More Like Them Than You Realize

There is within Protestant circles an idea that the Early Church–that is to say the first generations of the body of believers both individually and corporately–had it right, and that we should endeavor to go back to doing things the way they did. This idea is very appealing to men who are discouraged at the prospect of attending churches of the present because, at present, churches are full of feminism, hucksters, con-men, fornicators, and all such manner of evil behavior that is dishonoring to Christ and harmful to the whole church. Solomon, at Dalrock’s blog said it this way:

I might suggest, however, that you look into the works of David Bercot, who has done extensive research on the early Christian writers (pre Constatntine)

Their “church” looked a lot like my meetings do. In addition to not being corrupt by feminist garbage at every level, the leaders of their groups were unpaid, preventing the conflict of interest.

Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? I have never heard of Mr. Barcot and I don’t know anything he has written, but I doubt it matters. In the epistles of the New Testament we have the best and first-hand accounts of how the Early Churches conducted themselves. Let me tell you: If you read the epistles from Peter, Paul, John the Beloved, and the others then you really get a sense of how pleasant, and giving, and humble, and orderly these churches…

No. The picture is of how bad were the churches. Apparently, Solomon is not alone in desiring to withhold a living from pastors. Paul writes to the Early Church in Corinth:

This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?

Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

If you’re not feeling the Corinthians’ shame, then you aren’t reading it right. “Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” Endure anything: Even the cheapskate, hypocritical, commandment-shunning finger-wagglings of reprobate and miserly little Corinthians who won’t provide for those who feed them living bread, and slake them with living waters. Paul shamed the Corinthians and used their wormy excuses to boast of the importance of the Gospel.

Don’t take my word for it: The epistles go on and on like this: Stop whoring with false idols. Stop whoring at all. Stop refusing marriages. Stop divorcing. Stop setting up heretic traditions as law. Stop withholding from those deserving. Stop women from clogging churches with noise. Stop men from passive inclusion. Stop bickering over what you think you’ve figured out, and focus on what has been revealed.

Shame! Shame! Shame!

So the picture of the Early Church is very much like the ones we have today. They were full of loud-mouthed women and their silent male enablers. There were con-men in positions of privilege, and men who would use the vacuum of male voices as license to fill the void with every sort of nonsense and premonition.

The bad news is that we still struggle with the exact same problems after more than 2000 years. The good news is that the instructions to the errant Early Church are still valid for us, and we have them. We, having their bad examples and their excellent corrections, should not bring the shame of the Corinthians and the Ephesians, and the Galatians upon ourselves by continuing in their same errors.

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20 thoughts on “More Like Them Than You Realize

  1. Solomon is in error and quite arrogant because he thinks he can avoid problems just because he is doing it his way.

    He fails to realize that he is just as fallible as anyone else and will be prone to his own errors. They may be different, but if a perfect system were reachable, we would already be there.

    Time will likely show how much he follows his namesake.

  2. Very few women veil their heads like they’re supposed to. The traditional Catholic practice both symbolized and reminded them of their submission. This simple practice alleviates a great deal of the women-in-Church problems.
    The epistles are mixed – some of the first Churches were doing well – some not so well. It’s sometimes hard to get a feel for the frequency and prevalence of error based on Paul’s admonitions.

  3. @BradA

    To me, the thing is not to get discouraged ourselves, or to write off people and churches when we find out we’re no different those in the beginning.

    @Bruce

    The traditional Catholic practice both symbolized and reminded them of their submission. This simple practice alleviates a great deal of the women-in-Church problems.

    I have found that hair longer than the shoulders is a pretty good indicator.

  4. Cane-

    I was wondering if I could get an email from you? Want to discuss a idea for a blog post, but its based on some things I have read from you.

  5. The call to abandon all churches is very common in the Christian androsphere. Its proponents claim the goal is to avoid apostasy, but I suspect it has more to do with rebellion.

  6. The call to abandon all churches is very common in the Christian androsphere. Its proponents claim the goal is to avoid apostasy, but I suspect it has more to do with rebellion.

    Lately I’ve been interacting more than I care for with polygamy (“polygyny not polygamy!”, says them) advocates …

    Even though they used a lot of Scripture, I found that they tend to focus on what Scripture does not say, and have little interest in paying attention to what it does say, especially that said by Paul.

  7. @Oscar & SirHamster

    It is rebellion, but in particular it’s born of fear and disrespect, isn’t it? Why not, if they are right, suffer to be kicked out of their churches while bowed down? (The bowed-down part is important; lest it become a show of personal strength or a cult of personality.) Wouldn’t that show how unrighteous is that church? If they loved their churches and their neighbors, wouldn’t it be worth it?

    There has never been a more molly-coddle time in the Church, and yet they fear it.

  8. @ Cane

    “It is rebellion, but in particular it’s born of fear and disrespect, isn’t it? Why not, if they are right, suffer to be kicked out of their churches while bowed down?”

    That just reminded me of Paul’s trial before the Sanhedrin.

    Acts 23:1 Paul, looking intently at the [a]Council, said, “Brethren, I have [b]lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” 2 The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?” 4 But the bystanders said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

    Paul was righteous, Ananias was not. Still, Paul admitted he was wrong in publicly disrespecting the High Priest, even if he did so unintentionally.

    @SH

    Tedious, isn’t it?

  9. There is no perfect thing in this world. It is _right_ to try to fight for the Good but we must realize we will not win.

  10. It is difficult to understand the disconnect when one might say they are being Biblical by forsaking the gathering, not honoring the elders, not participating in the Body of Christ, or forsaking the fathers of the faith, post Nivea. While there will always be some corruption in the church on earth, the body of Christ is still His bride. Even if one is married to a wife with imperfected character, you as her husband will still be offended at those who insult her or refuse to be her friend, because she is a work in progress. It is an insult to the husband when his wife is despised, so it is to Christ when His betrothed is despised.

    Living the Christian is difficult because the old nature clings to us like a rotting stinking corpse as we long for sinless perfection. Even as we struggle against our own flesh and do the thing that we hate while leaving undone that which we wanted to do, so it is on an organizational level. The church needs to reform and repent, there is no doubt about that.

    At this point in redemptive history it is better to belong to Church in Christ and work to open eyes of the elders to their errors with humility and honor, than to usurp ecclesial authority and try to start something without any regard to apostolic succession. It does not mean that every attempt at reform will be successful, but then again every attempt to reform our own self has not batted 1000 either. My way or the highway will rarely persuade the church, we need to work in humility with a strong exegetical foundation, present a case with keen insight and air tight reasoning. It takes a long time for a large ship to turn around, the church has been going the path of feminine veneration for centuries, it will not change that course overnight and it certainly will not change course if all those who would steer the ship abandon ship. Even Peter was corrected and rebuked as were the seven churches in Revelation.

  11. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2015/10/18) | The Reactivity Place

  12. I may have judged Solomon a bit to harshly, as I was largely influenced by the comments in response to his post, though I do not recall him ever recanting the regular attacks against Christian churches.

    Slamming all Christian churches as apostate is taking things too far in my view. Humans are involved so stuff happens.

  13. And you are right Cane, humans do human things and will do so until He returns and rules with a rod of iron!

  14. “At least, not without help”

    No, this is the part of the war where we always lose. The always win comes after we die (hopefully). What we are doing is fighting an endless rear guard action. And, if you look at it that way, the incidental failures become much less difficult to bear.

  15. Excuse me, but when you say that Paul said ” Stop refusing marriages.” in his epistles, do you have a particular book/chapter for someone to refer to?

    1 Corinthians 7 would seem to indicate that it is better not to marry, either generally, or as is often ascribed, during times of upheaval and strife (as this undoubtedly is).

  16. @Josh

    Welcome.

    1 Corinthians 7 would seem to indicate that it is better not to marry, either generally, or as is often ascribed, during times of upheaval and strife (as this undoubtedly is).

    Paul says that in his view (and he clarifies that it is not to be taken as revelation from God) that not to marry is better. He specifically says this as a caveat to the rule he gave the Corinthians in response to their statement to him (in a letter to Paul from the church in Corinth which we do not have); which he quotes. Verse 1:

    Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”

    I want to point out again that he is quoting them. The rest of the chapter is his response to that statement. Straightaway he rebukes that statement as wrong-headed. They want to talk about sex. Paul redirects them to marriage.

    2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

    The “But” at the beginning denotes Paul’s redirection. “You said this, but I tell you that”. And what Paul says is: Each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband, and they should have sex together, as much as either of them wants, for the reason of banishing temptation to sexual immorality.

    The rest of the chapter is his explanation of why the general rule is “get married and have sex’, why that is the rule, what the exceptions are, and how the rule and the exceptions point to the principles of freedom from sexual immorality, maintaining integrity and order according to God’s revelations of marriage, and for his own reason of sparing them the anxiety of choices and concern for the wellbeing of a spouse; which will follow love for a spouse like night follows day.

    In verses 25 through 38 he gets into the case of the one who is betrothed, but who is unsure whether to marry, and he share his own reasoning about the subject. Again: This is not revelation from God, but Paul’s (strong) advice. To wit: He starts out:

    25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

    And he is trustworthy, but he did not overturn the general rule that God established in Eden, and which he upheld in verse 2: “[E]ach man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”

  17. @Cane

    Thank you for the reference. I expect I’ll be reading all of 1st Corinthians in the coming days or weeks, in order to get a full in-context picture of both sections under discussion.

  18. “The bad news is that we still struggle with the exact same problems after more than 2000 years. ”
    Human nature doesn’t change and there is nothing new under the sun.

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