Finding the early church… (pt. 2–the ecclesiastical structure)

Not much is known for certain about the ecclesiastical structure of the early Church. It is argued by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches that the apostles had initially chosen from among the early church men endowed with authority from the Holy Spirit and they appointed them as bishops to continue the work of the church (Orthodox Roman Catholic International Dialogue: The Sacrament of Order in the Sacramental Structure of the Church, p. 18). While there is suggestion in Acts 6 that the apostles ordained deacons, it is difficult to say with certainty.

The late biblical scholar Fr. Raymond E. Brown seeks to differentiate from “the Twelve” and a Pauline apostleship but ultimately states that due to an argument from silence holding his account feasible, “the Twelve may have done more than Luke records” (Priest and Bishop, 56). Brown suggests that St. Paul, assuming the credibility that he wrote the letters to Sts. Timothy and Titus, may have indeed appointed them but that would make the succession not from the Twelve but from St. Paul (The Critical Meaning of the Bible, 136-137). Often contended by Protestants is that the word “priest” is a bad translation of “presbyter” since a “presbyter” has no sacrificial role. Brown contends that the argument from Hebrews 10:12-14 is weak since the “author works [the destruction of the Second Temple] into a theological interpretation by claiming that Jesus is a priest who has replaced the priests and sacrifices of Israel” (Priest and Bishop, 13-14). He then contends that the main reason for the silence is that Christians still affirmed the legitimacy of the Jewish priesthood and acknowledged themselves as Jews and they “had to come to think of themselves as constituting a new religion distinct from Judaism” (17). The second development being that they needed a sacrifice which was fulfilled in the unbloody sacrifice of the Eucharist (18-19).

Brown was a decent New Testament scholar but suffers from numerous problems that most of the modern scholars face. Namely, that he is attempting to understand the development of the Christian religion from an entirely materialistic perspective. This has its advantages in presentation of the history of Christianity to a modern academic setting in which one cannot simply just use the “God” argument to prove their history. But the materialistic cause also suffers another problem. An authority problem. Authority goes from top-down, not bottom-up. If we assume a material cause of events, then yes, as the development of Christianity from its break with Judaism conducted, the structure eventually molded into a bishop-presbyter structure that it is far more seen in Anglicanism, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy as opposed to the radically anarchic Anabaptist or modern day Piety and Evangelical movements. But that these events were entirely of a human development.

Problematic in Brown’s thesis is that the Eucharist is the object of creation by Christians who celebrated the faith rather than a Tradition given to the Twelve by Jesus himself. This is not to say that Brown is a heretic but rather that Brown has a tendency to over-emphasize the findings of modern day scholarship to a point that in his critical representations of the history of early Christianity neglect to bring in the aspect of a movement deeply affected by the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ.

When the element of the God-incarnate is factored into the entire story, there develops far more clarity about the situation. The ironic element is that there experiences a further and further shift away from Protestantism’s anti-clericalism when the New Testament evidence is examined with the perspective of the Incarnation. As seen in the previous post, the second century authors were already beginning to contend from the structure of the presbyter-bishop setting given in 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 the modern hierarchy that is presented in the sacrament of Holy Orders. The question is whether they understood it as a sacrament or did they understand it in more of an officiating sense? There is an argument of silence on both ends to make. But whether or not one sees their comments as “anachronistic” or not has more to do with whether the Twelve are seen to be in any significant role in the New Testament or can that be established, and also as to whether one is coming from the perspective of seeing the incarnate God in Jesus Christ. If Brown had started from that view, he’d have been taken as a joke by modern academia.

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Eucharist–a sacrifice?

A huge point of conflict between Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox is the theological doctrine concerning the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the meal that Jesus shared with his disciples at Passover. He breaks the bread, gives it to his disciples, says it is his body, and then he does the same with the wine calling it his blood (Matt. 26:26-28). Being raised in an Anabaptist tradition, I was taught that Jesus was speaking metaphorically only. Wine and bread can’t really change into his body. Even further, wine could be substituted for grape juice, cranberry juice, or even grape jelly. Jesus just used wine because it was available. Likewise, bread could be substituted for chips, tortillas, or even peanut butter. Jesus just used what was available.

Yeah…I know there’s a lot of people who think that Catholics “read into” the text when they declare their doctrine of transubstantiation, but this is bona fide eisegesis right here. Speaking of transubstantiation, I’ve always found the Orthodox contention a bit humourous as well. “No, it isn’t transubstantiation, it is transformation!” Sheesh, does it ever feel like Christians sometimes get too bogged down by semantics? Transubstantiation indicates the substance changes. In other words, the substance of bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Christ. Transformation means the form changes. As is in the bread and wine change form (which could include composition, substance, or even shape) into the body and blood of Christ. Now, we know the bread and wine do not change their composition or shape in the sacrament…

But aside from debates over transubstantiation, consubstantiation, and symbolistantiation, another key point of contention is that the Eucharist is taught to be a sacrifice in Orthodox, Catholic, and High Anglican traditions. Protestants obviously object to this doctrine as heretical because obviously the Scriptures plainly teach that Jesus is the sacrifice once and for all (Heb. 10:10). But what exactly does that mean? Does that mean that we are restricted to view the historical event of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross as the only time in which there can be said to be anything sacrificial in Jesus’s ministry? And also, if the Eucharist being consumed is, indeed, the body and blood of Christ as it would seem to imply, is this not part of the sacrifice? Does it mean Christians really have nothing to offer in terms of sacrifice to the Almighty God despite being declared to be an order of priests (hiereteuma) offering sacrifices (1 Pet. 2:5)? What possibly can we offer?

Of course, Christ’s sacrifice of his body once for all is actually considered a prosphora as opposed to what is found in 1 Pet. 2:5 which is called a thysia. A prosphora is an offering specifically for sin. Thus, the historical event of Jesus’s death on the cross is in fact something that could be interpreted as this particular thysia that Hebrews refers to. But…

This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (NIV, Matt. 26:28-29)

It seems a little bit odd that not only did Jesus a) equate the Eucharistic meal with blood of the covenant (sacrificial language) for the forgiveness of sins (also, sacrificial language) but also made a point of stating that he would drink it new with the Apostles in his Father’s kingdom. The Father’s kingdom here, of course, could be an eschtalogical statement, but it could also refer to Jesus’s founding of his Church. It would make no sense for him command them to eat the Eucharistic meal in remembrance of him (Luke 22:19) and then state he would only drink it new with them in his Father’s kingdom if it was to only be had the one time.

This is not to say that the Eucharist is a series of multiple different sacrifices. Rather, it is one sacrifice. The body and blood of Christ sacrificed once for all in the Eucharist. It is a point to be made of both God’s surpassing time and his surpassing of materialistic presence. This is not to say that Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross is not an important sacrifice or is not included in this sacrifice. Rather, it is a major event that is a part of the sacrifice of both body and blood. Indeed, the entire incarnation is the sacrifice one could say.

But to go a little further, St. Paul further compares the Eucharist to the sacrifices that Pagans offer to their gods (1 Cor. 10:18-22). He uses the term thysias which does not mean, necessarily, a sin offering for Pagan sacrifices are more generic. But by using such comparative language, the readers of his letter would have concluded that the Eucharistic meal he is describing would have been something either comparable to a Pagan sacrifice or the Christian version of the Pagan sacrifice (more likely, the other). The early Christians, stemming from both Jew and Gentile backgrounds would have understood things sacrificially and when such terms were used to describe their theologies, they probably meant it. Another point to make is that St. Paul declares that eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ is a proclamation of the Lord’s death (1 Cor. 11:26). It is not that the death of Christ is “continued” in that he keeps dying over and over again or “perpetuated” in that he is forever in a death cycle. Rather, what the sacrifice means is that the prosphora of Christ having offered his body and blood is that he has forever allowed his body and blood to be consumed by the Church. This offering was encapsulated in his death on the cross and since his resurrection is allowed to continue forever in every place of the world.

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Finding the early church… (pt. 1–the Apostles)

The “Apostles” are more specifically referred to as “The Twelve”. When Jesus starts his ministry, he appoints Peter, James and John the sons of Zebedee, Andrew, Phillip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judah (Mark 3:16-19). The Twelve are the ones given the highest seat of authority when the Church begins. They are the ones most interconnected with the mission of Jesus and as can be seen, Jesus gives the keys of Heaven to St. Peter (Matt. 16:18-19). St. Peter’s being given the keys of the kingdom of Heaven by extension meant that The Twelve would also share this authority (Matt. 18:18, John 20:21-23). He was indeed the first to receive the keys though.

The Twelve were placed in a very high standing within the early Church and many of the contentions about orthodoxy in the first two centuries of the Church were settled by who held the teaching authority of the Apostles (synonymous with The Twelve) via the succession of the order that The Twelve had established.

when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Bk. III, ch. 2, p. 2)

it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church — those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father (ibid, Bk. IV, ch. 26, p. 2)

The doctrine of the succession of an ordained ministry originating from the Apostles (The Twelve) is a nearly 1900-year-old doctrine so when it gets to a matter of “anachronistic” readings that are often heard a lot of times by Protestant critics of the ordained ministry succeeding from the Apostles themselves, the question must be asked whether we are dealing with a 2nd century anachronism or a 21st century anachronism. Clearly, not all Protestants dispute the ordained ministry succeeding from the Apostles themselves but there are many that would present this as a “beef” against “tradition”. The main problem being that the New Testament is, of course, largely ambiguous on the subject of early, first century Christian practice. Many seem to want it to be loud and clear and pretend that it is but the reality is that the New Testament is simply meant to be linked together with the outside sources to give it proper understanding. But the outside sources we have that give it clarity or seek to give it clarity are generally not very friendly to some of the more “hyper”-Protestant readings.

This is not to say that the Scriptures cannot be an authoritative source. Scriptures are an authoritative source on the issues. But we cannot imagine more into them just because we want a certain doctrine to be true and we cannot read too much out of them that is not there. It is like the corny “Christmas” song, “I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause”. Most people I know tell me that it is actually the father dressed as Santa Clause but that is simply not in the song at all. At the same time, one must be careful to properly read into and properly read out of the Scriptures. For instance, while it may not necessarily be in the song that daddy is not dressed as Santa Clause and the kid is confused and imaginative, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen either or that this was not the way the song was intended.

There is a lot that the New Testament doesn’t mention because either the issues do not directly pertain to salvation or the issues were so accepted as general belief in the Church that there was no need to issue direct statements. We do not see direct statements regarding the Trinity in the New Testament either. Yet it can be assumed that the concept of the belief was indeed so common knowledge and so well-accepted based on the numerous Scriptures that affirm the core belief of the Trinity.

The teaching of a three-fold succession, although not specifically mentioned in the New Testament, is found and assumed numerous times as existing in six of the seven authentic letters of St. Ignatius.

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! (Epistle to Polycarp ch. 6)

I salute your most worthy bishop, and your very venerable presbytery, and your deacons, my fellow-servants, and all of you individually, as well as generally, in the name of Jesus Christ, and in His flesh and blood, in His passion and resurrection, both corporeal and spiritual, in union with God and you. (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, ch. 12)

I salute in the blood of Jesus Christ, who is our eternal and enduring joy, especially if [men] are in unity with the bishop, the presbyters, and the deacons, who have been appointed according to the mind of Jesus Christ, whom He has established in security, after His own will, and by His Holy Spirit. (Epistle to the Philadelphian, Greetings)

He that is within the altar is pure, but he that is without is not pure; that is, he who does anything apart from the bishop, and presbytery, and deacons, such a man is not pure in his conscience. (Epistle to the Trallians, ch. 7)

I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time, and in the end was revealed. (Epistle to the Magnesians, ch. 6)

As to my fellow-servant Burrhus, your deacon in regard to God and blessed in all things, I beg that he may continue longer, both for your honour and that of your bishop. … It is therefore befitting that you should in every way glorify Jesus Christ, who has glorified you, that by a unanimous obedience you may be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment, and may all speak the same thing concerning the same thing, 1 Corinthians 1:10 and that, being subject to the bishop and the presbytery, you may in all respects be sanctified. (Epistle to the Ephesians, ch. 2)

While St. Ignatius is more explicit about a three-fold ministry, there is more ambiguity in St. Clement of Rome. He is rather explicit that the Apostles did indeed appoint bishops and deacons but he does not mention presbyters within that category. He talks strongly of presbyters but makes no mention of bishops. It is hard to dictate from the early Church alone whether a structure similar to modern day Anglicanism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy would be more familiar to them or rather a structure more similar to modern day Lutheranism, Presbyterianism, and Methodism would be more familiar to them.

The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. (Letter to the Corinthians, Clement of Rome)

But we’ll get back to that in a later part. For now, it is well-established that the sources outside of the New Testament have understood that The Twelve have in fact been responsible for laying an establishment of the ordained ministry. But what piece of New Testament evidence does this extraordinary idea come from? After Judah’s suicide and betrayal of Christ, The Twelve mingled together and picked St. Matthias to replace Judah as the twelfth apostle (Acts 1:23-26). Then, we enter into Acts 6 where The Twelve are consulted with a dilemma. The Greeks are complaining about the lack of ministration for their widows and so deacons must be ordained for them (Acts 6:1-2). The Greeks are instructed to nominate seven men from among them who are upstanding in the Holy Spirit and filled with wisdom (Acts 6:3-4) and The Twelve do the ordaining, “he does not tell in what way it was done, but that they were ordained (ἐ χειροτονήθησαν) with prayer: for this is the meaning of χειροτονία, (i.e. putting forth the hand,) or ordination” (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 14 on the Acts of the Apostles). In a hyper-Protestant view, this couldn’t mean anything for the deacons were chosen by the people, not the Apostles. That would be an improper reading. The deacons were more nominated by the people. But the Apostles had full authority over his admittance to the ordering. If the people were clearly wrong about the man’s upstandingness in wisdom and the Holy Spirit, the Apostles would have rejected him. The Apostles have the full authority to ordain here, not the people. That the people are given allowance to nominate to the ordering does not mean that the ordinary people perform the ordering.

From what Scripture permits us to read out of it, we can certainly presume that the Apostles ordained deacons. From what Scripture and the writings of the early 1st-2nd century Church permit us to read into it, we can also presume they did more orderings. For if they did not, then they did something which was outside the will of God. One must wonder if, in creating a Church structure of bishops, priests, and deacons, and ordaining that order via the succession of the Apostles, if it was clearly a false practice as is maintained by some Protestants, why God would permit such to happen to his Church as soon as the 2nd century. For if he hadn’t, then either Jesus was lying when he said the gates of Hell would not prevail against his Church or he underestimated the power of the gates of Hell (Matt. 16:18).

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Sibyl Vane–the archetype of Dorian Gray

In Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, there is a moral point to be made about art. When one ceases to be “real”, they can only ever be found within art. Art is what reflects the reality but art can never ultimately be real. Art is what decays and shows the true decay of the person. Art shows the decay into nothingness.

So it is intriguing that as the story begins to focus on Dorian Gray himself in chapter IV, a very minor, trivial character is brought into play–Sibyl Vane. But she is actually not that minor or trivial a character at all. Indeed, she is Dorian Gray himself in a way. Dorian Gray is first brought attention to her by her acting. Her artwork.

“One evening she is Rosalind, and the next night she is Imogen. I have seen her die in the gloom of a Italian tomb, sucking the poison from her lover’s lips. I have watched her wandering through the forest of Arden, disguised as a pretty boy in hose and doublet and dainty cap.” (37)

Indeed, for Dorian Gray, she is nothing more than these fictional characters. As Sibyl Vane becomes his lover and then a romance develops, Sibyl becomes real and the art is destroyed. “She is quite beautiful…but she can’t act” observes Lord Henry Wotton (61). “I was Rosalind one night, and Portia the other. The joy of Beatrice was my joy, and the sorrows of Cordelia were mine also.” admits Sibyl (63) as Dorian discovers she has left the art work she once was. He scolds her on this saying “You have killed my love.” (63) “You used to stir my imagination. Now you don’t even stir my curiosity.” (63) That night is when he realises that Basil Hallward’s picture has changed (65-67). It shows him evil. A cruel smile.

He discovers from Lord Henry that Sibyl Vane has committed suicide (71-72). But she had been dead before she took the action. For Sibyl Vane was only her art. The only thing Dorian loved about Sibyl was her art. The only thing that moved Dorian was her art. Sibyl was not a “real” character. She was a character that existed only in art.

“She has played her last part. But you must not think of that lonely death in the tawdry dressing-room simply as a strange lurid fragment from some Jacobean tragedy, as a wonderful scene from Webster, or Ford, or Cyril Tourneur. The girl never really lived, and so she has never really died. To you at least she was always a dream…Mourn for Ophelia, if you like. Put ashes on your head because Cordelia was strangled. Cry out against Heaven because the daughter of Brabantino died. But don’t waste your tears over Sibyl Vane. She was less real than they are.” (75)

For indeed, she was mere art and when her art was destroyed, she could no longer live on either. She was only the art that created her. Similarly, as Basil Hallward makes his portrait of Dorian Gray, Dorian falls in love with Basil’s art. He wishes to become the art. “How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young.” (19). Dorian proceeds to pray that it shall be the other way. That the picture will become old, and horrible, and dreadful. After the death of Sibyl Vane he sees this happening in his portrait. But his friends proceed to worship him. Basil Hallward sees him after the death of Sibyl Vane to admit his secret about the portrait.

“I worshipped you. I grew jealous of every one to whom you spoke. I wanted to have you all to myself. I was only happy when I was with you. When you were away from me you were still present in my art….But I know that as I worked at it, every flake and film of colour seemed to me to reveal my secret. I grew afraid that others would know of my idolatry.” (83-84)

When Basil realises the ugly truth about the portrait, he is brought to reality as well. For Basil, the “real” Dorian was art and nothing more. For Basil, he could only exist in art. “You have done enough evil in your life. My God! don’t you see that accursed thing leering at us?” (115). That “thing” was Dorian who became the “executioner” of the “idol-worshipper”. (115-116) But still, it is not realised.

“What would you say, Harry, if I told you that I had murdered Basil?” … “I would say, my dear fellow, that you were posing for a character that doesn’t suit you. All crime is vulgar, just as all vulgarity is crime. It is not in you, Dorian, to commit a murder.” (157).

In the end, as he perceives Sibyl Vane to be the art she creates, it is his friends–Lord Henry Wotton and Basil Hallward–who can only see the art that he has become. Sibyl Vane is nothing more than art and when she is brought out of her picture she dies. Dorian Gray is nothing more than art and he realises this. That to fix reality, he must destroy the art he has become. “It would kill this monstrous soul-life, and without its hideous warnings, he would be at peace.” (164) He takes the knife, stabs the picture, and soon, he is found dead. Or rather, he never existed at all. An old, shriveled man is found and Basil’s original painting is hanging on the wall (165). Dorian, like Sibyl, is only to be found in the art. He cannot be found in reality. For he became consumed by pride and when he became his picture, he could no longer function. When Sibyl was brought out of her picture, she could no longer exist.

Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Dover Publications, 1993.

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Hell

God is love (1 John 4:8). He who denies this does not know God. He who does not love, does not know God.

Hell is the finalisation of not knowing God and never having been known by God (Matt. 7:22-23). Jesus will say to those who say “Lord, Lord” and yet were foolish hypocrites who never practised love that he “never knew” them.

Love is not just simply a feeling that you have toward someone or mere service you give to another person. These people who Jesus condemns had indeed cast out demons in his name. They had been the people who had done extant community service in the name of Christ. They had been people who converted others, evangelised others, taught the right doctrines, etc. This is the irony of the situation. But he never knew them nonetheless because they knew not him. They had been bogged down by so many of their accomplishments, so many of their improvements on the path toward deification that they had neglected a significant piece of the puzzle. That their Christianity was not of their own but was a gift from God himself.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor. 13:4-8)

These people who boast of the demons they cast out through whatever means, or of their community service, or of their self-giving to the poor, or of other miracles they made–these people have not love for love does not boast. These people have not love for love is not self-seeking. One who loves does not do these things to receive recognition but rather may even expect to get trashed for what they do. God is love and those who know him have love. They do not boast of their accomplishments for all their accomplishments are of God.

The ones in the Gospel of Matthew cast out from God experience Hell. Hell is not knowing God. It is not being known by God. Hell is the absence of truth, being tormented repeatedly by lies and repeatedly being accused. Hell is hearing what wrongs you have committed brought up against you over and over and over again. Hell is hearing the boasts, the pride, being dishonoured by the prideful. It is a state of anger. Constant anger. Immense unhappiness. This is what Hell is.

“If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.” (Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov 291) To love is to know God but to not love is to reject God and to reject God is to reject love. Such a torment leads inevitably to Hell for there can be no truth in Hell. When there is no truth in Hell, then one experiences the pain of living in a lie so badly that “if there were fire in the material sense, they would be glad of it, for I imagine that in material agony, their still greater spiritual agony would be forgotten in a moment” (295).

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God save the children

The battle between the individual soul and the spirits of evil begins first at conception (Bl. Mary of Agreda, Ciudad de Dios, 4–The Coronation Ch. XV). The demons are opposed to life and attempt to snuff any potentiality that a new saint shall be born so they devise various tactics that convince the parents of the child to prevent its birth including the state of purity the mother and father were in, whether they themselves are in a state of grace, whether there was “excess in the act of generation”. The temptations become worse when the soul is infused into the child at forty or eighty days advancing it from the purely animal to the human for now the child may be baptised and saved by God. They begin even more fiercely to tempt for an abortion.

The demons relentlessly contend that the child belongs to them since it was conceived in sin, unworthy of grace, and belongs not nor can it reach redemption by God. That God lacks a desire to save it but this is all falsity. Often contending that the child cannot reach virtue. That it will be a child of sin any way.

In this vision, the Bl. Mary of Agreda sets a direct rebuttal to the common arguments in favour of the demonic act of abortion as some form of sick euthanasia. The demonic may contend the child will be an alcoholic. Rubbish! It does not mean the child cannot be freed. The child will have a disability or some other kind of deformity. Rubbish! God looks past physical and psychological defects. He cares for the soul. The child was conceived in an adulterous relation or in incest. Rubbish! The child is not to be tried for the sins of its parents.

The child born of David and Bathsheba died of natural causes after it was born for the battle for its soul was already won and it entered into Heaven as David testifies. “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23)

As long as the child can be redeemed, it is a heinous sin to give into the consistent and relentless temptations of the Devil that the child somehow cannot or should not be born or that it is unwanted. God wants it!

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Evangelical…?

There subsists a lot of frustration in recent years from numerous progressive “Evangelicals” in that the term has either become equivalent to that of Fundamentalism, or Fundamentalists use it so much and frequently that the “progressives” seem “left out”. The “progressives”, in turn, have made an attempt to define precisely what an “Evangelical” is in the sociological sense. What qualifies one as an “Evangelical”? What tenets of faith must they profess before they declare themselves as “Evangelical”? And more importantly, what is the “Evangelical” movement?

The “Evangelical” movement often times allegedly is traced back to John Wesley even there is no evidence that by “Evangelical” in his teachings did he intend or seem to fore-see that there would be a sociological development in the term “Evangelical”. Regardless, the sociological definition commonly referenced is that of the Bebbington model:

Conversionism or the belief that a Christian must have a “born-again” experience and have a life-long process of following Jesus
Activism which is the expression and demonstration of the Gospel through social reform efforts
Biblicism which is a high regard for the Bible as the ultimate authority
Crucicentrism or the high stress of Jesus’s death on the cross for the redemption of mankind (from the National Association of Evangelicals’ official website)

It is a very confusing definition and even though someone such as John Wesley is usually heralded as the champion of the Evangelical movement, Johnathan Edwards isn’t necessarily excluded either. In fact, he is included (Mark A. Knoll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, pages 4, 8, 24). Not to mention, Charles Hodge is included as a key developer of the idea of what precisely Biblicism in and of itself means (97-98) with Briggs taken as a more moderate opponent (103). It was here that this “Evangelical” movement actually becomes a two-faced movement that includes and breaks into liberalism and fundamentalism (100). In other words, the definition that is commonly used by Bebbington for “evangelicalism” doesn’t tell us anything about what an “Evangelical” is. It tells us rather that “Biblicism is the center of ‘Evangelicalism'”. Some might throw stones at me for saying that or state I am not understanding but I would prefer instead thoughtful consideration.

What, other than Biblicism, sets apart a Traditionalist Roman Catholic from a Protestant Anabaptist within this definition. You might say their sacramental theology, their Marian theology, etc. But that is not what is differentiating the two. What is differentiating the two is the category: “Evangelical”. But a Roman Catholic believes strongly in the “born-again” experience which happens through the sacrament of baptism though for the Anabaptist it is different. The Roman Catholic believes strongly in conversion. In the cross. In the active demonstration of the Gospel. Would not St. Francis and St. Dominic be some of the most active evangelists of their day? What the Roman Catholic does not believe in is Biblicism. The Roman Catholic sees the Church and par-taking in the life of the Church as understanding the Bible. And this is so with all of the most ancient churches. What the Bebbington quadrilateral does it insists that “Evangelicalism” was effectively non-existent until Protestantism arrived. What the Bebbington quadrilateral is is an effective undermining of the Gospel itself. Where in the Gospel is it said that the Church is not important? Where in the Gospel is it said that the Scriptures are to be taken as the ultimate authority above the Church?

Such interpretations of “evangelical” miss out on the Greek roots of the word. Evangelion is the root of the word “Evangelical”. It means “Gospel” or “Good news”. The Good news is Christ-crucified. This was proclaimed even before the New Testament needed to be written. An “Evangelical” is not someone who adheres to Biblicism, but someone who adheres to the message of Christ-crucified for all for the redemption of sins. They then spread this message throughout the world. The “Evangelical” movement is not a sociological movement that starts back in the 18th through 19th centuries but is the historic spread of the Christian religion starting with the Apostolic mission received from Christ himself. “Go forth and baptise all nations in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

To be Evangelical is to baptise, to proclaim Christ crucified, to eat the body and blood of Christ, to be transformed into his image. There is no Biblicist component in any of this. Where did the Biblicist component come in from? It came in from people who attempt to divorce and manipulate the Scriptures to their advantage.

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