The poor grammar is deliberate. One of the most precious spiritual joys I have–have had–can have–is hearing the announcement extra nos that God reigns and that the finished work of Christ applies pro me, and that nothing can snatch me out of Jesus’s hands. Jesus really did something on the cross. He really bought me back from the slave pens of Egypt. He really gave me His Holy Spirit as a down-payment which guarantees future blessings.
That is literally the best pillow someone can have. People think I have a bulldog mentality on Anchoretic traditions. It’s not that I can’t change my mind and won’t change the subject. If my life is any indicator–and please do not do as I did–I can attest to the loss of joy for almost five years. Here’s how it happened.
I started studying the early church and Trinitarianism around 2007. Even now it was a rewarding experience. But some problems came up and I just couldn’t deal with them. I came across sayings from Cyprian, “Outside the Church There is No Salvation” and numerous ones from Ignatius along the lines of “Stay close to the bishop” and “schismatics forfeit the kingdom of God” (sorry John of San Francisco). I came to reason: sh!+, I better make sure I am in the right church, because on these guys’ glosses, even if they don’t draw the inevitable logical conclusion, If I am in the wrong church I am going to roast in hell for all eternity. I lost sleep for weeks, if not months, at a time.
SIDEBAR: My focus of salvation at this point was more on “which organization am I in so that I can be saved” rather than the finished work of Jesus Christ. Of course, God did not leave me without witnesses. Ironically, it was N.T. Wright’s work on the Gospels that made me realize that even if Orthodoxy is true, N.T. Wright’s exegesis is just better.
And it does no good to say, “Oh, even though those saints said that, we don’t mean that. Who knows who is going to be in heaven and hell?” Well, the problem is that those statements by those men have to mean something and if you say no one can know, then Cyprian’s and Ignatius’s statements are simply pointless and devoid of all meaning. If that’s the case, please stop quoting them since on your gloss they don’t mean anything. I am not in his organization; therefore, I cannot be saved. Being damned is the contrary of being saved. Q.E.D.
I’m skipping a lot of material, but one of the men that helped me get this straight is Michael Horton. I didn’t want to read him earlier because as theonomists, we were taught to hate Horton because of his (admittedly) schizophrenic social ethics. This was a shame, since Horton was one of the few Reformed writers who could actually mount a response to Anchoretism. His response was in the way of ontology. I’ve summarized these elsewhere. It is simply unanswerable.
Concurrent with Horton’s project was Bruce McCormack’s lectures on Christology. I would link to them but in a moment of failure of nerve, the Henry Center took them down. Besides showing some fatal tensions in Cyril’s project, if McCormack’s reading is correct and the post-Damascene tradition relies on substance metaphysics, then the believer is fully warranted in rejecting that tradition. Further, if that infallible tradition is indeed shown to be quite fallible, then they aren’t an infallible tradition after all.
But here are some thoughts on the Ignatian claim:
- Granted that Ignatius makes much of Christ at times, but to the extent that claims of “staying close to the bishop for salvation” take prominence, to that extent Christ has been eclipsed.
- Admitting that Ignatius was close to the apostle John, how are we epistemically warranted to project Ignatius’s vision onto the whole of the Roman Empire?
- Most basic of all questions, “Who died and made him king?” Why should we privilege his statements more than any others?
This next line is more subjective, but here goes. Why would God mislead Martyn Lloyd-Jones? The better model is that God simply wanted to shed his love abroad in MLJ’s heart. (I realize my example is quite problematic for Reformed Cessationists!)