About the Term “Christian,” & Being “Spiritual, Not Religious.”

 Religion blg

Since my teen years I’ve been fascinated with the question of how much of the Christianity that I grew up with is really American or Western culture, and therefore dispensable. It’s been a fascinating journey. Initially, I thought another way to ask the question was, “What is true, biblical Christianity?” But I eventually realized that the idea of a religion called Christianity had to go on the table as well, since the Christian religion as developed by the Roman church and its Ecumenical Councils departed from the Bible very early in church history (see example.)

For me, the Bible is my ultimate authority and arbiter in these questions. When all is said and done, if God hasn’t spoken to us, then we have no hope at all of escaping subjectivism and relativism. If there is an eternal, objective, invisible spiritual reality, our finite minds and short earthly experiences alone are hopelessly blind to see and understand it. But why the Bible, rather than some other scripture? I contend that biblical revelation and biblical faith are unique in the world. Throughout history our Creator has taken pains to reveal and verify Himself to us, and to invite us to participate in His unfolding counterrevolution of truth and love (see example.) Throughout my years of holding to this view I’ve found great joy and meaning, and I still haven’t found a downside. However, I do see nasty consequences for creating one’s own reality.

I recently had a respectful exchange with Eric Hyde, who authors, “Eric Hyde’s Blog –  Journey Through Orthodox Christianity.” Eric’s blog often seeks to argue for the validity of the ancient, Eastern Orthodox religion, which apparently is enjoying a resurgence among young people today. Beginning with the first Ecumenical Council of Nicea under Constantine, the Roman Church has convened a total of 21 Councils, which are considered by the Catholic Church to be binding, and as authoritative as scripture. Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism split in 1054 AD. Eastern Orthodoxy holds only the first 7 of the Ecumenical Councils to be authoritative. (For example, Eastern Orthodox priests can marry, and the church does not recognize the primacy of the Pope.) A key point for this post, however, is that both Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy consider themselves to be the true inheritors of the original church going all the way back to the apostles of Jesus.

By contrast, I contend that God’s revelation in the Judeo-Christian scriptures alone is sufficient and authoritative, and is the only lineage that is essential. Beyond the Bible, church tradition may be interesting, and sometimes even helpful, but the world would be a better place today if “the Church” had always held the Bible above church tradition. I challenge my skeptical readers to name any evil perpetrated on the world by “the Church,” and I believe the cause can be traced to a departure from the teaching of Jesus and His chosen apostles.

A skeptic might argue that the Bible presents its very own subjective, provincial, chauvinistic sub-culture. This arguably may be true of the Mosaic Covenant in the Tanakh, but this leads to my point. Jesus brought a new possibility. Part of the beauty of the New Covenant of Jesus is that it does not, (or at least it should not,) rely on external enforcement of a written code (Ro 7:1-6,) and is open to everyone. Jesus brought the possibility of an internal change through spiritual rebirth, and a “new life in the Spirit” that transcends human cultures (Gal 5:22; Ro 13:8-10.) In fact Jesus established the beginnings of a new transcendent culture called the kingdom of God.

Below is my discussion with Eric,  which I believe helps to illustrate how this thinking works. For some context, first comes an excerpt from his blog post, “I’m Spiritual, Not Religious.” (The entire post is worth reading.) Then our dialogue follows:

…I have found the phrase, “I am spiritual, not religious,” and its redheaded stepchild, “I follow Jesus, not tradition,” to be manifestations of spiritual pride, not spiritual enlightenment. These phrases are almost always accompanied by a corresponding lifestyle where the rules are made up as you go and all things are ultimately justifiable in the light of “personal revelation.” It is a world of Christianity where there is no human authority, save oneself; where millions of individual “popes” abound, but the Church is nonexistent; it’s essentially a personal religious-potpourri not unlike New Age adherence, with slightly different language.
 
To claim to be spiritual and not religious is like claiming to have taken a swim without getting wet…”
SCOTT: Hey Eric, I like the general thrust of what you say, but I don’t get why you lump “I follow Jesus” in with “religious” and “spiritual”. I don’t refer to myself as a Christian because it has become a meaningless term, whereas “follower of Jesus” is descriptive. We don’t have to wonder what it means. It precludes
“a corresponding lifestyle where the rules are made up as you go and all things are ultimately justifiable in the light of ‘personal revelation.’…a world of Christianity where there is no human authority, save oneself; where millions of individual ‘popes’ abound, but the Church is nonexistent…”
Thanks.

ERIC HYDE: “I’m a follower of Jesus” is descriptive only if one is clear about which Jesus they follow. There are 1000′s of different Jesus’ available today in our spiritual stock exchange.
 

SCOTT: What 1000s of Jesus’? There is scant historical reference to Jesus outside of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, other than a few (later) “lost gospels”, and a few later “revelations” such as Islam & Mormonism, all of which contradict the canonical gospels and apostolic writings. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say there are 1000s of Christianities? Any religion which centers its theology around Jesus can rightly be called a Christian religion. This would include not only Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant religions, but also Mormonism & Jehovah’s Witnesses. Therefore, I say the heart of the matter is neither religion nor spirituality, but the person of Jesus as He is revealed in the Judeo-Christian scriptures. This Jesus never claimed to establish a new religion called Christianity. He claimed to establish the kingdom of God as prophesied by the Hebrew prophets who came before Him. If you can demonstrate from the scriptures that this was not his central message, then I will personally give you a back massage. [Author’s note: Eric started his post saying, “I wish I had a back massage for every time I’ve heard someone say ‘I’m spiritual, not religious.’”]

ERIC: I was raised Mormon. We were taught that Jesus was not a Person of the Divine Trinity but rather a literal offspring of Elohim, the Father God. This Jesus was the spiritual brother of Lucifer, later satan. He is our brother in a literal sense in that we too were literally conceived of by Elohim with his many wives in heaven. And Mormons also claim to believe in the Bible you and I both read.

Is this the Jesus you believe in?

This is only one example of the various Jesus’ on the market today.

SCOTT: Thanks Eric. I can’t imagine how you are keeping up with these replies. [Author’s note – Eric received quite a response from readers.]  Here’s my response in case you have the time:
This is my point – there aren’t that many possibilities; only the few that I mentioned. Of course I refer to the Jesus of the Judeo-Christian scriptures. To say I follow him is, in fact, descriptive. The Bible presents a linear, unfolding, harmonious revelation. The Jesus revealed therein is alive and well and knowable. The Jesus of Islam, Mormonism, & the Jehovah’s Witnesses re-interprets & contradicts the Bible with later “revelation” that is considered authoritative within those groups. But when I say I’m a follower of Jesus, it is assumed I’m referring to the Jesus of the Bible. Therefore this phrase has much more meaning and clarity than to say I’m a Christian.

ERIC: My point is a little more nuanced, and is difficult to explain briefly. But, in short, we all come to the text with our own set of ideas, opinions, social conditioning, etc (“presupposition” is a good single word to use here), that influence the way we understand who Jesus is. If you are familiar with the ancient heresy of Arianism, it was a belief that Jesus was created by the Father God. This caused enormous turmoil in the Church and divided it for many years. Arius made his argument strictly from Scripture, as did his Orthodox opponents. Eventually Orthodoxy won out and declared that Jesus was a Person within the divine Trinity and was “begotten” of God eternally. One understands Trinitarian theology due to the great Ecumenical councils, not because of a casual reading of Scripture. 
Whether or not Christ is a created being, if God is Trinity, if the Holy Spirit is God, etc, etc, are issues that can go either way if one does not have the luxury of holy tradition guiding him. I imagine that you have gravitated towards the orthodox rendering of the faith, but this is not happen-chance, it comes from a long line of reasoning within the Church. It only seems like a “no-duh” to us because we are so use to it.



SCOTT: Thanks for the thoughtful reply Eric. I’m open to being proven wrong here, but until then I will say that I absolutely disagree that:
1) Arius made his argument strictly from Scripture

2
) One understands Trinitarian theology due to the great Ecumenical councils

3
) …issues [that] can go either way if one does not have the luxury of holy tradition guiding him.

1-Arius wasn’t making his argument “strictly from scripture” because nowhere do the scriptures say that Jesus is a created being, and in many places it says He is divine.

2-It is the authority of the Judeo-Christian scriptures that reveals the triune nature of YHWH. The ecumenical councils were only codifying what had already been revealed in the Bible. To say that…

3-…these issues can go either way w/out tradition is false. You’re essentially saying that the councils created Truth if you think these issues could have gone either way. The councils functioned as a Supreme Court interpreting a constitution that was already written. But the constitution existed first, and is preeminent. Likewise, the Bishop’s interpretations are valid only insofar as they agree with God’s written revelation, which has ultimate authority. So Church tradition is of value, but even the early councils contain errors. It is the Word that judges tradition, not tradition that judges the Word.
[End of excerpt.]

I’m continually amazed at the genius of the Bible. Jesus and His message are as relevant today as ever, because we human beings still need to be made new by our Creator. We still need a Savior, despite human advancements in knowledge and technology. Human arrogance, greed, lust, abuse of power, and general human brokenness continue to turn our own advancements against us. If God has provided a perfect plan of salvation, then any human spiritual vision that adds to it or takes away from it – be it Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Islamic, New Age, or Universalist – will necessarily lead us down an imperfect path. This is not to say there can be nothing good on an imperfect path, only that our human innovations do not improve on God’s perfect provision for salvation and ultimate unity (Eph 1:7-10.)

Got religion? No, thanks – got Jesus.

 

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18 comments on “About the Term “Christian,” & Being “Spiritual, Not Religious.”

  1. Kathy Alongi says:

    I get your reasoning .. hope Eric does too! 😉 What I don’t like is this blog page that makes me register if i want to just Like the page ..but then it tells me my email & password are invalid ..! YUK! I’ll just ignore & probably it wont even take this posting, but hey, keep it up!

  2. Kathy Alongi says:

    I do also get Eric’s reasoning ..too many people have their own version of following Jesus ..even the best of us seem to all of a sudden have a ‘revelation’ or a scripture jump out at us where we’ve read it hundreds?..many times, but suddenly it takes on a new life of meaning. Just sayin’ ..

    • Yes, I especially like Eric’s point that rejecting church tradition in favor of a subjective spirituality doesn’t necessarily then make one’s spiritual experience “true.” But for him to then say that “I follow Jesus” is a meaningless phrase surprises me. I think his experience in Mormonism has discolored his thinking.
      And by the way, nothing I said should be taken to mean that one can’t be a follower of Jesus within the traditions of Roman Catholicism or E Orthodoxy. The beautiful thing about the body of Christ is that it transcends denominational, national, ethnic, economic, and other boundaries.

  3. I like the conclusion, love the analysis and I tend to agree with both you and Eric.

    We confess allegiance to Jesus the Christ not Christianity. The former simply presupposes that we become part of the latter and in no way negates the importance of Christianity as a movement of people under a LORD and KING considered by the Biblical authors to be the Jewish Messiah and in turn the invisible God made visible (Paul).

    The Bible ‘rules the church, the church does not rule it’ (Karl Barth, CD 1.1).

    Confession (which can be distinguished from Church Tradition) fosters right belief and right practise because it presupposes right proclamation and denies all forms of self-justification.

    In this sense confession does not buttress religious ideology, or any ideology (such as fascism: see 1930’s Germany, neo-racism, or the pseudo-militarism of some Environmentalists today), nor can it be manipulated to do so because for it to be true Christian confession points to Jesus the Christ as God’s revelation. God revealed to us as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Who throughout the scriptures, and his Spirit reminds us of fulfilment and the anticipation of fulfilment via ‘speech, act and mystery’ (Karl Barth). Confession is grounded in something outside itself. Whereby all ‘ideology’ (doctrine/ human word) comes into the critique of theology. (An example here is the Confessing Church in Germany throughout the 1930’s into WW2).

    My salvation is granted on the terms set by Gods act in Christ’s act-as-His divine and sovereign yes and no to humanity. My yes in reply to His being-for-me is not based on a ‘you ought to’, ‘you have to’ or ‘you should do’, but ‘you can, therefore you may’ (David McGregor). As a result grace and law (read Decalogue) exist as gift, a joy to participate and celebrate in.This echoes the Spirit who dwells in freedom, and as such empowers our freedom also (note costly discipleship not cheap grace).

    This is also invitation: we are invited by God to participate with Him in Confession/free proclamation as being part of a confessing church that is vibrant, creative and alive because Christ’s Spirit moves through it – as God-graciously-chooses to be our God and calls us to be His people. This is far from the stagnating piety on display by some elitists who tend to parallel the Pharisees in their elitism, the ungrateful poor and the rich rulers as opposed to John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, John, Peter, Paul or for that matter Christ himself.

    Pax Vobiscum

    • Beautiful! Rod, I so appreciate you stopping by and taking time sharing your thoughts.

      You state: “We confess allegiance to Jesus the Christ not Christianity. The former simply presupposes that we become part of the latter and in no way negates the importance of Christianity as a movement…”
      This gets at the crux of the matter for me. I technically agree with this, since you carefully said “movement,” not “religion.” Yesterday, my wife and I were discussing if I am splitting hairs over terminology with this post. The reason I think not is that a clear presentation of the gospel is at stake – especially with regard to Jews and Muslims. For instance, the following question illustrates the problem: Is it necessary for a Jewish person to become a Christian in order to receive salvation? I say the answer is definitely no. A Jewish person, like any other person, must be born of the Spirit, as Jesus stated, but when we equate salvation as “becoming a Christian,” we confuse the issue. We communicate that salvation is about converting to another religion, when really it is about being restored to loving relationship with our Creator, and submitting to the Lordship of His Messiah. (Relationship, not religion.)

      So, the Ecumenical Councils are a mixed bag, containing both sound doctrine and error. Accordingly they must be sorted through in light of the Bible. In general, their greatest error, in my opinion, is that they sought an intentional separation of “Christianity” from Judaism, explicitly creating a new religion distinct from Judaism. It is on these grounds that I must disagree with Eric that they seamlessly fit in with God’s inspired revelation.

  4. Eric Hyde says:

    Hello again, Scott. It’s a pleasure to see that you’ve continued the discussion here. I’ve skimmed through the responses and looks like an interesting discussion.

    I welcome the opportunity to further clarify some of the points made on my blog and respond to the notion of Sola Scriptura.

    The biggest problem confronting those who hold to Sola Scriptura is, of course, the fact that the Bible never teaches the doctrine. The idea of Scripture being the sole determining factor for right believing does not make its way into the Christian conscience until the Reformation (1500 years into the story). And even among the Reformers, the sort of Sola Scriptura believed widely today really only represents Zwingli’s notion, not that of Luther or Calvin. The fact that Scripture does not teach Sola Scriptura is quite an ironic indictment, but to make it more sure, Scripture actually teaches believers to hold to the Apostolic Tradition: “Keep the traditions delivered to you” (1Cor 11:2, see also Phil 4:9; 2Thes 3:6; and 2Tim 3:14 for starters). Paul certainly did not teach such a thing, he was of the impression that the Church was the “ground and pillar of truth,” (1Tim 3:15), which was the encapsulation of the Apostolic Tradition.

    The second biggest problem, and this goes back to my main points in our original discussion, is the fact that as soon as Sola Scriptura is introduced into the church the church splits in a myriad directions. Today it continues to divide at mind-warping speed among Protestants. One of the true ironies of Christian history is that the Pentecostal movement, which prides itself on the Holy Spirit, was no sooner introduced at Azusa Street at the turn of the 20th century then it produced literally hundreds of schismatic sects. Today Protestantism has some 10,000 or more splits/sects that disagree with each other as to the proper interpretation of Scripture, and some of them on very serious issues, such as what constitutes salvation. If Scripture was self-revealing on all matters of doctrine, with no capacity of being altered through personal opinion of the individual reader, then why is Protestantism so incredibly divided?

    The third, and perhaps even more significant than the first two depending on what angle you come at it, is the fact that the Church was without the New Testament canon for its first 3 centuries. If Scripture is all there is to Christianity then the early Church should not be considered “Christian.” It wasn’t until the Ecumenical Councils that the canon, as we know it today, was finally decided on. And, it should be said, it was the bishops of the Orthodox Church (at that time simply “the Church”) that gave the final authority as to what constituted canon. In short, to trust Scripture as authoritative is to also trust the tradition from which it came. To deny this one simply needs to ask themselves, “By what authority do I believe the New Testament canon to contain the true, God-breathed Scriptures?” To simply answer, “God,” won’t do. Anyone can make this claim about anything, but it’s hardly an argument. It’s personal opinion and assumption at its prime.

    That’s not to deny that God gave us the canon, but He gave it to us via the Church, as He gave (gives) us all things. For the Orthodox Scripture has always been understood as “Prima Scriptura,” meaning: the first and highest text for doctrinal authority. But, it is never to be removed from its proper soil – the Apostolic Tradition (i.e. Holy Tradition). It is part of the Tradition, not something outside of it or antagonistic to it. It is rightly understood through the ground and pillar of truth – the Church, which is Christ’s body constituted in the Holy Spirit.

    I hope this is more articulate than our first go. I’d like to invite you to read an article from my blog that puts the argument in a much more satirical manner: http://ehyde.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/proposed-ban-on-sola-scriptura%E2%80%99s-top-offenders-a-satire/ and let me know what you think.

    • Welcome, Eric Hyde!
      I’m happy that you felt free to offer a lengthier explanation of your viewpoint, as my post was too brief to do it justice. Before I respond to your points I want to clarify a couple of things. First please note that I have not said that I “hate tradition,” or even that tradition is bad. (Some is. Some isn’t.) Secondly, you’ll note that I have not used the term “Sola Scriptura,” as I’m not sure that saying that the Bible is my ultimate authority and final arbiter is the same as saying “Scripture Alone.” I don’t think my choices need be limited to either Orthodox or Reformation formulations. (Though I think the Protestant Reformation was a big step in the right direction, it didn’t go far enough, imho.) I see no compelling reason why I can’t pursue a pre-Roman Catholic understanding. As to your objections:

      1) The Bible never teaches the doctrine of Sola Scriptura…
      True – no “doctrine of Sola Scriptura.” What we do see is a clear, progressive, logical lineage of divine scriptural authority that looks like this:
      YHWH personally delivers Torah to Moses >>>
      Within the Mosaic Covenant framework, YHWH also speaks thru the prophets (“Thus saith YHWH…”) >>>
      Jesus appears as God incarnate in fulfillment of all that was written in the Torah and the prophets. His obviously authoritative words were written down by His disciples >>>
      12 Apostles were chosen and discipled by Jesus, ending with Paul: “Last of all, as one untimely born, He appeared to me”(1 Cor 15:7-9.)
      We no more need a “doctrine of Sola Scriptura” than the Israelites needed a doctrine of Sola Torah & prophets. New Cov faith is primarily relational, not creedal, though creeds have their (secondary) place.

      2) The Bible teaches us to hold to Apostolic Tradition…
      A – I absolutely agree! So it must be that we differ as a to what is meant by “the tradition of the Apostles.” Paul’s letters already speak in the past tense in all the verses you cite. The significance of this is that the message/traditions were already established at the time he wrote, and this message was already being proclaimed throughout the world (Ro 1:8; Col 1:23; Mat 24:14; 28:18-20.) I contend that the inerrant writings ended with those who were actually personally chosen by Jesus (including Paul.) To allow that succeeding generations of apostles, centuries later, can formulate equally authoritative “new traditions,” opens the possibility of the canonizing of appalling errors in contradiction to the established scriptures. The evidence of this is that such appalling errors have in fact been canonized. (Examples provided upon request.)
      B – Having said this, I must point out that in your first ref (1 Cor 11) Paul qualifies his statement by saying that Christ is the ultimate measure (v 1&3.)
      Your last ref (2 Tim 3) read in context supports my view as well, making scripture the arbiter over human tradition (v 14-17.) Interestingly, in Gal 1:6-9 Paul actually says not to listen to the apostles (or even to an angelic messenger!) should they contradict the original call and gospel of God (v 6.)

      3) …then why is Protestantism incredibly divided?
      A – It’s not! I urge you to consider if this question may be a vestige of your former Mormonism. I only say this because every Mormon I’ve ever spoken with has made the same “point,” and it was also supposedly a critical issue for Joseph Smith. The truth is, there is a united Spiritual body that transcends the “10,000 denominations” among those who love Jesus and submit to His revelation. I could regale you with examples. If you serve Jesus as your Lord, I fully recognize you as a brother or sister in communion. I generally couldn’t care less about non-essentials, or what church you attend, as long as you are in one.
      B – It’s ironic that you would use “splitting off” as an argument against legitimacy, since your sect, the Eastern Orthodox Church, split off from Roman Catholicism. Likewise the RC Church left the reformers no choice but to split off. At any rate…
      C – …I actually see church diversity as a positive. In this fallen world, in this age, I think our best model is respectful pluralism within the body of Christ. This is immeasurably better than an externally imposed monolithic single Church, or, God forbid, another theocracy. The beauty of this diversity is that it’s like a free market where churches compete with their visions of biblical fidelity. Yet true believers still aim for unity in diversity. This has not proved to be as chaotic as you imagine. Sure, there will be wacky churches, and personality cults, but on balance it works quite well. The alternative is a powerful church that forces compliance to its version of orthodoxy. No, thank you. I honestly don’t see the downside to church diversity.

      4) Ecumenical Councils decided the Canon…
      A –You write: “the Church was without the New Testament canon for its first 3 centuries… it was the bishops of the Orthodox Church that gave the final authority as to what constituted canon.”
      I disagree. All NT writings were considered authoritative before the canon was officialized. My understanding is that the bishops simply recognized this, and also used criterion such as certainty of authorship. This was not a mystical or capricious undertaking, and there were no surprises.
      B – I accept the Council’s decision regarding the canon as divinely guided and inspired, and this in no way contradicts my view.

      Your summary – The Church and 1 Tim 3:15 –
      “Ekklesia” (church) wasn’t even a religious term when Jesus employed it. It simply means “people called out for a purpose.” I don’t see how Paul’s statement that “Christ’s ekklesia is the support and pillar of the truth” is less true for me than it is for you. Where is the clear statement from Jesus or the Apostles that future generations in the church are invested with authority to add to the tradition of the original, chosen 12? Lacking such a clear statement, it is terribly presumptuous for any sect to claim the authority to speak for God on the level of scripture. I agree that the NT scriptures are part of the Apostolic tradition of the original 12; but the later Ecumenical Councils are at times unquestioningly “outside of and antagonistic” to those scriptures. They gravely altered the course of the Church, both theologically and practically, and anathematized those who disagree. Where this has occurred, we must allow God’s revelation to be the arbiter.

      If you care to respond to one issue, I consider the church’s relationship to Judaism to be among the most serious of canonized errors. (See my above comment to Rod.)

      • Eric Hyde says:

        Hello Scott,

        I may need to clear up one misconception that you’ve mentioned a few times now concerning my history with Mormonism. I was raised Mormon till about the age of 10 or 11. I left the LDS church on my own and when I was 15 became a “born again” Christian, landing mainly in the Word of Faith movement early on and then just your basic independent Evangelical later. This is the bulk of my experience prior to Orthodoxy. I was 19 years an independent Evangelical and did both my undergrad and masters in theology at a private Evangelical university (ORU). Mormonism clouds my theology about as much as it clouds Richard Dawkins’, i.e., none at all.

        Now that that is clear, I’d be interested to know from what “tradition” or branch of Christianity you hail from. This would help our discussion greatly. When you say that there are only minor areas of disagreement between the various Protestant sects/schisms it leaves me wondering what theological lens you see through. For example, would you be willing to say that Pentecostals and Baptists, Methodist and Presbyterians, etc., share in all the major points and only disagree on some minor ones?

        Further, I’m glad to see that you do not attempt to defend Sola Scriptura, though it still seems that it is an animating doctrine in your overall understanding of the faith. What I hoped to demonstrate with my last post was that anyone left alone to decide their own interpretation of Scripture results in mass division – exhibit #1: Protestantism and now independent, non-denominational’ism. You also agree that the NT teaches adherence to the Apostolic Tradition, but are slow to articulate what such a tradition looks like. As already mentioned, you do not find a problem with 1000’s of different Christian traditions played out in Protestantism, but still admit to a single Apostolic Traditions. Help me to understand where you’re coming from.

        This might be a great way to start: could you give your top 2 or 3 aspects of the Orthodox Church tradition which you believe constitute “grave alterations” of Scripture? and then demonstrate where Protestantism has made it right, or rather, which sect of Protestantism has made it right.

        You also mention that the tradition was in place prior to Paul writing his letters. This is a great observation. For example, 1Cor lays out much evidence of the sacrament of the Eucharist as it was practiced in Antioch prior to his writing, or the Gospel writings for that matter. This is a clear example of the Apostolic Tradition pre-dating the NT and, in fact, informing much of the NT. Which of the Protestant sects/schisms do you believe best represents the Apostolic thought and practice of the Eucharist, since there is stark disagreements between them?

        And, I must correct you on one thing, the Roman Church left her Eastern counterparts, not the other way around. This is quite easy to demonstrate historically if one follows the doctrinal innovations and Creedal changes in the Roman Church prior to the split, and the fact that the archdiocese of Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople, and Alexandria continued in unwavering adherence to the tradition delivered to them from the Apostles and Fathers of the faith. To show the opposite one would have to demonstrate all 4 Eastern archdiocese splitting with Rome separately yet simultaneously.

  5. Eric Hyde says:

    Here’s everything I’d like to point out about the reliance on Scripture alone from an Orthodox point of view. If you get a chance to read it it may help to clarify much of our discussion.

    http://ehyde.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/journey-with-orthodoxy-scripture/

  6. Okay Eric, thanks for clarifying the Mormonism thing. Also, I accept your correction on the East-West split as your knowledge of the Eastern Orthodox Church far surpasses mine. I have corrected the language on my post.

    As for my background, I was raised in the Midwest in a Southern Baptist Church, in a very stable home, for both of which I am extremely grateful. However, as the first line of my post states, I’ve always been interested in separating the wheat from the chaff, in pursuit of the heart of God. In college I found a non-denominational church movement that I have stayed with over the decades. I’ve stayed with them largely because of the excellent teaching and because of their fidelity to scripture, especially regarding church government. In keeping with my viewpoint, a very strong draw was, and continues to be, a refreshing lack of denominational baggage and human tradition. I’m more of a fisherman than a scholar. I have no formal theological training. Besides church teaching and personal study, my views have been shaped by years of dialogue with people who hold views contrary to mine – a very meaningful & educational pastime to me. Therefore, I thank you for and greatly look forward to this conversation with you! (I LOVED your wrestling metaphor.)

    I’m convinced that life in Christ is a communal endeavor. In keeping with my view I meet weekly with some other couples, all of who happen to attend different churches. My wife attends church with me, but she is also a member of a large charismatic church where she does ministry. I also speak and perform at various other church bodies, as I’m invited, with no regard for denomination. I often recommend people to churches other than my own, depending upon what they’re looking for. You’ve probably noticed that I’m averse to labels, but if I’m forced to label myself, I’d probably say I’m closest to being a Messianic Jew. Except that I’m not Jewish, and I don’t attend a Messianic congregation. So much for labels. This is why I prefer the more descriptive “pre-Catholic follower of Jesus,” as previously stated. My only experience with EO is having met a couple of times to discuss theology with a local EO priest with whom I’ve become acquainted. I look forward to hearing your explanation of the downside of all of this interdenominational unity-in-diversity.

    I am a wee bit dismayed at some of your questions, as I am under the impression that I have already initially addressed them in the points above. But here As to your Qs, as brief as I can make them:

    ➢ I don’t believe I said “only minor differences exist between sects.” My meaning was that I extend grace for non-essentials (Ro 14.) Essentials being who God is, who man is, what salvation is. There are churches I certainly wouldn’t join, but I can still be united with individual members. I don’t have to have a relationship with a doctrinal statement.
    ➢ Apostolic Tradition: See #2. I don’t know how to be clearer. The inerrant writings ended with those chosen by Jesus. The authoritative tradition is whatever is stated as such in their writings. Everything after that is non-binding. Some of it blatantly contradicts the Bible and should be taken out and shot.
    ➢ Eucharist: Since I don’t really care for, or have time for, denominational traditions and encumbrances, I can’t give you a denomination that “has it right.” In keeping with my view (let’s just say “Sola Scriptura” – close enough,) I submit to the plain language of Jesus, and Paul in 1 Cor regarding the Passover meal.
    ➢ Interpreting Scripture: I read the article you posted, and I don’t want to open too many threads, but this is critical to where I’m coming from. I strenuously disagree that “scripture can be made to say anything.” Scripture is a unity – an unfolding, progressive, harmonious revelation which can only be rightly understood in context of the whole. Scripture must interpret scripture – Apostolic Tradition must remain secondary. To whatever extent church tradition contradicts scripture, tradition is wrong. If it isn’t a clear contradiction, then it’s not clearly wrong, etc.
    The Hebrew context of the Tanakh is primary. All Ecumenical Councils came long after the gentilization of the Church. By then “Apostolic Tradition” was already far off course. Another way of saying this is that there is an authoritative tradition that is much older than “Apostolic Tradition”; that is the Hebrew tradition, and it is this tradition which has been buried by Orthodoxy. It is not you that supports the root, but the root that supports you (Ro 11.) There are other strong interpretive guides which I will mention as we go.
    ➢ Top 2 or 3 examples of EO/RC Church tradition that blatantly contradict scripture: “Grave alterations” really isn’t strong enough. I believe I said “the canonizing of appalling errors.” Allow me to start with 2 broad categories which encompass many specifics. 1) A blatantly anti-Jewish orientation, including the intentional creation of a new, distinct religion called Christianity defined in part by its dissociation from Judaism. These posts may be helpful. https://artandlifenotes.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/what-easter-has-to-do-with-separating-christians-and-jews/
    https://artandlifenotes.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/painting-simeons-inspired-declaration/
    2) A general blowing-off of the magnificent work of Jesus which made possible a “new life in the Spirit, not under the old written code” (Ro 7:1-6.) Instead, the longed-for work of the Messiah has been displaced by a new written code, a new “priesthood, a new “tradition,” new “doctrines,” new religious “holidays,” and a new religion in general.
    ➢ You then ask me to demonstrate where Protestantism made these errors right. But Protestantism made nothing right. It simply allowed the possibility for much of the world to escape the hold of an (unbiblical) oppressive, powerful, corrupt RC state church. As a “reform” movement, Protestantism was/is still defined by that which it sought to reform.

    In general, I think that what you see as the handing down of the Holy Tradition of the Apostles, I see as the history of the corruption of the “revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages but (should be) now disclosed and through the prophetic writings (be) made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God” (Ro 16:25-27.) I’m pretty sure one us of must be wrong.

    That ought to get us started…

    • Eric Hyde says:

      Hello again Scott. We are indeed opening many can’s of worms with this discussion. Unfortunately many of them will have to remain opened or neither of us will have time enough to eat and sleep (lol). With that said, I’ll hit the points I think are most important, but please feel free to bring them back up if need be.

      1. Apostolic Tradition vs. Scripture: The Orthodox position does not allow for such a dichotomy, as already stated. Scripture and tradition are inseparable. The tradition delivered Scripture and is its interpretive method and defender, hence an Orthodox Christian’s interpretive method for Scripture is the tradition. It is not enough to say that Scripture is the supreme revelation of God’s word – which it is as nearly every Christian agrees – one must posit what his/her interpretive method is. Our minds, reasoning, logic, etc., are fallible, hence our interpretation of Scripture is fallible. To say that Scripture interprets itself is simply untrue. If Scripture did then every Sola Scriptura believer would agree 100% on their interp of Scripture. But as 10,000 splits have proven, this is not the case. If your interpretive method is simply your own opinion then you follow a tradition called “My opinion.” Nobody approaches Scripture without presuppositions, biases, cultural fancy, etc., i.e. opinion.

      2. Eucharist: this is a great example. You say you take the plain and simple words from Scripture to define your understanding of the Eucharist. Then you must believe Christ when He states: “This is my body (the bread)… This is My blood (the wine).” You must also believe with Paul that it is a memorial of Christ – meaning a full embodiment and unifying element with Him (“remembrance” in Scripture is far different in meaning when compared with modern English usage of the word). Thus you must side with Orthodoxy else you practice a false Eucharist as the Docetists and Gnostics did during the early Church, as noted by Paul, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, etc. To have any other interpretation is straying from the “simple and clear” words of Scripture.

      3. Scripture can indeed be made to say almost anything when twisted by evil men, or at least Peter thought so (2Pet 3:16). You note that where tradition is in contradiction to Scripture then it must be disregarded. Absolutely!!! So, who determines when it is in contradiction? This is what the tradition is for. This is why Paul, and all believers, had a liturgy and a creed from the Church prior to ever picking up a pen. Let me illustrate this using Scripture: Acts 15, the Jerusalem council met to decide what to do with Judizers who had crept into the Church teaching that circumcision was a requirement for gentile converts. Did they go to Scripture to decide? Well, we didn’t have a NT. Did they go to Peter or the other apostles since they were authoritative? Kinda. They held a council. This council debated what the gentiles must follow out of the old law. No single apostle had the privilege of deciding such a critical matter. They met in a council and – read the chapter – they came to a decision as the “Spirit” made clear and as they thought “right.” The Orthodox have only the first 7 Councils as authoritative. If you believe the councils introduced error, which errors were they: the Trinity, the nature of Christ, the nature of the Holy Spirit, etc.,? These were all hottly debated issues which Scripture was bendable to preach either side. I’ll save the details of history as they are too many to list. In short, nearly every heresy arose from bishops within the Church who used their own interpretation of Scripture to change the faith.

      4. To the part I was most wanting to hear – your examples of where the Orthodox Tradition was in contradiction to Scripture. I was hoping for specific examples, but you gave 2 general ones. Unfortunately, they may be a bit too general to really analyze. The first – that that tradition is blatantly anti-Jewish (you noted Constantine’s writings in your article link). Your main defense was that the Church created a separate religion distinct from Judaism. I’m not sure what to say to this other than yes, the advent of Christ changed stuff. The Apostles themselves, as already noted, had to stop the Judizers from destroying the faith. They wanted the continuance of the old law along side worship of Christ. The Apostles themselves ruled against this in Acts 15. In addition, your response leaves way too much room open. What do you mean by “Judaism”? You certainly don’t mean the ancient Hebrew religion because that was long gone by the time of Christ. In His day it was a Judaism that was far different from Moses’ time and divided into many sects – Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Herodians, Zealots, etc. Which form of Judaism do you mean exactly? The answer doesn’t really matter because all of these forms died out after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Today’s Orthodox Jewish faith is much different from the 1st century Judaism. The Judaism you speak of simply doesn’t exist, or perhaps I’m reading your wrong. Please feel free to add corrections.

      Your second example almost sounds like a refutation of your first example. You said, “A general blowing-off of the magnificent work of Jesus which made possible a “new life in the Spirit, not under the old written code” (Ro 7:1-6.) Instead, the longed-for work of the Messiah has been displaced by a new written code, a new “priesthood, a new “tradition,” new “doctrines,” new religious “holidays,” and a new religion in general.” You seem to agree that “new life in the spirit” is not to be according to the “old written code,” but then chide Christianity for having a “new written code.” I must ask, which is it?

      Or is it just “codes” in general that you do not favor? If this is so then by what logic do you follow Scripture? Within it is a “code” of following Christ. It is not up to everyone to simply create their own road to Jesus. He’s very specific in what the “road” looks like. Again, when one comes to Christ he/she comes according to some tradition – be it Orthodox, a denomination, or one’s own invention. The trick is not to try and outrun tradition, but rather to find the apostolic one. Scripture alone wont do, because it is part of a specific tradition and requires an interpretive method that is right and holy. My own intelligence is not right and holy. If it was I wouldn’t need Scripture in the first place.

      Okay, all that said, I would love to hear 2 or 3 very specific elements within the Orthodox tradition that you feel is in direct violation to Scripture. Rather than just say that you don’t believe in the priesthood, or the councils, give me a specific function of the priesthood or a specific declaration of a council that you disapprove of. Perhaps you believe icons are a direct violation. Whatever. I’d love to interact with these ideas.

      Thanks for the good discussion. Cheers till next time. 🙂

  7. Eric – I corrected a couple of clumsy phrases that I felt were unclear in post above, so you might recheck my sentences if you found them confusing.
    Also, I forgot to ask you why you put “born again” in quotes in your description of yourself above.
    Spiritual rebirth would be a fundamental issue for me.
    Thanks.

    • Eric Hyde says:

      I put “born again” in quotes because when one says “I’m a born again Christian,” its usually understood that the person is referencing a specific non-denominational, Evangelical association, when in reality it is descriptive of any person who is baptized into Christ. I use quotes to bring attention to the fact that there are cultural nuances associated with the phrase that could potentially skew my meaning. That’s all. 🙂

  8. Eric, my fellow pilgrim,
    Please do not feel under pressure to respond immediately. Should I happen to be under a deadline, it may be several days before I can respond. I very much appreciate whatever time you can invest, whenever you can manage it.

    I think for now I would like to zero in primarily on one issue in the interest of keeping this manageable, and, because everything else hinges on it; the issue of scripture/tradition and its interpretation.

    Yes, I understand that the EO church holds that “Scripture and tradition are inseparable.” I’m asking you, “Who says?” I still need an answer to the question: “Where is the clear statement from Jesus or the Apostles that future generations in the church are invested with authority to add to the tradition of the original, Jewish, canonical authors? Lacking such a clear statement, it is terribly presumptuous for any sect to claim the authority to speak for God on the level of scripture.” You can’t simply say they are one and the same, because I have shown they are not.

    Furthermore, I’m having trouble grasping what you are saying because it seems circular to me. Are you OK with that (ie, is illogic an E Orthodox thing,) or am I misunderstanding you?
    Examples: “The tradition delivered Scripture and is its interpretive method and defender, hence an Orthodox Christian’s interpretive method for Scripture is the tradition” (from #1)…”where tradition is in contradiction to Scripture then it must be disregarded. Absolutely!!! So, who determines when it is in contradiction? This is what the tradition is for…” (from #3)
    ???! Help me out here, bro. If they’re inseparable then they can never be in contradiction. All you’re saying here is that tradition can’t be wrong, and since scripture came from it, whatever tradition says about scripture is correct: tradition is correct because tradition says it is correct.

    But tradition and scripture certainly can be separated. (I’m merely agreeing with Jesus in saying this.) In what I’m about to say, please do not assume the typical evangelical view of “Pharisee” as a four letter word; I’m simply speaking historically: The Pharisees at the time of Jesus held to the authority of 2 Torahs – a written Torah and an oral Torah (which was also eventually written down.) I’m sure we both agree that the written Torah was from YHWH. However, the oral Torah, though well intentioned, was not from God. We know this because Jesus told us: Mt 15:3-6; Mk 7:1-15; Col 2:8.) From what you’ve said, the EO view looks like an almost perfect parallel to the Pharisaic view of the Torah. If you disagree, please explain the difference to me.

    Please answer a related question: In the EO view, what is the difference between Scripture and tradition? (Or, “How do you define scripture?) If the Church has written down doctrine (such as Ecumenical Council teaching) that is considered to be “infallible,” “Irrevocable,” “unadulterated,” “unbroken,” and “unaltered,” how is that not Holy Scripture? This is how pseudo-Christian cults are identified, my friend – by the acceptance of some other (interpretive) authority on a level with the canon of the Bible. Please understand that I am not saying the E Orthodox/R Catholic churches are cults, (since their extra-biblical sacred writings tend to be compatible with the Bible,) but any sect that exalts extra-canonical church writings to that level of authority runs the risk of canonizing error. At best they can be considered revered counselors, or aids, as I do consider them to be.

    If it were not possible to harmonize the whole of the Judeo-Christian scriptures alone, then we would have a problem. But it IS possible. By contrast, church tradition both adds to and takes away from what is written in the canon of scripture.

    You say, “Our minds, reasoning, logic, etc., are fallible, hence our interpretation of Scripture is fallible.”
    Exactly! This is precisely why no human spokesmen, (beyond the ones that Jesus personally chose,) should be invested with authority to speak infallibly for God. It is much better to allow the possibility for God to speak through His Word among fallible men amidst 10.000 denominations, than to allow only one church tradition penned by fallible men. Because that single tradition may contain error. (And it certainly does.) Our reasoning at least stands a chance of arriving at truth if our presuppositions are true; but extra-canonical tradition introduces presuppositions contradictory to scripture.

    You continue: “To say that Scripture interprets itself is simply untrue. If Scripture did then every Sola Scriptura believer would agree 100% on their interp of Scripture. But as 10,000 splits have proven, this is not the case.”

    It is merely one of many principles of hermeneutics, but it is wonderfully true that Scripture interprets Scripture. This is not to say that correct interpretation is always obvious, or certain, or complete, or that the Bible presents itself to us fully interpreted. So it is silly to expect 100% agreement as proof. I haven’t widely read the non-canonical church fathers, but I’ve read enough to know that their statements regarding the Eucharist, for example, are at times contradictory, and open to interpretation. It’s only much later interpretation that nails the doctrine down (in contradiction to the Bible, at times.) Of course we all approach scripture with bias and presuppositions, but with the help of the Holy Spirit we can see through those things.

    You wrote: “Scripture can indeed be made to say almost anything when twisted by evil men, or at least Peter thought so” (2Pet 3:16)…”
    Irrelevant. Why would we listen to the perversions of evil men? I’m advocating that we prayerfully seek God in His revelation with a heart to obey what we see. When considered as a whole, the Bible is quite clear.

    Acts 15 is a great example of God using the Scriptures to overcome the biases, false presuppositions, and traditions of the disciples. You ask, “Did they go to the scripture to decide? Well, we didn’t have a NT.” But they DID go to the scriptures, in combination with submitting to direct signs from God (15:8-9; 12; 13-21.) But it was the OT Scriptures that made the signs comprehensible to them. This was prophetic Scripture fulfilling and redirecting centuries-old, God-given Jewish tradition.
    You ask, “Did they go to Peter or the other apostles since they were authoritative? Kinda. They held a council…”
    Everyone submitted to the authority of these Spirit-led elders from Jerusalem, who submitted to God and His prophetic revelation. Appropriately, this momentous and world-changing decision was recorded by Luke and canonized as Scripture, and much of the Epistles that follow are amplifications of this development in the Church.

    Finally, to tie this all in with your request that I give 2 or 3 examples of how EO tradition contradicts the Bible: apparently I disappointed you with a too general example. So allow me to specifically name the first Council of Nicea’s decision to move the date of Easter off of the Jewish Passover, and its reason for doing so. (Here Tertullian confirms Constantine’s reasons that I linked earlier; see Book 3, ch XVIII, XIX): http://www.tertullian.org/fathers2/NPNF2-01/Npnf2-01-29.htm#P7561_3137029
    This was an enormous step in the attempt to cement the Church into a gentile institution, and as such, was flatly anti-biblical (Ro 11:11-36; Eph 2:11-16) The effects of this and other such decisions persist to this day, to the detriment of the Jewish people. Your objection, “What do I mean by Judaism?” is completely irrelevant. My point is that any person who considers him/herself a Jew sees “Christianity” as a gentile religion with a history of persecuting Jews. But the biblical gospel was “for the Jew first, and also to the gentile.” How far afield the Church is now, largely because of extra-canonical “Apostolic Tradition.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m not aware of any “church fathers” (outside of the men who wrote the NT) who were Jewish. I’m not aware that any of them could even read Hebrew, other than Jerome. This alone reveals a radical departure from the apostolic tradition of the NT.

    So I’m not interested in arguing about the use of EO icons, or even the Eucharist, as I don’t see that anyone is being harmed either way. But I believe the 2 things I mentioned are serious errors with harmful consequences.

    • Eric Hyde says:

      Hello again Scott,

      For the sake of brevity, let me answer your first and perhaps most important question:

      You said: “I still need an answer to the question: “Where is the clear statement from Jesus or the Apostles that future generations in the church are invested with authority to add to the tradition of the original, Jewish, canonical authors? Lacking such a clear statement, it is terribly presumptuous for any sect to claim the authority to speak for God on the level of scripture.” You can’t simply say they are one and the same, because I have shown they are not.”

      Actually, you have not shown they are not the same. This is why I’ve asked for specific details from the tradition which contradict Scripture. Providing your opinion that tradition is anti-Jewish and therefore contradictory to Scripture is not demonstrating a contradiction, it merely demonstrates your presupposition that the Church must be animated by Jewish-centrism. Doctrinally you have not given any support for the tradition being contradictory to Scripture. If one were so inclined he could show that it was Christ and the Apostles who made the most striking accusations against the Jews, far more than Constantine ever dreamed. You misunderstand Romans 11 as well. The Jews were branches on the olive tree that were broken off to allow the gentiles to be grafted in. The root is Christ, the olive tree is Israel – do not confuse Israel with the Jewish nation. Israel are Abraham’s seed, i.e. those who are heirs by faith, according to Paul. The Church is Israel. This is understood throughout the NT, to claim otherwise is simply to read one’s own Jewish-centrist opinion into the text.

      As far as Jesus making it clear that future generations in the church were vested with the authority to “add to the tradition” of the original Jewish canonical authors. First, when did Jesus say anything about “original Jewish canonical authors”? Did He in fact declare that his disciples would compose a canon of Scripture? Or are you just taking it for granted that He commanded this since that’s what indeed happened? I believe we are “lacking such clear statements,” thus your point is, from the start, thrown into a spin.

      But let us pretend that He did command his Jewish disciples to compose works, by whose authority did they become canon? Or did the NT fall out of the sky with the 27 books it now contains in it? Since there were 100’s of texts available during the first few centuries, many gospels as well, who got to decide which were authentic and which weren’t? The very presence of the NT is evidence that there was a tradition at work which was authoritative after the period of the Apostles. As far as “adding to the tradition,” again, please provide examples. Where has Orthodoxy added to, or taken away from, the Apostolic tradition in doctrine? Orthodoxy is the defense of the revealed Apostolic tradition. Each of the 7 Ecumenical Councils are testament to this fact, defending the faith from doctrinal innovations from within its ranks. I’m assuming that you have not provided an example of contradiction because you have not found one, since multiple requests have already been made. I’ll let it go.

      My final push-back questions: (1) You say the Holy Spirit is your interpretive method for Scriptural understanding. Trouble is this is the Orthodox claim as well, yet you do not agree with Orthodoxy, so I must ask whose Holy Spirit is the real one, yours or Orthodoxy? (2) Do you believe Jesus when He claimed that the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church? I can’t see how since you believe that the Church went off the tracks early in the 4th century. (3) You say it is beautiful that there are 1000’s of Christian traditions, would you then disagree with Scripture and the Nicene Creed that there is only one Church, one Spirit, one Christ? This is not possible if you believe these 1000’s of traditions are great, yet wholly opposed to each other in doctrine and practice. If the Holy Spirit enacted the Church on the day of Pentecost only to divide into 1000’s of branches either the Holy Spirit is divided and truth a myth, or there is still one authentic Church and tradition still governed by the Holy Spirit and the rest are counterfeit.

      I’ll probably have to leave it there since we’ve had a series of back-and-forths without much change in the discussion. I’ve enjoyed this. Please feel free to respond. I’ll be back to read it. Cheers my friend!

  9. Eric,
    I took some care in refining my previous response precisely so that we would not simply be repeating the same points. I asked you several incisive questions that I felt would shed light on our discussion, but you answered only one, mostly repeating previous points. Perhaps you assumed I intended these as rhetorical questions, when I was hoping you would actually answer them. Here they are again, excerpted from their paragraphs:

    > “…I’m having trouble grasping what you are saying because it seems circular to me. Are you OK with that (ie, is illogic an E Orthodox thing,) or am I misunderstanding you?” (from paragraph #4)

    > “…From what you’ve said, the EO view looks like an almost perfect parallel to the Pharisaic view of the Torah. If you disagree, please explain the difference to me.” (from paragraph #5)

    > “Please answer a related question: In the EO view, what is the difference between Scripture and tradition? (Or, “How do you define scripture?) If the Church has written down doctrine (such as Ecumenical Council teaching) that is considered to be “infallible,” “Irrevocable,” “unadulterated,” “unbroken,” and “unaltered,” how is that not Holy Scripture?…” (from paragraph #6)

    I don’t understand why you say (several times) that I haven’t provided an example showing where EO Apostolic Tradition contradicts scripture. I’m baffled that you say: “…Where has Orthodoxy added to, or taken away from, the Apostolic tradition in doctrine?…I’m assuming that you have not provided an example of contradiction because you have not found one, since multiple requests have already been made. I’ll let it go.”

    No, please, do not let it go. I did provide a clear example in my last two replies. I don’t know how to be more specific, so I’ll copy my quote and amplify the response. I don’t see any point in piling up new questions until the foundational ones have been addressed. I sincerely do want to hear your best arguments for what I’ve asked you.

    Here’s the quote:
    “…apparently I disappointed you with a too general example. So allow me to specifically name the first Council of Nicea’s decision to move the date of Easter off of the Jewish Passover, and its reason for doing so. (Here Tertullian confirms Constantine’s reasons that I linked earlier; see Book 3, ch XVIII, XIX): http://www.tertullian.org/fathers2/NPNF2-01/Npnf2-01-29.htm#P7561_3137029
    This was an enormous step in the attempt to cement the Church into a gentile institution, and as such, was flatly anti-biblical (Ro 11:11-36; Eph 2:11-16.)”

    Here’s the amplification:
    This Ecumenical Council decision contradicts both the scriptures and the tradition of the original apostles. In the Torah, YHWH instituted the tradition of Passover and 6 other appointed feasts; “holy convocations” (Lev 23:1-38.) These feasts foreshadow(ed) better things to come. Centuries later, key climactic events in the life Jesus occurred on these very feast days: the crucifixion, the burial, the resurrection, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. It was the tradition of Jesus and all of His apostles to observe these feasts, which were given by God Himself (Mt 26:17,18; Mk 14:12-14; Lk 2:41; 1 Cor 5:7; etc.) Jesus was resurrected on an agricultural feast, the Feast of Early First Fruits (1 Cor 15:20-23.) How is it not a direct contradiction of scripture and original apostolic tradition to change the time on which arguably the most important event in history was celebrated? To move it off the feast on which YHWH pre-ordained it and then later fulfilled it? And to move it for the reasons that both Constantine and Tertullian describe? This decision simultaneously adds to and takes away from the scriptures, as I have said. These gentiles, 300 years removed from Jesus, were setting about creating a new gentile religion defined in part by mandatory dissociation from Jewish observance with absolutely no mandate whatsoever from God to do so. This “Easter” decision at the Nicean Council was merely a first step, so I’m starting there. If I’m wrong about any of this, simply show me why.

    You wrote, “Providing your opinion that tradition is anti-Jewish and therefore contradictory to Scripture is not demonstrating a contradiction…”

    Please go to the first Council document. The Easter decision can be found in the Greek text at the very end, after the canons. Please see the links I provided earlier to document the anti-Jewish reasoning of Emperor Constantine (an EO Saint,) and Tertullian. My opinion is grounded in these documents.

    Regarding the canon of the Bible, you write: “First, when did Jesus say anything about “original Jewish canonical authors”? Did He in fact declare that his disciples would compose a canon of Scripture?… I believe we are “lacking such clear statements,” thus your point is, from the start, thrown into a spin.”

    I addressed this in my very first reply to you, in my first numbered point (#1) when I said “What we do see is a clear, progressive, logical lineage of divine scriptural authority that looks like this: …”
    In addition, we do have clear statements: Jesus called Paul His chosen instrument to carry His message to both the Jews and gentiles and to kings (Ac 9:15,) and we have Peter referring to Paul’s writings as scripture (2 Pet 3:16.) That’s 1) a divine mandate, and 2) an affirmation from apostolic traditon.

    Jesus was the Author of creation, who became flesh in order to alter the course of the human race. He hand picked disciples to carry the message of His work. He wrote nothing down that we’re aware of (except perhaps in the dust.) The intimate proximity and standing of the hand-picked writers makes their writings authoritative. The historic, radical changes wrought by Jesus’ new covenant recorded in Acts were initiated by God, and verified by signs from God as well as the earlier writings of the Torah & prophets.

    None of this is true for the bishops of the Ecumenical Councils. Hundreds of gentile bishops with no close proximity to Jesus. No intimate familiarity with Judaism. No signs or authorization from God either personally or from the Tanakh. So yes, we do need such a statement from God authorizing radical changes and contrdictions hundreds of years removed. Again, their statements are authoritative only insofar as they agree with the writings of the original disciples and the Tanakh. The error comes in categorically exalting such late writings to the level of scripture.

    Your reply seems evasive to me because I haven’t yet heard you acknowledge that the writings of the hand-picked disciples were always considered authoritative before the 4th century bishops said they were. The authority of what became the NT canon has always come from God, not men.

    Instead you continue to say things like: “…Or did the NT fall out of the sky with the 27 books it now contains in it? Since there were 100′s of texts available during the first few centuries, many gospels as well, who got to decide which were authentic and which weren’t? The very presence of the NT is evidence that there was a tradition at work which was authoritative after the period of the Apostles.”

    I don’t deny there was a tradition at work, or even that it was authoritative – just not on the level of scripture. I think the bishops got the canon and the creeds right (primarily because they agree with the whole of scripture.) Nothing of lasting value is ever lost in obeying the command to examine everything in light of the scriptures (Mk 12:24; Ac 17:11; 2 Tim 3:16; 1 Jn 4:1,6.)

    As for the “100s of texts,” again, the questions of relational proximity, proximity in time, and coherence and fidelity to the whole of scripture decides what is canonical, as was the case before the 4th c Council. For example, Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary cites “the number of other known gospels being considered for inclusion in the canon” as zero. All other gospels can be shown to be of later origin, after all contemporaries of Jesus were dead. (Plus they’re bizarre.)

    I’ll wait on answering your 3 final push-back questions, as the above issue is more fundamental, and this has become quite lengthy.

    Grace and peace…

  10. paarsurrey says:

    Paarsurrey says:

    Thank you for visiting my blog.

    Quran does not support all contents written in the Bible, in my opinion; it supports only the original words revealed in the original languages it was revealed on prophets like Moses and Jesus etc.

    NT Bible like a tradition is word written by the scribes out of their own memory and is not a literal word of God Allah YHWH;most of it is not spoken or written by even Jesus himself. It was written much later, after Jesus had migrated to India, and he did not authenticate what has been written in NT Bible.

    • The Quran specifically says that God revealed “the Gospel” (3:1-4.) It clearly says, “…let those who follow the Gospel judge according to what God has revealed therein” (5:47.) The Gospels were written by eyewitness who personally knew Jesus and followed Him, and who witnessed the things He said. If there is any part of the NT that should be followed according to the Quran, it is the Gospels, which contain the words of Jesus. The Gospel of Luke opens with these words:

      “…just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:2-4.)

      So Luke’s purpose in writing was to provide an accurate account to provide “certainty.”

      Can you provide a link so that I can read the words of Jesus from India? I will admit that I do not believe the Jesus-in-India story, because there is no OT prophecy in the Torah or prophets about Jesus going to India. The Bible presents a linear and complete account of the work of Jesus, and He signified that the first phase of His work was completed both at the cross and at His ascension. However, there is reason to believe His disciples went to India, in fulfillment of His command to reach the world.

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