Monday, January 25, 2016

Apostasy III : History of the Apostasy of the Church

In the previous article a brief summary of the apostasy of the ancient and early church revealed three main characteristics of error within the Church.  Early church heresies centered around these three: (1) denying some aspect of who Jesus Christ was, whether denying His deity, or denying His humanity – He is the Son of God – the unique one-of-a-kind God-Man; (2) denying some aspect of the grace of God’s salvation; and (3) denying some aspect of the character of the word of God, whether its inerrancy, its content, or how to read holy Scripture. 

It is the supernatural preservation of the Word of God that saw the ancient church through extreme heresies and persecutions. From the first church council in 50 AD to the start of the great councils starting in 325 AD the source of truth was the Bible and literal interpretation ruled the day. However,  with the seducing words of the Greek allegorical technique introduced by Origen (c. 250), by the time of Augustine (c. 400) the church moved away from the plain literal interpretation of the Bible, away from the sufficiency of the Word to more of man’s words and less of God’s words. They even redefined the way one is to read – the laws of reading were changed to include seeking “the deeper more spiritual meaning.” Thus, the foundation of the Church moved from the Bible to mysticism; from statement of fact to tradition.   

The great persecutions of the early church saw so many martyrs dying simply for being Christian and not denying their Savior, impacted the establish Church as it moved from sect to the official state religion under Constantine in the latter half of the 4th century.  The martyrs served to encourage and strengthen those defenders of the faith who sought to keep the church pure. The fathers of the Church were not all orthodox in their theology (they had a lot of crazy doctrine), however, when they came together to decide the controversy of the day, the orthodoxy position mostly sided with the Bible. Notice the list of heresies addressed in the early church:

1. Council of Nicaea (325).  Convened to address the Arius heresy (called the Trinitarian Controversy). It established the orthodox view of Christ as the 2nd person of the Trinity. However, they ruled against the traditional day of celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection on the Jewish Passover.

2. Council of Constantinople (381). Convened to address the Apollinarius heresy (called the Christological Controversy) which taught that Christ had no human mind or soul. The council established the orthodox view of the nature of Christ as the God-Man to be defined as: “Christ is one person in two natures, unmixed, unchanged, undivided, inseparable.” However, Constantinople was granted honorary precedence over all churches save Rome.

3. First Council of Ephesus (431). Convened to address Nestorian controversy and condemned Pelagian. Nestorius supported Pelagian exiles, used the term “theotokos” meaning “God-Bearer,” and believed in two natures of Christ.

4. Council of Chalcedon (451). Convened to  address the Eutychian heresy of monophysitism (one nature) that taught that Christ had one nature. The council reaffirmed the Council of Constantinople’s statement “Christ is one person in two natures, unmixed, unchanged, undivided, inseparable.”

5. Second Council of Constantinople (553). Convened to condemn the “Three Chapters,” Nestrorian writings on the two natures of Christ. Pope Vigilius declared submission to the council.

6. Third council of Constantinople (680-681). Convened to address the heresy of Pope Honorius and monothelitism (one will) that taught that Christ had two natures but only one will (the human will merged with the divine). The council defined two wills, the human will by its union with the divine did not become less human, but was heightened and perfected by the union. The human will must always be conceived as subordinate to the divine, and the two wills always acting in perfect harmony (Louis Berkhof).  

As can be seen by this list, the major doctrinal subject is, “who is Jesus Christ?” By the time of the middle ages (c. 500), the councils were for the most part political, called ecumenical, and even condemned a Pope (what does that say about Papal infallibility?). 

The middle ages saw a rise in the power of the Church of Rome, the Bishop of Rome develops into the Pope, and he evolves into the infallible extension of apostolic succession. The church in the East splits with the West. The Greek, Syrian, and Egyptian Churches were all very strong, but loss of territories of the patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem to Islamic invaders and the Roman Church’s global expansion into Europe with its organizational change resulted in Rome’s dominance. Notice how the Medieval Ecumenical Councils change the power and influence of the organized church,and doctrine takes a backseat.

1. Lateran I (1123).  Convened to confirm concordat of Worms whereupon agreement was made between king Henry V and Pope Calixtus concerning the power struggle between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Emperors. The council forbade marriage of priests, and granted indulgences and forgiveness of sins for crusaders. Anathema was pronounced to any military person who invades Benevento (the Italian capital of the Roman Catholic archbishop).

2. Lateran II (1139). Convened to anathematize followers of antipope Anacletus II, condemned schismatic groups.

3. Lateran III (1179). Convened to condemn Cathari. Required two-thirds vote of cardinals for papal elections.

4. Lateran IV (1215). Established the inquisition. Confirmed the election of Emperor Frederick II. Denounced Magna Carta. Defined the doctrine of transubstantiation. Confirmed the Franciscans. Condemned Cathari and Weldensians, and prepared for the fifth crusade.

5. Lyons I (1245). Deposed Emperor Frederick II. Mourned loss of Jerusalem.

6. Lyons II (1274). Reaffirmed the “filioque” clause.  Prohibited new monastic orders. Attempted to reunite the Eastern and Western churches.

7. Vienne (1311-1312). Suppressed the Knights Templar. Condemned Beguines and Beghards.

8. Pisa (1409). Asserted conciliar authority over papacy. Deposed Gregory XII (Rome) and Benedict XIII (Avignon) and elected Alexander V. Lacked power to enforce its decisions, left church with three rival popes.

9. Constance (1414-1418). Ended the papal schism by deposing all three popes and appointing Martin V. Tried and executed John Huss. Affirmed the authority of councils over the church.

10. Basel (1431-1449). Affirmed authority of council after Pope tried to disband it. Pope used disunity of council to reassert his authority. Reached compromise settlement with Hussites.      

The Church had gone from an independent local elder lead body to an organization lead by a group of bishops where the bishop was over the elders. This change occurred quickly, by the late second century one finds Irenaeus and Tertullian writing about “diocesan” bishops – a bishop overseeing a group of congregations in a geographical area. By the middle of the third century as the allegorical method takes prominence, the terms “priest” and “sacrificing priests” come into the church vocabulary and Cyprian asserts the bishop of Rome as primacy.

The abuses of the Roman Catholic church as it ruled with a heavy hand throughout Europe in the middle ages moved more and more both within and outside the church in protest. The word “catholic,” simply means “universal,” but the Roman Catholics did not speak for the Eastern Church nor do they speak for the true universal Church – all believers whose head is Christ.

The protestant movement and the reformers  within the Roman Catholic church moved to translate the Word of God into the language of the people. The Church is worldwide and God’s word is be in the language of the hearer! Their slogan came to be:  sola scriptura (by Scripture alone), sola fide (by faith alone), sola gratia (by grace alone). Their desire was to return to the plain sense of the Bible without the doctrine of the Pope and the council, return Christ as the head of the Church, and stop the corruption within it.    

But the question might be asked: in the height of Roman Catholic unity and power was not a universal apostasy of the Church present? The universal apostasy of the church is spiritual in nature. It is a rebellion or defection against the Word and things of God, that is, it is a religious apostasy.

The end time’s apostasy will exhibit a universal heretical nature. First Timothy says, The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon [Gr. aphistemi, “to depart, stand away,”] the faith and follow [Gr. prosecho, “bring near, turn attention to”] deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.  2 Such teachings come through hypocritical [Gr. hupokrisis, “the acting of a stage player”] liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.  3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.  4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,  5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.  6 If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed (1 Tim. 4:1-6).   

Paul is instructing the pastor to warn the people of doctrinal error and uses a local problem as an example, namely, forbidding people to marry and abstaining from certain meats. He says such teaching is contrary to God-ordained good. Marriage and eating of all things are both commanded by God and a denial of such is calling good evil, and evil good (Isa. 5:20). Though it is true that the Roman Catholic church has done this, they are but just one example.

Paul experienced and warned about this in his day at the local church level. Rome is just another (though large), church in apostasy. The main point to take away from this warning by Paul is that the last day’s apostate church is characterized by calling what God calls good, evil, and calling what God calls evil, good.

Does this bring new light into the church and homosexual marriage? What does your church say about homosexually? Does the leadership speak out against it or are they silent? Does your church speak out against anything worldly? Paul tells the church to speak out against such things.

To see the full extent of apostate teaching and the church’s responsibility, Paul exhorts pastor Timothy to teach the Word of God, teach doctrine, and specifically teach what God has sanctified (Gr. hagiazo,”to make holy, set apart, purify”) by His word.

The natural man is self-absorbed, but Scripture says the last day’s man will be so self-deceived that the times will be perilous (2 Tim. 3:1-5). The church moves with the culture except in times of persecution and revival. Movements come and go, revival ebbs and flows, but time is linear not cyclical and as the end comes so will extreme self-love and love of the world. The extent will be global in scope, the picture is similar to that of the days of unity against God as man built a tower “whose top is in the heavens” in Babel and they had “one voice” (Genesis 11). The end-time’s church will follow the world vision of utopia on earth, a kind of humanity millennial kingdom. In so doing the church will look like the world, not in the world and separate, but in the world, one with the world. Notice what Paul tells Timothy:

But know this, that in the last days perilous [Gr. chalepos, “fierce, hard to bear”] times will come:  2 For men will be lovers of themselves [Gr. philautos, “loving one’s self”], lovers of money [Gr. philarguros, “loving money, covetous”], boasters [Gr. alazon, “empty pretender, boaster”], proud [Gr. huperephanos, “showing one’s self above others”], blasphemers [Gr. blasphemos, “speaking evil, slanderous”], disobedient [Gr. apeithes, “not compliant, contumacious”] to parents, unthankful [Gr. acharistos, “ungracious”], unholy [Gr. anosios, “wicked, impious”],  3 unloving [Gr. astorgos, “without natural affection, unsociable, inhuman, unloving”], unforgiving [Gr. aspondos, “without a treaty or covenant”], slanderers [Gr. diabolos, “prone to slander, accusing falsely, devil”] without self-control [Gr. akrates, “without self-control, intemperate”], brutal [Gr. anemeros, “not tame, savage, fierce”], despisers of good [Gr. aphilagathos, “opposed to goodness and good men”],  4 traitors [Gr. prodotes, “a betrayer, traitor”], headstrong [Gr. propetes, “to fall forwards, rash, reckless”], haughty [Gr. tuphoo, “to rise a smoke, to wrap in a mist, to blind with pride or conceit”], lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Tim. 3:1-5)          

 There are 19 adjectives or expressions describing the character of the end-time. The time as Dr. Wiersbe says, “It appears that evil is deeper and of greater intensity, and that it is being accepted and promoted by society in a bolder way. It is not that we have small pockets of rebellion here and there. All society seems to be in ferment and rebellion.”     

The next article will focus in on our times and how the modern church has moved to acceptance of unheard of sins, denying the power of Christ in individual lives, and outright rejection of the Word of God.