Monday, November 26, 2012

Who Invited Them?

This part in Church history not only recalls the point when the one Catholic church became Roman Catholic by focusing more on the bishop of Rome as its leader.  Now we see the beginning of contextualization which led to liturgy, which I love, and veneration of beings other than the Triune God, which I despise.  This will be a more negative post.

More barbarians came into town, and the people wanted to convert them to Christianity.  They took the seeker sensitive route and tried to gradually slide them into monotheistic worship by saying they could still simply talk to dead heroes and people in the Bible.  This created a chaos.  This also caused a rift between clergy and laity.  The elders became priests and developed a sacerdotal system of worship.  The same system that ended with the fall of the Jerusalem Temple because we did not need it anymore; Jesus is forever our perfect high priest.  All believers have direct access to God through Jesus.  But they developed a priest system again with some having more access to God than others. 

Back to the saints, the church also started to develop the doctrines about Mary that they are known for: her perpetual virginity and her sinless life (not dogma till 1854).  They decided that we can pray to her because Jesus would like to hear from his mother.  This is when the "Mother of God" title became known, at the time of the Nestorian controversy. 

All the same, Mary did give birth to Christ.  And he happens to be God the Son.  And she was a virgin at the time.  However, the whole Church is the new Eve to Christ's Adam as we all bear Christ in our souls, his blood in our bodies, and are all his Bride.  Mary just obeyed the Lord.  We can too.  Any good attributed to her is the credit of God alone and she would hate the attention she gets today. 

This was the beginning of many of their rituals and customs, some good, some not.  All churches do this, not just the Roman Catholics, but they made it popular, so they get the attention.

Then there was Rome

"Between 313 and 590 the Old Catholic church, in which each bishop had been an equal, became the Roman Catholic church, in which the bishop of Rome won primacy over the other bishops." -- Earle Cairns, 157.

Starting out, the Church had many bishops who governed different geographical regions of Christendom.  Five bishops had the most leverage: Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Rome.  When Constantine made Constantinople the capital, the political attention moved east, but the Roman bishop had the most influence in the west.  Also, the eastern empire struggled with heresies such as Arianism, Donatism, and other isms.  Rome did not have such divisions in the west.  Therefore, the Roman bishop was the most theologically sound bishop in the known world.

So, the people in Rome began to see its bishop as a first among equals.  They assumed that their bishop was in a line of succession from Peter based on Matthew 16:16-18, Luke 22:31-32, and John 21:15-17.  This was fully accepted by 590.  At that point, Rome still had good theology.  She had giants like Augustine and Ambrose who fought for truth in the empire even to the extent of rebuking popes.  Even the missionaries would create converts and tell them to yield allegiance to the bishop of Rome.  Leo I was the first Roman bishop to view himself as the top bishop in the world.  Gregory the Great was the first one to really use the title "pope."  When barbarians attacked the empire, the popes were the ones who led them n battle and defeated the Vandals and Goths, etc. 

Such faith in the Roman bishop began a downward spiral of humans sitting in Christ's seat and proclaiming to be the ultimate authority in the Church, even when they contradict the Bible.  At that time, most people could not read a Bible, so the Church did need men to interpret for the people and to lead them in worship.  However, Christ is the only head of the Church.  His human representative is the whole Church that worships Him, not one guy in Rome.  Christ is also the only source of special revelation, the Bible, not the Church or the Pope.  This experiment started out okay but then began to focus on just one person at the expense of what the Bible actually said.  At this point, the pope was still humble enough to accept instruction from Augustine and the like, but it is never a good thing to place your faith in one human that is not Christ, no matter how honorable.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Where Was that Manger?

I think this month in Children's Church, I will teach from sections of our Christmas play.  In this play, Santa writes to the kids hoping that they'll understand that Christmas is about Jesus and not about Santa and toys.  The first letter, Santa talks about Luke 2:1-7.

I read this passage again, and I recalled the article by Answers in Genesis about the inn.  The following will be my notes that hopefully will be a more interesting lesson on Sunday.

In those 7 verses, where does it mention Jesus being born in a stable?  Okay, what does it show Jesus being born in?  What was an inn like in Jewish culture?  Did it mean the same thing that it does today?

1. Jesus is born in history.
What words from the first 3 verses show this?  Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, their decree to register all the Roman empire in their home towns.
At this time in history, Caesar had told all the people to go to their hometowns, pay a tax, and register.  This was when Mary was expecting Jesus.
2. Jesus is born in David’s birthplace.
Verse 4.  Why did Joseph have to go to Bethlehem?  King David was a great great grandfather to him.  He was from Bethlehem.  All his family was there.  He took Mary with him.

If somebody comes to your house, where would you normally put them?  In a guest room.  Where was there no room because of the census?  The inn, which is a word that meant simply a guest room in a house.

So, Joseph came to Bethlehem to obey Caesar.  He was there because that’s where David’s descendants lived.  His family lives there.  And there are too many people there obeying the census.  Where are we going to put all those people?  Looks like the family put them in the guestroom, known as the inn.

3. Jesus is born into hardship.
“Notice what’s missing? First, there’s no urgency. Joseph wouldn’t have taken a ready-to-deliver Mary on such an arduous journey. Instead, “while they were there, the days were completed for” Jesus to be born (in other words, they stayed a while). Also, there’s no begrudging innkeeper (in fact, there was no inn at all, as you’ll see). Now-a-days families might stay at a hotel, but not in Israel at that time. Back then, family stayed with family—especially pregnant family members.”
I just quoted the Answers in Genesis article.

Still, why did they lay him in a manger?  Sometimes if a night was cold, or in this case, tons of people were in town, families would put their guests upstairs and then bring their animals into the living room to either keep them warm or from being stolen.  So Joseph’s family would not have shut a woman in labor out onto the streets, especially Joseph’s bride.  They could not let her rest upstairs, but they did let her lodge in the living room with the animals.

4. Jesus still suffered hardship.  I mean, why didn't one of Joe's relatives offer up their bed for Mary to birth Jesus in a more sanitary fashion?  Why did she have to have her baby in basically the living room of the house?  Did she already have some stigma from being pregnant before marriage?  Were Jesus and his new Church which consisted of Mary and Joseph already receive ostracism?

Then again, I wonder, did houses have different rooms like they do now?  We take so much for granted.  Probably the family slept in the living room with the animals while guests stayed upstairs.  People just did not have privacy then.  So, I still don't know.  But I do like the Answers in Genesis article.