Just Arrived

The other day, I received a package from Zondervan containing Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context by John Woodbridge and Frank A. James III. I will be taking a look at this over the next few weeks and Amber Jewelry Tea Set.

Précis on William Willimon’s Word, Water, Wine and Bread

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I ordered a used copy, not sure I would want to keep a book such as this, and in this well-worn book are heavy markings, ear marks, and a cracked spine. It tells me that someone thoroughly enjoyed Bishop Willimon’s book; I found it equally dry and almost mundane. In such an important topic as  how Christians have worshiped, worship now (or then, when the book is written), and a call to change the way Christians worship, I was expecting a significant amount of energy illuminating from the book. Yet, I found that his greatest strength was brevity. Written just years before E.P. Sander’s masterpiece of Historical Jesus scholarship, Jesus and Judaism, but just three years after his crucial entry, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, Willimon was able to issue the call to return to, or at the very least acknowledge, our Jewish roots and begin to rebuild Christian worship around Historical Christianity.

Willimon begins with the early Jewish synagogue service and the familiar parts of our mutual worship – baptism, a common meal, and the preaching or use of a communally accepted Scripture. He glossed over this commonality, but I suspect that if a revision was issued, this would be a largely expanded section because I believe that with the scholarship earnestly began by Sanders, Christians are rediscovering (without stepping into the realm of Messianic Judaism) the, for lack of a better term at the moment, historical origin of Christianity.  We are rediscovering the common origin of both Christianity and modern Judaism in such a way that we can maintain our individual beliefs but maybe seek a better ecumenical spirit. However, even with the deficit due to the era, Willimon is able to maintain a consistent pull back to the ancient Judaism which became Christianity.

It is interesting that Willimon, with his era deficit on connecting Christianity and Judaism, is radically efficient in the modern discussion on corporate worship versus individualism. He doesn’t shy away, although it is still undeveloped given the importance of the issue, from distinguishing individualism from historical Christianity. He brings the readers through the various eras where theological and worship  communities were developed together, not by espousing individualism, but by building corporate responsibility and a shared worship experience, although the pendulums of history have swung from the extremely high church of the medieval times to the free church progenitors of modern, capitalistic, Western Christianity. In today’s market Christianity where political pundits are becoming theological soothsayers, religious individualism is moving us away from the Reformation trumpeting of the priesthood of all believers to the catastrophic papacy of all believers. Willimon shows that baptism, the common mean, and the preaching of the word must be corporate experience for the Body of Christ and he does so by following the Psalmist’s Hebraic tradition of rehearsing our Tradition. We are reminded of our place in Tradition and Tradition in our congregation.

The Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302 – Boniface VIII to King Phillip the Fair of France

Monument Bonifaz VIII von Arnolfo di Cambio fü...
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We are studying the rise of the Roman Bishop, and many point to this document as a fine example of the theology behind such a rise.

For me, I do not see the rise of the Pope as some conspiratorial piece of history, but as a necessary reaction against the fall of Rome, the dark and terrible times of the end of Civilization, and a natural progression starting with Victor. I would, course, encourage you to examine this history for yourself.

The Bull ‘Unam Sanctam’, in which Pope Boniface VIII asserted his rights against King Phillip the Fair of France, is a landmark in the history of the doctrine of Papal Primacy.

The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia says: “The Bull lays down dogmatic propositions on the unity of the Church, the necessity of belonging to it for the attainment of eternal salvation, the position of the Pope as supreme head of the Church, and the duty thence arising of submission to the Pope in order to belong to the Church and thus to attain salvation. – in the writings of non-Catholic authors against the definition of Papal Infallibility, the Bull … was used against Boniface VIII as well as against the papal primacy in a manner not justified by its content. The statements concerning the relations between the spiritual and the secular power are of a purely historical character, so far as they do not refer to the nature of the spiritual power, and are based on the actual conditions of medieval Europe. ‘Unam’ is frequently quoted, and misquoted, by anti-Catholics trying to prove that Boniface VIII, and Popes in general, are arrogant and evil men, intent on extending their own power.”

The following English translation of ‘Unam’ is taken from a doctoral dissertation written in the Dept. of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America, and published by CUA Press in 1927.

UNAM SANCTAM (Promulgated November 18, 1302)

Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins, as the Spouse in the Canticles [Sgs 6:8] proclaims: ‘One is my dove, my perfect one. She is the only one, the chosen of her who bore her,’ and she represents one sole mystical body whose Head is Christ and the head of Christ is God [1 Cor 11:3]. In her then is one Lord, one faith, one baptism [Eph 4:5]. There had been at the time of the deluge only one ark of Noah, prefiguring the one Church, which ark, having been finished to a single cubit, had only one pilot and guide, i.e., Noah, and we read that, outside of this ark, all that subsisted on the earth was destroyed.

We venerate this Church as one, the Lord having said by the mouth of the prophet: ‘Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword and my only one from the hand of the dog.’ [Ps 21:20] He has prayed for his soul, that is for himself, heart and body; and this body, that is to say, the Church, He has called one because of the unity of the Spouse, of the faith, of the sacraments, and of the charity of the Church. This is the tunic of the Lord, the seamless tunic, which was not rent but which was cast by lot [Jn 19:23-24]. Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, since the Lord speaking to Peter Himself said: ‘Feed my sheep’ [Jn 21:17], meaning, my sheep in general, not these, nor those in particular, whence we understand that He entrusted all to him [Peter]. Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John ‘there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.’ We are informed by the texts of the gospels that in this Church and in its power are two swords; namely, the spiritual and the temporal. For when the Apostles say: ‘Behold, here are two swords’ [Lk 22:38] that is to say, in the Church, since the Apostles were speaking, the Lord did not reply that there were too many, but sufficient. Certainly the one who denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter has not listened well to the word of the Lord commanding: ‘Put up thy sword into thy scabbard’ [Mt 26:52]. Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered _for_ the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.

However, one sword ought to be subordinated to the other and temporal authority, subjected to spiritual power. For since the Apostle said: ‘There is no power except from God and the things that are, are ordained of God’ [Rom 13:1-2], but they would not be ordained if one sword were not subordinated to the other and if the inferior one, as it were, were not led upwards by the other.

For, according to the Blessed Dionysius, it is a law of the divinity that the lowest things reach the highest place by intermediaries. Then, according to the order of the universe, all things are not led back to order equally and immediately, but the lowest by the intermediary, and the inferior by the superior. Hence we must recognize the more clearly that spiritual power surpasses in dignity and in nobility any temporal power whatever, as spiritual things surpass the temporal. This we see very clearly also by the payment, benediction, and consecration of the tithes, but the acceptance of power itself and by the government even of things. For with truth as our witness, it belongs to spiritual power to establish the terrestrial power and to pass judgement if it has not been good. Thus is accomplished the prophecy of Jeremias concerning the Church and the ecclesiastical power: ‘Behold to-day I have placed you over nations, and over kingdoms’ and the rest. Therefore, if the terrestrial power err, it will be judged by the spiritual power; but if a minor spiritual power err, it will be judged by a superior spiritual power; but if the highest power of all err, it can be judged only by God, and not by man, according to the testimony of the Apostle: ‘The spiritual man judgeth of all things and he himself is judged by no man’ [1 Cor 2:15]. This authority, however, (though it has been given to man and is exercised by man), is not human but rather divine, granted to Peter by a divine word and reaffirmed to him (Peter) and his successors by the One Whom Peter confessed, the Lord saying to Peter himself, ‘Whatsoever you shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in Heaven’ etc., [Mt 16:19]. Therefore whoever resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordinance of God [Rom 13:2], unless he invent like Manicheus two beginnings, which is false and judged by us heretical, since according to the testimony of Moses, it is not in the beginnings but in the beginning that God created heaven and earth [Gen 1:1]. Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

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The Paschal Feast – Are we to follow the Apostles?

The Lord’s Passover approaches. It is a time for Christians to joyously celebrated that single moment in all of history which changed humanity’s fate. It is also one to reflect on the ancient traditions of the Church. We are connected to the Apostles not merely by the name that we wear, and the doctrine that we teach, but also by the Traditions that we share.

One of the earliest disputes in the Church revolved around the date on which to celebrate the Paschal Feast. The congregations of Asia Minor celebrated on the date, Nisan 14th, while more Western Churches celebrated it on the day of the week. Both are literal, and both are valid (although the latter was set by Rome and forced upon the entire Church by the pagan Emperor Constantine), but to which did the Apostles more likely hold to?

Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna was a disciple of the Apostle John and had spoken with many who had seen Christ. He was in direct line to the Apostles, what we would call apostolic succession.

From here:

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom,departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time,—a man who was of much greater weight, and a more stedfast witness of truth, than Valentinus, and Marcion, and the rest of the heretics. He it was who, coming to Rome in the time of Anicetus caused many to turn away from the aforesaid heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received this one and sole truth from the apostles,—that, namely, which is handed down by the Church. There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me?” “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.” Such was the horror which the apostles and their disciples had against holding even verbal communication with any corrupters of the truth; as Paul also says, “A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” There is also a very powerful Epistle of Polycarp written to the Philippians, from which those who choose to do so, and are anxious about their salvation, can learn the character of his faith, and the preaching of the truth. Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles.

Polycarp was a direct disciple to the Apostle John. He learned his traditions of the aged Apostle and celebrated the Lord’s Passover on Nisan 14th. Below is the account of Polycrate’s discussion with the Bishop of Rome, Victor, concerning Victor’s attempted excommunication of those congregations celebrating the date of Nisan 14th. Polycrates and Irenaeus both condemned Victor’s assumption of power and the attempt to divide the Church.

Note, that Polycrates lists two Apostles, Philip and John, who had celebrated the Paschal Feast on Nisan 14th. From here:

But the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates, decided to hold to the old custom handed down to them. He himself, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down to him:

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate.

He fell asleep at Ephesus.

And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna.

Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead?

All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven.

I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ‘We ought to obey God rather than man.’

Polycrates is adamant that the tradition of the churches in Asia, Paul’s churches, observed by the ordinance of God, Nisan 14th. It was not merely him, but at least two Apostles, their disciples and the family of Bishops that Polycrates belonged to.

He then writes of all the bishops who were present with him and thought as he did. His words are as follows:

I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus.

Thereupon Victor, who presided over the church at Rome, immediately attempted to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia, with the churches that agreed with them, as heterodox; and he wrote letters and declared all the brethren there wholly excommunicate.

But this did not please all the bishops. And they besought him to consider the things of peace, and of neighborly unity and love. Words of theirs are extant, sharply rebuking Victor.

So enters Irenaeus who seemed to agree with Victor on the day of the celebration, but saw no need to separate and divide the Church over it.

Among them was Irenæus, who, sending letters in the name of the brethren in Gaul over whom he presided, maintained that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be observed only on the Lord’s day. He fittingly admonishes Victor that he should not cut off whole churches of God which observed the tradition of an ancient custom and after many other words he proceeds as follows:

For the controversy is not only concerning the day, but also concerning the very manner of the fast. For some think that they should fast one day, others two, yet others more; some, moreover, count their day as consisting of forty hours day and night.

And this variety in its observance has not originated in our time; but long before in that of our ancestors. It is likely that they did not hold to strict accuracy, and thus formed a custom for their posterity according to their own simplicity and peculiar mode. Yet all of these lived none the less in peace, and we also live in peace with one another; and the disagreement in regard to thefast confirms the agreement in the faith.

Irenaeus allows for plurality because the tradition was not strict.

He adds to this the following account, which I may properly insert:

Among these were the presbyters before Soter, who presided over the church which you now rule. We mean Anicetus, and Pius, and Hyginus, and Telesphorus, and Xystus. They neither observed it themselves, nor did they permit those after them to do so. And yet though not observing it, they were none the less at peace with those who came to them from the parishes in which it was observed; although this observance was more opposed to those who did not observe it.

But none were ever cast out on account of this form; but the presbyters before you who did not observe it, sent the eucharist to those of other parishes who observed it.

And when the blessed Polycarp was at Rome in the time of Anicetus, and they disagreed a little about certain other things, they immediately made peace with one another, not caring to quarrel over this matter. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John the disciple of our Lord, and the other apostles with whom he had associated; neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it as he said that he ought to follow the customs of the presbyters that had preceded him.

But though matters were in this shape, they communed together, and Anicetus conceded the administration of the eucharist in the church to Polycarp, manifestly as a mark of respect. And they parted from each other in peace, both those who observed, and those who did not, maintaining the peace of the whole church.

Thus Irenæus, who truly was well named, became a peacemaker in this matter, exhorting and negotiating in this way in behalf of the peace of the churches. And he conferred by letter about this mooted question, not only with Victor, but also with most of the other rulers of the churches

Young and Old Earth Creation Beliefs and Origins

Long ages are a recent phenomenon to justify evolutionary philosophy. I used to believe the day-age and/or gap models were credible, until I realized they had a number of linguistic and logical problems, and that my view was not based on the Bible’s language or historical views, but simply to accommodate long age concepts. These models were constructed in the nineteenth century in an attempt to harmonize evolutionary dogma with the Biblical text. Long ages were touted as ‘proven’ by science, and therefore it seemed necessary to force the Bible’s language to conform to this supposed scientific fact even if this created linguistic, logical and historical inconsistencies.

See how this came about at Young and Old Earth Creation Beliefs and Origins.