6For I am the LORD, I change not; (Mal 3:)
Just what is a paradigm shift? Backing up a bit, just what is a paradigm, and how can it shift?
A paradigm according to my dictionary is "Something serving as an example or a model of how things should be." As I read this, a paradigm is not the thing itself, but rather it's how the thing is viewed at the moment.
Let me give you some ideas of what a paradigm is not, according to my understanding of it (which I fully admit from the top that my viewpoint and understanding of the subject is limited, and not to be taken for anything other than one man's opinion. I don't want to be seen in the same light as the commentator mentioned above). First of all a paradigm is not the substance of a thing, it's not the "truth" per se. A paradigm is more like the shadow of a thing, or a theory, or an idea that is cast and changes over time. The truth of the matter doesn't change, but the way that truth is perceived has changed. If we had three people looking at the sky with the intent of predicting what kind of day it would be, and they were all looking in a different direction, one might see clouds, and say it will rain, one might see clear sky and say it will be clear; and the other might see the sun and say it will be hot that day. All three men are correct in their view, and they all stand in the same place when their opinion was created, but their opinions are highly varied. Is one right and the others wrong? Not necessarily. It could snow and they would all be wrong, or it might be hot part of the day, then turn to rain later on, and they would all be correct. The thing of most importance as related to this study, is that they were all right at the time they made their predictions, at least they were right according to what they were observing at the time. (Keep this in mind, it'll be on the test.)
The term paradigm shift was originally intended to be directed toward the field of science, according to the one who coined the phrase. However, over time it has been incorporated into the psychological aspects of human sciences, and for the purpose of this study, it will be taken one more step into the field of religious observation. Let it be said I'm delving into unchartered waters, at least I haven't seen the charts if there are any, so please bear with me as I stumble along. Maybe you can take what I have to offer and smooth the path a little for the next person on the trail.
Keep in mind, a paradigm is not what is being viewed, but how what is being viewed is interpreted. It is the basic assumption, the majority opinion, as to what the truth is about what is being viewed. There is a story that has become popular over the years that helps us to understand the concept of paradigm. There were seven blind men who encountered an elephant. Because they were curious as to what an elephant was like, they each examined one part of the elephant. The one who studied the leg said an elephant was like a tree. The one who felt the tail said an elephant is like a snake. The one who felt the tusk said an elephant is like a spear, and so on. In each person's limited view of an elephant they were each correct, yet when the whole picture is seen, when the truth is known, each of the blind men were only partially correct, and because they were only partially correct, they were wrong.
I'm going to take this story and alter it a bit for the purpose of expressing a point that I think is missed. Let's say all of these blind men were to examine the leg. In their examination, their opinion, having come from careful and personal examination, not hearsay, would all come to the same conclusion, that is, that an elephant would indeed best be described as being like the trunk of a tree. We now have an opinion of the masses, the prevailing "paradigm" is that an elephant is like a tree. If anyone disagrees with this concept of an elephant, then that person would be considered as wrong, and thereby a fool for disagreeing with the prevailing opinion.
Now, let us say one of the blind men was not present when the others of his fellows examined the elephant. Wanting to know what an elephant is like, he felt the tail of the elephant. He then announces to his fellow blind men that he has made a careful examination of the elephant, and he has concluded that an elephant is definitely like a snake. What do you suppose will be the reaction of the rest of the group? What do you think will be the reaction of the one holding the lone opinion?
Let's add some spice to the story. There ventures into the midst of the quarreling blind men a person with good vision, and who is in fact the owner of the elephant. The man of sight tells the group of dogmatic blind men that they are all wrong, and he proceeds to try and tell them what an elephant is really like. Do you think the blind men will concede their having been wrong?
39And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. 40And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? 41Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. (John 9:)
Let's suppose the blind men in the story were unaware they were blind because there was no one with eyesight to compare themselves to. We would then have a good picture of the Pharisees and the Jews of their day. Everyone was in agreement, and therefore anyone who disagreed with the prevailing attitude, which certainly in their opinion was straight from God (and they held that opinion for good reason), the person out of agreement must be wrong, and must be brought into subjection so their opinion agreed with the prevailing opinion. This is not something they made up, it's in God's instruction to them. They were to cast out or stone anyone who disagreed with God's Word. The problem was not in the commandment, but in the understanding of God's Word. In other words, their "paradigm" of God's Word. Jesus came, not to do away with the Word of God, as the leaders of the Jews supposed (and is supposed even today in the churches), but to "shift" their understanding to what God actually intended by His Words. In other words, Jesus was working to create a "paradigm shift," and cause the shadow of this substance to line up with the substance. In His own words, Jesus was a "Light to the world," and as a light, He cast His own shadow, and His shadow reflected, not the view of the day, but God's image.
Whenever there's a paradigm shift, when evidence is given that the prevailing view is wrong, two things in particular occurs. One is that those who have depended on the old view (the "old wineskins" [bottles] as Jesus referred to them) reject the new, in spite of every evidence against the old view. We certainly have this in the ministry of Jesus, and we have it again in Paul. Paul switched sides, in other words, he had a paradigm shift, and those who agreed wholeheartedly with his old opinion, reacted violently to his new view, in spite of the miracles he was performing as evidence that the new view was the correct one. Jesus said there were two witnesses to the fact that He was the Son of God. One witness was Himself, and the other witness was the Father. How was the Father a witness to the fact that Jesus was the awaited Messiah? Among others, there was the fact that Jesus was performing miracles that only the Father could have performed, which was attested to by Nicodemus in John chapter three.
When people follow someone who is wrong, in spite of the fact that everyone else follows that person, and in spite of every evidence that said leader is on the right path, those who follow will suffer the same consequences as that of the leader they choose to follow. Jesus expressed this by saying:
14Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. (Mat 15:)
Let's alter the word just a bit that Jesus used. In Matthew 12:11 Jesus speaks of an animal falling into, not a ditch, but a pit. The word He used is the same as the word above, interpreted ditch. What comes to mind when you think of "Pit?" If your leader was to ultimately be cast into a pit, designed for unfruitful branches, where would that leave you, since you were following that person, and doing so blindly?
The man who "established" the term paradigm shift had this to say: "a student in the humanities has constantly before him a number of competing and incommensurable solutions to these problems, solutions that he must ultimately examine for himself." (Thomas Kuhn) The emphasis is mine and not in the original quote.
We are all held responsible for the opinion we hold.
There are thousands of opinions to be held in this world, and the number of opinions increase substantially over time. When we hold to one view, even if it's the correct one (which is essentially impossible to do, or to assume to be so), we rob ourselves of the opportunity to find the truth of the matter, and certainly to grow in the truth, should we happen to in fact have found truth.
There are two types of paradigm shifts I would like to point out. The first of these is quite observable. We see in the area of art a shift in the understanding of perspective. Until about the 15th century the concept of perspective, that is, an object close to the viewer appears larger than objects in the distance, was unknown. Because of this lack of knowledge artists painted what they expected to see, what they believed to be true, rather than what they were in fact observing. Because the artist knew a tree close at hand was as tall as a tree in the distance, they painted distant trees (and people) the same size as those in the foreground.
In the field of religion just the opposite was true. Rather than expectation effecting the observable, what was observed effected the understood. Theologians, those who studied religion and tried to apply the observable to daily life, they saw the sun rise, stroll across the skies, then disappear into darkness. They saw lightnings flash from the sky, and not knowing where it came from, they created a source out of their imaginings. Man, from the beginning, has understood that there are "beings" more powerful than man, and that these controlled the actions of earth, and man. Because of this understanding, these beings were held in high esteem, and were appeased in every way possible in order to keep them from being angry with man. The Greek, Norse, Romans and the like had gods formed in the shape of humans in order that they could better understand them. The Native Americans tended to chisel their gods, or controlling beings, into the form of animals, each person seeking to learn which animal ruled their destiny and gave them power (vision quest).
Over time our paradigm has shifted. There are not very many Romans who now believe that the sun is a god, or that Thor throws lightning down on helpless mankind. There are some religions that continue to hold to these long-held beliefs, but even they have, for the most part, shifted their view to one degree or another, often mixing their beliefs with the beliefs of other religions.
Today we have a panorama of beliefs to choose from, even to creating our own. Paradigms are abundant, and they are shifting daily. Correction, in one area there is no shift whatever, but that I will delve into later in this study.
Until around the 1,500's there was one prevailing view, at least in the world of Christianity, and that was Catholicism. Everyone was Catholic in the "civilized" world. And it was the responsibility of the Catholic (which mean "Universal," or in more modern terms "Ecumenical") to get the world, including the heathens and savages, in line with their beliefs. In other words, the world had to shift their view to the "paradigm" of the day and age.
Mankind is not designed to disregard what they have learned in the past, what they have held to be true, and take on a new view unencumbered. We take what we already believe, and what we want to believe, and incorporate it into our new belief system. This we see in the Native Americans who became Catholic (Christian). They continued to practice their established beliefs, and incorporated their new beliefs into their lifestyle. This was common all through the world. And as far as I can tell, the church of the day didn't care, just as long as they performed their Catholic rites as prescribed. Today is no different. We see this very same thing in the Protestant churches, people are not told they have to completely change their life, as is so plainly commanded in the Word, all they have to do is profess to have changed somewhat, and be dipped (or sprinkled, or whatever) in water, and they are considered fully converted, often for eternity in spite of their retarded Spiritual condition.
In those days of forced coexistence there arose a paradigm shift in the form of Protestantism that gave rise to violent resistant, reminiscent of that experienced in the time of Jesus. In order to maintain status quo, anyone who opposed the prevailing paradigm had to be obliterated. The concept of the blind listening to, and considering the teachings of someone with sight beyond their own and seeking truth was out of the question. It was darkness for all, or as Jesus would say, the blind leading the blind all the way to the ditch, no stragglers and no "child" left behind to seek out light elsewhere.
There's an interesting characteristic about a paradigm shift: Once it begins to shift, it continues to shift, and every stage of that shift leaves followers holding dogmatic attitudes toward their portion of the shift. From the inception of the Church we see where Paul has had to constantly try and bring the people back to the understanding that God is the center of the Church, and not man's concept of what God wants of His Church. Before Paul was executed, he had this to say:
28Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. (Acts 20:)
Those who have influence in a given church do not come from outside the church, but they arise from within the body, causing division and unrest. We read of this all the time where a church has split or lost its influence and purpose because of strife in its midst. Unrest and strife are great weapons of the enemy, Satan. As long as a church is not functioning as it should, it is of no value to itself, or to others. This holds true of a complacent church as well. If Satan can get a church to not seek to better its members, to be more Christlike, and to help others, if it spends all it's money and energy into making itself comfortable and impressive, it is of no value to the Lord. And this we see everywhere, agitated and/or complacent churches.
The Arabs have a story depicting what Paul describes of the churches in the passage above. The story is of a camel that request of its master that it merely stick its nose in the tent in order to keep it warm because of the cold outside. The camel is granted his request, it being such a small matter, and it not causing the camel's master any difficulty. After a period of extended minor requests, little by little the camel has taken over the tent, and the owner finds himself outside in the cold.
In the first example of the elephant, the people were blind, and blind to the fact they were blind, and their conflict stemmed from their having no idea what they were looking at. In the case of the camel and the tent, the person, the master of the camel, is fully aware of each step that is taken, and is consenting to the movement, and finds the result is not what he anticipated. We have many names for this observable but apparently innocent (even advantages on the surface of it) induction of change. We call it the domino effect, the thin edge of the wedge, foot in the door (an old salesman technique to keep the housewife from closing the door as he talks), give an inch and they'll take a mile, and one more to the heart of the matter in my opinion, the frog in the boiling pot. The idea is that if a person using devious means can get something introduced that seems innocent at the beginning, they can eventually take over the entire substance of the matter. We have examples of this in politics. For one we have what's called a "temporary tax" intended to help overcome a present situation. This sounds reasonable, but we find that no "temporary tax" is ever temporary, and it often grows. One example of this is income tax, which, to my understanding, is illegal according to our constitution. Another example of this same principle is what is called a "rider" on a bill. In order to get what is very much needed, we must vote in what we least want along with it. And we choose to vote for the bill because otherwise it will be four years before it has another opportunity to be presented once again, and then for sure with another rider.
Another example of this principle is our election of government officials. We are given candidates we least want to see in office, dragging with them a vice president we want (or know anything about) even less, and this amidst accusations by the opponent that the person you want elected (the better of two evils) should be thrown in jail for the rest of his life because of his past history. We are given two options, vote for what is presented, or not vote at all. If we don't vote, we're called unpatriotic, and if we vote, then we're told that we're responsible for getting in the president that does not do what he said he would do, and is causing this country to go down the tubes.
This, we're told, is "Democracy in action."
In 1958 Barry Goldwater alluded to the fable of the camel in the tent regarding a bill they were trying to get passed. He said: "If adopted, the legislation will mark the inception of aid, the supervision, and the ultimate control of education in this country by the federal authorities." Has this come to pass? Indeed it has, and in spades.
Before this, during the Great Depression when everyone was so concerned about the tribulations of the moment, the masses appealed to President Hoover to step in and relieve the situation. Hoover's response was that we should wait and not let the federal government become involved in public and state affairs, that it would all pass in time. Roosevelt then did what Hoover refrained from doing, and caused the federal government to back up all business, thereby causing everyone, even our states, our local governments, our education system, our medical field, and now even our families to be totally in subjection to the federal government. No one can make a move without approval of the federal government.
When I was young I, and I suppose everyone else, had some belief that people could see us through our fuzzy 9 inch TV screen, just as we were seeing them. We were ducking under school desks practicing atomic bomb drills, and having escape drills at home as well as at school and in town. We felt the government involvement in our lives on a constant basis, real and mostly perceived. Today there is no unjustified perception about it with satellites that are capable of reading our mail, viewing us through the camera installed on our computer, hear our phone conversations, follow us in our car, and even read our lips. "Big brother" is truly with us in this modern, civilized generation.
We see other areas where the nose of the camel has been presented and cast the owner out into the cold. In the beginning Women's lib wanted equal rights, to be seen as equal to, and paid the same wages as men for the same work performed. Then they demanded that girls be accepted in the Boy Scouts, an organization by it's very name excludes them, and at the same time a like organization was, and had been formed just for them with the exclusion of boys. Women wanted to have assurance that birth would be safe for the mother as well as the child. Abortion was sought after for this purpose. Laws were then passed whereby abortion could be had if the life of the mother was at stake. Then it was abortion on call during the first trimester. Then before birth, then a call for partial birth abortion. What is it now?
There was the "gay rights" advocates, with gays desiring that they be accepted for their personal choice. Now were at a stage where no one can say a thing about them, or have a choice to do other than give them priority in whatever endeavor they desire to take part in.
We have the labor unions (I know I'm touching on sensitive areas, but all areas have to be considered if truth is to be found). In the beginning labor unions were formed with the intent that they make the work place safe, and that a fair compensation be given to the workers. Then as power was achieved in the unions, they were used as tools against the governments and the organizations that hired the workers. Today we have very little labor in this country because we've made our demands so strong that we've obliterated the market. The nose of the camel has been cut off to spite our face.
Schools in the beginning wanted to introduce the teaching that evolution was an alternative to Creationism. Over time the camel unceremoniously moved into the Creationist's tent and thrust the Creationist, along with the Creator (prayer, God and country, the ten commandments and every other aspect of Christianity) out in the street, where they, the schools, hope a Mac truck will take care of the remains of Christianity.
And then there's the churches...., but I'll save that til later.
A paradigm shift is where the object remains in place, but the basic or the popular assumption has changed. In the above scenario we find that God has not changed, but the government and the school's concept of God has taken a backward step in their view of God. This is true of the political aspects of our nation as well. The founding documents have not been renamed, nor replaced, but they've been (and are being) reinterpreted as to their meaning. Lawyers are found who can find loopholes and statements made that can be construed to mean the opposite of their intended meaning. Jesus had to contend with lawyers who made it a practice of adding to and reinterpreting what God had said in His Word. The words of the Bible weren't altered, but the books that were written by the teachers, the Rabbi's, and such were given preference over what God had said in His Word. When an interpretation has been in place and practiced long enough to become taken for granted, that practice becomes what we know as "tradition." I don't think I have to tell you what Jesus had to say about traditions (and about lawyers for that matter). And isn't it interesting that today we still have traditions we place over the Word, and we brag about how long and how established our traditions are? Jesus is coming again. I wonder what He's going to say about those traditions we hold so dear?
Science is another area froth with paradigm shifts, which is what the person who wrote of such a shift was mostly concerned with. In spite of the fact that scientists and their theories change more often than the weather, they (and we) continue to give them credence, and look for what new finding they're going to come up with next. Long ago scientists knew that the earth was flat and the sun revolved around this pancake we live on. Columbus was warned over and over that he would fall off the edge of the earth if he insisted on continuing with his folly. The Wright Brothers were fools for even thinking man could fly. Wherever there's a man or a woman willing to stand up and buck the system, there's a flock of "experts" gathered around to try and hinder the progress.
There are two sciences that take precedence in our lives that we deal with on a regular basis, and that we know we can't count on, but do anyway. We have the weatherman who in spite of his billion dollar equipment is wrong almost as often as are the politicians. Then we have the medical field. Just a couple days ago I was reading about an artist I used to follow (collecting his works). He died at a young age, of an earache. Well, that's what his doctors called it. As it turned out he had a brain aneurysm. I believe I've already written about a man I know who has been taking many prescribed pills, and the pills were killing him. He stopped taking the pills and began using herbs, and now he's doing fine.
The field of psychology is another area that lends itself to experts who know everything even when they know nothing at all. When dealing with a doctor of the mind, there's only one way to convince him or her that you're sane, and that is to agree with them that you are insane and need their help to recover.
There are many areas where there has either been a paradigm shift in the wrong direction, or there has been no shift at all, and their should be.
Science, like so many other fields, allows for a certain amount of error in their calculations. For instance we have evolution that is resplendent with error and unprovable theories that conclusions are based on. Take for instance the Big Bang theory. What evidence do we have that such a theory could possibly have any justification at all? Is there perhaps a bug that could live on the sun, and survive the heat of the great blast of that exploding sun? Have they found a bug that has mutated into something else? Is there a monkey that has begun to lose its hair and to create like humans do? Have they found the missing link in spite of all their intensive searches for it?
Dating fossils has produced evidence that the earth is much older than the Bible says it is. And in the dating of rocks and such it appears that the scientists can tell us where the rock came from, what it was before it took on the form it now has, and to the hour when it was "born" (or hatched, or wherever rocks come from). Because of this "precise" measurements we now "know" that the earth is billions of years old. Fascinating stuff. Because there is so much "absolute evidence" that mankind and earth is much older than the Biblical account, the churches have begun (are in fact in the later stages of) to back peddle and say what the Bible really means is that a day in God's eyes is like a billion years in ours. That allows the Christian to maintain some semblance of sanity in the eyes of the world and in the smoke-filled rooms where scientists gather. However, at the same time the churches take on some air of acceptability in the world, they relinquish their accountability to God, and prove that they are unable to live by faith.
Didn't Jesus say that the believer would be looked down on by, and be persecuted by the world? What does that say of those who call themselves "Christian," but compromise their Christian ethics by trying to appease the world?
Paradigm shifts can move slowly, or they can move rapidly. The melding of science and Christianity has been so slow that generations of "believers" have shifted their view, following their leader, that they aren't even aware of the shift. I myself have watched one pastor in particular who now preaches a different message than he used to, and it appears he and the congregation are totally unaware of this shift. I'm thinking that pastors don't listen to what they say any more than does their congregation.
When an abrupt paradigm shift takes place there is chaos, and there is resistance, often violent resistance. I pointed to the statement Jesus made about putting new wine in old bottles, and how the new, because it is not settled and is in the process of expanding, will break the new bottles. The views of the church in Jesus' day was well established and was not about to grow, take on new viewpoints, or allow new viewpoints to be considered by the masses. The lake of understanding was as still as glass. Jesus threw a very large bolder into the lake, and He made many big waves. What Jesus promoted was in its seedling form. It would take on a great deal of growth and expansion, and would thereby have to break the bottle it was contained in. We see the final blow to the bottle in the destruction of the Temple. It was the Temple that capped the traditions and the doctrines that held the Jews captive. It was the Holy Spirit that God wants us to follow, to pursue in fact with all our might, and to not settle back on our established doctrines and traditions. The Temple was static. God, through the Holy Spirit (the Shekinah Glory) had left the Temple hundreds of years prior to the birth of Jesus. The Temple was nothing but a shell, a memorial. It was not the dwelling place of God, nor was it ever intended to be. God dwells in people, not houses of stone.
Jesus was the beginning of the creation of God. Adam was the beginning of the creation of man. Jesus, the second Adam, demonstrated just what God is, what a man in the image of God is to be like. Then came the Apostles. When the twelve were disciples of Jesus they were nothing but imperfect men trying to imitate the one who was in God's image. Then when they received the Holy Spirit they began to exemplify what a man created in God's image is like. And they wrote and preached what they were given by the Holy Spirit. This we hold in our hands as we read the Word. At Pentecost many people received the Holy Spirit. The harvest had expanded from one seed having been planted in fertile ground, to twelve, then to thousands. If those seeds continued to mature as they did in the Apostles, then the "vessel" that housed the seed would begin to take on the form of the One who is in God's image. This mean us, you and me, if we have in fact taken on the seed and are not one of those who are deceiving ourselves, or are being deceived.
The Church experienced a tremendous upheaval when it made a paradigm shift from the shadow form of itself to the substance, from that built around the Temple, to this Temple, the Church, being built of flesh and clay.
When a paradigm shift takes place there is always resistance by those who are established in the old way of looking at things. The Jews resisted the Christians, then the Christians in the form of the Catholic church resisted the Protestants. Then the Protestants resisted those who chose to separate themselves from the Protestants that had gone on before. Some things never change. Today we see in Northern Ireland where the Catholics are killing the Protestants and vice-versa. How often do we hear of church bombings? Look in any church and you'll find people talking down on and condemning those not of their denomination. Jesus said that such talk, this condemnation, is the same as murder in that it is a hatred of those who choose not to be like them. Paradigm shifts have taken place throughout the Church for hundreds of years as new concepts are explored, then accepted as absolute, and then as gospel that can not be challenged. There are thousands of such "paradigms" in the Church world today, and there are thousands more that will be established in the future, if the Lord delays His reappearing.
When we look at the history of the Jews we see many of these paradigm shifts. Moses certainly established such a change in viewpoint, creating a foundation upon which the Church of the day expanded and grew. Then when the people had finally come to grips with what God wanted of them, and had made headway in shedding their own wants and desires, the next generation of followers appeared. Just like the new generation of Hebrews that followed those who came out of Egypt could not be taught what was expected of them, so this newly formed and mature Church was unable to carry over into the next generation what they had learned they were to do. The children of those who overcame their lusts, fell to the lusts of the world around them, and in so doing drifted away from their God.
I need to point out here that while this new breed of Israelites, of God's chosen, took on the abominations of those they were to remain distant from, they still continued to perform the rituals that caused them to be unique in the world. They still participated in the rituals as prescribed. They, by all appearances, were dedicated Jews. But their heart was far from God. They were merely playacting the part of God's people, not living the life they pretended to believe in.
This is certainly true today in the churches. And no wonder since this is what is taught through the doctrines of the churches, and demonstrated by those in leadership. The Church has become a playground, a melting pot, a hodgepodge of ideas and concepts, all the while making no effort to detach itself from the world and its attractions, or sacrificing itself (its members) for the sake of God's people, or the people of the world. Both ends are played against the middle, or in the words of Jesus, they're lukewarm, with the emphasis on the icy side of luke.
We need to see a paradigm shift in the Church, not the shift its taking now, but a shift back to what Jesus and the Apostles taught and demonstrated.
One of the major problems with a paradigm shift is that the new is considered better than the old. And though I don't find it stated anywhere, it seems that in almost every case ( I would say "every" case, but I'm sure there must be many exceptions), the new takes the place of the old, and the old is eventually forgotten. Two obvious exceptions to this concept is how Christianity has not obliterated Judaism, nor has Protestantism taken the place of Catholicism. In fact as we examine the churches we see that in almost every case where there has been a new church or denomination formed out of an existing one, the old continues, thereby causing just that much more division rather than growth.
Whenever there is church segmentation (I guess that's a word, my spell check hasn't gone crazy on me over it) everyone in the new element believes they are right and the old established part of the church is wrong, and vice versa. Even though the difference in doctrine is often very slight, adherents of the new and the old come to bitter blows (often verbal blows) over them. I wrote of one church that split, exhibiting many hard feelings, over the color of the song books. Usually it's the minor things of no consequence that causes the most dissension. For instance, the Jews were most upset with Jesus because He healed on the Sabbath. Consider, all Jesus did was speak a word on the Sabbath, He wasn't taking a scalpel and performing surgery on that sacred day. Yet Jesus gave examples of how His accusers actually worked on the Sabbath, and thought nothing of it. It's the small things that cause the most dissension, the major battles. Like the Lilliputian war over which end of the egg should be broken.
Is the new always better? Let's look at some examples of advanced thinking. First let's look at some physical examples, that is, things tangible. Consider a car built in the 50's. In your opinion, are the cars today better than the classics? Of course if you're my age, you'll likely give a resounding no to that question. If you're a youngster, then you'll likely give reasons why the new is better. How about music? Is the new better than the old? What about food? Would you trade the homegrown, poison-free food and water of yesteryear for the artificial veggies and meats of today? Let's look at computers. Are the new better than the old? I haven't heard many people say they like, let's say Windows 7 or Vista better than they liked XP. Of course I haven't heard from everyone, so I might have missed your opinion. How about the web, is it getting better and safer do you suppose? Shall we look at the government and the schools? How about the churches, are they becoming more and more Christlike from your point of view? How about from God's point of view?
We really can't throw out the baby with the wash water we used yesterday. There's good and bad to say about everything, and about every shift in what is perceived as reality or right. Ignoring the old is no different than the world governments' tendency to ignore the mistakes of the past thinking that they can beat their head against the wall and create a breakthrough without too much damage to us, those who put them into office.
When a paradigm shift is most noticeable and presented with the most resistance is when everything seems to be working smoothly. No one wants their status quo disturbed when they're content. When there's turmoil various insights and suggestions are taken into consideration, and maybe even tried. But when we like things as they are, we don't want anyone shifting our paradigm. Jesus was born into a stable paradigm. Things were not as they wanted them to be, that is, the Jews were under the domination of the Romans. But the Temple was still standing, the leaders of the Jews were allowed, up to a point, to make their own decisions and live their life the way they wanted it to be lived. Because of this we read:
31Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 33They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? (John 8:)
Here we have the blind, not only demonstrating their blindness to what Jesus was telling them, but to their present and past situation as well. As far as I know there is no nation of people who has been under more bondage, by so many countries, and for so long, than has the Jews. Yet they say they were never under bondage to anyone.
Then we have:
45Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. 46But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. 47Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 48If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. 49And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, 50Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. (John 11:)
We have two things in particular in these verses to consider (beyond the theological one which is outside the scope of this study). The Jews, all the leaders, are showing concern, not for the people, or the truth, but for themselves and their position in the community. Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead, something that has brought a great deal of attention on Himself. The Jews are worried that the people will look to Jesus even more now, and less to them. They are falling behind at the poles we might say, and they're desperate. Truth and right has nothing to do with these people, they're religious leaders and politicians. They look out for themselves, something Jesus, and the Old Testament prophets, spoke ill against in many ways, shapes and forms.
During the early part of Jesus' mission He said of the religious leaders of the day:
7But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. 8For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day. (Mat 12:)
Jesus was showing mercy on the Sabbath by healing the sick. The Pharisees and others of the Jews were counting on their being religious with sacrifice and ceremonies to keep them right with God. Was Jesus presenting a paradigm shift when He said mercy is what God wants? Is it a concept that had been kept secret from then throughout the ages?
8And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying, 9Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and show mercy and compassions every man to his brother: 10And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart [What does this remind you of?]. 11But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. 12Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts. 13Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts. (Zech 7:)
7Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:)
5Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished. 6By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. (Prov 16:)
Many elements are missing from the churches today. One of these is humility, which the Bible stresses the need of from the first page to the last. The opposite of humility is pride, and how better to exhibit pride than by condemning those who disagree with us. Jesus said to turn the other cheek. Instead we try to get in the first whack by condemning those who resist us to hell.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, He said, after the need to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, to love our neighbor as ourself. Our neighbor is not those in the Church, this Jesus made clear in His parable about the Good Samaritan. Our neighbor we're to love is that person we want to most detest. Few churches teach this concept, teaching instead we should go out and invite our neighbor to our church, as if that was what Jesus was talking about.
Fear of the Lord is next to forbidden in the churches I've seen, whereas the love of God is stressed in place of the fear of God. We see here that it's the fear of the Lord that causes us to avoid evil. Because there is no fear taught in the churches, there is no teaching that we must overcome evil, but rather we're taught that evil can't touch us because we are "under the blood" so it doesn't matter if we sin once we're baptized.
[I'm interjecting a note here because something happened today that fits in this place. The pastor of my church gave an alter call as is usual. I've told in other stories how these alter calls are of non effect. Today the call was given, and a couple came forward: seeking conversion? No, but to become members of the church. The sound of the pastor's comment concerning this move is that by joining the church, this church, conversion is taken for granted and Heaven secured. I wonder what happened to the old-time alter calls for repentance and a change of heart. Do you see them anymore?]
Mercy has been a big issue from the beginning. It's not something new. It's just something we've shifted from, along with the law of God, and every other element God was trying to get us to see.
Paradigm shifts are evidence that the view we held before was wrong, and should cause us to doubt that the view we now hold is the right one. Since the beginning of time (or at least the creation) we have been shifting our view in every field, yet somehow we have not learned to hold our present concept with our fingertips, while exploring new areas and possibilities, and ready to release the view we now hold. Wouldn't you think that a person who changes his or her mind often would not be dogmatic about what they believe at present? Yet it's just such a person who is most adamant that everyone agree with them about everything. Our egos get in the way of our understanding the ways of God. For this reason the Bible stresses the need to rid ourselves of our ego, our need to be seen as best, as right, and to strip ourselves of our fleshly lusts, that lead to the satisfying of our ego.
A heretic is a person who holds an opinion other than what is accepted by the majority, or the ruling establishment. If you're a Jehovah's Witness, you're a heretic as far as a Baptist is concerned, and he's a heretic in your eyes. These are extremes. Stepping out of the traditional church, a Mormon, although considered a cult (which is a foolish term to use in that every denomination and segment of a denomination is a cult by definition), is nonetheless classed as a cult by other outsider groups such as the JW's. In fact, a Pentecostal is a heretic in the view of a Baptist, as is a Oneness Pentecostal to a Trinitarian, and as is a Free Will Baptist to a Southern Baptist. In other words, it's impossible to not be a heretic in someone's eyes and still be a part of the Christian community.
Today a heretic only need worry about being looked down on at the water cooler, but it hasn't been that long ago (and still is in some areas of the world, such as Northern Ireland previously mentioned) where to be a heretic in someone's opinion could well mean one's death. The Catholic church used violent means with which to make sure everyone remained inside the barbed wire fence of Catholicism. Then when the Protestants were in control, anyone outside the Protestant compound was struck down and condemned in an effort to force conformity.
It's interesting to me that Jesus, the One who established Christianity, the one who taught us what it is to be a part of the Church, was especially careful not to use pressure tactics such as what were being used by the Pharisees to keep those of their faith in line. Jesus would say things that would chase people off if they were not absolutely dedicated to what He was presenting, and in their faith and allegiance to God. The Church, that followed the death of the Apostles, took that same concept Jesus began, and turned the liberty of God into a trap, and battle field where everyone had to agree with the head of the church whether they agreed or not. A person who was a Hindu or a Buddhist could remain as they were, and still be a Catholic, just as long as they practices the rites of the church. In the days where Catholicism ruled, everyone was Catholic whether they believed in Jesus or not, or if they were the worst of sinners or not. To be otherwise was to be dead.
Heresy, though mostly associated with the Christian religion, is not restricted to the Church as a whole. As an example we see the wars being fought in the Middle East amongst those of the Islamic tradition. Then in Israel itself we see the many sects of Judaism ranging from the very conservative to the very liberal. In the sectarian world we learn that there are those in various fields who have been castigated and blackballed because they continued to believe and teach what was commonly accepted in the very near past. In the church world today we see where there is a bitter conflict between those Catholics who adhere to the old Catholic concepts, and those who have chosen to follow the dictates of Vatican two.
In regards to this last reference. It amazes me that the closer two people are in their beliefs, the more bitter they are towards one another, and unwilling to accept the other person or hear what they have to say. The best way for a person to have peace in the Christian world is to be an Atheist. All denominations leave a nonbeliever alone. The battle is waged within the church, not with those who have chosen to remain outside the walled compound of the Church. Jesus said:
24And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. (Mark 3:)
Jesus is talking about His casting out demons. Here He's saying that if Satan casts his own demons out of the Church, then how can he win the "war"? In this same way, we're instructed by the Old Testament, and especially by Paul, to cast all sin (leaven) out of our lives and out of the Church, or else it will putrefy and expand, taking over us as individuals, and the Church as a whole. Instead of casting out demons, sin and complacency ("lukewarm"), the churches are more inclined to cast out those who disagree with the established view, the predominant doctrine of a denomination, and reward those who follow the corrupt view. Jesus was cast out, while the ungodly and unjust High Priest was honored and respected. Paul when he was a madman out to destroy the works of God, was considered by the Church of his day a hero and well on the way to the top of the heap. When He began to perform miracles and teach the Word of God, the Church turned on him and did everything it could to stop him and put him to death.
A house divided can not stand:
10Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1Cor 1:)
In spite of Paul's admonition, the Church has continued to split and divide over the smallest of issues, such as the color of the song books as previously mentioned. I'm sure I don't have to tell you about the bitter battle between the church organizations bearing the same name who are in disagreement regarding music in the church.
It's man's way to consider ourself right and everyone else wrong, and to destroy those who will disagree with us. Cain slew his brother because Abel was seen in a good light by God, therefore his sacrifice was accepted, and Cain's was not. Rather than become what God expected of him, Cain decided to take the path the Church has continued on, and quiet the one who makes him look bad. No opposition, no critics, then no reason to change. Today we see this same thing. We find those who would dare question a doctrine either quieted by some means, or cast out of the church altogether.
A house divided must fall. In the last book of the Bible we find a church that has fallen, has fallen, called Babylon. We know that it's not Babylon the city in Iraq that's being referred to, but rather the Babylon the Church has fallen to become.
It's an interesting paradox that both ends of a matter, although far apart, are at the same time very near to joining. We have the expression that genius is very close to insanity. In this same way, we see the Church in two similar but very different forms, and the result of each is the same. We see the Church Jesus and the Apostles established, in their attempt to make it just as righteous as possible. And we see that the very same Church, using the same name, has become the very opposite of what God had in mind in that it is filled with complacent tares and ravening wolves, preaching a message of tolerance to sin and condemnation of those who disagree with them. In this day of complacency and tolerance we find that the Church is not only segmenting itself into oblivion, but it is dying within as well in that it is not trying to heal itself of its moral sickness.
For hundreds of years we had a Church essentially of the same mind, the Catholic regime. In contrast to what we see today where there is division, we might well expect that Paul's desire for conformity would bring about a holy people under the name of Christ. Instead we find the very same thing occur in the Catholic church of old as we see in the divided church of today. We find carnality in all its forms raising its ugly head and taking over the Body of Christ.
Paul called for uniformity. But it was not uniformity as man sees it he was calling for, but unity of Spirit through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said:
51Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: 52For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. 53The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. (Luke 12:)
Why would Jesus want to bring division? We say He meant that when we become a Christian we will experience conflict with our family who is not of our faith. And this of course is true. However, consider a person who is raised in a Catholic church under Vatican one, and chooses to become a part of Vatican two. Or putting it another way, a Southern Baptist chooses to become a Free Will (liberal verses conservative) Baptist. We experience the same resistance as if an Atheist becomes a Christian or vice versa.
In the context of what Jesus was talking about when He made the above statement we find He was not talking about households, but about the Kingdom of Heaven. If we place the Kingdom of Heaven far in the future and in outer space, then His statement, as with every other parable and statement He made, would be of no consequence to us. We treat Jesus' words like we do the Old Testament and count then null and void.
Jesus was talking to His disciples, not to the masses per se. He was telling them what the Church would be like. He was preparing them for the future. And we see that the future has arrived. We are in the Babylon Jesus created.
Jesus created Babylon? Isn't that a stupid thing for anyone to say? Yet I say it. Why, and how would Jesus create something as un-Christian like as what we see of Babylon?
Consider the Old Testament. In the book of Jeremiah we read where God told the Israelites that they will go into Babylon. God called Nebuchadnezzar His "servant," and that the violent overthrow of God's people, His nation, and His Temple was not only His will, but His demand. There would be no escaping the devastation and terror God was to bring upon His people.
Babylon served a purpose in molding His people. We find in the books that were written during that episode marvelous examples of individuals who stood out from the masses and demonstrated their true faith in God. We have Esther, Daniel, the three Hebrew children, and we have the prophets such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah that has given us so much of God's instruction by which we're to live.
When the people were called out of Babylon, at the end of their 70 year captivity, only a hand full chose to return to home and to freedom. And almost none of the Levites, the priests, the representatives of God wanted to go home and rebuild the Temple they were to serve in. The people had become comfortable in their captivity. They had become Babylonians, all the while retaining their identity as Jews, God's chosen people. Today we see this same thing in the Church. We see people who go by the name of Christian, yet their behavior is nothing like that of Christ, and is no different than those of the world who do not profess Christ. We are in Babylon, and content to remain in Babylon, and still desire to obtain the benefits intended for the true Christian, and all this with the total support and approval of the church that is supposed to teach otherwise.
Why would Jesus bring division to those who bear His name? Why not bring peace to the Church? Why not bring harmony rather than a sword?
Remember what happened with the Jews in their conformity and stability? Have you forgotten what occurred during the many years the Catholic church was in control of the world? Did these periods of "Peace, peace" bring about holiness? Or did they bring on the appearance of holiness, and a whole lot of carnality in the name of God?
We see tiny sparks of righteousness breaking out in the darkness in the lives of such people as Luther, Wycliffe, and others who were willing to stand up and be counted, and to die for what they saw as error in the Church. They are the Daniels of the modern Babylon in which we live. From their tiny spark there spread a flame that broke up and modified the existing church of the day. It wasn't the intention of these people to begin a new religion or denomination, this all came about by those who followed in their supposed footsteps. These people who stood up to be counted wished to cause the existing church to step back in line with what they saw to be the will of God for the Church. Were these people right because they were willing to sacrifice their life for their belief? Not necessarily. We find in the teachings of these people such as Calvin and Arminius drastic variations and conflicts that have caused considerable division and condemnation in the churches. They were merely the blind men examining the elephant, and finding the elephant to be different than what has been described by the powers that be. Each was right in his own way, and each was wrong as a whole. But they were providing bits and pieces, that added together, helped to paint a more accurate picture of what the Bible is telling us. Individually the image they presented was useless and could only cause more strife, which of course is exactly what followed. If each of the denominations were to come together and compare notes in search of truth, they would find that, like the blind men, each has it's points that are invaluable, and each has its points that are detrimental.
Babylon is division, and as we've seen in the Catholic church, it is also unity for the sake of unity, not for the sake of advancement of godliness or even of humanity. Jesus brought a sword with the intent that those who have true belief, those who will face the challenge He placed before His disciples (you will suffer persecution) might be strengthened in their faith and suffer as He had suffered. Why would Jesus want us to suffer? Peter said:
12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (1Peter 4:)
Paul explains further:
11It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: 13If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. (2Tim 2:)
There's a story told of a preacher who desired to give a sermon of importance, but he wanted somehow to make sure only true believers were in the congregation. Upon relaying his desires to a friend, the friend said he would solve the problem for the preacher. On the day of the sermon, when the auditorium was filled, a hooded man entered the room brandishing a machine gun. The masked man announced to the congregation that he was about to execute all Christians, and those who were not real Christians should leave the room immediately. After the stampede there remained but five people in the room other than the preacher and the masked man. The man holding the weapon then removed his mask, revealing himself to be the preacher's friend, who then said "there, preacher, you now have your congregation." This is a demonstration of what Jesus is doing with His Church. He only wants those who will surrender their own wills to His, who are true believers. Babylon is made up of the conformers, those out to satisfy their own lusts. In the end, when Babylon is at it's fullest, when the Apostate church has reached its climax and is fully in control as was the Catholic church during the restoration, then God will call His people out, and those who remain He will destroy as He did with those who remained in Babylon, and in Jerusalem when it was destroyed.
30Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD. 31And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. (Ezek 33:)
3But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?...... Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. 7Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Mat 15:)
God is giving His people a chance to decide where they actually stand. Are we, as individuals (which is what the Church is, not buildings or denominations or creeds or doctrines) standing up for Jesus? Or are we playing church under the guise of serving the Lord and His people?
Jesus repeatedly condemned doctrines and traditions. Yet traditions are nothing more than a concept or a belief that has been handed down from generation to generation, and a doctrine is nothing but another word for teaching. Why did Jesus make it such a point to condemn the very basis of what forms a culture, whether microcosmic such a family, or a world view?
As demonstrated in the above passage (I bleeped out the example He gave since it doesn't effect us today, but there are a great many others that do), the teachings and the traditions that were being followed and taught were standing in the way of hearing what God was telling them. There was nothing wrong with what the Pharisees and others were doing, they could wash all the pots in the world as far as God is concerned. The problem was the traditions and teachings they were following were taking the place of God's commandments. Today we have such doctrines as the Trinity that must be accepted as a requirement for salvation, where the Bible says no such thing. And we have the doctrine of the love of God to the exclusion of the wrath of God, which is plainly demonstrated and we're warned to observe, and fear of God that the exclusive teaching of the love of God has overshadowed. Is there a Trinity? Maybe, maybe not. But in spite of the truth of the matter, the fact is Jesus never stipulated the necessity to believe in the Trinity. What Jesus and the Apostles stressed was the absolute need to be obedient and to lay our life down as a living sacrifice, and thereby to overcome the flesh. This teaching is set aside and considered a nonentity, in the name of being covered by the blood and the love of God.
Paul had to deal with wolves entering the Church and teaching doctrines that were not of God. I think he would be pulling his hair out, if he had any, to see all the howling taking place in the churches today. It appears to me that just about every precept he was preaching has been replaced by false doctrines, and like God said through the prophets "And My people love to have it so."
As inhibiting as doctrines and rules are, they are necessary for any church or organization to function and survive. When room is left for teaching something other than what is established, all kind of weird stuff begins to circulate and be accepted by those with little knowledge. The problem is that the basic principles that are being protected are wrong, and in the attempt to keep out false doctrine, the truth is being canceled as well. John had to deal with this very situation in his third letter to the Church where there was a man who would not allow the congregation to listen to him, but rather wanted to hold all attention on himself. We find this in the churches today where pastors fear someone will do better than they are doing, such as an evangelist, and cause the congregation to hold him in less esteem.
Is the love of God a fact? Am I wrong in criticizing the churches for preaching the love of God? Certainly the love of God is real, and it should be preached, and that often. However, if we ignore the anger of God, we will someday wake up in the midst of His anger that we denied, just as did the Jews when Babylon fell upon them. We need balance in the churches, and balance is strongly opposed in every church.
When a paradigm shift takes place what had long been held as truth is set aside, and replaced with what is presently seen as truth. This type of thinking causes the truth that was the foundation, the stepping stone that led to the new truth to be lost and no longer examined for what more it could teach us. We see this in our, the church's, denial of the Old Testament. The new truth we have come to accept is in fact no more reliable than what we have relegated to the trash can. "Truths." like doctrines, are formed using what is called "confirmation bias." Confirmation bias is the practice of seeking an answer that has already been accepted. In the process of looking for a solution, all evidence that supports the view taken is exaggerated, and all evidence that contradicts the solution is explained away or hidden from view. Because of this practice it is necessary that there be someone who is not inclined either way (or who takes the opposite view) to interject what is being missed or hidden. Just imagine what our government would be like if there weren't those commentators who disagreed with the established view, or they were not allowed to speak what they see. In Germany, during the war, and in many other countries even today, those who would say anything against what the ruling class is doing is executed. Remember the regime of the Catholic church? Have you heard of the hundreds of years of the Inquisition? When you read the Bible, especially places where Jesus said that what has gone before, will happen again during the end time, only worse, what do you think of?
The Pharisees were regulated by confirmation bias, and so are we. When we join a church, one of the main things that is done is to insure that the prospective member understands and agrees with the bias view of that church. Disagree on any point, and you will be rejected. Churches and denominations are built upon confirmation bias. If you doubt this, give it a test. Stand up and say you disagree with some aspect of their Articles of Faith. Or tell them you want them to justify in the Word their constitutional foundations. Then sit back and wait for the attacks on your character.
We associate doctrine with the churches, but the churches are not the only ones who have their doctrines, nor the only ones who have biased doctrines. Consider the Democrat and the Republican parties. How, pray tell, can two groups of people have such extremely different views on every subject, yet having supposedly the same goal, and that is the good of the people and the nation? Incredible isn't it? Now, multiply this scenario by a thousand and what do you have? Consider the Church.
Bias is everywhere. We can't escape it. It's in the schools, the media, the governments, and it's certainly in the churches. And if somehow we could avoid all the above, it's in our selves. We each have our own bias, whether that bias is a well considered one, or merely something that we've accepted because someone said a given thing is true. Those of us with gray hair, unless one has been hiding behind a cloud, have formed many ideas over the years. And our ideas and our beliefs are very likely to be very opposed to the ideas being accepted by the world today. Consider the music of this hour. How does it compare to the music of Elvis, or Hank, or Jerry Lee, or Twitty (not to be confused with Twitter)? And if you're old enough, how did Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis compare to Perry Como and Rudy Vallee? Each generation had to fight to have its music and standards accepted by the previous generation, again we have the overused term, paradigm shift. However, in this case, rather than the substance having remained the same, only the perspective having moved: the subject has also shifted, and is continuing to shift. Mother rejects daughters ways, and daughter rejects mother's standards. I guess that's the way it was from the beginning. At least we see where Adam rejected the standards placed on him by his Father, and ours.
What's happening in the White House today? What's taking place halfway around the world? Do we know? Do we care? How should we act toward one another? How do we find out how the rest of the world is behaving and thinking, therefore how we should behave and think?
In olden days news traveled slowly. While events were very likely to take place instantaneously, the news of that event my be weeks in coming. By the time Babylon heard that the Medes were coming, they were already overrun by Median troops. Travelers, merchants and panhandlers were the news-bearers of bygone days, and they were accosted by inquiries everywhere they went. Today news is out and available even before the event takes place. The media not only reports what has happened, what will happen, and what should happen; it creates the news by presenting what it wants or expects to occur. We see on the tube what the world supposedly does, has and wants, and we do, buy and want the same things. The media creates the fashions, and we, the sheep seeking a shepherd, follow their leading.
At one time, at least when I was young, we expected our school books to reflect at least a simile of what history was all about. Well-worn books were handed down from generation to generation. Since then it seems the history books have taken on their own form of paradigm shift in that it seems every year new ones have to be purchased because what had been reported in the old books are no longer valid and are not considered "politically correct." If you don't like the history you read today, wait till next year. Perhaps your villain will have become the hero of the year.
Politically correct: another phrase that in my mind makes no sense whatever. For one thing I can't think of anything political that has ever been seen as correct. And if by chance something political has been correct, it was instantly changed as soon as the correctness of it was discovered.
Politically correct is another area that has seen its paradigm shifts, and that almost daily it seems. What was politically correct yesterday can cause a person who is not keeping up with the fads great trouble if they happen to say or do what is no longer considered politically correct at the moment.
A paradigm is a view commonly held. Besides the schools, the media, the churches and the governments, what other elements of society has an impact on the commonly held "paradigm"? In a given circle, such as a family, parents create the accepted view, which of course is usually influenced by the other afore mentioned elements such as the tube and their own upbringing. Laws are something that changes more often than a runner changes his socks, but nonetheless are expected (and demanded) to be lived according to what is law at the moment. And not only this, but we are expected to know what those laws are, because the breaking of the prevailing law of the moment can cause much grief (even though the trained lawyers and judges can't keep up with the changes in the law they serve).
How about a charismatic leader? Consider the many leaders, particularly in the church world, who have risen to the top, and when they had gained their following, took a nose dive into the legal system just mentioned. Do any names come to mind? Many come to mine, especially when I think of the church world of the media.
Whereas the secular world has it's influence on our lives, I don't believe any other aspect of human endeavor has as much blind allegiance as does the church. This is incredible to me because all other aspects of our life is only temporal, for the brief moment we happen to inhabit this big blue marble. But the churches deal with the eternal, with the souls of man. They can make or break a person to the point of causing their adherents to spend eternity in heaven with God, or in hell shoveling coal to keep the devil warm. Wouldn't you think such a drastic consequence would warrant more consideration than, say, what's happening on the daily soap opera or in the big league games? Yet we walk into a church, or are born into a church, and we instantaneously and unquestioningly accept their tenants as being right and of God. Does this sound reasonable to you? Neither does it to me. This being the case, why do you and I do it?
We have no choice. We are the blind being led by the blind. Our only hope is that our blind leader has a little better eyesight than Mister McGoo.
Speaking of the blind leading the blind, we now return to our elephant and the experts who are giving the creature their close examination. In the story the blind men, having had their own experience of the elephant, could not accept what the other blind men had experienced. Instead of getting together in order to better understand what they are "looking" at, they choose to do battle with one another, forcing their view on those who oppose them, and turning their back on those who do not blindly agree with what they have found to be the truth.
Jesus spoke in parables in order to present a clear picture of what He was trying to relay to us. He said those who could not see, are the ones who will be able to understand what He is talking about. Those who can see, will be left in the dark. This seems to be just the opposite of what our elephant story is trying to convey. However Jesus was talking about the physical verses the Spiritual. Those who insisted on retaining what they perceived through their carnal eyes would be blind to what God is saying to the Spiritual heart.
It's an interesting paradox that the story of the elephant and the blind men should be written to illustrate the condition of man in that it shows how the only way to see a whole picture is for each of the observers to come together and compare their notes. I also find it intriguing that this story was written in India long ago as a disclosure of what the religious leaders were doing, and these leaders were not Christian. I guess people will be people wherever they may live, or the times they happen to live in. This story is familiar to just about all the religions of the world, including of course the Arab nations, though it began in India. The Eastern religions, because they seek harmony with the world and especially within themselves as individuals, understand this story, and they try to learn from it. But isn't it an interesting coincidence, that the religion this story most describes, that is, the segmented and violently opinionated Christian Church does not even mention this story, other than maybe in passing? It most describes a people who are least willing to learn from what it, the story, is teaching. And what does this story teach? It teaches the foolishness of sectarianism, the very core of the modern Christian church; and it teaches the need for harmony and acceptance of the views of others. This, which by the way, though contrary to the churches, is the cry of the world. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't the churches be seeking harmony and piece, and the turbulent sea of mankind called the secular world be crying for the head of all who oppose it?
When considering the need to listen to and understand others a riddle comes to my mind. Maybe you've heard this before, it's a quite complicated riddle that I'm not about to explain at this time. I'm only using it as an example of listening and reasoning. Once there were three men in prison for life. One man had perfect eyesight, the second was blind in one eye, and the third man was totally blind. The warden of the prison called the three men to him. He placed a hat on each of the prisoner's head. He then told the prisoners that there were three white hats and two red hats total. Three of the hats could be seen, and there were two hats that nobody but the warden had seen. The warden then informed the three prisoners that if they could tell him the color hat that was placed on his own head, he would be set free. But if he guessed, and guessed wrong, he would be executed. If no answer was risked, nothing would change concerning their status. The warden then asked the first man, the one with good eyesight, what color hat he had on his head. The first man had to say he did not know what color hat he was wearing. The warden then asked the second man with one good eye the color hat he had on his head. Like the first man, he had to declare his ignorance as to the color hat he wore. The third man, the one who was totally blind was then asked the color hat on his head. The blind man said "from what my fellow prisoners have said, I know my hat is....." What color was the hat on the blind man's head, and how did he know? He didn't guess, he knew for sure the color hat on his head because he had listened carefully to what was being said.
This riddle shows the importance of listening in contrast to people who don't listen, but with only partial evidence they form a conclusion. The churches are filled with just such partially investigated conclusions, and no one bothers to question them on it, or to learn for themselves what the truth of the matter is, and this for two basic reasons as it seems to me. First, everyone assumes the person teaching the precept knows what he's talking about because he has researched the subject completely (which in every case I've seen that is what is said by such a person), and because they really don't care. Now to me, if a person doesn't care enough to investigate for themselves the evidence that will make the difference between heaven and hell, they really don't believe in either, or that it effects them in any way. Everyone is ready and anxious to state an opinion, but the "fruit" of their statement proves otherwise. This from the pastors of the churches right on down to the straggler sitting in the back pew.
A dogma is something put forward by some authority that is to be accepted without question. In the Old Testament we see where God has put forth just such precepts that are to be accepted without question. Most of these precepts, especially the Ten Commandments (bar one) we understand and want to have others follow because they protect us. They are the foundation upon which our own laws are built (the last five, the first five are ignored or denied). The rest of the precepts we either don't understand, or we don't like, so as did the Jews, we reject them or set them aside. Animal sacrifice is one such ordinance that we neither understand nor accept, nor is it within our capacity to follow such a ritual seeing that the Temple alter that the sacrifices were to be made upon is no longer with us. In fact, the priesthood that was the foundation of these sacrifices is no more. We are our own priest, we are the temple of God, and we are our own sacrifice. And it's our responsibility to become the best priest (representative of God here on earth), and the best sacrifice we can produce from ourselves.
Dogmatism is frowned on by everyone. You don't think so? Well, maybe you're right, from one point of view. For instance, I know I'm right, so for me to be dogmatic on what I believe to be true is not only right, but essential if truth is to be known. But for you to be dogmatic in your stance, unless you agree with me and took your understanding from my teaching, that is not all right. Check out this dogmatic attitude in the school, in the work place (especially if you're in the military). If you don't work, or your not in school or in the military, check it out in your church. There are some tenets (in fact all of them to one degree or another) that are not to be questioned even though they are not provable, they are not reasonable, and in fact very likely no one even knows where they came from or why they were established. They are the mainstays that hold up the wobbly tent that the churches are founded upon. Small waves disturb the tent and cause it to shudder, but rather then reinforce the tent, we insure that no one makes waves or speaks too loudly causing a breeze.
Gandhi (Mohandas) was noted for saying that which clings too dogmatically to its own tenets is committing an error based on its own limited point of view. I find it interesting that the Eastern religions, some such as Buddhism that are not in fact a religion as we know it because it does not base its beliefs on their being a creator god, will work toward peace and social understanding. Their purpose is not to change the world, or to convince others to live and believe as they do, but to live in harmony with nature, with one another, and with oneself. This we can see upon observation is the principle that the world and Humanism is working toward. Those not involved with religion are in fact practicing a religion unbeknownst to them. When we take a close look at the Bible, especially the Old Testament, we find these very same goals set before us, that is, to serve our fellow man, to respect and care for (not worship) God's creation which we call nature, and to improve upon this rag we call our body, ridding it of error, and taking on the elements of God Himself. We are to aim toward the same goal as the Humanists and the other religions of the world that has gained so much influence in these modern times, with the proviso that God and His commandments be placed closest to our eyes. It is this last injunction that separates the Humanists from the Christian, in that the Humanists, whether they accept or deny God, place man in preeminence.
From the founding of the Church, that is the establishing of the laws in the wilderness, dogmatism has been at the core of Judaism and Christianity. God is God, and there is none other. There is no one we can go to in order to have our desires override those of God. Yet, I find it interesting that while we see examples of mere man appealing to God, and even changing His mind, this is not something that can be accomplished in any of the churches. Churches stand on dogmatism. What is established as dogma must not be challenged, and since the likelihood the person who created the dogma is long past dead, and the dogma can't be altered, there is no one to appeal to.
We, the traditional churches (as well as those we call a cult) look upon others and see the error in the dogmas they put forth as law (even those churches that state emphatically there is no more law since the cross of Calvary). Yet we refuse to look at our own distorted dogmas that we insist all adherents adhere to. Our way of dealing with one another, of considering the other side of an argument, is to take pistols in hand, stand back to back, take ten steps forward, turn and fire. And this without an arbitrator.
Correction, the churches have now begun to have an arbitrator, and one they are becoming more and more inclined to listen to and follow his advice. That arbitrator is the secular world that is making great headway in its effort to mold the churches in its image, and that is, at the lowest (rather than God's highest) common denominator. There are a few stragglers, a few churches that have not fallen to this deep a level as yet. But in time, laws of the land will be passed, and these churches will be infiltrated by leaders with such a bent, that will cause the sheep to blindly follow the world's lead away from God and toward the world view. In other words, the paradigm shift will have been made complete.
Returning for a moment to observable paradigm shifts. It is common today to see churches formed under the "Liberal" label, yet still under the umbrella, and flying the banner of "Christianity." Such churches as these are the Judas goats that lead the way from strict Christianity to the world view and Ecumenicalism. Rather than work from outside the church structure, they work within that structure in order to lead the flock to compromise. We see a picture of this compromise in action in the story of Balaam, the prophet of God who could only speak the words God gave him. He, however, wanted to circumvent the words God had given him and to help the enemies of Israel. He was unable to go against the words of God and to curse Israel, so he apparently came up with a plan by which the Moabites could disrupt the purposes of God's people, and cause God to do what he, Balaam, had been unable to do. He caused the Jews to intermarry with the ungodly Moabite women, thereby polluting and undermining their resolve and their goals. And, as we read in the Pentateuch, it worked like a charm. We again see this very same scenario in the story of the Jews that returned from Babylon to rebuild the Temple, and it was the very same people, the Moabites, that caused their disruption. Again we see this in spades in the life of Solomon, the wisest man on earth. He was corrupted from his godly direction by the wiles of his many heathen wives, to which he even went so far as to build temples of worship to the gods of these women.
Such churches as the Bahai Faith and the Universalists make no claim to be other than just what they are. The Universalists have a goal very much like the Hindu and the Jain and the Buddhists. They seek harmony with the world and with themselves. The Universalists do not have an established doctrine per se, and their goal is seeking truth about themselves in an effort to make improvements to themselves. In my mind, and from my own observation, they are much like a group therapy session rather than a religious organization. They make no claim to be Christian, other than to acknowledge the right of everyone to worship (or not worship) as they see fit.
The Bahai on the other hand do claim to be Christian, at least in part. They also claim to be Hindu in part, and to be Buddhist in part. That is, they are the ultimate example of the Ecumenical movement. They, unlike the Universalist who don't recognize, or rather do not set forth any god, worship all gods. The Bahai practice one religion one week, and another the next week. In other words, they accept everything, and believe in nothing. They merely practice whatever is set before them.
A little closer to home, that is to the Church, we find those churches who have taken on the liberal view, by liberal I mean they may or may not believe in the Bible (or even accept it as allowable in their house of worship), and they may or may not believe there is a God, a creator. Yet they carry in their title the long established name of those churches that have gained a reputation for being dedicated and conservative Christians. We might, for instance, have in our town several Baptist churches, yet none of these churches believe or practice the same thing. One church might be highly devout (and I'm not saying they are right, only that they are trying to practice what they purport to believe), and the other one might be so liberal as to be unrecognizable as Christian in any way. Because of this we can have no idea what a person believes just because they say they are Baptist (or Pentecostal, or even Catholic anymore). One might be seeking the Lord with all their heart, and the other not believe in Jesus at all.
The Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked. We know what this means, but we have no way of knowing who we are yoked to, nor what the one we're yoked to believes, even though they wear the same colors as we do ourselves.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not condemning any of these churches I present here for an example. They are merely practicing their beliefs (or their lack of belief) in the manner they see appropriate. They are obvious in their display of their belief, whereas in every church there are people who have taken on the name of Christ, and they believe no differently than do those who state they do not believe. Jesus referred to these people as "tares," weeds that fill out, but that pollute the harvest because they are not of the same seed as the harvest. The rice must be gotten rid of at time of harvest. A rice grain is just as nourishing, and just as much a grain as is wheat. Yet rice in a field of wheat is considered a weed; and vice versa.
Hot has nothing to do with cold. When cold comes in contact with hot, both become lukewarm, and thereby useless. Lukewarm is the term God uses in His Word for compromise. Compromise can take on many forms. One might appear very hot or very cold, yet they in fact have no regard for what is presented one way or another. They are merely going along with the crowd. Then there are those who get caught up in the emotions of the moment. We see this at soccer games and the running of the bulls. When the event is past, and the emotions die down, they are back to normal, whatever normal for them might be. Jesus gave us a picture of these various types in His parable of the sower and the seeds.
As it seems to me the churches, whichever one we might name, are really nothing but a gathering of people under one banner, every one of them having a different purpose for being there, and a different frame of mind, in spite of what they profess to believe. In order to be a part of that organization, agreement must be had. When I joined the Army I was told to repeat certain words indicating my allegiance. "I swear...." What did I swear? I swear I have no idea. I just repeated what I was told to say. It got me in the army, which is all I was concerned about. When we're put on the witness stand, we're told to take an oath, and we place our hand on the Bible. Now to me this is ridiculous. For one thing the Bible, or God, is not respected or believed (or in fact permitted) in the courts of our land. And if the one who is about to testify does not believe in God or the Bible, or if he or she is a liar, then what good is that little ritual in the first place? But these are examples of what we have in the churches. We have people doing what is expected of them, saying what is expected of them, yet having not the slightest interest or understanding as to what is going on, or what they're saying.
I mentioned the Bahai above. They openly worship all the gods, giving no preference to one over another. But what about a Christian church that does the same thing? We have in the midst of the Christian congregation of churches a church with a long and respectable reputation of being one with sound doctrine. But like the rest of the world, especially the church world, it has taken a paradigm shift, right off the Christian map in fact. More and more churches it seems are accepting and allowing what not long ago was considered unthinkable, even by the secular world. But since the world view has shifted, so has the church's view. If you've kept abreast of the times at all you know that there are now traditional denominations, or at least churches withing these denominations, that have begun to preach the possibility that Jesus was just another incarnation of God. When I attended such a church, they were studying how Jesus and Buddha are alike, and how they may be one and the same person. I find this incredible, for obvious reasons of course, but for another reason that might escape most people. We think of Buddhism as just another ancient Eastern religion. It is not. Buddhism, unlike Hinduism and many other of the Eastern isms is not a religion, but a philosophy. Buddhists do not worship a god (even though some adherents believe in gods, but only as people who have reached a higher level of perfection). Buddhists do not believe in a creator as do the Christian. They do not believe there is a God who participates in the workings of mankind. They don't believe in the resurrection, or an afterlife other than reincarnation until Nirvana is achieved, which is a state of essential nothingness rather than an eternity of involvement and bliss as is sought after by the Christian. Paul asked this question:
14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial ["Worthlessness"]? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? ["Heathen, unbeliever"] 16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2Cor 6:)
Please take note how there is a condition presented that must be abided by if God is to come into a believer.
We have been looking at a church that openly acknowledges their belief that Jesus, the Son of God who was resurrected from the dead and preached the Kingdom of Heaven, may well be another incarnation of someone who is dead, who doesn't believe there is a God, or in an afterlife. In other words. The two are totally different, poles apart as is darkness and light. Tell me now, what do you think God thinks of such a doctrine as this? What do you suppose the people are thinking in that church when they hear two opposing messages preached, and still say they believe in what is being taught? Is such a thing possible?
In the church I attended where this very situation was occurring, I called the helpful lady who stood in the isle behind me and asked her about their teaching Buddha in their Bible study class. She just waved her hand as if to dismiss the whole thing, backed away, and said she doesn't attend that class so she knows nothing about it. Have any of you ever watched Hogan's Heros? Remember Sgt Shultz? "I know no- thing!" To me this is a perfect picture of what is happening in the churches. People are merely attending, paying no attention to what they vocally agree to, nor do they care just as long as they're told they will be blessed by God and rewarded accordingly. It's a game, and in my opinion a very dangerous game at that, a game that is going to be lost by a great throng of "believers."
Dogmatism. Consider the churches I have just described. Realize that they, like all the others, yours and mine included, have their dogmas, doctrines that must be accepted and "believed," whether we believe in then or understand them or not. Should these churches be able to force such a doctrine on their members?
One declared characteristic of a cult is that it fences in its members and does not allow them to think for themselves. They are controlling, and they use what is called "brainwashing" in order to keep its members in line. Does this fit your understanding of a cult? Wouldn't you say that dogma is present in such a situation? Now, consider the dogmas of your church and of mine. Are they any different? Of course the words might be different, that's because all us blind folk are examining a different part of the elephant. But the result, and the effects are the same. In other words, all churches use dogma to keep their members in line, no less than did the Catholic church when executions were allowed.
Dogmatic people are interesting to talk to, if you don't let your ego get involved. People who hold dogmatic views are riding on their egos, and their egos are very tender and can be stepped on very easily. They are unable to give credence to those who hold an opinion other than their own, and any conflict with the opinion they hold is like a derogatory slap in the face, and brings about a fight or expulsion from their presence. Solomon calls such people vain fools, as does Jesus.
Dogmatic people are unable to learn, because they can't be taught. They already hold all truth and understanding, whether they even have an inkling of the subject at hand or not. How do I know this of dogmatic people? Because I grew up with just such a person, and in fact am such a person. I've had to fight my weak ego most of my life, it causing me more problems than just about any other aspect of my character. If you've read any of my Radio Forum, you've no doubt read at least one of the stories of Portia. Portia has the attitude I seek in myself, and in fact she instructs me how to respond to dogmatic people. Conflict creates interest, especially in stories. Without conflict a story has nothing to say, and is in fact uninteresting to read. That conflict may be personal, or interpersonal, or it may be someone who is contending with nature such as The Old Man And The Sea or Moby Dick, or even Bambi. I started a story long ago about an old man who was struggling with his inclination to tell tall stories, and the problem it eventually caused him. The story is called The God Maker which along with other such stories is on this site in the Tumbleweed section.
Portia, having dealt with her ego and relinquished it, plays a kind of verbal Jiu Jitsu with those she talks to, having nothing to prove. She lets her guest talk themself into a corner, where they should learn that they don't know what they're talking about, and then she presents her understanding of the matter. She doesn't judge the person she's talking to, she just loves them and hopes to give them further understanding into the given matter at hand, and into themselves.
Socrates, the mentor of Plato (who inscribed the words of Socrates) has been recorded to have questioned a group of young men who were certain they knew everything there was to know about a given subject. After question after question was presented to them by Socrates, which they were unable to answer satisfactorily, they then turned to the master and asked of him what the truth was. His answer is one that we all could learn from, and that we should take to heart. He said "I don't know, I just wanted to show you that you don't know either."
Confucius was another such person that people came to for truth, but was one who did not claim to hold all truth. Mencius, on the other hand, who in my opinion knew nothing of value, considered himself all-knowing. (Mencius studied under the grandson of Confucius, Zisi), who wrote his own sayings, rather than regarding the sayings of his master.
[Be aware, what I'm saying here is just my own observations and not to be taken as fact in and of themselves. For instance, Mencius is highly regarded by a great many people, and had a lot of influence among the royalty of his time. My knowledge of Eastern religion, as well as the churches I mentioned such as the Bahai, the Jehovah's witnesses and the Universalists is very limited, and I could easily be wrong. I can only report and comment on what I know, and that, as I said, is very little.]
Jesus taught the truth. We have that truth before us even today. The Apostles continued with that truth and expounded on it as the Holy Spirit directed them. Today we have a myriad of instructors writing books and standing behind pulpits who claim to have understanding of these truths, but who contradict, ignore, obscure, corrupt, and deny the very truths they claim to teach. And we, as obedient (and foolish) sheep listen to what they say and don't bother to learn for ourselves where they have gone astray.
Portia often has to contend with her antagonist, her antihero we might call her. Agnes is highly regarded in the community and the church world because of her display of arrogance, and her ability to tell people what they want to hear. In other words she fully agrees with the doctrine of the church she attends, even though she has no concept of what is being taught in the Word. She carries a Bible because, as she puts it "it's one of the commandments." Such people as Agnes are impossible to instruct, but they can be loads of fun to listen to as their understanding becomes farther and farther abroad of reality.
Communication is a matter of give and take, listening more than talking, and judging nothing but the subject at hand. Jesus spoke to the masses, the sinners, without judging them, or requiring that they believe a certain thing in order to partake of His gifts. He just loved them, and taught them what they needed to know. The only judging Jesus did is to judge the ones who were judging others. Those, the judgers, He judged harshly, as He will again at the Judgement.
It is said that understanding is like the ocean. When we view the ocean, we are only able to see but a fraction of what is really there. We can see the turbulence on the top of the waters, but we're unable to see the calm that lies beneath the violent waves. When we look to the sunset in the west, we see the sun go down. When those to our west observe the same sun, they see it rise in all its glory at the same time it is setting to us. Which observer is correct? Both are correct from their own perspective, yet both would be wrong if they accepted what the other observer stated as fact. Take a cup and dip in the ocean. What do we hold in our cup? Is it not the ocean? I take my cup and dip it in the ocean. Now, do I, or do you hold the ocean in our hand? We both hold the ocean, yet neither of us hold the ocean. We both hold the ocean, yet only a small fraction of what is to be had. When we hold a view dogmatically we cling to a very small part of reality, and cheat ourself from obtaining any more of that reality. This is especially observable in the churches. Sectarianism has quartered off all segments of understanding, added a great many fantasies to what they have been given, then they have built walls around that hodgepodge and have constructed battlements atop the walls in order to keep truth out, and their members confined within. And this they do under the name of "freedom." No more rules that God has given, only the many confusing and confining rules man has created.
The Bible tells us:
17These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. 18For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. (2Peter 2:)
13For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Gal 5:)
Yes, we have been called to liberty, just as the Jews were given liberty when they were taken out of Egypt (Jude 5). But liberty in itself is of little value if we are unable to take advantage of the liberty we're given. A prisoner set free who has nowhere to go and no means of support is very likely to return to the same life he was rescued from (by the legal system), and be sent back to the prison he was released from. In fact, there are many prisoners who commit crimes for this very reason, so they can return back to the safety of bondage. We see this very same scenario in the wilderness. Because the people were unwilling to fulfill their promise of obedience, they desired to go back to the bondage they had been rescued from. Today is no different. People who claim to be faithful Christians, filled with the Spirit, have their heaviest foot in the world, and only a toehold on what they have been called to. And this the church supports, as long as that person doesn't break free from the shackles of man-made rules they have placed on the members of that church.
Have you ever been stopped at a red signal waiting for the light to change; and you sense your car drifting backward (or maybe forward)? You press on the break as hard as you can, but your efforts are fruitless, you continue your backward drift. Then you realize that it is not you that has moved, but the car next to you has moved forward, causing you to feel as if you had been moving.
Once, a long time ago, I was setting at a signal and I saw that the cars on my right and on my left were moving forward. I assumed the traffic light had changed for me, so I proceeded across the large and busy intersection. By the time I discovered my error, that I had driven through a red light, it was too late, and I hit a car crossing my path. Fortunately there was little damage done, but it was hard on my ego knowing I had been in the wrong. As I evaluated the situation, in efforts to figure out what I had done wrong, I realized that the car to the left of me had been given the green light to make a left turn, and the car on the right of me was making a legal right turn. They were in the right, and I was left holding the bag, being entirely in the wrong. I had kept my eyes on those around me rather than on the light that was to guide me.
Life, especially this modern age we live in is much the same as what I've just described. People are moving rapidly, and we can see their rapid progression (or regression whichever it might be), but we are unable to detect our own movement because it isn't as extreme as the movement around us. We, those of us with any age behind us, have seen a great deal of movement. And that movement for the most part is not to the good. We see the error in such things as the music that's played today, the movies that's shown, the teachings of the schools, and the worldly slant of the media. We compare it to what it was in our younger days, and we are appalled. Yet we do nothing but comment on what we see, if we have taken the time to look back at all. We continue to watch the boob-tube day and night, we accept the worldly type music into our homes and into the church, and in every other way we participate in the things of the world because it satisfies our flesh. And we're taught today that God wants us to be happy and to take part in the pleasures the world has to offer. We read in the Bible messages to the contrary, and if we give it any thought, we dismiss it with the attitude that our pastor must know what he's talking about, because he has the pipeline to the Lord, whereas we don't.
We see the churches going down the tubes faster than, and in more abundance than ever before. We condemn their actions, then we return to our own very traditional church and thank God it has not changed. And we firmly believe it has not changed, because it, in comparison to the rest of the churches, appears to be much the same. But we gray-hairs should take a realistic view back to what the church used to be, and we would see the dramatic change that has taken place right under our nose.
The story of the frog in the boiling pot demonstrates how we can become comfortable in a changing and hostile environment and not be aware of it until it's too late. When you and I drive through the gangland part of the city, we feel very uncomfortable and desire to get out as quickly as possible, and this for good reason. Yet those who live in such an environment take it for granted, and the daily dangers are just accepted by them as part of life. And we wonder how they can be so accepting of such an abnormal situation. In fact, their lifestyle is the norm, and ours is the exception. In the rest of the world danger is an ever-present reality, and it has been that way in this country until fairly recently. Consider the world of Mark Twain. Remember the old west where every man carried a gun to protect him and his family? "Peace, peace" has become commonplace in this country of ours, but what we now have, and accept as our right and heritage, is nothing but a temporary bubble that has to burst at any moment. Then what will happen to those who have not set their eyes on what is real, what the Bible teaches us, but rather they have accepted what the churches and the media have to offer?
We know there's a move toward Ecumenicalism. What we're unaware of is just what Ecumenicalism is, or how it works. We have been in the process of establishing Ecumenicalism for many generation, but we have been blinded to the paradigm shifts that have been taking place, not only in front of our face, but with our full approval.
In the 60's and 70's there was a strong movement toward "peace" and "doing your own thing." Doing one's own thing involved the right to take drugs, to not take on any responsibilities, to have sex with whoever and whenever one likes, and in every other area of human endeavor to go completely contrary to the mores of the country and the Lord. Today we find those who cried for, and lived such a life, are now in their 60's and their 70's, and in charge of every aspect of our life and of our government. They, the ones who cried out for the right to take no responsibility, are taking responsibility of our life, from the media, the schools, in commerce, and even in our homes and in our government. What we learn, and learn to accept, becomes a part of our nature. Solomon said that if we raise up a child in the way they should go, then when they're old, they won't depart from it. What about a child who has grown up in the way they shouldn't have gone? We find that they too will not depart from what they learned in their youth.
There's a story of a scorpion that was traveling through the countryside. He came upon a river that he was unable to cross. The scorpion spied a frog on a lily pad not far from the bank of the river. The scorpion called to the frog and requested of him that he take him across the river. "But if I do that," said the frog, "You're liable to sting me. I don't think I should take such a risk." "Now wouldn't I be foolish to sting you since my own safety would be riding on your back?" responded the scorpion. This sounded reasonable to the frog, so the frog agreed. Once they reached the middle of the river the frog felt a piercing pain in his back. "You stung me" said the frog. "Why did you sting me when you know it will mean your own death as well as mine?" "Yes, I know" replied the scorpion. "But being a scorpion it's just in my nature to sting. It's my thing, and I just had to be me."
People are who they have grown up to become. Just because they are placed in a different environment does not alter their personality. Those men who attacked our towers with our own airplanes were taken out of their native environment, placed in our comfortable environment where they prospered and learned our ways, then when the time came, they followed their instinct rather than appreciate and accept the graciousness this land had to offer them. "Do your own thing" has become "Do it my way, or else."
The world has drifted backwards, and while we made no effort to prevent that backwards drift, it seemed to us we were moving forward.
When we stand in one place, and those around us move, it appears to those on the move that we are the one who is moving, or that we are at fault for not following the head lemming off the cliff. Have you ever watched a tree in the distance move, and wonder how that could be? I find that such illusions occur now and then, that I can be looking at two static objects, in this case a tree and the scenery behind the tree, and I could swear the tree is moving. Perhaps it's a cloud in the background that is moving, or the leaves of the trees caused by a wind. Or perhaps it's nothing more than my imagination. But whatever might be the cause, I find I can not trust my own perception of reality, it's too fallible.
In the 60's (take note of the date) the Catholic church, that tower of ridged unchangeability, had its 2nd Vatican in nearly 2,000 years, called appropriately Vatican 2. In Vatican 2 many of the old traditions that could not be questioned were altered or done away with, all in the name of Ecumenicalism (which is what Catholic means, that is, "Universal"). Because of this change of policy, two separate things occurred. First, those who had been fully compliant with the old ways, that had existed forever it seems, were now deemed heretic by the "new breed" Catholics, and by the very church it had served faithfully from the beginning. Meanwhile, those who follow this new movement spend a great deal of time and effort condemning those who continued in the old way because they were no longer in compliance with the pope and the church as a governing body. The traditionalist were now greatly outnumbered by those who had made the paradigm shift. Because of the church having hoist anchor and leaving them stranded on a desert island, the traditionalists had to decide whether or not to continue giving the Pope the reverence and the obedience they afforded him from the beginning (not the beginning of the church, the Pope's claim of infallibility came much later, which I believe would come to a surprise to many people). Some of the old traditionalists departed from the control of the Vatican all together, and many others started their own denominations that blended liberalism with what they had lived with from the start. Then there are those who try hard to keep their regard and their trust in the Pope, but have to struggle with where to draw the line.
On the other extreme, the church after Vatican 2 has become similar enough in its practices to the Protestant churches that many of the more liberal churches recognize the Catholic church and embrace, not their theology, but the churches at large. They are not so vehemently opposed to the Catholic church as had been from the beginning of Protestantism. One more giant leap for Ecumenicalism as it directs itself toward the secular world.
Earlier I asked why Jesus would bring a sword down upon His own Church and cause such division. I would like to add something at this point to what I've already said. For one, to believe God is not aware of, and in control of what has been happening to the Church and the world these past two thousand years is to violate the very assumption that God is loving and that He is omnipotent. Of course He sees, and He said this very thing would occur in the future. It's part of His plan for the future of the world. What we see is not what we get. God is raising a harvest, and in that harvest He finds stalks of what that are producing good fruit, fruit of the Spirit as did Jesus and the Apostles. And in that harvest he is finding an abundance of tares posing as good fruit-producing wheat. God is letting both grow to what they truly are, then He will separate His people from those who merely pretend to be His people. What we must do is decide which part we are playing in this scenario. Are we truly dedicated believers? Or are we but tares being told, and therefore believe we are believers, but in fact are tares waiting for the fires of judgement.
The shift in the Catholic church toward Ecumenicalism is extreme and obvious to those who are looking (though few outside the Catholic church have even taken notice), while the shifts taking place in the Protestant denominations are not so obvious in many cases, and very obvious in others, just not admitted to. Reaching back as far as the beginning of the Church, if Jesus or the Apostles were to present themselves now, and preach the message they preached from the beginning, all the churches would turn on them and declare them to be heathens and heretics, just as did the Church of their day. The truth has become lost in a mire of false doctrines, fantasies and dogmas. Jesus is coming again, this we know. And when He comes, he will not be recognized except by the elect who have come out of the system of dogmas and paradigm shifts and have been listening to our Lord as He speaks to His flock. What each and every one of us must do is to decide who we're going to turn our ear to and to obey, the Lord, or the those behind the pulpit who claim to speak for the Lord.
6For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. (Mal 3:)
20Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 21And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: (Dan 2:)
12Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. (Dan 10:)
24And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. 25And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. (Dan 7:)
16Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. (Isaiah 54:)
22Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it. 23And they shall comfort you, when ye see their ways and their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord GOD. (Ezek 14:)
5For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (Eph 5:)
16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2Cor 6:)
2And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. 3For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. 4And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. (Rev 18:)
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