Interacting with "Pyromaniacs"

This is Part Two. Part One is Here


Part One interacted with a blog post entitled, "Why You Need To Be In A Church This Sunday."

Now we have a supplement to that post, Thinking like a Slave, by Dan Phillips. Our response is on the right.

Offensive title, eh? What do you figure this post will be about? About racism? About how we shouldn't still see ourselves as slaves of sin, but as free men? About how slaves get into a slave-mindset that's hard to break, like men who've been in prison for decades? What I find most offensive about the two posts is a dogmatic and legalistic tone on an issue that should admit more flexibility. Given the status of most churches today, "Why You Need To Be In A Church This Sunday" is a dangerous and unBiblical thing to say.

"Why You Need To Be In A REAL Church This Sunday" might be a good article.

But to even hint that one could just pick "A" church to be in this Sunday is dangerous.

Actually, it's about going to church and many other things.  
In Why you need to be in a church this Sunday, I laid out an inductive, cumulative case for why anyone and everyone who names Jesus as his Lord must involve himself, in person, in a "local assembly of believers where pastors lead, the Word is preached, the ordinances are observed, and discipline is carried out." The author points out,

1. I'm addressing those not involved to a minimal threshold, period, of whom there are more than you'd imagine.

2. I see the minimal threshold to be involvement and participation to the point where the leadership knows you well enough to keep watch over your soul (Hebrews 13)

There are those who claim to be Christians who need to be involved in the lives of other Christians, serving them in some way, and need to be accountable to other, older, more mature Christians. "Christians" who do not meet this "minimal threshold" need to examine themselves.

Much of the response was positive, personal, heartfelt.  
Then there were scattered demurrals. Two had in common that they refused to interact with the Biblical content of the post which is to say, with just about all of the post. Both hate Biblical teaching about authority and submission. As I showed, that means they hate the institution of God, and reject Him (Romans 13:1-7). Thus there really isn't much to discuss, beyond pleading with them either to repent or toss off the false name of "Christian." I assume I'm being fingered as one of these rebels.

I also believe it's very significant that "the State" (Romans 13) always comes up in these conversations about "the Church."

In Part One there was some discussion about me going "toe-to-toe" with an ordained clergyman about my rebellious views.

I would like to invite the blogging team in the left-hand column to duke it out with me in a debate whose primary purpose is to be educational (and not simply issuing a public denouncement of the other as a heretic). I expect such an opponent to give me approximately 90 minutes to set forth my case for the abolition of church and state, and to devote at least 90 minutes to prayerfully consider the Scripture prooftexts for my position, and to think about my position for at least 90 days. For anyone who goes through this process, I'm almost willing to bet $1,000 that they will agree with me at the end of a year-long study-debate.

Here is a website which puts this proposal in (tentative) writing:

www.AnarchistBibleBet.com

I'm still working with someone who knows a whole lot more about blogging than I do to confirm my ability to raise funds to pay the bet in case someone more obsessed than I imagine takes me up on the bet and refuses to cry Uncle even after going through the wager/process.

I might summarize the other "But's" and critiques in that meta and elsewhere many of which were doubtless well-meant thus: When someone issues a blanket condemnation of all who are not part of a traditional "church," those who sincerely seek to obey Christ and still want to maintain fellowship with the one who issued the edict will defend themselves making statements beginning with "But...."
  • But I've had bad church-experiences (accompanied by many and varied details and stories)!
  • But it's hard to find a good church!
  • But it's hard for me to be with people!
  • But churches sometimes aren't friendly and welcoming!
  • But I've had really, really bad church-experiences (accompanied by many and varied details and stories)!
  • But I've known bad and abusive and lame and inept and unfit pastors!
  • But that's just barking out commands and duty, not explaining how it's really good for me!
  • But God just hasn't led me to a church; just to the internet!
  • But the churches around here aren't all that good!
 
Now, I'll be candid with you, shall I? At first scan, that looks like a fairly diverse list of eight or nine different reasons, doesn't it? And you're thinking, "Yikes, if he responds to every one, this is going to be a long, long post."  
But no. I can roll them all together, and deal with them all in one. Every one of these excuses, though presented in great deal and with great conviction, shares the very same fatal flaw.  

Every one of them views
the Christian life
as a process of
negotiation.

This is simply not true.

It assumes that we are in fact commanded to "be in a church this Sunday." And I agree with what follows as it pertains to a legitimate command in the Bible.

That is, among the demurrals, there wasn't one serious and honest attempt to counter the Biblical case. It was tacitly accepted by most that the Bible indeed does paint us into that corner: God says that He expects us to be involved, in-person, in a local assembly. God said it, yes... but! But being in "A church," "any church," the average church" this Sunday is not a Biblical command.

I'm confident that every Great Christian living more than 200 years ago would be utterly appalled at today's churches, and would not want his children in their Sunday Schools, nor would he tolerate the "worship services" for adults. Today's churches are entertainment at best, and humanism at worst. Most churches teach us to negotiate with God. Those that teach us to obey -- as the article at left does -- are rare.

Now this sort of thinking is perfectly appropriate, if God and we are peers. No, this is inaccurate. It assumes that the blogger and I are peers, and we're arguing about the blogger's personal preferences.

To say that I am required to be at some particular church on Sunday is not a command from God, but from man. It is not a command that can be universally applied, and to blog like it can, is to lay unScriptural burdens on God's people.

It is particularly not a command of God if the Pastor of that church doesn't want people with non-conforming ideas about the Bible in his church.

But it is wholly inappropriate if God is our Lord, and we are His slaves. I agree that God is our Sovereign Master and we are His slaves. I consider myself as much a "Theonomist" as anyone. My views on His Commandments are here. I agree with the blogger's attacks on those who are humanistic (their own law) and subjective.

But to say that everybody should be in A church this Sunday is placing human tradition on a par with God's Law.

What is the tenor of our relationship, as depicted in Scripture?  
"If you love Me" what? "If you love Me, you will give Me a shot at convincing you that My way is in your best interests?" Is that how you read? Or is it not, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15)?  
"This is love for God that we" what? Is it "that we wait until we feel led, and find it easy and stress-free and effortless, to give the nod to His suggestions"? Or is it not "that we keep His commandments" (1 John 5:3)?  
Is the person called to Christ as a freeman Christ's peer, His debating opponent? Or is he not Christ's slave (1 Corinthians 7:22).  
Are we to keep the parts of our body as our own, to use at our convenience and according to our preferences? Or are not rather we to present them all as "slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification" (Romans 6:19) which would include getting them to church, whether it was convenient and easy or not?  
And if it be countered that we are not merely slaves, but also sons, I'd have more questions. Is a son his father's peer? Or does a son not owe his father honor and obedience (Deuteronomy 21:18; Malachi 1:6; Colossians 3:20)? If so with our earthly fathers, is it not much more the case with our heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:9)?  
Look, this is a crucial point, whether we're talking about church attendance, or doctrine, or marriage, or any other area of Christian living. When we respond to Divine commandments with a "But" or a series of excuses, we echo the Serpent, and treat God as our peer or our inferior.  
This is not thinking like a slave. And make no mistake: if we are not slaves of God, then we are slaves of sin (Romans 6:15-23). But we are slaves!  
So here's where the rubber meets the road: what do you do when faced with a clear commandment, with clear teaching of Scripture, that crosses your will? Today, it just happens to be the fact that you need to be involved in church, learning and growing, serving and submitting and accountable.  
Tomorrow it will be how you treat your spouse, or whether you keep your pants/dress on, or whether you keep your hand out of that guy's pocket, or whether you keep your fingers from around his throat, or whether you deny or fudge that unfashionable doctrine.  
You see? It's all one. Jesus is Lord, or we are. If we are, He isn't; if He is, we aren't.  
You and I need to think like a slave; and not only a slave, but a crucified slave, who has died to his old master, and come to life for another.  
Then you and I take our truckload of excuses and rationales and dodges and rationalizations, we say "Yep, I'm going to need help," we take them and ourselves to the Cross, we count ourselves dead to them, we plead for the enabling grace of God...  
...and we obey.  
Here's the practical key, then: move the "but."  
Until now, it has been: "God says to obey, but I have these excuses/challenges/difficulties." And so you don't start. The issue is still whether to obey. This thinking ill-befits a slave, much less a son.  
From now on, it must be "I have these excuses/challenges/difficulties, but God says to obey." And then you start. Now, the issue is not whether, but how. This is thinking like a slave, and thinking like a son.  
Move that "but."  
Then move yours.  

So whoever knows the right thing to do
and fails to do it,
for him it is sin
(James 4:17)

 

 


 

In Why you need to be in a church this Sunday, I laid out an inductive, cumulative case for why anyone and everyone who names Jesus as his Lord must involve himself, in person, in a "local assembly of believers where pastors lead, the Word is preached, the ordinances are observed, and discipline is carried out." Here's why I'm not going to be in a church this Sunday.
  1. Anything that would qualify as a "church" in the mind of the author at left would not let me in the front door.
    1. a building;
    2. tax-exempt status;
    3. ordained,
    4. seminary-educated
    5. clergy (not "layman");
    6. ad in the Yellow Pages.
    7. Clergy-free gathering
    8. of believers
    9. in a home or restaurant
    10. would not count as "church."
    11. ...even if there were Godly, mature, elder (older) Christians
    12. proclaiming God's Word
    13. and holding attendees accountable.
  2. Most "churches" do not preach the Word
    1. The Sixth Commandment -- most churches support U.S. genocide in Iraq
      • During the 20th century, "the State" has murdered an average of 10,000 human beings per day. This figure does not include abortions (135,000 per day in 2000). Churches are silent, complicit. "Romans 13," they say.
    2. The Eighth Commandment -- most churches support Obama's and other plans to "redistribute wealth"
      • "Thou shalt not steal . . . except by majority vote"
      • compare U.S. farm subsidies with Westminster Catechism Q. 142 condemning "engrossing commodities to enhance the price."
      • There is not a church within 500 miles of my home that applies God's Word to political policies like this. If there is such a church 400 miles away, God does not require me to be there every Sunday morning.
  3. I say again, most "churches" are entertainment at best, and most would oppose anyone who walked in the door expecting national and politically-correct sins to be denounced from the pulpit.
  4. Most churches are social clubs, reinforcing the dictates of our apostate, humanistic culture. No Christian living 200 years ago and admired by the bloggers at left would step foot in most churches today.
  5. I object to being labeled a rebel and false Christian because I refuse to be in a gathering of this sort this Sunday.
  6. My zip code is 65731. There is not a church within 500 miles that would want me to walk in the front door, based on my belief about how the Bible is to be applied (obeyed) in the modern world. Certainly no church would allow me to be a "member." Prove me wrong. Or else stop imposing humanistic burdens on people.

 

 Update!

Since I wrote the above comments, "Andy Hayner" has started a dialogue with DJP in the "comments" section.

Andy is a Berean. He's searching the Scriptures to see if what DJP says is true. DJP says this is "rebellion."

That pretty much sums up the difference between the two sides.

Imagine the situation in which 3,000 people are converted to Christianity (Acts 2:41). Then a few days later, when two thousand more are added (Acts 4:4). How can anyone doubt that Peter immediately called the local Christian seminary and posted job listings for 500 recent graduates to become "elders over 10?"

I rather suspect that if we were to join these 5,000 new Christians as they met "house to house," we would get a very different sense of "church" and "authority" than we have today. If you were one of these 5,000 converts, meeting in one of the house churches, and another one of these 5,000 converts, "Romulus," who works with you in the leather trade, announced that he had been appointed "elder," would you immediately close your Bible and just listen to Romulus and do whatever he said?

Is it wrong (sinful) to attend a typical church in the 21st century? No, not necessarily. Is it commanded, and is it sinful to absent oneself from the typical church? That goes beyond the Word of God, it seems to me. It's dogmatic legalism.

What frightens me as much as the content of this ecclesiastical legalism is the passionate dogmatism which accompanies it.