There are so many views of Christianity and of Christian doctrine; how are we to know what is true?

I discuss several possibilities.


Bible Only

Protestantism is based on the idea that the Bible is all that is needed; that it is the final authority of our faith.

Read more: Sola Scriptura

Listen:


Catholic Church

The Catholic Church claims that bishops who are ordained via apostolic succession are the teachers and defenders of the faith, but this view has fatal flaws.

The Catholic Church was too stupid to avoid the Protestant Reformation, the schism with the eastern church, and the English reformation.


Church Leadership

It seems there was a progression:

It is a common Protestant teaching that the local church of each city in apostolic times was ruled by a council of elders (presbyters); I am beginning to doubt this claim. This view seems to be based on the idea that each city had only one church which all met together in one place, but this can't be true for the following reasons:

As I demonstrate using quotations from the Bible and the early church fathers, the church in each city was not a single city-wide church but a collection of house churches in each city. Each local house church was led by an elder (presbyter) and some had deacons. Certainly the elders (presbyters) in each city were in communication and they kept in contact with other cities.

I suspect that many of the early church leaders were well-to-do; they could take time off to travel and they had large houses to host house churches.

It is commonly assumed that the leaders of the early church were employed full-time in their church work and paid for it. I am beginning to doubt this for several reasons:

           


The Purpose of the Church

The book of Acts is about the spread of the gospel and the development of the institution of the church. The purpose of the church is to teach the truths of the Christian faith and to provide a community of worship.


The Dilemma of Christians Today

What are Christians to believe; who are they to follow?


Analogy to Modern Corporation

There are 2 kinds of corporations — early and modern

  1. Early — The first generations of the capitalistic industrial era. Rich people build a business and exploit people (treat them as machines) to produce goods and wealth. No concern for the plight of the workers (similar to slavery). The people languish, the owners don't care. This is similar to the large institutional church in which the laity languish and the bishops don't care.
    My former bishop got angry with someone who commented on very real liturgical abuses in her parish — said he didn't want to have to worry about whether he accidentally said the wrong word as a slip of the tongue — a total disconnect between bishop and laity. The laity just want to practice their faith in the manner prescribed by their church but some bishops don't make it possible; shuffle around pervert priests, gay seminaries, liberal priests, etc.
  2. Modern — Entrepreneurial. The leader starts off small, takes great risks, gathers a small band of loyal helpers who devote their lives to the proposition. Similar to Jesus and disciples.
    Then success and growth. The leader distances himself from the workers. Managers vs. workers (similar to clergy vs. laity). Managers exploit the workers in various ways (salaried workers work > 40 hrs. per week) but try to make the workers feel like they are all part of one big team; yet the managers are aloof from the common workers who could be laid off or fired at any time by a "bad" manager. Similar to the larger church with an aloof bishop such as Irenaeus or Cyprian. We read the story of the leaders and their interactions with other leaders and other companies. The leaders are the shakers and movers and are worthy of note (similar to the study of history in which we read about the rulers and generals). The common people are ignored, yet this is the opposite of the way Jesus did it — he emphasized the common people.

The development of the church resembles the second of these. It started off with an emphasis on the spiritual enthusiasm of the Christians at large and over time developed into a caste system (clergy / laity) in which the clergy became self-absorbed.

We should judge church development by the way Jesus did things, whether the plight of the common person is emphasized (they are healed, their stories are emphasized in the Bible — where in the later church history do we read stories of the common Christian? we don't; we only read of the leaders). Jesus was concerned with the prayer life and devotional life of the people — in the later church bishops only addressed whether or not people attended mass or were baptized properly; meanwhile, the people languished.

We should judge the church by the plight of the people, not by the leaders. Certainly, the church structure and leaders had a role in preserving orthodox teaching and fighting heresy. We should accept this benefit but reject the negative aspects.


Church Developments

First council of Jerusalem — the leaders got together and decided the fate of the Gentiles. The decision was equitable because it concerned the people. Later councils addressed topics such as patriarchates and rules about clergy. These issues are irrelevant to the average Christian.

The purpose of the Nicene creed was for the bishops to determine which bishops were orthodox. But meanwhile the plight of the people was ignored. It seems that Christians should reject the authority of their leaders when their leaders are unconcerned with their spiritual plight. While it is important to defend the faith from heresy, the mission of the church should be focused on the people at large.

Finally in 1054 A.D. the church leaders of east and west excommunicated each other. Just as God demonstrated that the Old Testament nation of Israel was finished (the Babylonian captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D.), in like manner God demonstrated that the united church managed by bishops and ordained via apostolic succession was finished (but the trend began 900 years earlier). Luther and the other Reformers rejected real church abuses, but more still needs to be done.

Anglican — a King rejected the authority of Rome — rulers massacred Catholics. This movement didn't seem to get off to the right start. There was a later movement to base Anglicanism on early Christianity but it has allowed liberalism to creep in.

Protestant — A member of the clergy rebelled and created a state-run church. Others after him rejected the liturgy, etc.

Modern entrepreneurial "non-denominational" churches start off with the laity's interests in mind but sometimes become institutional.

The laity should rebel against all the abuses by church leaders and form small home churches. Leaders of these communities should join together. (But there is the danger of exploitation by power-crazed leaders and of non-orthodox teaching in these house churches.)

I feel like I should promote a revolutionary movement of some kind but the only thing I can think of is a home church movement.


Obedience

We must be obedient. But to who or to what?

(Acts 5:29) Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

(2 Thessalonians 3:14) And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.

(2 Thessalonians 1:8) In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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