Category Archives: The Church

Politicizing The Church- Part I

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Politicizing The Church

The Crumbling ChurchYou either love or hate him.  Constantine is his name, and he spent an amount of time as Caesar of the Roman Empire.  The years 306 to 337 to be precise.

His initial part of the Empire included Spain, Gaul and Great Britain.   He inherited the largest armies in the Empire, and spent a number of years in military campaigns before reuniting the Empire.  From 324 to his death, he was undisputed ruler over the whole Empire.

He may best be remembered for the city that bore his name for thousands of years, Constantinople, now Istanbul.  He moved the center of the Roman Empire from Rome to the Bosphorus, and initiated a culture, Byzantium that lasted a thousand years.  One of its economic highlights during this millennium was stable money, gold.  And stable money will always provide longevity to a culture.

There are many complaints about this man and what he did for Christianity.  For example, he had an influence in establishing the canon of the New Testament.  He allowed Christianity to flourish, and even got involved in church politics when it suited him.  The Council of Nicea (325) was called at his request.  At one time he led a group of Christians against other Christians, the first intra-Christian war.

For his “politicizing” of Christianity by making it an acceptable religion in the Empire, he seems to attract much more criticism than his predecessor, Diocletian, who initiated the worst persecution of Christians in the history of Christianity to that time.  But no one seems to criticize Diocletian as much as they do Constantine.  Why?

Even Constantine’s ethics don’t get the kind of criticism they might deserve.  He had both his eldest son and wife killed on what is now considered dubious evidence.  Maybe this is why he put off baptism until he was almost dead, apparently seeking as much absolution for past sins as possible.

But from that time, Christianity found a new ally in the political order.  It would take centuries for this alliance to be seen for either good or bad.  But today there are many criticisms of constantine because of his involvment in church affairs.  Well Diocletian also got involved in church affairs in a different way.  Surely Constantine deserves a little praise for his stand.

As a result of his influence, a religion that no longer suffered political persecution but political protection would become the defining force of a new geographic region to be known as Europe.

And Christians today still cannot make up their mind if this was a good or bad achievement even though they live in the remaining shadow of a culture that was based on the Bible, carved out of a part of the world where human sacrifice was still practiced in parts up to the 10th century.   That, by any standard, is a remarkable achievement, one which the modern church is yet to emulate.  But no one, it seems, wants to admit that perhaps Constantine had a significant part in the success of the Faith, even long after he was dead.

Ian Hodge, Ph.D.

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Guest Blogger- Ian Hodge

The Crumbling ChurchLet’s Get Rid of the Old Testament!

You never thought I’d make that suggestion, did you?

Now before you write me off as a complete heretic instead of a partial one, at least give me a chance to explain myself.

One of the problems we have in Christian theology is understanding the relationship between the Old and the New Testaments.  At least since the second century with Marcion, there have been debates about the continuity of the Old Testment, especially the law, into the New Testament era.

Now a good part of the problem is words.  The words “old” and “new” carry with them the connotation of replacement.  Or at least, that is how it is now understood.  The New Testament somehow replaces the Old.  And if you’re not careful, you end up with a kind of “replacement” theology.

In order for better understanding, then, it’s time to join a crowd that says let’s abolish the name, Old Testament.  We could creatively find new names for it, such as “Permanent Testament” or something alone these lines.  Then we could get creative with the New Testament and call it the “Fulfilled Testament.”

I think we should really get rid of the word “Testament” completely and call it the alternative, “Covenant.”  Then we could have the “Permanent and Fulfilled Covenants.”

Now, doesn’t that give you a better idea of the relationships between the books of the Bible?

God bless you this week.

Ian Hodge, Ph.D.

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Central Ohio Reformation Institute

Title: Central Ohio Reformation Institute
Location: The Lodge at Camp McPherson
Link out: Click here
Description: Presentations
“Sola Scriptura: From Renaissance Humanism to Covenant Theology
“Foundation for a New Piety: Reformation Rediscovery of the Savior of Sovereign Grace”
“Between Scylla and Charybdis: The Reformation Navigation of the Sanctified Life”
“From Witness to Warrior: French Protestantism and the Defense of Liberty”
“The Church that Christ Builds: The Ecclesiology of John Owen”
“Reformation in America: Profile of the Last Puritan”

Start Date: 2008-10-28
End Date: 2008-10-30

Guest Blogger- Ian Hodge

The Crumbling ChurchIn the quest for certainty, some biblical scholars are willing to give up all logic to prove a point.

At the heart of the certainty debate is this issue.  It’s syllogistic in form, with a couple of premises, followed by a conclusion.

Premise 1:  God gave his Word through inspired writers who wrote down what God intended for them to write down.  These are the original manuscripts of the Bible, of which we have none.

Premise 2:  In order for us to still have God’s word, the words in the original manuscripts must be preserved by God so that we still have them today.

Conclusion: ?

Do you see the problem?  No conclusion is possible for this reason: at least one of the premises is not necessarily true.

Today we have a multitude of manuscripts and fortunately or unfortunately, God appears to have left it to the textual scholars to figure out which one contains the “original” text.

Or, just possibly, God has preserved His Word on not one single manuscript but all of them combined, and taken together they give us the certain word of God.

There are some people willing to give up logic in order to argue that the majority text and its derivative, the textus receptus, used as the basis for the KJV translation, is the “right” one, and this is God’s preserved Word.

But this is logic run amok, for it is not based on logical necessity but just assumed to be the preserved text.  Forget that the TR did not exist for 1515 years.  Forget that while it may have been based on the Byzantine Text tradition (also known as the Majority Text tradition) it has nearly 2,000 variations with the Byzantine texts.

then there’s the Magdalen papyrus, which some people claim is the majority text from the first century.  Forget that the Magdalen papyrus has only one scholar suggesting its origin in the first century, while all the others give it a much later date.  And then there is not clear evidence from the scholars that this papyrus is the wording of the later TR.

There is, unfortunately, absolutely no way you can arrive at the textual answer using the Bible itself.  It simply does not tell us which manuscripts we ought to be using, just as it does not tell us which “books” belong in the New Testament.

Herein lies the weakness of our presuppositional apologetic, for this is one area we cannot go to the Bible to find the answer.  The best we can do is assume that God has in fact not left us in the dark and that the Bible we have today is the Bible God wants us to have.

The real issue is this one.  It is not a question of whether God has preserved His word.  It is a question of how has God preserved His word through the ages.  The Scriptures themselves do not tell us.  So whether we like it or not, we are at the mercy of the textual scholars to provide an answer.  And we might need to choose carefully so we do not get led up the many rabbit trails that lead to false conclusions about the KJV, the Majority Text tradition and the Textus Receptus.

The difficulty is this: throughout the ages, the Christian church has not been able to determine which are the writings that finally belong in the list of the canon.  Different groups have different ideas, which can only serve to confuse.

It is apparent you are left with no alternative but to live by faith, remembering there are limits to your ability to answer some of the questions that lie at the back of life.  But you do need to live by faith, trusting that the Bible you are reading today, no matter which version it is, is God’s Word for you today.  And that’s about as good as it’s going to get.

God bless you this week.  Hope it will be a week of faith for you!

Ian Hodge, Ph.D.

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…And News Outlets Who Want To Be Partisan Should Give Up Freedom Of The Press

For 54 years the first amendment of the US Constitution has been suspended for a very specific cultural demographic. That group has been singled out to be effectively gagged because many group members had a voice that corrupt politicians found too difficult to overcome in election races. So the grafters cooked up a way to silence their critics in the most effective way possible. By threatening their cash flow. The crooked politicians created a clause in the tax code that required members of this special group remain silent in political matters or to lose both their own tax-exempt status and the deductibility of any donations made to them. The group whose freedom of speech has been so obviously violated is the Church. The politician who led the effort to strip churches of their right to be heard on political matters was Senator, later President, Lyndon Johnson. This information about who did this to the Church and why it was done is a well known matter of historical fact. To everyone, that is, except the Columbus Dispatch editorial writers.

Their editorial for Wednesday September 10, 2008 titled Preaching Politics; Churches that want to be partisan should give up tax exemption displays either gross historical ignorance, a terrible naivete regarding politically motivated abuses of the tax code or a blatant disingenuousness designed to hide political partisanship. Or maybe it’s a combination of all three.

The subject of the editorial in question is the Alliance Defense Fund’s (ADF) Pulpit Freedom Sunday event on Sunday Sept, 28, 2008. The Dispatch editors begin their political speech restriction rationalization tour de force with this gem-

The idea behind a 1954 IRS rule that bars tax-exempt organizations from direct involvement in partisan politics couldn’t be clearer: Tax exemption is a privilege for those organizations whose work benefits society and is nonpartisan. It preserves the resources of these groups for the good works they do, and that includes churches.

It is difficult to believe that supposedly savvy newspaper editors could be this politically naive. It is as if they allowed a high school journalism class write this section of the editorial. The idea behind the change in the tax code was to shut the mouths of pastors who were making it clear that politicians like Lyndon Johnson were crooks and unworthy of their congregations’ votes- for biblical reasons.

What is easier to grasp is that the Dispatch editors do not understand that churches are not just exempted from taxes they are immune from them. This is a key point that is being overlooked by Christians, many of whom will loudly insist that their pastor shouldn’t endorse or disparage candidates from the pulpit. Churches are immune from taxation because the Church and the state are separate and co-equal realms of Christ’s Kingdom each with a distinct non-overlapping authority sphere. The civil realm is the realm of justice while the Church is the realm of grace.

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (emphasis added)- Matthew 28:18

And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”- Matthew 22:20, 21

As committed secularists, the editors deny that the Church has any authority whatsoever. This declaration in light of Christ’s proclamation above is futile and meaningless, like an angry man that shakes his fist at and curses the wind in a storm. Hence the false notion that tax exemption is a “privilege for those organizations whose work benefits society and is nonpartisan.” The Church is tax exempt because the state has no authority over it. The Church needs no “privileges” from the state. The Church answers to Christ alone (note that this does not mean that churches can violate civil law at will and expect no consequences).

The editors go on to proclaim from on high

…every political season, the false complaint rises anew: Pastors are being denied freedom of speech and religion because IRS rules forbid them from preaching for or against candidates from the pulpit.

Imagine it! These pastors actually believe that their freedom of speech, not to mention the free exercise of religion have been violated just because they (and their parishoners) will be punished by the IRS for endorsing candidates! This is the height of hypocrisy from a profession that proclaims itself the guardians of freedom of speech, press, expression, etc. But this pretzel logic gets worse.

The rule doesn’t prohibit members of the clergy or anyone else from espousing personal political views away from the pulpit. It doesn’t prevent any organized group from supporting or opposing a political candidate. It simply says a group engaging in partisan politics has to pay taxes.

In other words, keep the fact that a candidate is anti-Christian or a corrupt grafter to yourself or face the wrath of the federal tax authorities.

So let’s look at this from a different perspective. Lets say Congress tires of dealing with pesky newspaper editors who constantly point out the pecadillos of politicians. The politicians pass an amendment to the tax code which taxes a media outlet whenever they express an opinion about a sitting government representative or a candidate for office. It’s not really an infringement of freedom of the press because no one is prohibited from printing anything. They just have to pay the tax. How long do you suppose it would take for the Dispatch and other news outlets to begin civil disobedience under these circumstances? Instantly, perhaps?

Realizing that the case is exceedingly weak the Dispatch editors try to appeal to the Christian sense of propriety.

Politics, as anyone can see today, often is a hateful and divisive business, while churches traditionally have been devoted to peacemaking, healing and reconciliation.

Politics is a dirty business. You nice Christians need to stay out of it and leave it to us grizzled news types. This is a thinly veiled and cynical attempt to maintain the main stream media’s tenuous control of public opinion and therefore policy.

The truth is that Christians have a bad habit of bringing Christian ethics to bear when they become involved in something. Truly Christian ethics are based on absolutes; truth, right and wrong for instance. Humanistic politics often deals in situational ethics and “gray areas.” This allows opinion manipulators to often act as brokers in shady political deal making and to do this means that concessions must often be made regarding what is and isn’t true. Politics has become dirty precisely because Christians have withdrawn from it for so long. A strong Christian political ethic preached from a well-informed pulpit threatens the status quo and therefore the entrenched power structure, including the compromised media. That’s right. Well informed pastors willing to speak truth about corruption in the civil realm is dangerous!

The Dispatch editors then wander off to a sort of journalistic fantasyland where tax-exempt organizations flex their new found political muscle and dive into the deep end of the political pool, actually endorsing candidates! Apple carts might be upset! Groups could demand the freedom of speech, press and assembly that other entities have! Why, they might lose donors! People might stop giving blood! They can’t believe anyone would risk donors!

More important, if churches are released from this obligation, other tax-exempt organizations, too, could rightfully challenge the law, upsetting even more apple carts. Donations to tax-exempt organizations could rise or fall based on donors’ feelings about a group’s political activities, or simply because donors might not know a group’s viewpoint and don’t want to risk supporting a view they might oppose. Think about the complications if the Red Cross endorsed politicians. Does anyone want politics to enter into the decision of whether or not to donate blood?

This is nothing more or less than a desperate attempt to appeal to the tax-exempt groups’ pocket books and, in reality, is a thinly veiled threat. And again we see the insistence that Christ’s Church bow to Caesar, as if that was biblically required. Of course, the Church answers only to God.

The editors wrap-up with a complete misstatement of the argument.

Tax-exempt charitable organizations are given a tax break because they do good works that transcend politics. The Alliance Defense Fund’s initiative would put this fine system in jeopardy.

Of course, this statement is debatable for non-church entities which are accountable to the state, though the “transcendence of politics” statement is high-sounding but meaningless drivel. But as for Christ’s Church, it must, like Peter and the Apostles “…obey God not men”-Acts 5:29. And when there is no jurisdiction, there can be no taxes.

Start With A Lump Of Blasphemy, Add A Liberal Dose Of Syncretism…

Being a 44 year veteran of presidential campaigns and something of a political cynic, this writer is not very easily shocked or appalled.

The chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, Sue Everhart, has managed to pull it off. A quick read of this short article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution gives ample demonstration of the lengths to which many in Republican leadership are willing to go to pander to the Christian voters. It also demonstrates the incredible ineptitude of those leaders.

What remains to be seen is if “conservative (whatever that means)” Christian voters who have attached themselves surgically to the Republican Party are capable of being outraged at statements like “John McCain is kind of like Jesus Christ on the cross.” Hopefully, discerning Georgia Republicans will not be fooled by Everhart’s nearly instant back-pedal in which she explains “I’m not trying to compare John McCain to Jesus Christ, I’m looking at the pain that was there.” In other words her direct comparison wasn’t a direct comparison, at all.

In an election year in which the presumptive Republican candidate is openly disdainful of evangelical voters and at least one of the presumptive Democratic candidates is claiming that Christ was a socialist while comparing his plan for collectivist redistribution of private wealth by government with what he thinks Christ came to do on earth, this is shaping up to be a watershed year for the Christian voter.

Republicans are trying to lure the Christian voter with short memories and little knowledge of the Constitution with promises of “good Supreme Court” nominees while openly moving to abandon the pro-life plank of the Republican platform and embracing environmentalist syncretism. Democrats promise “social justice,” via the bayonet if necessary, and twist scripture, using what Lenin called “useful idiots,” groups like the Sojourners and the so-called Red-letter Christians (i.e., Christians who deny that Christ said every word in the Bible from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21) as the vanguard.

Will this be the year that “conservative” Christian voters finally cut the sutures binding them to a party which, election cycle after election cycle, year after year, makes grand promises when their votes are desperately needed only to yank them away at the last minute, just like Lucy does with Charlie Brown? Over and over. Year after year. After all, Charlie Brown always tries to kick the ball. Always.

Is this the year that “conservative” Christian voters finally flex their political muscle and do the most productive thing they can possibly do in these circumstances? Will they vote “NO” for president?

Like John Lofton says “If God had wanted Christians to vote, He’d have given them Christian candidates.”

48 Hours: Mystery- A Christmas Night Sucker Punch For The Faithful

The Crumbling ChurchWinding down from a day of joyous celebration of the birth of the Savior of the world with family and food, my wife and I made the mistake of tuning in CBS’s 48 Hours: Mystery. The mystery being investigated in this episode is, appropriately, the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. Go here for a transcript of the program.

Why a mistake you ask? First, have you ever noticed that news outlets seem to think that the “balance” provided in a “balanced report” is three to five scholars and/or experts who represent the side the reporter or producer of the report have already chosen as the correct presentation versus usually one scholar, expert or ranting lunatic (depending on how much bias the reporter/producer feels comfortable revealing)? CBS’ 48 Hours is certainly no exception to this unwritten but undeniable rule. On the side of the those who deny that there was anything miraculous about the birth of Jesus were noted apostate “scholars” John Dominick Crossan (Jesus Seminar member), Elaine Pagels, the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University and an adherent to second century Gnostic heresies and Michael White a “New Testament scholar” from the University of Texas who thinks that the 4 Gospels contain lots of “creative writing.” On the side of biblical truth was Ben Witherington, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary.

As could be expected Crossan, Pagels and White got the bulk of air time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since much of what they proposed was contradictory, not to mention openly heretical, at least to anyone passingly familiar with the Bible and specifically the Christmas narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Witherington, on the other hand gave a thoughtful and reasonable explanations for supposed “contradictions” in the narratives. These “contradictions” were never actually listed or presented in any coherent form, their existence was merely asserted. He also debunked legends associated with famous sites associated with the birth of Christ. Crossan, Pagels and White could not agree where and when Christ was born. Witherington showed that the “where” of Christ’s birth was well documented and the when was also fairly well known.

The “contradictions” that the three Nativity doubters cite include the fact that shepherds appear in the story only in the Gospel of Luke while the magi appear only in the Gospel of Mark. Michael White put it this way

“When you start looking at them and realize that you can’t make the way you heard it come out the same way, you have to ask, ‘Wait a minute, what’s going on here?’”

Of course, what’s going on here is that this is the same story told from different perspectives. There’s nothing that excludes Luke’s details in Mark’s Gospel or vice versa. But it’s interesting to see how the CBS producers twist facts to create the illusion of “contradictions.” From the transcript-

And most scholars agree that each Gospel author tailored his argument to fit his target audience.

Of course this is true but there’s another, better explanation for this than the conspiratorial fantasy proposed in the program. As anyone who has listened to eyewitness testimony will tell you, different people who were in different places with different vantage points and different ways of memorizing things give testimonies with different levels and types of detail. Matthew was a Jew, a Levite and a tax collector (a pariah in Jewish society). John was a very young Jew. Luke was a Greek physician and Mark was apparently a North African whose Gospel is thought to have been taken from Peter’s teaching. Why would anyone expect these diverse human beings, inspired by God, to tell exactly the same stories with exactly the same details? As parents, if we got testimonies like this from our children about some incident at home, we would instantly suspect that the stories had been harmonized before being told to us, wouldn’t we? What we should realistically expect is the same basic facts with very different detail, exactly what we see in the Gospels.

Crossan and, judging from this interview, White are working from a viewpoint that the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) were written from the fictional but nevertheless legendary (at least amongst certain biblical “scholars”) Q document. The Q document is supposedly a lost text from which the three writers who call themselves Matthew, Mark and Luke took their accounts. This is textual criticism carried out to its logical absurdity. Since Crossan and White (and obviously Pagels) believe that neither Matthew, Mark, Luke or John could possibly have been written the Gospels attributed to them then it follows that ALL manuscripts must have been taken from a theoretical single account with “creative writing” elements adding details. All three of these scholars, based on their presuppositional rejection of Christ as Son of God, reject the idea that these may be actual eyewitness accounts of Christ’s disciples (Matthew, John and possibly Luke) or transcripts of eyewitness accounts (Mark and Luke).

All three of the anti-Nativity scholars use their rejection of the biblical accounts as the pivot point on which revolves their rejection of Christ as Son of God. Crossan and White question whether Christ was born in Bethlehem and believe He was born in Nazareth. They offer no real proof but speculate openly on the basis of their rejection of the truthfulness of the Gospel accounts. Elaine Pagels, for instance said-

The Gospel of Phillip basically implies that Jesus had biological parents as we do. It’s not a literal truth that Jesus was born from a mother impregnated by the Spirit. But, rather, one has to understand that as a metaphor for the divine process of rebirth that takes place when we’re born again spiritually.

The Gospel of Phillip is not a Gospel at all, of course. It is a Gnostic forgery dating from somewhere between the second and fourth centuries. Much of the DaVinci Code heresies are pinned to the Gospel of Phillip. Pagels insists that it be given the same weight as the New Testament Gospels and Epistles because she is invested in second and third century Gnostic feminism, not because she can prove that they were contemporaneous to the Gospel accounts. She believes she doesn’t need to do this because she rejects scholarship placing the writing of the New Testament in the mid to late first century.

On and on these Christ doubters go, questioning everything, not based on eyewitness accounts or other concrete evidence but upon their materialistic presuppositions that these things just could not have happened as they were told to us in the Gospel accounts. Dr. Witherington does a stand up job defending the Gospel accounts and it seems that perhaps CBS erred in presenting only one conservative scholar. Under these circumstances the conservative viewpoint was presented as coming from a unified front, while the skeptical claims were presented as being haphazard and random, the result of scholarly infighting and ego driven insistence regarding whose theory of the real story was the more scientifically plausible and in the case of Elaine Pagels more politically correct in its Gnostric feminist approach.

All in all, it was a wretched thing to run on Christmas night (or any night, for that matter) but a Christian voice for truth, in the form of Dr. Ben Witherington, rung out loud and clear in contrast to the sour notes of the baseless criticisms of the naturalistic naysayers and feminist fault finders. CBS should be ashamed, not just for for attempting to deliver a black eye to Christianity, but also for doing it so ineptly. We serve a sovereign and almighty God who will not be mocked.

Christian Charlatans or Swindling Senators- Which Is Worse?: Update

The Crumbling ChurchAn editorial in January’s Christianity Today reveals that, uncharacteristically, CT gets it! Surprisingly, CT asks all of the right questions about the motivations of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley in his “investigation” into the finances of famous health and wellness gospel preachers and seems to get all of the right answers.

That is, they see that this a sitting Senator’s attempt to directly interfere in a church doctrine (health and wellness doctrine) that he does not like. We agree that the health and wellness doctrine, that teaches that monetary wealth and health are direct indicators of the measurement of a persons faith, is aberrant.

We disagree with Senator Grassley, that the federal government has any jurisdiction in the matter at all. Don’t misunderstand. We think fraud is a crime. There is no fraud involved in health and wellness doctrine teaching. We think these preachers believe what they are teaching, to their eternal peril. The first amendment to the Constitution is very clear on the subject; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…” Doctrinal discipline is for Christ’s Church to perform, not an overreaching federal leviathan. Grassley is attempting to make political hay by implying a threat of force to change church doctrine.

This is a very dangerous precedent. It’s time for Christians to speak out on this now!

Christian Charlatans or Swindling Senators- Which Is Worse?

Crumbling ChurchSenator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) apparently believes that he has the constitutional authority to oversee church finances. Watch as he does the quick shuffle to explain where his power to conduct such investigations comes from.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzpBLxSlWJM&feature=related[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bl68CA0Rb40[/youtube]

Grassley attempts to equivocate- “Well, this is not a first amendment issue…We’re not interested in doctrine.” This is, of course, a patent falsehood. The churches chosen to be investigated have a core doctrine, aberrant though it may be. They believe that they can create wealth with the spoken word, that Christ intended for His faithful to be wealthy and the degree of wealth achieved will depend on the depth of faith. Does this ignore the true teachings of Christ? Clearly. But who appointed Grassley to be the Archbishop Laud of the United States? Grassley’s own attempts to justify his foray into constitutionally forbidden territory reveal his real aim. To subjugate the government of Christ’s Church to civil authority.

Twice Grassley is asked if he intends to investigate the Catholic Church, one of the largest landholders in the country and one of the richest church entities in the world and twice Grassley quickly sidesteps the question. The fact is that Grassley knows that the Catholic Church has the status of not only a church but that of a foreign nation and too much probing could cause an international furor, not to mention create problems with Roman Catholic neighbors and allies.

Grassley further “explains” that his committee has jurisdiction because it oversees “…tax law. We have tax exemption to encourage charitable giving.” Well, no Senator Grassley, that’s wrong. You have tax exemption because it used to be understood by government servants that the tithe is a tax collected by the church and mandated by God for the operation of His Church including the feeding of the poor and that failure to exempt the amount tithed amounted to a double tax on an independent entity. The sudden requirement for churches to obtain Internal Revenue Service 501(c)3 “tax exempt status” in 1953 (thanks to another Senatorial swindler Lyndon Johnson who didn’t like the fact that several Texas churches had openly opposed his election effort, and so used the tax code as a gag for the pastors’ mouths) is nothing more or less than a club that is hung over the head of churches to bring them into submission to the state. Grassley makes it abundantly clear that he is now prepared to swing that club in order to assert the authority of the state over the Church. Submit or let your congregation be double taxed, a sure way to de-fund a church.

Grassley has demonstrated that he has a predators heart regarding getting the prey he wants. He chooses the weakest member of the herd, cuts them out then mercilessly chases them down and eviscerates them. The word-faith pastors he has chosen are clearly the weakest members of the herd. Having abandoned the true core teachings of Christ in favor of the health and prosperity gospel wherein they enrich themselves from the givings of their flock, they are an easy target. Many orthodox Christians are torn about what to think about the investigation because they do not understand the separate roles of the Church and state and they revile these pastors as con men. They therefore hesitate to step in to defend the pastors, not realizing that their own churches are going to be next on the list for any infraction Grassley and his ilk can pull from their grab-bag of unconstitutional tricks. This is how all totalitarian governments handle matters. First go after the unpopular groups then, as they fall, go after members of successively less popular groups until none are left to band together for defense.

Grassley, who knows he is on shaky constitutional ground, doesn’t hesitate to play the class envy card. If the Church should happen to awaken to this attack as a call-to-arms, he will have a ready made set of allies in the class envy crowd. When asked if he thought it mattered if a pastor of a large successful church drove a Rolls Royce vs. a Buick, Grassley wasted no time in saying “…for a person like me it’s simple. Jesus came into the city on a simple donkey. To what extent do you need a Rolls Royce to expand the ministry of Jesus Christ? I speak this as a Christian…” And there you have it. As a representative of the civil authority he is going to invade the realm of church authority to fix what he perceives to be a problem in certain ministries because he doesn’t like the way those ministries run their affairs. Grassley wants the Church to answer to the state before answering to Christ.

Senator Grassley needs to realize that disciplining individual members of the Body of Christ is up to the Body of Christ as a whole, not a meddling outside authority which has clearly demonstrated that it has an ulterior motive in doing so. He also needs a little remedial training in the US Constitution which explicitly prohibits ANY government interference in the free exercise of religion. Perhaps he should take Michael Peroutka’s Institute On The Constitution class. The word-faith pastors are clearly engaging in the practices of their faith, as flawed as they are. The Body of Christ has been doing a pretty good job of exposing the false teachings and practices of these pastors and it’s also doing a pretty good job of picking up the pieces and repairing the human damage they’ve done inside the Body.

Thank’s Senator, but the Church doesn’t need any help.

Church History And Modern Life- Update

Abandoned ChurchIt’s a little late but here’s the update on last Wednesdays question- What’s so important about today’s (October 31, 2007) date in church history?

For those of you who didn’t feel like Googling it or were too lazy to do it or forgot or whatever the date in question was Reformation Day. In fact it was the 490th Anniversary of Reformation Day. Just what the heck is Reformation Day you ask (and you’re no alone if you have to ask a very sad but true fact)?

Reformation Day commemorates the day that Martin Luther performed the rather simple act, hardly an unusual act among clergymen of the time, of attaching 95 theses for debate on the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany. An act that, thanks to the printing press and the corruption of the church, sparked a church reform movement that swept through Christendom and divided it into two camps (three main camps, counting the Orthodox faith which split with Rome in the 11th century).

That’s not exactly what Luther wanted but what happened was the Lord’s will, for His own glory and purpose.  Think about that next October 31st.