The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, May 6, 2011

Catholicism and Orthodoxy

The terms “catholic” and “orthodox” can be confusing terms in religious discussion. To many people – probably most people – they suggest specific denominations within Christianity that include these terms in their official title. Thus, upon hearing “catholic” many would think of “The Roman Catholic Church” – or perhaps the Ukranian Catholic Church in certain communities. Likewise, upon hearing “orthodox” they would think “Greek Orthodox Church” or “Russian Orthodox Church” or just the Eastern Orthodox Church of which the Greek and Russian are branches.

The terms “catholic” and “orthodox” however are not just institutional labels. They are terms with specific meanings and those meanings have significance for the Christian Church even outside the institutions that bear those labels.

The term “catholic” is used in the earliest extra-Scriptural statements of Christian belief as an adjective referring to the Christian Church and the Christian faith. In the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, “catholic” is an adjective applied to the Christian Church. In the later Athanasian Creed, it is applied to the Christian faith, that is the body of beliefs held to be true by Christians. What does this word mean and why was it associated with the Christian faith and Church so early in its history?

If you take the Greek preposition kata, which means “around”, “concerning”, or “about” and add it to the Greek adjective holos which means “whole” (and is the root word for the English word you get a word kath’holon which means “about or concerning the whole”. Some Protestant churches replace the transliteration “catholic” with the translation “universal” in their translations of the Creeds. In the New Testament, the epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude are called the “Catholic Epistles” or the “General Epistles” because they were not addressed to a specific church the way St. Paul’s epistles were. These alternatives for “catholic” – “universal” and “general” give us a good indication of what the word was intended to convey. The Apostles planted churches throughout the ancient world – churches in Jerusalem, Antioch, Corinth, Rome, etc. A specific church would be identified as the church in such-and-such a community. “Catholic” was the term that was coined to refer to the entire church including all the specific churches.

The term “orthodox” also has Greek roots. If you add the word orthos, which means “right”, “straight”, “correct” to the word doxa which means “belief”, “glory” or “praise”, you get othodoxos which means “correct thought” or “correct doctrine or belief”. The opposite of orthodoxy is heterodoxy, a term which refers to heretical and/or schismatic beliefs. Orthodoxy can also be contrasted with, although it should not be opposed to, orthopraxy which means “correct action”.

The terms “catholic” and “orthodox” then, are adjectives applied to the Christian faith and the Christian Church (the organic and institutional expression and embodiment of the Christian faith). St. Cyril, a 4th Century Bishop of Jerusalem suggested a number of ways in which the Christian faith could be called “catholic”, such as that it is a universal faith to be preached to all people regardless of race, language, or geographic location and that it contains the “whole” of what sinful man needs for the healing of his “whole” person. More basically, however, when we speak of the “catholic faith” we mean the faith that has been held by Christians, wherever they may be found, since the time of the Apostles. When we speak of the “orthodox faith” we mean the faith that is true to the teachings of Christ and His Apostles.

There are many today within Christianity who do not like talk of orthodoxy as opposed to heresy. Such people regard concern for orthodoxy as the sign of a pharisaical spirit, and may regard orthodoxy as a roadblock to restoring Christian unity and as contrary to Christian love. While these concerns should not be dismissed lightly – the New Testament does emphasize the importance of love and unity - the New Testament also warns us against heresy and stresses the importance of adhering to the sound Apostolic doctrine of Christ and rejecting false teaching. Often, those who oppose love to sound doctrine, are merely demonstrating a modern anti-intellectualism which exalts the feelings over rational thought.

This modern view is very different from the ancient perspective of the Greco-Roman world. Plato and Aristotle both taught that a mark of the virtuous man was that he kept his emotions, his feelings, his passions, under the control of his reason. Some of our contemporary advocates of a “Christian” anti-intellectualism might at this point say “Yes, but that is exactly what is wrong with it, it is a pagan Greek concept that the Church never should have borrowed, it is by incorporating ideas from Greek philosophy that the Church went wrong”. This is a popular idea in certain circles, and one that is not so recent as one might think. As far back as the 2nd/3rd Century Tertullian famously asked “what has Athens to do with Jerusalem or the Academy with the Church?”.(1)

The answer to Tertullian and to those who today follow in his footsteps in complaining about the “Hellenization of Christianity” is that the Apostles themselves, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost in the New Testament, incorporated elements of Greek thought into their teachings. While St. Paul is the most obvious example of this, who quoted the poems Cretica by Epimenides and Phaenomena by Aratus in his sermon to the Athenians in Acts 17 (2), the Athenian comic playwright/poet Menander in 1 Corinthians 15:33, St. Peter borrows the term “tartaros” from Greek thought (3) in his second epistle, chapter two, verse four. In Hesiod’s Theogyny “tartaros” was the prison where Zeus cast Kronos and his followers after the war in which the gods overthrew the Titans. St. Peter uses it to describe the prison where God cast the fallen angels (when St. John talks about the “bottomless pit” in the book of Revelation he is borrowing the same concept from Greek mythology in the same way, using a descriptive term rather than a proper name). Most importantly, St. John borrows the Greek concept of the “logos” to describe Jesus in the very first verse of his Gospel.

Now, obviously Jesus and the Apostles did not incorporate the entirety of Greek thought into their doctrine in the New Testament. The Gnostics, who in the early centuries were the chief heretical opponents of the Apostles and their successors (institutionally and doctrinally), also borrowed heavily from certain of Plato’s dialogues. It should be clear, however, that to automatically dismiss something from Greek philosophy as a “later addition” to Christianity that corrupted its original, purely Hebrew, worldview, is unjustifiable and if consistently applied would require that we get rid of the New Testament itself. In the case of the Platonic/Aristotelian idea that reason should govern the passions, this idea arguably seems to have influenced St. Paul, although he clearly went beyond it in his contrast between the spiritually renewed mind of the believer with the corrupt flesh with its fallen Adamic nature. At any rate, today’s sappy Hollywood exaltation of feeling over rational thought is nowhere to be found in the Holy Scriptures.

Orthodoxy was important to Jesus and to His Apostles. In the Sermon on the Mount and the Olivet Discourse Jesus warned His disciples to beware of false prophets. He also warned His disciples to beware “the leaven of the scribes and Pharisees”, which the Evangelist explains meant their teachings. St. Paul’s epistle to the Galatian church is written to combat Judaizers who had come to that church and taught, contrary to Apostolic doctrine, that after believing in Jesus a Gentile had to be circumcised and keep the Mosaic Law in order to continue in salvation. This is the heresy that is known as “legalism” (4). St. Paul also warned Timothy against false teachers in 1 Timothy 4 and encouraged him to continue in the doctrine in which he had been brought up in 2 Timothy 3. He warned the Thessalonian church against the doctrine contained in a forged letter that had been sent in the Apostles’ name in 2 Thessalonians 2. To Titus, St. Paul charged that a bishop should hold “fast the faithful word as he hath been taught”.

It is in St. John’s epistles, however, that we meet for the first time the great opponents of Apostolic authority and doctrine. In the second chapter of his first epistle, St. John writes that it is the last time and many antichrists have entered the world – some of whom had been part of the Apostolic church but who had abandoned Apostolic fellowship and doctrine (2:19). He identifies their doctrine as a denial that Jesus is the Christ. In his second epistle he states that the antichrists are those “who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh”.

In Church history, these false teachers that St. John called “antichrists” came to be known as the Gnostics. As mentioned earlier, they borrowed some ideas from Plato which were incompatible with Christianity. It was in response to the challenge they and a number of different heresies that arose within the Church posed, that the institutional and doctrinal heirs of the Apostles, drew up the classic creeds of the Christian Church. It is in these creeds that we find the Christian Church’s basic statement of the catholic and orthodox Christian faith.

The Catholic or Ecumenical Creeds are three in number. There is the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. The term “creed” is derived from the Latin word credo – “I believe” – which is the first word of the Latin text of the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds. The Creeds were originally linked together because they were believed to be expressions of the faith of the undivided Church, i.e. the Christian Church prior to the schisms that separated it into Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant. Technically speaking, this isn’t true of the Athanasian Creed. The Creed is named after St. Athanasius, the 4th Century Bishop of Alexandria who championed the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity against the Arian heresy, and at one time it was believed that he wrote it. This has in recent centuries been demonstrated to be false. The Creed does predate the Great Schism between the Greek and Latin Chuch in 1054 AD, but it does not precede the Schism that took place when the Oriental Churches rejected the Definition of Chalcedon in the mid 5th Century. It began to be used by the Church in the 6th Century and has never been as widely used in the Eastern Orthodox Churches as it has been in the West.

The Athanasian Creed is sound in doctrine, but is considerably longer than the other two, making it somewhat impractical for liturgical use. It also differs from them in structure. It is not written as a statement of personal belief - it begins with “Quicumque vult” in Latin, which is also the Latin title of the Creed, and translates as “whosoever wishes”. It is not Trinitarian in structure as the other two are, but is rather divided into two parts, the first of which is an extremely precise and detailed statement of the doctrine of the Trinity, worded in such a way as to exclude all possible heretical positions, the second of which consists of all the other doctrines found in the other two Creeds.

For the remainder of this essay I will concentrate on the other two Creeds, because of their parallel structure, similarities, and the fact that they are unquestionably statements of the undivided Church. This should not be taken as a suggestion that the Athanasian Creed is of lesser importance.

The first Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, was at one time believed to have been written by the Apostles themselves. It contains 12 articles, and it was believed that each of the Apostles contributed one of the articles. This explanation of its origin is no longer widely accepted but it does go back, in one form or another, to very early in the Church. Many believe it began in Rome as a statement of personal faith to be learned and recited by new believers prior to baptism. It clearly predates the Nicene Creed because the Nicene Creed is simply an expansion of the Apostles’ Creed to clarify certain points of doctrine.

The composition of the Nicene Creed began during the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, which adopted the Creed in an early form that was subsequently revised by the Council of Constantinople of 381 AD. A recital of Nicene Creed became part of the liturgy of the Eucharist within the first century of its having been completed and it has been part of the Eucharistic liturgy of all branches of the Church, except the extreme Protestant radicals, ever since.

The Apostles’ Creed begins with a basic statement of belief in God. “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth”. The Nicene Creed is identical in wording except that “one” is added before “God” and “and of all things visible and invisible” is added after “Maker of Heaven and Earth”. Why did the formulators of the Nicene Creed believe these additions were necessary?

At the time, the Church was faced with a number of heresies that incorporated a version of dualism. The Persian Mani, for example, borrowed Zoroastrianism’s concept of dualism, and taught that there was an eternal struggle between a good god and an evil god. St. Augustine, before he converted to Christianity, was among his followers the Manichees. Then there was Marcion and other Gnostics who taught that the material world was created by the evil Demiurge and that the spiritual world was created by the good God of the New Testament. In stating that God is one, and that He is the maker of “all things visible and invisible”, i.e. material and spiritual, the Church is declaring that the God of Christianity is the God of the Old Testament. The famous Shema Yisrael of Deuteronomy 6:4 declares the oneness of God. That one God, is the God Jesus Christ called “The Father”. This, Marcion denied, but the Church affirms. He is the creator of all things, and after creating them He pronounced them good. That included the material world. He is “Almighty” which excludes the possibility of an equal, evil god as his eternal rival. His enemy had a beginning, and will have an end (Rev. 20:10) and is already a defeated foe.

Here, as everywhere else in these Creeds, the authority of Holy Scripture, Old and New Testaments, is upheld. It is from Scripture that the doctrines of the Creeds are derived.

The Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds are Trinitarian in structure. The first section is about God the Father, the second is about Jesus Christ, and the third is about the Holy Spirit. The second section is the longest section of both Creeds and is placed in the middle. This is appropriate because Jesus Christ is the heart and core and centre of the Christian faith.

The Apostles’ Creed words it like this:

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

The Nicene Creed follows this same basic structure. The first article “And in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord” is altered slightly. “Our Lord” is changed to “one Lord” and placed before Jesus Christ, making the opening of this section more parallel to the opening of the previous section about God the Father. “His only Son” becomes “the only-begotten Son of God”. If this seems like a slight change it is not. It is more than just an alteration to reflect the wording of verses like John 3:16, although it is that. Its significance can be seen in what follows:

Begotten of the Father before all worlds; God, of God; Light, of Light; Very God, of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; Through whom all things were made:

The Church in this era was beset with a great many heresies pertaining to the person of Christ. Many of these have subsequently resurfaced under different names. In this Creed, the Church took an unequivocal stand for the doctrine of Christ taught by the Apostles. When Jesus is declared to be the “only-begotten Son of God”, as He described Himself in John 3:16, this means that He is the Son of God in a way in which nobody else is.

There are other children or sons of God mentioned in the Bible. The angels are called the “sons of God” in the book of Job. There is a sense in which all people are God’s children. St. Paul made reference to this in his sermon at Mars Hill in Athens, recorded in Acts 17. His quotation from Aratus’ Phaenomena (5) goes “For we are also his offspring” and in the next verse St. Paul approves the sentiment expressed in that line. Israel is referred to as God’s son in several places in the Old Testament. In the New Testament believers in Jesus Christ are said to be children of God, both through the new birth (John 1:12-13) and through adoption (Rom. 8:15). Jesus, however, is the only “begotten” Son of God.

The word “begotten” means “sired” or “fathered”. When the Creed speaks of Jesus as the Only-Begotten Son of God it is not making reference to the Virgin Birth, the means of the Incarnation, which is spoken of later. This is a reference to Christ’s deity and not to His humanity. Thus Jesus is “begotten of the Father, before all worlds”.

It is important to understand that this is not a reference to an event. “Before all worlds” may sound like a time reference for an event, but it is only such in relation to the created world of which time is an aspect. Jesus is begotten of the Father “before all worlds”, that is before all things that were created, including time itself. Jesus’ relationship to the Father as His Only-Begotten Son is a relationship that exists from eternity past.

The word “beget” has a time element when we use it to describe a strictly human event/relationship. A human father, exists prior to his son, and by the act of begetting brings the son into existence. This element is not present in the relationship between God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. The Son is eternal like the Father. He always existed and always will exist, He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, Who was present with the Father in the beginning. God was always His Father and He was always God’s Son. What then does the word “beget” say about the Father’s relationship to the Son? Simply that the Son derives His being from the Father. The Father possesses His eternal being in Himself, the Son and the Holy Ghost derive their eternal being from the Father, in different ways (the Son is begotten, the Spirit proceeds). This does not mean that the Son and the Holy Ghost hold subordinate positions in the Trinity to the Father or that there was ever a time when only the Father existed and not the Son and Holy Ghost. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are co-equal and co-eternal (this is declared plainly in the Athanasian Creed). The begetting of the Son and the proceeding of the Holy Ghost refer to relationships with the Father which had no beginning, always were, and imply no subordination.

If all this seems like hair-splitting it is important to remember that the Church had to define and defend the orthodox doctrine of Christ against heresies like Adoptionism (which declared that Jesus became the Son of God at His Baptism), Ebionism (which rejected Jesus’ pre-existence), and Arianism (which taught that Jesus was pre-existent but as the first created being).

It was St. John in the first verse of his Gospel, written under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, who declared that Jesus was in eternity past, both with God (as distinct from) and as God, and who declared the Son’s role in creation in the second verse of his Gospel. The antichrists, St. John warned, had not the doctrine of Christ. In fighting against the antichrists, the Church had to define the relationship between the Father and the Son, declare the deity of the latter, and explain how they can be distinct yet One God. “I and my Father are one” Jesus Himself declared. Loyal to this truth, the Church in the Creed declared Him to be “of one substance with the Father”.

Jesus Himself regarded the question of His identity to be of absolute importance. He declared to some who didn’t believe in Him that “except ye believe that I am he , ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). At a pivotal turning point in His ministry, recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus asked His disciples Who men said that He was. He then asked them Who they said He was and when St. Peter declared “The Christ, the Son of the Living God”, Jesus blessed him and declared that on that rock, He would build His Church, against which the gates of Hell would never prevail. It was at that point that Jesus began to teach His disciples about what it meant for Him to be the Christ – about His coming death and Resurrection.

The Nicene Creed expands the Apostles’ Creed’s statement about the virgin birth into “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man”. Here we find the purpose of the incarnation – the salvation of mankind. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). It is also a clear statement that the eternal Son of God became a true human being. This excludes the Ebionite rejection of the pre-existence of Christ, the Gnostic distinction between the spiritual Christ and the human Jesus, and the Docetist heresy that denied the humanity of Christ by saying that Jesus only appeared to be human, that He took on the form of a man but not the nature of a man. These were the heresies assailing the Apostolic doctrine of Christ when the Creed was written.

One of the most bizarre statements I ever read came from an anti-Catholic Bible teacher who wrote that “The ancient creeds, however, do not contain the gospel” (6). The Gospel, according to St. Paul in the 15th chapter of his first epistle to the church in Corinth is:

that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

The Nicene Creed states:

And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried,
And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures.

That’s the Gospel right there. Christ “was crucified also for us”. “For us” means “for our sins”. The men who drew up the Nicene Creed, clearly had St. Paul’s declaration of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians in mind when they included this part.

It is here that the one item that appears in the Apostles’ Creed but not the Nicene Creed is missing “He descended into hell”. It recurs again in the Athanasian Creed. The Scriptural basis of this item, which some modern translations of the Apostles’ Creed try to avoid by translating “hell” as “the dead” is St. Peter’s remark about Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison. The “hell” in question is “hades” which basically means “the unseen world”, “the land of the dead” (it does not mean and cannot mean “the grave”). It is not “gehenna” – the place of everlasting punishment for sin. Jesus paid for all the sins of the world on the Cross – and clearly declared them to be paid in full with His next to dying breath. There was no sin remaining to take him to gehenna. It is probably best not to be too dogmatic about what St. Peter meant and what the Creed means with this item, however.

After Christ’s Resurrection He:

ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead: Whose kingdom shall have no end.

This speaks of both the past and present glorification of Christ and His future return. “The quick” is an old way of saying “the living”. Much has been written about the Second Coming of Christ over the years, and in recent centuries some very elaborate eschatological scenarios have been drawn up from the Books of Revelation and Daniel. The 20th Century, especially as it drew to a close, saw much date-setting and speculation about signs of the end. There were endless debates between pre-, post-, and a-millenialists as to whether the thousand years in Revelation 20 referred to a literal future reign of Christ on earth after His second coming, something the Church had to accomplish on earth in order for Christ to return, or was just symbolic of the period between the two comings. The pre-millenialists then further divided over questions about the rapture, tribulation, identity of the Beast, etc. Some people, presumably out of frustration with all this, began to teach that there are no remaining prophecies in Scripture, that everything predicted has already taken place, and that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled by the year AD 70. This is called the preterist position.

The Creeds all clearly speak of a future Second Coming and judgment. This would seem to place full preterism outside of Christian orthodoxy. This does not mean that all of their interpretations of specific passages are wrong. Some of Christ’s predictions in the Synoptic Gospels are clearly best understood as referring to the events of AD 70. It seems absurd, however, to interpret the predictions of His second coming, final judgment of the world, and the final resurrection and establishment of the eternal kingdom as having taken place in the Roman Empire’s destruction of Jerusalem.

The orthodox doctrine of the end times as reflected in the Creeds is the four last things – death, judgment (“for it is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment”), heaven, hell. Anything beyond that must include a degree of speculation.

The third and last section of the Apostles’ Creed goes:

I believe in the Holy Ghost; The holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting. Amen.

The Nicene Creed tells us a bit more about the Holy Ghost. It tells us that He is:

The Lord and giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets.

The most controversial part of the Creed is contained in these words. Specifically “and the Son”, which is one word in Latin – filoque. The equivalent of that word is not contained in the Greek text of the Creed and the Greek speaking Church did not like it when the Western Church included it in the Latin version. This was one of the issues that split the Church in 1054 AD. In our era, people have a hard time understanding why this was such a big issue. The Greek Church felt that it undermined the unity of God. The being of God is contained within the Father and shared with the Son and the Holy Ghost through the eternal begetting of the Son from the Father and the eternal procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father. This, the Greek Church felt, was compromised if the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son as well as the Father.

The Western Church, obviously, did not agree. It had its own thoughts, derived largely from St. Augustine, as to how the unity of God was maintained in Trinity. I hold to the Western position myself, although I know of one Western Christian philosopher who believed that the Orthodox Church was right and even went so far as to say that it was in adding the filoque clause that the Western Church went wrong (7). At any rate, an issue on which the Eastern and Western Church have not agreed in over a millenia should probably not be considered part of the “catholic and orthodox faith”.

The co-equality of the Holy Ghost with the Father and the son is taught in all versions of the Creed, as is His role as the giver of Scripture. Note that it is the Holy Ghost who caused the Virgin Mary to conceive. This is Scriptural and is another reason why the doctrine of the Eternal Sonship of Christ is so important. If Christ’s Sonship were derived from the Virgin Birth, Christ’s relationship with the Father as distinct from the Holy Ghost, would be inexplicable. Since Jesus is also the “Word” of God, as well as the Son of God, it is appropriate that the Holy Ghost Who “spake by the prophets” brought about the Incarnation.

In the Nicene Creed, the remainder of the Holy Ghost section reads:

And I believe One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the Life of the world to come. Amen.

Here we see what are known as the “four marks of the Church” – it is one, holy, catholic, and Apostolic. The unity of the Church, does not necessarily consist of institutional unity. This does not mean that institutional unity is unimportant – notice that no statement of faith produced since the primitive institutional unity of the Church was broken has ever held the universal authority over Christians that the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, drawn up by the undivided Church, have. The essential unity of the Christian Church, however, must lie elsewhere, for it has bound Christians to the faith contained in these Creeds, despite the institutional schisms.

The word “holy” is popularly understood to refer to moral purity and righteousness, but that is not what holiness means in Scripture and that is not what it means here. “Holy” means “set aside for God and His use”. The Christian Church is God’s Church – even thought its members are sinful human beings.

The Nicene Creed leaves out the “Communion of the Saints” from the Apostles’ Creed, perhaps because they thought that was already covered in speaking of the unity of the Church. The “forgiveness of sins” becomes “one baptism for the remission of sins”. Here, the language is St. Peter’s from his sermon on Pentecost recorded in the second chapter of the book of Acts. Baptism was and is an outward sign of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, signifying membership in the New Covenant. St. Paul, in the same epistle in which he gives a clear declaration that we are justified in the eyes of God through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works, speaks of the believer’s union with Christ as having been accomplished through baptism (Romans 6). To a certain mindset this might seem like a contradiction, but it need not be. Baptism is not a work, it is not something we do that earns us God’s forgiveness, justification, and favour. It is an external sign of God’s grace. A person who trusts in Jesus Christ will be forgiven and justified without baptism, but in ordinary circumstances the two go together so that baptism can be spoken of as one’s entry into the Covenant of Grace. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16) (8)

The last items in both Creeds are the hope of the believer – the Resurrection of the Dead, and the Life everlasting.

(1) The quote comes from the seventh chapter of De Praescriptione Haereticorum – “Prescription Against the Heretics”. Tertullian may not have thought much of Greek philosophy but he certainly did not undervalue orthodoxy.

(2) Cretica by Epimenides is also the poem he quotes in chapter one verse twelve of his epistle to Titus. The two quotations are about a line apart in the original poem.

(3) To say nothing of the many places where “hades” is used as an equivalent of the Hebrew “sheol”.

(4) Legalism is the doctrine that salvation, in any of its stages, is accomplished by the Law, in whole or in part. Orthodox Christian doctrine teaches that salvation is entirely by grace. There is an opposite heresy, antinominianism, which denies to the Law its proper role of defining righteousness and exposing sin. Both terms are frequently misused today. There are some who would call anyone who says “this behavior is right, and this behavior is wrong” a legalist, but this is not what legalism is. Others accuse anyone who preaches the absolute freeness of God’s grace and the believer’s infallible assurance of salvation in the promises of God in the Gospel of antinomianism. This is also a misuse of terminology.

(5) This line also appears in Cleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus and St. Paul may have had both poems in mind when he quoted it.

(6) The Bible teacher in question is Dave Hunt. The quotation is from A Woman Rides the Beast: The Roman Catholic Church and the Last Days, (Harvest House Publishers: Eugene, Oregon, 1994) page 234.

(7) I am referring to George P. Grant. Grant was Anglican but had a number of Russian Orthodox inlaws (Nicholas Ignatieff, Canadian ambassador and father of Michael Ignatieff married Grant’s sister).

(8) The authenticity of this verse was called into question by the discovery of Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus by 19th Century textual critics. John William Burgon defended its authenticity superbly in The Last Twelve Verses of the Gospel According to S. Mark Vindicated Against Recent Critical Objectors and Established by John W. Burgon B. D. which was originally published in 1871 by James Parker and Co. out of Oxford and London. It has subsequently been republished by a number of different Christian publishers. At the time he wrote this Burgon was Vicar of the University Church of St. Mary-the-Virgin, a fellow of Oriel College, and Greshem Lecturer in Divinity at Oxford University. 5 years later he would take up the position of Dean of Chichester Cathedral. His arguments have been ignored and in some cases ridiculed – but never adequately rebutted.

No comments:

Post a Comment