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Old 08-23-2008, 03:50 PM   #1
UntoHim
Grateful Servant
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
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Default Christ Incarnated in Culture

CHRIST INCARNATED IN CULTURE 1

One event changed human history—God became man, incarnated as Jesus Christ; He was called Emmanuel, God with us. The incarnation was specific; God didn’t become generalized humanity. He was “born of a woman, born under law” (Gal. 4:4). He joined2 “a particular family at a particular period and place, spoke a particular language, shared in a particular culture.” Jesus Christ lived, worked and died within Jewish society of first century Palestine. Yet His salvation is for all mankind. So, in resurrection, Christ sent His followers into all the world to disciple the nations (Matt. 28:19). It was no easy task; the disciples needed to overcome the religious, ethnic and cultural barriers which separated them, as devout Jews, from other peoples.3 Nevertheless, as barriers are bridged and the gospel is proclaimed and received, Christ is “incarnated” once more among diverse nations; He is manifested in places where he never walked while in the flesh. In a sense, regeneration is incarnation repeated. Witness Lee says,4 “Every time a man is regenerated, Christ is born once more in humanity.” If incarnation is viewed as translation (“the Word became flesh” John 1:14), there have been many subsequent “re-translations.” University of Edinburgh Professor, Andrew Walls says,5 “Following on the original act of translation in Jesus Christ of Nazareth are countless re-translations into the thought forms and cultures of different societies into which Christ has been brought as conversion takes place.” Such re-translations are necessary, since, as C. Kraft says,6 “It is the intent of God that biblical Christianity be ‘reincarnated’ in every language and culture at every point in history.”

The first phase of this process is described in the book of Acts. Some early disciples, refugees from Jerusalem, although they were 100% Jewish, successfully translated the gospel message to reach their pagan Greek neighbors in Antioch (Acts 11:19–20). That was the first cross-cultural transmission of the faith recorded in history; it initiated the church in Antioch. This was followed by Barnabas’ and Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. That raised another set of issues described in Acts chapter 15, whose resolution had far-reaching consequences for the Christian faith. The principles embodied in that historic event offer guideposts for the unfinished task of the gospel’s cross-cultural communication in subsequent generations, down to today.

Converts, Not Proselytes—Cultural Diversity Enshrined within the Church
Acts 15 is an important chapter detailing the first church Council in Jerusalem which determined how Gentile believers could be received as God’s people. Watchman Nee described it as7 “the most precious chapter in the whole book of Acts.” Some expositors characterize the Jerusalem decree as8 “not absolute,” and “not…satisfactory to Paul.” Yet Professor Walls calls it “an astonishing decision,” breaking the centuries-old convention by which Gentiles (like Ruth, the Moabite) were received into Israel as proselytes. He explains,9 “The great council described in Acts 15…deliberately rejected the time-honored model of the proselyte. It was an astonishing decision. Hitherto all the believers in Jesus had been circumcised and kept the Torah [Law], just like the Lord himself. It was the standard lifestyle for believers. But the early Church decided that the Gentile believers in Jesus …should be left to find a Christian lifestyle of their own within Hellenistic [Greek] society under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They were not to be proselytes, but converts.” Through that historic decision, believing Gentiles didn’t have to adopt the standard lifestyle of their Jewish fellow-believers —circumcision, kosher diet, and Sabbath-keeping. More generally, it implies10 “nogroup of Christians has…any right to impose…upon another group of Christians a set of assumptions about [the Christian] life.” Henceforth, cultural diversity was enshrined in the church’s “constitution.” Here we examine the biblical basis and implications of that diversity.

Two Christian Lifestyles
The Jerusalem decree imposed certain minimum requirements on Gentile believers (e.g., avoiding idol sacrifices, blood, Acts 15:20). Yet those were minor provisions. It was acceptable to the apostle Paul, since its major provisions left believing Gentiles unfettered by the ceremonial law and circumcision. That was good enough for Paul; evidently,11 he applied the letter of the council’s decision, delivering it to the Gentile churches explicitly named, and conveniently ignoring its minor provisions elsewhere. Gentile believers were free from circumcision and the ceremonial law. Meanwhile many Jewish believers continued to observe both. Consequently the apostolic decree12 “produced two distinct Christian lifestyles…the one for Jewish society, the other for Hellenistic [Greek] society.”

Paul Circumcised Timothy—Was He A Hypocrite?
The New Testament suggests Paul accepted Jewish believers who retained their Jewish lifestyle equally with Gentiles who maintained theirs.13 He counseled “each one, to remain in the status in which he was called” (1 Cor. 7:17–24). Paul strenuously resisted efforts to judaize Gentile believers (Gal. 2:14). Consistency implies he should oppose “gentilizing” Jewish believers. In Jerusalem Paul withstood efforts to circumcise Titus, a Greek (Gal. 2:3); yet immediately afterward14 he circumcised Timothy, a half-Jew (Acts 16:1–3). Wasn’t this judaizing Timothy? This is a problem case for those claiming the apostolic decree applied to both Jewish and Gentile believers.15 Saint Jerome (AD 347-420) saw the contradiction; he argued Paul only pretended to circumcise Timothy!16 It was a problem also for Witness Lee.17 He declared,18 “The dispensation of law was altogether over…any disregard [for this fact]…would be a great damage to God’s economical plan.” He stated19 “After the [Acts 15] decree, it would have been wrong to allow the Jewish churches to keep the practice of circumcision.”W. Lee believed Paul taught believing Jews it was20 “no longer necessary to practice circumcision” (Acts 21:21). He was reluctant to condemn Paul for circumcising Timothy, yet conceded,21 “We might have said, ‘Paul, what are you doing? You are not stable. First you oppose circumcision, and now you are having Timothy circumcised.’ On Paul’s behalf, however, we may say that he was being flexible.” Stated frankly, W. Lee’s view implies Paul didn’t practice what he preached; he was hypocritical.22 By circumcising Timothy, Paul upheld Moses’ law which “was altogether over” (in W. Lee’s words); Paul’s actions contradict W. Lee’s view of Paul’s position. Doesn’t this mean Paul was “not walking in according to the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:14)? This view assumes, however, that only one divinely-approved lifestyle exists for both Jewish and Gentile believers--one which excludes circumcision, kosher diet, etc. Martin Luther, seeing this flaw, said this argument assumes that23 “after Christ the ceremonial laws were fatal." It presumes participation in the dispensation of grace is conditional on abandoning Jewish ceremonial laws—circumcision, kosher diet, etc. Under this hard-line view, it is not sufficient for Jewish believers to realize they are saved by faith, not by law-keeping. They must also utterly forsake their past Jewish lifestyle of Mosaic ordinances; they must be gentilized.

An alternative view takes “freedom in Christ” seriously (Gal. 5:1). Believing Gentiles are free from the law’s obligations; believing Jews are also free to continue (or discontinue) their Jewish customs, if they choose to do so. Liberty in Christ is symmetric in that sense. Paul’s Galatians polemic told Gentile believers they didn’t need circumcision; they needn’t be judaized. Equally, however, believing Jews needn’t be gentilized. For believers “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails, but faith avails” (Gal. 5:6). Under the New Covenant, circumcision, the kosher diet, etc. are matters of indifference. They are not the “litmus test” for belonging to God’s people.24 Hence, Paul was free to circumcise Timothy, a half-Jew (Acts 16:1). Paul was not a hypocrite; he didn’t “flip-flop” on this issue. His actions acknowledged both Jewish and Gentile lifestyles as equally-valid forms of Christian living. New York’s Tim Keller calls this25 “a remarkable case of discerning between abiding principle and cultural practice. If anyone would have felt circumcising was intrinsically a wrong thing for a believer to do, it would have been Paul—who just fought a crucial battle for the gospel itself [Acts 15:1]. Yet immediately Paul shows he knows the difference between abiding principle and cultural practice. He knows that while the gospel of grace is an absolute—the practice of circumcision is culturally relative.

Two Patterns of Church-life
The Jerusalem decree produced two distinct forms of church-life—one among Jews and another among Gentiles. Scripture recognizes the “churches of the Gentiles” (Rom. 16:4) and the “churches of Judea” (i.e., of the Jews, 1 Thess. 2:14). Both were legitimate first century expressions of Christ in their societies. Paul didn’t campaign to rid the Judean churches of Old Covenant practices. Yes, he opposed imposing them on Gentile believers, but, he didn’t denounce their personal practice by Jewish believers. In fact, he circumcised Timothy! Prof. Walls observes26 “Each Christian lifestyle, representing a culture converted to Christ, expressed something the whole body needed. Hellenistic Christianity was not a [Lawless] soft option for benighted heathen who could do no better…Nor was Judaic Christianity a system of legalistic bondage…Each was necessary for the other…for each was an expression of Christ under certain specific conditions.” Hence, the Acts 15 decision was precedent setting because27 “it built cultural diversity into the church forever.” It demonstrates that there is no unique divinely-endorsed “Christian culture or lifestyle.” As Fuller Seminary Prof. Charles Kraft expresses it, God has28 “no holy culture, no sacred set of cultural…patterns that he endorses to the exclusion of all others.”

Is there a Unique “One New Man Culture”?
On occasion certain Christians have felt their particular form of Christianity was the unique divinely-approved Christian lifestyle. The judaizers who came to Antioch from Jerusalem [Acts 15:1] were merely the first with this elitist attitude. Recently some have claimed exclusive ownership of the “new culture and language of the one new man.” LSM’s “blended brothers” declare29 “In the Lord’s recovery we are a special group of people with our own culture, a divine and heavenly culture.” They claim proprietary rights to30 “the new culture, the God-man culture of the one new man.” They condemn all Christianity as “Babylon,” asserting31 “We in the Lord’s recovery have an entirely different culture from Babylon…we are in a different realm, and we have a different culture…We speak the language of God.” To justify their claims to the “God-man culture of the one new man,” they quote Col. 3:10–11 and Gal. 3:28. The latter says, “There cannot be Jew nor Greek…slave nor free man …male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This scripture implies the elimination of distinctions in Christ. However, it’s clear that the apostle Paul recognized the continued existence of distinctions between free and slave, male and female believers (e.g. Col. 3:18–22). How can this paradox be reconciled? Witness Lee distinguishes32 between the church’s “extrinsic form” and its “intrinsic constituent.” Outwardly, the church as “one new man,” is composed of diverse believers in its “extrinsic form.” Inwardly, Christ is its “intrinsic constituent.” On the “divine side,” the Triune God is supracultural, transcending human culture.33 Therefore “in Christ” there are no Greeks or Jews, slaves or free. Yet on the “human side, extrinsically,” these distinctions continue to exist in human society. In the practical church-life, believers exist at the “overlap of the ages”; they are in Christ, yet still in this world. Therefore, human distinctions—gender, ethnicity, language, age, etc.—still play a role.34 Hence, the church in Thessalonica was “the church of the Thessalonians” (composed of local believers), yet it was “in God the Father…” (1 Thess. 1:1). The New Testament doesn’t recognize a unique divinely-approved “new culture of the new man.” The notion that only one culture and language are approved by God belongs to Judaism and Islam;35 it is not a New Testament concept or teaching. Christ is “incarnated” in every culture through His believers. We reject as unscriptural the elitist claims by LSM’s “blended brothers’” to proprietary rights over the “new language and new culture of the new man.” The New Testament never refers to a unique “new divinely-approved language.” On the contrary, as Trinity Professor D. A. Carson points out,36 “At Pentecost God did not give the gift of one language…he gave the gift of many languages, so that the one message could be heard in all the relevant languages, thus preserving the diversity.” God’s action at Pentecost authenticates all human languages, not merely one!

Scripture Canonizes Diversity
When we proclaim that the Bible is our unique standard, our canon for teaching and practice, this has important implications for diversity. Both Jewish and Gentile manifestations of the Church are validated by the New Testament. The “churches of the Gentiles” are recognized in Scripture (Rom. 16:4); these were Gentile churches. Correspondingly, “the churches in Judea” were essentially Jewish churches (Acts 9:31; Gal. 1:22; 1 Thess. 2:14). There were marked differences between the two.37 University of Durham Divinity Professor, James Dunn concludes,38 “There is no single normative form of Christianity in the first century.” Rather, “there were many different expressions of Christianity within the New Testament.” Significantly, under God’s sovereignty, the epistles of James, Jude and Peter to Jewish believers were included in the New Testament canon alongside Paul’s letters to Gentile churches. Thus, in the New Testament, expressions of “Jewish Christianity” and “Gentile Christianity” have equal status in terms of canonicity. As Prof. Dunn states,39 “The canon of the New Testament …recognizes the validity of diversity; it canonizes very different expressions of Christianity.” The scriptural canon validates the Gentile local churches raised up by Paul; but it also authenticates the Jewish churches of first century Palestine. Moreover, Scripture recognizes equally the “Pentecostalism” of Corinth, Thessalonica’s “eschatological emphasis,” alongside the ecclesiastical order of the “Pastorals” (Timothy & Titus). In Scripture, there is no single uniform expression of the Church, no unique Christian culture; there is no single church model replicated everywhere. Rather, there are diverse expressions of the Christian faith suited to different cultures and circumstances. It’s not “one size fits all.” Through such a variety of local churches, intensely local churches,40 Christ is incarnated once more among diverse peoples.

Christ Incarnated in Greek Culture, Transforming it
Christ’s believers are “in the world, but not of the world” (John 17:11, 14). The Lord doesn’t take His people out of the world, rather He sends them into the world (John 17:15, 18). If the apostolic Council had imposed a Judaic lifestyle on Gentile believers, they would have been isolated from Greek society. That would have hamstrung the gospel. As Prof. Walls says,41 “If the first Gentile believers had become proselytes…they would have had virtually no impact on their society; they would effectively have been taken out of that society. In fact, it was their task…to convert their society…they had to learn to keep turning their ways of thinking and doing things …towards Christ….In this way a truly Greek, truly Hellenistic type of Christianity was able to emerge. Not only so, but that Hellenistic Christianity was able to penetrate the Hellenistic intellectual and social heritage.” The process was slow and painful; in Paul’s lifetime Christians numbered in the thousands, a minute percentage of the population. Yet ultimately, over the next 250 years, despite opposition and persecution, the Roman Empire was pervaded by the gospel of Christ. University of Washington Professor, Rodney Stark estimates that by AD 300 there were over six million Christians within the Roman Empire;42 believers constituted 10% of the total population. The percentage was higher in urban areas and in the eastern Empire. The Christian faith grew to the point the Roman Emperor Constantine found it politically expedient to embrace Christianity.43 Why did the Gospel prevail?

Translating the Gospel, Capturing Culture for Christ
The gospel’s translation contributed to Christianity’s triumph in the Roman Empire. This includes the translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek Septuagint version by Jewish scholars 250-300 BC. This was a major asset; it enabled Greek-speaking people to read the Scriptures in their mother tongue. They could find Christ in the Old Testament. That linguistic translation provided a base for gospel proclamation among the Greeks. Moreover, the message was also translated into Greek concepts. Terms like Messiah (Christ), the Son of Man, and kingdom of God (heavens), though significant to Jews, were foreign to Hellenists. So44 “in order to explain in the Greek world who Christ is and what he did and does, a new conceptual vocabulary had to be constructed. Elements of [Greek] vocabulary already existing in that world had to be commandeered and turned towards Christ…[Then] Hellenistic people began to see Christ on their own terms…Christian preaching and Christian understanding moved beyond the category of Messiah…to embrace such categories as Logos [Word] and Pleroma [Fullness] to explain the significance of Jesus.” The New Testament recognizes that Jews and Greeks differ religiously, culturally and psychologically (1 Cor. 1:22). Both need Christ and His salvation; so the message of Christ was translated and tailored so it could resonate in the hearts of both.

Paul’s Pleroma & John’s Logos Leading People to Salvation
Consider the concept of the Logos (Word, John 1:1, 14). Greek philosophers were familiar with this idea; Greeks could relate to it. Even Gnostics employed this term. This “baggage” of pre-existing concepts could have frustrated Greeks from seeing the true significance of the Logos in John’s gospel. Yet, even the “high things” of Greek philosophy can be captured for Christ and made to serve45 His purposes (2 Cor. 10:4–5). In using this term, John, under the Spirit’s inspiration, was translating the gospel into Greek cultural concepts. Prof. Dunn suggests,46 “John was deliberately attempting to portray Jesus in a manner as attractive as possible to would-be (Christian) Gnostics.” In John’s hands, the Logos47“becomes an indispensable tool by which to bring Christ into contact with the Greek heritage…The prior loading…may have meant that Greeks …missed many important things about the Logosbut it did not mislead them about their salvation. Indeed it enabled them to see that salvation.” John employed the Logos; Paul utilized the concept of “fullness” (Greek: Pleroma, Col. 1:19; 2:9). Translating the gospel in this way bridged cultural barriers and surely contributed to its rapid advance among the Empire’s Greek-speaking peoples.

Such cross-cultural communication produces a greater realization of who Christ is. As the apostles, John, Paul, etc.,48 “explain and translate the significance of the Christ in a world that is Gentile and Hellenistic, that significance is seen to be greater than anyone had realized before. It was as though Christ himself actually grows…As he enters new areas of thought and life, he fills the picture.” This matches Paul’s notion of growth unto full measure of the One New Man (Eph. 4). Moreover, salvation not only transforms people’s lives; it also changes their culture and society.

Canon, Creeds & Orthodoxy—Issues of the Gospel’s Interaction with Culture
The Church’s interactions with Greco-Roman society certainly had negative issues—religious hierarchy, institutionalization etc. Yet, on the other hand, there were positive results. As the gospel gained ground in the Roman Empire, it changed society. Idol worship diminished; pagan practices receded. Elements of society were commandeered to serve God’s purpose. As Professor Walls indicates,49 “The total system of [Greek] thought had to be penetrated by the Gospel…bring[ing] the intellectual tradition into captivity to Christ and using it for new purposes….[This] meant putting the traditions of codification and of organization to the service of the Gospel. The result was orthodoxy: logically expounded belief set in codified form, established through a process of consultation.” He refers to the Creeds (e.g., The Nicene-Constantinople Creed, AD 325, 381) produced by church councils during the Church Fathers’ era. By then Gentile believers constituted the vast majority of Christians. Their society was50 “an intellectual environment that combined the influences of Greek philosophy, Roman law, Eastern mysticism and spirituality…giving rise to questions that no believers had found it necessary to ask before. That intellectual environment was the highway to a great outworking of creative theological activity…The eventual result was Christian theology as we know it.” Gentile believers sought, with the Spirit’s guidance, in the light of Scripture, answers to questions important to them. Such queries weren’t raised by earlier Jewish believers. They didn’t think that way; they had their own questions. Christian theology issued from Greek believers asking Greek questions concerning God and Christ. As Prof. Walls indicates, the51 “classical doctrines of the Trinity and incarnation sprang from the…cross-cultural diffusion of the faith….The transposition was enriching without being distorting …[it] gave a new dimension to thinking about Christ….What Greeks wanted to know was the relationship of…Christ to the Father. Thus, inevitably, the language of ousia [essence] and hypostasis [Latin, persona] enters. Were Christ and the Father of the same ousia [essence]? Or different…? Or similar in ousia?...It was a long, painful process, but it issued in an expanded understanding of who Christ is. Christian theology moved on to a new plane when Greek questions were asked about Christ and received Greek answers using the Greek Scriptures…. [It] led to new discoveries about Christ.”

The gospel’s interaction with Greek thought impacted succeeding generations of Christians down to today. It resulted in the canon of Scripture, the creeds and the concept of orthodoxy. Terms like incarnation, Trinity, Triune God, and co-inhere issued from believers grappling to define exactly what they believed about God and Christ. All Bible-believing Christians accept the twenty-seven New Testament books as a closed canon; it differentiates orthodox from heterodox teachings. Today Christian groups, even those critical of the creeds and church councils, define themselves in terms of the Nicene-Constantinople Creed (AD 325, 381).52

Conclusion
At the “fullness of the times,” God was incarnated in a particular culture--that belonging to first century Judaism in Palestine. As the gospel was translated to different peoples, languages and nations, Christ was “incarnated” once more in places where He never walked while in the flesh. The book of Acts records the initial phase of the gospel’s cross-cultural transmission. It also records the historic apostolic council in Jerusalem which determined that believing Gentiles need not be judaized, becoming proselytes. Rather, they were free in Christ to develop a Christian lifestyle in the midst of their own Greek society, as the salt of the earth and light of the world (Matt. 5:13–15). Equally Jewish believers were also free as New Covenant believers to incarnate Christ in the midst of their Old Covenant Jewish society in Palestine. Acts 15 establishes the principle of cultural diversity within the Church; there is no unique divinely-approved Christian lifestyle, rather there are many Christian lifestyles. Since the first century there have been numerous Christian cultures, manifesting Christ in their respective societies. They have succeeded (and failed) to manifest Christ in differing degrees. Nevertheless, we rejoice to the extent they have succeeded. Today the responsibility is ours; Christ must be incarnated again in today’s multi-cultural society as we live Christian lifestyles in union with Christ. “Freedom in Christ” means we are unfettered by the straight-jacket of narrow theological interpretations and Christian lifestyles developed in other times and places. Under the Spirit’s guidance, and based upon God’s Word, the gospel can be translated to communicate Christ to today’s post-modern “Google generation.” The process will manifest more dimensions of Christ, enrich the gospel and capture today’s culture for Christ.

Nigel Tomes,
Toronto, Canada
August 2008

NOTES:
1.This article develops themes initially addressed in the author’s “The God of Translation” posted at:http://www.keepitintune.net/thegodoftranslation.html Papers by Professor Andrew F. Walls (cited below) have been particularly helpful on this topic. However, this does not imply the author agrees with all Prof. Walls’ views. My thanks to those who commented on earlier drafts. As usual the author alone is responsible of the views expressed here. 2.Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 1996, p. 47 3.Peter’s aghast response, “By no means Lord, for I have never eaten anything common and unclean” (Acts 10:14) and his declaration to Cornelius, “You understand that it is unlawful for a man who is a Jew to join himself or come near one of another race,” (Acts 10:28) indicate the substantial racial and religious barriers separating Jews (even the Lord’s own disciples) from the Gentile nations. 4.Witness Lee, The Experience of Life, p. 12. In context the quote reads--Regeneration is “the birth of Christ within us….The birth of Christ in us means that Christ is born once more. Every time a man is regenerated, Christ is born once more in humanity.” [Witness Lee, The Experience of Life, p. 12] 5.Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, p. 28 6.Charles H. Kraft, Culture, Communication & Christianity, p. 345 7.Watchman Nee, Church Affairs, p. 151 8.The characterization of the Acts 15 Jerusalem decree as “not absolute,” is found in Witness Lee, Life-study of Acts, p. 456 and as “not…satisfactory to Paul” in Witness Lee, Life-study of Acts, p. 364 9.Andrew F. Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2002, p. 68 10.Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, p. 8. The quote in context reads, “No group of Christians has therefore any right to impose in the name of Christ upon another group of Christians a set of assumptions about life determined by another time and place.” 11.This point is discussed at length in the author’s article entitled, “The Jerusalem Council’s Apostolic Decree (Acts 15)—Proof Text for Authority & Uniformity OR Blueprint for Diversity?” posted at: http://www.concernedbrothers.com/Tru...ee_Binding.pdf There I stated, “although Paul delivered the decree to the Galatian churches (Acts 16:4,) it is never mentioned in Paul’s ministry or epistles. Significantly Paul’s epistle to Galatians makes no reference to the Jerusalem judgment when addressing this issue. Evidently, once Paul delivered the decree to the churches explicitly named in the Jerusalem accord, he chose to conveniently ignore it. New Testament scholars suggest “Paul imposed the apostolic decree of Acts 15 on Gentile congregations only as far west as Galatia.” [Hemer cited in Steven J. Friesen, The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 88, No. 3 (July, 1995), pp. 291-314.] In terms of churches subsequently raised up by Paul, Professor F. F. Bruce concludes, “it is…certain in the light of Paul’s writings, that Paul did not impose [the Jerusalem decree] on his own churches.” [F. F. Bruce, Peter, Stephen, James & John: Studies in Non-Pauline Christianity, p. 93] Third, whenever Paul spoke of eating idol-sacrifices, (as F. F. Bruce says, PAUL: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI. 1977, p. 187) “it is noteworthy that…he never [appealed] to the apostolic decree”—prohibiting such eating (Acts 15:20, 29). On the contrary, directly contravening the decree, Paul gave the Corinthians the liberty to “eat everything sold in the meat market,” no questions asked (1 Cor. 10:25-30). Likewise, Paul told the Romans, “one believes he may eat all things [including meat from idol-sacrifices,]…Let each be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Rom. 14:2-5) Paul gave individual believers liberty30 before the Lord in this matter, instead of mandating the “Apostolic Decree.” For Paul, Christian liberty trumped the legality embodied in the Acts-15 decree.” 12.Andrew F. Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History, p. 76W. Lee acknowledges this difference, saying, “I have the full assurance that in the early days the churches in Judea were quite different from the churches in the Gentile world.” [W. Lee, The Life & Way for the Practice of the Church Life, p. 119, emphasis added] New Testament scholars generally recognize the “two tier system” established in Acts 15. For example, Philip Alexander states, “Acts 15 and 21 propose a compromise: Jewish Christians were to continue to follow their ‘way of life’, observing the food laws, circumcising and keeping Sabbath; Gentile Christians were not to obliged to adopt Jewish customs, but were to be subject only to general ‘Noachide’ laws.” [Philip S. Alexander, in Jews and Christians—The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70 to 135, edited by James D. G. Dunn, p. 23] 13.The former [Jewish believers] may be “weaker brothers,” but they were “brothers” nonetheless (Rom. 14:1-9; 1 Cor. 8:9-13). 14.Although Bible expositors differ in their dating of Paul’s Galatians epistle, here we follow Witness Lee (and many others) in equating Paul’s visit to Jerusalem (Gal. 2:1-10) with the “Apostolic Council” recorded in Acts 15. This results in juxtaposing Paul’s refusal to circumcise Titus (Gal. 2:3-5) with his initiating the circumcision of Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). Note that the latter incident took place in the area of Galatia, making Paul’s Galatians epistle particularly relevant to these events. Tim Keller comments, “The juxtaposition can't be accidental. Though Paul has just fought vehemently against mandatory circumcision for believers, he circumcised Timothy…” [Tim Keller, BEING THE CHURCH IN OUR CULTURE,Reform & Resurge Conference 2006, p. 16] For an examination of Timothy’s status under contemporary Jewish teaching see Shaye J. D. Cohen, “Was Timothy Jewish (Acts 16:1-3)? Exegesis, Rabbinic Law & Matrilineal Descent” in Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 105, No. 2 (1986) pp 251-268. After reviewing the relevant material from 1st century Judaism, Philip S. Alexander indicates that “Jewishness is acquired by birth if ones mother is Jewish; the status of the father is immaterial to the status of the child.” [Philip S. Alexander, in Jews and Christians—The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70 to 135, edited by James D. G. Dunn, p. 4, emphasis original] According to this, Timothy, as the son of a Jewish woman, would be considered a full-fledged Jew, regardless of the fact that his father was Greek (Acts 16:1-3). 15.For example Witness Lee states, “The one solution made at Jerusalem for the problem of circumcision became a decree for all the churches, both Jewish and Gentile, to keep (Acts 15:1-31). Hence, in relation to the matter of circumcision, all the churches should be the same. After the issuing of such a decree, it would have been wrong to allow the Jewish churches to keep the practice of circumcision while permitting the Gentile churches not to observe it.…The one solution regarding the problem of circumcision was good for all the churches, making all the churches the same.” [W. Lee, The Intrinsic Problem in the Lord's Recovery Today and Its Scriptural Remedy, p. 34] The same point related to Acts 15 appears in W. Lee, Elders’ Training Book 7 (1986) under the heading “The solution made in Jerusalem being the decree for all the churches to keep,” Along similar lines, W. Lee is quoted saying, “The decision made covered all the churches, whether Jewish or Gentile. This does not mean that the churches in Judea can keep the law and the churches in the Gentile world do not need to keep the law.” [W. Lee, Elders' Training, Book 4: Other Crucial Matters Concerning the Practice of the Lord's Recovery, pp. 29-30 emphasis added] Along the same lines, LSM’s “blended brothers” claim “This [Acts 15] word of resolution was not a word for just one church; it went out to many churches…this resolution was for the Body of Christ. It was for all the churches. No church had the right to select what they wanted.” [DL The Ministry, vol. 7, No. 6, (August, 2003) p. 116] Based on the Acts 15 “apostolic decree,” they assert that all the local churches should be identical in speaking, practice and living. 16.Jerome contended that Paul's circumcision in Acts 16:3 must have been a pretence, and "deceitfully" should have been added into the text there. That is, Paul fooled the Jews into thinking he had circumcised Timothy. Saint Augustine countered Jerome’s contention. 17.Notice that Bro. Lee asks the same question, at least four times, in the context of a single message—“Why then did Paul circumcise Timothy?” [Witness Lee, Life-study of Acts, p. 372]. “Since Titus in Galatians 2 was not circumcised, why did Paul in Acts 16 circumcise Timothy…?”[W. Lee, Life-study of Acts, p. 372]. “Why did he [Paul] have Timothy circumcised?” [W. Lee, Life-study of Acts, p. 373]. “Should Paul in Acts 16 have had Timothy circumcised?” [W. Lee, Life-study of Acts, p. 375]. In the latter case he continues, “It can be said fairly that eventually the Lord will take the way of not circumcising anyone. The best we can say…is that he [Paul] was being flexible in a particular environment.” [W. Lee, Life-study of Acts, p. 375]. Yet, elsewhere W. Lee is more dogmatic, saying “After the issuing of such a decree [Acts 15], it would have been wrong to allow the Jewish churches to keep the practice of circumcision while permitting the Gentile churches not to observe it.…The one solution regarding the problem of circumcision was good for all the churches, making all the churches the same.” [W. Lee, The Intrinsic Problem in the Lord's Recovery Today and Its Scriptural Remedy, p. 34, emphasis added] 18.Witness Lee, Life-study of Acts, pp. 163-4. Elsewhere Bro. Lee declares, “After the issuing of such a decree [Acts 15], it would have been wrong to allow the Jewish churches to keep the practice of circumcision while permitting the Gentile churches not to observe it.” [W. Lee, The Intrinsic Problem in the Lord's Recovery Today and Its Scriptural Remedy, p. 34] Applying the same logic to the Apostle Paul, doesn’t this imply that—it would have been wrong to…keep the practice of circumcision [in Timothy’s case] while permitting…[Titus] not to observe it”? W. Lee also said, “God’s New Testament economy is to have a new dispensation absolutely separated from Judaism.” [W. Lee, Life-study of Acts, p. 163, emphasis added] W. Lee points specifically to circumcision, the kosher diet and the Sabbath, saying, “Circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and a particular diet are the three strongest ordinances according to the law of Moses…”[W. Lee, Life-study of Acts, p. 239] “We have pointed out that the three main ordinances that caused the Jews to be distinct and separate from the Gentiles are Circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and a particular diet…According to Ephesians 2:15, these ordinances of the law have been abolished by the Lord’s death on the cross…”…”[W. Lee, Life-study of Acts, p. 241] “To tell believers to be circumcised and to keep the law of Moses nullifies God’s New Testament economy. It also nullifies the death of Christ…”[W. Lee, Life-study of Acts, p. 355] 19.W. Lee, The Intrinsic Problem in the Lord's Recovery Today and Its Scriptural Remedy, p. 34, emphasis added 20.Witness Lee, Life-study of Acts, p. 490. During his last visit to Jerusalem, James told the Apostle Paul, that the thousands of Jewish believers “have been instructed concerning you that you are teaching all the Jews…not to circumcise their children, nor to walk according to the customs” (Acts 21:21). Witness Lee comments that this allegation is “correct as to the facts” (p. 489) and “The Jews were right regarding the facts” (p. 490) “The Jews also claimed that Paul taught the people not to walk according to the customs. In this matter they were accurate.” (p. 490). Also he says, “I believe that Paul did teach that [it] is no longer necessary to practice circumcision. Yet, as we have pointed out, he had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:1-3). The criticism of his opposers, therefore was not fair.” (p. 490) It is doubtful, however, if Paul’s circumcision of Timothy would have carried much weight. That one incident hardly counter-balances Paul’s (alleged) teaching “throughout the nations.” In fact it merely highlights the apparent contradiction between that one case (Timothy) and Paul’s (alleged) teaching. 21.W. Lee, Life-study of Acts, p. 374 22.Witness Lee is highly critical of James and the Church in Jerusalem. He says, “James, continued to think that it would be better for the Jewish believers to practice the…Old Testament and to keep the law. James seemed to say, ‘The Gentiles do not need to keep the law or to be circumcised. But we [Christian] Jews should practice circumcision and keep the law’.” Witness Lee also says, “James 2:8-11 indicates that the Jewish believers at James’ time were still practicing the keeping of the Old Testament law [Life-study of Acts, p. 488, emphasis added] He continues, “….They were not aware that the dispensation of the law was altogether over and that the dispensation of grace should be fully honored, and that any disregard of the distinction between these two dispensations would be contrary to God’s economical plan…” [W. Lee, Life-study of Acts, p. 489 the same paragraph appears also on p. 365, emphasis added]. Although the Jewish believers were “not aware that the dispensation of the law was altogether over,” surely the Apostle Paul was fully aware! According to Witness Lee’s view, wasn’t Paul’s circumcision of Timothy “still practicing the keeping of the Old Testament law”? Was not Paul’s action also, to “disregard of the distinction between these two dispensations [and therefore]…contrary to God’s economical plan…”? It is difficult (impossible?) to reconcile the actions of the Apostle Paul—circumcising Timothy (Acts 16:1-3), making a vow in Greece (Acts 18:18) and taking a Nazarite vow in Jerusalem (Acts 21:26)—with Witness Lee’s characterization of Paul’s stance relative to Judaic practices. In our view, the historic “data” in the Acts record do not match Witness Lee’s position. 23.Responding to Jerome’s position concerning this issue, Martin Luther wrote: “Paul did not reject circumcision as something damnable; nor did he by any word or deed compel the Jews to give it up. For in 1 Cor 7:18 he says: ‘Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision.’But he did reject circumcision in the sense of something necessary for righteousness [salvation]. Paul did not require that anyone who wanted to be circumcised should remain uncircumcised, but he did want [them] to know that circumcision was not necessary for salvation. Paul wanted to remove this compulsion. Therefore he allowed the Jews to observe the Law as an obligation.”(Luther, Lectures on Galatians, pp. 84-85, emphasis added) 24.James D. G. Dunn states, “…in denouncing ‘works of the law’ Paul was not disparaging ’good works’ as such, but observances of the law valued as attesting membership of the people of God–particularly circumcision, food laws and Sabbath.” [James D. G. Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law, p.11, emphasis added] That is, Paul opposed (disparaged) Judaic observances--circumcision, food laws and Sabbath—not on the basis of their own merits as practices, but in so far as they were valued “as attesting membership of the people of God.” That is, as a “litmus test” of belonging to God’s people. The “hard line dispensational view” does not entertain the possibility that Jewish believers could continue observing their cultural traditions —circumcision, kosher diet and Sabbath-keeping--with the full-realization that these customs do not make them righteous in God’s sight, do not secure their justification or sanctification and do not qualify them as members of God’s people. With this realization a Jewish New Testament believer could observe these practices on par with a Gentile believer who is a vegetarian (for example) or a Gentile believer who chooses circumcision for medical-hygienic reasons. 25.Tim Keller, BEING THE CHURCH IN OUR CULTURE,Reform & Resurge Conference 2006, p. 16 http://www.journeyon.net/media/being...ur-culture.pdf 26.Andrew F. Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History, p. 78 27.Andrew F. Walls, “Converts or Proselytes? The Crisis over Conversion in the Early Church” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Jan. 2004) p. 5 28.Charles H. Kraft, Culture, Communication & Christianity, p. 209. Along the same lines, Walls says, “There is no such thing as ‘Christian culture’ or ‘Christian civilization’…There have been several different Christian civilizations already” over the past 2,000 years. [Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, p. 22] Also Walls declares, “All churches are culture churches—including our own” [Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, p. 8] 29.DT, The Ministry, vol. 9, No. 3 (March 2005) p. 67 30.EM, The Ministry, vol. 9, No. 5 (May 2005) p. 137 31.MC, The Ministry, Vol. 9, No. 3 (March 2005) p. 36 32.The distinction is made (for example) in W. Lee, Conclusion of the New Testament, Message 196, p. 2111. 33.See Charles H. Kraft, Culture, Communication & Christianity, p. 316 34.Prof. Walls recognizes this duality, saying, “The fact…that ‘if any man is in Christ he is a new creation’ does not mean that he starts or continues his life in a vacuum, or that his mind is a blank table [sheet of paper]. It has been formed by his own culture and history, and since God has accepted him as he is, his Christian mind will continue to be influenced by what was in it before. And this is true of groups as for persons. All churches are culture churches—including our own.” [Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, p. 8] 35.See my previous piece, “The God of Translation.” Prof. Walls, contrasting Christianity with Islam, says, “Christianity has no culturally fixed element, as is provided [in Islam] by the Qur’an [Koran] fixed in heaven, closed traditions on earth, perfection of law in sharia, single shrine in Mecca, and true word everywhere in Arabic.” [Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History, p. 13] He also says, “Islamic absolutes are fixed in a particular language, and in the conditions of a particular period of human history. The divine word is the Qur’an, fixed in heaven forever in Arabic, the language of original revelation. For Christians, however, the divine word is translatable, infinitely translatable.” [Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History, p. 29] 36.D. A. Carson, Christ & Culture Revisited, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 2008, p. 74. Carson is professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL. USA. 37.W. Lee concedes “I have the full assurance that in the early days the churches in Judea were quite different from the churches in the Gentile world.” [W. Lee, The Life & Way for the Practice of the Church Life, p. 119] 38.James D. G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, p. 373, 372, emphasis original 39.Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, p. 376, emphasis original. He also says the New Testament “canonizes the diversity of Christianity.” 40.This echoes Watchman Nee’s statement—“the churches are local, intensely local.” [W. Nee, Normal Christian Church Life, p. 102, emphasis original] 41.Andrew F. Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History, p. 68 42.Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, Harper Collins, 1997, p. 6. Prof. Stark points out that the implied growth rate is 40% per decade or 3.42% p.a. compounded continuously—i.e. “slow & steady wins the race.” 43.Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, Harper Collins, 1997, p. 5 44.Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, p. xvii 45.It’s worth quoting Trinity Professor D. A Carson here He writes, "No truth which human beings may articulate can ever be articulated in a culture-transcending way--but that does not mean that the truth thus articulated does not transcend culture." (D. A. Carson). Certainly the concept of the Logos had cultural associations, different associations in different cultures; it (and other terms) was not “culture-transcending.” Yet the culture-transcending truth, regarding God in Christ, was articulated by John’s use of the Logos. 46.Dunn, , Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, p. 302, emphasis original 47.Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, p. 34 48.Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, p. xvii 49.Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, pp. 18-9 50.Walls, “Converts or Proselytes? The Crisis over Conversion in the Early Church,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Jan. 2004) p. 6 51.Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History, pp. 79-80 52.For example, LSM declares,“The Christians in the local churches share common doctrine with all other mainstream, orthodox, evangelical Christians.” [This quote is from the LSM-affiliated Internet website “contendingforthefaith.com”.] They then proceed to enumerate “…including the belief: [1] That the Holy Bible is the complete divine revelation verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit. [2] That God is the only one Triune God - the Father, the Son and the Spirit, coexisting from eternity to eternity. [3] In the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that eternal salvation comes through grace by faith in Him.” [Entry under: “Living Stream Ministry & The Local Church: Background Information--Description of The Local Church and Living Stream Ministry” posted on the Internet at: http://www.contendingforthefaith.com.../ministry.html ] Notice that the language and statements of the creeds are alluded to here. Yet LSM’s writers routinely lambaste the Church Councils. For example, Paul Onica criticises the Council of Constantinople (381 AD) for being under the “influence of Imperial politics” and “the early and progressive deviation from the central line of the New Testament revelation.”[Paul Onica, “MILESTONES,” in LSM’s Affirmation & Critique, Vol. I, No. 4, October 1996]
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Old 08-25-2008, 01:50 PM   #2
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I think Nigel has engaged a mountain of a topic. In my opinion he has both scripturally and logically established a fluidity to the gospel that allows it to interact with the confines of any culture while remaining fully true to its foundational tenets.

While he has framed the discussion in terms of the LC and Lee's teachings, this idea is far from an LSM-LC v GLA-LC, or LC v culture/Christianity issue. This is a debate that is permeating much of Christianity today. Some are taking the idea of cultural relevancy to the extreme of making the gospel questionable. But others are seeking ways to make the fullness of the gospel relevant to modern culture (or more correctly, postmodern culture). This is quite a task since the postmodern mindset likes to take the position that whatever you think is OK for you and whatever I think is OK for me. Of course, at some level this is not a new thought, but a repeat of the past.
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Old 08-25-2008, 02:16 PM   #3
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MikeH,

I agree, this is a big topic.

It seems to me that while the Bible mostly covers the story of God's people -- the Jews -- and then his family -- the church, there is another story going on throughout history ... the story of the nations. It is one that the secular writers, not the Biblical scribes, have written about. And while the Bible focused on God concentrating on bringing Himself into humanity and thus saving it from the inside out, there was still something of God's work going on outside that: the cultures of the earth were being developed. That is, the Nations.

These nations are brought into God's plan definitely at the end (Rev. 21 & 22). But today, they are the being used by the Lord in another way: as "facets" of humanity to reflect and refract Christ.

Let me state it more simply: the people who travelled by foot across the arctic circle and eventually down into the deserts of North America eventually conformed to the physical environment around them. The adobe buildings they built reflected an adobe character they were evolving into. When the Catholic missionaries came along to bring them Christ, they had a chance to allow this culture to display Christ in a way hithertofore unknown to the world ... an "adobe" Christ.

The same could be said for when the gospel reached the Anglo people. A culture that would one day produce modern time-keeping became the perfect one for Christ to be dissected on a analytical basis. I wonder if modern theology would even exist if the gospel had never come to the Anglos.

The trick in all this for God is to make use of this cultural shell without touching the sin that was fully a companion with it. This is what He himself had to do in putting on the human flesh ... the first "translation" of the Word into the world.

There is much here. I am anxious for Nigel's ongoing development of this topic.


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Old 08-25-2008, 05:12 PM   #4
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I think Nigel has engaged a mountain of a topic. In my opinion he has both scripturally and logically established a fluidity to the gospel that allows it to interact with the confines of any culture while remaining fully true to its foundational tenets.
I find it really amazing that Nigel has developed an entirely opposite conclusion to the Acts 15 council ... than the one I bought into for years, which enforces the notion that, for the most part, we read scripture thru LSM eyeglasses. Only until WL passed some 11 years ago, did anyone even think about voicing alternate interpretations. Ones like Nigel appear to be emerging from lifelong "hibernation," and reevaluating many long held doctrines, mainly by examining the bad fruit and tracing it backwards to the source.

The concepts of unity/uniformity are critical to LC mindsets. Wars ... I mean quarantines and lawsuits ... have been waged over these concepts. In the beginning, when we first heard these things, they sounded so good, "one mind, one speech, one soul, one accord," until we fast forward a few decades and look at what has happened. How did we get here? Which teachings and tainted interpretations set a skewed course? One of these was the interpretation of the Acts 15 council.

WL read it and concluded that all the churches must be identical. Nigel and others read it and are saying that God (and the apostles) thought it would be just fine to have vastly different Jewish and Greek churches. Same Christ, but ... different foods, different holidays (no more Chinese new year in America!?), different male "surgeries," different languages, different cultures, even different translations of scripture (KJV forever! ... not!), even different ways of viewing Christ, with one as the "fullness" and the other as the "word." Amazing.

Could God's heart of compassion for mankind be so broad and tolerant? Did anyone else ever read Bruchko, the gospel "translation" of "walking the trails" among the Motilone Indians of the Andes? Incredible story of Logos "translation." Stealing a line from a Geico commercial, "How benevolent and how magnanimous!" as compared to the LSM way of cemented rigidity.

Interesting! Very Interesting! The whole concept of "the Lord's recovery" began in early 20th century China when young WN became convinced that British missionary culture was just no good for the Chinese people. God honored that. China was blessed. But that God-honoring practice of gospel "translation" was no longer a good idea for the rest of the world. Like Wal-Mart importing everything Chinese, "the ministry" feels that it also has a "winning formula" which cannot be improved on. It was developed in a Taipei "laboratory," yet cleverly packaged in HWMR and globally franchised as the "God-ordained way."
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Old 08-26-2008, 09:10 AM   #5
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The whole concept of "the Lord's recovery" began in early 20th century China when young WN became convinced that British missionary culture was just no good for the Chinese people. God honored that. China was blessed. But that God-honoring practice of gospel "translation" was no longer a good idea for the rest of the world.
Ohio,

What a great observation. Nee rejected the British's lack of ability to "translate" God into Chinese culture and now we in the GLA are rejecting the BB's lack of ability to translate God into the American (or wherever) culture.

I know I'll come across as a Lee apologist here, but here goes anyway: I think Lee's task given to him by the great Taskmaster, was to bring a certain "theology" to the West. Get it across the Pacific, was the command, by hook or by crook. Lee got that done. The "hook" and "crook" of it is what many on this forum concentrate on but I prefer to focus on that central package, the "theology" if you will.

Now it's our job to translate this into our local cultures. We have failed at this, big time.

But it's not too late.


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Old 08-26-2008, 09:30 AM   #6
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SP Lee's theology is not what needs to be contextualized for postmodern America. This is akin to the mission of the LCS: spreading the interpreted word.
His theology is not worth the effort and neither is that of anyone else. What is worth it is the Gospel.
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Old 08-26-2008, 09:55 AM   #7
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SP Lee's theology is not what needs to be contextualized for postmodern America. This is akin to the mission of the LCS: spreading the interpreted word.
His theology is not worth the effort and neither is that of anyone else. What is worth it is the Gospel.
Well, I guess we just differ on that one, DJ.


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Old 08-26-2008, 09:58 AM   #8
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On what? That the Gospel is worth the effort of contextualizing?
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Old 08-26-2008, 10:19 AM   #9
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On what? That the Gospel is worth the effort of contextualizing?
Gosh, DJ, you're pulling that kind of stuff now? Tsk, tsk.

The gospel is well worthy of contextualizing. So are some of the teachings Witness Lee brought. For instance, his teaching on the Eve as a type of the church, a building, one who came out of Adam as Christ ... my, that's a good teaching. And you know what? I've never, ever heard it in another setting.

But I guess you've got a problem with that because you don't like the messenger.


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Old 08-26-2008, 10:34 AM   #10
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SP please don't humor yourself with cheap shots. It's beneath you.

Eve being a type of the church? Common knowledge among many Christians. You should get out more!
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Old 08-26-2008, 10:44 AM   #11
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Interesting! Very Interesting! The whole concept of "the Lord's recovery" began in early 20th century China when young WN became convinced that British missionary culture was just no good for the Chinese people.
Ohio?

I thought you said you read that book about the Brethren's history?

Just checking about "the whole concept" part....
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Old 08-26-2008, 11:08 AM   #12
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SP please don't humor yourself with cheap shots. It's beneath you.

Eve being a type of the church? Common knowledge among many Christians. You should get out more!
DJ,

You're right, cheap shots are beneath me. That makes them handy to grab, right there at my feet. But I wasn't grabbing one there.

Now you, on the other hand ...

Let's take that Eve comment. Have you actually heard a pastor preach on the Hebrew word "bana" which means "build" as a point in showing the church as a building? I talked with an orthodox Jewish rabbi for two hours (I do get out, DJ) about such matters and pointed out this term "bana." He was skeptical. He leaned back in his chair (I was in his office at the synagogue), grabbed his Hebrew Bible, read the passage, and said, "Well, I guess you could say that." It was news to him, a Hebrew scholar.

I just googled the word and found a very well done Christian site which explained this term as follows:

"Then God "fashioned" her. The Hebrew word is BANA. It literally means "built." God built or made her, and then brought her to him. I wonder what Adam thought of her? She came from him and not from the dirt. She was designed to help him. Genesis 2:20 says that she was to be a helper. The Hebrew word AZAR means "assistance, support, or help." God's design for a wife is to help her husband. They are to work together and not as individuals. Husbands and wives are to be a team." ["NeverThirsty." http://www.neverthirsty.org/pp/corne...1/r00589.html]

Interesting, isn't it the application this site finds for that word. Teamwork, marriage advice, etc., but where's the mention of the church? Guess this guess doesn't go to the churches you go to.


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Old 08-26-2008, 12:01 PM   #13
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SP you really must snap out of the delusion that Lee had some sort of unique theology that he was commissioned to carry over from Taiwan to America. Based on Eph 5 Matthew Henry, John Gill etc discuss Eve as a type of the church. Gills writes: "The formation of Eve from Adam was typical of the church's production from Christ."

I have heard several teachers/pastors when doing a study of Eph mention this obvious item.
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Old 08-26-2008, 12:26 PM   #14
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SP you really must snap out of the delusion that Lee had some sort of unique theology that he was commissioned to carry over from Taiwan to America. Based on Eph 5 Matthew Henry, John Gill etc discuss Eve as a type of the church. Gills writes: "The formation of Eve from Adam was typical of the church's production from Christ."

I have heard several teachers/pastors when doing a study of Eph mention this obvious item.
Sorry, Deej, but I'm not snapping out of my trance. Maybe you should snap out of yours. We're all in one, you know.

As for Matthew Henry and others having this great teaching, did they have the whole thing? Did they see the whole Bible as a romance? Did they understand the Ten Commandments as a kind of Personals Ad from God describing Himself to a potential mate? Did they understand how God, like Solomon in Song of Songs, had to put on his humble clothes to go down and court the maiden? Did they see stress the matter of the Bible ending is this divine marriage? Did they see deification as a part of the process? Did they show us how the bride gets ready by being transformed in the soul via the inner flow of the mingled Spirit/spirit?

Yeah, I heard about Eve as a type of the church from way back ... way back. But I never heard the whole view.

So in my trance I remain, unbowed and unrepentant. As do you in yours.


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Old 08-26-2008, 12:36 PM   #15
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SP apparently you have lived a sheltered theological life.

Any reasonably intelligent student of the bible can determine that it is a love story. Just reading Hosea is enough to determine this.

And yes they understand incarnation and transformation and deification defined properly as part of the sanctification process and that the bible ends with the Spirit and the Bride.
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Old 08-26-2008, 01:59 PM   #16
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Most pastors I know are very pragmatic. They have a job to do, which is to ensure that their charges are growing in Christ. I've met very few grass roots pastors who have much interest in "high teachings." This always struck me as strange, but now I think I know why. It's because they know such teachings, while quite nice, don't really meet people's needs. People need to know how to walk daily with Christ, how to deal with various weaknesses, how to get along with those around them, how to practically live out the love of Christ. In short, how to make it real.

So, really, does God romancing the church really mean anything to someone if that person doesn't even attempt to duplicate the reality in his own marriage? All the LC brothers know the Bible is a romance. Let me ask you, how does that knowledge affect their marriages? Are LC brothers good at romancing their wives? If the Bible is a romance and they are supposed to getting deified, shouldn't they just be crazy about romancing their wives? I've talked to a few who don't seem to have a clue about the idea. One elder told me recently that he never goes out to dinner, which means he never takes his wife out to dinner. Then he told me how his wife criticizes him and insults him and calls him names. Do you think maybe she feels a little under-romanced? Women read romance novels for a reason. And we guys are up in the clouds with our bible knowledge saying "Duh, the Bible is a wonderful romance." The girls just have to be rolling their eyes when we are not looking.

So what's the point of the "high teaching," really? I mean, what's it all about?

(Lest anyone wonder, this is not intended to be a reflection on anyone here or his or her marriage.)

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Old 08-26-2008, 02:20 PM   #17
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Igzy knocked it outta the park!

I agree i.e. not discussing the "high teachings" at every given opportunity does not = an ignorance of them. Many Christian I know and esp pastors have a large knowledge base and what you hear is merely the tip of the iceberg.

If not so sad it would be comical: an LCS elder refusing to take his wife out to dinner and the wife calling him names and insulting him. Meanwhile I suspect they are reading those ever present life-studies about the divine romance! It could be a sitcom.
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Old 08-26-2008, 02:56 PM   #18
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Christ Incarnated in Culture. Good idea. What better way to demonstrate ummm let's say the love story of God with his people than a healthy marriage?

On this topic I recommend a book by Lesslie Newbigin titled: The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. He has a section on the church as hermeneutic. Very insightful work.
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Old 08-26-2008, 02:58 PM   #19
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So what's the point of the "high teaching," really? I mean, what's it all about?
Igzy,

Maybe you're right about LC marriages. I don't know. I've seen good ones and bad ones.

But even if you are right, that doesn't negate the teaching. I grew up fundamentalist Baptist and believed -- correctly -- in "eternal security." That should have resulted in less doubt about my own salvation. But it didn't. I, like every single Baptist I knew, had serious doubts. Why? Because another teaching, a bad one, got in the way and intercepted the good one. And that bad teaching: that there is no dispensational reward and punishment. We all get "changed" in a twinkling and that's that. The day I saw the matter of dispensational reward and punishment I never doubted my salvation again. Not once.

Perhaps there's an LC teaching, like the Apostle of the Age idea, that is intercepting the value of the teaching of the divine romance. Maybe it's "spiritual authority." Whatever the case, I have to believe that good, clear teaching about the essence of God's plan is life-changing and earth-shaking.

Furthermore, I'm not convinced these pragmatic pastors are really changing the world, anyway. As you know (we've been down this road before), I'm the friendly skeptic on these kind of things.

I recall Watchman Nee saying that seeing the unity threading through the Bible of its dozens of writers is a great strengthening of faith for him. I agree. And seeing this matter of the divine romance has done that even more for me.


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Old 08-26-2008, 03:02 PM   #20
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If not so sad it would be comical: an LCS elder refusing to take his wife out to dinner and the wife calling him names and insulting him. Meanwhile I suspect they are reading those ever present life-studies about the divine romance! It could be a sitcom.
Gee, DJ, for such a well-read, educated guy, I'm surprised you'd pronounce such a sweeping judgement based on one anecdotal bit of second-hand testimony. But hey, maybe that's the level of proof required at your Bible school.


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Old 08-26-2008, 04:50 PM   #21
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Igzy,

Maybe you're right about LC marriages. I don't know. I've seen good ones and bad ones.

But even if you are right, that doesn't negate the teaching.
I didn't want to negate the teaching. I was pointing out that that's all it is, apparently.

My point was, which you avoided, was that if God is so interested in romance, why aren't more LC brothers, since the teaching is so life-changing?

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Whatever the case, I have to believe that good, clear teaching about the essence of God's plan is life-changing and earth-shaking.
See above question.

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Furthermore, I'm not convinced these pragmatic pastors are really changing the world, anyway. As you know (we've been down this road before), I'm the friendly skeptic on these kind of things.
So do some research and find out. Go outside of your comfort zone and meet some other serious Christians. Until then your skepticism is really just a comfortable bias.

When you go out and actually make an effort spend some time with other Christians and see how their lives are lived, I might take your skepticism more seriously. As it stands you are like me criticizing "The Catcher in the Rye" to my 15-year-old-niece when I'd never read more than five pages of it. She called me on it and for her sake I agreed to read it. And you know what, I'm kind of enjoying it. It's not quite what I thought. I think you are suffering the same ailment. As my quote from Chesterton says, it's really bigotry, too great a generalization.
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Old 08-26-2008, 05:00 PM   #22
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SC sweeping judgment? When did I make a sweeping judgment? I am merely discussing the Greek tragedy that is before us.
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Old 08-26-2008, 05:50 PM   #23
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So do some research and find out. Go outside of your comfort zone and meet some other serious Christians. Until then your skepticism is really just a comfortable bias.

When you go out and actually make an effort spend some time with other Christians and see how their lives are lived, I might take your skepticism more seriously. As it stands you are like me criticizing "The Catcher in the Rye" to my 15-year-old-niece when I'd never read more than five pages of it. She called me on it and for her sake I agreed to read it. And you know what, I'm kind of enjoying it. It's not quite what I thought. I think you are suffering the same ailment. As my quote from Chesterton says, it's really bigotry, too great a generalization.

Igzy,

Spend some time with other Christians? Glad to know you know how I spend my time.

Go outside my comfort zone? Hm, seems to me my presence here is a little outside my comfort zone. At least I'm not here preaching to the choir, exchanging back-slaps with others choir preachers.

I have a comfortable bias? Thanks for the heads up, Mr. Objective.

I'm suffering an "ailment"? Okay, whatever you say, doctor.

Bigotry. Nice, real nice.

Really, Ig, you can do better than this kind of ad hominem attack. If you had a sense of humor about it, like DJ, I wouldn't mind. But this stuff is just mean.


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Old 08-26-2008, 07:23 PM   #24
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Igzy,

Really, Ig, you can do better than this kind of ad hominem attack. If you had a sense of humor about it, like DJ, I wouldn't mind. But this stuff is just mean.

SC
SC,

There was nothing ad hominem or "mean" about what I said. You claimed to be "skeptical" about something you appeared to have no inclination to find out any facts about. You've done that before. That's the definition of bigotry, is it not? I'm sorry if it hurts, but blaming the messenger doesn't change anything.

You've done it before. Someone presents a case to you and your response is to say you're skeptical, or you say you "don't buy it." But too often you are less than interested in really finding out the facts. When you question the results of pragmatic pastors, as I called them, on what basis are you skeptical? You don't say, you just assume that position, and it's good enough for you. But do you really think I would make a case for pragmatism if I'd hadn't seen results from it? Your response basically tells me you think I don't know what I'm talking about even if I'm seeing it all the time right before my eyes. Why would you think that?

I've been where you are. Fresh out of the LC world, and thinking what I know is so much superior to everyone else. I went out and found out what was going on outside my little world, and I found out there are some simple, pragmatic pastors out there who love the Lord and his people far more than my superior knowledge could make up for. They are not interested in "high teaching" because they can see through the pride and emptiness in much of it. I thought I was rich, but I was blind and naked. The Lord is still showing me how blind and naked I am. The cause is always my thinking I know more than others, and what I "know" is usually something I got from the LC, which I carry around like some kind of Olympian gold medal.

Hanging out on a message board is not what I meant when I said get out of your comfort zone. I meant go get to know and meet with some of these pastors and Christians whose results you are so "skeptical" about. Find out how sincere they are and learn something concrete and then come back and tell us how skeptical you are. Your ideas might be confirmed in some cases, but I guarantee you'll come back with a different view of these people, especially if you pray for and fellowship with them.

And as to preaching to the choir goes, show me an LC-run board where they'll let me speak my mind and I'm there. Unfortunately the ministry you love so much has produced a mindset that doesn't allow free expression of thought. I really wonder why that much doesn't make you turn your skepticism towards it.

Believe it or not, I post in love, bro.
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Old 08-26-2008, 07:28 PM   #25
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Ohio: "Interesting! Very Interesting! The whole concept of "the Lord's recovery" began in early 20th century China when young WN became convinced that British missionary culture was just no good for the Chinese people."

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Ohio? I thought you said you read that book about the Brethren's history? Just checking about "the whole concept" part....
I was referring to the many times we heard about the "fresh start" the Lord had in China as "virgin land." At other times the concept of "recovery" started with Luther et. al. and continued thru Darby.

But, anyways I read lots of Brethren history books 4-5 years ago, which helped me at the time to predict our own future. I was right almost every time.
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Old 08-26-2008, 07:48 PM   #26
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Hanging out on a message board is not what I meant when I said get out of your comfort zone. I meant go get to know and meet with some of these pastors and Christians whose results you are so "skeptical" about.

Igzy,

I really am surprised you would return to this point. You really don't know me, that's for sure. I probably have spent more time with Christians outside the LC circle than, well, you can imagine. Want a fresh example? Yesterday my Mennonite neighbors came over and we sang African worship songs together. My neighbor, a music scholar and teacher, has studied with one the great Mennonite music teachers, Mary Oyer. He taught us the songs, taught us an African dance, and we sang and danced through our house. His wife, my wife, his two daughters, me, him dancing through our house.

Want another one? Just last spring I went to a German Baptist special weekend. I sat on a hard bench through a two-hour long service, ate with them in the basement, an extremely interesting and unusual setting to be sure.

Want more? I spent two hours with a Jewish rabbi discussing this simple question: Why can't you see Christ in the Bible? An orthodox Jewish rabbi. He is now counted among my friends.

Want more? I come from a line of Baptist pastors: over a dozen in my extended family. I also meet with a Bob Jones University Phd. missionary.

Want more? I am involved in a twice a month Bible study with young people who are NOT in the LC.

Want more? I have been to a monastery for a weekend.

More? I have attended over 36 different churches for at least one service in my county.

More? I have attended meetings with a group who claimed to be "The church in ___" (our city). I met with them numerous times simply to honor the fact that we shared the view of not taking a name other than the locality. This group is an inner city group consisting mostly of African-Americans.

Maybe the fact that I defend Lee makes you think I'm just a parroting simpleton. I would hope that my posts over the years would indicate that isn't the case. At any rate, I really don't think you know me as well as you think you do.


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Old 08-27-2008, 12:45 AM   #27
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I was referring to the many times we heard about the "fresh start" the Lord had in China as "virgin land." At other times the concept of "recovery" started with Luther et. al. and continued thru Darby.
I wasn't so worried about what the group specifically had to say for itself but Gardiner's book, The Recovery and Maintenance of the Truth, first published in 1951, seemed in at least a couple of places to use the phrase "the recovery" in the same sense as the Local Church people do.

Of course, 1951 doesn't mean that the phrase wasn't imported back from China, either, but I didn't get the impression that Gardiner was very impressed with the progress among the natives and was fairly purely an "exclusively-Brethren" source.

No big deal. Just thought it was generous to allow that Nee and/or Lee invented the concept versus adopting and adapting it, which is how I personally understand it.
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Old 08-27-2008, 04:51 AM   #28
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Igzy,

Maybe the fact that I defend Lee makes you think I'm just a parroting simpleton. I would hope that my posts over the years would indicate that isn't the case. At any rate, I really don't think you know me as well as you think you do.

SC
Then why do you tell me you are skeptical of the results of the pastors I mentioned who focus on things like how people are actually doing with the Lord rather than slinging high teachings like the Bible is a romance? You should know better if you are spending time laboring with them.

But it seems to me you regularly dismiss claims that are inconvenient to you. Case in point, a while back when I testified of the great impact the marriage conference, you jumped all over it with sarcasm. I said Weekend to Remember was a great contemporary ministry, and you could barely contain your distain, and you had no clue as to what you were talking about. You've done the same thing over and over. You dismiss things that you are ignorant about that don't fit into your narrow world view.

I don't mind you having an opinion. I just wish when you don't like a claim around here that doesn't fit your worldview, you'd go a little deeper than simply resorting to "I'm skeptical," "I don't buy it" or otherwise simply brushing the point off with sarcasm.

When you testified that you thought Titus Chu was by and large a good shepherd, did I roll my eyes in public and say "I'm skeptical?" No, because I concede (1) you know more about him than me and (2) I trust you to be honest. Why not give me the same consideration?
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Old 08-27-2008, 06:55 AM   #29
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Maybe the fact that I defend Lee makes you think I'm just a parroting simpleton. I would hope that my posts over the years would indicate that isn't the case. At any rate, I really don't think you know me as well as you think you do.
I never said you were a parroting simpleton. I said, in so many words, you dismiss things that don't fit into your worldview with scant evidence other than they don't fit into your worldview.

Perhaps the problem is that you have ambivalent feelings about this board and because of that you don't put forth the effort necessary to give people's claims the respect they deserve, but simply resort to brushing them off or stonewalling. I don't know. I just know that you have a tendency just to blow off people who say things that you find inconvenient, rather than mounting a genuine rebuttal.
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Old 08-27-2008, 06:39 PM   #30
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When you testified that you thought Titus Chu was by and large a good shepherd, did I roll my eyes in public and say "I'm skeptical?" No, because I concede (1) you know more about him than me and (2) I trust you to be honest. Why not give me the same consideration?
That was an honest request, by the way.
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Old 08-28-2008, 06:23 PM   #31
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I probably have spent more time with Christians outside the LC circle than, well, you can imagine...
SC,
I appreciate your inclusiveness. That you make Christ our Lord the common ground.

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