Recently I placed a comment on my Facebook status pointing out that I have a new blog, and I would like to include a list of websites. Then something happened that I did not expect to happen, something that made the remnants of legalism (that’s church-speak for spiritual-police behavior) in me rise to the surface. A Preterist friend named his blog AD70.net to be added to the list. My knee-jerk reaction was, “I’m not a Preterist, so I should not post his website. People might view his website and be led astray by the ideas there.” But then I realized that if I were to go along with my initial reaction, that I would be doing to him what was done to me in my old spiritual stomping grounds. The reason I was shunned out of that fellowship was, “We are not Christian Universalists, so we should prevent you from sharing your views in this place.” If we examine this concept psychologically, we could say that people plant a flag in an organization or on a blog – a flag that is symbolic of their particular brand of truth, in order to exclude anyone with differing views. I’m all for planting flags, as you might have noticed, but ought flags be planted for the purpose of censorship and control? Is this Biblical? Is this the will of God?
Unity of the Church
In another blog, I mentioned that believers would likely get along much better if they thought of the church as a who instead of a what. We don’t go to church; we are the church. And the church is a very diverse group of people. Did you know that there are over 33,000 denominations in Protestantism alone? A not-yet-believer might ask, “How did this happen?” wondering what the heck is wrong with church people that they need to divide themselves in such an extreme way. Well, it happened because when people started planting flags, they forgot that the only flag that really matters is the one that says, “The glory of God is displayed in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, Who died and rose again so that we might live.” People may disagree about the exact nature of the God-head (another example of church-speak, the English translation of the Greek word theotes, which means the divine nature or the fullness of deity or simply, God’s Godness), the exact manner in which Jesus was crucified, how people ought to be baptized, what the so-called end time prophecies mean, whether believers ought to celebrate Christian holidays (since most of them have pagan origins), etc, without disassociating with one another. They can agree on what matters and agree to disagree on the rest. I believe that this is what the Biblical references on unity indicate. Finding a heretic behind every blog post or heresy in every spiritual discussion that takes place outside of one’s church-bubble is wrong.
Test everything, hold on to what is good.
That is why I decided to post the Preterist website, even though I disagree with some of the Preterist ideas. I have Preterists to thank for helping me have a better understanding of the events that took place AD70 and the significance these events have on the way certain passages of scripture are to be interpreted. They are one piece of a puzzle that seems to be coming together nicely for those of us who are willing to cooperate with each other in love, holding on to those essentials of the faith that unify us. We are told to “test everything and hold on to what is good,” and the only way to test something, really test it, is to examine it thoroughly, to ask the Spirit of God to show you the truth, to compare it to other scriptures, and to use your God-given common sense. If, after examining certain ideas, you still find yourself at odds with the ideas another believer presents, ask yourself this – “Does he or she acknowledge Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, died and rose again so that we might live?” If so, what right do we have to accuse him or her, using words like heretic, wolf in sheep’s clothing, or say he or she is causing division, regarding other issues? What right do we have to silence him or her? Some of the Preterist ideas are correct. Should I cut myself off from someone because we disagree on nonessentials? How else are we supposed to learn from each other, but to compare notes, agree or disagree, explore the reasons why we agree or disagree, and perhaps even solve mysteries that have boggled the minds of believers for centuries? Do we believe that God is done teaching us? Do we already know everything there is to know? Are we to assume that every single thing we currently believe is 100% accurate? Absolutely not.
Church Club Rules of Conversation
One of the reasons that the institutional church is afraid of engaging in challenging discussions is that they fear some impressionable people who happen to be listening will be suckered into believing something that will eventually land them or someone they know in Hell, to suffer for eternity. To them it is better to avoid the conversation and react very strongly to anyone who insists on putting everything on the table in the light of scrutiny. The same thing happened to Martin Luther in the Reformation. The Roman Catholic Church was wrong for engaging in the practice of indulgences. And they were double wrong for not having the humility to recognize that God had sent someone to correct them. Why is it that God’s people have more freedom to discuss hot issues at Starbucks or in a discussion thread online than they do inside the walls of their church-club?
Don’t Quench the Spirit
I do not want to perpetuate small-minded practices that quench the Spirit of God. Take a look at this blog comment:
Alex Smith writes:http://www.evangelicaluniversalist.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=1355). Interestingly, one of the reasons given was Matthew 12:32 (ESV) “And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” Which implies there are some things that can be forgiven in the age to come. Also in a letter to Hanseu Von Rechenberg in 1522, Martin Luther wrote “God forbid that I should limit the time of acquiring faith to the present life. In the depth of the Divine mercy there may be opportunity to win it in the future”
I appreciate Alex’s comment. It is well thought out and contains specific references and clear, reasonable ideas. However, there is a portion of the comment that I believe is not completely accurate. Jesus spoke these words before He was crucified. I believe that when Jesus died and rose again, we entered into a new age. In other words, I believe that when Jesus said, “…in this age,” He was referring to what was His present time period, the age of the sacrificial system and the Mosaic law, and when He said, “…or in the age to come,” He was referring to the age following His death and resurrection, the age of Grace in which we presently exist. Now should I, as admin of this website, mark Alex’s comment “unapproved” or reject his request to post his website on my list (if he were to make such a request), just because we disagree on this? What if he is right, and I am wrong? I have just shut him out, disrespected him, and quenched the Spirit of God, Who may want to teach me something that I am misunderstanding about the ages. Or perhaps it goes the other way around. If I behave this way toward Alex, this would likely cause division between us, because I would not be acting in love, I would be acting in fear. He might not pay any attention to me when I try to discuss this idea with him, because I would have established an unhealthy precedent for this or any other discussions we might have had. I would have quenched the Spirit of God, Who wants to teach Alex something that he is misunderstanding about the ages. Do you see how responding to each other in love instead of fear makes a huge difference? Do you see how ignoring the ungodly restraints the institutional church places on conversations helps us to relate to one another in freedom and respect, without fear? Isn’t that a wonderful way to be the church? I think so.
Being new to the blogosphere, I am very grateful that people are actually taking the time to read this blog (thank you Google Analytics for showing me what happens after I hit “publish”) and refer it to others. I am especially thankful when people take the time to comment. From time to time, I will feature in blogs some of the in-depth comments that resonate with me for one reason or another. Please do feel free to respond to blogs, make suggestions, or even comment on stuff that has nothing to do with the blog, and don’t be insulted if your brilliant insight doesn’t end up in a blog – I am a full time student, so starting this blog under heavy time constraints is a small miracle in itself.
The next blog will be a book review on Bill Tancer’s Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters. Of course, I will examine the book’s (unintentional) spiritual insights, which is evident from a recommendation by TVWeek, who named Bill Tancer one of “12 to Watch” for 2008: “There once was a time when we used to share our deepest secrets with our hairdresser. Now, we share those secrets with Google or Yahoo or MSN.com. We tell Google what we want, who we’re interested in, how we are feeling. We are what we search for. That’s why Bill Tancer is in demand.” Kirkus Reviews said, “In Click, he boils down those mouse-using multitudes to reveal valuable observations about […] the very human frailties that people expose in their online searches.”