No Argument

They overcame [the Accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. (Revelations 12:11 NKJV)

Let’s paraphrase that: We gain access to God’s favor and Presence by the sacrifice of His Son, escaping our slavery to the Devil. By living out the implications of His teaching, we present a claim to other people who are similarly trapped. We are willing to press this claim in the face of any resistance and threat.

We know that the only way anyone will accept our claim is by the miracle of God’s grace in their souls, making them receptive to the truth of our message because He writes it into their hearts. But we present the message to all we encounter, because we have no way of knowing who has already been sealed by the Spirit. All we can know about it is that, at any given time and place, the majority will not be moved.

There is no argument we can offer to break human resistance to our message. It’s not a matter of words and logic, but the power of the Holy Spirit working in their hearts. So we must ensure first that we live this message, so that any words are but a mere aspect of the bigger message of our existence. Don’t rely on reason and debate, even if you are highly talented in that area. Use every tool God places in your hands to present the message for those whom God has prepared to receive it.

We can sum up that testimony as living by Biblical Law. That’s a synonym for the character and personality of Jesus Christ; He is the living Law of God. Jesus acted under the Covenant of Moses, though He flatly stated that the written record of that covenant had flaws. Unlike His opponents, He didn’t hang everything on mere words. He taught His followers to read between the lines and see the heart of His Father.

Because of His Father’s moral character, there were times Jesus cracked a whip, and even told His followers to buy swords. There were other times He was silent before His accusers, and healed those who came to arrest Him. He bore His Cross with firm commitment. Every bit of that was consistent with the revelation of His Father’s wishes.

It’s been a long time since His day, and a very long distance, both geographically and culturally. The world we live in today has both denied His message and sought to pervert it. All kinds of preposterous claims are made on His behalf, when it really comes from fallen human reason and imagination. His truth is a contradiction to what the world claims.

Our choice to live His teachings is a rejection of the world. They don’t take that kindly. They will come at as with all sorts of moral claims that are false. Don’t placate them. Don’t reason with them, except in the limited sense of explaining just how wrong they are, and why. Remain consistent within the divine logic of your convictions, and reject their demands for consistency with a false standard.

We who walk by the Spirit in this way are unique individuals, no two of us alike. Yet we manage to recognize each other and fellowship together. We understand from the heart that moral consistency that sees each of us doing things a little differently. You have your calling and I have mine. We like it that way. The consistency is not in the details, but the power to act in the face of opposition. We see the divine sweetness of shalom in each other’s lives. What we see is not visible to fallen human minds, only to the mind awakened by subjection to the Spirit, who makes us all the Father’s unique children.

This power to walk together is part of our witness. However, nothing will convince anyone who isn’t elect. Only those called can accept the truth without argument. They are not going to like what we say and do, so steel yourself for resistance. Don’t apologize; be bold.

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Radix Nuntius

(radix nuntius — Latin for “root message”)

The gospel message is not so much in the words of Scripture, but in bringing folks home to the God who made them.

When Jesus spoke of the Good News, it wasn’t that everyone could get their own copy of the Scriptures, but that everyone was invited to seek the Creator’s favor. Those He opposed had closed up access to the blessings of shalom against the majority of their own nation. Jesus opened the door, first to all Jews, then to all humans. His whole message was that the published documents of the Covenant could not be used as a barrier to exclude people. Exclusion came from human intransigence against God’s revelation.

The spiritual wilderness is anywhere outside the camp of the Saints. That wilderness covers a lot of territory, because the only creativity the Devil has is in putting new twists on the truth. The lost souls of our world today aren’t standing in the same place as the lost souls of the First Century Roman Empire, who in turn were not standing in the same place as the lost Jews. However, those two groups were much closer to each other than any of us are to either of them.

The message of Jesus was to His own nation. Judaism was a nasty perversion of Old Testament religion, so He tailored His message to get them back to the real covenant. When Peter expanded the gospel to include Samaritans, there was yet another package of perversions against the Old Testament message that he had to address in the Samaritan version of the Old Testament. And when Peter dealt with the vision of the sheet coming down out of the sky, it meant making more adjustments to reach people who were familiar with Judaism, but were outside of it. Paul went farther still, taking the message to folks who were only vaguely aware of Jewish religion, if at all. And he got into a pretty heated debate with the Jewish Christian leadership about how that message should be phrased and presented (Acts 15).

Today we face a world that is rather well acquainted with the false gospel of Western Christian religion, a message that comes in multiple flavors of falsehood. Anything we say is likely to sound a little bit like some of the current noises made by mainstream churches, but at some point we will distinguish ourselves after we get people’s attention.

Once again: We don’t try to “get people saved.” We seek to teach them how to live a saved life so that, should it be they are among God’s elect, they’ll recognize Him in our message. I am convinced that, in broad general terms, our message to this world is more a matter of, “You aren’t living according to the Creator’s design.” Whether or not anyone can live by Biblical Law rests entirely on whether God calls them to that covenant, but the focus of what we share is what the covenant does and what it demands.

And the starting place to offering that message is that we first establish together what it means to live according to the Creator’s design experientially. We have to talk about it amongst ourselves and then do it, so that we have a message to those outside our covenant. Once we demonstrate that message of living by divine design, we then have a place to stand and tell the world they need what we have.

It’s not that we neglect the blood of Jesus, but that we place that symbol in it’s proper context. The context is to reestablish the fundamental message to all Creation: God made us for better things. This first assumes folks are aware things aren’t working too well for them, so without that, nobody is going to hear us in the first place. Once we can get them aware of the discomfort that comes from ignoring His revelation, we can begin to explain our situation in a fallen world. Then we can share that God has granted a revelation of how to return to the ideal. It’s that Flaming Sword at the Gate of Eden; Jesus’ blood has purchased an easier access and use of that Sword. We can talk about penitence and self-death, of reconnecting the mind to follow the leadership of the heart.

So we emphasize this mystical thing of awakening the power of convictions in the heart to rule over human reason, because convictions are written into our very existence by the finger of God. Convictions reflect the divine moral character of our Creator, and always lead us to Him. They always shape our thoughts and behavior in ways more consistent with reality as God made it. Convictions lead us to the Bible and help us make sense of it. Convictions teach us to live together in moral unity, not human uniformity. Convictions teach us to seek His glory in every context, because whatever reflects His glory is always in our best interest.

I realize that this can open a big can of worms, but I don’t see much choice: If you want to give this a name, the most useful one is “Christian Mysticism.” Regardless of what that label conjures in the minds of people in our world, that’s the most accurate label we have right now. It’s a good place to start the conversation about Radix Fidem, which is a label they surely haven’t encountered before. And Radix Fidem is a covenant, not a religion per se. It’s an agreement to approach religion in a certain way (a meta-religion). And regardless of how our religion turns out for each of us, by a divine miracle it brings us all close enough together to cooperate, to worship and work together on improving our message.

Don’t worry about the words; don’t try to learn this. Absorb it. If anything, unlearn the mainstream religious stuff that hinders. Let this message speak to your heart and awaken the convictions already there. If it doesn’t call your name, you can’t get this religion at all. But if it does call your name, don’t rest until you find your own path and start sensing the peace with God that we claim to share. We have shalom because our convictions tell us that we are living according to the Creator’s design. It’s not a place, but a path, ever moving because He calls us to the next level.

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The Prophetic Office

It should be obvious from Scripture that, while a king might have a court seer, the actual presence of genuine prophets was a matter of God’s provision. The difference between to two terms “prophet” and “seer” is not something easily rendered into English. The terms refer to a common core calling from God, but tend to express themselves differently. A seer is someone who does this work all the time by profession, whereas prophets have widely varying commissions from God. A seer is presumed to be a prophet, but not all prophets were seers. By New Testament times, the terms had lost their distinction, and you’ll see the Greek term translated into the English word “prophet” labeling both offices.

We also know that Samuel in the Old Testament was both Judge and Prophet, and judges of that sort were actually more like special elders. They had a commission from God that placed them in obvious authority, never mind the existing network of hereditary elders, chiefs and nobles. An Old Testament king was simply formalizing the function of judge as an institutionalized office.

Now Samuel led a School of the Prophets. This took root as an institution that ebbed and flowed in the history of Israel, and we glimpse it now and then. What isn’t obvious to our minds from this distance is how one can sense a calling to prophetic ministry and not carry the label. Samuel’s objective seems to have been establishing a cadre of folks who would learn how to maintain a prophetic orientation on life. It would reduce the moral chaos seen in the Period of Judges.

A prophet in that sense is someone who thinks in terms of God’s priorities within the context. It’s being able to view the current situation in terms of how God does things. Thus, it’s a mind organized to consider the situation in light of revelation, along with a tendency to receive strong urges to communicate some of these insights.

Obviously this requires a great deal of study for the mind to learn how to kneel before conviction, because our world tends to teach us a lot of bad habits that we must unlearn. You could learn a lot from a prophetic academy even if you weren’t actually used by God to prophesy. Thus, it became an institution in Israel that kept this prophetic orientation, and produced a significant portion of Scripture over the centuries. The books of Samuel and Kings were written and edited by these folks, whereas the Chronicles were penned by royal appointed secretaries.

By now you may grasp that the School of Prophets was often within a close orbit of the Temple and the priesthood. Such was the case at times, yet it remained a separate institution. They did overlap a great deal, and we see that some portion the prophetic Psalms were written by priests. In the Old Testament, worship music was largely a priestly function. It wouldn’t mean all music composition would be in priestly hands, but that we would have a cadre of ordained priestly musicians leading most of the worship in churches. It would all be tinged with a prophetic tone, with a strong stripe of anti-establishment watchfulness. People forget that it is part of Hebrew culture to watch out for slipping into elitist human wisdom. There stood a strong ethic of people in leadership roles not taking themselves too seriously.

There was clearly an aim at holding institutions and people accountable to the moral fundamentals. Prophecy is not like a pipeline of random predictions pouring into your mind. A prophetic message is not written by God on a blank slate, to be delivered word for word. It’s an orientation on God’s glory and how so very much of what humans tend to do disregards that glory. It’s fiery urges to provoke awareness of that conflict, with periodic cleaning out of the old leaven.

Teaching prophecy as a task means far more than Biblical Law, but it starts there. It means absorbing enough Law and precedent to have a strong mental frame of reference about God’s personality. That was the whole point of publishing a ruler’s law in the first place. It was so folks within his domain would know what makes him happy; they could look at any given context and predict what he would want from it. His person would be a living presence in their minds, because their hearts were committed to his reign. This is what a School of the Prophets would do, teaching folks to think as much like God as fallen humans could, with an emphasis on refreshing it by shaking things up now and then.

I’d love to see a restoration of that ancient School of Prophets.

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Office and Vocation in the Local Church

Thus, we come to the point where we understand that both pastors and elders teach Biblical Law. Pastors (AKA New Testament priests) emphasize the mysticism angle in their ritual leadership. Elders emphasize the practice of the Covenant. They work together and the elder should protect the pastor from the distraction of administrative decisions (Acts 6:1-7). This is the proper division of labor between the Two Witnesses found in both the New Testament (Revelation 11:1-14) and the Old Testament (Zechariah 4).

But in coming to this point, we have to stop and reevaluate our understanding of the positions common among the New Testament churches. It doesn’t help at all that the first few English translations came from the hands of men who bore a tremendous bias in favor of the Western Medieval traditions. The terms they used matched what they had, not the context of the actual New Testament times.

The fundamental model is the shepherd sheikh of the Ancient Near East. In Hebrew thinking, this is the starting point in the mold of the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Israel. The sheikh’s domain was his personal household, his extended family and their servants. Actual family members should be obvious. Servants were either hired or associates who made their life as part of the household. They were not quite family. There were also slaves, though it was seldom slavery as we think of it in our modern times. These three broad categories will portray what church membership is like. Some folks are genuine family, presumably spirit-born and heart-led. Servants are those who want to be involved, but are not quite up to the demands of family. Slaves are those who don’t really want to be involved, but don’t seem to have much choice. They tend to play along because that’s the easiest path.

This shepherd sheikh and his household is a church. It is natural that he would associate with a wider clan, and clans would associate with a tribal nation as the covenant draws more and more new members in more places. This is not bound by law, but by voluntary association under a covenant. Instead of being so much focused on blood kinship, Christians have a kinship of spiritual DNA. Their association is mostly functional based on how well they can get along over the obvious necessary differences that arise in different contexts and cultures.

The first and most visible New Testament office is the apostle. This is equivalent to a missionary, though not so much like those we have today. This is an office that tends to combine the work of both pastor and elder (see 1 Peter 5 where Peter calls himself “elder”) until the local folks can generate their own church leaders, a natural result of their spiritual growth. Elders generally arise from the native community to approximate the function of kings in the Old Testament. On a lower level, this is the head of household, the shepherd sheikh. He needs a priest to handle the rituals and body of teaching, someone dedicated to the task. But since the elder rules by that teaching, he has to know it as well.

We need to understand that Paul’s letters to Timothy were in the vein of senior apostle to junior apostle. It’s not about how to do things, but how to get things going in the right direction. Thus, the term “overseer” in 1 Timothy 3 points to a senior elder over several church bodies, not a priestly figure. It’s what elders aspire to be. This is echoed in Titus 1, which uses both terms in the same context. Likewise, deacons were assistants to elders, lay members who volunteers to help keep things running. Elders and deacons are ordained to their positions.

Now we begin to see that the New Testament does talk a lot about elders, but for centuries the mainstream has mistaken them for pastors/priests. The church office of elder was the key to the existence and function of the local church body. The pastor was a hired gun, so to speak, and bore a much smaller burden of actual work. Their mission is equivalent to the Old Testament priest — essential and influential, but interchangeable with other priests. They have their own career track and profession, and it’s common that they would move from church to church. Elders are organic to the body itself.

Until we get this stuff right, churches can hardly be a biblical witness of God’s truth.

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What Are We Doing?

In order to say more about elders and pastors, it’s necessary to step back just a bit and review what they are doing when working together.

Jesus referred to spiritual birth in John 3. But this wasn’t new; He honestly expected Nicodemas to have this spiritual birth under the Covenant of Moses. As with all things arising from the Ancient Near Eastern culture, it was assumed the reader of the Old Testament would understand common elements of scholarly culture. We noted in my post yesterday that the average Israeli would not necessarily have undergone spiritual birth, but it was surely expected that the leadership had. It was a common assumption in scholarly writing that one would read between the lines and see the mystical truth behind the writing.

Granted, the path to spiritual birth was that one would take seriously the Covenant and commit to it with their hearts. It was assumed that, after some interval of pursuing God’s favor in this way, He would honor such a commitment with spiritual birth. It meant wading through the rituals and provisions of social law to begin grasping the divine moral nature of God. It meant you understood Him as well as humans could, and that you were committed to pursuing His interests. You would love Him with all your mind, your heart, and with all your human ability (“might”).

One of the things Jesus did was displace the ritual portion of the Covenant, by becoming the one valid sacrifice for sin. The other thing He did was shorten the path to spiritual birth. It still required a heart-led commitment, and you still had to study the Covenant provisions to get to know God’s character, but you could freely call upon Him without first going through all the rituals and commandments. You could go back and get all that with a much better clarity of understanding later; it was possible that the Covenant would make much better sense to you once you had encountered God in the Spirit. This is all outlined in Romans 8.

Hurrah! What a marvelous miraculous gift. But slow down; Paul also warns in that same chapter and the following that this whole thing is totally in God’s hands. That is, people in their fleshly nature cannot even desire this gift of spiritual birth; the fleshly nature is hostile to the intrusion of the Spirit. Without the miracle of God Himself choosing to breath His Spirit in our dead spirits, there can be no rebirth. This is not a human choice; nothing we can do will provoke this thing. We can give it meaning once this thing is done, but God alone is the one who decides. That’s flatly stated in Romans 8-9, so it doesn’t matter what makes sense to your logic and learning.

So our mission as believers is not to “get people saved” but to help folks who are already saved discover what comes with that package. Thus, Radix Fidem as a covenant emphasizes teaching Biblical Law, the divine heritage of the Saints of God. Again, it’s not “law” as something binding, but it is divine revelation of how God designed things so we can conform to His divine moral character, so we can discover our true natures as God made us. Biblical Law is freedom, freedom to explore the sheer joy of tasting the power of His Spirit in this fallen world. We get to experience Creation as God actually made it, not as fallen flesh blindly refuses to understand.

The church leadership are to teach this Biblical Law. It’s not legalism as the scribes and Pharisees did it; it’s not a New Talmud. It’s a New Covenant of adoption as children of the Creator. It is necessarily mystical, often portrayed in parables. It assumes a spiritual birth and heart-led consciousness that can see through the Law.

But we have already discussed how the majority of those who seek to join our covenant community of faith are likely not heart-led, or perhaps not spiritually born, and probably neither. We can do things in such a way as to help folks shift to a heart-led awareness, but their spiritual birth is a miracle of God on His initiative alone. There are approximate symptoms of spiritual birth, but no one can know for sure from outside. So we just presume it’s so unless the person in question gives strong evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile, we focus our efforts at teaching and guidance in a heart-led commitment to Biblical Law (which is another label for the character of Jesus Christ).

We include the Law of Moses and of Noah in our teaching, but we handle those as Jesus taught them. It’s not at all the same as the Talmudists taught it, for sure; nor is it quite like the way Moses taught it. Jesus openly claimed to correct Moses and proposed a better understanding of what God intended all along. Thus, the New Testament teaching is essentially the New Law, AKA New Covenant, AKA Biblical Law.

In ancient Israel, the Law of Moses (ritual and social codes) was a mystical thing to those who were spiritually born. For the rest, typically the majority, it brought them as close to the blessings of spiritual birth as they could get. Granted, it all took place within a culture that assumed folks would at least understand being heart-led, so that issue is seldom addressed, and even then not in depth. It’s no different with the New Testament church, except that we now no longer have a cultural orientation toward the heart-led consciousness. In fact, we have quite a monumental battle overcoming blatant resistance to it. We have to teach it in depth and constantly. But it’s still part of teaching Biblical Law.

This is why all the mainstream Western emphasis on “getting folks saved” and “more spiritual” is a flop. It rejects the heart-led way, and it teaches the lie that you can decide to be spiritually born. Even where the doctrine includes predestination, the net result is a cultural gospel, not Biblical Law. Yet worse, they all assume culturally that the pastor is also the chief administrator. How many ways can they get things wrong?

In some ways, this error is understandable, in that the New Testament says very little about elders, and a lot about pastors. There’s a reason for that: The New Testament churches arose in a society where elders were simply there, and everyone’s expectations were to live under the guidance of one or more of them. We now have to go back and pick up that whole body of understanding, as well, and teach that.

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Corrosion Eating the Guts

Just a heads-up so you aren’t surprised when you see it happen: Most of the Big Tech behemoths are suffering from internal corrosion. It’s likely some of you are aware of the SJW (social justice warrior) onslaught inside all of these companies. That includes Google, Amazon, Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, etc. What happens is that the mandatory influx of these SJWs decreases productivity and profit, and there’s only so much of this these companies can absorb before it eats away the guts.

If you need a clearer picture, imagine how these SJWs are hired, then granted carte-blanch to gripe about every little imaginary slight. They don’t do actual work; they spend the whole day shutting down the work others do by demanding changes, and tormenting folks for groveling apologies that they then refuse to accept. All the most productive people are fired. This is going on right now.

Pair this was a declining economy in the background, and most of these Big Tech companies will be lucky to survive the next five to ten years.

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Option Not Available

In a virtual parish like ours, most of you don’t notice it, but we have plenty of folks hanging around who really don’t belong. If this were an actual church meeting together in some facility in meat space, you would see it up close and in your face. It’s not possible to have anything like a church that doesn’t include a bunch of folks who don’t seem to have “it.” This is what the Parable of the Sower is about, and it applied to Old Testament Israel, as well.

In fact, throughout most of Israel’s history, the bulk of the nation was just going through the motions. To the degree we emphasize the continuity between the Old and New Testaments, this is simply part of the experience that no one escapes. Under any covenant you can imagine, there will always be folks involved who just don’t get it. Some of you with families who aren’t yet into the heart-led way can see why this is so. You may be head of household, and you can by strong persuasion gain a measure of compliance with the teachings of Radix Fidem, but there is nothing you can do to drag them across that invisible boundary into the invisible Kingdom of Hearts.

Having a pure congregation of true believers is not an option. Get used to it, folks. We are still operating in a fallen world. This is why we still have to understand politics. You will always have to engage political theory to manage a church. This is also why churches where authority is spread across the body democratically are churches that cannot be led by true believers for very long, unless the true believers have gained and keep a lock on how the congregation does business. You will either understand and use political power, or it will abuse you. The same goes with presbyterial churches and their elitist system; factions will always be an issue. And the old European style of magisterial church government is subject to factions in the upper hierarchy that binds the churches together. Whichever of these routes you choose, you end up with churches run by those who don’t get what church is really all about. God pastors are ousted, truly spirit-led teachers are silenced, etc.

Any system we develop cannot prevent that kind of political nonsense eclipsing the spiritual purpose of a church. On the other hand, there is one system God revealed: the shepherd system with the leadership divided between ceremonial (priest) and managerial (elder) shepherds. You can attempt to institutionalize those roles and destroy that system as well, just as Israel often went astray as a whole. But if there is any hope of things working at all, you have to stick with that original design. It’s inherently feudal and rests on a covenant. And it must remain small and tribal in nature to avoid the cancer of bad leadership spreading too easily. There should be no denominations. We know fallen people can’t resist organizing, so we learn to expect individual churches pulling together around false principles, but we can make it difficult.

What we really aim for is not some pervasive teaching of doctrine and practice that can somehow forestall going astray, but the preservation of the heart-led way in just a few individuals here and there. When God is ready, and for His own inscrutable plans, He will put those folks in leadership and things will move in a good path. And when the cycle of depravity comes around again, someone will begin exploiting the unavoidable weak spots in a good system and lock it into fleshly pursuits. Don’t pretend it won’t happen with Radix Fidem; that’s just part of reality viewed in the long term.

The system and organization is not the point. The point is that true believers are left with a legacy of understanding so they can act appropriately regardless of the contextual changes. This is why Radix Fidem isn’t really a religion, per se, but a meta-religion — a religious study of how religion works. We seek to distill the wisdom of God in forthright discussion within our current temporal context so that a living body of truth can rise up to walk among us and befriend a few of us. We aim to preserve that core of true believers, regardless of their situation. We do this for them. That way, when the time comes that the Lord moves in some hearts, there is a reference point and they aren’t all alone.

We don’t glorify being loners. It’s simply that we know that’s how God does things in our fallen world. Any of you who find one — just one — spiritual brother or sister in meat space, you have the greatest treasure on this earth. So it’s rather precious if we can find any folks at all with just half the inclination to follow this path, and we are compelled to encourage them as much as we are able. But don’t ever lose sight of the bigger picture. At any given time in human history between now and the time our Lord returns, there will be an ebb and flow of heart-led activity.

A critical element in the teaching of Radix Fidem will be the recognition of politics and how it works, so that we enable people to know how to do what God calls them to do. There must always be shepherds with the wisdom of God to understand fallen human behavior because you cannot escape such people, not in this life. Let’s not pretend that our faith is restricted to issues of individual moral redemption, as if that could be isolated from the obligation to be wise about fallen human nature. That wisdom about human nature should presume a dire necessity and mission from God to know how to put your hands on filthy political machinery and do His work.

Not that we can pretend to clean up politics, but that we know how it make it glorify God despite fallen human nature. We should have the clarity of moral vision to exploit human frailty on behalf of the Kingdom of Heaven. None of it will be permanent; it will always be a brief flash of glory in the context. Make your mission and then move on. It’s just a tool; don’t linger with lust over the power. Keep your eyes on the ultimate prize of eternity in Christ.

This is a part of our covenant.

Addenda: As someone once put it…

The Bible compares the bulk of humanity to cattle. Bullshit is an inevitable by-product, so learn how to shovel it.

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