Sunday School – An Appeal to Rome (Justin and Diognetus)

Plato. Luni marble, copy of the portrait made ...

Plato. Luni marble, copy of the portrait made by Silanion ca. 370 BC for the Academia in Athens. From the sacred area in Largo Argentina, 1925. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following last week’s need to be hated by Rome (i.e., World System) we find Christians appealing to Rome for an official status. As Christianity becomes Christianity, and not simply a secondary Judaism, more and more Gentiles are bringing in their customs, traditions, and philosophies. They are also bringing in the need to be more metropolitan.

Word: Apology, a defense. This is the time of Christian Apologetics, when Christians turned to defending Christianity and thus exploring its theological tenets.

Rome respected one thing: antiquity. This is why they stole every the Greeks had done — from the gods and goddesses to the poems. Because they desired to be themselves ancient. When Rome was introduced to Jerusalem, they begrudgingly accepted their quasi-independence because the Jews could point to Moses and say, “He not only preceded Plato, but Plato respected Moses.” Clement of Alexandria who would use this apologetic technique to bring Plato into use for Christian theology later picked this up. He was not the first, of course.

Please keep in mind, this is the barest of histories here. Just some background information.

The first Christian who used Plato, Aristotle, and other Greek philosophers to do his bidding was Justin Martyr (guess how he got his last name). Why would he do such a thing? First, the Gospel of John and the Wisdom of Solomon both allow for Hellenistic philosophy based on the use of the words Logos (Word) and Sophia (Wisdom). Justin latched on to this. The Logos of John became the Logos of Heraclitus. Further, Justin and Clement would insist in a God akin to Plato’s Ultimate God.

Second, by aligning Christianity with both Jerusalem and Athens, he gave it a certain antiquity, which was needed to apply for official State status. This would prevent persecution and allowed for other benefits as well.

There are two such writings springing to mind. The first, of course, is Justin’s First Apology. He is quick to defend against charges of atheism. Why would we be charged with atheism? Because our god (Jesus) was new, unless, of course, you account for the Logos:

Why, then, should this be? In our case, who pledge ourselves to do no wickedness, nor to hold these atheistic opinions, you do not examine the charges made against us; but, yielding to unreasoning passion, and to the instigation of evil demons, you punish us without consideration or judgment. For the truth shall be spoken; since of old these evil demons, effecting apparitions of themselves, both defiled women and corrupted boys, and showed such fearful sights to men, that those who did not use their reason in judging of the actions that were done, were struck with terror; and being carried away by fear, and not knowing that these were demons, they called them gods, and gave to each the name which each of the demons chose for himself. And when Socrates endeavoured, by true reason and examination, to bring these things to light, and deliver men from the demons, then the demons themselves, by means of men who rejoiced in iniquity, compassed his death, as an atheist and a profane person, on the charge that “he was introducing new divinities;” and in our case they display a similar activity. For not only among the Greeks did reason (Logos) prevail to condemn these things through Socrates, but also among the Barbarians were they condemned by Reason (or the Word, the Logos) Himself, who took shape, and became man, and was called Jesus Christ; and in obedience to Him, we not only deny that they who did such things as these are gods, but assert that they are wicked and impious demons, whose actions will not bear comparison with those even of men desirous of virtue.

This entire First Apology is well worth the read — and leaves us wondering what might we sacrifice to have our belief system validated? Or, perhaps this is what Christianity was to Justin — the former philosopher who caught wind of Christ and was thus changed forever. Perhaps his mind say in Christ the only answer to all of the questions asked by all philosophies. Maybe for Justin, Jesus was the answer.

The second person is unknown, although some scholars have placed him as Justin. Like the First Apology, this author writes to the Emperor and like Justin, promotes Christianity as compatible with Rome, or at least not in competition with Rome.

The Epistle of Diognetus contains a passage that has come to mean a great deal to me —

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

I’ll just leave this here.

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What’s wrong with the Churches in America? Greenwell Springs Baptist Church

A few weeks ago, Greenwell Springs Baptist Church hosted a town hall – a TOWN HALL. Whether Liberal or Conservative issues, Churches should not be involved in politics. We are called to be holy – apart, separate – and yet pastors around the country are holding these things.

Now, I have a few friends that attend here, and I have expressed my opinion – and will do so again. Christians are called to be separated from this world, and frankly, I cannot say it any better than the unknown author of the Epistle to Diognetus.

Some of the videos of the event can be found here. Frankly, it sickens me to see politicians politicking next to the cross. No, Christ did not die to give you political freedom nor to keep you from getting a national health care reform. Below is the letter which Tony Perkins sent out.

Tony Perkins:

Last night I was in Baton Rouge participating in a town hall meeting that drew over 800 people to my home church. Dr. Dennis Terry, the senior pastor at Greenwell Springs Baptist, moderated the nearly three hour meeting which included a brief exhortation on what the Bible has to say about health care by Rev. Dick Metz, another local pastor. Those in attendance heard introductory comments by Senator David Vitter, Dr. Al Krostroski with the Louisiana Right to Life, local family physician Dr. Kyle Dean and me.

Although Sen. Mary Landrieu sent a representative, like many of the Congressmen and Senators who support the President’s health care reform effort, continues to avoid open forums with the public. The questions and statements from the audience were clear and on point. People are concerned over the government stepping into health care, but their biggest worry is what this effort represents and where it will lead — more costly government that will grasp more control over our lives.

Even the young people are connecting the dots. A 15 year-old boy inquired about the President’s Science Czar, John Holdren, and whether or not the radical ideas he expressed in the 1970s, such as involuntary sterilization as a means of population control, could eventually find their way into the President’s proposed government health care system. Make no mistake about it, President Obama’s plan poses serious moral and ethical threats to the nation, but I am encouraged by what I am seeing all across our country. Americans have had enough and they are speaking out like I’ve not witnessed in my nearly 20 years in the political realm. Keep speaking out and encourage the leadership of your church to host a town hall meet.

One of the things which is immediately wrong with this – whether or not you might agree with Tony Perkins and David Vitter (you do remember David Vitter right?) is that they have taken time away from actually preaching the Gospel – although I have wonder if they know what that means – to listen to propaganda. No one, it seems, has learned the lesson from Nazi Germany where the Churches were used to secure support for Hitler.

Keep politics off the pulpit and out of the Church house.

For the Christians are distinguished from other men – The Epistle to Diognetus

It has been speculated that the writer of this Epistle was Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. I am not sure it is or not, however, it does add a special touch to it if he is indeed the writer. What we must remember in this time of politics, is that Christians are commanded not to be apart of this world and not to entangle ourselves in the affairs of this world. The Christians during the time of the writing of this epistle (125) took those commandments to heart. I believe that it is a healthy reminder that Christians are not supposed to entangle the sanctity of the Cross with the sin of man.

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not cast away fetuses. They  have a common table, but not a common bed.They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

Unus Deus – The Epistle to Diognetus

The Epistle of Diognetus ( c125)

Below is a chapter from one of the earliest, outside the Apostles, defense of Christianity. The simply beauty of the letter is only recently coming to light. It was written by an unknown saint, calling himself only the Disciple and written to an Emperor or perhaps someone close to the Emperor. The best dating is 125. It is a beloved work by the author of this blog.

Chapter VII.—The manifestation of Christ.

For, as I said, this was no mere earthly invention which was delivered to them, nor is it a mere human system of opinion, which they judge it right to preserve so carefully, nor has a dispensation of mere human mysteries been committed to them, but truly God Himself, who is almighty, the Creator of all things, and invisible, has sent from heaven, and placed among men, the truth, and the holy and incomprehensible Word, and has firmly established Him in their hearts. He did not, as one might have imagined, send to men any servant, or angel, or ruler, or any one of those who bear sway over earthly things, or one of those to whom the government of things in the heavens has been entrusted, but the very Creator and Fashioner of all things–by whom He made the heavens–by whom he enclosed the sea within its proper bounds–whose ordinances all the stars faithfully observe–from whom the sun has received the measure of his daily course to be observed–whom the moon obeys, being commanded to shine in the night, and whom the stars also obey, following the moon in her course; by whom all things have been arranged, and placed within their proper limits, and to whom all are subject–the heavens and the things that are therein, the earth and the things that are therein, the sea and the things that are therein–fire, air, and the abyss–the things which are in the heights, the things which are in the depths, and the things which lie between. This He sent to them. Was it then, as one might conceive, for the purpose of exercising tyranny, or of inspiring fear and terror? By no means, but under the influence of clemency and meekness. As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so sent He Him; as God He sent Him; as to men He sent Him; as a Saviour He sent Him, and as seeking to persuade, not to compel us; for violence has no place in the character of God. As calling us He sent Him, not as vengefully pursuing us; as loving us He sent Him, not as judging us. For He will yet send Him to judge us, and who shall endure His appearing? … Do you not see them exposed to wild beasts, that they may be persuaded to deny the Lord, and yet not overcome? Do you not see that the more of them are punished, the greater becomes the number of the rest? This does not seem to be the work of man: this is the power of God; these are the evidences of His manifestation.

One will note that in the entire work, ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ’ is not mentioned, although the adjective ‘Christians’ is found throughout. It is also recognized the Spirit is not mentioned. This vision of the Word is very much in line with the fourth gospel. I would argue that the mention of the ‘son’ is not to be thought as ‘Son of God’, but merely as an example of God sending the Word. The Word is given gender, but nothing else. No familiar relationship can be seen in the words of the author.

Devotional – Chasing the Wind (6/23)

(NOTE TO READERS: I have created a new category, Devotional. It will be the parent directory of Sermon Notes, which most likely will not be used again, but I don’t want to remove a category that I have posted into. For the first few, they will be ‘left over’ sermons, so they will not be detailed, but I hope to be able to move into true devotionals later in July.)

Chasing the Wind

Ecc 1:14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

Ecc 2:11 Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

Ecc 4:6 Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.

Ecc 5:16 And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?

vexation of — “a preying upon”

the Spirit — Maurer translates; “the pursuit of wind,” Ephraim feedeth on wind.” .

Therefore we have ‘CHASING THE WIND’

Hag 1:1-10

In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built. Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.

Hos 12:1 Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.

feedeth on wind

Hos 8:7 For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.

Isa 44:20 He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?

Pro 15:14 The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.

1Pe 1:18-19 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

vain conversation, or Futile - (mataios from maten = groundless, invalid) means vain, empty, devoid of force, lacking in content, nonproductive, useless, dead, fruitless, aimless, of no real or lasting value. This adjective describes an ineffectual attempt to do something or an unsuccessful effort to attain something. Mataios emphasizes aimlessness or the leading to no object or end and thus is used to describe false gods or idols in contrast to the true God

Act 14:14-15 Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

Eph 4:17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

Isa 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Mat 16:26-27 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Application

The idea that I would have expressed is that mortal man chases the wind, lives like their is no tomorrow, ‘parties like it is 1999′ in the hope of getting something, anything, but material things will last for only as long as the holder has breath. Yet, God and His good riches, will out last it all. It is the only thing worth holding on to.

When it comes to God, people will hold to family and friends, claiming that they fear loosing them, if they come to Christ. Yet, we are told to let all things go in order that we may hold to God and gain eternal salvation. How many times have we seen someone wanting the love of friends or family instead of the love of God, reject God, and end up with neither? What about the man who holds on to his job to tightly that he lets God fall away? Or holds to his family that he forgets his duty to the only One that matters? What about the woman that worships her house more than that of the Lord Christ?

What about the youth that seeks the gains of this world, making every effort to plan for their 16th, 18th, and 21st birthday but forgetting that they may not make it that far? What about the youth that plans for college, and once there, plans for a career, and then for retirement, but makes no plan for death they only sure thing?

What about the parents who encourage their children in sports, theater, and talents, but will not encourage them in the things of God? The parents readily lay plans and hopes that their children will be the next great musician or sports star, but do they build their children up in the most holy faith? Would they not rather send the children to church than to attend as a family?

When humanity fails to understand that it exists not in a vacuum, but under the watchful eye of an Almighty God who is holy and just and righteous and demands such things from us, then humanity will seek only those things that make itself happy for the present time.

In Hebrews, the writer tells us that Moses chose the reproach of Christ rather that all the riches of Egypt and affliction over the pleasures of sin.

We have to understand that all things on this earth are fleeting, but a vapor. Granted, we are in this world, but we are in this world to get out, not to make ourselves a homeland here.

Below are passage from Wisdom and my favorite non-canonical work, the Epistle of Diognetus, that I think are fitting.

(For righteousness is immortal:) But ungodly men with their works and words called death to them: for when they thought to have it their friend, they consumed to nought, and made a covenant with it, because they are worthy to take part with it.
(Wis 1:15-16 KJVA)

They who said among themselves, thinking not aright: “Brief and troublous is our lifetime; neither is there any remedy for man’s dying, nor is anyone known to have come back from the grave. We came into being by chance, and hereafter we shall be as though we had not been; Because the breath in our nostrils is a smoke and reason is a spark at the beating of our hearts, And when this is quenched, our body will be ashes and our spirit will be poured abroad like unresisting air. Even our name will be forgotten in time, and no one will recall our deeds. So our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud, and will be dispersed like a mist pursued by the sun’s rays and overpowered by its heat. For our lifetime is the passing of a shadow; and our dying cannot be deferred because it is fixed with a seal; and no one returns. Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are real, and use the freshness of creation avidly. Let us have our fill of costly wine and perfumes, and let no springtime blossom pass us by; let us crown ourselves with rosebuds ere they wither. Let no meadow be free from our wantonness; everywhere let us leave tokens of our rejoicing, for this our portion is, and this our lot.
(Wis 2:1-9 NAB D)

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.- Epistle to Diognetus (125ad)