Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Church: A Model of True Society to the World or Clergy-Dominated Principality?

The Hang the Bankers web site recently ran an article on the inevitability of economic collapse given our present banking system. You can read the article here. My experience in the UK has shown that not only do secular politicians and economists not want to listen to this message, but Christian pastors do not want to either. They are simply not bothered about the state of our society or the economy (with the exception of stopping sex shops from opening and banning homosexual marriage). One leader of a Church here said to me "I am not concerned about what is happening in the world, our job is to snatch brands from the fire." The real question for Christians however is this: when secular society collapses because of this economic debacle, will the Church be ready to step in with an alternative Christian model of society, including a biblical economic model? When society collapses the Church needs to be ready to lead the way in modelling to the world what society should be like. The Church is not ready for this, at least not in the UK, and the reason for this is entirely down to the pastors and clergymen who lead the Church and who do not believe that the Church has such a role to play. This is because they are ignorant of the history of the world and ignorant of the history of the Church.

There is only one way to deal with this: get rid of the pastors and clergymen who are misleading the Church. Their religion is mysticism and pietism and has no relevance to the real world or to a biblically informed understanding of the Christian faith. It was because the early Church was relevant, because she was a society that could show the world how to live as a true society, that she was able to conquer the Roman Empire. Things started to go wrong with the rise of clergymen—who did not exist in the apostolic and sub-apostolic age—and their control of the Church. As clergymen became more important the Church became a principality controlled by the professional clergy. The Church as a dynamic community was transformed into an institution with a professional bureaucracy and the life of faith was redefined as the performance of rituals by professional clergymen. This situation has continued. Today the whole culture of choosing and training pastors is defective and is vitiating the life and mission of the Church. 

The Church will not move on and the Great Commission will not progress until we deal with this problem, and this means getting rid of the whole clergy-dominated idea of the Christian Church. The New Testament Church gives us a completely different paradigm. In the New Testament Church there were ministries given by God. These were God’s gifts to the Church for the purpose of building up and equipping the Church for her work. These were the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Eph. 4:11–16). These are not offices but ministries. There were also elders and deacons, who were chosen by the congregations from suitably qualified men. Office and ministry were not tied together. Officers (elders and deacons) do not need a calling from God, they need a calling from men. In other words they are, or at least should be according to the Bible, elected by the congregation (see below). Ministers cannot be chosen by men, whether by congregational elections or by ordination boards; ministers are called by God. They are a gift from Christ to the Church for her edification. Electing a man as an elder or a deacon does not confer on him any ability whatsoever; it certainly does not enable him to fulfil the ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4:11–16. That is why the Bible lays out so clearly the qualifications that a man must have to be an elder or a deacon (1 Tim. 3:1–13). These qualifications have nothing to do with gaining academic degrees and attending theological college. They are based on a man’s having proved his ability to be the head and leader of his family according to Christian criteria. Elders also have to be apt to teach (v. 4), but this does not mean that they have been or that they have to be called by God to the ministries mentioned in Ephesians 4: 11–16 (cf. 1 Tim. 5:17–18). 

This is not the way it is with the ministries given by Christ to the Church as set out in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. Those whom God calls he equips. Ministers are not elected by the Church or by ordination boards or boards of elders. They are given by Christ. Christ calls, appoints and equips his ministers, not the Church and not the elders. The Church chooses and ordains officers only, not ministers, and it is the congregations that should chose the elders and deacons by means of elections (Acts 6: 3–6; 14:23, cf. 2 Cor. 8:19). The Church herself cannot choose or create ministers, she can only recognise or fail to recognise those whom God has called and appointed as his ministers. She can of course elect donkeys who think they are ministers and charlatans who pretend to be ministers, just as Caligula appointed his favourite horse as a consul, and with as little sense or edification for the poor souls who have to sit in the pews each week and listen to them braying. 

Of course it was possible in the apostolic age for someone with a ministry in the Church to be an office bearer in the Church as well, as was the apostle Peter (1 Pet. 5:1 cf. 1 Tim. 5: 17–18). But this was not so with all ministers. The apostle Paul was not an elder, and he goes out of his way to point out that he was not ordained by anyone, but that his calling as an apostle was neither from man nor through man (Gal. 1:1). Being an office bearer did not mean one had a ministry. And, more importantly, having a ministry did not mean being an office bearer, and the route to ministry was not through the gaining of office. An elder had to be apt to teach, i.e. able to teach when a Church had no one with a ministry of teaching. The concept of clergymen was an invention of men. It arose when office was tied to ministry and only those who were office bearers were allowed to minister. From then on the clergy took control of ministry in the Church, and the results have been disastrous. 

The vandalism inflicted on Christ’s Church by this development has been enormous. Clergymen are not interested in the Kingdom of God, they are interested in the Churches as their own dominions. They see the Church as their principality, their area of control. The implication of this—though they will never admit this of course, but it is the logical conclusion of their clerical theology—is that only they have the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The clergy have become guilds that control access to the work of ministry in the Church. This is what the training colleges and ordination processes are for. They control access to ministry in the Church and restrict it to those whom the guilds of clergymen can mould and control, thereby preserving their disastrous domination of the Church for the next generation. The fact that the Church today is in a massive nose-dive due to their ignorance, intellectual laziness and idiotic machinations means nothing to them. They are determined to hold on to their dominions even if it means the failure of the their Church’s mission to disciple the nation. In fact most of them are committed to the failure of the Church’s mission as a theological principle. They do not believe that the nations can become Christian and they will not be part of such a project, and they will do all they can to make sure their Churches do not engage in such a mission. Their eschatology is a belief in the triumph of failure. They redefine the Great Commission so that it becomes mere individual soul saving, the purpose of which is to bolster their failing Churches. 

The whole theory, structure, and culture of Church leadership and Church leadership training must change. We must get rid of the domination of the Church by clergymen. There were no clergymen in the New Testament. A biblical theology of the Church has no role for clergymen. It has a role for ministries and for officers, but the two are not coterminous.  Making the necessary distinctions is essential to a proper understanding of the Church and her work, and without reform on this issues there will be no progress in the Great Commission, just more of the currently highly successful Great De-commission.

Once we have got rid of this disastrous clergy-dominated vision of what the Church is meant to be we can embrace the biblical emphasis in which the Church models true society to the world and calls the world to repentance both by her words and by the way she lives as the true society, a prophetic community that is called to transform the world. But these two visions cannot co-exist in the same Church because they are fundamentally opposed to each other. It is time to get rid of the disastrous clergy-dominated vision of what the Church is meant to be and replace it with the biblical model. The Church cannot model to the world what true society should be and thereby fulfil her calling to transform the world while she is held captive to a false vision of her mission as result of being subjugated to a delinquent and unbiblical form of leadership that is committed to the failure of that mission. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Christian Hypocrisy and the Homosexual Question

Following the recent passing of legalisation by the British government legalising homosexual marriage a homosexual man has said that he and his partner will challenge the Church in court over the Church’s exemption from having to solemnise homosexual marriages. A news story about this was published by the Christian Institute, a British Christian lobbying organisation, on its web site on 1 August 2013 here.

Various Christian bloggers have commented on this on the internet and have bewailed this development. Lawyers had already warned the British government before the legislation was passed that there would be legal problems with the exemption and that such legal challenges were likely. But the government pressed ahead regardless.

Christians and Christian organisations are now busy condemning this legislation and bewailing the legal challenge to the Church that will inevitably arise. But it seems to me there is a problem here. Why are Christians objecting?

Over the last forty years, the time that I have been a Christian, and during most of which I have sought to promote God’s law as the standard of justice by which both individuals and the nation as a whole should abide, and which has been the standard under which our systems of common law and equity were developed and previously governed, I have repeatedly been told by Christians—leaders of Churches, pastors, clergymen and their fellow travellers—that we are not under God’s law any more but under grace and therefore that seeking to promote the application of God’s law to modern society is “legalism.” Those who have promoted God’s law in this way have been characterised as “heretics” by many mainline Christians, including evangelical and Reformed Churches and pietistic ministers.

Well, if this is the case why is there now all this fuss about homosexual marriage from Christians? Why should Christians require homosexuals to live by a standard (God’s law) that they themselves do not believe is relevant any more and do not believe they have to adhere to themselves? The Bible has a word for this: hypocrisy. The Churches for the most part have abandoned the preaching of God’s law and teach that it is no longer relevant to modern society. The Church of England, which in Queen Elizabeth I’s reign put the Ten Commandments up on large boards in every Church in the land to remind the people of their duty, and which required them to be read out every Sunday in the liturgy of the Church, no longer requires this. Most of the large boards with the Ten Commandments on have now been taken down and the Ten Commandments are seldom read out in church on a Sunday any more. I myself heard an Anglican vicar tell his whole congregation that “There are no rules in Christianity.” I also heard another vicar tell his congregation that the Ten Commandments were not for them but just for the clergy. The problem is not just in the Church of England though. The mainline denominational Free Churches and independent evangelical and Reformed Churches have on the whole been just as antinomian. And many evangelical and Reformed ministers and leaders have frequently excoriated, ostracised, abused and misrepresented those who have sought to promote a theonomic view of Christian ethics, while promoting themselves as champions of evangelical piety and Reformed orthodoxy. Contrary to their own opinion of themselves, however, such behaviour reveals them to be sanctimonious haters of God’s law—false prophets. Opposition to rather than acceptance of theonomy has been the norm in the British evangelical and Reformed Churches for decades.

But now all of a sudden Christians are up in arms and crying blue murder over the homosexual issue. They need to sit down and shut up and start thinking about this more biblically. And they need to ask themselves this question: why is this happening?

Romans chapter one tells us that a homosexualised culture, along with a lot of other things that we are currently experiencing in the West, is God's judgement on a nation’s spiritual apostasy. This problem will not go away until we deal with the apostasy of the Church. Much as I agree that homosexual marriage is wrong, the answer to this problem does not lie in challenging the homosexual lobby, nor in lobbying government to force one particular community (homosexuals) to abide by a law that Christians themselves do not believe is applicable to modern society. We have arrived here as a nation because the Church has abandoned God’s law, and when the Church abandons God’s law the nation abandons God’s law. This is not rocket science. We are dealing here with basic principles of biblical ethics and political theology. Yet the Church leaders are for the most part utterly ignorant of these principles.

For most of the twentieth century and now in the twenty-first century the Church in the West has been seeking to replace the God of the Bible with a feminine deity of her own devising. The Church was in the vanguard of promoting feminism. This is why the Church is full of effeminate men posing as leaders and pastors. I am not saying they are all effeminate, but the majority are, and the effeminate pietism of evangelicalism is as good an example of this as effeminate liberalism is.

The way to deal with this is to deal with the cause: the apostasy of the Church. When we do this, and when we start living in terms of God’s word, and conforming our lives and Churches to God’s law, we can trust God to bless our attempts to transform society. But if we are not prepared to live by God’s law in our own lives and in our Churches, why should we expect God to make non-believers live by his law? The homosexual clergy and the increasingly homosexual culture in our nation are God’s answer to the effeminacy of the Church and the effeminacy of the nation.

It seems to me increasingly, as Christians make their objections to the homosexual issue known, that so many in the Church, including the majority of evangelicals, seem to think that they do not have to live by God’s law but that non-believers should. Why can Christians be antinomians but not non-believers? This is hypocrisy on steroids. How come so many Christians object to homosexual marriage because it is immoral (i.e. against God’s law, since the Bible tells us that sin is the transgression of God’s law), yet they reject theonomy and say that we are no longer under God’s law. Either we are or we are not. If we are not then homosexual marriage is not immoral.

Christians who do not live by God’s law should not criticise homosexuals for not living by God’s law. Christians should not complain about homosexuals not living by God’s law until they have criticised the Church for not living by God’s law and until the Church has repented.

It is time to be consistent. God is beating us with the rod of chastisement for our apostasy. It is time that the Church woke up to this. The homosexualisation of our culture is a judgement on the Church and on the nation (though not the only one). It will not go away, because God will not hear our prayers for it to go away, until we as Christians start obeying God’s law in our lives and Churches and thereby provide a true witness to our societies, which is to say until we start living as a prophetic society that calls to world to repentance not only by our words but also by modelling to the world what society should be like—obedient to God’s law. If you are not prepared to subject your own life to God’s law, and if you do not think God’s law is applicable to your Church and to the political order, quit complaining about homosexuals. Take the log-jam out of your own eyes before you start complaining about the dust in other people’s eyes. The homosexualisation of our culture is God’s answer to the Church’s apostasy and disobedience. It is meant to bring the Church to repentance for her antinomianism and spiritual apostasy. It will not go away until the Church repents of her idolatry and disobedience because it is God’s doing, his chastisement of a disobedient Church and a disobedient nation.

If you are a member of a Church that does not believe in the abiding validity of God’s law as the standard of righteousness (justice) for personal and social—including political—behaviour, you need to challenge the leaders of your Church to repent of their sin (i.e. their rejection of God’s law) and insist that they start teaching God’s law to the Church. If they will not do this you need to do all you can to get together with other members of the Church and have the leaders thrown out and excommunicated. If they are not capable of teaching God’s law to the Church you still need to get them thrown out of their office and get someone in who can teach Christian ethics to them and to the Church. Get rid of these false prophets. They are the problem, not the homosexual sub-culture. They are the ones who have brought us to this sorry state, not the homosexual sub-culture. The homosexual sub-culture is part of God’s judgement on their sin.

If you are not able to do any of this in your Church you need to leave the Church and find a Church that does. If there are none where you live you need to get together with as many others as you can who will support you and get someone in as a missionary who will start a Church that teaches Christian ethics according to God’s law.

It is time to stop pretending that these antinomian ministers and clergy are what they are not. They are false prophets and if you do not get rid of them you will go down with them. “For the time is come that judgement must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17).

Friday, August 2, 2013

Socialism and State-Sponsored Art

An inevitable consequence of socialist logic is the belief that Mammon is the answer to man’s problems. This fact can be seen in the way socialist governments seek to solve virtually every kind of social problem. If only more money were available, if only there were more economic equality, we could solve all our problems. But money does not solve man’s problems. There are more funds available to the State now than at any other period of our history (due to the success, ironically, of capitalist enterprise), and we have more economic equality than at any other time in our history (due again to the success of capitalistic enterprise), but this has not solved our problems. Socialism has palpably failed to deliver the goods it has promised; indeed it has failed even to deliver the narrow economic benefits it promised to the masses. On the material level the extent to which modern Western society has these economic advantages is due entirely to the success of capitalism, not socialism.

Furthermore, the cultural progress experienced by the Western nations since the Reformation has not been the fruit of socialism, but rather the fruit of a Christian society in which individuals have been free to use their wealth in accordance with their own consciences. Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy said that “Were it not for the right of man to do what he liked with his property little would exist in religion, art, science, social and medical work today.” It was the work of the Church, Christian charities, private donations and endowments, and voluntary giving motivated by a Christian conscience that created the educational and medical services that so revolutionised the life of ordinary people in modern Western society. The State did not create these institutions; it merely hijacked them once they had been created by the Christian society of previous centuries. And once it had taken over the secular State systematically set about stripping these institutions of the Christian values and ideals that brought them into being in the first place. For example, under the control of the British secular State’s National Health Service, hospitals originally created for the saving of life have been turned into death factories by the practice of abortion, and the grim reality of modern medical practice under the guidance of secular ideals seems likely to get only worse as a result of the constant attempts of politicians to legalise euthanasia.

Requiring the State to fulfil our responsibilities for us has not solved society’s problems. Far from solving our problems the socialist State has exacerbated them. For example, the modern State, which seeks to control so much of our lives, is one of the worst vandals history has known. It squanders vast millions of taxpayers’ money on useless and destructive projects that contribute nothing to the betterment of human society and culture, quite apart from the millions spent on unnecessary wars. Nor is this the case only with the tin-pot socialist dictatorships that seem to be endemic in the Third World and that seem only to reduce their societies to ever greater poverty in what appears to be their mission the spread human misery as widely as possible.

Western States are equally guilty of waste and vandalism at all levels, whether it is funding the above mentioned dictatorships, spending millions of taxpayers’ money on computer systems that do not work or giving grants to students to enable them to engage in idiotic performance art. I am thinking here, for example, of an arts grant given to some students in the UK a number a years ago for a performance art project in which two hard hats were yoked together on the top by a short plank of wood. The performance of the art, for which the arts grant was awarded, consisted of two students walking around the streets of the city wearing these hard hats yoked together by the plank of wood. A local TV news programme carried the story. Similar examples of idiotic activities and installations masquerading as “art” and regularly sponsored by the State with taxpayers’ money could be multiplied.

Well of course, art is a necessary element of human life. In the most desperate of conditions men have shown themselves to be artists. Art is vital to culture. Of this there is no doubt. Of course mankind is created in God’s image and therefore creativity is at the heart of what it means to be human. But does the taxpayer really have to foot the bill for this kind of thing? Where art is not funded by the State this is unlikely to happen. Stupidity is not an art form. Where people are allowed to retain responsibility for the stewardship of the resources that God has given them they can choose not to subsidise stupidity and they can subsidise excellence instead. The socialist State, ever ready to regulate society in accordance with the wishes of those lobbying groups that can gain the ear of politicians and promise votes at elections, has been a poor and wasteful sponsor of the arts, and consequently has engaged in cultural as well as economic and military vandalism. The modern State is anything but responsible in its attitude to taxpayers’ money. Its record as a steward of society’s resources is one of the worst.

The Bible gives stewardship of the economic resources of society to the family and to the individual, not to the State. To insist that the State should usurp the role of the family and abridge the liberty of the individual by calling for the socialist organisation of society is rebellion against God.