HC 13.0: WHAT IS CHURCH? Christ, Church, and Community

Ken Aitken July 1, 2007


For the photos in the immediate foreground, see the writing below ‘Some Historical Examples of the Greek Worldview in a Christian Framework’.

Christ, Church and Community …. Spirituality from Jesus Christ or Christian Religion

In this post, I wish to share with you some reflections on Christ, Church and Community. Jesus calls us into a new community with Himself initially as a vertical spirituality ….. He gives us a new identity as children in the Kingdom of Heaven. Through this new identity, we can then be in relationship with others of like mind in a horizontal spirituality. Jesus set out a basic ground of verbal teaching in the Sermon the Mount (Matt 5), for His new Kingdom Order where he taught His disciples principles like:

. Blessed are the poor in spirit

. Blessed are those who morn

. Blessed are the meek

. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

. Blessed are the merciful

. Blessed are the pure in heart

. Blessed are the peacemakers

. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteous sake

. Blessed are these who are reviled and persecuted

…… not strong qualities to take over the world …… but when applied by Jesus followers, actually worked and turned the world upside down when outworked with the preaching of the Gospel. Before left us, He prayed for you and I in: John 17:20 …..

‘Neither, pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe, on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.’

In Jesus’s prayer there are only two kinds of people: those for Him and those against Him.
A few points in Jesus’s prayer:

. That they all may be one: There is only one group …. His followers were called from the world ….. not many different followers of all different churches ….. followers of Him alone as the Lord Jesus Christ = Spirituality from Jesus Christ

As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: the degree of togetherness was to be the same degree that Jesus was with His Father = the standard that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. Our degree of unity would result in the world believing in Jesus Christ. The present Christian is caught between the historical legacy of two alternatives, that of the early Christian Church and the influence of later centuries. There is a tension between Church as relationships and Church as a rigid organisation. The first leads to a warm, open and communal approach but not necessarily with organised corporate direction. The second leads to a more corporate approach, more formal but not so communal.
1. The First Approach … Church as relationships: It was to be more like the body … organic with an emphasis on spiritual gifts being used by the Holy Spirit for the common good. Paul in the New Testament comments on spiritual gifts:

1 Cor 7:7 …. each has been given different spiritual gifts …. one for this manner and another for that

1 Cor 13: 1-13, 14:1- 25 …. the many different sorts of gifts.

1 Cor 12: 1-31 …. there is unity in diversity in the sorts of gifts

1 Cor 12: 1-31: Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led., Wherefore I give you to understand,, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one, is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues. But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

For the, body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore, not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore, not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?

If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot, say unto the hand, I have no need of thee nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary. And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need but God hath tempered the body together , having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked. That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care, , one for another, And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some, in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But yet earnestly the best gifts and yet show I unto you a more excellent, way.’


2. The Second Approach … Church as a Corporate Organisation: leads to a more formal but not so communal. It is Christ-ianity as God’s Community with Spirituality versus Church-ianity as Religion or God’s Corporation.

Jesus didn’t start an organisation but developed relationships with a small core of people. These then multiplied around the then known world into small committed fellowships. In the New Testament Greek, Church is translated from the word Ecclesia which is simply a gathering or community. The one thing really missing in our Postmodern World is the loss of community. This is not a geographic community but a relational one. It is building people together into a new unity = New Earth Community (my application) and if necessary facilitating them into an appropriate fellowship .

In the 2nd and 3rd Century came a Christian heresy of Gnosticism. This was a synthesis of Christianity, Eastern Mysticism and Spirituality of various Roman Mystery Cults which led to a syncretistic approach. This belief system was firmly put to death by the real teaching of Jesus Christ in this period. Gnosticism lay dead for 1500 years then was brought to life again. It has become Neo-Gnosticism in this present century in New Age teaching. This began to occur in 1945 when 50 original Gnostic texts were discovered in Egypt in clay pots in the Nile delta. These were translated into English by very liberal Christian scholars who saw them as a valid alternative to orthodox Christianity. This gave rise to the big groundswell of what I call the New Spirituality Movement.

From the beginning, I make some distinctions between religion and spirituality. Religion is explicit (outwardly evident and defined) and is marked by four things: a cult, creed, code (ethics) and community of people (which is more inward looking). It ends up being very law-centred (religious laws). focussing on precise ways of living life ends up with very defined expectations and precise programs.

On the other hand, spirituality is about being something ….. who we really are …. it is implicit (inwardly self evident and undefined). It isn’t about seen, visible things but an invisible, powerful world we can see into. It not formed by rational thinking but is connected to by non-rational means. It refers to how an individual lives meaningfully with the ultimate questions of life, his or her response to the deepest truths of the universe as he or she apprehends these. It answers such queries as:

Who are we as a people? What is the meaning of life? What values should I live by?

The relationship of a Spirituality from Jesus Christ is quite distinct from having an outer rigid, religious framework of Christianity. The two are quite separate but can be mutually coexistent. The first focuses on the Person of Jesus Christ and calls all people to be His disciples. The second focuses on His teachings and sees Christianity as a philosophy of life. This framework then calls or has compelled people to be disciples of this outer framework. This also happens in other religions around the world whenever there is an intolerance to other peoples outlooks. At the current historical moment, the focus is on Islam being a peaceful religion vs. being an intolerant fundamentalism.

In addition to this perspective, I make a careful distinction within Christianity between Christ-ianity as spirituality and Church-ianity as religion. The first is from a Christ who is alive by His resurrection from the dead and with us now by His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit wants to revive our dead spirit and bring healing, restoration and transformation of life. We can begin to experience what I call the Sustainable Life that flows from this new way of life. In contrast, Church-ianity as religion has been derived by people over the centuries.

The new transformed life from Christ-ianity as spirituality …. has the ability to be continually renewed and maintained everyday. There are three important components in this Sustainable Life. Structure, Social Network and Spirituality. Each of these components act like legs on a tripod which sit on large rock near the ocean. When the storms and waves of life come of life come (as in an injury or major disruption to life, if the legs are strong, the waves will go over you but you will sit firmly on the rock of life. If one of the legs is weak, the tripod of your life will fall over in what you could call an Unsustainable Life.

Diagram of a Spirituality from Jesus Christ:

Ongoing Life
1. Philosophy of Christianity leads to Programs and Institutions
= Church-ianity or Church Culture

2. Personal Presence Of God = Personal Relationships
= Christ-ianity …..
Healing / Restoration and Transformation of life purpose can be expected here

In the history of the Christian Church, there was a major change in the 2nd Century from a Hebrew view of life to a view influenced by Greek Thinking. The Hebrew view of life was very wholistic whereby all aspects of life were unified and were very important to God.

It is not a matter of saying that our worldview as Christians is biblical and that is that. The clear facts of history reveal that our reading of the Bible has always had the most to do with dominant worldview (our design specifications) of a particular period in history.

Down through the centuries, the Western and Christian world has for the greater part, drawn its worldview from the Greek view on creation. Some of the consequences of this influence are listed below in diagrams and a table format. _______________________________

A Change of Worldview in the Christian Church to the influence of a Greek Worldview.

1. THE HEBREW WORLDVIEW OF LIFE ….. Unified Worldview with a Spiritual Realm and Created Realm

2. THE GREEK WORLDVIEW OF LIFE ….. Western Culture and Christian Culture after the 4th Cenury

This culture was largely derived from Greek view on life with a divide in the middle between the Spiritual Realm and Created Realm which meant a divided Dualistic world. Read more on this area at: The Christian Church Sequence’.
Some Historical Examples of the Greek Worldview in a Christian Framework:

1. Tintern Abbey (mid England in Wales on the road to Ross on Wye) … see the first two photos above.

1. Ruins of Tintern Abbey in the Wye Valley, Wales

2. Tintern Abbey images

Founded in 1131 by Cistern monks, who cultivated the surrounding land (now forest), and developed it as an influential religious centre. By the 14th Century this was the richest Abbey in Wales, but along with monasteries it was dissolved in 1536 by Henry V111. Its skeletal ruins are now roofless and exposed, the soaring arches and windows giving them a poignant grace and beauty.

This Abbey represents the influence of the Greek worldview in: The soaring arches and windows leads to the God who is transcendent above the worshipper. The all encompassing and overpowering structure is a symbol of the power of control. Heaven is where God is ….. you only get to be with God for eternity if you have tight discipline over your actions here and now. But only accessible after death God is in the physical building vs. in people and relationships.
2. Lanercrost Priory (England ….. on the road to Lancaster) See Images of Lanercost Priory.

1169: Lanercrost Priory. Founded by Robert de Vaux for Augustinian Canons Land from the River Irthing and Hadrian’s Wall. Living Church for 800 years ….. Hadrian’s Wall = northern boundary plundered for stone …… Turbulent history as on the borders of England and Scotland. This led to marauding Scots where in 1297 William Wallace organised a raid into north England as far as the Gates of Newcastle in the course of which Lanercroste was pillaged and burnt. The city had to be restored by the Canons. The city hosted several royal visits:

1280: King Edward & Queen Eleanor stayed on their way to Newcastle.

1300: King stayed on his way to the siege of Caerlaverock Castle over the Solway Firth in Scotland.

1306: Six years later on his way to Carlisle, the King fell ill and stayed six months with retinue of 200 people. This strained the hospitality of the monks to their limit.

1346: Scottish King David Il visits Lanercroste. It was one of the first religious houses to suffer dissolution under Henry Vlll in 1536. It was then given to Sir Thomas Dacre in 1542. It was then converted into a part of the monastic buildings into a house for himself.

Experiencing The Church as a Corporation. Minster is now the chief church in the Northern Province of the Church of England and is the seat of the Archbishop of York. The present building is the largest medieval Gothic cathedral. See the website: https://yorkminster.org/
Should our fellowship be in the form of Corporation or that of a Community?
This blog site looks at the nature of Christian fellowship an important theme for 2000 years since Jesus Christ was here on Earth. Should our fellowship be in the form of Corporation or that of a Community? Which did Jesus Christ start?
The Church: Once we have placed heaven over and above all our present life and work, we begin to look at certain Scripture passages in a new light. In particular, we can look again at what the Word says about the Church.
The long term historical consequences of allowing the Greek view to influence our Christian and Western worldview has had major consequences. One major consequences has the rise of the New Age Movement and the bigger groundswell of what I call the New Spirituality Movement. This came about historically because logic and the intuitive side of life went in different directions. There developed two different cultural periods with a change around the Second World War period.

MODERN PERIOD: Rational, logic dominating, use of scientific experiments to verify evidences for ideas.

POSTMODERN PERIOD: Acceptance of non-rational side of our being …. experiences are valid.

With the change between these two periods, significant changes occurred. These are illustrated below:

There is a change from a Mechanistic Universe worldview to a Mystical Universe worldview which is filling the vacuum of rationalism of the Modern Period. This has led to the New Spirituality movement which is really Global paganism. This change is away from the emphasis on scientific, verifiable facts to seeing personal experiences as the valid key to people’s identity. People are now exploring the intuitive side of their being instead of being purely rational. This is the ultimate philosophical origin of the burgeoning New Age Movement and bigger groundswell of what I call the New Spirituality.

The rational, scientific model of living has shown it itself to be very deficient. It resulted in a mechanistic universe which could only be understood in cold, clinical and rational terms alone. It made everything very machine like with the breaking down into separate disciplines of study, all the systems of the cosmos. The interconnectedness of all things living and non living. was lost. I recently saw ads from 1940’s newspapers pulled from under someone’s old lino, advocating at a Government level, the wonderful, beneficial advantages of DDT as a new insect spray. It was even dusted on newly arrived overseas visitors when they arrived by plane to kill harmful overseas vermin. What a great introduction to Australia!

It wasn’t until the 1960’s with the work of Rachel Carson in the States and her challenging book Silent Springs, that she began to unfold the insidious and widespread destruction of chemicals in the living food systems of the country. For example, pesticides like DDT have long life times and their effect was totally pervasive. The mechanistic cosmos worldview annulled any spiritual explanation to the cosmos. If there was a spirituality, it too was part of the machine. From my viewpoint if you see life purely in materialistic evolutionary terms and deny the non-material, these are some of the implications:

Despair and hopelessness, no final future, when your dead you are dead. There is no final meaning to life as all is in a black box of despair. You are here by chance today and gone tomorrow. There are no absolute values to guide your life. It is all relative according to the surrounding society Continuing self-focus, What can I get out of this for me, No. 1? i.e. a great self focus. There is no difference between the impersonal nothing of the universe and the personal something of the Universe. They are both the same

If this is the final viewpoint, then why keep going? Why not end it all? We are no more than animated mud with this view. See these posts on this website:

2a.4: Biblical Creationism vs. Secular Creationism by Evolution and Chance
2a.5: Biblical Creationism vs. Secular Creationism by Evolution and Chance …… a comment by Ken Aitken

At the same time, a lot of good did come from this approach to the cosmos. Without it we would be at the mercy of ravaging plagues like bubonic plague of past centuries. The numerous diseases would still be rampant and we still be in a subsistence economy with poverty and ill health for many. The flaws in this approach was a lack of connectedness between science and man.

In the book The Blind Watchmaker by author Richard Dawkins, there is an attempt to illustrate that life can originate from blind and random chances. He totally disregards any spiritual source and meaning to the universe. Despite his brilliance, I think he disregards all the wonderful and very intricate designs we see in our world. He doesn’t take into account that there is no evidence whatsoever for half way stages or missing links in an evolutionary tree or chain.

It is with this failure of the Modern Period to find holistic answers to the whole of life, that the New Spirituality Movement came into being. As a forward cultural movement, it is natural result of the Postmodern Age. It is linked in the following manner. There is a corresponding order to it from stage 1 to stage 3.

I illustrate it diagrammatically like this:

1. Postmodern Period …. which leads to …. 2. The New Age Movement …. which leads to ….
2. The New Spirituality: Each stage gets more specific and focussed as it develops.
Sustainability: A very great concern in our society at the moment is with Sustainability. This topic is often only seen as environmental and agricultural sustainability. In reality, this idea is a much more holistic than just this one dimension. I understand our state of being as being on a three dimensional level of inner, middle and outer persons. Inner is our inner spirit, middle is our soul realm of mind, will and emotions and our outer persons being all to do with our physical body and its relationship with the physical environment.

I see there is a non sustainability with our way of life whether Western or Eastern. This means that in a social, cultural or environmental context, our way of life cannot keep multiplying into new life. It also means the conditions are not being prepared for new life ahead. If sustainability is not being nurtured for future generations, there is only sickness, disease and death. A sustainable life is the key issue and nurturing a vibrant spiritual life with people, is the wellspring of this kind of life.

From this spiritual life should come a respect and value for our personal beings, the beings of other people and animals and that of the Earth as a whole. This is especially seeing our whole way of life depends on it and being in relationship with it all. I liken it to a spiders web. The web is beautifully constructed with support strands running out from a central circle to wide rings of supporting cross rings. If the breeze blows, the web undulates in the breeze. If it blows very strongly, some strands may break. If I begin to break key supporting strands, the web will finally break. This I see is happening in our own experiences on a number of levels: The Global level/National level/Communal level /Individual level.

Why I focus on clarifying this point about discovering meaning and purpose in life is because it determines how you run your life day by day. I have a great interest in listening and coming to a clear understanding of someone’s spirituality, because it is the most powerful force in life one can enter into. This is the primary source of healing in my personal situation (from my severe brain injury in 1995 ….. See my story on my Personal Experiences Website), and I trust it would be the same for you if you had been through my situation. Dialoguing in a serious manner is a wonderful thing as we all have a portion of the picture but not all of it.

Reference: Gray, Ben F. February 2000 The 21st Century Church Out There ….. 19 Australian Leaders Help You Rediscover The Apostolic Dimension of Church City Harvest Publications.

I write further in another blog on Community and Corporation a few years later at:http://shouldourfellowshipbeintheform.blogspot.com/

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