If It Could Happen to Jerusalem . . .

Why not to Rome (thoughts after a sermon this past Sunday on Rom 11:27-32)?

Lots of those who — come the nuns (hell) or extraordinary synods (high water) — claim that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Roman Catholic Church never seem to account for what happened to Israel. After all, didn’t God make promise after promise to the Israelites that their chosenness would last forever? Remember what God said to David:

Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” (2 Samuel 7:8-16 ESV)

The apostle Paul spent a lot of time trying to account for the inclusion of Gentiles into the promises to Abraham, Moses, and David and one way he wound up doing so was by taking the promises to OT Israel in a spiritual sense. If you were looking for the persistence of outward Israel with the Temple, palace, and king, then you were in for serious disappointment. But if you thought of the promises as guaranteeing a spiritual kingdom and pilgrim people, then you could have an Israel that descended from Abraham and that included those not related by blood as Abraham’s offspring through faith (Gal 3:28-29).

So why would it be wrong to think about Protestantism’s relationship to Western Christianity in a fashion similar to what Paul wrote in Rom 11?

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.(Romans 11:17-24 ESV)

It is a bit of a stretch, but one could say that Protestants were grafted on to the olive tree of Western Christianity in ways comparable to the inclusion of Gentiles within a faith dominated by Jewish people. And just as the Israelites doubled-down on the formal aspects of their faith, so Roman Catholics insisted (and still do) on papal supremacy and apostolic succession and Vatican Bank Institute for the Works of Religion in ways that compromised a clear articulation of the gospel in the hands of Luther and Bucer. As if God’s people never go wrong, even when the Christian religion wouldn’t exist unless something went wrong in the Old Testament expression of salvation.

So when Paul adds,

As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. (Romans 11:28-32 ESV)

meaning that Christians and Jews were enemies because of the message of the gospel (embraced by the former and reject by the latter), he also suggests a way that Protestants should recognize the debt we owe to Roman Catholicism, the only game in town when it came to Western Christianity for at least a millennium. Protestants should — gulp — love Roman Catholics because they are forefathers in the faith. No Roman Catholicism, no Protestantism.

But with that love comes the recognition that Rome, like Jerusalem, failed.

Advertisements

24 thoughts on “If It Could Happen to Jerusalem . . .

  1. DGH,

    Long story short, the answer is that this is the NC. Better promises and blessings.

    The OC didn’t have the Church (Read: Principled Means), but b/c the NC is so much better, now we have a Church (Read: Principled Means). Jesus gives the promise the gates of Hell won’t prevail against the Church (read: Principled Means) and if the Church (read: Principled Means) falters, then Jesus’s promise is falsified, undermining his claims to Divine authority. Because Jesus is founding the Church on Peter, that means that the Church in which he died is the location of this foundation and therefore Rome’s church cannot fail. It’s the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant.

    Like

  2. dgh: one could say that Protestants were grafted on to the olive tree of Western Christianity in ways comparable to the inclusion of Gentiles within a faith dominated by Jewish people

    mcmark: or one could go outside the camp and stop needing to be “Protestant” in a way which hangs onto one’s “sacramental inheritance”. But Calvin and Luther worried what would happen to tree if they even went so far as to repent of Roman water. Would they then need to repent of other notions of “continuity”—ie, “the covenant” instead of covenants? And the idea of “the church” while living with the reality of “churches”?

    Romans 9: 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenantS, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promiseS. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring

    Like

  3. mcMark, one could but it’s hardly the case that Protestantism was the European equivalent of the Chinese House Church. Nicea was pretty darned important to the Protestants — fileoque and all.

    Like

  4. My very favorite writing by John Calvin are his sermons on Galatians, in which he compares the papists with the Judiazers.

    Galatians 4: 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

    “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
    For the children of the desolate one will be more
    than those of the one who has a husband.”
    28 Now you,brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

    Like

  5. Hi Brandon I was looking for a threat to comment on your response: https://oldlife.org/2014/11/speaking-paradigms/comment-page-2/#comment-227447

    BTW there are no notifications on this board so if you hit an old thread send me an email or drop a note or church discipline or something. It was only chance that I saw it (you posted when I was doing a post to Susan).

    Anyway…

    I think you have a problem in your response. On the one hand you are saying you are agreeing with Lampe. On the other hand you aren’t.

    For example: by 100 CE it’s certainly distinct from the synagogue in regions like Rome.

    For Lampe the synagogue and the church are still structurally connected. He talks about even 40 years back flow from Christianity to Judaism in his discussion of Justin Martyr.

    So let me try this again. Lampe lists the 14 Jewish congregations in Rome during Philo’s time. As you mentioned he specifically ties the factionalization of the Jewish communities to the factionalization of the underlying churches. If by 100 CE the churches are unifying theologically where is the unity coming from? You are glossing here by talking about “original teachings”. This is going to be the crucial point in your debate with Bryan so you can’t gloss. In Lampe the churches have limited contact and they have limited concern for one another. For Lampe orthodoxy is emerging organically. For you are you are arguing the orthodoxy is emerging from some better understandings of original teachings of the Jesus movement. Well where are they getting these original teachings from? What is the mechanism of their injection? And why (if you are agreeing with Lampe) do you see massive theological diversity by 150 CE if the churches are mostly unified around a body of “original teachings” in 100 CE?

    Lampe’s whole discussion of the church around 100 CE is one that involves the distinctions of social class, how to pull the rich for whom Christianity is a hobby closer to the poor who have a deep and rich faith…

    Lampe has a Roman Christianity of 100 CE that is loosely connected politically (and possibly not even that they may not even aware of one another) and loosely connected theologically. Bryan has them tightly organized into a hierarchy under the guidance of a Bishop. Lampe certainly kills that. The problem is you are aiming for: tightly correlated theologically and loosely organized structurally. And that Lampe contradicts he doesn’t defend. You can’t just simply quote Lampe to argue for a position that Lampe disagrees with or Bryan is going to eat your liver.

    Let’s go forward from 100 CE to the very next chapter. In this chapter Lampe speculates that the Valentinian Ptolemaus’ Flora and Justin Martyr’s Flora are quite possibly the same woman, possibly an upper an upper class benefactor of them both. Justin describes a loose theology where people are flowing between different Christian sects. Then he follows with Marcion then Justin then Valentinus. For Valentinus he doesn’t have them breaking off from “the church” until the next generation under Ptolemy and Heracleon. Which means for Lampe Valentinian Gnosticism is an acceptable opinion within the institutional churches where Orthodoxy is being preached at least among the upper class (whom Lampe sees as marginal Christians in like with Hermas). Do you agree or disagree with Lampe on this?

    Lampe is comfortable having theology derive from the particular sociological factors of particular churches at particular times. There is no mention of “original teachings of Jesus”. You can certainly believe that the experiences of the churches are causing them to better understand these original teachings, but that’s Brandon Addison’s theory not Lampe’s. Lampe does not talk about presbyterian governance as driving the Roman church towards orthodoxy.

    Lampe is explicit the upper class is continuing to educate their children in pagan schools and thus they interpret Christian myth in an educated pagan frame. The upper class is moving Christianity towards paganism. The lower class Christianity is being driven by immigration. The semi-educated Romans (the middle class) who are trying to bridge the gap are the ones driving the development of orthodoxy.

    You don’t fully agree with Lampe though you don’t cite the areas of disagreement. That is going to give Bryan of playing your disagreements with Lampe off against Lampe as contradictions. You need to say where you agree and where you disagree and where you don’t know. You cannot casually say you agree with Lampe when you disagree with him so profoundly. Bryan is going to trip you up in this contradiction.

    Finally on Bryan on structure we just disagree on Bryan’s theory. Again and again he has Bishops existing early and them reporting in structurally and theologically to the Bishop of Rome. His view may be entirely unsupported by the evidence but it isn’t unclear. Certainly he allows for some minor developments but he’s pretty clear cut, Paul and James are believe themselves to be fully subject to Peter’s authority that granted to him directly by Jesus. Peter passes that authority to Linus… Bryan’s theory is completely contradicted by the evidence but it is not vague.

    There were a couple points in there where you were asking my opinion about whether you were right rather than whether your position was good for a debate or defendable. I’m not sure that isn’t a huge distraction. My position is that in 100 CE Encratite Christianity is the closest thing that exists to what will become orthodoxy. The Roman Christians mostly have no idea who Paul is, most of the teaching you attribute to Paul are not yet written and for most Roman Christians Paulinist theology doesn’t exist. Something of the contents of 1Cor (though not in its canonical form, might include more material) has circulated. Nobody is remotely close to being a Presbyterian. Catholicism is still a few generations off. Christianity is still tightly tied to Judaism in places like Rome, and is still mostly a movement within Judaism. Jewish Gnosticism is still the dominant form of Christianity and a major surge in membership at the end of the Kitos War (end 117 CE) is still to come. This Jewish-Christian Gnosticism though is very different from the one a generation or two back as the Jesus figure has accreted much of the theology previously associated with other angels; Jewish Christianity is becoming less polytheistic as the Jesus character absorbs more and more of the myths associated with various proto-Christian groups. So for example “the Son of Man”, “High Priest”, “Anointed One”, “Revealer of God”, “the divine Logos” and Highest among the angles or higher than the angels… are becoming unified in the single figure of Jesus. And that’s making him essentially the Christian God. That’s laying the groundwork for docetic Christianity since if he taught he must have in some sense been to earth. Encratite Christianity which is considerably closer to your theology in some respects (though still a long way off, and further away in others) probably exists in some primitive form in Rome. It will come to dominate in 2 generations as Christianity passes into the hands of the children and grandchildren of the Gnostics converts from the Kitos war.

    As for my definition of sect. A sect is a religious group with its own leadership acting in rebellion to the leadership of a religion. It mostly is is relationship to the dominant religion. It isn’t a denomination yet, because it isn’t big enough because it isn’t big enough to be coequal. It isn’t a cult because it is too big and often too old i.e. often 2nd generation or later.

    Like

  6. Always have to remind myself that gates are for defending, not attacking.

    Unless they hacked up the wood of the gates to make shields, kind of like the forest attacking Macbeth.

    Like

  7. CD,

    I think there is some miscommunication. You think I’m saying things I”m not intending and I do think there are some factual problems regarding Lampe’s position. Perhaps we’re not talking about the same things though, and if that’s the case, lets try to get on the same page.

    The title of Lampe’s second chapter is “The ‘Edict of Claudius’ and Separation from the Synagogue.” This chapter argues for a division between Christians and Jews in Rome by the time of the edict, which he dates to somewhere between 40-60. Lampe’s argument is that by this time Christians and Jews are so distinct as to be labeled as such by the secular Romans.

    Regarding my opinion of earliest Christianity, I think you’re assuming I think there was more uniformity than there was. I’ve been reading through N.T. Wright and Larry Hurtado recently on both men emphasize that more or less earliest proto-orthodox groups agreed on the following: monotheism, worship of Jesus, theological appropriation of the OT as pointing to the coming of Christ, and identification of the God of Israel as the God of Christians. I’ll try to pull up a quote from Hurtado that more precisely lays this out, but this the theological continuity that varying groups shared.

    There were other groups other than the “proto-orthodox” that existed, for sure. Even the early Pauline writings indicate diversity of Christian belief, so we can agree on this. It’s not like things were fine in 100 and then 150 introduces an explosion of diversity. It existed from the beginning. I think even Bryan is willing to admit this conceptually.

    The way you are reading me, though, you say,

    The problem is you are aiming for: tightly correlated theologically and loosely organized structurally.

    This is not what I’m arguing or assuming. I believe that there *was* a movement that was a legitimate extension of the ministry of Jesus, but there were many strands within that movement. Historically, some of those groups evolved from the orthodox. For example, I can’t remember where I was reading yesterday, but there are those who believe that docetism derives from Johannine Christology. That makes sense to me. Theologically, I don’t think that is what John taught, but his high Christology makes such a development plausible.

    I’ll go even further though, there were those who were leaders in the early Church who disagreed about the Jesus tradition–even Apostles. There were some from James (whether or not they were sent from James can be debated another time) who at the very least were distorting the Gospel. So based on the NT’s own testimony we should expect to see multiple movements claiming the authority of Jesus.

    My point being, I agree with Lampe about the diversity of beliefs and the “looseness” of ecclesial structure. You believe that I’m not following Lampe consistently, but I just don’t see that. I don’t disagree with nearly any of Lampe’s conclusions about the social situation of Roman Christianity. And I should note, neither do a host of other Patristic scholars (like Eamon Duffy, Raymond Brown, etc) who share some common ground between Bryan and myself that we do not share with you. This is why my tact in pointing this out is that there are numerous scholars to the right and to the left of Lampe who accept his conclusions about early Christianity that still retain their orthodoxy.

    So to be clear: Nowhere at any point am I arguing for Presbyterianism as it exists today in the earliest church. My impression is that you think I’m trying to argue that modern Presbyterianism is equivalent to the earliest church. Such an argument is futile and I’m not advocating it. I took pains to note that in my article over at CtC. Moreover, there was vast theological diversity, some of it originating very close to the followers of Jesus and there were numerous strands of belief. Some of them existed antagonistically, but many others continued to exist in “fellowship” with one another until leadership structures became solidified and disagreement was not tolerated.

    Like

  8. monotheism, worship of Jesus, theological appropriation of the OT as pointing to the coming of Christ, and identification of the God of Israel as the God of Christians

    There are Gnostics who easily meet that definition. Valentinus to pick one you are familiar with. Certainly not all the sects do as the creator / high God division is common in Christianities but that’s a pretty loose orthodoxy. For example none of that includes an incarnation. None of that excludes dual fulfillment of salvation (i.e. what Jesus accomplished in heaven the apostles through their crucifixion made earthly). Etc… I’m not sure how this is orthodox while other groups like Marcionism are not and how would one distinguish but I’ll let you elaborate on that.

    It existed from the beginning. I think even Bryan is willing to admit this conceptually… I’ll go even further though, there were those who were leaders in the early Church who disagreed about the Jesus tradition–even Apostles. There

    No he’s not. Bryan is pretty explicit, “the biblical conception of the Church as a living and hierarchically unified Body”… ” Christ founded a visible hierarchically organized Body”. If it is not earthly unified it is not the church in his theory. He really is arguing that the apostles had a full on hierarchy and a unified doctrine. His whole method for finding the church. “Start with Jesus and go forward decade by decade”. That becomes impossible if almost immediately the church splits into divergent factions.

    That being said you must made your job much easier. The good thing is you are now disagreeing with him regarding the very first generation. That’s a much more narrow and much easier to argue disagreement than the subtle disagreement about what the hierarchical relationship of various presbyters to one another 100 yeas later while trying to defend orthodoxy. It unravels the contradictions. When Bryan assumes uniformity you go directly for it. His argument can’t get off the ground if you have the apostles disagreeing.

    For example if the apostles disagree they can’t possible all agree that Peter is the final authority on doctrine. If the apostles disagree than apostolic succession does not solve doctrinal problems. Etc… No more jabs these are knockout punches. I wish I wasn’t 8 posts in when you said them.

    You believe that I’m not following Lampe consistently, but I just don’t see that.

    I’ll retract that. I had assumed you weren’t following Lampe because you weren’t bring up the doctrinal uniformity. Which is why I was doing this exercise. Now that I know you don’t believe there was one all the way back to the apostles…

    And I should note, neither do a host of other Patristic scholars (like Eamon Duffy, Raymond Brown, etc) who share some common ground between Bryan and myself that we do not share with you.

    Agreed. The only place you are going to find my views are history of religions atheist scholars. I start with the position that nothing particularly important happened in the Palestine of the 30s that changed the trajectory of Christianity substantially. Obviously you can’t have that view and be Christian.

    This is why my tact in pointing this out is that there are numerous scholars to the right and to the left of Lampe who accept his conclusions about early Christianity that still retain their orthodoxy.

    I suspect that Bryan is going to ask you what orthodoxy means if it doesn’t mean the uniform opinion of the apostles. So since this is likely to come up, what does orthodoxy mean for you?

    Some of them existed antagonistically, but many others continued to exist in “fellowship” with one another until leadership structures became solidified and disagreement was not tolerated.

    Understood. You aren’t disagreeing with my position. Now I just need to convince you how far that position is from Bryan’s position.

    Like

  9. CD-Host

    ” I start with the position that nothing particularly important happened in the Palestine of the 30s that changed the trajectory of Christianity substantially. Obviously you can’t have that view and be Christian. ”

    Precisely. So there is no way to convince you that though we don’t have the autographs of any of the gospels they were not written in Greek.

    ” I suspect that Bryan is going to ask you what orthodoxy means if it doesn’t mean the uniform opinion of the apostles. So since this is likely to come up, what does orthodoxy mean for you? ”

    Good eye, CD. You’ve put it nicely, and I am looking forward to hearing Brandon’s response.

    Like

  10. CDH: [according to Bryan Cross] Christ founded a visible hierarchically organized Body”. If it is not earthly unified it is not the church in his theory. He really is arguing that the apostles had a full on hierarchy and a unified doctrine.

    You might be reading him right, but I think it’s entirely possible that he conceives of visible hierarchically organized body to be defined solely in terms of leadership structure. i.e.: The Church had a full-on hierarchy from the beginning, while the doctrine gelled into unity later on.

    Like

  11. D. G. Hart
    Posted December 18, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink
    mcMark, one could but it’s hardly the case that Protestantism was the European equivalent of the Chinese House Church.

    Oh? Would the Reformers have got very far without the backing of their states? Luther’s German princes, Calvin’s Geneva, Henry’s England? Knox’s Scotland?

    Dude.

    Like

  12. he also suggests a way that Protestants should recognize the debt we owe to Roman Catholicism, the only game in town when it came to Western Christianity for at least a millennium.

    After the early church that is. Rome owns the middle ages. OK.
    But prots like the reformed, Calvin et al returned to the early church and repudiated Rome’s deformed church of the middle ages.
    FTM the papacy didn’t hit full stride until the 1200’s.
    Kaufman wants to argues that the tipping point/beginning of Romanism was 358 AD.
    http://www.whitehorseblog.com/2014/06/29/the-rise-of-roman-catholicism/
    OK, maybe yes, maybe no, but for sure it didn’t start with Peter in Acts 2.

    Like

  13. @Susan

    To sound a bit like Bryan. Nothing in my response to you regarding how ridiculous the theory of Hebrew Matthew presupposes anything about the history of Palestine in the 1930s. Nothing. Which is why the overwhelming number of Catholics and Protestants from traditionalist to liberal would say the same thing. If you remember I pointed you to a liberal Christian not a non-Christian to get the best first pass on the argument.

    I also never said anything about lack of autographs in Hebrew. The closest thing I ever said to that was that Protestant traditionalists believe that the Greek we have is very close to the original autographs. As far as my opinion goes Matthew is so obviously a Hellenistic book for the reasons I mentioned and dozens more that even if we had the autographs in Hebrew that wouldn’t change my opinion. The same way that having a French copy of a book written about a 1980s childhood that assumes the reader is familiar with American football, Roller Rinks, and the show Battle of the Network Stars and uses expressions like “acid test”, “bad hair day”, and “close but no cigar” was written in English.

    So again. You are sticking your fingers in your ears and screaming la-la-la-la-la.

    Like

  14. @Jeff

    No I don’t think it is possible for there to be apostolic disagreement about Jesus taught in his system. If you have disagreement the faith in such a situation cannot simultaneously be apostolic and unified on doctrine. It can be “true” (whatever that means, he’s vague on that point which is odd for a guy so focused on epistemology) or it can be the faith of at all the apostles but not both.

    Bryan sometimes posts here but my take is that he believes the Catholic faith is an apostolic faith. There exists a definitive “deposit of faith” which was taught to the apostles. His concept of development is the idea that synods and councils can teach doctrines which the earthly apostles never themselves spoke while still being apostolic. But development is distinguished from innovation in that development does not allow for any contradictions with the deposit of faith (that is apostolic teachings). Otherwise Restoration becomes a valid viewpoint, one can legitimately reject developments while being faithful to the apostles and thus they are not binding on the conscience. He defines the idea that any doctrine can develop which contradicts the deposit as a belief in “partial apostasy” which he classifies explicitly as a Restorationist view (i.e. a view he rejects).

    Moreover, his whole argument for a visible hierarchy assumes you can get through generation 2 unified. As new issues arise that the apostles did not anticipate the apostolic faith needs to be applied. Humans will naturally disagree on how best to apply the apostolic faith and that’s why a visible hierarchy is needed whom believers agree to follow. That hierarchy is not arbitrary because the Holy Spirit will guide the hierarchy into successfully resolving new issues. That’s his case for a hierarchy. But if you don’t get to generation 2 you don’t have a unified foundation on which to build. That’s why I was saying to Brandon that the belief that the apostles disagreed doesn’t let Bryan’s theory (and by Bryan’s theory I’m not implying he’s inventing this) get off the ground.

    Like

  15. Tom: Oh? Would the Reformers have got very far without the backing of their states? Luther’s German princes, Calvin’s Geneva, Henry’s England? Knox’s Scotland?

    If you’ve honestly spent 5 minutes reading DGH’s history of this faith you would realize he sometimes goes overboard in stating that the backing of governments is crucial to the Reformed faith…….

    Like

  16. @Brandon —

    I assume you are gone for XMas. I’m traveling for the next 2 weeks so unlike to post more after tomorrow. If you do decide to ever continue from here and the paradigms thread let me know.

    And to everyone else. Merry Christmas, happy new year. See ‘ya all sometime in January.

    Like

  17. Hey CD,

    I’m actually gone for Christmas after today, but I’ve worked something up that I was just about ready to post.

    Again, I think there may be some ambiguity in terms of what I’m affirming so I’ll attempt to explain.

    I think part of this is directly related to what we can know regarding the history of earliest Christianity. You and I come with distinct perspectives on the reliability and dating of the NT. I find Paul’s claim in Galatians that Peter, James, and Paul all taught the same Gospel to be reliable. Not everyone believes that.

    Peter and Paul had a disagreement about the relationship between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Some from James disagreed vehemently with Paul about his application of the Mosaic Law. There were different opinions on how Jews and Gentiles ought to interact with one another so the Council of Jerusalem met. Johannine groups may have had docetic tendencies. My point here is that seeing historical variety in earliest Christianity is really not all that surprising. Any notion that the Christian church began in a Utopian homogeneity doesn’t seriously consider the NT. At the same time, I believe there are historical and theological reasons to affirm the teaching of the Apostles as they are contained in what Christians accept as the canonical Scriptures.

    There is striking theological agreement on a number of important points in the NT (which I believe comes from the 1st century). All of the proto-orthodox distinctives are found in the NT. Monotheism, Christ is the fulfillment of the OT, the OT God is revealed in Jesus, resurrection of the body, incarnation (something I should have included). We even have Paul in the 50’s affirming Jesus’s preexistence, which is a rather striking fact (Col 1:15-20 & Phil 2:5-11).

    You noted that Marcion and Valentinus share these distinctives, but I don’t think that is accurate. Marcion’s dualism is particularly opposed to the affirmation of proto-orthodoxy that the OT and NT God are one and the same. Valentinus is a more worthy candidate than Marcion, but even Valentinus’s cosmogony places the OT God (the Demiurge) as the offspring of Sophia, who was the offspring of the Pleroma. One may attempt to argue that Valentinus is monotheistic in some sense, but it is certainly far different than the monotheism of Judaism and the NT writers.

    Moreover, as I noted, Paul claims affinity with the Twelve (Galatians 1:18-19). Peter (or someone from a Petrine group) states that Paul writes Scripture (2 Peter 3:16). Paul is also intimately familiar with Palestinian Christianity and even works in fundraising for Jerusalem (Romans 15:14-32; 1 Cor 16:1-4; 2 Cor 8:1-9). The canonical Gospels provide distinctive perspectives on Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, but I believe they are remarkably consistent in what they affirm. It is all of the standard proto-orthodox beliefs. In other words, I believe the canonical texts reliably report historical information about earliest Christianity and represent a school of teaching that originates with the Apostles.

    Like

  18. @Brandon —

    OK we are both gone soon. But let me do a quick response:

    1) I find Paul’s claim in Galatians that Peter, James, and Paul all taught the same Gospel.

    When you say “the same Gospel” do you mean they agreed on a few basic points or they had deep and rich agreement? Take something like the WCF. Would they
    a) Would all of them agree that’s what they taught
    b) Would all of them agree that was an extension of what they taught
    c) Would all of them agree that it agreed with them on the important fundamental points even though they disagree on less important issues
    d) Would they disagreements on core points?

    You for example created another mini creed with:
    Monotheism, Christ is the fulfillment of the OT, the OT God is revealed in Jesus, resurrection of the body, incarnation (something I should have included)

    Now I happen to think you are wrong that any of them believed in the incarnation and I think “their writings” (which I don’t think any of them actually wrote though they may contain some passages going back to original apostles by those names) are rather explicitly anti-incarntionalist. But for the point of debating Bryan that’s not going to go there. So you don’t have to worry about that. What you do have to worry about are:

    i) Did all the apostles agree?
    ii) Did the next generation of their followers agree?
    iii) Can you show this using a historical critical methodology?
    iv) Does the methodology you are using in (iii) contradict your belief in other areas?

    If either (i) or (ii) is false you have a bit of a problem having your belief be anything authentic to the apostles? If you vote “yes” on (i) and (ii) you solve your epistemology problem, but have the problem you are going to disagree with the critical scholarship on this point. If you vote “no” on (i) and (ii) then you have the problem of how do you know what Peter, James and Paul preached?

    The Pauline corpus is a total mess. But even in the case of Peter you have problems knowing what he preached. In early 3rd century Christianity the Petrine corpus (1Peter, 2 Peter, 3Peter, 4Peter, Gospel of Peter, Preaching of Peter, Apocalypse of Peter) becomes widely available. These were all in circulation in the Syrian churches most closely associated with Peter. These were docetic and thus not orthodox using your mini creed ahd even the Catholics historians agree that Catholicism migrated to Syria to become the dominant form of Christianity after at least some sort of break. So just using historical means which are authentic to Peter? The church later determined as a matter of faith that only 1Peter and 2Peter were but that faith came from believing the church which by the 3rd century was already quite corrupt in your book on issues like physical presence.. If the Syrian churches most closely associated with Peter didn’t believe he taught bodily incarnation, but rather dual fulfillment for example why should you believe he taught bodily incarnation?

    And remember whatever methodology you pick has to limit itself to just those areas of agreement in your mini creed even when there is better evidence on things like physical presence.

    Where CtC has been accusing Reformed of a contradiction is using the historical critical methodology inconsistently. When you disagree with something you apply scholarship. When you agree with something you assert it as a matter of belief regardless of the historical methodology. That is you have a very inconsistent epistemology. And because your epistemology is inconsistent another Christian can come along and using the evidence make a more principled historical critical view. For example a Christian could attack incarnation and argue that if you want Peter and Paul to be central then dual fulfillment (i.e. the apostle’s via their earthly sacrifice made manifest Jesus’ heavenly sacrifice). Or to pick a more common example why couldn’t another Christian add credobaptism to the list of agreements?

    On “fulfillment of the OT” by which I assume you mean the inapplicability of Mosaic law the bible itself indicates this was a point of disagreement including among those 3 though in Luke/Acts the disagreement is resolved. But of course we know from both the bible itself and scholarship that this issue was not resolved. Most scholars would come down on the side that Peter and Paul never agreed on this issue.

    In other words he’s going to argue, that the scholarship doesn’t really support your mini-creed. You want things out for which there is better evidence (credobaptism, physical presence) and want thing in for which there is worse evidence (incarnation, fulfillment of the OT — assuming by fulfillment you mean the broad inapplicability of Mosaic law). Because he is correct in that assessment you are going to lose the next round with him.

    ______

    OK now I’ll make some simple factual points separate from my comments about the debate. You seem to be both trying to engage me and trying to discuss the debate. These are points that Bryan is less likely to bring up.

    We even have Paul in the 50’s affirming Jesus’s preexistence, which is a rather striking fact (Col 1:15-20 & Phil 2:5-11).

    The Pauline corpus along with virtually all of early Christians speaks of Jesus as a pre-existent heavenly being about whom knowledge is being revealed in our time. What the Pauline corpus is problematic on is not Jesus’ divinity but his humanity and the stories from the gospels. There are a few vague references an incarnation and over 200 places where Paul uses language or omits details you would expect if he were familiar with the life of a recent incarnate founder.

    Marcion’s dualism is particularly opposed to the affirmation of proto-orthodoxy that the OT and NT God are one and the same.

    That’s correct. For Marcion the creator God is a degenerate false God but not the true high God. He is the head of the archons (sky demons which inhabit the lower layers) thus the king of this world. Something like what your theology would consider a fallen angel. This is same attitude you see in Justin Martyr that early Christians had towards pagan deities that they were false deities imitations of the high God. I’m not sure I’d consider that non-monotheistic at least by a scale that allows for the diversity of supernatural beings in the NT.

    Valentinus is a more worthy candidate than Marcion, but even Valentinus’s cosmogony places the OT God (the Demiurge) as the offspring of Sophia, who was the offspring of the Pleroma

    Not quite. For Valentinus the Pleroma is the totality of the divinity the circle of the Divine attributes which is the the divinity manifests itself in realms that are at least conceptually comprehensible to us. The very highest levels are various called things like The beginning. Creation happens in a continuous process of falling and degeneration each creative spirit giving birth to a level beneath itself. So Bythos (the depth) and his syzygy Ennoia (silence) break apart to “sexually” make manifest the less beings of Mind/Truth which break apart into Mind (male) and Truth(female) to create Word/Life…. Aspects of God, including the Old Testament God are identified with various levels. But none of them is “God”. God is incomprehensible.

    Sophia (Wisdom) being the last created of the Aions is thus the most degenerate and thus the one closest to humanity, the one we can relate to best. Which is why she plays such a central role in books like Proverbs, Psalms, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Book of Wisdom, Wisdom of Sirach and Baruch.

    This BTW is similar to what you see in Judaism even today: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sephirot

    but it is certainly far different than the monotheism of Judaism and the NT writers.

    The more sophisticated and the educated Jews went in for this sort of Hellenistic philosophical speculation while the less educated were henotheists or outright polytheists. There is an entire corpus of Jewish writings with no particularly Christian content that tries to reconcile Hellenism with Judaism and recast Judaism in Platonic terms. That was the fashion. One of the main reasons that many scholars for two hundred years believe that Christian Gnosticism came before “orthodoxy” is that Christian Gnosticism is essentially Jewish Gnosticism with the only big distinguishing point early on being the degree of theological importance being tied to the Jesus character. Just making that natural assumption yields a timeline without breaks that starts at around 150s BCE and continues developing till today.

    What Valentinus represents is precisely what we would expect to see, a transitional life form. Someone whose concepts are based in 1st century Jewish-Christian Gnosticism but who is also incorporating ideas that come out of the late 1st century Christian community that aren’t part of Judaism at all. But in the area of the Godhead while the specifics are pretty unique to him the general theme is actually rather typical Hellenistic Judaism. So I’d say that Valentinus is likely far closer to the monotheist of the Hellenistic Judaism of the 1st century and the NT writers than your theology which is a product of later Roman Imperial theology rather than Greek theology.

    That’s a long side point and has nothing to do with Bryan but the New Testament writers most certainly do not preach anything like Trinitarian theology.

    1Cor 2:7-8 Instead we speak the Theos’ Sophia, hidden in a musterion (secret knowledge that only can only be obtained though a process of supernatural enlightenment), that the Theos ordered before all the ages (aions) for our glory. None of the Archons of this Aion (supernatural rulers of this age) understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory

    That ain’t Calvinism. That ain’t your theology about the nature of God. To believe what you believe requires you to ignore what the New Testament writers wrote not to embrace it. And let’s not even get into Colossians whose whole theme repeated over and over again is that in Jesus Christ the Plemora of God resides “bodily”. I.E. the whole argument is that Christ is not just a member of the chain Aions but rather the initial link in the chain. Your theology, rejects the chain entirely.

    Paul claims affinity with the Twelve (Galatians 1:18-19).

    There is no mention of “the Twelve” in Galatians. Nor is there any close statement of affinity. He says he had a vision and immediately began to preach. 3 years later he hung out with Peter for two weeks where he met James briefly and none of the other apostles and left.

    Like

  19. CD,

    I’ll answer your questions in order.

    In getting to your question, the Apostles would not really know how to make sense of the WCF. I do believe that they would generally agree with the WCF, but as a Protestant, even the WCF of faith leaves open the possibility that it could be wrong in maintaining the Apostolic teaching consistently. If Peter or Paul came to us today we’d be willing to sit down and re-work things if we misrepresented them, but the WCF is more or less a faithful interpretation of Apostolic teaching, IMO.

    I do believe that there were central doctrines that the Apostles agreed upon. It’s highly unlikely they agreed on everything, but I do believe that they shared the convictions I’ve listed as marking the proto-orthodox. I also believe that the proto-orthodox followed after them in these teachings, but there were others that did not agree. Gnostic groups, like the Valentinians or Marcionites are examples of groups that accepted portions of the Christian narrative but disagreed about other fundamental issues.

    In terms of critical historical methodology, I believe that the Pauline Epistles and Gospels provide reliable information about which we can begin to reconstruct the life of Jesus and the teaching of earliest Christianity. I also believe that historical scholarship can help to establish (though it cannot definitively determine) the early dating of the canonical Scriptures, which in turn provides solid historical information in which we can have a relatively good idea about what happened in history. Of course, the documentary evidence is fragmentary and old. You and CtC clearly disagree that it is possible to consistently apply the standards.

    But there are many in the academy who believe in the general reliability of the canonical material like Craig Evans, Daniel Wallace, Richard Bauckham, Larry Hurtado, Dale Allison, Gerd Theissen, Chris Keith, & N.T. Wright, just to name a few. I don’t agree with all of these men on a whole host of issues and some of them are more liberal or conservative than I am. None of them, however, believe that they should jettison their Christian beliefs or that historical critical methodology undermines Christianity.

    There are people using the historical critical method to argue for Petrine authorship of 1 & 2 Peter. Bauckham has argued for strong Petrine influence of Mark. Many scholars in the Pauline literature have far more faith in the coherence and value of the Pauline corpus than you assign to it.

    I think that anyone needs to be willing to accept that they could be being inconsistent with their principles, but I don’t see any evidence that accepting Lampe’s historical scholarship requires the adoption of methodologies antithetical to Christianity. Lampe clearly doesn’t either as can be seen in the title of his 2012 book, “New Testament Theology in a Secular World: A Constructivist Work in Philosophical Epistemology and Christian Apologetics.”

    I also think that part of the reason that you think my argument is so weak is that you are assuming quite a lot about what I do and don’t believe. What makes you think that I would be opposed to acknowledging something like physical presence? My impression is you are assuming I believe certain things and so you’re trying to read between the lines in my comments and in my article.

    Like

  20. Lest we give Rome too much credit, it bears remembering that being the “only game in town” was made possible by magistrates willing to preserve the hegemony through the shedding of blood.

    Like

  21. It’s interesting to think about to what degree Christianity would remain if X expression of it went away. What if I went to church on Sunday only to find that my church had disappeared, along with the entire URCNA? What if the OPC disappeared? What If the Vatican disappeared? What if all we had left was the Bible? Would Christianity still exist?

    Joseph Smith started an entirely new religion in America in the 1800s — basically from scratch.

    To what degree is Christianity (and all other religion) based on ideas and to what degree is it based on physical expressions of those ideas?

    We insist that the resurrection of Jesus must have occurred in time and space. What other physical things are we bound to affirm?

    Like

  22. ec, what do these questions have to do with baby Jesus?

    It’s not simply a question of a communion not existing. What about all the books, people? You can’t make that go away.

    Like

  23. Catholics revel in their history and their place in time and space. Jeremy Tate wants to see the bones. Everyone wants to see the Sistine Chapel. Some look to Medjugorje to build up their faith. The Pope gets to rule his own country (although nowhere near the size that it once was).

    What does all this have to do with The Word and with a savior whose physical body went away to the heavens? What memo did RC’s not get that Protestants did?

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s