The Christian Church today.
In this the final instalment about the concept of the "differential of life" I am hoping to expound how this concept can come into play within the context of the spiritual or religious environment of the Christian church.
One of the great problems of today is religious intolerance which has as its core the death spirituality. Once an individual surrenders their will to an institution and lets that institution guide their personal relationship with God they relinquished the right to choose their own destiny both spiritually and morally.
Their religious destiny becomes dictated by the institution to which they subscribe. This can be no more clearly demonstrated than during the years that the Church of England held sway over the morals and minds of the population of England during the 1600s and later years.
Despite the Reformation and the birth of Protestantism the Church of England fell back into the old ways of the church being the interpreter of Scriptures and the moral compass of society. This resulted in the persecution of many minorities of other faiths who fled England for the Americas and subsequently populated colonies such as the Plymouth Brethren.
During the early years of many of these colonies people recognise that without a good central authority that they were doomed to failure. This precipitated the rise of what could be called the village council. They held as their mandate the control of the ethical and moral thinking of the people.
Along with this came the responsibility for the interpretation and implementation of the moral code as per the holy Scriptures. This interpretation was dictated by a necessity for all to conform to a particular way of thinking.
The Puritan ideals of the early settlers in America helped in building stability within the settlements of the time. However, as time progressed and more people immigrated to these American colonies the established way of thinking was challenged by the individualism of the incoming settlers.
During those years many were banished from the settlements because of their unwillingness to submit to the religious order in power. As strange as it may seem the early colonists fell into the same trap as that which they had tried to escape from by leaving England.
The institution along with its ceremonies and traditions became more important than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The right of the individual to sit and study Scripture under the guidance of the holy spirit was seen as a threat to the institution itself.
As the framers of the American constitution debated over liberty for the individual they initially forgot or were afraid of religious liberty. Thomas Jefferson while not necessarily an adherent to the Baptist ideals such as the priesthood of all believers and the right of the individual to interpret Scripture under the guidance of the holy spirit supported their concept of religious freedom.
After much discussion it was finally agreed that the right of religious freedom should be inculcated into the American constitution. This brought about a lot of anxiety amongst the establishment who feared that given the choice individuals may choose not to believe in God at all.
History has proven, in the American experiment that liberty of religious expression can and does have a positive effect on people's lives. Especially, in light of the way in which people's lives are changed when they make a personal choice to accept Jesus as their personal saviour and set about correcting their lives so as to become more like him.
The Western world today is facing a similar predicament with the rise in atheism and eastern mysticism. The Christian church has become so entrenched in its ceremonies and traditions that it is fast losing relevance in today's society.
The numbers of people attending Christian church services worldwide is falling off at alarming rate with many choosing to believe in nothing other than themselves. Too many churches of the Christian faith, even those of the more evangelical line are putting more emphasis on conformity, liturgy and tradition.
It is not only the Roman Catholic Church today that is facing a tirade of accusations and condemnation for its role and influence in matters of war and persecution but also the Protestant churches and the church universal. Many look at the past and condemn the acts that have been perpetrated on the world in the name of Christianity.
I wrote last time about the Crusades and how they became more than just a spiritual battle but a battle for political control. In today's society our children are taught to not accept things on face value and to abhor tradition. Our society has done much in teaching our young people to question everything and accept only evidence which can be verified via some scientific means.
The realm of faith has taken a back seat to scientific rationalism. No longer is the Western world prepared to accept at face value that there are matters that cannot be explained through scientific method. Science has become the religion of the new world order.
You may be wondering by now how this concept of the "differential of life" can be reflected in such a diverse environment as the church of today. In order for this concept to take hold especially within the Christian church there needs to be a basic paradigm shift away from tradition, liturgy and anything else that hinders the free expression of faith.
It will only be when the Christian church has reinvented itself into an open and accepting organisation that we will see it grow as it did during the revivals of the past. The church needs to be open to accepting through its doors the destitute, the sick at heart, the outcasts, alcoholics, drug addicts, homosexuals and more importantly the lost of our society.
This reinvention may well initially split the church yet this reinvention or rebirth is necessary for its continued growth in the world today. If the churches is to be relevant it must be where Jesus would be and that is amongst the lost and destitute of our society.
Just as the individual must come to a place in their life where they understand that they have lost control of their lives and are in need of salvation so to the church universal must come to that place where it realises its own need for salvation.
This is greatly highlighted today in Australia with the advent of the Federal government's investigations into child abuse within the church. It will not be until the institutions of the church prostrate themselves before Almighty God and the society in which they hope to serve that they will find redemption.
All too often the institution of the Christian church has hidden the truth of child abuse choosing to obfuscate the truth in order to defend its own servants. This is not the model of the suffering servant.
This concept of the "differential of life" will only come to fruition within the church today when its leaders and adherents are prepared to put aside personal ambition for power or authority. Instead choosing the motif of Jesus and choosing to become servants of the people instead of sitting on some moral high point.
If today's church wishes to remain relevant then its leaders need to prostrate themselves before their followers and ask for forgiveness for their sins of commission as well as omission.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this series. Trevor