Thursday, January 18, 2018

Discipline in the Early Church: Part One

"How can the medicine of permissiveness profit anyone?"- Cyprian
The subject of church discipline can be a touchy one. Part of the reason for that is the abuse of disciplinary authority in the hands of people who should never have been in such positions. Probably the greater reason for the suspicious attitude toward church discipline is the ever so subtle influence of moral relativism on the churches of Modernity. The excuse that "we're all just saved sinners" is used as a pretext to ignore serious sin in the Body of Christ. No one, after all, wants to have their sins pointed out to them and then dealt with affirmatively and biblically. It rubs against the grain of our Inherited Depravity. We also cannot discount the fact that many pastors and church boards feel compelled to operate the church as a corporation- a business- more than as the Body of Christ. Thus the lack of church discipline is due to a fear of the loss of tithes. Money talks, after all. How did the early church view the issue of church discipline, you ask? I am glad you asked.They took the issue very seriously, as the following will make clear.

"But it will be said that some of us, too, depart from the rules of our discipline. In that case, however, we count such persons no longer as Christians."- Tertullian

"He forbids us either to salute such persons or to receive them to our hospitality."- Clement of Alexandria

"These evidences, then, of a stricter discipline existing among us, are an additional proof of truth."- Tertullian

"Christians lament as dead those who have been conquered by immorality or any other sin. For they are lost and dead to God. At some future time if they repent, they receive them as being risen from the dead. However, this is after a greater interval than in the case of those who were admitted at first (the period of testing of a convert). However, those who have lapsed and fallen after professing the Gospel are not placed in any office or post of rank in the church of God."- Origen

"How can the medicine of permissiveness profit anyone? What if a physician hides the wound and does not allow the necessary remedy of time to close the scar? To not require repentance makes the way easy for new dangers. To do that is not curing someone. If we are to be honest, it is killing him."- Cyprian

Unlike the various churches of Modernity, the early church was not afraid to exercise its authority to discipline its members. These quotes are just a sampling of many others that all establish the authority of the church to discipline, and that this authority was understood to be a mark of possessing truth. That truth must be protected and defended, even against the sins of those in the Body of Christ.

But what of those who wished to repent of their sins?

The church clearly expected demonstrable repentance. What exactly do I mean by "demonstrable repentance"? Let me start by saying what it does not mean. The early church did not take the sins of Christians lightly, and they were not treated in the same manner as sins committed before baptism. They were considered a grave spiritual matter which demanded a grave spiritual remedy to assist one in eradicating that sin from one's life. Origen tells us that those who fell were never allowed in positions of authority, for example. This stands in stark contrast to the churches of Modernity, where leaders can be caught in grave sin and, if they cry a few public tears and sit under an oversight board for a period of time, they can be, and often are, reinstated to their pastoral positions. Not so in the early church. But back to question of repentance. Again, in the churches of Modernity, if one is caught in grave sin, they are likely just told to pray about it (a good start), or they are prayed with (also a good thing) and the matter is considered done with (not so good). The early church, however, expected something more. Repentance had to be proven by demonstrable change, and that change was guided by the church's disciplinary measures. What that looked like will be the subject of part two of this brief study of church discipline.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Early Church Distinctives

As part of our ongoing series on the restoration of the early Christian faith (the apostolic church of Jesus Christ), it is of course very important that we examine the things that make the original church distinctive- what sets it apart from modern evangelicalism and other expressions of Christianity. This will help us to see just how far removed from that original church modern Christianity really is.

Apostolic Faith
The early church was fiercely committed to maintaining fidelity to the teachings of the Apostles, without addition or subtraction. 

"In the Lord's apostles, we possess authority. For even they themselves did not choose to introduce anything new, but faithfully delivered to the nations the teachings that they had received from Christ. If, therefore, even "an angel from heaven should preach any other gospel" than theirs, he would be called accursed by us."                                                                                      - Tertullian

"We hold union with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different than theirs. This is our witness of truth."                                                                                  - Tertullian

"No other teaching will have the right of being received as apostolic than that which is at the present day proclaimed in the churches of apostolic foundation."- Tertullian

FACT: Many of the denominations of our day have added to that divine deposit of the faith in some significant way, whether it be things as blatant as veneration of the icons of saints and martyrs or a rejection of apostolic tradition. How many churches can we honestly say hold the same faith as the early church?

The early church had a clear understanding of authority and how it was passed on. 

"Through our Lord Jesus Christ,  our apostles knew that there would be strife over the office of oversight. Accordingly, since they had obtained a perfect knowledge of this, they appointed those men already mentioned. And they afterwards have instructions that when those men would fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry."- Clement of Rome

"When we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, which is preserved by means of the successions of presbyters in the churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but than even the apostles."- Irenaeus

"In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of truth, have come down to us."                                                                         - Irenaeus

"We cling to the standard of the heavenly church of Jesus Christ according to the succession of the apostles."- Origen

"By this succession, they have handed down that church which exists in every place and which has come down even to us."- Cyprian

FACT: Many denominations lack this element of authority by either not teaching the faith of the apostles, or by an outright rejection of the tactile succession of apostolic leadership.

Community of Goods
The early church took steps to ensure all of the faithful were provided for. I am not suggesting that we need to replicate the exact model, but the exact principle. If we live in intentional villages, or simply have a congregation, a storehouse of goods should be kept to assist those in need in the church.

"You will share all things with your neighbor. You will not call things your own. For if you are partakers in common of things that are incorruptible, how much more of those things which are corruptible."                                                                               - Barnabas

"We who used to value above everything the acquisition of wealth and possessions, now bring what we have into a common stock, and share with everyone in need."- Justin Martyr

"All things therefore are common, and not for the rich to appropriate an undue share....I know very well that God has given to us the liberty of use. But only so far as is necessary. And He has determined that the use should be common. For it is monstrous for one to live in luxury, while many are in need."- Clement of Alexandria

FACT: Many churches fail to care for their members in this way. They have either abandoned this principles for a pray for them and give them a few comforting words approach, or telling them to ask family members who often have nothing to give either. Yet we see mega-churches with lavish buildings and campuses, pastors flying in private planes, wearing the finest tailor made suits, living in multi-million dollar mansions, etc. 

The early church rejected the concept of "sacred art" and of the use of icons and statuary in worship.

"It is with a different kind of spell that art deludes you...It leads you to pay religious honor and worship to images and pictures."                                                                - Clement of Alexandria

"We know that the names of the dead are nothing, as are their images. But when images are set up, we know well enough, too, who carry on their wicked work under these names. We know who exult in the homage rendered to these images. We know who pretend to be the divine. It is none other than accursed spirits."- Tertullian

"The Law itself exhibits justice. It teaches wisdom by abstinence from visible images and by inviting us to the Maker and Father of the universe."- Clement of Alexandria

"The different tribes erected temples and statues to those individuals I have previously enumerated. In contrast, we have refrained from offering to the Divinity honor by any such means, seeing that they are better adapted to demons."- Origen

"What madness is it, then, either to form those objects that they themselves may afterwards fear, or to fear the things that they have formed? However, they say, "We do not fear the images themselves, but those beings after whose likeness they were formed, and to whose names they are dedicated." No doubt you fear them for this reason: because you think that they are in heaven."- Lactantius

 "It has sufficiently been vain it is to form images."                                                                                - Arnobius

FACT: The ethnic Orthodox churches, Roman Catholics, Anglicans and other smaller sects clearly violate this prohibition on images, even of saints and martyrs.

The early church demonstrated a very clear objection to materialism. 

"My child, do not be a money lover, nor vainglorious. For out of these, thefts are born."- Didache

"Sell your possessions." And what is this? Jesus does not ask him to throw away the substance he possessed and to abandon his property. Rather, He asks him to banish from his soul his notions about wealth, his excitement and morbid feeling about it, and his anxieties."                                                               - Clement of Alexandria

"It becomes us not to lay down our souls for money, but money for our souls- whether spontaneously in giving, or patiently in losing."                                                        - Tertullian

"To seek riches is not a virtue."- Lactantius

FACT: Many churches are very much materialistic, operating more as businesses than houses of worship.

Fasting Days
The early church had set fasting days during which the entire congregation would fast together and pray for each other.

"But you should fast on the fourth day (Wednesday) and the Preparation (Friday)."- Didache

"He knows also the enigmas of the fasting of those days- I mean the fourth (Wednesday) and the Preparation (Friday)..."                                                            - Clement of Alexandria

"At prayer should be made without kneeling and the other customary marks of humility. For we are not only praying, but pleading and making satisfaction to God our Lord."- Tertullian

"No one will find fault with us for observing the fourth day of the week (Wednesday) and the Preparation (Friday), on which it is reasonably directed for us to fast according to the tradition. We fast on the fourth day, indeed, because on it the Jews took counsel for the betrayal of the Lord. And we fast on the sixth day, because Christ Himself suffered for us on it."- Peter of Alexandria

FACT: No church observes this apostolic tradition. Truthfully, very few churches encourage fasting at all, let alone require a twice weekly fast.

Morning and Evening Prayer
Early Christians gathered together twice each day for morning and evening prayer as a community.

"Do not forget Christ's church. So go there in the morning before all your work. And meet there again in the evening to return thanks to God."- Apostolic Constitutions

"But assemble yourselves together every day, morning and evening, singing psalms and praying in the Lord's house. In the morning, say the sixty-second Psalm. And in the evening, say the hundred and fortieth Psalm..."- Apostolic Constitutions

FACT: Most churches do not keep this apostolic tradition. While some churches have religious orders and/or clergy that do, this does not meet the criteria described herein. This tradition was clearly meant to be for the entirety of the congregation.

Non-Resistance, Military, Lawsuits, Patriotism
The early Christians practiced non-resistance as an integral part of the Christian faith and rejected political involvement, civil lawsuits, and military service.

"We have learned not to return blow for blow, nor to go to law with those who plunder and rob us. Not only that, but to those who strike us on one side of the face, we have learned to offer the other side also."- Athenagoras

"He commanded them not only not to injure their neighbors, nor to do them any evil, but also, when they are dealt with wickedly, to be long-suffering."- Irenaeus

"Christians are not allowed to use violence to correct the delinquencies of sin."- Clement of Alexandria

"Do not willingly use force, and do not return force when it is used against you."- Commodianus

"When a Christian is arrested, he does not resist. Nor does he avenge himself against your unrighteous violence.."- Cyprian

"Do no one injury at any time.."- Theonas of Alexandria

"Religion is to be defended- not by putting to death- but by dying."                              - Lactantius

"When we suffer such ungodly things, we do not resist even in word. Rather, we leave vengeance to God."- Lactantius

"Shall a Christian apply the chain, the prison, the torture, and the punishment, when he is not the avenger even of his own wrongs? Shall he stand guard for others, more than for Christ? Shall he do it on the Lord's Day, when he does not even do it for Christ Himself? Shall he stand guard before those temples that he has renounced?...You will see by a slight survey how many other offenses there are involved in the performances of military duties. And we must hold them to involve a transgression of God's Law."- Tertulian

"We have no country on earth."- Clement of Alexandria

"How can a man be just who hates, who despoils, who puts to death? And those who strive to be serviceable to their country do all these things."- Lactantius

"When they speak of "duties" relating to warfare, their speech pertains neither to justice nor to true virtue. Rather, it pertains only to this life and to civil institutions. And this is not justice."- Lactantius

FACT: Most Christians today, and most denominations, support civil litigation against other believers, war, political activism, and justify violence at some level.

These are just a few of the things we could explore that sets the early church at distinct odds with the churches of Modernity. I urge you to look at whatever denomination you are involved with, look at your church closely and see if these marks of the apostolic church of Jesus Christ are there. If not, why? Is your pastor willing to bring the church back to these things with action and not just words? If no, what should your logical next step be? I firmly believe the Lord is calling his people back to the faith "once delivered", and that many are thirsty for that faith. Are you one of them? There are two roads before us. One is the road of deviation from apostolic tradition. The other is fidelity to and affinity with the apostles, early Christian martyrs and the saints. The churches of Modernity have chosen their road. What will your choice be?

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Set-Apart: The Early Christian Model of Counter-Culture

I have discussed in previous articles the need for Christians who are serious about returning to apostolic (early) Christianity to leave behind allegiances to political systems and to withdraw from the intrigues of the political world. I have also briefly touched on the need to separate ourselves from the world (secular governments, politics and philosophies), and what our responsibilities to our nations really are. Having done so we will now take a look at another aspect of our being separate from the world; cultural/societal separation.

The early Christians, while living in the same places as their pagan neighbors, very early on adopted the Jewish model of existing in cultures that were very hostile to Jewish religion, and therefore, identity. In many of the ancient cities of the Roman empire archaeologists have discovered sections, or quarters, where Jews lived in separate communities. This helped to ensure fidelity to the faith, the carrying on of traditions, and to some degree the ability to work and barter for goods that Jews might not be able to purchase or sell in the marketplaces due to pagan religious practices that were often required in these cultures. We find the same thing with the ancient Christian communities. They would have found themselves in a culture hostile to their faith, which viewed their morals and ethics with a degree of suspicion, if not outright scorn, and which was extremely difficult for them to live in successfully. Christians, like their Jewish counterparts, would not have been able to sell goods in marketplaces without offering a pinch of incense to a pagan deity. They had the struggle with their consciences when purchasing certain foods as they were offered to idols before being sold. They would not take part in the games at the coliseums or in the entertainments, festivals and politics of the surrounding culture. And finally, Christians did not serve in the military, nor in government. This all made for a very bloody period in church history, as Christians (like Jews) were accused of all manner of crimes, including sedition. This led to the martyrdom of many believers. They took seriously the many biblical admonitions to be a set-apart people.

"They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world."- John 17:16

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."- Romans 12:2

"Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you."- 2 Corinthians 6:17

"Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world."- 1 John 2:15-16

And while Christians of today are not being martyred (at least not in the West), we must admit that the culture of Western nations is growing increasingly hostile to Christianity as the nations move closer and closer to a neo-paganism. Our morals and ethics are scoffed at and even criminalized (Christian business owners sued out of business and/or frightened out of business by angry Leftists), the government has become more aggressive in its removal and prohibition of biblical principles, and Cultural Marxism has bred an entire generation of people who live for nothing more than whatever feels good at the moment. The comparisons to ancient Roman pagan immorality and conceit are numerous. Unfortunately, we cannot live in the urban centers as easily as perhaps we once did, as these centers are also the very hub of the anti-Christ forces we struggle with daily.

So what do we do?

First, we must be willing to be holy. This means allowing ourselves to be "set-apart". That leads to the question, 'Set apart from what?'

Set apart from all that is sinful, all that is not God honoring, all that is common, and set apart unto God as His possession, giving up our rebellious sense of "self rights" in favor of allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our decisions. This leads to another logical question: are we able to do these things effectively, efficiently, and consistently while at the same time living in such close proximity to an anti-Christ culture that imposes itself on us? I do not mean by close proximity living in the same space or city. What I mean is having to engage it on all levels of our lives, which most of us do. The realities of urban living are that we are surrounded by the immorality, unethical attitudes, symbols of worldly politics, philosophies, and priorities every moment of every day. In some places, even your own home is not a haven, as local community rules impose themselves on your "property rights". City schools are filled with drugs, immorality, violence and the curriculum itself is so designed as to brainwash children from kindergarten through college with the very principles that militate against biblical principles. Workplaces are increasingly becoming hostile to Christians as well, with rules (either corporate, state or federal) prohibiting and criminalizing foundational Christian values. Can we honestly say that we are set-apart when we immerse ourselves in such a neo-pagan culture? The answer, I believe, is an unequivocal no. And before someone responds by saying we are to share the gospel with the lost, so that justifies continued immersion in the world, nowhere in Scripture are we ever commanded to change the culture- not even one person at a time. We are told to be in the world (which we have no choice in as humans), but not of the world (which we absolutely do have a choice in.). The command is not to be in the world and at the same instant of the world, which is what many believers actually live out every day, if not truly believe is correct. The Church Fathers understood this need for separation quite well.

"This world and the next are two enemies...We cannot therefore be friends of both."- 2 Clement

"Die to the world, repudiating the madness that is in it! Live to God!"
                                                                                                           - Tatian

"We have no country on earth."- Clement of Alexandria

"As for you, you are a foreigner in this world, a citizen of Jerusalem, the city above. Our citizenship, the apostle says, is in heaven...You have nothing to do with the joys of this world. In fact, you are called to the very opposite..."- Tertullian

"It is not possible for anyone to enter into the kingdom of heaven who has not turned away from the affairs of this world..."- Origen

"The one peaceful and trustworthy tranquility, the one solid, firm, and constant security is this: for a man to withdraw from this whirlpool of a distracting world and to lift his eyes from earth to heaven..."
                                                                                             - Cyprian

"We should ever and a day reflect that we have renounced the world and are in the meantime living here as guests and strangers."'
                                                                                            - Cyprian

What is the alternative?

I believe the answer is intentional villages, or a Christian land movement, if you prefer. No, I am not talking about some fantasy cessation, but of intentional communities of like minded believers who are committed to a set of core principles. This idea is nothing new in and of itself, but can be traced back to England in the 1920-1930s. Industrialization had done much to erode the simple living and Christ centered lifestyle of English Christians. Such thinkers as G.K. Chesterton and others began to develop a movement to repopulate the countryside with Christian farmers and other craftsmen who would be freed from the grinding and life consuming work of factories, and get the faithful out of urban centers. Interestingly, the power brokers in control of world politics and culture want to do exactly the opposite. They want to bring the masses into urban centers so as to better control them.

These intentional villages could, if Christians can be half as committed as many of the non-Christian intentional communities, free the faithful of wage slavery, provide ample family time, and allow the community to be substantially self sufficient with the establishment of a community farm. Homes could be built in these communities and a central church established as the focal point of the village. Mind you, we are not talking about building a sub-division or some monastery. This would be an intentional community, apart from the surrounding anti-Christ culture, but close enough for evangelism, physicians, etc. to be accessible. In other words, in the world, but not of the world. It would be a community based on:
  • Love of God
  • A sincere desire to be what the early church was.
  • Biblical family values.
  • Stewardship of creation through farming.
  • Christian community
  • Prayer
  • Christian education through homeschooling
  • Holiness
This is not necessarily a pie in the sky idealism, as it has been a working model for various Anabaptists communities for a very long time. Such an intentional village allows Christians to not only be set-apart, but to build one another up in the committed atmosphere of a community of fellow disciples.

In the coming weeks I will continue to explore the concept of restoration of a paleo-orthodox (early Christian) experience of the faith. In my next article we will look at the early Christian model for the church: what it looks like, how it is practiced, leadership roles, etc. Please continue to read here and join me on this journey, as well as commenting on any aspect you feel led to comment on.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

In the World, Not of the World: An Early Christian Perspective on Political Action

Should we engage in political action?
I mentioned in my previous post that political action had failed to produce what Christians have hoped it would. I advocated for an abstention from involvement in the system (the world), as it demands compromise on some level. Lets explore this topic a bit more and perhaps gain more clarity from both Scripture and the early church. By way of doing so I offer the following arguments:

1. The political systems of the world are openly hostile to Christian principles and increasingly aggressive in using the force of law to demand Christians violate both conscience and Scripture. This is true despite (or perhaps due in part to) the involvement of Christians in the political process. Why? Quite simply, Christianity is fast becoming a marginalized religion due to the very political forces Christians on all sides of the political spectrum keep in power. We are not offered solid candidates who stand absolutely firm on Scriptural standards, but professional politicians and/or businessmen who have earned a living manipulating the masses and compromising to get what they want.

2. There is no Scriptural evidence that Christians, as part of the Great Commission, are commanded or expected to influence culture or government through political processes and activities. In fact, we find exactly the opposite. For example, the early Christians uniformly rejected the "wearing of the purple" (holding political offices), and participation in the military; both expected of Christians in the current culture. Tertullian writes, "Do we believe it is lawful for a human oath to be added on top of one that is divine? Is it lawful for a man to come under promise to another master after Christ?" Here Tertullian clearly states that Christians must not take oaths to governments and militaries, as they place us in a position of service to something and someone other than Christ. He then goes on to write, "So we have no inducement to take part in your public meetings. Nor is there anything more entirely foreign to us than affairs of the state."

Origen writes, "Celsus (a pagan) also urges us to "take office in the government of the country if that is necessary for the maintenance of the laws and the support of religion." However, we recognize in each state the existence of another national organization (the church) that was founded by the Word of God. And we exhort those who are mighty in word and of blameless life to rule over churches...It is not for the purpose of escaping public duties that Christians decline public offices. Rather, it is so they may reserve themselves for a more divine and necessary service in the church of God- for the salvation of men."

The early Christian position on political action was clearly non-participation. They did not work for any worldly governmental system, or seek the implementation of any political agenda.

"When you hear that we look for a kingdom, you imagine...that we are speaking of a human kingdom."- Justin Martyr

"The Christ of God shows His superiority to all rulers by entering into their various provinces and summoning men out of them to be subject to Himself."                                                                                                                  - Origen

"Such a person (a Christian) cannot be induced to combine the service of any other with the service of God- nor to serve two masters."- Origen

(For more quotes see The Early Church on Government.)

3. There are unique dangers involved in positions of power in the world because they always demand compromise and, thus, bring corruption and sin. The reason is, as Scripture tells us, the world's systems are antithetical to God's Word and His kingdom. (John 14:17; 15:18-19; 1 John 2:16)

4. The New Testament does not advocate political action, social justice or governmental reform, even though the governments of that time were horribly violent and corrupt. The early church concerned itself with developing strong disciples, and with living the realities of the future kingdom of God in their lives here and now, not in pursuing meaningless political action destined for corruption.

5. Sacred Scripture give us substantive reasons not to engage in worldly politics. For example, Philippians 3:20 states, "For our conversation (citizenship, politics, enfranchisement, voting rights) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ". 

6. The main tenet of Western political systems is the democratic principle, which is not biblical. The very core of democracy and libertarian political philosophy is a rejection of any notion of absolute truth or objective morality, favoring the general consensus of the governed. This is NOT a biblical viewpoint.

Our only biblical responsibilities to the governments of the world are:
  • Subjection- (Romans 13:1) We are to obey the authorities to the extent that such authorities do not present a very clear conflict with the Word of God.
  • Prayer- (1 Timothy 2:1-2) We are to pray for those in power, that they would be reached with the gospel and allow us to live our lives peacefully.
  • Taxes- (Romans 13:6-7; Matthew 22:21) We are to pay our taxes, not overthrow governments based on taxation without representation, or any other reason.
Again, I realize for many Christians these truths are a hard thing to digest, but if we are to truly see the church purged of the negative influences of the world, we must be willing to change bad patterns that have developed over centuries and embrace the simplicity and purity of the faith once delivered.

I encourage my readers to take advantage of the following two resources to understand this topic better. The first is a lecture by David Bercot.

The second is a very deeply and thoroughly biblical examination of the subject by Dr. Michael E. Lewis. His book, Church and State, is (in my opinion) the must have book on this very difficult topic. You can purchase it by following the store links at this website: Church and State, by Michael E. Lewis

The Modernist and Marxist Infiltration of the Vatican

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons...”
- 1 Timothy 4:1

It was an average day at the hospital. She was a nurse at the local hospital and led your normal 1960s French life. She went about her daily routine at the hospital, checking on patients in her ward, chatting with those who needed cheering up, and administering medications. However, this night would be unlike any other she had ever experienced.

One of her patients, a Slavic looking man who had been seriously injured in an auto accident, was assigned to her ward for care. His case looked bad and he was not expected to live. She dutifully attempted to communicate with the man, who simply laid in his bed, eyes open, staring into space. He either could not, or would not respond.

“Can you blink your eyes for me? We can use one blink for yes, and two for no. Can you do that for me?”, she asked. He simply laid there staring.

“I noticed we don't have a name listed for him. Do we have identification?”, she asked the head nurse.

“No. Oddly enough he had no identification at all on him.”, the head nurse responded. “All he had was that briefcase under his bed with a story in it, but no name. Weird, if you ask me.”

The young nurse sat in the chair next to his bed, pulled out the briefcase and began reading the manuscript. It did not read like a story, but an autobiography. As she scanned the pages she discovered that this mystery patient was not at all your average, run-of-the-mill accident victim, and this was more than an autobiography. It was a confession. He was an undercover agent for the Soviet Union, ordered to infiltrate the Catholic Church by entering seminary and becoming a priest. Everything had been prepared in advance for him. Other operatives already occupied positions of authority in the seminaries, dioceses, and even the Vatican itself, and they would facilitate his infiltration. According to the document, the ultimate goal was to undermine whatever biblical orthodoxy there was in the Church and push for a council that would revolutionize the entirety of Catholicism by introducing Marxist principles under the guise of faithful Catholic dogma. Anyone who got in the way of this goal was expendable, and indeed the manuscript revealed this mystery patient had murdered a priest who discovered the plot.

The patient died a few hours later, and no one claimed his belongings or even came forward to name him.

This may seem like something from the Da Vinci Code, but it is not. It is an account of a very real experience. The nurse, Marie Curre, hesitantly came forward with both the manuscript and her story in 1972, fearful for her life. She died in 1984.

What she revealed in publishing the manuscript has been denounced by Roman Catholic apologists as an invention of her own, a dark fantasy written to bring the Catholic Church into disrepute. The fact is, however, that the influential figures behind the Second Vatican Council, ostensibly the council engineered by the Marxist cabal of the manuscript, did indeed make religious dogma of what was clearly Cultural Marxist ideology. The Vatican promoted Modernism in all its forms; theological, philosophical, scientific, and artistic. Where once it had defended the sovereignty of nations, it now openly promoted Globalism, and joined arm in arm with the United Nations and Council on Foreign Relations.

Of Marie Curre's manuscript, Catholic theologian and professor, Alice von Hildebrand wrote:

(The manuscript) may be an invention of Marie Curre, but one must admit she hits the bull's eye from the first page to the last....How surprising indeed that all her so-called inventions have become reality in the post-conciliar church.”

Indeed, when we consider the current pope, Francis I, Curre's story becomes more plausible than ever. Francis is clearly not a Christian in any orthodox biblical or historical sense. He blatantly promotes Cultural Marxism using Christian language. This is one of the things that perplexed me about the accolades he receives from many evangelicals. For some reason they find in his faux humility (he is quite well known for his despotic rule by Vatican insiders), his ecumenism, and his grandfatherly persona endeared him to evangelicals around the world. And yet his theology, such as it is, denies every doctrine of the orthodox Christian faith.

Leonard Boff, a radical Marxist living in Argentina who knows Francis I, stated of Francis' extreme liberalism during a 2012 interview:

For example, a few months ago he explicitly permitted a homosexual couple to adopt a child.”

And most of us are also aware of his comments that atheists will be saved, his advice to not bother with protesting abortion, or that Catholics need to have fewer children, and his comments to fellow Jesuit, Rev. Michael Rogers that studying fundamental biblical theology is “one of the most boring things on earth.”

If this sort of claptrap were confined to Francis I, one could brush it off as an anomaly. Such is not the case, however. Similar Leftist ideas have been promoted by all of the popes of recent memory; John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI.

Marie Curre, whether her story was true or not, pointed out a very real problem with the Catholic Church and the Vatican. It has indeed been infiltrated by Cultural Marxists, and the principles of that Leftist ideology have been defined as dogma since the Second Vatican Council. The Catholic Church then is problematic not just on a spiritual level, but on the social, political and cultural levels as well. It promotes the “teachings of demons”, and we must warn others, lest they be partakers of her sins.

Monday, January 1, 2018

What We Have Lost: A Call to a Paleo-Orthodox Future

The modern church has lost something vital. Most of us can sense it. We can even see it, if we are to be honest with ourselves. While there are exceptions, for the most part the church has lost a true sense of community, a uniquely Christian counter-cultural worldview, and the radical faith of the early church. Rather than maintaining these essentials of Christian philosophy, the church has by and large abandoned them in favor of embracing the Imperium- the world and worldly system of things. This is not all the fault of modern believers, as the rot started to set in during the time of Constantine. Innocently enough at the beginning, Christians found themselves no longer the scourge of the Roman government, and indeed even came to be favored. It was in this favorable approach from the still very much pagan government and worldview of Rome that the trouble began. The church grew a bit too closely aligned with the Imperium, too comfortable in appropriating former pagan temples for worship and pagan feast days for the remembrance of martyrs and saints. Certainly the rationale was somewhat sound. In order to reach the pagans, in order to change the pagan culture, they had to engage it- and engage it they did. As the Roman authorities came to favor Christianity, pagans began to see that, if they were to have any future in government or business, they too should embrace this new religion. And so pagans flooded the church as "converts", albeit insincere and with an eye toward wealth and power. These converts in turn encouraged the appropriation of pagan temples and pagan feasts by their new religion, as this permitted them to keep their former pagan places of worship, traditions, and celebrations, with a thin covering of Christianity. Again, the church meant well, and the idea of converting souls to the gospel is certainly biblically sound, but the eventual result was anything but good. Rather than being a witness of the gospel and the Kingdom, they compromised a bit too much with the surrounding culture, and as we move away from the Council of Nicaea in history, we also witness a move away from the purity of the witness of the early church- the church of the Apostles, martyrs and saints. We all know, of course, the rest of the story: the church assuming the role of the Roman authorities when Rome collapsed, the embourgeoisment of the clergy, and the political intrigues that plagued and marked the church for many, many years after. It was not all bad. The church did have a positive effect on many policies as it advised the various monarchies, and was instrumental in forming healthy, organic cultures,  but this was not to last long.

Fast forward to the current year.

The church is now in dire straits. Heresy is openly taught and embraced in pulpits all over the world, biblical gender roles have been tossed aside in favor of "gender equality", God's will regarding human sexuality has been tossed out the window in many denominations in favor of LGBTQ demands, the church lost all sense of true community in its adoption of the Marxist replacement known as "social justice", and the church has abdicated its role as salt and light- as a witness to the Kingdom message of Jesus Christ. Rather than maintaining the long discarded counter-cultural worldview of that Kingdom, the church has grown more like the surrounding cultures. The excuse has been "cultural relevance", but in that very phrase lays the implicit necessity for compromise with a lost, pagan world very much at war with the faith. Today, as in the infancy of our faith, Christians are finding themselves persecuted and prosecuted for their faith. No, it is not to the same extreme as ancient Rome (yet), but the seed is there, and if you truly believe what Scripture has to say about the End Times, that seed will grow to make Rome look like child's play.

Much like our forebears in the faith, the church has aligned itself with worldly governments. This is perhaps no more true than in the United States, where many Christians functionally, if not literally, fuse Christianity to the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. Patriotism is the badge of a good American Christian, while any suggestion that we look honestly at the liberal, Freemasonic, and libertarian ideals that form the basis of this nation's political and social views, is met with derision both from pew and pulpit. If the Christian who, with an informed conscience on these issues, realizes that this nation is not God ordained, or that the elections do not really provide choices, but merely different faces prosecuting the same agenda from different angles, they are told how irresponsible it would be to disengage from the system that has increasingly rejected their morals, ethics, and values, despite their compromise and voting for constant "lesser evils". This compromise has resulted in our nations becoming decadent, our neighborhoods cesspools, and any sense of national sovereignty or homogeneity is burned up in the growing bonfires of globalism. 

The church must admit to this: There are no God fearing monarchs to whom we can turn anymore, and democracies and libertarianism have failed to produce the world promised. It is time to do something radically different, yet radically ancient. It starts with reclaiming the universal principles of the church. 

Dr. Thomas Oden, in his book The Rebirth of Orthodoxy, provides four guiding principles for just such an undertaking.

 1) The universal prevails over the particular (the whole is preferred to the part)- The reclamation of the principles that made the church such a powerful witness in a hostile pagan world must become our immovable core, regardless of pet theological ideas and petty denominational differences. In fact, we must (if necessary) abandon denominations in favor of these principles.

2) The older apostolic witness prevails over the newer alleged general consent.- Sacred Scripture is the oldest apostolic witness we possess, and must form the very core of our faith and of all that we do in restoring the church to its earlier Kingdom witness. A people may (and have) consent to theological ideas and methods of "worship" that are in error and at odds with Scripture. We find many churches doing just this very thing now with the result of female presbyters and bishops, gay and lesbian clergy and/or marriages, etc. General consent carries no promise of infallibility. Sacred Scripture, on the other hand, does. Understanding it in the context of its intended audiences, and extracting the universal apostolic truths contained therein is a necessity.

3) Conciliar actions and decisions prevail over faith-claims as yet untested by conciliar acts.- The determinations of the ecumenical church councils, in so far as they are faithful to the early Christian witness and Sacred Scripture, are authoritative; not the claims of relatively modern thinkers and theologians. We must eschew all novel approaches to theology and worship.Our reclamation is not the creation of something new, but returning to something ancient.

4) Where no conciliar rule avails, the most reliable consensual ancient authorities prevail over those less consensual over the generations.- Where Scripture is relatively silent, or provides no substantive information, and where the councils have provided no substantive guidance, we return to consensual ancient authorities- the Church Fathers. Where they speak in one accord, we accept that as being of apostolic origin and authority.

These, I believe, are the starting point for a reformation of the Reformation, so to speak. Around these four simple principles we can begin to build a foundation for true Christian community again, and restore ourselves to our original counter-cultural worldview that made the church such a powerful witness. I am under no misapprehension that these four principles are complete, but as the Lord calls others out of the milieu of the church of Modernity, these principles will begin to be developed. I invite my readers to prayerfully consider this a call to a paleo-orthodox (early Christian) future.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The New Year and Early Christian Perspectives on Politics and Faith

As the sun sets on 2017 the cold winds of winter descend upon us, and we welcome the New Year. I find myself reflecting on all that has occurred in the past year, much as all of you are I am sure. On the personal level we have each experienced laughter and tears, triumphs and loss. Hopefully we have all shared as well our faith in Christ as we celebrated and mourned. Our Savior was indeed there with us through each and every moment, and we all have much to be thankful for.

Beyond these personal experiences of the outgoing year are those national, cultural issues and experiences which have, to one degree or another, also had an impact on all of us. That is, the racial strife, the economic perils, the international sabre rattling, and the general sense that the world's "leaders" have gone stark raving mad. These sad realities have impressed itself upon me this; I believe we have discovered beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Western political process no longer works as perhaps it should, or as we thought it would. Elections give us candidates who say what is convenient to get elected, and once we have expended money, time and energy in advancing the perceived agenda of these candidates and they are elected, we find ourselves disappointed at the outcome. Once again we have elected men and women who have betrayed us, who likely never truly held the same ideals as we. They do not serve us, our interests, or seek our highest good. In fact, while paying lip service to these things they do exactly the opposite. It is no wonder the early Christians had the attitude toward government that they did. They, too, lived in a decadent pagan culture that dispossessed them and persecuted them. Our government cannot say that it is any different. It is ruled over by self centered men and women, sold out to special interests for personal gain; special interests which never have the good of the people in mind. Both parties, Republican and Democrat, are liberal movements. Both advance a liberal agenda. Both are the enemies of truth, of a healthy organic culture, and- if we are to speak honestly- of the Christian worldview. Part of the problem is we have so fused our faith to Americanisms like "liberty" and "equality", and to liberal humanistic/deistic documents like the Constitution and Bill of Rights, that many sectors of modern American evangelicalism could legitimately be called an Americanist heresy. The truths that this nations was not founded as a Christian nation, nor does it exist as one are entirely lost on many evangelicals, who would point to the revisionist pablum of the likes of David Barton for a defense. Make no mistake about it: the United States is not now, nor ever has been, a Christian nation.

"By the counsels of holy men, states are managed well."                           - Clement of Alexandria

If our state is not  managed well (and it is not), it is only because we have no holy men giving it moral and ethical guidance. Not only are there no holy men giving it counsel, but holy men are disqualified from doing so at the outset by virtue of the anti-Christian attitudes of a society under the control of Cultural Marxism and a "separation of church and state" that would have made Voltaire smile with pride. 

To be sure, there are those Christian brothers and sisters who, meaning well, tell us we must work within this corrupt, diseased system; that we must continually vote for candidates based not on which is virtuous and most likely to advance the cause of Christian morals, values and ethics, but on the flimsy basis of pragmatism. That is, choose the lesser of the evils offered to us. In the last election it was either vote for Trump (who falsely proposed some solid ideals), or for Clinton. Any suggestion that a Christian could not or should not vote for either was met with derision and shrill cries of "A vote for (fill in the blank), or abstaining from voting is a vote for Hillary!" As I said then, I say now: show me anywhere in Scripture where Christ advises us to opt for an evil, even a lesser one. This constant compromise is exactly why Christians are facing the disenfranchisement we are today. You cannot compromise with evil.

What, then, are we to do? Elections do nothing to advance the cause of a healthy Christian culture. What must be done is to look to our traditions- those things that we know have worked, and worked for our forebears in the Faith. So, one of the things I will personally begin to explore are alternatives to this continual process of compromise we see in modern Christianity. As per my usual method, I will be looking primarily to the early church throughout 2018 for answers to the following questions:

  • How is being "in the world, but not of the world" best practiced in the current year?
  • How did the early church view community and what can that understanding do for us now?
  • What did the early Christian community look like as it moved about in a hostile pagan culture, and how can that help inform us as to what we should look like in the modern hostile pagan culture?
  • Is there a place for the intentional village approach, or are we simply doomed to live in the urban ghettos of Modernity?
  • How can such intentional Christian Traditionalist villages be realized in concrete terms?
  • What are the implications of such a shift in lifestyle/worldview for both individuals and families?
I hope you will continue to follow this website in 2018 as we explore these questions and much, much more. Your continued readership and prayers are needed and appreciated. I also encourage those with a passion for the early church to consider contributing to the website by submitting your articles as well. 

May our Lord bless each of you and guide you throughout the New Year!