Second Thoughts: Pilgrimage 1993-95
by Joel Kalvesmaki
Mine is the short but turbulent life.
Since May 1993 I have been vigorously pursuing the faith of the
Apostles as witnessed to by the early Church. This spiritual journey
has led me, a strongly committed Protestant Evangelical, to seriously
pursue conversion to either the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox
In the past years I have spent hundreds of hours reading, studying,
praying and discussing theological, historical and philosophical
issues with a wide range of people. I have taken the time to read over
3000 pages of the translated writings of Christians who flourished
between 70-240 CE. Septuagintal studies have also played a major role
in my thought as I have applied myself to understand more thoroughly
the canon of Scripture, the process by which it came to hold authority
for believers and the way it treats itself. Later in my journey I
spent considerable time meditating on epistemological and
philosophical issues which helped to clarify and confirm my spiritual
direction. Many of the answers to my questions have spawned others,
which I still pursue. Yet I realise I cannot return to the
Evangelicalism I have grown to love and cherish.
In a brief story like this I cannot justify every move, every
doctrine, every insight. This lad, no matter how skilled his pen,
cannot explain the terrain he has explored in its full peculiarity,
particularly if the skeptic is certain I've been to the desert and
indulged in a mirage. Maybe so. But how will that skeptic know without
personal investigation? Most critics are content with armchair
All I can do is explain a little, as well as possible, to speed fellow
Christian pilgrims on their way to a more consistent and honest faith
and to stimulate those who have never bothered to consider the issues
to take them up. Pilgrims are often a misunderstood part of our
churches, yet their numbers are thin enough to warrant recruiting.
Before some of the theological issues, however, something of my life
I was born into a loving Evangelical home where my mother and father,
a Presbyterian minister, faithfully raised our family. Compared to
others, there was little outstanding or traumatic in my upbringing. I
had my share of skinned knees, split heads and spankings. Like every
good pastor's son, I slept through half the sermons and at other times
egged my sister into laughter during the hymns. Only later as I began
to grow up did I realize that such mischief is a luxury in a world of
dysfunctional relationships. While friends in school spoke of the
agony of broken homes, mine was wonderfully coherent.
When I was nine we moved from St. Louis to Salt Lake City, which was
to be my home through high school. The most common association with
Utah is, of course, Mormons (LDS), and these were many of my good
friends. In elementary school my best friend was from a family of
fourteen, the stereotypical burgeoning Mormon family. Only on the odd
occasion do I remember religion becoming a conversation topic between
us, but these later became important problems for me.
In addressing these questions to the world around me, my experience
with the LDS was to serve as a constant touchstone. The Mormon Church
is a daunting presence in the Intermountain West. With a membership of
over seven million, their mission force exceeds 50,000, as a large
number of their young men, before entering college, commit to tours of
missionary service lasting 18 to 24 months, all expenses raised by
themselves and their family.
The LDS boast of the clean living of most members of their Church.
Official Mormon teaching places great emphasis on family unity and
patriotism. While their claim to low divorce and alcoholism rates is
arguably flawed, they are at least as righteous as any other given
Christian church in America.
To the inquirer the picture is glossy and supremely Christian until
they begin poke beyond the veneer into LDS theology. The differences
are then difficult to ignore. Whatever godly image was set up by the
Mormon Church quickly disappears as one explores the dark shadows of
heresy. Of any group that claims to be Christian, Mormons are quite
possibly the furthest removed from its historical doctrinal center.
The Trinity is an aberration. God, once a man like us, is one of the
many gods in the universe, now siring babies with his many wives to
supply earth with human souls. We, by faithfully maintaining Mormon
ceremonies and standards, can become gods ourselves. From this unusual
cosmology their teaching proceeds to the bizarre.
In spite of this semi-fictional theology, the testimony of many
Mormons is both personal and spiritual. The average active LDS will
explain that at a certain age she read the Book of Mormon and
sincerely prayed to know whether the Book of Mormon is true and Joseph
Smith is a prophet. Many would attest to a powerful experience of a
"burning in the bosom" which would be understood as the Spirit
confirming that, yes, the Mormon Church is the True Church.
Later in life, as my commitment to Christ solidified, I had arguments
with Mormons. After I presented evidence challenging their worldview,
some of them retreated, saying, "Why are you trying to destroy my
faith? That's all you anti-Mormons do is wreck other people's faith."
This irked me to no end. Had it never occur to them that possibly
their faith, based on nonsense, needed to be destroyed? Is our aim a
secure faith, no matter what that faith may be? Or should we seek to
test whatever faith we have and if found false, changed? The Mormon
way seemed a cowardly treatment of Truth.
My Walk with Christ
I have sought to be faithful to both Christ and my Christian leaders.
At an early age I invited Jesus into my heart and was baptized by my
father to the approval of many. The intensity of desire to serve
Christ fluctuated, but was truly a part of the whole of my life.
Inevitably my faith mingled with my strong artistic temperament. In
high school I waged a critique of life that was deeply coloured by
depression, loneliness and the searing question, "Why?" which few
seemed willing to answer, let alone confront. Even in church I only
saw a nominal practice of what was taken to be true. "People who don't
have Jesus in their hearts are going to hell. Forever. Want another
cup of coffee?"
In this deep scepticism I spent a summer with a Youth With a Mission
team who, by modelling the most radical of Christian virtues, helped
to restore my trust in Christ, the Scriptures and the authentic
reality of God in the life of the Church. Jesus' words spoke freshly
to my heart as I realised that He was to be Lord of all or not at all.
My pining for eternity was answered by my leaders' clarion call to
full discipleship and devotion to God. While with the team I drank in
apologetic books by men such as Josh McDowell and Walter Martin, which
seemed to answer some of the rawest problems I had with life, faith
These early influences stirred into me an intense dynamic of Christian
faith which counterbalanced a hunger for spiritual reality against a
radical pessimism to truth claims. I wanted God without human error.
Hunger for Reality
If people who are not born again are going to hell, there is no excuse
for our lethargy. Sparked by this idea, I sought to be involved in
pioneer Christian mission work. After leaving university early I
joined Operation Mobilisation . I was centrally concerned about the
Muslim world, which I saw as the greatest threat to Christianity.
Doctrinally, I felt I had sufficiently learned about and dealt with
Mormonism and a handful of other Christian sects. Islam, however,
seemed "uncharted territory," possibly the most intricate and foreign
of false religions. This led me to OM Turning Point, a base in London,
England, which seeks to train Christians in evangelistic mission to
Muslims in Europe and the Middle East. London has been my home from
1991 through 1995.
While I was searching for a good mission agency, my heart was caught
by OM and its commitment to spiritual integrity, honesty and openness.
The preaching of George Verwer spoke to me of a man and a mission that
had a "hunger for reality" and sought a "revolution of love and
balance." This too was my goal-to die a soft-hearted and wise man who
had committed himself to Christ and had raced after godliness.
I knew what kind of person I did not want to be. This came out most
clearly while I was in OM in the aftermath of an expose of the
American Evangelical entertainer, Mike Warnke. One of the most loved
Christian entertainers in Evangelical circles, Mike would hold free
concerts across the country to preach the Gospel in the context of a
Mike's reputation rested upon his dynamic and dramatic testimony. He
had been a satanic high priest who, through a complex string of
macabre events, finally found Jesus and was now born again.
Evangelicals wholeheartedly loved him. His autobiography, The Satan
Seller, was one of the best selling Christian books of the 1970's.
Through his books and an active concert circuit he assumed a prominent
seat in the Christian entertainment industry as both a spiritual role
model and an authority on occultism.
However, in 1993 in a 20,000 word article, Cornerstone, the flagship
magazine of the Jesus People, exposed Mike for what he was. The
Cornerstone article demonstrated that the carte blanche trust
Evangelicals had given Mike and his ministry was thoroughly naive.
Mike had never been a satanist. He had never done most of the things
he claimed for himself. None of his friends knew anything of his
midnight forays into wickedness during college. And rather than being
the Christian model of virtue he sold himself as, Mike had been
married and divorced four times. He was mishandling donations on a
massive scale, using his position for his own gain. Little of what
Mike had claimed stood up to reality.
Most people, sometime in their life, have their heroes fall and then
learn an important lesson common to all. Luminaries who fall from
grace grant us a time of soul-searching to reassess our faith and
re-establish it in a much stronger foundation. This became my own
process and, realising this would not be my last hero to fall, I
focussed my faith more on Christ.
The reaction from the Christian public, however, was more difficult to
comprehend. The devotion to Mike was so strong amongst Evangelicals
that letters responding to Cornerstone, rather than thanking them for
the perspective to see beyond the sham, sharply criticised the
authors. "How dare you judge Mike!" "When you can save as many people
as him, then maybe you can point fingers." "You are being very
unloving and tearing down the body of Christ." These were typical
"These are the reactions of Christians?" I thought. I struggled with
this. Which was worse-Mike's deception or the Christian public's
This was certainly not the kind of man I wanted to be. I did not want
to be attached to a symbol that contradicted its underlying reality or
to defend the image at the expense of the substance. I wanted to deal
with life as it is. Maybe I don't see things very clearly, but I don't
want this to excuse me to concoct my own version of reality.
II. ENTER THE SEARCH
In the heights of my faith there have been strong streaks of doubt and
questioning. Is the Bible really the Word of God? Did Jesus really do
the things claimed for him in the Gospels? Are we completely wrong?
After all, we don't hesitate to declare everyone else wrong. Some
Christians, in an effort to sustain their reputation in Church, simply
show unflinching doubt towards the world. When confronted by a pained
Christian conscience, they simply say, "Don't worry about it. God has
a wonderful plan for your life! The answers will come later." Comfort.
But, as with Job's helpers, there are underlying messages. Pity that
your faith is so weak. One day it may be as strong as my own.
Honest searchers, still committed to their churches, smile and carry
on, finding what they can in the diet of books on offer. Some
questioners, rebuffed by other believers, lose faith altogether. It is
no secret, for example, that a sizeable number of secular humanists in
America were once committed Southern Baptists.
This tension is also seen in our forms of church worship. Whether we
realise it or not, our attitude and assumptions are lived out when we
assemble. Sitting from a piano stool, leading worship, I have tried to
understand what is going on. Although there is a great variety and
style within Evangelical worship, whether it be Lutheran hymns or
Charismatic choruses, common assumptions run throughout most of it.
In the worship of the hymn, our faith is found cerebral, celebrating
the systematic theology of the Reformers in well measured stanzas,
expressions that approach a reflection of the natural order of the
world. The exposition of the Word of God as sung, regardless if
comprehended, offers an assurance that we are squarely in the realm of
Romans and thoroughly understand the mechanics of justification and
In the worship of the chorus, the passion of our relationship with God
is expressed in full rawness as we encounter the Divine. Through a
liberation of the emotions we enter beyond the veil, us and God, face
to face and soul to soul.
And, of course, there are mixes of these two styles which criss-cross
our churches. Many examples go beyond these admitted stereotypes.
What undergirds both of these styles of worship is an assumption that
we personally approach God and His Truth without veils. For the
hymnodist, we sing the words of the Bible and its message, directly
participating in Words of God. For the Charismatic, we directly touch
and feel the presence of God through a worship of heightened emotion.
Both of these forms of worship are incredibly beautiful and creative.
Yet the way we do it commonly assumes, not always, but most times, an
approach to God that has gone beyond the barrier experienced by other
less fortunate souls. Instead of the ritual and tradition of
Catholics, we know God personally. Our worship is different than
anyone else because we have gone beyond the veil.
For those of us in an intense Evangelical community, to question
whether our worship really is a direct connection to God or His Truth
is to question the relation of the entire community to God. Rightfully
so, for if an Israelite had dared challenge aspects of the liturgy
surrounding the Temple, he too would have been seen as questioning the
position of Israel as the people of God.
Our worshipful insistence on our personal relationship with God makes
it difficult to admit we really don't know God on the level we claim.
Most of us grope in the dark yet are compelled to talk about a daily
walk with God that is as familiar as that with our best friends. For
all our effort to know God, we often have a closer and more personal
relationship with each other. But we are part of a community who
confess direct access to Truth. If a person would simply be objective
and honest enough with the Bible, they would see things the same way
is one of our implied attitudes.
This was not so plain to me when I first discovered the worldview of
the early Christian Church. Rather I was very much a central part of
evangelicalism and along with it came the standard set of attitudes.
So when I first met an a brother in OM who was studying to join the
Eastern Orthodox Church, I didn't know how to react. He was a graduate
of Wheaton, a very intelligent and passionate man who was seeking the
heart of God just as sincerely as I was, yet looking into a body of
Christians I thought were clearly heretical.
Incense? Good works for salvation? Icons? Prayers to Mary and the
Saints? Kissing rings, fingers and old bones? Eating Jesus Christ?
This is just Catholicism without the Pope! Come on! No one in their
right mind would go into that, not if they were truly born again.
My friend Chris and I talked late, making forays into well-travelled
theological waters. This was my introduction to the world of the
Eastern Church. It never occurred to me to consider that the churches
planted by the Apostles in Antioch, Turkey and Greece in the first
century had never disappeared and were still around. This only served
to show my whole attitude towards Church history, that somewhere in
the middle ages genuine Christianity vanished into thin air, awaiting
the prophets of the sixteenth century to be resuscitated.
As we talked I discovered that Chris was not the only one making this
move. In the last ten years there has been a very large move of
Evangelical Americans who have, in the thousands, been received into
the Antiochian Orthodox Church. The decisions of former Evangelical
leaders Peter Gillquist and Franky Schaeffer were unfathomable to me
at the time. All I knew was that this was a gauntlet thrown at my
feet. This mass conversion from my mother bed of Evangelicalism
represented a truth claim I needed to confront.
Remarks made in some Orthodox books Chris had made some good points
but I was still thoroughly confident that they were out of harmony
with the Scriptures. I definitely wanted to refute them. I admit I
also wanted to refute my friend's life, to find flaws in his
character, false motives in which I could trash his entire search.
Possibly he's been offended by an Evangelical or maybe he lost a
girlfriend. Actually, I wonder if he's really bothered to read the
Bible! Anyway, poor Chris has lost his sense of objectivity, most
I walked away from our time together concerned for my lost brother,
yet with another coal of curiosity stoked and an openness to initiate
my own studies into Church history and its relation to the teaching of
Eureka -- Eusebius!
As confessed before, justification of every aspect of my journey is
not the role of this work. But the scholarship undergirding my journey
is essential to completely understand where I've been and, through
footnotes, I leave a trail to be followed.
The first long leg of my research began with the early Church,
primarily before Nicaea, with a special focus on the period 70-240 CE.
This is a period of Church history which is, at best, vaguely familiar
to Evangelicals. Our heroes can be found in the New Testament, but the
next spiritual giants to come along are Augustine (for the cerebral
few), then Wycliffe, Tyndale, Zwingli and Luther. I have met a number
of people who are thoroughly well-read in the Reformed tradition but
who have not read a single work by a Christian from this period.
The first early Christian work I read was Eusebius' Ecclesiastical
History, the first comprehensive history of the Christian Church after
the book of Acts . Written shortly before the Council of Nicea, the
History is a gold mine of early Christian stories and thought. Leafing
through the worn pages I thought, "This book should be censored! No,
it should be reprinted!" Nearly every chapter brought some new insight
to the Scriptures, and yet much cut against what I had expected. The
early Church was not exactly what I imagined. They weren't exactly
Eusebius begins with a theology of Christ, directly stating Him to be
God and the Word of God. From there he demonstrates that Christ was
not a recent phenomenon, but was known from the beginning of time.
Throughout his argument he cites Old Testament prophecy, many passages
with which I was already familiar, and others besides. With this
prologue Eusebius begins the history of the Christian Church, weaving
into his account, broadly structured on the Gospels, a number of other
documents and traditions of the Apostles.
For instance, Acts 12:2 mentions the martyrdom of the Apostle James at
the hand of Herod. Eusebius relates how, in his trial before Herod,
James delivered a passionate defense of his faith in Christ. James'
words were so moving that the Roman soldier guarding him instantly
converted and publicly declared his faith in Christ. With one word
Herod order both of them to be taken outside and executed.
"So they were both taken away together, and on the way he asked James
to forgive him. James thought for a moment; then he said, 'I wish you
peace', and kissed him. So both were beheaded at the same time."
Another story related in the History deals with the apostle John and
his activities amongst his congregations in Asia Minor at the end of
his life -- material not found in the New Testament.
In another place Eusebius cites the letter of a bishop from the third
century, Africanus, dealing with the discrepancies between the
genealogies of Matthew and Luke in a way I had never heard before,
treating them both as lines of Joseph.
These were some of the many stories Eusebius chronicled. Each new
discovery agitated other questions to the surface. I argued with
What is this rubbish, stories of the Apostles not found in the Bible?
Eusebius offended me. Did he really believe what he was writing? Who
was he kidding? The Bible, I felt, was not only all we needed, but all
we have in terms of authentic and reliable material. How could
Eusebius write this kind of thing? Didn't he believe in Sola
Are you saying there were people back then who knew apects of history
we don't know today? This question revealed my own quasi-evolutionist
assumptions, hidden until now. They came out: Modern man is more
advanced than ever. We know more than any other generation, especially
in theology. We have the glorious benefit today of the most advanced
Biblical scholarship, criticism and archaeology. We have sought to be
objective in the understanding of our faith, unlike previous
generations. Now here I was confronted with a serious Christian
historian from the early Church who had access to libraries, books and
witnesses that have long since disappeared. He was familiar with
books, such as Papias' The Sayings of the Lord Explained, which are no
longer with us.
Upon what basis can you reject what Eusebius says? came a question in
return. There was no way to avoid evaluating his book. It was in front
of my face. I previously had the luxury of being ignorant. Now I
needed to deal with a different world and a different paradigm. I
wanted to reject what he said. I felt I could do so on one of two
broad grounds. Either I ignore his accounts because they are
superstitious and heretical. Or else I deny their historicity.
· Is this superstition? Ah, but what is superstition? For a Christian
this avenue is a dead end, for the "fables" found in Eusebius are of
no different quality than those found in Scripture. Acts is full of
odd stories which, if isolated from the diginity we automatically
afford Scripture, we would reject on the same grounds we reject
Eusebius. Peter's shadow healing people? His handkerchief? What about
Philip's experiences of teleportation? If we have a problem with
apocryphal stories of the Apostles on the basis of the supernatural
then we had better beware. It is this reaction against superstition
which fuels deism.
· Is this heretical? Again, none of the stories, again, on a closer
look, could be accused of false teaching. In many ways I found the
stories quite compatible with Scripture. They seemed to enhance the
godliness of the Apostles.
· Is this historical? After all, why should I accept a story written
in the early fourth century? What about the Bible? The New Testament
is, after all, much more reliable, dating from the first century. That
was one way to look at it. Another way to look at this predicament, I
realised, was that I was sitting in the 20th century arguing with an
author from the fourth. We both have access to the New Testament and
the scholarship of our day, but he has the added vantage point of
time, culture, language and an ecclesiastical education. All I have
are twentieth century Western commentaries. Who is right-him or me?
After a while I gave myself permission to vent my hungry heart and
reach out to the saints of which Eusebius spoke. Instead of trying to
fit them into my own mold, I asked them to tell me their story.
Where have you been all my life? As an Evangelical missionary and
"apologist," I felt robbed. I had spent hours poring through Christian
bookshops and had never read this kind of material. I didn't even know
there were writings available from the period. Most versions of Church
history I had read would briefly mention the second and third
centuries, briefly focus on the trinitarian debates of the fourth,
highlight Augustine, then jump into the sixteenth century for the
Reformation. Never at a Christian bookstore or booktable had I seen
patristic writings being reprinted and sold. We have been content
selling the writings of any nutcase who pretends to be Evangelical,
but have not bothered to consider selling the works of the sons and
grandsons of the Apostles.
And I soon realised why. If Evangelicals ever bothered to reprint and
study Ignatius, Polycarp, Tertullian or Irenaeus, their writings would
step on our theological toes.
One of the statements widely used in Evangelical circles is, "In
essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things charity."
This is an idea also expressed in the writings of Eusebius and his
forebears. The only problem was that in his and other patristic
writings, the consensus of what was essential and what was
non-essential was dramatically different to Evangelical
For instance, Eusebius discusses the canon of Scripture rather freely.
Origen, he states, held the book of Revelation as Scripture, written
by the Apostle John. Eusebius begs to differ, explaining upon the
basis of the style of Greek used why he felt this was not the case and
why Revelation was a dubious book. Yet he leaves the discussion with
the greatest admiration for Origen.
It wasn't to be until well after the writing of the History that, for
the first time we know of, Athanasius in his Easter festal letter of
367 listed the twenty-seven books we now use. Before then every
canonical list of the New Testament differed with each other. While
Evangelicals, without recourse to the authority of the Church, are
willing to castigate anyone who questions the canon, the earliest
Christians held a faith that did not depend on an ironclad list of
books. It was not an essential. From the time of the Apostles onward
the Church was content with an unfixed canon that included the
On the other hand, on a subject as non-essential to Evangelicals such
as baptism, the early Church was united. There were controversies on
the subject, but not over the nature of the sacrament. Rather the
question was praxis--whether or not heretics should be re-baptised.
The institution of Christ in the waters was not a symbolic appendage
tacked onto a profession of faith or altar call, as is so practiced in
Protestant circles, but was rather a central part of the salvation
process by which a person was born again, illuminated and regenerated
to new life. The Church was so united they agreed that in baptism, the
washing should be administered three times.
In "essentials," unity? Who decides what are the essentials? The
Church of the first centuries which held to a fundamentally different
understanding of Christian essentials than what we teach. By our
present standards we would call the early Church "unbalanced" or
"extreme." Undoubtedly they would return the favour.
Is there a Heretic in the House?
When I was a part of apologetic missions to the Mormon Church and
other cults, one of our techniques to refute false belief systems was
to create guilt by association. By pointing out the similarity between
Gnostics and Christian Scientists we showed that there was nothing new
under the sun, that heresies are constantly resurrected, dredged up
from the past.
I was in for a surprise, then, as I further read the early writings.
Quickly I realised that the apologetic techniques of the early Church
were considerably different than mine. My concern was to show how
contemporary heresies had a deep, long history and that they keep on
resurrecting through time. Early apologists, however, believed that
every heresy was an innovation and therefore had no genuine history.
Only the True Faith extends back through all time. To the early
Fathers, sects were something new under the sun.
Only in reading the writings of men like Irenaeus and Hippolytus did I
realise that Gnostic theology was nothing comparable to Christian
Science. True, the two share a flawed view of creation, but Gnostic
thought was far more intricate and developed than Mary Baker Eddy's
system. It dawned on me that Gnosticism, in all its ugly
theological twists and turns, was dead. There were no more Gnostics
today. Even those in this century who would seek to draw from their
writings are simply creating a modern hybrid, not at all resurrecting
the heretical community from centuries ago. Most Druids would probably
not at all recognise the modern attempts to recreate their dead
However it is true that in certain doctrines, where there was a
difference between the Gnostics and the early Church, Christian
Scientists side with the former. Therefore they are united to
Gnosticism by virtue of some common beliefs. Orthodox Christianity in
the early centuries had recurring conflicts with other groups over
essential doctrines such as the Trinity and salvation. Those doctrines
which characterised the opponents of the Church are often taught today
by certain groups of Christians. Certain heresies still abound,
although it most likely would not be recognized by most Christians as
Protestants and Evangelicals lap into this category. We maintain
doctrines today that fly in the face of the early Church and their
understanding of Scripture. If the Church of the Ante-Nicene period
were with us today they would consider most Evangelical denominations
as heretical and schismatic.
Irenaeus, in his treatise Against Heresies, catalogues and deals with
Gnostic heresies, primarily combatting their views on the godhead and
creation, while also addressing their inclination towards
sectarianism, anti-sacramentalism and departure from the Apostolic
succession. Tertullian, the first Christian to use the term
Trinity, also looks at the nature of heresies in his day and observes
how they have departed from the historic Apostolic faith in both
teaching and practice, giving no regard to the sanctity of the
Eucharist or the Apostolic succession. The criticisms Irenaeus and
Tertullian make against their opponents are still valid against many
forms of Evangelicalism.
Allow me to qualify these bold strokes. Some of the early authors may
have looked upon certain groups such as Anglicans or Lutherans with a
sympathy that may have extended to mutual recognition and communion.
However mainstream Evangelicalism, as represented by the Evangelical
Alliance or most interdenominational agencies, would not be in favor
with the consensus of the earliest Fathers.
As promised, this is not a detailed justification of belief. But I
believe it important to summarise a few of the new perspectives I
discovered in my search through ancient Christianity.
Early Christianity maintained that we are saved by faith in Christ
through baptism. We are being saved now and will be saved if we abide
in Christ. Their writings are full of warnings against falling away
from Christ, with the understanding that it could and does happen.
Even though they had no understanding of eternal security, the Fathers
had no "eternal insecurity." They understood that God initiates our
salvation by sending His Spirit and power into our lives, a love which
we reciprocate. The concept of salvation by faith alone or by
irresistable grace was a concept foreign to the Church. Rather, the
Calvinist system, which I had embraced for many years, finds unusually
strong echoes in the teachings of Gnostic sects.
Known as the Eucharist, this supper was believed to be of divine
institution and power. It was much more than a symbol or
representation-it was God with us and the elements were transformed by
the Spirit into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, on which believers
could feed to maintain the life of sacred devotion to God. It was also
seen as sacrifice, the gifts of the earth which we offer in thanks
back to God at the altar of the New Covenant. Ironically, once again,
it was Gnostic sects which were habitually anti-sacramental.
Again, the earliest Fathers believed that they, as a community, were
the New Israel, and that a departure from the visible communion of the
body of Christ was the same as a departure from the faith. Their
Church structure was hierarchical and based upon the trifold ministry
of bishops, presbyters and deacons. They believed that maintaining the
unbroken succession from the Apostles through the bishops was an
essential element of the Catholic Church. Schism from this One Church
was seen as being among the worst possible sins for it was an assault
against the Body of Christ. Although not a monolithic organisation,
the early Church was One, without division and spread throughout the
world from India to Britain.
Without exception, the worship of the early Christians revolved around
liturgy. Rather than eclectic or creative services the primitive
Church was content with that which they received, a liturgical worship
handed to by the Apostles. The worship of the early Church was both an
extension of the Old Testament and a dramatic exclamation of God's
visit to man in the incarnation. Rather than centring around the
sermon, the Sunday worship focussed around the Eucharist. Their
understanding of worship operated on a different level than those of
Evangelicals since it did not assume direct access to God, but rather
an ongoing contemplation of the mysteries of Christ which we still
struggle to take in.
Life after Death
The early Fathers held that when we die, we go to an intermediate
place of rest to await the resurrection of the flesh, when we will be
judged for our sins and be rewarded with heaven or hell. They
distinguished between Hades and Gehenna. The former referred to the
place of the dead while the latter referred to the place of eternal
I had always been taught that Scripture teaches a position quite
different than each of these. Brazenly confident of the endorsement of
the Bible, I could tolerate people who held to different beliefs, just
as long as they didn't pretend the Scriptures justified them. Citing
the Reformers as my patrons, I thought the story was ended.
Surprise. As I returned to the Bible with the new perspective of the
early Church Fathers I began to see verses to which I had never given
second thought. With time and patient reading I was forced to shift my
disregard for Catholic and Orthodox teaching to a begruding
acceptance. Point after point, doctrine after doctrine, I slowly
realised that as Evangelicals we have been missing the Tradition of
the Church. It was a painful realisation. I have always demanded
reason for belief and here it was before me in reamfuls.
With further studies and a struggling reflection on the Scriptures, as
well as seeking to change my attitudes, I came to believe in harmony
with the Fathers. The Bible made more sense in connection with the
early Church and it took on a profound new character as the Spirit
spoke to my heart freshly. I felt as if under the guidance of
Christians who knew the mind of Christ. For the first time ever I
realised that, as a Christian, I am part of a religion with a history,
with real heroes and real faith, not simply a bundle of words penned
by men on a different planet. The spiritual explosion ignited on
Pentecost was not extinguished. The gates of Hades did not prevail
against the Church!
III. DEEPER EXPLORATION
I plunged the depths of early Christianity. Daily, as I scoured the
pages of the writings of the Fathers, I continued to discover things
which demolished hidden expectations. With fear and uncertainty I
began, but after a couple of weeks my skepticism melted into
embarrassment at my own cockiness. Instead of arguing with the
Fathers, trying to fit them into my own theological grid, I sought to
have them tell me their story. As I assembled the faith and practice
of the early Christians I began to compare this with the state of
The three great divisions of the Faith-Protestantism, Catholicism and
Orthodoxy-became my focus. I studied the Reformation and the
theological and historical differences prompting the different
splits . The East, I discovered, also had a number of
divisions . In the long process of comparing primitive
Christianity with catechisms of today's churches, I found myself
focussing on Anglicanism and Eastern Orthodoxy. These seemed to be the
body of Christians who had most faithfully preserved the ancient
faith. For several restless weeks I battered around the pros and cons
for each group in the light of the testimony of primitive
Christianity. At one point in this frustrated exercise I compiled the
Anglicanhumble open to correction bridge to other churches wooly
internally divided thin, spotty tradition open communion open to
innovation nearly insignificant in the 20th century Orthodoxlittle
innovation deep, unbroken tradition thoroughly Apostolic deep
spirituality quite significant (2nd largest) icons Mary exclusivist
(but changing) set in its ways internal splits
This table, although written when I was a bit muddled, was
tremendously helpful. I was excited to see that I had already changed.
For the first time, for instance, I saw the Anglican emphasis on
"bridging" Christendom as a positive aspect. It felt somewhat odd to
actively pray for the visible union of all believers and to discover
the many good aspects of ecumenism, a word I had generally learned to
In spite of progress, not everything made sense. I had a very clear
picture of primitive catholic Christianity but there didn't seem to be
any group that exactly fit their description. I had also considered
Roman Catholicism and Oriental Orthodoxy, but they seemed to have
their own mismatching with the early Church. No one fit exactly,
although some groups came closer than others.
It seemed that each week I looked at Christendom in a slightly
different way, dependending upon my mood. My focus could be on the
East-West divide and, by recognising one side as theologically more
orthodox than another, I could proceed that way. Or I could look at
the Ancient Churches versus the Modern ones, which would automatically
exclude nearly all Evangelicals and Protestants. Or I could
concentrate on the evidence of lives of godliness which, although
arbitrary, would probably land me in radical Evangelicalism or the
Mennonites. Or I could concentrate on mission and outreach, which
would find me seriously considering Roman Catholicism or Protestantism
to the exclusion of the East. All four starting points, each based on
an aspect of early Christianity, led to very different conclusions in
spite of using the same material! At the same time, as I consulted
other people who were reading the writings of the Fathers, I noticed
that, although moving in broadly the same direction, they were landing
in different spots.
From here my journey entered into epistemology and hermeneutics.
Epistemology is the means by which we justify our beliefs to be true.
It is the science of knowledge. Hermeneutics is the science of
interpretation. By our epistemology, we develop a hermeneutic of the
world. Put another way, the way we think (epistemology) determines the
way we understand what is going on (hermeneutics).
It was not enough that I was simply reading the writings of the early
Christians. I was approaching their writings with a package of beliefs
which shaped the results for me.
This first bothered me when considering the issue of Sola Scriptura. I
knew that my worldview entailed Scripture as the final authority. But
was this the outlook of the authors of the New Testament? I puzzled
over this until I finally admitted that, no, the assumptions of the
authors of the New Testament are anything but a 20th century Western
Sola Scriptura . The language, references and premises of
Scripture scream out for a context. The surviving letters of Paul
leave us only half a conversation. Interpretations of some verses
depend upon an understanding of an ongoing correspondence in the
context of a long and deep relationship . Some authors make
references to other spiritual writings with which they assume their
audience is familiar . Some text is completely irrelevant to
us . The way the New Testament transmits and interprets the text
of the Old Testament precludes Sola Scriptura . Rather, the "stick
to the obvious meaning of Scripture" approach was more characteristic
of the Sadducees, not the Christians .
These were hard admissions and I fought against them. I genuinely,
desperately wanted to believe, to not surrender to what I thought were
core beliefs of liberalism. Those who embrace these things become
total relativists, don't they? My fear surfaced. By examining these
issues I felt I was not only questioning Scripture-I was jeopardising
my eternal security and career goals within Evangelicalism.
So many of us, myself included, are taught that our faith is either
founded on the Bible only or it is completely unfounded. To ascibe
authority to anything besides Scripture was the work of heretics.
Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and everyone else adds to
Scripture. We don't. Anyone who superimposes the traditions of men
upon the plain words of the Bible thereby preaches a different Gospel
and a different Jesus.
And some of us are patient. We believe and seek to resolve our
difficulties within a faithful obedience to Evangelicalism which does
not presume to have all the answers. We try not to be embarrassing
about things. We carry on within some powerful, overwhelming
ambiguities and contradictions, crying out for an answer within Christ
since we realise life outside Jesus is sickeningly hollow.
But church practice does not match the lofty ideals with which we
struggle. Our presentations of Scripture rely heavily on traditions,
such as the naming of the Gospels  and the acceptance of books
which were of one time questionable canonicity . This is all part
of the ancient Tradition which are technically additions to Scripture.
However we often add our own traditions. Our sermons and teaching
tapes are sometimes nothing more that our own ideas with the
endorsement of a few verses taken out of context. As I explored more,
I soon realised that, within Christendom, Evangelicals have been just
as prone as anyone else to add traditions to whatever Gospel they
received . Although usually a generation or two late, Evangelicals
have been quite faithful in reflecting their world.
Victims of our Time
This becomes one of the most important parts of my story, yet it must
be kept intentionally vague and over-generalised.
We interpret Scripture through an epistemology which comes from our
community. As Westerners, this means that our approach to the Bible is
often laden with the philosophical assumptions of our culture and not
necessarily Scriptural ones. Within the Aristotelian meanderings of
the West in this millenium, the Reformation is comfortably twinned
with Renaissance and humanist thought. The Anglican process of
determining their doctrines works on the assumptions of Empiricism.
Dispensationalism simply borrowed an Enlightenment epistemology and
laid it like an iron grid over Scripture. The Pentecostal movement can
be seen as the popular after-effects of 19th century
transcendentalism, existentialism and romanticism .
Western Christendom has been in a love-hate relationship with
philosophy, particularly since the time of Thomas Aquinas, who sought
to reconcile Christianity to an Aristotelian framework and "prove" the
truth of the Gospel. Champion to a long line of scholastic theology,
Aquinas heralded trends which were to later prove disastrous for
Christian orthodoxy .
As victims of our time, many innovations to Western Christendom have
entered through Evangelicalism. The ordination of women is one such
issue, where the first example in the history of the Church came in
1853 with the ordination of Antoinette Brown, a student of Charles
Finney, in the Congregational Church . Deviance from the
episcopate and the liturgy are also two examples.
The East, on the other hand, has remained relatively unchanged. The
concept of a Reformation, so powerful an image in the West, is largely
incomprehensible in the East. Rather than working with legal
categories, the East has held to relational ones. Rather than starting
with Reason to which the individual must attain, as in the West, the
East begins with the Spirit already present within the eternal Church
within which we gather as community and understand the world.
Whereas I had conceived of Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox as the
same beast, the East see Catholics and Protestants as opposite sides
of the same coin. The Pope, for them, was the first Protestant. Luther
and other reformers objected to the authority of the Pope so they
simply declared everyone to be their own Pope, to interpret and
practice Scripture as they saw fit personally. The West is a faith of
the individual, reflected by an emphasis on the unity of God; the East
is a faith of the community, stemming from reliance on the threeness
of God .
A Viable Alternative
Through my reading and questions I began to see another possibility of
looking at the Christian Faith. It personally made more sense and it
helped me to deal with many of the irregularities of the Scriptures
which would ordinarily have driven me into liberalism.
Instead of starting with the Bible, as an unchangeable, eternal book,
I began to start with Christ. Christ truly came in the flesh. Instead
of writing Scriptures, He fulfilled a perfect mission of atonement and
trusted his Apostles and the Church, through the power of the Spirit,
with the message of the Gospel. These Apostles were truly anointed and
chosen by God and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit they delivered an
infallible message-a True Tradition. The Scriptures are the authentic
core of this Tradition and are infallible by virtue of being
Apostolic. At the same time, the work of the Apostles, in ruling a
united, holy Church, left behind a community which would maintain that
Tradition until Christ's return. This Catholic and Orthodox Faith has
been passed down in thought, word and deed for the last nineteen
centuries the Church and will continue to be so until the New
Creation. The Spirit speaks to my heart through the beauty of the
mutual embrace of Scripture, Tradition and the Church, the three
locked in a love embrace across time and space.
We cannot claim to be objective or to somehow have the cipher of life
figured out on our own. This is an earmark of liberalism and
modernism. By pretending to have direct access to the Truth we
circumvent the Christian Church as an historical reality and treat the
Bible as literally as a textbook, except when inconvenient. This
approach affects our worship and the way we treat people outside the
Many of us embrace the Bible as our starting place and act as if we
simply believe the plain words of the Bible, when in reality it is our
treatment of the Bible which motivates us. We call for unity on the
essentials, as defined by Scripture, but when it comes to our
practice, our list of essentials is based not on Scripture, but on the
mutual agreement of those denominations we include in a consensus
How else could Evangelicals agree on an ironclad list of 66 books,
something never determined in early Church history, while doctrines
such as baptism and the laying on of hands, called by Scripture
"elementary"  are rendered non-essential? How is it that we are
solidly agreed on a legal imputation of Adam's sin to humanity which
Christ had to pay to fulfill the justice of God, a concept never made
explicit in Scripture , while we are hostile to any single pattern
of Church government? Did the Apostles really simultaneously establish
episcopal, presbyterian and congregational Church structures while
advancing the legal satisfaction theory of atonement?
It is time for second thoughts. As Evangelicals, we have many good
people in our ranks who are simply not satisfied with a Protestant
worldview which scotch tapes together theology, the Scriptures and our
postmodern world. Some of our people have lost their faith to
secularism. Still others, however, are silent, stewing over the
inconsistencies of the Evangelical world, afraid to challenge the
powers that be for fear of being seen as a "heretic" or as a Christian
with weak faith .
This alternative, which seeks to embrace a heritage rightfully
belonging to all Christians, is not without its problems. It is a way
to harmonise many of the stories in Scripture and bring them into
symphonious dialogue with the history of the Church, our modern world
and all the question marks of what it means to be human. Many of us
are tired of the easy and "obvious" answers to life, the universe and
everything when the reality behind our claims is so often simply not
there. Many of us, depending upon our apologetics, feel betrayed when
we find evidence that demands a verdict opposite to what we've been
told. Unfortunately, some have withdrawn faith in Christ because of
Meanwhile secularism rapes the world. In this war against materialism,
Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox have suffered together. How shall
the war be won?
The Evil E Word
Evangelicals excitedly anticipate the year 2000. This target date has
caught our imagination not so much as an entry into a new millenium,
but as the end of our current projects. Our best plans anticipate the
next five years then evaporate into hopes for a swift rapture. With
the writing of triumphal books such as Alistair McGrath's
Evangelicalism & the Future of Christianity, we have rarely felt
better about ourselves than in this age. All major denominations have
spread across all national boundaries. We boast of over 5% of the
world's population. We have one of the highest growth rates of any
religious group in the world. Who couldn't be excited and optimistic?
In spite of this optimism, it is time for us to begin to wake up to
some hard realities. Already a significant number of the leading
Evangelical lights are finding their way back into the Catholic and
Orthodox Churches. This stream will increase, particularly with the
turn of the millenium, when our Evangelical dreams and plans lay
uncompleted and subject to the vagrant winds of change. Even then
Evangelical churches will continue to grow, but the definition of
Evangelical will be pushed to new limits. Meanwhile the pilgrimage to
ancient Christianity will become louder, as a new generation prepares
to be faithful to Scripture and the Tradition. More and more
Evangelicals are beginning to see that the apogee of their faith is
really found in a place such as the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The time is right. Now, more than before Catholic and Orthodox leaders
are praying that the zeal for and commitment to Christ which
Evangelicals have to offer will be a part of their communion. Beyond
the theological issues there are bishops and priests in each of these
communions who genuinely appreciate the Evangelical call to holiness,
sanctity, faithfulness and knowing Christ.
One of the greatest obstacles to this happening is the tendency for
many Bible believing Protestants to pour contempt upon ecumenism. I
too was taught that this word is dirty. All that it conjured up was
pictures of liberals wanting to eradicate the heart of the Christian
message for the sake of a superficial unity. Coming together on the
basis of the least common denominator has betrayed the Church, not
brought it together.
This sentiment is shared by many in the Catholic and Orthodox folds.
The vision shaping modern efforts at unity has basically been liberal
Protestant. And as a result of this frustration a new type of
ecumenism is being born, driven by a desire not for the least in
Christianity, but for the most. Instead of embarrassment at
theological differences, this new movement recognises those
differences and that the approach of love is to talk honestly and
openly with other Christians, with a heart to be changed and
Too often in the past, by means of anti-intellectualism, sectarian
pride or liberal castigation, Evangelicals have cut themselves off
from the broader world. They have learned about other Christian
traditions from their own sources, many of which are out of touch with
good scholarship, and have perpetuated myths and stereotypes. As the
number of Evangelicals returning to the Tradition increases, how will
leadership respond? Will they play the propaganda machine and maintain
their position on the periphery of Christendom or will they allow
their churches to mature by beginning to open themselves? Ecumenism
could be completely redefined by the choice Evangelicals make.
Call to Kenoticism
But before we can be this blessing, we must begin to own up to our
lack of identity, coherent theology and realiseable future within the
current understanding of Evangelicalism. We should begin to humble
ourselves corporately, not waiting for the year 2000 and the end of
our current plans. Without a common repentence and journey back to the
Catholic and Orthodox communions we face a future Evangelicalism that
could be both a zoo and a museum.
The naive acceptance of anyone who carries a Bible and speaks the
right talk has weakened the Evangelical consensus to the point where a
definition of evangelicalism that is not useless is nearly impossible.
Our clarity will continue to unfocus and the knee-jerk reactions
already underway will simply cause our churches, once on the "cutting
edge," to freeze in time and slowly wither.
Imagine the high-tech megachurch complexes currently blossoming. Is it
possible that in a century these churches could ring just as hollow as
many of Spurgeon's churches do today in London? The faith of the
future will not be the rational, capitalist, excited, "explain-all"
Christianity we know today in the Evangelical Church. Rather, it will
be the ancient Faith, in communion with the Church of all ages and all
times, and which simply ponders the mysteries granted to us in a
wide-eyed and content wonder at our world.
Kenosis is the Greek word used for when Christ emptied Himself, taking
on the form of a servant. The Orthodox Way is also the kenotic way,
maintaining the primitive Christianity ethos which sought the same.
Evangelicalism shares many of these virtues, but usually only on the
level of the individual. It is time to take down the barrier which
prevents us from applying our personal spiritual standards to our
structures, our theology and our worldview. It is time to pursue the
My experience is peculiar. I have been both wounded and healed by the
early Church. The mercy offered by them has been most helpful for it
has replaced an eroded confidence in Protestant theology with a
Christian walk that is emerging into something more real, authentic
In the awkward confrontation with my spiritual and intellectual pride
I would exchange this pilgrimage for nothing else as it has brought me
closer to Christ, the Scriptures and the Church. At this stage, the
further I go, the fewer easy answers I have to our complex world.
There are the same old sinners within Orthodoxy, and yet I find within
it the right paradigm with which to view our fallen world.
Unsettling as this is at times, I am learning how to appreciate being
a Christian pilgrim. Turbulent my road to Orthodoxy may be, but it is
the fulfillment of my Evangelical visions. And the Spirit is calling
for more pilgrims.
Learn to be submissive, putting aside the boastful and the haughty
self-confidence of your tongue, for it is better for you to be found
small but honourable in the flock of Christ, than to be pre-eminent in
repute but to be cast out from his hope.
1. Operation Mobilisation (OM) is probably the most international
Evangelical mission organisation in the world with 2700 adults working
in 65 countries. Their emphasis is working in Europe, the Middle East
and the Indian Subcontinent, as well as maintaining a ministry through
their two ships, the Doulos and Logos II. Although not known
extensively in the U.S. they are well-established and known in places
like northern Europe, India and South Korea. Return
2. The Ecclesiastical History, as well as the Apostolic Fathers
(Penguin ed: Early Christian Writings), is the most accessible
beginning point to the writings of the Fathers. For a deeper
scholarship, Roman Catholics produce excellent critical editions of
the important patristic writings. There are a number of other good
general books, such as F. F. Bruce's The Spreading Flame or Payne's
The Holy Fire, which is tempered for an Evangelical audience, and
Henry Chadwick's The Early Church. The best introduction to the early
Church I have read, assessing its significance for the contemporary
Evangelical Church, is David Bercot's Will the Real Heretics Please
Stand Up? Return
3. Eusebius, Ecc Hist 2:9 Return
4. Ecc Hist 3:23,28 Return
5. Ecc Hist 1:7 Return
6. Papias' book was a compilation of sayings of Christ based on the
oral tradition extant in the early second century. It was known until
disappearing in the late middle ages. There are many other references
within early Christian writings to books that have long disappeared.
Even what we have of the early Fathers is not half of what was
written. In many ways we must give the benefit of the doubt to these
earlier lights Return
7. John Henry Newman (1801-89), one of the top theological and
patristic minds of the nineteenth century, is notable on this subject.
He began with an understanding of two types of the miraculous:
scriptural and ecclesiastical, the former to be received, the latter
rejected. This position changed with time as he realised the
distinction could not be maintained without succumbing to liberalism.
In his studies he came to the point where he embraced superstition as
an inherent part of a Christian ethos, the rejection of the miraculous
and "superstitious" a mark of deism. Biographies of Newman's life,
such as Faber's Oxford Apostles, are an invaluable insight into an
intellectual and spiritual movement which sought to restore the
Anglican Church to the pattern of the primitive Church. Return
8. It is the central ethos of the early Church that most of our
well-manicured histories sidestep. Even books such as The Spreading
Flame, which have no obvious errors, duck aspects of the early Church
that would trouble their Evangelical readership. Return
9. Dave Tomlinson, author of The Post Evangelicals, has appropriately
said, "If most Evangelicals knew how the canon came together they
would probably have kittens." The issues of canonisation are
considerably more complex than Josh McDowell or Geisler & Nix would
have us believe. An "impartial" look at the historical record might
show that our understanding of canon is simply wrong. For an
introduction to the Old Testament canon, see my essay "All Scripture
is Inspired by God." For the New Testament canon, see my essay "Do not
Add to His Words." Both draw from a number textual and patristic
sources. Septuagintal studies are also an essential aspect of the
study of canon and the language of the New Testament. Return
10. This most difficult subject of baptism is addressed well by a
number of Catholic, Orthodox and Lutheran books on the subject. It is
telling that Evangelical theology on baptism often circumvents the
teaching of the Reformers on the subject, many of whom held to a
position of baptismal regeneration. Protestant scholarship today, such
as found in J Jeremias' The Central Message of the New Testament,
demonstrates that St. Paul's understanding of salvation always
included baptism as an implicit element. For an introduction to the
early Church's view on baptism, see Tertullian On Baptism, Justin's
First Apology and the Epistle of Barnabas. Return
11. Evangelicals may consider this a violation of a principle found in
Ecc 1:10. However we should reconsider our use of this passage and the
book of Ecclesiastes, which deal with the cycles of nature and the
human experience, not with the history of heresy nor of human progress
in knowledge. Return
12. An excellent introduction to early heresies is served by Irenaeus
in his work Against Heresies. Gnosticism is a loose term for a number
of very different syncretistic theosophic sects. Some of the common
beliefs Gnostics held included belief in the "ogdoad," where the
godhead was separated into thirty different parts. To my knowledge
there is no modern community that holds to such a belief. Gnosticism
is dead Return
13. See Philip J. Lee's oustanding critical expose on Gnostic
tendencies in American Evangelicalism entitled Against the Protestant
14. See Adv Haer III:1-5 Return
15. See Tertullian's On Prescription Against Heretics Return
16. For initiation into an early Christian understanding of this
essential doctrine, good starting places are "II Clement" and "To
Diognetus," and On the Incarnation of the Word of God, by St.
Athanasius. The latter is the earliest evangelistic invitation to
Christianity we have outside the New Testament. The patristic position
on salvation is sustained by a multitude of Scriptures most of us tend
to explain away when discussing the subject. Irenaeus' book Against
Heresies and Origen's Against Celsus are excellent introductions to
heretical and philosophical understandings of salvation. Lutheran
scholar J Pelikan, in his Development of Doctrine series (vol 1), is
one of the few Protestants who acknowledge and try to deal with the
striking similarities between the Gnostic and Protestant positions on
salvation. I personally believe he dismisses it without adequate
17. Good starting places to understand the Eucharist include the
epistles of Ignatius, Justin Martyr's "First Apology" and Irenaeus'
Against Heresies. The interpretation of what the early Christians may
have specifically meant remains disputed, but three basic positions
find consonance with the early record: Lutheran (consubsantiation),
Catholic (transubstantiation) and Orthodox (similar to Catholic, but
with a more mystical approach). The Anglican position is undefined,
but would generally be classified with the Lutheran understanding. For
an excellent argument for the primitive Christian understanding of the
Eucharist, see David Bercot's cassette, "What the Early Christians
Believed about Communion." Return
18. Excellent points of reference with early Christianity in the
subject of ecclesiology include Clement's "Epistle to the
Corinthians," Epistles of Ignatius, Justin Martyr's Dialogue with
Trypho, a Jew and Cyprian's "On the Unity of the Church." For a very
well written and concise summary of patristic ecclesiology consult Fr.
Gregory Rogers' booklet entitled Apostolic Succession, available from
Conciliar Press. The concept of an invisible Church was not to come
into Christian thought until the sixteenth century, yet even this was
resisted by many Reformers. See, for instance, Frank Cross'
Anglicanism, which documents the process of reform in the Anglican
Church through the seventeenth century. Irenaeus' Against Heresies,
III is an excellent introduction to the subject of Apostolic
Succession and its importance to the early Church. While Alistair
McGrath (Christian Doctrine) and others may downplay the importance of
ecclesiological structure in the early Church, the writings of the
Fathers speak otherwise. Return
19. Hippolytus' The Apostolic Tradition and the early liturgies of the
Church (v. 8, ANF) are excellent introductions. For an understanding
of the development of liturgy from pre-Christian times, see Liturgy
and Worship (SPCK), a handbook to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
20. For an excellent summary of early Christian belief on the
after-life see Hippolytus' fragment "Against Plato." Return
21. There are many books which thoroughly document the Reformation, or
rather reformations. Instead of simply being a homogenous wall of
change, there were six distinct movements: the counter-reformation
(Catholic), humanism (Erasmus), Lutheranism, Calvinism, Anabaptism and
Anglicanism. Each had a distinct approach to the restoration of the
Church. An excellent introduction to the English contribution to the
Reformation, setting it in the context of the continental reform
movements, is found in Stephen O'Neill's Anglicanism. Return
22. An excellent start to Eastern Orthodoxy is found in Bp Kallistos
Ware's The Orthodoxy Way and The Orthodox Church. For a good
introduction to the Oriental Orthodox Church, see Adrian Fortescue's
The Lesser Eastern Churches or The History of Eastern Christianity by
23. An excellent introduction to the problems of Scripture in the
Western and other cultures is found in Nida & Reyburn's Meaning Across
Cultures, which is very frank about some of the incongruities. D
Edwards, for his part, states some of these problems well in his
dialogue with J Stott in Evangelical Essentials. Return
24. The letters to the Corinthians are case in point. Is I Cor 7:1
Paul's teaching or the statement of the Church in Corinth? What was
the context of Paul's injunction for women to wear headcoverings in I
Cor 11 and did Paul mean for it to be binding today? What kind of
salvation did Paul have in mind in I Tim 2:15? Return
25. Jude quotes the Book of Enoch (14,15) as an invective against
apostates. The point of whether Enoch was "canonical" in Jude's mind
or not is moot. Categories of canonicity were to arise much later in
the Church. In his argument Jude appeals to the authority of the words
of Enoch, a prophet of Jehovah, which he expects will persuade his
audience. Paul also assumes knowledge of either the pseudipigrapha or
Jewish tradition on Timothy's part (2 Tim 3:8) and the author of
Hebrews assumes knowledge of the Martyrdom of Isaiah (Heb 11:37). See
also Jude 8, a reference to the Assumption of Moses. Return
26. Examples are hard to not imagine. How many sermons have used Rom
16:14 as their text? What about Num 7 & 26, Jos 14-19 and I Chr 1-7?
We probably need to re-think our doctrine of Scripture being equally
inspired in the sense of democracy since it is not reflected in our
27. The New Testament frequently cites Old Testament as Christian
prophecy when, given its historical context, is anything but
Messianic. For example, Mt 2:15 cites Hos 11:1 as a prophecy that the
Messiah would dwelt in Egypt. The context of Hosea, however, revolves
around the Exodus and says nothing about Christology. There are many
other examples of this, such as Paul's allegorising of the Old
Testament (I Cor 9:9,10; Gal 4:21-31) and Hebrew's lengthy eisogesis
of the Melchizedek priesthood (Gen 14:18-20). There are questions of
Old Testament text type as well since the New Testament authors
generally prefer the rendering of the Greek Septuagint to the Hebrew.
See my 21 page table of "Old Testament quotations in the New
Testament," comparing the New Testament citations with the Hebrew Old
Testament and the Septuagint. A refreshingly honest, but rather
reckless book is Bible scholar James Barr's Escaping Fundamentalism,
which includes more examples of this kind. Return
28. This distinction comes out most clearly in the issues of canon and
the resurrection of the dead. With the former, they believed it
blasphemy to add Scripture to the Torah and their devotion to Sola
Scriptura would have prevented any of them from even thinking of a
"new testament." In the case of the latter, they had a strong case in
the sense that only a handful of Old Testament verses speak about
post-mortem resurrection. In fact the Old Testament is strangely mute
on the question of life after death, leaving cries of hope, but no
word of assurance comparable to the teachings of Christ. Return
29. The ascribed authorship of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of these
four Gospels does not spring from the text, but upon an early
tradition traceable no earlier than Irenaeus. Return
30. Dubious books of the New Testament in the early centuries included
James, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John and Revelation. For an interesting picture
of the complexity of the canonicity of a book like Revelation, see
Eusebius' Eccl Hist 3:25; 6:25; 7:25. The five easy tests mandated by
Geisler & Nix in From God to Us and Josh McDowell's postulation of a
patristic, "If in doubt, throw it out," virtually insult the
historical record. Return
31. It is this tendency which caused Newman to label Evangelicals as
the party between Apostolicism and Liberalism (see Oxford Apostles).
32. An introduction to Western philosophy is very helpful to
understand the deep relationships between the Church and culture in
the West. One good introduction is John Shand's Philosophers and
33. For an excellent assessment of this phenomenon, see S. M.
Hutchen's article in Touchstone magazine, "The Unicorn and the
Professor," spring 1995. Return
34. See Michael Harper's Equal and Different, which skillfully argues
for the traditional gender models upheld by the Church in a style
accessible to both Evangelicals and Catholics. Return
35. See, for instance, Colin Gunton's The One, the Three and the Many
and John Zizioulos' Being as Communion. Return
36. Heb 6:2 Return
37. See Fr. Romanides' article, Original Sin According to St. Paul.
The legal satisfaction theory of sin popular amongst Evangelicals was
developed and promoted by scholastic theologian Anselm. Return
38. This is why books such as Dave Tomlinson's excellent The Post
Evangelicals are being published. There are ways of thinking in our
theology which begins with principles promoted by the Enlightenment
that Christians are not going to buy any more. Return
39. I Clement 57:2; Clement, a companion of St. Paul, wrote this c. 90
AD to the Church in Corinth who were threatening the unity of the
A Atiya, The History of Eastern Christianity (Indiana 1968)
James Barr, Escaping Fundamentalism, (SCM)
* David Bercot, Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up? (Tyler: Scroll
* David Bercot "What the Early Christians Believed", cassette series,
(Tyler: Scroll, 1994)
Book of Common Prayer, (Cambridge 1928)
F F Bruce, The Spreading Flame
Cornerstone, Summer 1993, "Selling Satan"
* Henry Chadwick, The Early Church, Pelican History of the Church,
vol. 1 (London: Penguin 1967)
Charles, Book of Enoch
J H Charlesworth, The Old Testament Pseudepigraphia, 2 vols., (London:
Frank Cross & Thomas More, ed., Anglicanism, (London: SPCK 1995)
* Eusebius, The History of the Church, trans. G. A. Williamson, rev.
Andrew Louth, (London: Penguin, 1989)
Geoffrey Faber, Oxford Apostles, (London: Penguin, 1954)
Adrian Fortescue, The Lesser Eastern Churches
Norman Geisler & William Nix, From God to Us, (Chicago: Moody Press,
* G P Goold, ed, Apostolic Fathers, 2vol, Loeb (London: Harvard 1992)
* Colin Gunton, The One, the Three and the Many, (Cambridge, 1993)
Michael Harper, Equal and Different, (London: Hodder & Stoughton,
S. M. Hutchens, "The Unicorn and the Professor," Touchstone, spring
J Jeremias, The Central Message of the New Testament
Joel Kalvesmaki, "All Scripture is Inspired by God", essay (1995)
Joel Kalvesmaki, "Do not Add to His Words", essay (1996)
Liturgy and Worship (SPCK)
E A Livingstone, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian
Church, (Oxford, 1977)
* Andrew Louth, ed, Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers,
trans. Maxwell Staniforth, (London: Penguin, 1987)
Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, 2 vol. (San
Bernardino: Here's Life 1979)
John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, (London: Collins, 1965)
Eugene A. Nida & William D Reyburn, Meaning Across Cultures,
(Maryknoll: Orbis 1981)
Stephen O'Neill, Anglicanism, (Pelican)
* Jaroslav Pelikan, Development of Doctrine 5 vol. (University of
* Robertson, ed., Ante Nicene Fathers, 10 vol., (Hendricksons, 1995
Fr. Romanides, "Original Sin According to St. Paul", St. Vladimir's
Seminary Quarterly, vol. IV, nos. 1 and 2, 1955-6
John Shand, Philosophers and Philosophy, (London: Penguin 1994)
John Stott & David L Edwards, Evangelical Essentials, (Hodder &
Mark Swearingen (ma...@ephesus.com), "The Journey," a 5 part privately
published apology for conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy (New York 1993)
Dave Tomlinson, The Post Evangelicals (London: SPCK 1995)
* Bp Kallistos Ware, The Orthodoxy Way (London: Penguin)
* Bp Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church (London: Penguin 1963)
John Zizioulos, Being as Communion
NOTE: An asterick (*) represents a recommended starting place. Other
recommended books . . .
He,who has neither the repentance of the Tax Collector, nor the good deeds of the Pharisee.
"The Word was made flesh in order to offer up this Body for all,
and that we, partaking of His Spirit, might be deified."
Saint Athanasius the Apostolic. 298-373 AD.
I find this interesting in light of your research. Each of the points that
you bring up correspond to LDS doctrine. And you admit that the modern
evengalistic churchs would be considered heretical by the standards of the
Perhaps you should re-think your position regarding the LDS church, based on
your research here.
BTW, you might also want to research the role of Constantine in the early
1. Who convened the Council of Nicea
2. Who issued the invitations -- decided who was invited
3. Who appeared in the session in all his kingly glory.
4. Who suggested and proposed the "homoousia" concept of the Godhead.
5. Was the vote on the creed unanymous? Indeed, what happened to those who
6. To whom did the Christians turn to hold excommunication hearings?
In other words, who was running the Christian church at that time?
I have concluded that, while Constantine provided the Christians protection
from persecution, it was at such a high cost that the Christian church is
still paying the price today.
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Greetings new dude,
>>Whatever godly image was set up by the
>Mormon Church quickly disappears as one explores the dark shadows of
>heresy. Of any group that claims to be Christian, Mormons are quite
>possibly the furthest removed from its historical doctrinal center.>
>I find this interesting in light of your research. Each of the points that
>you bring up correspond to LDS doctrine. And you admit that the modern
>evengalistic churchs would be considered heretical by the standards of the
>Perhaps you should re-think your position regarding the LDS church, based on
>your research here.
Not likely, BTW, the Book of Abraham was the Egyptian Book of the
Dead, some prophet they got there.
>BTW, you might also want to research the role of Constantine in the early
I have done so, and can again if you want. May I suggest you also
research it from the side of the Church as well, might help a little
in your understanding of history.
>1. Who convened the Council of Nicea
Who gave you your passport to travel overseas?
However, the Bishops in attendance had the vote on every matter of
>2. Who issued the invitations -- decided who was invited
The one whose job it was to run the empire, sort of like the Prime
Minister or President, get the picture. BTW, even the heretics wered
>3. Who appeared in the session in all his kingly glory.
The same as who will appear at the Olympic Games next year-The Prime
Minister, funny that, but Kings you know usually appear in kingly
glory, have you seen the Coronation of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth?
>4. Who suggested and proposed the "homoousia" concept of the Godhead.
Where did the term come from in the first place for it to be whispered
to him to suggest. I have quotes of the term in Christian usage prior
to the Council and Constantines ascension to power. History is a
master not a pupil.
>5. Was the vote on the creed unanymous? Indeed, what happened to those who
Indeed it was unanyanymous, apart from the two heretical Arian bishops
out of 318 Orthodox who attended. What always should happen to those
who proceed in teaching damnable heresy inspite of being open
requested and commanded to cease. They were exiled from dealing with
the Church. Rom 16:17, Titus 3:10.
>6. To whom did the Christians turn to hold excommunication hearings?
I am glad that you called them the Cgristians, because they were, the
heretics had left the fountain of grace and were being disciplined.
The Church dealt with the matter and the Christian empire supported
(in this instance) the Church.
>In other words, who was running the Christian church at that time?
Same as now, God the Father through Christ Jesus in the power of the
Holy Spirit. Christ utilized His Bishops and His kings and His people.
>I have concluded that, while Constantine provided the Christians protection
>from persecution, it was at such a high cost that the Christian church is
>still paying the price today.
Indeed you may have said the only true thing in your whole post.
However, we are happy to leave it to God to deal with and worry about
our sins instead of a man who dies 1600 years ago. :-)