Mene, Mene, Tekel . . . or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Church
Written by: Trott, Jon Posted on: 01/30/2006
I wonder where I go from here?” I said absently to myself. “There are so many doors.”
I had entered the building rather skeptically, having only met the Owner’s Son a week before. I decided to visit His Father’s House.
The building itself was huge. This had been a great comfort to me when approaching from the outside. Surely, I thought, if His Father needs this big of a building, there must be a lot of others like me who have come to embrace the Truth. But as I entered I was disappointed to find no large assembly hall, not even a major entrance. Indeed, there was only an outer hallway encircling the building. Every ten feet were wooden doors, all equally inconspicuous. I laboriously found this out by taking two hours to walk around the circuit.
Finding myself where I started, I opened the door at hand only to have it slammed in my face. Recovering from the shock, I looked at my hand, still unsure that I had escaped with all my fingers. The door suddenly opened, and a strangely agitated man stuck his head out and fixed me with a cold stare. “I don’t know who you’re looking for, but they’re not here!” And the door slammed again.
I knocked, rather too loudly, and the door opened immediately. This time, the man looked positively incensed, but I was not to be put off. “Sir, what’s the big idea, pushing the door closed like that? This is my first time here, and I have no idea who I’m looking for, much less why I should go to another door. Can I come in here?”
He shook his head impatiently, then handed me a small black book, opened at a certain spot. I looked, and the following part was underlined. “Be ye separate from the world.” He looked at me with a patronizing glare, and slammed the door with finality. Not, however, before I saw that he and two others were the only ones in the room. It was then I looked up and noticed a nameplate where there had been none before: “First Church of Us Only.”
Upon examination of the book in my hand, a surge of joy enveloped me. For here were the very words and Spirit of the Son I had met only a short while before. I had just gotten involved in a story about a man being swallowed by a monstrous fish when . . .
“Hello!” came a voice from a door halfway down the hall. “Can we help you? Of course we can! Now what’s your problem? Don’t worry, because you have the answer!”
I stared, dumbfounded, past the man into the room behind him. There was a great crowd, all having a huge fight, the likes of which I had never seen before. As I watched, a man rolled out the door, jumped up and brushed himself off, and strode down the hall in a huff.
“What is going on in there?” I asked. “That’s absolute chaos!”
“No, not really. Our fellowship is always rather free. You see, everyone believes what he pleases, and they’re rather unhappy today. In a spirit of true friendship, we invited one of our neighbors over to speak, and he told us we needed structure and leadership. You can observe how popular his message is.” A chair smashed into the hallway, as a man came scurrying out of the room as fast as he could go. “And don’t come back, you heretic!” our friend screamed. “Now, can I help you?”
“No, thank you. I don’t think you could help me.”
He looked condescendingly upon me and began to close the door, but not before a masked man on a white horse burst through the doorway into the hall. “Hi-O Silver!” he yelled and promptly crashed into the wall. He slowly rode off, rubbing his head, as the door closed.
“Wow!” I said, and walked on. As I walked (I was building up courage to try another door), I continued to read the black book in my hand.
I don’t know how long I wandered through the hall deeply absorbed in the history and teachings written in the Book. Time seemed to have stopped as I read on and on. With a start I turned the last page. I tried to get my bearings, for it was even more evident now than before that I needed to find the right door.
“Surely, there must be a place for me through one of these doors!” I exclaimed. “Here goes nothing.” And I knocked upon another door.
It opened slowly and a perfectly dressed gentleman stepped forth. “May I be of assistance?”
“Ah, yes. I was looking for a place where the Father’s Spirit could lead . . .”
“Hush! We’re not holy rollers here,” he said. “We believe in a solemn reverence for the Holy Trinity.”
“Yes, sir. I believe that, too. I read it in the Book I have here. But I have been told by the Book also to find my proper place in this building.”
The gentleman straightened his tie, and as he did so, a bitterly cold wind blew the door open. The entire gathering inside was huddled together in the rear of the room, and a man stood alone in the front, mouthing words that the wind made unintelligible. Suddenly, two children began to run and slide up and down the aisle.
With a start, I realized that the room’s floor was coated with ice. I shook my head with distaste, and the gentleman closed the door without a word.
As I walked farther down the hallway, I heard a great noise welling from behind one of the doors. As I was about to knock, the door swung open and a young boy on crutches hobbled out, weeping. A voice cried out from within: “Hidden sin! That young man was in rebellion or we would have seen a miracle, hallelujah!” I thumbed my black book but found nothing to parallel the scene I was witnessing.
“Some folks say the Spirit’s gone. Well, it’s here today! The Father must obey us! Praise the Foundation!”
Huge lines of crippled and ill people were standing before a raised platform, where a great sign hung. It read, MIRACLE CURE (OR ELSE)! and it looked mostly like the line was going the “or else” route through a back exit.
“This is all so confusing. Surely the Father must have another plan for these people. If only He was here,” I sighed.
A man standing next to me beckoned me outside the room. “Assuredly, His Spirit is evident in varying degrees in all these rooms.”
“But if He were here Himself to speak to us plainly, there would not need to be so many rooms, so much difference,” I replied.
“Yet, God has already told us all that is needed.”
The man continued, “It is up to us now to rightly divide what He has said.”
“Rightly divide?!” I exclaimed. “But who’s to say who’s right? It seems to me men can build completely different concepts on the same scripture.”
“Yes, yes,” smiled the old man, “that’s very true, and you’ve only begun to see the discrepancies. They simply abound here,” and with this he let out a hearty laugh.
“Excuse me if I seem irreverent,” he apologized, obviously trying to get a hold of himself. “Actually, some of them are not funny at all, like the room you just witnessed, but there is room for humor behind many of these doors, alas, even in looking at a mirror. Come, I’ll show you!”
It would be hard for me to list all the things I saw in the Father’s house that day. We opened room upon room, in some to find prim and proper ladies sipping tea and discussing the latest missionary endeavor; in others, bearded youths whose feet revealed the wear and tear of carrying the gospel on the streets. There were rooms full of scholars magnifying every dot and comma of the Book, while other groups seemed happy with barely consulting it at all, and occasionally even taking scissors to it. In one room, people were hanging from the chandeliers; in another, spider webs were hanging from the people.
After walking up a flight of stairs, my companion led me into a large, nearly empty room, occupied only by a blackboard, rostrum, and three or four chairs.
As we sat down in two of the chairs, a door slammed and an odd man entered the room, wearing a pince-nez and a large campaign button which said merely “D.O.T.F. Emeritus.”
My curiosity was aroused. “What does D.O.T.F. mean, sir?”
He promptly dropped the pile of papers he was holding all over the floor. As we helped restore them to their original disorder, he began to speak in a scholarly manner. “D.O.T.F. means ‘Defender of the Faith,’ and that is what I am. Now I am here to teach you. What I am going to say will enable you to understand balance and experience it.”
“Without your black book, you will never achieve any balance whatsoever.” The professor shuffled his papers. “You must have an intellectual realization that the Book is your final authority.”
I interrupted. “But my experience with the Father isn’t to be taken into account? I see icy floors again!”
“Ah! The essence of the argument! Your problem with this Book isn’t intellectual, because you know, as I do, that it is well supported with historical data outside of itself as well as consistency within itself.” (With that, he shook the monstrous sheaf of papers at me, and breathed deeply.) “Your problem is an emotional, experiential one, and must be resolved. Let us engage in some philosophizing.”
“Oh, House preserve us,” muttered my companion, and promptly went to sleep. The professor shook his head sadly, but continued. “Why do you believe the Father is a kind and good One, who loves you and desires the best for you?”
“Well, because He told me so!”
“How did He tell you so? In fact, how did you find out about Him in the first place?”
“One of this House’s occupants introduced me to the Son on the streets.” “And how do you think that man discovered the Father’s Son?”
“Someone told him!” I said triumphantly.
“Obviously,” the professor said dryly, “and how did the Father give that authority to go and tell others?”
“Er . . . I know! The black book tells us to go forth and preach . . . oh, oh!”
The professor beamed. “Yes, the Book does rather tell us, doesn’t it? Just as it tells us who the Father is, why the Father built this House, why the Father doesn’t destroy us for our nastiness, and . . .” (he scowled over his spectacles at me) “why all of us need to live in His House. The Book is your final and first authority. Well, goodbye! And remember . . . Sola Scriptura!” (A phrase coined during the Reformation, “sola scriptura” means “solely Scripture” and affirms the Bible’s primary role of authority.)
My guide awoke, and yawned. “Is it over with? Can we go? We have other rooms to visit!”
My guide stood and walked towards a set of double doors recessed in the classroom’s wall. We opened the doors into a room ten times the size of the professor’s. It was filled from wall to wall with people wearing everything from T-shirts to togas. I immediately noticed that my companion was chatting with some men in robes. He saw me, and placed his finger over his lips, gesturing towards me. They looked my way, and motioned me over.
The big man laughed, then extended his hand. “My name’s Andrew, and . . . ”
“Not . . . the Andrew?” I held up my little book.
“Yes. Your guide has asked me to show you some things about this balance business. See those two men over there?”
I nodded, still stunned. How could this be Andrew of the Book? Things were definitely getting odd.
“Well, they both were great men of the Father’s. That man is John Calvin, and the one arguing so forcefully is John Wesley. Now you tell me who had the greater impact on his time.”
“But they had grave doctrinal disagreements!”
“Yes, indeed. They still do. But did one love God more than the other? Did either fail to make mistakes? And . . . most important, can you ignore the Reformation or the Great Awakening? Of course not!”
“Oh, doctrine I understand.” Andrew raised his eyebrows. “I mean, a little. But why worry about all this tradition stuff? We’ve got the Book, don’t we?” I felt a tap on my arm and turned to see my pince-nez professor.
“Now, now. We must appeal to logic. Tradition isn’t equal with the Book as authority goes, but it is still very important. For instance, let’s talk with that gentleman over there. Charles! I say, old man! Could you let us have a moment of your time?”
Andrew laughed. “You’re in for it now!”
A man of medium height strode purposely toward our group, piercing the unfortunate professor with his gaze. “Professor. It is good you teach the Word’s authority. But how often does it drive you to your knees in prayer? How often is your heart broken for the lost outside the secure House?”
The professor grew red. “I . . . oh . . . well, Dr. Finney, I try . . . I . . .”
“Don’t try, Professor. The Book says do, not try. Now, did you wish to speak to me?”
Andrew broke in. “Charles, could you teach this new member of the household his third lesson?”
I found myself being led through yet another smaller door into a room filled with kneeling figures. Dr. Finney turned and faced me, and his eyes seemed to pierce my heart. “Do you see these soldiers?”
“I don’t understand.”
“No, I suppose you don’t,” he said softly. “There is a tremendous need for more soldiers like this. You see, so many hold the Word in their hands, agree with it intellectually, but never (and with this his voice broke), never allow it to enter the holy of holies, their hearts. What good is the Book if none obey its commands?”
Charles Finney continued, “These men and women embrace the words, even those words that cut, for they realize that just as the Son once relinquished His inheritance, so they must surrender their wills to His will. So they die as missionaries, stand against social injustices, speak the truth in season and out of season, and obey, no matter the cost. They desire His will, not their own.” He placed his hand upon my shoulder. “What do you desire?”
I bent my head in shame, afraid to even look at this man of the Father’s.
My guide called to me, and we walked away together, although I just had to look back at Charles Finney. A curious, burning ache came from within me as we walked to a doorway and through it.
We stood again in the hallway from which we’d come, the endless doors stretching away on each side. I began to feel a glow of satisfaction, for I believed that finally I had achieved balance.
“Well,” said I to my guide, “I thank you for your help in making me a balanced follower of the Father. I don’t think I’ll be needing any of these rooms. After all, the imbalances most of these people have would hinder me, since I understand true balance.”
“Oh, you don’t think these people have anything for you, eh?”
“No, not really. I can pray for them, but seriously, I just couldn’t live on such a low level of wisdom. You must be balanced, and I’m sure you don’t deal with these rooms.”
“Deal with them? Oh, yes, I built many of the first ones.”
“But . . . but you must be mad!”
“My name is Paul. Paul of Tarsus . . .”
I felt weak.
Paul turned to me. “Open that door.” He pointed one out, and I slowly turned the knob.
I walked in, and immediately noticed something that made me shudder. In the room (which was extremely cramped) a small group of people sat in a tight circle. All their faces held an expression of gloating satisfaction, the kind of look that reminded me of Charles Finney only as an opposite.
“Look well. This is the room you would have entered sooner or later anyway. Tell me if it pleases you.”
A simpering young woman turned toward me and said, “Look at the special way the Father has blessed us with the truth!”
“Yes, our fellowship can afford to ignore these other poor fools. They just weren’t prepared spiritually for it,” trumpeted an older man. “We’re truly balanced.”
I looked at the closed circle, and again remembered Finney and the room full of suffering, thirsty souls. Spinning around, I ran out the door . . .
We hope you enjoyed the above story. It is a light attempt to bring to attention that which all of us have encountered: our tendency to sway from one balance to the other, all the while deeming each as the higher light. We here at JPUSA have seen this in ourselves. While growing in certain phases in our spiritual walk we have perhaps been overboard in certain areas while neglecting others. Surely we can all recognize this in ourselves . . . or can we? This is the point for which this article was written, that we can all accept (or at least be willing to accept) this persistent flaw. There is indeed a delicate balance the Lord would have us draw, all the while realizing we will never be completely “balanced” until the Lord brings us home. Therefore, there is a real need for tolerance toward others that we consider “off” in certain areas. (We are not referring here to groups or individuals with serious scriptural deviations—for example, denying the deity of Christ.) We may have different lifestyles or emphasis on certain aspects of Christianity. But if we will have an open and learning heart toward one another, while respecting each other’s call, then surely we will complete Paul’s joy by living in harmony, being of the same mind, one in purpose, and having the same love (Phil. 2:2).
First published in Cornerstone (ISSN 0275-2743), Vol. 26, Issue 113 (1997), p. 13-14, 22.
© 1997 Cornerstone Communications, Inc.
Electronic version may contain minor changes and corrections from printed version.
Copyright © 1999 Cornerstone Communications, Inc.
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