Thursday, September 6, 2018

Unity and the Christian Church: Part 1 - an excerpt from a thought provoking discourse


During the course of my current research into the issue of "unity and the Christian Church", I came across a discourse I had yet to read. It is my belief that this particular discourse will serve as an excellent introduction to this planned multi-post series on "unity and the Christian Church." For now, I am going to keep the speaker of this discourse anonymous—in a later post, I will reveal his identity. From the discourse we read:

I will read to you a portion of the first chapter of Paul's epistle to the Corinthians. After his salutation to the Church in Corinth, the Apostle said:

  Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
  For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house  of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
  Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
  Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
  I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
  Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.
  And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
  For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
  For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
  For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
  Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
  For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
  But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
  But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
  For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
  And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
  That no flesh should glory in his presence.
  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
  That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Unfortunately some clumsy hand has here closed the chapter. The opening verses of the second chapter properly belong to the words I have just read, hence I continue:

  And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
  For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
  And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
  And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
  That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

It is not always that we preface are remarks by reading a chapter from the Scriptures; it is not always that we take a text which we desire to expound; but I thought it proper on this occasion to read this Scripture to you, and I think it proper now to call your attention to one or two verses that perhaps may be regarded as a text for that which I desire in my heart to say:

    Every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
  Is Christ divided?

This was the great question which the Apostle of the Gentiles propounded to those Saints in Corinth, among whom divisions began to appear. These divisions, however, were incipient as compared with those which exist in Christendom today; and if those divisions existing in the primitive Church at Corinth called forth this stern reproof from the great Apostle of the Gentiles, I sometimes wonder what he would say to torn, distracted Christendom of today! Would he not with increased emphasis demand of this Babel that exists now in Christendom, an answer to the question, Is Christ divided?

The plain inference of this Scripture, of course, is that Christ is not to be divided; that men are under condemnation who say that they are of Paul, or of Cephas, or of Apollos. It plainly declares that the Church of Christ is to be one.

Part 2 of this series will be posted shortly, the Lord willing.


Grace and peace,

David

14 comments:

Rory said...

The same apostle also said he heard that there were schisms at Corinth that were on display even as the believers at Corinth gathered together. He explains the reason he "partly believed it". (I Cor. 11:18)

Verse 19 mentions a principle which would make it hard for St. Paul to assume these reports were false:

"For there must also be heresies: that they also, who are approved, may be made manifest among you."

I would suggest that the author of this piece is going to try to denounce "Christendom" as a whole. He needs to understand that Christendom is not the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

An LDS author, Barry Bickmore, used this method of lumping all the sects and heresies together with the only churches, that even claim to be the one true visible church. Only Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism is worthy of examination. And neither church can be criticized because of what the author seems to want to label as "Christendom". Scripture tells us that beside to true church there will be those who have been "made manifest", and as "unapproved", because of their foolish departure from the authority of Apostolic Tradition.

A "torn, distracted Christendom of today" is not something about which any Catholic or Orthodox believer could be troubled about. Of course one is troubled for the souls of those who are off from the truth. But there is no way that any theory of unity in Christ can comfortably rest upon a foundation which confuses the true church with valid priestly orders (Catholic/Orthodox), and with schisms (torn, distracted Christendom of today).

Rory

Federico Matias Alvarez Zarza said...

Hello David,

I apologize for being off topic. I’ve been reading your posts on monepiscopacy and the three-fold ministry in the early church and I’d like to know if you could recommend me a book or article defending the three-fold ministry in the NT and early church and the claim that there was a monarchical bishop in Rome from the Apostolic times to the second half of the second century. I’ve seen your critiques of John Bugay’s writings and scholars such a Lampe and Duffy, and I understand and agree that it is inconsistent to use liberal scholarship as a conservative to refute another conservative believer. But I’d like to read a positive case for the three-fold ministry and the monarchical bishop in Rome. And just so you know, I’m an undergraduate theology student at a Protestant school, and I’m just starting to study these topics in depth.

God bless,

Federico

David Waltz said...

Hi Federico,

Thanks much for your interest in my posts on monepiscopacy. IMO, the best, single treatment on monepiscopacy and the three-fold ministry is Felix L. Cirlot's, Apostolic Succession - Is It True. A used copy is currently available via the following link:

LINK

Bryan Cross' extended essay, "The Bishops of History and the Catholic Faith: A Reply To Brandon Addison", is pretty good. WEB version available HERE; PDF version HERE.

If interested, I can send you a couple of excellent New Blackfriars journal articles concerning the issue of Peter as the first bishop of Rome—just send me an email at: augustineh354@gmail.com, and I will get them to you.

Sincerely hope I have been of some assistance. If you have any further questions, and/or if you would like to dialogue further on the topics at hand, please feel free to do so.


Grace and peace,

David

Federico Matias Alvarez Zarza said...

David,

Thank you so much. I sent you an email earlier today.

God bless,

Federico

David Waltz said...

Hello again Federico,

Got your email, and sent you 3 articles. Would like to hear from you after you have read them.


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Rory,

Thanks much for your thoughtful reply. I agree with most of your reflections, though I think, at least for this current age, that a few other ecclesiastical paradigms demand consideration other than just the EO churches and the RCC. I am thinking specifically of three sects that began in the 19th century which now have a worldwide impact and membership affiliations exceeding 15 million souls (all three together now exceed 50 million). The three continue to grow at rates which are higher than most other ecclesiastical traditions.

Care to take a guess at which three I am thinking of ???


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

Hmmmmm...

I didn't include Latter-day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, or Seventh Day Adventists above because they, in my opinion, haven't adequately understood Catholic claims. They began out of Protestantism and started with distorted Protestant assumptions about Catholic and Orthodox claims. The author you quote in the first post presupposes that none of the churches in "Christendom" can be distinguished from another. It serves his purpose to avoid recognition of the critical fact that only two churches in Christendom could credibly claim to be the one, true, visible church. And it could be seriously argued that those two are actually one! We admit that each of us retain apostolic authority through valid priestly and episcopal orders. I spoke of Catholic and Orthodox claims because they are the same with regards to the rest of "Christendom". How did it happen according to the rest of "Christendom" including the 19th Century johnny come latelies, that the laying on of hands for valid ministry was lost by the Catholic and Orthodox and given to anybody else? That is what never gets answered, because there isn't an answer.

That said, if I am not mistaken, it can be said in their favor that the 19th Century "three" began by claiming to be the one true visible church. As I think you know, I have great respect for the systematic theologies of many of the Protestant groups. As a Catholic, I could never argue that theologians from Reformed, Anglican, Lutheran, and Baptistic traditions fail to defend themselves biblically. But I do not think they claim that any of their denominations is the one true church to which all Christians are obliged to obey.

As I see the way church discipline exhorted and practiced in the New Testament, I cannot envision how this could ever work if there are hundreds of different true visible churches with different doctrines and practices. The easiest way to discover if we are obliged to obey the ministers of any organization is to find out if they claim to have the authority of the one true visible church over all who claim to be Christian, (a Catholic would refer to all of the baptized). If they will not claim to be the one true visible church, they can be dismissed as being not the one true visible church. That eliminates thousands of so-called churches and leaves just five: Orthodox, Catholic, and the other three groups that started in the 19th Century.

The task of finding where to go to church becomes a lot clearer and less confusing than when I thought that to be Catholic, it was necessary to first demonstrate that dispensationalism or "TULIP" was "unbiblical". It is liberating to realize that we do not have to think that those who misinterpret the Bible are mentally disadvantaged. No. The presence of multiple credible systematic theologies proves the need for the authority of Apostolic Tradition. What has the true visible church always taught? Look for the true church and you'll find the true doctrine. For the record, if I somehow found that Apostolic Tradition had always taught either of those heresies, I would be disappointed after having come to believe something which I find to be infinitely better and more beautiful. But I couldn't dismiss those systems as irreconcilable with Scripture alone.

I fear I try to say too much. For what it is worth then...

Rory

Dennis said...

Hi. David & Rory,

Im awaiting the further posts inthis series.
Yes I agree that the RC EO & OO chruches have the Apostolic lineage however the Spirit is still above the Apostles.

Will Apostolic lineage excuse the RC hierarchy for the paedophilia disaster, and multiple other mass deaths arising from Crusades to inquisitions ? Will He excuse the gospel of nationalism & insane bickering amongst the various Orthodox ? It is not only the lineage that makes someone adopted. Didnt Jesus castigate the Jews for claiming Abraham as their father ?
If the lneage is broken what would God deem valid for someone to be accounted as adopted ? That's where we are in the 21st century. Sure He hates disunitybut He hates arrogance more.

Cheers
Dennis

David Waltz said...

Hello again Rory,

Thanks much for your thoughtful reflections. You wrote:

==I didn't include Latter-day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, or Seventh Day Adventists above because they, in my opinion, haven't adequately understood Catholic claims. They began out of Protestantism and started with distorted Protestant assumptions about Catholic and Orthodox claims. The author you quote in the first post presupposes that none of the churches in "Christendom" can be distinguished from another.==

I suspect the author/lecturer would argue that the vast majority of sects under the term 'Christendom' have, in a very sense, an organic link to the Roman Catholic Church. 'Trail of Blood' and/or Landmark Baptist conceptions of Church history on paper avoid the organic link, but when one attempts to provide concrete evidence for such conceptions, it just does not exist—as you all too well know.

==As I see the way church discipline exhorted and practiced in the New Testament, I cannot envision how this could ever work if there are hundreds of different true visible churches with different doctrines and practices.==

A good point, one which I agree with.

==The easiest way to discover if we are obliged to obey the ministers of any organization is to find out if they claim to have the authority of the one true visible church over all who claim to be Christian, (a Catholic would refer to all of the baptized). If they will not claim to be the one true visible church, they can be dismissed as being not the one true visible church.==

Another good point; one which I have personally embraced and argued for over the last couple of decades.

==I fear I try to say too much.==

Cast away your fear, you have not said "too much" (IMO).


Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Dennis,

Thanks much for taking the time to share some of your thoughts on the topic at hand. You raise some very important questions, questions which have no 'easy' answers. With that said, an important point of fact comes to mind: the example of OT Church. Despite deep, and lasting periods of gross apostasy, God never led his true followers to establish another visible Church. The following words from our Lord seem to be germane to our topic:

Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. (Matt. 23:2, 3)

As you know, I am planning more posts for this series. Hope your interest remains—looking forward to future your comments.


Grace and peace,

David

Rory said...

Dennis
Yes I agree that the RC EO & OO chruches have the Apostolic lineage however the Spirit is still above the Apostles.

Rory
OO Churches?

That the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity is above the Apostles in every way doesn't mean that it is okay to disregard apostolic succession.

Dennis
Will Apostolic lineage excuse the RC hierarchy for the paedophilia disaster? and multiple other mass deaths arising from Crusades to inquisitions ? Will He excuse the gospel of nationalism & insane bickering amongst the various Orthodox ? It is not only the lineage that makes someone adopted. Didnt Jesus castigate the Jews for claiming Abraham as their father ?

Rory
Popes, cardinals, and bishops go to hell if they die in a state of mortal sin. Apostolic lineage doesn't excuse any sin, it makes them more culpable for violating a sacred trust. But neither sin, nor Satan, nor any created thing can destroy what God has established. That is why, as Dave points out, that the Old Covenant ministers remained valid, until the New Covenant was established in Christ.

Jesus told the healed lepers to go see a priest, for a testimony. Jesus affirmed the authority of the Levitical priesthood, as did Mary and Joseph, taking Him to the Temple and offering the customary sacrifice for the firstborn. From the presentation of Christ in the Temple for the Levitical rites, to his passion and death, there is not the least sympathy with sects who declared the Mosaic and Aaronic laws and rites to be nullified. Indeed it seems that Christ and the inspired Gospel writers are at pins to positively affirm the authority of the successors of Levi, regardless of the sins and crimes of individual members.

It seems like if the Levitical priesthood endured until Christ came the first time, we might be wary of declaring that the Apostolic priesthood has been lost before Christ comes the second time.

Dennis
If the lneage is broken what would God deem valid for someone to be accounted as adopted ? That's where we are in the 21st century. Sure He hates disunitybut He hates arrogance more.

Rory
With respect Dennis, I don't think you have established that we have to decide between what God hates the least. If God hates disunity as you say, there is a way to avoid it without offending Him in a different way. God does not place us in the position of offending Him no matter what we do. It cannot be correct that the evil of disunity goes with the good of humility and the good of unity goes with the evil of arrogance.

Regards,

Rory

Dennis said...

Hi David & Rory,

David: Moses" Seat. Jesus also said in Matt 22:29 that the Sadducees didn't know the scriptures. He could have been speaking sarcastically when He mentioned Moses" Seat. It would fit in the context.

Rory: OO Oriental Orthodox

Yes I pretty much agree. However, I dont think Apostolic lineage is lost, I'm just trying to analyse how much weight it has in the "path of salvation'. Even the Apostle Paul said, if he comes preaching another gospel than that of the Apostles, he should be rejected.

So it seems the message & content trumps lineage, from what Galatians 1:8 says.
It also seems Paul says any Apostle who preachès something different to the earliest content received, should be rejected.


This to me solidifies the idea of "prima scriptura'. The Spirit, the prophets, then Apostles, the Body, then Apostolic succession.

Cheers
Dennis

Ken Temple said...

Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. (Matt. 23:2, 3)

Jesus is there in Matthew 23, assuming that they would read the law of Moses and teach it properly. He is not saying that they ALWAYS interpret the law properly and much less in an infallible kind of RC way, because Jesus earlier warned of the Pharisees teaching (Matthew 16:11-12) and also their tendency to add man-made traditions onto the Word of God and thus nullify the Word of God and transgress the commandments of God - Mark 7:1-23; Matthew 15:1-20.

Ken Temple said...

If the mono-episcopacy is true and first century, why didn't the apostle Paul use that in his argument with the Corinthians in order to solve the problems of disunity and factions in chapters 1-4?

Instead he said at the end of that argument about the factions, "do not go beyond what is written", and "I have applied this to me and Apollos, so that you may learn not be arrogant/ prideful in regard to one against the other" (the whole main issue from 1:10 to 4:7 - factions, "I am of Paul", "I am of Cephas", "I am Apollos", and "I am of Christ", etc.

I Corinthians 4:6-7

6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. 7 For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

Seems to me, he points them back to Scripture.

Sola Scripture in principle, even though the rest of it is still in process of being written.