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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The "Apostolic" Church

I have to say that over the years I've spent many hours wondering foolishly about who is the "one true church". Was it the WCG? Was it the Catholic Church? Was it some unknown group I'd never heard of. Well, over the past weekend I read an article from a friend of mine on another blog and one major deciding factor he cited in converting to Catholicism from his xCOG group was that the Catholic Church was the only church unchanged in its history. Well, I have a problem with that.

The Catholic Church hasn't had a major change in a while. Well, I suppose that depends on your definition of "major" and "while". I mean, Vatican II was both major and recent by many people's standards. Starting and ending the Inquisition are both pretty major when you're on the block next. I would argue that the Catholic Church is not in reality this ancient bastion of first century Christianity, as my friend seemed to infer.

Ask a few questions to yourself.. Did Paul dress like a Pope? Did James array his house in gold and sit on a throne? Did Peter really speak ex cathedra (in the Bible)? Did the Apostles keep Easter, Lent, Christmas, etc? Did anyone crusade in the first century? I could go on and on...

Yes, there most certainly are changes, and some of them 'major', while most are centuries of 'minor' changes that have piled up. But to claim the Catholic Church alone can say, "Changes? What changes?" Is a bit of a stretch.

Now, which church can say, "Changes? What changes?" Worldwide? No! Oh mercy, no. There is one: Messianic Judaism. If your picture of faith depends on getting the most Apostolic you can possibly get, there's your huckleberry right there. The Jews alone can claim to be the most unchanged (well, as unchanged as having your temple destroyed in 70 AD can afford, anyhow). I mean, their stuff is still an ongoing quest to get the same source as right as they can. And then you add Christ, stir, and out comes Messianic Judaism. No Bible controversies apply, no speculation on what Peter could change, no challenge to whether the Apostles kept your traditions or someone else's. They were all Jews; even Christ.

"But wait a minute!", you might say to me, "Paul taught all that Judaism was gone with the Old Covenant." Yes. I agree he did. That much is clear. Of course, that doesn't by any stretch mean we shouldn't learn as much as we can about the Jews because that's where we all came from as Christians. Paul's teachings asside, I am not saying we should all become Messianic Jews. I am merely addressing the adamant timelessness of the Catholic Church here. The Messianic Jews are the only church to fit the criteria. It's the only real safe bet for un-change. So, the argument becomes, which of the Gentile Christian churches have the oldest tradition? Well, there you might have the Catholics as your best match. No one else has proof of their claims to back them up. Except, that is, for the Catholics. Errr.. Eastern Orthodox Catholics, I mean.

I stand by my claim. The Roman Catholics may arguably be the oldest, but they still have their fair share of change. Need I remind anyone that Luther was trying to return the Catholic Church back to Apostolic originality as well (as best as he understood it). I would say that it's the overwhelming popular opinion that the Catholic Church has changed considerably and currently bears little resemblance to its beginnings. "Great Whore" anyone? No? Nevermind, I don't care for Hyslop anyway.

I may have to go out on a limb here and postulate that if originality is your main concern, age shouldn't factor in. Age almost prescribes change. Take a Bible, study it, find a church that does what you believe you see there, then be satisfied. Don't condemn. Don't judge. Don't compare man to man. Don't demand others believe as you do (debate, yeah, but don't get all huffy about it). Just be happy in your relationship with Christ. I love my church, the COG7. They certainly aren't the oldest church at a whopping century and a half, but they do get down to what matters.

7 comments:

Purple Hymnal said...

"Errr.. Eastern Orthodox Catholics, I mean."

Hey don't forget the Coptic Egyptians!

I dunno how "legit" their "apostolic lineage" is, but they claim their church was directly instated by Mark. Yes, that Mark.

The funny thing is (and the religious Gnostic churches are especially susceptible to this), the institutional churches have a tendency to publish these "apostolic lineages" or "lines of succession" that are probably just as bogus as Armstrong's Table of Nations. So I take any of those I come across with a huge grain of salt, personally.

"Take a Bible, study it, find a church that does what you believe you see there, then be satisfied. Don't condemn."

Agreed with "don't condemn" and reasonable debate. But do you really need a church? (I speak in the general "you".)

I am inclined to respectfully disagree.

xHWA said...

The early Gnostics were well known for making such claims and writing spurious gospels and epistles and histories.

Does one really need a "church"? IMHO, yes. But only for the fellowship. And only when you define "church" as it was originally defined - as a group of fellow believers.

It is invaluable to get together with other people to mingle and discuss with in a bond of fraternity and peace. HOWEVER it is completely unnecessary to run out and find a religion to which you must subscribe.

Exchanging one flawed set of rules for another flawed dogma isn't something I would ever say is very wise at all. Are they all wrong? Yeah, most likely. Are they all bad? Not really.

I suggest going to a church for the fellowship, but always taking the parts which are useful and leaving behind the parts that are not. Do not get caught up again! Do not exchange one pope in Pasadena for another Pope in Rome! (for example)

Purple Hymnal said...

"...spurious gospels and epistles and histories."

Spurious only if they are taken literally. If read allegorically, as they were intended, the texts are pretty much the world's oldest form of science fiction. :-)

Well, and they can offer some fairly deep psychological insights too, I have found. Personally.

"HOWEVER it is completely unnecessary to run out and find a religion to which you must subscribe.

Exchanging one flawed set of rules for another flawed dogma isn't something I would ever say is very wise at all."


Agreed, agreed, 100%. Especially for dogma. Most especially for dogma. Down with dogma!!

"Do not get caught up again! Do not exchange one pope in Pasadena for another Pope in Rome! (for example)

Do you want an "amen"? AMEN! ;-)

(I would also add "or for a self-appointed pope anywhere else" to that exhortation.)

Purple Hymnal said...

"It is invaluable to get together with other people to mingle and discuss with in a bond of fraternity and peace."

Here's my question: Given the diversity of individual temperament and/or customization of the beliefs in question, how is "fraternity and peace" even possible?

xHWA said...

A very good question!

My answer:
Humility (don't think so highly of your own opinions), listening (sometimes not speaking is the best policy, and a listening ear is like medicine), patience (give others the benefit of the doubt and room to be wrong - like you do for yourself), and copious amounts of God's Spirit!

Purple Hymnal said...

And the next question that comes to mind for me is this:

Knowing human beings as I do, as I am one (most days heh heh), and as I have "congregated" with them in the past, how likely is it that most of the members of any given religious group are going to fulfill all of those criteria?

I am put very much in mind of the late Jesse Ancona's articles on the subject, where she basically hopped from group to group, looking for a situation similar to one you outline above. Unfortunately (unsurprisingly for those of us observing from the outside), she never did find one that "ticked all her boxes".

I think the key thing would be, do you [I speak in the general "you" here] view the above qualities listed as something to demand from others, a "high standard" to hold your fellow "brethren" to?

OR are these qualities to work on in your own person, and if nobody else is the same, let the chips fall where they may?

And how to strike a balance between the two??

Just rambling out loud. I'm not very sociable anyway, all religion aside, so I would probably end up like that Marx brother (slightly paraphrasing here): I wouldn't belong to any church that would have me! :-D

xHWA said...

I am going to go with "very unlikely" and "personal things to work on". You can only change yourself.

It's like any other relationship - if two people are exactly alike, then one of them isn't necessary. But the nature of the creature is social, so social interaction is a must.
People WILL let you down. I think it is taught in most Christian churches that we should never compare ourselves to other people but rather Christ is the standard. This keeping in mind your own imperfections has a way of grounding the attitude. I hope Ms. Ancona didn't spend too much time searching and failing to find, when a little introspection could have done the trick. She may have found the solution in her own attitude and approach.