Churches are Real Things

This topic isn’t one of my normal offerings, but I want to have it here so I can reference back to it.

I’ve seen a lot of variations on the idea that church isn’t a necessary part of the Christian life; that there is no scriptural basis for being a member of a church. Let me show it to you.

I don’t know which Bibles you all may have, but it’s not terribly important. Turn with me now to the beginning…I mean before Genesis. There it is: The second Chapter of the Table of Contents, New Testament, verse 6

  • Letter of Paul to the Church in Rome
  • First Letter of Paul to the Church in Corinth
  • Second Letter of Paul to the Church in Corinth
  • Letter of Paul to the Churches (more than one!) in Galatia.
  • Letter of Paul to the Church in Ephesus
  • Letter of Paul to the Church in Philippi
  • Letter of Paul to the Church in Colossae
  • First Letter of Paul to the Church in Thessalonica
  • Second Letter of Paul to the Church in Thessalonica
  • First Letter of Paul to Timothy, a Pastor of the Church in Ephesus
  • Second Letter of Paul to Timothy, a Pastor of the Church in Ephesus
  • Letter of Paul to Titus, Pastor of the Church in Crete
  • Letter of Paul to Philemon, a minister of a Church in Colossae

In total, of the 27 books of the New Testament, fully 13 are specifically addressed to churches, or to specific elders of specific churches. Within the other books of the New Testament–the Gospels excluded–there are many rules, guides, suggestions, encouragements, and so forth about how these church organizations should run; what there duties are; what responsibilities one has towards them; and so on.

In the last book of the New Testament–the Book of Revelations–there are seven letters to seven churches; each of which actually existed:

  • The Church in Ephesus
  • The Church in Smyrna
  • The Church in Pyrgamum
  • The Church in Thyatira
  • The Church in Sardis
  • The Church in Phliadelphia
  • The Church in Laodicea

Again: These were real churches with real people and real elders and all the things that go with a defined body of believers.

If you don’t want to go to church, have the honesty to just say you don’t want to go to church. Do not pretend like you’ve actually read the Bible and found that churches are not real and necessary things ordained by Christ and inhabited by the Holy Spirit since the Pentecost; as recorded in the first book after the Gospels: The Book of the Acts of the Apostles. You didn’t even make it through the Table of Contents.

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48 thoughts on “Churches are Real Things

  1. If you don’t want to go to church, have the honesty to just say you don’t want to go to church. Do not pretend like you’ve actually read the Bible and found that churches are not real and necessary things ordained by Christ and inhabited by the Holy Spirit since the Pentecost; as recorded in the first book after the Gospels: The Book of the Acts of the Apostles. You didn’t even make it through the Table of Contents.

    False dichotomy. Churches (bodies of believers) are “necessary things ordained by Christ and inhabited by the Holy Spirit,” but churches (buildings dedicated to worship) and churches (man-made social club organizations dedicated to their own preservation) are not. If I don’t want to go to the second type of “church,” or don’t want to be a member of the third type, It does not mean that I also reject the first and true type of church.

    The first type is not something I go to, but rather something I am a part of. Since you and I are both believers this discussion is taking place within the church.

    The second is a place one goes–useful as a place for the church to fellowship and worship together, but often more concerned with being a clubhouse for the third type than a meeting-place for the first.

    The third type is as necessary and Christ-ordained as your weekly poker club, or the country club down the road.

  2. Moose,

    If churches are just any and all believers wherever they meet (internet, football game, etc.), how is church discipline (see 1 Cor. 5 for example) supposed to take place? Were specific churches like the ones in Corinth and Ephesus just any random Christians who happen to run into each other? If so, Paul’s epistles and the letters to churches in Revelation (see Cane’s post) make absolutely no sense.

    Churches may be full of sinners and problems, but that’s not an excuse to avoid them. This “churchianity is bad; therefore I don’t need to be part of the visible church” is one of many vile errors I keep seeing in the manosphere.

  3. @MNM

    It’s not a false dichotomy. The bodies of believers are supposed to gather together socially and they do gather in designated places. Even in the New Testament this was true.

    Since you and I are both believers this discussion is taking place within the church.

    A church–which is made up of those within the Church–is a real thing that we have to physically attend because we have physical bodies. It meets socially–corporately–at a designated time and place. There are instructions on what to do at the meetings. We know where they met. We know who there leadership is. We know who they did not allow at meetings. We know they did certain things at these meetings. We know certain people were kept from speaking at these meetings. We know they kept ledgers of various types of people; from elders, deacons, and all the way down to widows. There are criticisms to specific bodies of believers–called churches–that are not general criticisms of churches in other cities.

    Churches, as we would recognize them, are real things and we have an obligation to be a member–to be a part of–them.

  4. @ Cane and John

    [The church] meets socially–corporately–at a designated time and place. There are instructions on what to do at the meetings. We know where they met. We know who there leadership is. We know who they did not allow at meetings. We know they did certain things at these meetings. We know certain people were kept from speaking at these meetings. We know they kept ledgers of various types of people; from elders, deacons, and all the way down to widows. There are criticisms to specific bodies of believers–called churches–that are not general criticisms of churches in other cities.

    I agree. The church must meet. After all, we are told not to forsake assembling together (Heb 10:25). The internet, though perhaps a valuable forum for discussion, is not a venue for this assembling. Yet this does not mean that this assembling must be done in a certain type of building.

    And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. –Acts 16:13

    Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these.–Jer 7:4

    Most crucially, it does not mean we need to become members of human denominations and identify as such.

    Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Cor 1:12-13

    And yet today we willingly identify as followers of Luther, or Zwingli, or Calvin, or the Pope, or former Popes, etc. Are there serious theological differences between various denominations? Of course! But this is no excuse for making those differences our identity and dividing into little clubs of like-minded folk. The Bible recognizes various congregations (Galatia, Corinth, etc.), but only two churches: the woman clothed with the sun whose children keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus (Rev 12) and the harlot who is drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus (Rev 17). The true and the false, the good and the evil, the sheep and the goats. Our concern should be which of these churches we belong to, not joining some human denomination that divides Christ’s body which we are.

  5. Revelation 1:20-2:5 is instructive to the discussion.

    “As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they were not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place- unless you repent.

    So, we know it’s not a building, we know that ‘Where two or more are gathered in My name, I am there also’ and we know that the representation of the church is a lampstand. We also see that Christ will remove His lampstand if the people don’t repent of their sin.

    The command not to neglect the coming together of believers is not a command to meet at a specific spot, at a specific time or to exercise any particular pattern of worship. The problem I have with the concept of ‘church’ is the division of labor is wrong. Christians don’t want to be bothered to do the things they were commanded to do so they hire a professional Christian (pastor) to do them. From there it went downhill and then somebody decided it would be a good idea to let the women talk.

    Bring back the house-church. Bring back the idea of inviting non-believers into your home to let them see what Christianity really looks like. Wait… Oh. I’m sorry. Um… yes, you have to actually be a functioning family that’s successful for this to work. A husband that loves his wife, a wife that actually submits to her husband, a father that strives to train up his children and children that are obedient. A living room that isn’t arranged around the alter of the family television. A place where the first thing one notices when walking in is how *different* it is from other homes. Because the people are different, because they’re Christians and their lives actually reflect that difference.

    OK, never mind.

  6. 1 Corinthians 12: 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

    Cane, from the comment you linked, and the several other ones I saw at that Dalrock post, it seems the logic goes this way:

    Because the church teaches bad things, and the pastors are wrong, it is OK to leave the church. Since modern western society has the vast majority of bad churches, then we are allowed to leave all the churches.

    It is clear the body parts apostle paul talks about refers to the people of the church. The comment you linked might be correct in one thing: the diagnosis of the church he went to. However that is like saying because my liver is sick, the hand which is healthy, should be cutoff and removed to protect itself. (And in some cases the liver isn’t actually sick, the hand just doesn’t want to go to church so fabricates that the liver isn’t doing its job).

    When the Bible is talking about people will go to those that itch their ears and tell them good things, I can’t help but feel part of the reason the Christian “manosphere” is so large is because love aggregating in a place where they can talk about how hopeless, how wrong, how sinful the church is. Some of those things might be true, but I don’t recall Apostle Paul’s advice ever being to disband the church, he gave a systematic way of dealing with problems in the church, of rebuking those who are sinners, of making sure people have the right attitude. If the liver is sick we heal the liver according to God, not cut off the hand.

    Last I saw Jesus also went into the temples to teach, even though the temples were corrupt. He didn’t only preach on the mountaintop or secluded areas, but many times in the temples themselves, where the corrupt teachers were. Weren’t we called to follow in his footsteps? Like Peter and others? Even if the comments were right and all churches in the west are utterly and hopeless corrupted and doomed (which I don’t believe they are), the correct response is not to abandon them, but preach the truth even more in those churches.

  7. @MNM

    Our concern should be which of these churches we belong to, not joining some human denomination that divides Christ’s body which we are.

    Every Christian is called to be a member of a specific church, and attend it.

    @AT

    The command not to neglect the coming together of believers is not a command to meet at a specific spot, at a specific time or to exercise any particular pattern of worship.

    Of course it is: Your churches specific spot; your churches specific time; your churches specific pattern of (corporate) worship and even just socializing.

    Bring back the house-church.

    I don't have a problem with house-churches. I think a lack of denominational oversight is a recipe for disaster, but that doesn't require a separate church building.

    @MNM and AT

    There is a hilarious disconnect in some people when they think that a cause of division is the unity of a denomination, and that the way to bring together what is divided is to separate everyone; even unto each man's solitude. Similarly, I often see the same people say that marriage is the cause of divorce, and so marriages should be avoided; except that each man sees fit to say of himself. That is anarchy and disorder. Don’t be those guys.

    @James

    When the Bible is talking about people will go to those that itch their ears and tell them good things, I can’t help but feel part of the reason the Christian “manosphere” is so large is because love aggregating in a place where they can talk about how hopeless, how wrong, how sinful the church is. Some of those things might be true, but I don’t recall Apostle Paul’s advice ever being to disband the church, he gave a systematic way of dealing with problems in the church, of rebuking those who are sinners, of making sure people have the right attitude. If the liver is sick we heal the liver according to God, not cut off the hand.

    That’s right: We are to keep the faith; even in the face of the unfaithful.

  8. @Cane

    You tell us not to be what is described in Judges 21:25, but God says that that is how it was intended to be. 1 Sam 8:7, 10:19

    There is a hilarious disconnect in some people when they think that a cause of division is the unity of a denomination, and that the way to bring together what is divided is to separate everyone; even unto each man’s solitude.

    I don’t want to separate, but to mingle. I want the calvinist and the armenian, the papist and the lutheran, the anabaptist and the magisterialist at the same Bible study. Growth and depth comes from being challenged, being presented with evidence against your position and considering it–not from fencing yourself in with others who will never challenge you. Unity is not a oneness of thought like creedal denominations engender, but oneness of purpose. How can we attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ when we box ourselves into communities that protect our current understandings?

  9. With fear of treading upon an open argument….

    I would love to go to church on a Sunday morning. Now all I have to do is find one that doesn’t have female ministers, is openly anti-abortion, big gov’t and homosexuality, promotes masculinity and male headship and isn’t Catholic (I have dogma issues with Catholicism).

    Easier said than done for most of us. Not everyone is Joseph of Jackson….

  10. One of the things I am most pleased with our church about, now with one year there under our belts, is that the young pastor is bucking the ridiculous trend that the American church has embraced where they seem to believe they will find converts by explaining that THEIRS is not really a church, its not about church, its a personal relationship only. All you need if that Personal Jesus and therefore the Depeche Mode anthem of same

  11. Sean,

    I know plenty of churches of every stripe (Baptism, Presbyterian, Anglican, Methodist, Non-denom, Orthodox, Catholic, etc.) that hold those views. On masculinity, they may not parrot the manosphere, but they hold to male headship at home and male leadership in the church. It sounds like you’ve only looked at mainline churches.

    As for AT, I can only roll my eyes. This guy wrote an article promoting polygamy and even allowing men to force their (multiple) wives to have sex with each other…for his viewing pleasure. He reads the Bible like it’s a loophole-granting cheat sheet to serve his needs. If he led a house church, I’m afraid his idolatry would lead it the way of Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard.

  12. @MNM

    How can we attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ when we box ourselves into communities that protect our current understandings?

    That’s a good question for us all to ponder as we go to our individual churches.

    I’m not making that case that each of us needs to pick a denomination and say that it is the True Denomination, and only it contains the True Teachings. I said the Bible says churches are for Christians, and Christians are for churches.

    You tell us not to be what is described in Judges 21:25, but God says that that is how it was intended to be. 1 Sam 8:7, 10:19

    The Israelites were under the rule of God through the prophets and the judges; to whom God spoke directly. Yet each man did what was right in his own eyes instead of what had been said, or even seeking God’s will through those prophets and judges.

    In Samuel’s day, those men wearied of being ruled by their own decisions, but instead of repenting back to God and His prophet, they asked for a king. Even in the face of their failure to rule themselves and even with a literal mouthpiece of God in their midst, they would rather be oppressed than seek God.

    It’s not that self-rule is good, but a king’s rule is bad. If we’re not following God’s will it is bad.

  13. Hey John….

    I promoted polygyny (not polygamy) for the crisis that the modern church faces (3:1 ratio of women to men) but in the specific post you mention, I was discussing the headship doctrine. I did not at any point advocate ‘allowing men to force their (multiple) wives to have sex with each other.’ The topic, again, was the headship doctrine, and I pointed out that it’s so important and so absolute that there was no prohibition against women having sex with each other. You know where to find it, comments are closed, but I will stand by my assertion: the authority of a husband over his wife is not limited.

    I don’t know enough about Doug Philips or Bill Gothard to be either encouraged or insulted.

  14. @Sean

    I would love to go to church on a Sunday morning. Now all I have to do is find one that doesn’t have female ministers, is openly anti-abortion, big gov’t and homosexuality, promotes masculinity and male headship and isn’t Catholic (I have dogma issues with Catholicism).

    The search can be maddening, but it is possible. Several years ago now, I joined my family to a conservative Episcopal church in a diocese that was resisting the leftward drift of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America. Our diocese has never ordained a female priest or bishop, and certainly were not going to accept practicing homosexuals as ministers either. I joined them because if it was good enough for C.S. Lewis, then it was good enough for me, and because they were really struggling.

    For them (us, now), it wasn’t about holding the line against some liberal trend out there in another part of the country, or another denomination, but among their own. I respected that, and thought that if I can be of service then that would be a good use of my time.

  15. AT,

    Phillips and Gothard are long-time leaders in conservative Christian circles. Both became popular in conservative, homeschooling circles, and were known for very strict, parochial and perhaps legalistic (esp. Gothard) teachings. (For the record, I’m also very conservative, pro-homeschooling, pro-patriarchy–but don’t hold the idiosyncratic views of these men). Both have been accused of sexual misconduct recently, and it appears the charges are legitimate. Unfortunately (but predictably), more liberal Christians and non-believer have used this occasion to slam everyone whose views are even close to Phillips or Gothard on homeschooling, courtship vs. dating, dressing modestly, etc. There are all sorts of blogs and websites out there doing this, but I’m not going to provide links.

    What Phillips and Gothard have in common–and this is related to the subject of this post–is that both had little to no accountability, and were able to manipulate their organizations/churches so those who questioned them were removed. If they had been part of a visible church under bishops, presbyteries or other authorities (see Acts 15 or again I Cor. 5), it’s likely both would’ve been kept under control or disciplined much earlier. Mark Driscoll is a similar example, although his recent accusations haven’t been sexual.

    As for your statement “the authority of a husband over his wife is not limited,” this is a more balanced and Biblical view:

    http://dougwils.com/s7-engaging-the-culture/seven-theses-on-submission.html

  16. I am always very wary when I hear Christians talk about being ‘balanced’ because that isn’t what Christ wants from us. Balanced is lukewarm. With respect to that article, I notice that it didn’t mention 1st Peter 3. It didn’t trot out the ‘Ephesians 5:21 is the context’ mess, so does that make it balanced? I don’t know.

    The problem with bishops, presbyteries or other authorities is they’re part and parcel of a bureaucracy, which tends over time to focus on the prime directive of all bureaucracies: growth of the bureaucracy. Over time the standards are weakened, the leadership fails, the homosexuals are first ignored and then finally ordained. Top-down authority works when strong and Godly men are in command and it can be lethal when they aren’t.

    Bottom-up accountability plays out differently, but in order for bottom-up accountability to work there has to be a core of strong men. Sadly, one doesn’t see that much these days. I know a pastor who ‘discipled’ all the key men in his church and they won’t challenge him even when he’s wrong. Fifteen years ago there were about 100 families at his church. Today there’s about 25. His most recent strategy was to start a public fight with another church over women in the ministry, breaking fellowship between two churches that have been doing joint events (prayer breakfasts, etc.) for over 100 years.

    I have seen a pastor fired for preaching hard truth that his congregation’s women didn’t want to hear. I’ve seen pastors quickly removed and sent elsewhere when their bishop got too much heat from the congregation. I know a charismatic episcopal priest, he decided that he wanted to work in one particular area so he did. Problem was, it wasn’t the area he was assigned. He got called on the carpet and asked “Do you believe we, who are in authority over you, are able to determine God’s will for your life?” He refused to answer the question.

    It’s a really good question with a lot of serious implications. Does a husband have the authority to determine God’s will for his wife’s life? 1st Corinthians 7 makes it pretty clear that a father has the authority to with-hold his daughter from marriage. So, in placing one’s family under the authority of any particular church, how far does the authority of that church’s leadership extend over the members of the congregation? Numbers 16? Acts 5? What happens if/when the leadership fails? What then? It’s a real pilgrim/puritan problem and different people are called to do different things. Still, the puritans failed to purify the church and eventually joined their departed brethren in the new world.

  17. Balance is most often a mealy mouthed word used as a place holder. Another use is to serve like a buffer solution. A buffer solution serves to maintain the pH of a solution by sort of absorbing small spikes and troughs. It makes the solution fit for the three bears….juuuuuust right.

    Balanced and biblical? What a combo. There is nothing balanced about the bible except it could be said that if balance is virtue, is good, then the bible is balanced because it is what it is and it is good. But it is anything but balanced. The Personal Jesus is balanced. Thats the problem with the Personal Jesus.

    Women love the word balance and marketers to women love it that women love the word balance. <a href="amberen“>Here is an example of an advert that exploits the emotion evoking term “balance”. Picture the woman sitting in a white room on white furniture, white drapery billowing , she is wearing a white flowing thing holding a think white mug of whatever warm beverage is being hawked and has that self satisfied look of being,….. balanced.

    I have a whole canned excursion into how the edges have been worn off our language, leaving fillers like “balance”. I’ll stifle the excursion but want to offer just one more example found in the word “advocate”. As in “I advocate”, to be taken seriously when stated by anyone regarding anything. Gibberish.

    Using “balance” to describe that 7 point list is a throw away. And why is balance a virtue anyway? Shall I describe my approach to my faith as balanced, giving equal weight to all considerations, all religions and beliefs? if I were to lay out some Appalachian apologetics and preface it, attempt to buffer it, with a claim to balance, would that serve me or the cause well? Of course not. So, to call a narrative on submission balanced is an automatic appeal to women and men of like mind to women. God’s word(s)need not be called balanced or any other descriptor set to be a spoon full of sugar.

    Ive come across the writer of those 7 points several times while cruising the web. He is too scholarly by half.

  18. Balance, I think you’ve hit the head there. A good friend of mine attends a “church” that has mid-20s women preaching, laissez faire dress code but the pastor, although privately is Biblical, will not follow it with the congregation. “It’s not about rules but about the belief in Jesus”. Balance. Pfft.

    Cane

    I’m going to try another local church tomorrow or next week. Trying to find the roster of ministers online of churches is difficult sometimes; it would seem they try not to advertise who’s preaching there.

  19. Pingback: The Sunday Shorts: May 4, 2014 | Struggling with Modernity

  20. Church
    The word translated “church” in the English Bible is ekklesia. This word is the Greek words kaleo (to call), with the prefix ek (out). Thus, the word means “the called out ones.” However, the English word “church” does not come from ekklesia but from the word kuriakon, which means “dedicated to the Lord.” This word was commonly used to refer to a holy place or temple. By the time of Jerome’s translation of the New Testament from Greek to Latin, it was customary to use a derivative of kuriakon to translate ekklesia. Therefore, the word church is a poor translation of the word ekklesia since it implies a sacred building, or temple. A more accurate translation would be “assembly” because the term ekklesia was used to refer to a group of people who had been called out to a meeting. It was also used as a synonym for the word synagogue, which also means to “come together,” i.e. a gathering. “Body of Christ” Since believers have been united with Christ through spiritual baptism, they are sometimes corporately referred to as the body of Christ. (Rom. l2:4-5; 1 Cor. l2:11,13,l8,27; Col. l:l8; Eph. 5:30) The idea seems to be that the group of Christians in the world constitute the physical representation of Christ on earth. It is also a metaphor which demonstrates the interdependence of members in the church, while at the same time demonstrating their diversity from one another. (Rom. 12:4; 1 Cor. 12:14-17)
    The Temple of God
    (1 Cor. 3:l6; Eph. 2:2l,22; 1 Pet. 2:5).
    The Jerusalem From Above or The Heavenly Jerusalem
    (Gal. 4:26; Heb. l2:22). Both of these terms (as well as “temple”) illustrate how the Old Testament notions of outward sanctuary have been replaced with the literal dwelling of God in his people.
    Bride of Christ or Christ’s Betrothed
    (Eph. 5:25-32; 2 Cor. 11:2). These titles refer to the love and loyalty existing between Christ and believers.
    – See more at: http://www.xenos.org/classes./um1-1a.htm#sthash.81oQ1jyC.dpuf

    Origin:

    Old English cir(i)ce, cyr(i)ce, related to Dutch kerk and German Kirche, based on medieval Greek kurikon, from Greek kuriakon (dōma) ‘Lord’s (house)’, from kurios ‘master or lord’. Compare with kirk
    [Middle English chirche, from Old English cirice, ultimately from Medieval Greek krikon, from Late Greek kriakon (dma), the Lord’s (house), neuter of Greek kriakos, of the lord, from krios, lord; see keu- in Indo-European roots.]
    [before 900; Middle English chir(i)che, Old English cir(i)ce « Greek kȳri(a)kón (dôma) the Lord’s (house); akin to Dutch kerk, German Kirche, Old Norse kirkja. See kirk]
    [1150–1200; Middle English (north and Scots) < Old Norse kirkja church]
    Middle English chirche, from Old English cirice, ultimately from Late Greek kyriakon, from Greek, neuter of kyriakos of the lord, from kyrios lord, master; akin to Sanskrit śūra hero, warrior
    First Known Use: before 12th century

  21. Off topic here. What about Mothers’ Day? I’m taking it as axiomatic that it is a time for children to show appreciation of their mothers. A husband makes a woman a mother (Or ought to. I.e., she should be a wife.), so it is not a day for him to proclaim his fealty. Appreciation, perhaps. Don’t know. Anyone got any thoughts?

  22. My husband does not go out of his way to honor me on Mother’s Day. He supports our children in any way he can as they make plans to do special things for me. But I usually receive nothing signed, Love, your husband. I am not his mother.

    On Father’s Day, I am often tempted to do things for him, and he doesn’t reject those gestures if I make them, but his position is: “I am not your father.” So I support the kids in any and every way I can as they plan special things for him. And then he and I both do a little something for our respective fathers.

  23. There is an enormous amount of Gnosticism in American Christianity. You can feel its taint in Moose and AT’s posts. God made material things. He made holy things. He founded a temple. His prophets of old erected altars. His Son spoke of Churches. His followers preached from them. He made use of water. He raised a copper serpent as a sign of deliverance (oh the howling of many of the so called conservative churches in America that would occur if He did that again…). He had priests that were fallen offer sacrifices and called their work Holy even unto His death. He raised presbyters that were fallen and told them to care for the sheep after his death. He gave us wine and bread so that we could worship him. He gave us bodies and fathers and mothers and made us perpetuate our lineage through a rather messy act that has been giving some Gnostics hives for millennia.

    Yes. It is. A building. And so much more.

    Things _are_ holy. No manner of twisted post-Calvanistic rumblings can stop that. The amount of pure silliness that has been done in Calvin’s name probably embarrasses him these days. And frankly given the trouble he caused, and he did realize it was trouble after that pyre incident, he should feel a might embarrassed.

    “There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence.” – John Calvin

    But wait there’s more also from Calvin:
    “Those who think that the authority of the doctrine is impaired by the insignificance of the men who are called to teach, betray their ingratitude; for among the many noble endowments with which God has adorned the human race, one of the most remarkable is, that he deigns to consecrate the mouths and tongues of men to his service, making his own voice to be heard in them. Wherefore, let us not on our part decline obediently to embrace the doctrine of salvation, delivered by his command and mouth; because, although the power of God is not confined to external means, he has, however, confined us to his ordinary method of teaching, which method, when fanatics refuse to observe, they entangle themselves in many fatal snares”

    And

    “The Church universal is the multitude collected out of all nations, who, though dispersed and far distant from each other, agree in one truth of divine doctrine, and are bound together by the tie of a common religion. In this way it comprehends single churches, which exist in different towns and villages, according to the wants of human society, so that each of them justly obtains the name and authority of the Church; and also comprehends single individuals, who by a religious profession are accounted to belong to such churches, although they are in fact aliens from the Church, but have not been cut off by a public decision. ”

    So yes, even Calvin is a great deal closer to Cane than the Gnostics running around here. If you must be Calvinist, at least do him the favor of reading him from time to time. While I believe the man to be a heretic, he was a far greater mind than I’m seeing here.

  24. And I apologize to God for some missed capitals. I should have been more careful.

  25. @ Chesterton:

    I’ve been accused of being many things. The price of commenting on blogs is that I don’t get to pick what I’m called–but I have to say, Gnostic and Calvinist are both new ones for me. I’m sure that it won’t be the last time I hear them though. On a side note, while I don’t identify as a follower of anyone other than Jesus Christ, and would consider myself closer theologically to Jacobus Arminius than John Calvin, there was some good stuff in that Calvin you posted.

    “There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence.” – John Calvin

    Amen. I agree (in this instance) with Calvin, because he agrees with Scripture.

    But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.–1 Cor 2:14

    @ Elspeth:

    I never understood Mother’s Day of Father’s Day. I respect my parents every day–I don’t need to set aside one day so that I can forget about them on the other 364.

  26. @ MNM:

    Frankly, I agree. It’s the same way we view Valentine’s Day, for instance. Our children however, a couple of whom are quite young, have always enjoyed the “holidays”, so we let them.

    We do not however, feel any pressure to shower one another with Mother’s/Father’s Day gifts since we are not parents of one another.

  27. Given that Arminius’ thought descended from Calvin’s and on the question at hand he had no major difference of opinion I don’t know where you are going with that. You also fail to address anything. There is specific water, specific formula, and specific things like churches in Christianity. You are free to ignore that, but then you don’t believe in Christianity.

  28. @ Chesterton

    I stopped commenting when Cane clarified his position to something that I basically agreed with:

    I’m not making that case that each of us needs to pick a denomination and say that it is the True Denomination, and only it contains the True Teachings. I said the Bible says churches are for Christians, and Christians are for churches.

    I would say that churches are for Christians, and Christians are for preaching Christ, but that is a minor difference. I had nothing more to contribute beyond what I had already posted above. When I saw your comment, and your accusation that I am two things that I am not, I felt I ought to deny those charges publicly here where they were made. However, as I do not know you, I did not want to call you a liar–while it is abundantly obvious from what I have written, it is possible that you have not read the bulk of things I have written, and read into my comments on this thread things that I did not say. Therefore, while denying the charges, I attempted to find common ground.

    You are right that I did not address any of your points. This is because your points, while true, did not contradict nor negate what I had pointed out above. The fact that prophets built alters does not mean that the church should be divided into denominations, nor that a particular building is necessary for the church body to meet and worship properly. And for the record, I still am not sure why you brought up Calvin, or what relationship you see between him and this topic.

    You also say that I do not believe in Christianity. This is true. I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ. It is a belief in Jesus Christ, and not in Christianity, that Acts 16:31 and Romans 10:9 say lead to salvation. “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” –1 Cor 3:11. It is Jesus Christ, and not Christianity, that is the author and finisher of my faith (Heb 12:2). Christianity is about belief in Christ. It has an outside reference point. To make Christianity about a belief in Christianity is to make a self-referential loop, a logical absurdity, and a distortion of the gospel of Christ (Gal 1:6-7). Preaching a belief in Christianity rather than Christ is essentially to preach another Jesus (2 Cor 11:4), by placing Christianity in Christ’s place.

  29. @MNM

    I would say that churches are for Christians, and Christians are for preaching Christ, but that is a minor difference.

    Just to clarify: My statement “I said the Bible says churches are for Christians, and Christians are for churches.” wasn’t meant as an exclamation of the full telos of churches or Christians, but that it is one the the things that the Author of our faith has written for us to do.

    I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ. It is a belief in Jesus Christ, and not in Christianity, that Acts 16:31 and Romans 10:9 say lead to salvation. “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”

    I think there’s some unnecessary hair-splitting going on there; and precisely the sort of hair-splitting that leads to denominational divisions. We all ought to be careful–but especially those given to separatism, individualism, and self-interpretation–that we do not individually lay our own man-made foundations in our fervor to be more realer Christians than others. Roman Catholics sometimes refer to this sort of thing internally as Trying to be more Catholic than the Pope. The Bible talks very strongly about those who try to lay unnecessary burdens and privations on His people. The only way to sort out which is which type of situation is with wisdom.

    In case anyone was wondering: My view of the denominations is that each one which holds to the Nicene Creed (which is the best shorthand explanation of what is revealed in God’s word and includes a fantastic summary of the Gospel itself) plays a different role in the Body of Christ; hand, eye, foot, etc.

    Whichever denominations or persons who do not accept the truths proclaimed in the Nicene Creed (whether they know the actual words or not, or are even aware of its existence)…are not. Whether those people shall be raised to new life on the New Earth is beyond me, but it seems unlikely.

  30. I’m probably too late to this party to make a difference, but here’s my take on the subject anyway.

    1. Churches are full off people. People are fundamentally flawed. Therefore churches are fundamentally flawed. But then, so is everything else in this fallen world. The fact that churches are flawed is no excuse to disobey the commandment to “not [forsake] the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as ye see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:25)

    2. We know that the people to whom the book of Hebrews was addressed assembled together physically, therefore we know that assembling together “virtually” fails to fulfill the commandment.

    3. We also know that, because people are fundamentally flawed, we all need accountability – preferably in all all directions (bottom up, top down, and lateral). Local bodies of believers and denominations CAN provide that. That accountability – because it’s performed by fellow humans – will be flawed (see point 1).

    4. God created us for communion – first with Him, then with each other. Christ’s sacrifice restores us to communion with the Father, and communion with each other is evidence that we are in communion with Him: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). If you can’t stand to be around other Christians for a couple hours a week, you can’t logically claim to love them.

    The old joke holds true. If you find a perfect church, don’t join. You’ll screw it up.

  31. Christianity is the belief in Christ and his commands. As Cane rightly points out this is hair splitting , and I’ll add, of a very American sort. I say this as an American.

    Is water in baptism sacred? Could we dispense with the water? Why if not can we dispense with the church?

  32. @ Chesterton:

    Is water in baptism sacred? Could we dispense with the water? Why if not can we dispense with the church?

    I have nowhere argued that we can “dispense with the church.” I have argued that we can dispense with church buildings (i.e. “the church on 5th and Main”), and church denominations (i.e. “The Lutheran Church”, “the Episcopal Church,” etc.). See my first comment in this thread. You are either conflating things that are not the same, or knowingly setting up a straw man.

    It is this same inability or unwillingness to differentiate between different things with similar names that causes you and Cane to call my simple assertion that Christ is above Christianity “hair-splitting.” You yourself define Christianity as “the belief in Christ and His commands.” Therefore, by your own definition, believing in Christianity is believing in the belief in Christ and His commands. Believing in a belief is not the same thing as believing in Jesus Christ. Many people believe in Christianity, not because they believe in Jesus Christ, but because they see Christianity as a useful moral construct for socializing desirable behaviors. These people are not Christians, rather they believe in Christianity as a positive force. A Christian, on the other hand, believes in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Lord and Savior of mankind. Thus the difference between believing in Christ and believing in Christianity is not trifling or pedantic.

  33. @MNM

    It is this same inability or unwillingness to differentiate between different things with similar names that causes you and Cane to call my simple assertion that Christ is above Christianity “hair-splitting.” You yourself define Christianity as “the belief in Christ and His commands.” Therefore, by your own definition, believing in Christianity is believing in the belief in Christ and His commands. Believing in a belief is not the same thing as believing in Jesus Christ.

    You’re not thinking this through. To believe Christ, we must believe Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (at the least). To believe the Gospel writers, we must believe the people who kept and secured those texts. To believe those keepers, we must believe the person who told or showed us what they kept and secured.

    None of us met Christ. None of us wrote the histories, archives, and letters that became the Bible. None of us discerned the true texts from the untrue texts and compiled the true ones into the Bible. Other people–Christians–did that. Before we believed Christ we believed those other people.

    Belief in Christ starts with belief in Christians; in Christianity.

  34. @MNM

    Ah, but believing someone is not the same as believing in someone.

    That would be the hairsplitting to which I referred.

    James said, “Faith without works is dead”, and so it is. When you heard, you not only believed them, but acted upon that belief by reading and studying. You not only believed those who told you to read the Bible, but believed in them when your faith became active.

  35. @ Cane

    I am of the opinion that what one says is equally important as what one means. I do not re-define words to suit my fancy, determining that I can decide what is orange so that my statement that the sky is orange is correct. The difference between believing x and believing in x is a well-established part of the English language taught in grade-school. If I say I believe Harry, I am making a statement about his veracity. If I say I believe in Harry, I am making a statement about his ability. Christ has both ability and veracity, but Matthew, James, Peter, Paul, etc. have only veracity. They cannot save me. They cannot remit sins. They cannot give life abundant. They can only testify to what their eyes saw, their ears heard, and their hands handled. As Jesus said, the Scriptures do not give life, but only testify to the life-giver.

  36. @MNM

    You and I are not at odds. What I am saying is not a replacement or will stand in the stead of what we both know to be true.

    Yes, the work of belief in Christ is salvation. What I am saying is that the work of belief in Christians is knowledge of Christ; which is a necessary step before one can believe Christ; which then precedes believing in Christ. I never said belief in Christians or Christianity ALONE is sufficient for salvation. I said it is an unavoidable prerequisite because of the way God has chosen to reveal Himself to us; which is through others; sometimes through their texts, sometimes through conversations, and sometimes through their actions.

    It is the water itself that slakes thirst, but we are the appointed cups which bear it. In other words: churches are important, and an individual Christianity not only will not do, but cannot do.

  37. You are confusing two concepts. I do believe _in_ James, John, Mathew and Luke in as much as I believe what they said. That is what believing in means. We believe in Jesus because we believe what he said. That is what the English her is.

    The water is Holy in baptism. God has made things Holy from the very beginning in that they were set aside for him. We _do_ need the building on Fifth and Main in as much as it is God’s thing and God’s way of getting things done. There are extraordinary reasons for not having it: we tried and the government stopped us or Peter got robbed on the way to the bank. But the ordinary method of Christian worship is Fifth and Main. And it has been understood to be that way forever.

    We have descriptions from about 180 of Christians dying for cups used in worship. _Cups_.

  38. @ Chesterton

    I’ll bite. This belief you have in James, John, Matthew, and Luke that goes beyond their veracity: what does it entail? For example, if you ask me what my belief in Christ entails, I would say “I believe in his ability to save me, remit my sins, and give me life abundant.” About James, John, Matthew, and Luke, you believe in their ability to….what?

  39. To tell the historical and Lewesian Mythical details of Christs’ life and therefore as de facto agents of the same. This really isn’t a trick.

  40. @MNM

    So… In their veracity?

    I trust that you now understand that you do believe in them; in their ability to tell you the same truths that Christ told them. We share (in) the same faith they did.

    Sometimes it’s tough to work these things out in words even though we already accept them while we lack the words. (I’m not being sarcastic or funny.) We catch ourselves saying we have faith in Christ, but “those church people” are a different story… Those church people are responsible for everything we know about Christ. Our faith in Him runs through those people and what they did–even buildings. Saying things like that reveals only our own inadequacy; our cognitive dissonance and arrogance.

  41. @ Cane:

    I trust that you now understand that you do believe in them; in their ability to tell you the same truths that Christ told them. We share (in) the same faith they did.

    I have maintained their veracity this whole time. That doesn’t change the fact that I don’t put my faith in them, but rather in what they said and the One they said it about. Chesterton said that he believed (put faith in) them beyond their veracity, but when I asked what it was he had faith in their ability to do, he essentially said to tell the truth, which does not go beyond veracity.

  42. What does it mean when one person tells another “I believe in you”? Typically, it means, “I trust you” and/or “I believe you will/can do what you say.”

    If we trust a person’s eye witness, we trust (believe in) the person. Our trust in (belief in) Christ goes (or should go) infinitely further than our trust in (belief in) our fellows (even great men like the Apostles), but nevertheless, by trusting their eye witness we – by definition – believe in them.

  43. Been away, but what Oscar said. We put legitimate faith in men all the time. I’ve had a bunch of faith for unknown engineers every time I have crossed a bridge.

    Faith in the American context has become a magic word, a gnosis, that Christianity never proposed. We believe that Jesus did not lie nor did his followers. We have faith in that. As many have pointed out a faith that can be disproved. So far that has born out.

    And remember he cups hat our brothers of old died for because they believed Christ had touched them with his blood. The account recorded by the Romans expresses the judges frustration. He catches a group of Christians and practically begs them to claim the items are ordinary things. They don’t. Churches are not ordinary things.

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