Saturday, February 28, 2009

Maybe we're the apostate church?

This blog is really a record of changes I've been going through. I'm going through a period in which all sorts of things that feel wrong to me, that have bothered me for some time at some barely-conscious level, are coming to consciousness and I'm willing now to argue the point. The question in my last post about living on credit is just one of the latest.

As I say in my Profile I started out at the beginning of 2007 seeking the Lord and through that seeking being led back to a concern I had dropped a few years previous to that, about the question of whether women should cover our heads in church. That was the one that started it all. I'd dropped it because I'd discovered hostility to it -- specifically a jocular mocking of the idea as a few of the women pranced around coquettishly wearing hats for a while, including the pastor's wife (I'd discussed it with him earlier but not with her). After that I rationalized dropping it as being too much of a disturbance to make an issue of it. But some things SHOULD cause a disturbance. Not that it should come from me personally. (Or maybe it should if there's nobody else. I'll have to pray about that more.)

Some two and a half years later, though, at the beginning of 2007, I was clearly convicted of it and had to begin covering my own head at least, no matter what. I also did a thorough study of the question in order to be able to defend the idea to people, covered all the material available to me including a recommendation by my pastor, found many good articles on it on the internet. I started wearing a simple little beret type hat to church, pretty inconspicuous (and not really quite what the Bible requires either, but a beginning compromise since shocking people with anything more than that is clearly not going to be productive), but again found myself frozen out by the women, mostly polite nonresponse but again with some subtle mocking behavior. Six months later I left that church anyway, for a number of reasons, some of them doctrinal. At first it was accidental: For a while I was without a ride to church. I kept letting it slide and then all my disagreements with them started adding up too. I believe it's the best church around here, nevertheless, the best preaching anyway, on most subjects, and the Lord may yet have me go back.

More recently I got involved in the Bible versions question, which I've covered at perhaps tedious length on this blog already. That was also an issue for me some years before that I'd also dropped -- also because it made me the lone defender of an unpopular idea among the Christians I know, coward that I am. On this subject I find myself almost just as much at odds with the King James defenders as with the multiple-version Westcott and Hort defenders. I guess that's because I'm really a Textus-Receptus defender more than a King James-only defender. But I'd like to see the King James preserved as far as possible for a variety of reasons. On this subject it seems even the best churches and best teachers in my opinion are completely given over to the multiple translations and I probably have even less of a chance of convincing anyone I know of this than of the head covering.

Back at the beginning of 2007 I also started pursuing the question why we aren't having revival in the churches, whether we could still, and how it might happen if the Lord would permit it. Time is getting short it seems, things are looking a lot like we're winding down to the Very End. Many signs of it as I discussed early on in this blog. Really wanting to know why we aren't having revival in such a time as this led me into thoughts about how perhaps the churches are simply too far out of God's will by now for Him to be willing to send us a true revival. Perhaps the women's head covering matters more than anyone wants to think? The last major revivals I'm aware of, a century or so ago, were in churches where women still wore something on their heads. I doubt that could be the only reason we aren't having revival now, of course, but after studying it I can't think it's unimportant. It's a creation-based command of God, it concerns his government for his creation, it involves respect for his order in this universe.

As for other reasons, well, even in the conservative churches you'll find Jesus' teaching on divorce and remarriage compromised. He said, and Paul confirmed it, that there's no reason for divorce except sexual unfaithfulness and no reason at all for remarriage ever, after divorce that is; it's only legitimate if the first spouse has died. None of this was a point of contention a hundred years ago. I've heard it argued that if scripture grants an exception for divorce an exception is granted also thereby for remarriage, but I'm not yet convinced. For one thing it is NEVER stated anywhere that remarriage is permitted. Not that it can't be forgiven once it has been committed ignorantly.

Along with all this compromised teaching in the conservative churches as a reason God might not give us revival, there are plenty of fake revivals going on too, and a real danger that the majority of lukewarm Christians could be drawn into the counterfeits even by a serious seeking for true revival. This is a real possibility because there is so little genuine spiritual discernment among Christians, and because we've all sat under this compromised teaching I'm talking about. Somehow or other the whole church, at least the whole church in the West, is out of step with the Lord. How far out of step? How deep is the problem?

We conservative Christians are used to being able to point to churches we recognize as apostate, all the "liberal" churches that outright deny certain Biblical commands and precepts, on homosexuality for instance. But is it possible that the apostasy is actually closer to home?

One thing that bothers me quite a bit, though I feel bad saying it because it seems so innocent in a way, is all the light sentimental and jokey emails I get from Christian friends. It's just not a Christian tone. I'm also lately getting particularly bothered by the political focus of so many of them -- and I've contributed to that myself. Where is the church that was to be a light to the world? We're just acting like the world. Where is the power? Where is our awareness of the glorious Kingdom and our Lord of glory? Where is the radical self-denial we're supposed to be living? I have to say that I do not see this in ANY church or ANY Christian I've ever known, certainly including myself.

A subject I want to talk about in a blog or two after this is some helpful websites I've discovered and especially what I've learned about the practices of the first couple centuries of Christians. THEY lived what Jesus taught in a way we simply do not. They lived true self-denial, true love of the brethren, true separation from the world in a way that has become sadly foreign to Christians today, sadly and certainly including me.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Is it OK for Christians to live on credit?

Had a very strange conversation (as "CJ") on another blog recently. The topic was how exorbitant credit card fees are, and I responded that at least for Christians we shouldn't operate on credit at all. "Owe no man any thing," said Paul in Romans 13:8. I found myself immediately embroiled in an argument with the Christians there, four or five altogether I believe.

Is it really such a foreign idea that Christians ought not to operate on credit? I thought I might get some guilty apologetic Yes-buts but instead I got out-and-out disagreement.

I do know it is a very foreign idea to many Christians though. I know that most people own their houses on mortgages, also pay for their cars in monthly installments, and that many church buildings are in fact mortgaged. It's always FELT wrong to me but because nobody objects, or few object, I don't say anything either.

The oddest part of that conversation was someone's suggesting that we can't avoid credit because we pay our utilites on credit. I was flummoxed by that one at first but eventually got my mind back and realized, No we don't! Just because we pay monthly doesn't mean we're buying our utilities on credit. Utilities are something that we use over time, and we pay for the amount we used at the end of the month. We get a month's worth of use and at the end of the month we pay for it. We pay at the end because we can't know in advance how much we're going to use, but at that point if we pay it on time we're paid up -- no loan, no credit involved. A mortgaged house and a car loan are a different thing altogether. We are paying on a total amount over many years because we are unable to pay for it outright. With utilities we pay for what we just received. With a house and car, no, we are not going to have paid for them for years though we received them already -- utilities are a matter of time of use, a house is a material thing we have or don't have.

I couldn't get that difference across to anybody. And then they also seemed to miss the point about not being able to afford it or pay for it outright, even just to entertain it for discussion's sake. We are so used to thinking in terms of monthly payments on mortgages we forget it's a loan, we forget we owe for the item we're paying on. They do think of it in the same way they think of utilities payments. They figure that since they can meet their monthly payments there's no problem, it's not as if they've contracted for something they're unable to pay, forgetting that they are unable to pay the whole price outright and that's why it's on loan.

I'm not yet completely sure just how radical to be on this subject, but the conversation was instructive about how much is taken for granted by Christians about the ways of the world. My FEELING is to go as radical as possible and say, no, it IS the world's ways and it IS owing when we should not, and if we cannot afford something outright we have no business buying it at all. But I'm going to have to give it further thought. The reason the radical position appeals to me, however, is that it would mark Christians as truly "not of this world" to live like that, as we're supposed to live. Otherwise we're just living like everybody else and making no impact for the Kingdom of God in the area of money.

Christians in our time in the West seem to expect to be comfortable in this world. We're not SUPPOSED to be comfortable in this world. Our comfort is to come from out of this world.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A sense in which Jesus' death paid for all humanity

The subject came up on another blog concerning what happens to infants and young children who die: I just ran across this in a book by George D. Watson, 19th century Holiness teacher, an explanation I'm not at all familiar with, but it's very interesting.

I'll quote him:

"Now the first death is that which is entailed upon us by the fall of our first parents ...

"Now this first death, which comes from Adam, both morally and physically, has been atoned for by the incarnation and death of the Son of God, so that no human being will ever be finally lost because of Adam's transgression. Jesus has purchased, by His sufferings and death and resurrection, an absolute indemnity from the fall of Adam, making ample provision for all the consequences of Adam's transgression, both for the removal of all original sin, and the raising again from the dead of every human being.

"Every infant born in the human race comes into being under the covenant
of redeeming grace. We are expressly told that, "as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive." From this we learn that the iniquity of Adam, as an open transgressor, is not imputed to any infant in the form of actual guilt, and that the principle of indwelling sin, which is in the infant, has its ample remedy in the shed blood of Jesus. If the infant dies before reaching the age of accountability, its nature is thoroughly purified on the basis of the covenant which the Son of God made with the Father, as the second Adam, and true Head of the race.

"Thus we see that of all the millions of human beings who may be finally lost, not one of them will be permitted to attribute his everlasting woe to our first parents... [God] has dealt with the human race on such an enormous scale of mercy, justice, equity, redeeming love and impartiality, that every one will be compelled to attribute his ruin to himself."

(Steps to the throne, M.O.V.E Press 1980, pp 29-30)

There's something very satisfying about this way of looking at it. It accounts for those parts of scripture that do seem to suggest that Jesus' sacrifice was effective for the whole human race, while not supporting universal salvation. This salvation from the first death would apparently only apply to those who are incapable of accountability, very young children certainly and perhaps mentally deficient people(?) The second death is for all others, those who reject Christ.

It might even provide an answer to those who complain that people who have no chance to hear the gospel shouldn't be punished for that. It suggests a level of salvation that is not full salvation, yet both provided by the sacrifice of Christ.

Needs more revelation.