At the heart of the culture wars, especially the immigration debate, is the notion that God has been on the side of “American Christians” since they bolted Europe onto the shores of what we now call the United States of America. They left their homeland and established a religious beachhead to get out from under the heavy handed arm of the church-state that ruled most of the then known world.
Reformed Christians had had enough of that Church and its collusion with the state, and were justified in leaving in hopes to practice religion without that organization’s persecution. Most religious scholars of that period knew that Church was not practicing biblical precepts as Luther and other great men of God rightly proved. Basically, the so-called Church was an off-shoot of Constantine’s invention when he merged paganistic Rome with the downtrodden remaining flock of the church of Jesus Christ, who accepted a watered-down version of the true Gospel after almost four centuries of being fed to the lions and other heinous persecutions. That can wear down even the most faithful and committed in due time.
After Constantine merged these two factions, the early leaders of the new religious order usurped and enforced a man-contrived persecutor's doctrine on the half Pagan, half true believers and misinterpreted (or rather twisted) the scriptures to infer that Jesus bestowed the leadership of the community of His true followers on the Apostle Peter when he stated thus in Matthew 16:17-20:
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Religious zealots have believed for centuries that (in these verses) Jesus was bestowing the leadership of that (newly perceived religious) organization on the shoulders of the Apostle Peter, who they claim was the first Pope of the now powerful Catholic Church. This particular issue has caused a major chasm between Catholics and Protestants and continues to this very day.
However, many theologians (much, much more qualified than me) answered that question a long time ago and have provided deep biblical explanations as to what Christ was truly conveying to Peter. (See Was Saint Peter the first Pope? ). Nevertheless, the Internet alone contains thousands of individuals and organizations that continue with their pro and con opinions. There are two facts that settle the argument right out of the starting gate. One is provided by renowned and profound Bible commentator Matthew Henry, who summed up the issue as to whether Jesus was prophesying that the Apostle Peter was going to be the foundation of God’s church:
Now we have one of two choices. The church is built upon Peter, or the church is build upon Peter's confession, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Now the Catholics assert that the church was built on Peter. There are problems with this. Number one, Jesus said unto him, "Thou art Petros", which in the Greek is a little stone. And then He declared, "upon this Petras", which is a giant stone, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The church was not build upon the little stone, but upon the giant rock; "Thou art Petros", a little stone, "upon this Petras".
This is great exegesis, to say the least. However, an even more profound fact besides Henry’s word comparison analysis (petras, petros) of Matthew 16:17-20, is one key word in this group of scripture few ever have focused on. It is the word build! I wrote about this profound fact in my book, The End Times Passover (page 32), a clear Bible-based fact that relatively few theologians have ever dealt with in their “Peter the Pope” debate that has torn apart any hope for unity between Catholics and Protestants. This revelation is actually a small and minor one that students of the Greek language should be able to understand, if only they would take the time to examine God’s words more closely.
When Jesus told Peter that upon this rock I will build my church (Matthew 16:18), Christ was telling him that on the Day of Pentecost, His (Jesus') already existing ecclesia (a people called out) would receive the edifying, strengthening and emboldening power from the Holy Spirit in order for His (Jesus') already existing ecclesia would have the power it never had before, (see Luke 24:49; Joel 2:28; Ephesians 1:13). In Matthew 16:18, the word build used by Jesus in this verse is the Greek verb oikodomeo, which means to strengthen, edify, embolden. If Jesus wanted to tell Peter He was going to create something new on the Day of Pentecost, Jesus would have used the more appropriate word for creating a new religious entity, which is the Greek verb ktizo, to create!
Jesus was not saying He would be creating a new religious order (the so-called Christian Church); but, rather, He was telling Peter that through Himself (the bigger rock) He would strengthen (through the power of the Holy Spirit) His already existing assembly (ecclesia), this small remnant group of faith-believing Israelites and Gentiles who are now following Him,(Luke 12:32).
How does someone strengthen something that supposedly does not already exist? If God’s ecclesia (a people called out) didn’t already exist before the outpouring of Holy Spirit-induced power, what was the Holy Spirit giving strength to? God’s ecclesia (a people called out) includes all of His children of promise going back to faithful Abel and up to those who today believe in the promised Messiah, who surrendered His life so believers could live for eternity with the Lamb of God right here on earth. Jesus was prophetically telling Peter that on the Day of Pentecost, those true believers would receive power to fulfill His mission of broadcasting His Good News to all mankind, not that Peter was going to be a Pope. God’s true church cannot function without Holy Spirit power. Even accomplished theologians and masters of varying philosophies since time immemorial can never convey God’s truth to humanity unless they are imbued with Holy Spirit power (1 Corinthians 2:14, 2 Corinthians 4:4, John 1:9-12.
But yet that one issue (the Peter the Pope debate) alone keeps many beloved and believing Catholics and Protestants at each others throats, preventing greater unity among God’s children worldwide. The common believers, those who faithfully kneel before God inside a Catholic cathedral in Rome or inside a modern glass-hewn edifice in Dallas, Texas, have been kept biblical in the dark for centuries, as their leaders continue their contrived doctrinal battles, instead of teaching their parishioners God’s truth. And that truth cannot be discerned until both teacher and student have received this “power from on high!” Instead, those “competing” entities (Catholics and Protestants) adopt man-made precepts as if they hold more biblical sway than the other, when in fact they are both wrong on so many fronts. Sadly, the American version of Christianity is in shambles, crumbling, destined to the dust heap of religiosity, along with those who chose not Jesus’ way, but to practice church in and through their own culturally dominated fashion, to suit their own selfish needs.
A.W. Tozer, one of America’s greatest Bible scholars and preachers we have been blessed with in modern times, himself spoke of the church’s condition over forty years ago when he said:
Within the last quarter of a century we have actually seen a major shift in the beliefs and practices of the evangelical wing of the church so radical as to amount to a complete sellout; and all this behind the cloak of fervent orthodoxy. With Bibles under their arms and bundles of tracts in their pockets, religious persons now meet to carry on "services" so carnal, so pagan, that they can hardly be distinguished from the old vaudeville shows of earlier days. And for a preacher or a writer to challenge this heresy is to invite ridicule and abuse from every quarter, (Of God and Men, pg 16-18 by A.W. Tozer)
Pastors and priests need to tell their flocks the truth, and not encourage and perpetuate mythologies to control their man-conceived religions. The belief by the Catholic faithful in Mariology (reverence of Mary on an equal plane with God), confessions to a priest, repetitious prayers such as the Rosary, and lighting votive candles for the dead (among other man conceived traditions), are beliefs and practices that are not called for nor contained in the Bible any more than the belief by many Protestants that Jesus is planning to come down from heaven and secretly snatch born again Christians up to heaven seven years before His Parousia (return to earth), to avoid the so-called Great Tribulation.
There is no Bible truth foundation, either, to support the evangelical Protestant doctrine that the cult Zionism philosophy (which purports ethnic Jews and the land they currently control has been divinely promised to them) is Bible-based, nor that today’s nation of ethnic Jews will rule the whole world from the current city of Jerusalem.
Prior to this rampant break from things that involved the true spirit of Jesus Christ (who guides and directs His children of Promise to help the poor, widows and orphans, the infirm and the homeless), throughout the remaining years, leading up to the 16th century period when Reformist said, “Ya Basta,” the then known Church had totally decimated any semblance of the true religion that followers of Christ practiced and believed in. Through its manipulative alteration of scripture and invoking a myriad of diabolical, ecclessial distortions, some of which still exist today, the true disciples of Jesus Christ, His children of promise, those who are prepared to surrender everything they have (family, jobs, homes), ready to pick up their cross and follow Him, have been replaced with an American version of Christianity that belies everything Christ represents. If this angers you, instead of hanging your head in shame, your belief system needs to be questioned and challenged! Keep reading; it gets worse!
First of all, one can’t really blame the Puritans for leaving their European homelands to escape the painful rule and control by the religion-state cabbalistic elites. But two wrongs don’t make a right! From the outset, those Puritans who landed on Plymouth Rock got it all wrong; firstly, by believing the Manifest Destiny concoction that they were the “New Israel!” Even though that concept had not been coined yet, the emerging American church viewed itself as the modern Israel and assumed its perceived role as inheritors of the proverbial Promised Land, New Jerusalem USA!
Sadly the mostly pious Puritans viewed themselves as better than any other peoples in the then known world, and proved so (firstly) in their dealings with Native Americans, whom they called heathens. Early explorers such as Columbus and others who in the name of God conquered the Mayan and Aztec nations (of whom historians have painted as mere barbarians) served as inspiring examples for the Puritans.
Throughout America’s short history of 250 years, it has carved itself a worldwide reputation as a conquering body of so-called Christians, almost to the point of eradicating an entire nation of indigenous people through its genocidal penchant, all of this in the name of God. America forced the remaining Native Americans onto reservations, moved back the border lines (and in essence stole much of the land) of Mexico, and has proclaimed its Lordship over most peoples of color, including throughout its history, by building the most powerfully economical, political and societal infra-structure in history on the backs of African American slaves and Chinese and Mexican labor. Let us not forget the interned Japanese Americans during WW 11. All of this was done solely to enrich the coffers of the elitist money-changers of the world! Now, American Christians, what would Jesus say about all of these shenanigans?
And now, as the immigration reform debate becomes more heated as never before, the nativists reactions scream louder than the atomic bombs we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki! And yet, many theologians of today are at the forefront and feed the mad frenzy of the uninformed, uneducated peoples with their “let’s save our culture and stop the browning of America” rhetoric and inciting their flocks to extricate from this country those “parasitic” Latino Immigrants also in the name of God!
Sad! So sad! Not for those Americans who feel their “culture” is being threatened by Liberals and the so-called “Reconquista” cabal (as the Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh led mantra festers); but sad because those who claim to be “good American Christians” have no idea what has happened to what they believed was their ideal of Christianity.They have co-mingled Christianity and Americanism in such a distorted manner that no true believer of Jesus Christ can recognize the difference! The once patriotic tunes written by American heroes such as Francis Scott Key, Sabine-Baring-Gould and Arthur Sullivan have morphed into the background music of “Friday the 13rth!”
Sadly, the existent cultural view of American Christianity was based on how our forefathers practiced religion to begin with. They left a world of paganism only to create a similar one, where they choose to bow before different icons and banners they themselves created, representing their own penchant for a larger and more powerful one than the one they escaped from. Their version of American Christianity has always been a “holier than thou” and “let’s see how many folks we can convert” to swell up our respective ranks. Let’s see how big we can build our “true” churches. And then, once we build them to heights unimagined, let’s see how we can control the government and mandate that all people in America have to practice religion the same way we do, because we are a Christian Nation!”
That version of America Christianity has been doing that ever since it landed on American shores. It has built huge, giant, mega-churches, crystal cathedrals, some of the biggest and most beautiful edifices this side of Rome. It has organized itself into various denominations, yet all with enough money and power to influence any politician they so choose. They have their “Christian” candidates that once they get into office they will hopefully change the “culture” back to the way it used to be, an American Identity (white conservative) culture, where primarily its adherents can rule over and or eradicate the good old USA of all “heathen” peoples.
Well, folks, the questions beg to be asked! What happened to listening to what the Holy Spirit wanted us to do? What happened to turning the other cheek? What happened to picking up our crosses and following Christ, ready, willing and able to die for Him as He did for us, in order that He may be glorified and get all the credit due Him for paying such a heavy price for our salvation? What happened to praying for the needy, the sick, the infirm, helping the widows and orphans and the aliens amongst our midst, as Christ told us was true religion? Instead, the churches then and the churches today have become smug, self-righteous, and holier than thou, vindictive, mean-spirited; full of pride, just like the “church” the Puritans fled from over 300 years ago!
Matthew Henry, once again, sums it up best:
“It is here plainly and peremptorily declared wherein true religion consists: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this:
(1.) It is the glory of religion to be pure and undefiled; not mixed with the inventions of men or with the corruption of the world. False religions may be known by their impurity and uncharitableness; according to that of John, He that doeth not righteousness is not of God neither he that loves not his brother, (1 John 3:10) But, on the other hand, a holy life and a charitable heart show a true religion.Our religion is not adorned with ceremonies, but purity and charity. And it is a good observation of his that a religion which is pure should be kept undefiled.
(2.) That religion is pure and undefiled which is so before God and the Father. That is right which is so in God’s eye, and which chiefly aims at his approbation. True religion teaches us to do every thing as in the presence of God; and to seek his favor, and study to please him in all our actions.
(3.) Compassion and charity to the poor and distressed from a very great and necessary part of true religion: Visiting the fatherless and widow in their affliction. Visiting is here put for all manner of relief which we are capable of giving to others; and fatherless and widows are here particularly mentioned, because they are generally most apt to be neglected or oppressed: but by them we are to understand all who are proper objects of charity, all who are in affliction. It is very remarkable that the sum of religion be drawn up to two articles: it is to be charitable and to relieve the afflicted,”(Matthew Henry Commentary on James 1:26-27)
There is no more afflicted person than one who is scorned, maligned, mistreated, and rejected (especially by those who call themselves American Christians), solely because economic conditions in Third World countries have forced the poor to seek work (wherever) to feed their families and their children.
God’s true disciples (not the American version) are hereby those whom Jesus uses; not the government, but His ecclesia, a people called out, to be the charitable ones, and those who will bring relief to the afflicted!
Joe Ortiz is the author of two books that challenge the Left Behind and Pre-Tribulation Rapture, and premillennial dispensational precepts and doctrines being promoted by many right-wing evangelicals. The two books include The End Times Passover (Etymological Challenges to Millenarian Doctrines) and Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation (The Sequel to The End Times Passover), published by Author House Publishers. The former talk show host, journalist and news columnist is the first Mexican American to host a show on an English-language, commercial radio station, beginning in 1971 at KABC-AM Radio in Los Angeles.
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