Declared Terminal

The church is hemorrhaging humanity from open wounds. Some studies show that over half of the folks under 30 who were raised in the church have left it. Not to mention the same age-group which has been completely unaffected by the church at any point in time in their lives (in a positive sense, anyway). At best, many in the church are attempting to stop the bleeding. While credit should be given for recognizing a problem, points are deducted for applying a Band-Aid to a sucking chest wound. At its worst, others have “circled the wagons,” fortunate enough to have entered before the doors shut, they simply peer out of stained-glass windows at an alien world around them.

Contrary to the faith movement founded by Jesus Christ and carried into humanity, the religion termed “Christianity” (as a rule) is utterly disconnected from the world in which people actually live. Love, by design, has an inherent risk. Yet the church has a tradition of fear, while irrationally claiming to love (which drives out all fear, by definition). Likewise, when Jesus came he brought abundant life with Him. Why, then, is the experience of many within the church empty, hollow, shallow, and ineffectual to their daily lives? In another bit of irony the church has taken upon itself the role of Doctor, all-the-while suffering from internal bleeding itself. The church has no answers to certain questions, so it decided to answer questions that are not even being asked. Again, it claims moral/ethical supremacy while its own adherence to the claim is selective and situational. And another thing, the leadership within the church is hereby called into question. If you can’t or don’t lead me, I will not follow. Incidentally, leading is not synonymous with being a busy-body. Leading does not imply that you are anyone’s conscience but your own. Nor does leading imply that you are the final authoritative word on any given subject. By leading you are an example to imitate as you seek out Christ in your life and living, daily. A leader casts the Vision as it flows out of the mind of Christ. People follow the leader only as far as said leader is casting said vision.

Restructuring, reorganizing, and revitalizing are simple attempts to rebuild, in the hopes of reproducing that which is shattered and broken beyond repair. In this paradigmatic shift in which we find ourselves today, the old is being crushed to dust by the new. While this crushing can be painful, it is not pointless and unproductive. As He did when He broke-in to time and space nearly 2,000 years ago, God is moving the massive plates of change on which we have been standing. As economies, countries, and polities (and the religion called “Christianity”) sway and collapse under their own weight, the faith movement termed “the church” – the Body of Christ – by design, shifts and rolls with the every quake and aftershock. And as He did after the cold, cruel death of His flesh, God resurrected the body making something new and extraordinary. It’s terminal… Let the carcass of the old lie… And watch the Body of the new live.

Impaled Icon

Our obsession with our own counterfeit religions is a necessary result of humanity being alienated from God. We are built to be in proper relations with God, but being separated from Him our inert knowledge of Him drives us to attempt to reach Him on our own. Upon our failure, we do not abandon our counterfeit religions, we simply compound the confusion by multiplying our converts; we think force-feeding our perverse religious views on an underprivileged humanity is what God demands. The church, not excluded from this insanity, expresses the human condition by parading an impaled icon as the means to reach God. All-the-while, He is just another tool in the proverbial “toolbox” of counterfeit religion.

Counterfeit religion has blinded humanity to such an extent that most aren’t even sure of the identity of the God (god?) for which they are desperately groping. The human condition has so profoundly baffled our perception that some angrily deny that they are making the attempt, ignorantly ignoring God altogether. Our minds have been manipulated to such a degree that many of us even deny that we are religious as we dedicate ourselves to a dearly held belief system, the fabric that holds together an entire group of people (the definition of “religion”). We can try to remold God into a deity of our own fashion, but that is illogical because God (by definition) defines God’s-self. We can try to dismiss God with a passive-aggressive attitude, but that is irrational because one is not angry with a God one doesn’t believe or doesn’t care exists. We can deny it all and disclaim the need or use of any and all religions, but that is self-contradicting (and self-defeating) because a belief system that denies the need and use of belief systems is unintelligible.

Humanity cannot disengage or otherwise subdue its religious nature, it creeps into literally everything that humans attempt to do (or not). It cannot use this counterfeit religion in a positive sense, because (whether we admit it or not) the point of any religion is to reach God, which cannot be done (whether we know it or not). But God has provided an escape from this vicious cycle, not in lists of moral/ethical codes (which would only serve to display God’s-own holiness) and not in a preferred culture (that soon corrupts). God has displayed a means to an end of the alienation, not a tool of counterfeit religion which exasperates it. We have not reached God. God has reached out to us. In our fallen condition, what exactly does our religion counterfeit? Religion (our attempt to reach God) counterfeits Faith (God’s move within humanity). Not some generic play-on-words and not some ironic production of a belief system. But the actual Faith of Christ, the faithfulness of Christ that drove Him to the cross, the very faith that Christ contained in Himself which raised Him in Resurrection Life. It was not an ideology that was impaled, but the reality of God in human form. The icon of religion was killed on the cross, the answer for human counterfeit religions. Alienation from God is ended in Faith. The faithfulness of Christ in us – the Church – ends the necessity of religion in humanity.

The Vision: Church as Mission

The primitive church of the first three centuries practiced Radical Hospitality, and it thrived. The church of the twenty-first century must practice likewise or it will survive unrecognizable, and indistinguishable from any other religious ideology of human concoction. Christendom is no longer relevant, it is a bygone paradigm. The church today must be a living organism, not a lifeless organization. It cannot assume a common culture, but must take for granted the diversity in the mass of humanity and, therefore itself. We must return to the Radical Hospitality of Jesus Christ and the church He brought to life.

“Radical” is from the Latin word radix, meaning “root” (Isaiah 11:10; Rom. 15:12; Rev. 22:16). Today it is describes someone who “advocates violent change; a revolutionary.” But it originally meant “fundamental, or basic.” In chemistry a radical is a group of two or more atoms acting as a single atom. In math a radical is an equation where the root of a number is to be extracted. The root word, in Latin, for “Hospitality” is hospes (where we get the word “hospital”), and it means “good cheer, companionship, and good fellowship.” So, etymologically, we could say that the church is a basic, revolutionary place; a dispensary of holistic healing, where the whole acts as one and Jesus is the single root.

The church that practices Radical Hospitality (John 5:1-9) understands that humanity is hurting and broken; that it’s separated from one another and alienated from God. It realizes that at their core, humans are strangers to healing and wholeness. It gives these strangers a sense that the church really cares about them personally. And it reflects the truth of God’s love toward humanity. A church that practices Radical Hospitality does not simply place an “All Are Welcome” sign in front of the building, have a “covered dish” meal, and stand around waiting for the strangers to darken the doorway of their establishment (which strangers, by-the-way, never appear). The church is the people who, having answered the invitation to experience the transformation of Christ’s healing power, goes out in Christ’s transformation power inviting others to answer and experience the healing; having been reconciled, goes out to carry on the mission of reconciliation (2Cor. 5:18); having been made disciples, goes out and makes disciples (Matt. 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:45-49; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:8-11).

Radical Hospitality is not inviting people to be spectators at church, but participants in the church – the Body of Christ. It is not about an ideology that competes with other differing ideologies, but a reality which encounters no competition and is the fount of all truth. It is an invitation into the very heart of God; sharing God’s worldview in creation. While Radical Hospitality cares for those within the church, it is focused on those strangers who are without the church. Radical Hospitality is the church fulfilling its purpose as the image of God; offering the love of God (something people need) – Jesus Christ! It shows humanity that God loves them, that it is of value, that life has meaning and purpose, and that it is not on its own. Radical Hospitality teaches humanity how to love (out of God’s love). And it teaches us that we do not need to be told what we need, but we need to be shown what we need.

Hospitality is to always be Radical. It is always advocating basic revolutionary change. In the words of Edwards Deming, “A system produces what it was designed to produce.” No other results will occur if a change has not occurred in the system. We cannot continue to do things the way they have always been done and expect different results. We must return to the radical beginnings of the “original, basic, and native” church established by Christ. Church must be about a group of “atoms” acting as one single “atom” (Jesus!). Church must be a hospital where people are healed by the Great Physician. Church is to be an organism, rather than an organization, where its Root (Jesus) is extracted from its number (The People).

Law of Love

The notion that anything in the New Testament replaces anything in the Old is quite unintelligible. Likewise, the idea that Jesus left us – the church – with two commandments is a case of missing the point entirely. Matthew 22:37-40 (and Mark 12:29-31) deals with the question of which of the Commandments are the greatest, not which were left for the church to embrace. In fact, if this were about commandments (which it is not), then there would be simply one – Love (John 13:34; 15:12)! God supplies what God demands. To the point, Paul clues us in (Gal. 5:14), which has nothing to do with a commandment and everything to do with a single affection of the heart; not emotional, but purely logical. After a discourse on the irrational and irreligious (not to mention, theologically suicidal) notion of Christians adhering the Laws of Moses – to which he adds a rather graphic conclusion to such nonsense (Gal. 5:12) – Paul declares that the Law is fulfilled in (not replaced by) love.

The subject matter of Jesus’ discourse on this heading is not the commandments, but the love by which they are fulfilled. When God issued the commandments to the Israelites it was, then too, about love. The problem at hand for Israel was the fact that this love was precisely the unconditional and unmerited love of God, which outlet was only found in a shadowy set of commandments, ordinances, sacrifices, and simply mirrored in cultic worship. It was not until the Cross (and Resurrection) of Christ that the outlet for such love became widely accessible to all humanity. In Christ the two fulfill the others. Humanity needs only to live out of God’s perfect love, lavishing it on one another. In fact, this mutual lavishing of God’s perfect love on one another (“loving neighbor”) is the means to “loving God with all your faculties.” To be exact, it is God’s love for us collectively, which we accept individually and pour out corporately, by which we individually and corporately love God, thereby fulfilling all demands of the Law (which is not only written on stone, but on our hearts). There can never be a replacing of commandments (or all logic falls to the ground) and there can hardly be certain Mosaic Laws that are left for the church (which is highly irrational). It is love, however, which fulfills anything “old,” making it “new.”

The reason for the commandments was because of Law – the Law of Love, from the foundation of the earth. The Mosaic Laws were but a reflection of God’s original Laws – God’s worldview; God’s plans and purposes for creation – they are a reflection of who God is. Like the Natural Laws (i.e., for example, gravity) the Law of Love is older than humanity, let alone any commandments; for, it proceeds from the mind of God. The idea of “love” as a “law” does not concern a “command” but, rather, a foundational precept. God spoke creation into existence out of love, designed to express God-love within that creation. Love, having issued in a creative quality, is also experienced as a redemptive quality when humanity is healed by it. Loving God by loving neighbor is the work of God’s own love in creation. It is the image of God in us; the Law of Love at work in humanity, reconciling all things to God. The greatest commandments are fulfilled by love, and the Law of Love fills full (to overflowing) the image of God in creation.

Calvinism vs. Methodism Explained

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, lived about 200 years after John Calvin, but labored under the results of Calvinism. Likewise, as an original Protestant Reformer, Calvin labored under the results of Roman Catholicism. Calvinism is a movement out of a perceived works/righteousness of the Roman church. Likewise, Methodism is a movement out of a perceived idleness of Calvinism. 1,000 years before Calvin, Augustine of Hippo (of the Roman church) labored on the Doctrine of Election out of a perceived doctrine of works/righteousness. Calvin expanded Augustine’s work and Wesley worked to undo Calvin’s.  [This essay is an expansion of an earlier entry]

It (basically) boils down to the Doctrine of Divine Election to Salvation and/or Reprobation, and it’s Five Tenants:

1)      Humanity is in a state of Total Depravity because of the inherent sin nature of Adam.

All reasonable parties agree with this thought based on the Genesis account of the Fall of Humanity and according to the apostle in his Corinthian Correspondence and Letter to the Romans. Outside of Christ, humanity does not have the ability to choose God. The only possibility of salvation comes by the grace of God in Him first acting toward us.

2)      God Unconditionally Elects certain human beings for salvation; which logically, then, simultaneously elects the rest to reprobation (or, not-salvation – i.e., Damnation).

I find no reason to assume “Unconditional Election” because of “Total Depravity.” In fact, I believe it more rational that there is a conditional election because of Total Depravity. This necessitates a choice. “But how,” you may ask, “does one make a choice if that one is totally depraved?” John Wesley answers this question with what he termed Prevenient Grace. When Christ died for all humanity, all depraved humanity received the ability to, then, choose God (Prevenient Grace). But the choice is on each individual to receive this salvation. Calvin explains, likewise, that God shined His light of grace (as it were) onto the depraved of His choosing, thereby, unconditionally electing them. Augustine exclaimed, “There is no Free Will before Christ, but there certainly must be afterwards.” How does Calvin, here, agree with Augustine?

3)      Limited Atonement: Christ’s death was for the salvation of the elect and no other members of humanity. God chose whom He would save and Christ died only for them.

If, according to Paul, Adam brought sin to all humanity, then the Second Adam (Christ) brought atonement to all humanity [This conclusion rests on the Law of Opposites, as well]. All have been rescued at the Cross of Christ, but all have not received this rescuing act (unfortunately). If you do not believe that all have been rescued by Christ, then you cannot logically believe that all received the sin nature from Adam. Either all are condemned by sin and, then, rescued by Christ, or all are not condemned by sin and therefore not in need of Christ’s atonement. You cannot have it both ways; logic does not permit it. Christ’s death is sufficient for all (because death came for all), but efficient only for those who believe (because one must choose it).

4)      Irresistible Grace: The one God calls cannot resist the grace of salvation that God offers.

While it is true that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it does not necessarily follow that this hardening led ultimately to reprobation (or, damnation). God predestined Pharaoh to be the tool by which He would show His mighty strength. The idea that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart is altogether incidental to the argument of salvation and reprobation. It is a fine example of Divine Providence, but a philosophical stretch as an example of a salvation doctrine.

What of God’s “love for Jacob” and His “hate for Esau.” While both were still in the womb, before they could do anything right or wrong, God elected Jacob to be the recipient of His love and Esau He elected not. [The discussion of the divine love and hate is beyond the scope of this essay.] The fact that God loved Jacob and not Esau doesn’t necessitate that Jacob was, therefore, elected to salvation and Esau to reprobation. Scripture clearly explains that Christ would be the direct descendent of Jacob, not Esau. Thus, God, not concerned with the persons of Jacob or Esau, elected Jacob, and Esau He elected not.

5)      The Perseverance of the Saints: Whom God has chosen is saved for all eternity with no possibility of losing their salvation.

John Wesley (and Arminius – under whom Wesley formulated most of his theology) rejected the idea of the Perseverance of the Saints and insisted that one could lose the salvation for which Christ died. But this argument defies all known logic. Again, the Law of Opposites dictates that if one did not do anything to earn salvation, then one cannot do anything to lose it.

As such, then: God, in His Providence, has predestined certain folks for certain things and He has elected certain folks for certain things; but it is not logically or biblically necessary that either is for salvation and/or reprobation. He has elected that there would be a church, but he has not predestined who would belong to it (do not confuse Predestination with Foreknowledge). Humanity is totally depraved through Adam so that it could be totally rescued through Jesus; but it must choose Him, having been given the ability to choose correctly. And that rescuing which is not earned cannot be lost.

Community: Unity in Common

To be “common” is to be of frequent occurrence; the normative, the usual, simply normal. Two or more people can hold a thing “in common,” making it general commodity. We’ve heard of “common knowledge,” describing something that the majority should generally know. We hear a lot about so-called “common sense,” which isn’t very common and doesn’t make much sense anymore. A group of people could have a “common belief;” a shared belief system that gives identity to and is very important for the group of individuals that hold it. The idea of “common” also expands into mathematics, speech, grammar, anatomy, and law, etc. but the meaning doesn’t drift far from the original intent.

“Unity” is a state of being one; oneness. To speak of “unity” infers combined parts; two or more parts have come (or were put) together to form one whole. Often the ideology of “unity” (oneness) takes on the notion of sameness; that there is no diversity in the sum whole of the parts. Two or more people could come to an agreement and, therefore, be said to be in “unity.” Again, the idea of “unity” (or not) has been adapted to mathematics and the arts, etc.

A “Community” is a social group of two or more that may share a common language and/or culture and/or rules and/or beliefs and/or heritage and/or locale having a unity in a common life. Sometimes a “community” purposely lives thusly to distinguish itself from others. A place where two or more things live could be a “community.” The understanding of “community” pervades law and the sciences, etc.

God is a “community” – a trinity – within God’s-self. Humanity derives from the “God-community.” From the whole came the parts (i.e., creation), and the parts are called to become one in the whole (salvation). In this in-between place – the now, but not yet – we are “united” in a “common” calling: Humanity as a whole, and not distinct from its parts, is called to live in “community.” There is diversity, by definition, because of its parts – differing races, cultures, rules, heritage, language, and etc. – but diversity is not contrary to oneness, but only sameness. It is the power of God’s Spirit in the Person of God’s grace – Jesus Christ – that unites this diversity in “community.”

“Community,” then, in one sense is “common” – we hold the Source of community and the humanness of community in common. Ironically, though, the “common sense” required for this “common knowledge” has been lost on humanity, generally. Therefore, on the other hand, life together as “community” is not a frequent occurrence. Likewise, “Community” is a shared wholeness of its combined parts. “Unity” is an agreement between differing parts to being part of the whole “community.” Then again, “community” is not one part(s) forcing its own race, culture, rules, heritage, language, and etc. onto the other part(s) and calling it “unity.” God’s grace “unites” the differing “common” parts into one whole “community” sharing the life of God’s Common-Unity. Like putting a whole puzzle back together, all the individual parts (each with their peculiar shapes) must be utilized in order to return to the puzzle’s whole picture.

The Body of Christ

In one sense, the “body of Christ” speaks of the actual physical element that was offered as a sacrifice to fulfill the Old Testament’s requirements; Christ’s historical body, killed on His cross, through which we have been made acceptable to a holy God (Heb. 10:10). Healing from the distorted image of God – the fallen-ness of humanity – comes when we have died with Christ through the (actual physical, historical) “body of Christ” and are united with the (alive, now!) resurrected Christ so as to be the real image of God to a hurting world (Rom. 7:4).

In another sense, the “body of Christ” is a sign and symbol of the actual and physical element; a sacrament of the church, expressed in the bread of The Lord’s Table – The Eucharist (The Thanksgiving) – otherwise known as, Communion. Paul refers to this as a “sharing together” in the loaf of bread we break – the “body of Christ” (1Cor. 10:16) – broken for and by us.

And yet, there is another sense to the “body of Christ,” not so much a third sense as it is a syncretism of the first two. The Church, not a building but a people, called and equipped from across the earth to be the expression of Christ on earth, is the actual physical “Body of Christ” (Rom. 12:5; 1Cor. 12:12, 27; Eph. 3:6; 4:12; 5:23; Col. 1:24; 3:15). As expressed at the Communion Table, the Church is visible and invisible, spanning all human history, inclusive of all cultures and ethnicities, throughout all the earth. This is a declarative act, proclaiming the death of Christ until He comes again; re-membering (bringing together again) broken humanity with His broken body. “The ‘body of Christ’ broken for you” is a calling of Christ to the Cross of Christ to be the “Body of Christ” in the earth.

The Body of Christ; gathered around Christ and gifted by the Spirit of God in the world. The church doesn’t have a mission the church IS the mission of God in humanity. The mission of God in God’s chosen people is a story of people living in and out of the community of the Spirit. The Body of Christ is to be a sign and symbol, and yet an actual physical, historical reality, of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Though we haven’t fully realized the truth of the sentiment yet, The Body of Christ is the reality that we are to be one, holy, apostolic, universal expression of the One God in three persons; we are the beauty of invisible unity (God) clearly visible, in the world but other than the world system, a consistent constancy, always, everywhere, and at all times.