Friday, November 29, 2013

How Long Were the Original Manuscripts Around? Considerations on the NT Autographa and Early NT Apographa from Scripture and Patristic Writers, part 1

I. Scriptural Presuppositions

            Scripture teaches the verbal, plenary preservation of the verbally, plenarily inspired autographa (Psalm 12:6-7), the availability of the preserved text to every generation of the people of God (Isaiah 59:21), who, institutionalized in Israel in the Old Testament era and in the church during the age of grace, are responsible for that preservation (Romans 3:2; Matthew 28:18-20).[i]  The church of the New Testament (NT) is the autonomous assembly of immersed saints organized to carry out the Lord’s work. Her belief and practice would be that of modern Bible-believing and practicing Baptist churches.  Such congregations, in accord with Christ’s promise (Matthew 16:18), have existed in a continuous succession from the time Christ originated them during His earthly ministry (John 1:35),[ii] during which they have, by God’s grace, fulfilled their responsibility to protect and propagate accurate apographs of the Textus Receptus (TR), the modern text-type identical with the originally inspired manuscripts.  These Bibliological and ecclesiological axioms, established by God in His Word, constitute the first principles the unbiased[iii] historian must bring to his evaluation of ecclesiastical and textual-critical history.

II. NT and Patristic Considerations Concerning the Autographs and the Textus Receptus

            As part of the greatest of commands is to love God with all one’s mind (Matthew 22:37), believers should attempt to discover the textual history of the preserved text of Scripture.  The dominance and universal acceptance of the TR in the church of the Reformation era and subsequent centuries has been documented,[iv] as has its use among the true churches of the Middle Ages[v] and its towering dominance in the manuscript evidence from that period.[vi]  Since God promised to preserve His Word, this Received Text must of necessity have been available in early Christian history as well, as copies of the TR autographs, written under inspiration by the authors of the NT books, were circulated.  However, the early existence of the TR text-type has been questioned by advocates of the modern critical NT text (CT).[vii]  The promises of Scripture, which verify its existence, should suffice as proof for believers;  however, historical research also evidences its presence in early Greek textual evidence, translational evidence, and patristic citations.[viii]  A patristic study of evidences for the longevity of the autographa, as well as of early copying practices, is also worthy of examination.  The years the original manuscripts were extant reduce the gap between the time of initial inspiration and the era when even the most extreme CT partisans must acknowledge the existence of the Traditional Text.  Furthermore, in light of modern neo-evangelical and CT fundamentalist denials of the Biblical imperative of the availability of every Word of Scripture (Matthew 4:4),[ix] the longer the autographs existed, the longer the period that all who believe in inerrancy, regardless of their belief in or opposition to the doctrine of preservation, must acknowledge the continued existence and availability of every word of the NT.  For at least as long as the originals were extant, one could examine them and be absolutely certain of every word of his Greek Bible.  The possibility of such a comparison would also inhibit the ability of textual aberrations, both unintentional and intentional, to affect the nature of the general stream of manuscript (MSS) evidence.  A patristic analysis on these issues, with a preliminary consideration of the NT background, is consequently in order.

Note: this entire study is available as an essay here.

[i]           See Thou Shalt Keep Them, ed. Kent Brandenburg (El Sobrante, CA: Pillar and Ground Publishing, 2003) for a book-length justification of these and the other Bibliological postulates referenced in this paragraph.

[ii]           For a detailed ecclesiological exposition from a good systematic theology, see Landmarks of Baptist Doctrine, vol. 4, Robert J. Sargent, Oak Harbor, WA:  Bible Baptist Church Publications, 1990, pgs. 481-596.  Biblical ecclesiology has traditionally been denominated Landmarkism.

[iii]          An impossible “neutrality” concerning the truths of Scripture that relate to history, ecclesiology, or any other aspect of life, which leads one to pass over God’s declarations on these matters in one’s evaluation of historical evidences, is not unbiased;  it is a wicked refusal to fully submit to the reality of the one true God revealed in the Bible.  Atheistic rejection of such historically relevant truths is also utterly unreasonable and biased.  True objectivity and unbiased historiography requires that one be in full agreement with the God of truth, who alone created the world, set up its laws, and orders all things that come to pass after the counsel of His own will (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Isaiah 33:6; Ephesians 1:11).

[iv]          See “The Canonicity of the Received Bible Established from Reformation and Post-Reformation Baptist Confessions,” Thomas Ross, for an example.

[v]           See Rome and the Bible:  Tracing the History of the Roman Catholic Church and its Persecution of the Bible and of Bible Believers, David Cloud, Oak Harbor, WA:  Way of Life Literature, 1997, 2nd ed., pgs. 29-30, Crowned With Glory and Honor, Thomas Holland, chapter 3, “Testimony Through Time”;  Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, Benjamin Wilkinson, chapter 2, “The Bible Adopted by Constantine and the Pure Bible of the Waldenses,” Answers to Objections to Our Authorized Bible Vindicated, Benjamin Wilkinson, chapter 3, “The Itala and the Bible of the Waldenses,” Robert L. Webb, The Waldenses and the Bible, Carthage, IL:  Primitive Baptist Library, n. d. (available at

[vi]          See Modern Bibles:  The Dark Secret, Jack Moorman, chapter 6, “The Theory Behind the Shorter Bibles,” Forever Settled: A Survey of the Documents and History of the Bible, Jack Moorman, Chapters 15-17 (both electronically accessed from The Fundamental Baptist CD-ROM Library, David Cloud; Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061–0368), among many other sources.

[vii]         E. g., “All the external evidence suggests that there is no proof that the Byzantine text was in existence in the first three centuries.” (Daniel Wallace, “The Majority Text and the Original Text: Are They Identical?” Bibliotheca Sacra, 148:590 (Apr 91) p. 166). Interestingly, footnote #46 of his own article states that patristic quotations supported the Byzantine Text against the Alexandrian in earlier writers such as Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Hippolytus, Methodius, etc;  his qualifications, “external” evidence, “suggests,” no “proof,” are also of note.  Wilbur Pickering demonstrates that the Majority Text dominated supposed alternative text types centuries earlier and necessarily existed in the second century (Identity of the New Testament Text, chapter 6; electronically accessed).

[viii]         Forever Settled, Moorman, pgs. 65-128.

[ix]          “Scripture does not state how God has preserved the text” (Wallace, “The Majority Text and the Original Text,” pg. 156).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Kaufman, Kafkaesque Performance "Art"/Hoax That Is Most of Professing Christianity Today, pt. 2

Part One

Part one of this got little attention, let alone little love, when I think it is stating things as they are.  I'm not going to go back to the Kaufman and Kafka analogy -- you'll have to read part one to get that -- but I'm going to be a glutton for punishment, because I had decided to write at least two parts.  So here goes.

I'm saying that most of professing Christianity is a performance art, which is different than a performing art.  Sometimes it is called conceptual art.  This perhaps majority of professing Christianity has the world as an audience and is playing a game with it.  The lines have blurred between reality and fiction.  And this kind of game playing works best and perhaps only in religion.

The first example I gave was the Charismatic movement, and I included continuationists and revivalists.  Charismatics are playing and many, if not most, have themselves convinced that the Holy Spirit is doing something there.  They will not be challenged or questioned, which is part of the game, as it defies love in their arrangement.  It's the equivalent of not laughing at a Kaufman act, because it isn't funny.  Many have gone along with this act, and now mistake this for a real movement of God.  They are as good as fishing in their empty bathtub, the absurdity of it.  I add continuationists as their enablers, the ones not quite willing to join, but unwilling to warn that the emperor is wearing no clothes.

Revivalists have their own version of it, but not different than some of the abuses of the false religion at Corinth.  People are convinced of some kind of real spirituality with antics that produce results that are attributed to the Holy Spirit.  Part of the performance is preaching, which is called Holy Spirit preaching because of a particular style that is often so contrived and so over-the-top that people are willing to attribute it to the supernatural.  If it isn't what the Bible says, that can be fine, because the Holy Spirit is "working."  How do you know?  Because you can feel it.  Music, the building, and other techniques and strategies create an atmosphere that promotes enthusiasm and euphoria, then labeled as "alive" and related to the "Spirit's working."  Results are produced that back the claim.  The audience wants something to happen and is willing to lay aside a right instinct to question in order to accept that it has, as a part of the self-delusion.  If you break away, you are admitting that you were involved in something that was too strange for someone in his right mind.  You embrace the performance.  You go along with it.  You feel good.  You must be OK.  You're not.

Now to another example of this, and it might be all I talk about on this one, and I might not even finish it.

The Church Growth Performance "Art"/Hoax

There is so much of this, the church growth performance "art"/hoax, that it is very difficult to sort through it all.  It has sadly turned God's institution, the church, into so much of a game.  It's hart to know where to start.  I want to illustrate the absurdity of it.

My church has 42,000 every time we meet.  How about that?  Doesn't that sound great?  God is working.  "Tell me about it."  OK.  I have a season ticket to the San Francisco Giants, and they sell out every game, 42,000 people.  What I do is stand up in my section, and I read a verse, pray, and then sit back down.  We have 42,000 show up for that.  You say, "But they aren't there for what you're doing.  They're not there for the verse and the prayer."  And I say, "What difference does it make why they're there, as long as they come?  Why do you have to be so critical?"

The church growth movement (CGM) is essentially about getting people to church at almost any cost, short of a criminal operation.  In certain cases, laws are probably broken.  Such a high percentage of professing Christianity is using some form of the CGM strategy, that one could say that everyone is doing it.  It's not everyone, but almost as good as everyone.  There are people not doing it, I know, but it's very difficult to find someone that is not strategizing in a CGM kind of way to see people visit a church meeting.

My second paragraph of this section was extreme to illustrate, but what I'm going to explain next is an actual conservative example of what I'm talking about, where we're at in this.  It's not close to the worst.  A certain neighborhood is designated as a location where a bus route can start.  The people looking at the neighborhood see it as a place where plenty of households of whatever nature will let their children ride on the bus to a meeting that is called "church."  Alright.  Now is the time to recruit the riders.  You pray.  Then you go out and start knocking on the doors of this neighborhood inviting its children to come, telling them that it will be safe and there'll be some helpful things about God, but also on this trip on the bus, you will get candy and soda and an opportunity to win some prizes.  And that's just a normal Sunday, regardless of the big push when something more will be offered during one or two times of the year.

From one morning of work, there are twenty riders the first Sunday.  Amazing!  "God worked."  "God blessed."  "God is using me."  "God answered my prayer."  "I always pray; that's important."  When you get to church, leadership is impressed.  They give positive reinforcement.  "God really has used you" is verified by others.  You were a top spiritual leader on that given Sunday.  That's how God works.

On the bus, a lot of positive attention is given.  There's a lot of hype.  There's a lot of excitement.  There's socializing.  The kids get to take a trip away from home and make some new friends.  When they get there, they have an exciting class, an exciting junior church.  There are a lot of other kids there.  It's fun.  It is face-paced, dynamic, and did I say exciting?  The songs are fast and exciting.  The people have a lot of enthusiasm and give a lot of attention to the children.  The candy comes.  The soda comes.  The prizes come.  The next Saturday you visit the previous riders, to come again.  Others are also recruited with the same previous offer.  A few won't come back, but those are replaced with others.

There are so many different ways to get people to church, who wouldn't otherwise come, if the sole reason was God and the Bible, if the motive was love for God and obedience as a Christian.  There are a lot of different ways to justify this strategy.   There is no example of it in the Bible.  It is in fact the opposite of how Jesus worked even when He preached the gospel.  He didn't try to make it easier on people.  They needed to believe it was the truth, and that was a good enough reason.  God's Word was depended upon, because that was the means of salvation.  That's how the Holy Spirit works, is through scripture.  And in the end, the response will glorify the Lord.

What I'm saying is that the above is very conservative.  It's nothing like the hip thrusting "worship leaders" of a Rick Warren meeting.  They're nothing like the kegger party gathering of a Mark Driscoll. Those using this more conservative means in part justifies themselves by the idea that they aren't like these other people, aren't employing some of the same techniques.  They don't have the rock concert or the jumpers every Sunday in the children's area.  And it is one strategy.  This is not supposed to be done.

By the way, I'm not saying that it isn't hard work to put all these types of programs together.  It isn't easy to go back to the neighborhood every week.  It's hard to plan the choreography for this week's special.  Paying for the lighting and the speakers and the microphones and the instruments, learning how to play them -- it all takes time and money.  Paying for gas money for a big gas-guzzling bus is expensive.  It's a sacrifice to pay for that.  Candy and soda for a lot of people adds up.  Organizing a program every week for all those people with short attention spans is hard.  It's hard work, time-consuming, all of it.  But it works.  And when it works, it feels good.  You're helping people.  You care for people.  The kids enjoy it.  They learn the Bible too.  You could make a long list of a lot of good things that happen every week.  One more thing here, I think that it is a similar feeling that President Obama gets when he thinks he's giving healthcare to 30 million who don't have it at the expense of all the others (if they weren't already, they're now guaranteed Democrat voters too, who don't want to give up this freebee).

Those involved agree with each other that this is the work of God.  The people who criticize don't love the Lord.  They probably only say things because they are ashamed of their own work for God and the lack of results.  They justify their own deadness by their criticism.   They probably wish they had as many people in their service as we do in our bathrooms in any one meeting.  If God is working, you get a lot of people.  And they're getting a lot of people.  With all those people things are hopping, and that's the atmosphere that clues you in that God is working.  That's what it is to be alive, is to have a lot of children coming because they're going to get candy and a soda, and then more.

There are so many prongs to this, so many tentacles.  It's not the simplicity of the New Testament, what Paul calls the simplicity of Christ.  Jesus and the Apostles just told people what it was, explained it, and people either wanted it or not.  Their goal was to make it plain to everyone who would want to listen.  They didn't sugar coat it, try to make it look like something that it wasn't.  They talked about the hardest stuff, the cross, up front.  It wasn't a performance.  It was real.  And that's what true spirituality looks like.  It's not a performance with props and actors.  It's real.  And that was before anyone got into the church.  The church was for believers.  They were the worshipers of God, and only believers can worship God.

All of the strategies of the CGM of whatever branch or style or technique or packaging do not take faith.  They do not please God.  Faith comes by the hearing of the Word of God.  You don't find this in the Bible.  It is sight.  It is flesh.  It isn't the Holy Spirit, but it is sadly designated as of God, which is part of the hoax.  And meanwhile, people are not hearing the true Gospel.  They are not even being offered the opportunity to hear it in most instances.  And we don't find out if people would really be willing to do actual biblical ministry, fulfill the Great Commission.  They think it's offering small toys and candy, it's inviting people to a concert, it's bringing people to the social club.  The leaders probably know that people don't want to know their Bible that well.  Many of them don't know it well.  I'm not saying that some of them don't read it.  They do, and then they use it.  I say, "Use it."  They many times don't rightly divide it.  They don't look to it as their basis for what to do, for what God wants.  It's very often just another prop in the performance.  Not every Christian should be expected to learn the Bible well enough to talk to anyone, to preach to anyone.  And they usually won't, so men have developed and are inventing new ways to do work without really even having to be saved.

Just like the Charismatic movement is thriving in foreign places, especially third world countries, leaving them worse off then what they were before, the CGM strategies are also going here.  It's a good use of the dollar.  You can bribe more people with less money in those places.  Sometimes there is just the curiosity of what the American might do or what he might give you in the future.  The American "churches" have perpetuated it with expectations of some big stories in the prayer letter that reports or now on the website.  And so the leaders on the field are being urged to do these things.  They feel good having a big group that is so impressive.  They call it the work of the Lord.  The American churches agree.

Perhaps to be continued.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Use of the Singular in the Bible, and the Church

Bruce Waltke in his Biblical Hebrew Syntax writes (p. 113):

Hebrew uses the grammatical singular for countables, for collectives, and for class nouns. . . . With countables the singular serves to enumerate one object.

"The earth" in Genesis 1:2 is an early example.  He continues (pp. 113-114):

With collectives the singular designates a group.  Some words in Hebrew, like 'fish,' 'sheep,' and 'fruit' in English, are treated as collectives and represented by the singular. . . . Like English, Hebrew may use the article with a singular noun to indicate a particular class or group; cf. 'The lion is king of the beasts.'. . . Hebrew may use the singular with this meaning even without the article, especially in poetry.

"The ungodly" in Psalm 1:1 is an example of a "class noun."  It is not referring to any one, particular person, but a class of individuals.  As in the use of "the lion," there must be an actual, real lion for there to be the class of such.  "The ungodly" means there are many, separate ungodly individuals.

Herbert Weir Smyth in his Greek Grammar for Colleges writes:

The article . . . marks objects as definite and known, whether individuals (the particular article) or classes (the generic article).

The singular noun with "the" is either particular or generic as two general categories.  Using Waltke's vocabulary, we have "countable" nouns in the singular and "class" nouns in the singular, unless it is a collective, at which times it can be plural.  "The fish" might be more than one, but only in the instance of a collective.  Otherwise, the singular is either a countable or a class, a particular or a generic.

Everything that I've written about above is actually well-known and not complicated.

"Generic" should not be confused with a usage that is a type of particular, namely, "anaphoric," in which a singular noun looks back in a sentence (ana = up) for a referent, example:  "Susan broke the plate."  Sometimes, instead of anaphoric, it is cataphoric, where we look forward in the text to understand to what that singular noun refers specifically (cata = down).  Anaphoric and cataphoric are still particular usages, because they mark a particular with the context, either backward or forward, up or down.

Now let's consider it as it applies to the singular "church," when not referring to a particular church. Whether the singular noun is generic is determined by the context.  There are 71 usages of "the church" in the New Testament.  Between Matthew and the end of Acts, there are no generic usages of "the church" -- that's 17.  There are none in Romans, and then after five particular usages in 1 Corinthians, we read one supposed or apparent generic in 1 Corinthians 12:28.

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

The next 10 usages in 1 Corinthians and Galatians are all particular.  Then we get to Ephesians, which contains quite a few of the supposed or generic usage(s).  Bear in mind, that it's possible to interpret any usage of "the church" in these epistles as either anaphoric or cataphoric, since the church members would be thinking of their own church in the context.   I believe those would be typical anaphoric or cataphoric usages.  Christ is the Head of the church -- "sure, our church; Christ is the Head of it."   However being as generous as possible, the following could be generic usages:

Ephesians 1:22 -- And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
Ephesians 3:10 -- To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
Ephesians 3:21 -- Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Ephesians 5:23, 24, 25, 29, 32 -- 23  For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.  24  Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.  25  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  29  For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:  32  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Colossians 1:18, 24 -- 18  And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.  24  Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:

Besides one usage in Philippians, which is particular, all the usages after Colossians 1:18, 24 are surely particular, 23 uses.

The reason, I think it is safe to say that they are still particular in an "anaphoric" or "cataphoric" sense is that Paul was writing to "the church at Corinth," "the church at Ephesus," and "the church at Colossae."  Corinth had there all the offices mentioned in 1 Coirnthians 12:28 at one time or another.  When Paul wrote that Jesus was "the head of the church," the church members would think of their own church.  If I was talking to my own church, and said "Jesus is the Head of the church," they would be thinking of themselves.  That is an actual anaphoric usage.  Sure, as we all read it now, we think that "the church" is our own church.  That's why I'm saying that I'm being generous, I believe, to designate these as "generic" uses of the singular.

Alright.  With all of the above being said, in the Hebrew and Greek, there are abstract nouns that are used in the singular, like knowledge, truth, charity, faith, hope, and joy.  "Church" is not an abstract noun.  It is concrete.  As I also mentioned above, there are collective nouns, used like the singular, such as fish and sheep.  "Fish" is the same form for the singular or the plural.  "Church" is not one of those.  It is not a collective noun.  The plural of "church" is "churches."  This should be a huge cue to those who say it is a collective, which I have actually read in several places.  It would seem that only the gullible would go for that, in light of all the uses of "churches" in the New Testament.

There is no category of spiritual or metaphorical noun.  Nouns can be used as a metaphor.  For instance, I could say, "Today is a prison and I am the inmate."  "The inmate" is used as a metaphor, but it is still a concrete noun.  It isn't abstract or a collective.  In this case it is used as a particular, because the inmate is a particular person.  "Church" is not used as a metaphor in the Bible.  "Door" is.  "Bread" is.  "Church" isn't.  There is no metaphorical or spiritual or platonic usage of "church" in the Bible.  It is either a generic or a particular.  If it is a generic, it is still a church as church is used all its other times.

Recently, I heard someone say something I had never heard or read before.  If it is new in your reading -- you had never heard it or read it before and couldn't find it in any writing -- it's probably being made up.  What I heard was that there are two meanings of "church," like there are two meanings of other words, like "justify" or "for."  How do you know there are different meanings to words?  Those are words where it is plain that there is more than one meaning.  Most Greek prepositions have multiple meanings, that we can discern by how they are used.  "Justify" has nuances of difference in meaning, but "justify" still works in both contexts.  Abraham was justified by works -- before men -- not before God.  His works declared him righteous to men.  You get this kind of nuance of difference in words, but they don't change drastically from their root meanings.

"Church" (ekklesia) means "assembly" and what else?  It would be very, very strange for a word that means "assembly" to also mean "not assembly," something contradictory to its root meaning.  My default position would be not believing such a dual meaning.  I would start with rejection and then wait for very incredible, plain, clear proof.  I would expect both countable and class, particular and generic, singulars, but they wouldn't change the  meaning.

"The church" is a singular noun with a definite article, so it can be a particular or a generic.  It still means "assembly."  It can't be universal, because assemblies aren't universal.  Assemblies aren't catholic.  Assemblies are local only.  The church is local only.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Anabaptists Did Not Get the Trinity From Constantine, and the Ancient Arians Were Bloody Persecutors

In modern times, anti-Trinitarian cults like to claim that the doctrine of the Trinity came from Constantine, and was imposed upon an unwilling Christian world by the power of the Roman Church – State. However, such a claim is simply false, especially for the true churches, the Anabaptist churches that were separated from the Roman State – Church. An examination of ancient historians evidences that the dissenting churches in the trail of truth or trail of blood were Trinitarians, and, indeed, did not have the struggles over the Trinity that the Roman State – Church did. The Novatians and Donatists of the age of Constantine held to a doctrine of the Trinity that was identical to that of the ancient homoousian Catholics. Consequently, historic Baptists can tell anti-Trinitarian cultists that they hold to the Trinity because of Scripture alone, not because of Constantine or because of what eventually became the dominant doctrine in the Roman State – Church.

Furthermore, the ancient anti-Trinitarian Arians were not peace-loving pacifists, members of the Watchtower Society, or people who just helplessly endured persecution, suffering for  the sake of righteousness. On the contrary, whenever they could, they used  the power of the State to persecute, banish, torture, and kill Trinitarians.  The ancient Arians  even devised new tortures that the pagans themselves had never employed against the Christians.  Modern anti-Trinitarian cults should keep these facts in mind if they wish to claim the ancient Arians as their forefathers.

Consider, for example, the following excerpt from the ancient church historian Socrates concerning what the Arians did when they had the Roman Emperor on their side:


Cruelty of Macedonius, and Tumults raised by him.

The bishops of the Arian party began to assume greater assurance from the imperial edicts. In what manner they undertook to convene a Synod, we will explain somewhat later. Let us now briefly mention a few of their previous acts. Acacius and Patrophilus having ejected Maximus, bishop of Jerusalem, installed Cyril in his see. Macedonius subverted the order of things in the cities and provinces adjacent to Constantinople, promoting to ecclesiastical honors his assistants in his intrigues against the churches. He ordained Eleusius bishop of Cyzicus, and Marathonius, bishop of Nicomedia: the latter had before been a deacon under Macedonius himself, and proved very active in founding monasteries both of men and women. But we must now mention in what way Macedonius desolated the churches in the cities and provinces around Constantinople. This man, as I have already said, having seized the bishopric, inflicted innumerable calamities on such as were unwilling to adopt his views. His persecutions were not confined to those who were recognized as members of the catholic church, but extended to the Novatians also, inasmuch as he knew that they maintained the doctrine of the homoousion; they therefore with the others underwent the most intolerable sufferings, but their bishop, Angelius by name, effected his escape by flight. Many persons eminent for their piety were seized and tortured, because they refused to communicate with him: and after the torture, they forcibly constrained the men to be partakers of the holy mysteries, their mouths being forced open with a piece of wood, and then the consecrated elements thrust into them. Those who were so treated regarded this as a punishment far more grievous than all others. Moreover they laid hold of women and children, and compelled them to be initiated [by baptism]; and if any one resisted or otherwise spoke against it, stripes immediately followed, and after the stripes, bonds and imprisonment, and other violent measures. I shall here relate an instance or two whereby the reader may form some idea of the extent of the harshness and cruelty exercised by Macedonius and those who were then in power. They first pressed in a box, and then sawed off, the breasts of such women as were unwilling to communicate with them. The same parts of the persons of other women they burnt partly with iron, and partly with eggs intensely heated in the fire. This mode of torture which was unknown even among the heathen, was invented by those who professed to be Christians. These facts were related to me by the aged Auxanon, the presbyter in the Novatian church of whom I spoke in the first book. He said also that he had himself endured not a few severities from the Arians, prior to his reaching the dignity of presbyter; having been thrown into prison and beaten with many stripes, together with Alexander the Paphlagonian, his companion in the monastic life. He added that he had himself been able to sustain these tortures, but that Alexander died in prison from the effects of their infliction. He is now buried on the right of those sailing into the bay of Constantinople which is called Ceras, close by the rivers, where there is a church of the Novatians named after Alexander. Moreover the Arians, at the instigation of Macedonius, demolished with many other churches in various cities, that of the Novatians at Constantinople near Pelargus. Why I particularly mention this church, will be seen from the extraordinary circumstances connected with it, as testified by the same aged Auxanon. The emperor’s edict and the violence of Macedonius had doomed to destruction the churches of those who maintained the doctrine of consubstantiality; the decree and violence reached this church, and those also who were charged with the execution of the mandate were at hand to carry it into effect. I cannot but admire the zeal displayed by the Novatians on this occasion, as well as the sympathy they experienced from those whom the Arians at that time ejected, but who are now in peaceful possession of their churches. For when the emissaries of their enemies were urgent to accomplish its destruction, an immense multitude of Novatians, aided by numbers of others who held similar sentiments, having assembled around this devoted church, pulled it down, and conveyed the materials of it to another place: this place stands opposite the city, and is called Sycæ, and forms the thirteenth ward of the town of Constantinople. This removal was effected in a very short time, from the extraordinary ardor of the numerous persons engaged in it: one carried tiles, another stones, a third timber; some loading themselves with one thing, and some with another. Even women and children assisted in the work, regarding it as the realization of their best wishes, and esteeming it the greatest honor to be accounted the faithful guardians of things consecrated to God. In this way at that time was the church of the Novatians transported to Sycæ. Long afterwards when Constantius was dead, the emperor Julian ordered its former site to be restored, and permitted them to rebuild it there. The people therefore, as before, having carried back the materials, reared the church in its former position; and from this circumstance, and its great improvement in structure and ornament, they not inappropriately called it Anastasia. The church as we before said was restored afterwards in the reign of Julian. But at that time both the Catholics and the Novatians were alike subjected to persecution: for the former abominated offering their devotions in those churches in which the Arians assembled, but frequented the other three—for this is the number of the churches which the Novatians have in the city—and engaged in divine service with them. Indeed they would have been wholly united, had not the Novatians refused from regard to their ancient precepts. In other respects however, they mutually maintained such a degree of cordiality and affection, as to be ready to lay down their lives for one another: both parties were therefore persecuted indiscriminately, not only at Constantinople, but also in other provinces and cities. At Cyzicus, Eleusius, the bishop of that place, perpetrated the same kind of enormities against the Christians there, as Macedonius had done elsewhere, harassing and putting them to flight in all directions; and [among other things] he completely demolished the church of the Novatians at Cyzicus. But Macedonius consummated his wickedness in the following manner. Hearing that there was a great number of the Novatian sect in the province of Paphlagonia, and especially at Mantinium, and perceiving that such a numerous body could not be driven from their homes by ecclesiastics alone, he caused, by the emperor’s permission, four companies of soldiers to be sent into Paphlagonia, that through dread of the military they might receive the Arian opinion. But those who inhabited Mantinium, animated to desperation by zeal for their religion, armed themselves with long reap-hooks, hatchets, and whatever weapon came to hand, and went forth to meet the troops; on which a conflict ensuing, many indeed of the Paphlagonians were slain, but nearly all the soldiers were destroyed. I learnt these things from a Paphlagonian peasant who said that he was present at the engagement; and many others of that province corroborate this account. Such were the exploits of Macedonius on behalf of Christianity, consisting of murders, battles, incarcerations, and civil wars: proceedings which rendered him odious not only to the objects of his persecution, but even to his own party. He became obnoxious also to the emperor on these accounts, and particularly so from the circumstance I am about to relate. The church where the coffin lay that contained the relics of the emperor Constantine threatened to fall. On this account those that entered, as well as those who were accustomed to remain there for devotional purposes, were in much fear. Macedonius, therefore, wished to remove the emperor’s remains, lest the coffin should be injured by the ruins. The populace getting intelligence of this, endeavored to prevent it, insisting ‘that the emperor’s bones should not be disturbed, as such a disinterment would be equivalent, to their being dug up’: many however affirmed that its removal could not possibly injure the dead body, and thus two parties were formed on this question; such as held the doctrine of consubstantiality joining with those who opposed it on the ground of its impiety. Macedonius, in total disregard of these prejudices, caused the emperor’s remains to be transported to the church where those of the martyr Acacius lay. Whereupon a vast multitude rushed toward that edifice in two hostile divisions, which attacked one another with great fury, and great loss of life was occasioned, so that the churchyard was covered with gore, and the well also which was in it overflowed with blood, which ran into the adjacent portico, and thence even into the very street. When the emperor was informed of this unfortunate occurrence, he was highly incensed against Macedonius, both on account of the slaughter which he had occasioned, and because he had dared to move his father’s body without consulting him. Having therefore left the Cæsar Julian to take care of the western parts, he himself set out for the east. How Macedonius was a short time afterwards deposed, and thus suffered a most inadequate punishment for his infamous crimes, I shall hereafter relate. (Socrates Scholasticus. (1890). The Eccesiastical History, by Socrates Scholasticus A. C. Zenos, Trans.). In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume II: Socrates, Sozomenus: Church Histories (P. Schaff & H. Wace, Ed.) (65–67).

For more on this subject, check out the course on the doctrine of the Trinity here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ekklesia Means "Assembly" pt. 3

Part One, Part Two, (A Related Blogpost)

Why is the idea of the universal church dangerous?

A few weeks ago now, I was asked, "Why is the idea of local church only so important? Or, to put it another way, why is the idea of the universal church dangerous?"  This post will answer that question.

ONE, the universal church as a teaching or belief eisegetes scripture or distorts the plain meaning of the text.  The more I hear universal church people talk and write, the more I think this.  I am sorry, but I read and listen to inane statements attempting to defend universal church from the Bible.  No verse teaches it.  Men will say that some verse "obviously" teaches it, and then they give no grammatical or syntactical evidence.  When I expect it, they turn pretty quickly to, first, quote of a well-known theologian (speaking as one having no authority), and, second, to mockery.

There is plenty of grammatical proof for a local church.  There is none for the universal.  If this was such an important concept, then why is there no unequivocal, just plain, mention of it in the Bible?  Don't get me wrong, I don't think there is even anything fuzzy, but if the "true church" really is all believers, where is the statement of that?  So if someone can just make the Bible mean whatever he wants it to mean, that's going to mess everything else up too.  We see this happening all the time.

So I don't see universal church in the Bible.  I actually see "universal" and "church" as mutually exclusive, absolutely contradictory to each other.  I do believe scripture teaches some paradoxes, but universal and church are not a paradox.  They're a contradiction.

The generic, singular usages of "church" seem to give people the most trouble.  None of those prove a universal church.  Since they don't prove anything, they should be interpreted in the light of what is proven, what is plain.  But no, universal church people take the non-existent, at best fuzzy, and conform the plain to that.  It's horrible.

So when people read this in, I ask, why?  It's not in there, so where did it come from?  I look back at history and I see Roman Catholicism.  I see Platonic philosophy.  It's easy to see how it got read in.  It got read in by amillennialism, by allegorizing, by spiritualizing, by philosophizing, and by covenant theology.  It explains and backs up and buttresses a state church.  When you want a state church and it isn't in the Bible, you've got to find it somehow.  This is how it gets "found."  It does distort the simplicity that I see in scripture.  The gospel, the worship, and the church are all simple.

Universal church people are, for the first time I've read, asking how that we read a local only position into scripture.  We don't, but they act like we have to do that, when it's already clear that the local church is in the Bible.  I'm reading two things, it seems, now.  One is that it came from a reaction to Campbellism.  I just wag my head on that one.  It doesn't make sense.  Nothing can even prove it.  It's shoddy work.  It starts by assuming that local only ecclesiology started with Graves and that Graves lived when Campbellism started.  There's your deep work.  Sheer speculation.  Two is that it came to defend a particular view of history, separate from Roman Catholicism.  I can't even find that spider web.  Both of these are just desperate.

So TWO, a universal church brings in Platonic philosophy and allegorical interpretation into the Bible.  When allegorization becomes the norm, then infant sprinkling becomes a way to join the church, which is the equivalent of salvation.  That has perverted the gospel.  Now you can read in apostolic succession, a human priesthood, and transubstantiation.

THREE, the universal church belief will cause men to see all sorts of other interpretations and doctrines and practices a different way, the wrong way.  It will necessarily twist other doctrines.  Instead of the gifts being used in a church, now they are used outside of a church, and someone feels justified having done so, because their gift is being used in the "true church."  The justification of a "church council" comes from seeing something other than and more than two churches settling their differences in Acts 15.  There are many, many more here.

FOUR, the universal church belief destroys all other true beliefs.  The fastest way for the truth to be destroyed is to get it outside of what God built to protect it.  A universal church cannot protect the truth.  It doesn't have a pastor, doesn't practice the ordinances, and doesn't practice church discipline, all ways that the truth is protected and preserved.  The universal church as a container for truth has holes all over it and it results in exponentially fast distortion of the truth.  The truth can only be protected at a local level.  Other of the reasons related directly to this one.

I believe the biggest reason for postmodern Christianity, emergents or emerging, and loosey-goosey dealing with the truth comes directly out of the wrong view of the church.  When a universal church guy wants to protect the truth, generally he writes a book on it or has a conference or a council or a coalition.  None of those are biblical ways, because the only biblical ways are done by an actual church and none of what the Bible says about a church protecting or preserving the truth is those things.

FIVE, the universal church disables biblical unity and biblical separation.  This, of course, is related to the truth, as I said that other reasons directly relate the destruction of all other beliefs, including the gospel.  The unity of the Bible and the separation of the Bible will never be practiced consistently by a universal church person.  The reason there are about 20-30 interpretations of John 17 is because of the universal church.  There is little agreement on what the unity is that Jesus is praying for.  There is non-stop discussion on what are the correct doctrines to separate over.  The fundamental or essential doctrines gets increasingly dumbed down to make it still not possible, but to give it a better try with no hope of succeeding.  Ultimately the truth is what is discarded.

So, SIX, the universal church belief causes scripture to contradict itself.  Scripture won't contradict itself, even as God won't deny Himself, but unity and separation contradict with a universal church belief.  It becomes impossible not to contradict.  That doctrine cannot be true.

And, therefore, SEVEN, the universal church destroys church purity.  Here's how it happens.  I want to use music and worship as an example.  A church doesn't break fellowship with a church that plays rock music, because "all believers are the true church."  The rock music church claims to believe in salvation by grace through faith.  The people in the church that doesn't use rock music are influenced by the rock music church.  More in the non-rock music church begin accepting it.  The non-rock music church starts using rock music.  I've seen this again and again in my lifetime.

EIGHT, the universal church belief results in people wasting their lives with wood, hay, and stubble.  Gold, silver, and precious stone are about the temple of God, which is local only.  Paul said, "Ye are the temple of God."  There are thousands that work in "ministries" that are not in fact worship of God, but another ox-cart of their own invention.  They are wasting their time and their life.

NINE, the universal church belief brings the following mess-ups that could each be their own separate explanation of the dangers of the universal church:  parachurch organizations, church hoppers, inclusion of all sorts of heinous groups into the broad umbrella of "the church,"  apostate denominations like Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Methodism, justification of a state church, ecumenism, disrespect of the church (which is local only), unfaithfulness to church (they're attending the big one), validates hierarchical leadership that is everywhere today -- various sacral societies applying unscriptural authority all over, giving to whatever charity and counting this as the Lord's giving, discipleship is destroyed because men think they are making disciples outside of the actual Great Commission (when they're not), Christian publishers affected by whatever it is that will be popular enough to help them meet payroll for their staff and employees, missionaries giving an account to boards ahead of churches, and more.  If I spent more time thinking, I'm sure I could list a few dozen more.  These were easy and they all come out of a universal church belief.

TEN, the universal church belief will be the final belief of the anti-christ, who will lead a universal church.  That church will feel justified, I believe, by the same arguments as the universal church.  Jesus will destroy the universal church.  A universal church contradicts replenish the earth.  It is a modern tower of Babel.  Babylon is the final religion, the universal church, that will be destroyed.

People ask me why church doctrine is so serious.  Why would we separate over it?  If you give in on the church, you now give in on every single doctrine.  If you say there is a universal church, now someone can and will practice universal church, and then all other doctrines will be perverted.  Could there be a true doctrine that is true that would cause all of that?  No way.

Just as a little aside, to be read later, the universal church teaching and belief creates guys like we have had a few of in our comment section, who free float, and can go off in any "ministry" they want, essentially creating havoc, without accountability.  They don't like strong pastoral authority, really almost any pastoral authority, if any authority at all.  They like to be their own man out there free-floating.  They can just say, "God led me," and take off.  God speaks to them individually without the work of a church.  Their word is as good as anyone else's.  They can be a big shot in their own little pond.  They are their own expert.  A lot of pastors are the same way.  They just go when they want, start their own ministry when they want, with little regard to the inter-relations of a church.  "The body is all believers," and as far as they're concerned they're then fitting into the body.  Someone might disagree, but they could never have the authority of the big one, so no one has to listen. This is all the product of a belief in a universal church and it has created more wackos and cuckoos than anything.  The universal church belief is perfect for the men who see computer chips in their corn flakes.