Why even bother writing into the ether?

Mr. Knowles, former managing editor of The Plain Truth, published by the Worldwide Church of God, makes his living as a writer. This article is part of Mr. Knowles' "Out of the Box" series of editorials.

By Brian Knowles

MONROVIA, Calif.--At times I despair of writing a column that maybe--optimistic estimate--10 people read. One wonders if writing a column such as this is yet another exercise in futility.

Is it merely a catharsis or an ego trip on my part? Do I write out of mere compulsion or because I actually have something useful to say?

As we enter the period known by the Jews as the Days of Awe, self-examination is appropriate.

The world around us is in a bad way. Ideally we Christians ought to be able to speak to that situation. We should be able to offer God's solutions to the world's ills. After all, those ills are the result of sin, are they not? Is it not legitimate for us to address issues of cause and effect and offer solutions? I think it is.

In pursuit of labels

The problem with Christians is that they are divided into myriad competing denominations that don't see eye to eye on much of anything. The church is clearly a house divided against itself.

Consequently, we can't speak effectively, and with credibility, about many things that go on in the world. Instead we tend to speak out of denominational or doctrinal bias that is off-putting to our audiences. (Once people can hang a label on you, they can screen you out.)

The church has hitherto been unable to solve its own problems--or even agree on what the church really is. The spirit of exclusivism has divided us every which way from the middle. That means that many of our messages are largely lost on a world that's headed for oblivion.

For someone like myself to be published in any literary vehicle that could have an impact on society in general would take a miracle of God. Why? Because my point of view is too esoteric, too out of the mainstream of Christian or secular or Church of God thinking. It serves no one's interests but God's (at least I pray that it does). It's apolitical and nondenominational. At the same time, it is those very qualities that ought to suggest its value.

The example of C.S. Lewis

One of my literary heroes is C.S. Lewis. What I liked about him is that he spoke to the world at large rather than just to the church. He sought to make the Christian faith relevant to the world in which he lived and functioned. He thought far beyond the confines of his denomination. Lewis saw Christianity in generic terms rather than in exclusivistic ones.

I believe this principle is vitally important in our modern world. The true goal of the gospel is not to pull people into "our" church in order to capture their tithes; it is to make them a part of the larger Body, to convert them to Jesus Christ. Where in the Body they settle is up to them and God.

I realize that such an approach is impossible for people who believe that only feast-keeping Sabbatarians are true Christians and that all others are pagans.

The true Church of God transcends denomination. It is also evident that it transcends doctrine. As far as I've been able to tell, after more than 40 years of looking for it, no denomination possesses a perfect doctrinal package.

The deeper I delve into Hebrew-roots studies, the more I realize how true that is. Doctrinally speaking, the church is a mess. It's been Romanized, Hellenized, subdivided and commercialized into theological chaos.

But somehow it's still the church. The Holy Spirit is still at work in the lives of believers across all denominations. We know this because the fruit of it is everywhere evident. At the same time, it can be safely said that the wheat and the tares grow together.

Free exegetical agency

The Lord Jesus Christ, who alone is the head of the church, has not chosen to straighten out our doctrinal disagreements. He has allowed us to languish in the results of our exercise of free exegetical agency. Those results have been, at best, a mixed bag.

Christians are good at arguing. We are opinionated, contentious and the only kind of human that seems naturally to devour its young. No one is more ill-treated by the church than another Christian who is perceived to be a heretic (whether he really is one or not).

In the past, we have confiscated their property, robbed them blind, banished them, imprisoned them, tortured them and murdered them. All this was because they believed something other than what those in ecclesiastical authority believed.

The truth about the bloody history of the Christian church is hard to take. Even the history of the Churches of God pod is not without its casualties and tragedies. I hear almost daily horror stories of what various ministers "did to me." I hear about deacons who act more like grand inquisitors than servants of the church. I am frequently told about third-party reporting on ministers and members that is nothing less than libel and slander.

Why bother with the pod?

Why write into this mess?

I write to help straighten it out, that's why: to bring about reform; to edify the Body of Christ.

At this point someone is liable to say: "Well, Knowles, you're mighty ambitious. After all, if you have only 10 readers, how do you expect to make a dent in the problem?"

True, but one changed heart is worth all of the columns I've ever written into the ether. James advises us to remember: "Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins" (James 5:20).

In context, James is talking about people who have wandered from the truth (verse 19).

Sometimes writing a column seems a thankless task, especially to such a small, esoteric audience. Yet every once in a while some reader is helped, even transformed, by something he has read under my byline. That and that alone makes it all worthwhile.

One last thought: If you think writing this column is an ego trip, fagedaboudit. The lack of responses and apparent impact creates quite the opposite effect: It's mighty humbling. I am simply one lone voice speaking into a howling maelstrom of ecclesiastical confusion and conflict. My hope is that somewhere along the line the Spirit of God will blow a word or two into the minds of someone who might be helped by them.

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