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 Chapter 7: Luther Quit Too Soon

by Gene Edwards

with banter and counterpoint by James Rutz

The Reformation was made possible by one man. And it wasn't Luther. It also wasn't Zwingli or Hus or Wycliffe or Calvin or Hobbes. The credit goes to Frederick the Wise, without whom Dr. Luther would have been turned into a little pile of carbon by age 34, if not earlier. Frederick the Wise, alias Frederick III, just happened to command the largest army in Europe, and he was royally peeved because he had not been made Pope. In fact, there was a lot of unrest all across northern (non-Latin) Europe over the behavior of the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy down in Italy.

Now, in Saxony, where Frederick ruled, there was this perfectly delightful, beer-loving German monk who taught Augustinian theology at the University of Wittenberg. And he was really upset with the church. Luther's conduct and writings were reprehensible to the Roman Catholic Church, and normally we would have been put on trial as a heretic and burned alive. But Prince Frederick, bless his heart, took a shine to Luther, and decided to give protection to the Germanic radical. Essentially what Frederick said was, "Let that man say what he has to say; let no one touch him." And no one else had an army big enough to argue with him.

If you do not understand Frederick the Wise's army, you do not understand the Reformation. Catholic malcontents had been around for centuries. The key to the Reformation's success was not some great spiritual revival, but the military might of Frederick (who, ironically, probably remained a Catholic to the end). The final outcome of this was that the land of Saxony removed Roman Catholicism as its official state religion (the first nation ever to do so). To fill this vacuum, Luther was given free rein to establish a whole new state religion from the ground up!

That brings us to the era where we picked up the lion's share of Protestant practices. Luther had before him a nation filled with empty, ex-Roman Catholic church buildings. He sent his followers out to man these church buildings and to promulgate his teachings to the faithful. Earlier, many Catholic priests had read Luther's writings and had left the Catholic ministry. Most got married, and many came to Luther's home seeking teaching and direction. (He performed no small number of marriages between ex-priests and ex-nuns, and ordained a host of "Lutheran" ministers.)

During these incredible times, Luther produced an entire ecclesiastical structure out of bare bones, created a flood of Lutheran literature and got it distributed. He single-handedly created a Protestant catechism for children, a Protestant hymn book, and a Protestant Bible, which he translated, published and distributed. While doing all this, he taught and trained ex-priests to become Lutheran ministers and Bible expositors. Wherever possible, he was sending these men out to serve as Protestant ministers to those empty church buildings all over Saxony.

Those Lutheran ministers were looked upon as a Protestant version of a priest. Up until that time the "pastoral role," the pastoral practice of the Protestant world, did not exist. The modern-day pastoral concept began in Wittenberg, Germany. So did a lot of our other "New Testament practices." Here is the story of Wittenberg.

The Great Pulpit Switch

Luther had the entire altar area ripped out of the front of the church where he spoke. High up on one of the pillars of the church was a little rostrum, or pulpit, which the Catholic priest had climbed up to by means of a circular staircase to read dutifully the weekly announcements to the faithful flock below. (If you're ever visiting a "tourist cathedral" and there's no one around, you have my permission to sneak up into the pulpit and look down, imagining you're addressing a full house of upturned faces. If your circuitry is anything like normal, you will experience an enormous, almost dizzying sense of power.) Luther had one of those high pulpits placed in the front and center of the building where the altar had been. That was new. Brand new. And so, dear reader, was born the mighty Protestant pulpit. A step in the right direction, definitely - but still a device that centralized and monopolized sharing and communication, leaving it strictly in the hands of paid employees with professional training - while we sit silently in the pews.

What's So Special About 11 A.M.

Luther faithfully preached every Sunday at dawn. The hour was exactly the same that Catholic mass had been scheduled for eons. Luther, however, did not enjoy getting up that early. (Night owls, take comfort!) What he really preferred was to go down to the tavern - or sit in his kitchen - and talk theology with his friends and drink beer on Saturday night. In fact, the tune of his famous hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," was a popular German drinking song of his day. (Even if you don't drink, you just gotta love a guy like that!) So, before long, he moved the Protestant worship service to the saner hour of 9 A.M. - though not without sustaining numerous complaints from the early bird faction. But the older he got, the longer he gabbed on Saturday night and the more beer he drank. He moved the service to 10 A.M. - to the tune of more complaints.

But as he talked still longer, he found even 10 A.M. to be uncomfortably early. The last possible hour he could set for the service and still call it morning worship" was 11 A.M. So he did. And that is how it came about that 500,000,000 Protestants today hold services every Sunday at 11 A.M.! So the next time you roll over and catch up on your sleep on a Sunday morning, remember to thank the Lord for Martin Luther and his endless late-night Bierfests.

Luther and the Hymn Sandwich

Luther also set in concrete the order of worship you'll probably follow next Sunday morning. (He may have adapted Calvin's version of the Sunday morning worship service. It's a moot question. Calvin and Luther both invented their Sunday morning rituals about 1540, and the two are virtually identical.) He set the Protestant ritual for Wittenberg and, with only the slightest variations, we all follow that same liturgy today. Regardless of our denomination, across the face of the entire planet, we copy the immutable, sacrosanct order handed to us down through the ages...at 11 A.M., of course...

K Opening Song

K Prayer

K Three Songs

K Anouncements[1]

K Prayer

K Offertory

K Song

K Sermon

K Benediction

 

The Golden Arches have flourished worldwide, largely for one reason: You can go into any McDonald's anywhere, and you know exactly what you'll get, right down to a few thousandths of a pound. Luther's hymn sandwich, like the Big Mac, also thrives on predictability. It's the same week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation, world without end, amen.

Seminaries and Fig Leaves

The Counter Reformation's Whitewash The Council of Trent was called by the Pope in 1545 to answer the question, "What are we going to do about this fellow Luther?" With a little more humility, they might have figured out that their doctrine had gone somewhat astray over the centuries. But no, they refused to admit that until much later.

They decided the problem the Catholic church had were two fold: 1) their priests were not well educated and 2) the reason for all the immorality in the priesthood and among the laity was all those nude statues and paintings created during the Renaissance. To solve the first problem, they invented the theological seminary, something unknown for the previous fifteen centuries. To solve the second, in 1564 they sent out squads of amused artisans armed with plaster of Paris from which they fashioned history's first fig leaves to cover up the obvious source of all their morality problems.

And now sometimes, on a moonlit night when sleep evades my worried brow, I lie in bed and wonder, "How could this old earth have survived without seminaries and fig leaves? What would life be like without them?" It's worth at least a ponder.

Denominations and the Fixation on Doctrine

Over the centuries, movements and denominations have split off and set up shop by the tens of thousands - mostly for fleshly reasons. But in today's mobile societies, people choose a denomination mostly for reasons of psychological fit. There are three types of Christians: thinkers, feelers, and doers. And we have denominations custom-made for each.

The thinkers want the feelers to get logical. The feelers want the thinkers to lighten up and smell the roses. The doers want both types to get in gear and start evangelizing. The feelers just want to be left alone to love God, chase moonbeams, read poetry, perform miracles, see signs, get power, and watch sunsets. (I may be exaggerating a tad here for clarity.)

Long before there were Protestants, the Catholic Church tried to make room under one umbrella for all three types, with philosophy and theology for the thinkers, missions and monkships for the doers. They had an off-and-on admiration for the feelers (punctuated with periods of banishment, imprisonment, and burning at the stake - courtesy of the thinkers).

Then along came Luther (a doctor of theology, a student of Augustine's philosophy, an Augustine monk, etc.). He often declared that those Catholic feelers (the Catholics called them "mystics") would never gain a toehold in his Lutheran world. Consequently, the Reformation was primarily a theological and intellectual movement. It was woefully lacking as a revolution of spiritual maturity and lacked in giving people a practical grasp on a deeper walk with the Lord. The early Protestants hardly even made a dent in having a deeper walk with Christ.

Since that time, Europe has fought hundreds of wars over doctrinal disputes. Millions have been killed, and precious few of the fatalities have been caused by missionaries or moonbeam chasers. The bloodshed came from the intellectual, rational, logical, doctrinal differences of the thinkers. Sometimes you might find it interesting to read about, say, the Huguenots - just to pick one example out of many. Read about them in dungeons, tied on racks, being roasted over fires, molten lead poured in their mouths, eyes gouged out, women in birth pangs with their legs tied together while mother and child died in unbelievable agony. In each case, a theologian stood beside them, Bible in hand, to convince the tortured Huguenot that the intelligent thing to do would be to recant.[2] And still we pass down through the generations the non-scriptural slogan, "Don't trust your feelings."[3] At least you shouldn't trust thinkers any more than you do feelers.

Today we have 23,000 denominations, each with its own pet doctrines, the logical offspring of the Reformation. God in Heaven, please forgive us.

Stained Glass, Steeples, and Vaulted Ceilings

As of this date, there are probably fewer than 200 Protestants in the world who know the facts that follow. I will greatly condense an exceedingly complex story that took me many years to uncover and led me on a long, demanding trek from Sophia to Rome to the stacks of the UCLA library. Let's begin here: Stained glass windows, steeples, and high vaulted church ceilings got into our lives through Plato, not Christ. Plato wrote again and again about light and space and color as they relate to man's upward spiritual striving toward the "unknowable" Divine essence, the "other than," the "touch with the sublime," the "moment of awe."

The early Christians know that God could be known, that we could meet Him directly, heart to heart, right here and now. In a different sense, we also meet Him in face-to-face, down-to-earth fellowship with other believers. The early Christians saw no need for stained glass and steeples to point us upward to a God just out of reach. He is here! they said. He is among us! But walk into any cathedral and you will immediately be staring upward toward an unreachable apex in the sanctuary. Permanent awe, permanent frustration.

Plato insisted that man must go through a number of ascensions and plateaus to meet the divine essence. It takes a lifetime, he warned, and very few will achieve it. Only the gifted will succeed, he warned, and that through much suffering. The Catholics adopted the Platonic "Stages of Ascent." They can be found in virtually all their writings on the subject of knowing God.

Plato's brilliant nonsense was enthusiastically picked up, massaged, endorsed, and passed on down by generations of heavy-duty Christian thinkers like Origen, Tertullian, and Augustine. They gradually fine-tuned Plato's thoughts into a formidable worldview called religious Neo-Platonic Dualism.

Now, we could have survived this empty philosophizing pretty easily except for one thing: a nameless, one-man disaster team from Syria, a truly warped monk of about A.D. 500 who called himself... DIONYSIUS THE AREOPAGITE. Pseudo-Dionysius, as he is called today, was a prolific author - and a total fraud. He claimed that his writings were those of the original Dionysius, a real disciple who actually did live in first century Greece and was led to Christ by St. Paul (Acts 17:34). (He also claimed that Timothy had sat at his own feet. Pretty good for a monk writing in 500 about events in A.D. 50!) This rascal was enamored of Neo-Platonic philosophy, which was in vogue then. When people read his writings, they really thought they were listening to a profound Christian was was a personal friend and student of Paul. So they thought Paul was a Neo-Platonic philosopher-theologian too!

It was nearly a thousand years before this hoax was finally rejected. By then the damage was done, and it was irreversible. This man's ideas are warp and woof of Christian thought, and will remain so until the Lord returns. Why? Because his brand of philosophy was picked up and integrated into our intellectual heritage by every Christian thinker for a whole millenium - including, alas, a fellow named... ABBOTT SUGER. Suger (soo-ZHAY) was the head of France's national church in St. Denis (de-NEE) from 1122 to 1151. (Denis is the patron saint of France.) 

Now back before 825, there had been this fable that Dionysius of Syria (500) was the Dionysius of A.D. 50. Unfortunately for all of us, there had been a Christian missionary killed in France in 250 named Denis. The village of St. Denis made the astonishing claim that the Dionysius of A.D. 50, the Denis of 250, and the Dionysius of 500 were all the same guy! Which guy? The convert of Paul, of course. And everyone believed the story! The writings of Pseudo-Dionysius now became just about the most important documents in Christian history, and in the process making Paul a follower of Plato. Read it and weep.

Suger jumped on this, and in 1140 created the world's first Gothic cathedral - and the Christian theology of architecture. He deliberately emphasized light, space, color, man's littleness, God's greatness and His "other-than unknowableness." Suger proved this was Christian - and St. Paul's view - by quoting Dionysius!! (He had to overcome the objections of Bernard of Clairvaux, the famous ascetic who was his boss - and didn't want to build it at all.)

Church architecture as a philosophy and theology has been with us ever since. Stained glass windows (light), high ceilings, vaults and arches (awe, wonder, the littleness of man, the greatness of God) all combined to produce a spiritual experience by physical means. Walk into any cathedral, and you will understand. (You'll also whisper - no matter how hard you try not to.) The touch of the sublime, the sense of awe! All of this is of body and soul, no part of it is of the spirit.

Even worse, Pseudo-Dionysius' fantasies were lionized by the most important Christian thinker since Paul...  THOMAS AQUINAS. Imagine a mind great enough to integrate Augustine with the other early Christian writings; harmonize Plato, Aristotle, and the Neo-Platonists; then combine them all into one massive system of thought...called New Testament theology! This is exactly what Thomas Aquinas did in his Summa Theologica before he died in 1274. Thomistic thought is so brilliant that it is still the official doctrine of the Catholic church seven centuries later.

You're not Catholic? No matter. Attend virtually any Protestant seminary in the world, you will still be taught from books that follow his format and from lesson plans that mimic his line of thought. And when you go out to preach, you will preach Christ and Aquinas (which includes huge doses of Pseudo-Dionysius because Aquinas quoted that wretch over 100 times in his Summa.) It's a package deal. It's not even a salad you can pick over with a fork, but a systematic stew.

If you read Western man's best thoughts about God, you also get Parmenides, Anaxagoras, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Antisthenes, Zeno of Citium, Panaetius, Sation, Seneca, Epictetus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Philo, the stoics, Plotinus, Clement, Numenius, Origen, Augustine, Speusippus, Arcesilaus, Carneades, the skepticism of the Academies, Saccas, Tertullian, Aquinas, and - lucky you - a little bit of St. Paul.

After Constantine, the understanding of our faith quickly fell into the hands of big-time intellectual speculators. And no one noticed that the church was losing spiritual depth in quantities exactly equal to its gains in profound philosophy. The intellectual leadership of Christianity soon became the property of some very brainy gentlemen who spoke and theorized somewhere out above the upper stratosphere of the outer ectoplasm - at the expense of ordinary working blokes like you and me, who would gladly settle for a few good thoughts on how to get through the week.

Why You Wear Your Sunday Best

Why did Christians start dressing up to go to church? If you've ever yanked a tie tightly around your sweaty neck on a hot, steaming day - or ouched your way to church in a pair of not-quite-fitting high heels, you may have said to yourself, "I'd sure like to meet the dirty dog who invented these things...in a dark alley."

Actually, you're probably under the impression that dressing up for church is a godly custom designed to show our respect for the Lord. It's not. While showing respect for God is always good, that's just not the historical reason for shined shoes, fresh shirts, and attention to style. Nor do we dress to impress each other - although many people do find it uplifting to be among well-turned-out friends.

History is a little fuzzy on this, but as near as anyone can tell, the real reason for our Sunday splendor is so that we'll look good if we happen to run into Emperor Constantine or his aristocratic friends! Chances for that are not high these days, but originally that was the reason. Constantine and other heavy hitters had a habit of popping up in several of the church buildings he paid for. And when big cathedrals sprang up much later, the impetus to dress up grew further. Fancy church buildings were the one place that royalty mixed with commoners. Cathedrals, such as those at St. Denis, attracted royalty from all over, and it simply wouldn't do to bump into a prince or contessa in your grubby work clothes.

These are just historical observations, of course. I wouldn't be so foolish as to question the advisability of an ages-old custom like dressing up for church. If snappy clothing brings you closer to God, helps you deal humbly with sin in your life, lets you relax and get your eyes on Christ while feeling closer to your brothers and sisters in church, why, I'm all for it. In fact, maybe I'll join you...just as soon as I can locate my Christian Dior cravat and Yves Saint Laurent silk suit.

And Speaking of Clothes...

The clerical "backwards collar" deserves to be awarded a small note here. At one brief point in European history, every man who could afford a suit had a shirt or two with a reverse collar. It was simply the style du jour. Eventually, however, it went the way of all styles, and no one wore it any more - except, that is, for the clergy. Being perpetually underpaid, ministers and missionaries have never been noted for up-to-the-minute fashions. And in this particular case, they continued to wear the now-venerable reverse collar simply because they didn't have the money to refurbish their wardrobes with newer shirts.

And Now, Direct From Luther's Kitchen,

We Bring You: The New Professional Pastorate

The Protestant Reformation was primarily a doctrinal, intellectual, and ecclesiastical event. People did get saved and lives were changed. Praise God for every one. But love of the brethren was not the keynote. The Reformation set the foundation for the great evangelical, fundamental, and charismatic movements of the last 200 years, and yet it was lacking in many practical aspects. For one example, the Catholics were sending out far more missionaries than the early Lutherans ever thought about. So when Catholicism lost half of Europe during the Reformation, it still grew in size because of its missionaries going out all over the world. Missions had not even been born among Protestants - and would not be for another 250 years. We stole half of Europe by force and then didn't grow an inch!

The Reformation was also a time of accumulating traditions - which evolved straight out of the circumstances of the hour. One of these was the modern day pastoral role.

Now, imagine a nation full of empty church buildings. Then imagine Wittenberg looking something like a refugee camp. Ex-priests and ex-nuns were pouring literally by the ox cart load! From all over Europe, men who had read Luther's writing were moving to Wittenberg to sit at his feet. Luther, in turn, was training, speaking and writing volumes, and working to fill those empty church buildings with Protestant ministers as fast as he could. Those converted ex-priests from Wittenberg were 1) following Luther's teachings, 2) taking off their priestly robes,[4] 3) getting married to ex-nuns, 4) setting up new pulpits where the Eucharist was once located, and 5) preaching the Word every Sunday morning at 11 A.M.

Until that time, communities were accustomed to having priests in their city who were carrying out the seven pastoral duties of a priest. They were used to seeing them:

1. marry the young

2. bury the dead

3. hear confession

4. bless community events

5. baptize their babies

6. visit the sick, and

7. care for and collect money for the poor and the church.

Remember, these were the pastoral duties of Catholic priests that had come into being over a thousand year period of tradition and evolution. (In other words, these customs had little to do with the Bible.)

Now, Luther instructed these men to continue the pastoral duties of a priest - with only a tiny alteration. He changed one particular Catholic duty, that of "hearing confessions." This gave way, thankfully, to spiritual counsel and preaching the Bible. IN light of Luther's thundering theological revolution, his miniscule changes in ministry may seem strange to us, but every generation is subject to its matrix. Luther simply could not think of a more scriptural job description for his fleet of professional pastors than that of a not-quite-Catholic priest!

Also, tragically, Luther felt that the laymen around him were so backward, illiterate, and ill-prepared to minister that he was afraid to move ahead to the next logical step of restoring open worship, sharing, and lay ministry. Writing of the sort of laymen he would need, he said, "I cannot find them."

The CEO/Pastor in the Bible

The modern concept of the pastor grew out of Wittenberg, Germany, and was but an adaptation of the pastoral duties of a priest! If you aren't shocked, you sure ought to be. From that day on, people have written literally millions of books on every theological issue conceivable to the mind of man, yet almost no one has closely questioned the Biblical basis for the all-in-one pastor, a superior being who operates as the heart and soul of the church. He is just there. I repeat, he was not born as a result of profound Scriptural study. He just grew like Topsy out of the swirl of events in Wittenberg from 1525 to 1540. Before that he never existed, nor was he ever dreamed of.

In all of the millions of debates in church history, there has not been so much as one day of controversy over his scriptural right to exist! Yet there is not one verse of Scripture in the New Testament that describes such a creature, and only one verse that even uses the term "pastors" (Eph. 4:11). Nonetheless, he is the center of the practice of Protestant Christianity.[5] One of the most fascinating things about the modern day practice of the CEO/pastor is that ministers seem to know - or sense - that their job is non-Scriptural. As a pastor, then later as an evangelist, and until this very hour, I have brought this question to scores of fellow ministers: "Where is the practice of a pastor in Scripture? I cannot find it." The most reaction I have ever received was either agreement or a resigned shrug! No honest pastor will defend the role of today's pastorate in light of the New Testament.

Today's version of Protestantism rests on the concept and practice of the pastor, but he exists nowhere in New Testament Scripture. Yet ironically, he's the fellow we hire and put in the pulpit to call us to be faithful to the Bible! O Consistency, where are thy children?[6]

Snapshots of a CEO/Pastor's Life

I'm throwing in this extra little section at no additional charge. Call it "the confessions of a minister who hated being a pastor"! Please do not look upon these examples as indicative of any lingering pique remaining from my years in the pastorate. Whatever traumas I may have suffered as a pastor have long since been faced, forgiven, and nearly forgotten. Besides, I gave up grumbling for lent!

The snapshots below are only to show you how the theoretical problems of an unscriptural pastorate have real-life consequences...

1. "Ladies and gentlemen, this evening we are gathered together to see the hockey team from Montreal get out here and murder the hockey team from Seattle. They're going to beat one another senseless with clubs and sticks and knock one another over and hit each other. Also there will be riots in the stands. But just before that happens, we're going to have the pastor of the First Baptist Church come and lead us in prayer."

(Have you ever tried to think up a prayer for two groups of men who are about to kill one another over a hockey puck?)

2. The local businessman's club is about to start...amid chaos, noise, dirty jokes, swearing, bragging, and cocktails. Then the announcement: "Will Reverend Edwards please lead us in prayer?" And 1.001 seconds after the prayer, the carousing resumes.

But that pales in the presence of number three:

3. "Hello, pastor. Uncle Kurt died this morning. I'd like you to do his funeral Tuesday." ("Who is Uncle Kurt?" I wanted to ask!) My reply: "Why, of course, sister. What time will it be?" (I have to say that. I'm a pastor. We alone bury the dead. I know: It's not in Scripture; it's a Catholic practice brought over from heathenism. Nonetheless, we Protestant preachers bury the dead. We dare not do otherwise!) The reply I wanted to give: "I'm sorry, that just wouldn't be right. I never did know him very well, and for the life of me, I can't think of a single kind word to say about the old hypocrite. Let someone in your family do it. Let a neighbor do it. Preaching over the corpse of a man who may well be on his way down, not up, is something I refuse to do. Plus, funeral services are a holdover from Old Testament and pagan customs, anyway. Christians didn't even have funerals in New Testament times." (Burials and mourning, yes; funerals, no.) Why didn't I say that? Because that reply would have won me first place in the unemployment line within 24 hours.

4. "The Democratic Party this evening is gathered to hear the Honorable Sam Squeak speak, and now will Reverend Edwards lead us in prayer?" Maybe Reverend Edwards is a Republican, but he still has to pray. Why? Because he is a pastor. That's what pastors do. But even worse is number five:

5. The telephone rings, and a devout Sunday morning attendee says, "Pastor, my daughter wants to talk to Santa Claus. Be Santa Claus for my daughter. Here she is." A little bitty voice asks, "Is this Santa Claus?" And for five minutes I play Santa Claus on the telephone. My salary of $55 a week and a parsonage depend on it!

How would you like to have to do things like this? And wear a suit at all times except in the shower or in bed?... See your wife and kids subjected to constant, town-wide scrutiny?... Never be allowed to be angry, depressed, short-tempered?... Be required to talk piously all day long and do and say some of the most stupid things imaginable? It's all part of the job description. But it is not in the Scriptures. There is not an honest man alive in the ministry that has not wished to unload and drop this whole masquerade and be an ordinary human being. None of this has anything to do with the Christian faith. In fact, the Christian faith stood against this kind of thing for the first few centuries. But number six is the darkest snapshot of all!...

6. A conversation that is a blend of many true incidents: The telephone rings. "Hi, Pastor, this is Benedict. Pastor, my wife and I just want you to know that we love you so much." "Thanks so much, Benedict. You're a fine person to say so. God love you, brother, for so thoughtful a nature." "Pastor, we're going on vacation to the French Alps for the next month, and we have a country retreat out on the lake. Lulu and I just wanted you to know that it's yours every week while we're gone. You can take your family out there, and rest and pray and enjoy it."

"Why, Benedict, that's the most gracious and Christian thing a person could do. God bless you, dear brother. My wife and I think so highly of you." They both hang up. Each has - knowingly - "scratched the other's back." Benedict feels all warm inside, knowing God must love him because the pastor does. The pastor hangs up knowing he has gotten something out of another layman with the scepter of religious blessing. It feels so good, and the rich seem to need it more than the poor do. (Maybe they have a guilt complex about being rich?)

This kind of co-dependent relationship sometimes grows up between pastors and laymen (even poor ones) to the point it almost becomes a science. I, the pastor, bless you, the layman; that means God loves you. You, the layman, bless me (and buy God's favor) by giving me gifts, special attention, special meals - and sometimes a weekend retreat house. You, the layman, become a sycophant, treating me as someone special. And I, the pastor, use my sacred call from God for ego gratification or material gain. While this sort of thing goes on, reality lives in some other part of the world - and heaven weeps while hell chuckles.

Symbiotic relationships will continue as long as we have a rigid division between clergy and laity. Psychologically, in fact, this just might be the main reason we have a hired servant of God and an endowing laity: so that laymen can shirt tail into God's favor without doing all the heavy work! If open church life is ever to be widely known on earth, the whole mentality that spawned the modern CEO/pastor/priest role must go. It demeans the laymen and exalts the pastor - at the expense of God.[7]

What Is Left After the Shell Is Gone?

We could go on. We could get into Mr. Welch's successful campaign for grape juice, Karate for Christ classes, the Easter Bunny, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and much more. But instead, let's gather up all these traditions we picked up from Constantine, the age of the Reformation, etc. (Remember, most Christians think all these things are based on the New Testament.) Put them together, and you pretty well have the whole of the practices of Protestantism. Remove this collateral luggage, and you remove most of what we Christians do and practice. There's just not much left!

Yet none of it has any root in Scripture. Every add-on item listed here can be traced back to its historical beginnings. All come after Constantine:

K church buildings

K church names

K pews

K sermons

K    choirs

K the 11 A.M. starting time

K stained glass windows

K steeples

K high vaulted ceilings

K liturgies and rituals in church worship

K costumed clergy

K seminaries

K children named after "saints"

K dressing up for church

K denominations

K funerals

K the modern pastoral concept

K our fixation on doctrine to the exclusion of other matters.

I repeat, these practices all grew up in the post-apostolic period. Furthermore, most of them stand as a barrier to the restoration of a live encounter with Jesus Christ in church life. And they have been doing just that for the last seventeen hundred years. Yet they are very expensive to have. There is a price - in spirit, mind, and money - to keep the present-day church running.

This is a call for you and your church to make a clean break with Constantine and his whole pagan world. The time has arrived for us all to return to our roots, to the free, unspoiled, unregimented fellowship and worship that the family of the Lord Jesus Christ had for the first three centuries of her history.

Let's open up the church to everyone!

 

[1] We Baptists spend about ten minutes making announcements. I"m not sure whether that's worse or

better than the Lutherands, Presbyterians, etc.

[2] If you read about the Huguenots, you will read almost alone. A few years ago, the French

government issued a postage stamp proudly proclaiming, "1685-1985: France Welcomes the

Huguenots." A red-faced French post office quickly withdrew the stamp when someone pointed out

that 1685 was the year when whole provinces emptied as countless Huguenots, under severe

persecution, fled abroad in every direction. -J.R.

[3] As Jack Hayford once observed, "What does that mean? That our minds are flawless?" -J.R.

[4] Incidentally, reformer John Calvin determined that he would never wear priestly robes. As a protest

to the costumed pageantry of other clergy, he stuck to his business suit for even the most formal church

occasions. But alas, his followers through the ages have also worn a business suit - exact copies of

Calvin's business suit. And thus today, when you see a Presbyterian minister in full regalia, you are

looking at a sixteenth century Swiss Brooks Brothers' boardroom special. -J.R.

[5] I feel that the problem is not in having a pastor, for pastor-equippers are Scriptural. The problems

are:

1.Dividing up the body of Christ into two parts: overworked leaders and sedentary serfs.

2.Putting up a nearly unscalable wall between the two.

3.Convincing the laity that it's OK to sit back and relinquish their freedom, their authority, their

ministries, their intimacy with other believers, their priesthood before God, etc., etc.

4.Making a pastor into an unscriptural chief executive officer/church

president/administrator/errand boy for laymen who don't want to visit the sick, etc./head

counselor/permanent pulpit fixture/chief cook and bottle washer/neo-priest straight out of the

Roman tradition. -J.R.

 

[6] Is the idea of a pastor a Protestant doctrine? If it is, I cannot find it. It seems to be only a practice,

and has never been a doctrine. I am a graduate of the largest Protestant seminary in the world, which

has on its campus one of the largest theological libraries ever assembled in the history of Christendom. I

have searched that library for even one book or one chapter, and finally in desperation, even one

paragraph presenting a positive effort to show that there is something like today's pastoral concept in

the New Testament. I have never found that book, nor chapter, nor page, nor paragraph on the subject.

The CEO/pastor is just there. As far as I can discover no one has ever tried to prove the pastoral

concept and practice. Like the church parking lot, the CEO/pastor just is.

Kind of mind-boggling, isn't it?

[7] If you want to hire a pastor to "equip your laymen for the work of the ministry," I think that's fine.

Support him with all your heart as he transforms faltering believers and shows them how to be happy,

fearless, loving giants of faith.

But if you hire a pastor and tell him to monopolize the communications in your meetings and you put in

his hand the scepter of Chief Executive Officer and Protestant priest, you're on your own when it

comes to sorting out the resulting headaches and complications, which may be with you unto the third

generation. -J.R.

Email me: Kevin Paul
knwp@betterwithcoastal.com

The Revelation of the Lost Keys