The Church AND History in a Nutshell - Text. This is a work in progress and is not the same as the PowerPoint presentation.
The Church AND History – In a Nutshell
J. N. Runner
None so deaf as those that will not hear. None so blind as those that will not see. - Matthew Henry
One of the tales in the collection of stories written by Giovanni Boccaccio in The Decameron in the 14th century is about two friends, a Catholic and a Jew that lived in Paris. The Catholic never ceased in his effort to try to convert his Jewish friend. Then finally one day the Jew, being weary of the incessant attempt to proselyte him made his friend a promise: "I have occasion to travel to Rome for business, and will be there for a few months. While I am there, I will observe the leaders of your church, and if I observe pious living beyond what I see in my own faith, I will convert."
This worried his Catholic friend, because it was well known that Rome was the center of corruption, but what could he do? By and by his friend left for Rome, and to the Catholic's surprise, returned months later, converted to Catholicism. He was surprised, to say the least - and finally managed to ask how this 'conversion' came about. The (former Jewish) friend said, "I came to observe the piousness of your faith and found quite the opposite. I finally deduced that any organization that was as corrupt in its morals as the Roman church and can still remain intact - must be of God - so I converted.
These two fictional characters of the 14th century are not alone. There are millions of people throughout the ages that have hid their eyes at the fables, complexities and excesses of Roman Catholicism, and even still, others who deduce that it is so big and powerful that it's easier to join them than to refute it. "It must be of God."
The Simplicity of the Gospel
And the common people heard him gladly.
There is just nothing complicated about the Gospel, the message John the Baptist, Jesus and his chosen apostles preached. The prophecy was that ‘the poor have the gospel preached unto them’. They never did have any quarrel with the common man; it was the religious elite; the political powers of the day whose eyes were blinded and in their blindness became the very conduit in which the prophecies of old would be fulfilled, that Jesus would be crucified by his own people for the sins of the whole world.
John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
Perhaps the sheer simplicity of the gospel message is the reason it remains a mystery so many; they cannot see the forest for the trees. Theologians are forever disposed to making something complicated out of something that should be left simple.
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
1:19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
1:20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
1:22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
1:24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
1:28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
The apostles were not educated men. When they were confronted by the religious elite, they spoke boldly, but obviously not eloquently:
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
What does it matter if person has been to university (ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, 1 Timothy 3:7), but more important, that they have been with Jesus!
These unlearned and ignorant men were the ones that were the chosen ones of this Jesus of Nazareth, himself, not a man of letters, but a carpenter.
Mark_6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
Not only was the gospel message simple, there are multiple warnings in the New Testament to beware of complicating it!
2 Corinthians 11:1 Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.
11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
11:4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
Yes! What a plot! Make something complicated out of something simple! Bring in philosophy, philosophers, and renowned learned men from the four corners of the earth and let’s muddle this thing so that everyone is squabbling about what the truth really is! Human nature is disposed to do just that.
Acts 20:26 Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.
20:27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
All the counsel of God! Anyone who believes they know more than any writers of the New Testament are treading on very dangerous ground. How does one justify teaching that doctrine (or tradition!) apart and aside from the teaching contained in scripture is acceptable or necessary?
20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
20:30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Note the warning. It was no mystery what was going to happen to the early church.
2 Corinthians 11:12 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.
11:13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
Probably no deceit is worse than that which comes in clerical robes of piety. Recently Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the head of Roman Catholicism and sovereign of the Vatican State. So humble he seems to be, taking public transportation, settling his own hotel bill and caring for the poor. That is so commendable… one can almost overlook his first act as pope (not quite) … and that was to pray to the mother of God that she would watch over the city of Rome… when there is clearly only one mediator between God and man:
1Ti_2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
The warnings are clear:
Collisions 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
2:7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
The identity of Christ became one greatest issues of contention.
Paul’s teaching to the church in Galatia:
Galatians 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
1:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
And even today there are those who claim an angel from heaven has given them ‘another’ gospel!
1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
4:2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
4:3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
Forbidding to marry (celibacy!) 1 Timothy 3:2 claims that ‘A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach’;
And commanding to abstain from meats - hello! Is anyone listening? None are so blind as they that will not see!
4:4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
4:5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
4:6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.
1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
Would anyone dare dispute that ‘good minister’ is one who warns others of the dangers of false doctrine, and is diligent to follow the apostle’s doctrine?
2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
3:2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3:3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
3:4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
3:6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
3:7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
3:8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.
3:9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.
3:10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,
3:11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.
3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
3:14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
3:15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
A final warning to Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4:4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
Fables and superstitions! The landslide of fables are so astounding it would be laughable if so many people weren’t so deceived. What comes to mind is ‘The Big Lie’ – a lie so big, as Adolph Hitler wrote in his infamous book ‘Mein Kamph’ about the use of a lie so "colossal", that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously." Let’s just see how infamously the simple truth of Jesus can be distorted.
2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
2:2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
The sale of indulgences…. As if the devil himself is laughing at how big the lie has become!
And finally, a warning from Jude – to earnestly contend for the faith (doctrine) that was once delivered unto the saints. In other words, leave it alone!
Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, one cannot be faulted for ‘earnestly contending for the faith that was once delivered to the saints’.
Besides the persecution and the landslide of false doctrines the early church had to withstand, one can only imagine the challenges involving simple logistics; being able to effectively cover the vast regions with sound doctrine:
Acts 18:24 And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
18:25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
18:26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
The story of 'certain disciples':
Act 19:1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
Act 19:2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
Act 19:3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.
Act 19:4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
Act 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Act 19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
Act 19:7 And all the men were about twelve.
Here were ‘certain disciples’. Believers, if you will, that had never been baptized in the name of Jesus or heard about the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. It is obvious that Paul puts a priority upon the knowledge of these two events. How knowledgeable are people today of these two important tenants of the original faith of Christianity? Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed? Unto what were you baptized?
Also, while we’re here in this chapter of Acts, it’s worth noting another event that took place in Ephesus. There was a great stir caused because of the idolatry of the goddess Diana. An event would happen here in Ephesus (431 AD) about 350 years from the time of this historic event in Acts that would cause the religious world under the guise of Christianity to descend into an abyss that no doubt Paul or any of his contemporaries would never think possible as Roman Catholicism would reach a compromise with these worshipers of the goddess Diana- and the silversmiths whose occupation revolves around it. Instead of abolishing the worship of the goddess Diana, they would simply change her name and ‘elevate’ her status’; not simply the goddess of fertility, but ‘the mother of God’. And her name would be…. Mary.
Act 19:21 After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.
19:22 So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.
19:23 And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.
19:24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen;
19:25 Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.
19:26 Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:
19:27 So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.
19:28 And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
19:29 And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.
19:30 And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not.
19:31 And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.
19:32 Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.
19:33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people.
19:34 But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
Was it simply coincidence that about 350 years from this date that the state sponsored Roman Catholicism would convene the Council of Ephesus, making official the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, Mary the mother of God?
The Post Apostolic Period
By the time the Council of Nicaea convened in 325 AD the simplicity of the gospel – at least in political orbs – had been thrown under the bus and most of the prophecies from the apostles had already taken place or were in full swing.
According to Wikipedia:
“The accession of Constantine was a turning point for early Christianity, generally considered the beginning of Christendom. After his victory, Constantine took over the role of the patron for the Christian faith. He supported the Church financially, had an extraordinary number of basilicas built, granted privileges (e.g. exemption from certain taxes) to clergy, promoted Christians to high-ranking offices, returned property confiscated during the Great Persecution of Diocletian, and endowed the church with land and other wealth.”
It was a turning point all right, but not for Christianity. Any modern day Christian needs only to read the warnings by Jesus, the Apostle Paul, Peter, Jude and others to see it was no coincidence, nor was Constantine an ancient day Lone Ranger or John Wayne who rode into town (Rome) to save the day for these weary Christians. Come on now - you need not be a rocket scientist or a DDD to know this recipe was like a jet seriously veering off course. It's as if the devil himself said, 'if I can't whip ‘em, I'll join 'em.
If your headed from Miami to New York City on a commercial jet and a couple of shady looking characters in captain uniforms elbow their way into the cockpit and the plane goes off course across the Atlantic to land on some Tarmac where you see the Cuban flag, are you still going to believe you just landed at J.F.K International? You’ve been hijacked! But then, perhaps people do not see the Cuban flags... either because their eyes are closed...
... or maybe they choose not to see.
Is it so difficult to see powerful politically minded church leaders selling out principles? Just imagine what kind of state sponsored religion would come out of Washington D. C. If politically minded religious leaders met with President Obama and Eric Holder (Attorney General) to hammer out a standard doctrine for all the people?
A thousand years from this date, just a few years from the time that Giovanni Boccaccio wrote the “Decameron”, William Langland wrote in his famous book ,”Piers Plowman” (written between 1,360 and 1,387):
“When the kindness of Constantine gave Holy Church endowments
In lands and leases, lordships and servants,
The Romans beard a angel cry on high above them,
“This day dos Ecclesiae has drunk venom
And all who have Peter’s power are poisoned forever.”
-William Langland, author of “Piers Plowman” (1330-1387)
The proverb or quote that ‘history is written by the victors’ may initially be true, but eventually truth triumphs no matter to what extent the facts were suppressed. Many facts, realities and details of history are forever lost in the dust that has settled over distant battlefields and bonfires and so often like a mystery the evidence has grown cold. The ‘victors’ initially write the history. Roman Catholic leaders have had plenty of time to suppress evidence contrary to doctrines contrary to theirs; 1,200 years of book burning and putting to the stake anyone who disagrees with the doctrines that ‘officially’ came out of the Council of Nicaea and subsequent councils and edicts. Therefore, are they to be believed? I’d rather take their works and their doctrines and see if it passes the test of scripture.
These first 300 years, from the time of the crucifixion of Jesus and the martyrdom of most of the apostles was a time of almost nonstop persecution up until Constantine granted a semblance of religious tolerance in 313 AD throughout the Roman Empire. During this 300 year period there were times when the persecution was more severe than in other times, like during the time of Nero’s 9 year reign (13 October 54 – 9 June 68) and Diocletian (nearing the end of this 300 year period).
Also during these 300 years the Roman Empire was rife with civil war. Few leaders ruled for a long period of time (44 in all in 300 years’ time… see TABLE A) and were more involved with trying to keep power and stay alive than bother with religious factions, even though those factions often times fomented the populace and had to be watched carefully. Persecution was not always tied directly to the sympathies or lack thereof of the particular ruler, as popular opinion had its own way of making life hard for people who embraced Christianity, and that varied according to where a person lived, just like intolerance, prejudices and bigotry has always existed among the populace.
At the time Constantine and his army crossed the Milvian Bridge on 28 October 312 AD, the Roman Empire was fragmented into dozens of political camps. Constantine was a shrewd political and military leader who had patronized Apollo, Diana, and Hercules. He gambled that by sympathizing with these Christians weary of three centuries of persecution, which represented approximately 10% of the population of Rome at the time, that he could form a political base strong enough to seize power. He turned the table, so to speak, upon destiny; the Prince of Peace became the ‘God of War’. Constantine conquered Rome with, of all things, the ‘Chi Rho’, an early symbol that some Christians used (not all) as his moniker.
Four months later, in February of the following year in Milan Italy, Constantine granted some concessions granting benevolence toward Christians known as the Edict of Milan. It is debatable whether or not there was actually an ‘edict’, but at any rate, it appeared to be a respite for the Christians from persecution, and returned to them previously confiscated property.
During the next twelve years under the rule of Constantine and the Edict of Milan easing the pressure from persecution, as the apostles would warn about, church doctrines were in dispute. The foremost subject under dispute was the godhead, the identity of Christ. Constantine called for a council of church leaders. In 325 AD they convened what is known as the Council of Nicaea. Out of it would come (among other doctrines) a doctrine so noxious and contrary to monotheism - the very foundation of Judaism - that would make it impossible for any self-respecting Jew to embrace this hijacked state sponsored religion. Of all things; a triune godhead - the Trinity, not unlike the three headed god of ancient Babylon. This would have far reaching consequences for Jews even to this day - culminating (we can only hope things never get worse) in the death camps of Nazi Germany.
Constantine died twelve years later at the age of 65 years old on May 22, 337. The following years up to the year 380 were the rules of three of Constantine’s sons, and then the reign of Justin ‘the apostate’, as he was the last Roman Emperor to not embrace this newly emerging state sponsored form of ‘Christianity’.
Fifty five years after the Council of Nicaea came the end of religious tolerance in the form of the Edict of Thessalonica.
The Edict of Thessalonica was jointly issued by Theodosius I, Gratian, and Valentinian II on 27 February 380 making this politically manipulated form of Christianity the state sponsored religion of the Roman Empire. Thus it was ‘universal’ or, ‘Catholic’.
“The edict was issued under the influence of Acholius, and thus of Pope Damasus I, who had appointed him. It re-affirmed one expression of the Apostolic Faith as legitimate in the Roman Empire, "catholic" (that is, universal) and "orthodox" (that is, correct). After the edict, Theodosius spent a great deal of energy suppressing all non-Nicene forms of Christianity, especially Arianism, and in establishing Nicene orthodoxy throughout his realm.
The edict was followed in 381 by the First Council of Constantinople, which affirmed the Nicene Symbolum and gave final form to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. In 383, the Emperor ordered the various non-Nicene sects (Arians, Anomoeans, Macedonians, and Novatians) to submit written creeds to him, which he prayerfully reviewed and then burned, save for that of the Novatians. The other sects lost the right to meet, ordain priests, or spread their beliefs. Theodosius prohibited the residence of heretics within Constantinople, and in 392 and 394 confiscated their places of worship.”
If there had been any season of true religious tolerance during the 67 years between the Edict of Milan in 313 to the Council of Thessalonica in 380, it was officially over. Any form of Christianity that differed with the leaders in power would be branded heretics. Western civilization would now be in a vice grip of suppression; Roman Catholicism would rule the minds of the masses for the next 1,200 years, in the period we know of as the Dark Ages.
In the cloak of Christianity came brutality; worldly power and domination. The persecuted became the persecutors. Again, any clear thinker of the 21st century can only say, is this the true Christianity of the Prince of Peace? Was it the intent of the lowly carpenter from Nazareth to coerce people against their will, to enslave them to believe? For the next 12 centuries governments and kings would be beholden to the Pontiff Maximus – a title formerly given to the emperor who was high priest of pagan rituals. This pontiff – under the guise of the ‘successor of Peter’ with his ‘princes’ – bishops and cardinals would become more powerful than the emperor.
(this is a work in progress)