Welcome to the Naturalchurch blog! My name is Tobie van der Westhuizen and I am married to an extraordinary woman called Revien. We live in Bloemfontein, South Africa, are parents to nine kids and a Staffie called Mazzy, and belong to a group of wonderful believers who have been meeting regularly in our house for eight years.
I left formal pastoral ministry in 2007 to pursue an inkling that I have had for a long time, namely that the Christianity of today is not the same as the primitive Christianity of the early church, and that we can never rediscover the early Christians’ understanding of salvation as long as we remain clustered in tribe-like denominations shaped around the personas of extraordinary individuals, historic or contemporary, whom we have elected to interpret God and the Bible on our behalf.
At the time I was in the process of completing a PhD in Theology, a dream that I had been nurturing for more than two decades. But a fresh reading of Jesus’ words at the Feast of Booths changed all of that: “The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.(John 7:15-18)
These words convinced me that the path to true spiritual discernment was not to be found in academic studies, but in a relinquishment of everything to the will of God. They also convinced me that the secret to becoming a true teacher of the word was to renounce the honour and recognition that come from people, and to only seek God’s honour and glory. And so I discontinued my studies and assigned myself to the above.
I still function as a Bible teacher, but distinguish between servant-teaching that seeks to impart the life of God, enabling people to know God independently and without human mediation, and top-down teaching that seeks to connect the hearers to the teacher’s insights and so make them dependent on his/her continual influence in their lives for understanding the things of God.
With the above in mind, I spent the last eight years of my life writing and illustrating a commentary on the book of Romans that seeks not to merely impart information, but to bring the reader face to face with the actual call of Jesus Christ and the meaning of true Christianity as I believe it was understood and practiced by the early Christians. It is due for public release before end 2016.
For those who are interested in a biographical sketch of my life, prior to the events described above, such a sketch is provided hereunder. See if you can figure it out… (If not, go here)