Throughout the two millennia of the Christian church there have been popular and heretical movements within the Church and the beginnings of the twenty first century have seen more of the same: the prosperity doctrine churches continue to thrive in the United States and Africa; the cult of the individual is seen everywhere-and we witness the downfall of these men who had begun to believe the publicity about them-and many churches wrap themselves fully in the New Age movement and Creation worship. Many of these see many conversions and are often perceived to be where the next revival comes from, but we must be clear that there are definite marks of cult practices in some and cults always destroy themselves eventually (but cause untold damage to those who have been attracted to them).
All through this section Paul has to adopt methods which are distasteful to him. He has to stress his own authority, boast about himself and to keep comparing himself with those who are seeking to draw away the Corinthian Christians. He apologises every time he has to speak this way, but Paul realised that it wasn't his honour at stake ultimately, but the honour of Jesus Christ. Paul uses the metaphor of marriage as he describes the church at Corinth as the bride of Christ, and he will do all he can to keep the Corinthian church as a pure and fit bride for Jesus. There was a Jewish legend that Satan had physically seduced Eve and that Cain was the result of their union. This is what Paul has at the back of his mind as he writes about fearing that the Corinthians would be seduced away from Christ. That church rejoiced in the spectacular-and there was much that was good in it-but the danger was that they would hanker only after that and always remain babies, vulnerable to deviant spiritual guides.
I once gave a lift to a young man who wanted to go on our church weekend, but had no transport. As we drove down to Lee Abbey, he told me that he had just returned from a Buddhist retreat and he talked to me about his experiences there, some of which caused him to be concerned about their basis for living. A young man had tried to commit suicide in a lake in the grounds. My friend had rescued him and alerted the leaders at the retreat, only to be told that this may be his karma and no way should he or they interfere with it! He asked me what this Christian weekend would be like and I said to him that it would be nothing like that. It would appear understated and mundane, but if he chose to look under the surface, he would see a lot of love and something deeply moving going on. Don't be confused or deterred by the seemingly mundane Bearfield church services: look at those who begin to start coming and see the change in them as they are embraced in Christian love!