I sit here with a bit of a conflicted soul. On the one hand, I got the new issue of Christianity Today and found that it is devoted to the importance of doctrine in spiritual formation. Giddy. That is what I was when I read it. However, I also received an email yesterday that serves to curb my excitement, reminding me of the reality of our desperate condition. (I’ll get to the email soon).

Christians often scare me. Really, all religious people scare me. But Christians in particular because they are the ones I have to deal with everyday. I have a deep empathy for the so-called “new atheists” such as Daniel Dennet and Christopher Hitchens who find religion repulsive and counterproductive to the betterment of society. While I completely disagree with them for a variety of reasons that will not be covered here, I can put myself in their shoes and find myself saying the same things. Namely: Christians can be so bizarre.

Seriously, we can produce the craziest nutcases the world has to offer. Sadly, it is often our beliefs that are the issue. From the “God told me to kill my children,”  “I cannot talk to you because you are going through a divorce,” “If you say the earth is going around the Sun we are going to put you in jail,” to “Our ministry needs a million dollars or I am going to kill myself,”  we have our embarrassments. The things said and done in the name of God are astonishing and disturbing. Yes, I know. Everyone has their nutcases, but we have the tendency to breed a special variety. I have already, in times past, talked trash on my own breed: Calvinism. But now I am going to get after the species in general: Christians.

In the interest of full-disclosure I must tell you something. I have Gail Riplinger’s book Which Bible is God’s Word sitting right in front of me. Its basic argument is that all Bible translations other than the King James Bible are from Satan. Oh yeah, I am serious. The sin is not that I have this book, but that it is representative of times past when I was, for about six weeks, a KJV Only advocate, believing that all other Bible versions were from Satan. To make matters worse I was actually an outspoken evangelist of this belief. I told my family, my friends, and everyone who would listen about Satan’s plot to get you to read another version of the Bible. I can only imagine what the conversation sounded like. I had “evidence” that I thought was solid, but as I look back on this “evidence”, my face turns red. I guess I keep Riplinger’s book in front of me to keep me humble and always aware of how bizarre I can be.

Christianity is dangerous. The Bible is dangerous. Please don’t get me wrong. I believe that both, rightly understood, are wonderful and true. However, the “rightly understood” is so hard to come by. The difficulty is not that one has to be a super-genius to understand the Bible or the Christian faith. Quite the opposite. The Bible is wonderfully simple and so is the Christian faith.

I believe that the difficulty lies in two areas:

1. Christians believe that the Bible is God’s word.
2. There is not a bolt of lightening that strikes you when you interpret it wrong (i.e. there is no immediate evidence of or consequence for wrong interpretation.)

The reality of these two make a potentially lethal combination. They don’t make good bed-fellows and hence the Roman Catholic cry for an imperial authority to regulate such things. Although Catholics have their share of bizarre teachings themselves, their problem is bigger in my opinion since their bizarre doctrines get dogmatized and everyone must believe them. At least in Protestantism we can both recognize and repudiate our weird uncles. Catholics are stuck having to defend them for all time. (Another story, another time.)

Now for the bizarrity of the moment. . .

This is from an email I received from a concerned follower of our ministry. It is a phone message from his Bible Study leader. Every time I listen to this, I am reminded of the movie “The Jerk” when Steve Martin is getting shot at but he naively thinks the guy is shooting at the cans beside him. “Its the cans. He hates the cans!” Well, in this case: “Its the buildings. God hates the buildings.” Listen and you will see what I mean:

(Please note that the audio has been altered to protect the identity of the caller.)

[display_podcast]

Buildings are the whore of Babylon? Really? Satan is luring people into buildings which is the great apostasy? Really?

I want to be careful here since I know what this guy is actually a part of. It is a belief that he has about the local church vs. the universal church. It is a belief that he has about what the church really is. I get it. But the way he is using the Scripture to sound an alarm is, well…, alarming. It is bizarre. Sadly, this is not the first time I have heard such stuff. Not only have I seen people make such arguments about church buildings but I have seen others make the same type of arguments about pulpits, pews, steeples, and even clerical robes.  But the real issue is not just their bizarre beliefs, but the level of importance they attach to them. If you are in a church building, you are a follower of Satan, not a follower of Christ.

Chill out. What ever happened to grace in theology? Even if you were right, do you think God really cares that much about buildings?

Why do these types of issues become central to people’s beliefs and passions?

Christians believe that the Bible is God’s word. Yet we don’t have a healthy fear of the Bible and truth. This is why we can get away with such things. Protestantism is based on the supposition that we need to have a personal encounter with Christ though a personal understanding of the Bible. I agree. But I also agree that this opens the door for such abuses and bizarre beliefs. Again, these people believe that the Bible is God’s word. They really believe it. That is not the issue. The issue is that there is not a bolt of lightening that strikes them down for misguiding God’s people. (BTW: If there was, I would have been dead a long time ago).

I don’t know how many times I have listened to a sermon or lesson from the Bible where the person next to me (usually a family member) says, “Pastor so-and-so is so smart. I would have never see all that from the Scripture that he just preached from.” More often than not, I usually think to myself, “Yeah, because it is not there!” We are masters at seeing things and teaching things that are not there and don’t really matter.

I think we should have some type of discipline for people who go theologically haywire. Gracious discipline! It should be part of the discipleship process. When the theological hormones begin to stir and bizarre stuff begins to spew out of our mouths, we need to be taken aside and theologically slapped. Someone needs to tell us to  “Get a grip, chill out, and grow-up.” Why not? We do this with teens and they need it. I needed more of it. However, when we let things go, we allow people to find comfort in their theological immaturity and then propagate it’s symptoms as signs of maturity! “Satan is in the buildings!” “The New American Standard Bible is from the devil.”

Folks, let us reserve our passions for those things that really matter—those things about which the Bible is clear and those things that the history of the church has held central. These doctrinal sideshows do nothing but bring shame to the name of Christianity and provide illustrations for those like Daniel Dennet and Christopher Hitchens to make their case that we are all nuts. This type of theological immaturity is counter-productive to the central Gospel message which has to do with the person and work of Jesus Christ. We need to be sensible, rational, reflective, and wise. In order to seriously advocate this type of “its-the-buildings” theology, we have to intentionally repress all four.

To all of you who, like me, have said that “Satan created the NIV” and the like, isn’t life bizarre enough without our adulterous affairs with sideshow freaks? Do like me and keep a copy of Gail Riplinger’s book in front of you to scare you into maturity.

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C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.

Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    50 replies to "Christians Can be So Bizarre or “He Hates the Buildings!”"

    • Rob Walters

      Thanks for posting this. It really is sad that the part of Christianity that gets all of the press is the bad part where we rip each other apart and shred each other over minor doctrinal differences. Satan has won a great battle by dividing the Body of Christ and robbing us of our unity.

      I pray for a new revival to sweep across the earth and to bring unity and harmony among God’s people.

    • Aarn Farmer

      You probably already know this but this is Harold Camping theology. I guarantee he’s been spending time listening to him.

    • Bryan

      Well, why don’t you just explain all this to your friend. I’m sure that a good Christian wouldn’t be so prideful as to reject your well-reasoned explanation. Once he understood how his position was going to harm the flock, why, he’d turn right around.

      Or start his own denomination. Whatever.

      But I admit to being a little perplexed by your statement that, “At least in Protestantism we can both recognize and repudiate our weird uncles.”

      How, exactly?

    • C Michael Patton

      Bryan,

      How do we repudiate our weird uncles? By saying that they are wrong and this being legitimately possible. In Roman Catholicism, someone cannot, by definition, bring the churches teaching into account.

      I am not saying that in Protestantism that this is as effective as it could be, but, nonetheless, it happens legitimately.

      Thanks for bringing this up. However, I don’t really want this to be the subject of the discussion here.

    • Susan

      “I think we should have some type of discipline for people who go theologically haywire. Gracious discipline! It should be part of the discipleship process. When the theological hormones begin to stir and bizarre stuff begins to spew out of our mouths, we need to be taken aside and theologically slapped.”

      Yep. Too often people are afraid to confront. When we let things go it just gets worse….it spreads.

    • I think one of the things we need to teach more and stress more is humility. While the Bible is the word of God and we do have the right and obligation to interpret it for ourselves, we also need to have a strong grasp of the imperfections of our own wisdom (1 Corinthians 3:18-20). Otherwise we are in danger of jumping to a dogmatic conclusion based on our own pride, without approaching the issue with caution.

    • Randy Olds

      What is really scary is when people who get hair-brained ideas about the Bible actually start convincing others that they are right and gain a following. These followings are commonly known as cults. I should know, I grew up in one and it took many, many years to shake the teachings of that cult.

      The cult I grew up in (Worldwide Church of God led by Herbert Armstrong) taught a lot of the things that you addressed in this post. Church buildings were evil, steeples where pagan phallic symbols, the list goes on and on. Grace was non-existent.

      Folks need to read their Bibles and not take anything that any man says for granted. If the Bible doesn’t back it up, toss it. I find that most Christians simply think that whoever they regard as their ‘spiritual leader’ must get their interpretation directly from God and simply accept what they hear from the pulpit or read on a website as ‘Biblical truth’ and never break open their Bibles to see if what they are hearing or reading can be verified in the Bible.

      Kinda scary.

    • Michael T.

      In my 20-somethings Bible study on Monday we were asked to make a list of those we feel closest too and those we have the hardest time being around or interacting with. The two individuals I put on my list were 1) those who make every theological issue, even the most minor matter of interpretation an issue of salvation, and 2) those who try to make it so that nothing is a central issue and everything just opinion. I would actually rather hang around with hard atheists (and I know a few) then these types of Christians.

      My reasoning for this is that the Gospel is the most important thing to me and the first group of people destroy the Gospel by making it so burdensome that there is no “good news” left in it and it actually turns people off to the Gospel, and the second group of people render the Gospel vacuous and meaningless. However, if I had to choose which group makes me more angry it would be the first group. Whenever I here someone make claims like the person in this post or the King James Only people I get the urge to lose my lunch.

    • Johnfom

      “We need to be sensible, rational, reflective, and wise. In order to seriously advocate this type of “its-the-buildings” theology, we have to intentionally repress all four.”

      Of, course, repressing the passion, love, whatever-emotion-you-want-to-insert-here for these four exclusively would only serve to bring that other great dogmatic horror: legalism.

      “I think we should have some type of discipline for people who go theologically haywire.”

      I thought your earlier point, “in Protestantism we can both recognize and repudiate our weird uncles,” was that we already, potentially, have that type of discipline?

      Good and timely (for me) post pointing out that problem. Was talking to some folk the other day who all but gave up any faith in scripture in part because of these types of misuses. Thankfully they were able to separate the substance (scripture) from the presentations but it left me wondering just how much damage has been done to folk by these types of ‘evangelical’ doctrines/dogmas and how much that has contributed to the disconnection found in so-called ‘post-churched’ Christians?

    • whoschad

      I had a similar experience happen to me just last week. He started off the conversation by explaining that God speaks to him in dreams and visions. “Okay”, I thought. And then he took me on a whirlwind tour of handpicked scripture passages (in the King James) and each time, explained the TRUE meaning behind a particular word. Then he would ask me to repeat the passage except changing the actual words to the ones he substituted.

      In this way, he was able to eek out a strange doctrine. It ended up being something about the internet and phone and radio and television. And how the radio waves that travel through the air are part of Satan’s dominion (the prince of the power of air). There was also some stuff about dirt and food and stuff too, I don’t really know. One of the implications was that there will be no future bodily resurrection though.

      I’m not sure how to even BEGIN talking to these kind of people. There’s not even a common foothold to start with. Scripture could mean ANYTHING to these people. Why is it the people who proclaim to be taking the Bible most seriously, are the same people who don’t actually take it seriously at all?

    • David Sanders

      Folk Religion! Folk Religion! Folk Religion is the problem!

    • John

      So you’re saying the NIV isn’t from Satan? Good! That’s what I read so I can sleep better now!

    • C Michael Patton

      Chad,

      “I’m not sure how to even BEGIN talking to these kind of people.”

      I know. It is very discouraging. Not simply because we want to give an answer, but because I so desire these people to get out of this bizarre trap.

    • David Bell

      “Chad,

      “I’m not sure how to even BEGIN talking to these kind of people.”

      I know. It is very discouraging. Not simply because we want to give an answer, but because I so desire these people to get out of this bizarre trap.”

      When I talk to people like this about going through some
      serious theological training like the theology program, they
      think I am being condescending or acting spiritually superior.
      At some point you just have to walk away. Folk religion
      has claimed another victim.

    • Mike

      The problem is that most Christian have never read the entire Bible. I know 10% figure gets throw around a lot but I am not sure if that is accurate. I know from our Men’s Ministry that when we asked how many have read the entire Bible out of 200 guys only about 40% stated they have read it in its entirety.

      Since the level of Bible literacy, even for professed Christians, it is very easy for people to become confused about certain passages. The internet just makes it worse. Just look at the vitriol that the King James Only people put up.

      And don’t get me started on the embarrassment that is Televangelism. Or the people from that Kansas church who protest at Military funerals.

      Often times we are our own worst enemies for not standing up and saying that the things these people profess are not true Christianity.

      I could go on about Haitian earthquakes and the 9/11 attacks it just gets my blood boiling when these people misrepresent my faith. Makes me want to evict the moneychangers from the temple.

    • B Jordan

      Unless this guy meets out under the clear blue sky, he’s in serious trouble. I wonder… can he even live in a house?

      It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

    • Brett

      Well, of course it is not Christian to ridicule people; those who judge others will often be found guilty of the same sins themselves. In this case, let’s look for a serious Biblical basis for all this.

      The Bible often suggested that 1) God is everywhere; and Solomon questioned whether God therefore needed a building, a temple therefore, to live in. Other parts of the Bible told us that 2) the place of God too was not in buildings, but in the people, the congregation, and 3) in their hearts. But especially 4) therefore there are no physical churches, in the City, the kingdom of God, that is to come, at the End. In Rev. 21.22-3:

      “The twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was made of one pearl. And the broad way of the city was pure gold, as transparent as glass.

      And I did not see a temple in it, for Jehovah God the Almighty is its temple, also the Lamb. And the city has not need of the sun nor of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God lighted it up, and its lamp was the Lamb.” (Rev. 21.22-23 NWT).

    • Eric S. Mueller

      I spent some time in the KJVO camp as well. I picked it up from Kent Hovind when I came across his seminars early in my walk. I haven’t read Riplinger’s book, although for a while it was on my list. I do have James White’s “The King James Only Controversy” in my reading list.

      My wife meets a pastor’s wife at Burger King so our kids and her kid can play in the playground there. The other day another woman was there, and got into a discussion with them about some message that she claimed God gave her. We live in the south Jersey area. Somehow, this woman was “given” a message by God and drew a map of the area claiming that certain roads and townhships were certain doctrines and passages from the Bible. Our township is “death” on this map. Hell is in the township where our old church was. She gave my wife a packet of papers with this map and her Scriptural proof “backing” it up.

      While New Jersey is the least satisfying place I’ve ever lived, and I’m happy to have documentation that it apparently is Hell, I’m wondering why it’s so easy for people to untether concepts from the Bible and lay them over just about any map.

      Speaking of Harold Camping, for some reason he keeps coming up in the adult class at church. One of the men at the church does a good impression of him.

    • Brett

      In a sense, a religious blog is a congregation without a physical building. So ….?

    • Brett

      Sometimes we find that the religious speaker that we despise the most, turns out to be Jesus himself. The rock that the builders rejected, is the keystone to the kingdom.

    • tamara

      @Brett: “In a sense, a religious blog is a congregation without a physical building. So ….?”

      So, then is it simply a matter of not being all in one building at the same time? Or if you happen to be in a building with a bunch of other Christians, just don’t talk about God at all, and don’t pray, and don’t even think about Him? Because I should probably confess that I’m actually in a building right now… but I really do feel strongly that the Holy Spirit is still with me… and I even feel like I could be so bold as to say that He will stay with me even if I invite a few of my Christian friends over… and then if we all decided to hold hands and walk down the street to oh, say, the Lutheran church, and pop in for a little sing-song, I think He’s still going to be indwelling me… but, then, I can’t exactly find a reference that says all that. This silliness is kind of like the exact opposite of a horror movie, where people seek sanctuary IN churches to avoid the devil (which is also really bad theology – but hey, we’re crazy like that). Now it’s ‘hide in the church if you want to avoid God’?

    • Brett

      I listened to the video; that selection did not say that all buildings were bad; just that we should stay out of of offical church buildings, churches. Probably becaues they are a sort of institutional trap or idol; a limiting on where we think God is. Which is oddly consistent with the three or four BIblical quotes I listed above. Including this one, regarding the End, the final state of the city of God:

      “And I did not see a temple in it, for Jehovah God the Almighty is its temple” (Rev. 21.22)

      Possibly you could find believers in a physical church; as well as anywhere else. On the other hand, there are strangely many quotes in the Bible that suggest that any and all physical temples are wrong in some way. Probably because they tend to symbolically localize an infinite God. And therefore to consistently under-represent Him.

    • jim

      CMP

      Loved this post!! We have a group up in our area called the Jolly Farmers, while I don’t know a lot about them, they seem like decent folks but they have this insistance on “all things in common”Act 4:32. They eat together and share all the profits of their produce under the leadership of one man and his wife.
      If one leaves their (religion?) they are excommunicated, the rest of the group is to have no contact with them.

      Anyway, I find this a tad bit strange but don’t really know if they are a cult or not, they are very secretive and keep to themselves.

      But I often see these tendencies show up in our own church, for example the other Sunday, while studing Genesis, a lady brought up the idea that since God created animals before man that he must love them a great deal. That he probably taking them to heaven….that we should be protecting them …..and I pointed out all the starving kids in the world today….again its perspective.

    • John

      Jim,

      That is so true. We at church often want to separate from the world to the point that we are only looking for people like ourselves, or people willing to become a clone of us, to join our fellowship. I know that’s not true of all churches, but for some reason the churches I’ve been a member of seem to be that way. Probably because I’m like them!

    • Bryan

      I hear you, CMP. But I really feel like I need to point out when you’ve said something that doesn’t quite make sense to me.

      Thus, you assert that “we should have some type of discipline for people who go theologically haywire.” Great. But you then say that this happens by “saying that they are wrong and this being legitimately possible.”

      Well, that’s some kind of discipline, isn’t it? This is the nature of the “discipline” between, say, Anglicans and Evangelicals? This “saying they are wrong”? Are Anglicans your crazy uncles, or are you saying that you treat Anglicans with the same discipline you put on your crazy uncles?

      And look at your comments! Brett has a nice little outline explaining why your crazy uncle actually has a pretty good case. Turns out, there ain’t no “we” in T-E-A-M.

      My point in not a Catholic-Evangelical thing though, I admit, that must be a subtext to the discussion. My point is that you, CMP, can’t really hold to both the idea of collective (“we”) discipline and to the idea religion is something that can be done on a personal level. Put differently, there ain’t no “we” in P-R-O-T-E-S-T-A-N-T.

    • JJ

      Wait! Are you saying that Obama and the Democrats are not the Anti-Christ and the Beast of Revelation(s)!?!?!?!

      Whoa!!! This is how liberalism starts!

      We are a funny bunch!

      May “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and minds”
      JJ

    • […] Patton goes on to think about why we let priorities get so out of kilter and offer some constructive ideas for how to deal with it. I have seen similar attitudes from a variety of agendas, many of whose concerns resonate with me. These range from Bible translations preferences to ministry philosophies to church government. Those things are all important, but they are not equally important. Some helpful thinking here. Read the whole thing. […]

    • C Michael Patton

      Brian, there is a we. Just because it is not structured like other “we’s” does not mean that it is not real. This is especially the case with Evangelicalism. You can look at a bunch of kids on the playground and one of them say “we are playing and we like to play.” Maybe this kid is not the leader and maybe there is no organized structure, but there is a “we,” just not the same as the we of a football team.

      But this is so increadibly ancillary to the point of this post, I don’t want to go any further with this. It would simply serve to illustrate the point of my post! *jk

    • Bryan

      Well, I guess I missed the point, then. It was seeming to me that you were advocating a position that was quite literally impossible and complaining about a central attribute of Evangelicalism.

      But I guess not. Cheers.

    • C Michael Patton

      Bryan, I am assuming you are Catholic therefore I knew where this could go. I am not letting it go there. Are you Catholic?

    • tamara

      If the point is to dispel the belief that churches are God-inhabited buildings with holy forcefields around them, where you can ‘home free’ from demons and zombies and the like, then yes, I would agree… God probably is amused/annoyed by that kind of thinking. But the Bible does also say that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there in the midst of them. Coming together as community is Biblical, and it isn’t always possible to do it at the riverside… not when it’s -40C, anyway. Being part of the Mennonite tradition, which is a relatively iconoclastic, I do comprehend the basic sentiments behind this thinking. We have been known to have meetings over things like, ‘should there be a cross at the front of the church -maybe it should be off to the side – but its got to be an EMPTY cross’, ‘should we use the piano or the organ for worship’, ‘if we put a pop-machine outside the youth room, will we be money-changers’, ‘does God like hymns or choruses better’, ‘the pastor’s wife wears too much lipstick’ and these things are somehow very. important. to. God. We want to please Him, we want to be pure, we want to ‘get it right’. But God’s not vain, and we are hopelessly bound to get it all wrong more often than we get it right, and it’s all about grace anyway.

    • C Michael Patton

      “If the point is to dispel the belief that churches are God-inhabited buildings with holy forcefields around them, where you can ‘home free’ from demons and zombies and the like, then yes, I would agree… God probably is amused/annoyed by that kind of thinking.”

      LOL. Way to put it Tamara.

      I would agree that building can be misunderstood as containing a special power of God, but this certianly is not the traditional Protestant teaching about it. The building is only a pragmatic facillitator of the gatherings. It is not different than meeting outside in our theology (except that you don’t get rained on, there is enough room, and we have PowerPoint presentations!)

    • John A. Taylor

      Well said Michael!

      Like you, early in my Christian walk, I had a brief bout with “crazy theology.” So I like to keep that in perspective when I hear it from another believer.

      I’m quick to correct, gently gracious, but I have little tolerance for those committed to riding on the wings of the “lunatic fringe.”

      It’s usually their ideologies I have to explain away when I’m trying to discuss the reasonableness of my faith.

    • C Michael Patton

      Way to put it John.

    • Bryan

      CMP, I am Catholic and I also understand where the discussion could go and I am not particularly interested in that direction. As it happens, I am something of a fan of the American Evangelical movement — even though you guys make it hard, sometimes.

      But none of that matters for this discussion, I don’t think. What I do think is that there is not much point in pretending weaknesses aren’t weaknesses. Actually, it might be better put to say that there is no point pretending costs aren’t costs.

      And there really are costs to be paid in exchange for the benefits of the Evangelical approach, of which (benefits, I mean) there are many. And one of those costs is the discipline that you want to impose on ding-dongs, not to be technical.

      As a practical matter, those very odd positions were the result of lots of pride mixed with his own reason. You view seems to be that _your_ reason is a good substitute for _his_ reason, if only his personal pride wasn’t in the way. Which it is.

      And if you care to look back at the very early heresies, I think you’ll find that not one of them was reasoned-away. St. John himself wrote attacks on the Gnostics which were completely ignored by the Gnostics. Arius wasn’t reasoned out of his heresy. Tertullian couldn’t even reason himself away from his own heresy, even after those haymakers he landed on Praxeas.

      My point is that you are asking for something that simply cannot exist within the Evangelical framework. So you shouldn’t ask — you just gotta deal with it. I gotta deal with Peruvian country people finding the Virgin in a tortilla, you gotta deal with Midwestern preachers finding the Devil in steeples. That’s not an argument against Evangelicalism, it is an observation _about_ Evangelicalism.

    • C Michael Patton

      Bryan, yes, I do very much agree that ecclesiology is Evangelical Protestantisms weakest link. Of couse we could get into it about whether this weak link is worth is (which I obviously think it is), but that is what I am trying to avoid.

      However, I do think that forums such as these, official or not, do provide a place where people are able to look at themselves in a mirror. It is like a democracy (not really a representative replublic or, certianly, a monarchy) where the voice of the people, we hope, is strong and well thought out, with the freedom of speech actually able to influence and bring about change. Certainly, if we all stayed silent, we would have problems, but I think in the world of the internet, Evangelicalism even has gained some strengths. Of course, people can ignore these admonitions and carry on about their buisness (the Catholic church sure has its share of dissention), but do this crazy uncles define us? Not if we don’t let them. Not if we have a good rooting in church history (which, again, is out biggest weakness—we have historical amnesia!)

    • John Bailey

      Michael,

      You know how easily I get confused. If God does not want us to meet in buildings, where are we to meet?

      Are the “buildings” just “church” buildings or are shopping malls off limits, too. You know a lot of the “new” churches meet in shopping malls. I hope they are okay some of those ” new” churches have great coffee.

      I went to a church that met in a junior high school. I didn’t see Satan or any of his minion. So, meeting at schools might be okay. Or not, it is a building.

      So that leaves outdoors. But if the weather is in-climate, can we meet under a gazebo or pavilion? Or are those considered a building?

      Also, What happens to all those who gave their lives for Christ in buildings, are we still Christians?

      I guess when all is said and done, your caller just broke commandment 3. But fortunately for him and me, God’s grace extends to the extremes of us all.

    • C Michael Patton

      Hey John.

      Great to see you on the blog.

      You actually bring up a really good point about the third commandment. With some of these groups, they believe that by meeting in the buildings you are breaking the third commandment. In other words, you are saying that God resides, in a special way, here. Of course, this is not Protestant theology at all, but we should guard against such as it can be inherited from other tradition.

      However, by saying that one cannot meet in buildings, you are really doing the same thing. You are breaking the third commandment by making an idol out of all of that which is outside buildings. In other words, Satan in there, God out here. You have thereby created dominions for each, one of which God is not present in. Christ say that one that people will not talk about going here or there to worship God but will worship him in spirit and truth.

      Do we need buildings to worship God? Certainly not? Do some Christians think we do? Yes. Does this mean we get rid of all buildings? Absolutely not. We simply educate people. How hard is that?

    • Brett

      Well, wandering around in the desert is not so bad; or at most a tent is good. Even being homeless is interesting.

    • tamara

      “… you just gotta deal with it. I gotta deal with Peruvian country people finding the Virgin in a tortilla, you gotta deal with Midwestern preachers finding the Devil in steeples.”

      I love that.

    • Brett

      On the other hand, what if you try wandering in the wilderness for 40 days? With no home?

      If you do that, you might discover the God who is found not just in churches, but who “fills all things,” in heaven and on earth. Who even fills the things, of nature.

      And if you are taken to the very highest place in the temple, and offered many miracles from this high spire? Maybe you should turn that down.

    • Ron

      Brett:

      What are you talking about?

    • John

      ” let us reserve our passions for those things that really matter—those things about which the Bible is clear and those things that the history of the church has held central. ”

      So not Calvinism I take it.

    • C Michael Patton

      John, that is right. I have certianly made it clear over the years that Calvinism is not a cardinal issue. It covers issues that the Bible is certianly concerned with, but neither the history of the church nor the Scripture itself would lead me to believe that it conclusion (or a subscription to them) is central to the faith.

      However, again, I would not equate a proper interpretation of Romans 9 with “Satan is in the building”!

    • Jay Saldana

      In order to combat this kind of error we need a place where we can talk about these issues and disseminate ideas and corrections. A place we we can arrive at a conclusion and by some semblance of agreement discover if we are in line with God’s plan for our lives. A place where we can be trained to discuss Theology and see our ideas in relationship to what others think. We need this desperately! The Church needs this desperately! We need to start a program! If you find one PLEASE be sure to participate and DONATE to it to make sure it keeps running or we will not have to worry about buildings devil filled or otherwise.

      Thanks Michael!

      Jay

    • Brett

      The end of Rom. 9? “Look! I am laying in ZIon a stone of stumbling and a rock-mass of offense, but he that rests his faith on it will not come to disappointment.” (Rom. 9. 33 NWT).

      Sounds almost like a new Church. Which is partially a criticism, built on the ruins/foundation of the old? Which is always a “stumbling block” to too-accepted dogmas.

      Ron: in part, Mat. 3.1 – 4.1 – 4.10. RSV: “Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on pinnacle of the temple.” (For “temple,” read: “church”). And Mat. 8.19-22? “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay down his head.”

      All potential criticisms of all churches, and their highest aspirations, and highest promises, and holiest leaders and doctrines and dogmas. And manmade constructions?

      And a good reason to leave churches, and go wandering in the wilderness.

      Just had an invitation to go to Big Bend as a matter of fact.

    • Brett

      “The prophet is a fool, the man of the spirit is mad” (Hos. 9.7).
      “God does not live in shrines made by man” (Acts 17.24).
      “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature … has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1.20).”In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth”; (Gen. 1.1). “Then God saw it was good” (Gen. 1.12).

    • Jay Saldana

      As I lamented a short while ago, we need to have a place to discuss and share our ideas (I was referring to this place and others like it in case I was too oblique), but, it seems to me, we also need to support this opinion/fact with a sense of awareness of our weakness as humans – we are “thrown” (or totally depraved if you prefer) to error. We drift to it like powdered metal dust toward a magnet. It is the easiest, slickest, appeals to our sense of individuality, just plain lazy or whatever is the our thing at the moment. The problem is that I am sure 99 out of 100 who read this at this website (and others like it) already know that. I would be willing to “cast lots” that is why we all gather here. So the question is “How do we move the correction out to those that need it?”
      It seems to me that these rather extreme interpolations (for they are not translations) say more about the person and their personal demons than the church as a whole. What speaks to the church as a whole, in my opinion, is our unwillingness to speak with gentleness and kindness but firmly and loudly that they are just plain wrong. Not judge the person, but the theology, or in this case, it seems to me, one person’s willingness to confuse personal failings or anguish about “a building” with all church buildings.

      jay saldana

    • C Michael Patton

      Also, it says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” not “the heavens and the church” or “the heavens and buildings.” If God wanted us to meet in buildings, he would have been more clear.

      🙂

    • Chuck

      Good post but I’d say that basing your life on bronze age mythology as if it were real is bizarre. You need to go further and recognize that believing in invisible things is epistemically as risky as believing buildings are bad.

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