A new old way to imagine Church.
How did the early Church lose its way?
Being Hebraic transcends our ability to know what is best for us.
Yes, that’s a bold statement to make. It can be rephrased as Father knows best. It tells me that, until we get into Heaven, we don’t have the mind of God, just a partial understanding sufficient for our needs to live godly lives and have hope for eternal salvation. We need to be able to live in this reality and, though this shouldn’t stop us from a lifetime of searching for understanding, it is the sincere search that pleases God the most, even if the answers often escape us. The thirst for knowledge for its own sake and the certainty that some of us have when we believe that we have got all the answers is a symptom of what has quashed the Hebraic mindset of the early Church. It is a competing mindset and it comes from outside the revealed truth of Holy Scripture. It comes from the mind of man, rather than God and, in fact, it largely concerns itself with the mind of man.
It is something that I have written about extensively and will just summarise here. Here is the complete story of what happened in those 19 centuries, concertina-ed into just a few paragraphs (alternatively you may want to read How the Church Lost the Truth).
The established mainstream Church first hit the rails as soon as the original apostles had died, leaving the legacy of Jesus in the hands of Gentiles educated in the Greek-speaking world and immersed in the philosophic ideas of Ancient Greece, particularly the dualism of Plato, which separated the spiritual from the physical, with the former being preferred to the latter. Heresies, such as Marcionism and Gnosticism, abounded, borne out of corruptions of God’s word through these ideas from Greek philosophy and these were countered through the efforts of early Church fathers such as Justin Martyr and Ireneaus, who, themselves were self-styled Christian philosophers. So the Christian world in those days was fought over by Greeks versus Greeks, with the only real casualty being the gospel itself.
It was in the ancient city of Alexandria when things really started to get worse, thanks firstly to the Church Father, Clement, who was by today’s standard a heretic in all but name, and Origen, who did immeasurable damage in the area of Bible interpretation, popularising the use of allegory in his approach to Holy Scripture and opening up the floodgates for ages to come, allowing “teachers” to coax any meaning they liked out of their reading of the Bible.
Then came the Dark Ages, a period of ignorance, superstition and... darkness. Although the Bible was now available, few could actually read it, apart from the professional class of Christians, the clergy. Some of the blame for these sorry times could be laid at the feet of the foremost Christian teacher of that day, Augustine. He wrote a book, City of God, as a defence of Christianity against the paganism that surrounded it. In the book, he encouraged his readers, (in a Christian take on the dualism of Platonism,) to pay less attention to their lives and, instead, look heavenwards at the “city yet to come”, the City of God, or Heaven. Hence the Dark Ages, when nobody really cared about anything apart from the promises of the after-life, were dictated by the State Church with its system of sacraments, rather than by the authentic route of repentance of sins and trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!
In the 8th Century the works of another Greek philosopher, Aristotle, was discovered by the Muslims and translated by the Jews into the languages of the day. By introducing the concept of rationalism into the religious cultures of the Jews, Muslims and Christians, it is fair to say that the damage done was immense. These ideas were taken up by the most influential Christian philosopher of the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas, who created a religious system combining faith and reason, stating that even the existence of God was not to be taken as a given but through analysis of information that could be gathered by the senses.
The genie had been let out of the bottle and the subsequent rise of rationalism was to eat away at the certainties of faith. State Christianity became more of a philosophic system to be argued over rather than a supernatural expression of God’s plans for mankind. This was not helped by the corruptions of the Catholic Church and its use of pagan practices to control the ordinary people. Something had to give and it was Martin Luther who provided the spark of a Reformation in the Church, a new beginning … more on this next week.
This is an extract from the book, Hebraic Church, available for £10 at http://www.sppublishing.com/hebraic-church-101-p.asp