This is a cross post from one of my other blogs at RJ’s Corner. I thought it appropriate for RLL also.
It is terrible to think what the churches do to men. But if one imagines oneself in the position of the men who constitute the Church, we see they could not act differently. The churches are placed in a dilemma: the Sermon on the Mount or the Nicene Creed–the one excludes the other. If a man sincerely believes in the Sermon on the Mount, the Nicene Creed must inevitably lose all meaning and significance for him, and the Church and its representatives together with it. If a man believes in the Nicene Creed, that is, in the Church, that is, in those who call themselves its representatives, the Sermon on the Mount becomes superfluous for him. And therefore the churches cannot but make every possible effort to obscure the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount, and to attract men to themselves. It is only due to the intense zeal of the churches in this direction that the influence of the churches has lasted hitherto.
The quote above seems pretty radical! It must be from one of those new age thinkers! Guess again. It was from the Author of War and Peace Leo Tolstoy in 1894. Although he says it much more bluntly than I ever would I can’t say I disagree with most of it.
The Nicene Creed which was authored under the Roman ruler Constantine is mostly what we are supposed to believe about Jesus Christ. The Sermon on the Mount is what Jesus himself told us how we are supposed act if we are his followers. Tolstoy saw that the church even during his time put much more energy in maintaining man-made beliefs about Jesus rather than just following Him. Not a lot has changed in that regard. I think almost all clergy are well-meaning men who have simply bought into a tilted system based on beliefs about Jesus instead of lessons from Jesus.
Tony Jones a hundred years later also speaks of this in his book The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier
In the twenty-first century, it’s not God who’s dead. It’s the church. Or at least conventional forms of church. Dead? you say. Isn’t that overstating the case a bit? Indeed, churches still abound. So do pay phones. You can still find pay phones around, in airports and train stations and shopping malls-there are plenty of working pay phones. But look around your local airport and you’ll likely see the sad remnants where pay phones used to hang-the strange row of rectangles on the wall and the empty slot where a phone book used to sit. There are under a million pay phones in the United States today. In 1997, there were over two million. Of course, the death of the pay phone doesn’t mean that we don’t make phone calls anymore. In fact, we make far more calls than ever before, but we make them differently. Now we make phone calls from home or on the mobile device clasped to our belt or through our computers. Phone calls aren’t obsolete, but the pay phone is-or at least it’s quickly becoming so.
Churches are like pay-phones? That is a very interesting analogy. God is not dead. It is only the man-made institution built in his name that is on life support. I have hopes that this new emergent movement will prove to be a worthy substitute for fast dwindling church structures of today. We have to return to doing what Jesus says….
2 thoughts on “God Is Not Dead But the Church Is On Life Support…”
As always, RJ, comments that make one think. Not being Roman Catholic I am not familiar with the Nicene Creed but gather it is a series of rules and laws for interaction with a God that does not want us separated from him by rules and laws. In fact, I’m pretty sure Jesus came to fulfill the laws and make any separation obsolete.
Bob, I don’t know how you are so insightful in things that you are not studied in. You continue to amaze me in that regard. Yes, the Nicene Creed is indeed a bunch of things that we are supposed to believe about Jesus and God. You got that part right but it is not limited to only the Catholic church. Many Protestant denominations also insist on total conformance to that document as a condition for membership. Lutherans are the ones I am most familiar with. Everyone has to stand up and recite it at each service. I was alway uncomfortable when that time came. The Apostle’s Creed which was of course also a man-made document is included in their doctrine but since it is much more generic than the Nicene Creed so it is seldom used.
But as you agree all of these creeds and such seem only to be used to separate and exclude Christians for each other and those “dreadful” other religions (their words not mine). I found it very interesting that Tolstoy said much of what the current emergent movement says about this. His insight was quite amazing. We should only have to believe what Jesus says not what others said about him hundreds and sometimes thousands of years later.