Thursday, April 2

The Quiet Revolution: Parts 2 & 3

Click here to read: The Quiet Revolution: Parts 2 & 3

It's finally finished. The original intention was for parts 2 and 3 to be separate articles, but I felt that integrating them worked well. I have also done some cleaning up of the website, which should prevent new visitors from finding it cumbersome and unintuitive. The last thing I would like to do is quote a verse from James. I came across this little gem only a year ago. It's amazing the kind of verses you can miss out on even after a lifetime of sitting under sermons:

James 1:27 -- "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

I will most definentely be revisiting this verse in some future article.


Blogger Michael Thompson said...

Great verse!
This is why I think it is important for christians to read through the whole bible for themselves instead of relying on the sermon at their sunday "service' (something I don't think is even from the bible) :)

12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woohoo! Thank you for another article!

4:28 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

You're welcome Kenneth, i'm glad somebody is getting something out of it. :)

7:46 PM  
Blogger edward said...

Tim...just catching up on your blog after a while and really impressed by your writing and thoughts here. I sent this "Quiet Revolution" to the believers in my family and will be interested in their feedback. I for one will be the first virtual member of your style church community if it becomes real. I have to think there are many others that share your vision of true Christian community. Keep me posted on that.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Hi Ed,

Thanks for the kind words. I agree there must be quite a few people who have been alienated by the modern church and it's style of worship. The problems with starting a non-hierarchical gathering is the initial lack of cohesion. The problem with communist theory was the recognised need for an authoritarian social structure immediately following the revolution. Of course, after Lenin/Stalin took over, they never wanted to leave or finish the work that the revolution started. So opting for a temporary 'leader' to organise the initial gathering and administrative logistics might lead to problems. I hope to one day participate in such a church setting, i'd find it so refreshing.

Please let me know what your family thinks (good or bad). Thanks.

7:01 PM  
Blogger edward said...

Tim, I only received one short response from my mother who has always been very activist in her church. She is fundamentalist evangelical in a mainline protestant church. Obviously those who have lived their whole lives serving in traditional churches are going to be defensive to your challenge and you can count on the fact that she and I have many debates since I have run away from mainstream Christian religion. Here was her response:

"If this young man were to really check into the church in action, I believe he would be surprised to see how much has been and continues to done by and within the Body of Christ. I pray he keeps seeking.

P.S. Just for the record, Jesus went to the Synagogue on the Sabbath, "as was his custom."

12:38 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Hi Ed,

Thanks for that. I understand why your mother is defensive. The problem when talking about the "church" to people is that everyone is quick to point out how their own church is different and it's every other church that is the problem. I'm eager to admit that a number of churches are different in significant ways to the general model I presented in the article, but there are a few things that by and large remains constant (i.e. religious hierarchy). In the article I tried to point out things that are foundational to the modern church, and not extreme examples that are only found in a few (i.e. child abuse, brainwashing)

I also think that people aren't able to disconnect the good things that can happen in church to the structure of a church. If you attack the presupposition that a church needs to be a certain way, they'll think you're attacking the good things that can happen (i.e. a church bands together to help someone in need) as well. Whereas in reality you can have the latter without the former.

The verse your mum is referring to is Luke 4:16. It's interesting that although Jesus went to synagogue, he used it as a platform to preach his radical message that criticised the basis of authority that was within the synagogues. Furthermore, Jesus was Jewish so according to the custome he went to synagogue. Christians aren't Jewish, and we created the church ourself (it wasn't merely a given that church would be this way), and so I don't see how Jesus going to a synagogue according to custom means that Christians should go to church (no matter what that church is like).

8:28 AM  
Blogger Micah Hoover said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:28 AM  
Blogger Micah Hoover said...

Hi Tim,

Here are my quick thoughts:

1) Our experiences may be different, but the protestant churches I go to have very little hierarchy. At the church I was raised in I had a lot of trouble being able to tell who was a paid pastor and who wasn't. I think there's a difference between setting hierarchies beneath our equality in Christ and getting rid of them altogether. Otherwise, why did Paul send Onesimus back to Philemon? Maybe you addressed that in your essay, but I didn't see it. You certainly covered a lot of verses!

I like your suggestion about "titles of honor" at the end!

2) Heresy and anathemas are very Scriptural in their origins (see the book of 2 John). Paul says there are certain teachers of false doctrine with whom one must not even eat. I realize it is hard to be labeled a heretic (my Bible teacher in college told me over the phone that I wasn't a Christian since I didn't believe infants were born guilty). As Christians, we tend (I include myself) to insist on being respected by others, but true Christianity desires to be despised and spit upon by others in Christ's name. You are right that what constitutes heresy is subjective (it is even more subjective than you think!), but that increases its importance and does not diminish it in anyway.

3) On prayer, you raise some excellent points. I see it as also worth noting that Jesus lead his disciples in prayer (where we get the "Lord's prayer") and he thanked God for the food when he broke bread.

Also, I think you were very brave to give a devotion like that. I'm not sure I would have put it the way you did, but the ceremony and the formality does take something out of the prayer.

4) I could respond about diversity of political opinions within the church, but I will leave that to someone who is willing to respond to less important matters, (hint, hint, Matthew Canonicus). We will see if he will respond after a compliment like that!

5:30 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Hi Michah,

Thanks for commenting with some unique insights. Our experiences appear to have been different. The 10 or so protestant churches I went to (or visited) in my youth had a clearly defined hierarchy. I have also been to a few churches that are similar to what you described (not being able to tell who has the power in the church), but in those cases the power was still removed from the general congregation. They just did a better job than others not drawing attention to their religious authority. Which is better, of course, but in my opinion is still contrary to the Scripture.

I'm not sure what you mean by Onesimus and Philemon. At the moment im not in a place to look into how that could discredit my argument, but when I have the opportunity I will. Regarding removing a hierarchy all together, I tried (in my article) to create a distinction between administrative hierarchy (i.e. who organises the logistical nuts and bolts) and religious hierarchy (power to preach, take offerings and distribute it, be given a title of honour, be trusted to provide authoritative opinions on religious matters, the power to exclude people from the congregation, etc.). Some churches have tried to incorporate elements of democracy into the church hierarchy, but in my opinion it is far too little too late.

Regarding heresy, you're right that in my article I failed to take into consideration a couple of things. You are right that communities of Christians were warned against false teachers (interestingly, one of the main criteria in Hermas and the Didache for a false teacher is whether they wanted money for their service). However, what constituted false teaching back then (e.g. the requirement of Gentiles to keep ceremonial purity and be circumcised, or the idea that Jesus was not human) is significantly different from what it is right now. There are so many different kinds of Christianities nowadays and they all have a different conception of heresy. How can the concept of heresy even make sense when most people disagree on what constitutes it? I think heresy in the modern sense is counterproductive and people should learn to differ with fellow humanity in a calm manner and not resort to name calling (e.g. heretic, backslider).

Regarding prayer, I remember us having a very good discussion about it quite a long time ago in the comments section of one of your blog posts. I wouldn't express it now the way I did back then either (I was young then), but like you said the way it was organised stripped it of its essence so it became pretty meaningless.

If Matt has the time, his political commentary on the article is welcome!

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Mike Donovan said...

Tim, Do you still believe in the God of the Christian bible? After much struggling - for years - I have determined that, as much as I wanted to, I simply cannot. It does not stand up to the scrutiny of science and reason. I tried to hang on as long as I could as I felt a need for "something." Yet, I finally realized after reading a lot of vintage Robert Ingersoll, that humanism fills the void (need?) for "something" in my life. Ingersoll even proposed formal meetings and a church-like setting, complete with "Sunday school" to teach humanism - without the fear and reliance on pointing to "passages" and trying to reconcile one part of a holy writ with another. Curious to know what you are thinking these days.

8:03 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the comment. You're going to have to spell out to me what the "God of the Bible" actually means to you, because there are so many different definitions/characteristics out there nowadays. I believe in the God that was revealed through Jesus. As Jesus himself said "if you've seen the son, you've seen the father" or something like that. God is loving, and forgiving. I'd probably have as many problems with the God presented in the Old Testament as you do.

Nevertheless, i've always remained confident in my belief of a God. As I argued ages ago in an article called "the limits of reason, and why are we trying to prove that God exists?" belief precedes reason in philosophy. Our inner passions, beliefs, and convictions will guide our rational arguments, and not the other way around. My own passions and experience tell me that there is a God.

What made you decide that your God of the Bible was incompatible with science and reason?

The idea of a humanist church is quite interesting, although it would probably develop similar problems as any other hierarchical institution (e.g. church, government). Who does he propose lead the services; established humanist intellectuals or anyone who is willing?

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Deborah Fager said...

Just came upon your blog today. Still need to do more reading. Christian Existential Humanism is a really radical concept. I agree totally with the Christian Existential "doing", I'm not sure about humanism. What about sin?

6:33 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Hey Deborah,

Thanks for the comment. The website has been down for awhile, so it might be hard to read that much until I find a new web hosting company to switch to.

In regards to Christian Existential Humanism, it sounds like you got that phrase from Chris Kitoba's site. The important thing to note is that humanism has a wide range of meanings. In mainstream culture it has become associated with Atheism, and various other ideas that are considered hostile to Christianity. However, at its root you can view it as an ethical belief in human rights and social justice. Both of which are central to the message of Jesus, at least in my opinion.

The term existentialism has a similar problem in that most people consider it an exclusively atheistic philosophical school. The truth, as always, is not so simple.

Thanks for visiting the site and feel free to comment if you find anything interesting.


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