Domesticating Christians

Ron Schwartz says it a lot better than I can.  Using scripture and and some logical sense, it’s easy to see that things are not what they should be.  There’s wide spread perversion out there, but it might not be what you think.

D.

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9 Responses to “Domesticating Christians”

  1. Xian Husband Says:

    The problem with that article is it’s a load of crap. He didn’t use scripture at all. What he did was state his beliefs framed around a few scriptures that were a) taken out of context and b) irrelevant to his main points. His primary point — that men were never meant to be the spiritual head of mean — blatantly contradicts the testimony of the Bible. It is also a statement he never backs up with anything outside of his opinion. Because he can’t. There is no support for that idea in scripture, not when it testifies to the exact opposite.

    If you want to follow this sort of idea, fine, but don’t fool yourself into thinking this is somehow God’s will. Not when He so clearly told you the opposite.

  2. Xian Husband Says:

    Oh, by the way, if you want the scriptural backing to MY claims:

    I Thess 5:12-13
    But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction,and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.

    Heb 13:17
    Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

    Eph 4:11-12
    It was he [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

    Acts 20:28
    Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. [Greek episkopos = civic leader or governor] Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

    In discussing spiritual gifts in Rom 12:8
    …if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

    There’s the discussion in Titus 1:5-11 where Paul tells Titus:
    The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you

    He then gives several qualifications for this office, finishing with:
    He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

    Why? Why does Paul want Titus to appoint these men?

    For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

    Here we see three distinct levels of leadership: Paul who is giving Titus commands, Titus who is exercising broad authority to appoint leaders for the church, and these elders whose job it is to silence those who contradict their teachings.

    And we, of course, have Acts 15 and the Jerusalem council which is full of this sort of idea. People are teaching something different. The response?

    Verse 2:
    the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and elders concerning this issue.

    Why ask someone else if no man has any spiritual headship over another? If that were the case than anyone’s answer would be equally good, so there would be no need for a trip. But they took the trip anyway. Some there at the council said it was NECESSARY for all gentiles to first become Jews. The Council deliberated and disagreed. In their final decision they said (among other things) to the churches:
    For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials:

    Which, of course, says explicitly that it was not the laying of rules on the other churches that was the problem, but what was laid on them; because the council absolutely asserted the authority to lay on them what rules seemed good to them.

    That was a quick, off the top of my head look. There’s a lot more there. “Men were never meant to be the spiritual heads of men,” says Schwartz. The Word of God says different. Choose who you want to believe and follow. As for me and mine, we choose the Lord.

  3. Digger Jones Says:

    When I first read Schwarz, I saw that his writing style seemed pretty familiar. Namely because it was a lot like yours, XH! Powerful and confrontational. It’s not that I couldn’t go line-by-line and verse-by-verse with you. But when I or anyone else brings up alternative scripture or exegesis of the same scripture you use, you discount and dismiss it out of hand. In a word: it is FRUITLESS. I’ve encountered the exact same thing with Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Moonies, Atheists (a number who are well-versed in scripture) and assorted New Agers. Each wants to tenaciously cling to something they call TRUTH. And then they want to subjugate everyone else under it.

    A couple posts down, FTN asked some god questions that I’m interested in seeing your response. Basically all this theology needs to translate into something practical and meaningful beyond a venal hunger for power, position and honor.

    D.

  4. trueself Says:

    Well, I’ll start by admitting I didn’t read the whole article. It was long. I hit the highlights and skimmed the entire article. I think the writer makes a few good points, but I also think he is way out in left field in some ways. That opinion probably also led me to read the article less than thoroughly.

    I would agree that there are pastors out there who are misguided and perhaps have gone into the ministry for the wrong reasons. They do not approach ministry as the servants as Jesus modeled, but hold themselves up as authorities not to be questioned or challenged. On the other hand, good pastors will approach ministry as a true calling to serve the congregation, to be a facilitator of learning and greater understanding by the congregation. It is by no means an easy task.

    Often, we as the congregation do become “domesticated” and wait to be fed. We sit back and wait for someone else to feed us spiritually. I believe that we all need to study the Word of God. We all need to commune with God individually as well as in groups. We need to make God a priority in our lives rather than something we “do” once a week for an hour or two during “church.” Often, when pastors challenge us to get closer to God in a personal way, we balk. We make excuses. There’s not enough time. We have difficulty understanding the Bible. We can find a million and one reasons to push that personal relationship with God away.

    In order for church to get back to being church as originally intended and practiced, not only do pastors need to change, but congregants need to change. In my experience, it is more often the congregants than the pastors who balk at such change.

  5. FTN Says:

    All I really wanted to say was that I snorted outloud at the line “the church is guilty of spiritual sodomy.” That’s something you don’t hear everyday.

    I think some of the difference in thought here between Digger, myself, and XH is in definitions of “leadership” and how it’s done. I don’t think I would necessarily advocate an amoebic group that has NO pastoring or leadership. I’m just saying that the current model is, in many cases, not of God. I’m all for elders — but they should be the SERVANTS of the church. Yes, one can be both a “spiritual overseer” and a servant at the same time. Same with pastor/shepherds. The problem is as Trueself mentioned — in many (not all) churches, there is a corporate-like institutional heirarchy that leaves no room for the Holy Spirit, and most of the congregants are just fine with that, because it’s the standard.

    Christ is the head of the church, and he’s the one I serve. Can others teach me things I may not know? Sure. Can they hold me accountable, and help me along? Yes. But at the same time, the temple veil has been torn in two from top to bottom. I can go straight to God now. I don’t have to work my way up the ladder to get there.

  6. Xian Husband Says:

    To say his writing is like mine is a bit insulting: he has no meat. It’s all opinion. He is presenting what he wants to believe, with nothing to back it up. It is the unadulterated wisdom of man. Sure, he quotes some scripture, but never in relation to his main points. He can’t because his main points rest on a foundation of air and hand-waving. When I tell you what I believe I will tell you why — because my opinion is not enough. If all I had as the basis for what I believe was that I choose to believe it then nobody anywhere should ever listen. If I ever write a piece like this, supported by nothingness, then anyone and everyone should insult and deride me until I repented of it.

    In fact, one of the things I pray to the Lord every night is that if in teaching or discussing His Truth with anyone I ever say anything contrary to His will that I want Him to cause me to fall on my face, to fail miserably and publically. To be embarrassed to the point nobody can ignore it. Because I want as little of me to cloud Him as possible, and the one thing I never want to do is present my opinion as His.

    Why do I believe that churches are meant to have leadership, and that without clear leadership there is no true church? Because the Bible says it. Why do I believe that rebellion against those God has placed in spiritual headship over us is sin? Because He tells us it is.

    I also find it interesting that Schwartz mentions several times that, to be right, the church needs to return to what it used to be. That it is different now than it was at the beginning, and we need to go back to do what the early church did. Then he puts forth an opinion about what the early church was like that is nothing like what even a cursory reading of history would tell you.

    That the Bible puts forth a Church that, while not being defined by structure and organization possesses both as essential features is unquestionable. There are clear lines of authority in the Church as Christ created it. That is absolutely clear from the scriptures and no one can honestly claim otherwise.

    Studying the early church shows the exact same thing. Of the four earliest non-canonical Christian writings we have, two are directly about church leadership. A third mentions is along with a lot of other stuff.

    The earliest is the Didache, written probably about 70 A.D. It’s a short church manual. In it is says, “But every true prophet who wants to live among you is worthy of his support. So also a true teacher is himself worthy, as the workman, of his support. Every first-fruit, therefore, of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, you shall take and give to the prophets, for they are your high priests.”

    Later it says, “Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Therefore do not despise them, for they are your honored ones, together with the prophets and teachers.”

    The next oldest is the letter of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians written around 90 A.D. This letter was written because the church at Corinth decided to get rid of some of their presbyters and appoint new ones. The church at Rome was so shocked, they sent this letter chastising them. In it, the writer says, “Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blame-lessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that you have removed some men of excellent behaviour from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honour.”

    And later, “It is disgraceful, beloved, yea, highly disgraceful, and unworthy of your Christian profession, that such a thing should be heard of as that the most steadfast and ancient Church of the Corinthians should, on account of one or two persons, engage in sedition against its presbyters.”

    And later, “Ye therefore, who laid the foundation of this sedition, submit yourselves to the presbyters, and receive correction so as to repent, bending the knees of your hearts. Learn to be subject, laying aside the proud and arrogant self-confidence of your tongue. For it is better for you that you should occupy a humble but honourable place in the flock of Christ, than that, being highly exalted, you should be cast out from the hope of His people.”

    Lastly, there were the letters of Ignatius of Antioch to various churches written around 110 A.D. as he was hauled off to Rome to die in the arena. About half the space in the letters is taken up with encouraging Christian unity through submission to their leaders. There’s too much there to quote it all, but here’s a sampling:

    “Give ye heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you.”

    “In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God, and assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no Church.”

    That is the testimony of the early church. Which is absolutely consistent with what was written in scripture. Not a surprise.

    Now, we can discuss what this should look like, where true godly shepherds are to be found, and the problems with modern American Christianity and the fact that we have a lot of the flock who don’t want to do much of anything other than sit on their butts. But that is a secondary conversation. Because the statement made was that “Men were never meant to be the spiritual heads of men.” That is patently false. Until we recognize that the true Church founded by Christ is lead by those chosen by Christ for that job, and that to be right with our Lord we must submit to the authority of these chosen men, then the other conversation is irrelevant.

  7. Desmond Jones Says:

    Digger, I’m going to do my best to stay clear of the ongoing pissing contest between you and XH; we’ll see how successful I am with that. . .

    I confess that, like Trueself, I began reading Scwartz’ article, found it exceedingly tedious and tendentious, and skimmed to the end. So, I will grant that my assessment of his thoughts might be incomplete.

    But, going on the assumption that “Men were never meant to be the spiritual heads of men” is a fair statement of his thesis, I’ll go ahead.

    My main thought is to repeat what I said in comment to one of your recent posts, that it is a nice romantic notion to think that we are, and ought to be, accountable to no human authority, but only God alone. Yup – me ‘n’ Jesus, we be real tight; ‘He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I’m His own. . .’ Convenient, too. ‘Cuz, see, no one ever comes up with something self-serving (or heck, downright evil) under the heading of ‘God told me. . .’ right?

    American Christians in this day and age can be incredibly self-absorbed in their assessments of ‘what God wants me to do’, and if we have to leave the matter to the individual’s own (possibly sinful) discernment of ‘what God wants me to do’, we’re kidding ourselves on a massive (and obvious) scale. Just like the US government has checks and balances built into it, in partial accounting of the fallenness of human nature, so ‘spiritual headship’ (or however you care to parse it) is a check/balance on my own tendency to be self-serving, or to ‘pull back’ from the starkest implications of my own (mis)behavior. I need the ‘extra set of eyes’, and I also need those eyes to come with enough authority (it’s worth saying that any ‘authority’ worthy of the name ‘Christian’ would be loving, ‘servant’ authority) to actually challenge me to change.

    And, the very act of submitting oneself to an authority outside oneself forms one’s character in humility and any number of other virtues. There’s a measure of self-doubt that is very salutary for the mature Christian – simply being clear that he, himself, is not God: not all-knowing, not all-good, not all-True, not as pure-of-heart as he ought to be, and all those things (and any number of other ‘character flaws’ besides) mean that his understanding of God’s will, and his own inclination to follow it, will never be what they ought to be, this side of Heaven.

    I’d add, by way of a side comment, that if you really mean to be taken seriously, using words like ‘spiritual sodomy’, or ‘occultism’ in reference to the notion of Christian authority doesn’t help. . .

  8. Digger Jones Says:

    well, at least this is more interesting than the proverbial pissing contest.

    Trueself, I agree that responsibility for the present state of church as it is done today rests largely on congregations, themselves. They mostly get what they demand. If they was to be spoon fed, they simply go somewhere where there is a lot of spoon feeding going on. If a pastor wants to be successful (measured by a large congregation and lots of money) they simply provide people what they want. Let’s face it: church today is a very competitive business. So the system does not cultivate or reward pastor leaders who have the various qualities that XH quotes further on.

    And THAT is my main problem which you so truly hit. I generally like the folks in both congregations that my household associates with. But I’m gagging on the spoon. Meanwhile, those same folks that I like seem to be pretty content with where they are. I try to teach them to extend themselves, and they listen politely and then do as they please which is serve the country club church, which is something actively encouraged by the church leadership. I do attend, but selling pumpkins a fund raiser that goes into the general budget just isn’t it.

    Perhaps I’m hitting this harder than I ever intended. I feel like I’m being cornered into a place I never intended to go. I agree, FTN, that leadership should have a more dynamic aspect than it does now. Once a person is an elder, are they one for life? Do they lead in every single situation? Is their authority absolute?

    Ignatious and other Christian leaders were pretty much all reacting to the same thing: heresy. This seems to be the common theme when we look at why bishops were appointed and then later on pretty much every meeting had to officiated by them or their appointee. They were never really successful even in that basic function. The tension throughout history seems to be one between servant hood and subjugation. But here’s where I’m having a hard time with you, XH: I’m having a terrible time differentiating you from a Pharisee. You know the law and the scriptures as well or better than they ever did. You seem to apply your knowledge in an extremely accusatory and condemning fashion and then bind it ever tighter like a noose. FWIW, I know about that too well, having been the whip on more than one occasion. I still catch myself doing it, sometimes. People need room to breathe. They can not think if they can not breathe.

    Desmond, I see accountability as a rather more dynamic system than the hierarchical structure most people think of. Here’s a revelation:

    Everyone needs to be accountable to someone else.

    The revelation is that I might actually recognize that truth given what I’ve been accused of believing.

    Does that mean that you have to be accountable to the same person all the time? Does that mean the *everyone* needs to be accountable to that same person? Does accountability only flow one way, from the top down?

    Interesting discussion, tho. It has implications that are wide ranging. In fact, it needs to be posted somewhere and this is as good a place as any.

    D.

  9. Xian Husband Says:

    Now THIS is a good post I can work with. Let’s roll.

    OK, first you said, “If a pastor wants to be successful (measured by a large congregation and lots of money) they simply provide people what they want. Let’s face it: church today is a very competitive business. So the system does not cultivate or reward pastor leaders who have the various qualities that XH quotes further on.”

    Do you not see that this is the direct result of disunity and therefore a direct result of whole churches rejecting authority? We have that issue in the Church of Christ, although it is changing. One person said that when we rejected authority structures larger than the individual congregation — in the name of being nondenominational — we really created 10,000 different new denominations, each one congregation in size.

    So, at our church, we had a couple of deacons and their wives that wanted the elders to do something particular with certain church funds. The elders declined and used it elsewhere. So, they got mad and left to go across town to the OTHER Church of Christ. Another family has a kid with some serious issues and is told they have to change things of they can’t attend anymore, so they quit us and go across town. A woman decides to divorce her husband — for no reason — lie about him, take up with various men she met online, etc and the elders tell her she’s in serious sin and needs to stop, so she leaves us and goes across town.

    See the pattern? The lack of cross-congregational authority destroys the effectiveness of ALL authority. If these two congregations were united together, of one mind and spirit, then if someone wanted to avoid the authority of one eldership by going to another they would be unable to. Because we’d be on the same page. But when we’re not, they can avoid ANY submission just by swapping churches.

    At the ultimate level, you see what you’ve experienced in what you call CGM churches — which is just the natural extension of normal Evangelical ecclesiology. There is no real authority. Each congregation is on its own, under one pastor. Who can pretty much say, do, and teach what he wants. There is no one to step in and say, “That’s not right.” That sort of structure CREATES the problems you are seeing — it attracts those who teach for the wrong reasons, who want to gather the largest flock they can so they can rake in the big bucks. There’s no larger structure controlling what is taught, and so those who give people what they want as opposed to what they need attract the biggest crowds. And it turns into competition.

    II Timothy 4: For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

    It is a system that attracts the wrong sort of people and has no mechanism for removing them or correcting the problem. Truth is shoved to the side because people don’t want to hear it — and if you don’t tell them what they want to hear they’ll just go elsewhere. Ethics is thrown out the window because if you insist people not do what they want to do they’ll go somewhere else. The work we are called to do is gone because we’ve turned this into a consumer affair — people shop churches to get what they want, not to give of themselves. At least not giving more than money, and the bare minimum at that.

    The people get what they want — someone who makes them feel good, entertains them, let’s them not feel guilty, and a country-club community to boot. The pastors get what they want, which is importance, prominence, people who listen to them, books on the bestsellers list, and lots and lots of money.

    The only one who doesn’t get what He wants is God. Because what He wants is true converts to His Word and His Will. He wants leaders who teach the Truth in the face of those who don’t want to hear it. He wants churches with discipline, who insist on moral and ethical purity from their members, who take a stand against the culture for His Will.

    If Christ said in Revelation 3 he would spit the church at Laodicea out of His mouth for being lukewarm, what do you think He does with these churches?

    The good news is that the Evangelical world is not the only one out there. You’ve seen authority gone wrong and reject it. Good for you! You are more insightful than most who get sucked into such cults of personality. But that doesn’t implicate authority itself, just those who abuse it AND a system set up to create abuse. You want to find something better? Look for a better institution, not the dismissal of all institution. Especially since it was the rejection of the larger institution that created the CGM mess in the first place.

    I am very sorry you feel I am coming across as Pharisaical. Just remember, Christ’s condemnation of the Pharisees was not because they knew the law, taught the law, or followed the law; but because they didn’t include what was really important — the heart. In His condemnation, He didn’t tell them to swing the pendullum to the other extreme. What He said was, “You should have done the one without neglecting the other.” Playing fast and loose with the Truth isn’t loving and it isn’t Christ-like. Saying, “well, believe what you want and let God sort it out” comes from apathy about someone’s eternal destiny, not compassion.

    I usually try to not be quite so harsh, but you seemed to be in a place to need it. Sometimes the good cop routine works. Sometimes you need the bad cop. Sometimes people need to be shown exactly where they are heading, and exactly how painful and ugly it can be. I care about your eternal soul, brother, too much to just let you walk off that cliff without warning. Without anyone standing up and saying, “WAIT! Don’t you see what you’re doing?”

    You’ve seen so much of what is wrong with mainline Evangelical Protestantism. Good. But now that you have decided to look elsewhere you need to tread carefully. The devil has more than one trick up his sleeve. CGMism, as anti-Christian as it tends to be, is certainly not the worst thing out there. A wiseman would look carefully and walk warily — because there’s something to be said for sticking with the devil you know. At least until you’re sure of the right path.

    But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

    Instead, I see you — and I’m not meaning this as an insult at all — sort of intellectually flailing about. Looking for something that looks more true and real than what you’ve had. Looking for it quickly. And, like those Paul talked about, you’ve found plenty of people eager to tell you what your itching ears want to hear. Instead of being wary, cautious, and skeptical you’re rushing in where angels fear to tread. And in your hurry to find what is right, I fear you are running in the wrong direction.

    This issue is important enough to take the time to explore ALL the options. To explore the space, to see what’s out there. To take time to really examine the Word and see what it really says. Not what you’ve always been told it says, not what others say it says, not what you wish it says, but what it really for real says. Study it and compare with what you see.

    And remember what Paul says in the first few verses of Ephesians 4: to live a life worthy of our calling beings with humility and “meekness” — from a Greek word better translated, and I swear I’m not making this up, as “tameness,” or “domestication.” It is the word used, in the Greek, to describe a broken horse. Interpret that article about “Domesticated Christians” accordingly.

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