Saturday, March 17, 2007
Why I left the Institutional Church Category: Religion and Philosophy
As much as I appreciate all I've experienced and learned through my participation in church all my life, I find I no longer belong in the institutional church. I love and respect the people and the friends I have in the church as brothers and sisters in the Lord and don't feel it is my role to say they should do as I have done. Having parted company with the institutional church, I hope to be free not to have to defend my actions by being critical of it. I certainly see myself as a "lively stone" in the church that Christ is building.
Perhaps the first departure for me was that I came to reject the idea of a hell of "eternal torment" and to believe in what the Bible teaches concerning the "restitution of all things" as more worthy of a God Who's "mercies endure forever." For me, this harmonizes the age-old argument between Calvinism and Arminianism. The following is a very brief skeletal explanation:
The Restitution of All things
Calvinism says, "Christ died only for the elect"
Arminianism says, "Christ died for all but only those who believe benefit."
Restitution says, "In Christ shall all be made alive"…...
This is well expressed in the following scripture as well as in other similar references:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 ¶Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Every Man in his own order. First Christ…the first perfect man…then those who are Christ's at his coming (in their lifetimes) and then everyone and everything.
This passage in 1 Corinthians indicates the order of our perfection:
1 Corinthians 15:
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
Could Christ's action be less effective than Adam's? As by one/…….all so by one/all….this is repeated five times in succession in the chapter five of Romans. This kind of repetition indicates the importance of the message….
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)
18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.The church propagates a slander against God, because of it's teaching of Eternal Torment. God is misrepresented. The Bible states, in many places, that Jesus is the express image of God. If we want to know what God is like….we should look at Jesus. The following is one of many verses where this is expressed.
"No man hath seen God at any time. The only begotten son, which is in the bosom of the Father….He hath declared him."
I find that it is difficult to dig deeper and come to a more accurate knowledge of God, when there is no opportunity to discuss any variation of the orthodox image of Him held by the church without being marginalized as a heretic or a crank. If I were to bring my questions and ideas forward in the church setting, it would most likely be viewed as disruptive and causing confusing for children and for those who are less mature as Christians and not used to hearing a different view.
Picking out the teaching of "Eternal Torment" from the teachings of the institutional church, is a lot like picking out egg shells from scrambled eggs. To come to a clearer understanding of a better Theology in the milieu of all the false fad theologies and all the traditional theologies which are false but have deep roots is difficult if not impossible. For this reason participation in the institutional church has become a hindrance rather than a help to me. It is compressing rather than expanding my knowledge of and relationship with God.
It is a daunting thing to change your Theology. I will be criticized by some and marginalized by others. It is often easier to put people in a box and write them off rather than to try to understand. There is a temptation to want to have a once for all experience….pray the prayer….join the Church….(get the barcode) and never go any deeper with our experience of God. Not only to be right, but to have always been right and never to have had to learn differently.
Hebrews 4:11 says:
Let us therefore be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently to enter that rest…"
And Hebrews 5:11 expands this idea:
Concerning this we have much to say which is hard to explain, since you have become dull in your spiritual hearing and sluggish even slothful in achieving spiritual insight. (Amplified Bible)
Before I had ever read the Bible, I had been taught to believe in the eternal torment of Hell and now that I HAVE read the Bible numbers of times, I find there is much more scripture to support that it is rather, God's love and mercy that endures forever. I find that I find I serve a more wonderful God than I once thought. His plan is not thwarted by anyone or anything. The grave does not end God's dealings with us. His judgment follows it, and his judgment is mercy. It is corrective.
1 Corinthians 11:32 "But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world."
There is wrath involved, but as any parent knows, punishment that is meant for correction and discipline flows out of love. Some children are compliant and want to please their parents. Others, are difficult and rebellious, but we continue to chastise and correct them and it truly does hurt us more than it does them. Our goal is to bring them all up as our children in spite of the fact that some seem to cost us more dearly and possibly even contribute less to our "joy de vivre"
The following passage in Romans suggests that God's chastisement has the important function of bringing us to repentance. It flows from his kindness and his mercy.
4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
"According to his deeds," does not seem to indicate "eternal," but rather appropriate and effective.
At the risk of repeating what most of us have already heard stated many times, the word "eternal" has no equivalent in the original languages of the Bible. It has been mistranslated from the word aeon or aeonial. These words are more appropriately translated "age-lasting" and have a reference to time of an indefinite length, as opposed to "eternal" which can't logically be expected to have a beginning if it doesn't have an end. This is something that I had heard for years, but have found it very simple to verify by looking at a Greek interlinear New Testament.
There are many who write about these subjects more clearly than I do, but I wanted to make a start by expressing myself in my own words using only Scripture as reference. Chapter 6 of Hebrews tells us to go deeper in our Spiritual maturity. I think one's Theology has to keep developing and changing in light of their revelation of, and relationship with, God. After all, what is theology if it isn't simply, what knowledge we have of God. God is changeless….but I must not be, until and unless I am perfected, so I am very open to having the way of God expounded to me more perfectly. (preferable to being burned at the stake) I think my ability to admit I was wrong is attested to by this writing….and I'm certainly not satisfied that I'm completely right yet….
I believe that a wrong image of God keeps many people from loving Him. Jesus came and said, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father" He came to reconcile us to God, by showing us who God is. My desire is to know God as truly as is possible, because I think it's important, and because I want to love Him for all He's worth.
I believe we all have a margin of error in our Theology. I know I certainly do. But I also think there are some people who don't want truth because it will jigger up what they already know.
"Truth makes knowledge obsolete," is simply a little paraphrase of 1 Cor. 12: 10-12. To me it says that when we finally know all truth, we will gladly trade our "knowledge" for it.
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