By Harry R. Osborne
While on vacation in San Antonio, my wife and I saw something that caught our attention. We were driving down a street and came upon a rather modem looking building. A large sign identified the structure as the “Holy Spirit Catholic Church.” Wanting to be fairminded about this piece of information, we discussed possible alternatives to our initial reaction that the sign was false advertising. We finally settled on an interpretation which released the maker of the sign from any charge of prevarication.
The connection between the Holy Spirit and the Catholic Church is that much of the practice of the latter is spoken of by the former. The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul speaks of practices which have characterized the Catholic Church, namely fasting and celibacy for spiritual purification. However, the way in which the Holy Spirit spoke of these things is not going to be perceived as complimentary by the Catholics. For instance, in Colossians 2:20-23, he reproves the same idea about fasting which the Catholics promote by calling it “will-worship” (that which originates in man’s will as opposed to God’s will) and declaring it is “not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.” In 1 Timothy 4:1-5, the Holy Spirit says those “forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats” were “giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons,” thus, speaking “lies.” We thought of stopping to suggest that such passages be put under the sign to show what connection the Holy Spirit had with the Catholic Church, but doubted that the “priest” or others in charge would take our suggestion with much thanksgiving.
Having noticed a sandwich shop by this Catholic Church building, we came back down the street from the opposite direction that we might partake rather than abstain from meats. As we passed the building a second time we noticed another structure adjoining the church building which had gone unnoticed in our first passing. It too was a modern looking building, even larger than the church building. The sign on the structure proclaimed it the “Holy Spirit Family Life Center.” I am still in the process of seeking to be edified by that sign.
Leslie and I have wondered what connection the Holy Spirit has with a “family life center,” the name most denominations give to a structure designed to house various entertainment and social facilities (i.e., gyms, racquetball courts, volleyball courts, ping pong tables, aerobics classes, weight training rooms, kitchens, hot tubs or even swimming pools). We recalled that the Spirit of God was said to have “moved upon the face of the waters” in creation (Gen. 1:2), but could not think of a reference to such happening in a swimming pool or hot tub. We remembered that the Spirit of Jehovah was said to come “mightily” upon Samson in slaying the lion and wondered if these people thought that may have required weight training. We thought about a number of passages which prophesied or related the Spirit “falling” upon one, but thought that these folks must know that such did not happen as a result of tripping on a basketball or racquetball court. Since the fruit of the Spirit is named in Galatians 5 as love, joy, peace, etc.; we believed these people could not think that fruit, was apples, oranges, and peaches necessitating a kitchen to facilitate the consumption of such. We are still pondering the relation these people saw between the Holy Spirit and their recreational facility.
It made us remember that many of our liberal brethren are evidently of one mind with these Catholics in this matter. They, too, are building their family fife centers to rival the very latest among the denominations. Surely they would not be doing so without believing such was approved by God. However, since the Holy Spirit revealed the mind of God through the apostles (1 Cor. 2:10-13), the record of that complete revelation which we possess in the New Testament must declare that approval. Would it be out of line for us to ask them where they find that approval? They must believe the Holy Spirit is connected with their family life centers, even if they will not state it as boldly as their Catholic allies in this matter. Well, where is the connection? We read about the church being “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Where do they read about the church providing the pillar and ground for the basketball court? We read about providing for the spiritual maturity of saints in the truth (Eph. 4:11-16). Where do they read about it providing a hot tub in which to soak sore muscles after a racquetball or aerobics workout?
Normally, our liberal brethren when pressed for the authority to justify their social gospel efforts reply that they are “expedients.” Maybe this is the connection between the Holy Spirit and their family life centers. The Holy Spirit does speak of expedients through the apostle Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23). The bad news for our liberal brethren is that both places speak of an expedient as being something which is first lawful. That makes sense. By the very term, we would expect an “expedient” to “expedite” or help something to be done. The question is, “What is being expedited by means of this expedient?” With that question in mind, these brethren still have a problem. What is the work of the church which these family life centers expedite? Evangelism of the world? Education of the brethren? Benevolence towards the saints? I fail to see how a hot tub or volleyball court could teach a sinner about the need for or identification of the Savior. Furthermore, I have the same problem in seeking edification or benevolence furthered or expedited by an aerobics class or swimming pool. No, the appeal for “expediency” to be the connection between the Holy Spirit and their family life centers won’t work!
Those present at the Nashville meeting heard numerous justifications for these recreational facilities built and maintained by churches. One brother said they were a form of advertising much more effective than our newspaper ads. Others said they were not authorized, but were too small a thing to divide over. Another segment of the speakers justified them through their “New Hermeneutic” of a “Christiological approach” to interpreting the Bible. For us simpletons, that means these new thinkers figure Christ would like to have played in and invited others to play in these “family life centers,” therefore the church can pay for them. None of these explanations will work either. They are not advertising an authorized work, but creating a new work for the church in the realm of recreation which is wholly unauthorized. Since Christ revealed his desires for the work of local churches through his apostles without mentioning recreation one time, who are these new thinkers to suppose he must have wanted such? It may be a small thing to our liberal brethren, but it is important to God whether we act in obedience to his will or disobey due to presumptuousness.
No, the connection between the Holy Spirit and these “family life centers” is not found in these feeble justifications. Instead, the connection is found in the same place we found the connection between the Holy,- Spirit and the Catholic Church. The Holy Spirit condemns the Catholic Church because it is not in harmony with his teaching regarding the true church. The Catholics go beyond that pattern laid down in the Spirit’s teaching and stand condemned (2 Jn. 9). Likewise, the Holy Spirit condemns our liberal brethren’s digression into the social gospel efforts because they are not in harmony with Ins teaching regarding the work of the true church. The liberals have gone beyond the pattern laid down in the Spirit’s teaching and stand condemned (2 Jn. 9).
Many institutional brethren understand the problem, but are not sure what to do about it. In recent years, several young preachers have left institutionalism because they see the digression brought on by going beyond God’s pattern. The family fife centers are merely one ample of this digression which also has brought the “sponsoring church arrangement,” institutions doing the work of the church, and a variety of innovations totally void of scriptural authority. Given the statements by several at Nashville, that digression is not complete., The denial of the inerrancy of Scripture, verbal inspiration, and the call for a “New Hermeneutic” in an effort to “re-interpret the Bible” suggest the digression is picking up pace. Many of them are not only “liberal” with regard to their views on the authority for their practices, but are “liberal” in the classical sense of the word! May our prayer be that some of our institutional brethren will see the danger and leave this error before it blends imperceptibly into mainstream denominationalism. Let us work to bring the truth on these issues to our erring brethren before it is too late!
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 7, pp. 195-196
April 6, 1989