Liturgy Trap: Two Stage Christianity

Jordan’s specific target in this chapter is the rite of confirmation.  I want to expand the sights.   If you are in the “Really True Church” and I am not, yet you are kind enough to consider me a “Christian,” then the only conclusion one can draw is that I am a second-class Christian.  Yet the New Testament knows nothing of this.  Jesus gives his Spirit as an arrabon to his people.  Full Stop.

Two-Stage Christianity is simply an advanced form of gnosticism.

Apostolic Succession

A true apostolic succession is the royal priesthood which is succession through baptism.

If we want to wax Trinitarian, then the Church is a creation of the Spirit from eternity by procession, not succession (46).

Gospel preaching trumps all

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3)

23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Matthew 21)

Basically, they asked Jesus to trace his succession.  On human terms, and if that is the parameters of the debate, they had him cornered.  There was no response.  While Jesus doesn’t actually answer their question, we can anticipate his response.  To do so, we will see how the post-Resurrection disciples handled it.  In Acts 4 the disciples were asked by the chief priests (who could claim an Aaronic succession), “By what power or name do you do this?”   In terms of human succession, they had the apostles beaten.  But the apostles argue in terms of God’s revelation in Jesus of Nazareth.  What justifies the apostles’ (and by implication our) preaching?  The fact that God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.

Questions for Medieval Protestants

When I realized the traditional Federal Calvinist position could not be salvaged, I began to look for alternatives that would not take me to Rome or Mother Russia.  Rome could not work because I could not square my mind with all of the perceived contradictions in Roman history and papalism, as ably evidenced by Robert Letham.  (Ultimately, I would begin to move towards Orthodoxy–to start the journey.  Incidentally, the late Jaroslav Pelikan’s bishop told him to wait ten years before he left Lutheranism for Mother Russia).

Federal Calvinists will probably point out–and rightly so–that I came through the Reformed faith reading the fringe elements, and in that cauldron I was cooked. That’s true.  I live(d) in close vicinity to Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church and was able to buy all kinds of historical and theological literature from 30% to 70% off (which reminds me, I need to go there today and buy Bruce’s book on the canon for $10).  Not surprisingly, they also had all the Canon Press materials and Rushdoony books.  I read all of what they had.   The Gnostics at Puritanboard.com were rebuking me and urging me to read “Berkhof” and Calvin instead.   Well, I read through Berkhof’s systematic and through Calvin at least twice. 

One of the books I read was Wilson and Jones’ Angels in the Architecture.  I was stunned by the beauty of the writing.  It made me want to become a Norse warrior and sail the frozen seas (they had a chapter on Beowulf), a dream I still have.  The book advertised itself as “A Protestant Vision for Middle Earth.”  Of course, that’s sheer nonsense since it has nothing in common with “medievalism.” 

Notwithstanding, it set the agenda.  I asked the question, “If such medievalism is so beautiful, why must we hate it theologically?”  Indeed, the owner of the SocietasChristianas blog had me asking similar questions.  If Church History is really God’s story of saving his people, are we justified in positing a break from the Apostles/Nicea until the Reformation?

The Medieval Protestants–I do not really know how to define these guys, even I I was one back in the day–want to posit some form of Protestantism’s continuity between today and the early and medieval church.   To their credit, they actually try.  Most Federal Calvinists say that the Reformation was the recovery of Calvinism, but aside from that assertion, they don’t argue anything.  So, my questions:

How do Medieval Protestants maintain the continuity between today and the practices of the early and Medieval Church? 

As Schaff admits, the early church engaged in liturgical practices–that in many cases would become more explicit in the medieval Church–that are out of bounds with any form of Protestantism.   Therefore, what is your link of continuity?   If you say you are connected–presumably organically, if I may reference Nevin–to the early church, yet you reject practices they considered essential, how are you then connected?

Do you have any friends?

I am not being snarky with that question.   If you are honest, you will realize that your theological worldview–I know that term is useless now, but I can’t think of a better one; I’ll use weltanschang instead–is out of bounds with the leading Calvinism today.  If you think it is in bounds, spend a semester at RTS instead.   On the other hand, the above question already noticed your discrepancies with more historical and traditional forms of Chrisitanity.   So where are you?  Of course, not having any theological or ecclesiological friends isn’t a slam against whether your theology is right or worng, but if this is the fullness of the faith, and there are only a few of you, well…

What is the Apostolic Deposit?

St Jude says the faith was once delivered to all the saints.   This is the heart of the post.   We all agree that the apostolic deposit cannot be lost.  That is where you are strongest, actually (ironically, that part of your blog also got me facing Orthodoxy).   This means that doctrines and practices from the early church should be visible today.   That’s easy to prove, regardless of whether one is Reformed, Orthodox, or Catholic.   Fair enough.  It also means the practices should be visible throughout church history.    Therefore, we should see from A.D. 100 to 1517:

  • A specifically Protestant canon.
  • A rejection of venerating Mary and the Saints.
  • Church rulership by elders defined in such a way to preclude apostolic succession and bishops.
  • Sola fide

Those are just a few.  If we don’t see those, then how do we say that these Protestant distinctives are part of the apostolic deposit?

 

 

Review of Irenaeus of Lyons: Early Church Fathers Series

Review of Irenaeus of Lyons (Early Church Fathers) by Robert Grant

Grant did a nice job summarizing difficult sections of St Irenaeus, and a good job in presenting them to us in a nice manner.  Unfortunately, he spent most of his time summarizing the wrong sections and missed many key opportunities to explicate more helpful topics in St Irenaeus’s thought.    For some reason academics think it is very important to summarize what Gnostics and ancient feminists believed about reality.   Are they, too, Gnostics and feminists?  Probably.  Much of the book was laborious and boring—and this comes from someone who has read all five books of St Irenaeus’ Adversus Haerisis.

That is not to say the book is without merit.  As noted earlier, Irenaeus’ key arguments are presented in an easy-to-find manner (this is made even easier if one reads it on the Amazon Kindle, as I did).  We have Irenaeus’s very clear teaching on apostolic succession as a demonstration that the Gnostics are pale imitators of the Faith, and given their lack of AS, they cannot prove their faith.   We see how to interpret Scripture—interpreting it in light of the regula fide within the context of the church.  Most importantly, (if sadly too briefly) we have the Recapitulation of all things in Christ.

Excerpts from Irenaeus

Reading this in the Amazon Kindle makes it possible to bookmark, collect, and recall dozens of passages at a moment’s notice (while Kindle will never replace books, the research and cross-referencing abilities are overwhelmingly superior).

Irenaeus and the Septuagint

“Like other Patristic authors, Irenaeus fully accepted the authority of the LXX.  The idea that the canon should be confined to Hebrew books never occurred to him.  He therefore used 1-2 Esdras as well as 1 Enoch, Baruch (ascribed to Jeremiah) and the Greek additions to Daniel.”

Recapitulation

Irenaeus uses it as the key to at least four events in Scripture: God’s covenant with Adam, Noah, Moses, and the final covenant that renews man and recapitulates everything in itself, that which by the Gospel raises men and wings them for the celestial kingdom (3.11.8).

The structure of anakephalaiosis is this:  events repeat one another, as well as the story involves not just progress, but restoration (see Joseph Farrell’s section in GHD).

The Nature of the Godhead

Irenaeus is rebutting Gnostic claims to God’s being, but he does so in a way that suggests later Eastern expressions of God.  Irenaeus lists the standard attributes of God which can be found in any Western dogmatics model, but he takes it a step further and says, “But he is still above this and therefore ineffable” (1.13.4).  In other words, God is hyperousia and beyond being.

Apostolic Succession

Irenaeus gives the standard defense of apostolic succession: bishops in communion with one another transmit and pass down the sacred deposit, but he goes a step further.  He acts like apostolic succession is a common-sense given, but he says if it weren’t true then a great calamity would befall the church.  (3.3.1)

In 3.4.1 he notes the easiest way to find out what the church believes on matters not found in Scripture is to ask those in the church.   He goes on to say that the wisest thing to do when coming to sacred matters, is to ask for the most ancient form of your religion.

He makes one other interesting point:  he says that many barbarians in German and elsewhere do not have a bible but are fully saved and accurately pass down the tradition.   This one statement destroys a key part of Schaff’s The Principle of Protestantism.

Sin and the Curse

In either Book IV or Book V (at this point Kindle is not so helpful) Irenaeus notes that God did not curse Adam himself, but the land.  He also notes this is an ancient tradition as well.

Free Will

In section 20.1 he notes that God has always preserved man’s free will.

Conclusion

Is the book worth getting?  I’m not sure.   Kindle makes the purchasing easier (if going by the paperback price the answer is  a definite no).   I’m beginning to suspect this Early Church Fathers Series by Routledge is not as superior as many wannabe scholars say it is.  You get the same text you will find in Schaff or CCEL.org, although the text is admittedly organized better.  The introductory sections are varying.   Brian Daley’s section on Gregory is good, as is Anatolios’s on St Athanasius.  Neither, however, is remarkable to justify the purchasing price.   Neither section really alters one’s perception of the Father (since the people who take the time and money to read these books are already reasonably familiar with said fathers).

As noted earlier, Grant’s intro to Irenaeus does not stand out one way or another.  He covered the basic ground, but did not say anything too different from what you would find in a theological or church history dictionary.  He spent too much time incredulating (forgive the neologism) on Irenaeus’s belief that Christ was 50 years old, and too little time on the actual recapitulatory hermeneutic itself.