Is the Church the really best it could have been … ?
How did the Church go awry?
I have been on a bit of a journey. It’s no stroll in the meadows, in fact it has taken me four books just to cross the first field. My task now is to cross the next one without too many scars, bearing in mind that there’s an angry bull facing me and I’m inadvisably wearing a red t-shirt! Stretching the metaphors to breaking point, the peeved beast would represent the religious status-quo and the red t-shirt … is just a red t-shirt, let’s not get too carried away here.
The other day I watched a cricket match in my local park and I thought of the Church. A purposeful collective dressed in white, striving together for a common goal? No, rather one group of people thrusting missiles at the other, hoping to score points against them! Do we see unity in the Church today, or a common purpose? Generally we do not. Rather we see 40,000+ variations of a simple theme, competing against each other, all claiming divine authority and many having as much impact on the wider world as a “silly mid on”, whatever that is!
Am I alone in thinking so? It certainly seemed so when I started researching my first “subversive” book, How the Church Lost the Way, a lifetime ago (actually just seven years). One thing that had always troubled me as a Christian was the obvious disunity in the Church, with so many competing views of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, to say nothing of the Bible and the doctrines that flowed from it. Perhaps to others it was an unspoken inevitability, but for me, an outsider, it irritated and jarred my spirit.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)
Where was this love and togetherness? Was John speaking of some ideal state that we should aspire to, or was this meant to be the Christian norm? Experience suggested the former, sadly.
It got worse when I read up on Church history. The default setting seemed to be on power, control, greed, conquest and lust, all showcased by this entity called “Christendom”. There were stories of people who bucked the trend but they were few and tended to inhabit the fringes of society and, in some cases, were even persecuted by the mainstream Church. How did this square up with those exciting heady days we read about in the Book of Acts where, “all the believers were one in heart and mind. No-one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had“(Acts 4:32) ?
What had I signed up to? I was an outsider, a secular Jew with no sepia-toned fond memories of the certainties and comfort of growing up in a church family. My only previous interactions with the name of Christ was as a battering ram of hatred for my people. My researches as a member of the Body of that same Christ showed me that Church history was to blame for this, not the Bible and certainly not Jesus Christ himself. Were there two Christianities, one fuelled by all that was wrong in the human heart and the other, barely expressed, so it seemed, guided by the Holy Scriptures and directed by the words of the first apostles? The first led to the Crusades, the Inquisition and 1800 years of “Christian anti-semitism”, peaking at the time of the Holocaust, but sadly not ending there. The second gave us William Tyndale, William Wilberforce, Corrie ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and thankfully not ending there either.
More follows …
This is an extract from the book, Hebraic Church, available for £10 at http://www.sppublishing.com/hebraic-church-101-p.asp