Sunday, April 06, 2014

Book review: 58 to 0, How Christ Leads through the One Anothers - Jon Zens and Graham Wood

You don't often see Christians addressing the great apostasy that took place after the apostles, the change from the freedom and the rule of the truth in those days to the rule of men and domination by a special priestly caste which has been the way it's done ever since.  And let's not say this is an especially Roman Catholic problem; rule by "Protestant" mini-popes is often even worse.  Exactly this issue is addressed here, by a number of contributors.  This book really gets to the roots of things.

The point of the title 58 to 0 is that there are about 58 directions in the New Testament regarding what to do to one another - love one another, encourage one another, exhort one another daily, and so forth - and those are how Jesus said his people must be governed. 

It begins with how Jesus contrasted authority in the world - concerning which Jesus told his apostles, "It shall not be so among you" - with how it is supposed to work among us, and just about never does. 

There is quite a bit in the New Testament to warn us that this apostasy from apostolic teaching was coming. 

In Acts 20:29-30, Paul warned the elders of Ephesus that after Paul's departure grievous wolves would come in, not sparing the flock, and that from among themselves would arise people that would speak perverse things, leading the disciples astray after themselves.  And that perversity arising from among the elders appears to be a response to the attack of the grievous wolves from outside.  This is an altogether worldly response: the same is seen in the destruction of American liberty by American rulers such as George Bush, Richard Cheney, and Barack Obama with the excuse being threats from outside.  When this happens in the churches, as Paul warned it would, we see what being conformed to this present world looks like.

The letters to the seven churches in the Revelation are among the latest of the New Testament writings.  They warn several times against the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which Jesus hates.  The word Nicolaitan means ruler or conqueror of the people, which is about all we have that's reliable on who these people were.  What Jesus hates is abundantly clear in Luke 22:24-27, Mark 9:33-37, Matthew 20:25-28, Matthew 23:8-12, and Matthew 24:45-51 - and certainly Ezekiel 34, which Jesus certainly had in mind.

This book doesn't fully handle every detail, but that's not to be expected.  It's a great start on a very big issue, and it feels good to find that I'm not alone in having seen this problem.  In a way, we're making progress.  Back when, church rulers could reliably kill you by the hands of the state if they didn't like what you had to say.  Now mega-church pastors can bully people in their congregations and even push the local school board around by threatening to vote their congregations against them, but they can't kill you.  Maybe we're coming to the point where nobody will listen to us unless we have the truth and people see it because God is clearly backing it up, and for no other reason.