I didn’t take me long to get back to the community. Yes, I had obligations with my publisher to complete first, but I was quickly able to get back, to find out what it was like.
At the back of my mind, however, I had a plan. I wanted to approach the task in some sort of logical order. Ideally, I wanted to expand on what I had already learnt from ‘A’ before pursuing more targeted areas. But whilst it started like that, it didn’t really work. Because with all the will in the world it’s so easy for people to go off on tangents.
Now ‘A’ had given me a good start. He had set my mind on pursuing the differences between the various ‘Christian’ groups. But now I wanted to pursue those differences. And this time I chose someone who was not a leader—“B”—but someone who might see things from a different perspective.
Q. What brought you here, to live in this community?
B. I wanted to live amongst people who think and have the same beliefs that I do. I wanted to live amongst Christians—but Christians who try to live according to the principles set out in the Bible.
Q. But haven’t you cut yourself off from the wider community?
B. Not all. All of us here have strong connections with the outside world. Indeed, I work in the town down the road. We all mix with people outside the community. But we all recognise that, we also need to withdraw from the larger community to keep our beliefs intact. We all need some way to shake off the contamination from the beliefs of the outside world.
Q. But surely you could live in the wider community and still mix with other Christians.
B. That’s true. But it’s not that simple. Unless Christians can withdraw from the wider community, their faith can’t help be contaminated with other beliefs. And that’s true of all Christians, even those who live in the community. After all, look at the mainstream church. The church has become so entwined with the beliefs and practices of the world, that it no longer holds its unique position in the world. It’s part of the establishment. And that’s why many people today people have difficulty distinguishing the church from and other non-church welfare organisation and agencies.
Q. But surely holding a place of authority is a good thing.
B. Yes, but not at the cost of its core values. The church—God’s church—is supposed to be about standing up and proclaiming the Gospel. It is also about speaking out about injustice. But it can’t do that effectively if it’s part of the establishment. Indeed, being part of the establishment makes it part of the problem, not part of the solution. Integrating with society the way it has, has come at some cost to the church. And what it has lost, is its voice and its message. The end result is that the message of salvation—the reason it exists—is largely obscured and lost.
That’s why we need to step back. That’s why I’m part of this community. Because we need to restore the integrity of the church. We need to restore the Christian faith to its uncontaminated biblical basics.
Q. I think I understand. But can you give me one specific example of where biblical Christian faith is so different to cultural belief and orthodox Christian practice?
B. Yes. Marriage. And this will sound very controversial from a non-Christian or established church point of view. Because in biblical terms marriage is a gift from God to all mankind, and it involves a man and a woman leaving their parents and making a commitment to live as one together.
Now the Bible does not indicate any need for a marriage ceremony. Indeed Isaac and Rebecca did not have a ceremony or a celebration of any kind. Yes, over the years, the Bible gives examples of how celebrations have developed—and at times became quite elaborate. But regarding wedding ceremonies themselves . . . nothing.
Furthermore, in the first century AD, non-Christian historians knew nothing of the need for a ceremony. Yes, they knew about the kiss, the commitments, the exchange of rings, etc., but all in the context of engagement, not the wedding itself. And it is not until the third or fourth centuries AD that we have any record of a wedding ceremony conducted by the church. But then even in the middle ages it was more usual (for the masses) to ask permission to live together, rather than have a wedding ceremony.
As a consequence, in this community, we have reverted back to the biblical model. That is, we don’t have wedding ceremonies. Yes, we have a bit of a community celebration and couples can seek prayer for the blessing of their marriages, but we have disposed of the need for ceremonies. And we have done that because they are not part of God’s design. Rather have come about through the need of governments to regulate relationships.
It also means that we are now free to practice biblical principles in regard to who can marry who, rather follow those which are prescribed by law.
Q. But what does that mean? What are the differences?
B. Well the Marriage Act works on the basis of restricting relationships. And it opposes the marriage of people along close bloodlines, and for obvious reasons. The Bible, however, takes a much wider view. Indeed, it limits people based on the need to promote a healthy community.
Q. But wasn’t polygamy practiced in Old Testament times too?
B. Yes. But it was primarily practiced by the wealthy. Levirate Marriage—as a means to continue the family line—was also practiced too. And our community has no problem with those who want to practice either.
But then even in the wider community there are those who already practice polygamy. Because even though the practice remains largely hidden, because the numbers are so small, it’s nothing new. I am also aware of recent migrants to this country who come from places where it is considered to be an acceptable practice—and wish to continue the practice in their new home. And because we are not breaking any government laws in regard to ceremonies or registering a marriage relationship that shouldn’t be a legal problem.
Despite that, I would have to say that monogamy would have to be the norm.
(To be continued)
Posted 21st June 2019
© 2019, Brian A Curtis