III. Doctrinal strategy concerning ecclesiology
(CRC's view of the Church and differentiations concerning ecumenism)
The church is the temple built of God by His apostles. It consists of living stones. It is the job of the apostle (pastor, pioneer church worker, etc.) to present Christians as living members that function effectively and in personal fulfillment within the body of Christ. The apollonarian and arian heresies concerning the person of Christ hinder this work in many ways. Also in this area CRC's strategy is again to analyze, locate and combat these deviations.
I. Apollonarianism denies Christ's humanity. It also belittles and opposes everything that is personal and human in the life of the church. Apollonarian-like church folks are apt to judge personal expressiveness in worship and fail to recognize the incarnational work of the Holy Spirit in promoting genuineness and creativity in Christian service. While it is true that members of a given church should follow their leadership's vision, the leader which lives and thinks in the apollonarian pattern is apt to become some sort of an evangelical mullah demanding irreflective subjection. Any church growth or missionary strategy is discredited by the apollonarianist as "carnal", "human", or "man-made". Christian A. Schwarz, in his book "Natural Church Development" (ISBN 1-889638-005) calls this extreme position "the spiritualistic error" (quote may not be exact, since taken from the Danish translation). The apollonarianist church builder underestimates human responsibility in church work and throws everything onto the Holy Spirit's shoulders. Often the result is a quietistic attitude where the Christian does not do anything, unless he receives a message from a "small still voice". Missionary projects are postponed again and again, because the spiritual atmosphere or "prompting of the Holy Spirit" is not "felt". Only the one who succeeds in making others believe his or her "clear call from God" is allowed to enter the "mission field". This view hampers the church's missionary impact, in spite of the fact, that the message as such is usually "thoroughly evangelical".
II. Arianism denies Christ's divinity. Churches run after this model will place great emphasis on structure and order. In doing so, they will run into the extreme which Christian A. Schwarz calls "the technocratic error". These churches do not leave any or scarcely any possibility of divine intervention. Instead of humbly seeking for the Holy Spirit's guidance in any matters they will exclusively rely upon tradition or statistics and upon what is now generally accepted in the evangelical world. New beginnings are looked upon with suspicion. Instead of seizing new challenges as opportunities for development and growth, these churches adopt a hedgehog-tactics of defense and celebrate their past victories. Also, these churches are often hooked on some kind of extreme position concerning the ecumenical movement. They are either totally against it, or are uncritically embracing it. The respective standard will then be used to measure others with. If someone else is not as pro- or contra- ecumenical as the respective church, he will be neglected any trust.
CRC believes in a differentiated ecumenism. Unity has to be based upon truth and not upon cunning clerical schemes, politics or other secular interests. When Christ prayed that all Christians should be one, he meant followers of the true Christ seeking after Christ's truth. This is often overseen today. John 17 is misused to promote an artificial unity of existing churches. If, however, Christians unite under a biblical Christian doctrine and in order to fulfill common goals such as the propagation a clear-cut evangelistic message in a given place or in order to create solidarity internationally against anti-Christian political trends, religious currents ("Christian" and non-Christian) are usually seriously threatened.
The model of ecumenism following the sequence "Unity first, truth second" usually leads to a Christian humanist ingathering of churchfolks that have lost their orientation and evangelistic cutting-edge in order to waste their time and resources on humanistic goals that have nothing or little in common with the original vision of each respective participating church or group. People become bound together under one common yoke dragging a humanist or pharisaic cart. Often times the old Romish dream of unity of all Christians under the pope is a hidden motive of some, too. Many do not believe today, that the Vatican has not given up on the respective dogmas. See e.g. in Neuenros "Dogmatische Schriften".
The model of ecumenism following the biblical pattern of "Truth first, unity second", however can lead to several churches humbly laying aside their doctrinal differences for a while and standing up for Christ together in a given place. This is also a powerful witness for unbelievers. It may also lead to a healthy re-evaluation of each church's doctrinal stand and thus to more apologetic honesty. And the Pharisees and Sadducees will have to watch out!
Arian-minded churches do not conceive of the possibility of the divine Christ's inspiring the church through the Holy Spirit to a completely new alternative, that has never been before in the respective area or particular church setting. They overestimate the importance of human responsibility and get lost, when they cannot control everything by human means. Often members from churches of the like will go into the mission field with great sense of sacrifice but little spiritual authority. They rely on the trodden paths that others have gone already before them and on the mission board's or church committee's decisions. They will settle for a half-gospel, half-social-program missions concept and not dare to speak out that truth that one cannot help a man more than by first helping him find the way back to God, i.e. by resolving his spiritual problem first.
In addition to the above CRC wants to elevate the church as the one and only apologetic power house disarming and dismantling RELIGION. Religion is that spiritual force through which people are kept from finding Christ and churches are kept from giving out Christ. It is the driving force behind all counterfeit Gospels.
In order to achieve this, CRC sees the need of discerning between 3 spiritual phenomena: 1) The "synagogue", 2) the "Jerusalem Church" and 3) the "Antioch Church" resp. the "Gentile missionary church". This is not meant to judge other churches, rather through this CRC wants to stipulate its own course of action. It this helps others to see where they might be, that's also fine.
CRC's theory is that there are 3 phases a church can be found in in relation to RELIGION. The most religious church is the SYNAGOGUE. It is the church which has become totally religious, kicking out apostles like Peter and Paul. The ideal type of church is the ANTIOCH or GENTILE MISSIONARY church. It is the kind of church that has emancipated itself most from religious hamstrings and moves forth in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a multicultural church and a church on the move. It is not the place where apostles get kicked out, quite to the contrary, it breeds and commissions apostolic missionaries. In between the two is the JERUSALEM CHURCH that has succeeded at one point in the past in courageously breaking away from the synagogue but still holds to myriads of traditions, superstitions, cultural peculiarities and other forms of religious inertia.
The "synagogue" fails to see the power of Christ to destroy one temple and build another one instead, to take the kingdom from one people and give it to another people. If ever the synagogue should come to repentance, it will include the acceptation of the potential destructive judgment of Christ upon it and the fact that Christ is not dependant upon it at all but gives repentance and spiritual quickening to whom He pleases.
The "Jerusalem church" fails to see the necessity of moving towards a faith that relies 100% on Christ's teachings. Christ continually overthrew the teachings of the religious leaders that monopolized God for themselves. The Jerusalem church will have to make an effort in continually seeking to sort out between religious teaching and Christ's teaching. It will have to understand that it is not enough to move away from religion only once but that this is a continual process of taking into possession the lands that the Spirit wants to give to the Church.
The trap the "Antioch church" has to watch out for is pride because of (alleged or real) higher spiritual achievements and position (see Romans 11,17-23, written before the destruction of the tangible, historical Jerusalem). A haughty Antioch church could very soon become another "Jerusalem Church" or even "synagogue" itself. Still, the "Antioch church" is the ideal model that is to be followed. Also, without having to follow the Jerusalem spirituality, the Antioch church does well in remembering from time to time that is has its roots in Jerusalem, just as Christians should honor the Jewish people as the religious root of Christianity (even though according to Romans 2,28-29 and Galatians 6,12 it is evident that the true Israel of God, the true Jews, are now those who walk according to Paul's respective teachings). As a matter of fact a true Christian should not despise anybody from any cultural, ethnic or social background but see in every man a potential God-seeker that can be "grafted into" the true vine.
CRC believes that the maximum potential of inheriting Israel's glory, the "shekina", resides within the Antioch-church-paradigm. The more one follows Paul's teaching, the more one becomes an heir of the Abrahamic covenantal blessings. The more one succumbs towards the syagogue-paradigm, the lesser the power that flows through the "seed", Christ (Gal. 3,6), becomes. The 21st century church will not have any chance of survival (in its present form) under the coming demonic onslaught if it continues to permit itself the luxury of playing Jerusalem-Israel instead of becoming Antioch-Israel. (See also "Hermeneutic circle")
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