I will confess that I have been very busy… and that this book is not that hard of a read. In fact it reads very easy. I find it very interesting to read Spencer's joureny as my journey has been somewhat the same for the last few years has been about discovering, or rather at times rediscovering my faith in the context of the Postmodern age.
This may also be more of a rant than a “book review”… or maybe a bit of both.
To read Spencer’s thoughts on institutionalization of the church… which is to me the core of the issue concerning moving from religion to the “beyond” he is attempting to describe, I hear what has been in my own heart for about 2 years now. In many ways this is a tough road to try to explain to others, and I have often gotten into some heavy discussions over the topic of whether the church is and institution, organism or something else altogether. I have attempted in my own way to express that Jesus never intended us to create a new “institution”, rather He intended us to be grafted to His Body… to become One in Christ as He is One with the Father (John 17).
Though as I have explored this thought I realize there is an aspect to the “church” being an “institution”, or rather that the institutional aspect is a more tool to help get the job done… We were never to replace the fact we are an organism… the literal Body of Christ… with being an institution. To reduce the church to a mere institution is to separate it from its purpose and intent on earth… and that is to be Christ’s ambassadors until His return.
I have in the process of working through this been attacked and accused of being an apostate. I have had my character assassinated and have had people create “hate iggy” blogs in their attempt to “rebuke me in love”. None of this surprises me, as the Pharisees held to their view of religion even in the very presence of Christ Jesus Himself. I see those who hold to religion and their dogma will always replace “doctrine of men” and their own view of “religion” over the TRUTH who is Christ for that is their very nature, to protect their own personal “world view” and not allow anything to even attempt to change it. This is a very un-teachable spirit and very much lacking humility. Both of those are only changed by learning mercy and grace from our Creator. It will never be gained through trying to understand God by “propositional truth” alone.
With all that said, I will fully acknowledge that people of faith have for centuries worked out their faith in the context of the “institutionalized” church. Even in the attempt to change from the Roman Catholic hierarchy, Reformers recreated hierarchical systems of their own. The end result is that nothing really changed… just the names and the focus of the particular reformer group… It was the replacing of Priests with TULIP or some other “system” of theology.
(TULIP was not created by Calvin. The ideas developed from Calvinism were created later by the students of John Calvin.)
I am very grateful for many of the Reformers in their attempt to express a purer faith, I see that really we have become lazy and too dependant on the teaching passed on. (These teachings are not to be confused with the teachings express in 1 Corinthians 11:2 or 2 Thessalonians 2:15 rather this is related to Mark 7:7 and 1 Timothy 4:2 and also Hebrews 13:9) So if one is confused as to what I mean by “man made doctrine” I hope that clears it up. Spencer’s “Concerns are often the point of discussion amongst the emerging church.
- I’m concerned when Jesus’ death is brokered by Christianity simply as a business transaction.
- I ‘m concerned when institutional Christianity is so married to a particular political ideology that is supports policies and actions counter to the message of Jesus
- I’m concerned when institutions demand their biblical interpretation to be the ultimate source of absolute truth and then use this truth to condemn and judge.
- I’m concerned when Christianity is presented as the only way to God
- I’m concerned when institutions use the name of Jesus to maintain a patriarchal system that basically perpetuate women’s status as second–class citizens
- I’m concerned when the church says that a certain person or a particular group of people have no access to the grace of God because of their sexual orientation or because they grew up in some other part of the world under the influence of a different view of religion. *
Though I am not sure that I at this time can go as far as Spencer in his view of Grace… we are totally on the same track concerning moving beyond “institutionalized” religion.
Now, I do want to clear up one big and very glaring mistake in the book…
Mathew Shepard was attacked in Wyoming, not Montana. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Shepard)
As a Montanan I have to ask you to fix this mistake LOL!…
(Though the main point in which this was brought up I agree with you entirely!
* Page 100 Heretic's Guide to Eternity Spencer Burke