Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Spreading Flame

I've been gleaning my library and came across the 1958 FF Bruce classic, "The Spreading Flame" - about the first 600 years of the Christian era. I had another read.
It's been interesting to see how the longer the Christian era has gone on, the more complicated people have made it.

Lots of people hold to the belief that today's church needs to get back to the ways of the "early church".

I agree that it wouldn't be too bad a thing - except for the toilets, no running water, no under-arm deodorant, baggy undies and nothing to eat but felafels, figs and goat curd - not to mention the odd Roman Emperor serving you up to his lions or setting you on fire.
At best it's a romantic notion in many ways.
But it sure was less complex.

On the first day, people had to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead, repent from their sins and be baptised. Full stop.

By 49 AD they had to do all of that and not eat meat sacrificed to idols. not eat meat which wasn't drained of blood, stay away from sexual immorality and remember to give money to the poorer churches.

This was all still pretty simple.
Then as more naughty people began to fiddle around with what should be believed and practised and more "intellectuals" came out with their paint cans full of the inevitable shades of grey, we've ended up with catechisms, creeds, authorised translations, canons, penances, eschatologies, pneumatologies, sainthoods, various abodes of the dead, laws and decrees - even inquisitions, trials by fire and water and the odd beheading here and there. Remember when women had to wear hats to church and Catholics and Protestants had to walk on opposite sides of the street on the way to church? Now you don't even have to believe in God. You just refer everything to "Universe" - whatever you conceive that to be - and all will be peachy.
Nuts isn't it?

So what's a person to do? I guess we ought to get it back to simple things such as existed in the first 20 years (except for the sanitary conditions and the appalling lack of Christmas Turkey!). Yet as FF Bruce keeps observing, "Human nature being as it is..." it's not likely to last.

Not wanting to complicate a simple matter, I feel like recommending a few things:
> Jesus' teaching summed up in a line: Love the Lord your God with all your heart mind soul and strength and love your neighbour as yourself.
> Paul's teaching summed up in one line: ...but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to that which is ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14).
> My teaching summed up in one line: Both of the above and "When all else fails, character works!"

To infinity and beyond, then. Live long and prosper.
Colin Pearce

Speaker, Author, Coach