Monday, November 21, 2005

Conversation about church revisited

Ok everybody,
Some of you in the know may have been following the series of discussion that have been taking place off and on for the last couple months on a couple of friends and my blogs. In light of the newest conversation, I have reposted this conversation that began a while back to see if there are any new ideas that people would lik to add to it. Come let us reason together.

Levi Fuson said...

dan

first, it think you must differentiate the "man" church and the "God" church. They are two completly different things. I believe that the Church as God sees it, is us. you and i. the relationtional connection that binds us, even though we don't really even know each other we are bound by cords that are unseen.

the church proper, institutional church or "man" church is the creation of man, somethign that was initiated first by the early church from a culture that was used to social gatherings in the synagogue. a culture that had a large appreciation for oration. coming largely from the greek/roman culture. it developed eventaully into what we have today. an institution, that has become more concerned with its own preservation than on than on the reason for its existence, the "God" church.

this article is interesting in a couple of ways to me. first it was written over 6 years ago. a lifetime in this age of change. second it really focuses on genx, which i think is a fault, because it leaves out all those who have the same issues that it addresses that are not genx'ers. thirdly, it makes no mention of relationship. its solution of focusing on the narrative is right on, allbeit a little confusing. the one on one relational connection, sharing of life, missional, experiencial connection is imperative to this genre of peoples that she is identifying.

l.


Dan said...

good thought.
as far as the man made church and the "God" church, I don't think the two can be seperated so easily or perhaps even at all. Looking just at Matthew 16:18 (and matt. 18:18 as well) i think there are some interesting things to note. First of all, Jesus says He will build his church on Peter, a man. Second of all, this was not merely a relational church, it was a judiciary body as weel. In the next sentence he says that he will give Peter the keys to the kingdom of Heaven, which should not be seen merely as a generic reference to salvation as some hold it to be, but rather a position of authority. it appears that Christ is using the image of Isaiah 22:22 that says," will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open." so with the keys to the kingdom of heaven comes not only the ability to enter the gates, but to close them. the next sentence echoes this sentiment by saying "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
This last verse has been horribly interpreted in some circles (as a former Vineyardite, I'm sure you have heard this verse used to declare power over spiritual matters). But looking at chapter 18, where it is repeated, we see it for what it is. To bind someone is to hold them to the law, to hold them accountable for their action, to loose them is to treat them as "a Gentile and a tax collector" and no longer hold them to the law. Chapter 18 goes on to say, "truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
It appears that Christ has given a great deal of authority to men in these passages. These passages also reveal a process by which men must act within this authority. looking into the epistles (which i will not do right now) we see the creation of church offices and the roles of each.
So the church is a relational connection, indeed. But it is also an organized system. These two need to be present for a church to exist. So perhaps we can say that were the church has gone wrong, it was/is due to a lack of one of these two, not the presence of one.


Dan said...

i can see what you mean about the article, but in its defense i still think it has many good relevant points despite its age and it leaves out non gen-xers because it was an article about gen-xers, it wasn't meant to be read as a diagnosis (if this article applies to you then you have to be gen x). Though i agree, since some of it's ideas trancsend the gen x label, perhaps it shoulc have widened the scope. Finally, i think the relational aspect goes without saying. it is not something that is specific to gen x or those who fit within the scope of the article. The need for relationships is opresent in everyone and this article was trying to focus on what is particular to gen xers.
But it is a 2 page article with limitations. There are probably some better articles on the site dealing with this subject. If you haven't checked it out before, you should really peruse the site. There are some unbelievable articles there. my recommendation is 'Christians and the Death Penalty" in this months issue.


iggy said...

dan,
reread the passage in Matt... it is not "Peter" Jesus builds His "church" but the "faith of Peter".

Matt 1:17. Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.
18. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

In the literal translation is implied "in this statement" I will build my church.

It is the statement of faith.

Blessings,
iggy


iggy said...

Also...
The Key is faith.. one needs faith in Christ to be part of the HIS Kingdom.

this is not about judiciary authority, but rather relationaly knowing Christ Jesus as savior and recieving the Kingdom of God. All by faith...

Blessings,
iggy


Dan said...

iggy,

There may be something to you interpretation but if we are going to say that the Key is simply faith then we run into problems. First of all, if Peter had faith initially and because of that Christ gives him the "keys" what sense would it make for Christ is give Peter what he already had? Second, looking at the rest of this section
"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven"
We see that whether or not it was Peter's faith that Christ was intending to build his church on , He gave him authority within that church (which he later gave to the desciples as well). i am not denying the relational aspects of Christ's church, i'm simply saying that there is more to it.


Dan said...

After, rereading the verse (as you suggested) it seems even more obvious that Christ is refering to Peter himself, not simply his faith. Why else would he make a point to identify Peter (not his faith) and declare "on this rock," an obvious play on words with the name Peter, "I will build my church." The previous verse, is too show that Peter is worthy of such an office. So I'm not sure what you mean by "literal translation" so please inform me if there is something I don't know.


Levi Fuson said...

dan

"Looking just at Matthew 16:18 (and matt. 18:18 as well) i think there are some interesting things to note. First of all, Jesus says He will build his church on Peter, a man. Second of all, this was not merely a relational church, it was a judiciary body as weel. In the next sentence he says that he will give Peter the keys to the kingdom of Heaven, which should not be seen merely as a generic reference to salvation as some hold it to be, but rather a position of authority."

i think you may need to explain this to me in greater detail. im slow sometimes, :) but i don't see how you jump from tying, the church as god sees and the institution together, to this verse? your drawing conclusion that don't relate. for Jesus to build his church on a man, still does not draw the two into one. its a matter of perspective. the man can then take it and do what he wishes with it. Im just not seeing how this scripture has anythign to do with it. it seems very subjective to me.

"To bind someone is to hold them to the law, to hold them accountable for their action, to loose them is to treat them as "a Gentile and a tax collector" and no longer hold them to the law."

again here some explanation is due. first i don't understand how this is relevant, second, how do you juxtapose this with Paul talking about Christ coming to abolish the law? not bind us to it. again im might be misinterpreting what your trying to say.

"So the church is a relational connection, indeed. But it is also an organized system. These two need to be present for a church to exist. So perhaps we can say that were the church has gone wrong, it was/is due to a lack of one of these two, not the presence of one."

i geuss im just not seeing the correlation. you are very much dealing in a subjective interpretation of the scripture. im not denying it, im just trying to get you to see how the way you haev strung these together don't neccesarily prove your point. as iggy has shown, it can be looked t viably from a totally different perspective. niether way is wrong from my perspective they are just different and therfore you get different praxis resolving from it...... or should. :)

please expound.

l.



Dan said...

well, to see what I'm getting at, lets look at the definition of institution.
1. The act of instituting.
2.
1. A custom, practice, relationship, or behavioral pattern of importance in the life of a community or society: the institutions of marriage and the family.
2. Informal. One long associated with a specified place, position, or function.
3.
1. An established organization or foundation, especially one dedicated to education, public service, or culture.
2. The building or buildings housing such an organization.
3. A place for the care of persons who are destitute, disabled, or mentally ill.

Looking mostly at definitions 2.1 and 3.1 I think that it is fair to say that Christ is setting up an institution in these verses. He is placing into the hands of the church the authority and responsibility to uphold the teachings He has taught. The church is not just the place where Christ's teachings are read but where they are lived. In this way the church becomes an institution, according to the definitions i have provided. if this is not what you mean by institution, then perhaps we have missed each other.
As far as the binding and loosing, it goes to the same purpose. Christ has given the authority to tell someone that their behavior is no longer that of a christian and so they shall no longer be treated as such. What treating someone as a "gentile" means could be another interesting discussion.
As far as the law, I'm not sure what verse you are refering to. The only verses i can think of that refer to abolishing the law are when Christ says, in matt. 5:17
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill."
Paul also speaks of upholding the law in Romans 3:31
"Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law."
Does this clear up where I was going with this?

Dan, 9:27 PM

6 Comments:

Dan,
The word in question is not really "institution" but the definition of "Church" in the Biblical sense. Yes, institution may be a word to discribe it as I said on my blog... but it is not even close to being the literal Body of Christ.

This discussio is pretty close to the debate between protestants and those of more RCC tradition concerning the Eucharist. TO say that it is just an ordinance to do, is not the same as saying that the bread becomes the literal body, and the wine becomes the literal blood of christ. I think that the protestant/baptist view lacks not subtle nuances but losed major blessings of partaking in the Eucharist can be. Mostly it is just a guilt party and a prayer for forgiveness, when it should be a celebration of thanks for our sins being forgiven. I hope you are catching what i am trying to convey.

We must look closly at what was this "church" that Jesus set up in Mattthew 16:18. I see it as the literal extention of the Kingdom of God... that is built on faith... begining with faith like Peter had. It is not Peter who is the focus. But the rock foundation of Faith that Jesus is setting up his Body (Kingdom) on earth. Faith in who Jesus is, and that as Paul says, is Who/what our foundation is.

Blessings,
iggy
Blogger iggy, at 6:37 PM  
Iggy,

Sorry for the delayed response. I tend to not check my past posts as often as I should.

As I have said before, I am not trying to define church completely with the word institution or by its characteristics so far as it is like an institution. My point in these many comments is simply to say that a system of governance is inherant in the Biblical model of church. I realize that you and those who share your views are cautious about an authority figure replacing Christ as the head of the church. I would agree that such a placement of power would be a horrid corruption of the church. But this does not mean that there can be no other authority figure in the church, as long as Christ remains the ultimate authority. Being a Christian does not mean that children no longer have to obey their parents, but rather they must obey their parents in so far as they remain in agreement with Christ.
I think you may be jumping the gun with your talk of the eucharist. I am in no way denying that the church is the body of Christ. I am simply discerning from the Bible what that means and how it is enacted in our lives. Plus I feel that in addition to being a feast and celebration, I think it is also a time to mourn that the entire Body of Christ is not partaking. Paul tells us that we must discern the body of Christ in the eucharist. I think this applies to seeing it as more than bread and wine, but flesh and blood. But it is also discerning the body of Christ that is the church.
you said, "I see it as the literal extention of the Kingdom of God... that is built on faith... begining with faith like Peter had. It is not Peter who is the focus"
i think this is a mistaken interpretation. If the focus was not on Peter, then why would he specifically say "You are Peter" before saying "and on this rock I will build my church." Firstly, he specifically identifies Peter even though he was already talking to him and had no need to clarify if he was just talking about his faith. Second of all, he goes out of his way to call him Peter in this verse rather than Simon. As we all know Peter means "rock." Jesus was using an intentional play on words to show that Peter "the rock" is the rock on which Christ will build the church. The next verses further this view. I will repost what I said earlier on this point.

I said, "this was not merely a relational church, it was a judiciary body as weel. In the next sentence he says that he will give Peter the keys to the kingdom of Heaven, which should not be seen merely as a generic reference to salvation as some hold it to be, but rather a position of authority. it appears that Christ is using the image of Isaiah 22:22 that says," will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open." so with the keys to the kingdom of heaven comes not only the ability to enter the gates, but to close them. the next sentence echoes this sentiment by saying "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
This last verse has been horribly interpreted in some circles (as a former Vineyardite, I'm sure you have heard this verse used to declare power over spiritual matters). But looking at chapter 18, where it is repeated, we see it for what it is. To bind someone is to hold them to the law, to hold them accountable for their action, to loose them is to treat them as "a Gentile and a tax collector" and no longer hold them to the law. Chapter 18 goes on to say, "truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
Not only does this subject matter give little room to interpret the rock as Peter's faith, but the wording does as well. Are you going to argue that Jesus gave Peter's faith the keys to the Kingdom? or that whatever Peter's faith looses or binds will be loosed or bound in heaven? It is not faith that has authority. It is a person of faith who does. It doesn't make sense for Christ to jump from talking abour Peter (Simon) to talking about his faith only, and back to talking about Peter.

you said, "Faith in who Jesus is"

Could you give me a text for this? Perhaps i am reading to much into it, but I think you are being a little loose with your words here.

Again sorry for the delay, i hope this fills out my view a bit more.
Blogger Dan, at 6:53 AM  
Dan,

What I see in the verse we keep referring to is Jesus saying this.

“Simon, your faith in Me is like a rock… This is my foundation. I will call you Rock (Peter) and on this faith I will build my community of those chosen unto perfection in Me. Faith I me is the Key to Heaven.”


How do I get this…? Rom 1:5, 3, 4

By what else the Bible tells us about faith and it’s source (Rom 1:5, 3, 4)…. It is not a man, nor an institution. It is a faith relationship with Jesus Himself. It is only by faith in Jesus that one is saved. Not by works, or trusting in a man, or an institution, or what ever… On that I am sure we agree.

Look up any other verse on the Kingdom… Yes there is a King… yet that is rarely the focus. It is on how we relate to God and to our bothers and sisters here on earth… relationally.

Matthew 18, Matthew 20 (notice the word “friend”) 21, (heart relationship toward the Father) Matthew 25 and it’s symbolism of oil (Holy Spirit) being the relation between the wise virgins and not having taken oil… to the unwise.

To even receive the Kingdom is to be as a child… there is not much judicial aspect in that, just open hearted trust and awe and wonder.

We are not too far from each other as I see it.

By the way how I interpret the Isaiah passage is this:

God has handed all authority to Jesus. He has the keys that can open and shut the gate… He opens as we place our faith in Him… He keeps the gate closed when one rejects Him.
Remember Jesus is the Gate. One can only enter by Him… and that is by having a relationship with Him and no other way.

The difference between just believing and acknowledging Jesus as Lord and the Authority is that is how far the Demons went… they fully believe in Jesus, they fully see and know His authority… but lack the one thing we Redeemed have… LOVE. By love we open the gate through our relationship in Christ… Love of God, and love of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

LOVE is not an institution, but as John tells us God is LOVE and God is not and institution but a Person.

I hope this helps a bit,
Blessings,
iggy
Blogger iggy, at 10:21 PM  
iggy,

you said,

What I see in the verse we keep referring to is Jesus saying this.

“Simon, your faith in Me is like a rock… This is my foundation. I will call you Rock (Peter) and on this faith I will build my community of those chosen unto perfection in Me. Faith I me is the Key to Heaven.”

With all due respect, I think this shows how much you have to manipulate this verse to fit into your model. I understand what you are trying to say here about the church being built on faith. And i agree that we cannot seperate faith from this verse. But neither can we seperate man. There can be no faith without a person to have it. Faith is not an independant substance. It does not exist apart from Man. In the same way, the church is built upon men of faith and does not exist without them. This verse is telling us that Christ is building his church upon men of faith and giving them the due authority to bind and loose things here on earth. He is giving them administrative powers here. You are right in your interpretation of Isaiah, that God has given to Christ the authority of closing and opening the gates. Now, in this gospel, Christ has given that authority to His church, to Men of faith.
You give the syllagism that "love is not an institution, God is love, therefore God is not a institution." There is a problem with this logic. It would only work if love completely defines God. God is love, but love is not God. In the same way God is merciful, but he is also Just. These two things are not the same and in fact are contradictory, yet they are both attributed to God. But this is all moot since I am not trying to say that God is an institution.
i think what this all comes down to is a matter of how we view the Law (in the OT sense, and in the general sense). Let me quote Luther's commentary on Galatians 5:13,

"When [Paul] says: "you were called to freedom," this means: "youwere called out of the slavery to the Law into the freedom of grace." It is because people so often falter on this point that I myself am so often compelled to speak of it. The Law, I say, makes slaves, since it is from fear of threats and because of a craving for promised rewards, not without an ulterior motive, that the Law is fullfilled by them. And so it is not fullfilled. But since it is not fullfilled, it makes them guilty and slaves of sin. Faith, however, brings it about that after recieving love we keep the Law, not under compulsion or because we are attracted for a time but freely and steadfastly. To be circumcised, therefore, is a characteristic of slavery. But to love one's neighbor is a characteristic of freedom, because the former is done under threat of the Law by those who are unwilling, while the latter is done by those who are willing out of love that flows freely and gladly."

Christ did not abolish the law or even remove us from it. When He saw that we couldn't obey the law, he didn't change the law, he changed us. Through faith we are now able to follow the law out of love rather than selfish desire. This applies to the church in the sense that it is not a system or institution that corrupts the church but the absence of love. I wrote what I thought to be a good analogy of this on your blog. The fact of the matter is that you on some level do see the church as more than just the people and their relationships in a generic way. Otherwise you wouldn't talk about the church going wrong around the time of Constantine. If the church was not some sort of system as well, then the church would not have gone wrong at all as long as people still loved Christ and one another. The movements after COnstantine would have just been something else, and certainly not the church. But I think that you fall more into a lutheran view than you realize. On the subject of restorationism, the LCMS states,
"Lutherans reject Restorationism and its premises,
speaking rather of the external church’s need for reformation or correction. Lutherans strongly affirm that from the time of the apostles to the present wherever the Gospel is proclaimed and the sacraments are administered Christ’s true church is present and expanded."
The external church will always be exist and always be reforming. To abandon or deny its part in the church would simply gaurantee its corruption and the corruption of the true church.
Blogger Dan, at 10:45 AM  
Dan,
Then you have to stretch that we are one Body... and that Body is Peter... that is what I hear you saying, if then Church is Peter being the Rock... that is a bigger stretch than I would ever make. The Body of Christ is the Church to me… We are baptized into One Body. To put the focus on the Faith of Peter brings these and more passages together. To say that God is Love… (I was going to originally go into how love is not God in the last email but decided that it would side track me in the main point). Yet, God is Love. Love is not God. The Church is the Body of Christ Who IS God. The Church is the manifestation of God being Love. That is why Jesus said, “ I am in the Father and you are in me.” And “That they may be One (believers) as You (the Father) and I are One”.
To say that the Body is an institution is to say that God is an institution in the logic you carried out. God is not an institution; for He is a person… or a Relational Being Who has revealed Himself as three persons.


I do have great respect for Luther. I do think though it was a beginning of Restoration... Protestant have seems to have gone bad in two ways...

1. Watered the gospel to just be a social gospel of goodwill toward your brother

2.Legalism

Both of these are just as bad if not worse than the error of the RCC at the time of Luther. I think that the main error is that many do not realize the importance of the writers such as Irenaeus, Ignatius, and Polycarp. I do think though that much of theology is rubbish built on rubbish as many of these so called theologians were just out to prove they were right and the other wrong without really understanding each other… with rare occasion.
I also think that much doctrine based on these theologians has nothing to do with salvation and only muddies waters of the teachings of Jesus and the Church Fathers.

This is why I am post denomination, and emergent in thought as I think we have added much too much to the original purity of the teachings.

I do think we are closer to thought than you realize. I think also that the main issue is that though I see a “corporate institution” (modern sense of the word corporate) I see this as an administerial sense to do the daily, day-to-day things.

1. I do not think the building is the “Church”.
2. I do not think that the “Church” is a man, but THE MAN Jesus.
3. I do not think the “Church is an institution as Jesus is not an institution, no more than I think my own body is an institution.
4. Jesus is the Head of His Body, a living organism, call the Body, the Kingdom, or the Bride.
5. I tend to rely on the Apostolic Fathers, whose heritage can be traced directly to John the Apostle as far as clarification of hard passages.

With the discussion on Law and Grace, to me that is another topic. A great one as a matter of fact. I see that you are right to a point… but one can not mix Law and Grace, and that the original intent of the Law was to “meditate on it night and day” to get it into their hearts…. yet that was not able to happen unless the sin issue was dealt it in finality.
There was a system to forgive sin… it was the sacrificial system. Jesus ended that system which was part of the Law… by fulfilling the Law. Otherwise we would still be killing sheep and bulls for forgiveness.

The real issue was the power unto redemption or the inward ability to not live by the Law but let the Law live in you… through Jesus Christ. One must realize that All is done by Him, through Him and in Him.

There is nothing to add or take away. It is by grace we are saved, by faith… not by Peter, an instutution, or a man, except Jesus Himself. Many add the Law in the wrong way and try to fulfill it themselves after receiving Christ, but that is not trusting in His redemptive Power. As Christ Lives in us and we in Him… placed in His Body, we become one and the scripture in Isaiah is fulfilled and the Law, (Jesus) is written and resides in our heart.
The Law is a mirror, but cannot cleanse us, only Jesus can cleanse us. This through the Baptism of being placed in His Body… that is why the Bible says One Baptism, One Body. This leaves no room for, denominations and other things that separate instead of bring unity.

I understand why you are uncomfortable with my thinking. Believe me I have had nights that I wonder why God shows me the things He does and pray for the cup He has given me to pass…. But it seems as though God has only shown me these things and has brought me closer to Him as I let go of the old and embrace the new.

Blessings,
iggy
Blogger iggy, at 10:46 PM  
iggy,

I think we missed eachother here. i am in no way trying to say that Peter is the church. Christ says that on Peter he will build His church. it appears that we are not going to meet as far as what exactly this portion means (focus on faith v. men of faith). But that is really not the most compelling part of these verses. The most important element here is that Christ gave the keys to Peter, or the faithful, or the church however you want to read it. Either way, the church has been given some authority to govern over itself.
To say that the Body is an institution is NOT in any way shape or form saying that God is an istitution. You are really begging the question here. By this reasoning we could say that since we (professing Christians) are the Body of Christ and Christ is God then we are God. It is the same fallacy that has led word/faith leaders to believe that since Christ was man and had a body that God is coporeal and stands about 6 feet tall weighing around 200 pounds. You need to be really careful about how far you tread in this direction.
It seems that we are still getting caught up on the word "istitution" so I will explain my view and try to avoid this term to keep out any possibly connotations that are not intended.

I believe that the church is the people of God who profess Christ the gospel message. i believe that it is the church's role to keep and protect the message of Christ known through Word and Sacrament and spread this message to all people in all nations.

In order for these things to be accomplished a system of governance must be established. this is why Elders were appointed in every church and the apostles watched over these churches, correcting their mistakes, and dealing (harshly at times) with those who distort or destroy God's Word. The Gospels and Epistles are perfect proof that, even with the intervention of the holy Spirit, we are human. We make mistakes and need to have a structure that protects us from ourselves as well as protects others from our corruption. Looking at the who situation with the circumcision cult, we see that even Peter screwed up and needed someone to put the smack down. Ther is no question that this system must be implemented with love.
The church father's were big supporters of such a structure, many of the writings that we have from the early church fathers are leeters to churches (similar to Paul's) instructing and correcting them. The Didache is a great example of a loving and organic system that came into place in the early church.
As i said before, if this system was not in some way part of the church (I am not saying that it IS the church) then we really can't claim the the church needs restoration. If the church is just the Body of Christ and not the systems that we use then the we have lost nothing. But the very fact that we fight to reform this system so much and replace it with another (no matter how informal, all alternatives are still systems) shows that there is something more to this than some contemporary Christians may want to accept.
In closing, your ideas are not uncomfortable to me iggy. In fact they were quite comfortable to me a couple years ago. I've spent my time in the decostructionist (or "restorationist" as some prefer) chair. But God has shown and continues to show me the ultimate ends to these lines of thought. So perhaps this debate is just a mtter of discenment, but unless Christ returns tomorrow, it seems we are stuck with slogging it out in the halls of rhetoric.
Blogger Dan, at 2:43 PM  

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