“organised religion”

When people rant about “organised religion” they may or may not know what they are dissing.

Westporo Baptist Church (the infamous “god hates fags” church) has no official (or unofficial?) ties to ANY denomination or other church(s).  There are untold thousands of less-controversial churches and preachers, which nonetheless stray off into variously worrying forms of fundamentalism.

For these kinds of churches & pastors, ‘freedom of conscience’ and ‘the priesthood of the believer’ (both of which I hold to firmly), are held to at the expense of such things as accountability or governing structure (congregational or denominational).  Church “hierarchy”, like any kind of structure, can be wise or foolishly designed and implemented.

While I could never say that a pastor must have a degree to be qualified, the slogan “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called” betrays not a little naivety.  It’s not about insisting that a pastor must have a masters degree or anything, but at the very least, they should be accountable to someone other than themselves.

The Baptist Union of NZ does not require any particular degree, but in order to maintain your denominational registration, you must fulfill the (very flexible and practical) requirements within a “Ministry Development Agreement”.  I personally think (and I should, as a registered Baptist pastor, huh!?) this is a wise middle ground between a very dangerous brand of ‘independence’ (or should we call it anti-dependence?) on the one hand, and very constrictive forms of church ‘accountability’ (control!).

small verse – big theology

Matthew 1:1 – “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:”

A short verse.  The 16 words above (TNIV) translate only 8 Greek terms. ((Βίβλος γενέσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ Δαυὶδ υἱοῦ Ἀβρααμ.))  It not only summarises the following genealogy (1:1-17), but hints at key themes of the whole gospel.

We are being prepared for much more than merely the family history of Jesus.  From verse one, the original hearers/readers of this gospel understood that this story was about Jesus, who is the ‘son of David’, the anointed long-awaited Davidic king, and a ‘son of Abraham’ par excellence, fulfilling (and thus redefining) what it meant to be a member of the people of God. ((cf. 3:9 – “And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”))  This is a prelude to a genealogy which hints that genealogical ties to Abraham have become irrelevant. ((Of course, I hasten to add, not ‘irrelevant’ in the sense that nothing before Jesus at all matters.  The sharp discontinuity of the new does not do away with all continuity with the old.))

Correct me if I’m wrong, but that looks like Christology, Ecclesiology and Soteriology (and probably more than a dash of narrative theology) in one very small verse.