Tag: Church History

Christ and Christian Alone

Imagine a Roman calling themselves a “Christian Romanist” and how that would have been received?

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

I will not budge on the idea that there is not justification for any definition of “Christian Nationalism.” There is no definition, no way of working it together or defining/redefining terms that makes adding any adjective to the term “Christian” that can justify it. Even if you try to reduce it to the lowest possible definition, as “A Christian Political Movement based on recovering Christian values and morals in our nation” there is no justification for it. If that means we have to say there is no biblical justification for western Christendom, than we have to say that.

Why do I say this? Why am I bucking 300 years of Christian Consciousness in America and 1400 years of Christian Consciousness in the West? Because while Christendom may have been used as a tool by God as a means to spread the Gospel throughout the world, its excesses and obsession with “Power Religion” have nearly undone all those advances in western civilization to the point that Missiologists have called for a change from “the west reaching the rest to the rest reaching the west.”

As a historian I recognize that part of the Development of Church History is that Christianity became such an influential religion is so little time that it overwhelmed the Roman Empire and created something that has never been duplicated outside the West, but which, by clinging too we are now undoing much of the advancement of the faith which it encouraged.

This is what happens when something reaches the height of its decadence, when it has become so fat and comfortable that it must invent fights and new enemies to keep its power and position which it would not have lost if it had not created the fights and new enemies. As with the Roman Empire, Decadence often hides the internal rot that will eventually lead to the downfall of the empire or nation. Jonathan V. Last of The Bulwark has made the same case for the United States of America, that the fact that we are even having the fights and debates we are having in our society, the massive partisanship, underscored by hatemongering and fearmongering, are the result of internal rot covered by decadence. It is a privilege to be able to have the fights we are having in our society right now.

I have said this before about the Church, In the 19th Century there were entire theologies built around the idea of schism and some of those were important and needed debates, such as the debate between Abolition and Slavery which should have corrected the injustice against the slaves. Some of these debates should have corrected theological error, such as the debate over the nature of the church between Mercersburg and Princeton. But once these debates were considered “settled” (I respectfully submit they were not and that everyone lost) we moved on to other things. Eventually we turned our attention to “Creeping Secularism” to the point that we began neglecting internal affairs and allowing internal rot to form, meanwhile, our decadence allowed us to fight with each other, to be segregated and sectarian. Decadence gave us the privileges of looking at everyone to blame for the decline of Christianity while we ignored segregation, sexual assault, injustices of every kind for every reason, the plight of the poor and many other things. Decadence allowed us to focus on Abortion, an important topic, but also to ignore the rest of the life of the mother or the child once born. Decadence allowed our preachers to fight with one another and our congregations to attack their pastors. Now we see even our decadence slipping away as the Church slides ever faster into cultural exile in America and we think adding an adjective and founding a movement is going to bring that decadence back. Christian Nationalism, being a Christian Nationalist, is a means to try to reclaim that decadence. It has been tried numerous times in the West and once in the East, by numerous people groups, and each time it has failed to do anything but send the Church into exile as the internal rot is exposed.

Imagine, if you will, as the Roman Empire declined, and the Goths and Visigoth’s were sacking and pillaging closer to Rome and the Christians decided to add the word: “Romanist” to their name. I am a Christian in the name of Rome, and I am going to retore Rome to her decadence, to a time gone by. You cannot, because the early Christians understood that the empire was temporary and that the power structures of the world would shift and change. If there was a major Christian Nationalist movement at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire it was not widespread enough, except for under Emperor Valentinian II who promised to restore Rome to her glory days. His actions, however, hastened the decline of Rome, they did not slow it down. The Early Christians did not understand themselves as “Empire Buildings” they understood themselves as alien residents whose primary citizenship was a kingdom not of this world.

See, here is the thing, the bible is clear that we live in a backwards, upside down kingdom as Christians. That is, Christians are not to participate in the way the world gets and keeps power. That is, we are not supposed to clamor for the best places an top positions. Jesus tells his Disciples as much in the Gospel of John. The last are going to be first and the first last, so it is with little eternal reward that we clamor to be on top, to be the most influential. The Gospel has never succeeded in this manner, it has always succeeded from the margins of society, when it brings light to the darkness. “But aren’t we doing that?” We ask when we stand against Abortions and general immorality. Maybe, but if it is done in such a way that it adds to the darkness, rather than brings light and life, than we are not spreading the Gospel, just our own agenda. I hate abortion, I think it is a terrible moral ill, but it is just as great a moral ill if I demonize the girl who goes to get an abortion rather than be a light to her by providing another way, a third option that she may not be able to consider. Be that adoption of the child she carries or providing the means for her to raise the child herself. I believe in the traditional view of Marriage, I do believe the bible speaks against and calls homosexuality a sin. But if I dehumanize my brothers and sisters who are struggling with this sin, if I fail to treat them as Christ would have me treat them, I am adding to their darkness, not showing them the light and love of Christ. Sexual Immorality is evil, adultery, rape, incest, ect, they are moral ills, but if demonize the sexually immoral or if I dismiss and mistreat their victims in favor of their abuser, I am adding to the darkness in their lives, not showing them the light and love of Jesus Christ. If I participate in injustice of any kind, be it racism or anything else, then I am not showing them the light and love of Christ. The ways and isms and ists of this world are ways of darkness, when they are added to Christianity, they align Christianity with the darkness, they do not bring the light and love of Jesus into the world. When I apply the world’s philosophies and titles to Christianity, I have lost Christianity. Because I have effectively said that Christ is not enough, I need that ism or ist to make Christianity work. Christianity doesn’t “Work” because of man, because of you and I, but because of the name applied to the beginning of the word: “Christ”ian.

Therefore we reject Christian Nationalism and do not call ourselves “Christian Nationalists” Because anything that is “Christianity+” loses the gospel and becomes just another avenue for the darkness of this world. The Christians of ancient Rome understood this, John’s prologue to his Gospel was written as a reminder of this very thing, that there is no one and nothing else that compares to Christ and that Christianity has no need for additions or subtractions to make it “work” because it is eternally tied to the person and work of God himself. It is through Christ and the way He has shown us to live that we will influence the world, not through demanding that the secular world adopts a morality it clearly does not want.

You want to have influence on our society Christian? Take up the towel and cross of Christ, live the way He has shown you to live and do so without adding man’s philosophies and titles to it. Christianity can stand on its own, it has stood on its own for 2000 years in places where one could be put to death for proclaiming the name of Christ. We do not need these isms and ists at the end, we need Christ and Christ alone. And we had better repent because of Christ, before it is too late.

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oRev. Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northern Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center

On a Conservative Upbringing.

Reading Edmund Burke will really mess you up.

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

This article has been coming for a long time, but I have waited until now to write it because I did not have the time to solidify my adult positions on these matters until after 2016, but 2016 forced me to really think through the answer to the question of “Why do I hold to certain tenants of conservative thinking?” Why do I believe in Small government and limited government spending? Why do I believe in incremental changes to the status quo that help ensure the flourishing of the greatest number of people? Why do I believe in the power of institutions like churches, the media, town governments, local grocery stores and locally owned businesses? Why, well, my faith informs many of these, and we can talk about that later, but the easy answer is that I hold to all of these because I was taught about them. Not as essential beliefs or articles of faith, but as common-sense approaches to government that, though informed by biblical principles, were not biblical principles themselves. My parent’s way of encouraging me to live in both kingdoms and teaching me how the Kingdom of God could encourage and inform my participation in the kingdom of man. I was taught the principles of Burkian conservativism and I was taught them well. Growing up in Appalachia during the collapse of the coal industry I saw how communities could band together to care for one another. My church had a massive “Basic Needs Ministry” that helped hundreds in our small town. I saw these principles at work on the local stage and saw them nationally with George W. Bush’s “Compassionate Conservativism” in 2000. I actually remember my dads opposition to the 2005 bailouts of the auto industry because they violated tenant number 1. Governments job is to follow the laws of the land and protect the people of the land. Or so I learned from reading the founding fathers. My parents were center right, and they taught me how to be center right. There are points where I diverge from that position and lean a little to the left, but for the most part I lean center right on most issues. On top of those principles I remember all the arguments about the character of our leaders, and I internalized those. When I came of age I saw pastor after pastor fall to either secularism or sexual sin and take their churches down with them, character obviously mattered.

Let me be clear here when I talk about conservative principles and Ideals, I am not talking about policies or isms, but core tenants of conservativism, I am staunchly Pro-Life if you define Pro-Life as from the moment of Conception to the date of death, what some are calling “whole-life” but that is a policy position informed by a tenant, specifically the idea that the status quo needs to change incrementally to make sure the maximum number of people are flourishing, but it is not a tenant and that distinction is important. When you abandon the tenant to try to advance the policy, you make the policy something it is not. That is what has happened with the current conservative iteration of the “Pro-Life” movement, it has reduced itself to selling policy that is really just “Anti-Abortion” while it tramples over every single other life in the room. If we believe that life has sanctity, then it has to have sanctity from the time it is conceived, to the time human life passes. We cannot ignore the sanctity of other lives by steamrolling over them in favor of our policy. Further, I want to offer too a full-throated rejection of the sins that unchecked conservatism has indulged in, particularly in the Church. Misogyny, bigotry of any kind, Nationalism, sexual misconduct, particularly in conservative churches that has been covered up to protect the leader. I reject all of these, they are abominations before God and sins to be sure, no less sinful than the sins of the world we love to demonize. They need to be repented of, and forgiveness needs to be asked for them, lest we stand before God and be told to depart from him. As it stands, I cannot currently uphold our present idea of “Personal Liberty” because, again, it is not a tenant of Classical Conservative, what is a tenant is “Social Liberty,” that being the idea that society is free and men and women are free within that society to do as they wish so long as they are not doing harm or hindering the life of another. Free societies were intended to punish those who sought to undermine them, who created oppression and profited from it. This is another aberrant idea, yes, man is free, but you are only as free as your neighbor. Making sure your neighbors life is conserved would help to ensure that your life was conserved.

Like said, I learned these tenants well and so it was concerning when the Bailouts were rolled out and compromises on these principles and claims were legitimized. That opened the door for more undermining of those principles and claims. As a Church Historian I recognize the pattern that begun in the generation after Martin Luther and John Calvin, you make a compromise, the next generation makes another and before you know sect and schism are rampant in the 19th century and though the Church grew until the 1950’s, we are now seeing an ever quickening decline. Which is what happened with conservativism as I watched it, one compromise led to another, which led to another and then they began gaining speed and ground and eventually it snow balled and all that talk about a persons character were thrown out. The principles I had learned so well still worked when applied, but they were no longer being applied, instead conservativism became not compassionate, but power hungry, rude and vulgar. It was not what I was raised with and on top of that, all the people who had told me to trust institutions are now telling me not to trust the institutions as we see democracy undermined (another system I was taught well).

Those institutions though were meant to uphold civic and moral order while helping to create a society built on just laws. The Media was to inform us, and while it had stumbled in that job, it had not totally lost its way. Churches were to encourage us, to help us become good and Holy (though this is an area where I disagree since The Church is not an intended to be an institution but an organism and only Christ makes us good and Holy). Democracy, as ai institution was the greatest government system since sliced bread and we should fight to uphold it. But most of those people who taught me these things have now given themselves over to illiberalism, they have abandoned any pretense and told me straight up that I cannot trust the institutions designed to help inform and uphold our society. This is reflected not so much in statistics about the Media, since a vast majority still trusts the media, but in public trust in Churches and Clergy. Clergy now ranks second to last on the list of most trusted professions, why? Because character became an afterthought in many seminaries. As Chuck DeGroat noted in his book: “When Narcissism comes to Church” we have favored charismatic personalities which can often be driven by narcissistic personality disorder types over the quiet men of character who will humbly lead through service. Most pastors have sought to secure their comfortable futures before caring for their flocks, when those pastors fall from some moral failure or other reason, we shake our heads, wonder why it happened and then find the next Charismatic Seminary student.

Public trust in institutions in general is extremely low in the mid-west as many of those institutions have been taken over by outside groups or government agencies based not in the states, but in Washington DC. There is a reason to be concerned with bigger government and weaker state and local governments since the people who are most likely to know what life is actually like on the ground are the people who live on the that very ground. Therefore so many feel alienated, why we heard so much about: “the forgotten man” in 2016. Strange that we did not hear about him in 2020.

I worked in Stafford Country Kansas as a Pastor and probably could have predicted 2016 based on what I heard and saw. As you enter the city of Stafford on US 50 coming from Wichita one of the first things you see is the shell of what used to be Bowing’s Engine Assembly plant. In 2014 Stafford Country had the second highest Opiate death rate in Kansas, trailing only Rice country where I lived. The Churches there had just voted to merge, except for my little Baptist church which may not be there anymore. I was the fifth pastor they had called in four years and was the longest tenured when I left in the summer of 2015. All four had been bi-vocational and 2 of us had lived in other towns and commuted in because we had to live where there were jobs. I was working for Sterling College’s maintenance department at the time, which for a single college graduate was a good gig. I tried to explain this picture to my classmates at Gordon-Conwell during a session of Dr. Price’s Project of Reconciliation after the 2016 election. I understood the grievances of the Midwest, and even shared many of them, but I did not understand, nor could I, give up principles that had been engrained in me from my youth. The price for having my voice amplified was way too high for me and it still is. Grievance Politics just leaves us, in the words of Special Agent Dinozzo, with: “a bunch of toothless blind people” and I cannot stomach it.

I recently became a subscriber to the center-right “The Bulwark” through their “Bulwark+” subscription service. Even if you do not subscribe you can still get their daily podcast with Conservative talk show host and author Charlie Sykes formerly of The Weekly Standard. You can listen to the podcast here but one of the things that caught my attention was Charlie’s statement that “we are better than this.” That struck me, because if you look at all this nation was built on, all the principles and laws of democracy, all the appeals to moral order and justice, we really should be better than we are now. And Christians, we should be even better because we have the transcendent life and truth of Jesus Christ dwelling within us and allowing us to be better, to “grow up into maturity” as Ephesians puts it. But if you are just an average conservative or even an average liberal and you believe in what this country stands for, then we should be better than this. We should be better than these petty divisions, we should be better than the nasty fights and silly culture wars that have divided us and divided our politics. How can the very people who call us “one nation under God” turn around and act like we are one nation under two parties? That is unsustainable and we are currently reaping the rewards of that in our national moment.

We have become a nation of children, governed by children, this is not good. But here is the thing, this is not just run of the mill hypocrisy, no, as Jonathan V. Last (also of The Bulwark) pointed out, this is pure nihilism since: “Hypocrisy implies that there is a moral norm and they have left moral norms behind.” Nihilism is a philosophy that should stay far from the halls of power, if you believe there is nothing to believe in, you should not be a leader in any world. Or if power is all you believe in and worship, you should not be a leader, leaders have to lead, but they should lead through service, not might. Again, this is a place where biblical principles inform conservativism and in fact the American founding, the idea that our leaders are servants who serve people through upholding the laws.

Let me close by saying that while I still hold to the tenants of conservativism generally, they are not primary for me, they probably should not have been. Through Christ I am learning a new how to live in this world as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. If you want to know what this looks like in real time, go listen to my sermons or follow Brian Zahnd on Twitter. It is true that Edmund Burke will mess you up, but reading the bible, really reading it, will make it even harder for us to live in such a way that denies the truths of scripture or synchronize them with the philosophies of this world. As Conservatives, we should accept the results of the election and turn to praying for President-Elect Joe Biden not because we have trust in the system of democracy, but because we have trust in God and His word. Joe Biden is the next leader God is placing over us, so let us pray for Him as Romans tells us. Let us also work to lower the abortion rate through not just through an anti-abortion lens, but throat did ugh a fully Pro-Life lens. If the Church is every going to regain public trust, then it needs to start doing what helped it gain public trust in the first place over 2000 years ago. It needs to reclaim its uniqueness as the Called Out Body of Christ, the continuation of His presence on this Earth. To lead again in things like Health care from the beginning to the end of life. To reclaim its prophetic role as a truth teller which tells the truth in love through service. Maybe then we can start informing conservatism again, or perhaps we can come up with something better. Who knows, when we do what Christ calls us to do the possibilities are absolutely endless.

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oRev. Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northern Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center

Jesus Was Not A Socialist, and He was not any other modern category either.

A Decade ago the band “Downhere” asked the question: “Can anybody show me the real Jesus?” Not only have we not found Him, we have made Him even more unrecognizable

Jonathan David Faulkner

I have written before about the historical fallacy called Presentism: the practice of reading modern ideas back into history. Recently I had the occasion to think through the fact that while we encourage historians to avoid this practice, we encourage theologians to do so. For instance, Jesus and the Apostles would have known nothing of our modern idea of complementarianism, it did not exist, but we are quick to pigeonhole verses into this modern philosophy and then make bold statements such as “Paul was a Complementarian, see! His verse backs up my philosophy.” Or we look at specific stories and try to apply them to modern philosophical constructs that did not exist in the ancient world. It does not matter how and ancient church applies biblical texts, the church fathers could not have been _______ because they had no concept of ______.

The place on the left this often happens is the claim that Jesus was a Socialist or would support a form of socialist government over and against the capitalism that marks our modern economic system in America. Because Jesus was a Socialist, they argue, we should have a forced socialistic society. Both the right and the left have made the same error or turning to use the government to enforce their views of Jesus onto a secular society. Not only are we presenting onto Jesus our modern understanding of socialism, we are demanding that the agency which should carry that socialism out is the federal government. The right turns to the government to enforce religious morality which largely fails to be Christian morality, though based loosely on scripture or conservative philosophy. Both sides are looking to the wrong place both for their worldview and for the application of their worldview. The secular world wants nothing to do with Christian Morality and government forced proselytizing has only failed Christianity. The same is true in the history of pure socialism or communism. Forced collectivization has only ever benefited those at the top, usually the totalitarians leaders who have forced the collectivization. Even Democratic Socialist countries often run into the same issues of delay of services. In these countries’ collectivization revolves around a few services but is not voluntary and those services can be (but are not always) of lower quality than in non-democratic socialist countries.

Neither of these categories, capitalistic or democratic socialist, capture life in ancient Mesopotamia for the Early Christians. And for the Early Christians, our tendency to look to modern government, left or right, to fulfill our agenda would seem to be anathema. Yes, there were Christians in government positions, but until Constantine, proselytizing through government would have gotten them killed for denying the Pagan god’s of Rome. The point being, Christians should not turn to government to advance the kingdom of heaven because the secular governments of man are 1. In rebellion against God the Father, which means we should not make kings as Christians (see 1st Samuel 8:7) and 2. Are secular and therefore apposed to the very foundations of Christianity, Jesus Christ himself. When Christians turn to a political strong man to advance an agenda through government we actually do damage to our witness, especially when that strong man is extremely immoral and does not reflect the character which we have long insisted that Leaders, Christian or not, embody.

And yet, here we are. Both sides, let and right, within the church have turned to government to fulfill their agenda and they both look back to Jesus as their authority. The problem is Jesus does not fit either side of the debate, he is completely and utterly unique and His kingdom requires a greater amount of loyalty than any man-made kingdom ever. Jesus is neither the left-leaning hippie of the left, or the heavenly gift-giver who makes us more moral people if we want to, otherwise, no change is necessary. Nor will I make the claim that Jesus was a centrist, not because I do not think he was likely in the center on all these issues, holding a perfect balance because He was the perfect Son of God who had been from the beginning  and will be to the end. But because calling Him a centrist would be yet another attempt to make Jesus into my own political mascot, something I am writing against in this piece. It would also continue to perpetuate presentism because once again, centrism is a modern American Political position, not something the early Christian would have identified himself as.

If you do want to describe Jesus and the early Church, I think a combination of two words used by Howard I Marshall in his commentary on Acts and Joseph Hellerman in his book “When the Church was a Family.” “Voluntary Collectivists.” Hellerman is right in his assertion that the Early Christians came from a primarily collectivist culture, most cultures around the world are still collectivist at the grass roots level. There is a sharing and caring involved among the people and family is valued above all else but at the same time this wasn’t forced, the government was not making people share their belongings. If anything in Isaiah the Government is hindering this kind of care for neighbor as the elites horded wealth and neglected the poor and the foreigner. Since it wasn’t a forced collectivism it had to be a voluntary one, stemming out of the genuine love that God had shown the people, the outpouring of which resulted in a natural caring and need meeting among the alternate family of the Church. Nor does it seem that the Apostles demanded that people sell their possessions and then redistribute them as the need arose, but that people, seeing a need, would sell possessions and give the proceeds to the church who would then meet the need. Unlike the Collectivism of Russia under Stalin’s five year plan, no one was forcing the early Christians to give up goods against their will and under pain of death, but out of the gladness and humility that came through fellowship with Christ and through one another. This would follow the teachings of Jesus of Self-Denial and Self-Denunciation. One had to choose to follow these teachings, deny themselves and follow Christ. Interestingly enough, in this strong group society, it was the voluntary nature of the collective that made the early church so attractive despite how offensive the message of the Gospel was even to a Roman World that was also collectivist in thinking.

Now, in modern America, both left and right-wing circles, any kind of collectivism is considered evil because it tramples on the radical individualism we value so much. We have been taught and conditioned that the accumulation of things (consumerism) is what is required for the ultimate happiness of the individual. That the happiness of the individual is the chief end of life and so we should do everything we can to attain for ourselves the ultimate happiness and anyone who gets in our way or who points out those we have trampled on is in our way. But this also plays out in today’s tribalism which advances the claim that an individual’s self-disclosed identity, even harmful ones, are paramount. The accumulation of stuff has not made us happy as individuals, so now we must form an identity based on “our truth”  Jesus, once again, gets co-opted, just as He did with consumerism, into his usual role, not as God incarnate, but as therapist, and not a very good one, who sees whatever cognitive distortion the individual has bought into and affirms it.

Those who use Jesus in this way apply him to those who really want nothing to do with His message of “come and die to yourself.” We are apposed to his ideas of self-denunciation because they require to give up the idea that we have our own truth and to look beyond ourselves to find this truth. We are opposed to this because not only is it uncomfortable, it goes against the foundation of radical individualism.

In Voluntary Collectives, people have a natural bent towards working together for the good of the community, not the good of the individual though the good of the individual may be what is best for the community. In Voluntary Strong Group Societies, we still find to this day what is described in Acts 2:42-47. A group committed to one another and following their leaders who taught and ministered to their needs and arbitrated fights between them and none of it is forced, it comes from a natural love for one another and in the case of the early church, the outpouring of the Love of God for them.

The closest instance in our time we can look at to display this sort of voluntary collective would be the Moravians at Herrnhut who sparked the first protestant missions under Nicolas Von Zinzendorf in the 18th century. The Moravians, descendants of John Hus, practiced what was called “Communitarianism” adapted from Peter Walpot’s “The Yieldedness and the Christian Community of Goods” written in 1577. As a theological descendant of John Calvin and Martin Luther it might seem strange for me to support an anabaptist idea, but this is the one instance when I think the anabaptists got it right. The argument was that because God has given much to us, we should then share with one another so that no one lacks anything. Walpot himself said: “The more possessions one has the more one wants, whoever wants much, whoever wants feels the lack of much, whoever covets much feels left wanting much. That is the most poverty-stricken and dissatisfying life kind of life on Earth. And Christ, at those who walk at home in the true sabbath, Pentacost and Easter will have none of it.” Walpot has no problem with someone owning goods, but goods were not to be an end, but a means to ensure the security of neighbor. Basically a direct application of the “They had everything in common” of Acts 2:42. Again, this was not forced, the Moravians, who adopted Communitarianism, applied it willingly and only enforced it when their second community because practicing excesses and had to be reminded by Zinzendorf the basic tenants of their voluntary collective.

The historical fact is that when the Moravians launched their mission’s movement to St. Thomas in the 1730’s it was this idea of “Communitarianism,” this voluntary collective, that made them effective missionaries both among the slaves and among the merchants. They lived within their means, started business and became self-sustaining missionaries. To this day, the Moravian Church is strong in the Caribbean because of its willingness to get down alongside the people and work alongside them.

Contrast the Moravians with other cultures approaches to Missions, either coming in and destroying the local culture or acting as a colonizing force for the government. I have written before that every missions movement in history that is based on these two systems has failed. They are also based on doctrines like “The Discovery Doctrine” that are extremely sinful and harmful, hindering the spread of the Gospel in the same way the marriage between Evangelical Populism and Nationalism (Christian Nationalism) are today. Dominion theologies are destructive whereas the Moravians built something, learned the language, contributed to the local  and aided the people as neutral parties during the many wars that spread through the region in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Communitarianism was the closes thing we could get to Jesus in our time, yet he is not one of those either. Nor can we go so far, the other way, as some have, and call him a capitalist. Capitalist Jesus is just as deadly as Socialist Jesus. No, Jesus formed a voluntary collective of Brothers and Sisters that formed a voluntary collective built on mutual love and understanding, love for one another and their neighbor. They were defined by their radical care and that radical care put them in good standing with all the people outside the faith, even though the Gospel message was offensive.

We need to stop appropriating Jesus for our own pet causes, especially those that cause us to live in the direct opposite manner as He has put before us to live. Jesus is not the ultimate affirmer of our own personal truth, He is, though the Holy Spirit and the Word of God in agreement, the arbiter of truth and the one who imparts it to us. I cannot say that Christians need to reclaim the total and utter distinctiveness of Jesus because it is a universal and absolute reality, instead, I can say we need to embrace and insist upon His distinctiveness in a biblical manner that makes us again a voluntary collective that is defined by mutual love and understanding. The early Church was meant first and foremost to be a family of believers, and it was until it came to power under Constantine. It was Jesus, the real Jesus, who made that ragtag group of fisherman and tax collectors into a family with fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers. An alternative family to the ones that Jesus said His Gospel would divide.

A decade ago Canadian Ministry Music Group Downhere asked the question: “Can anyone show me the real Jesus?” in the song they listed all the places Jesus appears and how He gets used for everything under the sun. The song was the first time I ever considered the reality that “Jesus isn’t white,” something that has stuck with me this last decade. The point of the song is that Jesus is the opposite of all society makes Him out to be simply because He is God incarnate. The bridge sings like this: “If anybody walks behind the Good Shepherd, If anybody holds the hands that heal lepers, And if you recognize the eyes that see forever, please…”

Jesus, the one who is not a socialist or a capitalist, democrat and republican, the one we have not presented our modern ideas onto, can only be found in the pages of scripture, the Old and New Testament in their entirety. You want to find the real Jesus? You have to approach His word and do so by laying down all your modern ideas and philosophy’s. Come with the mind of a child, and the heart of a ten-month-old hugging her father tightly. Lay down your preconceived ideas and culturally informed ideas about scripture and read it, and if you feel so inclined, read about it. Learn about what God has left us, the culture into which it spoke, the people whom it spoke too and how it affected and impacted their lives and the way they live. Then, to the bewilderment of the world, do what you can to live like they did, those who saw, heard and reacted to the Real Jesus.

Amen

 

.\Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

Nothing Radical about the Radicals.

images

By Jonathan David Faulkner.

 

Since January GHFT has ran two articles concerning popular Facebook Evangelist Joshua Feuerstien. The man who gained national recognition when he began the #MerryChristamsStarbucks controversy last fall. He also released a video claiming that “Disney was trying to send your kids to hell” and is one of the people behind the “Facebook Church” movement that has drawn in 1.5 million followers. His live videos showing him doing everything from shooting guns with his four children to ranting and raving about the Obama and the “Gay Agenda.”

Up until now we have tried to approach this with kindness, compassion and understanding. To lovingly rebuke the public figure with the hope of at least some response. However, Joshua has not responded to accusations that he ceases to teach Christian doctrine at all. Recently though it has been harder and harder for us to approach him, or his followers with love because of another problem that was exposed in the Andy Mineo controversy in mid-February.

The whole debate was over Christians and curse words. While God’s Heart does not necessarily condone  the use of curse words or abrasive language we are willing to make concessions and we do agree with Andy when he says that the “Words in and of themselves are not evil, but their intentions can be.” Of course, his defense of using such language sparked a twitter war which somehow came to the attention of Joshua Feuestine. Feuestine berated and mocked the rapper, who he claims mocked his (Andy’s) own fans. Stating that: “Mineo needs to start taking lessons in Humility- like Yesterday.”

Of course, we have established in previous articles that Feuestien refuses to acknowledge anything less than perfection from Christians. Stating on Facebook the tired and abused misquotation of Wesley that has somehow morphed into “God will make it so you do not sin.” This kind of innocuous, instant sanctification that they have supposedly received has thus given them the right to pass down judgment on everyone from 14-year-old Disney stars to Christian Rapper Andy Mineo to yours truly. Dismissing any dissenting viewpoint and cheering loudly when anyone in popular society takes a misstep.

Of course, they claim to love everyone. Recently he and his wife Jessica released about the most insincere video in all of what is left of Christendom. Posing before the rainbow they told everyone in the “Gay Community” that they loved them and then told them to go and buy Jessica’s CD. This only a week after a video condemning the NFL for supporting the “Gay Agenda” during the Half-time show (Although if he’d stayed he may have been much more offended by what followed). He did the same when Kanye started a GoFundMe campaign to cover his debts. Contributing $10 to the campaign with a note telling Kanye to “Use it to buy his wife’s CD.” Three days later The Radicals ran a story celebrating Kanye’s downfall.

This makes us wonder, why would anyone follow this guy? Why has he amassed one of the largest facebook followings of a religious page ever? Perhaps it is the same reason Donald Trump has risen to power, he plays one everyone’s fears and then throws in some sort of hope that he things is true hope but really is not. Meaning, he may point to Jesus Christ, but if you were to come to Christ under Feuestien and then allow yourself to be coddled and disciple at his “Facebook Church” you might find you feel more oppressed than you did before you were a believer. And were I not a believer, I would want nothing to do with Christianity after watching Joshua’s video.

As we sat at a birthday party last night a group of us were discussing the topic of Christian Rap and Mineo’s defense of curse words. What it comes down to is this; We are justified at Salvation and the work of Sanctification begins. As a brother said to me once: “People say you have to get your life together, well, I quit doing drugs, got off the street, have a job, quit drinking, I still gotta work on the smoking, but I’m a work in progress brother.” Feuerstien of course had to take a shot at Mineo, which is recorded above. GHFT wonders when Joshua became the judge and jury, and subsequent executioner? Who appointed him to be the Holy Spirit? Yes, we live set apart, but it is a work of sanctification by the spirit, not something we can bully others into doing, which is what Joshua does.

Feuestine’s theology and ideology do not allow for that progressive life change and so, abusively, he demands that all Christians live in some strange perfection, making sure they do not sin, not actually enjoying the freedom of the Gospel. This makes grace unattainable and destroys the young believer who keeps falling into sin. On the love-grace spectrum there is no love and there is no grace when it comes to Feuestien.

So stay away from The Radicals, avoid Facebook Church at all costs and encourage your friends away from Feuestien. We would never follow Westboro like these 1.5 million follow Joshua and his message is not dissimilar to theirs. The difference is the group targeted.

We also charge Joshua to respond, not to start some twitter war or made online debate, but to face his accusers and answer our complaints. If he can show us we are wrong then we will cease running these articles, if he cannot, they will continue. This is not a smear campaign, we believe even the worst of false teachers can be redeemed, that is what we wish, in the meantime, we should would be remiss if we did not warn you of the dangers of the teachings of Joshua Feuestien.

If you are wondering how we have the authority to make these assertions, remember we are called to judge a teaching and a teacher by their fruits. If the fruit does not line up with what Scripture and Church History tells us the fruit should be then we can discern that this is not something we should listen to or perpetuate.