I don’t often speak out like this, but I follow One who twice entered the temple and created havoc. So I thought I should try.
Whose church is this that wants to burn Korans on September 11th?
Whose church is this that burns Bible translations that aren’t the KJV??
Whose church is this that I see in the world today which will do pretty much anything except just follow Jesus and do what He said? With all the quibbles about 16th century theology. Let’s get back to first century, get back to Bible, get back to following Jesus! Radical!
I know one thing, the One who said “I will build MY church” didn’t look anything like that. Loved His enemies, washed the feet of his betrayers. So, they got themselves a church out there, but it isn’t HIS church. Only church I wanna be a part of is the one that looks like Jesus, and I’m glad there are some of us out there too 🙂
2 thoughts on “Whose church is this?”
Do you think we should ‘get back to the first century’? Hmmm…why? did they get everything right? 😉 Just cos I noticed you enjoyed stepping out with some pretty timely comments re Koran burning etc, I thought I’d pop a little question of my own in here. Sure, we go back to the Apostles teaching, which is foundational and I understand that totally…but which part of the early church d’you want to go back to? The bit before they realised Gentiles could be full-on Christians? The bit after Paul and Barnabas’ argument/split? The bit before or after they agreed the NT canon (c.f. ‘back to the Bible’)? I wonder if we simplify things a little too much sometimes, and assume that the early church got it all right… It appears, from the book of Acts and other history that ‘just following Jesus and doing what he said’ isn’t that simple after all 🙂 This is why we need the Holy Spirit!
Is the church only HIS church when we get it right? Isn’t HIS church because HE got it right? What makes it the church? Us or Him? Getting it right or breaking bread? Ecclesiology is a complex business that can, if we’re not careful, become much much more divisive than ever need be. OK, like you I want to run as far as possible from burning a Koran, or deny the validity of later translations of the Bible…but does that strip x or y of the title ‘church’? I don’t quite know the answer but I’m considering it more complex…especially because plenty of great people will disagree on what’s right and wrong for the church to do anyway.
Just thought I’d pop a comment in there, which I’ll probably regret tmw… not trying to start ANY kind of discussion or debate, but just thought I’d read a blog with integrity one day and actually post what I’m thinking! I haven’t developed this comment at all, so it’s all over the place theologically, with no particular thread!
I totally get your drift, which of course I don’t fundamentally disagree with…but I thought, well…is it that simple? 🙂 Bless you mate…great you’re writing stuff. Not at all a criticism of you…just hoping we can all sharpen each other – which no doubt your reply will do for me 🙂
Response to Tim:
Well, first of all your comment definitely comes closer to some theological cohesion than what was a self-declared ‘rant’ above! Heh. Obviously if I was seeking to make some serious ecclesiological and doctrinal statement on this, I would have tested different language and deeper points. I can only defend it by rather unhelpfully referencing other types of writing which use varying amounts of symbol or hyperbole or other techniques in aid of putting over their point. Eg. not taking apocalyptic literature literally etc.
But I realise this wasn’t quite such a classifiable piece, rants generally aren’t. Thus I would defend the presence of some unclear and obviously potentially very misleading generalisations which are probably of course inaccurately held also in my own mind as, no one knows everything. But then, it’s not necessarily about knowing everything, so we’re trying to work out what it is about. That’s the fun 🙂
First of all, yes when I talk about getting back to the first century, what I’m mainly referring to is the apostolic doctrine, the words of Jesus, and seeing them as did the early church outworked by the power of the Holy Spirit active among them. I’m not for one minute suggesting that they got everything right, and your comment made me wonder whether we can distinguish between early church belief and behaviour.
Of course I do also recognise that doctrine was still forming as you rightly pointed out – the issue of the Gentiles being one major example. And so we could probably not pinpoint a moment in their history when it was all ‘just perfect’ and exactly the way it should be.
But as I’ve already suggested, in defense of my impassioned claims, I think we ought to be able to define clearly what the ‘apostolic doctrine’ is, if we’re able to build on it and to hold to it, and reference it with any integrity. Can we speak in terms like the writer to the Hebrews did of laying certain ‘foundations’ which are critical to the faith? Can we, with the disciples Peter was writing to, ‘long for the PURE milk of the Word’ – knowing what that milk is and where to get it?
I guess another question we can both (all) be asking is, where does the Bible’s, and in particular the book of Acts’ (in question here) integrity stem from? Of course it’s not from people getting it right: David, Solomon, various kings, Peter, Paul, and many others have their mistakes clearly recorded. Not an easy question to answer I’m sure and probably many answers could be proffered. As for how it impacts the case in point I don’t know if we can reach a definite conclusion either; it merely occurs to me.
I know the following concern also is of course registered, but one thinks of the new Asian Christian who is perhaps the first convert in their community and has no historical reference point to Christianity except for the Bible they have hungrily acquired. Perhaps in looking at what they would discover, shows us what I mean by ‘going back to the Bible’. To which I should of course add ‘by the Holy Spirit’. If they had no church history – no early church fathers, no Luther or Calvin, or John Stott or NT Wright… would they make it? I think of course, yes.
But I was of course not implying that all of the above, or any other prominent figure, have all ‘got it wrong’ and need to be ignored, and that we only need to read the Bible. I’m just trying to lay out a safe ground for believing that if the Bible was all we had, we would be alright.
But your question was, why do we need to go back to the early church? Because they got everything right?
Well no, of course not, but I think it would be useful to consider an answer to the question: if we’re stuck, and not really quite sure of the way, where DO we go back to? How do we retrace our steps? If we retrace our steps, where do we end up? I think then you see the manner in which I was meaning that we ought to ‘go back to the Bible’ – when people are burning Korans, or non-KJV versions, or we could highlight many other terrible examples in the history of the church, and when we see stuff that troubles us, WHY does is trouble us, and what reference point do we have that gives us cause for moral concern over these things, and (therefore) where do we go back to? Where’s the instruction manual?
So after a long-winded, rambley statement, I hope I have provided my idea of an ‘answer’ to that very thought-provoking question. In a mish-mash, overwhelming smorgasbord of church streams, denominations and sects, of theological traditions and interpretations, the one thing I have found by experience is that there is nothing that beats reading the Word of God – and yes I do mean as canonised a couple of centuries after John put his pen to rest – by the Holy Spirit.
In sympathy with your comment, I understand that what I said about whether it’s HIS church may also not have come across clearly. It’s always His church. He builds it. I was referring in my own mind to something I rather unfortunately got drawn into watching on youtube, where pastor of said NIV-burning church was shouting at someone to get out of his church. And I couldn’t help feeling a slight remorse at the un-Christlike way in which he was behaving, whether Jesus would said, yep that is your church, not Mine. Just a thought though, I don’t have the answer.
So, in conclusion, and I don’t know if it sounds like this in reading my response, but I feel I harmonise with your thoughts, having undeveloped ones of my own, albeit bearing a tiny concern in my head that whilst in danger of over-simplifying things, those of us with a propensity to deep theological (and can I offer, sometimes academic) enquiry (and you know I am included in that bracket before you jump to any conclusions!) are equally in danger of over-complicating things, remembering that it is the simplicity and beauty of the Gospel and of Jesus that has transformed nations, not the depth of our understanding of the intricacies of ecclesiology. And to this simplistic end, I wrote, frustrated that there aren’t maybe a few more Christians on this planet (thought there probably are) who don’t see the clarity of the word of God on these kinds of matters, and that we as a church cannot excuse this kind of behaviour.
I offer these thoughts.