Coming out of church last Sunday I found a small booklet carefully folded into the door handle of my car. All the cars in the church car park had been similarly provided for. It turned out to be a tract from yet another Christian splinter group. That such a group treats a mainstream Baptist church as a mission field is a fairly sure sign that this group is likely to think of its self as a spiritually superior and holy remnant. A proliferation of this kind of sectarianism has, needless to say, been a feature of Christianity for at least as far back as the reformation. But who were these latest sectarians? Were they from the Strict and Particular Baptist sect who are housed in very small building over the road? Not likely I thought as their misrepresentation of predestination tends to suppress proactive evangelistic efforts. In fact the tract contained none of the buzz words and hobby horses that I’m familiar with given my acquaintance with the exclusive sect/cult world. I could therefore see no obvious connections with any of the Christian sects I know about.
However I did eventually manage to trace a connection to a religious web site which I will not link to here. All I want to do now is to make some general comments about the phenomenon we have here. The sect appear to have no obviously glaring Christian unorthodoxies. Whenever that is the case of an exclusive Christian sect the next question to ask is what particular distinctive hobby horses have they supplemented to the faith in order to define their group identity? This sort of sect will take a perfectly good doctrine, over interpret it with some fine tuned meanings, thus perverting its significance and loading it with the sect’s proprietary understandings. This reinterpretation is crucial to the dynamic of the sect, for their distinctiveness in this matter helps give them a sense of spiritual superiority and a group identity. But above all it gives them a raison d’être and mission in life as they then have in their hands a measure that can be used to faith test other Christian groups, check they are up to standard, sort out the sheep from the goats and proselytise the goats. The sect’s self image as the privileged faithful remnant is thus reinforced.
So how do these principles manifest themselves with my anonymous “car park” sect? What particular hobby horse do they use to pin a charge of spiritual inferiority on other Christians? Now, any Christian worth his or her salt understands in their inner most being that Jesus is Lord and thus honours Him accordingly with their life. However, this particular sect succeeds in evacuating the meaning of this doctrine by turning it into matter of external observance; Viz: Unless one uses the word “Lord” mantra like, one’s salvation is certainly in danger. As the tract puts it:
…the masses… speak of Him as Jesus without adding His rightful title. This way of speaking must be very grievous to any true child of God. It is the speech of unbelievers… only those who personally know and love Him as “Lord” will confess Him as such… the enemies of our Lord only call Him “Jesus”.
So there you have it: According to this sect it is not enough to love Jesus or treat him as Lord or refer to Him by name: What’s in your heart is of little value to this sect unless it is supplemented by the verbal use of the word “Lord” because otherwise you are in danger of being regarded as one of the unbelieving masses; in fact never ever refer to Jesus as Jesus because that’s what His enemies do! Such is the perverse thinking of a legalistic sect who have such a low view of the Grace of a God who adopts as children all who call on Him. Seldom can such sects get past the outward man and the suffocating trappings of a physical piety; in this case those trappings include "a way of speaking". Those external trappings are necessary to the sect’s survival as it allows some religious wallah to check up on its members and to make sure they are in line with the sect’s practices and teachings. For them Christianity is not about an inward relationship with the Father but rather about obeying their strict articlisation of the faith.