Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bishop of Suh-myrna

Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, writes to the church of Philippi with mostly Scriptural encouragements and instructions for its members as I have read so far.

Philippi have followed the example of true love, to believe without seeing, and they will enter into joy unspeakable and full of glory.  A reminder: by grace they are saved, not of works but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.

Because of God's generous grace, Polycarp calls the church to gird up their loins as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude and who have believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.  At this, Polycarp confesses that he nor anyone can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul.

He goes into one more chapter of instructions before addressing all the positions in the Philippian church.  He reminds them that the love of money is the root of all evils.  Since we brought nothing into the world, and we carry nothing out, let us arm ourselves with the armor of righteousness.  "They are the altar of God."  I fully concur that every true follower of Christ is an altar to God.  He constantly must sacrifice his desires to live according to His righteousness.  He is a walking sacrifice and also a representative of Christ himself.

To the deacons of Philippi: be blameless before the face of his righteousness, as servants of God and not men.  Be temperate in all things.  "If we live worthily of him, 'we shall also reign together with him.'"  I interrupt this thought to express that Polycarp believes that those who receive salvation will live worthily of God, doing good works and obeying Christ.  He does not end that thought there: "provided only we believe."  He leaves no room for back door salvation for sincere people.  They will reign with Christ if only they believe.  This goes against today's Pope who denies the real need for Christ in saying that all people will be saved.  He'd be wise to listen to the blessed bishop of Smyrna

To the young men: they are also to be blameless in all things, to preserve purity.  Virgins are to walk in a blameless and pure conscience.  He addresses the youth group; young men and women are to walk blamelessly as the deacons do.  They must strive for purity from libertinism and always think of the word "blameless." 

Finally presbyters: He wants them to be compassionate and merciful to all, to bring back those who wander, visit the sick, widow, orphan, poor.  As presbyters are trained ministers in the church, they must provide for that which is becoming in the sight of God and man.  The deacons carry out the compassionate services of the church while the presbyters continue to teach proper theology and proper forgiveness.

All church members should be zealous in pursuit of that which is good.

As a disciple of John, Polycarp recalls the woes that John pronounced on church heretics.  "Whoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is antichrist."  Whoever does not confess testimony of the cross is "of the devil."  Whoever perverts God's word to his own lusts and denies resurrection or judgment is "first-born of Satan."  These are not mere harsh words but the truth.  People come into the church all the time to discourage people from enjoying their security in Christ's salvation and redirect the to look toward everything else for meaning.  Some deny Jesus's physical reality, some deny the Gospel.  Some insult his sacrifice by denying a resurrection or a final judgment.  Without judgment, they can continue to sin and justify it somehow because God loves all people.  Without a resurrection, there is no accountability for this life.

Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, let us return to the Word handed down to us and continue in fasting and prayer.  Don't listen to the charlatans, but persevere in our hope and earnest of our righteousness which is Jesus Christ.  Imitate his patience.  That takes a lot of waiting and no instant results, if any results.  Our goal is to hold Christ as our God and Savior, and not to try to imagine a world without his sovereignty.  This loyalty could possibly mean martyrdom as it did for Ignatius, Zosimus, and Rufus.  Those three had not run in vain but achieved the resurrection of the dead.

Except for a line from the Apocrypha, "Alms delivers from death" which really contradicts the idea that Christ delivers from death and nothing else, but continues his chorus of "blamelessness" as a testimony to the pagans. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Polycarp is Next

I will go through Polycarp's letter to the Philippians next.  He was the bishop of Smyrna.  He and Ignatius both learned under John.  He taught Irenaeus who gives the best information about him.

He is known for being martyred for the faith at age 86.  The account of his martyrdom is also in this literature.  It has some supernatural things that may or may not be legend, but it's plausible as this wasn't too far after the age of the Apostles.  He is another one of my favorite people in ancient church history.

Mathetes: Knowledge and Life

Mathetes started chapter 10 of his letter to Diognetus proclaiming that to receive faith, a person must receive knowledge from the Father.

I thought he would continue with other steps, but he moves on to the Son and only implies the Spirit.

"For who that is rightly taught and begotten by the loving Word" would not want to converse with the Word and his disciples?  The Father sends is knowledge through Christ whose words are preserved in Holy Scripture and who is present in our corporate worship.  Jesus is always new.  He is "ever born afresh in the hearts of the saints." 

Mathetes lists all the results of Christ's lordship in the church.  He talks of Jesus, "through whom the Church is enriched, and grace, widely spread, increases in the saints, furnishing understanding, revealing mysteries, announcing times, rejoicing over the faithful, giving to those that seek, by whom the limits of faith are not broken through, nor the boundaries set by fathers passed over..." and he goes on and on.  There is no church without Christ.  He is everything to the Church; our supreme Lord and only Redemptor.

Mathetes ends his letter with an interesting idea.  I don't know if I agree with it but it is interesting.  He talks about the Garden of Eden and the two trees God planted in the center: Knowledge and Life.  God forbade Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of Knowledge.  Then, Satan tricked them into disobeying God and stripped them naked before him.  According to Mathetes, knowledge and life are interconnect.  There is not one without the other.  He reveals to knowledge the way to life.  I think it is something to ponder.  What if Adam and Eve had obeyed God and never eaten from Knowledge?  Would they still have Life?  Perhaps God would have given them fruit from the tree as the days went by in Eden.  Maybe he did not want them grabbing the fruit for themselves.  Knowledge is a gift from the Father.  Anselm is right, we believe so that we may know.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mathetes and proper worship

The letter is addressed to Diognetus, and according to Mathetes, he desires to learn the mode of worshiping God prevalent among the 1st century Christians.  Much like today, the primitive church worshiped in a variety of ways.  However, were these ways orthodox, approved by God, or are they pagan rituals incorporated into the true faith, thus corrupting it?

"Come, then, after you have freed yourself from all prejudices possessing your mind, and laid aside what you have been accustomed to..."  Growing up in church in Conyers, I was accustomed to a God who loves everybody the same way, who evangelizes to kids through pizza parties, who lets women preach as long as they believe the Scriptures, who gives fresh revelation to people, and who is too gentlemanly to get in the way of your free will.  When I grew up, I came to realize that some of that is true, but that most of this is consumer-driven to get people into church who will not respect Christ as the Sovereign Lord that he is. 

I was accustomed to women preachers and a very feminine faith.  The Bible shows how different men and women are, and men are to be the leaders of the Church.  They can let women assist them and enjoy their theological wealth, but men are the ones who are to lead the Church and return it to the system that saves all the elect men and women while still granting judgment where judgment is due.

Mathetes continues by recounting all the materials people worship even unaware.  There is the stone we tread on, brass, wood, silver, iron, earthenware.  In today's world it could be tattoos, cars, Kindles, rock music, Ipods, fun times, LifeWay, and so much more.  All of these idols are deaf, blind, and have no life.  They certainly cannot give or sustain life.

Mathetes narrows the standards more.  "Jews who worship God like pagans worship images are in error."  These people think that by rituals, offerings, contemplation, asceticism, traditional music, contemporary music, listening to non-Christian gurus who are nice but have no saving hope in Jesus, that they will impress God.  They do impress people who do not pay attention to God's command to not worship him like the pagans worship their gods (Deuteronomy 18).  They do not impress God.  Their hope is in everything but Jesus.  Jesus is the only one who can redeem you and bring you to God.

"You are sufficiently convinced that the Christians properly abstain from the vanity and error common to both Jews and Gentiles."  Christians stand out by their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.  They consider themselves foreigners and sojourners in the lands where they were born with the hope that they belong to God's kingdom, not an earthly kingdom.  They do not destroy their offspring through everything from abortion to never spanking or disciplining their kids.  They know that "God, the Lord and Fashioner of all things...proved himself not merely a friend of mankind, but also long-suffering."

Nothing else could cover our sins but his righteousness.  The wicked and ungodly cannot be justified except by the Son of God.

"Having therefore convinced us in the former time that our nature was unable to attain to life, and having now revealed the Savior who is able to save even those things which is was impossible to save, by both these facts, he desired to lead us to trust in his kindness, to esteem him as our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counselor, Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honor, Glory, Power, and Life."

He starts the next section with chapter 10 saying that people who desire such exclusive faith in Christ will receive first of all the knowledge of the Father.  The Father sends this knowledge and wisdom.  Mathetes will talk about the next steps soon.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Scholastics and Plato

The brilliant men of the Scholastic era divided into different schools of thought.  One sect followed Realism, based on Plato.  Plato believed that universals have an objective existence.  These things are only shadows of the unseen reality in another world.  Anselm took this to another level.  He became archbishop of Canterbury in 1093.  He is summed up in the statement, "I believe in order that I may know."

He is best known for developing Plato's ideas into the ontological argument for existence, and argument that sounds childish at first but one I have grown to love.  I will quote from the Cairns textbook.

"Man has many goods that he enjoys in life.  These goods are simply reflections of the one supreme Good through whom all exist.  Because infinite regress is unthinkable, the cause of all must be the One whom we call God."

"Anselm wrote that everyone has an idea of a perfect supreme being in his mind.  This idea must correspond to a reality that has an objective existence, for such a being lacking existence would not be perfect nor would it be that than which a greater cannot be conceived.  Because no greater idea than that of God as the perfect Supreme Being can be conceived, God must exist in reality."

Basically, everybody in the world has a concept of a perfect supreme being.  If they have this concept, then they must have that idea from a concrete evidence.  Therefore, God exists.  This also led to the idea that Christ's atonement was not a ransom to Satan, but a satisfaction of God's perfection which was violated by our sin.  It satisfied God's wrath.

Anselm lived from 1033 to 1109.  His ontological argument dominated the world until the time of Thomas Aquinas.  I think of recent days, Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis has perfected the ontological argument in his apologetics about Noah's flood and dinosaurs/dragons.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Works righteousness or Bald Universalism?

I think this is one of those days I will simply have to take off my gauntlets and offend people that I dearly love.  I work alongside such people in fighting abortion and other social evils, and in doing so, I become attached to them, and I must be a true friend and proclaim what they do not want to hear.

I pray often for the Pope, that the Lord takes over his life and that he someday realizes that Christ has no vicar.  Until then, he is a charlatan, no matter how sincere.  Francis, however, now declares that all people can go to heaven even outside of the Church.

Even on a Roman Catholic standard, this should be blasphemy.  The pre-Vatican II belief of non-Roman Catholics being outside of salvation was more true to what the Bible teaches than the universal acceptance of all people at the expense of the truth.

So, here's a secret: Protestants and RCs alike preach works righteousness when they look to someone other than Christ for salvation.  And both sides of the argument are wrong.  If salvation is universal, then there's no reason to call people back to the mother Church.  There's no reason to oppose abortion or gay marriage because those people are basically good people and even victims.  There's really no reason to care for the poor and destitute because your intentions are at least honorable.

So, as a follower of Christ, do I not work to show my election?  Absolutely.  I go to church because there is no salvation outside of Catholicism.  I oppose abortion and gay marriage because I oppose people thinking that they know better than God how society should be organized.  I care for the poor and destitute because apart from grace, I am the same thing.  I cannot tolerate a universal shedding of Christ's blood for everybody without distinction because there are wicked people who will not see heaven.  And if Christ died for them, then it was a waste because their lives never changed and they will be in hell despite what Christ did for them.  No, there is no double jeopardy in hell, and Christ's atonement if not for everyone.  If it was, then we can rest and not care that people still live in atheism because they are basically good.

But we cannot go on pretending we believe the same thing and just try to get along.  Protestants and Roman Catholics believe significantly different things, and unless both sides accept God's only salvation through Christ alone, then we cannot be united.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus

I guess I will just reread all the ECFs of last year with hopes to read more of Philip Schaff's compilations afterward.  Next to bat is an anonymous epistle by a man who calls himself Mathetes.  He writes to another unknown man named Diognetus. 

Most people think that the author was another disciple of Paul, and that he did not live too long after the apostles had passed away.  People have guessed Justin Martyr, Clement, Apollos, and even Marcus Aurelius as authors.  Ultimately, people are not sure who wrote this or why he wrote to Diognetus.  I will simply have to read to find out if I agree or not.

Woe to Roman Numerals

The bad news is I reread some stuff getting the 40s confused with the 50s.  XL and L look so much alike.  The good news is I finished first Clement and will go on to other literature.

I think I'm finally glad that Clem urged the Corinthians to not be divided over Paul, Cephas, Apollos, or anyone else.  With so much antagonism toward the church these days, we need to stand together.  If that means debating theology till Christ returns, fine, but we still need to stand together.  "Is there not one Spirit of grace poured out upon us?  And have we not one calling in Christ?"  Those who have the same undivided calling from Christ, need to make much effort to be undivided and united on the truths of Scripture.  Clement repeats what I said in an earlier post about schisms.  "Your schism has subverted the faith of many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all."  The true believers do not need to argue over petty details, and they need to not tolerate those who worship idols but insist that it's not idol worship.

Chapter 55, Clem gives examples of love from the heathen.  People who sacrificed themselves for other people's good.  For some reason he mentions Judith and Esther on this list.  Though apocryphal, Judith was a part of Israel.  Esther certainly was.  It was a bizarre tangent, IMO.

Let us then also pray for those who have fallen into any sin.  It is also good to continue to receive correction.  Exhortation and admonishments "tend to unite us to the will of God."  So, Clement repeats me: there will only be unity if people finally solve their differences or realize they are not really part of the church.

Lastly, he implores the people who started the sedition to submit themselves to the presbyters or elders of the church for correction and discipline.

So looking back, it seems much of this congregation's shame came from within itself, much like when Paul wrote to them.  Clement comforted the true believers who sincerely work for the Gospel.  He also implored all believers to not be divided over doctrinal differences.  He counts the people causing true persecution to not be part of the church and to be sinning greatly by opposing the church leaders.  This is good advice for Christians today: solve our differences, expel those who do not have a high value of Christ, and submit to church leaders for remedy.  In fact, the church leaders should also submit to each other and continue following what Christ says in the Bible.  They need to stop drinking the Kool-Aid of popular opinion and risk verbal abuse as a result of standing by beliefs and values.

Episcopate and Clement

I think at this point, I want to finish reading 1 Clement as I read and wrote about it last year and want to read someone else.

I'm still here.  In chapters 47 through 52, Clement writes more paranesis.  He accuses the Corinthians of being more divisive than when Paul wrote them.  I think in the context of these people being discouraged because of wicked people accusing them of hypocrisy, I doubt that Clement's words were actually appropriate in this situation.  It might be true and need to be addressed, but perhaps in better words.  Perhaps he could have reminded them to try to end any discord between each other and to love the men God has placed in charge of the church, especially ones that serve blamelessly.

This leads to 53 and 54.  He alludes to Aaron and Miriam receiving leprosy because they were jealous of Moses's leadership.  "For our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties."

I sit and wonder, but what of some of the leaders really are leading the church astray and going against the Bible or placing themselves in Christ's place, or giving glory to some other Bible character as if he or she was an extension of Christ?  Then I think of Smyrna church, where I grew up.  I remember many dissensions against preachers, youth leaders, other prominent people.  Most of it was not deserved.  I hear Clement saying that this is not a small sin.  They serve the Lord blamelessly, and who knows, maybe if there was never dissension, some would not have turned to the liberalized PCUSA "theology."  Maybe some people would have come to know real theology and I could tell people I grew up Presbyterian.

Then again, all change of leadership comes from one elector: the Lord.  He is in control of outcomes.  Our church must try to be united in all that matters and charitable in doctrinal differences.  We should not be united at the expense of the Truth, which is why we should keep controversy alive, but we must also love people we disagree with and not work to ruin their families or people influenced by them.

Monday, May 20, 2013


I saw an article yesterday where a church historian suggested that the rise of Islam was the major turning point in church history post AD 70.  I think he's right.  The Muslims arose, and the Church took actions to defend her holy cities against them.  She made alliances with kings for extra strength.  Power was centralized between the Holy Roman Empire and the Pope.  The Popes began to assert their authority as vicars of Christ.  Here is one more influence they had on the medieval church: the Rise of Scholasticism.

Europeans began talking to Arabian scholars during their time of the Crusades.  The Arabians had preserved all of the classic Greek literature from Aristotle and Plato.  Men like William of Moerbeke and Averroes began translating those works into Latin, and people began reading them.  Monks especially loved reading these philosophies.  As a result, the Scholastic movement thrived.  Universities began, and people began studying theology through logic and reason.  They mostly did not let the pagan values influence how they taught the Bible, though that would be a result later on.  They still studied the Bible, creeds, and the early church fathers. 

Medieval science was different.  Instead of finding knowledge by experiments and observation, the inductive method, the Scholastics would use deductive logic chiefly through the syllogism, also a product of Aristotle.  An example is: "No reptiles have fur.  All snakes are reptiles.  No snakes have fur." This logic is how they would figure things out.  This revolution led to both good theology and theology reduced only to reason when God is so much beyond our human reason.  All truth is God's truth, and if you find truth through non-Christian means, then great.  We must always be careful, however, to make the Bible the source of all revelation.  Not some smart guy like Aristotle, but God's saving revelation through Jesus.  It cannot always be explained.  When reasoning and deduction fall short, we still must follow the Bible with faith like a child and know that all things will make sense some day.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Clem 45 and 46

In these chapters, Clement defines the ultimate authority sent from God to earth that is objective and tangible.  He calls the Scriptures the "true utterances of the Holy Spirit."  The people who believe the Scriptures did not ostracize the Corinthian church.  The righteous Corinthians were cast of by men who are not holy.  If you follow Christ and other Christians consistently shun you, then they are not Christians.  True Christians are brothers to each other.  If they do shun a proclaimed brother, then they keep a line of communication open and live at peace.  Sometimes it is necessary to stand for the truth.

So, knowing that the holy people are the ones who support you, "cleave to the holy, for those that cleave to them shall be made holy."  That last clause is not actually in Scripture, nor is it Scriptural.  To keep your faith alive, yes you do need to cling to your brothers and sisters in Christ's body.  I even believe one person can make another holy by being holy in their presence.  But only Christ makes people holy.  People are only holy when the Spirit lives within.  But then again, if the Spirit lives within a person, then that person needs to cling to other people also with the Spirit in them.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hodge Podge 5/16/13

I got busy the past two days.  Tuesday night I successfully recommenced the cutting of my carpet in the room.  It all must go.  I laid tile on the floor again tonight with Tim.

Wednesday, my job with the lawyer sent me to Covington and to Monroe.  I came back to Conyers from Monroe only to go immediately back to Walton County for church.  I think my kids will do very good on the last day that I lead them.  They learned about different parts of the worship service all year.  In two weeks they will present what they know by introducing different parts of the service.  It's bittersweet to leave them, but also wonderful that I get to start going to church with Tim.

I did read Clement last night.  He continued his doctrine of Apostolic Succession.  He also moved on to better things which I will report on later.  Clem's ideas are very much stuck in the Old Testament and really influenced the current trend of taking church leaders as the ultimate authority.

God the Father sent Jesus to earth and spoke through him.  Now the Holy Spirit speaks through the ministers he has placed as stewards of his church.  However, the Holy Spirit still uses sinful men.  He also provided the Bible so that if the church leaders became correct, the Bible would still show the truth.  This blind trust in church leaders is understandable as the Bible was no readily available.  But it also led to church leaders proclaiming themselves as Christ's vicars, placing themselves in his seat.  Christ himself told the Pharisees that they are not to be called teacher or father because God is the only Father.  The same order applies to the church leaders of the New Testament who no longer need a priest because they have Jesus.

I'll continue on to where Clem picks up after this discourse is over.  He returns to very good theology.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Clem: our High Priest

Clement goes through a wonderful 4 chapters about Jesus being the High Priest and the leader of our Church.  In 36, he calls him "the High Priest of all our offerings."  By him all blessings have come and all good things exist.  By him, less happy things can be redeemed for his glory.

Christ is not the supreme leader of the Church; he is the only leader.  Clement calls us to act the part of soldiers.  Let us consider those who serve under our generals.  Let us take our body for an example.  The head needs the feet, the feet need the head, and the whole body needs even its most insignificant members.  The people in the Church are very vital.

But they are only vital when Clement says to let our whole body be preserved in Christ Jesus.  Let the strong not despise the weak or vice versa. Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor while the poor man praises God for blessings that come his way (er, both men should praise God from whom all blessings flow).  Let the wise man display his wisdom not just in words but in his actions.  Let the humble not bear testimony to himself, but let others praise him.  Let him that is pure in the flesh not grow proud.  All people remain physically pure only by the grace of God and cannot boast of their self-control.  Le us consider of what matter we were made.  God just spoke dust into existence and formed it into Adam and then pulled Eve out of his rib.

The Corinthians do remember the foolish and inconsiderate men with no wisdom nor instruction who mock and deride them.  They are equally made by God, and God has blessed the Corinthians with a grace not enjoyed by the others.

This point, Clement refers to the Old Testament temple system.  His theme is to keep the Church order that God established.  I give a hearty amen, but he also did not permanently establish Church order in the priests who could only sacrifice at the temple in Jerusalem.  That was only until the true High Priest came and offered his blameless self for our sins.  Now Jesus is the only intercessor before God.  He stands before God in the for real temple's altar.  Anyone who tries to sit in that place is arrogant.  Anyone who places anyone in that place is an idolater.  Only Jesus leads the Church and stands before God the Father, and he replaced all useless priests before he came for all time.

Monday, May 13, 2013

1 Clement chapters 33-35

I'm realizing more and more that one of my faults is an obsession over money.  Are we going to be poor?  Will we live in a box?  If have a child, will I be able to feed him or her?  I think I have calmed down today.

This past November, Granny passed away.  I received an inheritance but was hesitant to tithe from it.  Then, I lost the security of my job.  After 2.5 months, I finally tithed it.

Today, I do the "Finance" chapter of the marriage counseling book.  We have also started reading through total money makeover.  The chapter in the marriage book listed a ton of Proverbs and other Bible verses to show what our attitude should be toward money.

I felt ashamed.  Most of the verses talked about hard work and saving resources, but it shamed me to think that I had been hording at the same time.  More often, the Proverbs encourage people to freely give away their money.  To walk in integrity and fear of the Lord is more important than great possessions.  So, I must move on.  The good news: with a fiance, I feel like I can finally do this.

Clement cheers on the Corinthians to live as people who have been blessed by God.  To do so, he continues, "Let us hasten with all energy and readiness of mind to perform every good work."  God rejoices in all of his work, especially the humans created in his image.  God adorned the righteous men with good works, so they should follow his will.

Isaiah 62:12 says, "“Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.”  Revelation 22:12 echoes this.  This reminds us all that we must keep living unlike the rest of the world.  We must care more about the Lord and about his people than we do about possessions.  We must value human life over money in the bank.  Jesus will come and order the whole world to his original plan.  Clement also says to consider his angels, who stand ever ready to minister to his will.  Instead of worrying about money and status, we simply need to be ready to do his will, meaning we must know Scripture inside-out and pray constantly.

"Let us strive to be found in the number of those that wait for him in order to share in his promised gifts."  The answer is not doing good works or keeping up a moral quota.  The answer is to simply seek what is pleasing and acceptable to God.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Church History: Proto-Reformers

I just finished reading the penultimate chapter of the fourth Harry Potter book.  In that series, there is a major threat named Voldemort.  Most of the characters oppose him, but they vastly disagree on how to deal with him.  Some are so stubborn to accept his return that they paint both Harry and Dumbledore to be senile or attention-seeking.

In the 1200s, sects outside of the Church started to form.  All true Christians oppose heresy and the devil.  However, we do not all agree on how to react to it or which people are the good guys.  It makes people in higher powers go to extremes in cutting off a nose to spite a face.

The Cathari or Albigenses were the first major zit to crop up on the face of the HRE.  Their one defense: they did not accept that the Pope was the vicar of Christ.  He was just a steward.  They also wanted to go back to the New Testament Church.  Sadly, they were also Gnostics.  They believed in the good good and the bad god.  The bad god created matter, and all matter is evil.  They opposed reproduction, sacraments (especially Mass), hell, and a physical resurrection.  Their only salvation was for this world.  Their religion was pointless.

Then, there are people I side with: the Waldensians.  In 1176, Peter Waldo read the New Testament, was captivated by Christ, and gave up all his property except enough to feed his family.  His followers called themselves the "poor men."  They would try to preach in the streets in non-Latin and promoted a Bible for all people in their own languages, the same Bible that should be the final authority in faith and life.  In 1184, they were excommunicated.  They still continued to preach in the vernacular languages and they still exist in Northern Italy.  I agree with the theology of these guys.  People no longer spoke Latin, and the Church clung to it the same way people will cling to the KJV today.  The people were perishing for lack of the life-giving Scriptures that make people alive to the Gospel.

I do not really agree with starting a movement outside the Church, but working within the Church to solve its issues.  I don't believe in people being preachers without Church training.  I'd agree with these guys on theology and social issues, but I would disagree with them on their methods of communication.

Lastly, some nut named Joachim developed a bizarre eschatology.  God the Father was important in Old Testament times.  The Son was important from the New Testament until 1260.  After 1260, there will be a time of antichrist, and then a new era will arrive with the Holy Spirit and an age of love.  I'll sooner go with dispensational theology than divide the Trinity like that and place a date on end-times when Jesus didn't even give one.

The Church reacted in various ways.  True believers in the Dominican Friars tried to reach out to the Cathari.  Other folks went extreme and began to exterminate the Albigensians.  The Inquisition developed, and now one could not remotely disagree with the Pope without fearing for their lives.  Worst of all, the Synod of Toulous in 1229 forbid the Bible in the vernacular languages.  Now, the people had to endure the Gospel shrouded in Latin, and they had to accept everything the priests said unchecked and fell into error.  The good news is that forbidding books causes them to be popular.  So this only started a ripple of what would later become the Reformation.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Clem: paranesis and predestination

I took a class on Paul's letters ages ago.  I don't remember much about his basic template, but I remember the word "paranesis."  After the main purpose of his letter had been said, he closed with bits of instruction for his intended audience.

I feel like most of Clement's letter to the Corinthians is paranesis.  He starts addressing their dilemma, he gives sympathy, then he goes into church history a la Hebrews.  But he goes on and on about instructions to be humble and holy.  Notice all the lettuce.  I guess that this book did not end up in the Bible because of its long paranesis and small theology (good theology but small).  An undiscerning reader would thing his solution to the Corinthian abusers was good works.  It was just nothing unique, but his letter changes in chapters 28-32

"All things seen and heard by God, Let us fear him."  Quoting Psalm 139, he shows how God's presence is everywhere.  We can't escape it so we should fear him.

"Let us draw near to him with holiness of spirit...from that nation will come the Most Holy."  And Christ did come from Israel which later became the Church.  Christ identifies with us.  We must remember to be holy with fear and trembling as we are not worthy to carry his name.

Clem calls us the portion of the Holy One, showing that the Church and Christ really are to be married and to become one flesh.  "Let us do all things which pertain to holiness...Let us cleave to those whom grace has been given by God...Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility...Let our praise be in God" and not of ourselves, "Let testimony to our good deeds be borne by others.  This bit from chapter 30 amazes me.  It is true Reformed theology, yes Calvinistic theology, long before Augustine was even born.  He uses phrases like "those whom grace has been given" and "those accursed of God."  This grace happened to the former and not to the latter.  The grace to the chosen causes them to follow holiness, to cling to other saints, and to walk in humility and agreement.  They do not seek praise, but praise comes to them from others.  The accursed do not know such freedom.

But because the church in Corinth has this blessing, "Let us cleave to his blessing."  "Let us think over the things which have taken place from the beginning."  From the beginning = predestined.  God has planned all history for his glory.

Once again, he gives Abraham and Jacob's story.  God chose those guys to be the ancestors of priests, kings, tribes, and even Jesus.  Abraham was "made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness he wrought, but through the operation of his will."  They were blessed because God wanted to bless them.  All people destined for salvation are also blessed with that gift because it pleases God to do so.  He did not have to save anyone, but he saved somebody.  These somebodies should live through tough times carried along by their security in God.Clem

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Clement's Phoenix

I remember reading this last year.  In chapters 23-27, Clement introduces the doctrine resurrection by alluding to a phoenix as if it was a real animal that all people knew about.

Finishing his examples of humility, he said to let us not be double-minded or our soul be lifted because of his exceedingly great and glorious gifts.  Let's not divide our loyalties or feel extra proud because of the gifts God has given in grace.  Soon and suddenly shall his will be accomplished.

Let us consider who the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection.  He points to day and night as a resurrection which happens at all times.  The sun goes down and then rises again.
Also, a sower plants crops by sowing a seed which dies and sinks into the ground and then comes back as a plant.

Ultimately, consider the Phoenix.  It burns up and then rises from the ashes.  It travels from Arabia to Hierapolis, Egypt.  The priest examines it on the sun altar, and then the Phoenix flies for another 500 years.

People today laugh, but then people like Ken Ham exist.  What if the Phoenix did have some truth?  I personally cannot imagine a bird burning up or rising from the ashes, but I suppose with certain conditions, it does not actually die; it just burns.  I doubt it would live 500 years as the same bird.  I certainly would not base my theology on the examinations of a pagan priest in Egypt.  There may be truth to the Phoenix, but it's more important that the resurrection is a common enough concept to be borrowed by other cultures and religions.  The people all have a concept of this hope, therefore, it is real according to the ontological argument for existence.

Scripture testifies a resurrection.  We don't need the signs of science, though I thank God for them.  We just believe because Scripture declares it, and Scripture confirms its authenticity.

With this hope, the Corinthian souls should be bound to Him who is faithful in his promises and just in his judgments.  The same goes for today.  Concentrate all your loyalty to Jesus.  America may fail.  Comfortable society may fail.  Because Jesus never fails, Christianity will always have a place on earth until he returns, and to believe otherwise is to not believe in God.

No matter what happens, "when and as he pleases, he will do all things, and none of the things determined by him shall pass away."  Destruction comes because Christ ordained it.  The church will never fade because it is eternally established by him.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Clement: Look to the Faith Heroes and Throw off all Shame

Clement just cited Jesus as an example of humility.  He already talked about saints, and he decides to mention them again.  He also shouts out to David and his 51st Psalm.  I think he should have finished the list with Jesus because he is not one of many.  He is our God and Savior.  The saints are humble because of him.

"The humility and godly submission of so great and illustrious men have rendered us better."  Clement talks about the example of the faithful people who have gone before us.  His talk reminds me of Hebrews 12.  That author had just finished a list of faithful saints, and now he encourages: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith."  I have no shame in saying that I imagine someone just throwing off all their clothes and running completely free.  They have nothing to hide; they are focused on Jesus till the end of their time on earth.

Clement points to the peace and harmony of the universe.  God even controls the wild ocean.  We should run with this security.  We don't leap in the dark hoping that we will land.  We know exactly where we're going.  God showed us the way in Jesus and it is no secret.  We know that God rules the earth, and despite any discouragement, we must live each day free of any barriers that would keep us from running toward Jesus.

"The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts." Proverbs 20:27.  Spirit can also be "breath."  Clement says, "let us reflect on how near he is...For he is a Searcher of the thoughts and desires of the heart; his breath is in us and when he pleases, he will take it away."
Faith in  Christ confirms all these admonitions.  

"Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord." Psalm 32:10

The message: the Romans may be threatening to destroy the temple and we are about to lose everything we based our lives on.  Heathens are taking our loving acts of kindness and words of warning and calling them bigotry and intolerance.  We must continue knowing that God is as near as our breath and that Jesus is a certainty.  We must rip off all our clothes and run the race marked out for us without fear or shame.

Monday, May 6, 2013

More examples from Clement

Corinth is going through verbal assaults of the elite media of that time.  Rome empathizes.  Clement writes this note to give them company as many godly men of Scripture fell pray to jealous rage because God accepted them over others.  This is now the reason behind Corinth's naysayers.

He cited examples all the way from Abel to Peter and Paul.  In chapters 11 and 12, he finishes the list with Lot and Rahab.

He explains that God saved Lot from Sodom because of his hospitality.  He did welcome strangers into his home not realizing that they were angels.  He moved to protect them.  Both Clem and the Bible agree that Lot was a righteous man.  I read Lot's story and see how righteous he wasn't.  God really saved him because Abraham prayed for him.  God counted Abraham as righteous just because he believed.  Abraham also did not cling to his faith perfectly.  God loved Abraham and Lot because of his grace, and they believed from what ability God allowed them.  Also, Rahab the prostitute welcomed the Israeli spies into her home and her whole family survived the falling of the Jericho walls and joined Israel because she was hospitable to God's people.  One cannot fathom God's generosity in saving people for something as simple as believing in him and protecting his people because of belief in him.

He then tells Corinth to let us be of humble mind and to act according to what is written.  Jeremiah says in his 9th chapter:
23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

All the Roman and Corinthian believers in Jesus believed for nothing more than because God graced them with righteousness.  He gave them such a lavish gift only because they love Jesus.  They were far from perfect, but they loved Jesus, and God will take even a little faith and make it into a mighty lifestyle.

Since it is God who has made the Corinthians to believe and to care for the community and to grow to a successful church that non-believers have to tear down in their envy, they must remember their permanent standing with God and obey him rather than listen to "authors of sedition" who will eventually perish.

"Let us cleave to those who cultivate peace with godliness."  At the same time, with our security in God's love, we must be with peace with all people even if they oppose us.  The others try to have peace by forcing people to accept what they despise.  This is not peace.  True peace is simply accepting people without agreeing with them.  Even better, it is to continue loving God even when people try to make you feel guilty for standing up for the truth.

Psalm 12:5 "Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the Lord“I will place him in the safety for which he longs."

Ultimately he leads to Christ's perfect example of humility.  He was God, but he left his glorious throne in heaven to live as a gross human being among gross human beings and to take on all their sins and pay their penalty that they simply cannot pay.  He quotes Isaiah 53, and shows the willingness of Christ to take abuse and accusations, even death on a cross, in order atone for the humans.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Crusade Era Monasticism

This is really the era where monks and nuns pretty much became what they are now.  They mostly took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to the pope and to their abbot.  The Cluniacs had run a successful monastery system since 1000.  Now they had gained some wealth and other groups rose up in their stead.

A Benedictine monk named Robert founded the Cistercian order in 1098 because of his concern over the lack of discipline.  Just shows that worship wars between traditional and contemporary are not a new thing.  And people being lax in their Christian discipline is not new either and is still alive today.  We need more Roberts to arise and try to make Christians more disciplined, although not in deed, but in devotion to the Lord.  If they learn to love Jesus as their Lord, then discipline will be a natural result.

Bernard of Clairvaux is one of my heroes of church history along with Augustine.  He was more of a mystic who taught his Cistercian monks to labor for their food.  He wrote wonderful hymns such as "Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee" and "O Sacred Head Now Wounded."  When Abelard, another heretic, became popular, Bernard rebutted him and championed true biblical theology.  He did support the Second Crusade, but he also wanted to save Palestine. 

Along with the Crusades, groups formed to care for wounded soldiers and to defend pilgrims.  The Knights of Saint John, aka the Knights Hospitallers, were basically the Red Cross of that era.  The Knights Templars formed around this time because they lived near the Jerusalem Temple.  They mostly were a military group that later got too involved in French politics.

The Franciscan Friars were founded by Francis of Assisi.  He started out as a roue, but then he met the Lord during an illness, and he afterward devoted his life to walking around Europe, poor, chaste, and obedient to the Pope, and he was a missionary to many of the people at the time.  Unlike monks, friars did not live in a central location.  They were chaste like the monks, but they wandered the globe to spread the Gospel.

The Dominicans formed as a witness to the Albigensians and the Muslims.  They had the sophisticated preaching and theology.  Thomas Aquinas is from this group and many other philosophers such as William of Ockham. 

They eventually grew wealthy with time and also faded in spiritual zeal, but they did do their best to serve the needs of the medieval world.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Clement's Lettuce

Here are chapters 7 through 10 of Clement's letter to Corinth.

He claims that Rome shares in the same humiliations as Corinth.  Therefore, he sends them lettuce.

Let us give up vain and fruitless cares.
Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ.
Let us turn to every age that has passed and learn that the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all who would be converted to him.

There's that wonderful song by Jeremy Camp, "Let It Fade."  Let this old life crumble, let it fade.  Let this new life offered be your saving grace.  Move on from your past and enjoy your new life in Christ that only he can give.  Noah preached repentance and entered the ark.  Jonah preached to Nineveh.  They believed and God saved them.

Then, citing Ezekiel 18:30; 33:11, and recounting Isaiah 1:16-20, Clem reminds us that though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.  God has called his followers to repentance.  When you are surrounded by unjustified envious rage, remember, that you too were saved from such wrath and turn to God in repentance.

Let us yield obedience to His excellent and glorious will.
Notice, to obey, we simply have to yield.  Bask in God's sunshine.  His will changes us.

Let us contemplate those who have perfectly ministered to His excellent glory.
Enoch preached righteousness and did not have to die.
Noah preached repentance and entered the ark.
Abraham was found faithful because he obeyed God in leaving his country for unknown territory, and he sacrificed Isaac on the alter before God stopped him.  God had enacted Christ's crucifixion and resurrection by providing a Ram in Isaac's place.  This was how the Old Testament people believed the Gospel.

Knowing that Clement's time was no different than today, it is encouraging to read his words and to know that the time of Nero, martyrdom, and the temple's destruction did come to an end and Christianity enjoyed peace for the  next millennium.  Now that oppression is back, we only have to look to Christ's return, the only thing that really matters in life.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Envy: both today and in Clement's Time

This will be more hodge podge.

I'll start with today on a topic that gives me great joy because it is so freeing, and great sadness because people just won't listen.

Okay, we all grew up in school learning about dinosaurs.  The main point is that they died out long before there were humans.

We go to church and read Genesis.  We see a world created in 6 days filled with only things God considers good until man sins.

It's not until you start surfing Answers in Genesis when you realize those two ideas greatly oppose and you never thought of it before.  Are we going to believe the school or the church?

At the expense of looking like a fool, I believe the Bible and science because they do not contradict.  I also believe that dinosaurs lived alongside humans, survived Noah's flood, and are the dragons mentioned of old.  All cultures have dragon legends until the middle ages, making a good point from the ontological argument that they were real because all cultures have a concept of it.  Clearly they died and then got rediscovered in 1840 and called dinosaurs.

With this discovery, I no longer have to compromise my faith.  I can believe dinosaurs are more recent because they have not been proven to not co-exist with humans.  In fact, if you consider the flood and all the fossil graveyard, it makes perfect sense that we all co-existed.

The atheists envy us.  They envy our freedom from a chaotic world history, our devotion to a real God who made the earth as he said in the Bible, and our satisfaction in life.  We value human life, have options for fun other than sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and appreciate people no matter how much we have to take care of them.  The world reacts by calling us immature, unscientific, and fundamental.  Oh well, I like my hope outside this world way better than the lack of hope inside it.

This brings me to the first 6 chapters of 1 Clement.

Clement sent a letter from Rome to Corinth.  The church greatly matured and were winning people to the Lord in Greece.  At the zenith of their success, some naysayers decided to insult their faith as not genuine.  They branded the church as working for material gain and brainwashing the Greeks.  Clement pointed them to heroes of the past and present who also endured shame, even death, because of envy.

Abel presented a better sacrifice to God, and Cain envied killed him.  God chose Jacob to bless, and Esau envied and wanted to kill him.  Aaron and Miriam envied Moses's leadership, but God gave them leprosy.  Same with Dathan and Abiram, except the ground swallowed them in their hatred.  Saul ruined his whole family in his jealous rage over David, the true king.

And in Clement's day, they saw the rise of Peter and Paul and their subsequent martyrdom.  Now they live in glory unharmed.  Others also reach the goal of their faith despite envy's destruction.  Their arrows are only external.  God's truth and our confidence in him can never end.

Clement and his First Epistle to Corinth

Clement of Rome was the first man to really lead the Church after the apostolic era.  As all the apostles, including Peter and Paul, were martyred, Clement led as bishop along with Linus and Cletus. 

Paul mentions him as a young man in Philippians 4:3.  According to Philip Schaff, Clement wrote his epistle to Corinth possibly during the time of Nero and the temple's destruction.  I agree with tradition that Clement wrote the epistle and that he traveled with Paul and Luke as a co-worker.  His epistle to Corinth that I plan to read is in response to persecution in the Roman empire and is very timely in our era today.