Facing Great Changes – Stuart Johnson

One who is deemed qualified to teach from the Bible holds a place of prestige.  In mainstream Christian churches, the privilege of teaching from the Bible requires forming training.  This training has to be approved by the church and the campus from which a student earns their qualifications must be properly accredited.  The task of understanding the Bible has not been made very easy for the everyday Christian.  It is even more difficult for the average person to pick up the Bible and make sense of it.  With tens of thousands of denominations throughout the world how is anyone going to know if the denomination they involve themselves with is not leading them astray?  This task is made much more difficult for those who have encountered God as Triune disclosed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.  Our Trinitarian ideas are often in conflict with most denominations.  Rather than have a mature and sensible dialogue, the leadership of the church would rather have us conform or silenced or leave.  For many of us, this has been a painful and heart wrenching journey.  Once we understand the value of the freedom of Christ in us, we can easily discern the powers at play that want us to sacrifice our freedom and exchange it for slavery at the hands of the institutional church.

For some of us, it takes a while to realise our outlook of what we understand to be church has changed.  What we are accustomed to and what has been disclosed to us by the Spirit of Christ in us are in conflict.  What we are accustomed to does not want to change.  What is now disclosed in us gives us so much more.  This kind of love spills out of us and we want everyone else to see what we see.  The unfortunate thing is for some mysterious reason, people may just not see.  So it is up to us to change the way we think about church altogether.  If what we now declare from within the Trinitarian frame is held with any degree of suspicion by what we normally regard as church, then there is either something wrong with the Trinitarian message we declare or their is something wrong with the church we declare it to.  If we come to this crossroad on our Trinitarian journey, there is no reason to panic.  When the eyes of our heart are opened to the Truth of all truths it takes quite sometime for our head to catch up.

There is much richness in the gospel according to the ancient church that has been severely neglected by the mainstream modern church.  This has had a severe impact on the whole structure of the modern gospel.  This gospel (which is not the gospel at all) is modern evangelicalisms’ sacred cow.  For people to lay hold of it, they often have to run through the gauntlet of qualification by mere men based on a worldly understanding of who God is.  Even the vision of Jesus Christ and who He is in His Person must run through this gauntlet.  The hierarchy of the church stand on each side scrutinising all who pass through.  Yet those in the church who scrutinise may not even qualify to pass their own rigorous test!

What we must remind ourselves is this: 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ ran this gauntlet of humanity from His birth until His death.  Humanity said He failed and they killed Him.  The Father said He passed with flying colours and rose Him from the dead.  In doing so, when our union with God in Jesus Christ strikes a chord within our very beings, we realise we died with Him, we rose with Him and ascended to the right hand of the Father in Him.  The gauntlet of qualification of the modern church has no power at all.  The more we peer into the face of the Jesus Christ the more we begin to see the Light of the Father in ALL His glory.

It is important to us to know the denomination or the educational campus we attend is going to help us to develop and grow into the understanding of Christ in us as we embark on the Trinitarian journey.  Trinitarian theology has very specific criteria that has been laid down by the ancient church.  Today in mainstream evangelical denominations the statement of beliefs will contain some reference to the Trinity.  This does not mean the denomination is necessarily Trinitarian as guided by the ancient church.  The ancient church had an external frame of reference known as the canon of faith (or rule of faith).  Jesus Christ who is of the same being with the Father is the beginning of all the ways and works of God famously championed by Athanasius.  Generally speaking, when we encounter the church today and their educational institutions we find their frame of reference is diametrically opposed to what the ancient church stood for.  Much of what they stand for has stark resemblances to the teaching of the Arians, Nestorians and Apollinarians.

The campus I attended considered themselves as “non-denominational”.  This is fine with me.  Nevertheless, no one person or group of people in the faculty should be the reference point for what is right or wrong theology.  All of what is said and taught should be in the Light of what is disclosed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.  If we are going to be truly a non-denominational teaching institution, then what we teach must be truly ecumenical (oikomenikos) and universal in its scope.  This can only be achieved if the frame of reference is Jesus Christ as understood by the ancient church.  Many traditional mainstream non-denominational campuses would say they do adopt this frame of reference.  This might be true.  Yet, when the implications of adopting Jesus Christ as the archè of all the ways and works of God and the subsequent implications, then immediately question marks are placed on everything we hold to be true.  This is not a malicious motive on our part.  It is what naturally happens when everything we hold to be true is challenged by the Spirit of Christ in all parties concerned.

If we want a truly non-denominational campus in the Spirit of oikomenikos then all we believe to be true must be brought into the Light of Jesus Christ.  All fallacies will be exposed.  Truth will prevail.  All will be of the same mind and everyone will say the same thing.  Most of all, we will be deeply challenged on every aspect of what we believe to be “Christian”.  Instead of each traditional arbitrarily deciding what statements will best reflect what they believe, all traditions will have a contingent and objective reference point from which all our statements will be laid out.  Our statements will best reflect how God is defined in the very Person of Jesus Christ.  It is not what we say about God but what God says about Himself in Person as the man Jesus Christ.

This is the best way for the message of the church to ring true with the wider community.  As we focus on Jesus Christ according to the ancient message in the tradition of champions like Irenaeus, Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers, Cyril of Alexandria and Epiphanius we begin to see the gospel in an entirely different way.  We realise the Spirit has been poured out on all flesh and Christ dwells in all.  We realise that as Jesus Christ is in the Father and He is in us and we are in Him, we are no longer dependant on traditional institutions.  We realise the great enemy of the ancient church, Arianism, has captivated the minds of the Western church.  What we find in these particular traditional institutions are strongholds maintaining the status quo so that it can hang on to the powers and principalities that are contrary to the nature and character of God revealed in Jesus Christ.  By minimising the significance of the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ, ordinary men and women are able to wield enormous power over others exercising judgment on people who, in Christ, have no case to answer.  These bear all the hallmarks of Arianism who is the modern father of the Western Church.  This flows into the educational institutions where those accredited to teach also have enormous power over the less educated.  Instead of churning out followers of Christ who are fishers of men and women, this system churns out Arian children perpetuating the same Arian institutional system.

I am thankful there are some campuses who are allowing some to teach the all important message of the ancient church.  Generally speaking, those who challenge the status quo by simply speaking the truth according to the ancient tradition are often shut down.  Even those who are highly accredited to challenge the status quo will be invited to speak only if they agree to do so through an Arian muzzle.  This can happen in ever so subtle ways. Outright opposition to the truth can also be extremely ferocious.  Even within our community, there are those who will slightly drift into some form of Arianism so as to be able to wield some power over others.  How can this be when Jesus Christ rendered Himself powerless so that all may become empowered and be transformed into His nature and character?  When we speak, we appeal to Christ in those we speak to and ask they listen to Him to hear what He is saying.  When people hear, it is not what we say but it is the miracle of the Spirit of Christ who makes them hear.  If we have this gift, then we must be good stewards of what has been so graciously given by God Himself.

Many contact me asking which campus would be the best to attend that teach Trinitarian theology according to the ancient tradition.  Many contact me asking if we know a church that teach this kind of gospel.  Unfortunately, they are few and far between.  We go to churches and tertiary institutions with the hope we may be better informed on the truth that resides in us.  In reality, we do run the risk of all sorts of abuse from the church or campus we attend by simply asking often very fair questions of what the preachers, lecturers and tutors propose.  I have personally experienced ridicule to threats of violence from the church, faculty and undergrads.  In addition, one can be hard pressed to find like-minded people who want to discuss openly and freely what we take for granted as the truth.  We find in these churches and campuses that there is the very same cherry picking of the ancient church ideas that will fit in with the Arian model.  When we press the implications of what these ancient church ideas are then the resistance begins.

If we are to engage with the Western church, then we might need to consider the kind of “Christianity” we are involving ourselves with. People are very sensitive and protective when it comes their own tenets of belief.  Trinitarian theology has the tendency to shake the very foundations of what we believe.  For many people this can be frightening triggering the flight, fright, freeze response.  In doing so, we might encounter a whole range of emotions.  If we do choose to share, we need to consider that we must be wise as serpents in what we say and as gentle as lambs in how we interact with people.  We might need to consider our own weaknesses as we engage with people.  (Believe me I have many.)

I believe we are at the very beginning of the breaking down of the whole misconceived idea of what it means to be Christian and what it means to be a part of the church.  This is not on account of any ministry but on account of the Spirit at work.  When He works in us, then our whole lives can be turned upside down and inside out in the process.  We might be persecuted, thrown out of our synagogues and ostracised by people who we thought were our friends.  Yet, there is a whole world out their who are aching to hear precisely this kind of news.  Take heart my friends!