Opinions on faith and life

Out of the Frying Pan

2006-10-01

... and into the fire

You may have heard of the recent Barna polls showing the mass exodus from organized religion. Barna calls it The Revolution, and the IC (Institutional Church) is screaming. They have a vested interest in the status quo, going back two thousand years, and they don’t like people writing about how great it is to leave the IC.

But it really is a good revolution. As I’ve written about elsewhere, the IC was never what Jesus and the apostles intended. It is clear from their writings and statements that true Biblical Christianity was to be internal, individual, and borderless. In other words, there were no buildings, no prescribed rituals, no hierarchical priesthood/laity class distinctions, no enslavement to the old laws. Spiritual training was to be patterned after Jesus’ example of an apprenticeship, not the old Prussian militaristic indoctrination model.

“Sunday School” was never really much different from the world’s group therapy sessions and has been practically indistinguishable from any given country club. The IC has its lingo, potluck dinners, bylaws, committees, procedures, and fundraisers. It has memberships, statistics, motivational speakers (aka preachers), sound systems, and properties. None, absolutely none, of these things is found in the New Testament in any form.

What’s wrong with all that, you may ask? Plenty. The System fosters spiritual discrimination, legalism, oppression of non-conformists, etc. But the most glaring problem is that in spite of all the organized effort to educate, most people never graduate from Sunday School, and if they did, they’d still know little more than when they entered “first grade”. This is a perpetual parent-child relationship; the children never grow up.

So what’s this “fire” that those who leave the IC are jumping into?

Contemplative Prayer (CP), or whatever one of the many names it goes by you choose. It’s a mystical religious practice that comes straight from Hinduism. It is New Age for Christians. Those who promote it always insist that this is not true, but if you compare the core teachings of both, you’ll see an undeniable parallel. The methods and practices by which they enter this alleged higher plane are exactly the same as those used by mystics for centuries. Even when they admit this, they say “What’s wrong with mysticism? After all, some of the ’church fathers’ practiced it.”

Couple of problems: For one thing, being a ’church father’ means nothing. While the apostles were still writing the New Testament, they said that “after my departure ravenous wolves will come and scatter the flock”. Much of the NT is dealing with such false teachers, who were trying to subvert the new faith at its very inception. So just because someone lived in the first century or was close to an apostle doesn’t guarantee that person’s doctrinal purity or even their salvation. Beware of ’church fathers’!

Another problem is that there is not one hint of CP in the Bible. Some try to wrench verses out of context to support it, but the most outrageous statement I’ve come across in defense of it is “Well, Paul didn’t write about CP because everybody already understood it and practiced it.” In other words, Paul’s silence means he was cool with it! With “logic” like that, it’s no wonder there are so many cults in the world.

What we need here is balance. Doctrine and spirituality are two sides of the same coin. They do fit together and they need each other. Doctrine alone is cold and legalistic; spirituality alone is gullible and spineless. So let’s leave the IC but also stay away from CP. Let’s just take God at his Word and live the teachings. Don’t let anyone tell you that you must do this or that, whether they are from the IC or CP. Listen to God.