Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Road to Avignon

The period from 1054 to 1305, basically after the Eastern Orthodox Church divorced itself from the west, the Roman Bishop began to assert his absolute authority.  I've already established that my protestant tradition still comes from the Roman western church, and I repudiate eastern Orthodoxy.  At the same time, I only look to Christ as the ultimate authority for both church and state.  He may be represented by bishops, elders, and deacons, but they are answerable to Christ who never spoke in secret.

It started with Hilderbrand/GregoryVII.  Leo IX gave him an office in the group of Bishops who lived near Rome, called the Cardinal Bishops.  Hilderbrand governed the finances for Rome and also became a Cardinal.  During Nicholas II, Hilderbrand helped pass legislation.  The populace no longer elected the pope, only the Roman Bishops.  He was tired of the corrupt Holy Roman Emperors interfering in appointing bishops.  Hilderbrand and Humbert counseled Nicholas to put an end to imperial influence on the papacy at the Lateran Council of 1059.  Now the College of Cardinals elect the pope.

This group of Cardinals elected Hilderbrand to be pope, who renamed himself Gregory VII.  He believed that the Roman church should control all civil power in the land, and his ideas were developed in the Dictatus Papae.  I'll have to quote from Earle Cairns:

    It averred that the Roman church owed its foundation to "God alone"; tht its pontiff was "alone to be called universal"; that he had full power over all bishops; that only his feet should be kissed by "all princes"; that he could "depose emperors"; and that he might absolve subjects of evil temporal rulers "from their allegiance".

Gregory developed this dogma at a time when states such as France and England began to assert their own authority.  Rulers of France, England, and Germany became excommunicated during his leadership for trying to create leadership apart from the Roman pontiff.  Gregory also opposed lay investiture, the act of civil rulers investing clergymen with their office.  He set the standard for all the popes after him.

Innocent III was the next pope.  He called himself "the vicar of Christ," asserting his supreme authority on earth.  I do agree that Christ made Peter the first pope after building the church on what Peter said, that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God.  Peter himself would tell you that Christ has no vicar on earth, only representatives.  This is the first major divider between Roman Catholic and Protestantism.  Please correct me if this is otherwise.

Innocent placed interdicts, or ecclesiastical censures, on certain countries.  France had a king who divorced a woman and married another.  Innocent made him remarry the first woman.  He defeated John of England over choosing the archbishop of Canterbury.  I'm going to assume this with the hideous John who appears in Robin Hood and in Braveheart, but I won't look it up for now.  Innocent was very right to call these men to accountability, the same way the Church today needs to hold leaders accountable when they destroy the sanctity of life and force people to call what isn't love or marriage love and marriage.  Historians call Innocent's reign the zenith of the papacy.

Innocent also headed the Fourth Crusade to recover Palestine and stopped a sect called the Cathari.  They claimed basing beliefs on the Bible, and he banned the Bible from possession by lay people.  He also made confession mandatory for laymen and the idea of transubstantiation dogma.

Boniface VIII was the next pope.  He was a weak leader.  the previous crusade had incurred debt, so France and England wanted to tax the clergy for their debts.  Boniface, in the Clericis Laicos, forbad clergy to pay taxes to the temporal rulers without papal consent.  Edward of England then outlawed the clergy.  Philip of France refused to export money to Italy.  Those years between 1294 and 1304 saw Boniface issue the Unam Sanctum, declaring no salvation outside the Roman Church.  Submission to the pope is necessary for salvation.  He had no army to back him up, so Philip made him a prisoner.

Clement V became the next pope, and he decided to transfer the pontificate to Avignon in France, starting the era called the Babylonian Captivity of the papacy.  From 1309 to 1377, the French rulers influenced the church, causing much discouragement among the lay people who paid attention to current events.  This was a first wave in people wanting to reform the church and bring leadership back to Christ.

As today, I love the Roman church's activism in politics and morality.  We have a new pope now and I pray that the Lord takes over his life and uses him for God's glory.  Eras like this, however, remind me that church and state really should be separated.  Christ should rule over both, but they are separate entities.  When the state gets too much power, people in the church must obey the state.  When the church leaders proclaim their place in Christ's seat as "vicars",  rulers cannot rule their people, and sometimes the popes have to move to Avignon.  This feud for power rendered lay people without a Bible and the church with emphasis on human leadership over what Christ instituted.  Christ himself was forgotten, making their society a shambles.  I wish all denominations of the true Church would unite under Christ as the head, and not some charismatic people.  There truly is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, the church with Jesus as her Lord and

The Cathari

After mentioning them in my last blog post, I just have to find out who the Cathari are.  So far, I only have information from Wikipedia.

From what I can see, all of them were nontrinitarian.  Some were modalists, believing that God reveals himself three ways and denying the individuality of Father, Son, and Spirit.  Some were adoptionist, saying that Christ is more of a demigod than equal to God the Father.  Apparently, they based their theology on the Bible, causing the Bible to be forbidden from the ordinary people for fear of uprisings.

As a devout Presbyterian, the church should base all of their beliefs on the Bible.  They should take the Bible over the popular vote.  However, we are not to form individual beliefs based on choosing Scriptures here or there.  That is what makes the Bible so alive: if we are uncomfortable with it, we have to deal with it.  This is why God gave us the Church.  In Christ's physical absence, the church needs men led by the Holy Spirit to study God's word and to give correct theology, making it available to all the people.  There should be many ministers leading the church so that one person does not do what the Cathari did, making an individual interpretation of Scripture unchecked by other wise scholars.

This is what makes the Lutheran Reformation suspect.  Luther read the Bible then worked to reform the church.  He caused a revolution.  Even he acknowledged that people can used the Bible to decide what kind of ale they should drink if left to individual interpretation.  The difference: Luther did not want to leave the Church.  The Protestants met with councils for centuries to solidify their beliefs based on Scripture so that all church-goers would agree on the same important theology.  This is why the Church has creeds and confessions. 

The Cathari separated from the Church and formed their own individual beliefs that they can prove by maybe one Bible verse, but they don't have a defined confession or creed, so they have nothing to stand on that Christ actually instituted.  The Lutherans did not want to separate.  They wanted all of the Church to agree on the Words of Scripture and their interpretation.  Some Catholics placed their emphasis on Church interpretation of Scripture.  The others wanted to go back to Scripture to correct errors in the church.  The latter became the Lutherans and eventually became excommunicated.  While I'm on the Lutheran side of the Reformation, I still see that as the one point where the Church fell apart, causing Satan to influence it more because of the division.  That may have been the turning point where Satan was released from captivity, if you follow the amillennial perspective. 

But now, to remember the point of all this.  If some person has a Biblical interpretation that nobody in history accepted by the church has ever had, then they are a heretic, or a Cathari.  If someone's Biblical interpretation can be verified by the whole of the Bible and can be attested to through men like Augustine or Aquinas or John Chrysostum, then it is a legitimate interpretation because the Church is a collective body, not a splintered mosaic.  The latter is what you should follow and what the Church should heed to stay healthy.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Bible Movie, brought to you by Wal-Mart

It's more than halfway through the series.  Should I share my thoughts on the Bible movie on History channel, or wait till it's over?  Obviously, I'm going to talk about it now because you are reading this.

When I hear of yet another Bible movie, I always know there are going to be inaccuracies.  I also wonder if they will treat Jesus as if he's our only God and Savior or if he will just be another great example of faith and morals and nothing more.

Turns out, History's production is exactly what I thought it would be.  Actually, it's better.  Roma Downey from Touched by an Angel is behind this project, and I remember liking the show despite the fact that they never talked about Jesus.  Never.  As with anything, you need to go to the book to get the real story.

The first two and a half episodes did a very fair job of presenting the Old Testament.  I know this from teaching Sunday school and trying to plan what all I will teach the kids.  You cannot cover everything.  In fact, you may not be able to cover much at all.  If I was to survey the Old Testament in 5 hours, I think that was the way to go.  They covered Abraham, Moses, David, they had an accurate creation story.  I'm glad they showed Jeremiah and the exile, which usually does not receive air time. 

Now they have started the story of Jesus.  Here is where the accuracy truly matters.  Again, you can't cover everything, but you must highlight anything in a narrative that shows Christ's deity and the Gospel.

There is the usual annoyance of how they present the Christmas story because they still have the shepherds and Magi there on the same night.  It was not that way.  Jesus was two and living in a house when the Magi came.  The shepherds were at the birth.  This is why Herod decreed that all the boys under the age of two would be killed. 

The first inaccuracy that really bothered me occurred when John the Baptist baptized Jesus.  This is core in our beliefs that God sent Jesus as God the Son to live our lives and die for our sins.  That means that he would make it obvious to the people that this is the guy.  When John baptized Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended onto Jesus like a dove and God the Father announced that this was his Son, in whom he is well pleased.  In the movie, that did not happen.  John baptized Jesus and that was it.  He's now in the desert being tempted.

This is not a mere inaccuracy.  This is a huge error.  This one of the rare places where we see all three members of the Trinity in all their glory.  This is what our whole faith is based on.  This is how the people knew Jesus was the one God sent.  People need to know that God did not reveal himself and his salvation to his people secretly.  He revealed the creation story to the early people and Moses finally wrote it down.  He revealed the good news and bad news.  He showed Abraham his crucifixion plan in the near sacrifice of Isaac and that is how Old Testament believers received the Gospel.  All of the Bible was written by people the Jews new were true prophets, and they could identify the source. 

In the same way, God sent Jesus to grow from a virgin's egg, which drew attention.  And God made it obvious at his Baptism that this was God the Son, the only one who will perfectly obey the Law, fulfill every promise, and give a perfect permanent sacrifice for those he will save.

Mostly, I'm glad I'm watching this series, and I'm glad Roma Downey and History have presented this.  Special mention should be made to Wal-Mart and Captain Morgan who sponsored it (not sure if I should laugh of cry).  I was more offended by the recent Narnia movies than I was by this project.  And as a Sunday School teacher I see this as a source for ideas and something I personally would like to continue but with more emphasis on the only thing that matters, Jesus and his Gospel.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

East and West: more Church History

Up until this point, all of Christendom was united as one holy Catholic and Apostolic church.  They were physically still the same Church, but because of politics and geography, they were very much separated in spirit.

I take this time to reflect on people who break out of one church and start another.  One kind of person will break off because he's a heretic and does not want anybody telling him he is wrong.  The other kind live among heretics who used to be genuine but now support politically liberal issues and soon forget that Jesus is the head of the Church, not the popular opinion.  But these latter churches break off and try to have all the parts that were right in the previous denomination but keep what they liked, and ultimately newly conservative denominations, given enough time, will expire and turn into man-centered liberal hotbeds, needing another reformation.

But first, the Western Church was mostly healthy, though it was going through renewals because so many of the religious career paths became corrupt with monks and priests having affairs, people buying their church office (simony), and people giving church offices to favorite relatives (nepotism).

"For some centuries, an account had been developing concerning the supposedly miraculous healing and conversion of Constantine by the bishop of Rome.  The grateful Constantine was supposed to have made liberal grants of rights and territories to the bishop.  These stories were combined in a document known as the Doctrine of Constantine and given wide circulation during the Middle Ages," (Cairns, 183).  The Doctrine of Constantine justified the idea of popes owning land.  Pepin donated land in 756, and others such as Isidore of Seville did the same in the 7th century.

Pope Nicholas I had a collection of various papal decrees in history.  Later, they became known as False Decretals, also associated with Isidore of Seville.  Some of these decrees probably were authentic from the time of Clement of Rome.  Some were forgeries.  Nobody really knows who wrote them all nor can they trace the sources.  These included the Doctrine of Constantine.  It established the authority of the pope over all church leaders and gave the right of the church to be free from secular control.

The West also sent missionaries to Scandinavia, which expanded the Western influence.  The doctrine of the Mass was officially formulated about the time of Paschasius Radbertus in 831.  He taught that the bread and wine really did change into Christ's blood and body and that the pope is the one who performed the miracle.  I don't know if the Romans still think that the pope performs the miracle, but the priests have a lot to do with it.  It's more of attributing divine powers such as miracles to people that Christ put in charge of his church that only belong to Christ.  Aside note, I try to tell people that we Presbyterians do believe that the blood and body are really in the elements given during communion.  Some people just nod, and others get seriously offended when I also say that the body and blood are in heaven where Christ has transported our spirits during that time to truly partake of him.  To an extent, we still believe the same thing as the RCs, but details are different.  Either way, the Eucharist is always a miracle and gift from Christ.

The monastery at Cluny began efforts to reform the corruption in the monasteries.  They originally had its own abbot and was independent of other monasteries.  The abbot of Cluny, however, influenced the appointing of new monasteries who were united to his leadership.  This centralized all the orders under the pope and helped them to better condemn simony and nepotism and to promote clerical celibacy so that they could completely focus on the church.

Two popes, Nicholas I and Leo IX, asserted their influence over the Eastern patriarchs and held the leaders morally accountable.  Between these two popes, however, was a series of people arguing over who should be pope and people taking the pope seat for themselves.  Benedict XI, Sylvester III, and Gregory VI all claimed to be pope at the same time.

That's the West.  The Eastern empire never fared as well.  They were geographically separated from the West, and they spoke different languages and looked to different leaders.  The Roman emperor never really had control over the Roman bishop.  The pope held the West together during hard times.  The East was unprotected and schizmatic.  While the West focused on polity and had solid doctrine, the Greeks in the East mostly pondered theological problems and philosophies, never quite deciding on a doctrine.  Eastern priests could marry and still can.  Westerns cannot.  Both sides argued over trivial matters such as when Easter should be celebrated and adding the filioque clause to the Nicene Creed.  They also bickered over the use of icons and images in the church.  Ultimately, in 1054, Michael Cerularius, patriarch of Constantinople, thought the West was wrong for using unleavened bread in the Eucharist.  Pope Leo IX sent some cardinals to negotiate, but their opinions became more separated.  Finally, both sides excommunicated each other.  The Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox were two separate churches until the excommunication was removed in 1965.  The original Schism paved the way for people to later question the church on substantial issues, not mere rituals. 

Sometimes separation is a necessary evil in this world when we simply cannot live compatibly with each other.  The Eastern Orthodox church followed more gnostic theology and mostly do not believe in the Christ that God revealed to us in history and in Scripture, or at least that you can know him.  The West had the solid theology, although it began to crumble when people began to find differences in what the church taught and what the Bible said.  Ultimately, Presbyterian tradition and theology comes from the Roman church, and we still have much in common, though the differences are significant enough that we cannot reunite yet.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Until It So Desires

And I no longer have a boyfriend.  He's my fiance now.  My betrothed, Timothy, asked me to marry him.  So I guess I'll share my favorite memories of him from the 5 months that I've dated him.

August 24, 2012, I went to a teaching lab at the house of Clayton State's BCM leader.  I went expecting to have a nice spiritual time with much younger people.  I sat next to a guy on the couch and thought he was nice.  I didn't go back to school for another two weeks, ergo, I didn't see him until then.

Then the week after that, he finally talked to me.  Being friendly, I asked if he was going to the next teaching lab that Friday.  At said teaching lab, he asked me out.  Monday came, and he appeared with a yellow rose and took me out to Mellow Mushroom.  We then went to Target, Hobby Lobby, Starbuck's, and talked for 30 minutes in my garage.  I went to his house that Friday.  We went to Reynolds Nature Reserve.  I held his hand as we walked.  We sat down and he asked me to be his girlfriend.

I knew I loved him the Tuesday after Thanksgiving when my Granny went to the hospital.  He got a 24-hour cold.  I feared this would be my last time to see Granny.  I asked, and he came with me to visit my Granny in the hospital when he was sick.  She passed away the next morning and he was there for me.

Between Christmas and New Years, he finally told me he loved me and we began talking marriage.  We know it's going to happen, we just need the how and other details.  I knew he was the one for me after the first date.  Saturday, March 2, he took me on a windy day to Stone Mountain.  We rode the cable car up the mountain.  I went outside with him for a minute then came in as it was too windy.  Then, we went to the carillon to listen to the people playing the music.  The nice lady at the organ invited us into the hexagon-shaped room as it was cold.  After she and another man were done with the music, Tim took me down from the organ, to the carillon that it plays.  I was so ready to be inside from the cold.  He embraced me, asked me what he would do without me, and then got on his knee and pulled out a ring.  I gladly accepted.

I think of all the people who know us, love us, and are happy about us, only 2 people think we haven't known each other long enough.  But our closest family members and friends all see that we were made for each other, that we are older, and that we are at a time in life when we are ready to face the blessings and difficulties of a marriage.  I see couples who would date for 2 years and then still not plan to marry.  That's a sure sign that they weren't meant for each other but they were trying to be.  They didn't have that unexplainable sense when you meet the one -- that lack of mystery, the lack of obligation in seeing each other.  I'm glad that God waited until I was 27 to bring Tim into my life.  If other guys had been interested, I would have settled for something I thought I wanted, but had to force to happen.  It's not that way with Tim.  He's my best friend, we always spend time together, we believe the same things, we respect each others' boundaries, and he feels like he could be family.

I despair whenever I hear of my kids at church having some "boyfriend" as young as 6 years old.  The TV has conditioned our young girls to think that they need to find one before they grow up.  The opposite is true.  If you aren't planning to marry within 2 years, then you should not court temptation.  You can have friends who are boys, but romance does not need to be there, and the friendship is better without romance.  But when you finally see where your life is going and know that you can support yourself and another person and possible little mouths in the future, then get a boyfriend, and just let him be your friend and consider whether you can live with him or not, whether he treats you like a queen or like a utility.  And certainly wait for him to say the L-word, to propose, to talk of marriage, and if he doesn't do that after a while, then move on to someone else.  People are in too much of a hurry and need to see that there is no need to rush.  Life is so much more exciting when you follow God's plan for men and women and not follow the one-dimensional ideas seen on TV.