Ovid Need's study of Death of the Church Victorious, Tracing the Roots and Implications of Otherworldliness is a work of major importance. A false spirituality and an otherworldliness of anti-Biblical characters have long plagued the Christian Church and hobbled its progress.
There have been several sources of this evil and perverted interpretation of Christianity. First, and foremost, the ancient pagan views of Greece (and Rome) have long commanded the church. For neoplatonism most of all, spirit is good and matter is on a lower level and potentially evil. (In Manichean thinking, which greatly influenced St. Augustine and others, matter is fully evil and spirit is good.) Given this perspective, Greek and Roman pagans in great numbers forsook materialism to become desert hermits. This movement entered the church as asceticism. While Protestantism decries monasticism, it is still influenced by the spirit-matter dichotomy and perspective of medievalism.
From a Biblical perspective, it is clearly false to view spirit as good and matter as lower or evil. Both are God's Creation, and both are pronounced "very good" in Gen. 1:31. Satan and the fallen angels are obviously purely spiritual and yet purely evil. Morality is not governed or established by spirituality per se, but by obedience to God's law-word. Sin involves man's I whole being, material and spiritual, and our moral obedience to God similarly involves our heart, mind and being, every part of us. To flee the material realm is not Biblical, but a form of paganism. We are called to Godliness, not neoplatonic spirituality.
For centuries, however, neoplatonic spirituality has undermined Christianity. The remarkable vigor of English Puritanism, for example, was undermined by the Cambridge Platonism. What appeared as a "spiritual" advance was in fact a radical retreat from victory.
It is time for the church to break with spirituality in the name of Biblical Christianity. How each spirituality has warped and distorted the faith can be seen in such patristic writings as St. Gregory of Nyssa's work on the books of Moses. He rejected any literal and historical meaning for wildly absurd allegorical meanings.
One consequence of this evil spirituality is antinomianism, an abandonment of God's law in favor of "spirituality." Somehow an abstract spirituality is supposed to provide moral impetus, something experience has shown to be false. Second, otherworldliness means a contempt for creation. Scripture tells us clearly that marriage is for time only, that there is neither marrying or giving in marriage in heaven. But this does not make marriage any the less important! Preaching the Gospel is for time only, but that does not make it meaningless. Creation is God's glorious work. It is man's training ground for eternity. Man must exercise dominion and subdue the earth and make it God's Kingdom (Gen. 1:26-28; Mt. 6:31). Time and creation must be man's concern while here. We can have no part of God's heaven if we do not take His creation seriously.
Otherworldliness runs away from God's requirements of us here and now. If Protestants find a monk's retreat from the world wrong, is their otherworldliness any the less objectionable?
I know pastors who, in the name of spirituality and other-worldly "holiness," have evaded every critical moral issue all their lives. What will their Lord say to them when they plead that they have believed His every word?
Third, another false view has been one common to many from abbot Joachim of Flora through Hegel. The Spirit is invoked, in Joachim in semi- Christian fashion, to Hegel's pagan Geist or Spirit, to justify a non-Christian spirituality that jettisons God's law-word. Modernism rests firmly on Hegel's view and sees a progressive 'revelation' or development, while the Joachimite perspective views the God of justice and law replaced by the God of grace, and now by the God of love.
In this perspective, there are no eternal truths, only "truths for the times," and spirituality means being in tune with the spirit of the age. The otherworldliness of this view is its refusal to believe that God's creation is not malleable by man and his own vision. The world and history are seen as the potential re-creation of spiritual man. These three perspectives are notable in their influence, but other views also exist that seek to create a new other-worldly and spiritual religion.
Pastor Need analyzes those views in evangelical circles which are working against the future of the faith. His study is a summons to a Biblical faith and power. It is written with grace and insight. Its timelessness cannot be overstated. It is a joy to read, and a work that the Christian community should be grateful for.
Rousas John Rushdoony, October 1, 1996
I was grateful when my friend and fellow crusader, Indiana pastor Ovid Need, shared his new manuscript on Death of the Church Victorious with me. And honored when I was asked to compose this preface.
Throughout the past century far too many scholars, including evangelical ones, have assumed that John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren deserves credit for the pretribulation rapture idea. Need proves, with more than enough evidence, that this simply isn't so; he shows that others preceded Darby and that Darby unethically "borrowed" their thoughts and then gave the impression that he alone deserved adulation for the same escapist doctrine.
The thrust of Death of the Church Victorious demonstrates, with painstaking detail and documentation, that pretrib dispensationalism has been incredibly destructive since its birth and development in the 1800's.
Pastor Need brings to light dispensationalism's dire effects: pessimism instead of prevailing, cowardice instead of conquering, isolation instead of involvement -- a system offering a "rapturous" sneaking away at "any moment" instead of encouraging the saints to subjugate and subdue the enemy until victory is obtained!
But there's still hope that the death of victory will someday become the resurrection of victory----and Ovid Need's Death of the Church Victorious is needed to bring this about!
Dave MacPherson, 2002
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