"You snakes! You brood of vipers!
How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you
prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and
crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to
town." Mt 23:33,34
This article is not devoted to pointing out the shortcomings of institutionalize Christianity
, nor a critique of any particular Christian denomination, as I have written on elsewhere
Rather it is devoted to justification of scrutinizing religious
institutions - and in particular of the religious elite. Denomination
Christianity, particularly the hyper-institutionalized denominations
(Catholic and Orthodox) insist that the teachings of their religious
elite and of their post-Biblical theologians to be infallible and as
such above scrutiny. Yet the Biblical precedent is subject the religious
elite to scrutiny. In fact those who pose as teachers in an official
capacity should be subject to more and severe scrutiny. "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." James 3:1
And as such James allows us to scrutinize him.
Furthermore church leaders should not only be subject to the same
scrutiny as everyone else. If they are found to be sinning, they are to
be rebuked publicly
. "Do not entertain an
accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three
witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others
may take warning." 1Tim 5:19,20 (Note that the standard for two or three witnesses is the same for everyone. 2Cor 13:1; Mt 18:16
Any accusation has to be authenticated so that its basis not mere gossip).
Jesus practiced this and was crucified for doing so. But it is the
precedent God established throughout the Bible. Even Jesus points this
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and
Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and
decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in
the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in
shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves
that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets." Mt 23:29-31
Or Stephen who says, "Was there ever a prophet
your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the
coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered
him—" Acts 7:52
In the Old Testament God established separate roles for prophet, priest
and king. Combining these roles into one person other than Christ tends
to invoke pride and consequently corruption, and a corruption which
cannot be corrected as the role of prophet was intended to put the
priest and king in their place. Today the role of priest and king -
namely religious leader and institutional leader - are combined into
that of the institutional religious elite. Such people have
characteristically discarded the validity of the role of the prophet -
namely the scrutinizer. For they generally refuse to be scrutinized.
This has led to the corruption of Christianity for millenia.
|The Priest & King
|The Berean (Acts 17:11)
|The Institutionally Religious Elite.
Institutional Christianity has largely been hostile to Bereans throughout history.
At times the institutionally elite would tell me that institutional
Christianity is not corruptible and therefore should not be subject to
scrutiny, quoting Mt 16:18 "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
First of all the gates of Hades not overcoming it is referring to the
resurrection from the dead of those who are in Christ and not the to
incorruptibility of institutional Christianity. "You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption." Acts 2:27
And the Catholics and Orthodox have no valid claim that whoever they
appoint to "Peter's place" authenticates their religion and their claims
to infallibility. In fact these denominations are the most deviant and
hostile to Biblical Christianity. And by the way Peter himself
relinquished his ministry to the Gentiles according to Gal 3:9
, and allowed himself to be subject to scrutiny, even being publicly rebuked (Gal 2:11
) Yet those who claim to be in his place refuse to be subject to scrutiny, let alone public rebuke.
Among his parables in Matthew 13 about nominal Christianity Jesus speaks
of the kingdom of God being a small seed which grows to a tree and
birds comes nesting in its branches. The birds are not part of the tree
but are those religious elite who build their nest egg in high positions
among institutional Christianity and are as the bird Jesus spoke of in
another parable in the same chapter as the bird (namely the devil) who
devours the seed before it can take root. (Mt 13:4,19
) Such has
been the case of the religious elite in Jesus' day and such has
characteristically been the case of the religious elite since then.
So those who are of a Berean spirit today play out the same kind of
scenario experienced by the likes of Jeremiah and Isaiah in criticizing
that which needs to be criticized, even if repentance doesn't result,
even as Jesus spoke at the end of Mt 23, "so upon
you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from
the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah,
whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the
truth, all this will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have
longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks
under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to
you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say,
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’"
And so we preach and are rejected and leave them to their fate.