“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
We direct our lives according to Christ who is the standard for our life. His will pervades all aspects of our life, but not by setting up a catalogue of moral guidelines, rather because we live in Him, we see how all the areas of our life are pervaded by His will for us to be sanctified.
Our life does not consist of constantly running away from sin, rather of constantly turning to God. We do not have any formalistic and casuistic behavioural code, whose standards we must adhere to. But as we always live as Christians, especially in our daily lives, we also want to put God’s will into practice in the every day things.
The example mentioned above (“The lifestyle of a Holic-Group member”) of the hairdresser shows that a lot depends on the decision of the individual and is not the result of strict adherence to prescribed behavioural codes.
The rejection of alcohol and nicotine, which cause the illness and death of millions of people every year and produce unimaginable suffering, is only natural for every person who is aware of his moral responsibility.
Brothers and sisters who used to smoke experienced freedom from the cigarettes through turning to God and they do not consider giving up smoking to be a command achievable only with great effort.
As far as alcohol is concerned, the Bible doesn’t condemn moderate wine drinking. The fact is that in our day and age we see many reasons to abstain from alcohol altogether. On the one hand we do a fair bit of driving. For every car driver it should go without saying that 0 percent blood alcohol is necessary. On the other hand, alcohol has become such a social problem nowadays as never before. We also want to help those very people who have been dependent on alcohol by offering them an environment which provides no temptation to fall back. Beyond this, in our present time there is a wide variety of fruit juices and herbal teas which nature abundantly provides, so that anybody who does not only want to drink water and possibly cannot digest milk has enough alternatives.
As for other stimulants/luxury items (like coffee), their detrimental effect on health is well documented and is not only “deemed unhealthy by doctors”. If I love my creator I will protect his creation and I will offer my body completely for his service.
Kluge’s comments about washing once again show how he simply uses everything to read into our community a rigorous system of rules. It is both sad and ridiculous that we have to emphasise that there is no “internal group” standard for the allowed frequency of washing. Even if the essentially correct statement was once made that “too much washing damages the skin,” it is nevertheless absurd to want to make a prescription out of this quote. This reveals much more about Kluge’s bias than about our washing habits.
Yet again though, we can find something that is completely foreign to our fellowship in the rules of one of the sub-organisations of Kluge’s “church”:
“Let the use of the bath be offered to the sick as often as it is useful, but let it be granted more rarely to the healthy and especially the young.” (“The Holy Rule of St. Benedict”, The 1949 Edition, Chapter 36)
Concerning “doubting aspects of the teaching”:
The right teaching (and not some kind of psychological manipulation) is the basis of every Christian church. Whoever puts this basis in question puts himself outside of the fellowship. The church, if she wants to remain God’s church, is obliged to hold onto the teaching revealed by God. Naturally we must treat weak brothers and sisters with great patience. But if a person does not accept the biblical teaching he has separated himself from the church. If we abandon this principle, we have abandoned our identity as a Christian church. The principle that a person can only be saved with the right teaching is a general Christian principle and can also be found in numerous official doctrinal documents of the generally recognised “churches”, such as:
“Whoever wishes to be saved must, first of all, hold the Catholic faith, for, unless he keeps it whole and inviolate, he will undoubtedly perish forever.” (Athanasian Creed, The Christian Faith, Neuner & Dupuis, Alba House, 1982, p11 – The “Catholic faith” in this context refers exclusively to the correct belief in regard to the Trinity and the person of Jesus. We agree with the quoted sentence within the context of this specific document. The correct teaching about the person of Jesus and the Trinity is foundational and indispensable for Christianity.)
In the Apostolic Constitution of Pius XII, “Munificentissimus Deus” from 1950, even conscious doubts about the assumption of Mary amount to apostasy:
“Wherefore, if anyone – which God forbid – should wilfully dare to deny or call in doubt what has been defined by us, let him know that he certainly has abandoned the divine and Catholic faith.” (Neuner & Dupuis p.207)
For the Catholics, wilfully doubting an unbiblical teaching is already enough to lead to apostasy! Even if in practice they accept every unbeliever and criminal (Hitler himself remained a member of the Catholic “church” till his death, without being excommunicated), in their official doctrinal documents we find them taking a position which Kluge would rightly condemn as sectarian in every other organisation. Does he apply different standards to his own organisation?
The fact that the deliberate repetition of grave sins can be a reason for exclusion is not a rigorous regulation, but Jesus himself, in Matt 18:15-17, gives the command that stubborn sinners must be excluded. Further details have already been explained above (III.D.e “Their perception of Community”).
In his representation of our position on Sexuality, our critic refers to the comments of a “member” who said that “abstinence was practiced because of their belief in an imminent end of the world”, which he then qualifies by saying that, “this opinion is not representative of the Group as a whole.” Ever since we first found one another we have continuously held the belief that an expectation of the imminent end of the world fundamentally contradicts the Bible, and so we can, with certainty, exclude the possibility that any of our brothers or sisters ever made this statement. The only possibility that remains is that Kluge either made up a fairy-tale himself, or that he too easily believed the slander of others.
The widespread prejudice among “theologians” that many of the early Christians remained unmarried because of their expectations of the imminent second coming, obviously led him (or his source) to the false conclusion that our high regard for celibacy comes from a belief in Christ’s imminent return. This conclusion is in fact a fallacy. Even among the early Christians it was not an expectation of the imminent end that motivated them to stay unmarried, but their increased availability for work in the Kingdom of God. It is this dedication that is our sole motivation for remaining unmarried. Every form of Gnostic viewpoint, which sees something negative in matter or in sexuality, is irreconcilable with the New Testament.
We regard sexuality as a part of God’s good creation, which God created to be used within marriage (and only there). Every kind of premarital or extramarital sexual relationship must not be tolerated in a Christian community. Within the framework of a Christian marriage, sexuality is not “to be avoided”. Rather it is a natural expression of the mutual love of a married couple. Based on the kind of love that aims to please God, sexuality is not egotistical, but devotion to one’s spouse, with whom a person has become one flesh. The statement that sexuality “operates on a physical level and relationships between people should occur predominantly on a spiritual level” is incorrect and does not represent our attitude.
On the other hand, Kluge’s observation that “there are more important things to be done” is correct, not, however, only at the “present time”. The NT records clear statements made by both Paul and Jesus about the value of celibacy (Matt 19:12, 1 Cor 7:7-8, 17-24, 25-40). These words are also our reason for regarding celibacy so highly. It is quite strange then, that a Catholic priest, who himself has chosen this way of life shows so little understanding for this.
“…but as those who have come to the knowledge of sanctity, and pursue it and prefer it, without detriment, however, to marriage; not as if we superseded a bad thing by a good, but only a good thing by a better. For we do not reject marriage, but simply refrain from it. Nor do we prescribe sanctity as the rule, but only recommend it, observing it as a good, yea, even the better state, if each man uses it carefully according to his ability; but at the same time earnestly vindicating marriage, whenever hostile attacks are made against it as a polluted thing, to the disparagement of the Creator. For He bestowed His blessing on matrimony also, as on an honourable estate, for the increase of the human race; as He did indeed on the whole of His creation, for wholesome and good uses.”
(Tertullian, Anti-Marcion I, 29,1-4)
“Hobbys” are something that Kluge comes back to again and again. We have already explained our position above (III.B.). What would Paul, or even Jesus have responded if asked about their hobbies?
Our “attitude to life” is not what Kluge accuses us of. We do not need to prove ourselves, nor are we chasing after a feeling of superiority. We are constantly striving to do the will of God. But despite this, our life is not a process of constantly questioning our own behaviour as Kluge thinks he knows. It is not our aim to live up to a cleverly devised behavioural code, continually refining its details. What we really want is to obey God in every situation, free from formalistic commandments, living a life in which holiness is not just a catchword, but a reality, expressing itself in every aspect of our life.