Lex Rex

verbum sat sapienti

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BGM
Zain
Lex Rex

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

EARLY CHURCH: IGNATIUS

BGM & LEX REX:

I will admit that this whole discussion has had atleast one apparent negative effect. I keep getting behind in my work! On second thought, I really don't think that 10 years from now I will say, "I wish I had spent more time at the Law Office." Even the mere thought turns my stomach. In fact, now that I think of it, I should be thanking you both.

After reading your last post, BGM, I basically agree, as I would guess that Lex Rex does also, with your description of the type of traditions most of us tend to reference when interpreting any given Scripture. The difference, as you stated, is often simply what tradition a person chooses to consult. Hence, where the variance comes, in most cases, is fundamentally based upon how the standard of Truth is being interpreted and applied.

I would agree with your criticism of the Western Protestant Church in this regard, that it has a crisis of standard. The Truth is true, not because it sounds good and logical, nor because it appeals to current thought or cultural norms, nor because it wins an argument. A deceiving lie can be and do all of these things. The Truth is true because it is the Truth! (How is that for an unassailable logic!) The Western Protestant Church, however, seems to have lost sight of this basic conclusion.

For example, the Word says that God is Love. The Oprah Winfrey mentality of the current American culture losely defines Love as license. They say God is Love, therefore, he does not punish. This view of Love has infiltrated the American Church in various forms. I am baffled that so many in the Western Church have accepted this twisted concept. I say, rather, that in order to truly begin to see the depth of the Love of God, we must first look through eyes that Fear the Lord. It is the terrible and awesome greatness of our Father that underscores the unfathomable Love He has for us. He is the Rock Standard that we must apply in our own life if we wish to avoid judgment. This Standard is so exacting that we must all fail and be crushed by it, but for the Love of God. In the depth of His Love a way was made. Through Christ's blood we have a Robe of Righteousness that perfectly reflects the Standard. Without an understanding of the judgment that awaited us, the sacrifice of Love can not be fully appreciated. I know that Lex Rex and BGM understand this concept (better than I perhaps), but felt it served to illustrate my point about the failure of standard in the American Church at large.

A thing is true because it matches the standard. The only standard for the Truth, is our Lord, Jesus, the Christ. In other words, the only way to know the Truth is to know Him. This applies to our methods of understanding Holy Scripture also. For, as Lex Rex stated correctly, the Lord is the "Word". The "Word", I would agree, includes the oral word, deeds, and written word.

As a believer, if the Lord himself appeared to me in person, as He did to Paul, I should certainly attempt to do exactly as He directs. Likewise, if a messanger from the Lord arrived, I must obey him in the area of his designated authority (Prophets, Apostles or Bishops). But first, I must of course judge whether this person's mandate is true or false. For example, when I ask my oldest son to babysit my other children, if the others disobey him they have disobeyed me. But if my oldest son tries to get them to disobey something I have already instructed them in, they had better disobey him. Hence, this area seems to require a fundamental personal judgment (not private judgment -- see below for more on this area.) I believe Ignatius would even agree that a personal judgment in this area is required. I say this because of Ignatius' statement that a Christian must refuse to follow a Bishop that is falsely leading (I can look up the quote if you wish). The question then is how to determine if the purported messenger is true or false. Obviously, this is fundamentaly determined by a comparison to the Standard of Truth. Again, it seems to boil down to application.

As a believer, I should also read the inspired Written Word and attempt to do exactly what it says. But as you have correctly concluded, BGM, any "word" must be interpreted correctly in order for the interpreter to be found obedient. And I would be a fool if I did not look beyond my own "private judgment" in any such interpretation, to those who came before and those who are more mature in the Faith than I.

Yet, I would also state that each of us must, individually, stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and, hence, must make a personal, as opposed to a private, judgment even as to Scripture. (I hope I have correctly understood what you, BGM, mean by the concept of private judgment, if not, please correct me.) It seems that the problem boils down to this: if we must obey Godly authority (whether based on deed, oral word or the written word), yet refuse to obey those who would lead us astray, how do we know which is which?

Your post, BGM, references a list of items God gave His Church in order to keep the Church pure in its reflection of His Standard (The Apostles, Bishops, Teachers, His Oral Word, His Written Word, His Sacraments, His Protection and the Sacrifice of Himself.) Although, I would mostly agree, I do see problems with this list, in that it omits the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, there is the obvious problem of relying upon any one, or combination, of these things in that it or they may be the thing that has been misunderstood or misapplied, etc. How would I rightly conclude that a Bishop's direction is indeed false, even within the true Church? Do I look to another Bishop for agreement or disagreement, or to several others? What if they are wrong and the one Bishop I was at first considering is right? Do I look to Scripture? What if I got the interpretation wrong? If I look to the Oral Word, I have at a minimum the same problem of interpretation and application.

I believe the answer to the dilema must be the Holy Spirit. The most important thing, other than Himself, our Lord gave, and gives, to His Church is His Holy Spirit. I am sure you and Lex Rex would agree with this basic conclusion, but I felt it must be emphasized. Without the Holy Spirit, we are all in danger of submitting to the wrong authority, and believing a lie. That is why I believe the Lord instructed His disciples to stay in the upper room until the Holy Spirit came. They simply would fail without the power, guidance and comfort of the Holy Spirit.

One significant issue I have against the Orthodox as well as other main line branches of the Faith is in the area of Magisterial Authority. It is not that I don't believe it exists. Rather, I believe it to be an area of great danger and potential pitfalls. In all honesty, I would go further and conclude that it has been and remains a large source failure in the Church. Not in the sense that one tradition of magisterial actions is necessarily more accurate historically than another. It is rather that the many additions through magisterial tradition have become legalistic and, hence, undermined the heart of the commandments and worship. It is this exact sin that had Judiasm was guilty of when the Lord came the first time. The religious leadership had added so much detail to the application of the law that the fine detail had swallowed the spirit behind the law.

If we superimposed any of the existing main line branches of Christianity upon the First Church, let alone the early Church of Ignatius' day, I do not think we would recognize much as being the same or even close. I believe that many of the differences are simply that dictated formats have, in many, cases replaced the original spirit of worship that is so obvious from a reading of the writings of men such as Ignatius or Justin the Martyr. Yes, things must change to meet changing demands and circumstances, but we should never, never exalt things such as 'our form of liturgy' or 'tonsure', for example over the fact that Christ wants a repentant heart. This is the area of complaint I have when I look at the Orthodox and ask "where is the good fruit of the tree?"

Finally, I would set forth that one of the fundamental differences of view between us, still boils down to a disagreement over the correct definition of the true Church. Again, I would tend to agree with your criticism of many protestants views of denominationalism. Yet, as I have said before, this agreement does not equate with an overall approval of the Orthodox's claim of being the exclusive visible Church. The main difference, I would guess anyway, is how each of understands the "Visible" nature of the Church. I do not disagree with the conclusion that the Church is visible, only on what that means.

How did the first, and the early Church understand its nature? What evidence of their views exist? What, in your opinion BGM, makes the Eastern Orthodox branch the True and, perhaps more importantly, exclusive visible Church? If the Church is visible, which I agree with, what makes you a member of the body, and what connects the members together? I would presume from prior exchanges BGM's view atleast includes 2 concepts: Apostolic Succession and an aherence to original doctrine.

As you know, I have already somewhat set forth the problems I see in each. First, I do not, at this point anyway, believe that true apostolic authority has been successfully passed through a historical chain and would resubmit John the Baptist's warning to the Pharisees about the danger in relying upon historical lineage to prove you are a child of the promise (Matt. ch. 3).

Second, although I must admit that in some very significant ways, as I am sure you have already noticed, some of my views on the Gospel line up better with the Orthodox viewpoints, I do, however, see great difficiencies in the Orthodox form of worship among some other various points. (And attribute many of them to an overzealous misapplication of magisterial tradition and authority.)

Hence, it seems that you and I have seen many of the same problems in the American Church, but seem to have reached different conclusions about the other branches of Christianity. Perhaps it makes sense to ask another question. Does God's Holy Church ever need reformation, and how does He accomplish it?

May our Lord bless and keep all of us and our families!

Your Brother,

Zain