Opinions on faith and life

Ingrown Christianity

2008-12-08

I read lots of blogs, especially those that focus on Christianity in one way or another. And while many are very good and stay focused on the essentials, others are hopelessly mired in group introspection.

Endless bickering over opinions, history, labels... it reminds me of a game of “capture the flag” or “king of the hill”. People run around trying to claim the high ground, repelling all contenders by any means necessary. They put so much energy into the minutiae of a theory, such as who is really a Baptist or whether one can be labeled an Arminian if they reject even one of the petals of the TULIP, that it sounds more and more like the old debate about the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin.

Is this what Christianity is all about? An unbeliever could easily get that impression.

Another growing problem I see is the willingness of many to sweep things under the rug for the sake of saving face. Some groups of believers fear loss of funding or approval from their superiors so much that they post anonymously. Now I can understand doing so if one’s life would be put in danger by enemies of the gospel, but fear of losing a “Christian” job or position or reputation-- from one’s own fellow believers??

It is at the same time both sad and infuriating to watch this happen in blog after blog and the old mainline denominations. Nobody wants their huge, pretty boat to be rocked or their precious apple cart to be upset. They call secrecy “privacy” and justify closed-door meetings to protect privileged people from the light of accountability. They have forgotten the simple gospel and want to make sure only their package of details is followed. They fight to keep women silent and to maintain the unbiblical clergy/laity class distinction that is so comfortable and familiar.

With Jude we can say that many of us would prefer to talk about this wonderful gift of salvation, and all that follows from a restored relationship with God. But instead we find ourselves having to “contend for the faith”-- even from our own “household”. Who needs to defend against unbelievers when your own spiritual siblings count you as their enemy? They drag us into endless wars over semantics, theories, majority views, labels, interpretations, and methods; we fiddle while the lost burn. They hurl accusations such as “license to sin” and claim only their views are true and Biblical, some claiming only theirs are “doctrines of grace” or saying “let’s not divide over doctrine” even at the expense of the gospel itself.

So, dear control freaks: leave us alone! We have a lost world to reach, but you keep preventing us from going out. You want us to stay home and get all our doctrinal ducks in the rows you decree, and make sure that any gospel presentation is loaded with your particular brand of baggage. Surely we can find better motivation for studying the Bible than to refute another believer’s personal preferences. Let’s keep the baby and throw out that old bathwater; let’s keep the gospel and stop turning on each other over our personal preferences.

Focus!

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Mt. 14:25-31)

17 Comments

Thy Peace

Very apt and so true. Amen.

Paula Fether

Tanx Thy Peace :-)

Lin

"Some groups of believers fear loss of funding or approval from their superiors so much that they post anonymously"

This is very true. Perhaps we should all have a tent making skill just in case?

Paula Fether

Ya know, I think if there were no committees, boards, salaries, or any other strings attached, maybe we’d find out who’s really called and who isn’t. You can’t corrupt someone who has "learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Phil. 4:12)

Or as it says in Prov. 13:8, "The rich may be able to ransom their lives, but the poor cannot respond to threatening rebukes." It may not guarantee anything, but it sure limits the devil’s options.

Greg Anderson

I’ve also wondered about the economics and politics of religion. Churches have utility bills and a host of other expenses to contend with. I understand this and it is indeed incumbent on parishioners to supply these legitimate needs.

But when the church gets so big that its leadership uses funds for ideological agendas, magnificent structures, and hefty clerical salaries rather than the advancement of the Good News and a haven for the poor and the unwanted, I lose confidence.

As more and more Hoovervilles (Bushvilles?) spring up all across America in the wake of the coming depression, I wonder where the big-name churches will be. What will there focus be then?

TL

Great post!. :o)

>>"Ya know, I think if there were no committees, boards, salaries, or any other strings attached, maybe we’d find out who’s really called and who is" <<

And so true. The business of salaries is big business for some churches. One church I was attending and ministering in several years ago, was paying a pastoral salary so high, that they had very little money left to do anything else with. When I discovered this, I was struck. After some attempts at discussing the subject of money, tithing, and ministries, I gave up and left. It eventually got to the point where I felt like I was paying to attend church on Sunday to listen to sermons that really weren’t that good or deep. I don’t do very well, when church attendance on Sunday (and other days) is perceived as a religious duty.

Jamie

In some churches you basically do pay to attend; we visited such a church for a couple of months. Every Sunday we heard a 20 minute sermon on "why you probably aren’t saved if you don’t pay your tithes." The preacher would even say, "alright I know some of you woman have some loose change in your purses, lets have it!" You were literally racked over the coals...or financially raped. Most of the money grubbing religious organizations will somehow link up with the government in order to retain their worldly wealth and status. At heart they have already received "the mark".

Jamie

PS.. Paula I love the snowfall, it creates a relaxed cozy atmosphere.

Paula Fether

I was happy to find this snowfall plugin... one of the nice things about Wordpress. But it is set to stop on Jan. 2 for some reason.

Yeah, I’ve heard more "pay up or I’ll call you names and God will not bless you" sermons than I can count. If they preached about caring and gratitude they wouldn’t have money issues, especially since the money should be going to charity and missions, not buildings and retirement portfolios.

Lin

Did you all know that most tithing sermons are planned to coincide with down giving times like Jan and May? You can set your clock by them in some churches.

Greg Anderson

I like the snowfall plugin too Paula! I’m originally from Wisconsin, but have lived in Southern Cal. for so long now, that I’ve forgotten that the rest of the lower 48 actually has seasons!

And for Jamie’s comment about big religion and government? It’s known as 501-c3 tax exempt status, and it’s a veritable gold mine for big religion.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has tried to initiate a congressional oversight of possible abuses of 501-c3 status, but thus far there hasn’t been much support in the senate for Grassley’s proposal.

The last thing many republican senators want to do right now is alienate their evangelical bases with a probe into big religion, they cannot afford it politically.

Jamie

Greg, those are the churches that will eventually slide right on into the one world religious order, complete with an imaginary "jesus" who is compatible with any religion. It will really be interesting to see who stays and who comes out from among them. Of course this is already happening to some extent.

Paula Fether

Decades ago when I was concentrating more on Bible prophecy, I used to wonder how long it would take for the churches to "go bad", but they were pretty bad even then. Now we watch in horror as they openly embrace New Age practices and beliefs, and accept globalist ideals. As the cartoon character Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

The fact that churches ever got tax exempt status was a sign in itself of worldliness and corporate mentality. Why have the corporation structure at all? Why not be small groups meeting in homes, and give to charity without worrying about tax breaks? Or take what we used to spend on new pews and instead support one of our own who is sick or out of a job?

The first Christians didn’t need all the trappings of the corporate world in order to "turn it upside down"; they did it one person at a time. Many today think the buildings make a public witness, but look at how Europe has turned many cathedrals into mosques or libraries. It will happen here, and probably already is.

Paula Fether

PS: Gonna look for a nice fireplace to go with that snowfall. :-)

Note: If anyone can’t see the fireplace, it’s likely you’re using IE version 6 or less. Even though this theme does all the right things to compensate for IE’s maddening lack of adherence to web standards, it isn’t showing any image at the top of the sidebar but only a blue box.

TL

I see a picture, but it’s not a fireplace, its a woodlands scene.

Paula Fether

You should see it after clearing your browser’s cache or "history". In Safari it’s under Safari-->Empty Cache; in Firefox it’s under Tools-->Clear private data; in IE it’s under Tools-->internet options-->general, history.

Jamie

I like it! Last Christmas my hubby bought me a an electric fireplace complete with fake flames. It’s still warm and cozy! Haha Now we need some real snow, although the last time it snowed here was in the early 90’s. :-(