Believe in Jesus, Read the Bible, Don’t go to Church?

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By Kate Daley-Bailey…A student recently brought me a pamphlet given to her on campus. Unlike most handouts passed out by predominately Christian enthusiasts on the University of Georgia’s campus, the message of this handout was different.

Invoking age-old Christian imagery and theological terminology (free will, the 2nd Adam, emphasis on being ‘born again,’ etc.) and mixing these with appeals to objectivity, science (DNA), and language meant to appeal to younger audiences, ‘dude’ is used a lot, the message appears to target a particular college age demographic. Standard mega church rhetoric here…

What was surprising to me was the negative attitude towards churches displayed in the pamphlet. Here are some of the passages…

“The ‘churche$’ of today are an outrage. They claim to have the answer but they themselves are blind (Mt. 15:14).”

“The ‘churches’ are a joke. They don’t have a clue. You don’t get rid of sin by ‘sinner’s prayer’ or priest (Ps. 51:17).”

“Dare to TALK to God! Get real! The majority insist you go to a ‘church’ or do other things. Don’t. Jesus says ‘Come to ME’ (Mt. 11:28). Any requirement, other than faith, is legalism and sin (Gal. 3:20ff/Rm. 14:23, 10:4ff). Jesus did everything. So FAITH in Him is all God requires from you. Get alone. Learn God’s Word. Ask! You shall receive.”

What was jarring to me was not the emphasis on faith alone (sola fide), as this is common Protestant Christian theology, but rather the extent to which alone was taken… which didn’t just suggest that a Christian did not need a church community but rather emphatically states that Christians should steer clear of churches!

While I might personally agree with some of the arguments presented here, I do see some unusual inconsistencies (rather than the usual ones). This pamphlet is riddled with biblical verses (meant to show the validity of the argument using the biblical text itself) and yet it does not address that the Bible itself is a construction of various religious communities: (the Hebrew Scriptures, what Christians call the Old Testament, is a history of a people, the covenant is between God and a group of Hebrews, a community, and the New Testament text is made by the Christian communities for the Christian communities. Also, one should perhaps note that the list of what is included in the Bible (which comes from the Greek word biblia meaning ‘bookS’) is different for different religious communities. The Jews have the TaNaKh (the Hebrew Scriptures). Catholic Christians have a different canon list than Orthodox Christians… and then there is the Coptic Churches. My point here… the Bible’s content (no matter whose Bible you are reading) is different from community to community. The contents have been decided by… you guessed it… the community.

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There is a great deal of American individualism in this pamphlet. By this, I mean that the individual reader of the Bible (whichever one is being read) becomes the great arbitrator of what the text means.

I am also curious how someone would create these pamphlets (they are high quality color prints), travel the world giving them out, and recommend that interested readers check out their website (available in multiple languages) to get more information about being a Christian without the influence of churches… not recognize that they have created a kind of de facto ‘church’. After all the Christian community is referred to as the ekkelsia, which, if we want to be literal about it means ‘assembly.’

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