will move the same way. We Christians commemorate these revivalists and year to year go on hoping that revival/renewal will look like it did in the past. We hope for a cycle, we know this only as a cycle that happens naturally. And that’s part of the problem. Revival is about cycles being broken, with the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit arriving anew in fresh and unexpected places, and God’s standards for holiness being revealed in the lives of some of the least ideal persons.

I like what Micael Grenholm has to say about revival, that we can’t separate peace and justice from conversionist modes of religion. Reading through the late Richard Twiss’ One Church Many Tribes: Following Jesus The Way God Made You, I once more found a hope for Christian renewal in the USA. Twiss’ challenge to Evangelical Protestantism is still a much needed word, and his contention that we should start viewing the First Nations as a mutual party when it comes to missions, and that Native culture has something to offer (AND NOT JUST RECEIVE). There is something rather impossible when you read Twiss’ words because what he wrote, we have not yet witnessed with our eyes. While folks talk about revival, relying on things seen, by faith, Twiss taught me once more to believe in revival, the likes we have never seen.

Twiss’ post-colonial vision of widespread renewal reminds me of David Walker’s Appeal in the lone footnote in chapter one:

“It is my solemn belief, that if ever the world becomes Christianized, (which must certainly take place before long) it will be through the means, under God of the blacks, who are now held in wretchedness, and degradation , by the white Christians of the world, who before they learn to do justice to us before our Maker–and be reconciled to us, and reconcile us to them, and by that means have clear consciences before God and man.–Send out missionaries to convert the Heathens, many of whom after they cease worship gods, which neither see nor hear, become ten times more the children of Hell, then ever they were, why what is the reason? Why the reason is obvious,they must learn to do justice at home, before they go into distant lands, to display their charity, Christianity, and benevolence; when they learn to do justice, God will accept their offering, (no man may think that I am against Missionaries for I am not, my object is to see justice done at home, before we go to convert the heathens.) “

For Walker and Twiss, the missional and just YHWH of Hosts requires the righteous fruits of those who have been justified by Christ, and just relations between people groups prior to  worldwide revival, and not vice versa. 

John MacArthur's #StrangeFire And Arlene Sanchez Walsh's Latino Pentecostal Identity

English: Pentecostals Praising Location: http:...

During my first year as an undergrad, I struggled to find a Christian community where I could fellowship with others. I began to notice that a number of my neighbors attended a predominantly white “nondenominational” mega church. The church site was located in the middle of a predominantly Latin@ neighborhood, and over the years there had been a few conflicts over construction. Yet, virtually all of the membership of the church came from outside of the church’s setting. I didn’t ask questions because I was young, and I wanted to be in with the in-crowd. I thought that just because a church was “nondenominational,” that meant that we could all get along merrily as Christians without “doctrine dividing us.” It wasn’t until one Sunday that the pastor started to preach on cessationism that I got nervous and I stopped going. It turns out that the church had very Reformed theological commitments, and cessationism (the idea that the miracles and healings have stopped after the time of the apostles). I also happened to be at that time part of a small Pentecostal student ministry. For various reasons that fall, I left both settings to “settle” into Baptist life.

Папуас William J. Seymour (Apostolic Faith Church)

Папуас William J. Seymour (Apostolic Faith Church) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In grad school, I worked on an independent study on histories of Persons of Color in evangelicalism. I eventually went on to present a paper at the regional American Academy of Religion about two years ago on the topic. One of the texts that I used for my research was Arlene Sanchez Walsh’s Latino Pentecostal Identity: Evangelical Faith, Self, and Society. Sanchez Walsh describes the history of Latin@ Pentecostalism in California and the Southwest and how it was placed within the broader context of Pentecostalism, a subculture of evangelical Christianity.

Pentecostal historians of Mexico and California tend to make the issue about conversions from Catholicism to Pentecostalism.  Sanchez Walsh intentionally interviews persons who were either nominally Catholic, agnostic, atheist, or Protestant to avoid the trend making the issue about Catholicism versus Pentecostalism.  These first missions coincided with the Mexican Revolutionary War.  This crisis convinced many Mexicans of the need for a religious source for meaning. Mexicans in California were attracted to the healing traditions of Pentecostals rooted the Azusa street revivals.  In order to solidify Latin@ Pentecostal identities, the Latin American Bible Institute was started in California and Texas by the Assemblies of God.  Men and women were allowed to take classes there; this is a phenomenon that is strange because on one hand the anti-intellectual strand of Pentecostalism depends upon only the Bible and the Holy Spirit, and on the other hand, lines of orthodoxy had to be drawn somehow to keep members from sinking into error.

According to Sanchez Walsh, in 1967, LABI graduate ‘Sonny’ Arguinzoni had a vision to reach East L.A. for Jesus Christ.  It was through him that Victory Outreach was started to address the at-risk youth and drug addicts.  Pentecostalism served as a spiritual hospital to help Vietnam war veterans and former gang members get off the streets and off drugs and into the churches, living as productive citizens.  The emphasis on deliverance and holiness with strict codes of moral conduct, along with the Latin@ vision of family aided Victory Outreach’s mission to reach the lost.  Sonny Jr. served as youth minister and began to evangelize to gang members on the street, while ignoring some of the strict guidelines against secular music.  Street dramas and Christian hip-hop were used to invite the Latin@ gang subculture to participate into the Latin@ Pentecostal subculture.

Pentecostal scholar and personal friend Ekaputra Tupamahu first showed me the theological roots of the Azusa Street Revival, which was grounded at first in the highly problematic Anglo-British-Israelism theory.  It was more likely the continuationist leanings of the early Pentecostal movement in the U.S. that lead participants to open up itself to people of various cultures and socio-economic backgrounds.  What better religion for bodies of color who have been injured and experienced hurt than one that affirmed belief in supernatural healings?

My problem with cessationism is that once pastors lead churches into believing that the Holy Spirit does not work as God does in Acts, then the Bible held captive by limited cultural interpretations.  Take for example, take dispensationalist pastor John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference this week, where polemics and mischaracterizations have held sway.  The scary thing that happens when  you study church history, is that you find some troubling things.  When it comes to the more Calvinist-leaning dispensationalism of MacArthur, one will find that part of its founding lays in the deep in the heart of the Confederate States of America; what better theology to preach than the one of the premillenial rapture for Christians who felt that God had betrayed them by taking their “property” away from them, losing their livelihoods and family members in the process? One of my friends once went to hear John MacArthur speaking at a megachurch, and he went on to provide a defense for the enslavement of African Americans on American shores. (linked is the sermon, trigger warnings for apologizing for the Confederacy). Seems like a bad habit for Christians. A really bad one.

A commitment to cessationism is more likely to make pastors and churches close themselves off from communities that may not look like them. The same could be said of continuationist/Pentecostal churches, but theologically, continuationist churches are committed to opening themselves up and receiving the Word of the Lord by way of their neighbor and the Holy Spirit. One possible theo-political implications of Arlene Sanchez Walsh’s research was that continuationist theologies of Pentecostal/charismatic congregations could serve as sources of hope for persons who have experienced a great deal of traumatic violence in their lives. The driving existential crisises that Sanchez Walsh alluded to, the Mexican Revolution, the Vietnam War, and War on the streets between the gangs played major could be seen as ministry moments whereby Latin@ Pentecostalism’s healing tradition offered an alternative to racial violence. We should pray that the Holy Spirit disrupt events like Strange Fire, and that the Spirit leads the leaders at that conference to be conformed in the image of our Liberator and Reconciler, Christ Jesus.

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Bible, Homosexuality, and Christianity: Binding, Loosing, and a Conclusion

This is the ninth and final post in a series. I highly encourage that you read those previous posts before reading this one. The preface is here. The guidelines are here. A discussion of relevant Hebrew Bible texts is here. A study of Romans 1:26-27 is here. A Study of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 can be found here. A discussion about marriage in the Bible is here. A few notes about gender in the Bible can be found here. A discussion about biblical interpretation and use is here.

In this last post discussing issues around homosexual practice in the scripture, I want to look at the early church. Specifically, how did the early church, using Jesus’ example and teachings, address the issues that threatened to divide it, perhaps similar to the ways that Christians are dividing themselves today. Afterwards, it seems to be prudent to use the positive and lasting examples of the early church and apply the same process in our context.

Keys of the Kingdom

In Isaiah 22:21-22, we find the words “I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open.” Now, in the original context, this referred to a person named Eliakim. However, in the time between testaments, many Jewish teachers believed that this verse applied to the one would rule over God’s people, or over the “house of David.” This distinction gets blurred and in the New Testament, we see the “Kingdom of God” or the “Kingdom of Heaven” being used more often.

This person, the heir to the key of David’s Kingdom, would have the authority to “open and shut.” This opening and shutting became synonymous with the Hebrew ideas of “binding” and “loosing.” More on that in a bit. This is relevant, because Jesus, upon hearing Peter’s confession of Jesus as Messiah, says this to his disciples, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Binding and Loosing

According to Jewish Talmud: Chagigah 3b, the power to bind and loose was the power to forbid and permit. This was the ability to say a certain act was permitted for the people of God or forbidden. This even applied to laws that were in the Torah itself. One example that Jesus gives is when the Pharisees were cross with Jesus for not making his disciples wash their hands. He turns the tables on them and says that they allow people to dishonor their fathers and mothers by making sacrifice more important. In essence, they have “bound” the rules of sacrifice, and “loosed” the command that we should honor our fathers and mothers. Jesus does not condemn this binding and loosing, but rather condemning that they have acted out of selfishness.

According to Josephus, the authority of binding and loosing was indeed claimed by the Pharisees. They could admit people or banish them, as well as bind certain days to be holidays.

Further, there is precedent that when those with authority permitted or forbid something, that these decisions would be honored by God (Talmud Makkot 23b).

So, with that context in mind, read the words of Jesus himself, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’ (Matt 18:18-20)

What Jesus is doing here is radical. He is indicating that the power to bind and loose, to permit and forbid actions, is being given to his disciples. This does not mean throwing out the law, but properly binding and loosing for their contexts, just as others had been doing before them. And whatever they decide, even in a group as small as “2 or more,” will be honored, because Christ himself will be among them. This of course, does not mean that mistakes won’t be made or corrective “binding and loosing” wont have to happen further, but it does give Jesus’ followers the authority themselves to decide how best to serve God and follow the way of Jesus in the best way possible, without fear.

Binding and Loosing Observed

It seems that the disciples (and their disciples, etc..) took this responsibility very seriously. In fact, from Acts forward, the scripture is full of this binding and loosing activity. The first one is actually in Mark 7. Jesus told his followers that it isn’t what goes into a persons mouth that makes them unclean, but what comes out of their heart. In a parenthetical statement, the author of Mark notes that the church understands this to mean that no foods are unclean any longer. Is there any doubt that this was a breech of precedent? Was there any indication in the Hebrew Bible that God wanted dietary restrictions to be temporary? No, there wasn’t. Yet, the disciples of Jesus took the words of Jesus, applied them to their contexts and “loosed” the laws around food. And bacon lovers rejoiced.

This wasn’t the only time though. Acts 10 records for us that Peter had a dream, the result of which was that God told him that “he should call no person unclean.” And thus, against his people’s laws, he went into a Gentiles home, and contrary to conversion laws and Jewish precedent, baptized a family of non-Jews because he could see that the Holy Spirit was moving in them. Peter simply made the call. He bound. He loosed.

Acts 15 records that after the above incident, many gentiles were coming into the church, and there were people insisting that they get circumcised and become Jews. Contrary to any conceivable teaching beforehand, the group decided that no gentiles should be forced to follow ANY law in the Hebrew Bible except for 1) abstain from food sacrificed to idols,  2) don’t eat blood, 3) don’t eat from the meat of strangled animals, and 4) don’t fornicate. And the reason they gave? Verse 28 – “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” In other words, they prayed about it and felt authorized to make that call.

Do you worship on Sunday? Do most Christians you know worship on Sunday? Why? The Sabbath in scripture is Saturday. The reason is because some Christians bound and loosed it.

Do we condemn anyone for not staying home on the Sabbath? Do we hold rallies against people who are doctors on Saturdays/Sundays? We bound and loosed that one as well.

What about Paul’s condemnation of women teaching? Thankfully, we realized Paul was binding and loosing, for his context, and many churches have loosed that one as well.

Food, circumcision, non-Jews as God’s people, Sabbath laws… You would be hard pressed to think of any more important laws in the Old Testament. And yet, when unity was threatened, these Christians, due to the teaching and example of their Rabbi Jesus, felt approved, and indeed, responsible, to bind and loose, forbid and permit, and as a result, kept unity in the church.

Ask yourself, what did Jesus bind? He said the most important laws are to love God and love others. Those two can’t be unbound. Everything else, if the early church is any example, is up for negotiation. Not willy-nilly. Not without struggle. Not without God’s Holy Spirit. But nevertheless, it is our responsibility to do as the early church did. We must bind and loose today.

Ask yourself, how often does the Bible talk about unity? Compare that to the times it even comes close to addressing homosexuality. That alone should solve the majority of our problems.

How?

I suggest, borrowing from our Methodist friends, that the so-called Wesleyan Quadrilateral can be helpful here. In trying to seek what the church binds and looses, we seek God through scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. In all of these, we seek the Holy Spirit. And we act. We don’t be afraid to make wrong decisions, because we can always bind and loose again. But to not act, or to simply outsource our responsibility of binding and loosing to what the ancients did, or even the scripture itself, is to make idols out of things not God.

In conclusion

As a result of the last 9 discussion posts about the scripture, gender, marriage, interpretation, and homosexual practice, I have reached a conclusion. For myself, at this moment. I am only one person, and so this can’t and won’t be authoritative for anyone. Yet, I will be having these discussions at my church, and we will decide together how, or if, to bind and loose faithfully.

As a result of studying the scriptural verses around homosexual practice, I don’t think that the Bible condemns homosexuality at all, outside of pagan worship, orgies, or exploitative sex. Each instance of laws regarding homosexual practice in the Bible are one of these, and just like their heterosexual counterparts (straight pagan worship, straight orgies, and straight exploitative sex), they are condemned in that context. Monogamous, married homosexual union is never addressed in the Bible.

Marriage itself is a fluid thing in the Bible. Various variations on the one man-one woman theme are present in the scriptures, and either not condemned or allowed as normative alongside traditional marriage. This was mainly due to cultural realities and societal understandings. Homosexual marriage need not be any different due to our societal understanding today. Acceptance will neither hurt nor undermine traditional unions anymore than the variations present in the scripture did.

Gender roles in the scripture are quite fluid. There is no seemingly right or wrong way to be a Godly man or woman. God, through Jesus or the Holy Spirit, seems to treat each person as an individual, not as a member of a particular gender. And as such, there in neither “male nor female” in Christ. So there should be no problems with a homosexual person acting more like whatever traditional (or non) gender role they feel comfortable with, as God sees them as individuals first.

Jesus, not Paul or any other person, is our teacher. Jesus shows us God. Everything we need to know about God is reflected in him. He is the “image of the invisible God.” As such, when anything, even scripture itself, flows against that revelation, it is not thrown out, but it must be reinterpreted in light of Jesus. Those of us who are non-violent and believe the Kingdom of God is too, have already done this a million times. Joshua told of How God ordered the slaughter of women and children. I say it wasn’t God. I say it was the interpretation and writing of someone who was chronicling the events around God’s people and assumed it was God’s will. Well, it wasn’t. Jesus doesn’t mention homosexual practice. One assumes that if it was that important to him (who knows the future) he might have mentioned it. But our teacher didn’t.

Last, our binding and loosing authority gives us the freedom and responsibility to act in love. Love for God and love for others. Those are bound, not by us, but by God through Christ. They can’t be undone. As a result, when I look out on how LGBTQ persons have been treated, when I see the studies that suggest no vast health difference in gay and lesbian families and their straight counterparts (for children or adults), and when I see how that there are indeed many  many LGBTQ persons that seem to have had the Holy Spirit fall on them, just as it has me, I am left with no choice but to advocate for full acceptance of LGBTQ persons in our churches. As members, visitors, deacons, elders, and ministers. Openly gay or closeted. And I advocate we perform homosexual marriages. Not with caveats. And not later. Now. Regardless of what our denominations say, regardless of what the law of the land says. Let’s aim to misbehave.

In all of these things, I protect and honor the responsibility and authority of others to partake in the same process, studying, seeking God, and binding and loosing. And if there are differing conclusions, which there surely will be, that is ok. But we must remain unified. Act according to your conscience, as it is “neither right nor safe” to do otherwise. I will always be your brother in Christ, but in any case, the above seems good to me and the Holy Spirit, and now you, and I, know where I stand.

Enhanced by Zemanta