Monday, May 28, 2012

About Me

Finally.  I have updated the "About Me" page in my header after quite some time being blank.  Feel free to read it.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Divided Church: Wrong Applications of Theology

I've been thinking over the last few years about the differences between the "visible" church and the "invisible" church, as well as between the "universal" church and the "local" church.  These distinctions have been made numerous times in various systems of theology for a long time.  And these distinctions have some problems when we try to apply them to real life.  Let me explain.

The word "church" (ekklesia in the Greek) has or has been given a number of meanings.  Whether or not the use of each meaning has support from the bible, we try to reconcile the various meanings in our theology.  For example, we know from the bible that not all church attenders/professing Christians will be true Christians.  Most of us are also willing to concede that there will be those who are true believers that we never thought so!  Man can only see the outside, while only God can see the heart.  Thus the distinction between the "visible" and "invisible" church.  The "visible" church is the visible assembly of people who claim to be believers.  We can see them.  The "invisible" church is the group of people who only God can see are His and who will be finally gathered together in the eternal kingdom.

But because we are man and only God is God, we must leave this point of theology as just that: theology.  Trying to make an application of this distinction can only result in problems.  If we try to determine who are God's true believers using the only means available to us - outward expressions and appearances - then we open up the door to abuse of those who don't fit our ideas of correct outward expressions.  I will try to say more about this in an upcoming post.

Similarly, the distinction between the "local" and "universal" church can cause problems when we try to apply it.  The "local" church is the gathering of believers in one location, say Corinth or First Baptist Church in Houston.  The "universal" church is, in one sense, all the believers in the entire world, and in another sense, all beleivers in the entire world who have ever lived.  But we being men, we can be tempted to, say, apply a rigid distinction and decide that a local church is made up of only those who regularly attend that local church and doesn't include other believers who happen to be in town and attend only once.  I will try to say more about this in an upcoming post.

Then, there can be problems when all four distinctions - visible, invisible, local and universal - are mixed together and applied.  An example would be a church that decides that its members (visible church, local church) are only those who meet certain man-made requirements and sign on a dotted line for membership, and those who don't but attend anyway, cannot be part of either the universal or invisible church distinctions either.  They, according to this church, aren't true believers because of it.  I will try to say more about this, too, in an upcoming post.

Hopefully I will try to make sense of the artificial, theological constructs in future posts.  I also have an idea on how to deal in reality with the scope of the church.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pastor Sues Woman Over Church Comments

A woman who made negative comments about her former church on Google Comments is being sued (along with several others) by the pastor for defamation.  This woman, whose name is Julie Anne, found that her comment mysteriously disappeared from the site, and when repeated comments were erased, she started a blog (Beaverton Grace Bible Church Survivors) addressing the legalism and spiritual abuse present at the church in Beaverton, Oregon.

Now if this story wasn't interesting enough, the pastor met with an elder from John MacArthur's church to receive counsel.  He then claimed that the elder advised him to go ahead with the lawsuit.  Phil Johnson was dragged into the fray and Grace Community Church is denying they gave this advice, pointing to their wide and staunch teaching against Christians suing other Christians in civil court as proof they would not do such a thing. (I believe Phil Johnson, by the way)

Subsequent to all this, many more people who have attended BGBC have come out and backed Julie Anne in the matter.  So here we have a pastor who denies being legalistic and abusive by suing those who think so?

There are many more bizarre details than what I have outlined here, so you could follow the story at Julie Anne's blog, or sort through the last several weeks of posts at The Wartburg Watch (site temporarily down for maintenance as of this post). This case will have some far reaching effects in how social media interacts with religion.  It is also yet another example in an increasing number of internet stories of authoritarianism and spiritual abuse reported by people who have been harmed by churches and their leaders.

Friday, May 11, 2012

How Do Missionaries Plan for Retirement?

Abu Daoud at Islam and Christianity has asked a very good question.  Well actually, he states a fear. In his post Missionary Secrets 1 -- Retirement worries us, Abu discusses how "retirement" in the [recent] Western tradition looks for missionaries.

Honestly, I haven't had too much contact with "missionaries" because, well, they're "over there" most of the time, and when they're home on furlough, it's expected that they will be fundraising in order to go back.  They don't seem to have much rest.  I once attended a church that suddenly had an elderly couple show up and attend regularly - a couple that were life long missionaries who had returned from the mission field.  For me it raised a whole new set of questions about missions.  Do you know missionaries that have returned?  Were they treated well by their brothers and sisters?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Be Faithful Until Death

Do not fear what you are about to suffer.  Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days.  Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.  Revelation 2:10 (NASB) - Jesus Christ to the church at Smyrna

What if you received a letter from the Lord that said the same thing?  Uh, things will pretty much suck for ten days, then you will die.  But don't fear.

What would you do?  Write your will?  Eat as much of your favorite food as possible before it starts?  Me?  I'm sure that I wouldn't be perfectly calm, but if I knew this was directly from God, I could see how one could take this with an increase in faith.  Here's where the rubber meets the road of faith.

I think many things in life are analogous to this.  You learn or train for something, then you face it with much anticipation.  Yet, when we are immersed in it and past the point of no return, we are quite able to handle the situation.  Even when we face death.