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02 Mar 2013 16:15

The Errors of Elitist Teachings in the Church

by Bob DeWaay

There are no extraordinary Christians; but being an ordinary Christian is an extraordinary thing. How I wish I would have understood that when I was a new Christian. But I didn't. Soon after my conversion I began a quest to become the best possible Christian. In so doing I fell prey to teachings that promised me a Christian life superior to that of ordinary Christians. What I did not know was that I had embraced pietism. I didn't become an extraordinary Christian and I did walk straight into error.

My journey into the “deeper life" oftentimes involved embracing contradictory teachings. For example, two of my favorite teachers in the early 1970's were Watchman Nee and Kenneth Hagin. One taught a deeper Christian life through suffering1) and the other taught a higher order Christianity that could cause one to be free from bodily ailments and poverty.2 The hook was that both claimed to have the secret to becoming an extraordinary Christian. I found out that they didn't.

My dissatisfaction with the Christianity taught in Bible College 3 led me to join a Christian commune some months after graduation. That group's founder taught that all ordinary churches and Bible Colleges were caught up in “religious Babylon." He taught that the kingdom of God was to be found by quitting one's job, selling one's possessions, giving the money to the commune, and moving in together to be devoted to the “kingdom" twenty four hours a day. So in my search to become an extraordinary Christian I did what he said and joined.

By the time I had fully explored many versions of pietism seeking to escape the tainted Christianity found in ordinary churches, I had squandered the first ten years of my Christian life. I was converted in 1971 and by 1981 I had given up on becoming a superior Christian. I bought a house for my family and began a car repair business to pay the bills while I tried to figure out what to do with my calling to preach now that most everything I had been taught, practiced, and taught others had failed.

By God's grace I went back to the Bible and determined to merely teach verse by verse from that point on. It took another five or six years to rid myself of the various errors I had embraced and then I taught Romans in 1986. Through that study I came to appreciate the doctrines of grace. That understanding opened my thinking and was the turning point for my ministry. I also came to realize that the wrong-thinking that attracted me to pietism was that I held to a theology based on human ability rather than grace alone. Once I grasped that, I never looked back.

If the “secret" to a higher order Christianity is based on something we discover and implement (the secret to the deeper life), then it makes sense that some Christians could achieve a higher status than others. But if salvation AND sanctification are God's work through His grace, then we are all in the same boat, and there's no higher order.