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Christian Religious Degeneration
7 July 2013
In yesterday's article we took a look at how the Jewish religion — which God Himself had established — degenerated into a religious system God came to abhor. If you have not read that article yet, I encourage you to do so before continuing here.
Today we are going to see how this same degeneration has repeated itself again and again during 2,000 years of Christianity.
Last time we observed that the Jewish religion had degenerated to such a state that when Yeshua (Jesus) — God in the flesh — appeared on the scene, He was violently opposed by the religious establishment of His day. Nevertheless, He sparked a spiritual renewal among the Jewish people, even though, as I have said numerous times before, He didn't come to start a new religion.
During the decades following Yeshua's execution, the Apostle Paul and other followers of Yeshua established, with God's inspiration, a new religious system which became known as Christianity. The early Jewish followers of Yeshua did not intend to leave Judaism, but they were forced out by the religious leaders. As Yeshua Himself taught, an old wineskin [Judaism] cannot hold new wine [Christianity] without bursting, so this new religion soon became separate and distinct from Judaism.
As documented in the writings of the New Testament and of Church history, the new religion of Christianity started to slowly degenerate from the very beginning. But in the early fourth century, things took a major and dramatic turn for the worse. As I wrote in my article Two Peas In a Pod:
In light of this massive degeneration, it's amazing and somewhat mysterious that significant spiritual renewal did not come to the Church for more than a THOUSAND more years! I suppose this period of history has been called the Dark Ages for a very good reason. There are many more details than I can recount here, so I will limit myself to one example per century.
By 325 Constantine became the sole emperor of the Roman Empire, making him the first "Christian" Roman emperor. And the rest, as they say, is history. That day, 28 October 312, was the beginning of the end for the Church of Yeshua.
Thus Satan gained one of his most magnificent victories in the history of mankind. Three hundred years of persecution could not destroy the early Church — in fact, it only served to strengthen the Church and cause it to grow at an astonishing rate. So apparently Satan decided to switch tactics. If being at the receiving end of the sword could not destroy the Church, perhaps being the wielder of the sword could!
And it DID to a large extent destroy the Church of Yeshua the Messiah! Not in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense. For the past 1,700 years, this man-made, institutionalized, political, blood-thirsty, demonically-inspired, Christianized version of the kingdom of the world has survived by the power of the sword. The external social-political-religious organization called Christianity has endured, but the Spirit of Yeshua as revealed in the New Testament has largely been lost.
Martin Luther arrived on the scene in the 16th century. As a result of his vocal condemnation of the degenerate Church of his day, he was excommunicated by the Pope and declared an outlaw by the Emperor, leading to the formation of a separate Lutheran church.
Beginning in the 16th century and on through the 17th century, Reform and Separatist movements such as the French Huguenots, and the English Puritans and Quakers attempted to counteract the prevalent degeneration of the Catholic and Protestant churches. In many cases these efforts led to persecution by the established churches, and resulted in more separate and distinct denominations.
In the 18th century the Methodist renewal sought to reverse the degeneration in the Church of England, but after the death of founder John Wesley, the Methodists became another separate denomination.
William Booth was frustrated with the degeneration in the Methodist church, and was eventually barred from ministry in that denomination. He turned his full attention and efforts to founding the Salvation Army. Because many of the converts were at first alcoholics, morphine addicts, prostitutes and other "undesirables" unwelcome in mainstream Christian society, the Booths started their own church.
In the early 20th century, Pentecostals had high hopes of renewing the entire Christian Church, but many times Pentecostals were forced to establish new religious communities when their experience was rejected by the established churches. The first generation of Pentecostal believers faced immense criticism and ostracism from other Christians.
It would be foolish, naïve, arrogant and dangerous for Christians today to imagine that they are immune from the religious degeneration which was so rampant among the ancient Jews. The Apostle Paul clearly warned us of this, when he was referring to the history of the Israelites in the Old Testament:
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us... So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! (1 Corinthians 10:11-12)Not only CAN Christians degenerate into the same dead religion as the Jews did — which God declared He abhorred — but Christians HAVE for two thousand years! The history of Christianity has been a continual cycle of degeneration and renewal — just as it happened with the Jews in the Old Testament. God's people in the Church become spiritually dead and end up relying on religious routine to keep the system going. In yesterday's article we saw clearly what God thinks of that!
For thousands of years of human history, systems of religion, even God-ordained ones, have eventually degenerated and turned rancid, like unrefrigerated milk. Not only is that degeneration a distraction for those who want to walk in intimacy with God, but it actually ends up hindering them, as explained so clearly in books like The Myth of a Christian Nation and Pagan Christianity?, as well as others.
God did not create man for religion — He created him for relationship. Rancid religion has left a bad taste in my mouth, and in the mouths of an uncountable number of others. I long for pure and simple relationship with God, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, and like Yeshua with His disciples. THIS is what I was made for, and THIS is what I desperately yearn for!
I am more convinced than ever that I cannot support the current non-Biblical version of modern, man-made, institutional, degenerate Western Christianity. God is going to restore New Testament Christianity, but for the time being the Church is in a transition period. Therefore, it is because of my desire to walk in integrity and truth that I am not able to participate in any of the current systems of the Christian religion. I hope and pray that things will change sufficiently in the not-too-distant future so that this will no longer be the case. May God hasten that glorious day!
This article is 19th a series of articles on this Web site related to Modern Christianity and the Church which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
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