Home Page | Calendar | Forums | Login | Turn Images On |
Home > Christian Life > Christian Survival Resource

Leaven in the lump, and tares amongst wheat

The parable of the wheat and the taris is sometimes mistakenly offered as a biblical justification for the resigned acceptance of error in the church. The problem has an ancient root.

Ed preface: The following was penned prior to the Church of Scotland's General Assembly debate on human sexuality in May 2011. The article describes the Augustinian concept of the 'visible' and 'invisible' church which has some validity. However it is a philosophy which is not beyond question and can be pressed into service as a flawed rationale in tolerating error.
In a brief New Year reflection a passing reference was made to pending conflict in the church (using the lower-case ‘church’ as a term which the man in the street would employ to describe organised churchianity). Of course is always fairly safe to predict conflict in the church as it is ever a mix of committed but often differing views on this or that matter of life and/or doctrine.
In the latter half of the 20th century and more so in the first decade of the 21st much upset has been centred around the issue of human sexuality. However the problem which underlies much of that debate – and so many others – is rooted away back in the time of the early church fathers.

The two-church philosophy

As a theological concept attributed to St. Augustine (354-430AD) the notion of a co-existent ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ church was formulated. Basically the view suggests that the ‘invisible’ church is the body of true believers (throughout all the ages) whereas the ‘visible’ church is composed of and represented by organised churchianity at any one point in time.
The concept was later and expediently reaffirmed and insisted upon at the time of the 16th century Protestant Reformation. It was – for the reformers – a convenient way of explaining how the Roman Catholic church – the ‘visible’ church could be so corrupt whilst the Protestant church (part of the ‘invisible’ body of saints) could aiming at purity.
Unfortunately while the concept of visible and invisible church is valid there is a problem. Scripture tells us that there will always be an element within the company of believers that do not really know the Lord (Matt. 7:21-24 et al) and, because it is neither possible nor permissible to judge the affairs on any one person’s heart, there will ever be a mix in the ‘visible’ church of the saved and the unsaved. And this situation inherently carries a perennial and powerful predisposition for strife.
But the real problem arises when there is an acceptance within the visible church of those in leadership positions who are clearly unsaved.

The consequences

Thus we have a situation today where there are extra-biblical teaching from pulpits (including now, clergy who are actively and openly gay) and un-biblical lifestyles and doctrines in leadership positions. And if these problems are not bad enough in themselves, the even greater problem is that this situation is tolerated – even accepted willingly.
Within the Church of Scotland there is currently turmoil over the matter of sexuality, but this is just the merely the most recent – albeit very serious – manifestation of the ‘visible and invisible’ concept. Historically the Kirk has been a ‘mixed bag’ of belief and unbelief and, notwithstanding the difficulties of separating out these two components, we have – and not just in the C of S – created, or at least allowed, a situation which is becoming explosive.
To illustrate ‘where we are in all of this’ a church in Scotland (it matters not which one, it could be any which are governed by elders) called a minister who – in perhaps a way that had not always been the case – clearly and robustly taught the Word of God. Now whilst change at any time can be unsettling, change of this nature invariably creates a reaction; sometimes it can be a violent one. In this particular situation, the level of unrest was such that an elder felt led to write to his fellow congregational leaders in the following terms:

An elder's view:

‘Some things I know, and some things I wouldn’t presume to know. But of what I do know, I know this: that the full gospel of God is being preached in [Name of Church]. I am convinced that [the preacher’s name] has been given to us by God to facilitate the working out of his plans and designs in this place. A rejection of this ministry would, in effect, be a rejection of God’s plans and purposes for our congregation.
There are those, however, who reject such a view. They do not see the necessity for the depth of commitment that is being preached. Enough for them to quieten their conscience with a milder and less demanding form of Christianity [churchianity – Ed.]. But would they shut heaven’s door in the face of those who seek to enter, because they find the Gospel’s meat too strong for them? Because they themselves have no hunger for their God, would they deny others the means by which they may seek his face? It is their right to refuse the Way, but never theirs to deny such means to others.
If it is not our desire to be at the forefront of God’s work in the Highlands, then it is our portion to be discarded as the wood of the vine, set aside; rejected, as unfit for purpose.
As for myself, what can I say, other than that the Spirit of God has touched my heart. I am drawn onwards by a power beyond myself. My bridges are burned; I cannot turn aside, nor tarry with the faint-hearted. If we are ever to progress as individuals or as a congregation, it is necessarily dependent on a steady and ever growing commitment to Christ. To reject this step is to reject progress, for our God will not pour his grace into a heart which does not fully belong to him.
We as a congregation have reached a crossroads, and nowhere does the road need to be illuminated more than at the point at which it forks. God is reaching out to us, he is offering us a place in his purposes, a rich and fulfilling destiny awaits us.
Let us not reject the joy of being God’s fellow-workers because we are afraid of moving out of the comfort zone.
If the ‘visible’ church is to at all strive towards the ‘invisible’ ideal then there needs to be a rigorous response to what is clearly unbiblical in the former. Much grace is needed; humility is needed; wisdom is needed; but essentially Truth needs to be upheld, protected, preached and lived.
And when the latter becomes a priority we can expect sparks to fly. The fire of God not only brought birth and blessing at Pentecost but they are also the means of refining the metal and purifying the bride – the true ‘invisible’ church. The process is painful, but the commitment to it is essential. What remains to be seen is whether there exists courage for the task in hand: a willingness to ‘moving out of the comfort zone’. And all this for His glory in the ‘invisible’ church – the pure body and bride of Jesus Christ.
(Author: Unknown)

See feedback for this article

Articles in this group

An 'exchange of views' on the Pre-trib rapture
During the 'QnA' session with Tony Higton on endtime events Donald Cameron responded at length with rebuttals to Tony's writings to which Tony has replied. (Author: Donald Cameron / Tony Higton)

Deception in a Dumbed-down environment
Our fast-food culture could be robbing Christian believers of the ability to discern between truth and error. (Author: The Editor)

Of the Spirit or not?
During his lifetime Derek Prince wrote on the subject of phenomena in the church and the need for discernment under the title: 'Uproar in the church'. (Author: Derek Prince)

Will there be a sudden, secret Rapture?
A highly-influential interpretation of Scripture evolved in the mid 19th century teaching that believers will –without warning – be removed from the earth prior to Jesus return. But is it scriptural? (Author: Tony Higton)

Sound Doctrine for the Remnant; a resource for believers
A free 'Christian library' resource offering teaching material on DVDs and CDs. The ministry aim is to strengthen 'the Remnant' in the days in which we live. (Author: Christians Together)

Is the church heading underground?
With increasing pressures from new legislation and growing constraints on freedom of speech, how will Christians and churches respond? (Author: Christians Together)

What to look for in a church
As more and more believers are finding that existing church structures, practices and teachings are inadequate and/or flawed it is important to examine some basic characteristics of meeting together. (Author: Christians Together)

What we are not hearing from God's Word
Joel Rosenberg offers some notes on prophecy and eschatology; subjects which he believes are vital and yet not being widely taught. (Author: Joel Rosenberg)

Peter made the connection: we must do the same
When the Holy Spirit fell at Pentecost, the The apostle Peter ‘joined up the dots’ between that event and its relationship to God’s prophetic word. The same perspicacity is vital in our day. (Author: Christians Together)

Christians are being robbed of their faith
Cessationist teaching is robbing Jesus’ disciples of a fully-orbed faith and can result in Christians turning towards dangerous ‘remedies’ on health issues. (Author: Watchman)

Study Bibles: danger handle with care!
A Study Bible can be a very useful and convenient tool in exploring the Word of God. However there is a very real and unavoidable danger when using one. (Author: Christians Together)

When Jesus Returns
Every believing Christian holds the view that Jesus is to return. The 'when' is beyond question: only God knows. However the how and why attract a range of views. (Author: The Editor)

The (Coming) Millennium
A chapter extract from an excellent little booklet entitled 'The Coming Saviour and The World's Crisis' by a Scottish lay preacher and former City Missions' Superintendent. (Author: William H. Shanks)

Satellite Christian TV - Blessing or Danger?
With the spread and reach of Christian TV broadcasting we need to ask the question whether all that we see and hear is trustworthy an true. (Author: Christians Together)

Putting a stop to Cessationism
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit has, and continues to be a subject of much controversy, mis-understanding and abuse. In a day when the Christian church needs to be all the God intends for her, Ray Borlase defends his corner. (Author: Ray Borlase)

Clericalism is killing the church
While there are many sincere and conscientious believers in pulpits who are labouring diligently in their calling, the unbiblical clergy/laity divide is killing the church. (Author: Watchman)

Occult spirits in the church?
A mature believer writes of his exposure to 'bizarre behaviour' in the church; and of leaders who ignored the warnings and silenced the expressed concerns. (Author: DN: a personal testimony)

I will set a Plumb Line amongst My People
When the foundations are faulty it is pointless to fiddle with the superstructure. The problem needs to identified and remedied before the building can be soundly restored. (Author: )

It's right to allow calls to gay ministers
Amongst all the hoo-ha surrounding the Church of Scotland’s decision on gay clergy, the folk of Queen’s Cross were and are – at one level – totally within their rights to call Scott Rennie. (Author: Christians Together)

Once saved; always saved
The 'Platypus Challenge' series kicks off with the question: 'Once saved; always saved'? (Author: The Editor)

What is Next for Rick Warren?
Roger Oakland sees the drive for 'peace and unity' as the bait which will draw Christian churches and believers into a multi-faith mix. (Author: Roger Oakland)

Q 'n' A sessions after Sunday sermons?
The apostle Paul advised his audience to 'check him out'. Surely contemporary preaching should be subject to the same scrutiny? (Author: Christians Together)

Sexuality, eschatology, Israel: and falling leaves
A recent letter from a believer outlined these issues as important when looking for a spiritual home amongst the range of churches and denominations. They are vital issues in our day. (Author: Christians Together)

Countering the Insider Movement: a new film
The newly-released film 'Half Devil: Half Child' is a response to the tendency to compromise God's Word in order to reach those of different religions and cultures. (Author: Christians Together)

Voting: the great church splitter
‘One person; one vote’ may be the preferred option in a democratic situation but it has no place in the body of Christ. (Author: Christians Together)

Facts about Islam
Dr. Peter Hammond outlines the normative progression of Islamic influence and behaviour in countries in relation to the demographic statistics. (Author: Christians Together)

Ten things everyone needs to know about Islam
Dr. Emil Caner sets out some of the basic facts regarding what is by some, judged the fastest-growing religion on the planet. (Author: Dr. Emil Caner)

Obstacles to Spiritual Growth: An Overview
An introductory session to a 6-part teaching course on the 'blockages' and difficulties which disciples of Jesus face in the road to maturity and righteousness. (Author: Christians Together)

The Platypus Challenge
A previous article related to those ‘awkward’ (Platypus) verses which do not fit comfortably within some traditional theological frameworks. This present article sets out a mechanism to address the issue(s). (Author: The Editor)

Platypus Verses
Every belief system has its pet doctrines and dogmas; but some of these need to be challenged. The exception proves – or disproves– the rule. (Author: Christians Together)

Wycliffe Woes
The problems afflicting Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT) are continuing to run over the concerns that basic words such as ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ have been removed in order not to offend Muslims are growing. (Author: Christians Together)

To whom it may concern
With whole denominations moving into open rebellion against God and His Word, believers are being left shaken and unsure of how to respond. (Author: The Editor)

Truth, error and deception
The world with its deceptions and error is a dangerous place for any Bible-believing Christian to be: sometimes it is even more dangerous in the church. (Author: Watchman)

Will the church be all-conquering before Jesus comes back?
Two different and opposite theological systems both see the church as coming to assume a dominant position over the nations; but is this view biblical? (Author: Al Dager)

Something biblical; or just more of the same?
In the present collapse within society and within the church there is great potential: the potential for rebuilding from the foundations or merely seeking to restore that which has failed. (Author: Christians Together)

Rick Warren builds bridge to Islam
Al Dager of Media Spotlight magazine looks at the issue of compromised faith as 'America's Pastor' Rick Warren works towards syncretism with Islam. (Author: Al Dager)

Passion Week/Last Supper/Traditions
Chris Hill speaking on the events of Passion Week. He speaks on the Last Supper and the nature of that meal, the question of which day was Jesus crucified and touches on the problem of 'traditions' (Author: Chris Hill / Christians Together)

Are we really caring for one another?
Has the body of Christ succumbed to the common view that the primary provider of welfare and care for believers is the secular state rather than the church of God's people? (Author: The Editor)

Reformation document is damaging the church
A document drawn up by the Westminster Parliament in the 17th century has profoundly influenced the Reformed churches since that date; biblical in part only, it is severly damaging the church today. (Author: The Editor)

Reformation; Sacraments; Babies and Bathwater
Subsequent to the ecclesiastical upheavals of the 15/16th centuries, many Christians who are sick today are turning to highly-dangerous spiritual practices. (Author: Christians Together)

Off Message: attacks from the inside?
Lost in Translation? Modern user-friendly Bible versions; or paraphrases; or corruptions of God's Word? You choose. (Author: Berean Research Institute)

Depression and the Christian (2)
Depression is a problem from which Christians are not immune. However the response to and 'treatment' of the malady should be markedly different from those of the secular world. (Author: Christians Together)

Depression and the Christian (1)
Jesus said that He those who were to follow him would enjoy life in all its fulness (John 10:10). In this context should Christian disciples suffer from depression. Johan Tangelder has written on the subject. (Author: Johan D. Tangelder)

Prophecy fulfilled: rumours of wars arising
Much of the prophetic passages relating to future events have been reduced to the point of meaninglessness leaving the body of Christ weakened and unprepared. This article seeks to speak into that void. (Author: Wilfred Hahn: Eternal Values Review)

A situation; a request
A recent letter to Christians Together sets out a situation and makes a request. Perhaps you can help; or maybe you are in the same situation. (Author: Letter to Christians Together)

What shape the church?
With the failures – in a variety of forms – within much of institutionalised churchianity many believers are now looking critically at a range of underlying issues. (Author: Steve Taylor)

When everything shakes, in whom do we trust?
Widespread error and apostasy across the spectrum of organised churchianity has caused many believers to question of what or whom to trust. (Author: Christians Together)

David Pawson's Fireside Chats
In a completely new venture David Pawson is broadcasting 'Fireside Chats' with the fist focussing on the riots in Britain in 2011. (Author: Christians Together)

Don't read this...
Warning: clicking on this link could result in damage to your status, raise your blood pressure, cause your knee to jerk and challenge a lot of what you have been taught (Author: Watchman)

Is there anything wrong with Rob Bell's gospel?
J. Lee Grady suggests tha the controversial book 'Love Wins' by very popular author Rob Bell celebrates God's love but drifts dangerously into Universalism. (Author: J. Lee Grady)

The 'Left Behind' doctrine relaunched
With a fanfare of publicity the 'mega best-selling' Left Behind series of books is being re-launched.The question is whether today's Christians are taking their doctrine from their Bibles or from popular fiction. (Author: Christians Together)

Christian Survival Resource
A section of the Christians Together website aimed at being a resource for Christians in the 21st Century facing church fragmentation and false teaching. (Author: )

Kingdom Now teaching: beware!
With many movements it is difficult to define exactly what they are and believe. This article is a recent example of what Kingdom Now theology teaches. (Author: Example of Heresy)

Thank God: someone has said it at last
It is very very sad that it needs to be said. It's also very sad that no one has said it before. It's only an American who could say it: at last someone has.. (Author: J Lee Grady)

Kundalini spirits in the church?
Andrew Strom has expressed strong concerns about what he sees as the worst invasion in church history of deceiving spirits into the body of Christ. (Author: Christians Together)

The Shack; huge help or subtle heresy
In our microwave dumbed-down culture are enquirers and Christians helped or led into heresy by the easy-read attractions of 'Christian' novels and allegories? (Author: Watchman)

The 'Emerging' Church and Straw Men
The (so-called) Emerging Church presents a confusing picture, and offers huge possibilities for misunderstandings as Christians debate 'church in the 21st century'. (Author: Christians Together)

Disarming of The Church
“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe." The words of a 18th-century politician with relevance for the church of the 21st century (Author: John Green)

© 2014 Christians Together High Accessibility Version. (Full Graphics Version)