I finally finished reading Pagan Christianity and I highly recommend it. I was amazed to learn how much of what is done in institutional Christianity today has no scriptural basis. Much of it evolved after the death of the original apostles and was not part of the life of the early church. Although these practices are now considered a normal part of church life, their addition has only resulted in the life of God being smothered in his church.
Since these practices are obviously not scriptural, it seems strange to me that the early "church fathers" would have added them especially when it became apparent that the purity of the church was being compromised. It really is impossible to determine their motivations. However, whenever we add to or alter the teachings of Jesus, the root cause is probably a lack of trust.
Although we would never say it out loud, subconsciously we question whether we can trust this wild, unpredictable God. We're not really sure that he can be trusted to take care of us or of the church. It was perhaps this faulty reasoning that led the "church fathers" to try to protect and improve the church by adding practices that looked and sounded good. In the end, however, these additions resulted in a static church that is no longer turning the world upside down. Instead, we've become a church that has settled in and grown comfortable. For more on this subject, I would suggest reading "Follow me!", an article that I've listed on the sidebar of this blog.
Since I'm a person who likes to be comfortable, I can relate to the struggles the "church fathers" must have had in trusting God. In the past, I've preferred the safety of the institutional church with all of its rules. After all, I knew the pastor and the elders were there to protect and take care of me. If I needed prayer, one of these super Christians was there to pray for me.
Twelve years ago, I started praying some dangerous prayers. Every day, I prayed Philippians 3:7-14 making it a personal prayer. Verses 10-11 read, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." I prayed that every day, sometimes more than once, not realizing how life changing it would be.
Well, Father heard me and took me at my word. He moved me away from the comfort of the institutional group I was a part of and moved me to another group. In time, this second group became cult like with a strong controlling pastor. In that unsafe environment, I found that the only safety I had was in Jesus. I didn't know what I was in for when I followed him there but, when the heat was turned up, I chose to trust him and stay there with him. It was the hardest decision I ever made because everything in me wanted to take off and run. It was only because of the resurrection life in me that I didn't. After three years, I was able to leave but life has never been the same since.
Following Jesus can at times seem like jumping off of a cliff into the unknown. However, as we come to know him through experience, we realize that he can be trusted. He wants to lead us into a new life in him but this can only happen when we give up our safety nets and instead cling to him. It's only then that we come to really know that he's been there all along even when we couldn't see him or sense his presence. When we jumped, we didn't jump alone. He was there all along with his arms around us and, instead of falling, he took us to a higher place where we could experience true life in him.