Below you will find answers to the questions that have been raised by various people who have read “The Remarkable Replacement Army”. They appear in the order in which they were written.
Question 2: “You Talk About The Need For ‘Called-Out Groups’, But How Do We Avoid Their Reverting Into Old-Style Churches (As Has Already Happened In The Past)?”
Question 3: “I Was Surprised At The Lack Of Any Reference To Islam In Your Book. Was The Omission An Oversight?”
Question 4 – “How do you explain ‘Our old self was crucified with Him’ (Romans 6:6) in the light of your teaching that our old natures and our new natures co-exist?”
Question 5 – “Why did you choose such an off-putting military title, and such a war-centred theme, in these days when so many people are getting heart-sick of so much strife world-wide?”
The very first e-mail that came to this website after the book was published, and the website set up, was from a lady who – though very gracious, and complimentary about the book in general – said that her “heart sank” because I took a ‘trinitarian’ view. Let me quote a bit more of what she said:
“On page 251 you say about the trinity. Since coming out from church, Father has been teaching me, and one of the things He has taught me, is that ‘the trinity’ has no basis in His Holy Word. I feel disappointed reaching this point of what I think is an amazing genuine prophesy to read a trinitarian viewpoint.”
I suppose it would be true to say that my heart sank, and I was disappointed, when I discovered that someone who had (for reasons that I can fully empathise with) moved away from the Institutional Church, had, at the same time, moved away from recognising Jesus and the Spirit as divine. I have never personally doubted the ‘doctrine’ of the Trinity – the idea that, though God is One, we experience Him in ‘Three Persons’. The many claims of Christ, especially in John’s Gospel, along the lines of “I and the Father are One”, and various other clear statements from both Old and New Testaments, have always been enough to persuade me that Jesus was God, and not just a very special man. The mention of the “Spirit of God”, at the very beginning of Genesis, “hovering over the face of the waters” before the Earth was formed, introduced me to the idea that the Holy Spirit was not just some kind of ‘super-angel’, but part of what was there before created beings. As I read on in the Scriptures that view seemed to be increasingly reinforced.
Consequently, I e-mailed back to the lady concerned, immediately, through the website, giving her a more detailed account of my reasons for accepting a ‘trinitarian’ understanding of the situation. I don’t think I need to publish that material here, as I suspect that a very large majority of my readers already accept that, though it is difficult to understand fully, we have “One God in Three Persons”.
Strangely enough, however, my involvement with the Norwegian ‘parable’ – the analogy that was central to my book – had given me an even firmer grasp of the “Doctrine of the Trinity”. Just because the concept is difficult to understand, therefore, I have decided to share, here, the relevant insights I got when reading about the Norwegian Resisters. It might help some people, at least, to strengthen their grasp on the teaching….
The Norwegian Resisters experienced Allied Headquarters – with its instructions and its guidance and its help – in three different ways. The way that was probably uppermost in their minds at the beginning of the conflict was the contact they had through their King. Haakon broadcast regularly, and everything he said soon became available in print. Through him they knew how HQ felt about them, what HQ wanted (at least in general terms), and what HQ offered from its extensive resources.
There was another way of contact with HQ, however, that became equally important to the Resisters as the situation developed: namely, the local Resistance Agent who had been sent over from HQ. He had been thoroughly trained so that he knew, intimately, HQ’s policies and methods, and had a special radio to keep in touch with Headquarters on a day-to-day basis. Local Resisters soon became aware that HQ reached out to them, not only through their King, but also through the Local Agent, who despite keeping a low public profile, and operating in the background, was a prominent figure in their lives.
None of the Resisters, however, imagined that Allied Headquarters consisted only of their King and their local Agent. Behind those two, with whom they had some sort of immediate contact, there was the Allied High Command – a body that drew together the wisdom and knowledge of many national figureheads, and military and political leaders. The Resisters also experienced, and (to some extent, at least) got to know that Body-of-Wisdom-and-Knowledge, as well as the two more immediate persons with whom they had dealings.
All in all, the Resisters were conscious that their Headquarters related to them in three different forms: their exiled King, their local Agent, and a more remote (but very real, and very concerned) body, known as the Allied High Command.
I believe that the experience of Christian people with regard to our Headquarters is very similar. Our first ‘point-of-contact’ tends to be Jesus – the King of Kings. We read about Him, and acknowledge His words, and commit ourselves to a relationship with Him. As time passes, however, we become aware of the Holy Spirit, as He guides us and prompts us (and, perhaps, warns us) in everyday situations. All the while, however, we realise that, beyond Jesus and the Spirit, there is Someone who is all-wisdom-and-all-knowledge – Someone who is described in various ways, such as Almighty God, the Heavenly Father, and the Ancient of Days. Without necessarily needing to be ‘taught a doctrine’, we come to a point where we are conscious that our Divine HQ relates to us in three different “persons”.
As Paul writes to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 13:14): “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”
“You Talk About The Need For ‘Called-Out Groups’, But How Do We Avoid Their Reverting Into Old-Style Churches (As Has Already Happened In The Past)?
Several of the people who have contacted me have said that, in the past (even as far back as the 1970s and 1980s), they were involved in informal Christian groups that were aiming at a lifestyle somewhat similar to the one I have described in “The Remarkable Replacement Army”. Each of these correspondents bemoaned the fact that, after some time, their group either ‘fizzled out’, or simply developed into another kind of Church, losing the informality that they had so valued.
One of them was very cynical. He maintained that, if we thought in group-terms, ‘boss-figures’ would inevitably appear among us, organising us into rigid patterns. To counteract this, he suggested we should all think of our discipleship entirely in individual terms – living in the way I described in “TRRA”, but not bothering about any kind ‘group consciousness’.
I have to say that I don’t agree with that totally-individualistic viewpoint. The phrase ‘Called-Out Group’ – the Greek word ‘Ecclesia’, the word translated as ‘Church’ in the New Testament – appears far too often in Scripture for us to ignore it. Neither can we neglect the biblical emphasis on ‘fellowship’ and ‘encouraging one another’. Furthermore, new Christians need a ‘scene’ in which they can be nurtured. All in all, there must be some kind of ‘group consciousness’, without it ‘ossifying’, and going all ‘churchy’.
(Incidentally, many of us who have been like the ‘soldiers-in-waiting’, whom I described in the book, have had to ‘go it alone’, in singles and in couples, for some considerable time. I believe this to have been very much in God’s purposes. Believers need to get out of the habit of requiring their church to organise them into something, before they can do very much in the Lord’s service. Every Christian needs to know how to serve the Lord, and their fellow-human-beings, in the Spirit, without necessarily having others involved. Once that deeply-ingrained over-dependency has been eliminated, however, I am sure God calls us back to ‘group-consciousness’.)
I believe He is calling many of us back to ‘group-consciousness’ now! We must, however, avoid a repetition of what seems to have happened in the past: a gradual falling-back into the former patterns. How do we do that? That was the question that was asked by quite a few of the folks who contacted me.
Some thoughts on this have come to me. I must stress, however, that I don’t think that these are necessarily the last word on the subject! I am sure that other people will have understanding that hasn’t been given to me. (I wouldn’t be averse to passing on the thoughts of others, regarding this issue, on this website, if I felt they would be helpful.) Then again, there may well be different ways for different groups. I am not going to pontificate here. Later on, I might even have further thoughts on the subject to bring to your attention. In the meantime, however, let me share my insights on how to avoid ‘reverting to type’.
As I see it, there are two attitudes that need to be cultivated. The first is this: Begin to think of the other out-of-institutional-church Christians in your locality as a second family, in addition to your natural (biological) family.
If you don’t know any other out-of-institutional-church Christians in your locality, ask the Spirit to introduce you to some, and wait patiently while He does this. As I explained above, there has been a period of training-in-independence for many of us, but I suspect that is now drawing to a close. I take much comfort from Psalm 68, verse 6: “God sets the lonely in families”.
If you do know other out-of-institutional-church Christians in your locality, now is the time to start taking them more seriously. Cultivate their friendship. Socialise informally with them. Keep in touch with them, as members of a reasonably well-functioning biological family would keep in touch with each other. Some of you should take the initiative in gathering these family-members together, as a whole group, from time to time. It needn’t be for a major meal – though, once in a while, that is to be encouraged, especially if everyone can make some sort of contribution. More frequently, it would be very informal, perhaps over tea and coffee, or an outing of some kind. Don’t leave it to any one person to do all the initiating. That is exactly what encourages the appearance of ‘bosses’ among us. In a natural family, various members would take the initiative in arranging get-togethers. So should it be amongst us. (I’ve already said all this, in much greater detail, in chapters 34 and 35 of the book. If you feel strongly about this issue, perhaps you should read these two chapters over again.)
The second attitude that needs to be cultivated is as follows: A determination that, when you gather together as a whole group, it should not, under any circumstances, take the form of anything resembling a church service. It should just be like a family gathering where all the family members are Christians. This is something I didn’t say in the book – because this thought has only come to me in the last few days, as I mulled over this ‘frequently asked question’. (This is why I am glad to have the website as an extension of the book.)
You may be surprised, or even shocked, by my saying that the gatherings should steer clear of anything that resembles a church service of any kind! However, I have become convinced that that is where the groups in the past (the ones that either fizzled out, or simply became new churches) went wrong. Church services, whether large-scale and formal, or small-scale and informal – with their mixture of singing, prayer, scripture-reading, teaching, and perhaps some kind of response – always settle into a pattern. Mavis and I were once involved in a lovely fellowship where, for many months (possibly it was even several years), worship seemed to be ‘led by the Spirit’. However, the time came when everything settled into a pattern, and the freedom was never re-gained. Even if the ‘church-service’ style is used in a small and informal group, such as a home group, a pattern inevitably seems to develop.
There are two problems about a pattern. The first is that any particular pattern appeals to some people, but puts other people off. So often I have heard Christians speak along these lines: “I couldn’t go to your group meeting because it is too ‘happy-clappy’… or too serious… or too loud and extrovert… or too intellectual… or too introspective”…and so on. The style that appeals to some is off-putting to many others. The other problem is that many of those who initially like the style of the meeting eventually tire of it themselves, and get itchy feet to join some other group that conducts its meetings in a different way.
I suspect that most Christians (even among those who have left the Institutional Church) only believe they are really being a ‘called-out group’, and only feel they are having genuine fellowship, if they are holding a church-service-style meeting. I have become convinced that that is not the way forward. The way forward is to act just like a normal biological family, where all the family members happen to be Christians.
When reasonably-well-balanced Christian families get together, it isn’t like a mini church service! It is just normal family socialising – but with the added factor that many of the participants have an ear for the Spirit, and an eye for encouraging one another. Because of that, the ‘basic elements’ of fellowship will put in an appearance at some time or another. Sometimes there will be encouragements shared in twos and threes. Sometimes the family will be moved to pray together, or, at least, to share issues for prayer. Sometimes someone will have something to say to everyone else – something about the Lord’s activity in his or her own life, or in someone else’s life. It’s not unusual for a Christian family to sing together. Rarely would all this be planned. It would happen spontaneously. Sometimes there might be only one of the elements of fellowship present. On other occasion there might be several.
With the “Called-Out Group” we can be a little more daring. Sometimes we might sing a song or two together, but occasionally there might be a protracted singalong. There would certainly always be encouragement in twos and threes, but there would be times when someone would feel free to pass on an encouragement, from the Word, to the whole group. From time to time, someone might be approached to do that, if we happen to be gathering together. There would be times when someone would want simply to read some verses of scripture that had been particularly significant. Sometimes, triggered off by something that has been sung, or by prayer, or by hearing of the Lord’s intervention, or by something in Scripture, real heart-felt worship will break out among us, as some aspect of God’s glory suddenly and powerfully dawns on the group. All this is a far cry from an organised service, or even a traditional home group. You simply aim at socialising, but always with an ear for the Spirit’s prompting – and we shouldn’t worry if, sometimes, nothing much seems to happen, corporately. along ‘spiritual’ lines. If most of the participants socialise ‘in the Spirit’, good things will always take place.
I am sure that the way to avoid ‘churchiness’, or sterility, is two-fold: 1. Consciously start treating your fellow out-of-traditional-church Christians as you would well-loved members of your biological family, and relate to them as such. 2. When you gather together, either in twos or threes, or in larger groups, simply socialise, but be on the alert for anything the Spirit wants you to do. Keep it supernaturally natural.
“I Was Surprised At The Lack Of Any Reference To Islam In Your Book. Was The Omission An Oversight?”
I have chosen this question as the next one that I answer, not because it is more important, or more pressing, than any other question, but because it represents a frequent line of enquiry that Christian writers seem to get about their books. This was certainly my experience when I wrote my previous book. It seems that there is often a range of questions along the lines of “Why did you miss out such-and-such?” (followed by the mention of a specific issue that is very important to the questioner). Although only one person asked about Islam, I am going to answer his question here, because the answer will be similar for most of the ‘sins of omission’ with which I am likely to be challenged.
I believe that, in the writing of “The Remarkable Replacement Army”, I was given a very clear, but strictly limited, remit: 1) To prophecy that the Institutional Church would disintegrate during the 21st Century, but be replaced by an ‘Underground Church’ and 2) To consider some initial biblical guidelines for believers who found themselves in the Underground Church. So, unless a topic was ‘support for the prophecy’, or a ‘basic guideline for underground believers’, it would definitely not get coverage.
As far as I am concerned, the issue of Islam didn’t really come into either of these categories. In the first place, I don’t think that, up till now, Islam’s influence has been a major factor in the disintegration of the Institutional Church. It may be a consequence of the increasing disintegration, but, to my mind, it isn’t a major cause. I believe that the two major causes have been a) failures within the Church itself – failures that have been there for many years (long before Islam had any ‘clout’ in the West); and b) the steady rise of Militant Secularism in the so-called ‘developed’ nations. The fact that Islam is now ‘flexing its muscles’ is not, to my mind, “support for the prophecy”. That might well have happened anyway, even if the Church had remained strong.
I do agree, of course, that the influence of Islam is a topic that will need to be discussed, at some point soon, by ‘Replacement Army’ Christians. Believers will have to know how to react to Islam. However, they will also have to know how to react to a great many other new situations, as moral and ethical viewpoints in society diverge more and more from what Christians used to take for granted. I didn’t see my book as designed to cover all the specific challenges that might occur in the future (or are, even, already occurring). I didn’t envisage the book as being a monster ‘compendium’, covering every aspect of Christian living in the days that lie ahead. As it was, I kept thinking: “This book is getting too long”. I was constantly having to stop myself going off at tangents – interesting and worthwhile though they might have been, if folks wanted a book of eight or nine hundred pages! I knew I only had space in my book for basic guidelines for underground believers – namely “Areas of Service” and “Sources of Guidance and Strength”. I couldn’t have squashed in comments on the increasing challenge of Islam.
May I conclude this topic by adding that there is not much point in other people asking me other questions along the lines of “Why did you miss out such-and-such an issue?” Unless they can convince me that the issue that is important to them is really relevant to what I set out to do, I’m afraid I shall simply refer them to this answer to the “Islam” question.
That said, I am happy to deal with questions along the lines of “Why did you include such-and-such an issue?” In fact, you can already find an answer to a question of that type in the ‘Occasional Articles’ section – the article entitled “How the Norwegian Parable Increased my Understanding of “the Trinity”. (Someone wanted to know why I had ‘complicated’ what I was saying by introducing talk of the three-fold nature of God.)
I am also happy to receive questions from people who feel that I have not explained an issue properly, or with sufficient clarity. The answer coming up next, in this FAQ section, is a response to such a question…..
“How do you explain ‘Our old self was crucified with Him’ (Romans 6:6) in the light of your teaching that our old natures and our new natures co-exist?”
In the first half of Chapter 39 of “The Remarkable Replacement Army”, I stated quite categorically that the New Testament Scriptures speak of the co-existence of “two natures” within Christian people – the nature we have been born with, and a Christ-like nature that we are given when we are turn to Jesus. I gave quite a number of biblical references that seem to underline this statement. I suppose that what I was saying on the subject could be summed up in a sentence that appears on page 305: “Although there is the occasional verse that some people have interpreted to mean that the Old Nature is now completely inactive, and has been fully replaced by the New, the weight of Scripture, and our personal experience, supports the unfortunate truth that these two natures are still to be found in every one of us”.
The second half of the chapter went on to discuss ways of “living in the New Nature”, but I now realise that, before I went on to that, perhaps I ought to have expanded a bit on the phrase “there is the occasional verse that some people have interpreted to mean that the Old Nature is now completely inactive”. Since the publication of the book, some people have not been able to square my teaching with verses like 2nd Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come”; Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live”; and, especially, Romans 6:6: “We know that our old self was crucified with Him”.)
I wish, now, that I had given wider coverage to those ‘occasional verses’ in Chapter 39. In fact, I wish now that I had written that second-last chapter rather differently! (If I ever produce a ‘second edition’ of “The Remarkable Replacement Army”, I shall re-write Chapters 39.) I can make the excuse that I was getting to the end of the book, and I was desperate to finish. However, the uncertainties expressed by some of the folks who have contacted me since the book was published have made me realise that I didn’t explain the whole issue as clearly as I might have done. Sorry! (Though I think an apology is necessary, I should point out that giving further explanations, where they are needed, is the central purpose of this FAQ section, and, really, of this whole website.)
The more I look at Paul’s writings on the subject, the more I realise that there is a distinction in his mind between “the new self” and “the new nature”. I’m sorry to say that I completely failed to make that clear in Chapter 39. Paul certainly proclaims loudly that, when you become a Christian, you become a different person – a new personality. The “Old You” is no longer there. A “New You” comes into being. In various places, he promises us that the “Old Self” has gone, and a “New Self” has come into existence. That is the message of “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come”; “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live”; and, of course, of “We know that our old self was crucified with Him”.)
However, it is hugely important to notice that Paul never suggests that the “New Self” will immediately be a perfect personality. He never promises that the “New You” will be purged of all wrong inclinations. What he is teaching is that we are completely different people now because, in addition to our “old natures”, we now have “new natures”. We have been invaded by the divine! We have a new potential for being Christ-like!
Nevertheless, Paul doesn’t want us to forget that we still have the “old nature” lurking within us. So, after saying, in verse 6 of Romans 6, that “our old self was crucified with Him”, Paul goes on to say, in verse 12, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies”. He couldn’t have said that if our sinful natures had been completely eradicated from us. A king can’t reign if he is dead – so how could sin ‘reign’ (be the boss in our lives) if it is dead? Paul goes on to repeat this theme in Chapter 8, verse 12, of the same letter: “We have an obligation, but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it”? If the sinful nature was dead, and no longer a factor in our lives, it would have been unnecessary to say something like that.
I pointed out, in Chapter 39, that many of the men and women who joined the Norwegian Resistance seemed to have different personalities from the personalities they had had before the war. Nevertheless, they still had many of their former personality traits, through which they were sometimes tempted to betray the cause. So it is with us. Paul insists that we are gloriously different, because we have been given a “new nature” – but he warns us frequently that we still have the “old nature” within us. What he urges is that we “live in the new nature”, and so fulfil the potential that was grafted into us when we became believers.
Putting all this another way, I think Paul is teaching that we are now “flesh-and-Spirit”. In the old days, we were just ‘flesh’. Now, ‘flesh’ – human nature – is not totally bad, but it has been corrupted, and it is capable of much wrong-doing. Consequently, we really are ‘new creations’, because ‘flesh-and-Spirit’ is very much better, as an inner potential, than ‘flesh’ alone. All the same, as I tried to explain in Chapter 39 of the book, we do have to ‘live in the Spirit’. As Paul puts it in Galatians 5:16: “Live in the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature”, or, as the King James version puts it: “Walk in the Spirit’, and you will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh”.
All in all, realise that you are a “new person”, because something wonderful (a Christ-like nature) has been put within you. But take care to live in that Christ-like nature.
Why did you choose such an off-putting military title, and such a war-centred theme, in these days when so many people are getting heart-sick of so much strife world-wide?”
I can fully understand where people are coming from, when they ask questions along this line. I have to admit that I knew in advance that some potential readers would be alienated by the word “Army”, and the frequent references to the Second World War. However, there were three good reasons for persevering with a theme that, at first sight, seemed out-of-step with the present mood of many Christians (and, indeed, of many of the general public).
In the first place, I have to point out that I didn’t, in fact, “choose” the subject matter. It came to me unbidden. I didn’t begin with having a theme in mind, and go on to search for a suitable metaphor to illustrate what I wanted to say. The material simply fell into my lap, and triggered off the train-of-thought that eventually became the contents of the book.
Now, as I explained in Chapter 10 of “The Remarkable Replacement Army”, I personally believe that my attention was drawn the Norwegian Saga by the Lord. I would maintain that the material was given to me, rather than being the result of my own choice. Even if you cannot accept that (and think that I simply stumbled across the Resistance Story by chance) I am sure you can see that it contains so many parallels to the situation of the Christian Church at the present time, that it would have been difficult for me to ignore. I suppose I could have chosen to do nothing about this amazing analogy, but I certainly didn’t actively choose to make it the framework of a book.
All in all, I would say that this was a ‘baby’ that, somehow, appeared on my doorstep – and I had no choice but to deal with it, whatever the consequences!
The second point I would make is that – whether we like it or not – the New Testament has a surprising amount of ‘military’ imagery. To the believers in Corinth, Paul writes: “We do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world” (2 Cor.10:3-4). Along the same lines, his advice to the Ephesians is as follows “Put on the whole armour of God” (Ephesians 6:11,13). Verse 12 of that section of Scripture makes it clear that Christians are involved in “struggle”, and the rest of the passage – verses 14 to 17 – mentions not only defensive armour like breastplate, shield and helmet, but also the use of attacking weapons like the sword.
Paul is particularly given to warlike language when he is writing to Timothy: “Fight the good fight of the faith.” (1 Tim.6:12). ”Endure hardship…like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3). “A soldier…wants to please his commanding officer.” (2 Tim. 2:4). “I have fought the good fight” (2 Tim.4:7). . “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack” (2 Tim.4:18). Now, Timothy comes across, in the New Testament, as a gentle, peace-loving type. However, maybe gentle, peace-loving types (like you and me) need to hear war-like language from time to time, to get the balance right! You are going to get a distorted view of the Christian Life, as it is described in the New Testament, if – within the whole wide range of your reading, thinking and discussing – there is no place for vocabulary like ‘war’, ‘weapons’, armour, ‘fighting’, ‘attacks’, ‘struggle’ and ‘conflict’.
That brings me to the final reason for persevering with the ‘war-centred’ theme that dominates my book. We are entering a period when the Christian Church is going to be increasingly under attack – not least in the Western World. For a number of centuries, the Church has, in many parts of the World, enjoyed a privileged position. Generally speaking (though there were always exceptions, of course) believers have not suffered oppression and conflict, and have been free to operate as they wanted. During the 20th Century, however, we began to see a change in that state of affairs, and it is becoming increasingly clear that, more and more, as the 21st Century develops, we are going to be under attack. I put it to you that some books that discuss what I would call “Christian Discipleship in a Time of Conflict” are very much required at this present time.