I’m looking at page 115 of Ben Giesbrecht’s book Keeping the Faith and I have a bone to pick with Bennie. It would be nice if he would come here and debate with me, defend or explain himself, but as I know that is not likely to happen, I will debate with myself. On this page he makes a rather grand statement. If one is already entrenched in the mindset that he is promoting, one might sweep past it without giving it any notice. However, if one is given to thinking at all, one should surely pause and at least wonder. He quotes some of the early Christians who emote with some conviction that they believe there is a holy Christian Church. This is a pet peeve of mine. The fact that someone believed or believes it is meaningless. If you give credence to that, then what do you do with the Hindu, the Buddhist, or Muslim who believes the very same thing? The fact that someone is convinced of something is meaningless. In this particular instance he is quoting Menno….Here is what he says….”when transgressors and willful despisers are known and are not excluded after proper admonition, then, in my opinion, she ceases to be the church of Christ.”
My. On what a thin thread it all hangs. Christ’s Church is dependent upon the actions of man, discerning and disciplining, in order to remain true. The true Church is not contained by men, controlled by men, or directed by men. Men can never put it at risk. These are the problems with claiming one true and visible church. It is just so difficult to keep all the loose edges nailed down. First of all, let us review the statement he quotes Menno as making. We know that it is impossible for men to know all of the sins of any other man. A man can only know what comes to the surface, to the light. Therefore, immediately the position has to be modified to state that of course, as long as we do not know of these sins, we cannot deal with them so then this covers only the sins that we know about. So therefore, right off the bat, the claim that the church is pure has to be modified to be a state that can attainable by men. We should restate the claim. It should read thus. “The church is pure, without spot or wrinkle, at least to the human eye. We do know that there are many spots and wrinkles that are invisible to us, although they are visible to God. Since he knows that we cannot see them, he too overlooks them on our behalf, and sees the church as perfect as it is seen through our eyes. God allows himself to define pure, without spot or wrinkle, by our standards.”
We know that the truth is quite the opposite. We cannot see all, but God can. It is His version of pure, unspotted and unwrinkled that will stand. Man cannot know all of another man’s sins, but God can. So right there we run into a problem. This would tend to speak of an invisible church, one that only God can see. Hence, the true church is invisible, because only God can know it. If we would allow ourselves to think on this, we would see that there can indeed be a church that is pure, without spot or wrinkle. We have to make no explanations for anything. You may ask, but what about all the ordinances and doctrines, where do we practice them? The answer is quite simple. They are practiced and contained within the local assembly. That may not be a concept that you are familiar with, but it puts to rest all complaints that you may have at giving up on a true visible church. You see, the true visible church is too problematic. There are far more problems with the true visible church than with the local assembly. You just don’t realize this because you have been taught the one true church, having it poured down your throat with your mother’s milk. You are absolutely certain it is so. And if you doubt it, you find yourself in a wilderness because you know not where to go elsewhere.
At the bottom of page 115 Ben gives more of what he believes to be convincing evidence. He quotes a number of long dead gentlemen, who all assert that yes, they are sure that this is the true church. He names Dietrich Phillip, Jacob de Roore, Reyte Aysess and Hans Symons who was burned for his faith and admonished his children to never separate from the church of the Lord.
Say, I’m convinced, are you? Not really, I’m only being a bit sarcastic. This is by no means meant to take anything away from Mr. Hans Symons, who died at the stake. Rather, my question is “SOOOOO?” What does it prove. What relevance does that have for me today? Now if Hans Symons had said to his family to follow Jesus, to always do good and to love everyone, to read the Bible and to pray, I could be sure he had been giving good advice. Why was it more important to Hans to admonish his children about which church to follow? Well, it could be that there was a good deal of persecution going on and the pressure was great to abandon faith in favor of one’s head. It’s highly likely that he was actually saying “children, if they come at you to lop off your head, feed you to the lions, or burn you alive, DO NOT RECANT.” Yes, I do believe this is what he meant. However, Bennie appropriates this mans’ dying words to endorse his treatment of the lineage and his group’s rightness.The testimony of ten million would mean nothing to me. I might view it with interest, but not be convinced by it.
On page 122 Bennie begins once again to gnaw on the same old bone. He asks this question; “Why is the question of the nature, propagation, and continuity so important to us?” Why indeed! Here he asks the old question. “Can a church be the Church of Christ if sinners are retained in the church?” He appears to be making the case for there being no sinners in the church.
I have very little more to say on this particular subject.
Answer these questions for yourself if you can.