Monthly Archives: May 2015
While the Unrepentant Church Defies Jesus’ Authority Believers Can Still Be Faithful Followers
Despite the best efforts of teachers of divisive doctrine who have risen to falsely represent Jesus throughout the centuries since Jesus walked the earth, Jesus continues to this day to espouse the same all-inclusive, non-divisive plan for building the Kingdom of God on earth that he announced originally. He foresaw what was necessary and put it into motion. He has not changed his mind. To carry out his plan it is his followers (“us”) who need to change our minds from being faithful to the Church in some Church-institutionalized format to being faithful to Jesus in his non-institutionalized format. Anyone who seeks to modify Jesus’ plan simply is defying his authority and failing to acknowledge him as Lord as well as Savior.
Many have been the modifiers and defiers in the time since Emperor Constantine first declared himself to be a believer in Jesus and insisted that leaders of the Church defy Jesus’ authority and instead knuckle under to the Roman Emperor’s authority. The first council of Church fathers who gathered by Emperor Constantine’s command in 325 CE at Nicaea formulated a conformist creed that sought to impose on all believers a uniform set of beliefs akin to the uniformity of thinking Caesar demanded of his subjects. In publishing this creed, the Church fathers adopted the political pattern of the Roman Empire and rendered unto Caesar what was God’s. From this centuries-old error the Church has not yet repented nor recovered. The Church remains a monument to institutionalized cowardice-induced error, a whitewashed sepulcher filled with dead men’s boneheaded ideas instead of the light of Christ. Until Church leaders humble themselves before Jesus as the only head of the Church, believers have the option of acknowledging Jesus as Lord independent of the failure of Church leadership to do so.
Since 325 CE, Church leaders have continued to adopt Caesar’s pattern of political oppression and repress all other voices of diversity and disagreement within the body of believers. Each fragment of the Church designated different voices to repress but all repress some voices to make repression and censorship their universally accepted norm. In ancient times, those who did not adopt the Nicaean Creed or disagreed with the conformist Church fathers suffered and were silenced by the Church. Caesar lacked the capacity to tolerate open dialogue about the distribution of power among men and about the purposes of power when wielded by men (let alone by women!). Although Jesus cautioned against seeking power over others and advised that the greatest in the Kingdom would humble themselves to serve others as he had done, Caesar demanded absolute authority over others and claimed to be a god. Caesar was in no way servant of anyone. The Church fathers who conspired together to appease Caesar bowed to his claims and substituted him for Jesus and God within the Church. By doing so, Church leaders subservient not to Jesus but to Caesar abandoned their responsibility for teaching believers how to share and wield God’s power of love in the best interests of the human race as stewards of God’s power and servants of God’s people. To hide this blasphemy from common people who believed in Jesus, the Church fathers assumed the role of the Holy Spirit and like blind men led their congregations downward and stray into ditches rather than allow the Holy Spirit to lead them upward in God’s way into all truth. In this manner, truth became the enemy of the Church fathers. Truth became unknown to any but the most daring members of the congregations and to those who fled into regions beyond the reach of Church authority.
Those who dared to listen to the Holy Spirit and not limit their thinking to ideas authorized by the Church fathers, disagreed with the Church fathers’ politically expedient and cowardly positions. The Church branded them as “heretics” for sharing ideas of leadership in the direction the Holy Spirit led. That label was accurate, because “heretic” means “one who thinks for himself” instead of knuckling under to false leaders. However, the Church fathers added another element to that definition by declaring that one who thinks for himself or herself apart from the Church fathers – especially anyone who heard the Spirit accurately as revealing the errors of the Church Fathers – was guilty of offending God, as if offending them and Caesar automatically equated to offending God. And they took another step in declaring that anyone whom they declared offended God could not be forgiven even by a gracious, forgiving God and had to be punished severely, ultimately put to death if he or she were unwilling to be silenced in any other way.
In taking these regressive steps in abusing their roles as leaders, Church fathers took upon themselves the role of declaring who offended God and what consequences the offenders they identified should suffer. Their pattern was not Jesus’ pattern of forgiveness and reconciliation but was instead the pattern of Judaism, the Old Testament Jehovah and the New Testament Caesar – a pattern of unforgiveness and retribution. This was the very pattern that had led Jewish leaders to conspire with Roman leaders to crucify Jesus. When Jesus’ pattern of forgiveness and peace among men did not suit their political ends and threatened to be inconvenient for those who preferred to appease Caesar to preserve their comfortable lifestyles as Caesar’s cronies, the Church fathers dispensed with Jesus as an authority figure in the Church and substituted themselves in his place. In this manner, the Church fathers insured that believers would be conformed to the world Caesar wanted to rule over and not be transformed by a renewal of their minds. And they insured that believers who conformed to the world about prove the popularity of the polluted and polluting will of Caesar and relegate to obscurity the perfect and perfecting will of God. That is why Caesar’s will that we be as unholy, selfish, arrogant and ignorant of love as ego is has long prevailed in the world despite Jesus’ will that we all become holy as God is holy. If the Church as spokesperson for Jesus will not speak up honestly in his behalf, how will the truth of Jesus’ living presence on Earth be shared? It will be shared only as the Holy Spirit whispers in the hearts of those who doubt the validity of the Church’s stands and confirms their doubts about the Church. Ironically doubters of Church authority now have the best chance of learning the truth that sets us free.
Thus it came to be that the Church was indeed founded upon the example of Peter who denied Jesus when his personal safety was threatened. When Roman persecution threatened the safety of Church leaders, they ran for protection under the cover of conformity to Caesar’s demands. Cowardice rather than courage became the Church’s norm in the face of opportunities to stand up to injustices generated by abuse of power. With rare exceptions such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s standing up to Hitler, modern Church leaders adhere to the ancient norm of supposedly benign cowardice today. Modern politics models itself after Roman intolerance for courageous freedom of thought and expression and the Church knuckles under as if God were powerless in comparison to popular opinion. Church leaders justify their cowardice as necessary to keep the collection baskets full, their salaries fully funded and attendance numbers high. They are willing to betray Jesus and those who look to them for trustworthy spiritual guidance in order to maintain their opportunities to rub shoulders with the rich and famous and collect retirement checks at the end of their illustrious careers as cowardly frauds.
Almost 1700 years have passed since the Nicaean Creed was first published and imposed as the conformist thought system of the Church. Subsequent councils have revised the Church’s creeds but have not repudiated the Church’s choice to knuckle under to Caesar and substitute political and social conformity for God’s supreme authority. For centuries this unrepentant attitude towards God has been passed down from one generation to the next leaving Church-trusting followers of Jesus with a diluted, inaccurate vision of God. Only those who dare to defy the Church’s politically expedient stands and listen to the Holy Spirit directly become aware of God’s true nature and position on issues central to life.
By and large, as predicted in Revelation 3:16, Jesus has spit the Church out of his mouth as lukewarm, rendered neither hot nor cold by its compromising ways. The Church has failed to align itself radically and unequivocally with Jesus and will continue to fail to do so until it repudiates and thoroughly roots out the doctrine of political appeasement that the Church fathers adopted at Nicaea. The Church must muster the courage instead to stand for all-inclusive peace, justice, mercy, forgiveness and grace at any cost to the Church’s relationship with politicians and no longer stand for appeasement at any cost to the Church’s relationship with Jesus. If ever Jesus is to build his Church upon the Rock that the disciple Peter represented, the Peters within the Church will have to repent of their habits of political expediency and learn to but their minds upon the things of God and not upon the things of man, as Jesus admonished the first Peter to do. They will have to step out of the comfort zones of their political boats, walk on the stormy waters of life and learn the self-disciplines needed to “serve a risen Savior who is in the world today” and no longer serve their ravenous egos over whom the world holds too much sway. It is time for Church leaders, individually if not yet collectively, to decide whom they serve, for they cannot serve two masters. Each must decide for himself or herself who is the Master he or she serves. Each must learn what it truly means to sing and live “What a friend we have in Jesus” as well as “O, Jesus, I have promised” with Jesus being truly honored as Master not merely trusted as Friend.
The issue yet to be decided righteously is the identity of the Chief Authority in Christ’s Church. Who reigns supreme as head of the body of believers – Caesar and his political successors in humanity’s various forms of government or Jesus who has and needs no successor because he lives beyond death? Who among us desires to honor God and Jesus no matter how the egos of Caesar and his minions inside and outside of the Church may take offense? We need not wait until the Church leaders repent of their errors. We can repent, seek God’s face, pray, humble ourselves to experience God’s dominion beyond ego’s dominion and forsake the ways of the world in favor of the most excellent way of Jesus. (See 2 Chronicles 7:14, Micah 6:8 and Matthew 6:33 for interlocking Biblical guidance on this point.) In doing so, we will make ourselves available to enter into oneness with the Father as Jesus did and set a flood of healing power free to sweep across all nations of the world. By that flooding power of God’s presence, we will do the works Jesus did and greater things shall we do, just as Jesus foresaw. It is up to each of us to stop inhibiting the flow of God’s healing grace by our adherence to socially conformist ways. We must dare to be radically alive as Jesus sets before us his model of life! Jesus did not wait for the permission of religious leaders of his day to step forth as God’s child and we need no wait for permission either. To defy the Church’s mediocre, lukewarm leadership is either to reject Jesus entirely or to embrace Jesus as the Holy-Spirit-fired leader he is and become Holy-Spirit-fired ourselves. To stand with Church leadership in this day of suffering and loss is to stand not on compassionate holy ground but on cold-hearted, stony ground. Jesus was moved by compassion to work miracles. What moves you to what work? Does money move you to work for a paycheck and that’s it?
Perhaps if we show the way, the truth and the life, Church leaders of modern, technologically overdeveloped and spiritually underdeveloped societies will join us by following our example. Or they may continue to follow the example of the religious leaders of Jesus’ time on earth and declare that the long-awaited Messiah has not yet come. That may be their choice but it need not be yours or mine because we are free to be heretics who faithfully invite the Holy Spirit to liberate us from chains forged of our appetites for social approval. It is by this appetite that Church leaders have enslaved us to conformity rather than trained us to be transformed by the power of Divine Love. To be liberated from the mind-and-heart-enslaving chains of social approval, we need not flee along the Underground Railroad. We escape to freedom within God’s kingdom by seeking first His/Her Presence within our hearts and allowing the Holy Spirit to add there all the love, grace, wisdom, courage and power that we ever need.
As God comes to reign within our hearts, perfect Love will cast out all fears. As clouds of fear and doubt fade from our minds at the Sonrise of our renewed lives, we will see God’s nature with increasing clarity and never again wander into ditches under the Church’s fear-befuddled blindness. Those who Jesus sets free are free indeed – free to live and move and have our being in the Holy One for Whom Jesus is Ambassador Supreme on Earth. For believers in Jesus nothing else really matters.
Imagine the chagrin of Church leaders if they were to open the doors of their bogus churches and no one showed up because all their former sheep-like congregants heard and heeded the Holy Spirit’s voice within their hearts and no longer went astray. Sheep who learn to hear and heed their Master Shepherd’s voice do not need compromising Church leaders to show them the Most Excellent Way Jesus reveals. They already know it by heart and remain faithfully within its gracefully disciplined and elegantly anointed pathway by using the GPS guidance of the Holy Spirit — the God-Positioning Spirit.
© Art Nicol 2015