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Chapter 23 - Church History
So much of what we understand about Christianity comes to us through churches. The word church is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia and was used to describe people who had been called out (originally for a meeting of city citizens to discuss a particular civic issue).
Today, instead of the emphasis on the people, the emphasis has been on the building, program, denomination, system, package of doctrine, or tradition such that there is a difference between what is now understood and what was initially understood about Christianity.
While what is available today has often be significantly altered, it did not take centuries for all error to be introduced to Christianity. The Corinthians, Galatians, Laodiceans, and others were quick to foul things up.
At first, periodic political persecution and the infiltration of false teachers produced defensive reactions that resulted in the elevation of men of intellect, speaking ability, and ambition who then contributed to the formation of church as an institution. What is often overlooked in this process is that the average Christian was relegated to a peripheral involvement in the church. Sadly the average Christian was more than willing to avoid any demands actual Christianity might make for the assurance from the church that he was going to heaven in exchange for some minimal effort.
Once organizational Christianity was established, catechetical and cathedral schools were established to insure that new priests and administrators would continue to follow established patterns. This became the pattern for universities and even the public educational system.
Catholic religious practice came to been seen by most as rules and obligations mostly disconnected from daily life. Protestant religious practice often followed arcane intellectual theology so as to also seem disconnected from real life.
The Industrial Revolution brought the concept of specialization in application to labor. The inequities in the division between labor and management would be exploited for centuries. However, this had already been established in the church. Christianity had been turned into a profession for the clergy long before management of industrial processes had been imagined.
Theologians (both before and after the Reformation) worked as specialists in extracting truth. They failed to understand the nature of truth (its dynamic properties and that it flows from God into the life of each believer). They thought that by working sort of as miners in the bible, that they could find a nugget to pass along to those downstream. As they took the life out of truth, they themselves suffered and allowed their own intellect to lead them into increasingly arcane areas starving themselves of the life to be found in truth and producing that of little benefit to themselves or others.
The priests and pastors who dispensed the work of theologians also starved as did the people who relied on them to be fed as sheep rely on a shepherd. Christianity was supposed to be about each person directly connected to his Savior and not plugged into the end of a pipeline. By divorcing the laity (regular people) from an active Christian life, the Christian life became a weekly lecture about what we 'should' do.
Christianity almost seemed hollowed out from the inside such that after the two world wars, it was often considered as of almost no practical value. As a result of declining interest, some churches attempted to embrace worldly entertainment, some followed a path of political and social 'relevance' (political activism), and others tended towards exuberant emotional sensationalism.
Today people can come from such a diversity of Christian experience, that it can leave one mystified as to what is true. It is even more confusing for the new Christian or one who desires to understand Christianity. It is at this point where 'radicalism' can be helpful. We have come to inherit such a cacophony of 'Christian' voices, that turning to the bible as a refuge is the best way to find a solid foundation from which to measure all with which we are presented.
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