Scrutinizing Religious Institutions

"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 out.
"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 Prophet
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.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources