June 9, 2007

Corporate Theologies

Ok. Two good pieces worth taking a gander at.

1. This one comes way of my readers here: Micheal Spencer's piece on legalism. Thanks for the tip-off, guys.

2. The second one is on corporate theologies (a five-part series). I've always liked this one (thought I don't necessarily agree with the author's permissive view on a few issues).

Both pertain to what I've been talking about here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sheeps and goats, I'm thinking.

Y'know, Christianity is so piss-poorly represented by a substantial portion of its adherents that I can hardly blame the secular world for hating it or them.

There are some interesting things about the Biblical "sheep" metaphor. Everyone associates it with cute fluffy lambs and green rolling hills and sunshine, but that is to miss its substance.

First: being called a sheep is not considered a compliment. Sheep are stupid. They smell bad. They need to be led around, and without a shepherd, they mostly follow the herd. This describes the present spiritual state of humanity very well. We are not nearly so enlightened, independent and sovereign as we'd like to think. We are mere babes, playing deadly games with powerful forces we barely understand. And no matter how much you scrub and spray us, that funky odor keeps coming back. Spiritually speaking, we need a Good Shepherd very badly, as badly as a toddler needs a good Father.

Second: we're all sheep. Not just Christians; they are just the sheep that follow the Good Shepherd. All the rest of the sheep belong to other, less-than-good shepherds, just waiting to be exploited; or else you're wandering the wilderness on your own, fodder for wolves.

And then there's the goats. It's not really considered a compliment to be called a goat, either. A goat is just the ornery, intractable version of a sheep. A spiritual "goat" is just as dim as a "sheep," but refuses to be led anywhere, stubbornly enthroning itself at the center of its existence. You tell me how far a small child will get if, disobedient and wilful, he repeatedly runs away from his home and parents, into the streets. Such is the sad fate of the goat.

What, then, is the chief duty of a sheep? Obedience, of course. It is barely capable of doing anything else.

It is patently obvious to me that the refusal of Christ's sheep to obey their Shepherd is the reason that the Christian Church is feared, hated, reviled and cursed by so many people throughout the world.

You can see it everywhere.

On the marriage mandate front, just try bringing up a fundamental theological issue that shows they are legalist, manipulators, gossipers, idolators, the very things brought up in the previous comments section and see what you get. What's more, it's a settled issue, as far as they are concerned.

Now I can understand someone not knowing the right answer. But then I would expect a Christian to say, "Well, I've been taught X, and in my own words that means X', but I don't know for sure; and I've consulted such-and-such recognized authority."

And yet over half the Makenites to this particular issue will not only be incorrect but also defiant. The attitude is, "This is what *I* think, and I don't care what anyone else thinks."

That is the Goat Mentality.

Then there are the Christian men who are proud to claim they do not go to church (as a few examples, I believe, were in the previous comments section). These men continue their faith in total isolation, and the scary part is, many of them continue that way lifelong. They read the Bible and other books, listen to radio or TV preachers and the comments of friends, heap it all up together like the offerings from a buffet line, and coincidentally, like their mandate brethern, end up with their own individual custom-tailored religion.

Now I'm not saying that anyone not connected to a church (or even connected to the marriage mandate crowd) isn't a real Christian. The Holy Spirit moves as He wills, and He is not trapped within the walls of any church; if He calls out to an isolated person and he answers, that's great. And sometimes people have reasons (of varying legitimacy) for avoiding church. But the point is that Christianity isn't meant to be lived that way.

Christ designed His Church as a family, a community, a Body. It isn't merely a gaggle of identical individual "cells" sloshing around like The Blob; it has structure. Indeed, it has hierarchy and authority, though that is supposed to be an exercise of fatherly love and discipline, not of lordly power. If you're adopted into the family, you ought to live a family life, not a solitary life. Orphans aren't supposed to stay orphans, and diamonds aren't supposed to stay in the rough. It's a miracle if you find a boy raised by wolves, but you are not doing him any favors by leaving him with the wolves.

Yet such "orphan" Christians often resist. They like being separate: taught by and accountable to no one except an invisible Person that, truth be told, they can easily ignore. The technical term for such a person is "schismatic." It, too, is an example of the Goat Mentality.

I think this shows just how far the "bad shepherds" have gotten, and they have only been able to do it because the sheep won't follow as they ought. The Body is so badly poisoned that not only body parts but individuals drop off and scatter, dissolving into a puddle of mush, like spiritual Ebola.

However, the truth is that there are plenty of intelligent and conscientious, responsible Christian lives. It just appears on the surface that the sheep stopped following the voice of the Shepherd, and wolves-in-sheep's-clothing were able to creep up and devour many.

Yet, by the same token, there are plenty of Christians who are rightly called heretics. Heresies have spread like wildfire through souls dried and dessicated by lack of living water. I would point out especially the false individualism that some Christians have started. I'm sure you've heard it, the "it's a personal relationship between you and God alone; it's only what's inside your heart that matters" doctrine -- which has spread to all quarters. Most contemporary Christians have no concept of what it means to function in the family/community/Body of faith; no concept of the sacramental life, for which family life is a prerequisite; no concept of proper exercise of, obedience to, or discernment of rightful authority; no concept of Sacred Tradition, the wisdom gained by previous generations of believers; no concept of any perspective from believers beyond their own culture.

And what happens then? Well, that's easy: the ensuing chaos hurts people. False teachers dispense evil doctrines. Bad pastors and authors lead people astray. Bad (or just plain stupid) Christians go undisciplined and run amok -- or turn in on themselves in fear and/or selfishness, and do no good.

Greedy, lustful and hateful people foist themselves off as Christians, and there's no viable authority to say who is true and who is false. Sometimes there are even conscious double agents in the church: people that want to push an anti-Christian, anti-Gospel agenda from within Christianity. Legalism is one of those silver daggers in which we sacrifice the sheep.

Face it folks, we have God alone to thank for the fact that Christianity is still a major world religion, the Body of Christ continues to break out into new life, and that the Faith once given has not, after all, vanished from the earth. It's certainly not the result of the efforts of its members. It is truly said that all that is required for evil men to flourish is for good men to do nothing.

The "good Christians" have hardly done anything, which is why outsiders rightly perceive that they aren't so good as they think they are. If Christians did as they ought, they would all be heroes.

To the Christian men reading who tuck their armor under their bed and stay home, don't you want to get to know your church Christian "family"? After all, aren't you at all interested in the people you are going to spend an eternity with? Come and follow the rules of the House even when they sometimes chafe you. Obey your seniors and admonish your juniors. Listen more than you talk. Scream like a fire alarm if you detect a false prophet in your midst. It's God's command that we find a church. Find one that preaches the cross and Jesus crucified. Become the manly leader and warrior. Be active and discipline. And most importantly, love one another and your neighbors with the same intensity that Christ first loved you.

As for the marriage mandators, I would recommend that you shape up and start following Jesus Christ like you really mean it. And I don't just mean "quit your personal agendas and legalistic ideologies" -- although that'd be good, too -- but also "be an obedient son or daughter." Be reminded of what the Gospel is truly for and what it represents. Stop being the goat that misrepresents the Kingdom.

That's the only way the world will know Him you serve.

Though we are His own -- and that makes more of a difference than you, or we, can imagine -- that doesn't mean we have God or the truth on a leash. Try to listen more than you talk.


6/10/07, 7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Scream like a fire alarm if you detect a false prophet in your midst."


Many of us have illustrated where false prophets (or simply misguided folk) have led people into wrong thinking.

The difference these days is the dynamic between the sexes. You know; the man/bad and woman/good dynamic.

Arguing a point with Andreas Kostenberger or Ted Slater will bring discussion and consensus. Arguing with Debbie Maken will have you branded a liar or non-Christian.

6/10/07, 7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Arguing with Debbie Maken will have you branded a liar or non-Christian.

"A goat by any other name .... "

Certainly. You are correct. But that doesn't mean we surrender our ground, or turn tail and hide for cover.

Remember, they did worse to Jesus in His day. Pharisee-like attitudes are nothing new. Regardless of the difference of dynamics between the sexes --I'm well aware of them -- we are still to follow the examples Christ laid out for us.

Anyone can call someone else a non-Christian. So what? I am sure you also know that you are not ever going to enlighten nor reason everyone through debate.

Futhermore, why should we allow this to be a deterrant to our Faith? I am positive there are hordes of fellow Christians (women and men alike) today who recognize Debbie Maken for what she really is; and it is not worth their time to play church with her "ring-around-the-collar" remarks.

The solutions are never simple, of course, and I do not have all the answers. But I can lay odds that if the foundation of our Faith says strong, Debbie Maken (and her legalist friends) will eventually get their comeuppance. God will deal with her.


6/10/07, 11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Church is "corporate" by design and definition. The Body of Christ.

Anything else is just a collection of individual "Church of Me" prophets running around trying to reach a consensus from each individual theology.


6/11/07, 6:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Permit me a brief personal illustration:

I joined a large Bible-believing church several years ago. I was in the pew every Sunday but because of the size of the church found it hard to get involved or to create strong relationships with many people. As for pastoral oversight or any meaningful interaction with the church members, I might as well have been watching the senior pastor on TV. He was more like the mayor of a small town.

When my car died, I was unable at first to replace it for financial reasons. Among other things, this made attending my suburban megachurch difficult. So I pretty much stopped attending. I did not stop believing, or reading the Bible, or praying. I occasionally attend other sound, Biblically-faithful churches that are accessible by public transportation. I am still technically a member of that first church, but no one seems to have noticed that I'm not there anymore on Sundays.

It's disturbing to hear expressions of the idea that, as one prominent pastor said, "If you're not a member of a church you attend regularly, you may be going to Hell." No, Pastor, I am saved because I have believed on the name of the Son of God. John 5:24, John 6:47, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9-10, etc., etc. I don't need a Protestant Pope to tell me that I am saved because I belong to his church, nor will I earn my way into Heaven by being a member of a group. Jesus died for me, and that is enough.

I have always enjoyed attending church, singing hymns, etc. I'm a loner by nature, and not especially gregarious. It's not that I don't love my fellow believers -- on the contrary, I recognize the lovely light that appears on the face of a true Christian, and I find that there is a way you can connect with other true believers as with nobody else, if only because you're the only people who actually believe the Bible. The rest of the world considers it foolishness.

So am I out of line by not being actively involved with a church where I am on the membership rolls? Maybe. I offer this extended confessional only because I think there are probably a lot of genuine Christians like me out there.

6/16/07, 7:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 7:13 AM,

I understand your sentiments. I came from an abusive home and spent most of my life in foster care. I'm a Christian, but very much a loner and don't feel comfortable in large groups.

It seems the only people really welcome in a lot of protestant megachurches are the rich, fat, pampered folks who live in McMansions and drive Lexuses. Us ordinary folks who have had very difficult lives and more than our share of hard knocks don't really fit into most churches.

Its a shame, but it is part of human nature. Don't let it impact your faith.

6/16/07, 7:54 AM  

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