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Stepping out for Christ
from NEWS 90
Chapter 1
The Trendy Ecumenical Museum
October 8, 1999

I admit it freely. A museum is about the last place to be trendy; but consider, dear reader, how advanced we are in this twentieth century's last year! One remembers a small French piece, on the LAST CLASS, a poignant imagination about the last class in French after the 1870 invasion of France by Germany, when the next one would be held in this former border area ... in German.

So here, as the century ends, we are receiving lessons which suggest the near approach of a new language for religion. You may prefer to read this Chapter after Chs. 4,5,6 - or to take it now as a survey before more detailed action!
 
 

A FEW WORDS ABOUT WORDS

After all, they have TALKED about religious language, from the knowledgeable philosophers of know-nothing to the 1988 Circular to Principals here in South Australia, enough to pollute the very air. It has become a fad or fetish (almost zany enough to be called a fetisch, just to mimic its pretensions with a nice foreign sound, to match its sophisticated, anti-Biblical pretensions), as if when you come to God, you cease to be reasonable; as if being treasonable to the truth is the best introduction to it.

It is indeed almost as if the IDEA that the ONE who made the human mind - simply splendid invention - free enough from the slavish construction of matter to HAVE ideas, good and bad, wrong and right, and the spirit liberated from the clay, so that one could even investigate the stuff - that that One could Himself talk sense was rather too much! So might a clever doll droll out its knowledgeability by saying, These humans, they NEVER know anything.

A Yet Cleverer Doll, perhaps sick of owner, Jane and her ways with it, might add, Jane is so awfully wonderful that you never really know what she wants, so I am going to smile blandly at her whenever she wants me, and simply say, OOH, AHHH and OHR! as if to say that I know nothing, when all the time, I really know that she is the one. But you can't SAY that! She is too strong. Some doll! Some human beings!

Not knowing the language! That is one of the ways in which a foreign student can trap the English speaking, when moving into the forbidden at the University perhaps in Computing: OOHAH! the word might come, as if the student did not really KNOW THE LANGUAGE. THAT is why, you see, he/she ha done such things! It saves trouble, and doubtless has been practised by many nationalities in many places, as part of human racism, which uses race to win the race.
 

       In the end, there are two sorts of religious language: there is the language about religion, from man, and there is the language about man, from God.

       The former is often so absurd that it is indeed a sort of nonsense language, LIKE THAT OF THE DOLL, WANTING TO BE APART FROM JANE; and the latter is a language that is the quintessence of logical clarity, evidential reality and verificatory virtue. Indeed, that is one of the facts for checking out the truth from the fantasising fictions, so dear to the heart of modern man, as indeed to his ancestors in many places.

       The word of God ? His declaration ? It MAKES TOO MUCH SENSE for many, who as in the parable, are really far too pre-occupied with far too many things really to want to hear it at all (cf. Matthew 22:1-14, Luke 14:15-24). Indeed, it was just this brilliant capacity NOT TO HEAR, as they slew the prophets and then killed the Son of God, that led to the divine magnificence of strategy, that Christ became the atonement for many (Matthew 26:28, Isaiah 53:11, Romans 8:32): THAT language anyone could understand, though few let their minds rest on it long enough to eat the flesh and drink the blood (John 6:51ff., 63 - "The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life"), that is, to receive the sacrifice just as the Jews of old took the animal sacrifice in the passover, ingesting the meat as expression of personal involvement and token of receiving the atonement through blood (Leviticus 17:11, 16:18ff.).

       And all this ? You do or you do not ? You take or leave ? You receive or reject the object ... of faith, which is the Lord Himself, yes crucified and risen (Romans 8:11,34). It is after all by faith (Deuteronomy 29:18ff., Isaiah 7:9, II Chronicles 10:20 - 20/20 vision), which DOES NOT MEAN that you do not understand it; for how could ANYONE believe in what is not there to believe, known to conceive or expressible so as to be before the mind, in the spirit and assessed by the innermost depths of the being. You do NOT believe in what you do not know, for it is not known to be believed or rejected.


As to Christ, however, HE is either received or rejected (John 8:23-24). They had to BELIEVE that HE was the Messiah, about whom thousands of highly clear and comprehensible statements were made in the prophets (cf. SMR Ch.9), or to reject His claims, His identity (cf. Philippians 2) and so receive His judgment (John 3:17-36), which was at any rate, quite clear. When Jerusalem had its preliminary instalment of it (Matthew 24:1ff.) in A.D. 70, it was again, quite clear. In fact, the Roman troops salted the city, taking it down first, stone by stone. Quite clear.

When God has even gone to the trouble to speak in earth with a human mouth and to confront, discuss and declare it all with power to match and prophecy to introduce, and people dare to say that there is a generic religious nonsense language (oh! call it symbolic or any other device to protect from clarity, it still will not do!), it is spiritual blindness, a shutting of the eyes (cf. Matthew 13:14-15), or else an illustration of that inherent opacity or alienation from the living God to which all are subject through sin, except through the grace of God in salvation (cf. Ephesians 2:1-10, 4:17-10, cf. Repent or Perish 7). Whatever the reason for it, there is one result.

Against the sovereign, it appears merely as a generically anti-Christian rebellion (cf. Ezekiel 30:30-33, 29:9-13, John 20:27-30, 8:42,45-47,19,24, Psalm 2:1ff.,10ff.), as well of course (cf. Repent or Perish 2, SMR pp. 100-101, Ch.3) as a piece of extravagant irrationalism, and while we are here, we might as well note, an anti-historical irrelevance (cf. SMR Appendix C, Ch.6, Chs. 8-10). The world knows nothing religious

  • as broad as Christ (thousands of millions use or misuse His name in their Christ-related religions, and extravagant efforts to imitate His truth lie littered on the littoral like broken shells),
  • as deep as Christ (Barbs, Arrows and Balms, Appendix 4),
  • as gracious as Christ (Barbs, Arrows and Balms, Appendix 2),
  • as pure as Christ (cf. Repent or Perish Ch.2, pp. 41ff.),
  • as necessary as Christ (SMR Ch.1, Repent or Perish 7).


Yes the religion of Christ is a religion, and we have even called it a meta-religion (A Spiritual Potpourri 15, End-note1) because of its objective and exclusive validity as a religion (cf. That Magnificent Rock Ch.5, SMR Ch.3; and it is assuredly not a generic, symbolic language in which He speaks (cf. pp. 74-75, Ch.6 infra).

No one, confronted with reality,  can without fantasy believe that the sacrifice of Christ is a symbol when He bled, or that his bones to be handled are symbols*1, or that it is another language, when without blood there is no remission  - Hebrews 9:12-15,22). We are warned! The princes that will stride into God's presence at judgment, to advise of their terms and conditions, are not merely blind, but naked and already condemned (John 3:15, 18-21, 36), not merely for their presumption
(I John 1:8), but their pride (I John 1:8, Jeremiah 13), when so readily the reality of their own internal state was not faced, and the incandescent holiness of God was ignored, like a house on fire. Fire is good (cf. Hebrews 12:29), but you are merely blind if you imagine it does not burn. It is a question of what burns, and where the burning is to occur, in the grate or as a fate.

But Christ ?
 

  • It was not
  • with symbolic cries that He anguished as He faced the atoning death (Hebrews 5:7), or
  • with symbolic sweat like great drops of blood, that His torture commenced before the  nails (Luke 24:44), nor was it
  • with symbolic agony He prayed, and stayed aloft to be scorned by supercilious, superficial priestly people, upstanding in body, supine in soul, who admired His murder.

 

       Symbolic nails were never placed searing, into His flesh;

       nor were His prayers symbolic, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!" (Luke 23:34), and if it had been, then no symbols would the pangs of tortured conscience and stricken spirit be, in hell, for those who then... would not be saved, or indeed, have any way by which they could have been. But God ? He did something substantial, with substantial flesh and substantial reason for a substantial purpose and a substantial result, even a city which has foundations, whose builder and Maker is God, a people who are special, the children of God, redeemed thereby, sealed and sent to serve in the love of Christ, while the world lasts...

He came, He saw, He did, He was killed and He corrupted death for ever; it will never be the same again (cf. Hosea 13:14). He IS its destruction. The FAITH comes in when you RECEIVE first Him, and then with Him, His words (John 6:68, 6:40, 5:24). Without these, you sink in the froth (Matthew 5:17-19, Isaiah 8:20, 12:48-50).
 
 

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE TRENDY MUSEUM ?

Quite true. It is time we considered it. It was just necessary to consider symbol and substance, blather and meaning first. In THIS MUSEUM there is plenty of symbol. It is very trendy. Unfortunately they do not seem to be much good at other things. We shall see this, or see the lack of substance shortly. However in the meantime, trendy ? Yes, it is a memorial, like that of living US Presidents in one sense, to things already here, while looking back to what they were before - as far as the museum's presentation is concerned, they went! Hence the present memorialises the past, and the present is the specimen held for observation. It is different, isn't it!

You have many exhibits.

1) There is this new HYMN BOOK, which is kept in one of the enclosures. It is for the Roman Catholics, the Lutherans, the Anglicans, the Church of Christ and the Uniting Church. There is a little music box where you can hear the symbol of whatever is common to all of those. This singing in the Museum does not actually have any words, because the curator could not understand the symbolism, and though it was mainly to make a point,  he was not quite sure he knew what it was. He could not find it. He seemed certain that it was ecumenical because of the number and variety of the ecclesiastical bodies involved. It is a 1999 special, just before the new arithmetic about which so much is being made - the year 2000, which, while not the new millenium does suggest something, like the speed of decline of the Ecumenical Empire into the pits of speciousness (cf. SMR p. 743, 445, 685, 729, , 749, 750B, 948, 956-957, 982-983, 1031C; Benevolent Brightness or Brothy Bane ? (BEN) 85, esp. pp. 247ff. and Endnote 1, The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.7, pp. 109ff.).

2) Then there is the JOINT DECLARATION (cf. Ch.4, STEP) between the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic body, another 1999 special. In this case, as the Director of the Museum points out in referring to the above phrase, the combination is like that of light and darkness, so that it is very trendy, the absence of light being the dominant because light has aversion to certain sorts of darkness (cf. II Cor. 6:14-17 ), so that you often see black garb on highly mobile cyclists, roaring about the hills, as if inviting death as some of them break over the double lines in blind curves; and many wear it as if in mourning, even while quite young.

You see, it all looks back to the past, when Protestanism was a good word and one fit for the British Empire, and a reminder of the Spanish Armada, the Inquisition and Peter's Pence and such things, and of the Bible, the Puritans and the foundations of the United States with the Pilgrim Father collection prominent in the process, and before it was molested, and parodied by so very many pretentious pantomines, which have long left the faith. Thus there is another bay in the museum for this declaration, and many more like it, neo-evangelical some of them, in which the praises of ecumenism are sung, without words of course, with the new Hymn Book.

3) YET another bay has a word of God niche, where the American Baptist  Churches USA, and the Southern Baptist bodies are able to give trendy voice to their various degrees of alliance with Rome. For the former see the illustration in STEP Ch.5, p. 61 and Foundation, July -August 1999, pp. 1-17. On p. 9, we learn that the ABC/USA "leadership emphasized that the two primary distinctives of the denomination are evangelism and ecumenism", the General Secretary in a News Conferences stressing the latter, stating he had been "on the central committee of the World Council of Churches... for the past ten years". Then again, the  Billy Graham association with Rome, his reception of an honorary degree from one of their institutions, his use of Roman counsellors at crusades, his reported statements about the same gospel which founded that college and his own, all have been referred to in the past (e.g. Repent or Perish 5, pp. 97ff., Joyful Jottings 5, The Kingdom of Heaven, Ch.7, p. 110).

Baptism into the World Council and the heady affairs of decadent, unbiblical ecumenism is another memorial to things past, divorced from those things which might appear with many, to have lived on into the present: like the married state of Henry VIII, despite his - shall we say - precipitate divorce from his unhappily treated wives. This chameleon changeability, expressed in its present, its contemporary, its most recent forms, provides one more exhibit in this trendy museum of ecumenicism.

It is rather important to realise that it is not a museum TO ecumenism, for that is future when its true abhorrence is regarded from other heights:  it is rather one OF ecumenism, where the present trends appear, the deadness being rather in the present than in the past. That of course is one reason why the Curator stores them in his museum; and of course, the more symbolic things are, the easier they can be to store. You find that in many ways, including symbolic giving and symbolical dedication. It does not take much space or make much difference, so it is really quite easy to accommodate.

4)  A little further along is the global teaching bay, with the SSABSA niche to it. This is a monument and memorial to the concept of separated, Biblical teaching.

We have just pondered this (see News 89), and it takes the museum to new depths of death, free and independent schools taking the liberal cultural chaos of the confused implicit credos of the syllabi which are there considered. This they do,  apparently at times without realising where they are.

In this, however, they are free among the dead, in terms of Biblical Christianity, rather than driven by the life of the Lord, that resurrected life which even the voluntarily blind can see, when they consider the case, and open the eyes from their obscuring shutters (cf. Ch 5 infra; SMR Ch.6; Barbs, Arrows and Balms Appendix 3; Biblical Blessings Appendix IV, Ch. 15, Extended Endnote 2, The Magnificence of the Messiah, Endnote 1; SMR Index; KH 9, Section 14, JJ 25).

That so ununiversalisable, unsymbolical an event, such non-rotting an episode (you know, it does not stink! to use the expression from the expectations from Lazarus - John 11:39), indeed written in the pellucid clarity of the word of God, itself demonstrable (SMR Chs. 1-3,10), and presented with such simplicity and straightforwardness should be included here in unthinkable. It would explode the Museum by its pure force. He did it. Others in other religions decline this honour!

Here there is nothing dead to commemorate, and how do you commemorate life with death ? : HE ROSE, and this has no place in any museum. What should be used as a memorial to those who are destroyed in heart, and reject Him, like unrepentant Thomases ?

The Curator gave this some thought, and decided that a fitting memorial to those whose bodies have left the faith, those who consent to this sort of thing, should be  encased in a body, a body of wax, perpetually dripping and losing its face. It is an empty heart inside it, constantly obscured by the dripping wax. It is a memorial to defacing the faith, the Curator explains. Oh lovely unbelief, a modish modern song cants on, How beautiful to be able to say that we know nothing, believe nothing, and live for nothing; and that we cannot even know this, for there is nothing for us (cf. SMR pp. 292, 101, The Biblical Workman, Appendix 1).

It has a strange refrain:

We are captivated, not yet captured,
perceive but do not believe,
have faith that does not work,
and work for the faith that would!

Quaint! Faith may be very small, but you may not fidget with the midget; if it is faith, it works, and conviction is in God, and His words, not man and his bright, or rather droll and dreary ideas (Cf. Hebrews 4:1-3, 11:1-4).

Another song comes intermittently the kant-ata (they have strange spelling here, too) , Oh go all you unfaithful! It has some pretty trills, evidently to accompany the descent, for it is really a very easy slope on which all this is placed (Matthew 7:13-14; I Corinthians 15:13,12-20, cf. Chapter 5 infra). Where it goes... it simply was down, as far as one could see. It seemed to end in endlessness.

I could not help reflecting that "there is nothing to Him" is one rendering of Daniel 9:26, where the Messiah is shown prophetically being sacrificed. Because they reject the only One who is Messiah, the one resurrected, it comes to be that there is nothing to them, instead; and believe me, it is not nothing that is the judgment on such a callow clamour in the face of rejected remedy. A novel Christ neither is in heaven, nor saves (II Cor.11). They have black draping over the windows in this corner.

But as to Him, the decisive, redemptive desolation on the cross, it passed. The drapings of sin, of iniquities cast upon Him, He freely received. The He dispensed with them and with the death which is their due. It was a creation of salvation by incorporation on the cross and rejection of death, after tasting it, since it could not hold Him (Acts 2:24, Hosea 13:14).

It was so practical, so direct as to concern the poking of fingers into holes and the eating of fish, the preparing of fires and the straight declaration, "A spirit has not flesh and bones as you see Me to have!" Luke 24:39, together with the invitation, "Handle Me and see!", a most refreshing accommodation. The Museum memorialises the missing faith, the one which the saints according to prescription, fight for, since it was once for all delivered, and its abeyance in these dead surrounds, sounds like the distant baying of wolves (Matthew 24:24, 7:15, II Peter 2:1ff.). They do not fight in the Museum, since it concerns death, and they who live are concerned with life. What life! Beyond the vale, it passes all scale, is exuberant, abundant, lasts forever, the irruptive power of God for the redeemed children of men, which makes of them, children of God. There are no orphans there (John 14:16,18,1-3)

The living, they have no place in the displays of this museum. Theirs - for they are to walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8), of the Lord - is a meta-religion (Cf. A Spiritual Potpourri Ch.15, Endnote 1. It is the one where verifable practicalities, power, prediction, retrodiction and promises now current meet as indeed they have met the the laboratory of testing without blushing, and that with an unalterable factuality that nothing in science can parallel, for their over 3000 years of express pronouncements and unfailing performances. It is just that God's knowledge is greater than man's.

By contrast, here in the Museum before us, we can see the Hindu, the Buddhist and the Moslem, the Liberal, all beautifully kept in sight, and naturally enough, there is a lawn, always mown, a sort of bikini lawn so short that it bristles, and Mother Culture comes and mows it herself, being a diverting sight to those electing to take their morning tea in that recess. And yes, there is the Roman, with its other Christ, who CAN BE put with another Master, the Pope, whose instruction is free (despite Matthew 23:8-10, Galatians 1:6-9; cf. SMR pp. 1042ff.) and whose voice can thus be toned down while the other one, the Father on earth, speaks. After all, what happens to such a Christ is symbolic, as far as the real One is concerned.  The name is the same, but the body is different.

In this same area, there is another niche, a very proud one and plentiful in scope, for the tertiary replicas of this situation (cf. SMR pp. 422I-L, 202ff.) , and above all - it actually has an angel suspended from the ceiling at this point and beautiful frescoes about the sight.  There too is the seminary sublimination of Christianity, a new feature, which pays tribute to the many seminaries which were once lively exhibits of Biblical Christianity, but which now are increasingly replaced by the deadened substitutes (cf. The Kingdom of Heaven,  Ch.10, Parts 2,3, SMR pp. 686ff., 857-867ff., 1042-1088H).

These constitute this trendy museum's masterpiece.

       Naturally enough, the decimation of churches by the symbolical, the supra-spiritual, the monistic earthy, the glib gushings, the existential heights and the liberal depths,

       when God, poor simpleton that some would have Him be, in terms of their perception of His speech, or endeavours for it, seems rather like a school-boy without gifts, age 10, having a go, as they say:


this has this seminary parallel that we have noted. You find it almost without looking; and it looks at you here, in this bay of clouded waters, where the memorial to truth is found.


5) Out of interest, the Director indicated the Bay for the Phantom Flotilla - although one could not help thinking this was being a bit literal. You see, this Museum sits by a Bay, and in this case, the waters are actually used for afternoon demonstrations of this flotilla, and you can see the various puppets which represent the puppets, if you follow, sitting on some of the ships, the proud vessels which brave the bay. For more on this, you could look at Repent or Perish 5, Phantom Flotilla.

It really is a notable sight, the WCC and the Roman boats, so close, and all the little ships of deviating Protestantism, or pseudo-christianised agnosticism, following this or that one of the main boats in the same zig-zagging line, at times so that you would think they had one admiral...(cf. SMR pp. 857ff.) with further off, a lingering group of vessels which still accompany in part, the ideological family, corporate and individual, finding a measure of community with the rest, rather, it seems, to their surprise (cf. SMR pp. 867ff., 878, 862, 842ff., 685ff.; A Spiritual Potpourri Chs. 13, 17 pp. 228, 230, 232 - Q, D and M). If the bay were not so pacific, one could almost imagine a giant, invisible vortex drawing them all around and around, and nearer to a centre with certainly some depth, but an aqueous one, not to be desired.

6) Then there is the niche for the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (cf. BEN 85, pp. 247ff.) which has moved towards the very memorial depiction, from this Museum's perspective, that the Pope is really to be conceived in terms of "the gift of authority", which is an interesting way of being gifted with the primacy Christ rightly insisted was His alone! (cf. Matthew 23:8-10, SMR pp. 1042ff.). Their 'leader', O Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, it is the ... pope. There is nothing personal in this. It is just that when man replaces God in His chosen unique functions, we have an infinite blasphemy, that's all.

Oh but look! they are joining the flotilla now! What an eventful afternoon. This Museum is really full of the most interesting natural history, even maritime events, and how they all seem to throb, is that it I hear ? to the same beat. Strange museum, even has modern, very modern music!

Note

*1
See Ch.6 infra, pp. 74-75.
 

AN EXHORTATION TO CHRISTIANS

 

It is time to step out for Christ. Squalid series of symbols in the place reserved for the Author of the mind which deploys them is really not for the rational, realistic or the Christian. Why linger where holes abound, pits are plentiful and the Bible does not permit (Titus 3:10, Romans 16:17, Ephesians 5, II Cor. 6:11ff. - see Ch.7, The Kingdom of Heaven). What does Christ say ? "WHY do you call Me Lord, Lord and not do the things that I say!"  (Luke 6:46). If this is said now, what then ?

Squandering time in the wrong place is not merely perilous, as Lot found, but can be a negative contribution to the very beauty of holiness in the kingdom of heaven.

On the other side, O what beauty of character and strength of mind can be formed, forged and formulated, like a rugged sculpture, in the ways of the Lord:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not to your own understanding,
Acknowledge Him in all your ways
And He shall direct your paths" - (Proverbs 3:5-6).

See Questions and Answers 6, What does it mean to abide in Jesus Christ - "Abide in Me" ?