The vision of OriginalChristianity.Net is to look at the beliefs and practices of the the original Christians. The reason why this is important is that over the millennium Christianity has developed numerous factions that all claim that that they are the true continuation of original Christianity. I heard exactly that when I visited a Greek Orthodox Church, I have read it in Roman Catholic literature, it is in the bulletin of a local non-denominational church in my area. They make these claims despite the fact that they have disagreed, even violently at times. For other articles on this topic, see A Major Objection to the Restoration Movement Is That Christianity Has Not Changed Substantially Over Time, and Another Claim of Original Christianity in Practice Today,
Throughout this website are numerous articles written on the numerous divisions in the Church that we have today, how a lot of these doctrines developed that are behind all these divisions, and some key points on how original Christianity differed from today. It is important to look at all these things because they are part of Christianity now and play a big part, perhaps more as obstacles, in the faith of the individual believer.
But the key point of this website is to be able to envision what original Christianity, and in particular the time of Jesus and the apostles and disciples that he touched was really like. There was an incredible spirituality. With the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, and afterward the sending of the Holy Spirit we see the most incredible movement of God on earth since creation.
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This was a time of power, miracles, healing, and deliverance, not only by Jesus, but by those he touched, his apostles and disciples. People saw God in action through these men. They saw the word of God living, because they lived it together. There was incredible community and sharing. There was incredible believing. There was great faith.
It was a time of simple doctrine. There were no official doctrines on infant baptism or believer’s baptism. There was no doctrine that prophecy and the other gifts and manifestations of the spirit had ceased. There were baptisms being carried out, and the last supper repeated as a memorial, but there were no “sacraments”, somehow mysteriously conveying grace by ritualistic practices. There were no autonomous churches disputing which form of church government was doctrinally correct, which end times theology was correct, or arguments over whether or not there was eternal security.
There was no argument over the status of the Bible, because there was no Bible. Jesus had referenced the law and the prophets, including the Psalms, as the word of God. And only those books with the addition of the words of Jesus were considered the word of God. There were no written Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There were no epistles of Peter, Paul, Hebrews, John, and Jude. So there was no argument over doctrines derived from them like eternal security, justification by grace, predestination, or even the Trinity.
Philosophy was rejected as an unwise practice of the Greeks that actually tore down faith more than it built, so discussion of faith wasn’t an analytical exercise in the nuances of the meanings of words, but rather simple directives, and powerful stories and analogies that emphasize the important meanings to be focused on while ignoring the myriad details that can lead people astray.
What existed was the good news that Jesus the Messiah had come, that he had fulfilled the law, had sent the Holy Spirit, and now many believers were walking in great faith and power. What existed was great praise, great faith, and great love of God.
All of this is not to say that this was an easy time. There were persecutions, challenges, and trials, as both the Jews and the Romans saw this burgeoning Christianity as a threat. But this just served to bring the Christians closer together, and more united in their faith.
Original Christianity was a time of great unity, simple doctrine, great believing, with many believers walking in the love of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
So as you read these articles that discuss all of the divisions, and developments, both good and bad throughout the millennia of history of Christianity, it is important to maintain the focus of the simple vision of original Christianity. Pray, praise the Lord, walk in the power of the spirit, love God and love your neighbor, and rejoice in what Christ has done. Join together with any Christian who is doing the same. And in the process perhaps we can bring some of what made original Christianity so great back to life.
© copyright 2012 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.
It appears that universally, in the church, we Christians marvel at both at Jesus’ miracles and the wisdom in his parables. We especially are in awe of his life, his incredible birth, his short but incredibly powerful ministry, his passion, death, and resurrection. We love him for those. We are also moved by the depth of the wisdom and inspiration of books like the Psalms and Proverbs. Almost universally, although most would say all true Christians, acknowledge him as Lord, and strive to follow his leadership as we walk in a dark world filled with daily challenges, including overcoming evil.
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In fact, there are some universal, and some almost universal, elements in Christianity. Universally held elements of Christianity include this deep awe of Christ, and likewise, for the bible. The bible, or at least for some, sections of the bible, such as the parables of Christ in the gospels, the powerful poetry of the Psalms, and the wisdom in Proverbs are universally held in the deepest regard. Almost universally held elements include the belief in Christ as the only begotten son of the Father, physically born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, who died for out sins, and was raised from the dead and is presently seated at the right hand of God. Christians look forward to spending eternity with the Lord. Even more, there is common ground as churches promote worship, baptism, and communion with some similarity.
But beyond some basics like these, there is far less agreement on the tenets of Christianity. In fact, there is an elephant in the Church, an elephant of disagreement resulting in tens of thousands of sects, disagreeing on many doctrines.
The disagreements have been legion, often bloody, and always confusing. Christians have killed other Christians for defying the rule of infant baptism and proclaiming “believer’s baptism”. Many Christians have declared other Christians apostate because of their view of the Bible, whether it is inerrant, infallible, or at least partially of human origin.
And even if they agree on the status of the Bible, they don’t agree on what it says on these issues. For example, there is disagreement over basic principles of interpretation like whether the overriding principle is based on the covenants of God versus which dispensation we are in.
There are Christians that call other Christians apostate (traitorous) because they believe that the gifts of the spirit, i.e., prophecy and speaking in tongues, etc. still exist, and vice versa. These days there are sharp divides over homosexuality, abortion, the Word of Faith movement, the emergent Church movement, and the role of women in the church.
Even if Christians don’t call others apostate, they still disagree to the point of not fellowshipping over issues like: dietary laws (whether they need to be followed), drinking alcohol, end times (Eschatology), eternal security, evolution vs. literal seven days of creation, giving vs. tithing, predestination, psychology: the acceptability of Christian counseling, sacraments as conveyers of grace or not, the “in the name of Jesus” debate, and pacifism vs. the concept of a just war, and other issues.
Then there is the ecumenical concept of Christian “orthodoxy” that suggests that none of the issues so far discussed really matter even there are huge divisions over them. The only issue that really matters in “orthodoxy” is whether one accepts the doctrine of the Trinity, that Jesus the man is really God and a person in a triune godhead with two other persons, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. This doctrine is promoted as the absolutely most important concept in Christianity even though this emphasis is totally missing for the first centuries of the church.
And let alone that the very doctrine of the Trinity has been disputed over the centuries with more Christians killing other Christians over this issue than any other. It appears that for some that as long as a church accepts the doctrine of the Trinity it doesn’t matter if it teaches that homosexuality is normal or apostate, and/or abortion is choice or murder, and/or baptism should be infant baptism or believer’s baptism, and/or there are two “ordinances” or seven sacraments, and so forth, and so on.
This mess is a huge blemish on the body of Christ. Some of these issues may be legitimate, but to have so many “orthodox” churches teaching so many disparate doctrines flies right in the face of Paul’s charge for believers to have the same mind:
Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you all say the same thing, and there be no divisions among you, but you be united in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10 LITV)
If, as Paul teaches, we corporately are the body of Christ, then does the current collective body of competing Christian theologies accurately reflect the mind of Christ. Certainly, no one can think so.
But, before the present time with our tens of thousands of Christian denominations, and before the Reformation that shifted the focus of Christianity from the decisions of church councils and the Pope to the Bible as the principle source of guidance, and before the great schism about a thousand years ago, even before there were arguments over the nature of Christ, the Trinity and whether Mary was the mother of God in the beginning of the age of Christendom (fourth century), even before there was a Catholic church (110 A.D.) there was original primitive Christianity.
While some of the focus of Christianity remains, much has changed over the millennia. The question is whether all or even any of the different traditions that have developed are correct, or the original believers were the ones that actually got it the most right. The place to start is by looking at the beliefs and practices of original, primitive Christianity, and seriously consider embracing them again even though some of them may be radically different from what you or I hold today.
In the days of original, primitive Christianity:
(In the listings below hyperlinks offer more information on the point being made.)
Elements usually still held today:
Elements still held today by some:
- The receiving and leading of the holy spirit, including the manifestations, was paramount. Many displayed the manifestations of the Spirit including prophecy, however, false prophecy was to be recognized and rejected. (Matt 7:15-19,2Pet 2:1)
- Believers did more than go to church together, they often worked, ate and lived together, bonded together in fellowship by faith.
- Followers were thrilled by the growth of the word of God (Jesus Christ) as signs, miracles and wonders followed the preaching by the disciples.(Acts 2:43,4:30, 5:12,8:6,14:3,15:12)
- Any kind of sin including sexual sin (any kind of sex outside of the marriage of a man and a woman) was taken as following the flesh instead of the spirit, therefore, there was no acceptance of adultery, fornication, and homosexuality.
- Ministers were allowed to be married as raising a family was considered valuable training in learning to lead a flock of believers.(1 Tim 3:2-4)
- There was no rigid literal interpretation of many sections taken by some to be literal today. For example, the existing references by the early church fathers to the days in Genesis chapter one use the reference “for a day is to the Lord as a thousand years” showing their understanding of that section to be symbolic and not literal.
Elements held today by few, if any believers:
- Jesus proclaimed only the law and the prophets as the word of God, and no more.
- Other than the words of Jesus, and the law and the prophets, no writings were considered the word of God. Regarding the Old Testament there is no writing that shows that books outside of the law and the prophets (which include the psalms written by David, a prophet) were considered the word of God. As far as the Christian authors go, Clement and other early church writers did not identify the New Testament as scripture, except for the words of Christ. These writers uniquely identified the words of Christ as such (essentially equating the Lord’s words as scripture), and made no reference to Scripture in referring to what was later called New Testament verses and concepts. On the other hand, they did call references to the law and the prophets scripture.
- The Gospels were called memoirs and were the written witness accounts of some of the Apostles and their close disciples.
- People with the gift ministries (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists) were the spiritual leaders of the Church (as opposed to Bishops.) (Acts 13:1, 15:32)
Elements that are divisive today but didn’t appear to exist then:
- Bishops had not replaced apostles and prophets as arbiters of Christian doctrine. There was no Catholic Church under a central hierarchy of bishops with supreme authority. Disciples went to remote lands and started independent churches. (See The Leading of Original Christianity Was Done By Apostles and Other Gift Ministries through the Spirit, Not by Bishops As We Have Now.) Ignatius in 110 A.D. first wrote about a Catholic church with Bishops in total authority over all believers setting church laws that all must follow.
- Neither the deity of Christ, neither the Trinity, nor the belief of Mary as the Mother of God were taught or promoted.
- There were no divisive disputes over issues like the mode of baptism, number of ordinances or sacraments, pacifism, requirement of tithing, role of women in the church, dietary laws, predestination, eternal security, end times theology, and many of the dividing doctrinal issues over the centuries.
The most current blogs (articles) are below. The articles can touch on a large number of topics including ancient history, the original language of the bible, grammar and logic, dividing doctrines besides the basics of Christianity, what Jesus taught, and development (movements) in Christianity throughout the centuries. For an organized listing of the blogs (articles) to get an overview and better understanding of the contents on this web site, go to the table of contents. There is more information on design of this website on this page; look on the right sidebar under Original Christianity and click “Why? Click to Read More…”
All old things from fossil bones to caveman artifacts are radioactively dated. Amazingly, the dates for these artifacts are presented in very definite terms.
Carbon dating has been used by scientists to show that man is older than the dates offered by Bible records.
One dating example is that of the Shroud of Turin. For anyone that doesn’t know the Shroud of Turin is a piece of very old cloth that has an image on it that some say is the very image of Christ.
How this relates to the title of this article is this. A few years back a number of scientists said the shroud of Turin has to be a fake because it only dates radioactively to the middle ages.
Well, it seems that there is a little more to the story. Now Italian scientists say that this cloth could date to the time of Christ because of earthquakes. In fact, an earthquake could have been the cause of the picture in the first place.
“Alberto Carpinteri of the Politecnico di Torino and his team suggest that an earthquake in Jerusalem in A.D. 33 — the time of the crucifixion — released neutron particles that could have fixed the picture on the shroud.
The Italian hypothesis would concur with a study conducted by geologists investigating seismic activity in the Holy Land, who in 2012 offered a theory on the date of the crucifixion: Friday, April 3, 33.
The Italian scientists say that radiation from the earthquake could have elevated the levels of carbon-14 isotopes in the shroud, which would interfere with radiocarbon dating.”[i]
How about that? It seems that radioactive dating isn’t so sure after all if something that some scientists say is 700 years old is really three times that old.
It sure is something to think about. For example, a Huffington Post article says that the oldest caveman bones are 7000 years old.[ii] With all of the earthquakes that have happened in the history of the world, what is to say that the date is off a little, maybe enough to line up with a biblically based timeline that puts modern man, i.e., Adam and Eve, starting about 6000 years ago?
There once was a serial killer. He had a dark passenger that drove him to terrible depths. He had overpowering urges to kill. And he acted on those urges, repeatedly killing ritualistically, stabbing his victims through the heart after binding them to his table, his altar of death.
Like other serial killers, he appeared normal. He was a dedicated employee, respected in his job. He fit in at work. He socialized with his co-workers. He was a loving husband and father. He had a sister that he cared for deeply
So, knowing all this, certainly people would want to see this man captured, stopped, killed if necessary, right?
No, actually a lot of people were rooting for him. You see, he was the hero of a TV show. The show was Dexter.
And as odd as it sounds, Dexter was likeable. Dexter was understandable. Dexter had a code. He only killed people that deserved to die. He was a forensic scientist, and so he could use his skills to investigate. He made sure they were worthy of death before he killed them. No matter that he thrilled on the act of stalking and killing these people, he was doing a valuable service, ridding the world of vermin.
It also didn’t matter that Dexter slowly involved his sister in the web of deception that was necessary to cover the grim tale that was his life to the point where she killed an authority figure to save him and continue his deceit. People felt sorry for her but they rooted for her too.
Or that he had a girlfiend that was also a serial killer that he started to kill but couldn’t for reasons of the heart. But she tried to kill his sister. But she came back. And his son loved her so much.
They were both good people. They were just complicated.
And the show was so interesting; the social interactions of killers amongst themselves and among their mostly unsuspecting social circles.
And therein lies the seduction. Its okay to root for the killer, the liar, the deceiver. They are complicated, understandable, lovable. They have such good reasons for their misdeeds. And these are no little mistakes, these are big calculated cons, these are murders.
If we rejoice that they get away with this stuff we are rejoicing in their wrongdoing, their sin, their evil. Even if it is a TV show.
It’s not like anyone ever imitates this stuff. O wait, they do. Mark Andrew Twitchell[i] says was inspired by the show in his murder. Andrew Conley[ii] likewise cited Dexter as inspiration for his murder of his 10 year old brother!
Some fans were disappointed that Dexter didn’t ride off into the sunset to Argentina with his loving killer wife and his son.
While possibly the most extreme Dexter is not the only show where the hero is performing criminal acts.
Suits is the story of a young genius who is so smart that despite never having gone to Law school he made extra money taking and passing the bar exam for others. The development of that premise is that he eventually takes a job as a lawyer falsifying an Ivy League education in the process.
House of Lies is a drama where the consultants revel in the lies they tell to pull off consulting jobs with big financial gains. Leverage is a Robin Hood story of sorts where a team of thieves and con artists pull incredible scams on guilty parties to avenge and restore the victims. White Collar is the story of a top tier white collar criminal who is allowed out of jail to consult with the FBI while he secretly continues his scamming ways sometimes even in the pursuit of his FBI duties.
I am focusing on just a few shows but this is really just the start of the list. There are shows today that promote adultery, greed, lying, promiscuity etc, etc, etc.
You might hope that somewhere in any of these dramas would be the concept of rehabilitation and redemption, that these anti-heroes reform their ways and get back on track. But no, that would ruin the premise of the story. The crime continues non-stop from Neal Caffrey in White Collar scamming every week to a non-stop parade of murders by Dexter.
So it needs to be said that Dexter is a murderer who should have been stopped and punished. Likewise it is wrong to con and scam in all the shows from Suits to White Collar. Adultery, greed, lying, promiscuity etc. are all wrong.
Otherwise we are celebrating misdeeds, rejoicing in wrongdoing.
It (love) does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:6 ESV)
I have been watching Frontline, the episode titled The Untouchables. It is the story of the investigation into the banking industry concerning the meltdown was caused by bank industry practices of selling and reselling bad mortgages. These practices made a lot of bankers rich, but it almost caused a worldwide economic meltdown. It certainly caused a national economic catastrophe. And, amazingly, as the show points out and despite efforts by Senate investigators as well as the New York State Atty. Gen.’s office, none of these “fat cats” went to jail. This is the opposite of what happened after the S&L crisis in the 80s where thousands of bankers went to jail.
One of the things that becomes apparent when you look at this debacle is that the scale of the thing. This was no isolated incident at any level. There were loads of people buying mortgages that had no business getting them. There were numbers of bank workers at every level that were aware that a lot of these mortgages were being secured by people without the resources to pay them off. To their credit, there were a number of people who tried to point the problems out to people that were higher than them but they were ignored. And there were the mortgage companies, and the banks whose only concern was profitability, and more specifically, that if it was okay on Wall Street and the moneymakers were making money, then it was not only a business that was okay, it was a business to pursue. In the words of the chief executive of Countrywide Mortgage, the motto was “fund em”, that no matter what people’s circumstances were, there was a way to fund them, whether they had jobs, or assets, or not. The big banks made lots of money with this strategy.
However, this caused a big economic bubble, which crashed. It other times in history when this kind of reckless behavior was discovered people went to jail. Not this time. The rich got richer. The poor have became poorer. (That is called “oppression” in the Bible)
What does that say about the society in which this kind of behavior thrives?
Jesus made an interesting comment after he was asked by some Pharisees for a sign:
But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation. (Matthew 12:39-45 KJV)
Jesus called the generation a “wicked and adulterous” one. Wicked is just another word for evil. It means sinful, or unrighteous, or simply put, not living as God intends for us to live. Adulterous brings up the image of a person who is unfaithful to their spouse, but in this case it is an analogous term that refers to God’s people being unfaithful to him.
When God talks about a generation being evil he doesn’t mean everyone in the generation, just that it’s so prevalent that it’s something that marks the generation. One of the biggest things that marked the current generation is this Wall Street banking scandal of the early 21st century.
The Wall Street banking scandal clearly illustrates practices that are not what God would want. God believes in fair practices, a good day’s work for a good day’s pay, and a good price for a fair amount of product.
“You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and fair weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 25:13-16 ESV)
This sets a standard that says when somebody trades something that is so much weight it needs to be accurate. If you’re buying a pound of wheat or rice or gold, it needs to be measured accurately in order for the appropriate value to be determined. There is no leeway in the above standard.
The banking industry clearly did not hold that standard. They sold bundles of mortgages that were supposedly good while they knew they were not. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein not only admitted as such, but he presented the practice as part of “market making”. In his statements to Congress he was unapologetic and his arguments focused on what have become the standard business practices of the day, which includes taking both “long and short” positions on sales, that is selling things while taking a position in the market that the item being sold will fail.
Everybody else would call that selling a product that they know is not good, or fraud. The focus of the Frontline piece centers around citizens, Senators, attorney generals all calling this fraud while Blankfein and his cronies call it standard business practices.
According to Wikipedia Blankfein regularly earns in excess of $50 million a year, and in 2011 was listed by Forbes as the 43rd most powerful person in the world.
It certainly looks suspicious that the Obama administration has failed to indict any of these leaders especially considering that Blankfein is a known democratic supporter. Again, according to Wikipedia, in 2008 Blankfein’s Goldman Sachs’ employees and relatives helped raise almost $1 million for Barack Obama, making it the company from which Obama received the most help getting elected.
One of the questions asked in the Frontline piece was not only why didn’t anyone hold the American banking system to account but why hasn’t anyone held the American Justice system to account for not holding the Banking System to account?
All of this has happened while the person on the street has suffered, losing income and buying power steadily throughout this fiasco. Unemployment is still high and the economy is still shaky.
The whole scenario is what the Bible calls “a wicked and adulterous generation” because these things didn’t happen in a vacuum. There has been a widespread culture change in our country that has allowed this to happen.
So what would the Bible message be in response to this? It would be “Repent”, of course! People, we have a choice. Greed may not be illegal, but it is evil. Don’t be a part of it. Don’t be a part of any business practice that isn’t right. And while finances and the economy are important, it is very important that we first of all act righteously in our own affairs. And second, that we do business with people and elect political leaders that will help make us a generation known for righteousness rather than evil.
This is not always simple. It means we may have to clean up our work practices. Sometimes it may mean changing jobs and/or the people that we do business with.
Remember, just because it is currently acceptable in our culture doesn’t make it righteous.
But, if we are truly believers, then the question that we must always ask ourselves, down to a moment by moment basis, is, “Is what we are doing serving the Lord?
And to the mighty in the land there is this charge:
“Thus says the Lord GOD: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness. Cease your evictions of my people, declares the Lord GOD.” Eze 45:9
Its time to make America great again for the common man. We need to do our part by both living righteously and demanding the same from business and political leaders.
©copyright 2013 Mark W. Smith, all rights reserved.