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Charismatic Apologetics: Combining Reason with Power

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I had not in any way planned to be so apologetic this semester, but the Lord has led me to both studying and producing apologetic material as you probably have noticed. Identifying myself as an apologist is new but exciting, and it makes sense since I’ve for a long time been inspired by Stephen in Acts 6-8. He combined miracles with poverty reduction and nonviolence, and he was an apologist as well. Just look at these verses:

Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. (Acts 6:8-10)

Stephen was a charismapologist! He could heal the sick on Monday and defend the faith on Tuesdays, all the time while serving soup to the widows. For Stephen, there was no conflict between demonstrating the power of God through miracles and arguing for the truth of Christianity intellectually. (more…)

Charismatics Have a Hope Nobody Else Has

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Village of Hope, Iris South Africa

Lucy Peppiatt, principal at Westminster Theological Centre which is an awesome British school, has written an excellent piece on why all Christians should be charismatic and why the risk of “charismania” shouldn’t put us off from seeking the gifts of the Spirit. One of the reasons she gives relates strongly to what I call charismactivism, the fact that Spiritual gifts ought to promote peace, justice and a better world:

I think that most of us feel overwhelmed by the world’s problems. It’s enough to deal with our own and our family’s problems let alone terrorism, unemployment, war, addiction, crime, disease, homelessness, abuse, etc. etc. I’m always astonished and deeply moved by how resilient human beings are in the face of horror, and this seems regardless of whether they have a faith or not. Sometimes humans are just extraordinarily strong. All Christians should carry a hope that good will triumph over evil in the end, because that is the promise of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection.

But charismatics share stories all the time about change here and now, about how when God gets involved, people locked in conflict are able to forgive each other, bodies are healed of life-threatening or debilitating conditions, families are reconciled. Hope stirs. Charismatics expect God to change things around them and through them for the better. Sometimes this takes much longer and is more painful that you would know from what we teach or would wish, but I love the hope of concrete and visible newness that characterizes a charismatic worldview. Hope for restoration, new life, and healing infuses the New Testament and I couldn’t imagine a church that didn’t expect God to be willing and able to change the worst of situations.

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New Podcast from Iris Global

Heidi Baker’s amazing missionary organization Iris Global has recently started a new podcast, called Iris After Hours. It is hosted by Join Nathan Kotzur and Crystalyn Human and its first guest is no other than Heidi herself. She gives a lot of details on how God called her and Rolland to Mozambique and shares, as always, many testimonies about miracles and love to the poor.

To make sure that you catch future episodes of the pod, follow Iris Global’s YouTube channel or search for Iris After Hours on any podcast app.

 

The Hiddenness of God: a Charismatic Response

There’s a theological problem known as the hiddenness of God which is sometimes used by atheists as an argument for God’s existence. If there is a God and He cares for human salvation, why isn’t He making His existence more obvious? Why isn’t He putting a neon cross in the sky or stamp every cell with “Made by God” in Hebrew letters? Why is He so silent and invisible if He exists?

Apologists generally offer two responses to this. First, God’s existence is already obvious as it is, the arguments from natural theology are good and atheism is really a position held by a minority on a global scale. Second, we cannot be sure that more people would actually be saved if God’s existence was even more obvious, knowing that He exists isn’t the same thing as building a relationship with Him.

I think those responses are good but would also want to offer a third response – a charismatic one. In the video above you can see how a deafmute boy in Zambia starts to hear and speak. On this page you will find resources on medically verified healings. There you go, evidence for God’s existence.

The atheist may respond that these events have natural explanations that we just don’t know yet. But that’s probably what s/he would say about the neon cross and the “Made by God”-stamps as well. And so there’s no way those kind of atheists will accept the existence of God. But if they’re open-minded, they’ll realise that He isn’t far away from any of us, and He can do convincing miracles in all of our lives.

A Defence for the Miraculous Argument

Since I first presented my formulation of the miraculous a argument for God’s existence I’ve made a slight adjustment. The content is the same but I’ve added an extra premise (2), and because of that an extra conclusion (4), to clarify why the argument is valid even if it isn’t God himself that’s responsible for a certain miracle. This is how I nowadays formulate the argument:

1. If miracles occur, a supernatural reality exists
2. If a supernatural reality exists, God exists
3. Miracles occur
4. Therefore, a supernatural reality exists
5. Therefore, God exists

As this is a deductive argument, the conclusions (4 and 5) are necessarily true if it can be shown that the premises (1-3) are true. So let me briefly defend each one of them.

1. If miracles occur, a supernatural reality exists

This premise is fairly non-controversial as long as one gets the definition of “miracle” straight. The definition I have suggested is a supernatural act impacting nature as demanded by human beings. However, if one uses a definition that doesn’t mention the supernatural cause, for example an event requested by humans which is scientifically and naturally inexplicable, then one needs to defend the first premise by showing why it is more plausible than not that such events have a supernatural cause rather than an unknown natural cause. If the supernatural cause is integrated into the definition of miracles on the other hand, such a defence belong to premise 3.

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Three Apologetic Defenses for Miracles

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As I’m developing a formulation and defense for the miraculous argument for God’s existence I’ve enjoyed listening to lectures on YouTube by other Christian apologists where they defend the key premise, that miracles occur, from both a philosophical and an empirical perspective. The main philosophical objection to miracles was raised by David Hume in the 19th century, an argument that is still often referenced to by atheists and skeptics but which is actually circular and not very persuasive, as Timothy McGrew explains:

It is generally agreed today that Hume was simply lacking miraculous experience himself and so just assumed that nobody else was experiencing it. His remark of how a dead man coming back to life “has never been observed in any age or country” is embarrassingly naïve, not just dismissing the resurrection of Jesus a priori but also the numerous dead raising accounts of his time. As I have met and interviewed a man who was raised from the dead I can assure you Hume was wrong. (more…)

Aid and Revival in Mueda with Heidi Baker

Yesterday Heidi Baker spoke at a church in Stockholm not far from where I live. I wasn’t aware of her trip until it was too late, but I’m not sad since yesterday was an amazing day for me even without Heidi. Jesus showed Himself to me again just as He did when I just had become a Christian and needed a sign for His presence. It was in my house church as the brothers and sisters prayed for a very important decision I have to make, and I sobbed and praised Him for revealing Himself in this manner for the first time in nine years.

heidi with children

But yeah, Heidi rocks! And her ministry Iris Global have just published two beautiful videos about a recent outreach to the Mueda region in Mozambique. The first one is just mute recordings from the adventure with a powerful and touching worship song on top of it:

In the second one Heidi and Iris staff narrates what actually happened on the outreach. Wells were dug, education was supported, a deaf-mute girl was healed and people were saved. Praise the Lord! (more…)

Skeptic Surprised by Angels and Healed

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Pastor and apologist Elijah Stephens is working on a documentary about medically verified healings as I have covered previously on this blog, and he was recently interviewed at the Uncommon Legacy podcast (which seems to be a very good podcast!). I highly recommend the episode, Stephens humbly shares his own doubts and struggles as well as making the case for a courageous faith combined with intellectual honesty that I highly resonate with.

While not spoiling the medically verified healings that the film will cover, Stephens shared a testimony of what I call a combo miracle – a healing combined with prophecy. You’ll find that at 15:30 into the podcast. A secretary at his church had severe breathing problems and needed to go home from work because of it. She was a cessationist herself and very skeptical to miracles, but still Stephens was allowed to pray for her for two or three minutes. During the prayer, he briefly spoke out that the Lord would send His angels to touch her.

The next week, she entered the church staff meeting in tears. She said that when she was alone in her house, she woke up in the middle of the night and a light was shining into her chest. She saw a man standing over her bed and another man in front of her, and she was obviously frightened. She heard them talking, one of them said ”Get her up” They grabbed her, took her to the bathroom and as she turned on the light they disappeared. Shocked, she then discovered that she had been completely healed. (more…)

Introducing the Miraculous Argument for God’s Existence

When debating with atheists, Christian apologists and evangelists use a  variety of arguments for the existence of God, such as cosmological, teleological and moral arguments. I go through several of these in my video on seven reasons why God exists. There I also talked about the argument from miracles, which has often been used historically and which is being used a lot by evangelists, although apologists have not started to use it until recently for reasons I will give towards the end of this blog post.

Let me briefly introduce the argument and add some comments on possible counter-arguments. I would love to unpack this argument in greater depth in the future but for now I would just want to give you a glimpse of how the argument can be formulated. my suggestion is:

1. If miracles occur, God exists.
2. Miracles occur.
3. Therefore, God exists.

As for the definition of “miracles”, I’d use the first half of the Oxford Dictionary definition: “A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency”. Alternatively, I’ve come up with my own definition: a supernatural act impacting nature as demanded by human beings. (more…)

Softening the Gospel Makes it Worse

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Cosy and cute, but does it save my soul?

Every weekend I evangelize on the streets together with the Pancake Church, and last week’s Holy Saturday was no exception. I started to speak with two guys about Jesus, and one of them said that he really liked Jesus. He thought that Jesus was a good moral teacher and said: “I believe that when it says that he healed blind people and lepers and stuff, he didn’t actually physically heal them, but he was kind to them and taught that they should be accepted into society.”

“That’s a very tragic and pessimistic view!” I said. “Wouldn’t it be better if He actually physically healed them? As the Son of God He’s surely able to do it, right? Miracles exist, medically verified healings happen all around the world even today. Surely that’s good news, isn’t it?” He was actually a bit speechless when I said this.

There has been a tendency among several Western preachers to de-emphasize miracles, Heaven and evangelism in order to “focus” on peace and justice. They may say things like “Jesus greatest miracle wasn’t to heal the leper but to touch the leper” or “God doesn’t just want to give you eternal life in Heaven but a descent life on earth.” (more…)

When Paul Took Luke’s Job

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Paul healing Publius’ father

Earlier this year my friend Faith Totushek explained on Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice why she is a Holy Spirit Activist – or as I like to call it, a charismactivist:

“From beginning to end, we see an amazing God who longs for the world and the people he created to flourish and find life. And time and time again, this God seeks to partner with us as his agents. And he empowers this people with his presence through the Holy Spirit giving gifts, insight, truth, endurance—whatever is needed to accomplish the purposes displayed in the Bible.”

In other words, God doesn’t leave us alone with the big task of loving people and promote life and happiness. He partners with us by bestowing His Spirit upon us. Peter writes: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10). Serving people is one of the main purposes of God’s gifts of grace, or charismata as they are known in Greek.

One of many Biblical examples of this can be found in the last chapter of the book of Acts. Paul is a prisoner of the Roman empire and his guards are taking him to Rome so that he can speak to the emperor. Their ship is wrecked on an island, probably Malta, and God miraculously saves Paul’s life after he is bitten by a poisonous snake. Not only that, God miraculously gives other people life as well through the hands of Paul: (more…)

The Historicity of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

I hope you all have a blessed Good Friday! Over here this day is called “Long Friday” because people were expected to mourn and have a boring time all day, which made it feel much longer. I think the English name is much better – even if it undoubtedly is sad that Jesus had to die for our sake, it is at the same time amazing since we receive eternal life through His sacrifice.

Christianity stands and falls with the death and resurrection of Jesus being historical events. According to the apostles, these are not just doctrines: they are things that really happened, which they witnessed themselves. In this video, I defend the historicity of both Jesus’ death and His miraculous resurrection:

There are some competing theories on what really happened that Passover weekend 2,000 years ago. For a more detailed discussion on what they’re saying and what their problems are, please watch the video. What follows is a brief summary of each theory and my arguments agains them: (more…)

Separated by War, United by God

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Today I write on Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice about Craig and Médine Keener’s upcoming book Impossible Love. After becoming very good friends, the civil war in the Republic of Congo made it impossible for them to contact each other for eighteen months. Craig didn’t know if Médine was dead or alive. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Craig Keener writes in an email correspondence to PCPJ:

“There was no friend I had corresponded with as much over the years as Médine. I was always happy to receive her letters, but the last one threw me into panic: She announced that she didn’t know if she was going to live or die, because troops were closing in on her city.”

The horrors Médine and her family was going through were unimaginable.

“Her cousin was shot dead on Christmas Eve; her father and brother had barely escaped being shot. Although she didn’t mention it, she and her mother and sisters didn’t know how they could flee because her father was disabled and they had no way to carry him. But by the time Médine’s letter reached me, her city lay in shambles.”

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More Jesus Army Miracles

As the Holy Spirit filled and renewed a small Baptist church in Bugbrooke, central England, during the mid-1970’s, many miracles occurred. When I visited the Jesus Army last year, Huw Lewis told me and my friends Hillevi and Emil about some healings that he saw, including a man whose sight was restored when he was baptized. He also shared his reaction to seeing a demon being cast out the first time and how the whole church was stunned by the presence of the Lord:

This footage is from my upcoming documentary Everything in Common. It was originally planned to be released last year, but I’ve been busy with book writing and finishing my studies. Now I have time to finish the documentary though, the first live screening will be here in Sweden on a conference that I’m co-organizing on Christian community life in April. I hope to to be able to publish it on YouTube shortly afterwards, there are some music licensing stuff that I need to deal with.

The documentary is about the community of goods that is being practiced at the Jesus Army: how it works, how it impacts people’s lives and what other churches can learn from it. Here’s an epic teaser trailer for the film:

Candy Gunther Brown on Miracles and Democracy

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Candy Gunther Brown if professor of religion at Indiana University and an expert on both the global charismatic movement as well as healing and how it is measured scientifically. As content creator for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice, I was able to conduct an interview with her which you can read here. An excerpt:

MICAEL GRENHOLM: You edited the anthology Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healingwhich discusses various aspects of this international and rapidly spreading movement. In its final chapter, you write: ”The globalization of divine healing networks fuels the twin engines of supernaturalism and democratization, which together forcefully propel the global expansion of Christianity.” Could you expand on that?

CANDY GUNTHER BROWN: People in the Global North are taking cues from Christians in the Global South who tend to pray more expectantly for healing. Likewise, Christians in the Global South have tended to rely on pastors and leaders to do the praying; they’ve taken cues from the expectation of Christians in the Global North that any believer can pray effectively for healing.

This is a very interesting thought. I’ve often said that the North should give more money to the South in order to fight poverty whereas the South should share revival fires to the North in return, and while I think that Brown agrees with that she points at something more fundamental. Church democracy is great and biblical (1 Cor 14:26) and it’s actually something besides finances that us Northeners are able to share to our brothers and sisters in the Majority World. (more…)

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