Disassociating True Christianity with Christian Culture

Look at all the Christianity in the world–allegedly billions of Christians when counted as those who associate themselves with a Christian institution and those who claim to believe in Christianity. Stick your ear out in the world, and people who speak of their religion with a seriousness and earnestness will speak to the problems of genuineness in the group-think and individuals who are not “true” Christians.

And then we have denominations galore. Most Christians are not simply “Christian” in their self-labeling, but fit into a subcategory under the umbrella of those who profess Christianity. The label of Christian is incredibly problematic this day in age, and when people say “preach the gospel,” what does that even mean in a time when virtually everyone has some knowledge of the doctrine of Christianity?

Quite the ball of rubber-bands.

With regards to denominations, many might quote this passage to describe the problem of denominationalism:

1 Corinthians 1:12
What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”

This is partly accurate–partly. In my earlier post on masculinity and femininity, I discussed the problem of rebellion when feelings (femininity) attempt to subordinate truth (masculinity) rather than the reverse, of masculinity dominating femininity, as submission to a masculine God and truth who/that dominates the feminine church. Hence, many who bemoan the problems of division in the Body of Christ over doctrine will try to “solve” this issue by proposing a sort of tolerance of disagreement; that is, rather than being insistent on truth, we ought to prioritize peace, which is a paradoxical proposal because it is a statement of truth that attempts to subordinate feelings that divide the group with a “truth” of tolerance. Well, what do you do when people disagree with your “truth” of “tolerance,” then? We can see the problem of this paradox everywhere, where effectively those who preach “tolerance” turn out to be the most intolerant.

Well, then, what is going on such that we can find a solution? First of all, what’s the problem anyway? The problem is that error occurs on both the masculine and feminine front; first and foremost, much doctrine out there IS wrong–hence all the conflict over doctrine–and that’s not okay, as only truth will truly unite God’s people, just as only one God can unite all the church. The other problem is that the feminine objective, of preaching truth for others’ well-being, can get forgotten. That is to say, when we preach the truth to someone, our objective ought to be for that person’s good, right? The latter issue is not as straightforward to diagnose as some might like–one might protest, “you didn’t say that in a ‘Christ-like’ tone!” even if the statement is correct. To some of those objections, do you not remember the forcefulness in Christ’s tones? The urgency and insistence? And, the fact that some people took offense at him despite his good intentions for their well-being? When we speak the truth, we must be remember ourselves to do so in love, and also not be swayed by an accusation of an unloving “intolerance”–for that matter, sometimes when people’s message is wrong that does not necessarily mean their intentions toward others is malicious.

But what I find more apparent is a laziness on the part of the individual regarding the faith. What I mean is, there is a dependency on being members of a group-think: I’m a “Conservative” or “Liberal” or “Catholic” or “Lutheran” or “Pentecostal” and so on. The world is full of disagreements, and the lazy way out is forming associations: “do you follow Apollos? Great! So do I! We must therefore agree on everything!” And no more discussion need follow, because it’s a lazy way of assuming a like-mindedness. The other side of that coin is that those who do not follow Apollos make assumptions about everyone who says they follow Apollos. In both respects, honest discussion and communication is inhibited because of preconceived notions about the other’s beliefs and understanding. When you observe the overwhelming majority of Christian denominations–despite allegedly profound differences among them–what does it all boil down to in practice? Everybody sits in front of a pastor and lets the pastor do the talking, the dictator of your beliefs regarding Scriptures that are equal access to everyone. The ritual is the same in most cases. And how do more denominations form? Well, someone starts disagreeing with the guy on the pulpit with regards to his congruence with Scripture (so the story goes), they break away, establish another denomination, rinse and repeat.

Some of this can be expected, to be sure, just as leadership is a vital aspect of community. As I grew older, after studying my Bible for myself, I wondered where the church existed in which people were truly putting Scripture’s template for church ahead of this human ritual in which there is little thought or participation among its members. Incredibly, a church that actually fits the New Testament template–in my own experience–is impossible to find. A church should consist of individuals who study the Word for themselves and take their own personal journeys to find God.

Most important of all, though, let’s not forget what was going on in Jesus’ time:

Matthew 9:36
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

This situation warrants a lot of discussion for understanding what goes on in today’s world–everything about this verse. At this time, people had access to the Scriptures–a wealth of understanding available freely to them all the way through what is categorized as the “Old Testament” in our Bibles. They were led astray by false teachers; however, Jesus’ rebukes to those false teachers continuously used the Old Testament Scriptures to debunk their lies, exposing contradictions in the doctrine of the Pharisees in quite a scholarly fashion, knowing those Scriptures to which everyone had access. Why could not others do likewise before Jesus came around to help? Somehow, these people were harassed and helpless despite having all the tools available to stand up with the Scriptures. Like today’s pastors, Jesus did not ask people for much participation–“the church” organization with concepts like “the Body of Christ” did not get introduced until the epistles, as far as teaching is concerned. Of course, Israel’s religious traditions, rooted in old Scriptures, did, but the point being, Jesus pretty much did all the work–much like today; the pastor is expected to do all the real thinking and participation in “the church” in many, if not most, gatherings. While later apostles truly established communities in which people participated in ways discussed in some detail, today’s churches suggest that we are like the crowds in Jesus’ time: harassed and helpless, needing a shepherd who (in most cases) manages not to organize the Body of Christ like the later apostles did, according to the New Testament template. Most individuals can’t do much with regards to participation in the Body of Christ like in the early church, which is pretty much discussed as a theory more than practiced. In the Body of Christ, everyone is simultaneously unique yet a part of a larger operation. Most congregations today are both overly individualistic, not invested in a community, and collectivist in the form that identity in your typical “church service” with the “sit and listen to a pastor” participation hardly analogous to the movement of a Body.

My conclusion and solution isn’t really that simple, but here are some steps that I feel, on an individual level, can cause one to be part of a solution (fully admitting here, I am teaching these things to myself!):
(1) Study and know the Scriptures, be an individual with beliefs, not lazy and leaning on a group-think–with regards to group-think, be aware that part of the problem with a group think is that it can be a melting pot for contradictions, so be on guard and have a Scriptural answer for every belief you hold and/or accept. Allow the Scriptures to test and examine every one of your beliefs.
(2) Impart what you believe to others with a well-meaning intent.
(3) Discover what sort of “body part” you are, believe in your give-and-take role for interacting with community.

I want to touch on point #3 briefly because the matter pertains somewhat to the subject. In my self-diagnosis, my personality is extremely dominant, meaning that I don’t depend on leadership for initiative and energy–when I need to be a responder and a subordinate, it’s a highly deliberated choice more than the natural connection of a more submissive personality. The main reason I want to touch on this, however, is to address the fact that more submissive personalities (especially women, as I’ve mentioned previously) are likely to depend on leadership more than some. This day in age, people often like to suppose that a leader takes responsibility for the actions of his followers, and that is not true. Scripture repeatedly mentions false prophets, who are leadership personalities fully accountable for leading people astray, but those led astray are still accountable for their choice to follow the false prophet. The point being, for those in subordinate positions, theirs may be more socially-oriented thinking, but we all still respond to upper management as it were.

Also, I’m a huge fan of the MBTI, and what it suggests with members of the Body serving each others’ weaknesses with their strength, and becoming a strong unit.

Where today’s church culture gets treated more like a consumer item that compliments our usual daily grinds, we can start making the church something real by, individually, scrutinizing our beliefs with Scripture.

2 Corinthians 10:5
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ