How did the Church go awry?
Does the Church need de-Greece-ing?
The last words in Matthew were so full of hope and expectation.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you …” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Surely this was truly the beginning of a new age, with Jesus promising to dwell with us until the end, “… And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Yet was this simple command heeded? It was by some, but these are not the people who inhabit the main pages of Church history. Instead we read of the rise of “Christendom”. This was not something that seemed to come from the pages of Holy Scripture, except as a reminder of those Old Testament empires that were allowed into the drama to teach us about God and His ways. Something had gone awry.
“… Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6)
Something had been added to the mix. Once we had progressed from the generation that inhabited the Book of Acts, we find some people who are beginning to use God’s words in new ways. They were adding to them, twisting them, using them for new purposes that would have Paul seething. Here’s how he viewed Scripture:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness … (2 Timothy 3:16)
Yet we start to see a process from the 2nd Century onwards that culminated in this entity called Christendom, state-sponsored Christianity and which immediately ushered in an ominous period of history called the Dark Ages, when the average person was illiterate, poverty-stricken and, most importantly, kept apart from the life-giving and salvation-promising Word of God.
So, that’s what happened, but why did it happen? What was the yeast that leavened the whole batch? Let me go right back to the beginning of my story. It was 1996 and I was on a family holiday in Jerusalem.
We were there with my parents and my sister and her family and the whole thing was funded by the sale of a small flat. As such, my dad was in control and, that being so, we were staying in posh hotels rather than hotels in interesting places. To my frustration we were nowhere near the Old City and so I decided to walk there at dawn every day, just to breathe in the atmosphere. I used to listen to tapes (remember them?) on the journey and two that particularly spoke to me were De-Greecing the Church by David Pawson.
They spoke of the subtle influence of the ancient Greek philosophers in all spheres of human endeavour, but, significantly, also in the Church itself. This pricked my attention and I made a mental note that, if I was ever going to be a “proper” writer that would be a subject worth examining. Twelve years later, with five books already under my belt, “word on the streets” came to me that David Pawson himself would be pleased for me to write a book on that subject and that I could even borrow the title of the tape series. Now who could turn that down? Well, I grasped the mantle (but rejected the title) and thus was born How the Church Lost the Way, after quite a daunting gestation period.
I believe that I had identified the yeast that leavened the whole batch. His name was Plato, the Greek philosopher, and he was long dead before his writings had started to worm their way into Christian life and doctrines. I wasn’t the first to make this discovery but, significantly, I seemed to be the first to identify this as being a not particularly good thing. Bible schools, seminaries, text books and encyclopaedias all regularly acknowledged the impact of platonic thought on the early Church (with far reaching effects even to the current day) but stated this simply as a fact of history rather than an alien pagan virus that can never mix with revealed biblical truth! Did this have to take an outsider to have the chutzpah to say these things?
The main effect of platonic thought is to bring division to every aspect of our Christian lives. It divided up the Body of Christ into clergy and laity (rather than the priesthood of all believers), it divided up our time (into ‘church time’ devoted to God and the rest of the time devoted to ourselves), it divided up our lives (into ‘work’ and ‘play’ with the former existing solely to finance the latter) and the list can go on …
This division became the engine that drove “Christendom”, producing hierarchies and a ‘ruling class’, something that is still with us in the main denominations. And, in more subtle ways, it brought us denominations themselves, many birthed out of divisive readings of God’s word, often using the Bible as a confirmation of man’s ideas, rather than a source of revelation from God’s heart to ours.
It is all very well highlighting the problems from the comfort of one’s own writing desk, but another thing to seek to be an agent of change, if indeed there is still scope for doing so. Well, God never gives up on us.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
So we must not give up on Him and we should expect that a sincere journey into finding our true destiny will be an exciting one and a rewarding one.
And this is my journey. Hopefully you are going to share it.
This is an extract from the book, Hebraic Church, available for £10 at http://www.sppublishing.com/hebraic-church-101-p.asp