"The Right Church"
We live too-busy lives in a too-busy society. We rush from one thing to another -- work, Little League games, hobbies, etc. However, one must (or should), at some point in life, think metaphysically. We know that we exist ("I think; therefore, I am."). We know, from our senses, that things exist. But what is the ultimate nature of existence, reality, and experience?
The first concept to consider as we ponder these matters is: How do we think? And, is there a proper way to think (to reason)? The answer is yes.So, if we are going to "think" about these matters, should we not "think" correctly?
Just as there are physical laws in the study of science, there are also "Laws of Thought" in the study of philosophy -- self-evident logical principles -- that enable one to reason (think) correctly. Briefly, they are as follows.
1. The Law of Identity. If a proposition is true, then it is true. Sounds simple, but it is a Law of Thought often ignored in our society of situational ethics and subjective truth ("that's just your truth, your interpretation"). However, there are "ultimate truths" -- objective truths -- that is, things that are true for all people, in all places, at all times.
2. The Law of Excluded Middle. Every precisely stated proposition is either true or false. The key to this statement is the word "precisely".
3. The Law of Contradiction. No proposition (precisely stated) can be both true and false (in the same respect, at the same time).
However, in our discussion of "how to think, or reason, properly", I want us to specifically consider the Law of Rationality. The Law of Rationality states that "one should draw only such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence." Any conclusions drawn should be -- must be -- justified by adequate evidence. If not, they are not valid.
At no time do I ponder our existence more than when I am photographing nature and the landscape. The beauty and intricacy inherent in our world and the universe are evidences that imply -- no, demand -- intelligent design.
Please consider each of the following statements, before you go on to the next one, seriously, objectively, and rationally.
Something cannot come from nothing.
If, at any point in the past, nothing had existed, then nothing is all that there would be now.
Therefore, "something" has always existed.
One of the most basic laws of science and philosophy is the Law of Cause and Effect, which states that "every material effect or observable phenomenon must have an adequate cause". That adequate cause (for it to be adequate) must have at least two characteristics. First, the adequate cause must have existed prior to the effect. Second, the adequate cause must be quantitatively greater than, or qualitatively superior to, the effect.
Our Universe is a material effect. It must, therefore, have a cause. That cause must be "adequate" -- that is, must be quantitatively greater than, or qualitatively superior to, the effect. Therefore, the "something" that has always existed is the ultimate cause for all that we see and know -- our universe, beauty, love, intelligence, morality, etc. That "Ultimate Cause", therefore, must be intelligent, loving, and moral in sufficient quantity and quality to be an adequate cause.
There is only one rational (Law of Rationality), adequate (Law of Cause and Effect), explanation. "In the beginning God . . ." (Gen. 1:1)
Would it not be reasonable to assume that the (a) Creator would desire to reveal Himself to the crown jewel of His creation -- Man. This he has done through His inspired word, the Bible, a book proven by both internal and external evidences; a book that has withstood the most severe critics of the centuries and has survived unscathed.
In the Bible we learn about Jesus Christ, the son of God. Consider the evidence. Here was a man, born in a backwater of the mighty Roman Empire and a resident of an area considered backward and uneducated. Here was a thirty-year-old man who taught for about three and one half years in the days before the public address system, the printing press, radio, television, computers, or the Internet. In the days before mass communication and mass transportation. Yet, he has had the most profound influence of any person who has ever lived. What are the implications?
Consider the following. Jesus Christ claimed to be the son of God. He was, therefore, one of the following three things. One, he was the most profound, the most proficient, the most successful liar who ever existed. Two, he was a mentally deranged madman. Or, three, he was who he said he was. Is it reasonable to assume that a liar or a madman, in three and one half years, under the conditions that existed 2,000 years ago described in the above paragraph, could have had such a profound effect on the world? He is, literally, at the center of history. The only reasonable explanation is that Jesus Christ is the son of God.
If it is the case that God exists (and He does), and that the Bible is the inspired word of God (and it is), then is it not in our best interest to read, study, and know His word and what He expects of us? This men have been doing, for thousands of years, with varying degrees of success.
In our search for the truth -- ultimate, objective truth (see Law of Identity) -- I am going to ask you to do something. Forget the paradigm, the pattern, the context, within which you view formalized religion. This, while difficult, you should not fear nor hesitate to do. We are only going to take an objective look at religion and draw such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence.
The word "church", as used in the New Testament, is not a formal title. It is a descriptive term. It is translated from the Greek term "ekklesia" which is from the root words "ek" (out) and "kalien" (to call); therefore, the "called out". The term was also used to describe a secular public assembly, as it was used three times in Acts 19 (Acts 19:32, 39, 41).
Therefore, "the church" refers to those who are "called out", called by the gospel of Christ "out of darkness into his marvelous light:" (I Pet. 2:9). "The church" is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22, 23), the body of believers, collectively. "The church" is not the building, not a sect, not a denomination. Its head is not a man, its head is Christ (Eph. 5:23). "The church" is the people -- Christians -- those belonging to Christ because he bought them "with his own blood" (Acts 20:28).
There is only one body, one church (Eph. 4:4). Christ said "I will build my church" (Matt.16:18), not churches. How does this compare with what you have been taught (believe) about "the church"? How does this compare with what the religious world (and I use that term in its most general sense) teaches us about "the church"? Each week, our newspapers feature a page that implores us to "attend the church of your choice". Televangelists urge us to find "a" church that meets "our" needs. How does this concept of "the church" compare with the Biblical concept?
But, you might say, there is a distinction to be made between the "church universal" (the body of believers collectively) and the various "churches" as within the religious paradigm we are familiar with (Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, etc.).
However, the term "church", when referring to Christians, is used in only two ways in the New Testament. First, to refer to the body of believers collectively. Second, to the body of believers in a specific place, as in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1), or the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 1:4). These were not references to groups that differed from one another doctrinally, or sects that had different beliefs. They were members of the same "church" (or body) meeting at different locations.
A denomination is a religious group, by their own admission, that is smaller than the church universal, yet larger than the local congregation -- a concept of "church" that is completely foreign to the Biblical pattern.
Biblically speaking, therefore, there is no Baptist "church", or Methodist "church", or Catholic "church", or Presbyterian "church", etc. These are, more correctly, denominations -- the Baptist denomination, the Methodist denomination, the Catholic denomination, the Presbyterian denomination, etc. A denomination is a name, or designation, for a specific group or class. Each denomination has its own hierarchy, earthly headquarters, and formalized creed. Hence, in the modern religious paradigm, a denominational system exits. However, not only did such sectarianism not exist in the first century body of believers, it was specifically condemned (I Cor. 1:10-15) Of what denomination was Paul a member? Peter? How would they have viewed the concept?
Is non-denominational Christianity, as was practiced in the first century, possible today? Can we all understand the Bible alike? Is God, the Creator, the author of the Bible through the Holy Spirit, capable of producing a document that we, his creation, are capable of understanding? Does God intend for us to be able to understand his doctrine (Gal. 1:8-9; II Tim. 3:16-17; 4:2-3; Titus 1:9)?
Are we free to worship God in any way we please -- to supplement the word of God with our own denominational creeds, manuals and disciplines? Are these necessary? If they contain more than the Bible, do they not contain too much? If they contain less than the Bible, do they not contain too little? If they are the same as the Bible, are they not unnecessary? Are man-made creeds, manuals, and disciplines pleasing to God? (Mark 7:7-8) Should we seek to "find a church that meets our needs", as some would advise, or should we strive to worship God according to His standards?
There is no "unity in diversity", as some would label the present-day religious system that has evolved into hundreds of different denominations. There is only division and disunity.
Things produce after their own kind. If I plant a seed of corn, it will produce corn. If I plant an acorn, an oak tree will grow. Denominational creeds produce members of denominations. The seed of Christianity is the word of God, the Bible (Luke 8:11). Planted in good and honest hearts, it produces Christians (Luke 8:15). Not hyphenated Christians. Christians only.
If one hears the word of God (Rom. 10:17), believes that Jesus Christ is the son of God (John 8:24; Mark 16:16), repents of sins (Acts 2:37), confesses Christ (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:10), and is baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27), God will add that one to the church (Acts 2:47). That one is then a Christian, a member of the church (the body of believers) which belongs to Christ (Acts 20:28).
Our plea is for the abandonment of sectarianism and man-made doctrines, a return to the Bible, and a restoration of New Testament Christianity.