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Holy Tradition: The Road That Leads Home
Orthodox Info ^ | Reverend Dorraine Snogren

Posted on 12/15/2006 10:17:49 AM PST by kawaii

Holy Tradition: The Road That Leads Home

Introduction

The Reverend Dorraine Snogren has been a United Methodist pastor for over thirty years. In the past several years he has come to feel increasingly that most Christians today, while they might have a certain reverence for Church history, are in fact quite ignorant of this heritage. This ignorance can largely be explained by the entire approach to Christianity that emphasizes the freedom of the individual to arrive at his own beliefs, guided only by his interpretation of the Bible. The Christian message, cut off from its heritage, is becoming more and more arbitrary and indefinite.

An Evangelical Protestant who desires to make a careful study of Church history must overcome certain difficulties. This article is a record of such a study, the difficulties encountered, and the conclusions that presented themselves. It was written by a Protestant minister as a help in formulating his own conclusions, and to share with certain members of his congregation.

In the tenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, we read the account concerning Cornelius the centurion, a Roman living in the midst of Romans in Caesarea, the administrative capital of all of Judaea, who yet was "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always," (Acts 10:2) one who also was accustomed to fast until the ninth hour (v. 30). On these accounts he is worthy of praise, as Saint Paul writes in his Epistle to the Romans, "But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek: for there is no respect of persons with God" (Romans 2:10–11). Virtue has its own value, wherever it is to be found. And yet these virtues are insufficient in themselves, without faith in Christ and reception into His Church. Before meeting the Apostle Peter, Cornelius neither believed aright concerning God, or taught others the truth. But God, beholding his diligence in that which he knew, and foreseeing also how willingly he would embrace the truth, brought him to know Christ in a wondrous manner. When Cornelius had fasted until the ninth hour of the day, and was in prayer, an Angel appeared to him, announcing to him that his prayers and alms had arisen before God for a memorial, and commanding him to summon the Apostle Peter, who would tell him what he should do. The Apostle Peter was himself prepared to receive the messengers from Cornelius by a vision and a voice telling him, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common," and he was commanded by the Holy Spirit to accompany the messengers from Cornelius. In such a wondrous and extraordinary manner was the Apostle Peter brought to Cornelius, and having heard the Apostle Peter, Cornelius and those with him straightway believed and were baptized. Saint John Chrysostom, commenting on this passage, has written, ". . . if He did not overlook the Magi, nor the Ethiopian, nor the thief, nor the harlot, much more them that work righteousness, and are willing, shall He in anywise not overlook." The righteousness of Cornelius was not overlooked by God; it prepared him to receive the Gospel and so to be joined to the Church, wherein was the fulfillment and reward of that righteousness.

The Reverend Dorraine Snogren aptly writes, " ... just because God in His grace and mercy has met us where we are and adapted Himself to our unique cultural and religious circumstances in no way means He has abandoned His original plan." Truth is found in the Church, and those who would apprehend the truth must unite themselves to the Church. If God could in so wondrous a manner provide for the illumination and salvation of Cornelius, who was from among the pagans, how much more will He provide for those who seek Him from among the Protestant denominations.

How diligent we Orthodox should be, who have as our heritage the "Faith which was once delivered unto the Saints" (Jude 1:3), received from the very Apostles, and preserved within the Church unto our own days as that living and holy Tradition. And how we should rejoice, beholding the earnestness with which the Reverend Dorraine Snogren has sought the truth, and discerned it in the Orthodox Church.

Some years ago, one of the Reverend Dorraine Snogren's four sons entered the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, where he has since been tonsured a monk, receiving the name Philaret. In the years since that time, Father Philaret's three brothers have also converted to Orthodoxy. His oldest brother, Andrew, also a former Methodist minister, together with his wife Alexandra and their two children, Krista and Hilary, live in Wentworth, New Hampshire, and are members of the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos, in Concord, New Hampshire. Another brother, John, with his wife Valerie and their son Nicholas, live in Washington, D.C., and are members of the Church of Saint Cosmas of Aitolia, in Riverdale, Maryland. A third brother, Constantine, lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, and attends services at both the Holy Transfiguration Monastery and the Church of Saint Anna, in Roslindale, where he is one of the chanters.

Since writing this article, the Reverend Dorraine Snogren has resigned from the ministry of the United Methodist Church, and he and his wife Ruth have moved to Concord, New Hampshire, where they plan to become members of the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos there.

+ + + I am on my way home to the Orthodox Church. For me this is a most unlikely journey. Where I have been doesn’t seem to support where I am allegedly going. Here I am, an evangelical, charismatic, Protestant, having served the Lord faithfully for over thirty years as a United Methodist pastor, now considering becoming Orthodox. It doesn’t make sense. Or does it? It makes a lot of sense when one begins to understand the meaning and function of Tradition in the early Church.

I believe Tradition is the most formidable barrier a Protestant must deal with in his pursuit of the historic and authentic expression of the Faith. And if my experience is at all typical, once one begins to understand Tradition as understood and expressed in the early Church, then Tradition as barrier gives way to Tradition as a road map that leads one safely home to Orthodoxy.

Needless to say, that statement needs a lot of explanation. Let me quickly proceed.

Part I: The Meaning and Function of Tradition Georges Florovsky, one of the outstanding theologians and writers of our century, made a statement to the effect that he would not isolate himself to his own age. [1]

That thought is not only provocative but also disconcerting. For isolating ourselves to our own age is precisely what the vast majority of Christians are doing today. We are ignorant of our spiritual heritage. We have cut ourselves off from our spiritual roots.

We might recall that there were Church Fathers, but we are completely ignorant of what they said. Our recollection of the Church’s Seven Ecumenical Councils dims even more, even though the Councils’ decisions, definitions, and directions were understood to be the irrevocable mind of the Spirit upon which the entire Church was forever to be secured and defined.

In other words, vast segments of Christendom are not benefiting from what the Church has been, said, or done. We are not building on the mind of the Spirit, which was pursued so faithfully and defended with such meticulous care by our spiritual forefathers. We are living and thinking as though the Church did not exist until we got on board or that the Church of the past is irrelevant and inconsequential. For many it is as though the Church ended in Acts 28 and did not reappear until the sixteenth century Reformation, or for a few, not until the twentieth century.

What we are saying in all of this is simply that many of us have cut ourselves off from what the Church has called Holy Tradition. This has not only created an anemic condition among us; it has drastically deformed our concept of the Church. When some of my friends say, "I wish we were more like the early Church," I fear they do not know what they are asking and would be reluctant to pursue the only avenue that leads to its restoration. You see, it is Holy Tradition that provides us our living connection with the past. We can be like the early Church, but not without Holy Tradition. It alone "contemporizes" the past with integrity. It alone introduces us to the mind of the Spirit, which never contradicts itself.

I recognize, however, that for many, Tradition has a lot of negative associations. It speaks of man-made rules and regulations; of things antiquated, irrelevant, and formalized; of quaint ideas suited best for a museum. It speaks of a restrictive adherence to the past that handicaps our freedom to pursue the fresh breeze of God’s Spirit. But possibly most damaging is the assumption that Tradition speaks of things that Jesus forthrightly condemned. People erroneously equate Jesus’ condemnation of the "tradition of the elders" with the Church’s Holy Tradition. They fail to see that those human precepts were substitutes for the Gospel, while the Church’s traditions are the very framework that opens the Gospel up to us.

We commonly think of tradition as something handed down to us from the past. Christian Tradition is that, but much, much more. Holy Tradition has to do with the Faith which our Lord imparted to the Apostles and which, since Apostolic times, has been handed down from generation to generation in the Church. It is that understanding and those practices, which have been tested by a long time and were permanently lasting. But let me be more specific.

A Common Understanding Tradition, first of all, has to do with a body of material, a common understanding, an accepted way of interpreting and dealing with the Faith. The importance of this presumed unity is seen clearly in Scripture. The Apostle Paul passionately appeals to the Christians at Corinth, "that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment" (I Cor. 1:10). He insists that all church leaders "hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it" (Titus 1:9). Our Lord’s prayer for unity in John 17 has everything to do with His followers being sanctified "in the truth" (v. 17). And again, His promise to be present with those who gather in His Name is predicated by His saying, "if two of you agree . . ." (Matt. 18:19). Then, of course, there is Paul’s unparalleled reference to "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5).

From the time of our Lord there began developing a body of truth, a particular interpretation of the divine events; and the Church leaders from the time of the Apostles were given to preserving and building on that sacred "tradition." So the Apostle Paul exclaims, "stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter" (II Thess. 2:15). "I commend you," Paul says to the Corinthian believers, "because you . . . maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you" (I Cor. 11:2). [2]

And so, Saint Vincent of Lerins echoes the attitude of the early Church in the matters of faith when he wrote, "We must hold what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all." [3]

The Mind of the Church Seeing Tradition as encompassing this common understanding, the appeal to Tradition also becomes an appeal to the mind of the Church. It is the thinking capital of the Church. So the fourth century Greek Father Athanasius encourages a Church Bishop: "Let us look at that very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the very beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached, and the Fathers preserved. Upon this the Church is founded." [4]

Thank God the Church has a mind. It is healthy. It retains. It doesn’t forget. There is an ecclesiastical understanding that lives in the Church. We don’t have to be "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men" (Eph. 4:14).

Occasionally someone suggests that the early Church quickly became an apostate, but this is so incongruous with the integrity with which the mind of the Church was maintained. If ever there were "fundamentalists," in the best sense of the word, they lived in those early centuries. They were sticklers for the truth. In dealing with heretics, the defenders of the Faith always appealed to the mind of the Church, to that Faith which had been once delivered and faithfully kept.

So instead of becoming apostate, just the opposite was taking place. As one writer said, "In the divine economy of Providence it was permitted that every form of heresy that was ever to infest the Church should now exhibit its essential principle and attract the censures of the faithful. Thus, testimony to the primitive truth was secured and recorded: the language of catholic orthodoxy was developed and defined, and landmarks of faith were set up for perpetual memorial to all generations." [5]

So we have Saint Irenaeus (ca. 130–215) writing of Polycarp:

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by Apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by Apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried (on earth) a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the Apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. [6]

Saint Irenaeus further states that the true Faith "is being preserved in the Church from the Apostles through the succession of the presbyters." [7] This speaks of the Church holding the same Faith with one voice as handed down by the Apostles and preserved by the successive witnesses.

Reflecting this mind of the Church, one writer penned it so beautifully:

We preserve the Doctrine of the Lord uncorrupted, and firmly adhere to the Faith He delivered to us, and keep it free from blemish and diminution, as a Royal Treasure, and a monument of great price, neither adding any thing, nor taking any thing from it. [8]

So appealing to Tradition is appealing to the mind of the Church, to an ecclesiastical understanding; indeed, it is our living connection with the fullness of the Church experience. It is the total life of the Church transferred from place to place and from generation to generation as it is inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit. "For tradition which expresses the voice of the whole Church is also the voice of the Holy Spirit living in the Church." [9] How comforting and securing it is to be a part of that stream of consciousness, that river of truth.

Patristic as Well as Apostolic Our understanding of Tradition is further enhanced when we realize that the early Church considered itself Patristic as well as Apostolic. Apostles and Fathers were coupled together. The Fathers were the theologians, the teachers of the Faith if you please, whom God raised up to give definition to the truth recorded in Scripture. They preserved and developed the Faith in keeping with the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The book of Acts begins with Luke reminding his readers that in his previously written Gospel he "dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach" (Acts 1:1). The implication is that our Lord continued His ministry and teaching long after His Ascension. This is in keeping with Jesus’ promise to His disciples that after His departure, "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). The Church believed that one of the critical evidences of the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit was in and through the Fathers of the Faith. [10]

The mind of the Church and conforming to the Traditions of the Fathers are synonymous. The heretics were judged by the Church because they had no Fathers. They were innovators; their thinking was not in keeping with the Tradition that the Spirit had revealed and that the Fathers had preserved. And so the eighteenth century monk, Starets Paisii, sums it up well in a letter to a friend:

I plead and ask you from my whole heart to have undoubting faith in the Fathers and in the teachings contained in them, for they agree in all respects with the Divine Scriptures and with the minds of all the ecumenical teachers and the entire Holy Church, because one and the same Holy Spirit was working in them. [11]

Scripture and Tradition Undoubtedly the most troublesome facet of Tradition for the Protestant is the relationship of Tradition to Scripture. The Protestant puts Scripture above the Church. It is as though the Church was made for the Bible, when in reality the Bible was made for the Church. One must begin by realizing that the Bible and Tradition are not two different expressions of the Christian faith. Holy Tradition is the source of Holy Scripture. The Bible is given to us in Tradition. Holy Tradition is the faith of which Holy Scripture is an expression.

The Scriptural message was given to men not in paper and ink. God’s Word was first placed in men’s souls; His words were engraved and imprinted in spirit and not by letter. Our Lord’s message was first presented orally and only later written down (see Luke 1:1–3).

Early in the Church the Word of God began to develop and take on specific form and expression. A common understanding, a "tradition," if you please, began developing under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles and their converts taught and founded churches all over the Mediterranean world and left them with its oral Tradition (see Acts 2:42; II Thess. 2:15, 3:6, etc.).

Some might say, "Didn’t Tradition get out of hand and impose a lot of excess baggage on the Bible?" It is true that certain doctrines began to take shapes that are only alluded to in the Bible (e.g., the Trinity). Specific forms of worship and practice also began to develop, like the rites of Baptism and the Eucharist. The Fathers, however, always spoke of these as having "Apostolic" origin. It is helpful to think of these so-called "additions" to the Bible as what might be omitted from a biography. A biography does not exhaust the life of its subject. One would never say that because such and such is not in the biography, therefore, it did not happen. Saint Basil (ca. 330–379) spoke of these as the "unwritten mysteries of the Church," all of which were flourishing in the fourth century and were understood to have great authority and significance and were considered indispensable for the preservation of the right Faith. [12] "Some things we have from written teaching," said Saint Basil, "others we have received from the Apostolic Tradition handed down to us in a mystery; and both these things have the same force for piety." [13]

"But shouldn’t the Church be identical with the Church of the Apostles? The Church in the Acts of the Apostles appears so simple." That is like comparing your picture as an adult with your picture taken as a child. There is a correspondence, but something would be woefully wrong if your appearance remained identical. A seed has an entire tree hidden in its smallness. As the seed begins to grow, phenomenal changes take place. However, its identity and continuity with the seed is never lost. Even if that tree should live for one hundred, two hundred, or more years, every single leaf that shall ever appear will have had its origin and existence in that tiny seed from which the tree sprang forth. Apple seeds don’t produce cornstalks. So it is with the Church. The Gospel starts like a seed, but as it takes root and develops, changes do take place. The Spirit, however, does not contradict Himself; so the Church’s development in its self-awareness, doctrine, and practice had to be meticulously in line with the mind of the Spirit as He had always been known and expressed.

Just because an idea was ancient did not automatically make it authentic. Something became a part of Holy Tradition only if a comprehensive consensus of the ancients could be satisfactorily demonstrated. And that consensus, as such, was not conclusive unless it could be traced back continuously to Apostolic origins. [14]

Tradition was never regarded as adding anything to Scripture; it was the means of ascertaining and expressing the true meaning of Scripture. Tradition, therefore, is the true interpreter of Scripture. We would say Tradition is Scripture rightly understood.

Scripture Rightly Understood It is important to realize that the Church existed before the New Testament was written. Little by little the Gospels and Epistles began to appear. One writer rightly observed:

Moreover, when we take into account how few "books," or manuscripts, there were in those days, and the fact that besides the genuine writings there were other gospels and texts written under the names of the Apostles, it is easy to understand how important the living Tradition of the Church was in safeguarding the true Christian faith. The prime importance of Tradition is plainly shown by the fact that it was not until the fifth century that the Church established conclusively which books in circulation should be regarded as genuinely inspired by God’s revelation. Thus the Church itself determined the composition of the Bible. [15]

As the Church defined the content of the Bible, it is to the Church that we turn for the interpretation of the Bible.

No, this does not mean that we can’t read the Bible for ourselves and hear God speak to us from that reading. But on the other hand, "private interpretation" (II Peter 1:20) is never the basis for our authority. The judgment of Scriptural interpretation must never be a merely private judgment, but must be a judgment in harmony with the mind of the Church as expressed in Holy Tradition.

It is from the Church that the Bible ultimately derives its authority, for it was the Church which originally decided which books form a part of Holy Scripture; and it is the Church alone which can interpret Holy Scripture with authority. [16]

Saying this puts one on a collision course with what the vast majority of Western Christians believe today. Today we have bowed to the cult of proud individualism. "I can believe anything I want," or "Nobody tells me what to believe except the Holy Spirit" are heard time and again. We freely re-interpret Christ’s teachings according to our personal tastes, guided only by our personal liking. [17] As Georges Florovsky put it, "We are in danger of losing the uniqueness of the Word of God in the process of continuous reinterpretation.". [18] We might preach salvation in Christ, but it is a salvation in egocentric isolation from the Church. As someone observed, the Protestant in protesting the Pope has promoted each individual to the rank of infallible Pope. Private opinion reigns.

The Christian message is becoming increasingly indefinite and appearing as only one more teaching in the series of teachings ancient and new. And all of this because "without the Church the possibility is open for an innumerable quantity of the most arbitrary and mutually contradictory understandings.". [19] Because "the faith of Christ becomes clear and definite for man only when he unhypocritically believes in the Church; only then are the pearls of this faith clear, only then does the faith remain free from the pile of dirty rubbish of all-possible, self-willed opinions and judgments.". [20]

We need the Bible. We need Tradition. We need the Church. George Cronk in his book The Message of the Bible summarizes it well:

Since scripture is given within the context of tradition, it must also be read, interpreted, and understood within that context. And since as we have seen, tradition is the total life and experience of the Church, it follows that the Church is the sole authoritative interpreter of the Bible. Christ is the founder and head of the Church, and the Church is the body of Christ (see Eph. 4:1–16 and 5:21–33). This means that Christ lives in, inspires, and guides His Church through the Holy Spirit. Christ, in and through the Church, provides the correct interpretation of the Bible and of other aspects of holy tradition. It is only within the living Tradition of the Church and the direct inspiration of Christ’s Spirit that the proper interpretation of the Bible can be made. [21]

PART II: The Content and Relevance of Tradition Everything we have said thus far has to do with defining Tradition and seeing its role in the Church. But we can’t stop with that. The critical issue facing us now is not what Tradition means but what Tradition says. Once we begin developing an appreciation for Tradition we are forced to deal with its message. For the typical Evangelical Protestant, that can become a threatening and destabilizing experience. We are forced to rethink some passages of Scripture, question some of our long-standing beliefs, and re-evaluate our understanding of the spiritual life. We begin to realize that through "Westernization" we have, at least to a degree, lost the "scriptural mind," the idiom of the Bible. [22] In the light of Holy Tradition we appear embarrassingly discordant.

Obviously this paper is not the place to deal with the full scope of Tradition’s content; that is a massive subject. However, as I gained confidence in the integrity of Tradition as my guide, I discovered three specific areas of thought that not only filled my mind with wonderment but also challenged my thinking and further pointed me home to Orthodoxy. I refer to the early Church’s understanding of Episcopacy, Baptism, and the Eucharist. Let me now share some of my findings in those three areas, and let us see how we compare with the understanding and practice of the early Church.

The Place of the Bishop Many people today are attracted to churches that down play formality and structure in favor of spontaneity and equality. They have the misguided understanding that this is what most authentically reflects the life of the early Church. [23] If that were so, what do we do with the thoughts of Clement, Bishop of Rome at the end of the first century? He gives us a bird’s eye view of church life that not only speaks of order and design in worship, but he sees the regulations of Leviticus as illustrative of Christian worship.

The Lord has commanded that the offerings and services should be performed with care, and done at the fixed times and seasons, not in a haphazard and irregular fashion... . The high priest has been given his own special services, the priests have been assigned their own place, and the Levites [i.e., deacons] have their special ministrations enjoined on them. The layman is bound by the ordinances of the laity. [24]

I find it most interesting that he speaks of "laymen," making a clear distinction between ministers and congregation.

Then we have the writing of Ignatius. He was appointed the second Bishop of Antioch about A.D. 69. This makes him a very early witness and early enough that we dare not discount the tradition that he was a disciple of the Apostle John. His life stretches back to the very roots of our Faith and, therefore, has to be taken very seriously. [25] What we discover in his writings is his overriding emphasis on unity and submission to ecclesiastical authority represented primarily by the Bishop. He says that without the Bishop there is no Church, there is no Baptism, no Eucharist; that the Bishop presides at common worship, and if Presbyters officiate, they do so as his delegates. [26] But let Ignatius speak for himself:

I advise you, be eager to act always in godly concord; with the bishop presiding as the counterpart of God, the presbyters as the counterpart of the council of the Apostles, and the deacons ... who have been entrusted with a service ... so you must do nothing without the bishop and the presbyters. And do not try to think that anything is praiseworthy which you do on your own accord: but unite in one prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope; with love and blameless joy... . When you are submissive to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, it is clear to me that you are not living as ordinary men but according to Jesus Christ... . Likewise let all men respect the deacons as they reverence Jesus Christ, just as they must respect the bishop as the counterpart of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and the college of Apostles; without those no church is recognized. [27]

We must bear in mind that originally there was only one Church in a given community. And, as is obvious from the above readings, they all met together in one place around a Bishop. As Georges Florovsky says: "It can be asserted with great assurance that ... each local community was headed by its own Bishop, and that he was the main, and probably exclusive, minister of all sacraments in his church for his flock." [28] But when the number of Christians grew and a single meeting of this sort became impossible, the community of believers split into a network of parishes dependent upon it. The Presbyters (Elders) then replaced the Bishop and became his fully empowered deputies, but through the sacrament of the episcopal laying on of hands all congregations retained their organic link with the Bishop as the beneficent organ of Church unity. [29]

Irenaeus was another early Bishop born about A.D. 130. His argument against the heretics of his day was that the truth to be espoused was the truth preserved in the churches through the succession of Bishops. With great confidence he says: "We can enumerate those who were appointed bishops in the Churches by the Apostles and their successors down to our own day." He then lists the Bishops, using the Church at Rome and its succession of Bishops as his example. I personally found this most intriguing. He said:

The blessed Apostles, after they had founded and built the church [at Rome], handed over to Linus the office of Bishop. Paul mentions this Linus in his epistles to Timothy. He was succeeded by Anacletus, after whom Clement was appointed to the bishopric, third in order from the Apostles. He not only had seen the blessed Apostles, but had also conferred with them, and had their preaching still ringing in his ears, and their tradition still before his eyes.

After listing the several other successors he concludes by saying:

... and now Eleutherus occupies the see, the twelfth from the Apostles. In his order and succession the Apostolic tradition in the church and the preaching of the truth has come down to our time. [30]

Interesting indeed! Yes, the early Church was under a great move of God’s Spirit, but not without a developing design and structure and not without highly visible, duly recognized, heavenly ordained leadership.

This answers the question of why the book of Acts gives such prominence to the Apostles. Why is it the Acts of the Apostles? Why not the Acts of all true Spirit-filled believers? Immediately after the death of Judas, the Apostles felt obligated to appoint a successor. There had to be twelve. Then came Pentecost and everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit. There was a great "charismatic revival," in the authentic apostolic and patristic sense of the term, in fulfillment of Christ’s own words, "I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. . . . But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:18, 25). But what happened? Did this spiritual awakening mean everyone began doing his own thing, starting his own independent ministry, maybe his own church? No. We read: "And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). The Church was sacramental; the people were subject to the Apostles and were soon to find the same security, nourishment, and leadership in the Bishops as the uncontested successors to the Apostles.

As free-spirited evangelicals, what do we do with this information? Dare we make light of Apostolic Succession? What would those early leaders think of all our freewheeling independent movements? Does our understanding of the Church, its leadership, authority, and functioning correspond with integrity to that early Church?

But let’s hold those questions in abeyance for a few minutes and move on to another area. I refer to the early Church’s understanding of Baptism.

The Meaning of Baptism All the extant writings of antiquity point to one undeniable fact, and that is that the early Church was a sacramental Church both in theology and practice. Alexander Schmemann put it well. He said: "This double mystery—rebirth from water and the Spirit and the breaking of bread—was not simply a ceremonial service but the source, the content, the very heart of primitive Christianity." [31]

The Scriptures make many references to Baptism and in such a manner that it places Baptism as an indispensable part of one’s salvation experience.

—Jesus’ description of the new birth as a birth by water and the Spirit was always understood by the early Church as the water of holy Baptism (John 3:5).

—Jesus’ commissioning His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples was to be realized first by baptizing them (Matt. 28:19).

—Peter, on the day of Pentecost, directed his congregation that the way out of their sin and into the Spirit-filled life was to "repent and be baptized" (Acts 2:38).

—Ananias knew the importance of Baptism as evidenced in his exhorting the new convert Saul: "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His Name" (Acts 22:16).

—Paul’s exhortation to the Romans was for them not to forget what happened at their Baptism:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by Baptism into death... . We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:3, 4a, 6).

And on and on we could go with Scriptural references (some other references are I Cor. 6:11; 10:2; 12:13; Titus 3:5; I Pet. 3:21; Heb. 10:32.) However, there is one additional reference that is very suggestive. I refer to Mark 16:16: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved." Even though those several verses are omitted in some of the ancient texts, it is nevertheless extremely important because it gives us a keyhole peek into how the early Church regarded Baptism.

It is obvious from these references that Baptism was not like a piece of costume jewelry that was just for show. It was very critical to their understanding and experience of salvation. Baptism was much more than a public testimony. It represented not only the action of man but also the action of God. Most certainly this understanding is found everywhere in the early writings. There is an abundance of testimony.

I think of the writings of Saint Justin the Martyr, born at the end of the first century. In his First Apology, a defense of the Christian faith and practice, he made reference to the threefold immersion in the Name of the Trinity, that there were already established specific instructions for the candidates followed by prayer and fasting for the entire church. He speaks of Baptism as a "washing" and "illumination." And bear in mind that this was written the first generation after the Apostles. Let’s let Justin speak for himself:

I shall now explain our method of dedicating ourselves to God after we have been created anew through Christ... . All who accept and believe as true the things taught and said by us, and who undertake to have the power to live accordingly, are taught to pray and entreat God, fasting, for the forgiveness of their former sins, while we join in their prayer and fasting. Then we bring them to a place where there is water, where they are regenerated in the same way as we were: for they then make their ablution in the water in the Name of God the Father and Lord of all, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. [32]

Later on he continues, saying:

And for this [rite] we have learned from the Apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the Name of God the Father.

He then speaks again of the Trinitarian invocation and then says, "And this washing is called illumination because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings. . . . he who is illuminated is washed." [33]

I was so moved when I first read Justin’s statement, "And for this [rite] we have learned from the Apostles . . ." That statement alone gives tremendous authority to all he is saying. Awesome indeed!

A document known as The Shepherd of Hermas was written about A.D. 100, about ten years after the repose of the Apostle John. The Shepherd writes:

They had need to come up through the water, so that they might be made alive; for they could not otherwise enter into the Kingdom of God, except by putting away the mortality of their former life. These also, then, who have fallen asleep, received the seal of the Son of God, and entered into the Kingdom of God. For, he said, before a man bears the Name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal, he puts mortality aside and again receives life. The seal, therefore, is the water. They go down into the water dead, and come out of it alive. [34]

Yes, the early Church believed in Baptism as an indispensable part of the salvation experience. As Saint John Chrysostom so aptly noted, others fish by pulling fish out of the water, whereas we Christians fish by throwing the fish into the water. [35]

One cannot help observing that the form of Baptism was also well established in the Church’s Tradition. Alexander Schmemann in his delightful book Of Water And The Spirit reminds us that in the early Church there was no dichotomy between form and substance in Baptism. For the early Church the form of Baptism was the very means by which the essence was manifested, communicated, and fulfilled. He put it graphically when he wrote:

And the early Church, before she explains if she explains them at all—the "why," the "what," and the "how" of this baptismal death and resurrection, simply knew that to follow Christ one must, at first, die and rise again with Him and in Him; that Christian life truly begins with an event in which, as in all genuine events, the very distinction between "form" and "essence" is but an irrelevant abstraction. In Baptism—because it is an event—the form and essence, the "doing" and the "happening," the sign and its meaning coincide, for the purpose of one is precisely to be the other, both to reveal and to fulfill it. Baptism is what it represents because what it represents—death and resurrection— is true... . Such is the central, overwhelming, and all-embracing experience of the early Church, an experience so self-evident, so direct, that at first she did not even "explain" it but saw it rather as the source and the condition of all explanations, all theologies. [36]

I find it difficult if not impossible to disregard the ancient testimonies. I find it equally hard to imagine that the New Testament’s strong and elevated emphasis on Baptism could have arisen if it were understood simply as a public testimony, as representing only the action of man.

But let us move on to the third area that early captured my attention and further reminded me how far we have wandered from the early Church’s thinking and practice. I refer to the Eucharist.

The Centrality of the Eucharist The Eucharist was the center of the Church’s worship. It was the "sacrament of sacraments" to which everything in the Church led and from which all things flowed.

The Church took very seriously and quite literally Jesus’ words "This is My Body" and "This is My Blood" (Matt. 26:26, 27). And again, "I am the living bread which came down from Heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh" (John 6:51). And again in John 6:56, "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him."

Again let me quote Justin the Martyr. Remember, these words were shared only some fifty years since the repose of the Apostles, and the immediate disciples of the Apostles were still living and were the leaders of the numerous Churches.

And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the Apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them: that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My Body" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My Blood" and gave it to them alone. [37]

Saint Ignatius, who was appointed as the second Bishop of Antioch in about A.D. 69, in writing against people who hold strange, unorthodox views, said: "They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer because they do not acknowledge that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins." [38] Irenaeus (born ca. 130) supports this when he wrote: "For as the bread, which comes from the earth, receives the invocation of God, and then it is no longer common bread but Eucharist, consists of two things, an earthly and a heavenly . . ." [39]

The fourteenth century monk, Nicholas Cabasilas, expresses most beautifully the Church’s long-standing understanding of the spiritual effect of the Eucharist when it is properly understood, approached, and administered:

O wonder of wonders, that Christ’s spirit is united to our spirit, His will is one with ours, His flesh becomes our flesh, His blood flows in our veins. What spirit is ours when it is possessed by His, our will when led captive by His, our clay when set on fire by His flame! [40]

The above words indicating that the Eucharist must be "properly understood, approached, and administered" were carefully chosen. Some time ago I was teaching a class in my church and the discussion turned to the centrality of the Eucharist in early Christian worship. One of my students, realizing that our church had Communion only once a month, inquired as to why we did not have it more often. My response was that the frequency of Communion does not make it like the early Church’s Eucharist, that we lacked the spiritual context that would make it meaningful. How true, especially when it is regarded only as a memorial supper. "Properly understood, approached, and administered" is critical.

The scholastic endeavor to determine when and how wine and bread become the Body and Blood of our Lord never seemed to concern the early Church. All they knew was that by the sacrament they were partakers of Christ through faith and that their spiritual life was fed and renewed. The Orthodox have never attempted to explain the "reality" by using Aristotelian categories of "essence" and "accidents" and, as occurred in Roman Catholicism, to describe the change as "transubstantiation."

The early Church seemed quite satisfied to simply believe that this is a matter of faith, that there is another reality different from the "empirical" one, and that reality can be entered, can be communicated, can actually become the most real of realities. [41]

As Alexander Schmemann says:

The purpose of the Eucharist lies not in the change of the bread and wine, but in our partaking of Christ, who has become our food, our life, the manifestation of the Church as the Body of Christ.

This is why the holy Gifts themselves never became in the Orthodox East an object of special reverence, contemplation, and adoration, and likewise an object of special theological "problematics": how, when, in what manner their change is accomplished. The Eucharist—and this means the changing of the holy Gifts—is a mystery that cannot be revealed and explained in the categories of "this world"—time, essence, causality, etc. It is revealed only to faith: "I believe also that this is truly Thine own most pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood." Nothing is explained, nothing is defined, nothing has changed in "this world." But then whence comes this light, this joy that overflows the heart, this feeling of fulness and of touching the "other world"? [42]

In Protestant circles we often hear, "But it’s only a symbol." We, however, need to remind ourselves that Jesus did not say that this represents or stands for my Body. He said, "This is my Body."

Reporters once asked the famous choreographer, Martha Graham, "What does your dance mean?" She replied, "Darlings, if I could tell you, I would not have danced it." [43] Symbols point us to something beyond themselves, to truths that transcend words. Today, however, we tend to think of a symbol as representing and speaking of an absent reality. Symbol as originally understood, however, meant manifesting and making present the other reality, a reality that could not be made present in any other way other than as a symbol. [44]

One writer, after discussing these Holy Mysteries, summarizes it well:

We must answer that the Mysteries of Baptism and the Eucharist "do not merely suggest or express spiritual realities, but positively embody and convey them, as they could not be conveyed by any other mode... . Substance and form are here complementary and inseparable. The outward does not simply represent the inward. It is the inward, clothed in the only form in which it is possible for us to apprehend it by our earthly faculties. Matter is not the antithesis of spirit, but its home and living garment, something used to shadow forth the highest truths, and even to become the dwelling-place of that divine Being Who giveth to spiritual realities a body, even as it pleaseth Him. This tendency finds its warrant and consummation in the sublime Mystery of the Incarnation, which is the Word made Flesh ... God with us." [45]

The above stated truths are further supported when we look at the word "remembrance" in the words of Jesus, "Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19). The Greek word we translate "remembrance" is anamnesis. It really has no adequate one-word translation. It carries with it the sense of being there, participating, joining with, rather than the simple commemoration of or looking back on a past event. The French scholar, Louis Bouyer, put it in a much more scholarly manner in his book Eucharist. He said: "It in no way means a subjective, human psychological act of returning to the past, but an objective reality destined to make something or someone perpetually present." [46]

So the Eucharist is not a sacred drama, a mere representation of past events. It is a personal encounter with the living resurrected Christ. It is the place where we meet Christ in the fullness of His redeeming activity, the place where Christ is made present, where He makes Himself present (Luke 24:31).

And so an Orthodox priest writing to his flock says:

At the Liturgy, we are not simply remembering something which happened 2,000 years ago—that is Protestant theology; nor are we repeating something which cannot be repeated, which happened once and for all—that is Roman Catholic theology; we are present at the actual event we remember whether it be the Nativity, the Resurrection, or Pentecost. Actually, all these events are made present to us and we to them in a mysterious but nonetheless real way. God, Who is outside of time, sees all eternity at once. For Him the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ are now and He unites our poor worship to the event which we remember. [47]

Let me bring this paper to a close with a question: What are we to do with this tremendous witness from the past? We know what the early Church was like. With just the three examples I gave—Episcopacy, Baptism, and Eucharist—we can see how far off course we have veered. What are we to do about it?

I would join countless numbers of evangelical Protestants and say I have come to know Christ with fulfilling and life-changing effects and daily witness His grace and leadership in my life. But just because God in His grace and mercy has met us where we are and adapted Himself to our unique cultural and religious circumstances in no way means He has abandoned His original plan. God does not contradict Himself. Truth is intolerant, and truth is found in the Church’s living and Holy Tradition. It is my growing conviction that only a strong living Tradition can protect us from the corrosive and destructive forces of modern life, the insidious and deceptive effects of modern pluralism, and the disheartening and confusing proliferation of religious opinions.

I have heard Bishop Ephraim tell of various conversations he has had with non-Orthodox people who try to convince him of the rightness of their non-Orthodox beliefs. He says they usually begin their apology with the words, "I believe," "I feel," or "In my opinion." At that point Bishop Ephraim feels compelled to say, "Wait, wait, wait. It has no bearing on this matter what you believe, or think, or feel, or what your opinion is, just as it is of no importance what I believe, or think, or feel, or what my opinion is in this matter. The only thing that is of any importance and has any authority in these matters is what the Church has always believed, thought, and felt... . In this, as in every matter, it is the Church and its sacred Tradition which must teach us, and we must listen humbly and be instructed."

What are we to do with this "cloud of witnesses," this Holy Tradition through which they live and speak with such clarity and certitude? Well, for me there seems to be only one logical response. I must turn to the Church and its sacred Tradition; I must listen humbly and be instructed. I cannot let God’s marvelous blessings of the past blind me to what I have missed or deter me from that to which He would lead me still. I must return home to Orthodoxy. [48]

Endnotes 1. Georges Florovsky, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View, p. 11.

2. See also II Thess. 3:6.

3. Florovsky, op. cit., p. 73.

4. Quoted by Florovsky, op. cit., p. 83.

5. Quoted in the study paper, The References to Baptism and the Eucharist in the First Apology of Saint Justin Martyr—The Generation After the Apostles, pp. 5-6.

6. Ibid., p. 5.

7. Quoted by Florovsky, op. cit., p. 74.

8. Letter of 1718 in G. Williams, The Orthodox Church of the East in the Eighteenth Century, p. 17.

9. Protopresbyter Michael Pomazensky, The Old Testament in the New Testament Church, p. 14.

10. Timothy Ware identifies some of these Fathers in his book, The Orthodox Church, p. 212 as follows: The Orthodox Church has never attempted to define exactly who the Fathers are, still less to classify them in order of importance. But it has a particular reverence for the writers of the fourth century, and especially for those whom it terms ‘the Three Great Hierarchs’: Gregory of Nazianzus [the Theologian], Basil the Great, and John Chrysostom. In the eyes of Orthodoxy the ‘Age of the Fathers’ did not come to an end in the fifth century, for many later writers are also ‘Fathers’—Maximus, John of Damascus, Theodore of Studium, Symeon the New Theologian, Gregory Palamas, Mark of Ephesus. Indeed, it is dangerous to look on ‘the Fathers’ as a closed cycle of writings belonging wholly to the past, for might not our own age produce a new Basil or Athanasius? To say that there can be no more Fathers is to suggest that the Holy Spirit has deserted the Church.

11. Fr. Sergii Chetverikov, Starets Paisii Velichkovskii, p. 246.

12. Florovsky (op. cit., p. 87) discussing these "unwritten mysteries" existing in the Church of Basil’s day as including: "the use of the sign of the Cross in the rite of admission of Catechumens; the orientation toward East at prayer; the habit to keep standing at worship on Sundays; the epiclesis in the Eucharistic rite; the blessing of water and oil, the renunciation of Satan and his pomp, the triple immersion, in the rite of Baptism." Also Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, p. 204, gives the content of Tradition its broader perspective when he says: "It means the books of the Bible; it means the Creed; it means the decrees of the Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Fathers; it means the Canons, the Service Books, the Holy Icons—in fact, the whole system of doctrine, Church government, worship, and art which Orthodoxy has articulated over the ages. The Orthodox Christian of today sees himself as heir and guardian to a great inheritance received from the past, and he believes that it is his duty to transmit this inheritance unimpaired to the future."

13. Ware, op. cit., p. 213.

14. See Florovsky, op. cit., p. 74.

15. Archbishop Paul of Finland, The Faith We Hold, p. 18.

16. Ware, op. cit., p. 207.

17. See William Kirk Kilpatrick, Psychological Seduction, p. 166.

18. Florovsky, op. cit., p. 10.

19. Archbishop Ilarion (Troitsky), Christianity Or The Church?, p. 31.

20. Ilarion, op. cit., p. 32.

21. George Cronk, The Message of the Bible, p. 24.

22. Florovsky, op. cit., p. 10.

23. Kilpatrick, op. cit., p. 165, rightly says: "God did not create a simple world, and He has not given us a simple religion. The doctrine of the Incarnation is every bit as subtle as the doctrine of protons and electrons, and much more so."

24. The Early Christian Fathers, edited by Henry Bettenson, p. 32.

25. The Apostolic Fathers, edited by Jack N. Sparks, p. 73.

26. See Bettenson, op. cit., p. 5.

27. Ibid., pp. 42-44.

28. Georges Florovsky, Christianity and Culture, p. 89.

29. Alexander Schmemann, Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy, pp. 28-33. For further reading in early church development read Florovsky, Christianity and Culture, pp. 88-96; Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, pp. 19-25.

30. Bettenson, op. cit.

31. Schmemann, op. cit., p. 29.

32. Bettenson, op. cit., p. 61.

33. As quoted in "The References to Baptism and the Eucharist" in the First Apology of Saint Justin Martyr, p. 13.

34. Quoted in "The Form of Baptism", Bishop Ephraim, p. 3.

35. Quoted in "The Form of Baptism", Bishop Ephraim, p. 3.

36. Alexander Schmemann, Of Water And The Spirit, pp. 55, 56. The Protestant view of Baptism, if not the Sacraments in general, was considerably affected by the 18th Century European "Enlightenment" which depreciated the role of mystery in life. In the "Enlightenment view" everything has to be rational, reasonable and understandable. Human understanding was stressed over divine activity. The focus of faith shifted from God’s action to our action. So when we think of the meaning of Baptism in Enlightenment terms, the answer has to do with our testimony, a means of our understanding certain truth, our means of joining the Church, a little memory exercise that helps us say, remember or think something. From Remember Who You Are by William Willimon, pp. 33, 34.

37. Quoted by "The References to Baptism and the Eucharist" in the First Apology of Saint Justin the Martyr, p. 20.

38. Sparks, op. cit., p. 112.

39. Bettenson, op. cit., p. 96.

40. The Life in Christ, Nicholas Cabasilas, p. 23.

41. See Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist, pp. 38, 39.

42. Ibid., p. 226.

43. From Sacred Symbols That Speak, Vol. I, Anthony M. Coniaris, p. 5.

44. Schmemann, op. cit., p. 38.

45. From "The References to Baptism and the Eucharist" in the First Apology of Saint Justin, pp. 22, 23.

46. Louis Bouyer, Eucharist, pp. 103, 104.

47. "Orthodox Light," Vol. 4, April 1988, p. 5.

48. I was deeply moved and encouraged by the comments of one who was working for the restoration of the Orthodox way of life in the West. He recognized that one cannot ignore the thousand years of Western cultural experience that has formed the souls of the Westerners and its genuine values and virtues. Then with compassion and sensitivity he said that Orthodoxy, if it is the fullness of truth, should reveal such largeness of soul, such generosity of spirit, that anything of genuine value and truth in any culture should be purged and transfigured in its radiance. I most humbly say, "Amen!" "So be it!"

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TOPICS: Catholic; Mainline Protestant; Orthodox Christian; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: catholic; evangelical; orthodox; protestand; protestant; tradition
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1 posted on 12/15/2006 10:17:57 AM PST by kawaii
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To: kawaii

I am Catholic and I rejoice that The Reverend Dorraine Snogren has come into the Orthodox Church.

I recently so a TV ad for the UMC. Not one mention of Jesus??? It was the sort of ad you would expect to see for Coca Cola back in the mid 70's. Remember " I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke" ?

At least one can be assured that in Orthodoxy the good Reverend will hear about Christ as revealed in Scripture and known by the apostles. God Bless.


2 posted on 12/15/2006 10:48:06 AM PST by lastchance (Hug your babies.)
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To: lastchance

that said i posted this so as to illustrate that the closer the protestants come to actually learning the history of the church and its doctrines the closer they come to the apostolic church which in fact protestantism does not even resemble.

i know a lot of protestants have/are come to the Roman church as well if I recall.


3 posted on 12/15/2006 10:54:22 AM PST by kawaii
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To: kawaii

Oooh...let me pull up a chair and get some popcorn. This should be fun.


4 posted on 12/15/2006 10:57:02 AM PST by big'ol_freeper (It looks like one of those days when one nuke is just not enough-- Lt. Col. Mitchell, SG-1)
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To: kawaii
Thanks for the article kawaii. I have just one minor quibble:

nor are we repeating something which cannot be repeated, which happened once and for all—that is Roman Catholic theology;

That's a straw man of Rome's position. We don't believe we are "repeating" anything.

-A8

5 posted on 12/15/2006 10:59:28 AM PST by adiaireton8 ("There is no greater evil one can suffer than to hate reasonable discourse." - Plato, Phaedo 89d)
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To: kawaii

I forget who said " To be deep in ( church) history is to cease to be Protestant" Maybe Newman?

I pray that one day Catholics and Orthodox will regain unity for the good and glory of His Name.


6 posted on 12/15/2006 11:13:51 AM PST by lastchance (Hug your babies.)
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To: kawaii
In Protestant circles we often hear, "But it’s only a symbol." We, however, need to remind ourselves that Jesus did not say that this represents or stands for my Body. He said, "This is my Body."

The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The Real Presence is NOT symbolic

To speak of symbolically "eating my body and drinking my blood" would mean the words of Jesus ...

Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day

... Really meant.... "WHOEVER PERSECUTES ME AND ASSAULTS ME WILL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE."

That is so because to symbolically eat somebody's body and drink their blood means Persecute and Assault

Do you think Jesus intended to say that the way to eternal life is to persecute and assault Him? Of course not.

Following are examples from Holy Writ where one, symbolically, eats somebody's body and drinks their blood.

Ps 26:2

Isaias 9:18-20

Isaias 49:26

Micah 3:3:2

2 Kings 23:17

Rev 17:6,16

To symbolically eat someone's flesh and blood is to persecute and assault them.

In the Eucharist, Jesus is present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity

Even Luther got it right about the Eucharist. "of all the early fathers, as many as you can name, not one has ever spoken about the sacraments as these fanatics do. None of them uses such an expressions as "It is simply bread and wine," or "Christ's body and blood are not present." Yet this subject is so frequently discussed by them, it is impossible that they should not at some time have let slip such an expression as "It is simply bread" or "Not that the body of Christ is physically present" or the like; since they are greatly concerned not to mislead the people; actually, they simply proceed to speak as if no one doubted that Christ's body and blood are present. Certainly among so many fathers and so many writings a negative arguement should have turned up at least once, as it happens in other articles; but actually they all stand uniformly and consistently on the affirmative side." Luther's Works

*Please reread John Chapter 6. Jesus repeatedly speaks the truth about His real presence in the Eucharist

7 posted on 12/15/2006 11:16:24 AM PST by bornacatholic
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To: kawaii

To be well-read in the Early Church Fathers is to cease being protestant


8 posted on 12/15/2006 11:17:36 AM PST by bornacatholic
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To: kawaii

"actually learning the history of the church and its doctrines"

Which doctrines? The rigid peity and aesetic sufferings of the montanists? Tertullian's seven deadly sins? Augustines confessions? Pelagias's denial of orginial sin? THe idea of early church unity is a myth. Their have been controversies and divisions ever since the apostolic age.


9 posted on 12/15/2006 11:26:30 AM PST by Augustinian monk
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To: Augustinian monk

The first time the ancient patriatrchates were not in unity was when the Antiochians broke off for a while. They've since returned, and many of the Non Chaceldonian church es have either already rejoined either the Roman or Orthodox churches, or show strong signs of doing so.

The church doing what the apostles said to and protecting the doctrine of the church is not a lack of unity, the the ecommunicating of heretics and heretical doctrines.


10 posted on 12/15/2006 11:45:40 AM PST by kawaii
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To: adiaireton8

Not aware of what that specifically is supposed to be an acussation of but it may come more from the author's protestant roots.

Converting to Orthodoxy will certainly bring one close to the early church but won't neccessarily clear up misconceptions about Catholicism.


11 posted on 12/15/2006 11:52:29 AM PST by kawaii
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To: Augustinian monk; sitetest; BlackElk; mockingbyrd; Rutles4Ever
Balderdash. Read St Cyprian, 3rd Century Catholic

Treatise I. On the Unity of the Church.1 Argument.-On the Occasion of the Schism of Novatian, to Keep Back from Him the Carthaginians, Who Already Were Not Averse to Him, on Account of Novatus and Some Other Presbyters of His Church, Who Had Originated the Whole Disturbance, Cyprian Wrote This Treatise. And First of All, Fortifying Them Against the Deceits of These, He Exhorts Them to Constancy, and Instructs Them that Heresies Exist Because Christ, the Head of the Church, is Not Looked To, that the Common Commission First Entrusted to Peter is Contemned, and the One Church and the One Episcopate are Deserted. Then He Proves, as Well by the Scriptures as by the Figures of the Old and New Testament, the Unity of the Church.2

1. Since the Lord warns us, saying, "Ye are the salt of the earth,"3 and since He bids us to be simple to harmlessness, and yet with our simplicity to be prudent, what else, beloved brethren, befits us, than to use foresight and watching with an anxious heart, both to perceive and to beware of the wiles of the crafty foe, that we, who have put on Christ the wisdom of God the Father, may not seem to be wanting in wisdom in the matter of providing for our salvation? For it is not persecution alone that is to be feared; nor those things which advance by open attack to overwhelm and cast down the servants of God. Caution is more easy where danger is manifest, and the mind is prepared beforehand for the contest when the adversary avows himself. The enemy is more to be feared and to be guarded against, when he creeps on us secretly; when, deceiving by the appearance of peace, he steals forward by hidden approaches, whence also he has received the name of the Serpent.4 That is always his subtlety; that is his dark and stealthy artifice for circumventing man. Thus from (he very beginning of the world he deceived; and flattering with lying words, he misled inexperienced souls by an incautious credulity. Thus he endeavoured to tempt the Lord Himself: he secretly approached Him, as if he would creep on Him again, and deceive; yet he was understood, and beaten back, and therefore prostrated, because he was recognised and detected.

2. From which an example is given us to avoid the way of the old man, to stand in the footsteps of a conquering5 Christ, that we may not again be incautiously turned back into the nets of death, but, foreseeing our danger, may possess the immortality that we have received. But how can we possess immortality, unless we keep those commands of Christ whereby death is driven out and overcome, when He Himself warns us, and says, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments? "6 And again: "If ye do the things that I command you, henceforth I call you not servants, but friends."7 Finally, these persons He calls strong and stedfast; these He declares to be founded in robust security upon the rock, established with immoveable and unshaken firmness, in opposition to all the tempests and hurricanes of the world. "Whosoever," says He, "heareth my words, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, that built his house upon a rock: the rain descended, the floods came, the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock."8 We ought therefore to stand fast on His words, to learn and do whatever He both taught and did. But how can a man say that he believes in Christ, who does not do what Christ commanded him to do? Or whence shall he attain to the reward of faith, who will not keep the faith of the commandment? He must of necessity waver and wander, and, caught away by a spirit of error, like dust which is shaken by the wind, be blown about; and he will make no advance in his walk towards salvation, because he does not keep the truth of the way of salvation.

3. But, beloved brethren, not only must we beware of what is open and manifest, but also of what deceives by the craft of subtle fraud. And what can be more crafty, or what more subtle, than for this enemy, detected and cast down by the advent of Christ, after light has come to the nations, and saving rays have shone for the preservation of men, that the deaf might receive the hearing of spiritual grace, the blind might open their eyes to God, the weak might grow strong again with eternal health, the lame might run to the church, the dumb might pray with clear voices and prayers-seeing his idols forsaken, and his lanes and his temples deserted by the numerous concourse of believers-to devise a new fraud, and under the very title of the Christian name to deceive the incautious? He has invented heresies and schisms, whereby he might subvert the faith, might corrupt the truth, might divide the unity.9 Those whom he cannot keep in the darkness of the old way, he circumvents and deceives by the error of a new way. He snatches men from the Church itself; and while they seem to themselves to have already approached to the light, and to have escaped the night of the world, he pours over them again, in their unconsciousness, new darkness; so that, although they do not stand firm with the Gospel of Christ, and with the observation and law of Christ, they still call themselves Christians, and, walking in darkness, they think that they have the light, while the adversary is flattering and deceiving, who, according to the apostle's word, transforms himself into an angel of light, and equips his ministers as if they were the ministers of righteousness, who maintain night instead of day, death for salvation, despair under the offer of hope, perfidy under the pretext of faith, antichrist under the name of Christ; so that, while they feign things like the truth, they make void the truth by their subtlety. This happens, beloved brethren, so long as we do not return to the source of truth, as we do not seek the head nor keep the teaching of the heavenly Master.

4. If any one consider and examine these things, there is no need for lengthened discussion and arguments. There is easy proof for faith in a short summary of the truth. The Lord speaks to Peter,10 saying, "I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."11 And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, "Feed nay sheep."12 And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins ye retain, they shall be retained; "13 yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity.14 Which one Church, also, the Holy Spirit in the Song of Songs designated in the person of our Lord, and says, "My dove, my spotless one, is but one. She is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her."15 Does he who does not hold this unity of the Church think that he holds the faith? Does he who strives against and resists the Church16 trust that he is in the Church, when moreover the blessed Apostle Paul teaches the same thing, and sets forth the sacrament of unity, saying, "There is one body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God? "17

5. And this unity we ought firmly to hold and assert, especially those of us that are bishops who preside in the Church, that we may also prove the episcopate itself to be one and undivided.18 Let no one deceive the brotherhood by a falsehood: let no one corrupt the truth of the faith by perfidious prevarication. The episcopate is one, each part of which is held by each one for the whole.19 The Church also is one, which is spread abroad far and wide into a multitude by an increase of fruitfulness. As there are many rays of the sun, but one light; and many branches of a tree, but one strength based in its tenacious root; and since from one spring flow many streams, although the multiplicity seems diffused in the liberality of an overflowing abundance, yet the unity is still preserved in the source. Separate a ray of the sun from its body of light, its unity does not allow a division of light; break a branch from a tree,-when broken, it will not be able to bud; cut off the stream from its fountain, and that which is cut off dries up. Thus also the Church, shone over with the light of the Lord, sheds forth her rays over the whole world, yet it is one light which is everywhere diffused, nor is the unity of the body separated. Her fruitful abundance spreads her branches over the whole world. She broadly expands her rivers, liberally flowing, yet her head is one, her source one; and she is one mother, plentiful in the results of fruitfulness: from her womb we are born, by her milk we are nourished, by her spirit we are animated.

6. The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. If any one could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church. The Lord warns, saying, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who gathereth not with me scattereth."20 He who breaks the peace and the concord of Christ, does so in opposition to Christ; he who gathereth elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord says, "I and the Father are one; "21 and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, "And these three are one."22 And does any one believe that this unity which thus comes from the divine strength and coheres in celestial sacraments, can be divided in the Church, and can be separated by the parting asunder of opposing wills? He who does not hold this unity does not hold God's law, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation.

7. This sacrament of unity, this bond of a concord inseparably cohering, is set forth where in the Gospel the coat of the Lord Jesus Christ is not at all divided nor cut, but is received as an entire garment, and is possessed as an uninjured and undivided robe by those who cast lots concerning Christ's garment, who should rather put on Christ.23 Holy Scripture speaks, saying, "But of the coat, because it was not sewed, but woven from the top throughout, they said one to another, Let us not rend it, but cast lots whose it shall be."24 That coat bore with it an unity that came down from the top, that is, that came from heaven and the Father, which was not to be at all rent by the receiver and the possessor, but without separation we obtain a whole and substantial entireness. He cannot possess the garment of Christ who parts and divides the Church of Christ. On the other hand, again, when at Solomon's death his kingdom and people were divided, Abijah the prophet, meeting Jeroboam the king in the field, divided his garment into twelve sections, saying, "Take thee ten pieces; for thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and I will give ten sceptres unto thee; and two sceptres shall be unto him for my servant David's sake, and for Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen to place my name there."25 As the twelve tribes of Israel were divided, the prophet Abijah rent his garment. But because Christ's people cannot be rent, His robe, woven and united throughout, is not divided by those who possess it; undivided, united, connected, it shows the coherent concord of our people who put on Christ. By the sacrament and sign of His garment, He has declared the unity of the Church.

8. Who, then, is so wicked and faithless, who is so insane with the madness of discord, that either he should believe that the unity of God can be divided, or should dare to rend it-the garment of the Lord-the Church of Christ? He Himself in His Gospel warns us, and teaches, saying, "And there shall be one flock and one shepherd."26 And does any one believe that in one place there can be either many shepherds or many flocks? The Apostle Paul, moreover, urging upon us this same unity, beseeches and exhorts, saving, "I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that ye be joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."27 And again, he says, "Forbearing one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."28 Do you think that you can stand and live if you withdraw from the Church, building for yourself other homes and a different dwelling, when it is said to Rahab, in whom was prefigured the Church, "Thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all the house of thy father, thou shalt gather unto thee into thine house; and it shall come to pass, whosoever shall go abroad beyond the door of thine house, his blood shall be upon his own head? "29 Also, the sacrament of the passover contains nothing else in the law of the Exodus than that the lamb which is slain in the figure of Christ should be eaten in one house. God speaks, saying, "In one house shall ye eat it; ye shall not send its flesh abroad from the house."30 The flesh of Christ, and the holy of the Lord, cannot be sent abroad, nor is there any other home to believers but the one Church. This home, this household31 of unanimity, the Holy Spirit designates and points out in the Psalms, saying, "God, who maketh men to dwell with one mind in a house."32 in the house of God, in the Church of Christ, men dwell with one mind, and continue in concord and simplicity:

9. Therefore also the Holy Spirit came as a dove, a simple and joyous creature, not bitter with gall, not cruel in its bite, not violent with the rending of its claws, loving human dwellings, knowing the association of one home; when they have young, bringing forth their young together; when they fly abroad, remaining in their flights by the side of one another, spending their life in mutual intercourse, acknowledging the concord of peace with the kiss of the beak, in all things fulfilling the law of unanimity. This is the simplicity that ought to be known in the Church, this is the charity that ought to be attained, that so the love of the brotherhood may imitate the cloves, that their gentleness and meekness may be like the lambs and sheep. What does the fierceness of wolves do in the Christian breast? What the savageness of dogs, and the deadly venom of serpents, and the sanguinary cruelty of wild beasts? We are to be congratulated when such as these are separated from the Church, lest they should lay waste the doves and sheep of Christ with their cruel and envenomed contagion. Bitterness cannot consist and be associated with sweetness, darkness with light, rain with clearness, battle with peace, barrenness with fertility, drought with springs, storm with tranquillity. Let none think that the good can depart from the Church. The wind does not carry away the wheat, nor does the hurricane uproot the tree that is based on a solid root. The light straws are tossed about by the tempest, the feeble trees are overthrown by the onset of the whirlwind. The Apostle John execrates and severely assails these, when he says, "They went forth from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, surely they would have continued with us."33

10. Hence heresies not only have frequently been originated, but continue to be so; while the perverted mind has no peace-while a discordant faithlessness does not maintain unity. But the Lord permits and suffers these things to be, while the choice of one's own liberty remains, so that while the discrimination of truth is testing our hearts and our minds, the sound faith of those that are approved may shine forth with manifest light. The Holy Spirit forewarns and says by the apostle, "It is needful also that there should be heresies, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."34 Thus the faithful are approved, thus the perfidious are detected; thus even here, before the day of judgment, the souls of the righteous and of the unrighteous are already divided, and the chaff is separated from the wheat. These are they who of their own accord, without any divine arrangement, set themselves to preside among the daring strangers assembled, who appoint themselves prelates without any law of ordination, who assume to themselves the name of bishop, although no one gives them the episcopate; whom the Holy Spirit points out in the Psalms as sitting in the seat of pestilence, plagues, and spots of the faith, deceiving with serpent's tongue, and artful in corrupting the truth, vomiting forth deadly poisons from pestilential tongues; whose speech doth creep like a cancer, whose discourse forms a deadly poison in the heart and breast of every one.

11. Against people of this kind the Lord cries; from these He restrains and recalls His erring people, saying, "Hearken not unto the words of the false prophets; for the visions of their hearts deceive them. They speak, but not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say to those who cast away the word of God, Ye shall have peace, and every one that walketh after his own will. Every one who walketh in the error of his heart, no evil shall come upon him. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. If they had stood on my foundation (substantia, u9posta/sei), and had heard my words, and taught my people, I would have turned them from their evil thoughts."35 Again, the Lord points out and designates these same, saying, "They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and have hewed them out broken cisterns which can hold no water."36 Although there can be no other baptism but one, they think that they can baptize; although they forsake the fountain of life, they promise the grace of living and saving water. Men are not washed among them, but rather are made foul; nor are sins purged away, but are even accumulated. Such a nativity does not generate sons to God, but to the devil. By a falsehood they are born, and they do not receive the promises of truth. Begotten of perfidy, they lose the grace of faith. They cannot attain to the reward of peace, since they have broken the Lord's peace with the madness of discord.

12. Nor let any deceive themselves by a futile interpretation, in respect of the Lord having said, "Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."37 Corrupters and false interpreters of the Gospel quote the last words, and lay aside the former ones, remembering part, and craftily suppressing part: as they themselves are separated from the Church, so they cut off the substance of one section. For the Lord, when He would urge unanimity and peace upon His disciples, said, "I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth touching anything that ye shall ask, it shall be given you by my Father which is in heaven. For wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them; "38 showing that most is given, not to the multitude, but to the unanimity of those that pray. "If," He says, "two of you shall agree on earth: "He placed agreement first; He has made the concord of peace a prerequisite; He taught that we should agree firmly and faithfully. But how can he agree with any one who does not agree with the booty of the Church itself, and with the universal brotherhood? How can two or three be assembled together in Christ's name, who, it is evident, are separated from Christ and from His Gospel? For we have not withdrawn from them, but they from us; and since heresies and schisms have risen subsequently, from their establishment for themselves of diverse places of worship, they have forsaken the Head and Source of the truth. But the Lord speaks concerning His Church, and to those also who are in the Church He speaks, that if they are in agreement, if according to what He commanded and admonished, although only two or three gathered together with unanimity should pray-though they be only two or three-they may obtain from the majesty of God what they ask. "Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, I," slays He, "am with them; "that is, with the simple and peaceable-with those who fear God and keep God's commandments. With these, although only two or three, He said that He was, in the same manner as He was with the three youths in the fiery furnace; and because they abode towards God in simplicity, and in unanimity among themselves, He animated them, in the midst of the surrounding flames, with the breath of dew: in the way in which, with the two apostles shut up in prison, because they were simple-minded and of one mind, He Himself was present; He Himself, having loosed the bolts of the dungeon, placed them again in the market-place, that they might declare to the multitude the word which they faithfully preached. When, therefore, in His commandments He lays it down, and says, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them," He does not divide men from the Church, seeing that He Himself ordained and made the Church; but rebuking the faithless for their discord, and commending peace by His word to the faithful, He shows that He is rather with two or three who pray with one mind, than with a great many who differ, and that more can be obtained by the discordant prayer of a few, than by the discordant supplication of many.

13. Thus, also, when He gave the law of prayer, He added, saying, "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."39 And He calls back from the altar one who comes to the sacrifice in strife, and bids him first agree with his brother, and then return with peace and offer his gift to God: for God had not respect unto Cain's offerings; for he could not have God at peace with him, who through envious discord had not peace with his brother. What peace, then, do the enemies of the brethren promise to themselves? What sacrifices do those who are rivals of the priests think that they celebrate? Do they deem that they have Christ with them when they are collected together, who are gathered together outside the Church of Christ?

14. Even if such men were slain in confession of the Name, that stain is not even washed away by blood: the inexpiable and grave fault of discord is not even purged by suffering. He cannot be a martyr who is not in the Church; he cannot attain unto the kingdom who forsakes that which shall reign there. Christ gave us peace; He bade us be in agreement, and of one mind. He charged the bonds of love and charity to be kept uncorrupted and inviolate; he cannot show himself a martyr who has not maintained brotherly love. Paul the apostle teaches this, and testifies, saying, "And though I have faith, so that I can remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity is magnanimous; charity is kind; charity envieth not; charity acteth not vainly, is not puffed up, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; loveth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things Charity never falleth."40 "Charity," says he, "never faileth." For she will ever be in the kingdom, she will endure for ever in the unity of a brotherhood linked to herself. Discord cannot attain to the kingdom of heaven; to the rewards of Christ, who said, "This is my commandment that ye love one another even as I have loved you: "41 he cannot attain42 who has violated the love of Christ b faithless dissension. He who has not charity has not God. The word of the blessed Apostle John is: "God," saith he, "is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God dwelleth in him."43 They cannot dwell with God who would not be of one mind in God's Church. Although they burn, given up to flames and fires, or lay down their lives, thrown to the wild beasts, that will not be the crown of faith, but the punishment of perfidy; nor will it be the glorious ending of religious valour, but the destruction of despair. Such a one may be slain; crowned he cannot be. He professes himself to be a Christian in such a way as the devil often feigns himself to be Christ, as the Lord Himself forewarns us, and says, "Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many."44 As he is not Christ, although he deceives in respect of the name; so neither can he appear as a Christian who does not abide in the truth of His Gospel and of faith.

15. For both to prophesy and to cast out devils, and to do great acts upon the earth is certainly a sublime and an admirable thing; but one does not attain the kingdom of heaven although he is found in all these things, unless he walks in the observance of the right and just way. The Lord denounces, and says, "Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name have cast out devils, and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."45 There is need of righteousness, that one may deserve well of God the Judge; we must obey His precepts and warnings, that our merits may receive their reward. The Lord in His Gospel, when He would direct the way of our hope and faith in a brief summary, said, "The Lord thy God is one God: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. This is the first commandment; land the second is like unto it: Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."46 He taught, at the same time, love and unity by His instruction. He has included all the prophets and the law in two precepts. But what unity does he keep, what love does he maintain or consider, who, savage with the madness of discord, divides the Church, destroys the faith, I disturbs the peace, dissipates charity, profanes the sacrament?

16. This evil, most faithful brethren, had long ago begun, but now the mischievous destruction of the same evil has increased, and the envenomed plague of heretical perversity and schisms has begun to spring forth and shoot anew; because even thus it must be in the decline of the world, since the Holy Spirit foretells and forewarns us by the apostle, saying, "In the last days," says he, "perilous times shall come, and men shall be lovers of their own selves, proud, boasters, covetous, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, hating the good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a sort of form47 of religion, but denying the power thereof. Of this sort are they who creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, which are led away with divers lusts; ever learning, and never coming to the knowledge of the truth. And as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth;48 but they shall proceed no further, for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, even as theirs also was."49 Whatever things were predicted are fulfilled; and as the end of the world is approaching, they have come for the probation as well of the men as of the times. Error deceives as the adversary rages more and more; senselessness lifts up, envy inflames, covetousness makes blind, impiety depraves, pride puffs up, discord exasperates, anger hurries headlong.

17. Yet let not the excessive and headlong faithlessness of many move or disturb us, but rather strengthen our faith in the truthfulness which has foretold the matter. As some have become such, because these things were predicted beforehand, so let other brethren beware of matters of a like kind, because these also were predicted beforehand, even as the Lord instructs us, and says, "But take ye heed: behold, I have told you all things."50 Avoid, I beseech you, brethren, men of this kind, and drive away from your side and from your ears, as if it were the contagion of death, their mischievous conversation; as it is written, "Hedge thine ears about with thorns, and refuse to hear a wicked tongue."51 And again, "Evil communications corrupt good manners."52 The Lord teaches and warns us to depart from such. He saith, "They are blind leaders of the blind; and if the blind lead the blind, they shall both fall into the ditch."53 Such a one is to be turned away from and avoided, whosoever he may be, that is separated from the Church. Such a one is perverted and sins, and is condemned of his own self. Does he think that he has Christ, who acts in opposition to Christ's priests, who separates himself from the company of His clergy and people? He bears arms against the Church, he contends against God's appointment. An enemy of the altar, a rebel against Christ's sacrifice, for the faith faithless, for religion profane, a disobedient servant, an impious son, a hostile brother, despising the bishops, and forsaking God's priests, he dares to set up another altar, to make another prayer with unauthorized words, to profane the truth of the Lord's offering by false sacrifices, and not54 to know that he who strives against the appointment of God, is punished on account of the daring of his temerity by divine visitation.

18. Thus Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who endeavoured to claim to themselves the power of sacrificing in opposition to Moses and Aaron the priest, underwent immediate punishment for their attempts. The earth, breaking its fastenings, gaped open into a deep gulf, and the cleft of the receding ground swallowed up the men standing and living. Nor did the anger of the indignant God strike only those who had been the movers (of the sedition); but two hundred and fifty sharers and associates of that madness besides, who had been mingled with them in that boldness, the fire that went out from the Lord consumed with a hasty revenge; doubtless to admonish and show that whatever those wicked men had endeavoured, in order by human will to overthrow God's appointment, had been done in opposition to God. Thus also Uzziah the king,-when he bare the censer and violently claimed to himself to sacrifice against God's law, and when Azariah the priest withstood him, would not be obedient and yield,-was confounded by the divine indignation, and was polluted upon his forehead by the spot of leprosy: he was marked by an offended Lord in that part of his body where they are signed who deserve well of the Lord. And the sons of Aaron, who placed strange fire upon the altar, which the Lord had not commanded, were at once extinguished in the presence of an avenging Lord.

19. These, doubtless, they imitate and follow, who, despising God's tradition, seek after strange doctrines, and bring in teachings of human appointment, whom the Lord rebukes and reproves in His Gospel, saying, "Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition."55 This is a worse crime than that which the lapsed seem to have fallen into, who nevertheless, standing as penitents for their crime, beseech God with full satisfactions. In this case, the Church is sought after and entreated; in that case, the Church is resisted: here it is possible that there has been necessity; there the will is engaged in the wickedness: on the one hand, he who has lapsed has only injured himself; on the other, he who has endeavoured to cause a heresy or a schism has deceived many by drawing them with him. In the former, it is the loss of one soul; in the latter, the risk of many. Certainly the one both understands that he has sinned, and laments and bewails it; the other, puffed up in his heart, and pleasing himself in his very crimes, separates sons from their Mother, entices sheep from their shepherd, disturbs the sacraments of God; and while the lapsed has sinned but once, he sins daily. Finally, the lapsed, who has subsequently attained to martyrdom, may receive the promises of the kingdom; while the other, if he have been slain without the Church, cannot attain to the rewards of the Church.

20. Nor let any one marvel, beloved brethren, that even some of the confessors advance to these lengths, and thence also that some others sin thus wickedly, thus grievously. For neither does confession make a man free from the snares of the devil, nor does it defend a man who is still placed in the world, with a perpetual security from temptations, and dangers, and onsets, and attacks of the world; otherwise we should never see in confessors those subsequent frauds, and fornications, and adulteries, which now with groans and sorrow we witness in some. Whosoever that confessor is, he is not greater, or better, or dearer to God than Solomon, who, although so long as he walked in God's ways, retained that grace which he had received from the Lord, yet after he forsook the Lord's way he lost also then Lord's grace.56 And therefore it is written, "Hold fast that which thou hast, lest another take thy crown."57 But assuredly the Lord would not threaten that the crown of righteousness might be taken away, were it not that, when righteousness departs, the crown must also depart.

21. Confession is the beginning of glory, not the full desert of the crown; nor does it perfect our praise, but it initiates our dignity; and since it is written, "He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved,"58 whatever has been before the end is a step by which we ascend to the summit of salvation, not a terminus wherein the full result of the ascent is already gained. He is a confessor; but after confession his peril is greater, because the adversary is more provoked. He is a confessor; for this cause he ought the more to stand on the side of the Lord's Gospel, since he has by the Gospel attained glory from the Lord. For the Lord says, "To whom much is given, of him much shall be required; and to whom more dignity is ascribed, of him more service is exacted."59 Let no one perish by the example of a confessor; let no one learn injustice, let no one learn arrogance, let no one learn treachery, from the manners of a confessor. He is a confessor, let him be lowly and quiet; let him be in his doings modest with discipline, so that he who is called a confessor of Christ may imitate Christ whom he confesses. For since He says, "Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, and he who humbleth himself shall be exalted; "60 and since He Himself has been exalted by the Father, because as the Word, and the strength, and the wisdom of God the Father, He humbled Himself upon earth, how can He love arrogance, who even by His own law enjoined upon us humility, and Himself received the highest name from the Father as the reward of His humility? He is a confessor of Christ, but only so if the majesty and dignity of Christ be not afterwards blasphemed by him. Let not the tongue which has confessed Christ be evil-speaking; let it not be turbulent, let it not be heard jarring with reproaches and quarrels, let it not after words of praise, dart forth serpents' venom against the brethren and God's priests. But if one shall have subsequently been blameworthy and obnoxious; if he shall have wasted his confession by evil conversation; if he shall have stained his life by disgraceful foulness; if, finally, forsaking the Church in which he has become a confessor, and severing the concord of unity, he shall have exchanged his first faith for a subsequent unbelief, he may not flatter himself on account of his confession that he is elected to the reward of glory, when from this very fact his deserving of punishment has become the greater.

22. For the Lord chose Judas also among the apostles, and yet afterwards Judas betrayed the Lord. Yet not on that account did the faith and firmness of the apostles fail, because the traitor Judas failed from their fellowship: so also in the case in question the holiness and dignity of confessors is not forthwith diminished, because the faith of some of them is broken. The blessed Apostle Paul in his epistle speaks in this manner: "For what if some of them fall away from the faith, shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: for God is true, though every man be a liar."61 The greater and better part of the confessors stand firm in the strength of their faith, and in the truth of the law and discipline of the Lord; neither do they depart from the peace of the Church, who remember that they have obtained grace in the Church by the condescension of God; and by this very thing they obtain a higher praise of their faith, that they have separated from the faithlessness of those who have been associated with them in the fellowship of confession, and withdrawn from the contagion of crime. Illuminated by the true light of the Gospel, shone upon with the Lord's pure and white brightness, they are as praiseworthy in maintaining the peace of Christ, as they have been victorious in their combat with the devil.

23. I indeed desire, beloved brethren, and I equally endeavour and exhort, that if it be possible, none of the brethren should perish, and that our rejoicing Mother may enclose in her bosom the one body of a people at agreement. Yet if wholesome counsel cannot recall to the way of salvation certain leaders of schisms and originators of dissensions, who abide in blind and obstinate madness, yet do you others, if either taken in simplicity, or induced by error, or deceived by some craftiness of misleading cunning, loose yourselves from the nets of deceit, free your wandering steps from errors, acknowledge the straight way of the heavenly road. The word of the witnessing apostle is: "We command you," says he, "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from all brethren that walk disorderly, and not after the tradition that they have received from us."62 And again he says, "Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them."63 We must withdraw, nay rather must flee, from those who fall away, lest, while any one is associated with those who walk wickedly, and goes on in ways of error and of sin, he himself also, wandering away from the path of the true road, should be found in like guilt. God is one, and Christ is one, and His Church is one, and the faith is one, and the people64 is joined into a substantial unity of body by the cement of concord. Unity cannot be severed; nor can one body be separated by a division of its structure, nor torn into pieces, with its entrails wrenched asunder by laceration. Whatever has proceeded from the womb cannot live and breathe in its detached condition, but loses the substance of health.

24. The Holy Spirit warns us, and says, "What man is he that desireth to live, and would fain see good days? Refrain thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile. Eschew evil, and do good; seek peace, and ensue it."65 The son of peace ought to seek peace and ensue it. He who knows and loves the bond of charity, ought to refrain his tongue from the evil of dissension. Among His divine commands and salutary teachings, the Lord, when He was now very near to His passion, added this one, saying, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you."66 He gave this to us as an heritage; He promised all the gifts and rewards of which He spoke through the preservation of peace. If we are fellow-heirs with Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are sons of God, we ought to be peacemakers. "Blessed," says He, "are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the sons of God."67 It behoves the sons of God to be peacemakers, gentle in heart, simple in speech, agreeing in affection, faithfully linked to one another in the bonds of unanimity.

25. This unanimity formerly prevailed among the apostles; and thus the new assembly of believers, keeping the Lord's commandments, maintained its charity. Divine Scripture proves this, when it says, "But the multitude of them which believed were of one heart and of one soul."68 And again: "These all continued with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren."69 And thus70 they prayed with effectual prayers; thus they were able with confidence to obtain whatever they asked from the Lord's mercy.

26. But in us unanimity is diminished in proportion as liberality of working is decayed. Then they used to give for sale houses and estates; and that they might lay up for themselves treasures in heaven, presented to the apostles the price of them, to be distributed for the use of the poor. But now we do not even give the tenths from our patrimony; and while our Lord bids us sell, we rather buy and increase our store. Thus has the vigour of faith dwindled away among us; thus has the strength of believers grown weak. And therefore the Lord, looking to our days, says in His Gospel, "When the Son of man cometh, think you that He shall find faith on the earth? "71 We see that what He foretold has come to pass. There is no faith in the fear of God, in the law of righteousness, in love, in labour; none considers the fear of futurity, and none takes to heart the day of the Lord, and the wrath of God, and the punishments to come upon unbelievers, and the eternal torments decreed for the faithless. That which our conscience would fear if it believed, it fears not because it does not at all believe. But if it believed, it would also take heed; and if it took heed, it would escape.

27. Let us, beloved brethren, arouse ourselves as much as we can; and breaking the slumber of our ancient listlessness, let us be watchful to observe and to do the Lord's precepts. Let us be such as He Himself has bidden us to be, saying, "Let your loins be girt, and your lamps burning;72 and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when He shall come from the wedding, that when He cometh and knocketh, they may open to Him. Blessed are those servants whom their Lord, when He cometh, shall find watching."73 We ought to be girt about, lest, when the day of setting forth comes, it should find us burdened and entangled. Let our light shine in good works, and glow in such wise as to lead us from the night of this world to the daylight of eternal brightness. Let us always with solicitude and caution wait for the sudden coming of the Lord, that when He shall knock, our faith may be on the watch, and receive from the Lord the reward of our vigilance. If these commands be observed, if these warnings and precepts be kept, we cannot be overtaken in slumber by the deceit of the devil; but we shall reign with Christ in His kingdom as servants that watch.

*All you got going against your personal opinion is Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium, the Triune God's Triumphant Threefold Treatise on Truth.

12 posted on 12/15/2006 12:07:22 PM PST by bornacatholic
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To: bornacatholic

I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears....and remember the words of the Lord Jesus" - Acts 20:29-31, 20:35

"Neither will I myself shrink from inquiry, if I am anywhere in doubt; nor be ashamed to learn, if I am anywhere in error. Further let me ask of my reader, wherever, alike with myself, he is certain, there to go on with me; wherever, alike with myself, he hesitates, there to join with me in inquiring; wherever he recognizes himself to be in error, there to return to me; wherever he recognizes me to be so, there to call me back: so that we may enter together upon the path of charity, and advance towards Him of whom it is said, 'Seek His face evermore.' And I would make this pious and safe agreement, in the presence of our Lord God, with all who read my writings" - Augustine (On the Holy Trinity, 1:4, 1:5)



Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Old Catholics, and other groups often claim to be following the traditions that have been held by the Christian church since the time of the apostles. Since these groups contradict one another on a lot of issues, however, they can't all be right. Is one of them right, though? Is there a modern denomination that represents the beliefs that have always been held by the Christian church? And are these groups that make such claims correct in accusing evangelicals of following beliefs that are of recent origin? Is evangelicalism a departure from 1500 years of Christian teaching, while these other groups are, or at least one of them is, apostolic?

Bill Clinton is a successor of George Washington, but nobody would try to discover what Washington believed by examining the beliefs of Clinton. With Washington and Clinton, at least we know that they've held the same office, and that Washington intended to have people after him hold that same office. With the apostles, however, we don't know any of that. To try to discover the beliefs of Peter by examining the beliefs of Roman bishops such as Gregory the Great, Innocent III, Alexander VI, and John Paul II, for example - many of whom disagreed with and anathematized one another - is absurd. Just because a bishop in Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, or another city claims to be part of a historical succession from the apostles, that doesn't mean that he has the authority of the apostles or even that he agrees with the apostles.

Far more important than a historical succession from the apostles is a doctrinal succession. On issues such as salvation, church government, and Marian doctrine, groups like Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy not only contradict each other, but contradict what Jesus and the apostles taught as well. If Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, and other groups can claim a historical succession from the apostles, yet contradict one another and contradict the apostles, what value is there in claims to a historical succession? The religious leaders in Israel during the time of Jesus' earthly ministry claimed a succession from Abraham and Moses, yet John the Baptist called their succession worthless (Matthew 3:9), and Jesus called them successors of Hell and Satan (Matthew 23:15, John 8:44), condemned their traditions as false (Matthew 15:1-14), warned people against following their teachings (Matthew 16:11-12), and condemned their misinterpretations of scripture (Matthew 22:23-46). As Paul explains in Romans 11, God hasn't made any commitment to one religious hierarchy, and He often works through a faithful remnant when religious hierarchies have become corrupt. The Laodicean church, though it had a relationship with at least one apostle, was on the verge of being rejected by Christ (Revelation 3:16) after only a few decades of corruption, if even that. It's unreasonable, then, to assume that an institution such as the Roman Catholic Church would be accepted by God, and would be the standard of truth for all Christians to follow, after centuries of corrupt alliances with world governments, Crusades, inquisitions, the selling of indulgences, anti-Semitism, etc. A church with 15 years of history, which teaches the doctrines of the apostles, is better than a church with 1500 years of history, which claims a historical succession from the apostles, but contradicts what the apostles taught.

Though the apostles appointed church leaders, and instructed those leaders to maintain what they had received from the apostles (2 Timothy 1:13-14, 2:2), there's no evidence that those church leaders had as much authority as the apostles. To the contrary, that those leaders were instructed to maintain what they had received, not add to it or develop it, is evidence that their authority was subordinate to that of the apostles. While men like Timothy and Titus were faithful to what the apostles taught, other church leaders and churches were not (3 John 9-11, Revelation 3:16). Throughout history, many church leaders, even in influential cities such as Rome and Alexandria, have supported Modalism, Arianism, Monothelitism, and other heresies. It's untenable to argue that church leaders in those cities, who often anathematized and contradicted one another, have had apostolic authority, just because one of the apostles had been in that city at some time. The apostles had unique authority (Acts 1:8, 1:21-22, 1 Corinthians 9:1, 12:28, Ephesians 2:20, 2 Peter 3:2) that nobody living after them has had.

In Acts 20, Paul knew that he was seeing the Ephesians for the last time. He warned them that false teachers would try to influence them after his departure. How did Paul want the Ephesians to avoid being deceived by these false teachers? Were the Ephesians to just do whatever some "apostolic successor" would tell them to do? No, they were to remember Paul's words (Acts 20:31), as well as the words of Jesus Himself (Acts 20:35). And we see something similar in 2 Peter 1:13-15. Peter knew that he was soon going to die. What did he do, so that people would remember after his death what he had taught? Did he tell them to just follow a "successor", or to believe whatever a hierarchy of men in a particular city (Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, etc.) would tell them? No, he wrote his teachings down (2 Peter 1:13-15, 3:1-2). So how do we today remember what the apostles taught? Do we turn to a group of men in Rome? To an apparent consensus among modern church leaders? To thousands of pages of church father writings, church council declarations, and proclamations from church leaders of the last two thousand years? No, we turn to the teachings of the apostles themselves, the New Testament. Scripture is the Christian's only infallible rule of faith (sola scriptura), to which all other authorities (government, parents, tradition, etc.) are subordinate.

Does this mean that evangelicals are departing from pre-Reformation church history by advocating sola scriptura? Does it mean that evangelicals are saying that nobody between the time of the apostles and the time of the Reformation was saved? Does it mean that evangelicals are saying that we can't learn anything from what post-apostolic men have said? No, it doesn't mean any of that.

On the majority of issues - the historicity of the Old and New Testaments, the Trinity, the resurrection, the second coming, etc. - evangelicals agree with the consensus of professing Christianity between the time of the apostles and the Reformation. While critics of evangelicalism often bring up issues over which evangelicals disagree with pre-Reformation beliefs, there's actually much that evangelicals agree with from the period between the apostles and the Reformation.

On issues where there is disagreement, however, such as salvation and Marian doctrine, are the disagreements actually as problematic as critics of evangelicalism suggest? Actually, they aren't, and those critics themselves have a lot of disagreements with the professing Christians of the past.

Contrary to what many people suggest, disagreements, even on issues as important as salvation and the canon of scripture, have been common throughout church history. Many people find it appealing that there would be one hierarchy that would exist throughout church history, would consistently teach the doctrines taught by the apostles, and would authoritatively settle all disputes among Christians. When an organization such as the Roman Catholic Church claims to offer all of that, many people follow it even if the evidence doesn't actually support what the organization is claiming. The claim itself, even if contradicted by the evidence, appeals to a lot of people.

This explains why many will follow Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, or some other religion that claims to be apostolic, even if it contradicts what Jesus and the apostles taught and what the early post-apostolic writers taught. While Catholics and Orthodox often criticize evangelicals for contradicting the beliefs of the church fathers on issues such as salvation, church government, and Marian doctrine, many of the church fathers contradicted Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy as well. The church fathers believed in a combination of truth and error that doesn't completely align with evangelicalism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, or any other modern belief system. The only way to make them appear to be Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, or members of any other modern organization is to overlook a lot of disagreements. But if so many disagreements are going to be overlooked, then why can't evangelicals claim the same sort of vague agreement with the church fathers? Actually, some Baptists do claim a succession from the apostles, although not through the church fathers. If so many groups that contradict one another - Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholics, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, etc. - claim to have a historical succession from the apostles, doesn't that, once again, reveal the irrelevancy of supposed historical successions?

A lot of Roman Catholics, for example, aren't aware of just how much the church fathers' beliefs differed from modern Catholic teaching. The earliest documents written to or from the Roman church, such as Paul's epistle to the Romans, First Clement, and The Shepherd of Hermas, repeatedly contradict what the Roman Catholic Church teaches today. Paul and Clement of Rome taught salvation through faith alone. Hermas taught that Christians can be lost forever, with no chance of reconciliation, if they commit a particular number of sins. Doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary not only weren't advocated by anybody in the earliest centuries of Christianity, but were even contradicted by men like Tertullian, Basil, John Chrysostom, and Epiphanius. Other doctrines, such as "the seven sacraments" and private confession of all sins to a priest, didn't become popular until several centuries after the time of the apostles, and were not held by any of the earliest Christians. The papacy, the foundational doctrine of Roman Catholicism, not only was unknown to the earliest Christians, but was even contradicted by many of the church fathers and by the earliest ecumenical councils. Any claim that the church fathers were Roman Catholics is historically untenable. Only by focusing on some agreements, while overlooking a lot of disagreements, can Catholic apologists make the church fathers appear to have been Roman Catholics.

On a lot of issues, the church fathers didn't even agree among themselves. There were disputes over the celebration of Easter, heretical baptism, the Trinity, the canon of scripture, church government, and other issues. Men who are today considered heretical, such as Origen and Arius, held a lot of sway in the early church. Arianism, a heresy that denies the deity of Christ, was even a majority belief for a while during the fourth century.

One example of the church fathers disagreeing among themselves is the issue of the millennium (Revelation 20:4-7). Although premillennialism was popular among the earliest church fathers, it eventually fell out of favor, and, from the time of Augustine onward, amillennialism was more popular. Premillennialism was condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 431, and amillennialism has historically been the view held by the Roman Catholic Church. A Catholic Answers tract explains:



As far as the millennium goes, we tend to agree with Augustine and, derivatively, with the amillennialists. The Catholic position has thus historically been "amillenial" (as has been the majority Christian position in general, including that of the Protestant Reformers) though Catholics do not typically use this term. The Church has rejected the premillenial position, sometimes called "milleniarianism" (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 676). In the 1940s the Holy Office judged that premillenialism "cannot safely be taught," though the Church has not dogmatically defined this issue. (http://www.catholic.com/ANSWERS/tracts/premid.htm)



The Catechism of the Catholic Church comments:



The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgement. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism (676)



This is an example of the Catholic Church following a tradition it's held for a long time, even when that tradition is contradicted by the earliest evidence. Quantity of evidence is allowed to overshadow quality of evidence. The text of the New Testament favors premillennialism (Revelation 20:4-7), and the earliest post-apostolic writers were premillennialists (Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, etc.). Yet, since amillennialism was popular for so long, the quantity of years that a doctrine has been held is given more weight than the quality of the evidence for a conflicting doctrine. The Catholic Church also does this with salvation, Marian doctrine, and other issues. Doctrines supported by the earliest evidence are rejected, while other doctrines that have been held by the Roman Catholic Church for a long time are maintained by the Catholic Church because they've been popular for so long. Instead of correcting the errors it made in the past, which would be an admission that it doesn't actually have the authority it claims to have, the Roman Catholic Church often just maintains the false doctrines it's held for so long. And this isn't just a problem with Catholicism. Eastern Orthodoxy and other groups that focus on tradition and a historical succession also are reluctant to give up false doctrines they've held for a long time, even when there's early evidence against those doctrines.

An example of this is the issue of salvation. When evangelicals advocate salvation through faith alone, they're often accused of departing from the traditional view of how a person is saved, yet the truth is that there is no one traditional view of salvation. There have been disagreements about salvation since the time of the apostles. Paul wrote the book of Galatians to oppose the false gospel of the Judaizers. Some of the early post-apostolic writers, such as Hermas and Tertullian, held views of forgiveness of sins that most professing Christians would reject today. They taught that a Christian could be lost forever, without any chance of reconciliation, after committing a particular number of sins, although there was disagreement over the number and kind of sins, even among those who held such a view. Clement of Alexandria didn't believe in original sin. Origen and Gregory of Nyssa taught universal salvation, even suggesting that Satan and the demons would eventually be saved. Cyprian and Firmilian taught that baptism wasn't valid if performed by a heretic. Irenaeus held to a false "stages of life" view of the atonement. Basil and other church fathers held to the false "ransom to Satan" view of the atonement. Long after the early church era, and even to the time of the Reformation, there were disagreements over predestination, justification, penance, confession of sins, etc. Anybody who suggests that there was only one view of salvation before the Reformation, and that the Reformation was a departure from that one view, doesn't know much about the history of salvation doctrine.

If the earliest evidence, especially the New Testament, is given the weight it deserves, salvation through faith alone is the most reasonable explanation of the gospel taught by Jesus and the apostles. Salvation through faith alone, apart from all works (Romans 3:27, Galatians 3:21-25, Titus 3:5) isn't just the gospel taught by concept in the epistles (Romans 3-5, Galatians 3-4, Ephesians 1-2), but is also what we see over and over again in the salvation of individuals in the gospels and Acts (Mark 2:5, Luke 7:50, 17:19, 18:10-14, 23:39-43, Acts 10:44-48). Yet, the vast majority of professing Christianity during the time between the death of the apostles and the Reformation taught some form of salvation through works. So, how do we determine which view of salvation is correct?

Contrary to what many people suggest, not everybody between the time of the apostles and the Reformation taught salvation through works. Clement of Rome, the earliest of the church fathers, taught salvation through faith alone. Baptismal regeneration was popular from about the middle of the second century onward, but not all of the church fathers advocated it, and Tertullian wrote of people even during his time (late second century, early third century) who opposed it. An examination of Tertullian's treatise On Baptism, which defends baptismal regeneration, reveals just how far one can be led from apostolic teaching by uncritically following post-apostolic traditions.

Near the beginning of his treatise On Baptism, Tertullian writes:

"[Christians] are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water; so that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes, by taking them away from the water!" (1)

When Jesus referred to being "born of water" in John 3:5, he was speaking to Nicodemus, a Jewish teacher of the scriptures, who probably would have associated the water reference with repentance and spiritual cleansing (Psalms 51:2, Isaiah 1:16, John 7:37-38, Ephesians 5:26, etc.), or perhaps with physical birth, but not with baptism. If this isn't obvious from John 3:5 and its immediate context, then it is from what Jesus goes on to say. In verses 15, 16, and 18 of John 3, Jesus mentions faith as the means of salvation, and says nothing of water baptism. When John explains why he was writing his gospel (John 20:31), he tells us, "these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name". How do we have life? By believing. As much as advocates of baptismal regeneration may want to add more to this verse, John only mentions "believing" as the means of salvation.

Tertullian is mistaken when he claims that Christians are safe only in the water. The truth is that they're safe in Christ's blood (Romans 5:9, Ephesians 1:7, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Revelation 1:5), and nowhere else.

Tertullian goes on to say, later on in this treatise:

"Here, then, those miscreants provoke questions. And so they say, 'Baptism is not necessary for them to whom faith is sufficient; for withal, Abraham pleased God by a sacrament of no water, but of faith.' But in all cases it is the later things which have a conclusive force, and the subsequent which prevail over the antecedent. Grant that, in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the passion and resurrection of the Lord. But now that faith has been enlarged, and is become a faith which believes in His nativity, passion, and resurrection, there has been an amplification added...For the law of baptizing has been imposed" (13)

No, Christians are not under any "law of baptizing" or any other law of works (Romans 3:27, Galatians 3:21-25). Tertullian argues against the people of his day who believe in salvation through faith alone, apart from baptism, by claiming that Abraham was an exception to the rule. He acknowledges that Abraham was saved through faith alone, apart from baptism or any other work, but he dismisses Abraham as an exception to a new "law of baptizing". However, we read in Romans 4:

"For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all" - Romans 4:13-16

On the issue of salvation, Abraham is not an exception to the rule. He is the rule. Everybody is saved through faith alone. Abraham was saved that way, and so are all of Abraham's children, since he is "the father of us all" (Romans 4:16). Tertullian makes a mistake when he attempts to dismiss Abraham's example rather than learning from it. There is no new "law of baptizing" whereby people are now saved. People always have been and always will be saved through faith alone. There's only one gospel (Mark 1:15, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, Galatians 1:8-9), and it will never change (Romans 2:16). Salvation is a free gift of God's grace, accepted through faith alone, based upon Christ's finished work (http://members.aol.com/jasonte2/perfect.htm). Tertullian suggests that the means of salvation changed after Jesus' resurrection, yet it was after His resurrection that Romans 4 and so many other passages that teach salvation through faith alone were written. In Acts 10:44-48, people receive the Holy Spirit, the seal of salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14), before being baptized. Peter confirms in Acts 15:9 that they had been "cleansed through faith", not baptism, and he goes on to say that everybody is saved in the same way (Acts 15:11). That was after Jesus' resurrection as well.

While Tertullian claims that water baptism is a means to salvation, he also writes:

"We have indeed, likewise, a second font, (itself withal one with the former,) of blood...This is the baptism which both stands in lieu of the fontal bathing when that has not been received, and restores it when lost" (16)

So he adds martyrdom, a "baptism of blood", as another means of salvation, and he suggests that the effects of water baptism can be lost. Even worse, he goes on to write:

"They who are about to enter baptism ought to pray with repeated prayers, fasts, and bendings of the knee, and vigils all the night through, and with the confession of all by gone sins" (20)

Tertullian has now suggested six different works that a person should do before being saved, and he's suggested that salvation can even be lost after these works are done, and that salvation can be restored by means of martyrdom. Nowhere in any of the writings of the apostles do we find what Tertullian is teaching. To the contrary, Paul writes:

"But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works...having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." - Romans 4:5-6, 5:9

Paul describes the person who is saved as somebody who is "ungodly" and "does not work" (Romans 4:5). Tertullian describes the person who is saved as somebody who "pray[s] with repeated prayers, fasts, and bendings of the knee, and vigils all the night through, and with the confession of all by gone sins", then is baptized. Paul says nothing of a baptism of martyrdom, and he assures the Roman Christians of their future in Heaven based on their faith (Romans 5:9). Tertullian, on the other hand, teaches a baptism of martyrdom, and suggests that even after a person does all of the works he's mentioned, that person may still go to Hell.

About 150 years after Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans, we find one of the most influential of all of the church fathers contradicting what Paul had written. It wasn't long after Tertullian's time that the church father Origen would teach the pre-existence of the soul and universal salvation, among other heresies. Much of professing Christianity would soon make corrupt alliances with Constantine and the Roman Empire, Arianism would become popular, and men like Augustine would contribute to the popularization of false doctrines such as Purgatory. Yet, religions like Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy would have us look to these post-apostolic church fathers as though they had just as much authority as the apostles.

The truth is that we're much better off today studying the Divinely inspired words of the apostles (the New Testament) than we are relying on the church fathers to shed light on what the apostles actually meant, as though we can't discover that by reading the apostles' writings ourselves. James White explains:



Though it may seem surprising to some, in many aspects the Christian scholar of today is closer to the original writings of the Apostles than people who lived as little as two centuries later. Why is this true? First, we have ready access to not only the entire Bible but to many of the secular writings of the day that give us important historical, cultural, or linguistic information. We have the Bible available to us in the original tongues (the vast majority of the early Church Fathers, for example, were not able to read both Hebrew and Greek, and many in the Western Church could not read either one!) as well as many excellent translations. We also have access to a vast amount of writing from earlier generations. We can read the works of men like Spurgeon or Warfield or Hodge or Machen and glean insights from these great men of God that were not available in years past. While a person living in the sixth century might have been chronologically closer to the time of Paul, he would not have had nearly as much opportunity to study the writings of Paul as we have today. We can include in our studies the historical backgrounds of the cities to which Paul was writing; we can read his letters in their original Greek. Today we can sit at a computer and with the click of the mouse have it list all the aorist passive participles in the letter to the Romans (there are 18)! These advantages allow us to be far more biblical in our teaching and doctrine. (The Roman Catholic Controversy [Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House, 1996], pp. 82-83)



The scriptures are sufficient for leading us to salvation, making us adequate, and equipping us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17). The reason why some religions want to go beyond the scriptures is because they can't find support for their false doctrines in the only material we have today that can actually be traced back to the apostles (the New Testament). They let the traditions of the church fathers, the particular church fathers and particular traditions they approve of, determine how they interpret the scriptures and which portions of the scriptures they'll actually obey. What Jesus said of the Pharisees is true of these religions today:

"Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.' Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men....You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition....thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down" - Mark 7:6-9, 13

Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and other groups often suggest that following the scriptures alone as a rule of faith - sola scriptura - is a creation of the Protestant reformers, and wasn't taught by many people, if anybody, before the Reformation. Actually, many of the church fathers taught sola scriptura, although some contradicted themselves on the issue, and some were more consistent than others. It's undeniable, though, that the church fathers were familiar with the concept of sola scriptura and sometimes advocated it (http://members.aol.com/jasonte/history.htm). Hippolytus, for example, wrote:

"There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practise piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things then the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach these let us learn." (Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 9)

Athanasius wrote:

"Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith's sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrines so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture" (De Synodis, 6)

Cyril of Jerusalem wrote:

"For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures." (Lecture 4:17)

Opponents of sola scriptura often respond to such quotes by citing the church fathers referring to tradition. The issue, however, isn't whether they believed in tradition. The issue is what their rule of faith was. Believing in tradition as an authority subordinate to scripture, much as government and parents are authorities subordinate to the authority of God, is not a contradiction of sola scriptura. When the church fathers make comments such as the ones quoted above - and many more could be cited - it's untenable to argue that the church fathers were unfamiliar with sola scriptura, and that they never advocated it.

Even if nobody had advocated sola scriptura before the Reformation, the truth would remain the truth. The scriptures are the only apostolic material we have today. As such, they're the voice of the apostles, and they speak louder than all other traditions.







"Although these [New Testament] books were called forth apparently by special and accidental occasions, and were primarily addressed to particular circles of readers and adapted to particular circumstances, yet, as they present the eternal and unchangeable truth in living forms, they suit all circumstances and conditions. Tracts for the times, they are tracts for all times; intended for Jews and Greeks of the first century, they have the same interest for Englishmen and Americans of the nineteenth century. They are to this day not only the sole reliable and pure fountain of primitive Christianity, but also the infallible rule of Christian faith and practice. From this fountain the church has drunk the water of life for more than fifty generations, and will drink it till the end of time....Theological systems come and go, and draw from that treasury [of scripture] their larger or smaller additions to the stock of our knowledge of the truth; but they can never equal that infallible word of God, which abideth forever. 'Our little systems have their day, they have their day and cease to be: they are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God, art more than they.' The New Testament evinces its universal design in its very style, which alone distinguishes it from all the literary productions of earlier and later times. It has a Greek body, a Hebrew soul, and a Christian spirit which rules both. The language is the Hellenistic idiom; that is, the Macedonian Greek as spoken by the Jews of the dispersion in the time of Christ; uniting, in a regenerated Christian form, the two great antagonistic nationalities and religions of the ancient world. The most beautiful language of heathendom and the venerable language of the Hebrews are here combined, and baptized with the spirit of Christianity, and made the picture of silver for the golden apple of the eternal truth of the gospel. The style of the Bible in general is singularly adapted to men of every class and grade of culture, affording the child the simple nourishment for its religious wants, and the profoundest thinker inexhaustible matter of study. The Bible is not simply a popular book, but a book of all nations, and for all societies, classes, and conditions of men. It is more than a book, it is an institution which rules the Christian world....We now descend from the primitive apostolic church to the Graeco-Roman; from the scene of creation to the work of preservation; from the fountain of divine revelation to the stream of human development; from the inspirations of the apostles and prophets to the productions of enlightened but fallible teachers. The hand of God has drawn a bold line of demarcation between the century of miracles and the succeeding ages, to show, by the abrupt transition and the striking contrast, the difference between the work of God and the work of man, and to impress us the more deeply with the supernatural origin of Christianity and the incomparable value of the New Testament....Not one [of the church fathers] compares for a moment in depth and spiritual fulness with a St. Paul or St. John; and the whole patristic literature, with all its incalculable value, must ever remain very far below the New Testament. The single epistle to the Romans or the Gospel of John is worth more than all commentaries, doctrinal, polemic, and ascetic treatises of the Greek and Latin fathers, schoolmen, and reformers....If we compare these [post-apostolic] documents with the canonical Scriptures of the New Testament, it is evident at once that they fall far below in original force, depth, and fulness of spirit, and afford in this a strong indirect proof of the inspiration of the apostles....For by the wise ordering of the Ruler of history, there is an impassable gulf between the inspiration of the apostles and the illumination of the succeeding age, between the standard authority of holy Scripture and the derived validity of the teaching of the church. 'The Bible' - to adopt an illustration of a distinguished writer - 'is not like a city of modern Europe, which subsides through suburban gardens and groves and mansions into the open country around, but like an Eastern city in the desert, from which the traveler passes by a single step into a barren waste.' The very poverty of these post-apostolic writings renders homage to the inexhaustible richness of the apostolic books which, like the person of Christ, are divine as well as human in their origin, character, and effect....The Bible is a book of holy men, but just as much a book of God, who made those men witnesses of truth and sure teachers of the way of salvation." - Philip Schaff (The Master Christian Library [Albany, Oregon: AGES Software, 1998], History of the Christian Church, Vol. 1, pp. 457-458; Vol. 2, pp. 22, 495-496, 500-501; Vol. 7, p. 26


13 posted on 12/15/2006 12:33:29 PM PST by Augustinian monk
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To: Augustinian monk

The Orthodox most certainly do not contradict the apostles. I don't even know if I being Orthodox would aledge that the Catholics do. I don't know enough about the Anglicans aside from their somehow related to Episcopals and both have been seen waffling on homosexuality which Christ and the Apostles are clear about.


14 posted on 12/15/2006 12:57:17 PM PST by kawaii
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To: Augustinian monk
Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Old Catholics, and other groups often claim to be following the traditions that have been held by the Christian church since the time of the apostles. Since these groups contradict one another on a lot of issues, however, they can't all be right. Is one of them right, though?

*Yeah. We are. Who hears you hears me

Is there a modern denomination that represents the beliefs that have always been held by the Christian church? And are these groups that make such claims correct in accusing evangelicals of following beliefs that are of recent origin? Is evangelicalism a departure from 1500 years of Christian teaching, while these other groups are, or at least one of them is, apostolic?

*Since the beginning of time there has been one church

Bill Clinton is a successor of George Washington, but nobody would try to discover what Washington believed by examining the beliefs of Clinton. With Washington and Clinton, at least we know that they've held the same office, and that Washington intended to have people after him hold that same office. With the apostles, however, we don't know any of that. To try to discover the beliefs of Peter by examining the beliefs of Roman bishops such as Gregory the Great, Innocent III, Alexander VI, and John Paul II, for example - many of whom disagreed with and anathematized one another - is absurd. Just because a bishop in Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, or another city claims to be part of a historical succession from the apostles, that doesn't mean that he has the authority of the apostles or even that he agrees with the apostles.

* Just read what THe Catholic Church Teaches. She is the Pilar and Ground of truth. Not you.

Far more important than a historical succession from the apostles is a doctrinal succession. On issues such as salvation, church government, and Marian doctrine, groups like Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy not only contradict each other, but contradict what Jesus and the apostles taught as well.

*Wrong. JUst read what the Catholic Church Teaches. Yours is but a personal opinion. Jesus never built His church on you, or sent the Holy Spirit upon you to teach all truth or described you ads the Pillar and Ground of Truth or sdaid if we heard you we'd hear Him

If Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, and other groups can claim a historical succession from the apostles, yet contradict one another and contradict the apostles, what value is there in claims to a historical succession?

*Claims are verifiable or not.

The religious leaders in Israel during the time of Jesus' earthly ministry claimed a succession from Abraham and Moses, yet John the Baptist called their succession worthless (Matthew 3:9), and Jesus called them successors of Hell and Satan (Matthew 23:15, John 8:44), condemned their traditions as false (Matthew 15:1-14), warned people against following their teachings (Matthew 16:11-12), and condemned their misinterpretations of scripture (Matthew 22:23-46).

*Is your point Jesus is opposed to the Church He establsihed?

As Paul explains in Romans 11, God hasn't made any commitment to one religious hierarchy, and He often works through a faithful remnant when religious hierarchies have become corrupt.

*Balderdash. He established a hierarchy. He gave the Keys ONLY to Peter.

The Laodicean church, though it had a relationship with at least one apostle, was on the verge of being rejected by Christ (Revelation 3:16) after only a few decades of corruption, if even that. It's unreasonable, then, to assume that an institution such as the Roman Catholic Church would be accepted by God, and would be the standard of truth for all Christians to follow, after centuries of corrupt alliances with world governments, Crusades, inquisitions, the selling of indulgences, anti-Semitism, etc. A church with 15 years of history, which teaches the doctrines of the apostles, is better than a church with 1500 years of history, which claims a historical succession from the apostles, but contradicts what the apostles taught.

*Balderdash. To accept as a real fact what are your personal opinuons would mwean I would have to think the Promises made by Jesus failed. It would mean I would have to think Jesus failed. His word does not go forth and return void like you tell everyone it does.

(Your next paragraphs are but repititions of the same arguement)...

No, we turn to the teachings of the apostles themselves, the New Testament. Scripture is the Christian's only infallible rule of faith (sola scriptura), to which all other authorities (government, parents, tradition, etc.) are subordinate.

*Balderdash. Sola scriptura aint in scripture

Does this mean that evangelicals are departing from pre-Reformation church history by advocating sola scriptura? Does it mean that evangelicals are saying that nobody between the time of the apostles and the time of the Reformation was saved? Does it mean that evangelicals are saying that we can't learn anything from what post-apostolic men have said? No, it doesn't mean any of that.

*It menas everythingh and it means nothing and the menaing shifts accrd to each individual's interpretation of sola scriptura. That is a phrase as meaningless as it is elastic

On the majority of issues - the historicity of the Old and New Testaments, the Trinity, the resurrection, the second coming, etc. - evangelicals agree with the consensus of professing Christianity between the time of the apostles and the Reformation.

*Not even close.

While critics of evangelicalism often bring up issues over which evangelicals disagree with pre-Reformation beliefs, there's actually much that evangelicals agree with from the period between the apostles and the Reformation.

*Not even close

Contrary to what many people suggest, disagreements, even on issues as important as salvation and the canon of scripture, have been common throughout church history.

*And they were settled by Ecumenical Cluncils. Ping me when y'all have one

Many people find it appealing that there would be one hierarchy that would exist throughout church history, would consistently teach the doctrines taught by the apostles, and would authoritatively settle all disputes among Christians.

*It is exactly what I would expect Jesus would accomplish.

When an organization such as the Roman Catholic Church claims to offer all of that, many people follow it even if the evidence doesn't actually support what the organization is claiming.

*It has proved itself endlessly.

The claim itself, even if contradicted by the evidence, appeals to a lot of people.

* Yeah. Truth has a way of appealing to some

This explains why many will follow Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, or some other religion that claims to be apostolic, even if it contradicts what Jesus and the apostles taught and what the early post-apostolic writers taught.

*By definition it can't.

While Catholics and Orthodox often criticize evangelicals for contradicting the beliefs of the church fathers on issues such as salvation, church government, and Marian doctrine, many of the church fathers contradicted Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy as well. The church fathers believed in a combination of truth and error that doesn't completely align with evangelicalism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, or any other modern belief system. The only way to make them appear to be Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, or members of any other modern organization is to overlook a lot of disagreements.

* YOu don;t understand the Early Chuerch Fathers. Not evsrything they believed was accepted as truth by the authoritative church. TTReally, you do not have a vedry good idea about the ideas you are attacking.

But if so many disagreements are going to be overlooked, then why can't evangelicals claim the same sort of vague agreement with the church fathers?

*Claim whatever you desire. I know where the true Chruch is.

Actually, some Baptists do claim a succession from the apostles, although not through the church fathers. If so many groups that contradict one another - Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholics, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, etc. - claim to have a historical succession from the apostles, doesn't that, once again, reveal the irrelevancy of supposed historical successions?

*Nope.

A lot of Roman Catholics, for example, aren't aware of just how much the church fathers' beliefs differed from modern Catholic teaching. The earliest documents written to or from the Roman church, such as Paul's epistle to the Romans, First Clement, and The Shepherd of Hermas, repeatedly contradict what the Roman Catholic Church teaches today. Paul and Clement of Rome taught salvation through faith alone. Hermas taught that Christians can be lost forever, with no chance of reconciliation, if they commit a particular number of sins. Doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary not only weren't advocated by anybody in the earliest centuries of Christianity, but were even contradicted by men like Tertullian, Basil, John Chrysostom, and Epiphanius. Other doctrines, such as "the seven sacraments" and private confession of all sins to a priest, didn't become popular until several centuries after the time of the apostles, and were not held by any of the earliest Christians. The papacy, the foundational doctrine of Roman Catholicism, not only was unknown to the earliest Christians, but was even contradicted by many of the church fathers and by the earliest ecumenical councils. Any claim that the church fathers were Roman Catholics is historically untenable. Only by focusing on some agreements, while overlooking a lot of disagreements, can Catholic apologists make the church fathers appear to have been Roman Catholics.

*Again, it is not what individuals Farthers believed. It is what the Church Teaches. ;'TRy atacking Catholic Doctrtine directly, not indirectly (and wrongly)

On a lot of issues, the church fathers didn't even agree among themselves. There were disputes over the celebration of Easter, heretical baptism, the Trinity, the canon of scripture, church government, and other issues. Men who are today considered heretical, such as Origen and Arius, held a lot of sway in the early church. Arianism, a heresy that denies the deity of Christ, was even a majority belief for a while during the fourth century.

*yeah... THe CHURCH settled ALL those arguements.

One example of the church fathers disagreeing among themselves is the issue of the millennium (Revelation 20:4-7). Although premillennialism was popular among the earliest church fathers, it eventually fell out of favor, and, from the time of Augustine onward, amillennialism was more popular. Premillennialism was condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 431, and amillennialism has historically been the view held by the Roman Catholic Church. A Catholic Answers tract explains: As far as the millennium goes, we tend to agree with Augustine and, derivatively, with the amillennialists. The Catholic position has thus historically been "amillenial" (as has been the majority Christian position in general, including that of the Protestant Reformers) though Catholics do not typically use this term. The Church has rejected the premillenial position, sometimes called "milleniarianism" (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 676). In the 1940s the Holy Office judged that premillenialism "cannot safely be taught," though the Church has not dogmatically defined this issue. (http://www.catholic.com/ANSWERS/tracts/premid.htm)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church comments:

The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgement. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism (676)

This is an example of the Catholic Church following a tradition it's held for a long time, even when that tradition is contradicted by the earliest evidence.

*WRONG. THat was NEVER taught as Doctrine. Sheesh....

Quantity of evidence is allowed to overshadow quality of evidence. The text of the New Testament favors premillennialism (Revelation 20:4-7), and the earliest post-apostolic writers were premillennialists (Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, etc.). Yet, since amillennialism was popular for so long, the quantity of years that a doctrine has been held is given more weight than the quality of the evidence for a conflicting doctrine. The Catholic Church also does this with salvation, Marian doctrine, and other issues. Doctrines supported by the earliest evidence are rejected, while other doctrines that have been held by the Roman Catholic Church for a long time are maintained by the Catholic Church because they've been popular for so long. Instead of correcting the errors it made in the past, which would be an admission that it doesn't actually have the authority it claims to have, the Roman Catholic Church often just maintains the false doctrines it's held for so long. And this isn't just a problem with Catholicism. Eastern Orthodoxy and other groups that focus on tradition and a historical succession also are reluctant to give up false doctrines they've held for a long time, even when there's early evidence against those doctrines.

*WRONG

An example of this is the issue of salvation. When evangelicals advocate salvation through faith alone, they're often accused of departing from the traditional view of how a person is saved, yet the truth is that there is no one traditional view of salvation. There have been disagreements about salvation since the time of the apostles. Paul wrote the book of Galatians to oppose the false gospel of the Judaizers. Some of the early post-apostolic writers, such as Hermas and Tertullian, held views of forgiveness of sins that most professing Christians would reject today. They taught that a Christian could be lost forever, without any chance of reconciliation, after committing a particular number of sins, although there was disagreement over the number and kind of sins, even among those who held such a view. Clement of Alexandria didn't believe in original sin. Origen and Gregory of Nyssa taught universal salvation, even suggesting that Satan and the demons would eventually be saved. Cyprian and Firmilian taught that baptism wasn't valid if performed by a heretic. Irenaeus held to a false "stages of life" view of the atonement. Basil and other church fathers held to the false "ransom to Satan" view of the atonement. Long after the early church era, and even to the time of the Reformation, there were disagreements over predestination, justification, penance, confession of sins, etc. Anybody who suggests that there was only one view of salvation before the Reformation, and that the Reformation was a departure from that one view, doesn't know much about the history of salvation doctrine.

*So?

If the earliest evidence, especially the New Testament, is given the weight it deserves, salvation through faith alone is the most reasonable explanation of the gospel taught by Jesus and the apostles. Salvation through faith alone, apart from all works (Romans 3:27, Galatians 3:21-25, Titus 3:5) isn't just the gospel taught by concept in the epistles (Romans 3-5, Galatians 3-4, Ephesians 1-2), but is also what we see over and over again in the salvation of individuals in the gospels and Acts (Mark 2:5, Luke 7:50, 17:19, 18:10-14, 23:39-43, Acts 10:44-48). Yet, the vast majority of professing Christianity during the time between the death of the apostles and the Reformation taught some form of salvation through works. So, how do we determine which view of salvation is correct?

*HE WHO HEARS YOU, HEARS ME.. HEAR THE CHURCH

Contrary to what many people suggest, not everybody between the time of the apostles and the Reformation taught salvation through works. Clement of Rome, the earliest of the church fathers, taught salvation through faith alone. Baptismal regeneration was popular from about the middle of the second century onward, but not all of the church fathers advocated it, and Tertullian wrote of people even during his time (late second century, early third century) who opposed it. An examination of Tertullian's treatise On Baptism, which defends baptismal regeneration, reveals just how far one can be led from apostolic teaching by uncritically following post-apostolic traditions.

*lol

Near the beginning of his treatise On Baptism, Tertullian writes:

"[Christians] are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water; so that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes, by taking them away from the water!" (1)

When Jesus referred to being "born of water" in John 3:5, he was speaking to Nicodemus, a Jewish teacher of the scriptures, who probably would have associated the water reference with repentance and spiritual cleansing (Psalms 51:2, Isaiah 1:16, John 7:37-38, Ephesians 5:26, etc.), or perhaps with physical birth, but not with baptism. If this isn't obvious from John 3:5 and its immediate context, then it is from what Jesus goes on to say. In verses 15, 16, and 18 of John 3, Jesus mentions faith as the means of salvation, and says nothing of water baptism. When John explains why he was writing his gospel (John 20:31), he tells us, "these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name". How do we have life? By believing. As much as advocates of baptismal regeneration may want to add more to this verse, John only mentions "believing" as the means of salvation.

*whatevdr. The Church Jesus established Teaches differently

Tertullian is mistaken when he claims that Christians are safe only in the water. The truth is that they're safe in Christ's blood (Romans 5:9, Ephesians 1:7, 1 Peter 1:18-19, Revelation 1:5), and nowhere else.

* Whatever

Tertullian goes on to say, later on in this treatise: "Here, then, those miscreants provoke questions. And so they say, 'Baptism is not necessary for them to whom faith is sufficient; for withal, Abraham pleased God by a sacrament of no water, but of faith.' But in all cases it is the later things which have a conclusive force, and the subsequent which prevail over the antecedent. Grant that, in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the passion and resurrection of the Lord. But now that faith has been enlarged, and is become a faith which believes in His nativity, passion, and resurrection, there has been an amplification added...For the law of baptizing has been imposed" (13)

No, Christians are not under any "law of baptizing" or any other law of works (Romans 3:27, Galatians 3:21-25). Tertullian argues against the people of his day who believe in salvation through faith alone, apart from baptism, by claiming that Abraham was an exception to the rule. He acknowledges that Abraham was saved through faith alone, apart from baptism or any other work, but he dismisses Abraham as an exception to a new "law of baptizing". However, we read in Romans 4:

"For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all" - Romans 4:13-16

On the issue of salvation, Abraham is not an exception to the rule. He is the rule. Everybody is saved through faith alone. Abraham was saved that way, and so are all of Abraham's children, since he is "the father of us all" (Romans 4:16). Tertullian makes a mistake when he attempts to dismiss Abraham's example rather than learning from it. There is no new "law of baptizing" whereby people are now saved. People always have been and always will be saved through faith alone. There's only one gospel (Mark 1:15, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, Galatians 1:8-9), and it will never change (Romans 2:16). Salvation is a free gift of God's grace, accepted through faith alone, based upon Christ's finished work

*Whatever

(http://members.aol.com/jasonte2/perfect.htm). Tertullian suggests that the means of salvation changed after Jesus' resurrection, yet it was after His resurrection that Romans 4 and so many other passages that teach salvation through faith alone were written. In Acts 10:44-48, people receive the Holy Spirit, the seal of salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14), before being baptized. Peter confirms in Acts 15:9 that they had been "cleansed through faith", not baptism, and he goes on to say that everybody is saved in the same way (Acts 15:11). That was after Jesus' resurrection as well.

While Tertullian claims that water baptism is a means to salvation, he also writes:

"We have indeed, likewise, a second font, (itself withal one with the former,) of blood...This is the baptism which both stands in lieu of the fontal bathing when that has not been received, and restores it when lost" (16)

So he adds martyrdom, a "baptism of blood", as another means of salvation, and he suggests that the effects of water baptism can be lost. Even worse, he goes on to write:

"They who are about to enter baptism ought to pray with repeated prayers, fasts, and bendings of the knee, and vigils all the night through, and with the confession of all by gone sins" (20)

Tertullian has now suggested six different works that a person should do before being saved, and he's suggested that salvation can even be lost after these works are done, and that salvation can be restored by means of martyrdom. Nowhere in any of the writings of the apostles do we find what Tertullian is teaching. To the contrary, Paul writes:

"But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works...having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." - Romans 4:5-6, 5:9

Paul describes the person who is saved as somebody who is "ungodly" and "does not work" (Romans 4:5). Tertullian describes the person who is saved as somebody who "pray[s] with repeated prayers, fasts, and bendings of the knee, and vigils all the night through, and with the confession of all by gone sins", then is baptized. Paul says nothing of a baptism of martyrdom, and he assures the Roman Christians of their future in Heaven based on their faith (Romans 5:9). Tertullian, on the other hand, teaches a baptism of martyrdom, and suggests that even after a person does all of the works he's mentioned, that person may still go to Hell.

About 150 years after Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans, we find one of the most influential of all of the church fathers contradicting what Paul had written. It wasn't long after Tertullian's time that the church father Origen would teach the pre-existence of the soul and universal salvation, among other heresies. Much of professing Christianity would soon make corrupt alliances with Constantine and the Roman Empire, Arianism would become popular, and men like Augustine would contribute to the popularization of false doctrines such as Purgatory. Yet, religions like Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy would have us look to these post-apostolic church fathers as though they had just as much authority as the apostles.

*Whatever. I follow the Church. Jesus established it. It can not fail

The truth is that we're much better off today studying the Divinely inspired words of the apostles (the New Testament) than we are relying on the church fathers to shed light on what the apostles actually meant, as though we can't discover that by reading the apostles' writings ourselves. James White explains:

*Wrong. BTW, White is an idiot who regulary gets his theological butt kicked by Catholics

.

Though it may seem surprising to some, in many aspects the Christian scholar of today is closer to the original writings of the Apostles than people who lived as little as two centuries later. Why is this true? First, we have ready access to not only the entire Bible but to many of the secular writings of the day that give us important historical, cultural, or linguistic information. We have the Bible available to us in the original tongues (the vast majority of the early Church Fathers, for example, were not able to read both Hebrew and Greek, and many in the Western Church could not read either one!) as well as many excellent translations. We also have access to a vast amount of writing from earlier generations. We can read the works of men like Spurgeon or Warfield or Hodge or Machen and glean insights from these great men of God that were not available in years past. While a person living in the sixth century might have been chronologically closer to the time of Paul, he would not have had nearly as much opportunity to study the writings of Paul as we have today. We can include in our studies the historical backgrounds of the cities to which Paul was writing; we can read his letters in their original Greek. Today we can sit at a computer and with the click of the mouse have it list all the aorist passive participles in the letter to the Romans (there are 18)! These advantages allow us to be far more biblical in our teaching and doctrine. (The Roman Catholic Controversy [Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House, 1996], pp. 82-83)

The scriptures are sufficient for leading us to salvation..., :

*Really. And here I thought it was the Divine Person, Jesus. But, here you are telling me it is a collection of books...

"Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.' Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men....You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition....thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down" - Mark 7:6-9, 13

*Ut, oh. If I follow Tradition, that must mean I am condemned...why would Jesus play such a trick on me?

Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and other groups often suggest that following the scriptures alone as a rule of faith - sola scriptura - is a creation of the Protestant reformers, and wasn't taught by many people, if anybody, before the Reformation. Actually, many of the church fathers taught sola scriptura, although some contradicted themselves on the issue, and some were more consistent than others. It's undeniable, though, that the church fathers were familiar with the concept of sola scriptura and sometimes advocated it

*THe CHURCH has never taught.

(http://members.aol.com/jasonte/history.htm). Hippolytus, for example, wrote:

"There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source. For just as a man if he wishes to be skilled in the wisdom of this world, will find himself unable to get at it in any other way than by mastering the dogmas of philosophers, so all of us who wish to practise piety will be unable to learn its practice from any other quarter than the oracles of God. Whatever things then the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatsoever things they teach these let us learn." (Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 9)

Athanasius wrote:

"Vainly then do they run about with the pretext that they have demanded Councils for the faith's sake; for divine Scripture is sufficient above all things; but if a Council be needed on the point, there are the proceedings of the Fathers, for the Nicene Bishops did not neglect this matter, but stated the doctrines so exactly, that persons reading their words honestly, cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture" (De Synodis, 6)

Cyril of Jerusalem wrote:

"For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures." (Lecture 4:17)

Opponents of sola scriptura often respond to such quotes by citing the church fathers referring to tradition. The issue, however, isn't whether they believed in tradition. The issue is what their rule of faith was. Believing in tradition as an authority subordinate to scripture, much as government and parents are authorities subordinate to the authority of God, is not a contradiction of sola scriptura. When the church fathers make comments such as the ones quoted above - and many more could be cited - it's untenable to argue that the church fathers were unfamiliar with sola scriptura, and that they never advocated it.

Whatevwer*Whatever

"Although these [New Testament] books were called forth apparently by special and accidental occasions, and were primarily addressed to particular circles of readers and adapted to particular circumstances, yet, as they present the eternal and unchangeable truth in living forms, they suit all circumstances and conditions. Tracts for the times, they are tracts for all times; intended for Jews and Greeks of the first century, they have the same interest for Englishmen and Americans of the nineteenth century. They are to this day not only the sole reliable and pure fountain of primitive Christianity, but also the infallible rule of Christian faith and practice. From this fountain the church has drunk the water of life for more than fifty generations, and will drink it till the end of time....Theological systems come and go, and draw from that treasury [of scripture] their larger or smaller additions to the stock of our knowledge of the truth; but they can never equal that infallible word of God, which abideth forever. 'Our little systems have their day, they have their day and cease to be: they are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God, art more than they.' The New Testament evinces its universal design in its very style, which alone distinguishes it from all the literary productions of earlier and later times. It has a Greek body, a Hebrew soul, and a Christian spirit which rules both. The language is the Hellenistic idiom; that is, the Macedonian Greek as spoken by the Jews of the dispersion in the time of Christ; uniting, in a regenerated Christian form, the two great antagonistic nationalities and religions of the ancient world. The most beautiful language of heathendom and the venerable language of the Hebrews are here combined, and baptized with the spirit of Christianity, and made the picture of silver for the golden apple of the eternal truth of the gospel. The style of the Bible in general is singularly adapted to men of every class and grade of culture, affording the child the simple nourishment for its religious wants, and the profoundest thinker inexhaustible matter of study. The Bible is not simply a popular book, but a book of all nations, and for all societies, classes, and conditions of men. It is more than a book, it is an institution which rules the Christian world....We now descend from the primitive apostolic church to the Graeco-Roman; from the scene of creation to the work of preservation; from the fountain of divine revelation to the stream of human development; from the inspirations of the apostles and prophets to the productions of enlightened but fallible teachers. The hand of God has drawn a bold line of demarcation between the century of miracles and the succeeding ages, to show, by the abrupt transition and the striking contrast, the difference between the work of God and the work of man, and to impress us the more deeply with the supernatural origin of Christianity and the incomparable value of the New Testament....Not one [of the church fathers] compares for a moment in depth and spiritual fulness with a St. Paul or St. John; and the whole patristic literature, with all its incalculable value, must ever remain very far below the New Testament. The single epistle to the Romans or the Gospel of John is worth more than all commentaries, doctrinal, polemic, and ascetic treatises of the Greek and Latin fathers, schoolmen, and reformers....If we compare these [post-apostolic] documents with the canonical Scriptures of the New Testament, it is evident at once that they fall far below in original force, depth, and fulness of spirit, and afford in this a strong indirect proof of the inspiration of the apostles....For by the wise ordering of the Ruler of history, there is an impassable gulf between the inspiration of the apostles and the illumination of the succeeding age, between the standard authority of holy Scripture and the derived validity of the teaching of the church. 'The Bible' - to adopt an illustration of a distinguished writer - 'is not like a city of modern Europe, which subsides through suburban gardens and groves and mansions into the open country around, but like an Eastern city in the desert, from which the traveler passes by a single step into a barren waste.' The very poverty of these post-apostolic writings renders homage to the inexhaustible richness of the apostolic books which, like the person of Christ, are divine as well as human in their origin, character, and effect....The Bible is a book of holy men, but just as much a book of God, who made those men witnesses of truth and sure teachers of the way of salvation." - Philip Schaff (The Master Christian Library [Albany, Oregon: AGES Software, 1998], History of the Christian Church, Vol. 1, pp. 457-458; Vol. 2, pp. 22, 495-496, 500-501; Vol. 7, p. 26

Well, good for ol Phil

Have a nice day, brother

15 posted on 12/15/2006 1:10:03 PM PST by bornacatholic
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To: bornacatholic
*Balderdash. He established a hierarchy. He gave the Keys ONLY to Peter.

Can a Roman Catholic give me more insight on the Catholic interpreation of this? It's my understanding that all Bishops inherited this from St Peter not simply one Patriarch... Am I wrong about that?
16 posted on 12/15/2006 1:26:47 PM PST by kawaii
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To: bornacatholic

Again in regard to the authority of Bishops... Without getting into the neccessity for unity or of a perceived requirement for communion with Peter's successor etc. etc. Do the Catholics beleive that each Bishop inherits that same authority from Peter or do they beleive Peter's successor alone does?

From the CCC

1444 In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ's solemn words to Simon Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."45 "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head."46

1445 The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God.

http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p2s2c2a4.htm


17 posted on 12/15/2006 1:36:30 PM PST by kawaii
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To: kawaii

The bishops are the successors to the Apostles. Every bishop (in the Catholic Church, and I suspect this is true among the Orthodox, too) has a "pedigree." If you look on the wall in his office, you will probably see something indicating that he was consecrated by X, who was consecrated by Y, who was consecrated by etc., etc., etc.

The records only go back to the 16th century in the West, because the Vatican archives were burned by invaders (possibly the French, I don't recall) and the records that went all the way back to the Apostles were destroyed. Otherwise, your bishop would probably have a "pedigree" that would stretch down the block and back.

Bishops are attached to sees (seats or dioceses) so it's also geographical, reflecting the way the various Apostles set out to different parts of the earth to evangelize. In the distant past, apostles (that is, the first preachers) of the Gospel to a particular territory were often given the title of Archbishop. St. Patrick, for example, was consecrated and appointed Archbishop of All Ireland, even though there were no other Christians there when he was sent there. But by the time of his death, he had consecrated some 350 bishops, and there were countless priests (who are the bishops' ministers) and monasteries.

However, in administrative terms, the Apostles themselves seem to have had a bit of heirarchy. It is generally thought that Peter was, if not their leader (because that would have been Jesus Himself), at least more or less their manager and coordinator, in modern terms.

Therefore, whoever holds the see of Rome, that is, whoever is the bishop of Rome, is considered also to hold the position of Peter among the other bishops, that is, the other successors to the Apostles. Hope this helps.


18 posted on 12/15/2006 1:54:26 PM PST by livius
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To: kawaii
All Apoatles (bishops) were given power to bind and loose. Only Peter was given the Keys

And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven

The Keys are best understood in conjunction with Isaias 22

19 posted on 12/15/2006 1:57:28 PM PST by bornacatholic
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To: bornacatholic
To be well-read in the Early Church Fathers is to cease being protestant

To be well-read in the Bible is to cease being Catholic.

Hey, this is fun!
20 posted on 12/15/2006 1:59:16 PM PST by armydoc
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To: livius

Fair enough.

My point was in that protestants seem to beleive there are many things limited to the Pope which are in reality authorities all the bishops have.

Things are pretty interesting in my Orthodox church right now (ROCOR) in that there's a bunch of folks who are completely rejecting the authority of our Bishops and First Heirarch, and the decisions of the council of our Bishops to restore full communion with the Russian church.

It's amazing to see the protestant-like hate for the authority of the church manifests it in some folks (mostly internet psudonyms whom no one can really confirm actually attend ROCOR parishes).

Generally the authority of the Bishops and a heiriarchal understanding of it is a given in the Orthodox church.


21 posted on 12/15/2006 2:02:33 PM PST by kawaii
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To: kawaii

Bishops have this ability to forgive sins (and they delegate it to the ordained ministers, that is, priests). Certain sins are "reserved to His Holiness" (the Pope) for forgiveness. But this is an administrative thing, based on their formality or public impact.

In terms of being in communion, Peter or the successor to Peter's chair (in Rome) is the one who makes that decision. However, other bishops or patriarchs (holders of important sees) may not be in agreement with this. For example, from the Roman Catholic point of view, it is permissible to receive Communion in an Orthodox church. But from the Orthodox point of view, it is not acceptable to give Communion to a Catholic, because Orthodox bishops do not feel that there exists unity on various points.


22 posted on 12/15/2006 2:03:15 PM PST by livius
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To: kawaii
They have nearly identical authority. The Keys sets Peter apart.

As to what that means for the Ecclesial Structure=-`/Form and Functions etc, I am happy to let Our Sweet Jesus on Earth and your great Holy Patrairachs hammer out .

Just a note - folks wonder Why the Pope just doesn't fire Bishop so and so..well, it is because the Office of the Bishopric is of Divine Origin

That you have preserved Apostolic Succession and the Eucharist etc is the main reason only we and theee belong to a Church.

Prots don't. They may be well-intentioned Christians etc but they do not belong to Churches.

23 posted on 12/15/2006 2:05:07 PM PST by bornacatholic
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To: armydoc
LOL

I thought you docs took an oath not to harm :)

24 posted on 12/15/2006 2:05:59 PM PST by bornacatholic
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To: bornacatholic

What I find very troubling now, and it's largely due to fallout from the Soviet attack on the Orthodox church, is there are several very small schismatic groups claiming to be Orthodox who reject any sort of authority of the Bishops (or play musical Bishops whenever one does something the laity don't like).

Many of the points I often jump in to debate the orthodox position on here are ones I seriously debate with folks from these sorts of groups who in rejecting their bishops have taken on a protestant-like mentality that they alone decide what the true church is, often contradicting several canons...


25 posted on 12/15/2006 2:11:15 PM PST by kawaii
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To: kawaii

I didn't realize you were ROCOR! That must be very difficult right now. I lived in San Francisco for years and was very familiar with the Orthodox community there, which has just about every ME group and of course the Slavic groups and the OCA. As I recall, there was ROCOR and what we used to call...gads, I can't even remember what we used to call it. Patriarchal, perhaps?

Interesting that there is so much dispute over this.

But yes, as far as Protestants go, you're right; they do seem to have a rather confused understanding of the Pope and the other bishops. Primus inter pares, first among equals; but I don't think they really understand the whole idea of bishops in the first place. I don't want to be offensive, but Protestants really cannot accept the idea that bishops are the successors to the Apostles, or they'd have to ask themselves some hard questions.


26 posted on 12/15/2006 2:11:38 PM PST by livius
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To: kawaii
Amen, brother. Do nothing without the Bishops is an unreformable Tradition.

We have our own numbskulls - the sspx doing such things

27 posted on 12/15/2006 2:14:44 PM PST by bornacatholic
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To: kawaii
The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp

Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to Polycarp, Bishop of the Church of the Smyrnæans, or rather, who has, as his own bishop, God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ: [wishes] abundance of happiness.

Chapter 5. The duties of husbands and wives.

Flee evil arts; but all the more discourse in public regarding them. Speak to my sisters, that they love the Lord, and be satisfied with their husbands both in the flesh and spirit. In like manner also, exhort my brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ, that they love their wives, even as the Lord the Church. Ephesians 5:25 If any one can continue in a state of purity, to the honour of Him who is Lord of the flesh, let him so remain without boasting. If he begins to boast, he is undone; and if he reckon himself greater than the bishop, he is ruined. But it becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust. Let all things be done to the honour of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Chapter 6. The duties of the Christian flock.

Give heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God! Labour together with one another; strive in company together; run together; suffer together; sleep together; and awake together, as the stewards, and associates, and servants of God. Please Him under whom you fight, and from whom you receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism endure as your arms; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as a complete panoply. Let your works be the charge assigned to you, that you may receive a worthy recompense. Be long-suffering, therefore, with one another, in meekness, as God is towards you. May I have joy of you for ever!

*Even if the Bishop seems a heretical nitwit, we are under his authority. Now, that doesn';t mean we have to adopt his heresies. It does mean they have authority over us. That is Divinely Constituted

28 posted on 12/15/2006 2:20:47 PM PST by bornacatholic
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To: livius

It's not difficult in my parish... if anyone disagrees with our First Heirarch they haven't voiced it that I've seen.

But there is definitly a small but very vocal group making accusations (mostly on the internet) like that our First Heirarch is a KGB spy, or that he accepted bribes or other ridiculous nonsense. They reject the unanimous decision of the Synod of Bishops. There are also represenatives from the so-called Catacomb church in Russia (there are at least 30+ groups running around calling themselves this) who feel spurned by ROCOR as ROCOR had initially embraced these groups, and was setting up churches in Russia (which would have led to a canonical absurdity).

Both groups aren't unlike the small regional protestant groups who maintain that they're parish or 2 alone are the full body of Christianity. None of them want anything to do with communion with World Orthodoxy.

One of the important reasons I go to a ROCOR parish is they have always afirmed they are part of the Russian church (and thus not a schismatic group out of communion with World Orthodoxy).

It's the same things though with these groups as it is with protestantism; when the laity begins to reject the authority of the Bishops there is no end to the splitering into factions.


29 posted on 12/15/2006 2:22:08 PM PST by kawaii
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To: bornacatholic

thanks for these...


30 posted on 12/15/2006 2:28:39 PM PST by kawaii
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To: bornacatholic
To be well-read in the Early Church Fathers is to cease being protestant

In defense of Protestants thats as bogus as saying to be well-read in the Hebrew Scriptures is to cease being Christian.

31 posted on 12/15/2006 2:41:23 PM PST by Invincibly Ignorant
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To: Invincibly Ignorant
*Really? I was learnt that the New Testament was hidden in the Old Tetsament and that the Old Testament is revelaed in the New.

Johannes Paulus Magnus says...

Actually, it is impossible fully to express the mystery of Christ without reference to the Old Testament. Jesus' human identity is determined on the basis of his bond with the people of Israel, with the dynasty of David and his descent from Abraham. And this does not mean only a physical belonging. By taking part in the synagogue celebrations where the Old Testament texts were read and commented on, Jesus also came humanly to know these texts; he nourished his mind and heart with them, using them then in prayer and as an inspiration for his actions.

Thus he became an authentic son of Israel, deeply rooted in his own people's long history. When he began to preach and teach, he drew abundantly from the treasure of Scripture, enriching this treasure with new inspirations and unexpected initiatives. These - let us note - did not aim at abolishing the old revelation but, on the contrary, at bringing it to its complete fulfilment. Jesus understood the increasing opposition he had to face on the way to Calvary in the light of the Old Testament, which revealed to him the destiny reserved for the prophets. He also knew from the Old Testament that in the end God's love always triumphs.

To deprive Christ of his relationship with the Old Testament is therefore to detach him from his roots and to empty his mystery of all meaning. Indeed, to be meaningful, the Incarnation had to be rooted in centuries of preparation Christ would otherwise have been like been meteor that falls by chance to the earth the and is devoid of any connection with human history.

* Brother, I don't think your analogy fits. In fact, it is fit for Marcion, not me :)

32 posted on 12/15/2006 2:56:10 PM PST by bornacatholic
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To: Invincibly Ignorant
FYI, my Pastor was born in Sumter, So. Carolina. He was raised in a fmaily which had a LONG legacy of producing Baptist Preachers. He studied at the UChicago. While there he began reading the Early Church Fathers. That led to his conversion

He is now our Parish Priest and Pastor.

I'd say that is evidence of the truth, not the absurdity, of that old axiom - which, as someone noted, was prolly penned by a rather thoughtful individual - a convert too :)

33 posted on 12/15/2006 3:00:06 PM PST by bornacatholic
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To: kawaii

You're welcome, brother. FWIW, I know of Orthodox who speak highly of you. Rightly so...


34 posted on 12/15/2006 3:06:06 PM PST by bornacatholic
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To: kawaii

Thank you for the explanation. Do you live in California? I think SF was probably the worst for this, because it had a large number of Russians (from Russia) and more continued to arrive every year. The same may have been true in New York, because I do recall some fights between the Exile Church and other Russian groups. It's difficult; I love Russians, but they tell the same joke about Russian churches that they tell about Russian synagogues ("Why are there two synagogues on this desert island and you're the only one here?" "That was the synagogue I used to go to...").


35 posted on 12/15/2006 3:10:57 PM PST by livius
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To: livius

I've heard that joke with orthodox churches used...

I live in NY but not the city...

I've heard many in Boston have been heavily against the union. (Mind you Boston is home to heterodox groups like the HOCNA which these schismatics seem to hold in high regard).


36 posted on 12/15/2006 3:15:52 PM PST by kawaii
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To: wmfights; redgolum

You might find this interesting.


37 posted on 12/15/2006 3:57:38 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: crazykatz; JosephW; lambo; MoJoWork_n; newberger; The_Reader_David; jb6; wildandcrazyrussian; ...

Long read, but worth it. Orthodox ping!


38 posted on 12/15/2006 3:59:24 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: adiaireton8; kawaii

"That's a straw man of Rome's position. We don't believe we are "repeating" anything."

Sadly, a certain prejudice against all things Roman seems to compel many Protestant converts to Orthodoxy to say such things. I suppose its in an effort to "reassure" their still Protestant brethren, but it seems to me such comments are better left to conversations between Orthodox and Latins because they often give the wrong impression, however correct they may be.


39 posted on 12/15/2006 4:02:48 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: bornacatholic

"To be well-read in the Early Church Fathers is to cease being protestant"

That's been my observation.


40 posted on 12/15/2006 4:04:07 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: kawaii

"Things are pretty interesting in my Orthodox church right now (ROCOR) in that there's a bunch of folks who are completely rejecting the authority of our Bishops and First Heirarch, and the decisions of the council of our Bishops to restore full communion with the Russian church.

It's amazing to see the protestant-like hate for the authority of the church manifests it in some folks (mostly internet psudonyms whom no one can really confirm actually attend ROCOR parishes).

Generally the authority of the Bishops and a heiriarchal understanding of it is a given in the Orthodox church."

You're getting into some dangerous territory here, K. The Sobor has indeed made this decision and it is highly likely that it is the right one, but like all reunions, it will have to be accepted and lived by the laity before you can conclude much about it and it will take some time to see if this reunion is "real" or "false". Remember +Mark of Ephesus and the "False Union" of Florence.


41 posted on 12/15/2006 4:13:32 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis

I'm not saying whether its a good idea or a bad idea, I'm saying unequivicoly that insulting the Bishop, resenting his authority and that of the Synod of bishops and in fact the recomendations of laity who were selected as represenatives is at best Un-Orthodox.

10-15 years from now Metropolitan Laurus might be leading a push to sever ties for all I know, but I'd still support him as our Heirarch and not insult him, or accuse him of doing anything other than what he thinks is best for the church.

I'm not generally fond of the OA Bishop's deisions but I don't insult them or make ausations they are not legitimate bishops working in what they beleive are the interests of the church.

(BTW most of these internet folks, and I can send you examples of their scandalous emails if you like, refer to sources like HOCNA. I beleive you Greeks had severed ties with HOCNA also...)

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Holy_Orthodox_Church_in_North_America


42 posted on 12/15/2006 4:19:46 PM PST by kawaii
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To: Kolokotronis

Regarding Florence, even the Latins admit the Greeks said they had to ratify any decision in Synod back in Greece. That's a lot different scenerio.

The First Heirarch is for Union.
The Synod of Bishops is For Union
The VI All Diaspora Council with represenatives from everywhere unianimously reccomended union.

The alternative is to officially declare schism with Orthodoy.

ROCOR has no ancient see, no patriarchate, no ties to Orthodoxy without being part of the whole Russian church, and they've said that since the start.


43 posted on 12/15/2006 4:26:27 PM PST by kawaii
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To: kawaii

Please understand I think the reunion is wonderful. I think all of canonical Orthodoxy thinks that. My point is only that the mere fact that a bishop, or even a synod of bishops say something doesn't, by that reason alone, make it holy writ. Orthodoxy has had far too much experience with heresiarchs for that. Remember what +John Chrysostomos said about the floor of hell.

ROCOR's particular situation here, or rather the process by which ROCOR arrived at this point of anticipated reunion has been done exactly right in my opinion. From what I understand from the Russians around here, there has been extensive involvement of lower clergy and laity in this process, and I don't mean by stooges of hierarchs. I have not heard definitively about the position of the only ROCOR priest in this state, but last summer he was saying that there would be no reunion and seemed positively happy about it. He is a convert and seems to relish playing the role of 19th century Russian peasant. His parish has lost most of the Russians and Ukrainians to our Greek Orthodox parish. The majority of the few parishioners left at the ROCOR parish are convert, back to the earth types from the 60s and 70s. They like playing 19th century Russian peasants too.


44 posted on 12/15/2006 4:42:27 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis

The converts vs real Russians things plays into it too (though I'm not Russian and I'm all for union and I know a lot of convert priests who are).

Another thing that plays into it is the whole White Army Red Army stuff. Russians who grew up loathing the Russians in Russia.


45 posted on 12/15/2006 4:51:43 PM PST by kawaii
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To: kawaii

"Another thing that plays into it is the whole White Army Red Army stuff. Russians who grew up loathing the Russians in Russia."

Funny thing about that. The Russians in our parish are ALL descendants of White Russian officers, every last one of them. And they all are excited about the reunion, which I understand is not the general experience. My suspicion is that because all the White Russians and nobility who moved here after the Revolution are now dead and the present ROCOR priest has been there for many years with his "different" ways, whatever hatred there was for Russians in Russia is now gone around here.


46 posted on 12/15/2006 4:55:56 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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To: Kolokotronis

It seems there's both sides of the spectrum...

Though I'm sure our parish priest was decended from these folks also and he hasn't really said he's for union but has said much about following our Bishops.


47 posted on 12/15/2006 4:59:25 PM PST by kawaii
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To: Kolokotronis; bornacatholic

Depends on how you define "protestant".


48 posted on 12/15/2006 5:15:18 PM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: Kolokotronis; kawaii

From an outsiders view, but one with a little bit of similar background, I suspect once the "old generation" of bishops pass away, some of the fights will diminish.

That was the situation with the Old Lutheran's and many of the North American synods. Because of the collaboration of many church leaders, most of the synods on this side of the pond severed ties. Now, almost sixty years later, those ties are being reforged.


49 posted on 12/15/2006 5:19:08 PM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: redgolum

"Depends on how you define "protestant"."

Well I define it to include even Lutherans, who, often when they read The Fathers, wind up remarkably, really remarkably, Orthodox in their mindset...like a couple I know here on FR! :) One of the great eye openers of my years here on these threads!


50 posted on 12/15/2006 7:28:35 PM PST by Kolokotronis (Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!)
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