The Missiological Forum at Norwegian School of Theology (Menighetsfakultetet) in Oslo yesterday showed the value of serious theological reflection combined with real-to-life ministry to the hurting world. Evangelicals, lutherans and pentecostals combined their know-how to have a sober and impacting consultation.
Left to right in a panel discussion yesterday: Psychiatrist Arne Austad, Pentecostal theologian Øyvind Gaarder Andersen, Pentecostal Pastor Marit Landrø, and Lutheran missionary-theologian Øyvind ÅslandMissiological Forum is an initiative of Norwegian Council of Missions and Evangelization (NORME), which is the result of a merger of Norwegian Missions Council, Lausanne Norway, and the Evangelical Alliance on March 1st, 2001, and is founded on the basis of the Lausanne Covenant. ECAL Convenor Jan-Aage Torp is a personal, paying member of NORME. The Program Committee Chairman of Missiological Forum is Dr. Hans Aage Gravaas, a former missionary to Ethiopia, and presently the Director of Stefanusalliansen, which serves the Persecuted Church worldwide. Professor of missiology at Norwegian School of Theology, Dr. Roar G. Fotland, hosts the forum on behalf of his school.
After an initial round of well-prepared papers by Dr. Tore Laugerud (priest to the alternative seekers in Norway) on "Extraordinary spiritual experiences - a challenge", and Dr. Tormod Engelsviken (professor emeritus of missiology at Norwegian School of Theology) on "Deliver us from the evil! Charismata, healing, spiritual power and conflict", the rest of the day was spent in a consultative format among the 70+ participants, who were largely from the multifaceted Lutheran Church of Norway, interspersed with a wide array of pentecostal and charismatic practitioners.
Hans Aage Gravaas is the program chairman of Missiological Forum, and is a former missionary to Ethiopia, He is now the Director of Stefanusalliansen which focuses on the Persecuted Church.Professor Tormod Engelsviken who has done extensive research for 40 years on the charismatic dimension in the context of missiology, stated that "Christian practice of exorcism in Jesus´ Name is increasing in the Western world as well as in the Southern hemisphere. We believe in angels and demons that have personal characteristics. The demons can be driven out by speaking to them with authority in Jesus´ Name, because they have limited authority."
Engelsviken emphasized strongly that the ministry of casting out demons and practicing charismatic gifts is an integral part of the Christian faith. He even stated: "Omitting the ministry of casting out demons is a worse heresy than acknowledging homosexuality!"
In the ensuing discussions during the course of the day, several nuggets of truth and reflection were presented:
"To discern spirits demands that we know the voice of God!" said missionary to Japan and priest to seekers in Norway, Valfrid Botnen.
Arild Romarheim, professor of spirituality and world religions at Norwegian School of Theology, said: "We must meet the real life of people, and that includes real spiritual forces!"
Jan Gossner, principal emeritus of NLA University College in Oslo, said: "I am thankful for NORME and Norwegian School of Theology for hosting this seminar, which should have happened a long time ago. Now we need to take it a step further, beyond discussions, and to help each other do the work of ministry in a sound way. In the 1970´s we came under heavy fire for our efforts to set people free from demons, and we didn´t have good models to learn from. Now we do, and we need to help each other into effective ministry!"
"Churches in Ethiopia grow becaue of signs, wonders and miracles. Experts in psychological health in Norway do not have the whole answer!" stated Ethiopian missionary to Norway, Lemma Desta.
Marit Landrø, a former missionary to Swaziland and retired pentecostal pastor, affirmed her belief that demons are for real: "But often, it seems that what we think are demons, are really just our own hysteria and emotions. I find that demons in our part of the world operate in a more covert way. That´s why we need true discernment!" stated the seasoned woman of God.
"As a professional psychiatrist, I cannot use a concept like ´demons´ in my practice. But I am happy to contribute with my expertise. At the core of my belief is that God loves people, and we need to respect every individual, regardless of what we believe their problem is!" said reknown psychiatrist Arne Austad, who is particularly known for his treatment of Christians who have encountered spiritual abuse in charismatic circles.
"I believe it would be wrong to say that demons are inactive in the western world. They operate in Norway and Europe too! Just think of the downfall of the Welsh revival in 1906, which was largely due to obvious demonic activity. Even in recent times in Norway, many of us have encountered demonic activity that has wrecked individuals, families and churches. Even though I don´t believe in infant baptism, I do believe that Norway has a certain measure of spiritual protection from the faith of Godly parents, whether they baptize or bless their children!" said Jan-Aage Torp, Convenor of European Coalition of Apostolic Leaders.
Executive Director of Norwegian Lutheran Mission (Misjonssambandet), Norway´s largest missions organization, Øyvind Åsland, who has served for several years in Kenya, affirmed his faith in a Biblical worldview, which includes the spiritual reality of angels and demons: "Satan and his spiritual army is highly real!"
The closing remarks of Hans Aage Gravaas, as the chairman of Missiological Forum, put everything into perspective: "We must learn to discern spirits, and today we have brought together our collective insight and wisdom. Let us continue on this path of learning from God and each other!"