Gone Beyond Corinth
This lesson addresses the issue and danger posed by moral (immoral) pluralism, which says “I don’t do it; but it is OK with me that you do it.” Today it is stated in the words: “I’m ok, you’re ok.” With that came their religious pluralism. I worship at the temple of Poseidon; You worship at the temple of Aphrodite. But “one temple is as good as another.”
Do not confuse diversity with pluralism!
Introduction: Corinth stood at a heavily traveled crossroads of the Roman empire between the main landmass of Greece and the Peloponnesus. The isthmus is less than four miles wide. Corinth controlled the two major harbors and thus commanded the trade routes between Asia and Rome. Crossing the isthmus was easier than the 200 miles of treacherous seas, which was the only alternative. So, Corinth was a sea-port city, a sailors’ town, and a center for the Greek games. It catered to the trades; to sailors, and to ancient traveling salesmen. Corinth was a culturally diverse city consisting of Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, Phrygians, Egyptians, and Jews.
Corinth was a religiously diverse city! In Corinth, you could find the cults of the gods of Egypt, Rome and Greece. The temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, stood atop the Acrocorinth. The temple of Poseidon, ruler of the sea and maker of earthquakes, had a very large temple at a nearby village. The temple of Apollo stood on the hill overlooking the Roman city's main forum. During Paul's time, it was in ruins; but there were several sanctuaries to Apollo inside the city. Numerous other temples in Corinth included Hermes (a mountain goat), Venus-Fortuna, Isis, and one dedicated to "All The Gods" (Pantheon). And, of course, there was a representative remnant of the worshipers of Jehovah, the Jews, who had a synagogue there.
Morally, Corinth was bankrupt and diverse. It’s unsavory reputation meant that to call a woman 'a Corinthian lass' was to impugn her morals. The name "Corinth" became a synonym for immorality. Paul wrote (1 Cor 5:9-12; 6:9-10) of the gross immoralities of the Corinthians; including the covetous, swindlers, thieves, idolaters, immoral, fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, revilers, and drunkards
In addition to the diversity of religious cultures and immoralities that existed in Corinth; we must also add the one more thing that allowed all of these things to exist in harmony: The Corinthian philosophy of “Cultural Pluralism.” The Greek world cherished both moral and religious pluralism. The concept is defined in Rom 1:32
Rom 1:32; “and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
Moral (immoral) pluralism says “I don’t do it; but it is OK with me that you do it.” Today it is stated in the words: “I’m ok, you’re ok.” With that came their religious pluralism. I worship at the temple of Poseidon; You worship at the temple of Aphrodite. But “one temple is as good as another.”
Do not confuse diversity with pluralism!
All of America's diversity, old and new, does not add up to pluralism. "Pluralism" and "diversity" are sometimes used as if they were synonymous, but diversity—splendid, colorful, and perhaps threatening—is not pluralism. Pluralism is the engagement that creates a common society from all that diversity. ( “ The Pluralism Project,” Harvard University, From Diversity to Pluralism.”
Diversity is the fact of differences. Pluralism creates a common society, or engagements, or relationships among the different groups.
First, pluralism is not the sheer fact of diversity alone, but is active engagement with that diversity. One can be an observer of diversity. … But real pluralism requires participation and engagement. The dynamic of pluralism is one of meeting, exchange, and two-way traffic. (ibid).
Pluralism...requires “participation and engagement.” That is fellowship! It is a practice as old as Corinth. Pluralism today is the practice of the doctrine of “Unity in Diversity.” You see, pluralism is not diversity; but the concept of unity in that diversity.
Now in Corinth among all this “cherished pluralism” came “the Church of God” (1 Cor 1:2) consisting of some of these very diverse people (1 Cor 6:9-11).
So there arose a real serious problem within the church at Corinth: a brother was openly engaged in immorality (1 Cor 5:1). This man was both immoral (1 Cor 5:9-11) and wicked (v 13); but he was a “so-called brother (v 11) within the church (v12-13). He was a “SPED” - (Shamelessly Practicing an Evil Deed). His sin is open, blatant, overt, shameless, and well-known “within the Church (1 Cor 5:1).” It should have never once been named among Christians (Eph 5:3-4).
But instead of them reproving him, “within the church” there was arrogance about it. (1 Cor 5:2). The church of God in Corinth had also some “WAS”es. They went along with sin. They winked at sin. They are collectively engaged in “cherished pluralism.” They were not doing it; but they did not oppose it. Their philosophy of unity above all was much more important than his sin.
What should have they been doing? “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph 5:11-12). Don’t you see, their philosophy of cherished pluralism has kept them from mourning, even producing an atmosphere of arrogant pride among the Corinthian membership, and a failure to follow the will of God (1 Cor 5:9-13).
So what occurred in Corinth? Paul, a gospel preacher, taught them what they ought to have already done (1 Cor 5:2-5). The only solution was to put this immoral so-called brother out of their midst! Upon their doing it, the rest of the story is that (1) the sinful brother repented (2 Cor 2) and (2) the church need to accept him back into the fellowship as a faithful Christian and a part of the congregation (2 Cor 2:7-8). And, happily, he did, they did, and the church of God at Corinth had unity with God, Christ, and one another.
Now, let us go back; but this time let us look at those who have “gone beyond Corinth” at what happens for too often today. The story is the same. There is a shameless practicer of evil deeds within the church, and the “WAS”es within, who practice cherished pluralism, winking at his sin.
Again, the gospel preacher comes along and preaches all the Book of God. However, the “WAS’es” reject the truth. Remember, they don’t really object to the sin... and they don’t want preaching against it... not because they favor it... but because his negative preaching interferes with their fundamental philosophy of “cherished pluralism.” They object to his “negative preaching;” and in short order (1) he is put out and (2) and then, pretty quickly, Brother Gospel Preacher is replaced by “FP”- Brother Fluff Preacher. He will be all positive and maybe dynamic. He will tickle their ears. Most of all, he doesn’t preach against their practice of cherished pluralism. He will never have a sermon on Eph 5:7 or Eph 5:11-12. And He certainly never, ever insist that the congregation put 1 Cor 5 into practice.
Incidentally, he will soon morph into another FP (a full-blown false preacher). And the brothers and sisters, one by one, over time will morph into evil, wicked sinners themselves (1 Cor 5:6-7). Only the passing of time... and the deaths, demises, and leaving of the faithful few... will slow down this progress (which is really a digression). So that the “Church of God” at Corinth will become “the Church the World at Corinth.”
And yes, there is a quantum change in their philosophy. What was, sometimes for years cherished pluralism, in morals and/or in doctrine, becomes institutional pluralism. Their pluralism becomes so ingrained, so fixed and absolute, that the only one they can object to is someone (anyone) who objects to anything! The only sin, philosophically, to them is “opposition to sin.” They have gone far beyond ancient Corinth; but that is the ultimate end of moral and religious institutional pluralism. And sooner or later, there will be no difference between what and who is within the church and what and who is without.