Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pagan Christianity - Chapter 9


These two have yet to be resolved among those who practice them. "Sacrament/Ordinance" "Trans-substantiation/Con-substantiation/Mere symbolization"; "Sprinkle/Pour/Immerse" "Infant/Believers"........... Now PC throws a new twist into the ecclesiastical controversy. Way to go boys!

Having been raised "whiskey-palion" and since then pondered and adapted several other Christian expressions, I have never stopped wondering if these 2 were really ever mandated to be practiced for several generations. The contextualization in this chapter has finally given me a more simple view rather than the complex one that church history has refined and attempted to present in such fragmented form. (I've always been curious as to why "foot-washing" never made the bill in practice)

In the early church, converts were baptized immediately upon believing. One scholar says of baptism and conversion, "They belong together. Those who repented and believed the Word were baptized. That was the invariable pattern, so far as we know." Another writes, "At the birth of the church, converts were baptized with little or no delay."
What? No mandatory classes with the required sponsor, paper-written testimony, "please wear a swim suit under your clothing," reception afterward plus the videographer to make a movie to show at a subsequent service?

This next observation will provoke some angst among more than one or two.

In our day, the "sinners prayer" has replaced the role of water baptism as the initial confession of faith. Unbelievers are told, "Say this prayer after me, accept Jesus as your personal Savior, and you will be saved." But nowhere in all the New Testament do we find any person being led to the Lord by a sinner's prayer. And there is not the faintest whisper in the Bible about a "personal" Savior.

Instead, unbelievers in the first century were led to Jesus Christ by being taken into the waters of baptism.

This puts in mind the illustration I read in another book last year ("Organic Church" by Neil Cole?) where a gathering of believers had a tank where new brothers and sisters were baptized. The setting was a courtyard of an apartment complex in a notorious neighborhood. The awesome part of the story - people watching from windows and balconies above... some came down asking questions and ended up being baptized.

The Lord's Supper also has a far less complex initiation.

For the early Christians, the Lord's Supper was a festive communal meal. The mood was one of celebration and joy. When believers first gathered for the meal, they broke the bread and passed it around. Then they ate their meal, which then concluded after the cup was passed around. The Lord's Supper was essentially a Christian banquet. And there was no clergyman to officiate.

...With the abandonment of the meal, the terms "breaking of bread" and "Lord's Supper" disappeared. The common term for the now truncated (just the bread and the cup)was the "Eucharist."

...The mystique associated with the Eucharist was due to the influence of the pagan mystery religions, which were clouded with superstition. With this influence, the Christians began to ascribe sacred overtones to the bread and cup. They were viewed as holy objects in and of themselves.

Sounds like just high-church sentiments? Not from what I learned early in my "pastoral" "career."

In between my 2nd and final year of seminary - the curriculum required that we spend a year of internship training at a local church. One Wednesday night as I was leading a bible study in the tiny "sanctuary" I stood at the floor level and began to teach. As people relaxed and engaged in questions and observations, I leaned back on a piece of furniture centered behind me. As the conversation involved more people I actually sat on that piece of furniture. All of the sudden the demeanor of 2 older ladies on the front row turned to shock. The abrupt change created total befuddlement on my part.

"What's the matter?" I asked.
"You're sitting on the altar, Pastor Jeff."
"Oh. I guess I am. I didn't realize it.

I apologized and the rest of the meeting continued with my energy and motivation totally zapped. In a manner of seconds - form had squashed out function.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

excellent points and the details are more specific than somewhere else, thanks.

- Norman