Reconciled, Chap. 1, Preface
After nearly two thousand years of history, one would expect that the Christian community could have settled upon a coherent definition for our own faith. But it seems to continually change with every conceivable wind, whether political, social, or philosophical. Christians have, as a group, seemed eager to dispense with even an attempt at a definition, coming now to the point of considering the very thought of such an effort to be unspiritual or regressive.
Not only this, but we have actually developed the habit of apologizing for being followers of Jesus, as if the study of His words is the very epitome of narrow-mindedness, the spreading of the gospel is the most vile hate speech, and standing on principle is an act of treason. We fawn over the real traitors among us and applaud them in their efforts to embrace every faith but the one they claim to possess. We truly are ashamed of Jesus, and as He said in Luke 9:26, He will be ashamed of us when He returns.
It used to be that Christian theologians and teachers were known for coherent, logical, reasoned discourse, and were respected for this approach to the scriptures, which have always been cited as authoritative since they are the words of God. But all of this is being renounced in favor of the mystical and the gnostic. Rationality has given way to experience, making "contending for the faith" (Jude 1:3) a sin and an embarrassment. Those who still cling to such outdated and unspiritual notions are mocked and hated by the very people who say it is wrong to be so negative.
At the same time, those who somehow retain the admiration of today's Christians in spite of their education have become the vanguard of a fifth column which undermines people's trust and confindence in the Bible. While it's true that many discoveries in manuscripts and knowledge of ancient culture and language have shed better light on a number of deficiencies in our lexicons and translations, the conclusions scholars jump to are often heavily influenced by very low views of the scriptures.
For example, if similarities between scripture and earlier religious writings are noted, it is presumed that the writers of scripture borrowed or adapted the earlier writings. Yet regardless of when the words of scripture were written, the time of their original utterance far predates any written documents. A much more likely scenario is that the original truths of God became corrupted over time, especially after the global destruction of the Flood. And as time passed, God saw to it that His truths were restored in writing.
But the new views win the day, and those with the credentials to challenge such views are not given the exposure or prestige that would bring their challenges to the attention of the greater Christian community. The meticulous scholarship of the past is forgotten, while any and every anti-western teaching is hailed as ancient wisdom or true Christianity rediscovered. And any new scholarship that supports or confirms the authenticity of the scriptures is dismissed or marginalized.
Now these claims I've made are sure to be challenged, and extensive documentation will be demanded. But I am only offering them as my personal observations from nearly fifty years of Bible study and debate. I've noticed an increasing hatred of any appeal to reason or knowledge, and a trend to call any disagreement with an arbitrary mystical worldview "sin". Vile and controlling overlords who call call themselves "anointed" are followed slavishly, while those who would hold them to account and demand justice for the victims are shamed.
How did we come to this? How could we, as a group, take step after step for generations away from the freedom and simple faith we started with and move closer and closer to mere religion? With the prophet Jeremiah we can say, "The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way" (Jer. 5:31a). Like the world, we have abandoned reason and can no longer tolerate the meat of true spiritual maturity (Heb. 5:11–14).
It would take volumes to trace through all those steps, but we should note that if people had lost their taste for spiritual meat even in the first century, it should come as no surprise that the problem is much greater today. The ravenous wolves we were warned about in scripture (Mt. 7:15, Acts 20:28–30) have been tearing away at the Body of Christ all these centuries, so we have always needed to be on guard. But now, it seems, the wolves outnumber the sheep.
Today we see many people leaving the gleaming temples of materialism and religiosity, but they have nowhere to turn, so they read books and attend seminars by anyone who offers something new, something exciting, anything but dry religion. At first this might seem to be a good thing, since they are running from the wolves. But where are they going?
The Holy Spirit still calls, and Jesus still knocks on the door (Rev. 3:20). Yet "how can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?" (Rom. 10:14–15a) People who have been in the churches are familiar with the words, and it might seem strange to quote this passage when discussing Christians. But what exactly have they believed? Why are they leaving the churches if the churches have been telling the Truth? If the churches haven't been dispensing dry religion from self-aggrandizing overlords, then what is it the people are thirsting for? Surely this mass exodus is proof enough that the traditional paradigm is about to fall. And we need to be prepared to help those who are running for safety to find it.
The purpose of this book is not to try and fix what is broken, but to start over. Rather than untangle the giant knot that Christianity has become, we need to cut the line and begin again. We need to study the scriptures and find out why Jesus really came. We need to discover again what He intended for us as His Body, His Bride. If we care at all about the health of that Body, we will dedicate ourselves to throwing off everything that weighs us down (Heb. 12:1). We must un-learn error and re-learn truth, and then live as the "light of the world" we were meant to be (Mt. 5:14).