Diversity is good; disunity is not

Religion is like going out to dinner with friends. Everyone may order something different but we can all sit at the same table – Dalai Lama

THE word denomination is not found in the Bible. Jesus never taught there should be divisions in the church with significant doctrinal differences. The original church was a single congregation of Christ’s followers.
Some modern denominations emphasise slight doctrinal differences, but more often they simply offer different styles of worship to fit the differing tastes and preferences of Christians.
Most Christian churches have far more in common than they have in disagreement with each other. Research in the US a couple of years ago indicated that the majority of protestant/evangelical congregations shared at least 90 per cent of the same beliefs. The researchers found little disagreement over the most basic elements of Christianity — such as Jesus’ life and teachings, including His deity, death and resurrection.
There is a common Christian faith that is recognisable in a large outdoor church in Sri Lanka, an evangelical meeting in Latin America, a small Anglican church in Melbourne or Hobart and a Catholic cathedral in Rome. The cultural “flavour” may be different but the heart is the same.
Diversity is a good thing in Christianity. Disunity is not.
The great theologian J.B.Phillips said he understood why some people could not understand why the churches can’t “get together”.
He said: “The problem is doubtless complicated, for there are many honest differences held with equal sincerity, but it is only made insoluble because the different denominations are (possibly unconsciously) imagining God to be Roman or Anglican or Baptist or Methodist or Presbyterian or what have you.
“If they could see beyond their little inadequate god, and glimpse the reality of God, they might even laugh a little and perhaps weep a little. The result would be a unity that actually does transcend differences, “
One thing’s for sure. There will be no denominations in Heaven. But there might be plenty in Hell.

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49 thoughts on “Diversity is good; disunity is not

  1. Bryan, I tackled and disputed you on your claim about there having been but one single united Christian church in the beginning. Absolutely no-one attempted to answer it all those months ago, other than regarding my comment about Denominational splits. In the process, I gave about 30 text quotes from the Christian Testament as evidence that division argument and split ups occurred VERY quickly during the first century.

    Please define precisely just what you mean by the ‘Original Church’, and state further just when it started, and how long it actually existed or functioned for.

    This is a serious challenge I’m putting forward. If you dont answer then I trust that some other individual in our group will have a go at it instead.

    Rian.

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      • Not good enough, Bryan. I was not answered. You will need to bring up the evidence..

        To be sure of what I’m saying, I looked back in the archives to your blog of 13th October 2013 ‘No Denominations in Heaven’, in which you stated ‘the word demonination is not found in the Bible. The original church was a single congregation of Christ’s followers’.
        I posted stating that ‘no, no single original church I’m afraid. – at least not lasting for more than a few very short years.’
        Yours was the only answer I got to that. then– October 16th. ‘On the contrary Rian. You have provided no evidence for your opinion. I prefer to trust the genuine scholars.’

        Here follows my posting on the matter, in which I list many texts from the Christian Testament that back up my case. I simply wouldnt have just given an unproven opinion. On the spot I spent three hours that evening digging out the following quotes, – and all from the Bible. You dont have to be any sort of ‘genuine scholar’ in order to locate Testamental references like these.

         A.—Existence of HERESIES and HERETICS within the church. (in other words,- no SINGLE united congregation at all).–

        Revelations 2.6. You hate the practices of the Nicolaitanes, which also I hate. (ref. a heretical sect WITHIN THE CHURCH that has worked out a compromise with the pagan societies.)
        Rev. 2.15. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teachings of the Nicolaitanes.
        2 Corinth. 11.4 if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received or a different gospel from the one you accepted…..
        Romans 16. 17. Watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.
        1 John 1. That which was from the beginning which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched. (ref. John contradicts here the heresy of the Gnostics)
        2 John 7. Many deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh have gone out into the world…
        Corinth. 11.27.. and in danger from false brothers.
        1Corinth. 15.13. how can some of you say that there is no resurrection from the dead? (now there is a real difference of opinion and doctrine!)
        …Galatians 1.6. you are so quickly deserting the one who called you… and turning to a different gospel… Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion.
        Gal. 4. 8/9. Now that you know God, how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles.
        . 1 Timothy. 1.3 You may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer.
        1 Titus. 1.10. There are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the Circumcision group. They must be silenced because they are ruining whole households by teaching things that they ought not to teach.
        2nd Peter 2.1. But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies. Many will follow their destructive ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.
        Rian. (part B coming up.)

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      • To continue Bryan,

        part B. DISRUPTIVE PEOPLE in the communities who behave and teach wrongly–
        Gal. 3. You foolish Galatians , Who has bewitched you?
        2 Cor. 11. 5. I do not think I am in the least inferior to those super apostles…
        Rev. 2.2 You cannot tolerate those who claim to be apostles, but are not…
        1 Corinth. 1.12 there are quarrels amongst you. What I mean is this: One of you says I follow Paul. Another… I follow Apollos, another I follow Cephas.
        1 John 4. For many false prophets have gone out into the world. (Ref. The false prophets who were inspired by the spirit of the anti-Christ.)
        Jude. 1.4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men who……. deny Jesus Christ ….
        1 Tim. 19. Holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander whom I have handed over to Satan.
        Jude 1.11 These men are blemishes at your love feasts…….
        Gal. 4. 17. Those people are zealous to win you over,….. so that you may be zealous for them.

        ———Indications of Other ‘denominations?———————-
        Mark9.38 and Luke 9.49 ‘We saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him because he is not one of us. (Note this. It reads like a plain example of a separate and burgeoning Denomination. ‘HE IS NOT ONE OF US!’ they tell Jesus. But Jesus doesnt reject him.)
        2 Tim. 1.13. You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me (Sic), including Phygelus and Hermogenes. (my note – there is no indication here that the Asian people have dropped their actual Christianity. They’ve just dumped their allegiance to Paul. Of course, they MIGHT represent heretics or just some other kind of Denomination)
        ————————————————————————————————————-
        There you have evidence from the inerrant Scripture to demonstrate no single unified church back at the beginning, with just one doctrine. Not just my opinion! What sort of GENUINE scholars could they be who apparently miss the above quotes? I would suggest that one reads Bart Ehrman’s book “Lost Christianities”

        Another point. Observe that dissent and disunity showed up virtually as soon as Paul joined in the Faith. If by any chance you are identifying as the original Christian church just those in Jerusalem, then they only lasted from Pentecost until shortly before the Roman attack on Jerusalem. Then we are told that they got to hell out of it, and took refuge in Pella. So that original church in Jerualem only lasted for some 30 odd years. And dont forget that during that short time, Paul showed up, and they had major disputes with Paul, who held unpopular views. He was regarded with such suspicion that he was ordered to perform a rather humiliating ritual in the temple to prove his faith..

        Well at this point, I got a posting from one of our regulars who pointed out that the person complained about in the Gospel, who was ‘driving out demons’ in Christ’s name, was almost certainly one of the other ‘Seventy’ that Jesus had called, and therefore not to be described as representing another ‘denomination’. I pointed out that since he was described by the disciples as ‘NOT BEING ONE OF US’, that the situation was just like the present day co-existence of innumerable church denominations, all (or many) of whom may be taken by the faithful as having been inspired by Jesus, and none the less they are denominations, but each church will say about the others ‘he/they are not one of us.’

        That was the ONLY answer I got. Do you maintain that those NT quotes I gave do not demonstrate a very divided and split up church? I have duly provided evidence of my ‘opinion’, havent I? Direct me to genuine Scholars who can explain those quotes away.
        Rian.

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      • The early church was a strong and powerful unit of simple, ordinary and like-minded people who loved God with all their heart. This is evident through the testimony that the early believers left an example for us to follow.

        If we take a closer look in the book of Acts, we¡¦ll see that the early church believers were doing some amazing things:
        „X They were anointed and full of the Holy Spirit
        „X They were preaching the Word of God with boldness
        „X Miracles, Signs and Wonders followed the preaching of the Word
        „X Thousands were being saved and added to the church
        „X People gave themselves, their possessions to the cause of Christ

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      • Bryan,
        I simply cannot believe you folk! Not a single one of you even attempted to tackle any one of the texts I tossed at you. You answered purely with dogmatism and glowing platitudes out of the book of Acts.

        Paul describes how THE WHOLE OF ASIA had deserted him. – but no splits in the original church, you tell me. Named individuals were misbehaving; numbers were coming in with false doctrines and leading folk astray. False teachings were being propogated. Big heresies were being developed and followed by members of the churches. Examples are given again and again in those quotes – But no! They all got on together in ONE ACCORD, say you.

        Folks, just read again those quotes I gave you. Someone tell me just how you interpret them. I’m not avoiding the descriptions of ‘miracles’ etc being demonstrated by the faithful. Those details are not denied by the lack of unity that is being claimed within the quotes. Is everyone just too scared to look it all in the face and observe the facts. Tell me, why is Paul so frequently upset with the way people are moving away from his teachings? Why does he constantly warn his readers about the dangers that develop within his communities?
        .
        Rian.

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      • Rian,
        Your references do not prove other denominations but rather other parties and factions within the original church. Which the church dealt with quite effectively whilst the apostles were alive, by condemning them and/or warning Christians against them.
        But if you believe that there was a form of Christianity called Nicolaitans before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and/or before the death of John the apostle 99-100 AD. Then please give the historical sources.
        In fact you can’t, because there aren’t any. The churches mentioned in the book of revelation have always been recognised by Christians as denoting different epochs of Christianity starting with the apostolic church (ephesus) and ending with the Laodicean Church which preceeds the second coming of Jesus.
        Hence the reference to the Nicolaitans is not a reference to activities of the apostolic church but a church epoch succeeding it.
        However have it your own way. Please produce evidence of these other “Christian denominations” you speak of. What were they called? How did they differentiate themselves from the party of the apostolic church? What were their scriptures? Give us the archeaological evidence of the Nicolaitans. And whilst you are at it give us the names of the scholars who believe as you do and their credentials.

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      • Bryan, I am definitely disappointed in you. You made no attempt whatsoever to defend your thesis about the early church; – you just said No, and advised me
        to read the texts IN CONTEXT. Fr’eavens sake, man, what possible context might one need in order to rethink Paul’s complaint about ‘all Asia leaving’ him? Paul’s rebuke about ‘Foolish Galatians’ clearly shows that those folk are NOT in proper communion with the others in the Church. The references I give are simply quite clear and require no ‘context’ other than the fact that Paul was complaining and criticizing. They really must have been seriously bad. If they were community members who did not agree with Paul’s teaching, then they represented a split, they demonstrated division. What else could it mean?
        In any case, Paul caused lots of division from the beginning.

        Havent you noticed that line in one of the texts about being ‘in danger from false brothers’? perfect description of division in the early church. NO ACCORD there.

        You and the others will have to better than that, Bryan.

        Rian.

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      • There’s no point in debating when you’ve already made up your mind based on misunderstanding. The church always had its problems and internal struggles. Nevertheless, the early church as a whole did represent something different in their world. It attracted both devoted followers and brutal persecutors. There was a unity of belief and purpose.

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      • davinci,
        Looking again this morning at your posting of March 8th, at 20.18… Note that I’ve already corrected you on my mention of ‘denominations’ in the early church. BUT I notice that in the second line of your post, you have actually (and presumably unwittingly) confirmed my own contention when you list ‘other parties and factions’ within the church. That is precisely what I am talking about. If there were other parties and factions then clearly the church was divided and not in unity. Do you stand by that statement? Paul is not just patting his recalcitrant communicants on the head, and smilingly saying that their differences and heretical impulses are insignifcant. He gets upset and furious. He just hates their disunity! Again I remind you that ‘ALL ASIA HAS DESERTED HIM!’

        Just look at what harm parties and factions in Politics does for our local Labor party, here in Oz. Since as you say, the church duly took action against dissenters and problematical people on many occasions, then this proves that there was significant and dangerous disunity in the communion. Again please someone detail for me just what YOU would need to be cited against a church in order for it to be proven to be disunited. i will then have no difficulty in showing that the verses I quote from Paul and the others demonstrate exactly the same thing.

        And still not one of you has made any attempt to explain to me just what CONTEXT can be applied to the verses I listed, so as to explain them away. Funny how Christians for 19 centuries have been studiously avoiding the context in Jewish Scriptural quotes in order to claim odd verses as representing ancient prophecies about Jesus. The context around those verses would just play havoc with the so-called prophecies.

        I am fast coming to the conclusion that for many or certain Christians, the 11th of the Ten Commandments just has to read ‘Thou shalt never admit or confess to a non-believer that thou hast been proven wrong.’ I must say that it is one of the many admirable things I observe about our Monica, who has on a number of occasions stated that she had been wrong about something. Her capacity to do so has demonstrated her open humility, while complementing her powerful faith at the same time.

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      • davinci,
        Are you totally unaware that you have actually supported my contention in the opening sentences of your posting March 8, 20.18 pm?. Now recalling that I did not detail or define ‘Denominations’ in the beginning church, notice that you included the words ‘other parties and factions in the early church’. Parties and factions are exactly what I am referring to.

        What was one of the major things that destroyed the government of the Australian Labor Party over the last couple of years? It was precisely PARTIES AND FACTIONS within it, we are told, that ruined it through division or disunity.

        The early church, as soon as it was joined by Paul, had innumerable internal problems. Now all of you guys are conceding these problems, along with the stern and careful hand with which the church dealt out to preserve itself. But when you have all the types of problems, with infiltration by recalcitrant brothers who sought to change the teachings, and as in the quote from Paul, apparently a whole community over Asia deserting Paul, quite clearly there is a church frequently in discord. Just notice the exact words from Paul, despairing one moment, furious the next and condemning in the next. Does that show concord or discord??? Be honest, please!

        Of course Paul as and after he had developed his unique teachings, (acknowledged in one Epistle as being hard to understand) did stick with his teachings. That is, his teachings remained single and unified. And clearly a core of his followers survived in the long run despite the debates and the problems. But many members or followers chopped and changed, argued, joined and left quite a lot. And in the process, Paul changed and developed various ideas that were apparently taken on board eventually by the Jerusalem Christians. These latter of the faithful were still dubious about Paul, as can be clearly seen by the way they insisted that he prove his fidelity through a humiliating ritual in the Temple.

        There is a principle in which it appears most NT scholars concur. This is that in checking out Paul’s writings against the accounts in Acts, one should primarily trust Paul’s approach. That awesome claim repeated some 8 or 9 times in the Book of Acts, that ‘they were all in one accord’, is simply not borne out in Paul’s writings. Why on earth are you folks just so desperately scared to concede that the first church was NOT in a state of unity. None of you explained away the texts I quoted in my list, and despite Bryan’s insistence that I should study the context of the quotes, not a single one of you demonstrated that that desirable ‘context’ can just clarify things beautifully, and thereby disproving my thesis. Someone, please kindly describe some of that context which is so crucial.

        Rian.

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      • The earliest churches displayed one particularly remarkable trait: a passion to keep in touch with one another. We see this most clearly in Paul’s letters, many of which include greetings and news from cities all over the eastern Mediterranean world. Paul sends and receives reports from one city after another. He praises the believers in Thessalonica, capital of Macedonia, because their reputation has spread not only throughout Greece but also “in every place” (1 Thessalonians 1:8). While in Ephesus (modern Turkey), Paul receives news from Corinth (in Greek Achaia; 1 Corinthians 1:11-13; 7:1). To Rome he sends representatives from Corinth and its suburbs (Romans 16:1-2). As Paul raises money in Corinth, he reminds the believers there of the generosity he has received from other regions of Greece (2 Corinthians 8:1-7).

        The New Testament’s very existence testifies to how passionately the earliest Christians kept in touch with one another. Some people imagine a group of powerful old men selecting the New Testament books in a smoke-filled room. That’s not how things happened at all. The formation of the New Testament largely emerged organically. Imagine a church in one city, which might share a copy of Mark’s Gospel with another church that lacked it. Imagine churches distributing their copies of Paul’s letters with one another so that eventually most of the churches have the same collection. For the most part, the New Testament canon grew from the books that were the most widely read and treasured.

        By a certain point in the second century, it seems most every significant church read and possessed copies of the four Gospels, Acts and 10 letters attributed to Paul. Other books also circulated, but less evenly. Some of these made it into the canon while others did not. The primary factor in their inclusion was their widespread use.

        (From the Huff Post recently)

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      • Bryan, on March 9, 2014 at 19:33 said:
        ‘(There’s no point in debating when you’ve already made up your mind based on misunderstanding. The church always had its problems and internal struggles. Nevertheless, the early church as a whole did represent something different in their world. It attracted both devoted followers and brutal persecutors. There was a unity of belief and purpose.’)

        There was a unity…???!!!! Does that mean that there were NOT big drastic debates over Circumcision and the admittance of Gentiles? To Jewish observers and converts, these were hugely important differences, and accord was the last thing that they would have wanted.

        Bryan, Just read over exactly what you said there. You have softened your stance considerably. It is now with a subtle grammatical qualification that you state that ‘the early church AS A WHOLE did represent something different…..’ You allow that ‘the church always had its problems and internal struggles.’ Thus it was simply NOT in full accord as Acts tries to tell us. Am I right or am I not?

        I would point out too that your second last sentence states that the church ‘attracted both devoted followers and brutal persecutors’. You failed there to concede that the church also attracted cussed persons into its fellowship who frequently (read Paul on this) disrupted things, deliberately taught forbidden doctrines, and introduced unwanted practices or attitudes even into the Holy Supper. It must surely be allowd too, that these cussed people were not necessarily insincere or un-devoted.
        Rian.

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      • But but but…. Rian, didn’t Bryan answer “No” to your question of
        “Do you maintain that those NT quotes I gave do not demonstrate a very divided and split up church?”

        Read it again before you decide he is saying ‘No, I do not maintain the quotes demonstrate a divide’ rather than ‘…NOT demonstrate….’

        I happen to agree there was quite a divide, and Paul did a terrific job of creating a conformity, a unity which he went to some pains to emphasise.

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      • Bryan,
        Re your posting of March 9th at 23.02

        Yes, I think the summation coming from the Huff Post is pretty accurate, and represents much of the concensus of scholars. What was not mentioned there however, is that most scholars have agreed that the very first Canon of the Christian Testament was a production by the important heretic Marcion somewhere halfway through the 2nd Century. His NT was composed of Luke’s Gospel, rather bowdlerized, (since he omitted any references that dealt with the Jewish God among other bits) along with a fair collection of Paul’s Epistles.

        It is probable that it was in answer to Marcion, and to counter it, that the Catholic church party made their enlarged selection of NT books, correctly described in Huff Post as being the texts that were most commonly used and circulated by that time. And strictly speaking the first collection most resembling our NT came out with the blessing of Irenaeas about the year 180. Among the most popular of the books that dont exist in our official New Testament today, included the Book of Enoch, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabus and writings by Clement, as far as I can recall without looking them up. I cant remember a reference to any definitive collection prior to Irenaeas. But church history relates that there is barely a single Book of the NT that was not rejected by some Church group or other during the first three centuries. The most controversial of the books were Revelation and the Epistles of James and Jude, as I recall.

        Also, I cant recall any valid research statement or evidence that included the Acts of the Apostles along with Paul’s Epistles being in any first recognized collection. Do you know any reference on this rather than someone’s supposition as stated in the Huff Post commentary? In any case, I dont think there is proof that any of the four Gospels actually circulated freely round the churches until some time early in the 2nd Century. And that is regardless of just when they were actually written. If you know of proof of earlier circulation, please do tell.

        cheers, Rian.

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      • The church set forth in the New Testament rests upon seven cardinal principles:
        1.the death of Christ
        2.the resurrection of Christ
        3.the ascension of Christ
        4.the sending of the Holy Spirit by Christ
        5.baptism by His authority
        6.baptism “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost for the remission of sins”
        7.salvation in the name of Christ.

        Apart from these foundation stones, there could be no New Testament church. We ask, then, when and where were these foundation stones laid?

        A few months before His death, Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). He spoke of some future occasion, but, after the first feast of the Jewish Pentecost following His resurrection, the church was always spoken of as being in existence. Thus, the church had its beginning between the time that Jesus promised to build it and the close of that next Pentecost day.

        The second Chapter of Acts reveals for the first time all seven of the aforementioned cardinal facts. Speaking at Jerusalem during the Pentecost celebration and guided by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Peter publicly revealed that Jesus who had been crucified, slain, and resurrected, was God’s Son, the promised Savior, the Christ.

        Those who heard Peter’s words being exceedingly sorry for their deeds and their rejection of Jesus, cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter answered them, saying “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37-38).

        Acting under Jesus’ earlier instructions in Matthew 28:19 and 20, to 11….. teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost . . . “, Peter had, thus, first revealed baptism by Christ’s authority. Remission of sins, or salvation, was proclaimed in Jesus’ name for the very first time on this occasion. A few days later Peter explained, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

        All of the foundation stones of the church were firmly planted upon the first Pentecost following the resurrection of our Lord. Afterward, the church was spoken of as being in existence- indeed, Peter spoke of this particular day as being “the beginning” (Acts 11:15). Jesus, himself, spoke of that day as the beginning date for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ (Luke 24:47-49). Thus, the laws governing His church became functional on the very day it was started, and all men from then until now enter it the same way.

        Truly, Pentecost marked the beginning of the church set forth in the New Testament. It was also the beginning of the kingdom of Christ in its operational sense, it was when Christ started to reign over his kingdom. It was, in reality, the beginning of the entire Christian system.

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      • John,
        If you look through my various posts here, you will not see any comment that denies that those points and teachings as detailed in Acts are being attributed to Jesus, and that they survived the early church. Please tell me where I said otherwise??

        But regardless of my own opinions about those same doctrines, there is still a world of difference between them and the dissensions and diversity of beliefs and loyalty which Paul faces over and over again. Again, and I know I quote it ad nauseam, look at all Asia leaving or deserting Paul. Then look at that complaint of Paul’s about – how can some of you maintain that there is no Resurrection from the dead? Is there any more crucial a point of dissent than that one?

        Nevertheless the folk in the List keep telling me that all remained in accord????? It has been pointed out by many scholars that there is a big divide between the sanitized accounts of Acts, and the all too realistic strife ridden comments of Paul.

        Rian.

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      • Strewth,
        Well I rise to thank the honorable member for Strewth for her point and her question!!! Good point, but I read Bryan’s ‘No’ as being a continuation of his avowed maintenance of the Single undivided church that was not split up. A ‘no’ it would seem as more to the point of denying my thesis, rather than a ‘No’ to the grammatical structure of my question.

        Keep in mind his comments including ‘I believe you were answered Rian. But you refused to accept the evidence’ Then on March 9th at 19.33, he is very definitely staring me down with the dismissing comment that ‘there is no point in debating, when you have already made up your mind, based on misunderstanding.’

        I would wholeheartedly apologize if I have misrepresented Bryan’s ‘No’. But if he really meant what you suggest, it means that he is on my side in the issue and his other statements do not represent his truthful point of view.

        It disappoints me that no-one has clarified things by explaining that all important context for some of my textual quotes. Isnt there an Apologist in our posting community who is capable of logically and scripturally answering my thesis? (and NOT just by quoting contradictory bits out of Acts of the Apostles) And no-one has endeavoured for a single second to explain how Paul’s quotes do not contradict the image from Acts that they continued all in accord. That ACCORD can only be seen surely as a denial of the various complaints and condemnations issued by Paul. I keep quoting the example of Asia, (2 Timothy 1.13, because it is a big and alarming example of disunity and dissension. Is it just too embarrassing to admit?

        As ever my dear, (and great to see you on Saturday),
        Rian.

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      • Bryan, re your post of March 10 at 12.07.
        The sentence of yours reads ‘ Your summation is pure guess work. It is your opinion and nothing more.’ The summation only, eh? The interesting thing to me, is you are making no comment or criticism there about the rest of my thesis. You are clearly unable to counter it.

        You are partly right though, in that one posting there. I am giving my own opinion in the last lines of my posting, although I have found similar opinions in a number of my books. The conclusions held by Christians about the validity and accuracy of Acts are just opinions as well. But the rest of my posts are based on clear evidence, and literal Biblical texts.

        (After all, dont forget that halfway through the Book of Acts, the history of the Jerusalem Christians largely fades out, when the bulk of what follows is only about Paul. And that covers only a very few years till he disappears from the scene during his ‘house arrest’ in Rome.)

        And if I am wrong, how about someone giving me the opposing evidence. I still suspect that no-one can, other than quote opposing ‘Opinions’. Scholars have long lamented that there is actually very little real historical information for the church in the latter half of the first century. Loads of tradition, of course, such as the multitude of legends about the flight to Pella, and about the Apostles and their supposed martyrdoms. All sorts of varying and contradictory accounts about the period come as well from the early Fathers and others of the 2nd century.

        cheers, Rian.

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      • Mate your consensus has been countered and answered. If you have any real evidence for your “thesis” supply it. I haven’t seen anything except conjecture. And seriously, several people have answered your conjecture. This is probably your hobby horse so believe what you wish. If it makes you feel better.

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      • Bryan;,
        No-one has ‘answered’ it. A few have given commentaries on the beauties of the original Christianity, sure. They have described the essential teachings and doctrines of the church, that have continued to inform and inspire the Christian Church. I do not dispute those facts. But no-one has directly disproven any of my essential claims..

        You might not want to try. But if anyone else on the List can answer my various points, I shall be most interested to read it. Can anyone demostrate that the Pauline quotes I gave were inaccurate? Anyone prove that they do not demonstrate division in the early church? Can anyone show how Paul’s issues dont count for anything when the claim in Acts is made that all were in accord? Please, pretty please, someone out there… give me a direct and relevant answer on my essential claims and protests. I’m happy to rethink it all if anyone can refute my points.

        Rather weak Bryan old mate. You have wriggled out of it.
        Rian.

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      • Mate I can’t be bothered with inconsequential arguments. There are many more important things to be concerned about. Think about it. As I said YOU have any real evidence deliver it. Weak conjecture is not evidence.

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      • Bryan – re your post of March 10 – 16.53.

        Inconsequential arguments? – hm. But you considered the topic I was debating, to be worth writing a column about in the first place. In fact it was a repeat of a subject you brought up those months ago.. I repeat, no matter how beautiful, or even how ‘true’ the teachings are, the facts about an inherent perfect unity in the early Christian church are not likely or plausable.

        It is a most extraordinary claim of Christianity, to propagate the myth of a fairy-tale Golden Age when all was perfect and in accord. I just wonder if there is a single non-Christian historian in the world who would agree with that assessment of the internal workings of the church back halfway through the first Century. Look, Golden Ages have simply never existed in this world of human beings. As I suggested earlier, you guys need to read more of the early history of the church. For example, check out Lost Christianities by Bart Ehrman.

        Of course I completely agree with you that there are much more pressing issues that we might be debating, and I must say that if the specific questions I raised had actually been answered by anyone here, I would have cheerfully dropped the matter within a day or so. But regardless of what you say, those questions were not addressed at all. I believe that there is a crucial matter of truth-telling at stake here, and in no way should it damage Christianity to have one of its traditional myths exposed.

        The participants in that ‘perfect’ society of first Century Christians were still just humans, and any accord would have to be seen and acknowledged as being accord in a relative degree. Our resident some-time Apologist davinci even pointed out that, (contrary to that glowing ‘stained glass’ window image of the early church), there still were Factions and Parties therein; and I hold that Paul’s Epistles bear witness to the sad and inevitable facts about their influence on the much trumpeted accord.

        Anyway, I see it is incumbent on me to retire graciously from this particular debate now. But it still seems strange and ironic that in my posts here, I bring up numerous bits of factual information (for which I can point to loads of sources); and these simply get ignored and unacknowledged; while the only thing that is apparently noticed by the readers, is an occasional and unpopular personal opinion that I add.

        Tell me, would it really hurt so much to occasionally say ‘Ah yes, you were quite right about that, although the rest of what you said was a lot of hogwash…? Is it a big NO-NO in your community, against ever admitting that a non-believer just might be right at times? Never mind, it’s been fun, however frustrating, and it’s been a good test for me in regards to the material I’m studying in Christian history..

        Cheers to all, and looking forward to next time,
        Rian.

        Like

      • No-one mentioned a “Golden Age” (except you). There were arguments in the early church – of course – but was there unity among the first Christians? Yes. Read the book of Acts right through.

        Like

      • Bryan, re yours of March 11 at 12.18
        Of course no-one except myself mentioned a Golden Age. I used that term as a obvious shorthand way of describing that mythical period of accord and unity that you guys are applying to the time of the early church. Such a term is commonly used to describe some legendary ancient perfection on earth. Check in the Greek Myths.

        I am perfectly familiar with the Book of Acts, all the way through. And I am familiar too with the criticisms of it by many scholars whose books are in my library. Along with them, I hold the informed OPINION (sic) that Acts was written as essentially a work of propaganda some time well after the events in order to give Paul and his form of Christianity a legitimacy that it didnt originally have in the view of the Jerusalem Christians. Acts has I believe a basis of truth, but its material is carefully sanitized with the object of perpetuating that myth of unity.

        Sure, there was unity in the early church, but only between those who held the same views. If those who held opposing views got tossed out or just left (or got silenced), as is described by Paul in his Epistles, then those who were left were of course in unity. (AND the Victors always write the history, you know! In any case as I pointed out early in this debate, that Jerusalem church only existed from shortly after the exit of Jesus, for no more than 20 odd years. We have literally got no absolute knowledge about it and its presumed unity after that, until some of the fathers of the early 2nd century started to formularise the history. And then, we see more and more of the rise of the great heresies that the church was shaken by up until Constantine. I say again, no real unity, or Golden Age..

        You do realize that the Arian party would have similarly claimed to have retained the legitimacy of unity from the first, just as the Catholic literalist party did. Only the Arians eventually got wiped out by vote, excommunication and eventually warfare and persecution, along with the other major heresies. The Gnostics claimed exactly the same legitimacy. Have you read anything much from historians about the various heresies? I have. The legitimate scholarly literature on them is very sobering.

        Cheers Rian.

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      • Hi Bryan – further to yours of 14.57pm,

        Well I must say that I would be more than a little shocked if you or any other Evangelical Christian on this blog, did NOT consider and state that they were ‘wise words’ from Monica.

        In my circles of course, of atheists, dissenters Gnostics and Apostates, – my postings would be equally considered as ‘wise words’.

        cheers, Rian. (just in a cheeky mood, endeavouring to get the last word in! I’m still being perfectly honest, though, I assure you.)

        Like

    • In the book of Acts there is one phrase, which appears again and again, and that is the term “one accord¨. The early church was in one accord, was united and had things in common.

      The phrase “one accord” is actually repeated 11 times in the book of Acts and only one other time in the New Testament.

      The early church was in one accord and I believe that unity was one of the reasons why the blessing and the power of God, was upon it. The believers had one mind, one purpose, one heart and this contributed to their spiritual success.

      Like

      • Irrespective of our differences, we are one in the Spirit; one in the Lord—that’s all that matters.

        A Tradition You Can Trust
        by Michael J. Svigel

        -1-

        Near the end of his life and ministry, with martyrdom looming before him, the apostle Paul dictated a letter for one of his closest ministry assistants—a young man named Timothy. In that letter, Paul encouraged Timothy to hold on to what he had been taught, to guard believers from harm, to stand firm against temptations, and to persevere through trials. Paul presented Timothy with the following charge:

        “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:12)

        That solemn charge to Timothy echoed into the silence of history, lighting the darkness of the church’s unknown future. Paul gave Timothy a rich legacy—Scripture, doctrine, a godly example, a position of authority, and most important, the gospel message that salvation comes through Christ. He did not pass these things to Timothy in some dark corner like they were smuggled wares or spiritual contraband. He gave them to Timothy in the open; in the presence of all who cared to see. This legacy was no “secret teaching” or “mystery religion” of the Gnostic heretics; nor was it part of some alleged underground society like the Priory of Sion in The Da Vinci Code or the Knights Templar. Paul’s legacy was openly and freely given.

        What was Timothy to do with these things? Was he supposed to simply believe and live them? No, Paul charged him with the task of passing them on—not indiscriminately, not in the form of books or articles, not merely to his physical children. Timothy was to hand them down in the same form he had received them, to individuals who would be faithful to pass them along in turn. These were to be “trustworthy men,” people who were qualified—like Paul and Timothy—to preserve and pass on the faith. They needed to be “able to teach others,” rather than just hoarding the truth for themselves.

        Have you ever wondered whether Timothy succeeded in his mission? What happened after Paul, Peter, James, and John passed into history, leaving their disciples to carry on the work of the Holy Spirit in the church and the world? Did they succeed at passing on true doctrine and new life to “faithful men” who were able to teach others? Or did they drop the ball, leaving the world without a witness? Did the flame of the Spirit continue to burn brightly in the first centuries following the apostles, or was the light extinguished by false prophets, politics, and persecution? Did the gates of hell prevail against the church, or did the Spirit lead it into all truth? To be blunt, after Paul penned those words to Timothy, and after the rest of the original apostles and prophets passed off the scene, did Christ break His promise that He would be with the church even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20)?

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      • -2-

        Christians are often surprised to learn that we don’t have to scratch our heads and wonder what happened after the New Testament. We have access to the writings of second- and third-generation believers; they are known as the apostolic fathers and apologists. Without God working through the radical faith of these early Christians, New Testament writings would have been lost like ashes in the wind, and the gospel would have suffocated under a smothering heap of heresy.

        Remember Clement, in Philippians 4:3? He became the pastor of the church in Rome and wrote a long letter to the church at Corinth around AD 90. Polycarp, the pastor of the church in Smyrna, was ordained by the apostle John himself. And Ignatius, the pastor of the church in Antioch until AD 110, probably knew the last living apostles. After these men, we have writings of the next generation of leaders, including Justin Martyr, a famous teacher in Rome around AD 150, and Irenaeus, the pastor of the church in Lyons, France, around AD 180. Both of these men knew Polycarp, John’s protégé. We can explore for ourselves the writings of the faithful men (Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp) who were able to teach others (Justin Martyr and Irenaeus). Paul’s solemn charge to Timothy was fulfilled (2 Timothy 2:2)…….

        “The things which you have heard from me…..” FIRST GENERATION: Peter, John, Paul, Luke, Timothy “….entrust these to faithful men” ……SECOND GENERATION: Clement, Ignatious, Aristedes, Polycarp, Papias”….….”who will be able to teach others also.” THIRD GENERATION: Justin, Melito, Athenagorus, Theophilus, Irenaeus.

        These early heroes of the faith kept the torchlight of the gospel burning through some of the most difficult periods of persecution and false teaching the church has ever known, fueling the flames with their own heroic martyrdom. Clement of Rome was martyred during the great persecution of Domitian in AD 96. The Romans threw Ignatius of Antioch to the wild beasts around AD 110. Polycarp suffered on the fiery pyre in Smyrna around AD 155. Justin Martyr was executed in Rome after waging a war of words with powerful philosophers. They stood their ground against dangerous heresies and suffered severely, preserving Scripture and the fundamentals of the faith against formidable foes.

        In stark contrast, very few heretics bothered to seal their deceitful doctrines with martyrdom. In fact, these false teachers often mocked true Christians for going to such extremes. “After all,” they reasoned, “Jesus didn’t have a real body, and He didn’t really suffer and die as you believe, so why should we?” They altered their theology to fit their philosophies and experiences.

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      • -3-

        The reality of the early church is not popular among critics and liberal historians today. In fact, many laugh at it. Some historians say that our Bibles, our version of church history, and the fundamentals of our faith were all parts of an underhanded conspiracy to cover up the “truth” about the real, “historical” Jesus. They say He was just a famous moral teacher, not God incarnate who died and rose again.

        In light of the popular book and film, The Da Vinci Code , you’ll likely see interviews with “experts” on the early church from impressive universities. Some of them promote a version of early church history in which the heretics are heroes and the heroes are villains. Many are driven by a rejection of the resurrection, an advocacy of religious pluralism, and a radical feminist ideology. Their views bring to mind the words of Isaiah thousands of years ago: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness . . . Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21).

        When we hold the Bible in our hands and hold to the truths of Jesus Christ in our lives, we stand firmly in a long tradition we can trust. Our beliefs may not be popular. Scholars and critics may tease and taunt. But God’s ancient tradition of truth—preserved through the lives and deaths of godly men and women—remains the same.

        Practically, what does this mean for us? How should we respond when the critics glory in the media spotlight? That’s easy. We must faithfully carry on the work begun by the heroes of old—entrusting the gospel to faithful believers, who will be able to teach others.

        – See more at: http://www.insight.org/resources/articles/church-history/tradition.html#sthash.p1ByAM0A.dpuf

        Like

    • davinci,
      Oh dear, I’m being misquoted again. Just do a check on the texts that I brought up. I choose my words very very carefully apparently in a vain attempt to avoid misunderstanding. At no time did I state ‘This WAS a separate Denomination in the early church.’ Nor even that there WERE denominations in the early days.

      When speaking of ‘the man driving out demons in the name of Jesus, I actually said ‘This READS LIKE an example of a separate and burgeoning Denomination.’
      and then in the next paragraph, I actually said ‘they MIGHT represent heretics or just some other kind of Denomination.’

      With the list of 20 odd texts I gave earlier, I said NOTHING about denominations, did I? They only indicated the problematical existence of heresies and of disruptive people, as I showed in the headings. And they were disruptive people who were influencing folks within the church in a very serious fashion, and destroying the desired Unity. No suggestions of Denominations! Just check!

      As an exercise in good debate method’, please tell me how you might describe
      splits and disunity or ‘lack of Accord’ in any church community if you had to define them. Wouldnt your definition sound very much like the cases I quoted?
      Surely you would have to include schismatic abandonment in the actions of certain members as splitting the faithful? Isnt that exacly what Paul describes in having the ‘whole of Asia’ leaving him? Then if in a church community certain individuals are influencing fellow Christians to take on different and unChristian teachings, you would have to allow that those folk are not in that ‘Accord’ which was smugly thrown back to me. Just read those texts again and note carefully.

      Now those pesky Nicolaitans – I was quoting purely from my copy of the NIV Evangelical Study Bible, which made the statement in its bottom page notes. I dont know any more about them than you do, except that they were apparently endeavouring to promote pagan or Gnostic ideas among the faithful. So I have no authorities other than those who provided that Bible translation and notes. No, correction – in my books about the Revelations Archbishop Averky Taushev and Father Seraphim Rose in their book The Apocalypse seem to take the same line and interpretation as my Study Bible.

      One other thing, davinci, where on earth do you get that interpretation which indicates that the seven Churches represent SEVEN EPOCHS of Christianity? I doubt that any of our current posters here will agree with you on that. On the surface, it sounds like an eccentric concept offered by one or other of the Christian splinter groups. Certainly not regular Bible Scholars. But I am open to correction.

      Cheers, Rian.

      Like

    • Hi Rian,

      I agree with Bryan.

      As a Charismatic Christian, I think the Book of Acts is amazing. It takes my breath away.

      I actually believe that they were so unified at that time as a church, because of God—the power of God in their midst. Just look at the love; the generosity of spirit they showed one another, and the miracles. Look too at what happened to Ananias and Sapphira when they conspired to defraud the Holy Spirit who was in their midst…..”it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God”. In all my church going, I have only experienced one time when Father God’s presence was in our midst at a worship service, and it was terrifying for me. I fell prostrate on the floor trying to hide my face and all I could do was to plead with God to not kill me stone dead there and then! You see…..”it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” when one is living a lie; pretending to be Christian and all the while living in unrepented sin!

      We do not worship a dead God. And I firmly believe that Spirit-led worship brings the Glory into our midst.

      Cheers,

      Mon

      Like

      • Sure Mon,
        I’ve come to the conclusion that Acts is actually the very most crucial book in the Testament for Christian believers.

        I would have little doubt that every Christian believer on the blog would side with Bryan on the matter. But there are many of us who read Acts of the Apostles and simply shake our heads in sheer disbelief. It looks and sounds just too too perfect. As for that incredible story about Ananias and his wife, – well, very hard to swallow. If their sin was so absolutely heinous, then the rules they were breaking would have to have remained unchanged to this day surely? Why dont those rules apply today in the same way? How is it that they didnt get confronted with their ‘crime’ and get a chance to repent? How come the local authorities didnt come in and interrogate Peter for murder? There were laws in Jerusalem about such things you know.

        It was actually when I started to study the text and literature on Acts many years back now, that I really had to admit that I was definitely no Christian believer any more.

        cheers/love
        Rian.

        Like

  2. There’s a medium Spiritist pastor on YouTube, who not only considers herself to be Christian, but who also states that prophets of God are no different to her, in that they all channel a dead person, Jesus Christ.

    Can you see the subtlety of the deception here?

    I’m all for unity and tolerance….to a point, but there is absolutely no way that I will ever accept that so-called Christian mediums channelling demons in their church services are blessed of God. The word Christian Spiritist is an oxymoron.

    Like

  3. WHAT KIND OF A CHRISTIAN ARE YOU?

    Examine yourself:

    Do you believe the essentials of the Christian faith: Trinity, Jesus is God in flesh, salvation by grace through faith, Jesus rose from the dead physically?
    Do you confess that you are a sinner before a holy God? (Rom. 3:23)
    Do you confess that you cannot please God through your own efforts? (Isa. 64:6)
    Do you acknowledge that Jesus is the only way to salvation? (John 14:6; Acts 4:7-12)
    Do you acknowledge that there is only one God in all the universe? (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8)
    Do you seek to do the will of the Lord? (Matt. 7:21)
    Do you know that God loves you and desires your relationship with Jesus? (1 Cor. 1:9).
    Do you acknowledge that sin causes a separation between you and God? (Isaiah 59:2)
    Do you approve of social agendas in the church? (Rom. 12:12)
    Do you believe that morals are relative? (Exodus 20:1-17)
    Do you suspect that reincarnation might be true? (Heb. 9:26).
    Do you casually look at the Bible as a guide book, not the rule of truth and faith? (2 Tim. 3:16)
    Do you believe that feelings are as valid as scripture to find truth? (Jer. 17:9)
    Do you believe that those who reject Christ will go to hell forever? (Matt. 25:46)
    Do you pray only when something is wrong in your life? (Phil. 4:6)
    Do you go to church only on special occasions? (Heb. 10:25)
    Do you use the Lord’s name in vain? (Exodus 20:7)
    Do you regularly watch things on TV and in the movies that you shouldn’t? (Phil. 4:8)
    Are we basically good in nature or bad? (Eph. 2:3; Psalm 51)
    Is the devil a real being? (Rev. 20:1)
    Is dust collecting on your Bible?

    If you have the Son in you, the Holy Spirit will bear witness of the truth of your life in Him. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand,” (John 10:27-28).

    CARM Apologetics

    Like

  4. I noticed that the Pope and prominent Pentecostal leaders (such as Kenneth Copeland) have decided to put away their differences and claim that the Protestant Reformation is over. The same arguments that have been outlined on this blog (we are not so different from one another) have been used to heal rifts between Protestants and Catholics. When you look at why the so called differences in doctrine are so petty and small today, you will always find that one side has compromised its doctrines to the point where there is no difference between themselves and its former enemies. Steadily we see a movement of unity between Catholicism and Protestantism that is based on either political alliances and/or one side compromising its beliefs in order to gain some advantage or another from its religious enemies.

    However if you think that all splits are due to diversity, remember the Gospel. We are told that in addition to ordaining twelve apostles, Jesus also ordained at least 70 others. Only to abandon Jesus later on because of doctrinal issues (John 6). Whilst Paul the apostle talked of a situation that would arise whereby people calling themselves Christians would not endure sound doctrine but would heap teachers to themselves corresponding to their own lusts (2 Tim. 4:3). And then there was Peter who spoke of people that deliberately misinterpreted Paul’s writings as they did other scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). Most of the serious splits in the New Testament church occurred along doctrinal lines.

    It is therefore very important to ascertain whether two sworn religious enemies are split along doctrinal lines or not. Cultural and personalities clashes can be resolved. Doctrinal differences cannot.

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      • On saying that. I’ve come to learn that I am actually quite Catholic, not just in name. That’s not to say I won’t listen to a Baptist Minister and say Hallelujah

        Like

  5. Using the dinner analogy. I think religion is equivalent to the dinner etiquette that is expected from you to show gratitude to the host of the dinner who is supplying the venue and food for free.

    Some people get the etiquette wrong. Some people show gratitude to the wrong host or add a few more hosts and some people ignore the host altogether and just munch away and do as they please, leaving the place in a mess.

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  6. I’m interested in John’s use of Peter’s words. Peter is someone I would be interested to know more about. Particularly as Jesus didn’t choose the mystical John nor the clever Paul as the foundation stone of his church, but the very human and fallible Peter.

    Like

    • Of course Strewth,
      Many hold that the so-called choice of Peter was a fiddle by the Catholic fathers to legitimatise the Papacy. the real head of the Church was most likely James, and there’s a fair bit of evidence to back that. up. (Gee, I really hope that’s not just an opinion of mine!!!!!)
      cheers, Rian.

      Like

    • I have come in My Father’s name, yet you don’t accept Me. If someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.

      John 5:43

      Like

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