Catholicism uses a familiar mental filter
The writer is a church pastor and a regular columnist for The Journal.
By Dave Havir
BIG SANDY, Texas--We take it for granted that the earth revolves around the sun. It is interesting to observe how difficult it was for society to accept this perspective.
As you review the historical record, remember that the Roman Catholic Church views itself as God's government on earth. Notice how that church interfered with the acceptance of truth.
Power of the church
It is reported that the Greek astronomer Aristarchus, who lived in the 200s B.C., was the first to conclude that the earth revolves around the sun. But his theory was rejected.
Later, about A.D. 150, the Greek astronomer Ptolemy said the earth stood at the center of the universe and the heavenly bodies moved around the earth. Ptolemy's theory was the prevalent perspective for more than 1,400 years.
In 1543 Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish astronomer, introduced the theory that the earth is a moving planet. Religious leaders called Copernicus a fool for saying the earth was just another planet, and they forbade the reading of his writings until 1757.
By the 1600s such astronomers as Galileo in Italy and Johannes Kepler of Germany began to develop the physics that would prove Copernicus's theory correct.
In 1613 Galileo wrote a letter in which he attempted to demonstrate that the Copernican theory was consistent with Catholic doctrine. In early 1616 Galileo was summoned to Rome. He was cleared of charges of heresy when he agreed not to defend the Copernican theory as absolute truth.
In 1632 Galileo published his writings showing the Copernican theory to be superior to the Ptolemaic theory. Again, Galileo was summoned to Rome.
In 1633 the Inquisition found Galileo guilty of willfully disobeying its previous orders. The church forced him to publicly withdraw his teachings and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Because of Galileo's advanced age and poor health, the church allowed him to serve his imprisonment while under house arrest.
In 1979 (almost 350 years after Galileo's condemnation), Pope John Paul II declared that the Roman Catholic Church may have been mistaken in condemning him.
(Here's a word to the wise: If any church claiming to be God's government on earth has mistreated you, don't hold your breath waiting for an apology.)
Interpretations and edicts
Someone may ask: Do you really believe that the Churches of God that claim to be God's government on earth are making the same mistake as the Roman Catholic Church?
My reply would include the following:
Blow the dust off
Someone may ask: How was this mental filter established among the Churches of God?
As I reviewed the last 50 years of history among the Churches of God, I saw a contrasting approach before and after people's baptism.
Before baptism people were encouraged to analyze, evaluate and question their previous church affiliation to leave and join the Churches of God.
Before baptism people heard leaders among the Churches of God mention statements such as:
After baptism people were discouraged from analyzing, evaluating and questioning.
Why was there a difference? Church leaders taught that it was a sin to question God's government on earth.
After baptism people heard leaders among the Churches of God mention statements such as:
Filter of the mind
When people believe that God has spoken through His government on earth, they study the Bible through a narrow lens. With that perspective, people are predisposed to study the Bible with the intent to prove what God has supposedly revealed to church leaders.
When people believe that God binds decisions (even wrong decisions) of church government, they have little incentive to exercise their personal responsibility. Loyalty to church government is viewed as more important than personal conviction and personal faith.
Let me give you some specific examples about how the concept of God's government on earth works as a mental filter.
Because of the filter of God's government on earth, many followers simply parroted whatever interpretation of Scripture the church authority said at the time. When the interpretation flip-flopped through the years, the stance of followers flip-flopped right on cue.
Because of the filter of God's government on earth, some followers did not seek the advice of their families before making such a life-changing decision. Although some were personally troubled by such meddling by church authority, they ultimately went against their intuitive judgment.
Because of the filter of God's government on earth, some followers did not require church leaders to present a thorough biblical explanation to support their demands. Some followers did not seek the advice of their families before making such a life-changing decision.
Because of the filter of God's government on earth, some followers will not even examine the Bible to see if this approach is Christlike.
Other followers understand the meaning of Mark 9:38-42 and Galatians 2:6, but they do not go against the mandate of God's government on earth because they do not want to be reprimanded. If unpaid representatives go against the policy, they may see their serving opportunities within their own branch diminished or eliminated. If paid employees go against the policy, they may place their livelihoods in jeopardy.
Why blame leaders?
If any of you are still at the stage of blaming perceived church leaders, let me remind you about two facts:
Dealing with anger
For those of you dealing with unresolved anger, let me remind you about how the blame game works.
When a person escapes a controlling situation, it is common for him to express anger. His initial anger is often directed toward those whom he perceives kept him in the controlling situation.
It is common for a person who has been in a controlling situation to finally realize that he kept himself in a controlling situation. Therefore the unresolved anger becomes directed toward himself. After he quits blaming other people, then he must quit blaming himself.
As the person deals constructively with the anger, he moves forward in his life. He may still wince when people touch his wounds, but he starts becoming more productive. The more distance he can put between himself and the controlling situation, the more quickly he can heal.
Submit to the Father
We have much for which to be thankful.
Thank God that you are no longer burdened by the mental filter about God's government on earth. You are spending more time studying the Bible.
And you have the opportunity to submit directly to the Father and the Son.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God