Another Marker on the Journey's Road|
(A posting I made on February 12, 2002, to the Internet discussion board for ex-Chapelites)
Several years ago, coinciding almost exactly with the appearance of this board, I began to realize that I had not totally let go of my Chapel years. I was vaguely aware that they were proving to be a very real hindrance to further growth in the Lord, especially as my lingering "Chapel mindset" (even a "Chapel mindset" that had never really accepted "spiritual connections") related to my quest for the place I now fit in the Body of Christ. As I began in earnest to try to see my Chapel years as God would have me to see them, and to take with me from them only the things that God would have me to take with me, I began to see two Chapels, as I once expressed it here.
I realized that even at the time I had been somewhat aware of two sides of the Chapel, but I had largely chosen to ignore one side and to go only with the side I liked. I liked the love, joy, and commitment to Jesus of nearly everyone I saw there, the emphasis on prayer, the stand against worldliness, the high place that the Scriptures held in the teachings of the Chapel, and the success the Chapel had seemingly had in integrating all of these things into the life of a vibrant assembly of believers, especially in contrast to what seemed to exist everywhere else.
On the other hand, some of the people seemed to me to be mindless and fanatical, and Don seemed to have a side to his personality that encouraged that kind of following. Even when I tried to discount that feeling as being subjective and due to my own bookish and reserved temperament, I was still sometimes uncomfortably aware of things that appeared to objectively justify the charges of cultic practices and teaching. If these had been overt, I would of course have been out of there in a second, but at the time the Chapel's emphasis on "balance" put to rest most of my concerns in this regard. I thought of my concerns as minor, and also told myself that closer familiarity with the Chapel had shown all of those charges to be based on misunderstandings or deliberate distortions.
As I've written before, one of the charges that was made to me against the Chapel was that its teaching about Jesus did not adequately safeguard his deity. Though I had been raised trinitarian, I was not at that time very well versed in the scriptural support for it as an explicit doctrine, or for the reasons for the various other doctrines of the godhead. My commitment to trinitarianism was primarily intuitive and experiential, based on regular but unsystematic Bible reading. In my personal spiritual life, I knew God in three ways—as Father and Creator; as Holy Spirit and Comforter; and as the Word made flesh, my Savior, Redeemer, Healer, Friend and Brother. Up to my contact with the Chapel, that is what the Trinity was to me, and I had no trouble with this picture of God in relation to the scriptures.
Also, as a Christian before I came to the Chapel, I knew of course that Thomas, at the climax of John's Gospel, had confessed Jesus as both Lord and God, and had been commended by Jesus for that personal declaration of faith. Therefore I could not imagine that anyone in the Christian faith had objections to seeing Jesus as being God by nature, as well as of course being man. In addition, every group that I had heard of as denying Jesus' deity explicitly disassociated themselves from the Christian church. This is the reason I was alarmed when I first heard from within the Chapel that it did not accept Trinitarianism, and then shortly later was warned from without that it did not adequately support the deity of Christ. I made a special point of verifying that the Chapel did indeed teach the deity of Christ. In listening to the UROG ("Unfolding Revelation of God") tapes, I found that the Chapel very explicitly taught that Jesus was both God and man. The section in my notes on the "Dual Nature" is one of the major parts of the course, and was the part that was crucial in reassuring me about the scriptural soundness of the Chapel's teaching.
Now it appears that Don has abandoned the teaching on the Dual Nature, leaving it an orphan. He is apparently getting ready to teach that Jesus has a single nature, and it is my guess that he will not identify that single nature as one of deity. This once again proves the Chapel's critics right: UROG was indeed deficient in safeguarding the deity of Christ. Its originator himself now believes that Jesus does not have the nature of both man and God, but is by nature man only. Not that I was surprised, or that Don had any credibility in my eyes any longer anyway, but I found myself somehow saddened by the news nevertheless.
I think this is of fairly great significance, at least for me personally, because it shows me I have been on the right track in my thinking about what was wrong with the Chapel. It also shows that those in denominational Christianity (from whom I received the early warnings about the Chapel) were correct in their analysis of the effects of the Chapel's theology.
But I think this is also of general significance because it leaves a small group of ex-Chapelites on a doctrinal island. It looks like they have a choice among 1) believing in a doctrine that has been labeled a mistake by its creator, 2) taking the step into what is now unabashedly cultic doctrine (denying the deity of Christ), or 3) admitting that the UROG teaching on the godhead is now hopelessly confused and broken, and that they should face the truth that trinitarian teaching may be right after all.
But in the meantime, Don's upcoming sermon on the subject will certainly give us good material to discuss... I've been realizing more and more that COA is really the Chapel, purified of those who questioned Don's anointing or pastorship. In that respect, Chapel doctrine is what Don says it is, and whatever he teaches bears interest as representing the living heritage of what we were as Chapel members.