Legalism, church history, evil, revivals, speaking out
I am a sometimes ornery member of the SacredCowTippers group on Yahoo. I often write witty, profound, exciting and exemplary posts as I expound on certain religious subjects. I say that humbly, of course. HA!
From today forward I shall preserve some of these posts for the teensy few who are lucky enough to find their way here. This is the first installment.
— In SacredCowTippers@yahoogroups.com, Brehmites@… wrote:
> Someone sent me this article — I found it timely and interesting, and so I
> responded in places — hope it edifies! (The article authors are in black
> font, I am purple; or, if you get it in one color, the article is indented, I’m
> to the left margin.)
This is a lot of cows to kick around. As usual, from out in the hinterland where I dwell I see things differently. I’ll make general comments and then a couple of points… if I may? I have deleted much of your post to shorten up the file.
First, the question of “legalism” and all that junk–and it is junk– never comes up except in JUDEO-Christian circles where certain things are a given:
- The Church is a *continuation* of God’s purpose as it began in Genesis
- The Bible–as in the current Protestant form of the Bible used in the West–is the absolute, inerrant, infallible authority from which all doctrines must drive.
- Christians are “grafted In” (or whatever term one might use) to the “Tree” as in they become honorary or naturalized Jews (God’s chosen people) by becoming Christians.
If these are the “truths” (in whatever variation) a person, church or denomination operate under then legalism is not only acceptable but required. Different denominations may argue the finer points of what “laws” should be followed, which is what this discourse seems to do, or how to deal with those who do not follow the accepted rules, something else this discourse is considering, but still, legalism is built into the doctrine. The question isn’t so much which “laws” but judgmentalism itself. At least, that’s how I see it.
If one rejects those three beliefs (which I do) the whole question is moot. If, as I believe, our duty is to seek God and serve him in the way we know to do no group with presumed-authority or person has any right to question our faith on an individual level.
BUT, if someone is part of a congregation or organization and then comes to believe differently that group has every right to ask the person to leave. There are right ways and wrong ways to do that, it should be done with kindness and without being judgmental (which it rarely is) but the group has the right not to have someone bring confusion or contention in their group. Nobody wins and God is never glorified where a group dissolves into bickering bobble-heads.
Unity is important. We should be able to work together as a body of people doing the right thing for God but there’s no expectation that every church should open its doors to anyone. That happened to the Unitarian Church in the 18th century and people whose beliefs are contrary to God and Truth eventually shoved the others out and changed the whole denomination, eventually joining it with another way-too-open group, the Unitarians. We should all fellowship. We cannot ever get at the depths of our own beliefs if we try to worship together while holding extremely divergent points of view.
On church history: Inevitably biblical history and theology studies involve Bible verses mixed with the writings of church fathers and assorted acceptable resources. But unless all writings and resources are considered, even some that may not be authentic, one cannot get the whole picture. One cannot learn the truth of Nazism by reading Mein Kampf nor studying all the many volumes written by Nazis. One must study all points of views and then back up to study the history of the sources and the history of the authors. Scholars do not have studies filled with thousands of books for nothing. History is never easy, simple, or clear.
Church history and doctrinal studies should include at least a review of apocryphal texts, all historical texts, the background of all the writers, and if possible the background of the people who studied the writers. A discussion that focuses on Bible texts will never be complete nor clear. Almost everybody sees the Bible differently. I, for example, rarely if ever accept a point of view based entirely on a verse or series of verses. I do not accept the Bible as the absolute authority. History (all history texts available taken together, not just ecclesiastic history) reveals that it’s neither complete nor very accurate, especially in translations. Fundamentalists, of course, call me a heretic. So be it. They will agree that there will never be agreement.
On revivals: I used to be excited about them. Then when I attended First Assembly here–the biggest feel-good Mega-church in our town–the place went wacky about some Florida revival. Might be the same one, I dont’ know, but this one was in the nineties. Anyway, it was a ridiculous spectacle. The pastor, his wife, and several others went, came back with stories, on and on.
I love the movie “Six Days and Seven Nights.” There’s a scene in a bar where Anne Heche’s character is having a conversation with Harrison Ford’s character who is quite inebriated. He’s poking fun at tourists who come to the island. “They come here….” he grumbles, “looking for romance!” His words drip sarcasm.
She says, “oh, well, maybe they will!”
He looks her in the eye and says, “It’s an island, babe, you don’t bring it here you won’t find it here!”
Truth from the Cinema! People go off chasing God, looking for Answers. We are all “islands.” If we don’t find it inside, we won’t find it. Many revivals are misguided and a waste of time. They are either ineffective or designed to feed selfish desires. Mega-revivals are absurd. Usually at the center of them are a few people who are wearing gold watches, driving Cadillacs, and living quite well. Evangelists have come a long way from John the Baptist’s sack-suits, locusts and wild honey.
On Church Councils: Who do you call? Why put faith in “church elders?” This is a Jewish custom, btw. “Elders” are steeped not in Truth but in doctrine. They know the usually convoluted and detailed doctrines of their denomination inside out. They will never, ever, seek Truth. They will merely evaluate a situation in the light of their denomination’s belief and judge accordingly. If the “elders” are from several denominations they will never agree with each other. Remember, there was no such thing as an “elder” in the first-century church. Jesus was new to everybody. Only the Disciples themselves or those who walked with Jesus personally could be deemed “elders” and most of them were inept and wrong more than they were right.
It’s not how a group of old guys see doctrine that matters. Profound wisdom quite often comes from kids. My kids amaze me sometimes. Truth is found, again, by looking within ourselves, comparing what we find with the words of Jesus, and sometimes (not always) validated by a sensation given by the Spirit of God. Even if the Bible does talk of elders, considering the state of the church it’s highly unlikely any set of “elders” will get anywhere near Truth.
I’ve come to not fear demons. I see that satan’s head was crushed on Calvary (interesting, as the hill was called “the skull” and the cross literally pierced the head of the skull). I see that he was utterly defeated, defanged. Yes, he still prowls around, seeking whom he may devour, but he eats the dust — we are made of dust, and our unrenewed minds are still of our old nature — what he seeks to devour is our minds — he fills them with lies. If, and only if, we believe his lies, can he affect us. I believe that he can only operate in the realm of the lies we believe (for then we are on “his turf” as he is the father of lies. I no longer look for satan under every rock … I know the Rock which he is under!
I would suggest that this is a dangerous attitude. Perhaps we should not “fear” as in “grovel at the foot of” satan but we should never dismiss the power of the evil entities on this earth. I have seen what they can do personally. I saw them turn a teenage girl into a beast. I’ve learned the horrors they are responsible for. And I’ve discovered that there are times when we CAN be overwhelmed by their power. Jesus does have the power, of course. We better be careful about thinking we do.
Even if we’re walking a perfect path and have little to worry about for ourselves those we love are probably not so close to Truth as we think we are. THEY are subject to influence, coercion, attack. Threaten my life, no big deal. Threaten my family, it is a big deal. Never dismiss the probability that the evil one will attack them because of us. We must be very careful, then, to be consistent, honest, and open with our family, not appearing to be “holier-than-thou” so that THEY don’t get deceived because they resent us or see us as a hypocrite.
satan is not as obvious as we might think; especially when it comes to other people. Remember, he’s a pinhead horned-toad but he doesn’t LOOK that way. Our family might find comfort, fulfillment, even a fake joy or peace in something that is pure counterfeit. This is why our lifestyle is far, far more important than our words. If we don’t deliberately exemplify the lifestyle of Jesus even when we don’t want to we’ll not be able to recognize the counterfeit either in our own lives or others’.
I’ve heard many people make that “victory” statement and then live the most selfish lives. I must confess to doing the same thing. Contrary to common Christian assumption, a simple “decision” for Jesus is not enough. Jesus did not tell the rich young guy JUST to sell his stuff and give the money to the poor. He said, “come, follow me!” Salvation isn’t an event, it is a lifestyle that began with a choice and a change of heart. It’s not about “working our way to heaven,” it’s about fulfilling our duties as a citizen in the Kingdom of God. If we do not fulfill those duties–live as Jesus taught–we are vulnerable. Evil can and will suck us up.
It is true that Christians either put God or the devil’s stamp on every little thing. This is just goofy. Blaming satan four our clumsiness or selfishness is making excuses. Even so, NOT seeing the possibility there might be something evil in at least some things is dangerous. Someone wrote the other day (was it you?) that the devil wants us to doubt God. He wants us to doubt him even more. If we dismiss the belief that he exists we give him free reign to do horrible things. The devil, satan, may not be as powerful as God but he does have power. He is not defeated YET. He remains very much alive at the moment. Jesus won the battle. The war is not over. Jesus cautioned us repeatedly to this fact.
On speaking out:
You said: IF God is calling us to speak out, then we must. If He is calling us to pray, then we must. If He is calling us to go (for whatever reason), then we must. If He is calling us to wait, and to trust His plan to play out, then we must. He knows what He’s doing and He knows how to get our attention.
Some see a contradiction between my choice to live the lifestyle of Jesus which says to love absolutely and freely and forgive and be kind to all, etc., and my tendency to speak my mind and say some things that sound exceptionally unkind. And some thing I am self-righteous. I’m not. Jesus, again, is my example. He loved with the greatest love and was very kind hearted but blasted the Pharisees, calling them painted-over caskets full of dead bones. He pulled no punches speaking against the evil deeds of self-righteous religious leaders. He was more kind to demons than he was to the Pharisees. He listened when demons came screaming out, even granting them a request (send us into those pigs). In the Pharisees he saw nothing worthy at all.
I am not Jesus and I do not judge an individual heart but I believe God has ALREADY called us to speak out against stupidity and selfishness. I do not believe we must wait for “guidance.” Nothing gets under my skin like a coward. Not to say that you are but I have met hundreds of people that kept their mouth shut and let all kinds of things go on because they were too chicken to open their mouth. Christians who do that most often use the excuse, “the spirit didn’t move me.” I want to reply, “what you want God to do, kick you in the ass?” Arg.
When we see horrors or stupidity or repression or whatever being done or spoken in the name of the God we serve we should have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and shout, “Hey, there is a guy teaching stupid junk that is causing dozens/hundreds/thousands to live terrible lives full of confusion and fear. They’re chasing their own selfish desires rather than following the words of Jesus. Yo, stop listening to that idiot, people!”
The movie version of the rock-opera Jesus Christ Superstar was a bit …off the wall… maybe, but I think they got the attitude of Jesus towards the thieves in the Temple and Pharisees right-on. The actor’s neck vains popped as he railed against them. We are not Jesus, of course, and cannot speak with his knowledge or authority but neither should we be all mamby-pamby about speaking obvious Truth.
(…loud thump on the pulpit…)
So, then, I have thumped. I shall now go see what my kids are up to.
God bless yall!
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