The Christian and the Church


Recently Ann Rice made news (again) by announcing a shift (again) in her belief system. From her Facebook wall (July 28):

Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

Of course, by inference Ann is quitting the Church though she isn’t quitting Christ. But is that possible? Notice what Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
– Eph 2:19-22

I think it’s necessary to be clear about who is the “you” Paul was talking to. He makes that clear in the previous verses:

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups [Jews and Gentiles] into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.
– Eph 2:13-16

The short answer to the question, Who is the “you” Paul is talking to? would be Jews and Gentiles alike who have been made new by the blood of Christ.

So I ask again, Is it possible to quit the Church and still be one with Christ?

Here are some things I learn about the Church from these verses in Ephesians:

  • A follower of Christ is a member of God’s household.
  • This household is built on the foundation of the Word of God (apostles and prophets).
  • Christ is the cornerstone.
  • The rest of us are being fit together.
  • The whole building is growing into a holy temple (it’s not a holy temple yet).
  • The local church (in this letter, the Ephesian church) is being built together into a dwelling of God.

So what happens when one part of this building decides not to be fitted together with the others? Is he rejecting the Cornerstone?

Not so long ago, books like So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore and They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations opened the exit doors for those who couldn’t wait to get clear of the Church. Or maybe they couldn’t wait to get clear of a church.

At any rate, Church bashing has become a bit of a fad, something soon-to-be-published writer Mike Duran has mentioned on his blog, including in his articles about Ann Rice (see part 1 and part 2).

I found it especially interesting, then, when I looked up an old hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation,” and found verse three (one I don’t remember singing often):

Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her [the Church] sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder
By heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song.

Scorn, oppression, divisions, false teaching—it’s been with us for a very long time. But saints keep watch. I don’t know how you do that if you leave.

[For more discussion triggered by Ann Rice’s decision, read “No Rice at the Lord’s Wedding?—Part 1” over at Spec Faith’s new site.]

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Published in: on August 10, 2010 at 11:12 am  Comments (4)  
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