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Chapter 12 -
Some of the effects of persecution and false teaching can be seen in how new believers and children were introduced to Christianity. We can see in the book of Galatians how easy it is to slip into a focus on a list of rules. This is often combined with a reduction of an understanding of faith to salient 'bullet points'. In a way, information about Christianity is substituted for actual Christianity. This can be seen a little in reference to knowledge;
Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. - 1 Corinthians 8:1
One of the major problems of Christianity over the centuries is knowledge apart from love. Sincere Christians would even come to build universities to train their leaders only to find the institutions they created serve to foster pride and arrogance even to the point of denying the existence of God.
When Christianity become what you do or items with which you agree instead of how you live, we are distant from God, unable to recognize the leading of his Spirit, and vulnerable to all sorts of deceptions.
A combination of feeling intellectually inferior about their faith in the face of Hellenistic philosophers, wanting their leaders to be 'educated', and providing instruction for converts resulted in some early Christians adopting a sort of classroom instruction such when Pantaenus, a converted Greek Stoic, became head of catechumenal instruction at Alexandria, in 179 A.D.
We see in these early years the development of practices that would come to cripple Christianity. These practices taken together resulted in the formation of an organizational system (collective) that could be used by Satan to further his ambitions.
1. The elevation of important people. Even the Israelites wanted a king to rule over them so that they could be like other nations. Hellenistic culture already had reverence for those skilled in rhetoric, logic, and sophistry. It was not long before those who excelled in these worldly characteristics were seen as more worthy than those who excelled in humility, piety, and wisdom.
2. Lazy laity. The book of Revelation rebukes a group called the Nicolaitans. We do not have any record of these people, however, the word is a combination of two words that can mean power over the people. It is unlikely that some cabal conspired to take over Christianity. It is more likely that individual Christians either through neglect or ease started to put themselves at the disposal of those who would tell them what to do.
3. Ritual. Those who do not understand how to live for Christ can often find comfort in being told what acts to perform to meet religious criteria. Eventually the acts of a ritual are seen as the totality of the religion such that Christianity seems like every false religion based on works (bargaining what you do for what you get).
4. Disconnection from God's word. When one adopts a system of religious practice, there is little need to do more than follow the rules. A problem in the early church was not so much illiteracy so that people were unable to read God's word. The illiterate always could find someone to read to them. The major problem was a very human one. People do not like to read or even listen to God's word because it is presented in such a way that it makes demands on a person. It is much easier to receive praise for having been faithful in doing some ritual correctly.
5. Prevention rather than correction of error. The bible advocates the correction of error. This process requires an active level of participation particularly in seeking truth and openness to correction on the part of each Christian. When people go on a sort of automatic pilot religious practice, they only seek to function within what is permissable. As Christianity transitioned into an organizational system from a relational way of life, error was defined in terms of works such as ritual that either was or was not in compliance to defined standards.
6. Membership exclusivity. An organizational system maintains measurement criteria by which access is gained into the organization and also by which threat of expulsion can be used to enforce compliance.
7. Faith in church over faith in God. When people first look to their leaders or delegates to instruct them as to what they need to do, they elevate leaders past the position of teacher into a sort of substitute god.
Satan was unable to get Israel to completely abandon God, but he was able to cripple Israel so that they were mostly uninterested in the kingdom that Jesus offered in fulfillment of prophecy. Even without the participation of Israel, God still worked for gentiles to come to him. While God was saving individual gentiles in spite of the organizational system that Satan had formed, Satan was able to use this system to establish what would come to be called Western Civilization.
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