Skip to comments.Theology Adrift: The Early Church Fathers and Their Views of Eschatology
Posted on 09/12/2013 4:22:27 AM PDT by imardmd1
In 1962, philosopher-scientist Thomas Kuhn coined the term paradigm shift to signal a massive change in the way a community thinks about a particular topic. Examples of paradigm shifts include Copernicuss discovery that the earth revolves around the sun, Einsteins theory of relativity, and Darwins theory of evolution. Each changed the world of thought (some for better, some for worse) in a fundamental way.
From a political perspective, Constantines Edict of Milan, issued in AD 313, constituted the formal beginning of a major paradigm shift that signaled the end of the ancient world and the beginning of the medieval period. That edict legitimated Christianity and impressed upon it the Empires stamp of approval.
It is a fair question to ask: Why do we care about the eschatological views of the early church fathers? We as evangelicals emphatically agree with Hodge that the true method of theology assumes that the Bible contains all the facts or truths which form the contents of theology. As Ryrie cogently put it:
The fact that something was taught in the first century does not make it right (unless taught in the canonical Scriptures), and the fact that something was not taught until the nineteenth century does not make it wrong unless, of course, it is unscriptural.
From a theological perspectivespecifically an eschatological onethe Edict of Milan also signaled a monumental paradigm shiftfrom the well-grounded premillennialism of the ancient church fathers to the amillennialism or postmillennialism that would dominate eschatological thinking from the fourth century AD to at least the middle part of the nineteenth century. Yet, as explored below, the groundwork for this shift was laid long before Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in AD 313. In the two centuries that led up to the edict, two crucial interpretive errors found their way into the church that made conditions ripe for the paradigm shift incident to the Edict of Milan. The second century fathers failed to keep clear the biblical distinction between Israel and the church. Then, the third century fathers abandoned a more-or-less literal method of interpreting the Bible in favor of Origens allegorical-spiritualized hermeneutic. Once the distinction between Israel and the church became blurred, once a literal hermeneutic was lost, with these foundations removed, the societal changes occasioned by the Edict of Milan caused fourth century fathers to reject premillennialism in favor of Augustinian amillennialism.
The crushing blow for premillennialism came with the Edict of Milan in AD 313, by which Constantine reversed the Roman Empires policy of hostility toward Christianity and accorded it full legal recognition and even favor. Historian Paul Johnson calls the issuance of this edict one of the decisive events in world history. With it, no longer was the blood of the martyrs the seed of the church. Rather, Christianity would be, in many ways, a mirror-image of the empire itself. It was catholic, universal, ecumenical, orderly, international, multi-racial and increasingly legalistic. It was a huge force for stability. Hence, Christianity after 313 would become worldly, rather than other-worldly.
The churchs new-found favor from Rome caused dramatic upheavals. Jerome complained that one who was yesterday a catechumen is today a bishop; another moves overnight from the ampitheatre to the church; a man who spent the evening in the circus stands next morning at the altar, and another who was recently a patron of the stage is now the dedicator of virgins. He wrote that our walls glitter with gold, and gold gleams upon our ceilings and the capitals of our pillars; yet Christ is dying at our doors in the person of his poor, naked and hungry.
Thus, the focus of the church changed from looking for ultimate comfort in the world beyond the grave to seeking comfort in this world, in the here and now. Christianity was viewed as a religion with a glorious past as well as an unlimited future. As a result, it suffered what Johnson called a receding, indeed, disappearing, eschatology.
The lesson for us is that we must continually guard against interpreting the Bible according to current eventsa point often lost on some of dispensational millennialisms more popular proponents.
The bottom line, of course, is that we must continually go back to the Scriptures as our only source for doing theology. As much as we may respect and admire the early church fathers, or, for that matter, the reformers, the puritans, or a particular modern spiritual leader, we must always remember to be Bereans, checking their conclusions and reasoning against the plumb line of Gods Word. No one could put it more clearly or forcefully than Martin Luther as he boldly and defiantly proclaimed before the Diet of Worms: Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reasonI do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each othermy conscience is captive to the Word of God
Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.
This is going to antagonize the anti-sola-scripturists.
Bookmark....this ought to be good.....getting the popcorn ready.
Yeah, I give this one at least a 1000-post rating.
"Reintroduction" like the reintroduction of a whole new set of books by the "Rat With a Hat" and the writings of Ellen G White that peddle the same set of lies all the other "premillennial" hucksters and gullible sheep peddle.
Anyone who believes His Word was even partially hidden for eighteen hundred years is by definition saying Jesus Christ lied when He said the Holy Spirit would guide His sheep to all Truth and His Church would be a shining city on a hill for all to see.
Sola Yourselfa disguisred as "Scripture Alone" without fail leads to the worship of Self Alone.
So the early Church was reliable in telling us what were the books of the Bible but not in telling us what they meant?
And the opening salvo is fired ...
At least Hodge admits that this is only an assumption and not based on the Bible itself. Indeed it is anti-Biblical. It is only because our Lord established a teaching church founded upon the apostles that their writings, by their acceptance by the Church, are accorded the status of Scripture.
The fact that something was taught in the first century does not make it right (unless taught in the canonical Scriptures)
The fact that there are canonical Scriptures is only because the authoritative teaching Church established by Jesus Christ had declared them so.
In the two centuries that led up to the edict, two crucial interpretive errors found their way into the church that made conditions ripe for the paradigm shift incident to the Edict of Milan. The second century fathers failed to keep clear the biblical distinction between Israel and the church. Then, the third century fathers abandoned a more-or-less literal method of interpreting the Bible in favor of Origens allegorical-spiritualized hermeneutic.
And by what authority does the author have to declare these errors?
Good read, thanks.
**Sola Yourselfa **
I like that.
If the Bible is not to be used for authority according the Bible, then why is the Bible authoritative on saying it is not authoritative?
And by what authority do you have to say the author doesn't have authority?
Yes, I am poking the bear. In an odd mood today.
It’s the final and fatal stage of the heresy of Rabbinical Protestantism Luther built on the heresy of Core and sold to the nobility in his day.
Because it shows that their whole methodology (of taking credit for what The God Alone has done in progressively revealing, transmitting, and preserving His Infallible Holy Scripture) is false.
I never said that the Bible is not to used for authority, only that it is not the only authority.
Yes, I am poking the bear.
We can still be friends.
'Scuse me, but in the beginning there was no "Church" as you term it. There were only churches, each with its own appointed elders of spiritually mature leaders (at first discipled Jews), and owing allegiance and dominion to no other entity than The Risen Christ and The Holy Ghost, Who is the Author of the Preserved Text.
To find later
>> “From a political perspective, Constantines Edict of Milan, issued in AD 313, constituted the formal beginning of a major paradigm shift that signaled the end of the ancient world and the beginning of the medieval period. That edict legitimated Christianity and impressed upon it the Empires stamp of approval.” <<
Lots of oatmeal there, but essentially all that Conastantine did was use the power of government to outlaw Yeshua’s Way, and replace it with his own dismal Paganism.
Everything that Coinstantine’s church holds is completely contrary to the scriptures that Yeshua constantly quoted when he would say “It is written...”
And no “Church Father” survived into the second century. Paganism and Gnosticism blended together to the point that by the early 4th century there were no church leaders remaining that were sufficiently grounded in the scriptures to offer any resistance to Constantine’s pagans.
>> “I never said that the Bible is not to used for authority, only that it is not the only authority.” <<
Yes, you papists are always quick to defend Satan’s authority, as codified in the “oral traditions.”
All Protestants recognize other authorities - Sola-scriptura declares the Bible the final authority.
>> “The fact that there are canonical Scriptures is only because the authoritative teaching Church established by Jesus Christ had declared them so.” <<
The fact that there are canonical scriptures is because Yeshua’s apostles held to the scriptures that Yeshua affirmed in his everyday communication with them.
The illegitimate body that claims to canonize scripture is completely at odds with the scriptures that Yeshua quoted and thereby confirmed.
The last apostle died 1900 yearas ago.
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