by Al Maxey

Issue #397 ------- May 5, 2009
What is ordinarily called "religion" is a substitute.
The substitute has the obvious purpose of replacing
immediate experience by a choice of suitable symbols
supported by an organized dogma and ritual.

Carl G. Jung {1875-1961}
Psychology and Religion

Rebels Against Religion
The Religion of Christ, The Rules of
the Kingdom, and Agents of Change

William Cowper (1731-1800), an English poet and hymn writer (one of his most beloved hymns is "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood"), whose funeral was conducted by his good friend John Newton (the man who wrote "Amazing Grace"), once observed, "Religion makes the free by nature slaves!" Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) firmly believed that formalized religion, which he characterized as "a system of wish-illusions, incompatible with reality," had a distinct tendency to bring with it a type of neurosis he termed "obsessional limitation." In other words, the more a system of religion seeks to control all of one's thoughts and actions, the more pathologically obsessed one inevitably becomes, which in turn will invariably lead to the imposing of harsh restrictions and limitations, both upon self and others. When other men fail to perceive the spiritual significance of one's rigid religious regulations and rituals, each and all of these others will be perceived by the one obsessed by his/her dogma as apostate and fit for destruction. Such thinking invariably leads to the oppression of those deemed by these religious zealots as "godless, faithless wretches." Dr. Robert Lindner (1914-1956), who, in his tragically brief lifespan, penned some of our greatest works on psychoanalysis, astutely observed, "There is no formal religion that does not insist, as its first requirement, on a confession of conformity. Nor is there, any longer, a religion that offers a path to Heaven other than the autobahn of submission. One and all, they have conspired, in the name of the Spirit, against the spirit of man: one and all, they have sold him into slavery. Under threat of damnation, hell-fire, they have ordered him to renounce protest, to forego revolt, to be passive, to surrender" [Must You Conform?, written in 1956].

I have to agree with the sentiment expressed by Carl Jung in the quote at the top of this article -- religion is a very poor substitute for relationship. Yet, too often men are content to devote their lives exclusively, and obsessively, to the former, while diminishing the great value of the latter. And such deadly delusion will persist as long as those deluded remain unaware of the enormous distinction between the two. The noted English statesman John Morley (1838-1923) stated it perfectly when he said, "All religions die of one disease -- being found out." Once men perceive religion for what it is, they will forever reject it for the reality our Father has prepared for His children -- an eternal relationship with Him. Why anyone would ever favor the former over the latter is incomprehensible. The Word did not take on human flesh, then suffer and die, in order to establish a new religion. There were plenty of religions already in existence ... another one was not needed! What was needed, though, was a restored relationship with the Father -- a relationship severed by sin. Jesus atoned for that sin, and in so doing He reunited fallen man with his Creator. For man to then take this gift of grace and bury it under an ever-growing mound of religious ritual, regulation and restriction is, in a word, an utter abomination. And for one who professes to be a proclaimer of the Truth to represent the sacrifice of our Savior as the catalyst for a new religion ... well, such a person needs to be taken aside and shown the Truth more clearly (and in some cases perhaps even a healthy "smack up the side of the head" might be in order!).

Which leads me to Mr. John Waddey, an ultra-conservative, legalistic, patternistic preacher for a very small handful of disciples in the town of Surprise, Arizona. In his monthly publication Christianity: Then & Now (one can find out how to subscribe to this paper on John's web site), Mr. Waddey has taken on the task of personally ridding the world of all the dreaded "Change Agents" who, in his opinion, are seeking to destroy the Church of Christ church (which he believes to be the only true church). John has for many years now been especially obsessed with trying to expose and silence Al Maxey, to whom he has devoted a number of articles and studies (both on his web site and in his periodical). As a rule, I tend to just ignore this man's rantings, although I have devoted a few Reflections articles in the past to some of his more outrageous teachings [#243, #340 and #371 are three examples]. However, when I received my copy of the May, 2009 edition of his periodical in the mail the other day, I simply could NOT remain silent with regard to some of his statements. Specifically, on three separate occasions, and in two separate articles, he spoke of "the religion of Christ." Notice these three statements that grabbed my attention:

  1. "Change agents, acting on their own authority, are seeking to change the religion of Jesus revealed in His New Covenant." Mr. Waddey also wrote, "Change agents are rebelling against the rules of the kingdom set forth by Christ," declaring such rebellion against such "rules" to be "as bad as witchcraft" [page 1].

  2. "The religion of Christ, as set forth in the New Testament, needs no revision. It needs only compliance on our part" [page 1].

  3. "It is a double tragedy that many Christians can attend Bible classes and worship services for many years and still know next to nothing about the Bible or the religion of Christ" [page 3].

Frankly, I find personally and deeply troubling the fact that a so-called "preacher of the gospel" would refer to the atoning work of God's Son as a "religion" which has been "set forth in the New Testament" and "revealed in His New Covenant." The new covenant between God and man which our Lord put into effect is NOT a "religion." And the New Covenant writings and documents certainly do NOT "reveal" and "set forth" such a fallacious doctrine. If the Father wanted His people to have a new religion, then He certainly didn't need to send His beloved Son to DIE in order to establish it. It wasn't a religion that needed to be established, it was a relationship that needed to be REestablished, and the latter required a blood offering of God's Son to atone for the sin that brought about the deadly separation. "But, Bro. Maxey, the New Covenant Scriptures themselves make use of the word 'religion,' don't they?! So, is John Waddey really wrong to speak of the 'religion of Christ'?"

Yes, the Greek word translated "religion" or "religious" (threskeia) does appear less than half a dozen times within these inspired writings. But, notice the usage! In Acts 26:5, the apostle Paul reflected, "I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion." This word is used again in Col. 2:18, speaking of those who delighted in "the worship of angels." This was a religious expression of devotion to angelic beings. Neither of these speak of the "religion of Christ." The sole passage to which people like John Waddey appeal for justification of their "religion of Christ" is James 1:26-27. However, this actually proves the opposite. James, the brother of our Lord, is rebuking those individuals who regarded themselves as religious, saying they had completely missed the point of what the Lord God is seeking from His beloved children. "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless" [vs. 26]. Yes, there were Christians getting wrapped up in the intricacies of systematic religion, but they were self-deceived. They felt that "going through the regulated religious rituals" (like the Jews before them had done) must be what God was looking for. Like the Jews before them, they were dead wrong. God was looking for evidence of a changed heart and a transformed life, a transformation evident in one's attitudes and actions in daily living, NOT in the preciseness of religious patterns performed in a religious service. Since these people were so focused on "religion," James informed them of what "religion" was supposed to look like -- "THIS is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world" [vs. 27]. So, what is "religion" in GOD'S sight? That's right -- personal purity and loving relationships with others, evidenced in acts of caring. No mention at all of rules and regulations and restrictions for a "worship service;" no mention of the type of music, or how many cups. Love others actively and stay pure. Now that is "religion" in God's sight. If this is what John Waddey meant by "the religion of Christ," then I will agree with him. I think we all know, however, that it's not.

Since John Waddey has three times referred to the "religion of Christ," I would love to hear his explanation of the meaning of that phrase, and what specifically he perceives the particulars of this "religion" to be. I would challenge him to provide those details for us. I think it would be most enlightening. Since he stated that this "religion of Christ" is "revealed in His New Covenant" and "set forth in the New Testament," and since he informed us that this religion of Jesus "needs no revision," but merely requires "compliance on our part," surely it will be rather easy for him to list the specifics of this religion so that we might all comply. We shall await this revelation of John. And another thing: John Waddey spoke of change agents "rebelling against the rules of the kingdom set forth by Christ." If it's not too much trouble, I would also greatly appreciate a detailed, exhaustive listing of these "rules of the kingdom." Since they are clearly "set forth by Christ," it shouldn't take him long to compile them. After all, His yoke is easy and His burden is light, therefore the list shouldn't be all that long or complicated! So, again, we shall eagerly await this revelation so that we may all comply with the conditions. Further, since "change agents" are "rebelling against" these "rules of the kingdom," and since he is convinced that I am one of those dreaded "agents of change," he must be aware of specific "rules" against which I am in open rebellion. I would like to see some "book, chapter and verse" for these rules, first of all, and then some specific, substantiated facts relevant to my ministry which reveal my rebelliousness. Since John must love my soul and not want to see me lost, surely he will waste no time in complying with my request so that I may comply with these "rules" and be saved.

Let me also say just a few words about John Waddey's perception of "Change Agents." I'm not quite sure where he gets his information, but he certainly has some rather specific (not to mention strange) ideas about what these godless "agents of darkness" are seeking to accomplish. By reading John's many writings, one would almost get the impression that these men and women had somehow slithered up out of the fiery depths of hell itself and were seeking to destroy everything about the Body of Christ that His people hold dear. Mr. Waddey declares, "The changes implemented by our change agents are detrimental to the church, causing confusion and division. They are harmful to Christians because those who embrace them disobey God's instructions regarding our faith and worship, and thus are alienated from Him." So, let me see if I have this correct -- I (and others like me) am implementing changes detrimental to the church. John doesn't tell us what those changes are, however. I wonder if he would be willing to list and document these changes that I and others have made that have resulted in great harm to the One Body of Christ Jesus? We shall await this list also. Waddey further wrote, "Change agents, acting on their own authority, are seeking to change the religion of Jesus revealed in His New Covenant." Again, I would be interested in specifics (along with documentation) of exactly how I am doing this. What changes has Al Maxey made that are clearly contrary to anything revealed in the inspired writings of the New Covenant? We shall await this list also (although, I suspect, none of us will be holding our breath).

Mr. Waddey wrote, "Rather than trying to change the teaching of Christ on worship and other matters, change agents should be striving to conform to His teaching and instructing their disciples to do the same." I was not aware that I was "trying to change the teaching of Christ on worship," or any other matter, for that matter! Mr. Waddey, would you please provide me/us with a list of specific changes I have made to "the teaching of Christ on worship." In fact, John, what exactly IS the teaching of Christ on worship? Perhaps you could clarify that as well. My guess is that when you do so we will find a list filled with Tradition rather than Truth. Yes, traditions can be changed (and sometimes actually need to be); Truth, on the other hand, is constant (although the manner in which it is conveyed and expressed may vary). Waddey wrote, "No man has the right to change a jot or tittle of the teachings of our Lord." I concur. Perhaps John could show me where I have done this. And please be specific, John. Also, please provide substantiation with factual evidence. Do I differ with John on a great many aspects of personal preference, perception and practice when it comes to the expression of worshipful devotion? Yes, without question. Does this constitute a disregard of our Lord's precepts? Of course not! It simply signifies that John and I differ ... something that is perfectly acceptable in God's Family where His children are individuals and not clones. Differing with John Waddey does NOT equate to differing with Jesus Christ, although this distinction seems to be completely lost on the legalistic patternists, who are convinced that their preferences ARE His precepts. May God preserve us from such foolishness!

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707

Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Bro. Maxey, Please add me to your mailing list to receive your weekly Reflections articles. I attended the One Cup Church of Christ for many years, and I was "raised up" within that tradition. The group that prints the Old Paths Advocate are all part of that church family, and I personally know very well every one of those men about whom you have written. These individuals were often guests in my parents' house, and that publication was received and read every month at my childhood home. Last year, after much prayer, soul-searching and conversations with these church leaders (they were not sympathetic), my husband and I decided we had to leave that tradition because our spiritual needs were not being met. It was a wrenching time for me because, of course, my family and dear friends now consider us as LOST, and no longer "one of them." It has been a difficult time, but we have been blessed to find a wonderful congregation with which to work and worship. Brother Maxey, I have been reading your articles online for the past year, and they have been a great help to me in making this decision. I am still working hard to separate what I learned as "truth" from what the Word of God says is Truth, and to separate the traditions of my father from the will of my heavenly Father. When a child is taught that kind of extremism, and is taught to believe that there is only "one true church" that leads one to heaven, it is very hard to overcome. In a way, it is a type of spiritual child abuse. Now, I must sort out fact from fiction, with the help of the Scriptures. I realize this was actually what I should have been doing all along, but I had to get away from these extremists to be able to do it. Thank you so much for your ministry, Bro. Maxey. It has made a huge difference in my life!!

From a New Reader in California:

Brother Al, I was raised in the One Cup church, and, believe me, even if one of these leaders were to engage you in any sort of debate of the Scriptures (as some of the brethren are urging them to do), and even if you whipped their behinds in such a debate, they would spin it in the Old Paths Advocate to make themselves out to be the "winners." As children, we always read the OPA debate reports, and one day my brother stated, "Ever notice how our side always wins?! I'd like to read what the other side has to say about it." Most members of the One Cup church are really good people, just a little misguided. But many of the leaders of this group are very mean-spirited, nasty men who have no business calling themselves Christians. Just my opinion! Bless you, brother, for your work.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, I really enjoyed your Reflections article on Alexander Campbell and The Lunenburg Letter -- Reflections #115. As I was reading it, I thought that I was reading the work of a Disciples minister (i.e., Christian Church/Disciples of Christ, which is what I am), because you seemed to be critical of the Church of Christ interpretations of the Lunenburg treatise, and also because your critics seem to be largely from the Churches of Christ. Yet, from the looks of your web site, you appear to be Church of Christ. Did I miss something? Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, In my latest blog -- Courage to Face Goliath. Thank You, Al. -- I tell my church family about you, and I encourage them to read your recent Reflections article: The Swinging Door Church [Issue #395]. Again, thanks so much for your work with the Family of God.

From a Reader in Hawaii:

Brother Al, I want to thank you for all that you do for God and His Family. Your thoughts and lessons on God's Word continue to challenge Christians worldwide into deeper study and a closer walk with the God of the Universe! Al, I would really like to use one of your lessons on the Lord's Supper -- The Lord's Supper: Perceiving Its Purpose (Reflections #55). I hope to present this lesson on Sunday, May 3rd, if you will allow me to do so. I truly believe the congregation here in Honolulu needs this information, and I will give you the credit for the information presented and the work you have done! Thank you, brother.

From a Minister in New Mexico:

Brother Al, While reading your article "We Shall Judge Angels" it occurred to me that Christians could benefit from understanding that the Greek word we translate "Christ" means "Anointed," and that it refers to the entire Body of our Savior as well as to our Head. Understanding that we've been anointed by God in unity with our Savior could help clarify our understanding of how we (together with our Head) will judge the world and angels.

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Brother Al, In your written debate on divorce and remarriage with Ron Thomas -- The Maxey-Thomas Debate -- you mentioned being part of a biblical Greek discussion group on the Internet in which the members discussed issues related to the New Testament language. Would you be able to provide me the web site for this group so that I might join? Thanks.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Brother Al, Thank you so much for your Reflections. I read each of your weekly articles, and I also print several from your archives so that I can read five or six per week and catch up on past issues. I have also found your Textual Index to be very helpful in preparing to teach lessons at my congregation. As I have told you before, I was raised up in, and am still attending, a very conservative Church of Christ. I have been preaching off and on for 23 years, and have been teaching both teens and adults for 30+ years. For years I have questioned "our" stand on many of the "issues," and you have provided me with a fresh eye to look into these various doctrines and traditions. Recently I was assigned the task by the leaders here of teaching a class on Ivan Stewart's Open Bible Studies. Although at first I was a bit bothered, since Stewart's material is out-dated by at least 40 years, and he is a legalist and a patternist if ever I saw one, yet, after giving it some serious thought, I decided to take this on as a challenge. I feel like you were a tremendous help to me in meeting this challenge, as I was able to counter Stewart's dogma by lifting up Jesus Christ and making HIM the focus of the class. That class is now over (it took eight weeks), and I have not been thrown out of the congregation!! In fact, everyone in the class was complimentary of my teaching. Thank you again for the help you provided me through your Reflections. Please keep up the good work, brother.

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