Jan 292014
 

imagesPersecution

How do you maintain an empire as vast and diverse as Rome?

The emperor Decius believed that by instituting a common faith you could unite the far flung borders of the kingdom.

That faith would be emperor worship.

It was a reasonable deal for most…you could worship any god you chose to as long as once a year you would offer a pinch of incense and say “Caesar is lord”.

Christians, of course could not do that…although some did.

The ones who did not suffered greatly, being subjected to various tortures to induce compliance.

The early church held these people in high regard…they were called “confessors”.

The ones who compromised, even under torture, were called “apostates”

When the persecution ended, the question of how to deal with those who had “lapsed” and now wanted re-entry into the church would be a controversy for centuries to come.

Should the church be more concerned about forgiving love…or purity?

Cyprian had said that “outside the church there was no salvation” and many put the lapsed outside the church.

Was not the denial of Christ the unforgivable sin?

Now, those who had become martyrs for the faith were given great honor within the church…special celebrations accompanied the dates of their deaths.

Soon, it came to be believed that their lives had been so exemplary that God had given them the power to use their “merit” to cover the sins of the apostates…and thus came the concept of “saints”.

While the concept was rejected at the time it later grew into the Roman Catholic doctrines of the “treasury of merit’ and” indulgences” and the Roman and Eastern Orthodox doctrines of “saints”.

Eventually, it was decided that readmission would be based on “penance”…a period of sorrow for ones sin that must be suffered before being allowed to the Lords table…and another doctrine was born.

See also; Novatian.

Doctrine

The Apostles Creed emerges as a statement of faith around the year 200.

Origen writes the first systematic theology of the Christian faith, notable for it’s high Christology and the introduction of an allegorical method of interpretation.

Tertullian wrote about original sin and salvation by grace, while also affirming that tradition was as valuable as Scripture. The terms “Trinity” and sacrament” are first found in his writings.

Baptism was believed to cancel all sins up to the point of being baptized…so people often waited until deaths door to be dunked.

There was still a strong belief in the soon return of Christ. The early church did not believe in “imminence” because they believed that the anti-Christ would come first.

Canon

Irenaeus quotes from at least 21 of the 27 NT books, showing a growing acceptance of what would become the canon of Scripture.

Government

The church is ruled by bishops.

Callistus makes the first case for the preeminent place of Rome among the churches.

 

  38 Responses to “Church History: Years 200-300”

  1. Just a little fyi, the Orthodox do not believe in a treasury of merit or indulgences.

  2. Xenia,

    Thanks…I was wondering if made that distinction clear enough.

  3. Thanks Michael…I’m enjoying these cliff note church history lessons!

  4. ” the Orthodox do not believe in a treasury of merit or indulgences.”

    Very cool

  5. You know I asked a question about the Pledge of Allegiance when I was first became a Christian, after the normal castigation about being un american rake mucker and basically a filthy commie, though that phrase was not used, I was told they were entirely different, first because this is a Christian Nation and we need to pledge to the flag because In God we trust and one nation under God, granted those were added in the 50’s but that was not important. I have no problem saying the pledge but when I first was a Christian I just took what the bible said as it meaning until I learned that I needed to have it interpreted by what ever group I am fellowshipping with and as long as I agree with them Im fine.

  6. brian,

    I have a crisis of conscience every time I’m called on to do a flag salute…

  7. Learner,
    Thank you…I have to leave out so much that it almost seems criminal…I hope it provokes independent study.

  8. A couple things I left out…

    Again, I’m writing from the Protestant perspective…and that is going to be different from that of an Orthodox or Roman Catholic. Same sets of facts, different interpretations.

    Second, we’re 300 years into the church age…and there is not much here that resembles Protestant evangelicalism yet.

    Think about that…

  9. I am inclined to think that Roman Catholic histories of Christianity anachronistically project the doctrine of the Treasury of Merits back onto the early church. Or maybe it’s there and Orthodox histories leave it out! Anyway, I have asked about it on an EO forum where they usually have good answers to questions like this.

    G, yep.

  10. Michael, even though you write from a Protestant perspective- and why shouldn’t you? – you are very fair, IMO.

  11. The diary of the centuries most famous female martyr; Perpetua.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/primary/perpetua.html

    “A number of young catechumens were arrested, Revocatus and his fellow slave Felicitas, Saturninus and Secundulus, and with them Vibia Perpetua, a newly married woman of good family and upbringing. Her mother and father were still alive and one of her two brothers was a catechumen like herself. She was about twenty-two years old and had an infant son at the breast. (Now from this point on the entire account of her ordeal is her own, according to her own ideas and in the way that she herself wrote it down.)

    While we were still under arrest (she said) my father out of love for me was trying to persuade me and shake my resolution. ‘Father,’ said I, ‘do you see this vase here, for example, or waterpot or whatever?’

    ‘Yes, I do’, said he.

    And I told him: ‘Could it be called by any other name than what it is?’

    And he said: ‘No.’

    ‘Well, so too I cannot be called anything other than what I am, a Christian.”

  12. It is kind of interesting that people want to say that early Christianity was just like evangelical Christianity until Constantine came on the scene and turned it into the Whore of Babylon. But at this point, we have bishops, the Eucharist, salvific baptism and even the beginning of the veneration of saints, all before Constantine.

  13. Xenia didnt you know that after the apostles died the true believers went underground and then popped back up sometime in the 1600’s. Have you ever read trail of blood, its almost as unbiased as foxes book of martyrs is.

  14. brian, Yep, I have read it! I even interviewed a Landmark Baptist pastor who believed it and loaned me a fat book written in the 19th century that proved it all beyond a shadow of a doubt! That was one intense gentleman….

  15. Lutherans have retained the things of the early church that Xenia describes -Lutheran denominations do have bishops, although in the LCMS we have district presidents, who in the end are the ecclesiastical head over the pastors, Obviously we have a high view of the Eucharist, salvific baptism and even though we do not “venerate the saints, we do afford them great honor – just on Monday (I think) it was St. Timothy and St. Titus day.

    Except that you would hear the pure and correct reading of the word of God and be trained in the correct doctrines and theologies – you couldn’t much distinguish a Lutheran service from one at the local RCC.

  16. Thank you, Xenia.

    One must read all of these things with care.
    These early writers weren’t necessarily answering the questions we like to ask of them and there is often what appears to be inconsistency to us.
    You can use these early fathers to defend a memorial view of the Eucharist as easily as the real presence…sometimes in the same letter.
    My hope is that when we look at these things honestly it gives us an opportunity to be gracious to folks of all traditions…
    I still have 14 centuries to go to get my say in. 🙂

  17. MLD, I visited my sister’s traditionally-minded LCMS church a few years ago and they had a huge beautiful crucifix up front and people were crossing themselves. I wasn’t there for liturgy so I can’t comment on that but this church looked and felt more like a Catholic church than the one here in town that looks like a giant concrete warehouse, both inside and outside.

  18. looked and felt more like a Catholic church…..

    I meant that in a good way 🙂

  19. You know what really fascinates me? The documentable fact that God had moved within each of the denominations and differing factions of Christianity at one time. Then when the wine skin grew hardened He seemed to step over the current move to start a new move that the older move then turned against.

    It is no different today it seems. At the moment it appears that we are in a lull where those who used to control the public mind of Christianity have lost control and now there is an amorphous state where people like Michael and Xenia are coming closer to center stage by the nudge of the Holy Spirit.

    What I mean is that Christians are beginning to understand that Church history is a matter of importance in understanding some of the things we are to believe and observe within our communities.

    Questions are coming up that need to have answers. And it would appear to me that God has tapped some among us to attempt to answer some of the questions to the understanding and benefit of all of us without creating division but unity and better understanding of our Christian roots.

    Excellent start to something big is happening here. I can only hope that certain individuals that have suffered what the Apostle Paul calls “Ship Wrecked” faith will not sow tares here…there is an unclean spirit behind the tare sower. I have seen the river over flow the banks when this happens in here and then the thread gets side tracked and no one benefits. Just my own observance and opinion for what it is worth.

    Once again, great job Michael. And Xenia you add great value to this discussion! Thank you to both of you for you efforts and may you continue.

  20. Thanks, Dave.

  21. Thank you, David.
    Without Xenia, we would only get part of the story…

  22. Thanks Michael. I wonder how I would have responded if I was in the shoes of those deemed apostate. It seemed that it was seen as the taking of the mark although as you wrote there came to be beliefs that remedied the fate of those deemed apostate.

    Fast forward to today and it seems everyone at some point is accused of being apostate. I wonder how those pointing the fingers today would have fared in the second century??

  23. Erunner,

    That’s the kind of question I hope people ask as we go…

  24. Some people had the erroneous idea that after your baptism, you could never be forgiven for any fresh sins. That’s why some waited to the 11th hour to be baptized when they were too feeble to do much and is also why the people who gave that pinch of incense to Caesar were thought to be beyond redemption. This was all based on Hebrews 4: 5-6. It was eventually determined that either (a) this passage in the Scriptures is a mistake or (b) we just don’t understand what it means. Anyway, the true doctrine that one can repent of sins- any sins- throughout their lives prevailed, glory to God!

    Heb 4: 5-6 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

  25. Xenia, it seems that belief could have led to a person living a life of sin knowing all would be forgiven once baptized?? And the fates of those who died from a heart attack or accident before getting that chance?? Thanks for helping make this an interesting thread Xenia.

  26. Thank you Michael and Xenia for this. To my shame, I really don’t know much about Church history. I’m not commenting much, but I am soaking it in. Thank you!

  27. I must admit this broke my heart because, in some sense Joni was involved in it. Personally they should have just let the Song stay in the running and let it win because Joni is a winner and has done so much. But in the corporation that has no meaning.

    http://insidemovies.ew.com/2014/01/29/oscars-kill-original-song-nomination-for-alone-yet-not-alone-breaking/

    It still is a beautiful song because she sings it and that is enough for me. All the tripe is just white noise. The movie is well, um never mind. It also appears from other sources was that Doug Phillips, was edited out after he sort of admitted some type of moral issue. I guess the cellos dont play to well now and no more dress ups and free trips. Its a long rather sad story. Anything Joni does has always blessed me, as did the video of her singing, it was really hard for her with her many medical issues etc. If there is a God, and there is, I would say she is truly touched by him. Joni your song blessed me, keep it up, you are wonderful woman and if you can keep an old messed up cynic like myself clinging to the faith, you do so much for the faith. God bless you.

  28. A man born with no arms and legs makes the best of his life and encourages others to be grateful for what they do have.

  29. “The early church did not believe in “imminence” because they believed that the anti-Christ would come first.”

    Having read some accounts of persecutions, the early church understood what it meant to be an overcomer. They were not looking to be delivered by a rapture, but to endure and be found faithful to the end. God bless them.

  30. This thread is truly excellent! There is so much that is so far from the modern evangelical churches and yet so much I have seen in churches lived out and more important….in LIVES lived out. People who are entrusting their lives to Jesus.

    When I begin to become discouraged about “wrong” doctrines and belief systems within Christianity, I just remember the woman with the issue of blood in Mark 5. She may not have had “perfect” theology in grasping on the fringe of His garment, but her faith was placed in the perfect One. He honored her faith in Him and healed her.

    Thank you for this thread. I am learning so much and really appreciate it.

  31. The Russian article is kinda funny. What it says is that they are just as morally corrupt as we are but the pass laws to toss people in jail for holding different views

    The difference between a free society and one still covered by a dark cloud. The difference between a people who do the Christian thing out of love vs those who do it out of fear.

  32. “The Kremlin’s encouragement of traditional values has sparked a rise in Orthodox vigilantism. Fringe groups such as the Union of Orthodox Banner Bearers, an ultraconservative movement whose slogan is “Orthodoxy or Death,” are gaining prominence.

    Patriarch Kirill has honored the group’s leader, openly anti-Semitic monarchist Leonid Simonovich, for his services to the Orthodox Church. The Banner Bearers, who dress in black paramilitary uniforms festooned with skulls, regularly confront gay and liberal activists on the streets of Moscow.”

    …just like Jesus said to do?
    так же, как Иисус сказал делать?

    But I digress…

  33. RE: Nonnie @ # 32,
    Well said Nonnie. And at day’s end I too cling to the very literal person of Jesus and nothing more. I reject the notion that I can only ‘know Jesus’ through the Bible and/or ecclesiastical doctrines and traditions.

  34. Thank you, Nonnie… 🙂

  35. “She may not have had “perfect” theology in grasping on the fringe of His garment, but her faith was placed in the perfect One. He honored her faith in Him and healed her.”

    Why is this not “perfect theology”? It is a reference to an OT prophecy she knew.

    It is also a testimony of Jesus being the one with healing in His wings.

  36. The fringes or tassels of a man’s robe, were symbolic of his authority. She knew the Scriptures of her time.

    ” I spread my skirt over you and covered your ness: Yes I sware to you and entered into covenant with you; says the Lord God and you became mine.”

    With His arms He will cover you, and under the corners of His talit you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4)

    Being in a place where only the men were allowed to congregate, meant that she was in error. But she also knew that if she could but touch the hem of His grament that she would be healed and protected. Both happened!

    King David’s conscience troubled him for he knew that to cut off the king’s fringe of his garment, was like usurping or stealing his authority. It degraded and lowered him. At En Gedi, David had deprived Saul of his “authority.”

    At that point he could probably have seized the throne of Saul, and the kingdom of Israel. But he chose to do things God’s way and in God’s own timing.

    After David prostrated himself before Saul, holding the severed fringe in his hand; David explained to Saul that he had not killed him, despite the urging of his men to do so. Saul’s heart, once again was touched with his integrity in the sparing of his own life.

    When Yeshua haMashiach returns riding in the heavens on His majestic white war horse, he will have “glorious” kingly garments.

    Who is this that comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This glorious in His apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? I that speak in righteousness mighty to save. (Isaiah 63:1)

    The concept of the outer edge of the tallit, is seen in Isaiah’s vision of the Lord, whose “train” filled the temple.

    “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up and His train filled the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1)

    According to Mark 6:56 and Matthew 14:36, “Wherever Jesus entered villages or cities or countryside, people laid the sick in the market places and implored him that they might just touch the fringe of his cloak. As many as touched it were being cured.” It was a nationwide phenomenon.

    This woman knew this and acted on it by her faith and actions.

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