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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Europe’s Refugee Crisis Has a Pentecostal Solution:




The Present Dilemma:
The current European Muslim refugee crisis is a dilemma. On the one hand, Christians religious leaders including Pope Francis are correct in pointing out that the Bible exhorts us to be generous to the exile and refugee. Certainly the Muslim refugees from Syria and other war-torn areas deserve our compassion and care. Chancellor Merkel of Germany has followed the Pope’s lead and opened the doors of her nation to practically unlimited refugee immigration to help solve the current humanitarian crises of the refugees – 500,000 refugees this year and the next.

There is also an economic motive for Merkel and other European leaders in suddenly allowing hundreds of thousands of Muslim immigrants into Germany and Europe. It is that the populations of Europe and Germany are rapidly graying and losing the numbers of young workers needed to work and pay taxes for the generous social services and medical systems. This young worker deficit is partly an evil result of the Post-War secularization of Europe which severed the relationship between sexual pleasure and procreation. Sex became primarily an act of pleasure, and homosexual unions and childless, non-marital unions became totally acceptable. (This has happened in the United States also, but to a lesser degree and with somewhat more resistance from the Christian community.) Also, Europeans largely believed the false prophecies of the 1968 book, The Population Bomb, which predicted a huge over population of the earth.[1]  All of this resulted in births rates that were well below the number needed for population replacement, let alone growth. For decades Germany has had to import young workers, principally from Muslim Turkey.[2]

But on the other hand, Europeans have every right to be wary of the consequences of letting in large numbers of Islamic refugees. This is not “Islamophobia,” but a very rational fear of what large numbers of Muslims can do to the culture, spirituality and politics of Europe. France is already experiencing severe problems with this. It has for a generation allowed large scale immigration from its former Muslim colonies, especially Algeria. Many of these migrants have set up semi-autonomous and lawless regions in the outskirts of Paris and other cities.  Muslim youths, now French citizens, often despise both France and the West, and have romantic images of “pure” Islam, i.e., radical Islam. The attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January of this year, and the parallel attacks on the Parisian Jewish grocery store were not minor incidents of culture friction. The substantial Islamic population of France is making life for the Jews in France hazardous, and may result in a France without Jews and with a foreign policy that is radically anti-Israel (it is almost there already). The situation in the UK is also grim. Several cities in the UK are quickly becoming majority Muslim, and Muslims there have over twice the birth rate of non-Muslims. Muslim in the UK have even begun to harass and mistreat converts to Christianity in their community, knowing that they will have little interference from the police.[3]

In Iraq, merely a year ago, the Archbishop of Mosul in Northern Iraq, standing in the ruins of his cathedral, warned the people of Europe:
"Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer in the near future. I lost my diocese. The Islamic radicals want us converted or dead....Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemies you have welcomed in your home." [4]


These are not “phobic” sentiments, but a description of a political, cultural and spiritual realities. Thus when the Prime Minster of Hungry, Vikto Orban, voiced his concern for the future of European Christian civilization in the face of mass Islamic migration he was articulating what many in Europe feel as true, but are afraid to express due to the fashions of political correctness.[5] 

Chancellor Merkel had been previously quite cautious about opening Germany’s borders to masses of refugees. Most famously she was recently criticized for suggesting to a Palestinian school girl that she and her family may have to leave Germany, for Europe cannot possibly take in “all those” who wish to come.[6] But her opinion, and that of the European public, has now shifted  – or has been shamed into a different public stand.

The shift happened rather rapidly, due to the now famous photograph of the three year old dead Kurdish child, Alon Kuirdi, who drowned when he fell off a flimsy raft in the Mediterranean Sea.[7]  Many writers have noticed how history and public opinion can be swayed by such a dramatic photo.

A Historical Reflection on Dramatic Pictures:
A parallel is the famous “napalm girl” photo of a Vietnamese child running away from a napalm attack at the height of the Vietnamese War. This photo helped coalesce the anti-war movement in the United. The anti-war movement ultimately forced the American Government to exit the Vietnam War and withdraw effective support from the South Vietnamese Government – and lose the war.


Let me suggest that dramatic pictures are not a good way to establish policy. Dramatic pictures focus on the immediate, and obscure the historical memory and wisdom that peoples and governments must have in making important decisions. For instance, the napalm girl picture shifted the argument of the Vietnam War to the immediate suffering of civilians from “friendly fire” incidents (there were no smart bombs in Vietnam and, like WWII, pilot error was frequent). What was forgotten was that the various American policy makers of the administrations of Johnson and Nixon had a historical understanding of the terrible consequences of communist takeovers of nations, as in the genocidal occurrences in Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s China.  Their historical understanding could project past behavior into the future, i.e. there would be terrible genocidal consequences to a Communists triumph in Indo-China.

In fact, the American defeat in Indo-China did result in a huge genocide, not in Vietnam, but in neighboring Cambodia. Later, pictures were taken of the skulls of thousands of innocent civilians – a mere fraction of the million or so tortured and slaughtered by the demonically driven Pol Pot regime. But the picture of napalm girl helped incapacitate an understanding of what would happen if America walked out of Indo-China.
Drawing from memory of Cambodian woman separated from her child

On Germany and Europe Again:
So now back to the European Muslim issue. We have now the equivalent of the napalm girl picture, but not a picture of something down the road - the equivalent of the pile of skulls murdered by the Pol Pot regime. Something very terrible was recently avoided in the Paris train by three courageous American servicemen. The pictures only showed an arrested terrorist, not the bodies of a hundred or so dead Europeans. A mass Islamist terrorist event has not happened yet in Germany. There is no picture of it to stir our emotions and make us grieve, and wary. But with hundreds of thousands of Muslim immigrants entering into Germany and other parts of Europe it is certain something very ugly will eventually happen, aside from the steady Islamization of German culture as is happening in France. Some terrorist act will probably be done by some disgruntled immigrant youths who, like present generation of French/Muslim youths, are disgusted with Western materialism and its blatant sexuality (truly there is much to be disgusted with) and decide to do Jihad in Europe.[8] What and when will it be? Five or ten years from now? Perhaps a coordinated attack on a crowded soccer stadium? Perhaps thousands dead, like the attack on the Twin Towers? We have no pictures yet.

The fact is that there is a serious deposit of evil and aggression in the Koran and Islam that we are now coming to comprehend. A recent and well researched and documented article in The Atlantic,, demonstrated quite clearly that what ISIS now does as policy is fundamentally Seventh Century Islam, and more authentic to the Koran than modern secularized Islam.[9]  The destructive and murderous reign of ISIS is not unique to today or the Seventh Century. A similar, and long forgotten wave of destruction and genocidal murder happened in the Fourteenth Century when whole communities of Nestorian and Oriental Christians were exterminated by Islamist of the period.[10]

Many Muslim will continue to become radicalized as they pass through the youthful years when identity is being forged and something heroic and sacrificial meets the needs of man’s inherent spiritual yearnings. Fundamentalist, Seventh Century Islam and its reincarnation fits the bill. As St. Augustine noted, a counterfeit good will fill the void in our hearts almost as well as the real thing.

Thus dilemma of the present Islamic immigrant crisis is this: on the one hand, to act in an uncharitable way and to block immigration or send these refugees back to horrible home situations – or to perhaps evacuate them to an already Muslim country. Or, on the other hand, accept them and risk long term consequences of major Islamic influences in spirituality, politics and culture – and all for certain acts of terrorism.

But now that Pope Francis has spoken, European activists have been mobilized, and Chancellor  Merkel has changed her mind. One “horn”  of the dilemma has been grasped. It will be all but politically impossible for countries in the European Union, other than Hungry perhaps, to close their borders to the current desperate Muslim refugees.

The Pentecostal Solution:
But I believe there is a third alternative, not obvious to many, but one that would allow large numbers of Islamic refugees in, while safeguarding, and to in fact, reinforcing the Christian roots and nature of European civilization. It is to convert the masses of refugees to Christianity. A pipe dream? No. Doable? Yes, but demanding major changes in the way Europeans practice and conceive of Christianity.

First, a sketch of the spiritual situation in Europe. In a few words, it is very bleak. Sunday attendance at European churches ranges from about 15% to a low of 3% (Denmark). This is the product of centuries of Christianity that denied the reality of the supernatural in everyday Christian life – a violation of how the Gospel is supposed to be proclaimed (Heb 2:1-4). The theology that denied the miraculous and the present reality of the gifts of the Spirit is called cessationsim, and John Calvin placed this destructive doctrine at the center of Protestant theology. It was his solution to rectify the problems and abuses of Catholic spirituality, as in venerating relics for healing. Unfortunately, the biblical mandate of the laying on of hands for healing was almost totally absent in Catholic medieval practice. Protestantism, which converted most of Northern Europe continued on with considerable piety, but with no ability to authenticate the Gospel with “signs and wonders” (Heb 2:1-4) since they were no longer believed to be possible. This made the Christian faith subject to the skepticism of Enlightenment thinkers and the accusation that Biblical miracles were all mythical. This is the root cause of European Christianity’s slow disintegration.[11]

Catholics did only marginally better that Protestants. There were plenty of saints’ tales to tell, but very little active healing or gifts of the Spirit manifested at the parish level.  I call this Catholic “gifts-poverty” theology the “Galatian bewitchment,” because it stemmed from an early error that the gifts of the Spirit, including healing, were given only to those of very high spiritual attainment.  That is contrary to what St. Paul taught in Galatians 5. [12] John Cassian and later, St. John of the Cross, urged that the practice of healing or any of the gifts of the Spirit were a danger to the humility and salvation of the Christian.  In effect, Catholicism, became a religion where saints tales were recounted, but miracles rarely or never seen at the parish level.

Again, skepticism and atheism were the natural result, i.e., religion is “pie in the sky.” Where was the evidence to the contrary? For example, by the early Twentieth  Century “Catholic” Spain was bitterly divided between a Catholic middle class and the radicalized anti-Christian lower classes and intellectuals. Many of those who fought on of the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War were bitterly ant-Catholic and anti-Christian. Most, ironically, had been taught the catechism but would not have seen a single miraculous healing or any miraculous event even if they had they attended mass regularly.

Thus, until the coming of the Faith-Cure Movement of the 1880s, and then the Pentecostal revival in the 1900s, all  forms of Christianity were guilty of both ignoring the mandate of Hebrews 2: 1-4, and the importance of Paul’s command to all Christians to be ambitious for, and exercise, the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 14:1).

Now: in respect to the Muslims and the current possibility of their conversion to Christianity. It is important to note that there were practically no conversions from Muslim to Christianity all through the 19th and 20th centuries.  This was in spite of often heroic efforts by both Catholic and Protestant missionaries.[13]  In recent decades this has been reversed, and there have been millions of converts, many as the result of various TV satellite ministries that now reach into every Muslim nation.[14] But conversions are often initiated by supernatural means. That is, many Muslims experience dreams or visions of Jesus who invites them to accept Him as Lord.[15] This is important because it points to a reality of the Muslim world that is germane to their effective evangelization. Muslims are not cessationsist; they are supernaturalists. That is, there is no cessationsit theology in Islam. All believe that miracles occurred in Biblical times, and continue today. It would be difficult for a Muslim inquirer, who has received a vision of the Lord, or has been miraculously healed by his/her prayer to Jesus, to accept the Protestant doctrine that such things do not happen in modern times, or that only the Bible can be a source of revelation, not a vision.

The other reality is that Muslims are have a strong aversion to idolatry. Most Muslim groups do not permit any drawing of a human being, let alone any representation of God.  This is of course quite Biblical. But is also hinders conversions into Catholicism, which developed an “anti-iconoclastic” theology from Antiquity in which statues were declared acceptable.[16] In fact, Muslim conversion to Catholicism are difficult and rare. This is obscured because such conversions are often highly publicized, as in the case of Benedict the XVI baptizing a famous Egyptian journalist.

Muslims need a Full-Gopel church:
All of this is to say that the natural churches for Muslims converting to Christianity is some form of Spirit-filled or “Full Gospel” Christianity, i.e., Pentecostalism. Protestant Pentecostalism upholds the Reformation traditions against statues and images. All forms of Pentecostalism, including Catholic Charismatics, are by nature anti-cessationist, and practice “signs and wonders” and the gifts of the Spirit. A Muslim would feel right at home in these churches where the supernatural is valued and considered a normal part of Christian life.

But herein lays a great problem for European Christians. They would love to usher in large numbers of Muslim converts into their churches, but most are strongly cessationist and anti-Pentecostal. Many Europeans have a cultivated abhorrence to American Pentecostalism, and especially the extremes of the Word Faith movement which they point to as “typical” of Pentecostalism. (The recent incident of Pastor Creflo Dollar’s bid to purchase a $65,000,000 private jet has not helped the situation.)  This hinders European Christians from fairly examining Pentecostal and charismatic congregations who are not in an extreme mode.

The aversion to Pentecostalism by European Christians has historic roots. Back in 1908, German Evangelical pastors met to discuss the ongoing Azusa St. (Pentecostal) revival. By a large consensus they declared the movement to be heretical. They wanted no part of this American “madness” in their shores and issued a declaration to that effect. This was the infamous “Berlin Declaration.” One but wonders how the tragic course of German history might have been changed if instead of condemnation, the Evangelical pastors would have welcomed Pentecost into their churches.  
So now, the quandary: German and European Christian leaders are mostly anti-Pentecostal, anti-charismatic, and by habit, ignore the moderate and mature forms of Pentecostalism. These are the very things that would be most attractive to a Muslim inquirer or convert. As I have suggested in an earlier article in Pneuam Review, one way around this block might be to emphasize forms of pentecostalism (note the small “p”) that are not specifically associated with classical Pentecostalism, but still Spirit-filled. Specifically I suggested that the Spirit-filled spirituality that came out of the CFO camps (Camps Furthest Out) of the 1950s to 1970s, and led by such persons as Prof. Glenn Clark, Rufus Mosely and especially Mrs. Agnes Sanford, would be attractive to the European and German Cristians.[17] That “CFO spirituality” accepted and practiced the gifts of the Spirit, especially healing, yet it was less exuberant in expression that classical Pentecostalism. Additionally, the name Glenn Clark is already familiar to many older Germans, as his major works were trundled into German and widely circulated decades ago.

Another Spirit-filled alternative for Europeans to consider is the “convergence” or “three streams” model of Christianity. For instance in the US and England there are many Episcopal or Anglican churches that are fully sacramental and liturgical, but are charismatic also.  That is, they accept the gifts of the Spirit as normative to the clergy and lay persons. They practice a blend of the liturgical/sacramental worship, proclaim an Evangelical, fully supernatural Gospel that includes healing ministry and the gifts of the Spirit.  In the United States a denomination begun in the 1980s was specially formed to follow this pattern, The Charismatic Episcopal Church (CEC). It had administrative and leadership problems several years ago, but it survived and still does very well in combining the “three streams” of liturgical, Evangelical and Pentecostal.[18] For instance, in their Sunday liturgical worship the formal “Gloria” is replaced by praise songs and with the congregation exercising the word gifts of prophecy, tongues and interpretation of tongues. They always have healing teams in the church to pray for those who are sick. This pattern may be especially appropriate for the liturgical churches in Europe as a way of accepting the gifts of the Spirit (and attracting Muslim converts) without being “too Pentecostal.”[19]

Small CEC congregation worshiping outdoors

Now all of this is theoretical (a heavenly potential, so to speak). The Muslims who are pouring into Europe are being greeted by a mostly secular and often an anti-Christian public. The Churches in Europe are weak, often liberal (anti-supernaturalist) and often more interested in “dialogue” with Muslims than conversion. This seems to be the position of the Catholic Church, which does not want to endanger its remnant congregations in Egypt and other Arab countries by zealous evangelization. Thus the mass conversion of the present wave of Muslim refugees in Europe does not seem probable or possible.

Praying for the Conversion of the Muslim Refugees in Europe:
But with faith and prayer all things are possible. God really wants all persons to be saved and the Muslims to accept Jesus as His son. It is the duty of the Church, corporately and individually, to pray for the conversion of the Muslims everywhere, but now especially for the Muslim refugees in Europe. It is what we do when we pray the Lord’s prayer as we ask, “on earth as it is in heaven.”
So here are some “praying points” that churches might consider to pray corporately, as in Wednesday night or Sunday night prayer services, or the “prayers of the people” that Anglicans Catholics and other liturgical Christians do in their Sunday services.
·         Pray that European Christians, in their shock over the onslaught of Muslims, surrender the antagonism and suspicion of Pentecostalism and Spirit-filled forms of Christianity, and seek to be filled and empowerd by the Holy Spirit.
·         That European Christians realize that Muslims will not be converted to cessationist forms of Evangelicalism,  or liberal and anti-supernalist churches, but need some form of Spirit-filled churches.  
·         That all Spirt-filled Christians in Europe, Catholic charismatics, Pentecostals, Vineyard groups, etc., be united in their prayers and practical efforts to bring the Full Gospel to the Muslim Refugees.
·         That the Lord of the harvest rise up indigenous pastors and leaders quickly among the refugees who would accept the Gospel and lead many of their brethren to salvation.
·         That a healing revival break out in Europe, one that would strongly demonstrate the power of the Gospel and the Lordship of Jesus to the dispirited and distraught refugees (and to the dispirited European Christians too!).

Announcement:

The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my latest book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.





The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle HERE You can purchase the print version at a discount from the publisher HERE

My wife has written a funny and inspiring story of how she transited from a cessionist and Baptist to a Spirit-filled Believer. The book has many stories of our three decades of ministry together.  It may be purchased HERE.

Watching God Work: The Stuff of Miracles by [DeArteaga, Carolyn Koontz]

Addendum:

An article from the Christian Science Monitor on how ISIS radicalizes young American Muslims via social media, HERE

An article from National Geographic on ISIS intentions in Europe, showing the full brutality and evil of the movement. HERE

This article is the best secular presentation of the underlying spiritual conflicts of the current West vs Muslim confrontation. The author concludes, as an astute observer, that there is no solution. He does not know of or cannot mention the power of untied Christian prayer. HERE

Another article, echoing the moral dilemma I have pointed out in this blog, from The Week : HERE

An article on how Jesus is appearing in vision and dreams to many Muslims throughout the world HERE

Her is an article on how (demonic influenced) dreams encourage some to jihad. HERE

Announcement:

The noted Pentecostal scholar Dr. Jon Ruthven wrote a very positive review of my latest book, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal. You can access it HERE.


The book may be purchased on Amazon, either print or inexpensive Kindle. You can purchase the print version at a discount from the publisher HERE



[1] Paul R. Ehrlich, The Population Bomb. (New York: Ballantine, 1968).
[2] In retrospect, one of the most maligned Papal encyclicals of all time Paul VI’s Humanae vitae (1968) which decried the secular separation of sex from procreation, may well be one of the most prophetic works of that century.  On this see Luma Simms, “Renewing My Plea: Humanae Vitae After Obergefell,” First Things. Posted July 24, 2015.
[3] Gavin Ashenden, “A Christian call to halt mass Muslim migration to Europe,” Anglican Link. Posted 12 September 2015.  http://anglicanink.com/article/christian-call-halt-mass-muslim-migration-europe.
[4] Gavin Ashenden, “A Christian call to halt mass Muslim migration to Europe,” Anglican Link. Posted 12 September 2015.  http://anglicanink.com/article/christian-call-halt-mass-muslim-migration-europe.
[5] Ian Traynor, “Migration Crisis: Hungry PM says Europe in Grip of Madness.” The Guardian. Posted Sept 3, 2015.  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/03/migration-crisis-hungary-pm-victor-orban-europe-response-madness
[6] Amy Davidson, “Merkel and the Crying Girl,” The New Yorker. Posted July 21, 2015
http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/merkel-and-the-crying-girl-five-lessons.
[7] Sara Miller Llana,With one photo, Europe's refugee debate changes almost overnight,” Christian Science Monitor. Posted, September 4, 2015. 
[8] For those little informed about the European situation, the amount of public pornography, as in nudity in the movies and on TV, etc., is much higher that the United States.
[9] Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic (March 2015).  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/what-isis-really-wants/384980/
[10] See the superb account of this log forgotten genocide in Philip Jenkins’,  The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia – and How It Died (New York: harper Collins, 2008).
[11] I discussed the tragic effects of cessationism extensively in both my earlier work, Quenching the Spirit (Lake Mary: 1996), and my latest, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2015). You may purchase this work at a discount HERE. Go to Amazon for a Kindle version for only $10.
[12] See my discussion of this in, Agnes Sanford and Her Companions, chapter one.
[13] For a brief review of mission efforts to the Muslims, see Gabriel Said, “Evangelizing Islam,) First Things. (January 2011).  http://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/01/evangelizing-islam.
[14] For a description of one of the most successful of these satellite ministries, see my blog posting, “Fr. Zakaria Botors: Apostle to the Muslims,” Anglican Pentecostal.” Posted, July 13, 2013.  http://anglicalpentecostal.blogspot.com/2013/07/fr-zakaria-botros-apostle-to-muslims.html
[15] Tom Doyle, Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).
[16] I was raised a Roman Catholic and had various statues of Mary and the saints in my childhood home, but I now side with the Reformers on this – an elaborate theology cannot override the pain text of scripture.
[17] William L. De Arteaga, “Does Agnes Sanford offer something for Post-Christian Europe?” Pneuma Review. Posted Septembber 3, 2015.  http://pneumareview.com/does-agnes-sanford-offer-something-for-post-christian-europe/
[18] Their web site is: http://www.cec-na.org/. Another interesting new convergeance denomination is the smaller “Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches” (CEEC) which was the denomination where I received my ordination. At: http://www.theceec.org/CEEChistory.html. I am now resident in the Anglican Church of North America. It began as a convergence denomination, and still has some congregations that practice convergence, but sadly, many of its churches are sliding into pure traditionalism.
[19] I am in no way attempting to be critical of the classical Pentecostal denominations. My wife and I often worship in such churches and enjoy their exuberance and joy. What is at stake in this present moment is the European distorted view of Pentecostalism as always being extreme, and a way around that perception.