Archives for posts with tag: Ante Nicene

 

Read history. Christians have been declaring the end of the world since the beginning of the Church. And every generation was sure that their time had all the signs that “this is it!” “Things couldn’t possibly get any worse.” Scholars tell us that the first Christians, even Paul himself, believed they wouldn’t make it out of their century before Christ returned in judgement. The Anabaptists during the time of the Reformation were sure their days were the last, and that infant baptism was the mark of the beast, since the practice was tied up with citizenship. And non-citizens had no rights. They could neither buy nor sell. They were non-entities. If I had lived then I may have been persuaded by such reasoning as it seemed very plausible.

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And now all the faithful will throw 2 Peter 3:3-7 at me. The pseudonymous author of 2 Peter (most scholars agree Peter did not write this epistle) wrote this section because people (perhaps both Christian and non-Christian) had already realized that Christianity had claimed a quick return of Christ that never happened. So they needed a reinterpretation. And that has been the sad history of Christianity ever since. One long reinterpretation.

First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!” They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water,through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless. (NRSV)

This passage also creates fear in the faithful as the author makes it clear that doubting the literal and bodily Second Coming of Christ makes you a wicked reprobate worthy of fire that is coming to burn the world up!

Going back to the idea of Christianity being one long reinterpretation: Why, even today we have people who claim to have re-discovered a so-called Super Gospel where they smash all existing Gospels together. Doesn’t matter if they are Gnostic or proto-Orthodox. We have others who are now attempting to return to “Pristine Christianity”. A return to the Ante Nicene faith. Others are trying to develop their own form of what they see as “Pure” Christianity by obeying and considering Jesus’ Words Only as Scripture. All of these groups are admittedly small, but it goes to show that the re-imagining of Christianity continues unabated. And at the same time these re-imaginings are imagined to somehow be a return to orthodoxy and all competing forms of the religion are denounced in the strongest terms as hellish counterfeits. But is this not just the same old, same old that has been going on for the last 2000 years?

Here are some links to the movement I mention in the article:

The Super-Gospel: http://scriptural-truth.com/

Ante Nicene Restorationism: www.scrollpublishing.com

The man who is almost single-handedly behind the whole modern movement is David Bercot. He wrote a book in the 1980’s called Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up? Where he make a convincing case that all of modern Christianity has strayed very far from Ante Nicene Christianity. Here’s his personal website: www.davidbercot.com/

The movement I got involved in after reading Bercot’s book seems to have vanished. They had quite an interesting website (EarlyChristianFellowship.org) with articles mainly written by William Leary. The articles covered various topics written from an Ante Nicene point of view, defending or explaining it. I parted with them after I found anomilies with their own reinterpretation of Ante Nicene Ecclesiology. I basically discovered that no church on earth today, including theirs was able to satisfy the requirements for being the true Church. At least not according to the standards of men like Tertulliand and Cyprian (who had different standards by the way… Just to confuse things a little more).

Here’s another seemingly defunct Ante Nicene Fellowship: http://www.ante-nicenechurch.org/

And here’s one that seems to still be going. I may have had interaction with these guys years ago. If I remember they are bit more “Catholic” than the group I was with who had a distinctively Protestant feel about them.

So it seems this “mighty move of God” has died before it has really taken off. A blip in the footnotes of Church history.

Jesus’ Words Only: www.jesuswordsonly.com

Paul fought the Judaizers in his day and they are back. And guess what? The modern Judaizers hate Paul too! This group claims that Paul is false prophet! Intriguing to say the least. If you have an inquisitive mind and don’t mind being influenced by a bit of heresy then this will interest you. The founder is busy building Christian fellowships that only accept Jesus’ words and the OT as inspired and who also believe it is necessary to follow the Law. They seem to be doing better than the Ante Nicene fellowships did…

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I have been accused at different times of reading back into history something that is not there. So I have called pre-critical Christianity Fundamentalistic, to which it was said that Fundamentalism can only refer to a movement started in early 20th century America by men like R. A. Torrey and A. C. Dixon and continued on by others such as H. A. Ironside up to people like Jack T. Chick and his ilk today.
 
I have also been accused of ignorance because I refer to the text used by Jews in the first century as the Masoretic.
 
All I can say is that my only crime was not adding the prefix “proto-” to these ideas. I still hold to the undeniable reality that pre-critical Christians were fundamentalist in thought and action and that the Jews in the first century read from a source that closely resembles the Masoretic we have today. While Christians in the first few centuries before Jerome read almost exclusively from the Septuagint.
 
So let me say this instead. Christians, before the advent of modern science were proto-fundamentalists. Jews in the first century read, what scholars call, a proto-Masoretic text.
 
My favourite philosophy is Existentialism. Philosophers have identified various thinkers throughout history as proto-existenialists. Augustine of Hippo would be one example. And this without much controversy. You can find the list near the bottom of this page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_existentialists.
The practice of ascribing to earlier generation a title that is unquestionably of later origin is fine within proper boundaries. Augustine was not an Existentialist. Hell, most existentialists were not Existentialists! But it is still perfectly acceptable to ascribe certain beliefs of his as existential in nature. What later philosophers described rather exactly, earlier thinkers saw in more vague terms.

At the same time I totally agree that it is possible to read something back into history that isn’t there. To illustrate this I will refer you to this article: http://trinities.org/blog/weasel-talk-about-early-christianity-and-the-trinity/
It’s a fine line to walk. We have many Restorationist Christian groups such as Anabaptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Church of Christ, Baptists, Mormons, Plymouth Brethren, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Protestant splinter groups.declaring to be in a long line of dissenters against the Roman Catholic Church. The worst case I have ever seen is Jack Chick’s “Did the Catholic Church Give Us the Bible?” It is full of lies and half-truths and pure fabrications. If you are not easily led I recommend reading it for a laugh. Many of the groups mentioned have thankfully distanced themselves from earlier attempts by Church historians tying to find genuine links with every group possible that had any disagreement with the Catholic Church. So we have the absurd situation where Baptists are trying to claim Gnostics, such as the Paulicians, as their spiritual and doctrinal forefathers.
My point is this: genuine connections in thought or practice are possible to find, without turning these into a type of absolute lineage akin to the idea in Catholic theology of Apostolic Succession. Pretty much the only thing many of these groups have in common is their opposition to the main body of Christians. Even their reasons for disagreement are often radically different.
The same can be said for the Catholic and Orthodox. Physical lineage is not the same thing as actual agreement with the doctrine and practice of the early Church, especially the Ante Nicene Christians. Calling yourself Catholic and showing some supposed unbroken lineage proves very little. The changes (especially in Catholic theology) are so vast as to make something like Newman’s Development of Doctrine absolutely essential in this critical age. yet Newman does exactly what I am accused of. Reading into Church history something that simply isn’t there. So what does he do? He looks for any old scrap of similarity and says it was a “seed” that grew into a great oak tree in his own day… Yeah right Newman, pull the other one please…