Sunday, March 29, 2009

Beware of Grammatolatry by Robert Ricciardelli

"Again, let us beware of interpreting these commands rabbinically, that is, in chief concern for the letter, to the missing of the Spirit. The cheek, the coat, the mile, the borrowing---- these are but the costume. Look within the costume for the body, or rather within the body for the Spirit. Having mastered the words as words, let us throw away our lexicons and grammars. For the letter, if alone kills; it is the Spirit within the letter which alone gives life.”
(George Dana Boardman- The Kingdom -1899)

Grammatolatry: Idolatry of the letter that gets in the way of Spirit led life… hmmm?
Have you ever wondered why there are approximately 30,000 Christian denominations? It seems that every organization claims to have some distinctive that makes them different than the rest, and therefore finding it necessary to separate from the whole. We even assess and prejudge one another in like fashion with our presuppositions and various worldviews. When we ask the question, “What church do you go to?” What we sometimes really want to know is “what is it that you believe, or do you believe like me? “

Last time I checked, there is only one Church, one Body of Christ. The Lord does not mind the variety of cultures, expressions, etc; especially if they are following Him. Why is it that we often see it as a wall towards relationships and working together for His Kingdom within our communities? We are missing the beauty of our uniqueness, and the ability to challenge, correct, and love through our differences.

I need you, you need me, we are one big family… hah!

We often read the Word of God and each other based on our self-bias, culture, experience, etc. We read and interpret out of context, and instead of unity we continue to build walls between us that diffuse the power of God in our lives and how we engage with a world that needs Him. And we are the ones that are supposed to represent Him as ambassadors of His eternal Kingdom.

Is it possible that our grammatolatry, or in other words our preference, and interpretation of His written word have caused us to miss the big picture? Is it possible that all enemies of the Divine, including self has even used Scripture to divide rather than bring us together? What will it take to get beyond the divisions and factions that remain in the Body of Christ?

We continue to hear the word unity quite often these days in the body of Christ. We have many leaders of the church who have it as a goal in their life, and preach it as a goal of their church organization. I do not want keep hearing about unity as a goal, or something that we preach; I want to see unity as a reality and something we live. Jesus prayed for unity and it is the heart of the Father for His people to live in the harmony of Himself towards one another. Let’s reflect on the Lord’s Prayer for all of us in John 17;

John 17:20-23
20“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. 22“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me, and that you love them as much as you love me.

Jesus desired that believers from every generation would be one just as He and the Father are one. This is a powerful prayer from our Lord for us to fulfill in Him. It is also a prayer that has yet to be realized fully in the Body of Christ. He has given us new life, He has given us His Holy Spirit, He has passed His glory on to us, and yet we have moved slowly into this powerful reality.

Jesus said that in perfect unity, the world would see that He was sent from the Father, and that the world will see that the Father loves the world much as He loves Jesus. We should all pursue this type of unity, because our lives should be about obediently impacting others to bring glory and much joy to our Heavenly Father. The power of God can flourish through the fruits of our unity, and His glory in us will overwhelm nations for Christ and His Kingdom.

I believe it is going to take a reformation. A reformation of what we have erected in our minds, our lives, our organizations, and a reformed outlook on what we call relationship and community. Basically it is time for us to get real, get authentic, repent, and get on with living lives that glorify Him. Two major ways to get there, Love, and get intimate with our Father, and love and serve others with no agenda but to love and serve. I am longing to see an influx of leaders who do not even think about what they can get, but what they can give.

And finally, can we try and move towards the things of Jesus the person, our Savior, our Brother, our Coach, our Model, our Life? Can we exchange our life for His? Can we all move to the center, which is Him and His Kingdom? In order to do this, we must stop creating and existing in the false centers of religion. We must begin to establish relational communities that are authentic, have no agenda, and establish a safe place where expressions or preferences take a back seat to love and serving one another.


  1. Dear Robert,

    I have struggled with this problem for many years now, and discovered that "kingdom building," and "church planting" by now are born out of presumption in the builders and planters. Your last sentence, for instance: "We must begin to establish relational communities that are authentic, have no agenda, and establish a safe place where expressions or preferences take a back seat to love and serving one another."

    Every time we "establish" anything it is bound to have walls of human preference around it. It is not about what we call things. It is about who and what The Lord calls. If we can just back off from our presumptuousness, and like Jesus, discover those The Lord has give us in Him, we might get to step far enough to the rear to discover what God calls Church.

    Bless You!



  2. Right on, brother.

    Bill Bremer
    Colorado Springs

  3. amen to that!

  4. I agree that "the letter alone is the Spirit within the letter that gives life." However, to discard the letter and the correct interpretation of it (from the culture, language and context in which it was written)has resulted in the divisions that characterize the church. Early on the believers separated from those who birthed us....our Jewish brothers....and have tried to interpret their scriptures apart from them! How arrogant and foolish....We Gentiles are the spiritual descendants of the Jewish people. "Salvation is from the Jews," John 4:22 Paul says that those of us who are Gentiles by birth and separated from Christ, "excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise" have been INCLUDED through the blood of Christ. "Consequently, we are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household." Eph. 2:12,19 Unity will only occur as the church begins to honor the origins of our faith. Paul said, "Do not boast over those branches (that have been cut off). If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. Do not be arrogant." Rom. 11 We have much to learn from the ancient paths.

  5. Why is Unity So Illusive?

    I have a theory. Unity is illusive because we believe that it is a thing, or a state that can be achieved separate and apart from Jesus.

    It cannot. God has a Unity for us that is so much higher than this man-made construct.

    Recently the most apparent example of the futility of bringing about Unity in the church emerged over the election. Though most Christian conservatives rallied around a political party and a candidate--that effort at Unity only produced Disappointment and not the outcome they desired.

    We need to really examine that disappointment. I believe that from this point and going forward--we are going to see disappointment manifest anytime Christians attempt to create Unity from a Lesser Thing.


    Acts 2:1 "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place."

    IN CHRIST JESUS is the only transcendent and eternal unity. It is not a movement, a political affiliation, a denomination; it is neither male or female, gentile or Jew, slave or free.

    Robert I amen you... And I believe the Reformation that you call for is a Reformation of Reality.

    We must wake up and find ourselves in Acts 17:28

    " Him we live and move and have our being."

    Anything less is sinking sand and bears the fruit of disappointment.

    Appreciate you.

    Kelly Deppen

  6. Perhaps Boardman or Paul was taken out of context here. The Letter (or the law) indeed kills (II Cor 3:6) as it leads us to a dead end of failure only a savior could rescue and recesitate us from. I must heartily agree that without the Spirit our understanding of Scripture is at best foolishness, mechanized, stone like, and in vain, however let us not mix the 'letter' with Scripture that by self admission in II Timothy 3:16 is 'breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.'

    God's breathing implying through the Holy Spirit as evidenced in other places in Scripture.

    I guess I really wanted to caution Boardman's misuse of II Corinthians 3:6. Unity in the Body of Christ,by the Spirit, is bar none the most centralized theme of the New Testament. Paul here was emphasizing purpose of the 'letter' to bring sinners to Christ.

  7. Could it be that we are so devisive, as a church, because we love so little? Could it be that we love self more than we love God and His church? Could it be that we are so unhappy and out of touch with the source of peace that we have to have an enemy and do not really care who it is?


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