OriginalChristianity

Not Traditional, Original

Welcome to Original Christianity.Net

It appears that universally, in the church, we Christians marvel at both at Jesus’ miracles and the wisdom in his parables. We especially are in awe of his life, his incredible birth, his short but incredibly powerful ministry, his passion, death, and resurrection. We love him for those. We are also moved by the depth of the wisdom and inspiration of books like the Psalms and Proverbs. Almost universally, although most would say all true Christians, acknowledge him as Lord, and strive to follow his leadership as we walk in a dark world filled with daily challenges, including overcoming evil.

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In fact, there are some universal, and some almost universal, elements in Christianity. Universally held elements of Christianity include this deep awe of Christ, and likewise, for the bible. The bible, or at least for some, sections of the bible, such as the parables of Christ in the gospels, the powerful poetry of the Psalms, and the wisdom in Proverbs are universally held in the deepest regard. Almost universally held elements include the belief in Christ as the only begotten son of the Father, physically born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, who died for out sins, and was raised from the dead and is presently seated at the right hand of God. Christians look forward to spending eternity with the Lord. Even more, there is common ground as churches promote worship, baptism, and communion with some similarity.

But beyond some basics like these, there is far less agreement on the tenets of Christianity. In fact, there is an elephant in the Church, an elephant of disagreement resulting in tens of thousands of sects, disagreeing on many doctrines.

The disagreements have been legion, often bloody, and always confusing. Christians have killed other Christians for defying the rule of infant baptism and proclaiming “believer’s baptism”. Many Christians have declared other Christians apostate because of their view of the Bible, whether it is inerrant, infallible, or at least partially of human origin.

And even if they agree on the status of the Bible, they don’t agree on what it says on these issues. For example, there is disagreement over basic principles of interpretation like whether the overriding principle is based on the covenants of God versus which dispensation we are in.

There are Christians that call other Christians apostate (traitorous) because they believe that the gifts of the spirit, i.e., prophecy and speaking in tongues, etc. still exist, and vice versa. These days there are sharp divides over homosexuality, abortion, the Word of Faith movement, the emergent Church movement, and the role of women in the church.

Even if Christians don’t call others apostate, they still disagree to the point of not fellowshipping over issues like: dietary laws (whether they need to be followed), drinking alcohol, end times (Eschatology), eternal security, evolution vs. literal seven days of creation, giving vs. tithing, predestination, psychology: the acceptability of Christian counseling, sacraments as conveyers of grace or not, the “in the name of Jesus” debate, and pacifism vs. the concept of a just war, and other issues.

Then there is the ecumenical concept of Christian “orthodoxy” that suggests that none of the issues so far discussed really matter even there are huge divisions over them. The only issue that really matters in “orthodoxy” is whether one accepts the doctrine of the Trinity, that Jesus the man is really God and a person in a triune godhead with two other persons, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. This doctrine is promoted as the absolutely most important concept in Christianity even though this emphasis is totally missing for the first centuries of the church.

And let alone that the very doctrine of the Trinity has been disputed over the centuries with more Christians killing other Christians over this issue than any other. It appears that for some that as long as a church accepts the doctrine of the Trinity it doesn’t matter if it teaches that homosexuality is normal or apostate, and/or abortion is choice or murder, and/or baptism should be infant baptism or believer’s baptism, and/or there are two “ordinances” or seven sacraments, and so forth, and so on.

This mess is a huge blemish on the body of Christ. Some of these issues may be legitimate, but to have so many “orthodox” churches teaching so many disparate doctrines flies right in the face of Paul’s charge for believers to have the same mind:

Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all say the same thing, and there be no divisions among you, but you be united in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10 LITV)

If, as Paul teaches, we corporately are the body of Christ, then does the current collective body of competing Christian theologies accurately reflect the mind of Christ. Certainly, no one can think so.

But, before the present time with our tens of thousands of Christian denominations, and before the Reformation that shifted the focus of Christianity from the decisions of church councils and the Pope to the Bible as the principle source of guidance, and before the great schism about a thousand years ago, even before there were arguments over the nature of Christ, the Trinity and whether Mary was the mother of God in the beginning of the age of Christendom (fourth century), even before there was a Catholic church (110 A.D.) there was original primitive Christianity.

While some of the focus of Christianity remains, much has changed over the millennia. The question is whether all or even any of the different traditions that have developed are correct, or the original believers were the ones that actually got it the most right. The place to start is by looking at the beliefs and practices of original, primitive Christianity, and seriously consider embracing them again even though some of them may be radically different from what you or I hold today.

In the days of original, primitive Christianity:

(In the listings below hyperlinks offer more information on the point being made.)

Elements usually still held today:

Elements still held today by some:

Elements held today by few, if any believers:

Elements that are divisive today but didn’t appear to exist then:

The most current blogs (articles) are below. The articles can touch on a large number of topics including ancient history, the original language of the bible, grammar and logic, dividing doctrines besides the basics of Christianity, what Jesus taught, and development (movements) in Christianity throughout the centuries. For an organized listing of the blogs (articles) to get an overview and better understanding of the contents on this web site, go to the table of contents. There is more information on design of this website on this page; look on the right sidebar under Original Christianity and click “Why? Click to Read More…”

February 25th, 2011 Posted by | Introduction | one comment

The Result of Churches Teaching Different Things While Claiming to be Led of The Spirit

It would be so great if we could go to a church and hear God’s instruction and be loving Christians without any doubt that what is taught there is God’s absolute truth. But what we hear on many issues depends on the church we enter. In today’s Christianity churches are all over the board on many issues. While God speaks on abortion, baptism, eternal security, gambling, giving, holiness, the holy spirit, leadership, salvation, scripture, sexuality (including homosexuality), the role of women in ministry, worship, and many other topics, from church to church you will hear different reports on what he commands and instructs in these and other areas.
There are several problems that this dichotomy causes:

  1. The incredible amount of variations possible makes it overwhelming for many Christians to try to resolve, so they don’t try.
    a. A lot of churches don’t encourage or even tolerate real investigation into these matters.
    b. Most churches have a policy where doctrine is purely decided by the denomination or the pastor so there is no questioning.
  2. This gives fuel to Christian detractors who point to how Christians can’t agree on what is true.
  3. People forsake trying to resolve these issues.
  4. The doubt caused by doctrinal confusion weakens faith

I can’t tell you how many people I have heard say that doctrine isn’t important. They don’t try to learn all the subtleties of the bible because it is too confusing and becomes a pointless exercise for them.

The truth is that the bible is not always clear. According to Rick Warren, the great evangelist Billy Graham struggled with the accuracy and integrity of the Bible.  In the early years of his Ministry, Billy Graham went through a time when he struggled with doubts about the accuracy and authority of the Bible. One moonlit night he dropped to his knees in tears and told God that, in spite of confusing passages he didn’t understand, from that point on he would completely trust the Bible as the sole authority for his life and ministry. From that day forward, Billy’s life was blessed with unusual power and effectiveness.i

This is certainly a heartwarming story. If even one as great among us as Billy Graham struggled with confusing passages where does that leave the rest of us? I agree that at some point we need to trust, but that doesn’t diminish the need to eliminate at least some of the confusion over all the many doctrinal disputes. Yes, we stand on our faith despite the confusion, but we still need to work to eliminate it.

i THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE, Rick Warren, 2002, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, p. 187

© copyright 2009-2019  Mark W Smith, All Rights Reserved

February 12th, 2009 Posted by | Introduction, Spirit | no comments

Churches, Teaching Differing Doctrines, Claim They Are Led of the Spirit

An incredible point in the middle of all the division among Christian believers is that so many churches claim the leading of the Holy Spirit. Look at some of these statements from church and denominational materials. Here are a Methodist statement:

We have, therefore expected that the Discipline would be administered, not, merely as legal document, but as a revelation of the Holy Spirit working in and through our people.i

The Methodist church makes the claim here that the holy spirit is leading them. Now, read that each minister follows Methodist teaching, and that this teaching has been given by God.:

Each year every Methodist minister must renew his vows to believe and preach our doctrines, as contained in 44 sermons of Wesley and his explanatory notes upon the New Testament. In the sermons and notes Wesley affirms what he takes to be the Catholic theological stream as represented by the creeds, the articles of religion of the Church of England, and of the book of common prayer. Yet he also affirms his belief that certain doctrines in this tradition, in particular the doctrine of sanctification, have received insufficient emphasis and clarification. He thus believed that God has given Methodism a responsibility to serve the church catholic by bringing these emphases into their right place in the total orbit of the Catholic faith. In British Methodism the church is still committed to Wesley’s general position. ii

As regards the gifts of the spirit the First Baptist Church in Newton NJ writes this in their statement of beliefs, “We are Confident that God gives spiritual gifts to all believers for the building up of the body of Christ; however, we believe that some gifts of the Spirit, such as tongues and healings, were evidently limited to the early church.” iii

Baptists in general may deny the modern day existence of some of the gifts of the spirit, yet Baptists teach being led by the spirit in what they know and do. “God directs us through the Word, and through the Holy Spirit enables us to understand the Word and empowers us to obey the Word.” iv

Roman Catholics say they are led by the holy spirit, and that this leading is through scripture, tradition, and the magesterium, the teaching authority of their church, comprised of the pope and the bishops:

“Based on the promises of Jesus in the Gospels, the [Roman Catholic] Church believes that it is continually guided by the Holy Spirit and so protected infallibly from falling into doctrinal error. The Catholic Church teaches that the Holy Spirit reveals God’s truth through Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium.” v

Of course, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are based on the premise that they are following the workings of the Holy Spirit. “At the heart of the Pentecostal practice is an experience that often involves claims to direct guidance from the spirit for decisions and actions by Pentecostal believers.” This statement reflects the Pentecostal belief that Pentecostals are not only led in doctrinal matters, but in everyday practical matters as well.

There you have it. Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Pentecostals all teach the leading of the Holy Spirit in their midst, yet they are clearly divided.

i. From the 1940 edition of the Methodist Discipline, quoted at http://home.att.net/~jackthompson/page187.htm
JOHN WESLEY’S THEOLOGY TODAY, Colin W Williams, Abingdon, Nashville, 1960, preface
ii. http://www.firstbaptistnewton.com/belief.htm
iii. http://thistletownbaptist.org/2008/10/28/led-by-the-spirit/
iv. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholic_Church#cite_ref-51
v. LED BY THE SPIRIT, Toward a Practical Theology of Pentecostal Discernment and Decision Making, Stephen E Parker, Continuum International Publishing Group, 1996, ISBN 1850757461, 9781850757467,p9

© copyright 2009 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.

February 7th, 2009 Posted by | Introduction | no comments

It Is Not That Issues Should Divide Us But That, Sadly, Issues Do Divide Us

Let’s address a common response to church divisions taught in the Churches. Years ago John Wesley made a distinction between “essentials” and “non-essentials” and appears to use the Bible properly as a guide. “Essentials” includes the doctrines of the Bible (baptism, salvation, etc.) while “non-essentials” includes topics such as foods, hymns, and practices.

Lately, however, there are teachers who teach that the “essentials” are only things like the Trinity and salvation by grace. They teach that things like many of the disputes in Christendom shouldn’t divide us. They include things like baptism, the gifts of the spirit, and tithing vs. giving in the “non-essential” group. There is a quote I have heard in numerous places, “In essentials unity, In non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” Some say this quote originated with Augustine over 1500 years ago and Wesley focused on this in his approach to doctrinal matters. This quote reflects the goal of a movement within Christianity called the Restoration Movement. This movement has been around since mid-1800’s and was a pre-cursor to the ecumenical movement.

While these teachers may have good intentions the sad truth is that these doctrines have divided us. They divide us because they are essential to living our faith. It is tragic how divisive Christians have become. I’ve seen Baptists tell charismatics that they were of the devil because they spoke in tongues. I have seen Churches refrain from even teaching about speaking tongues because so many charismatic churches teach that not only the spiritual gifts of the Bible like speaking in tongues and prophecy are biblical, but being slain in the spirit, holy laughter, and other phenomena are biblical also. I have seen pastors malign the church across the street because they don’t teach tithing, or another dividing doctrine.

Reformers like Luther and Wesley did not want to split the church. Rather they wanted to reform it by just correcting a few crucial aspects they demonstrated as erroneous. Still their goal was to have a unified church, howbeit a reformed one. Wesley wrote, “Would to God that all party names and unscriptural phrases and forms which have divided the Christian world were forgot, and that we might all agree to sit down together, as humble, loving disciples, at the feet of our common Master, to hear his word, to imbibe his Spirit, and to describe his life on our own!”[i] Wesley was very concerned for the unity of the Church, writing, “and if ye salute your friends only — our Lord probably glances at those prejudices, which different sects had against each other, and intimates, that he would not have his followers imbibe that narrow spirit. Would to God this had been more attended to among the unhappy divisions and subdivisions, into which the church has been crumbled! And that we might at least advance so far, as cordially to embrace our brother and in Christ, of whatever party or denomination they are!”[ii] From this we see how divided the church was in his time.

Most Christians Don’t Fellowship Together

Believers and churches don’t fellowship with other believers because of the issues that are discussed here. The last thing that most Christians want is to to argue about the baptism of the spirit, tithing, or healing. As a result, Christians working side by side may not fellowship with each other because one is a Lutheran and the other a Pentecostal.

Paul writes, “giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”Eph 4:3

Some preachers preach that “unity” is not “unison” and so it’s okay that we disagree on all these non-essential doctrines. They teach that unity of the spirit means we simply acknowledge together that Christ saved us both. But the unfortunate truth is that these differences that many call “non-essential” cause vehement disputes and even violence while causing people to continuously divide from one church and go to or start another.

It’s just sad.

[i] JOHN WESLEY’S THEOLOGY TODAY, Colin W Williams, Abingdon, Nashville, 1960, p17
[ii] ibid

© copyright 2009 Mark W Smith, All Rights Reserved

February 5th, 2009 Posted by | Introduction | no comments

What the Lord is Doing: Christianity Is Real In Spite Of Biblical Disputes and Arguments

Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing: for what things soever he does, these the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19

The above verse talks about how Jesus did what he did by seeing what the Father was doing and following his example.  Here are some things I see the Lord doing.

WikiAnswers says that there are over 2 billion Christians.[i]
SpiritualWorld.org gives a more conservative number 1.3+ billion, based on 1999 Britannica numbers.[ii]

Whatever the number, one thing is obvious, the Lord is reaching people.   I see the Lord working there.  I see that He is working despite the fact that there are tens of thousands of divisions within the body of believers, and Christianity is always under attack from numerous detractors.  I see that there are many millions of people gathering to worship, pray, and fellowship together.  I see all of that as the Lord at work.

This is what the Lord is doing, calling people together to worship, fellowship, pray and minister to one another. Even in totalitarian regimes, believers risk their lives to seek God in fellowship with other believers. God calls people despite the widespread disagreement over many issues. What is common is that they all follow Christ. The common denominator is that Christ is preached and followed.  Can’t you see that is the Lord at work?

This huge work, where there are now billions who gather in the name Christ has continued DESPITE  the numerous disagreements over what the Bible says.    I see that as the Lord’s work.

The fundamentalist movement started a couple of centuries ago in response to the development of liberal Christianity. Prior to this, the literalness of the bible was not as crucial to being a Christian because the Roman Catholic church did not teach reliance on the Bible. Even with the Reformation, the reformers stand on the primacy of scripture as the rule of faith and practice was not absolute. Luther, Wesley, and others did not completely abandon reason, experience, or tradition in the directions they took. It wasn’t until the liberal Christian movement took hold that some in the Christian community responded with the dogged stand that the bible was completely and literally the Word of God.

The fear, it appears to some, is that Christianity is only real if the bible is literally the Word of God in every word of the sixty-six books canonized in the late fourth century. Or it is only real if their set of doctrines like eternal security, or pre-election or Pentecostalism or whatever their group teaches is right.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Christianity has grown throughout the centuries around the world despite countless divisions and disputes over doctrine, over the inerrancy of scripture and all the other issues. Christ is alive and working despite the disputes.

Don’t get me wrong.  I thank God for the reformers who pointed out and took a stand against corrupt teaching and practices like indulgences, buying and selling the offices of bishops, forced celibacy, and accumulating great wealth in churches while the poor remain oppressed.  The tool that the reformers used to prove the corruption in these practices is the bible.  I see the Lord working there too.  But I don’t see the Lord working as group after group argue over the nuances of biblical doctrine, and split into innumerable factions over complicated theological issues.

There are over a billion people, perhaps two billion,  that claim that they are Christians. Many have accepted the Lord because they were fortunate enough to be born into a Christian home that attended a family church, perhaps a mainline church with a long history. Others received the Lord as the result of a new group that burned with a passion and reached people that the wonderful, but imperfect, people in more established churches wouldn’t reach.  I see the Lord at work there.

There is an example of a different ministry operating in the time of Jesus that didn’t follow Jesus’ ministry per se but ministered in the name of Jesus even to the point of casting out demons. The apostles were alarmed and spoke against this ministry because this new ministry wasn’t in alignment with them.  But Jesus corrected them.   Look at how Jesus said we are to receive such a ministry.

John said unto him, Teacher, we saw one casting out demons in thy name; and we forbade him, because he followed not us.
But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man who shall do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me.
For he that is not against us is for us.Mar 9:38-40

Look at Christ’s direction here. Here in the very time of Jesus’ ministry was another ministry that preached in the name of Jesus and manifested power to the point of casting out devils. Jesus’ counsel was to not only let them be but acknowledge them as co-workers because no one could work such power in Jesus name and at the same time be speaking against Christ. This is biblical proof that ministries spring up. There are other proofs, look at Apollo in the book of Acts as another example. Even the ministering of Saul shows that God works directly with people to bring them to Christ, the church is not necessarily required. There is an incredible power to a faith that springs up in so many different ways in places around the world.

Jesus arose to the right hand of the Father.   That is not the truth because it is written in a verse.   It is written in verse because it is the truth.   The focus is on the spirit, not on the verse.  The verse is only useful to the degree that it leads people to the spirit. People don’t follow Christ because it is logical to do so as much as people follow Christ because he delivers them, gives them hope, and answers their prayers.

So if some have feared that without the Bible no one would ever follow Christ, it is not true. Maybe people will not know Christ as well without the bible but people have heard about Christ and decided to follow him without seeing a Bible for millennia now. Augustine wrote that it wasn’t necessary for believers to have a bible, except perhaps to instruct a new person. In a culture where so many in the world have mandatory schooling now, it is important to remember that up until a few centuries ago about six out of seven people could not read or write. The written word has not been the way that God has been reaching most people since Christ; it is the spoken word that reaches people. It is a much simpler message than is in many a denomination’s theology that has constrained people to follow Christ since it began. It is the love of God manifested in a community of believers that leads people to follow. It is simple messages of repentance, forgiveness, redemption, and future glory that inspire people.  I see God at work there.

While there are may be no better resources for knowing how the Lord has worked since the beginning than the books of the Bible, God is at work now despite the countless internal disputes over what the bible says. That alone should say something. What it says to me is that there is a spirit of the Lord and it is among us, and in us. It is that spirit that is the bond, not the King James or Revised Standard or any other version of the Bible, or Catholic, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Evangelical, or Orthodox theology.  Many of us, in fact, I would venture to say, most of us, have chosen to follow Christ not because of the incredible theological logic presented systematically in Bible classes or in the pulpit, but because of the love, joy, peace, and other spiritual fruit that we found in community of believers, and the simple messages of hope and redemption that we heard preached.  That is what the Lord is doing and why Christianity is real in spite of biblical disputes and arguments.

[ii]http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_Christians_are_there_worldwide
[ii] http://www.spiritualworld.org/christianity/how_many.htm

(c) 2009 – 2019 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved. Edited 2019

February 4th, 2009 Posted by | Introduction | no comments