Saturday, January 31, 2015

It's because most of them would seem to be heretics

As much as I love my church and am enjoying a newfound vision into the unbiblical nature of much of the structure of institutional churches and digging into what is the larger community of organic-church-type people in social media, I am discovering a disturbing trend therein.

The amount of people in organic or "organic" churches that actually follow Jesus seems to be approximately equivalent to the amount of people in institutional churches that actually follow Jesus. That is to say, not very many.

My assessment of the situation so far is that people who leave institutional churches (ICs) do so most of the time for bad reasons. There are many good reasons to leave the IC structure behind, but I have not yet met many who have left it for biblical reasons. Most that I've so far seen leave because they got mad at someone in the IC, their pastor lorded it over them and they just wanted out because they're Americans and free spirits, they felt like their pastor lorded it over them and they just wanted out because they're Americans and free spirits, they don't want to actually meet with a group of Christians on a regular basis to do things churches ought to do, and/or (and this is a biggie) they adhere to heretical beliefs and don't love the Scripture.

So, basically, a lot of the time talking to "organic church" people is like talking to Emergents/postmoderns/liberals who merely stopped displacing their bodies to a certain location every Sunday morning. Except for the outward trappings of religion, they'd be right at home in a PCUSA or Episcopal happy-house.

And a popular mantra among such people is "There are many ways to interpret the Bible." I've heard it so much already. That's why I wrote the previous post.

Church ought to be organic because we desire to be more biblical, not because we want to be less biblical.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"There are many ways to interpret the Bible"

If you care about truth and intellectual honesty at all, you must stop saying things like "There are many ways to interpret the Bible."
The statement is unhelpful in a myriad of ways and nonsensical in others. In no way does it ever further any conversation, ever. It kills conversations.

All human communication must be interpreted by the hearer/reader. So to say that SOME human communication must be interpreted is to say something superfluous, thus wasting everyone's time.

But some interpretations are wrong. As an example, take this very post. If Joe were to come along and say, "I interpret Rhology's meaning in this post to be that he thinks bearded Mormons are the best at preparing alfredo sauce", that would be wrong. Of course my post is quote-unquote "open to interpretation"; that's because it is human communication. But to understand what I'm actually saying, you have to read, perform proper exegesis, take the context into account, understand English, etc.

It is dishonest to take this post and represent its meaning to someone else in the way 'Joe' did, because that is clearly not what the post is communicating. Joe got it wrong. Whether he is dishonest or whether is merely mistaken would have to be assessed, but either way, he got it wrong.

To say that he didn't get it wrong, that meaning is whatever the reader/hearer pours into the communication that is heard/read, is to **destroy all human communication entirely**. And nobody actually lives that way. It is self-defeating and therefore absurd. Even those who wish to affirm "meaning is whatever the reader/hearer pours into the communication that is heard/read" think that the hearer/reader ought to read, perform proper exegesis, take the context into account, understand English, etc when seeking to understand the statement "meaning is whatever the reader/hearer pours into the communication that is heard/read". Thus it fails its own test. It is nonsense.

This is what many of you are doing to the Bible. You must stop. You must take the Bible for what God meant it to be.

You see, when you say "There are many ways to interpret the Bible", what many of you mean by that statement is "There are parts of the Bible that I don't understand or don't want to obey, so I'm going to ignore those parts". If that is you, you should repent, because Jesus held the Bible in highest regard, thought it was God speaking (ask if you want references; there are lots). If you care about following Jesus, you should follow Him in all things, like He said you're supposed to.

If you want to obey Jesus, you have to stop saying  "There are many ways to interpret the Bible". Jesus would never have said anything like that. He commanded people to believe all of it, to take hold of the parts that are promises and to hold to them by faith, and to obey (again, by faith) the parts that are commands and prohibitions.

Jesus is better than post-modern gibberish and textual deconstruction and semantical word-games. Leave them behind. Take up your cross and follow Him.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Loving Scripture Rightly Is Loving Jesus

Jon Zens has written some helpful materials on organic church, particularly his rebuttals to critiques by Ben Witherington and others of Frank Viola's and George Barna's book "Pagan Christianity" (which is a lousy title for a fine book). He calls himself an "itinerant encourager of relational communities", which I can appreciate. And as I spend more time thinking about being the church and what that is supposed to look like, I find myself spending time in, say, Facebook groups of people who have left institutional churches, either to join or start an organic church or to become that which seems best described as "lone-wolf Christians" (in some cases, revealing that they hold to heretical doctrine). As I watch the way many of such people talk and the things they say, it would appear that the reason many of such people have left churches is because they cannot stomach biblical theology or serious study of God's Word. This strikes seriously against how things ought to go.

Adding to the noise is an article by Zens to which I was directed in one of these groups. I am alarmed at the poor grasp of of the relevant issues that it exhibits, so I'd like to bring forth a response here and urge those who are disgruntled with or who have left institutional churches to cling tenaciously to and contend for the faith once delivered for the saints (Jude 3). We should be the church in the way that God has commanded and exemplified in His Word and as a result when our local churches assemble together, we ought to obey Scripture.

However, if you jettison Sola Scriptura, you are left rudderless, relying on nothing more or less than human tradition at every single turn, and you have no way to adjudicate between competing proposed traditions. The result could be a group of people that may or may not describe themselves using the word "church" but that does sort of resemble a gathering of people whose professions are at least sort of Bible-y, but it could also be further down the spectrum toward someone who says "I'm a Christian" and yet affirms child sacrifice and sexual immorality (hey, as long as "the Spirit leads", right?) and disaffirms the Trinity and/or the doctrine of Hell or of the severity of sin. Or you could have the Roman Catholic, Mormon, or Oriental Conciliarist (aka the "Eastern Orthodox") church or the Watchtower or the Branch Davidians or Aum Shinrikyo or Unity Church or Christian Science or Seventh Day Adventism or...

Imagine with me a hypothetical - two men meet each other and begin discussing religious ideas. One believes it is obligatory to affirm that Jesus is God and uncreated. The other believes it is obligatory to DISaffirm those statements. Each of them claims that God spiritually led him to say what he says. Each of them accuses the other of quenching the Spirit (which the New Testament commands people not to do) (as if we're bound to obey Pauline writings or something).

Which of them is right? Is there a way to know which is right? They both claim to be Spirit-led.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Nature of Preaching and Some Implications Thereof

There is no exhortation to pay close attention to the sermons or other 'preaching' within the context of the assembled group. This is an argument from silence to be sure, but it is worth noting nevertheless that there is no mention of preaching pastors and listening congregations. In summary of the evidence of the apostolic fathers it can be said that such concepts as 'preacher' and 'preaching' are only in contexts of Gospel proclamation to unbelievers. When it comes to the activity within the church, however, fellowship, teaching, admonition and social care are emphasized. Nowhere do we find a discussion of the pastor preaching to the congregation on a regular basis. From this we should not conclude that it never happened (for on special occasions it was required, as noted above) but that it was simply not the customary practice. Rather than one man preaching to an audience the church of the apostolic fathers experienced active involvement of the membership. This is a proper reflection of the picture we have in the New Testament itself... The common practice today of the clergyman preaching a sermon to a passive audience seems to have its origin in tradition (and/or expedience) rather than in a Scriptural pattern ("'Preacher' and 'Preaching': Some Lexical Observations," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society [December – 1981, Vol.24/No.4] pp.320-321).

Below you can find the results of an exhaustive concordance search through the New Testament for words related to preaching and proclaiming, to find their referents. I found that the Greek words kerusso (κηρύσσω) and euagelizzo (εὐαγγελίζω) were by far the most common words that communicate the idea of preaching or proclamation.

Normally in a modern American institutional church context, we think of "preaching" as that which the pastor does from the pulpit during the Sunday morning gathering, which forms the backbone of the teaching and theological education and confession of believers in the church. We can see in the NT, however, that there is no unequivocal reference to “preaching” in connection to what is done during the assembly of the church, while there are tons of references to preaching being an activity by which Christians reach out to unbelievers. (It would seem that “teaching”, didasko [διδάσκω] and the like, would be more along the lines of what the NT authors thought ought to be done by believers with other believers, but that’s another analysis.)