The Bible simply does not contain enough of the doctrine of Jesus’ ekklesia for that ekklesia to be well replicated today. I have argued this point extensively elsewhere, so I’ll leave it at that for this present article.
I would like to point out, however, that the great variation in doctrine from one church to the next is an indisputable signal to us that today’s church simply cannot be Jesus’ ekklesia. And why not? Because Jesus saw to it that his ekklesia all kept to the same doctrines. It is that simple. If you were a member of his ekklesia and you did not want to hold firmly to the doctrine prescribed by the Lord, you were put out of the fellowship.
But not so in a great many of the churches today. They glory in disagreeing with one another, setting themselves apart by short bullet lists of doctrines that they hold to be “essential” or “core”. If you go to the “about” page on just about any church website, you’ll see a short list of beliefs—usually fewer than ten—by which the church defines itself. When such a list is chosen, the accompanying message is fairly clear: “We hold the teachings to be essential, and everything else to be debatable or negotiable to some extent, and most certainly of lesser importance.”
Suppose, however, that one church goes a little further than another, and they list in their beliefs, say, that women are not to be allowed to teach men in their congregation. And in support of this belief, they cite the following passages of scripture.
1 Timothy 2:12 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
1 Corinthians 14:34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
At face value, these passages appear to provide solid support for the doctrine that women should not teach men in the church. The first church in our example, however, did not do enough Bible “math” to come up with this belief, where the second church did. Meanwhile, the second church takes on an attitude of superiority over the first, citing this obvious example of the negligence of the first. It is as if they boast, “We have eight bullet points in our beliefs, where that church has only seven.”
This is how they market against one another. Meanwhile, the first church may well reach out to those in the society who opine that women ought to be allowed to teach, so they flagrantly ignore the passage as an aid to their marketing strategies. Or perhaps they try to discount all the writings of Paul, since both of these passages come from his hand. (Yes, they still quote him on quite a long list of other topics, such as his popular 1 Corinthians 13 passage, but on this one that they don’t like, they’re willing to bring his apostolic authority into question, if but for a sufficient time to cast doubt on the doctrine itself.)
Both churches, however, fall woefully short of the full list of beliefs that can be gleaned from the Bible. Just as the second church in our example went further than the first, there is yet a third going further still. But no church today sincerely seeks to incorporate into its beliefs everything that can be learned from the Bible. For example, show me a church that has a “widows list” (as in 1 Timothy 5:9 and Acts 6:1), and who practice “church discipline” exactly as Jesus taught in Matthew 18, and who live communally as did Jesus’ ekklesia (as in Acts 4:32).
I could go on and on, but today’s churches cannot. They do not even try to emulate everything in the Bible, even though they read past such features regularly in the scriptures. They simply ignore them or explain them away. And in so doing, they belie their unspoken mission of “being” Jesus’ ekklesia, for they simply do not care to emulate all of the original.
And why do they do this?
Generally, it is because of some mixture of three reasons:
- They are cognitively lazy.
- They are unable or unwilling to spot their own moral deficiency in failing to be authentic representatives of the labels they wear.
- Tradition persuades them that the church must be fine as it is.
For whatever their particular mixture of these reasons, they simply do not want to expend the energy necessary to figure out the whole Bible.
But what if they did go all the way? What if they got a burst of mental energy and decided to reform the churches to be 100% Bible-compliant? Well, that’s when they’d start to learn some things about what time it is.
Indeed, it was just this sort of Bible study that led me down this road:
- The realization that no such church can be found today.
- The realization that of the particular facets of Jesus’ ekklesia described in or gleaned from the Bible, precious few of them could be emulated today, for almost all of it depended upon supernatural support: angels, apostles, prophets, evangelists, elders, deacons, healings, tongues, signs, wonders, miracles, discipline for the unruly, etc.
- The idea that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled long ago.
- The Temporary Ekklesia Theory.
So that’s how I got here—simply by not stopping as so many others are duped or lazified into doing. And to my shame, I admit that it took me far too many years to get here myself. I am a recovering cognitive miser who finally got around to studying these matters enough to realize the major discrepancies between popular belief and the actual contents of the Bible.
Interestingly, while very little attempt is made in the believing society at large to understand all passages of scripture, the one thing the Christians could be doing is insisting on righteousness. Hardly a page of the Bible exists whereupon there is not some clear lesson to be learned as to what God considers to be righteous and unrighteous behavior. Yet statistics show that the churched today are statistically equal to the unchurched when it comes to their moral behavior.
This is yet another symptom of their failure to process what they read in the Bible. Indeed, if they did process it, they’d be aghast at their own failure to behave in godly ways and would diligently search the scriptures and their hearts as well, looking for an answer to their problems. No doubt, this is what an authentic people would do, but so very few among the churchers today have a mature paradigm of personal authenticity; when they find themselves less than authentic, they simply do not seem to care very much.
That’s what this is all about: caring. The TET came about from someone who simply happened to care enough to take on the project of trying to understand everything about the Bible and to implement its lessons in a complete and authentic way.
Hence, the “core doctrine” fallacy.