He Came Down From Heaven

He Came Down From Heaven

“He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony”. The Apostle John. 

In the above passage, John says there are two ways of seeing.  There is an earthly way and there is a heavenly way.  The earthly way views everything from the bottom up.  It begins with man and ends with man; man is the sum of all things.  From this point of view man begins with his own thinking, and in this, he creates his own world, a world filled with illusions.  He creates his religions, his science and his philosophy.  Then he falls down and worships them and in turn, looks to them for his salvation.

The other way of looking at things is the heavenly.  This point of view looks at everything from the top down and begins with the Wholly Other.  However, the problem is how can a human start with God?  It is obvious that he cannot.  The initiative must be of God.  God must make Himself known to man.  But how?  In the above words of Jesus, we hear him claiming to be that initiative.  In other words, God through and in Christ entered space and time to show us Gods viewpoint and to reveal the truth about God.  “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

This helps us to understand religion and revelation.  Religion is man trying to find God from the bottom up, revelation is God revealing himself from the top down.  In making this statement, I am not saying that man by his own effort cannot know anything about God, to the contrary man is a powerful being and a most remarkable creature that can and does create worlds and gods in his mind.

It also obvious, that God has given clues to his existence and his nature.  He gives these clues that men might seek him and find him (Acts 17:24-28).  However, man must interpret the clues and it is here where the problem begins, for in the deciphering of the clues, the divine often gets mixed with the human.  Only the Spirit of Truth can then separate the human from the divine (Heb.4:12).

This helps us to understand Scripture.  Scripture is both human and divine.  It is written by men, wishing to communicate God’s point of view to humanity.  However, they must use the medium of human language.  So, in Scripture, you have both a divine element and a human element.  You might say that God’s Spirit hides in the words of Scripture and is revealed and released by faith.

This may help us to understand the Old Testament God.  He revealed himself as the true God, the great “I Am” but the people viewed him and interpreted him from an earthly or human point of view.  Therefore, they saw him as a tribal God committed only to Israel and hating all other nations.  When in fact he wanted to use them to be a blessing to the other nations (Gen. 12:1-3). If the Old Testament Scripture could have given us a complete or even adequate view of God, there would have been no need for the Logos to take up flesh and give the Spirit to reveal the Father.  This is why John tells us that, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17-18).

 

The Old Testament scripture was given as a mediator[1] between God and the Hebrews, and like most mediators, they both enlighten and darkened the thing they mediate.  The reason for this is that people tend to view or focus on the mediator instead of the thing which the mediator points too.  An old seer once said, “When a prophet points at the moon most people look at his thumb”. However, there is one mediator (Christ) who truly mediates the complete and full image of God, i.e. as much as humans can understand while in the flesh.  Of course, while in the flesh we look at everything as through a veil (1 Cor. 13:12).

How are Christians to view the Old Testament Scriptures?  Well, the New Testament tells us.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy “that from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:14-17).  The purpose of Scripture here is clear, it is to impart the wisdom of God for righteous living that leads to salvation and eternal life.

When a Christian views the Old  Testament scriptures they should view them in faith and in the light of the words of Jesus and the Spirit of Christ, for He is the fulfillment of both the law and the prophet which in turn bear witness to him.  We also need to remember that as God was hidden in Jesus of Nazareth, so is He hid in scriptures to a larger degree.  As said above, in Jesus the Christ we see both the human and the divine.  However, for those who do not have the eyes to see the divine, he is veiled or hidden in his humanity.  The same is true of scripture, without faith a person will not see the divine in scripture.  Therefore, to the person without the Spirit, the scriptures are veiled and represent nothing more than a dead letter.

In Christ, the redemptive purpose of scripture is completed.  On the cross, Jesus said of the old covenant it is “finished” in the death of Christ the old covenant was fulfilled,[2] the shadow had become reality in the person of Jesus Christ.  In Jesus of Nazareth, you see a man of flesh and blood in all of its weakness.  Yet, in his Spirit, he was the power of God.  So, it is the same with the scriptures, in the written word we see all the weakness of any written word, but on a different level, the spiritual, it is the bearer of the Spirit and the power of God.  One proof of this is that all true Christians find that when they read and study scripture there is a ring of truth there that inspires them and stirs their spirits to be more like Jesus.

In Jesus, the Christ, the Word of God became flesh and blood (He came down from heaven) and it is to that Word (Logos) that we, and scripture, bear witness to.  In fact, all those who have the Spirit are truly becoming living scripture as their Lord was while in the flesh (2 Cor. 3:1-18).

[1] Gal 3:18,19

[2] Heb 10:9-10 “then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God. “He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”. NKJV

On Authority

 Authority

Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him.”By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” Matt 21:23

We live in confusing times where there are so many theories and opinions being thrown out there that we are lost in an ocean of ideas.  People no longer have the ability nor the time to sort them all out.  Many are beginning to question whether or not reason has the ability to discern between them.  It has reached the point where many are questioning whether reason leads to discernment or sophistry?

In this, our time is much like the time that Jesus lived in.  Jesus and the early disciples lived in a world of new ideas and conflicting beliefs.  From the west, Roman and Greek philosophy was pushing in and from the east, the mysticism of eastern religions were make there way into the west.  Within the merger of these world views there was a clash between the reason of the Greeks and Mysticism of the east: the Greeks and Romans looked to reason as their authority for governing their personal and corporate lives.  In contrast those in the east look more to personal inward light that we, today, might call a subjective experience for their authority.

However, when looking at the Hebrews we see something different.  The Jews believed in a hierarchy of authority passed down by the community in the form of revelation, law and religious office.  Moreover, they believed that in order for all revelation to be authoritative it must be confirmed by miracles, signs and wonders.  This confirmation of personal authority by miracles[1] was a long tradition that started in the time of Moses and was commanded by the law.

Moses “You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?”If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him (Deut 18:21-22).

This tradition of looking for confirmation by signs and wonders from a teacher continued and actually increased with the dawn of the New Testament.  Once the scribes and the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked him by what authority he did something.  What they were looking for was a miracle to confirm his authority.  We see Jesus confirming his authority by miracles in Marks gospel.  Jesus said to those that questioned his authority, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?  Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?  But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”  And the man got up and went home.  When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men (Matt 9:4-8).

We see this principle of confirmation of authority at work also in the ministry of Jesus’ apostles.  The writer of the book of Hebrews said; “This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.  God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (Heb 2:3-4). The apostle Paul claimed this confirming power in his letter to the Corinthians, “The things that mark an apostle-signs, wonders and miracles-were done among you with great perseverance (2 Cor. 12:12-13).

What can we gather from this?  We can gather that an authentic word from God is accompanied with a confirmation of that word by miracles[2].  We might learn that our own culture is much more naïve and accepting in regards to doctrines and opinions of men, accepting them without any evidence that their words are true.  As a result we are like those that the apostle Paul speaks about when he says that “they are tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine and the cunning of men” (Eph 4:12).  We can say of Jesus like no other man that when he spoke things happened.  More importantly, unlike people today he did not attempt to prove his miracles with his words, but rather he proved his words with his miracles.

This view of revelation and miracles also helps us explain the rampant spread of Christianity throughout world in the first century.  Luke in his gospel tells us the reaction to a miracle of Jesus by the people, “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee (Luke 4:31-37).  In fact, if we step away from the situation it begins to looks as if the era Jesus lived in was prepared by divine providence for the coming of Jesus.  At that time there was a universal road system, the universal economy, a universal language, and a universal authority.  For the first time in history the rule of law dominated the world.  All of these things expedited the spread of the news about Jesus, and a part of that news was that there was a man who had the authority of God and unlike everyone else he proved it by doing signs, wonders and miracles that no one else had ever done.

What about these corroborative miracles in the history of the church?  From studying the early fathers of the church, that is the writings of Christian leaders that lived in the second and third centuries, it seems that these miracles increasingly diminished as the church moved away from the apostolic ministry of the Apostles and their immediate disciples.  This should not be considered strange for two reasons.  One is that the message of the gospel had already been confirmed by the apostles and earlier disciples and it would seem that God’s intention was never to have the church live on a milk-toast diet of the miraculous.  We must remember that we are to walk by faith and not by sight..

One reason why some reject the concept of miracles is that if it was true it would empty their ideas of having any merit or authority.  It would reduce all of their ideologies to mere opinion.  Without the proof of miracles all they would have is their sophistry and their power of debate which often depends more on personality and speaking ability than truth.

If a person could work miracles they would automatically have more power than those that cannot.  So the only thing that those that do not have this power can do is to deny the idea of miracles.  For such an idea of miracles robs their ideas of any actual authority.  The religious leaders, the Scribes and the Pharisees in the day of Jesus, did not want to accept his teachings however they accepted his miracles as self-evident and realized that they could not deny his miracles less they themselves would look like fools.  So, instead of denying them they simply contributed them to Satan.

The denial of miracles today is not based on science but rather on a dogma of materialistic philosophy.  The materialists clearly understand that if miracles are true then their philosophy is false, leaving them without any power or authority.  It was a philosopher of the Enlightenment, David Hume, who was the first champion of the denial of miracles.  However, his arguments have been successfully overthrown by a number of modern philosophers.  C.S. Lewis summarizes these arguments in his book on miracles.  He shows that a denial of miracles in itself is a faith not grounded in reason.

Here would be a good time to insert some remarks about human reason and knowledge.  Much of so-called human knowledge is based on hidden assumptions that are grounded in the faith or speculations of few men.  Most of these men never demonstrated their authority in any fashion and a large percentage of them did not live an exemplary life[3].  Where then did they get their authority?  You could say that it was their own soul power which gave them their authority.  In other words, their intellect and their ability to manipulate others gave them power over others.

What about miracles today?  I would have to say that I personally have never seen a confirmation miracle like the ones done by Jesus, nor have I see any actual miracles of healing performed by people claiming to have gifts of the Spirit.  What I have seen is healings and powerful works done through prayer.  I find this observation and experience to be quite normal and there is evidence throughout history that there were periods of time without miracles or very few.  For example, in the book of Judges, Gideon asked the angel that appeared to him “where are all the miracles that our forefathers told us about?”  From this we can gather that at the time of Gideon there were fewer miracles being performed in Israel, than during other times.

[1] By miracles I do not mean what we might call faith miracles. We now understand the power of faith in the healing process of the body. In this article when talking about miracles I am talking about supernatural events that often have nothing to do with faith though sometimes in healings are connected, i.e. the calming of the storm, feeding of the 5000, the raising of the dead. These kinds of miracles have nothing to do with the faith of those that are observing, but rather were designed to create faith in those that are observing.

[2] Some have tried to dismiss the importance of miracles by pointing out that that the East was filled with miraculous stories. However, when compared to the miracles of the New Testament it is obvious that there is a difference. For one they are not connected with the confirmation of revelation but rather tied more to magical practices and are set forth that way in the narrative. In contrast the New Testament miracles were set forth in a historical narrative. In other words they were intended to be taken as real.

[3] In his book intellectuals Paul Johnson demonstrates the failed lifestyle of many Western intellectuals. He sums up the book in the last chapter with the question “Why do we listen to such men?”

When Waking Up Is A Nightmare

When Waking Up Is A Nightmare

Do you remember the movie The Matrix  where Morpheus told Neo that he had a choice between taking a blue pill or a red pill?  If  Neo chose the blue pill he would remain asleep living in a world of illusions.  However if he chose the red pill he would wake up and see the world the way it really is, not so pretty but real.  Jesus said something similar when he told Nicodemus that a man had to be born again to see the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:1-5).

However, beware, for someone has been tampering with the pills and some blue pills have been colored red.  If you take one of these faux blue pills you will wake up in a world with no good or evil, no purpose  and no meaning.  One of the illusions in that world is; if you try hard enough you can manufacture some personal meaning and even a personal morality.  In this nightmarish world people spend a great deal of time convincing themselves that they are good and justify themselves.  In that world people spend enormous amounts of time trying to find meaning and purpose.  However, in that world try as they may, no one can find ultimate purpose or meaning inside of themselves and above their own  opinion.  In fact, in that world all you have is your opinion.  The reason is that only an Ultimate can give ultimate meaning and truth.  You cannot give something that you don’t have.  You cannot give ultimate meaning to anything because you do not possess it within yourself.  All you can give others and yourself is the ultimate illusion that your life has some meaning in itself, and of itself.  The first thing that a person should realize when they are really awake, is that there must be an Ultimate and they are not it.

When a person attempts to find meaning in himself it is  evident that he is still asleep.  He’s accepted the ultimate illusion that he can have meaning apart from an Ultimate.  The truly awake atheist (if there is such a person) will live a meaningless life of despair (nihilist)  knowing his life is as meaningless as a spec of dust, which he ultimately knows he is.  Some in that world seem to get some comfort out of the fact that they can call it star-dust, hinting at its complexity but in the end it is still dust.

Jesus talked about taking a pill that will wake you up so you can see the world and yourself, the way  you truly are and the way God see’s you and the world.  It also will allow you to see the way it will be when God has put everything right, which allows one to live in faith, hope and love.

Jesus once offered a red pill to a young wealthy man who thought he was okay because he obeyed all the rules.  Jesus told him that if he would take the red pill he would have to give up his wealth and follow Him.  The story says that when the young wealthy man heard this he went away sorrowfully because he loved his possessions more than he did the truth or God.  What is it in your life that is keeping you from taking the real red pill?

The Hero With A Thousand Faces-Jesus

Jesus the perfect Hero

The Old Testimony is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. The Apostle Paul, Hebrews 10:1

Joseph Campbell in his book “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” discovered that there were a number of central themes and motifs in many of the myths of heroes throughout the world.  This raises the question does this phenomenon point to something or someone beyond itself or is it just an accident?  Campbell infers that the very purpose of myths is to point beyond themselves to something deeply profound and yet hidden.  If this is true what about the phenomenon of myth and the fact that all share the same motif?

In ancient times, there were gods, heroes, demigods and humans.  The demigods were divided up into demons and angels.  The gods and heroes beckoned men to a higher standard and to living a virtuous and courageous life.  The negative demigods or demons tried to hold humanity down to the earth and to live on a mere animal level.  The good demigods were the angels or messengers that were mediators for the gods.  The heroes mission was to overcome and save his people from the dragon or the serpent which symbolically represented the chief evil in the world.  Often we see the hero save his people by leading them to a promise land where they would be prosperous and safe from the forces of evil.  To accomplish this the hero would have to suffer many things and sometimes even sacrifice himself.  However, there was never an end to the story of the hero for there was always rebirth and resurrection.

We live in a world without real heroes.  Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman make great heroes for children but they lack the authenticity to inspire adults unto living a virtuous life.  However, human beings need actual heroes that can save us from the dragons in our  lives and inspire us to move up to higher ground and to live courageously in the face of the dragon (death) which is devouring us.  For an adult, an actual hero must be grounded in reality, i.e. there must be a factual element in their story.  The hero must be truly virtuous, courageous himself and experience the sufferings and victories of a life well lived. They must have the power to do what they promised, and their powers must come from the gods.  If they have no super powers they cannot be heroes.  They would simply be mere men.  At the very least, they must have a special relationship with the gods that set them apart from other men.  They are the chosen ones.

How do we explain the similarities of all of the myths, and the central themes of their story.  I believe that in the myths, we see how God communicates to men through stories.  Myths are one of the languages of God.  The myths basically are shadows of good things to come or in some cases the bad that is to come.  In other words, they are living metaphors of the truth.  They are like the truth, but in themselves are not the truth, but rather they are vessels that bring to those who have eyes that see, the truth[1].  The New Testament writers looked upon the Old Testament as a shadow of good things that were to come but not the reality (Heb 10:1).  The Old Testament stories were shadows pointing to the mighty hero who was to come.  The whole theme of the Old Testament is that someone is coming and as we move into the gospels it changes to someone has come, and when we get to last book of the New Testament, it changes once more to someone is coming again.  The theme of the entire Bible is, someone is coming and that someone is going to be the mighty hero who will embody all heroes of history.

What am I saying?  In Jesus the myth becomes real as the apostle John says, “The Word[2] became flesh and dwelled (literally, tented) among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the only begotten from the father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1).  The apostle Paul also said, God was in Christ “reconciling the world to himself.”  In Christ, the veil of the myth is lifted and we see face to face the divine glory.  In Jesus, all the hero myths of history are fulfilled and clarified.  On the cross, he said “it is finished”.  God was unveiled in his final and complete form.  The revelation of God was complete.  God’s self-communication became a living being.

Moreover, in Jesus we see the perfect hero, which must be expected if the above is true.  Jesus covers all the bases and fulfills the needs of all men.  He is The Prophet, the Righteous King and The Faithful Priest.  Even more important, he is the Eternal one that never dies.  Did you ever notice that in most hero myths the hero never dies, or he dies and comes back to life.  In his resurrection, Jesus’ hero-ship is made perfect, and he becomes the standard of all truth and the judge of all the earth  “I am the way, the truth and the life”, “the Father has committed all things to the Son” and “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me.”

In the resurrection of the Jesus-hero we see his mission fulfilled; in going home leaving his people with the promise that he was coming back for them, to lead them out of the hostile country of darkness and into a place of glorious light.  His resurrection guarantees that he has the power to do what he promised.  No matter what you are experiencing on your journey Jesus has the power to save you and to help you complete your journey in hope and joy.

In summary, it might be said that there may be a 1000 heroes but they all have the same face and that is the face of Jesus.  The face of the mighty hero who would stand at the end of time.  This may not be a popular message in a pluralistic world where everything is supposed to be equal.  However, personally I believe that that pluralistic world dogma where everything is equal is the biggest lie of all time.  Not all heroes are equal.  There is a hierarchy of heroes and Jesus is on the top.  This does not take away from the other heroes, it simply means that they are to be viewed through the final revelation that comes through Jesus Christ.

[1] Myths are like parables they can reveal the truth for those seeking it or veil the truth to those that are not seeking it (Luke 8:9-10).

[2] The Greek word for the word “Word” in John 1:1 is a logos which the Greeks believed was the cosmic order or the wisdom and power that ordered the universe. That power had been revealed in myths for thousands of years before the coming of Christ and John says that Christ was the embodiment of it.

From Jesus to Religion Chapter 6 Distancing Through Institutions

Chapter 6

Distancing Through Institutions

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12-13).

In our study of the subversion of the faith and the distancing of God from the common people and their everyday experiences, we have looked at two of the symbols that have been contributors. These are the symbols of law and of holy men. Very closely connected with these two is the symbol of institution. I propose all three of these symbols of mediation stand as forms of distancing God from man and promote the subverting of the Christian movement.
We need to begin our study of institutions by attempting to discover the meaning of the symbol of institution. When we think of the symbol of institution, the word summons up many sub-symbols that help us to conceptualize the meaning of institution. First and foremost, to have an institution there must be what we might call a symbol of being. This symbol represents an identity or a sense of being which seems to exist apart from the people who make up the institution. Thus, we can talk about the soul or spirit of an institution, and yet we often talk about institutions as though they were completely separate entities from the people who are a part of them. In other words, there is a sense that institutions have a life apart from the people who constitute the institutions. In ancient times people believed this sense of entity that seemed to be present in an institution and gave it life was a spiritual power that enlivened it, controlled it, and gave it power over men. Many moderns refer to this phenomenon as a group-consciousness. However, this term seems to be more of an observation than an explanation and ends up being as metaphysical as the ancient view.

Another prominent symbol that is closely connected with the symbol of institution is the symbol of law or tradition. In fact, I believe it would be safe to say the symbol of law makes up a large part of the foundation of any institution. For without law, an institution could not exist. Likewise, where you find law and tradition, of a necessity, you will also find the symbol of the professional to perform the traditions, administrate, enforce, propagate, and protect the law and the institution. In religion these professionals are represented by the symbol of holy men or clergy. In a true sense, this trinity of law, holy men, and institution cannot be separated because the symbols of holy men and law form the very foundation on which the institution is built. In turn, the institution will invest the holy men and law with the authority and office that is needed to sustain the institution. In fact, it could be the interaction of these three symbols which forms the almost mystical life of an institution: life that is not easily destroyed or changed and life that seems to exist apart from its members and seems to be more powerful than the sum total of its membership.

This leads to another sub-symbol of the institution, which is the symbol of power. All institutions have power and their power seems to be greater than the sum total of the power of their membership. From this we are forced to conclude that their power comes from some source other than themselves. Of course, religious institutions will claim their power comes from God, but unfortunately for them, the Bible places the power source of religion with the authorities and powers in the heavenly realms that are in rebellion against God (Eph. 6:12). Could it be that Bonhoeffer was right when he charged religion with being disobedience in the form of obedience? We also find not only do institutions have power, but that they tend to use their power to organize and control men through force or manipulation. Some may be thinking, does not the Bible tell us to obey the authorities? The answer is yes. And I might add, those passages have been worn out and abused by religion over and over again as religion tries to justify itself and its beguiling loyalty to the state. For the Christian, any obedience given to any institution is and must be qualified obedience, understanding that the powers that enliven institutions are themselves now in rebellion against God (Acts. 4:19).

The Christian obeys them because he believes that bad rule is better than no rule or chaos. The Christian is cautious of any and all institutions, whether religious or secular, recognizing the spiritual powers controlling them in the end stands against God and His Son (Ps. 2:1-30). Surely, no Christian should be so much in love with any institution of this world that he would allow it to stand between him and Jesus. To love the institutions of this world is to love the systems of this world and the ones who controls them (1 John. 2:15-17, 1 Cor. 4:4).

Institution-A Symbol of Death

Institutions are also dependent on the allegiance of their members. Often this allegiance is a blind allegiance to a mere illusion created by the institution (1 Thess. 2:11, 12). In order to do this, the institution must create a unique body of teachings and traditions that separates and sets itself apart from other similar institutions. Then it must indoctrinate and convince its members that its body of teachings and traditions are the truth and only truth. In order to accomplish this, it must create creeds and educational institutions with the sole purpose of propagating its body of teachings. Without realizing it, in this process, a group or movement becomes an institution and sets its body of truth (human deductions about the truth) and itself up as a mediator between God and the people. As a mediator it drives a wedge between its members and other Christians, as well as distancing the people from God by adding an additional mediator between God and His people. When the process is completed, the members are convinced that to leave the institution or question the institution is to leave God or question God. When this happens, their body of truth, which is nothing more than the embodiment of their human deductions about God, becomes the symbols of God’s acceptance and in reality replaces Jesus as the central symbol of their faith. This institutionalization of groups and movements seems to be the fate of all movements that take a physical form in what we call a church. It is here we see one of the paradoxes of life and faith. As life takes its form in a physical body and thus begins to die, so will group faith when it takes its form. Given adequate time, it will evolve into an institution of religion and when it does, it begins to die. Thus, the symbol of institution becomes a symbol of death and decay.

Faith and Institutions

Institutions are of men. Faith is of God. Therefore, faith is filled with life, mystery, and wonders and will come anew to every generation that is open to it. It does not need our help or the help of the institution we have built. In fact, our children and their children will spend a great deal of their time trying to reform or even destroy the institutions we are erecting today. Each generation must break down the religious symbols of the previous generations that have slipped into idolatry, which is the fate of all religious symbols. In contrast to faith, which is filled with life and comes from God, institutions are of men and represent man’s need to set in order his own life and his world. Institutionalism is one of man’s highest forms of self-righteousness and self-immortality. Therefore, it represents man’s chief form of idolatry. Institutions are memorials or symbols of man’s goodness and wisdom before man. However, they stand before God as symbols of egotism, pride, and man’s self-independence. Therefore, they are filled with death and are illusions of man’s vainglory and the hollow shells of yesterday’s faith. We might say that faith is man living from God. In contrast, institutions represent man living from himself. This explains why each generation must find its own faith and not try to live in and from the institutions passed down by its fathers. This is not being disloyal to our fathers’ religion, but rather recognition that faith is a living thing and not a family heirloom.

The Church as an Institution

I know the retort of some will be, “Did not Jesus establish the church, which is an institution?” If we use the modern or current definition of Church, we would have to say that Jesus did not establish a church. The word church has undergone such subversion and evolution that it no longer carries the original meaning. In its original context, it was not a religious word but rather a common word that simply meant a group of people who were called together for a meeting. If used in this way, the answer to the question, “Did Jesus establish a church?” would be yes. He called a group of men to meet in His name. However, this group of men and women who met in His name in the first century could hardly be viewed as an institution as defined above. They had no hierarchy, but rather were led by the Spirit of the living Christ. In contrast to the religions all around them, they had no clergy or holy men except the one true holy man, Jesus Christ. They had no law but Jesus; for to them He was the embodiment of the Law and the prophets. They had no tradition but divine tradition that was lived out by God Himself in the person of Jesus. “For I received from the Lord what I also passed onto you” (1 Cor.11: 23). The things that they received from the Lord were the only traditions they knew and those traditions, like the law, were embodied in the man Jesus Christ. It is obvious from the gospels that all human traditions were looked upon with a questionable eye (Mark 7:6-8, Mt 15:8, 9). In view of this, we might say Jesus has become for us our law, our tradition and our Faith
So we must conclude that Jesus did not establish an institution nor did He establish a church as the word is used today.

There has always been and there will always be a tension between the true followers of Jesus and the idea or symbol of institution. The reasons for this tension are many. For one thing, it was the institutions of the status quo and their professional henchmen that crucified Jesus. Jesus warned His disciples to be on their guard in regard to the religious professionals. Moreover, the disciples knew that the very life of Jesus stood opposed to the very essence of what institutions represented. The symbol of institution and the symbol of Jesus are in no way compatible.

CHART OF SYMBOLS:

OF INSTITUTION                                                OF JESUS

Authority                                                           * Servant hood

Power                                                                 * Weakness Structure

Security                                                              * Freedom

Law                                                                      * Grace /Freedom

Office                                                                   * Gifts of Ministry

Status Quo                                                          * Radical /Fringe

Rich/Middle-Class                                           * Poor/Oppressed

Self-Sufficient                                                    * Dependent on God

Ostentatious                                                       * Simplistic

When the wind of the Spirit is blowing among God’s people, the fire of Christian freedom will burn up the institutions of religion and reform the institutions of the world. In this we can be confident: when the Spirit of God begins to move among His people, the institutions of the world, both religious
and secular, will gather together to resist it. We see this resistance to God’s Spirit first in the rejection and crucifixion of Jesus and then in the institutions’ effort to destroy God’s people (Rev. 12:1-12).

These institutions are symbolically spoken of in the Book of Revelation as the Beast, the Harlot, and the False Prophet. This unholy trinity represents the economy, political, and religious institutions of this world that are attempting to take the place of God in the eyes of man. The institutions of the world both religious and secular are nothing more than the scaffolding man uses in the erection of his towers of Babel. Both Biblical and secular history reflects God’s response to all this building of institutions. He grinds them into dust and scatters the people to the four winds. In fact, in our own time we are witnessing the destruction of the idols and towers of Babel that modern man has built and placed his faith in. We are witnessing the undoing of Western civilization and all of its institutions including the kingdom of Christendom. For those who have eyes that see, they have been given the honor of seeing God’s Spirit at work in the world in such a clear and powerful fashion that only a man blinded by bias could not see it. The stage is now being set for a tremendous movement of the Spirit of Christ and as always, the corresponding movement of the anti-Christ, which takes its physical form in the institutions of the world. We might be so bold as to say any institution that stands as a mediator, or places a mediator between God and man is anti-Christ. For in doing this, it is seeking to establish that which Christ has abolished.
The institutions of the world always stand in contrast and opposition to the movement of the Spirit. The best example of this can be seen in the history of the Israelites. Under God’s rule they were organized very loosely with the heads of each tribe ruling over the people and the prophets speaking for God as the need arose. When there was a crisis, God would intervene by raising up a judge through whom God would deal with the problem. When the problem was corrected the judge would return to his former calling. In this loosely knit structure, the Israelites demonstrated their faith in the leadership of God and the lack of faith in their own wisdom and power. However, it soon became obvious they were not content with this simple structure and wanted to be more like the nations around them. In short, they wanted the institutional structure of kingship and the security they thought went with it. In asking for kingship, the Israelites were rejecting the leadership of God. When Samuel the prophet asked God about this, God’s reply was, “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected as their king, but me” (1 Sam. 8:7). We should not be too hard on the Israelites for in their desire for a king; they were simply reflecting man’s obsession with security and structure. However, God goes on to tell them of the high cost of the security of kingship. The cost would be the loss of much of their freedom and in the end the rejection of God.

We find a striking parallel to the above story of the Israelites and the Christian movement. With Israel, everything was fine as long as the people trusted God. God took care of them and spoke when the need arose. However, it seems the Israelites did not like the uncertainty and the ambiguity of this arrangement. So they clamored for a king. In like manner, we see the early church becoming anxious when its Lord did not return as expeditiously as they had believed He would. So we find them turning more and more to the structures that were being created by their own hands, structures that very much resembled the institutions of the world. In this, they replaced the headship of Jesus and the movement of the Spirit with institutions, traditions, law and, of course, holy men to interpret the law books. In fact, this subversion has been so complete, that the church no longer knows how to listen to the voice of God as He speaks through His prophets. The modern church has done a marvelous job of silencing God by locking Him up in a book or an institution. Some have gone so far as to say God no longer speaks and He no longer has spokesmen on the earth. In this, they have relegated the living God to the status of a dumb idol that neither hears nor speaks. Dead men can only speak through books and institutions; the living Christ can and does speak to His people through His Spirit that He gave to His servants, the prophets. This is not to say the Bible is not the word of God and needful for God’s people. God has given us the Bible as a witness to Christ and as a tool for discerning the words of those who claim to speak for God. In saying this, I understand and am fully aware of the terrible abuses of this idea by the fanatics and those who love the pre-eminence. However, I find the opposite view equally alarming, for it reduces the living God to a lifeless god that neither hears nor speaks except in a book, a book that has been staked out for and by the professionals and their institutions. Be assured that such book religion always evolves into clericalism and institutionalism.

The Bible and Institutions

The truth is, God intended the Bible for the average person who has the Spirit of Christ to help him understand the essentials. Moreover, as we have learned more about the Bible, it has become more and more evident the Bible was
never intended to be looked upon as a book of theology or law, but rather it is made up of pastoral letters sent to groups of ordinary people encouraging them and telling them how to live godly lives. In plain English, the Bible was written to and for the average person. However, the Bible is continually being distanced from the average person by the symbols of institutions (seminaries, Bible colleges, etc.,) and highly educated clergymen who spend most of their time arrogating their religious systems and institutions. No matter how hard we try to justify them, these symbols of institutions send a message to the average person that the Bible is hard to understand and in the end is a book for the highly educated. This is great for the religious professional and their institutions, for it makes people more dependent on them. But the problem is, these symbols are subversive in that they symbolically leave the impression that Christianity itself is difficult and is for the educated, which in turn usually means the middle class. In this, the poor and uneducated, for whom Christ died, are becoming less and less a part of the Western church and its leadership. In this, we have subverted the symbols of the Christian movement and have distanced God from the uneducated and the poor. However, we should not think this process we are witnessing is some new phenomenon, for it is not. It parallels what happened to the Jesus movement of the first four centuries. Now, as then, the faith is being subverted and God is being distanced from the people by the unauthorized symbols of law, holy men, and institutions along with all of their subsymbols.

The criterion for understanding the Bible is not education or the lack of education. It is something that is totally different than the standards of the world. It is called spirituality and comes through true faith in Christ and comes to both the educated and uneducated alike. True spiritual knowledge comes to us not through the institutions of the world, even those that teach the Bible, but rather through the school of Christ; for only Christ can open our eyes to spiritual things because He alone has the power to give us the Spirit to aid us. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:14-16).

We have some in the Jesus movement who believe and arrogate that the institutionalization of Christianity is God’s way of perfecting the movement. It does not take a lot of intelligence to guess who would propose such hokum. They are the ones who benefit the most from the institutions. Be assured that they can come up with all kinds of spiritual flim-flam to convince the naive of their views. But the blood of a formally uneducated carpenter who was crucified by the status quo and its religious henchmen cries out against them and their institutions. And be assured that God is able to save people, not because of the splendid bourgeois institutions that men have built, but in spite of them. Moreover, if men think they impress the world with the institutions they are building, think again. They do not impress the world; they are only becoming like them.

Revelation and Institutions

Does revelation have anything directly to say about institution? Yes, unfortunately. However, it does not use that term. If it had, the institutionalization of the Church may have been prevented or at least slowed. When it speaks about the concept of what we call institution, it uses terms and expressions that are foreign to the modern reader. It uses expressions like rulers, powers, authorities, and principalities. These same expressions were used in Biblical times to make reference to the spiritual counterparts of institutions in the unseen world. For the ancient believed every physical embodiment of power or authority had its counterpart in heaven or in the unseen world. So in ancient times, the concept of institution would have been associated with the spiritual powers. Early Christians viewed these powers as being in a state of rebellion against God and His Christ (Eph. 6:12, 2 Cor. 10:4, 5). From this, we would have to gather that the whole of revelation is antagonistic toward worldly power and any structures in which it may be embodied, whether religious or secular. In time, all human structure will become oppressive and enslave man. The spiritual powers are so powerful that they can even use the Bible to oppress and harm mankind (Rom. 7:11-12). I could go so far as to say Biblical writers would view even the concept of the city or even civilization itself suspiciously.

In view of this, I find it somewhat ironic to see the Christian church enthusiastic about building institutions. This is especially true when one considers the number of educational institutions that have been built by Christians that have in turn evolved into the most liberal and anti-Christian institutions in our culture. They surely must share the blame for the
destruction of the very culture that gave them birth. I am not saying this to denigrate Christianity or its institutions, but rather simply to point out an apparent contradiction and inconsistency, which seems to be the hallmark of the modern church, along with compromise as well.

To see the contrast between the modern church and revelation, all one needs to do is note the culture paradigms each looks to and is built on. The institutional church or the modern church is built on the institution or kingship paradigm, which is best set forth by the symbol of a pyramid. Under this paradigm, we have one man ruling and the others submitting and serving. This is the paradigm on which all of Western culture is built and has led to oppression of women and working class since the beginning of civilization. The foundation of this system or model is authority and law that is vested in the offices of institutions. It is a system that is dependent on power and might and the submission of the low ones to the high ones. In contrast, the Biblical paradigm is that of the body and is totally dependent on relationships and the life that flows from one life to another. Unlike the institution that draws its life from the powers, the body of Christ draws its life from the living Christ. Institutions can live without relationships, the true body of Christ cannot. In fact, institutions thrive on and promote the lack of relationship because real relationship reduces the need for the institution. In this, we can see the Body of Christ is not an organization or an institution, but rather a living organism totally unlike any institution or organization. Though this view is not new, it is seldom that it has been put into practice. The majority of Christians are still locked into an institutional pattern or model that takes its form in the pastoral system in independent churches or the hierarchy system in main line denominations.

I personally cannot believe it was by accident that the apostle Paul used the paradigm of the body in imaging how Christians are to relate to Christ and to each other. It would have been completely natural and far easier for his readers and for him to use the paradigm or model of kingship or institution. However, he chose the paradigm of the body. This was no mere happenstance. He knew, unlike so many moderns, the church must not be imaged as institution. Unlike many moderns, he knew the symbol of institution and the symbol of Christ were totally incompatible with each other. We can gather from his usage and the contexts in his Corinthian correspondence, that he used the paradigm of the body in a polemical fashion against his opponents. In so doing, he showed the contrast between his message, which was a message of the cross and servant hood, and theirs, which was a message of personal power and domination. He tried to point out to the Christians in Corinth that in the end, his opponents’ message turned out to be nothing more than an attempt to win them to another worldly system or institution that depended on human tradition and a worldly paradigm of power, instead of Christ (1 Cor. 12: 12-31, 2 Cor. 11:1-21).

Today the Christian movement is facing a crisis. The crisis is that a secular society seems no longer interested in what the Church has to say. In fact, in recent years there has been a host of religious books on the evils of secularism. With few exceptions the authors seem to place the blame for this secularism on everything from Satan to the educational system. There may be some truth in their charges. However, the real culprit in this mystery of secularism is the Christian religion and its institutionalism. It is the Christian religion that has made the sharp distinction between the sacred and secular; a distinction that was abolished forever when God joined His creation in the person of His Son. It is the Christian religion that has preached for two thousand years that Christians must withdraw from the world. This is done in spite of the fact revelation tells us Christians are to go into the world. If anything, revelation tells us to come out of religion into the world and conquer it for Christ, which is somewhat difficult when we lock ourselves behind the closed doors of our institutions.

In creating the institutions of Christendom, the Christian religion has taken God out of the world and has put Him into the sacred. This becomes very obvious when you realize that the symbol of God in the world is the living symbol of His people. When you take God’s people out of the world, you in effect take God out, thus, opening up the world to secularism. It is truly amazing how the Christian religion and most other religions as well, can take God out of the world and in turn blame the world for rejecting God. The truth is, Christians and other religious people have rejected God’s world and have judged it profane and unholy even though God has pronounced it holy. “What God has called holy let no man call it unholy.” In the act of calling things unholy that God has called holy, the Christian religion has promoted the attitude of “us and them” which is the very antithesis of what the good news is all about.

Moreover, we can hardly blame the world for losing interest in a wholly other God, which is somewhere out there in a place called heaven where things are great and wonderful. He is portrayed as a God that is so distant from the everyday (the real) that He must be mediated to people though the sacred (the unreal). The God of religion or the sacred is a God that is aloof and uninterested in the ordinary and the everyday. To Him the everyday is profane, unholy, and worthless. It’s no wonder the people of the world ignore a God like this. If He ignores them, why should they not ignore Him? If this is not the case, why has He moved out? He has moved out of our public schools, colleges, the media, and even our bookstores and has taken up residence in the sacred. Was He kicked out? No, His own people moved Him out. His people who created Christian colleges, Christian schools, Christian bookstores, and a Christian media moved Him out. Is this God of the sacred, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ or is this a god that has been prefabricated by religious men who are afraid of the everyday [the real] and in turn have created a God in their own image? Is it not time for us to start asking some hard questions about all this religion of ours that has institutionalized God right out of the real world? Of course, this should not be surprising, for institutionalized religion has always been about the business of killing God and removing Him from the land of the living (Matt. 21:33-46).