Christians Behaving Badly Outside of Church and the Salvation Gas Station
Electronic communication is convenient yet faulty. Personal communication is much more accurate, and when communicating electronically judgments about what is being said should always be tentative.
So, often, especially when trying to explain a theological concept electronically, I end up telling people, “I will write a post about this in the morning.” So here it is.
As anyone who follows this blog knows, I am totally against any “Christian” assemblies otherwise known as “church” that are institutions. Why? Because God’s family is a family, not an institution. This is why the assemblies of Christ were in homes only and not purpose build institutional temples. Anyway, in all cases, institutionalized Christianity would have been against the law until the 4th century.
Home fellowships are about the unity of one body, the family of God, and the importance of individual members determining the health of each body. Members are defined by gifts granted by the Spirit. To the degree that each member is exercising those gifts determines the health of the body.
“Church” aptly called and coroneted by Constantine in the 4th century is about collectivism, franchised salvation issued on the installment plan, authority, caste, and infrastructure. Church builds buildings and not people because infrastructure speaks of authority. Come now, let’s be honest; the success of a church is judged by people numbers and infrastructure. Once I went to a Neo-Calvinist how-to pastor’s conference hosted by “successful” pastors. One pastor took us on a tour of his church. Did he wait till Sunday morning so he could introduce to us several members who have grown in their gifts? Nope, he took us there after dinner to give us a tour of their splendid building. Nuff said.
This also results in a dichotomy between church and home. Many people who go to church every time the doors are open wouldn’t tolerate the church building looking like their house. At home, the Spirit is powerless to help us be good housekeepers, but alas, it makes sense that He does so in the temple where He dwells. That goes for behavior as well.
Why are people guarded at church and so unguarded in their homes? Certainly, Susan and I hear this complaint from wives and husbands continually: “He/she is a totally different person at church.” First, church is where you go every week to get more salvation; so, obviously you can’t go to the salvation gas station and behave badly. If you do, you will be denied the “Means of Grace” (means of salvation) which is why you go there in the first place.
Full stop. That’s just the reality of black and white Protestant orthodoxy as articulated by Luther and Calvin. Protest if you will before I read for you from the Book of Concord and the Calvin Institutes. Please don’t waste your time; denying the salvation gas station is a denial that’s going nowhere. You behave differently at church because that’s where you go to get your salvation gas tank refilled lest your salvation car runs out of gas before you reach heaven. And don’t make the gas station attendants mad lest they refuse to refill your tank.
In fact, the Reformed research institute that began to bring Protestantism back to its original roots in 1970 stated the following in their theological journal which was the most widely published theological journal at that time worldwide:
From the beginning of civilization, progressive salvation obtained through institutions has been the norm and always will be; the two are inseparable. Those who assemble in homes show clearly that their trust is in Christ and in His word only, not an institution overseen by men full of control-lust. When you go to a place where men believe they have authority over your salvation, that is a temple of arrogance despite any humble pretense; this is inescapable. Those who assemble in homes apart from an institution also testify to the fact that their salvation is finished and they can aggressively love without fear of condemnation.
Furthermore, you may argue that your church is confused enough about its roots to not believe in progressive salvation, but with the institutional church returning to its roots at breakneck speed via the New Calvinist movement, it’s only a matter of time before your church is functioning according to authentic Protestantism.
And of course there are many other reasons temple-dwellers behave badly outside of church, but this is the root cause.