How was the early church infiltrated?
How did the ancient Greeks help to destroy the gospel?
(EXCITING NEWS: Have you heard our radio programme on PREMIER RADIO yet? You can hear past episodes here.)
Those who have followed the story of this pagan infiltration through earlier articles can guess what’s coming next! Here is a short review of the damage done to the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.
Plato introduced the idea of dualism into the Church, the idea that the physical universe/nature is bad and the spiritual universe/nature is good. Out of this came a whole menagerie of cults and heresies, some still with us today and even present within the thinking of some mainstream denominations. Plato’s tentacles are far reaching and adaptive, affecting our view of God and Jesus, the way that we worship and particularly the way we interpret Holy Scripture.
Aristotle seemed harmless, even a positive influence. After all, didn’t he just encourage us to think? He did, but he tempted us into thinking dangerous thoughts. The blame was not on him, after all he never claimed to have godly wisdom, but those Christian philosophers and leaders of the medieval Church who claimed divine license, felt free to allow these dangerous thoughts to break through the shackles of godly wisdom. It was now acceptable to use our rational minds to analyse and dissect the Word of God, without any acknowledgement that Holy Scripture is, first and foremost, God’s revealed word to mankind.
Plato, through the teaching of Augustine, introduced such deviations as the clergy/laity divide and Church hierarchies. It also gave licence, through the use of allegory and the ‘spiritualisation’ of the text, for teachers to read their own ideas and prejudices into their interpretation of Holy Scripture, relegating God to the role of rubber-stamper for such aberrations as antisemitism, persecution of ‘other’ Christians, religious war, slavery and prejudice against women.
The influence of Aristotle, largely through the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, led to a Christianity that was man-centred, driven by rationalism, rather than God-centred, underpinned by faith in God. What started out as a synthesis of faith and reason, led to the gradual loosening of God’s certainties on the human heart, affecting doctrines and practices and producing a faith diluted through compromise.
Hopefully you can see where all this is leading. It’s not rocket-science to see that, in terms of our plumb-line statement in a recent article, we have moved on to pastures new, or should I say uncertain terrain, fraught with hidden dangers.
Faith in God underpins our wisdom, which compels us to perform our deeds.
What wisdom, do you think, produced such deeds as the bloody Crusades (did God really expect His people to shed blood in reclaiming a piece of real estate that didn’t belong to them anyway?), the Inquisition, book burnings, burning of martyrs (other Christians who differed in matters of doctrine), the mass slaughter of Jews, Waldenses and any other dissident group, the banning of Bibles for the common people, the promotion of non-Biblical aberrations such as the selling of indulgences, the acquisition of vast riches by the State Church while the people went hungry, endless wars between Catholics and Protestants, with atrocities carried out by both sides etc. etc. This list could be made a lot longer, but I believe the point has been made.
Was this all godly wisdom, the result of sincere prayer and the diligent reading of God’s Word? Were they acting in a peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, impartial and sincere way or were they motivated by envy and selfish ambition, to say nothing of the promptings of the devil?
Of course this is not a sweeping denunciation of the whole Church since the 2nd Century. It is simply a statement that, since Greek ideas were allowed to infiltrate the Church and to create breaches allowing the devil and the World to enter, it’s very hard to see godly wisdom being the only motivation. In fact James has more to say about this:
You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
When the Church has become a national entity, integrated with all aspects of secular as well as religious society (even when its influence is largely benign), rather than a network of “called out ones” hasn’t it become a friend of the World, with the corresponding penalties? Think about it!
So how does this affect us today? Isn’t the Church of today different? Hasn’t it learned from past mistakes? Think again!
The Church today, all 38,000 denominations of it, is simply the upper branches of a great tree that was planted in the 1st Century and, since the 2nd Century has been slowly strangled by alien vines and creepers. Some early branches had grown untouched, but most of these, apart from a few notable exceptions, were destroyed.
We still belong to that original tree, we share the same roots, even if the original roots have largely withered through neglect. And it is those original roots that we are going to turn to now, as we start to tie everything together next week.