Honest History Matters
An honest historrical search into essentially 4th century Christianity bears out the quote below by T. Austin-Sparks. We have Constantine who "legalized" Christianity, with some compromises made, and Theodosius who later forbade any other religion but Christianity in the Empire, to thank for the grandiose buildings (very much styled after Pagan temples), and rituals that were spin offs from the pageantry of the Pagan courts of the land having nothing to do with actual early Christian worship and life.
The result in this is that if you were not "Christian" - as pertaining to the "approved" government sanctioned system of beliefs and practices, you were also not a citizen of the empire.
Politics and religion therefore have long been wed it seems.
These practices had no resemblance to how the saints gathered together prior to that, in worship and life, as they neither spun their worhip off the Jewish temple (which had been destroyed along with its rites, nor did they imitate pagan styles). Claims nowadays to the contrary are made by Christendom's major systems of institutionalised tradition and ritual, which can and are being used to draw in devotees into these systems. It's very seductive to think that all is as it has been from Pentecost, as is often claimed. If you don't like history, beware.
Honest history perhaps makes more honest theologians than seminaries. There are always those who love to rewrite history, or to - for their own reasons - at least de-emphasize its importance or obfuscate the realities.
There was a time when the concepts encapsulated below by Mr. Sparks pushed a lot of hot buttons for me. I was raised and spent a lot of my life in one or more of these systems of institutionalized tradition and ritual. But I would come and go and come back in and go... Now I know why.
What I have concluded is that, when a person has had a genuine conversion experience, and desires to walk in the Spirit, there's no longer room at the Inn because you're on a different footing than those who are content with churchianity.
It may be like that for you as well, dear reader. What this reveals is the power of "tradition" to masquerade as an angel of light, and thus to draw in souls to an ongoing scenario where they are not changed from within by the Holy Spirit, but merely being lulled to sleep by repetitious patterns. Our natural "wiring" is fallen, and it's comfortable with what's frankly Pagan pageantry. Especially when it's been pitched as "original Christianity."
Even the Magesterial Reformers in the West did not address many of these things, but left them in place. The East never had a Reformation, and saw no need for it, although emmisaries were sent from the West by the Lutherans. Could they (East or West) have not been aware of their own history, which was as one church until roughly the 11th Century? The Reformers also persecuted the Christians who were born of the Spirit and who desired to walk according to the New Testament Way, right along with the major church systems in place, which they sought to correct on certain isssues!
Here's the skinny:
By T. Austin-Sparks from: What is Man? - Chapter 5
The Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. (Acts 7:48 NLT)
"Christendom is largely constituted by this [aesthetic] sense – its architecture, its ritual, its music, its adornment, its lighting (or lack of it), its tone, its atmosphere, its vestments and so forth. All are of the soul.... Spiritual death marks that realm, and while there may be intense emotions which make for resolves, 'high' thoughts and desires, there is no genuine change in the nature of those concerned, and repeated doses of this must be taken to maintain any measure of soul-self-satisfaction which makes them feel good.
"All religions have this soulish feature in common, more or less, and it is here that the fatal blunder has been made by many religious people who contend that other religions, which are undoubtedly devout and sincere, should not be interfered with, but the good in them should be recognized and accepted. It is the confusing of religion with what the Bible means by being spiritual.
"Religion can rise to high levels and sink to terrible depths. It is the same thing
which does both. But that thing never rises above the human level; it never really reaches God. Religion can be the greatest enemy of God's true thought, because it is Satan's best deception. Asceticism is no more truly spiritual than aestheticism. There is
no more a brief with God for rigors, denials, fastings, puritanic iciness, etc., as such, than for the opposite. Simplicity may give God a chance, but it is not necessarily spiritual. It may be a matter of taste....
"How near to the truth in perception and interpretation can the mystical go! What wonderful things can the imagination see, even in the Bible! What thrills of awe, amazement, ecstasy, can be shot through an audience or congregation by a master soul! But it may all be a false world with no Divine and eternal issues. It may all go to make up this life here, and relieve it of its drabness, but it ends there. What an artificial world we live in! When the music is progressing and the romantic elements are in evidence – the dress and tinsel – and human personalities are parading, see how pride and rivalry assert themselves, and what a power of make believe enters the atmosphere! Yes, an artificial world....
"The tragedy in this melodrama is that it is 'real life' to so many. This soul-world is the devil's imitation. It is all false, wherever we may find it, whether associated with religion or not.... The Christian Faith embraced as a religion,
a philosophy, or as a system of truth and a moral or ethical doctrine, may carry the temporary stimulus of a great ideal; but this will not result in the regeneration of the life, or the new birth of the spirit. There are multitudes of such 'Christians' in
the world today, but their spiritual effectiveness is nil."
Highly also recommend Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices, an older book by Frank Viola and George Barna. A book I avoided reading for ten years... You can find it on Amazon and other places. Very challenging if you're hooked on systems of religion. It will push your hot buttons, whether you're a devotee to ancient or contemporary forms.
It's also important to remember that there are, beyond the human propensity to be deceived and to deceive, in the midst of religious institutions another order of unseen beings who serve the Serpent from of old, who has no one's best interests in mind. Except his own. To say the least. As well as those who knowingly or unknowingly serve him.
Watch and pray. Pray for spiritual discernment.
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