Sunday, 21 June 2015

Negative-unification of the Christian churches - the Jehovah's Witness test

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I suppose that my highest hope in worldly things is for a Christian awakening in The West - that is; repentance of secular Leftism and resurgence of Christian living.

But what kind of Christian? My answer is - any kind.

(Any kind of real Christian.)

Yet all Western Christian denominations, all the churches, are relatively small (i.e. a small proportion of the population), and weak, and mostly ageing, in The West.

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1. There seems to be no chance at all of any single denomination or church taking-over across all The West.

2. The dominant Christian church or denomination, the one with the best chance of growing fast and becoming significantly strong, differs between nations and region - for reasons of history, and probably of national character.

3. Therefore, for there to be a Christian revival across the West entails that several-or-many Christian churches or denominations must grow.

4. And for this to be a Christian revival and awakening, demands that these different churches and denominations must not be hostile to each other. If the different types of real Christians fight each other, then they will fail.

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So, given the impossibility of one church dominating, and (sadly, but it's true) the impossibility of positive active alliance between Christian churches - what is required is a kind of negative unification: a sort of non-hostility pact between Christian churches and denominations.

This non-hostility must start in the the human heart - in each individual Christian.

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On the one hand we need to include as many self-identified Christians as possible in the 'real' Christian category. On the other hand, it would be fatal to include the CHINOs (Christians In Name Only) who are in alliance with the enemy forces of secular Leftism.

If we each of us start with our own heart, we can monitor our emotional reactions to other Christian groups; and examine our own motivations for these reactions - and try to eliminate negative prejudices.

If we find ourselves salaciously approving media attacks on the Roman Catholic church, or feeling hostility upon sight of a priest or nun; then we should stop this. If we react to the enthusiastic worship of young evangelical Protestants or 'fish' stickers on cars with disdain; then we should stop this. If we find that we actually want to believe that the Eastern Orthodox churches are nothing-but government agencies; then we should stop this.

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For me, a test case was the street ministry of Jehovah's Witnesses in my city. Every weekday morning, two or three smartly dressed, pleasant and ordinary looking folk, stand across the main shopping street holding out JW leaflets or mini books.

They do not speak unless spoken to, they do not move to block your way, they do not thrust their leaflets at you - they simply stand, and smile or nod, holding their literature at the ready.

Now - is this Jehovah's Witnesses campaign, conducted with exemplary good manners, A Good Thing or is it A Bad Thing? Is the fact that JWs are growing worldwide, a good or bad thing?

In Britain, JW's are  regarded negatively; as a joke, annoying, or pathetic. The current street campaign is apparently a response to people's annoyance at being harassed by JWs on their own doorsteps - and an attempt to focus evangelical activity on those people who have chosen actively to approach the JWs on the streets.

I needed to decide for myself - so I stopped and talked to a chap, and took and read a small booklet which focused on theology. I simply wanted to establish whether JW was Christ centred.

But my attitude to this evaluation was positive - JWs looked like they were Christians, I hoped they would be Christians, and I just wanted to check. By contrast, many people approach the evaluation of JWs with a negative and suspicious attitude, as if to say - "I think you are not Christians, and I will not believe that you are Christians unless you can 100% satisfy the following check-list..."

It was a matter of minutes to discover that JWs unambiguosly self-identify as Christians and practice a Christ-centred religion, this was very clear - so now I cheerfully regard any expansion of Jehovah's Witnesses as A Good Thing - and my attitude towards their success is that, overall, it advances the great cause.

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What about poaching or sheep-stealing? What about Christian denominations trying to take each others members?

On the whole, this should not happen when other-church members are active and devout - but when members are CHINOs or inactive and apostate; then, clearly, it is good for them to transfer to another church if by doing so their Christian life is re-awakened. It is far better to be a real Christian than a CHINO - and achieving this may well involve a change of denomination.

But it would weaken Christianity overall if the churches expended their primary energies in fighting over the scraps of declining numbers of serious Christians in The West.

Given the harm to Christianity it does overall and in the long term, strategic poaching behaviour implies that it is better for someone to be nothing-at-all, than to be some other type of Christian than yourself.

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There seems to be no realistic prospect of actual unification of the real Christian churches - after a millennium of major schism; and individually any one church is far too weak to make a significant difference at a national level, and between Western nations the biggest and most favoured church varies widely.

If a Christian revival is genuinely favoured; then we must have a negative unification; and this should be based not on theological or organization principles - but on the attitude in the hearts of Men.

What is needed is an attitude which is pleased by any significant religious success of real Christians anywhere in The West, including our own communities - and which tries to cure itself of the all-too-common, all-too-obvious negativity, hatred and spite towards other churches and denominations.

Any healthy organization will regard itself as better than its rivals; but the other Christian churches should be benignly-tolerated as rivals, not regarded as enemies. The attitude should be along the lines of 'we have more of the Truth than they do' - rather than 'they are liars, apostates and cultists'. 

This can best be achieved if all the churches focus on evangelism among non-Christians (including lapsed Christians and CHINOs). 

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I would be happy to see a resurgent Roman Catholic Poland, a strongly Lutheran North Germany, a renaissance of Scotch Calvinism - and in England I would be truly delighted if there was a growth in several or many or all Christian denominations: e.g. among Conservative Evangelical Anglicans, Conservative Anglo-Catholics, Traditionalist Roman Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons (of course)  - and a multitude of tiny home churches, charismatics and Pentecostals...

...so long as they are at least negatively tolerant of each other; adopt a benign attitude towards each other. So long as the hearts of Christians are warmed by the success of other Christians - even when those other Christians are regarded as strange and alien, or misguided.

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This could be achieved, I think, if the primary understanding of the situation of The West is realistic: if it is accepted that Christianity is, and has been for many decades, weak and dying in the West; if it is accepted that the main large denominations (Church of England, Roman Catholic, Methodist etc) are now overall CHINOs and overall hostile to real Christianity so we must balance positivity to conservative elements among members of these churches, with hostility to the dominant liberalism of their leadership; and if it is accepted that no single church denomination can possibly re-Christianize The West.

If all this is accepted; yet if Christian revival is the aim, then there must be some kind of mutual tolerance among Christians.

So - do you pass the Jehovahs Witness test? Can you bring yourself to approve, in your heart, their expansion (among erstwhile non-Christians) in your own community? Can you refrain from sniping, disdaining and criticizing them?

This is the kind of thing Christians will need to do, en masse, in a multitude of hearts, and with respect to each other - if a Western revival of Christianity is to have any realistic chance of happening.

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