Monday, September 21, 2015

5 Reasons Why Churches of Christ Are Not The Church You Read About in the Bible

A linchpin is a person or thing vital to an organization. Vitality is life. Without linchpins organizational life pulls apart.

The linchpins that hold together the organizational or institutional churches of Christ are centered more around things than people. This is why the church building, pulpit, and official positions, etc. are revered as the most important (necessary expedients) to a church's life.

The organization (something greater than yourself we are told) is more important than you and everybody else for that matter.

Ironically, this Industrial Age viewpoint in churches of Christ sacrifices the very people who the NT says is 'the church.' What is left is a veneered organization claiming to be the church that eats its young.

Veneer Churches of Christ (like most Western Churches) cover or disguise the true nature of the church you read about in the NT with an attractive appearance that does not actually help the Body of Christ, but serves the few competing to be heads of it.

When things (steps, acts, offices, positions) instead of the people are the linchpins of churches, this veneer must remain at all costs for it to hold together whether the actual people who are its substance do or not. The people are replaceable cogs in a machine supporting the linchpins. Some linchpins are more important than others, but below are what I believe are the main linchpins in order of importance and my reasons for why they need to be pulled.

The primary reaction by the status quo is to dismiss and demonize anything and everything that challenges its truthfulness.

As Noam Chomsky said,

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum." I challenge that allowed spectrum.

Recently, I learned the mission of The Emerging Church,

According to Wikipedia:


The emerging church is a Christian movement of the late 20th and early 21st centuries that crosses a number of theological boundaries… Some attend local independent churches or house churches while others worship in traditional Christian denominations. Proponents believe the movement transcends such modernist labels of "conservative" and "liberal," calling the movement a "conversation" to emphasize its developing and decentralized nature, its vast range of standpoints, and its commitment to dialogue… What those involved in the conversation mostly agree on is their disillusionment with the organized and institutional church and their support for the deconstruction of modern Christian worship, modern evangelism, and the nature of modern Christian community.
The churches of Christ that I am familiar with would oppose TEC because it removes so many linchpins needed to survive. While I was pleasantly surprised to see many characteristics I agree with and were actually present in the first century church, my main purpose is to show that the churches of Christ today are not who they claim to be to the exclusion of all others. In fact, I am more "conservative" than they are if I must use that cultural term with my view of the first century church.

My argument is that mainstream, traditional churches of Christ are NOT the church of the first century as they claim to be, therefore, their dismissal and demonizing of all who contend with their doctrine on the basis of their contenders being a part of an "Emerging Church Movement" (and that the ECM is erroneous), because "they (mainstream cocs) are the church you read about in the Bible" is false.

Compartmentalizing, attempting to relegate, and denial may buy a little time, but it won't "fool all of the people all of the time." Delusions as to who one is can only last so long. The light of truth will always prevail to God's glory. Once someone shouts "the emperor has no clothes" it's only a matter of time.

Nevertheless, here are the linchpins that need to be pulled as I see them:

LINCHPIN #1
--"The Collection" or "Giving." Par heauto ("by him," KJV) is an idiom that means "at home" or "with oneself," etc. It does not mean "by itself" because it refers to its antecedent which is masculine--not neuter. I can only repeat this fact hoping it will "sink down into people's ears" (Luke 9:44) and that it develops the conviction within hearts to act upon by speaking out against the status quo. 

Here is a link to my main article on it:

http://spiritofthemaster.blogspot.com/2011/03/collection-for-saints.html

Here is the meat of that article written by fellow Christian Tod Buttermore followed by literal quotations from multiple Greek scholars on the meaning of par heauto:

Tod writes,

"In Luke 24:12 we find probably the most damaging information to the assertion that par heautō does not mean "at home."  We find the accusative of heautou (rather than the dative as in 1 Cor 16:2).  The prepositional phrase is pros heautōn. This is translated as “he went home” [in the ESV, sp] (apalthen pros heautōn). Apparently the scholars who translated the Bibles actually do know what this phrase means. The accusative case implies extension and with verbs of motion, like “apalthen” (he went), the phrase means ‘towards’ and completes the idiomatic sense of  "he went home."

"Another significant idiom is found in the use of “idios." The use of this phrase for “one’s home” is found in the papyri and in John 16:32, 19:27, and Acts 21:6 where the plural “ta idia” is used.  Greek scholar A. T. Robertson said, “To all intents and purposes it is interchangeable in sense with heautous.” He references Moulton as showing idios as equivalent to heautou.  If the sense of “ta idia” in the three passages just mentioned is “home” and idios is the equivalent of heautou, then it is accurate  to translate par heautō as “at home” in 1 Cor. 16:2."

"In John 20:10 we find another nail in the coffin for this idea that heatou cannot possibly refer to one’s home. In this passage the accusative plural phrase “pros heautous” is found and is translated "to their own homes" [in the ASV, KJV, NKJV, and ESV, sp]. Again we see that Bible translators do indeed know how these idioms are to be employed and the fact that they gave a literal translation in 1 Cor. 16:2 instead of the actual idiomatic meaning is not because they do not know, but for some other reason that does not rest on linguistics."

"This is not a matter of knowing more Greek than the translators, but having the honesty to properly and consistently translate and interpret the words.  There is no trouble translating the sense of par heautō properly everywhere else these idioms are found. Why do translators not follow suit in 1 Corinthians 16:2? Because to do so would conflict with some belief or practice which is already in place.  Such is surely the case with ‘baptidzo’, so how hard is it to see the same bias in play when it comes to 1 Cor. 16:2 and the separating of people from their money?  How else can those in control maintain control?"--T. Buttermore (edited).

Here are multiple, respected Greek Scholars comments on the phrase 'par heauto' in 1 Corinthians 16:2:

Robertson's Word Pictures—"Lay by him in store . . . By himself, in his home. Treasuring it."

Vincent's Word Studies in the NT—"Put by himself treasuring. Put by at home."

W. R. Nicoll—"On every first (day) of the week let each of you by himself (= at home) lay up, making a store (of it), whatever he may be prospered in." "par heauto - thesaurizon, 'making a treasure,' describes each householder till at the end the accumulated store should be paid over."

H. K. Moulton—par heauto--"with one's self, at home, 1 Co. 16:2."

J. H. Thayer—Concerning the reflexive pronoun 'heauto:' "reflexive pronoun of the 3rd person. It is used 1. Of the 3rd pers. Sing. And plur., to denote that the agent and the person acted on are the same; ...Of the phrases into which this pronoun enters we notice the following: ...par heauto, by him i.e., at his home, 1 Cor. 16:2 (Xen. Mem. 3, 13, 3)."

Without this linchpin of generalizing a temporary collection into "giving" as one of the "five acts of worship" on Sunday, and then also mandating specifically how this "giving" is to be done--only in a collection plate that a few control--Institutional Christianity would fail.

See Acts 11:27-30; Gal. 2:10; Romans 15:25-26; 1 Cor. 16:1-4 for the temporary nature and specific purpose of "the collection for the saints." It was for the poor not preachers.

LINCHPIN #2
-- "The Position of 'Gospel Preacher.'" Linchpin #2 and #3 (Position-Expedient Elder Authority, see below) are difficult to separate, because these two 'positions' constitute the highest 'ranks' of the oligarchy among churches of Christ (coC). Nevertheless, having been a 'gospel preacher' within the system for 10 years, there is no question in my mind that the 'gospel preachers' run the show.

I do not mean that elders cannot hire and fire preachers, but that most elders really don't know Bible context/history (other than memorizing what it "says" which is the same as reading it), so they 'delegate' the intense study, assembly preaching, main Bible class teaching/preacher training schools, etc. to 'gospel preachers' (GP). GPs are the ones "at the office" during the week, the ones who 'visit' the sick in the hospitals, and do the in-depth study necessary to understand the original languages, contexts, etc. of the Bible.

This is a dysfunctional system that lacks integrity, because the truth is that elders who are to "oversee" the teaching to the "sheep" really don't know if it's the truth or not! They have delegated their responsibility to the 'gospel preacher.' This is why I put GPs #2. This dysfunctional dependency between elders and GPs allows for the oligarchy of elder/preachers (and many times GPs are elders often with only one other man). The buck can be passed back and forth between this oligarchy without accountability really occurring. If things get too heated, elders can fire the preacher and bring in another GP.

Nevertheless, the 'position of GP' is linchpin #2 also because he/they are the only Christians paid to do the work that all Christians are commanded to do. Of course, this hinders other Christians from doing it, because they, too, like the elders, can 'delegate' their responsibility to the preacher. The fortunate thing is that much of this is to assuage religious guilt and shame, because many people like nurses, doctors, pharmacists, rescue shelter, social workers, etc. already do Christian works, but their works are seen as "secular/physical" and not "religious/spiritual" like the GP's work. Maintaining the "sacred" vs. "secular" division in the minds of people is also a linchpin to IC, especially for the 'position of GP' to remain viable.

"Linchpin #3
as I mentioned is 'Position-Expedient Authority' or (P-EA). This was my previous blog post so I will simply provide a link:

http://spiritofthemaster.blogspot.com/2013/07/position-expedient-authority-vs-servant.html

Since our system has elders unhealthily dependent on the GP (example in teaching the assembly, the person 'religiously' visiting, in-depth study/teaching other preachers, etc.), then their 'position' is their fall back. They maintain this 'position' based on the character qualities in 1 Tim. 3:1ff and Titus 1:5ff being viewed as "qualifications for a position." The position holds the power in expediency, hence the kind of P-E authority. The Bible lists these qualities of character among elders so that everyone will have models to imitate in caring for others and which character is God's desire for every person and the real power of God to persuade, not control others from positions on high. Strangely, Christian example is belittled and demeaned in the eyes of the status quo.

This position-expedient authority becomes the focus of IC while the real power of Christianity--living like/ maturing into Christ--takes a back seat. 'Overseeing' the "collection" (church treasury), the position of GP, and the 'church' building are the responsibilities that take up the most time/energy/concern. Institutional Christianity built upon the 'place' of the 'church building' is also what gets propagated the world over in "missions." These missions ultimately result in a new GP, treasury, and public building which brings us to linchpin #4.

LINCHPIN #4
is the "public 'church' building." The church in the NT was viewed as a people, or assembly. Today's church is viewed as "a place where the saved are"--the public building. Today's public building is patterned after the Roman basilica which was the government building of the Roman Empire before Constantine patterned the first Catholic Church buildings after it. Before A.D. 312-24, Christians met in homes (or the cemetery) for their meals. Constantine built church buildings over graveyards because that is where Christians had come to assemble to remember the martyrs and have their meals which brings us to linchpin #5--the "common meal" interpretation of "private suppers" in 1 Cor. 11:17-34.

LINCHPIN #5  is the "Common Meal" Interpretation of "private suppers" in 1 Cor. 11:21. This is the linchpin that has come to dawn on me recently because of the repetition of it in discussions of the Lord's Supper. Most recently, a link I posted on Facebook from creedrehearsal.com on the "purpose of assembling" (not being 'to worship') was challenged with a citation to Acts 20:7 that Christians met "for the purpose of partaking of the Lord's Supper (LS)." What is meant primarily is that Christians assemble in a public building (patterned after the government-basilica auditorium) to eat a small piece of bread and small cup of juice. All other meals are viewed as "secular" not "sacred" like this LS with a piece of bread and cup of juice.

What Paul condemns in 1 Cor. 11:17-34 is not 'common meals to be eaten at home' vs. a 'sacred meal eaten at the building.' Paul, in 1 Cor. 11:25, says that Jesus took the cup "after supper" (Passover meal to be eaten again in the kingdom, Luke 22:15-16). I don't know why this is left out of our interpretation except to maintain the "sacred--secular" dichotomy so necessary for IC to continue. Paul never says "stop eating meals." In fact, he says "when you gather together to eat, wait for one another." They were taking "private suppers" (NIV 2011)--or not sharing their meals. The Lord's Supper was always a meal. Eating at the "Lord's Table" (1 Cor. 10:21) is never common.

CONCLUSION

Linchpins cannot be removed if an organization is to continue. The 'position of gospel preacher' stands to lose the most because men and their families livelihoods are at stake in most cases. It is not my desire to destroy anyone's livelihood. We need pastors, teachers, and evangelists in the church. What we don't need, in my opinion, is an institutional system built on the linchpins above, or especially the false doctrine that the above linchpins are "the church of the NT or first century."

Am I picking on preachers? No. I don't think so. I am acknowledging the reality of what exists in the churches of Christ with which I am familiar, and writing that which I would never be allowed to say in a local assembly, or Bible class for very long. "You could teach or preach," someone may say, but it would not be equal to the status and 'position' given the 'gospel preacher.' "The pulpit" he stands behind is viewed with the "authority of God," so no one else may contradict what he says without the doctrinal system failing. Perhaps "the pulpit" is another linchpin I should write about. Instead of polishing it maybe we should dismantle it.

As more and more members of churches of Christ learn more about the first century church, I am confident that we will see that early Christians met for a meal (Lord's Supper), edified and encouraged one another, sang praises to God and Christ, discussed the letters of the New Testament and gospels of Christ, prayed for one another and the nations in which they lived and decided to steward private collections ultimately to be distributed to the poor and needy.

May God bless us as we continue heralding the Restoration Plea of restoring the New Testament Christianity that we read about in our Bibles--not the Institutional System that later developed and that we inherited and modified somewhat.

Let us continue in noble honesty and mutual respect toward one another and especially to the glory of our Father doing what is best for the many not the few--namely declaring the truth at all costs--not maintaining the linchpins of Institutional Christianity at all costs.


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