Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Justin and Words

Justin takes chapters 31 through 40 of his first apology to recount all the prophesies in Scripture fulfilled by Christ.  He was born of a virgin, in Bethlehem.  They pierced his hands and feet and gambled for his clothes.  David prophesied that last sentence but that did not happen to him.  It happened to Jesus under the rule of Pontius Pilate, in real time and space.  Jesus sacrificed his body for our sins, something Jupiter would not have done.

Prophetic words are powerful if they are from true prophets.  This section was not as varied.  I thought I would include an article from Tabletalk about words and their power.  Dane Ortlund contributes this piece called "Encourage One Another." In this month's issue.

"Our words to one another about one another not only describe reality.  They also create reality."
How often do we forget this is true?  How did God create the whole world?  He spoke words.  Words can create worlds and give life.  God also allowed his people to be able to change things with their words. 

If we call someone an "idiot", he may not necessarily be one, but if you say it enough, he will start to believe you and lower his standards for himself.  "Specifically, our words are either death-bringing or life-giving."

God's words only give life.  "The 'word of truth, the gospel of your salvation,' is a word that gives life."  Ephesians 1:13.  God the Spirit caused you to hear the word of the Gospel to make you alive to his salvation.  When sinners become believers in Jesus, the transition from speaking words of death to being able to speak living words.  With other believers we are to pass on "horizontally a taste of what we've been given vertically."  God gives his people words of welcome, love, and life.  If a professing Christian still uses filthy language and negative speech, then it is safe to question the authenticity of his faith as God gives words of life and light to his elect.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10, Paul calls us to "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up."  What is the "therefore" there for?  We are to encourage because "God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him."  We are guaranteed a happy ending.  Let's celebrate by speaking words of joy and rejoicing.  "Having been shown life through the word of the gospel, we give life through the words we use."

Ortlund considers the words he uses in this article and asks: "Are they bringing life?"

Now that we know we need to encourage people with our words, how do we do it?  Ortlund cites two ways.

1. Say nothing.  At funerals, in hospitals, in big decisions, learn not to spout out words.  We want to say something, but it might have the wrong effect.

2. Say something.  Ortlund did not just contradict himself.  "All our words tumble out impelled by one of two motives.  I am using words either for myself or for you."  So really, we have to think of our words before we say them and decide if I am saying them to make me look good or if I really want to help others.  Do I just want to be clever and wise, or do I want to assuage any pain?  I can think of someone who recently miscarried a baby.  Do I tell her words of wisdom that people say all the time?  Or do I just say nothing?  It take the latter because it is not the time to take attention away from the griever.  It is time to direct her to the Lord instead.  The best way is to focus on Jesus for myself.  He can speak for himself.

What about Justin Martyr?  It was the time in his life when he needed to talk to correct gross misunderstandings of the Christian faith and try to protect the people he loves from unjust litigation.  The pagans needed to know the futility of their rituals, especially when they want to impose them on people who want to follow Jesus.  In this case, the words will cut and hurt, but they will still give life by cutting the poison out of the way.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Justin M: Romans, Christians, and Rituals

Justin Martyr continues to distinguish between secular Roman religion versus Christianity, which they claim is atheistic.

Jupiter, the chief of their gods, had many children.  They are all worshiped, but they are also all dead.  Jupiter is an immoral man who rapes women and sleeps around.  These gods are just arrogant men who asserted their authority among the people.

Christians who live near God in holiness and virtue are the ones who will live with him in his Kingdom.  Justin uses the word "deified" but I think that is a bad word choice or translation.  Christ's followers are not Christ nor do they become Christ.  They are glorified, however.  People who live apart from Christ, who live the life of Jupiter, will suffer an eternity in hell.

Greeks and Romans may have words of wisdom, some even true, but Christians speak differently.  They speak the truth because they know the truth.  They do not serve the dead deities or waste their resources on libations and blood offerings.  They do not revel as a form of worship.  They do not sacrifice victims. 

Jupiter lusts for women, has to be rescued, and even got in trouble because of a concubine.  Justin pities those who worship such a god.  Our proper God made all men and women, values them all, and needs no rescuing.

As for the pagan orgies, Christians stand in stark contrast.  They marry specifically to have childfen.  If they are not married, they live in celibacy or continence.  Today, doctors will call the inability to control the need to use the bathroom as incontinence.  In the ancient world, that was the same thing to describe someone who had frequent sex outside of marriage.  Christians can hold their fluids.

They do not rely on magic either.  Christ's works are not illusions but really did happen in history and are still happening.

I read this article from Conrad Mbewe about why the Charismatic forms of Christianity thrive in Africa.  Pagan African religion has all society on tiers.  The highest tier is the gods.  Then, there are angels and demons.  Next are dead ancestors and spirits.  Lowest are the people on the earth.  The lowest people could not access the gods.  If they needed a god, they needed to talk to a deceased relative.  If they wanted good things, they would have to perform some ritual.  If they needed to get bad luck off of their backs, they needed to do more rituals to satisfy the demon causing it.  When Charismatic believers contextualized their message to the Africans, they simply changed the gods to God, they still live on earth, and they still have to appease him with rituals and wonders.  They have to speak in tongues to have standing with God.  Many do not know the God of the Scriptures.

People, this is not Christianity.  This is your generic pagan religion that the Greeks and Romans used.  Any place where you have to go through a mediator to get to Christ does not teach Christianity, no matter how Christian the names or good the deeds.  Christ is the mediator and the only one that God accepts.  And he performed all the rituals necessary for us to know God.  If we do good things, it is because of him, not to get to him.  If we had to rely on penance and alms and tongue-speaking and feeding the poor, we could never be assured of our standing with God.  Thankfully, the Bible teaches something completely different, the grace of Christ, our only mediator to God who is God, and Christ's works that give us holiness.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Jumping to Conclusions: 2nd Century

Justin Martyr finished telling his audience that the Christians most certainly are not atheists.  They just believe in one God and he's not their gods. 

He moves on to say that the pagans assume that the Christians look for a human kingdom.  They have no concept of a world beyond this one.  Christians long for the kingdom that is with God.  If their kingdom was for this world, then they would deny Christ to keep from being slain.  That is not the case.  They gladly suffer death to see the glorious kingdom.

"What sober-minded man, then, will not acknowledge that we are not atheists, worshiping, as we do the Maker of the universe, and declaring, as we have been taught that He has no need of streams of blood and libations and incense...We reasonably worship him."

The pagans may make human sacrifices and have wild parties, but the Christians do not mutilate themselves, get drunk, and they control their urges.  While the pagans love only their neighbors and friends, the Christians pray for their enemies and love them. 

Justin makes many contrasts using the Sermon on the Mount.  I suppose the rest of the world would think that alien since they do not have the Holy Spirit to guide them.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Journeys with Justin

I'm moving to the 2nd century AD and beginning to read Justin Martyr.  He lived from around 114 to 165.  He was raised as a Gentile in Samaria on the teachings of Plato and Socrates.  When he became a Christian, he discovered that "what Plato was feeling after, he found in Jesus of Nazareth."  He began a new era in gospel history, an era where Christian apologetics are  mixed in with secular philosophy.  R.C. Sproul is a man today who ties in philosophy with Christian teachings.  It brings a new perspective on things.

Scholars all agree that Justin wrote his two apologies and the Dialogue with Trypho.  They debate on whether he wrote his Address to the Greeks, his Hortatory Address to the Greeks, On the Sole Government of God, Epistle to Diognetus, Fragments from a treatise on the Resurrection, and other fragments.  They are all certain that he did not write Exposition of the True Faith, Replies to the Orthodox Christian Questions to Gentiles, Gentiles Questions to Christians, epistles to Zenas and Serenus, and a Refutation of certain doctrines of Aristotle.

Philip Schaff begins his Justin anthology with his first Apology.  Clearly the Roman government accuses the Christians of the Holy Land of all the problems in Rome.  Justin demands that they investigate before they jump to conclusions.

It is amazing how the word "atheist" meant a different thing in the 2nd century and even in the time of Socrates.  The Greeks and Romans had a god or goddess for every aspect of life, even aspects within the aspects of life.  These gods would allow them to engage in revelry and encourage the violation of women and children.  Socrates denied that these gods were actually gods.  Since he denounced belief in these gods, the Greeks labelled him an "atheist" and made him drink poison.

Christians refuse to even genuflect toward any Roman god or emperor.  They won't even pinch some incense out of respect.  They only worship and give homage to Jesus Christ.  According to the Romans, this must mean that they are atheists.  If they were right, I wish all professing Christians would be atheists except for worshiping the one true God who revealed himself to the world in Jesus and still lives with us in the Holy Spirit. 

Christians are atheists in regard to the gods but not for the most true God.  They bow down and worship the Triune God only and consider all the other idols to be soulless and dead.

Justin has the same theory about the origin of the Greek gods that Mark Driscoll has.  Somebody appeared the the people as Zeus or Apollo, but they were actually demons.  My theory is that these were real people who ruled and who were very arrogant and insisted that they were gods and convinced the people that when they died they still ruled.  The Egyptian rulers did that.  The Caesars did that.

Just the same, they appeared to people in secret in remote corners of the world.  The true God revealed himself publicly.  "He does not need the material offerings which men can give...He is the provider of all things."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Fragment Wisdom and Stillborns

I will briefly mention the fragments of Papias found in the ancient Christian era.  Very little is left of his writing, and the few fragments make little sense.  The first one is really good: "I did not take pleasure in those who spoke much, but in those who taught the truth; nor in those who related strange commandments, but in those who rehearsed the commandments given by the Lord to faith."

Even today, people say sound-bytes and one-liners of wisdom that seem sweet and memorable.  They speak much, but do they really live the truth?  Do the words provide a band-aid to life or do they actually help?

So, I will transition from Papias and the things he almost said, to people today and what they should not say when an infant dies.  Or a child, or a miscarriage happens, or a baby is stillborn.  My heart aches for people I know who just had a stillborn pregnancy, and well-meaning people will say all kinds of things.  Just like the Papias fragments, they can be good, they seem pretty harmless, but it might not be getting all the information right.  Again, I present fragments to not say when a young person dies.

"God needed him more than we did."  No, God needs nothing.  If I am on earth, it is because it gives God glory.  If someone I love is in heaven, it still gives God glory.  God needs nothing and and we need him to survive.  Heaven is more life than what we see on earth.  I hate that young people are taken from us, but it is not because God decided that he'd rather have that person now and would like to deprive us.  He just sees the big picture that we don't see and will work all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

"God is teaching us a lesson."  No, God is not a crooked teacher.  He does not cause tragedy to teach lessons.  He is not some abuser.  He orchestrates all of life according to his glory.  Granted, we do learn from tragedies, but we also live in a fallen world.  We don't need any lessons.

"There's one more angel in heaven."  No, your child is precious, but he or she is not an angel now.  You would not want him to be one.  Angels are beings that serve God as utilities and just happen to be alive, too.  Humans are created in God's image.  Angels will never know forgiveness and mercy.  God does not stop lavishing his grace and mercy on his undeserving humans.  Your child is not an angel, but what he or she is, you will like a lot better.

"What if the child turned out like the severely disabled boy next door?"  Um, I know all kinds of people.  They have cerebral palsy, Down's Syndrome, developmental problems, and some people will not be able to function independently in this life.  So, what if your child turns out like them?  Could anybody tell me what's wrong with those things?  Are my problems any better?  Are you any better off?  People with severe disabilities are a blessing and teach their caregivers that there is a world outside themselves.  Definitely mourn the loss of your child, but do not be afraid of him developing some disability.  All problems are different and all work together for God's glory.

I can't think of any more right now, but I would love to hear other things people should not say in tragedies.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

14th Century Mystics

"The mystical movement, the classical form of Roman Catholic piety, developed as a reaction against formal and mechanical sacerdotal ritual and the dry Scholasticism in the church of the day." (Cairns, 250)

At this point, church was no longer for everyone, but it was acted out by clergy and spectated by lay people.  They got the mass, but they got no Word of God outside of Latin and no Word of God during the week.  People were starving for interaction with Christ.  Mystical movements resulted from this famine.

In 1348 and 1349, the bubonic plague caused the Black Death that killed many people in illness.  Peasants also revolted in 1381 following the teachings of John Wycliffe.  Also, the two or three popes ruling made consistency impossible for the holy lands.  These people needed spiritual leadership and interaction with God.

There were Latin mystics and Teutonic mystics.  Latins had a more emotional outlook on life.  They emphasized emotional experiences of Christ.  These were the charismatics.  I would not necessarily agree with them as I believe signs and wonders have stopped, but I would still accept them as brethren.  Bernard of Clairvaux was a Latin mystic, Augustinian monk, and influence on the reformers.  Catherine of Siena was also of this ilk.  She was the one that urged Gregory 11 to move back to Rome.

The Teutonic mystics took a more philosophical approach to life.  These were the emergents who might have had cool ideas but flirted with heresy.  Meister Eckhart was of this group and envisioned a kind of worship where people tried to reach unity with the Godhead.  This is gnosticism, and it is never new.  It leads to pantheism, and the Church condemned Echkart's teachings after he died. 

Condemned or not, a group of Dominicans formed the Friends of God to carry on Eckhart's tradition.  They wrote Theologia Germanica, and emphasized the inward experience of God more than the outward motions of worship.  Unlike Eckhart, this was truly Christian.  It struggled with monophysitism in not just Christ but as the goal of believers; they were to fuse their souls with the divine.  Just the same, the Friends of God and their teachings soothed Martin Luther as he struggled with his salvation.  This movement also produced Thomas a Kempis, another man that reformed people love.  He is credited with writing Imitation of Christ.  He gave a more practical approach to the Friends of God.  I might have to read some of this theology myself to see what is not right and what true Christians can believe. 

Mystics can be solid Christians, but their emphasis on the inner soul can be dangerous, especially if a person looks inward and does not have the Holy Spirit, aka, is not saved.  It was a good alternative to the play acting in the churches where people were not learning or experiencing Jesus properly.  They read the Scriptures more and reached out to communities.  The ideal would be for them to gather as a church on Sunday, read the Bible in vernacular language, and help people understand and interact.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Playing Opposites with "Barnabas"

The second part of Pseudo-Barnabas's epistle contrasts the way of darkness and the way of light.  The only problem is that the way of light has too many "thou shalt not"s, and the way of darkness states its attributes positively.  I will start this blog by listing negative aspects of each attribute of darkness and then state positively the commands of the way of light.

The Way of Darkness

They are lost and have no direct route.  They have no blessings, no break from guilt, are not satisfied with Christ alone, not ever satisfied with life, cannot stand other leadership, are unintelligible, unreal, cannot faithfully decide to follow just one master, impure, they hate life and under-value people, they are disrespectful and intrusive, not kind or gentle, never clear from trouble, untruthful, do not desire for others to succeed, rely on no one, are unhealthy, they must plot and manipulate instead of trust God for his direction and timing, they don't share, they do not fear God, they take away legal protection from the good people, they continue lying, they hate truth and can't handle the truth, their lives are unfulfilled, unlike the righteous who are whole, they have bad tempers, are unaware of a world outside themselves, only work with ulterior motives and strings attached, ignore people's needs, increase burdens on workers, are always complaining, have no ground in life as they completely ignore the Creator, hate that children are alive, destroy nature, deprive good from people who want, only increase suffering and affliction, and they only care for the rich, unjust, and completely depraved.

The Way of Light

The people who live in the light are allowed to love God who created them and gives them meaning.  They can glorify him that redeemed them from death.  They are simple in heart and rich in Spirit.  They join with people who promote life.  They love what pleases God and live sincerity.  They remember and follow God's commands, not as a chore but as a pleasure, they do not compare themselves to others and always exalt God.  If they accomplish something, the credit goes to God.  They defend their neighbors against gossip.  They can be bold but humble.  They have good sex lives because they only do it with people they are married to.  Single people are chaste and have no emotional attachments to people who just use them.  They teach young people to look beyond this present world and to avidly ponder what is clean and happy.  They use God's Word in reverence and honor.  If they have to rebuke someone, then they still love but wait for repentance before accepting them.  They have good boundaries.  They are meek and peaceable.  They tremble at the words they hear.  Even in frustration, they remember the good things about their brothers and sisters.  They believe that something will be.  They speak God's name with love, fear, and trembling.  The love their neighbors as much as their own souls.  They let their children be born, live, and give them high standards.  From infancy, they teach children the fear of the Lord.  They are there more often than not.  They are happy for what their neighbors have and give generously.  They are reckoned with the righteous and lowly while ignoring the boastful guilt-trippers.  When trials come, they accept it as a good opportunity or adventure.  They decide between two things and speak with only one meaning.  They are subject to the Lord, obey the masters he set over them, and honor their servants remembering that God is the master of all of them.  They are honest with their neighbors and lead them to holy activities.  They think before they speak.  They are pure in soul.  They give without expecting a reward.  They highly value those who rightly speak God's word.  They remember the coming day of judgment.  They constantly seek other Christians and work for life and salvation.  They give cheerfully and readily.  They preserve what is given to their care.  They despise Satan.  They judge righteously, make peace between all who fight within the Church, confess their sins, and make things right with God before entering public worship.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pseudo-Barnabas and Typology

I enjoy this letter from Barnabas.  It might have been written by a guy with that name or not, but most are certain it was not Paul's companion.  This is likely written after the temple is completely demolished and Jerusalem sacked.  Barnabas reminds his audience that the temple is not the for-real deal.  It is only a shadow.  People are not saved by the temple or by rituals, but by Jesus.

I have only read 20 chapters into this letter so far.  He seems inconsistent.  One moment he's refuting Judaizers, and the next moment, he's spouting out a ton of rules.  He mostly goes through the old temple rituals and explains how they were a typology of Christ, which I agree, only he over-allegorizes every detail of the process. 

For example, sacrificing a heifer to consecrate Aaron and the priests: three boys sprinkle the blood on the men to symbolize Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Maybe that is symbolic, but I'm pretty sure it is not symbol for the patriarchs. 

I think the aspect that got most of my attention was his interpretation of the dietary laws of Leviticus.  From what I recall from Dr. Schwab's class at Erskine, the dietary laws were mainly to separate Israel from their cultures who ate pigs and shellfish like most people today would eat snakes and snails and think it very gross.  The unclean food was literally considered nasty and unclean.

Anyway, Pseudo-Barnabas analyzes each forbidden food and it is interesting.  It almost reminds me of Charles Spurgeon's allegorizing, the way he dissects each morsel of Scripture.  Swine are forbidden because they live in pleasure, whine when they want something, forget the giver when they have it, and are just plain pigs.  The eagle, hawk, kite, and raven sit around all day and wait for their food to die before they get it.  They do not work for their food but are homeless scavengers who should not eat as they do not work.  The Lamprey, polypus, and cuttlefish are banned because they are ungodly and live in the mud.  The hare is incontinent, aka, it has children a little too rapidly.  The weasel apparently has a wicked mouth.

After this, he reviews a lot of Romans 9 predestination things about Jacob and Esau.  He also notes how that Eve listened to a serpent and how all people who sin are snakebit.  The only cure for some people was to look to a snake lifted on a pole.  The only cure for our permanent sin is to look to our Lord lifted on a cross.  Jesus destroyed the first temple but built a better spiritual one out of all his people.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dear John

Of all the spurious letters from Ignatius, I doubt his letters to either John the apostle or Mary were even written by a believer.  This does produce a lot of ideas that became the Mariology of the RC church today, but certainly John nor Mary would approve of these letters.  Even if Mary was always a virgin, and even if she was sinless, still, nobody should talk about her the way the false Ignatius talks about her in his first epistle to John.  If I was Mary and/or John, I would get a restraining order on the members of the Syrian church.

Pseudo-Ig writes another letter to John, this time going on and on about how much James looks like Jesus.  This is still under the mentality that Mary was always a virgin and adopted Jesus's brothers.  If James really did look like Jesus, then that is proof in itself that he really is the son of Mary and Joseph.  Mary cannot be both sinless and a perpetual virgin b/c the Bible says she was married.  Marriage is more than sex but it is not less.  If she was always a virgin then she was not married, but she was married, so she had the proper relations with Joseph.  It was only when she gave birth to Jesus that she had to be a virgin.  He was conceived without two sinful parents, and he was still fully human with Mary's DNA. 

Sidebar: why then did Jesus give John to Mary as her son at the cross?  At that time, none of Jesus's biological siblings were Christians.  James and Jude became Christians later, but John and Mary were now kin since Jesus completed his sacrifice and earthly mission.

The letter Pseudo-Ig wrote to Mary is not too noteworthy.  What is noteworthy is the reply supposedly from Mary.  I dare say, Ignatius did not write these letters nor anybody who could call himself a believer.  If, however, Mary lived at the time this letter was written, I believe she and John would definitely agree to its contents. 

Mary reminds Ignatius that she is only Christ's handmaiden.  She bore his body, but he is still her God and Savior, and Mary takes her proper position as a godly woman who said yes and who became the first true Christian, the first example of what all the Church is.  Then she tells him that all John wrote in his gospel about Jesus is true.  Listen to those words.  She does what all true believers do in pointing to Jesus, showing him exalted, taking the attention off of herself, and even saying that Jesus exalted himself and John's accounting of that is true.  She says, "I obeyed God, and he blessed me, but I am no different than the rest of you.  Jesus alone is your redemptor, and I look to him for my justification."

Nicaea and Chalcedon

I finished the letters that Ignatius did not write yet are still under his name.  Mostly, I thought they were good theology that Ig would have written.  It has emphasis on following the bishop, church unity, and creeds.  Whoever wrote them greatly admired him. 

The main confusion in these letters is that the different letters have different ambiguities on the Trinity and Christ's deity.  Sometimes he's a created being.  Sometimes he is God who created.

For this post, I will recount Trinitarian heresies based on R.C. Sproul's booklet: What Is the Trinity?

Monarchianism works hard to protect God's monotheism amid the glorification of Jesus.

The first kind of monarchianism is Modalism, which teaches that all three persons of the Trinity are the same person, but they behave in unique "modes" at different times.  God revealed himself as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at different times in history.  This belief denies that the Son and the Holy Spirit existed from eternity and says that they are just emanations of God the Father. 

True Christianity does not agree with Modalism because the Bible clearly teaches that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters at creation and that Jesus Christ was in a covenant with the Father and the Spirit from eternity.

The other monarchianism is Adoptionism.  For some reasons, the proponents such as Arius, believe this protects monotheism.  I think this creates false gods.  According to Adoptionists, God created Jesus before he created anything else.  Then, they both created the world.  God sent Jesus to redeem the world, and since Jesus obeyed perfectly and his sacrifice saves sinners, he gets to be counted as God with the Father.

No, no, no.  This is a blasphemy to Jesus who always is, was, and will be.  Jesus existed from eternity with the Father and the Spirit.  If Colossians 1:15 says he was firstborn over creation, it means that Jesus was the greatest man, not that he was created or had a beginning.  Plus, adoptionism makes Jesus less than God, a demigod.  God clearly commanded that we worship only him.  To count Jesus as God in this theology would be to have two gods.  There is only one God who will not share his throne.  Jesus must be the true God from all time and uncreated.  He was begotten but not made.

The council of Nicaea declared God to be one in essence, but three in persons.  These persons are distinct but not separated.

After the Council of Nicaea, later heresies developed.  People concentrated too long and hard about how Jesus could be both God and man.

Monophysites proclaim that Jesus's human and divine nature are fused into one entity that is neither God nor human.  It is divinely human or humanly divine. 

This makes Jesus less than God when the truth is, he is completely God at the same time as being completely man.  His divine nature is completely divine, and his human nature is completely human.  They do not mix.

Nestorians proclaimed the two natures to be separate, but with no unity.  Jesus's spirit was simply a Siamese twin struggling within his body.  This cannot be.  There is only one Jesus.  He is not double-minded.  He is completely divine and completely human.  His natures are distinct, but they are not separate.  To separate them would be to erase Jesus.  Jesus's two natures connect and are together.

The Council of Chalcedon solved these two problems by saying that Jesus is one man but with two natures expressed in four negatives.  His human nature and his divine nature are united but without confusion, change, division, or separation.  We limited creatures cannot say what exactly it is, but we know that there are no two separate personalities within Jesus.

I shall talk more about this subject.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mary of Cassobelae: Sol was how Old?

In the pseudonymous letters of Ignatius, there is one letter to him.  The author is Mary of Cassobelae.  I don't know who she is either, but she must have been converted to the faith under Ignatius's ministry.

She exalts young people who are faithful to the Lord in their youth.  She gives young ages to people in the Bible that I don't know how she got the young ages.  She thinks that Solomon was 12 years old when he decided which mother had the baby.  What in Scripture makes her think he was 12?  I assume he was at least in his thirties when he made this decision.  He was young when David made him king in his dying hours, but he I don't think he was 12 even then. 

Daniel was indeed young when he was taken to Babylon and refused to eat their meat.  He was an old man when they threw him to the lions' den.

Jeremiah was still young when God called him to prophecy, in fact, he wasn't even born.  He started when Josiah was king and finished when the Babylonian exile happened thirty years later.

David was probably 17 when he killed Goliath, but I can't prove that either.

But just the same, it is good to follow God at any age.  It is also better to still be following him when you are old and have not been lured away by the world.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Wild and Crazy Clergy: 1309-1439

Toward the end of the Medieval era, the Church clergy, both local and papal, began to decline in morals and authority.

The local clergy had many problems.  Celibacy: God did not create people for celibacy, and if he did, it is in their unmarried state.  The Bible also decries celibacy because God wants people to marry, have children, and propagate their culture.  Biologically, these unmarried priests began taking concubines and having affairs with women because they burned with unbridled passion that would not exist had they been allowed to marry.  Some of them had children to take care of, which became a burden on the laity.

Absolute obedience: this is a time when cities and nations developed independence and did not want to follow a leader in Italy when they lived all the way in France or England.  They wanted local autonomy.

Feudalism: this system has never worked.  The state tried it and failed.  The church copied the state, making it more worldly and creating caste systems that would appall the people of the New Testament.

In two situations, the pope had to move to France.  The Babylonian Captivity: Clement V, the pope, was a weak leader with sketchy morals.  He fell to the influence of the French king and moved to Avignon.  Non-French men and women such as Catherine of Siena, campaigned to move the pope back to Rome.  Gregory XI did so, and that ended the Babylonian Captivity.

The Great Schism (not the one where the Eastern Orthodox church left the west), began when Gregory XI died.  Urban VI succeeded him, but people did not like his bad temper and arrogance.  The people elected Clement VII as pope, and Clement moved the papacy to Avignon again.  Both the popes claimed Christ's authority as Peter's true successor.  Europeans had to decide which pope they would follow.

Having two popes helped to increase taxes.  They went beyond God's command to give of the tithes, and they imposed burdens Christ came to relieve.  They had salaries, travel expenses for the pope, paying property to pope upon death, Peter's Pence and constant fees.  England, at enmity with France, did not want to send money to the pope who live there.  The nations in general rebelled against the centralized authority.

Does this happen today?  I'm certain of it.  Preachers will work extra hard to be holy and before you know it, they are having an affair, again, or they are in some tax evasion scandal, or even covering up people on their staff who behave unethically.  These are preachers who are allowed to marry.  It seems prestige and image become more important than preaching the truth and placing family above career.

Is the Church divided?  You bet.  The RCs have Pope Francis, the Nazarenes just elected a new general superintendent, different versions of Presbyterian have general assembly moderators, the Methodists follow different bishops, the Episcopalians likely follow the Archbishop of Canterbury, and it never ends.  I would not have time to mention all the other self-proclaimed bishops who decide to make their own church because they got offended or disciplined.  Who do we follow?  Jesus, of course.  We need to read 1 Corinthians again.  Did Peter die for your sins?  Are we saved under the name of Apollos?  No, Christ is our head.  Christ offered himself as a sacrifice to endure God's wrath for our sins in our place.  Christ lived the perfect life in our place.  Christ established a church that will ultimately unite in him.  Different church leaders are to work together in accountability to prevent despotism and major egos that try to upstage Christ.  People are to call foul if the leaders insist on veering from Scripture to add other rituals or taxes or burdens that make the people feel guilty for not giving more than the tithe that Christ requires.

We are all the same in the Church, and we still have not learned from the Corinthian mistakes.  Those, however, who have, are together.  Despite disagreements, they still form one church, whether Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc.  I look forward to Christ returning to finally solve this.