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Monday, July 20, 2015

Some thoughts on choosing a church to attend

Gavin R. just posted an article on the "Functions of Religion" on his Otagosh blog. You can read it here: http://otagosh.blogspot.com/2015/07/functions-of-religion.html This post was based on a post by Sabio Lantz entitled "Religion as Moral Signalling" on the Triangulations blog. I found both pieces to be interesting and insightful.

Like many of my readers, I came to the conclusion a long time ago that religion is much more than a set of doctrines and beliefs. In fact, my readers may have picked up on the fact that I do not have a very high opinion of man-made religion or the organizations and denominations that it has given birth to. As a student of history, I see the harm and destructive impulses that many of these groups have perpetrated and unleashed in the world; but I also understand that they have some value to the religiously inclined person. As indicated in the posts cited above, these groups can be a source of fellowship, support, security, reinforcement and comfort.

Moreover, if we appeal to Scripture, it is apparent that the author of Hebrews felt that it was very important for Christians to meet together and interact with each other. We read: "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another; especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25) In fact, the New Testament is full of encouragement for Christians to meet together and spur each other on to love and spiritual growth. As we have noted in previous posts on this blog, the Greek word that has been translated into English as "Church" indicates an assembly of people.

So what should a sincere Christian be looking for in a church? Here are a few questions (based on Scriptural standards) which anyone seeking a church to attend may wish to consider:
1) Is a spirit of love, support and peace evident in the congregation/group?
2) Is the focus of the congregation/group outward? That is, are they focused on helping others?
3) Is the group tolerant of differences? Do they embrace everyone within their midst? Or are there elites and cliques present?
4) Do the individual members appear to be happy and well-balanced personalities?
5) Does the atmosphere feel spiritual? Can you feel the "magic/electricity" when you attend there?
6) How do you feel when you walk out of that church? Uplifted? Rejuvenated?
7) Is doctrine, authority and judgment placed above the other values just mentioned?

It seems to me that anyone who took the time to ask themselves these questions in evaluating whether or not to attend with a specific group would have a better chance of having a good religious experience. Contrary to what the group taught that I was formerly affiliated with, it's not what you know (or think you know) - it's what you do with what you know! Good rule of thumb: Any man/woman/group that interferes with or supersedes our relationship with the Divine is not a healthy or spiritually productive association.

5 comments:

  1. Enough Bible thumping already!

    Your time would be better spent reading the scholars and investigating the fraudulent origins of Christianity.

    You quote the Pauline(?) text of Hebrews like it was authoritative.

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  2. I disagree with Mentalist. Even though I find much wrong with religion, including every form of Christianity, I'm not sure we would have been better off without the (man-made) invention of religion. Militant atheists, of course, in their bullying and self-righteous arrogance, will not agree -- and I acknowledge there is plenty of negative religion out there to feed fodder to the militants. I find it interesting that Mentalist is concerned that we quote only authoritative texts. He wants to keep us pure.--Dixon C.

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  3. Minimalism simply means using evidence as a filter to find the essence. I try to keep up with the latest scholarship on Christian origins, from the Jesus Seminar to today's breakthrough scholars.

    For instance: Richard Carrier on Acts: (Acts written 40 - 100 yrs after Galatians)
    "Acts tries very hard to contradict Galatians, and has a clear motive to do so (to whitewash the divisions in the early Church and fabricate a tale of harmony)"

    And on the Gospels:
    "Matthew is an anti-Pauline text. It is specifically written (redacting the pro-Paul Mark) to attack and denounce him and his views, by putting those denunciations retroactively into the mouth of Jesus. Mt. 5:19 is a perfect example of that (a clear and direct attack on Paul’s gospel)"

    The Gospels being fabricated after Paul, not as the canon in the Bible is deceptively sequenced.

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  4. Minimalist: Thanks for the reply. But doesn't whether Hebrews is authoritative concern almost exclusively fundamentalist Christians? Those who sit more in the mainstream it would seem would be less concerned about the provenance of specific books and therefore could afford to be a little more laid back about the phenomenon of Scripture. Or maybe I'm getting off the subject.

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  5. DCJ: Do you think 'Hebrews' is authoritative?

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