Category — Influence and popularity considerations
All churches and civilizations have had their infancy, childhood, and adult age, followed by a decline. When a church comes to its spiritual fall, although it may long continue for many centuries as an external organization, a new church is raised up. At the end of the Most Ancient Church, represented by Adam and his descendants, the church was first cast out of Paradise and then came to an end in an overflowing of evil and false things, represented by a flood, and a new church called Noah and his sons was established. Later a church was established with Abraham and his descendants which, when it fell into hypocrisy, was judged by the Lord, at His Coming into the world, and the Christian Church was established. The fall and judgment of the Christian Church by the Lord, at His Second Coming, are prophesied in the Gospels and the book of Revelation. Following this a New Church is instituted, called, in the book of Revelation, the New Jerusalem or, to use the Greek of the Gospels, Nova Hierosolyma.
The fall of the Noachic Church is represented by what is said about the tower of Babel.
We read: “The whole land was of one lip, and their words were one.” (Gen. 11:1.)
Lips and words signify the doctrine or teachings of the Church, for it is by the lips and by words that the teachings are communicated from man to man. To have one lip, and the words being one, signifies that there was one teaching or doctrine. The church called Noah, which included his descendants, was widespread, and there were many nations around the land of Canaan which belonged to this church. In these nations there was a variety of worship and teachings, yet this variety was a harmonious variety, a harmony which made them one and united them into one church.
As long as there is a spirit of spiritual or real charity, different organizations of the church in different lands make it one, for all have good will and therefore understand each other.
Take two men who are humble and are of good will but who differ as to their doctrinal position. In speaking together, if one points out the error that the other is in, the one who has his position criticized carefully considers the criticism to see whether there is any truth in it; and if, after prayer to God, he finds that there is, he modifies his point of view. He may then point out errors in the other’s point of view. Thus, although the emphasis may remain different, an ever-increasing harmony of thought develops between them. If, however, there is no humility and no good will, antagonism on account of doctrinal difference increases. The same is true of churches. If all churches were in good will and were willing to humble themselves before the Word of God and give up all their cherished ideas which do not agree with the Word of God, there would be internal unity. This, however, does not mean that there should be an ecumenical coming together of churches at the sacrifice or compromising of the truth. For example, if those who believe in the Divine nature of the Word of God —and therefore believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is their Lord and their God—compromise and join with those who believe that the Bible is a human production and deny the Virgin birth and the Divinity of the Lord, they still have nothing spiritually in common. When a compromise is made as to the very essence of faith, those having no faith in the Word of God prevail and all living faith perishes.
The prevailing idea is that charity involves abstaining from a forceful exposure of false ideas. But this is not a Christian idea, for the Lord condemned the false ideas of those with whom He dwelt on earth in the sharpest of language; yet He did this out of pure love, saying, “0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Luke 13:34.)
Union of church organizations may have as its purpose increase of power and influence, protection from a common enemy, improvement of one’s image before others, or reduction in the cost of running a church. Such union has nothing to do with good will or charity, although it may put on such an appearance, just as thieves are friendly to each other in order to protect themselves or for the sake of uniting to carry out their ends.
It is said of those who built the tower of Babel that they journeyed from the east. The east, or sunrise, signifies love to the Lord and charity. To go from the east means that they departed from love and charity.
They said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, . . . and let us make us a name. (Genesis 11:4)
A city signifies doctrine or teaching, and a tower in the unfavorable sense signifies the loftiness that comes from loving one’s self in the first place. “… and its head in heaven” signifies even having dominion over the things of heaven, or the divine things of the church. “. . . and let us make a name” signifies that they desired to have a reputation for power.
It is the nature of a man who has not been born again to long for power and influence, to long to be able to command and domineer over others. In churches the leaders who have such ambitions invent teachings which add to their power and authority. Examples of this in the Christian Church are claims involving the power to admit or not to admit into heaven; also, the idea that one has been called by the Lord to the ministry, when frequently the call was an imaginary response to a personal ambition. Every doctrinal position taken by a church or congregation for the sake of influence or popularity, every political attitude which does not humbly submit to the Word of the Lord, no matter what the consequences, but strives for the prosperity of this world or the increase of membership or wealth, becomes a city and tower of Babel.
When such an attitude prevails, to prevent profanation the Lord is said to go down, confound their lip that they hear not the lip of their fellow. (Genesis 11:7.) This signifies that the inner truth in the Word of God is taken from them and thejr are left “in the letter”—which is not understood and about which they begin to quarrel and dispute, so that there is no agreement and they are deprived of their power.
The literal-minded in the above passages will think of the man Abraham, but those who think more deeply can see that Abraham represents the Lord, whose children we may become. To Isaac it is also said, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the land he blessed” (Genesis 26:4), and to Jacob it is said: “Blessed be he that blesseth thee.” (Genesis 27:29.)
(from the book My Lord and My God by Rev. Theodore Pitcairn)