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Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

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Why Sacraments Don’t Exist

My latest contribution to the MennoNerds vlog concerned the issue of sacraments, where I and my cat friend Kafka argued that they don’t exist:

communionNow, some of you may get a knee-jerk reaction when you hear that, so let me clarify what I mean. I’m not saying that things like communion, baptism and anointing of the sick don’t exist or that we shouldn’t do those things, there are clear Biblical commands prescribing us to practice that. But the Bible doesn’t call them “sacraments”, and neither should we. In the video, I briefly describe the origin of the term and how the definition of “sacrament”, which in turn decides what should be included in the category, is completely arbitrary and man-made.

Think for yourself: why isn’t helping the poor described as a sacrament? It’s not because Jesus isn’t telling us to help the poor, because He is. It’s not because helping the poor isn’t a visible sign of invisible grace, as the classical sacramental definition goes, because it is. Let’s face it, the reason why baptism and communion are included in a category that historical churches have found very important whereas helping the poor, evangelism and the Lord’s prayer has been excluded from said category, is because the founders of those sacramental categorizations subjectively thought that some Biblical commands were more important than others. I’ve written more about this here. (more…)

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Podcast: Simplicity and Sustainability

Skärmavbild 2016-02-08 kl. 21.29.19

I had the privilege of joining the MennoNerds Panel talk on simplicity and sustainiability last Tuesday. I had proposed the topic since fighting personal wealth and promoting a simple lifestyle are issues that God really has put on my heart. Participating were MennoNerds Hillary Watson, Paul Walker and myself, with Mark Groleau as moderator. You can listen to it in the MennoNerds podcast as well as in the YouTube clips down below:

During the first hour, we talked about theological and theoretical perspectives, such as:

  • How do we define simplicity?
  • What are the Biblical arguments for the need of simplicity?
  • What are the Biblical arguments for the need of environmental sustainability and creation care?
  • Should Christianity be seen as an anthropocentric religion, i.e. how do we deal with ideas like having dominion over the Earth?

It should be noted that we were a bit divided on anthropocentrism, whereas some questioned this I for example argued that it’s not just Biblical but morally necessary. (more…)

Should Christians be Conservative or Progressive? No.

Left-wing or right-wing? Why not upwards!

Left-wing or right-wing? Why not upwards!

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:

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4 Prooftexts Rich Christians Use to Keep Their Wealth

My MennoNerd friends have been talking a lot about wealth and poverty in our vlogging relay race recently, something I also contributed with in my video about community of goods. In today’s video I bring up four prooftexts that brothers and sisters who have quite a lot of money often point to when I explain to them why I’m convinced that Christians should not be rich.

The prooftexts are:

  1. People in the Old Testament being rich (Gen 13:2, 2 Chron. 9:22 and others)
  2. Jesus being fine with expensive alabaster being poured upon Him (Mark 14:1-9)
  3. Paul saying that he is content both when he has plenty and when he is needy (Phil 4:12)
  4. Jesus possessing a seamless undergarment (John 19:23)

For more Bible studies on why Christians shouldn’t be rich, check out my God vs Wealth series.

Why Testimonies Are Important

Every time my house church meets, we share Jesus stories – testimonies about what God has done for us during the last week. It’s always very encouraging and often pretty amazing; we’ve heard about cancers getting healed, people receiving visions as well as evangelistic opportunities, prophetic insights and ordinary Jesus trot. In my latest contribution to the MennoNerd vlogging relay race, I talked about testimonies and some testimonies that have impacted me:

The Gospels are testimonies, Acts is a testimony, Revelation is a testimony. Church history is filled with testimonies. The Psalms encourages us to share testimonies (Ps 145:11-12). Testimonies rock, basically. When I was a younger Christian I refused to read any Christian books besides the Bible, ’cause my experience was that most of them deradicalized the Bible. But when I discovered Christian biographies and testimony accounts by saints that have encountered the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, I became a Christian book nerd.

My fellow MennoNerd Allen Green followed up my testimony vlog with talking about martyr accounts and testimonies of sufferings for Christ, which I agree are also very important and encouraging in a way to read – not in a happy-clappy sense obviously but as a reminder of that Jesus is worth suffering for, faith in Him stands in the midst of hardships and injustice. In fact, the most powerful testimonies I’ve read both contain miracles and suffering, which I think was noticable in my video where I mentions some books that I recommend.

God, let us experience both the cross and the glory!

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Reading the Bible

The BibleThis week I got the privilege of joining the MennoNerds vlogging relay race, where Anabaptist nerds like myself share stuff in YouTube videos. Last week, Steve Kymes talked about some of his favourite books, and so I continued with talking about the Book of Books, the Holy Bible. In the video, I present three points that I think are important when reading and interpreting the Bible, and I want to explain these in a bit more detailed manner here:

1. The Bible is a Prophetic Book

The single reason why Christian and Jews view the Biblical Scriptures as holy and divinely inspired, is because we believe that they are prophetically written. Prophecy simply means that God communicates to a human being, and that’s really what Paul is talking about when he says that the Scriptures are inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16).

Why is this important? Well, it’s a very good reason to why we today should “eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.” (1 Cor 14:1). When we understand prophecy we can better understand the Bible. Being a charismatic simply makes you a better Bible reader, in my opinion. (more…)

Ana-whaaat?! A Living Alternative Book Presentation

a living alternative bookI’VE WRITTEN A BOOK chapter! The book is called A Living Alternative and it is awesome. Together with 19 other Anabaptists, I write about why ANABAPTISM is amazing!

“Ana-whaaat?!” you may ask, but watch this video and you will learn everything you need to know about Anabaptism through my epic song skills.

For more info about the book and how you can get it, go here. And if you like my YouTube videos, subscribe to my channel here. Bless you!

Book Release: A Living Alternative

a living alternative book

I am a MennoNerd, and we MennoNerds have just published a book! It’s called A Living Alternative and is about Anabaptist Christianity in a Post-Christendom world. Listen to what Christian activist Shane Claiborne has to say about it:

The world is poised to receive the wisdom of the Anabaptists. We are fat with consumerism. We are tired of war. We are hungry for community. We need an excuse to slow down, turn off the noise, and simplify our lives again. For many of us, progress has also meant disgress. This chorus of wise voices will stir you to imagine what it means to be the peculiar people of God in the 21st century.

Jesus Feminist Sarah Bessey says:

Even though I’m not an Anabaptist by chosen label or tradition, I found so much richness and truth in this book. Deep, challenging, prophetic and conversation-starting, I loved A Living Alternative. If you’ve wondered what your life would look like if you really lived like Jesus, this book will give you an accesible theological foundation for the practical living out of your discipleship particularly in a post-Christian context.

And hipster pastor, apologist and fellow MennoNerd Greg Boyd says:

In this splendid collection of essays readers will find a wonderfully diverse group of people wrestling with an amazingly diverse set of issues sorrounding what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus in a post-Christendom world. Perhaps even more importantly, in each of these essays readers will sense the refreshing vibrancy and beauty of the kingdom vision that has captured the imaginations of these authros, and this can’t help but pull readers further into this vision. So, whether you already identify with this kingdom movement or don’t yet know what I’m even talking about, I’d like to challenge you to thoroughly digest this book!

Sounds good, right? My chapter is about combining signs and wonders with peace and justice, Deborah-Ruth Ferber covers singleness, Drew Hart writes about anablacktivism, and so on. You can get the book at American Amazon or British Amazon if you’re interested, and my dear Swedish countrymen and -women can get it on Adlibris. Peace out!

ISIS, the US and the Iraqi Government – who are the good guys?

Flag of ISIS

Flag of ISIS

This article is part of a Synchro-Blog by the MennoNerds to express responses to the violence in Iraq, specifically answering the question: How do non-violent, peace-making Christians respond to the violence in Iraq both by ISIS and by the nations attacking ISIS. Go here to read all the articles.

The conflict in Iraq is escalating and the United Nations is now warning that the Islamic State, more commonly known as ISIS, may perform a genocide against minorities like Christians and Yazidis. To prevent this, US forces are bombing ISIS militants, France is supporting Kurdish militias and voices are being heard that a new Western invasion in Iraq is necessary. I have also noticed a rise of islamophobia among Christians here in Sweden, since friends of mine have said that this shows the true face of Islam and that Muslims must be restricted to come to Europe.

ISIS is totally mad, their violent fundamentalism is very dangerous and their behaviour is as far from Jesus’ teaching about non-violence and enemy love that you can go. When I read about them I see many parallells to militias like M23 and the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa that I have studied in my peace and development studies. They behead civilians, rape women and want to create their own fundamentalist state.

And just like the conflicts in Congo or Uganda, it’s hard to point out the good guys. There are many reasons people think that this applies to the American forces – they’re trying to save lives while ISIS want to kill entire minorities, they are democratic while ISIS are fundamentalists, they are somewhat Christians while ISIS are militant islamists. But remember that American forces have killed over 120 000 civilian Iraqis since 2003.

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European Anabaptism vs Global Pentecostalism #MennoNerdsOnRace

A few days ago, the Anabaptist blogging network MennoNerds, which this blog is a part of, arranged a webinar called Race, Mutuality and Anabaptist community. It was all recorded via Google Hangouts and can be watched in the video above. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to join the discussion live since time here was around 2 AM, but we MennoNerds now have a chance to contribute to the conversion via our blogs, which is what I’m doing right now.

Christianity is a Middle Eastern religion and for the first 300 years, most of the important theologians (the so called “church fathers”) came from the Middle East, Northern Africa and what is now Turkey. The present churches in for example Egypt, Syria and Ethiopia have survived since the time of the apostles. But since the Western Catholic church distanced itself from and condemned the eastern and oriental churches, the experiences, stories and theology of non-white Christians became peripheral. To this very day, it is common among Western Christians to identify themselves with and be inspired by Christian streams from Western Europe: Catholicism, Anglicanism, Calvinism, Lutherism, Anabaptism, Quakerism, Methodism, Salvationism, Baptism, and so on.

It gets increasingly problematic when people of European descent expect other people to submit to these European interpretations of the teachings of Jesus when they are born again, i.e. asking them to become “Lutherans” or “Anabaptists”. Don’t get me wrong, I love Anabaptism and identify myself with the movement, and I think that people like Drew Hart does an excellent job in outlining “Anablacktivism” and interpreting the Anabaptist message about justice and peace from an African-American perspective. Truth is that all of the church streams I mentioned above are global today – Catholicism is biggest in Latin America which their Argentinian pope signifies, Anglicanism is bigger outside England and the biggest Lutheran denomination in the world is Mekane Yesus in Ethiopia.

These voices need to be recognized and influential within these church streams. Yet, we cannot get away from the fact that if you want to get to the roots of the movement, as A.O. Green likes to do, you’ll have to read what a bunch of white, European men wrote. And that’s a bit boring, isn’t it?
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What it Means to be Anabaptist, and Why You Should be One

An Anabaptist being martyred in 16th century Europe

An Anabaptist being martyred in 16th century Europe

As many of you know, I am glad to be a part of the MennoNerds network, an international blogging community made up by people who are nerdy about Mennonite and Anabaptist theology. The Anabaptists were the central figures in the radical reformation during the 16th century. While Luther and Calvin opposed Catholic teaching they still wanted to kill people and were opposed to freedom of religion. Anabaptists however both criticized Catholic teaching and the Catholic church model when one baptizes entire countries, gather people in cathedrals and kill those who don’t agree with you.

The Anabaptists were of course persecuted and killed both by Catholics and Protestants. However, some survived and can today be found in three main groups: the Amish who dress funny and live environmentally friendly, the Hutterites who dress funny and have everything in common, and the Mennonites who dress boringly and write blogs about Anabaptism.

My fellow MennoNerd Tyler M. Tully has written an excellent introduction to Anabaptism, where he also defines three core distinctives that define Anabaptist theology. These three are, in short:

  1. Jesus Centered Jesus stands as the lens by which Anabaptists read the entire Bible, and the exemplary by which we engage all theology.
  2. Free Church of Confessing, Baptized Disciples – the Anabaptists were opposed to infant baptism partly because it wasn’t Biblical, and partly because it created a society where your nationality, not your faith, defined you church membership, and that was opposed to freedom of religion
  3. Agents of God’s Shalom – Anabaptists are pacifists committed to non-violence, but not only do we want an absence of war but also a presence of Shalom, justice and harmony.

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New Book by Me and Friends, Coming Fall 2014

A Living Alternative

A Living Alternative

As some of you know, I am proud to be a part of the awesome MennoNerd blogging network, a bunch of bloggers that identify themselves with anabaptism, the radical reformation in the 16th century that wanted to go back to the Biblical roots in a better and more radical way than Luther, Calvin and Zwingli.

Unlike these mainline protestants, the anabaptists rejected violence and war, they argued that people should choose to follow Christ and not be baptized as infants, they protested against the state-church system and eagerly desired the supernatural gifts of the Spirit in a time where most protestants were cessationists.

Many people are not very familiar about what anabaptism is about, so that’s why me and my fellow MennoNerds are writing a book about it! It’s called A Living Alternative: Anabaptist Christianity in a Post-Christendom World, is published by Ettelloc Publishing and will be available this fall. The presentation of the book goes like this:

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A Mennonite Who Speaks in Tongues

Amazing blog post with some very good teaching about speaking in tongues.

Zweibach and Peace - Thoughts on Pacifism and Contemporary Anabaptism

Image

Over the past few months, the concept of writing a blog article related to the Charismatic Gifts and Movement has been on my mind.  While I am not from a Charismatic background over the past 3-4 years I have become increasingly more charismatic in my beliefs and Christian practices and when I was a student at Tyndale was affectionately called a “Pennonite” (a mixture of Pentecostal and Mennonite).  There are still a variety of charismatic gifts that I simply do not know enough about at this time to offer any real insight via blog.  Therefore, at this present time topics of prophesy and being slain in the Spirit are a bit out of my reach, though I recently read a very interesting book by Dr. James Beverly (a professor at Tyndale) “Holy Laughter and the Toronto Blessing” that deals with a few of the more “wild” types of charismatic movements. …

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Charismatic Theology among the Early Anabaptists

MennoNerds

From now on this blog is a part of the MennoNerds network, a bunch of bloggers (or nerds) who like Anabaptism. Ana-what? Anabaptism, the grandmother of the Baptist, Pentecostal and a bunch of other movements, which was and is characterized by pacifism, economic equality and radical theology. While I’m not a part of an Anabaptist church (they simply don’t exist (yet) in Sweden), I was involved in forming the Anabaptist Network of Scandinavia, and together with my friend Andrew Meakins I’m administrating a facebook page called Charismatic Holiness Anabaptist Theology.

While several modern-day Anabaptists eagerly seek miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, there still are many who don’t. Not necessarily because they don’t believe in miracles but rather that they believe it isn’t part of their tradition. But it is. In 1995, Stuart Murray, one of the leading Anabaptist theologians in Europe, wrote this article about the early Anabaptists’ view on spiritual gifts. Here is an excerpt:

Stuart Murray

Stuart Murray

Anabaptism as a Charismatic Movement: Diverse Phenomena in Early Decades

What would sixteenth-century Anabaptists have made of the “Toronto Blessing” that has impacted many churches in Great Britain in recent months? How did the Radical Reformers respond to such spiritual phenomena’? The charismatic aspect of Anabaptism has not received much attention from historians, but evidence of spiritual phenomena in early Anabaptist groups is substantial. Some welcomed manifestations of the Holy Spirit, while others were wary and attempted to regulate or discourage such expressions. Basic to the Anabaptist view of charismatic gifts, however, was a belief that a transformed life was the true measure and sign of Holy Spirit presence.

[…]

For Dirk Philips, the Spirit had a vital role as agent of regeneration. The Spirit writes the new convenant on the hearts of believers and enables them to participate in the divine nature. The Spirit is the earthly presence of Jesus, empowering ministers called by God and helping believers interpret the Scripture. Anabaptists equated “baptism in the Spirit” with conversion, but expected more to happen experientially than did the Reformers. The radicals were not satisfied with forensic ideas of grace, typified by the legal terminology of “justification by faith”. Rather, they saw grace as “the inner light that directed a life of righteousness “.

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