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Love the Believers in All the Churches, Break Down the Walls of Denominationalism

I love all Christians. I have fellowshipped with all kinds of Christians. I’ve gone to Baptist churches, Nazarene churches, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Missionary Alliance, and on and on.  Of course, I have fellowshipped with believers in many “nondenominational” churches. In every setting, in every church, I have found people of faith. These people love God, profess their faith, and give of their time and resources. Perhaps the place where you see the greatest cross denominational sharing is para ministry events like retreats, concerts, and places where ministers with large followings gather in arenas and stadiums in every country and around the world. And of course there are all the Christian media outlets where pastors, teachers, musicians, spokespeople from all kinds of backgrounds speak their message. Perhaps that is why I am so passionate about the goal of breaking the barriers between us.

Because, at the same time that I see this great love of Christ in these people in these various churches and so forth, I also see a lot of pro denominational, pro division, statements. “We are at the Baptist Church,” or we are Lutheran” or “we are Catholic” are all divisive statements. And I have been at a number of churches, where one person claims that this other church down the road teaches this bad doctrine while they teach the real truth.

This is no different than what Paul wrote about to the Corinthians:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  (1Co 1:10-17 ESV)

In the first century the error was to say I follow Paul or Apollos or Cephas or even “I follow Christ”.  Today it is I follow Luther, or Calvin, or the pope. It is I am Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Pentecostal, or even non-denominational. This is one of the errors of the modern church,

Folks, we are Christians, just Christians.

I pray that people in all Christian churches will recognize that denominationalism is division and something the Apostle Paul charged all believers to stop.  I pray to the God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ that all believers everywhere will look to increase their fellowship with all believers.  I pray all believers will stop doing any and all things that promote division like talking up how great their denomination is, and work to find a way to break down these divisions between us.

This website is dedicated to learning what was originally taught in the first century when our faith began, and how it changed over the years, and with the changes, how churches disagreed and split time and time again.  It is helping me understand how this problem came about.

There are great believers in many, many churches.  Let’s love them all.

May 1st, 2018 Posted by | Divisions | no comments

01.5.0 Tertullian’s Writings’ Impact on Modern Theology

If you’re a modern day Orthodox Christian, whether you know it or not, Tertullian has had a powerful influence on what you believe. So it might be worth your while to take a look at who this character was. Major foundational pieces of the Orthodox Christian church such as the use of the word Trinity and the concept of sacraments are traced to this man.

Most of what we know about Tertullian comes from authors a century or more after Tertullian’s life. You might be surprised to know that not only was he not only not a prophet or apostle, but there is a dispute as to whether or not he was ever ordained even as a priest. According to Britannica, the encyclopedia, he was born 155 A.D. most probably to a family of position and wealth. “Tertullian received an exceptional education in grammar, rhetoric, literature, philosophy, and law. Little is known of his early life.”i

He most probably was born a pagan as Britannica lists his parents as pagan.

“During the next 20 to 25 years—i.e., from his early 40s to mid-60s—Tertullian devoted himself almost entirely to literary pursuits. Developing an original Latin style, the fiery and tempestuous Tertullian became a lively and pungent propagandist though not the most profound writer in Christian antiquity. His works abound with arresting and memorable phrases, ingenious aphorisms, bold and ironic puns, wit, sarcasm, countless words of his own coinage, and a constant stream of invective against his opponents. Yet, he could be gentle and sensitive, as in a treatise to his wife (Ad uxorem), and he could be self-critical and reflective, as in his treatise on patience (De patientia), a virtue that he admitted was conspicuously absent from his life.”ii

So basically what we have here is an intelligent, well educated man with good writing skills in the late second and early third century A.D. Somewhere along the line he became a committed believer. But just as interestingly, sometime before 210 A.D. this man stopped adhering to the Orthodox Christian faith and began following a view of Christianity called Montanism. So Orthodox writers who cite his references to the great “truths” that he presented are careful to point out that they follow him in his days before his conversion to Montanism!

If he is anything, Tertullian is a theologian, someone who studies God, and presents the conclusions of that study. So it must be emphasized that when Tertullian writes it is as a man who has had varying viewpoints of Christianity, He is not a prophet, one who speaks for God, or an apostle, one who is set forth by God. He may have achieved the status of a pastor, we don’t know, but his importance in history are definitely his theological writings. But the theological writing that are cited as useful to Orthodox theologians today are those of him when younger, not the writings from his perpectives as an older man, which is usually when one is usually considered to be wiser.

The Tertullian Project is a website that’s devoted to this man. THE THEOLOGY OF TERTULLIAN by Robert E. Roberts is in this site and explains Tertullian’s positions in good detail.

Rather than give you a theological synopsis of Tertullian’s writing I am going to let you see his actual written ideas so you can form your own opinion. Here are some snippits of Tertullians writing. This following citation “is sometimes designated the only pre-Nicene treatise on any of the sacraments;…”iii

“A treatise on our sacrament of water, by which the sins of our earlier blindness are washed away and we are released for eternal life will not be superfluous.… [2] vipers and asks, as it is true of serpents in general, are found in dry and waterless places. [3] but we, little fishes, are born in water after the manner of our [?????], Jesus Christ; nor can we be otherwise saved, except by abiding prominently in the water.”

This was written between 200 and 206 AD. Notice that it is purely the authors logic and reasoning that he is presenting here.

Next lets look a little at the context of Tertullian’s use of the word “Trinity”:

“As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons— the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. How they are susceptible of number without division, will be shown as our treatise proceeds.”iv

This bit of writing, I think, shows how intricate the thinking is in Tertullian’s writing. Intricate, yes, but definitely hard to follow. Yet Tertullian is cited for these and other references as if he is a prophet of some kind, a revealer of “progressive revelation”, and even though the concept of the Trinity stated here is not the concept it became, this reference is given as proof as to the universality of the concept.  However, it is never that simple; the Catholic Church does not called this process “progressive revelation,” rather it calls it development of doctrine. A post on this process will be published in the near future.  Still Tertullian’s writings appear to have an incredible amount of status on scriptural things for someone writing personal arguments on understanding Christian concepts.

Some say the Apostle Paul is hard to follow at times. To me, Paul has nothing on Tertullian.

Tertullian might be called a prude, He advocated against the circus, the theater and other worldly entertainments:

“Are we not, in like manner, enjoined to put away from us all immodesty? On this ground, again, we are excluded from the theatre, which is immodesty’s own peculiar abode, where nothing is in repute but what elsewhere is disreputable. [2] So the best path to the highest favour of its god is the vileness which the Atellan gesticulates, which the buffoon in woman’s clothes exhibits, destroying all natural modesty, so that they blush more readily at home than at the play, which finally is done from his childhood on the person of the pantomime, that he may become an actor. [3] The very harlots, too, victims of the public lust, are brought upon the stage, their misery increased as being there in the presence of their own sex, from whom alone they are wont to hide themselves: they are paraded publicly before every age and every rank–their abode, their gains, their praises, are set forth, and that even in the hearing of those who should not hear such things. I say nothing about other matters, which it were good to hide away in their own darkness and their own gloomy caves, lest they should stain the light of day. [4] Let the Senate, let all ranks, blush for very shame! Why, even these miserable women, who by their own gestures destroy their modesty, dreading the light of day, and the people’s gaze, know something of shame at least once a year. “ v

Tertullian really takes a strong stance here, a puritan is you will.  All worldly entertainment, including plays and the circus are to be avoided.

Next let’s look ar Tertullian’s reference to baptism as a sacrament, sacramentum in latin, which he used as a reference to a mystery of the church, which is how he described what happens in baptism, and more precisely in the rite of water baptism.

“HAPPY iS our sacrament Of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life! A treatise on this matter will not be superfluous; instructing not only such as are just becoming formed (in the faith), but them who, content with having simply believed, without full examination of the grounds of the traditions, carry (in mind), through ignorance, an untried though probable faith. The consequence is, that a viper of the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism. Which is quite in accordance with nature; for vipers and asps and basilisks themselves generally do affect arid and waterless places. But we, little fishes, after the example of our IXq,s204>S Jesus Christ, 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! ”vi

In the above passage Tertullian refers to the Cainite heresy which evidently has carried away a not insignificant numer of Christians:

“the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism”

Tertullian appears to be arguing here that the power of baptism is somehow in the water, i.e. holy water!  He certainly is writing against the Cainite heresy, a form of gnosticism that was pervasive at the time of the early church, but in his attempt to help he basically is writing new doctrine, IE, sacraments.

It is apparent that Tertullian’s writings form the basis of the rise of Roman Catholicism with the trinity, sacraments, and so forth. Yet he was a man educated in the finest worldly traditions who applied that education to form reasoning to explain the basis of faith. To me that implies bias to explain Christianity in terms of his worldly education. This is certainly admirable as it appears he is seeking God and to explain God’s business in terms of the education of the day. But to raise this effort to the level apostleship or prophecy, ie, bring new light or speaking for God in these matters is beyond the credit anyone should give Tertullian.

It needs to be proclaimed that Tertullian was a prolific writer by trade, and he wrote thought provoking essays on Christianity to be sure. But I haven’t found anything where even Tertullian believed he was acting as an Apostle or Prophet. Yet he is sometimes referred to as an early part of the “development of doctrine” of Christianity. And his writings are certainly treated as such. As such Tertullian is part of the fork in the river where traditional Christianity diverts from original Christianity.

ihttps://www.britannica.com/biography/Tertullian

iiIbid

iiiTHE FAITH of the EARLY FATHERS, volume 1, William a Jurgens, liturgical press, Collegeville Minnesota copyright 1970, P. 126

ivNew Advent, Against Praxeas, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0317.htm

vhttp://www.tertullian.org/anf/anf03/anf03-09.htm#P924_369498

viOn Baptism by Tertullian, http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/tertullian21.html

December 6th, 2017 Posted by | Movements | no comments

Communion’s Deep Meaning – Christ’s Sacrifice Has Freed Us From The Power of Sin

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
(1Co 11:23-25 ESV)

Those are oft quoted verses in many churches before the start of the communion service.  I would like to look at what Paul wrote about Communion in the entire context. The larger context in First Corinthians shows multiple issues with communion in the time of Paul:

But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.  (1Co 11:17 ESV)
For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,  (1Co 11:18 ESV)
for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.  (1Co 11:19 ESV)
When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.  (1Co 11:20 ESV)
For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.  (1Co 11:21 ESV)
What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.  (1Co 11:22 ESV)
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,  (1Co 11:23 ESV)
and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  (1Co 11:24 ESV)
In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  (1Co 11:25 ESV)
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  (1Co 11:26 ESV)
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  (1Co 11:27 ESV)
Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  (1Co 11:28 ESV)
For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  (1Co 11:29 ESV)
That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  (1Co 11:30 ESV)
But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.  (1Co 11:31 ESV)
But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.  (1Co 11:32 ESV)
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—  (1Co 11:33 ESV)
if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.  (1Co 11:34 ESV)

There are numerous points made in this section and I would like to touch on some of them,

In verses 20-21 Paul writes “ When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat – For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal”. Paul also says that at these meals some people go hungry while others get drunk. Paul makes a distinction here between just eating a meal together with other believers and the Lord’s Supper. He is saying that just getting together with other believers for a meal is not the Lord’s supper. He goes on in the next verses to ask things like don’t you have your own houses to live in, and don’t you see the you’re humiliating the people who come to these gatherings and don’t get to eat?

In verses 23 through 25 Paul lays out the pattern of service for holy Communion. In verse 23 he specified that this is the instruction that he received. Jesus started with the bread, and announced, “This is my body”.  At this point he gives the directive, “Do this in remembrance of me”. In the next verse he specifies the next step in the procedure, which is the same way Jesus did it! Paul then quotes the words of Jesus, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

In verse 26 he then states the spiritual significance of what is going on – that as often as you do this you are declaring the importance of Jesus’s death in our lives. Jesus’ broken body became our sin. Jesus’ blood washed away those sins, and this became The New Covenant with God!

This, then, is the point. Jesus’ death frees us from the power of sin.  Because he died for us Jesus is life giving.  Because of his death Jesus is healing. Because he gave his body Jesus is resurrecting. That is why his body is the bread of life.   Remembering these things is breath and life, bread and wine, and  eternal power to us.

Further on in the verses, verse 27 does specify that people who receive communion without this frame of mind are unworthy and are actually part of the problem that Jesus had to go to the cross for. In verse 30 says that if you partake of the Last Supper without this frame of mind you bring judgment on yourself. He even goes on to say that this lack of believing in what Christ’s body and blood accomplished is at the cause of why so many are weak, ill, and dying. And that is because weakness, sickness and yes, death, are with us because of the power of sin in the world.

In my own head I see a vision of holy Communion with a neon sign flashing, “Jesus Christ Became Sin For You” – “His Death Washed Away Your Sin” “Sin Has No Power Over You”- “Walk In Deliverance”. Or how about this:


provided by: www.criticallayouts.com
Praise the Lord for the Last Supper. Praise the Lord he gave us this service to be done as often as we get together to have this supremely powerful thought in our head of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross!

 

 

August 23rd, 2017 Posted by | Basic Christianity | no comments