Does the Bible Teach Flat Earth?

Christianity and Flat Earth

Introduction

For most of human history mankind has seen the earth as flat. Actually most people still see the earth as flat. This is because the word earth is synonymous with the word land. The land we live on generally speaking is flat. Yeah it may have curves, valleys, and hills, but land is still flat, right? Well from our point of view it is, but when we zoom out and increase the land mass beyond what we can see at one time we understand the land we live on curves. So why do some Christians deny that the planet Earth is round and instead suppose the planet to be generally flat?

The Bible

Like other interesting misinterpretations of reality the Bible itself is found to be at the center of the Christian flat Earth issue. There are lots of flat Earth Christians that use the Bible to support their claims. So does the Bible teach that the Earth is flat? Well, no. Does the Bible record of people’s belief and understanding that the Earth is flat? Well, yes. There is a big difference between these two questions.

Religion and Piety, not Cosmological Calculation

“The Bible” is a collection of writings from men associated with Yahweh and Jesus. It records of many great things including man’s interaction with God. Its purpose is to remind people of God’s directives for humanity as it has been revealed through Prophets and Apostles. The Bible is simply a written record of men’s interaction with God and His directives as He has revealed them. It is a collection of writings written by man of which contents are influenced by God Himself. Because of this what we have recorded for us is told though the human author. Now the author is writing to convey the religious truth. Sometimes he will use figure of speech and comparisons to get his point across. Sometimes they compare God’s love or anger like “something” and “something else”. So because humans wrote the Bible we see the religious truths told through their experience and in their own way of describing things. This includes their understanding of the world and the sciences. So in attempting to convey the religious truth they may record something scientifically inaccurate as an illustration. The authors don’t know it’s an inaccuracy because that’s what people of the time thought was true concerning the sciences. The intent of the author is never to teach about science anyway, but rather to teach what God has conveyed to them.

"Earth" not “Earth”

I touched on this a little in the opening, but we need to remember that the ancients who recorded the Scriptures did not regard their “world” as a planet. Take a look at Genesis and you will see that the ancients regarded their physical reality as “sea”, “heavens”, and “earth.” Earth in this context is not planet, but rather land. Sometimes our English translations can be a bit confusing because the more archaic understanding of the word “earth” is land. Now that we have named the whole conglomerate planet as “Earth” it can be a bit confusing in some English translations to understand the differentiation. So how does this type of understanding help clear up the confusion? Well take a look at Isaiah 40:22 which says “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.” First of all let’s answer one question. Is the author trying to teach cosmology, what the Earth looks like? Or is he trying to convey the reality that God is an ultimate authority over all? I think the latter is his intent. Secondly consider the understanding of the author. If his understanding of the world is “Land”, “Sea”, and “Heavens” then we understand that He is painting a picture of God above the “circle” or dome. Like flat Earth adherents today, the ancients thought there was a dome which encased the land, sea, sun, moon, and stars. Some try to show that this verse teaches round Earth. These so called apologists are terribly mistaken as well. Neither is the author’s intent, but the former is an accurate understanding of the author’s picture.

Conclusion

Does the Bible teach flat Earth? The truth is no. Did the authors of Scripture believe a lot of what flat Earth people do about the physical reality? More than likely, yes. The author’s understanding of flat Earth may be referenced in the Scripture, but always remember that the intention of these authors is always for a man to God religious truth and not to convey infallible scientific calculations. Christianity is not about flat Earth and we should not adopt the author’s understanding of cosmology when that is never the focus of his teaching anyway. 

Answering the Objections of Barring Homosexual Practice in the Church

Objections to Barring Homosexual Practice in the Church

Introduction

This sensitive subject warrants discussion and questioning. The historic stance of the Church of Jesus is clear. There are however many today who are trying to change the position of the Church to be more attractive to a wider audience. Some may do this as a good gesture and maybe others for harm. This ongoing article series hopes to answer some of the questions and objections that are thrown around today concerning the Church’s stance. Feel free to leave your own questions in the comments. To be clear the subject is engaging in same-sex relationships where intercourse is involved and not simply someone’s inner desires. 

Preface Tip

The Church is submissive to God and Jesus as Lord. So unlike a democratic society where laws are decided and changed on a whim the Church is a society which submits to the will of God on a matter. It’s not something the Church can change. 

Objection: Homosexuality is love, right? How can it be classified with other sins?

The Apostle John in His first Epistles records plainly that sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). Like what was said above, Christians are under the authority of One Supreme Lord and bound to the same laws He gives just as everyone else is. So while it is true that something like consensual homosexual practice is different to non-consensual stealing it still is not permissible. God does not only give laws which protect “our rights” or well being, but prescribes laws that are pleasing to Him. Therefore sin has to do with living according to God’s ways and not  according to what a changing culture tells us is wrong. 

Objection: The Early Church was born in a “patriarchal” society and their view on this issue was colored by this. Therefore God actually approves of this action.

When the word “patriarchal” is used in these contexts the speaker usually is referring to some kind of oppression. The word simply means “fore” and “father”. The implications in these societies being “men first”. So is it true that our Lord, His Apostles, and the early Church were unable to discern the difference between holiness and culture? I don’t think so. I’d like to answer this in two parts.

(1) The Apostles wrote many things that were against culture. The Apostles saw the faith of Christ as something opposed to the world (James 4:4). They saw the tenets of their beliefs based on holiness and not culture. In a culture where it was acceptable to beat women and wives, Peter tells husbands to “love their wives.” Paul says that men ought to treat women as their selves with the implication that “no man ever hated his own body, but nourished it and took care of it.” In a culture where it was acceptable to make women, and boys, prostitutes the Apostles taught that modesty and abstinence was to be applied. If the Apostles being the representatives of Jesus were unable to discern holiness from culture then maybe one needs to consider what else Jesus’ representatives got wrong. Hopefully one will come to the conclusion that Jesus made the right choice when choosing His Apostles.  No one knew the culture of 1st century better than those who lived themselves in it and no one knew Jesus better than the ones who lived among Him (1 John 1:1).

(2) When those who object to this issue connect the idea of “men first” with the issue of homosexuality in the 1st century and following, they may imply that the word “Makalos”, from which the English translations of the Bible get the word “homosexual” or “effeminate”,  has to do with a low view of women rather than the act of engaging in sexuality.  This is because the Greek word literally means soft or  effeminate. So when those in this culture referred to homosexuals they called them effeminate because they would take the female role during sex. The argument then is that misogynists of the first century hated homosexuality because they really hated women, whom Homosexuals played the part of during sex. The argument continues on that 1st century folk regarded women as weak, so homosexuals were weak. Homosexuality according to these objectors then has to do with “misogyny” rather than the acts of same-sex intercourse. Since they hated weakness in this culture, our “culturally blinded” Apostles fell for, or actually were never teaching, a misogynistic view on sexuality. I have discussed in the first part why I believe the Apostles superseded culture when it comes to holiness and why they were not “blinded” by the very culture they were in, but actually knew it better than any supposed 21st century historian. 

Paul was really against uncommitted relationships, which include same-sex relationships. Therefore the practice was never condemned.

If Paul was only against uncommitted same sex partners one should wonder why he never mentions the practice with this preface. Whenever the practice is mentioned it seems to be mentioned in the general sense and not in a preface, specific sense. If adultery was all that was spoken against, why ever mention the general acts of homosexuality in the first place? Saying that adultery was wrong should cover same-sex type as well, should it not?

Christianity and Same-Sex Practice

Christianity and Same-Sex Practice

Introduction

It’s no secret that Christianity and those in same-sex relationships have been at odds since the Church’s inception. Today in the free world more and more people are engaging in same-sex relationships. As the days go on there is an unprecedented level of friction between the Church and those who are both affirming and engage in homosexual activity. People who identify as homosexual and irreligious are often found condemning the Church for its historic stance on the issue, while those who identify as homosexual and religious can be seen wondering where they fit in the Church. Some have engaged with the affirming to push back against the historic standing of the Church to not only bless the activity as permissible, but also to promote its acceptance in all fields of Christianity, including the Presbytery (clergy). The Church finds itself challenged in this area both to know and accept itself in this battle. Some have opened the door for this in the Church, while mostly others have remained closed. Unfortunately some have also taken a more hateful approach in their conservatism, which certainly has not helped the case. This is a challenge to be taken on by the Church and not by those who are without. Those on the outside, who do not accept the Lordship of Jesus, are alienated from determining Christian practice. So the challenge is this, is the practice of homosexuality permissible in the Church? Here’s my take.

Authority

I mentioned in the introduction that those outside of the Church have no say in what is to be determined as Christian teaching and practice. This is because the Church is literally a called out, separate group who are affirming of Jesus’ authority as Lord of all. This is not to say that we never listen to people outside of the Church, just that when it comes to our practices we submit to the ways God has commanded and laid out for us. The Church is not an authority in and of itself, but a submissive group who follows God. Therefore unlike those outside of the Church we are not able to change what we practice on a whim of desire nor do we change according to the vote of the people as in a democracy. If one is unfamiliar with the historical determinate method of what are God’s directives to us, then look no further to Christian Scripture, Tradition, and the moving of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus began His ministry He selected twelve people from among his disciples to be His Apostles (representatives). Christianity has historically understood that while Jesus is the center of our faith it is the Apostles who were left by Him which took up the work to build the Church. The Apostles being those who lived with Him and received revelations from Him by the Holy Spirit are those we look to for pure Christian practice. We do this by means of their writings (Scripture), the practices they have handed down to us as evidenced by church history and continued modern practice (Tradition), and by means of the authoritative Holy Spirit, who is God in the Churches. So then let us see examples from these which determine our practice.

Christian Scripture

Christian Scripture, also commonly called the Bible, does indeed touch on this subject. The New Testament being composed by Jesus’ Apostles and those closely associated with them make these writtings of great importance for Christian practice. Let’s take a look at what it is recorded in Scripture concerning same sex relations.

Leviticus, of Course

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”  Lev. 18:22 NRSV

“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.” 20:13 NRSV

 

This is always one of the go to books for the topic because of its condemnation of the same-sex relations.

So let me introduce a little bit of context before we get started. Leviticus is recording the Law that Moses received from God at the top of Mount Sinai. An entire people group, the Israelites, have made a mass exodus from Egypt to a wasteland at this point. The Law was to be the governing authority when it comes to practice for the Israelites as they were in the wasteland and more properly for when they entered their own land.

So understanding that little bit we can better understand what is going on here. The practice of “man lying with man as with a woman” is said to be a punishable offense. Now it doesn’t take a linguist or an archaeologist to understand what is being implied here. This is an obvious euphemism for sex. Check out other contexts where the Hebrew word for “lie” is used in the Old Testament. (Gen.26:10, 30:15, 1Sam2:22)

Some have argued that because this commandment finds itself within the Mosaic Law, which was fulfilled and not carried over into Christianity, that this is not applicable. It is a seemingly valid objection at first, but even this argument fails. I will discuss this later on.

A Disqualifier from the Kingdom

“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NRSV

If this translation along with all other popular ones is to be accepted then practicing homosexuality is “wrongdoing” and without repentance it bars one from entering into the eternal kingdom. Now much has been contested concerning the translations above (male prostitutes and sodomites) in our day. The word translated “male prostitutes” is μαλακοὶ (malakoi). Basically this means “soft” or “effeminate”. A man who acts as a woman is someone who acts soft. Therefore an effeminate male during sexual intercourse would be the one taking the role of a woman during sex. Many Greek Lexicons record the author’s understanding that malakos is used for those who engage in same-sex activity as the passive partner. This should not be understood as a heterosexual male prostitute. The second word I will touch on is “sodomite”. This translation is also contested. In the Greek this compound word, ἀρσενοκοίτης (arsenokoites), comes from the word “male” and “bed”. If you look at the second word ‘Koites” you can see that it is where the Latin derives coitus as it is in our language. This would be more so literally translated as “male bed”. Again bed in this language is another euphemism for sexual activity. This would warrant the current translation. Some translators believe that Paul is referring to both the passive and dominate men in this activity and translate this as below

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals”. 1 Corinthians 6:9 NET

“Contrary to Sound Teaching” and “Disobedient”

“Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.” 1 Timothy 1:8-11 NRSV

I don’t think much commentary is necessary here. The heading pretty much sums it up. The word sodomite is the same word used for sodomite in 1 Corinthians 6:9 (ἀρσενοκοίτης).

Against Natural Use

“For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.” Romans 1:26-27 NRSV

Here Paul records that same-sex relationships have been condemned by God and he records that these actions are “degrading”. Now the word “intercourse” as it is reflected in the translation above is not as plain in the Greek as it is here. The Greek word is simpler in that it can plainly be translated as “use” or “function”. Supplying either of these words in the passage, as some translations do, does not change what the author was saying at all. This is just something to be aware of.

Abstain from Sexual Immorality

“From the Apostles and elders, your brothers, to the Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, greetings! Since we have heard that some have gone out from among us with no orders from us and have confused you, upsetting your minds by what they said, we have unanimously decided to choose men to send to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas who will tell you these things themselves in person.  For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well. Farewell.” Acts 15:22 NET

After there were some rumors among the Gentile Church that the Law of Moses was required in order to gain salvation the Apostles and elders at Jerusalem decided to write to them that this was not the case. If you notice at the end they place no other burden on them, but these four practices. The last being sexual immorality or fornication (in the older English sense). This is important because Jews and early Christians at the time saw same-sex relations as immorality and perversion. Instruction to abstain from sexual immorality is frequent in the New Testament and because of historical Jewish tradition which forbade homosexual activity this then would be a clear command of abstention from the practice. While the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Jesus, Christian behavior was not set free to do whatever it pleased.

Christian Tradition

I mentioned earlier about the Christian’s submission to Christ through the Apostles. Their practices as passed down through Church history are therefore authoritative. So does early Church history have anything to say about same-sex relations? Let’s take a look below.

Theophilus 2nd Century

“Why, then, do Epicurus and the Stoics teach incest and sodomy, with which doctrines they have filled libraries, so that from boyhood this lawless intercourse is learned? And why should I further spend time on them, since even of those they call gods they relate similar things?” Theophilus to Autolycus Book 3:6

Origen 3rd Century

“we find that they believe in the Most High God, and in His Only-begotten Son, the Word and God, and that they often exhibit in their character a high degree of gravity, of purity, and integrity; while those who call themselves wise have despised these virtues, and have wallowed in the filth of sodomy, in lawless lust, “men with men working that which is unseemly.” Against Celsus Book VII:49

Cyprian 3rd Century

“Still further, what a degradation of morals it is, what a stimulus to abominable deeds, what food for vice, to be polluted by histrionic gestures, against the covenant and law of one’s birth, to gaze in detail upon the endurance of incestuous abominations!  Men are emasculated, and all the pride and vigour of their sex is effeminated in the disgrace of their enervated body; and he is most pleasing there who has most completely broken down the man into the woman. He grows into praise by virtue of his crime; and the more he is degraded, the more skilful he is considered to be. Such a one is looked upon—oh shame! and looked upon with pleasure. 

Oh, if placed on that lofty watchtower you could gaze into the secret places – if you could open the closed doors of sleeping chambers, and recall their dark recesses to the perception of sight, – you would behold things done by immodest persons which no chaste eye could look upon. You would see what even to see is a crime. You would see what people made into beasts with the madness of vice deny that they have done, and yet hasten to do: men with frenzied lusts rushing upon men, doing things which afford no gratification even to those who do them. I am deceived if the man who is guilty of such things as these does not accuse others of them.” The Epistles of Cyprian, Epistle I.  To Donatus. 8-9

Basil the Great 3rd Century

“He who is guilty of unseemliness with males will be under discipline for the same time as adulterers.” Select Letters of Basil To Amphilochius, the Canons

Continued Tradition

There is plenty of early witness to Christianity’s disapproval of same-sex relationships. Historically Churches have held to this position and it is alive today. The official position of the top three Churches is against this activity. Roman Catholic Church (Approx. 1.3 billion adherents), the Eastern Orthodox Church (Approx. 260 million adherents), and Oriental Orthodox Communion (Approx. 60-70 million adherents). Most of Protestantism is also against this activity.

Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit who has empowered the Apostles and the Church has not seen fit to overturn this position. When He inspired the Apostles in their teachings, both written and unwritten, He has passed down to us a historical understanding that this activity is not permissible.

Conclusion

While society is always changing and progressing it also can be said that in some ways it is regressing back to the past. The great acceptance of same-sex relations, which historically speaking was unthinkable in the past few hundred years, is now barging on into the Church demanding answers and privilege. The only fair answer that the Church is able to give is the one that it has given all along. That answer being that this practice, as outlined in our most Holy Faith under the directive of our most Holy Lord, is not permissible. The Church is to be the herald for the Judge. Although some Christians seem to take the seat of judge in this issue and mishandle this topic by means of rudeness may even this not be a stumbling block for accepting God’s directives.

“We are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.” Gregory of Nyssa 4th Century A.D.

Read more about this here

Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice​ (END)

Conclusion

I believe the Holy Spirit, Tradition, and Scripture all to be on equal grounds when it comes to authority in the Churches. The origins of the Scriptures and Tradition, when true Christian religion, are from the Apostles, who are the foundations of the Church itself. They being empowered by the Holy Spirit were able to do what they did and to give us directives from God and Jesus as His Apostles. To ignore tradition is to ignore the word of mouth aspect of the Apostles and therefore ignore Jesus’ directives to us. To ignore the Holy Spirit and His workings is to deny the very empowerment by which the Apostles were given to teach in the written Scriptures and their in person presented traditions. Denying the Holy Spirit and His movings as a continued authority also weakens all aspects of Christianity in our current day and sometimes implies that Christians forget that the Holy Spirit is still present Deity in the Churches. Scripture is good and is to be followed, but we can never forget where Scripture came from and by what force gives it authority in the Churches. The very canon that Christians hold to has been cradled on the back of faithful Christian tradition, so to exclude the others and affirm Scripture only is to weaken the Scriptures themselves in their very vitals. When we have all three Christianity becomes much clearer and we ourselves are availed the opportunity to be much more faithful. I hope those who read this will have a new found interest in this important subject and also look into giving more credence to tradition and the Holy Spirit.

Concerning Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura)

Should we use Scripture alone as an authority? The Bible is sufficient to teach truth and Christianity. However the Bible is not sufficient to teach all truth or everything about Christianity. The Scriptures are simply a snap shot of the Apostle’s directives in writing. Sola Scriptura fails in that it forgets the reason why the Scriptures matter and why they are authoritative. It also forgets that it is by the Spirit who is still active today that they find their inspiration. Scripture itself denies sola Scriptura because it recognizes Apostolic and Ecclesiastical authority. It also records that Apostolic tradition is not written only.  This was recognized by early Christians. I myself use to hold to sola Scriptura, but for these reasons I no longer do. 

END

The Church and the Christian Faith are Jesus’ and His directions are our priority. The Apostles are His representatives who were empowered, instructed, and reminded by the Holy Spirit concerning Jesus’ directives. Historically speaking we have the Christian faith once delivered from them in the form of the Christian Tradition and as a part of said tradition we have not only the practices delivered, but also a few writings from them as well. We see then an order to both the founding of our faith and to its continuation. The Power of Him who gave life to the original practices of our faith is still well at work in the world today, which is in accordance to the enthroned One who originally promised this.

Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice​ (Part 4)

Scripture

The amount of overlap on this subject is a convincing indicator, to me at least, that these three are truly connected and equal. I have chosen to touch on Scripture last because I believe that the Scripture’s authority is built on the Apostolic Authority that is empowered by the Holy Spirit. So I saw it more appropriate to build Apostolic Tradition and the Holy Spirit’s Empowerment in the sections that were just covered. So now that the foundations of the Holy Scripture’s authority has been built elsewhere I will simply and briefly repeat what has been given to show the whole building of Scripture’s authority.

The Outline

Authority

Preface: The Scriptures are the writings of the Apostles and Prophets and are authoritative. It is because they originate from divinely inspired Apostles of Jesus, or Prophets of God, that these writings are as the directives of God and Jesus; therefore making them authoritative.

  1. Apostles and Prophets as Scripture’s Authors and Origin (Making them Authoritative)
    1. Directly Chosen by The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Association and Recognition)
    2. Under Inspiration of the Holy Spirit Personally (Empowerment)
  2. The Above Evidenced in
    1. Scripture
      1. Association and Recognition
        1. Appointment of Apostles: Luke 6:12-16, Acts 1:24-26
        2. Reflective Recipient Nature (Matthew 10:40, John 13:20)
        3. Association and Relevancy (1 John 1:1-3, Galatians 2 and 1 Corinthians 9:1-3, [Matthias] Acts 1:21)
      2. Empowerment
        1. Promise: John 14:26, Acts 1:8
        2. Fulfillment: Acts 2 (Pentecost)
        3. Apostolic Affirmation of the Spirit’s Power in them: Romans 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5
        4. Inspiration: 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 1:10-12 (Referencing the Prophecies recorded in Scripture) 2 Peter 1:20-21

                 b.Tradition

    1. Early Witness in the Writings of the Early Christians
    2. Catholicism and Pan-Orthodoxy approve (Modern)

                c.Holy Spirit

Conclusion

From Scripture

1. The Author’s were Chosen and Associated with Jesus

Whether we are speaking about the Prophet of the Old Testament, Apostle of the New Testament, or those closely associated with the Apostles in the New Testament we can conclude that their association plays a big part in their writings. The Old Testament Prophetical books often start out by recording that the prophecy of said prophet was from the Lord, or YHWH. They therefore being chosen by God makes them pretty creditable. When it comes to the Apostles we know that they were chosen by the Lord Jesus. The Apostles had spent time with Him. When it comes to other New Testament authors such as Luke for example, we know also that they were associates of the Apostles who probably even received a lot of what they wrote from them as well. So we then find in each of these categories a succession leading back to the Father and the Son. Even the Holy Spirit is shown to be associated as I will show in the next section.

Appointment of Apostles: Luke 6:12-16, Acts 1:24-26

Reflective Recipient Nature (Matthew 10:40, John 13:20)

Association and Relevancy (1 John 1:1-3, Galatians 2 and 1 Corinthians 9:1-3, Matthias Acts 1:21)

2. Empowered by the Spirit (Inspiration)

The empowerment by the Spirit is the means by which also gave the Apostles and Prophets authority. When it comes to Scripture this means that their teachings whether spoken or written are authoritative. This means that the written teachings can be said to be from God. We call this inspiration, right?

Promise: John 14:26, Acts 1:8

Fulfillment: Acts 2 (Pentecost)

Apostolic Affirmation of the Spirit’s Power in them: Romans 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5

Inspiration: 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 1:10-12 (Referencing the Prophecies recorded in Scripture) 2 Peter 1:20-21

Tradition has always witnessed to these things above

Irenaeus of Lyons Against Heresies Book 3 Chapter 2.1

“We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.”

Gregory of Nyssa On the Soul and the Resurrection

“But while the latter proceeded, on the subject of the soul, as far in the direction of supposed consequences as the thinker pleased, we are not entitled to such license, I mean that of affirming what we please; we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.”

Augustine of Hippo to Jerome

“For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error.”

Basil De Spiritu Sancto 7

“But we do not rest only on the fact that such is the tradition of the Fathers; for they too followed the sense of Scripture, and started from the evidence which, a few sentences back, I deduced from Scripture and laid before you.”

Modern Christian Tradition holds that the Apostles were associated with Jesus and that their writings are inspired.

Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice​ (Part 3)

The Holy Spirit

When it comes to the Holy Spirit, Christianity teaches that He is God just as much as the Father and our Lord Jesus are. So it goes without saying that He is authoritative in and of Himself. The Holy Spirit being given in the Church 2000 years ago and empowering the church up until this point implies the presence of God in the Churches. I will preface by saying that not all things that are done by those in Christianity are done so by the Holy Spirit, but that all parts of genuine Christianity are empowered by the Spirit. I think its agreed upon that the Holy Spirit is a very real and present authority in the Churches, but in what way is He a means of authority and interpretation? In other words how do we experience the Holy Spirit like we read the Scriptures and interact with tradition? Since I argue that He is empowering all things within Christianity then my point is that we see Him in the Apostles, in Scripture, the Sacraments, Grace Gifts given to the believer, and whatever other parts of genuine Christianity there be, He is involved. To be clear I mean that He was working in the past, but that He also is working today. So let me briefly touch on these points and then I will get to my conclusion.

The Outline

The Holy Spirit Empowers Christianity as living and present Deity in the Churches

  1. Holy Spirit is God in the Churches (Supreme Authority in and of Himself)
  2. He is the Empowering Force in all things in the Churches
    1. Apostles
      1. Churches started and equipped through them by the Spirit’s power
    2. Scripture
      1. Inspiration
    3. The Sacraments
      1. Baptism
      2. Eucharist
    4. The Individual Grace Gifts in the Church
      1. Prophecy
        1. Especially via Martyrdom
      2. Healings
      3. Other gifts

                 e. Jesus Himself as Head of the Church was also Empowered

          III.The Above Evidenced in

    1. Scripture
      1. Apostles
        1. Promise: John 14:26, Acts 1:8
        2. Fulfillment: Acts 2 (Pentecost)
        3. Apostolic Affirmation of the Spirit’s Power in them: Romans 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:1-4, 2 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5
      2. Inspiration of Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 1:10-12 (Concerning the Prophets themselves), 2 Peter 1:20-21 (Same as previous)
      3. The Spirit in the Sacraments: 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
      4. The grace gifts of the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, Ephesians 4:11, Entire Book of Acts
        1. Exhortations to Utilize the Spirit’s Gifts 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, 1 Corinthians 14:1, 39
      5. The Spirit on Jesus: Matthew 3:16-17, Luke 4:18-19, Acts 10:38, Hebrews 2:4
      6. God in the Churches Ephesians 2:21-22, Acts 5:1-6
  1. Tradition
    1. Early Christianity also witnesses to these things above
    2. What Church doesn’t believe the Holy Spirit is active in at least some small way?
  2. Holy Spirit Empowers and Inspires all things New Testament

From Scripture

I am going to begin by looking at what Scripture has to say on the subject. I am going to start out with the Apostles.

I. Apostles

As I mentioned earlier the Apostles are the foundations of the Church. They primarily built the Church after Jesus’ ascension. It is clear from Scripture that they did not do it by their own strength alone. We know they were empowered by the Spirit to do these things. Before the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles Jesus had clearly promised them that the Father would send the Holy Spirit down upon them. We see this fulfilled at Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. The rest of Acts records some of the historical dealings of the Apostles and the start of the Churches. As we see many times throughout the book they were inspired by the Spirit. They were reminded of Jesus’ teachings, they taught great wisdom, set up the churches, and performed many signs and miracles all by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We even have statements from the Apostles themselves that show that they believed they were empowered by the Spirit.  

Promise (John 14:26, Acts 1:8)

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.” John 14:26 NET

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NET

The Fulfillment  (Acts 2)

The Continuing of the Church (Acts)

Paul’s Apostolic Reflection on His own work

According to Paul’s own words they received power for preaching, they prophesied, and worked many wonders by the Spirit.

“But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation;” Romans 15:15-20 NASB

 

“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God. For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling. My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 NASB

“The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” 2 Corinthians 12:12 NASB

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5 NASB

II. Scripture and Inspiration

When it comes to Scripture we know that these writings are inspired by the Holy Spirit. When we look at the inspiration of Scripture we see the intersection of all three authorities. When the prophets received revelations of God it was because the Holy Spirit was upon them. Then when the inspired men recorded the said inspired information in writing, or Scripture, then the introduction of the inspired Scripture came to be. It’s the same with the Apostles. The Holy Spirit is the one who empowers the Scriptures in their very inspiration.

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NRSV

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!” 1 Peter 1:10-12 NRSV (Referencing the Prophecies recorded in Scripture)

“Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” NET 2 Peter 1:20-21 

III. In the Sacraments

Without getting too controversial here I would just like to mention that the authors of Scripture believed that the Holy Spirit was active in the communal meal and in Baptism.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NRSV

IV. The Individual Grace Gifts in the Church

When it comes to the individual grace gifts in the Church Paul thinks highly of them and says that they are for the building up of the Church. He sees the Holy Spirit in this and that this is very important.

Paul’s Apostolic Reflection on individual grace gifts

Generally the Church also has been given gifts for the building up of the church

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11 NASB

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 NASB

The Book of Acts is full of the Holy Spirit’s gifts in the Church. Just two examples below.

Stephen sees the Lord, but was first filled with the Holy Spirit Acts 6:5 

The Prophetess’ of Philip and Agabus Acts 21:8-14 

Exhortations to Utilize the Spirit’s Gifts

When it comes to the Spiritual gifts not only does Paul mention them, but he also exhorts his audience to utilize the gifts of the Spirit. This continues to show that the Apostles thought very highly of the Spirit in the Churches.

“Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy.” 1 Corinthians 14:1 NRSV

“Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NRSV

V. Jesus Himself Empowered

Jesus the great head of the church is said to have been empowered by the Spirit to do things. Luke records Peter saying that Jesus Himself was anointed with the Holy Spirit and went about doing good works in Acts. Jesus exorcises demons by the Spirit as He is recorded as saying to the Pharisees in Matthew. Jesus claims Isaiah’s gospel fulfillment for Himself after He His baptism and His testing in the wilderness. Even Jesus Himself was at times empowered by the Spirit.

“how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Acts 10:38 NRSV

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18-21 NRSV

“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” Matthew 12:28 NRSV

From Tradition

So my main argument from tradition is that Christians early on and still to this day affirm these things. I’d like to start out by referencing where these above beliefs are reflected in the early writers of Christianity. First up is their references on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment of the Apostles.

I. Apostles and the Holy Spirit

Tertullian On Exhortation to Chastity Chapter 4

(His Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:40)

“In granting indulgence, he alleges the advice of a prudent man; in enjoining continence, he affirms the advice of the Holy Spirit. Follow the admonition which has divinity for its patron. It is true that believers likewise have the Spirit of God; but not all believers are apostles. When then, he who had called himself a believer, added thereafter that he had the Spirit of God, which no one would doubt even in the case of an (ordinary) believer; his reason for saying so was, that he might reassert for himself apostolic dignity. For apostles have the Holy Spirit properly, who have Him fully, in the operations of prophecy, and the efficacy of (healing) virtues, and the evidences of tongues; not partially, as all others have. Thus he attached the Holy Spirit’s authority to that form (of advice) to which he willed us rather to attend; and immediately it became not an advice of the Holy Spirit, but, in consideration of His majesty, a precept.”

Justin Martyr Apologies 39

“For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking: but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all, the word of God.”

II. Scripture (Inspiration)

Clement to the Corinthians 45

“Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Justin Martyr First Apology 36

“But when you hear the utterances of the prophets spoken as it were personally, you must not suppose that they are spoken by the inspired themselves, but by the Divine Word who moves them. For sometimes He declares things that are to come to pass, in the manner of one who foretells the future; sometimes He speaks as from the person of God the Lord and Father of all; sometimes as from the person of Christ; sometimes as from the person of the people answering the Lord or His Father, just as you can see even in your own writers, one man being the writer of the whole, but introducing the persons who converse.”

Origen Principiis Book IV. 1

“it seems necessary to show, in the first place, that the Scriptures them­selves are divine, i.e., were inspired by the Spirit of God.”

On the Holy Spirit St. Ambrose Book II 153

“There is, then, unity of authority, unity of appointment, unity of giving. For if you separate appointment and power, what cause was there [for maintaining] that those whom Christ appointed as apostles, God the Father appointed, and the Holy Spirit appointed? Unless, perhaps, as if sharing a possession or a right, They, like men, were afraid of legal prejudice, and therefore the operation was divided, and the authority distributed.”

III. Sacraments

Basil De Spiritu Sancto

“Whence is it that we are Christians? Through our faith, would be the universal answer. And in what way are we saved? Plainly because we were regenerate through the grace given in our baptism. How else could we be? And after recognizing that this salvation is established through the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, shall we fling away that form of doctrine which we received?”

IV. Individual Grace Gifts

C​yril of Jerusalem Catechetical Lecture 16

“And though He is One in nature, yet many are the virtues which by the will of God and in the Name of Christ He works. For He employs the tongue of one man for wisdom; the soul of another He enlightens by Prophecy; to another He gives power to drive away devils; to another He gives to interpret the divine Scriptures. He strengthens one man’s self-command; He teaches another the way to give alms; another He teaches to fast and discipline himself; another He teaches to despise the things of the body; another He trains for martyrdom”

Basil De SpirituSancto chapter 9.23

“He makes them spiritual by fellowship with Himself. Just as when a sunbeam falls on bright and transparent bodies, they themselves become brilliant too, and shed forth a fresh brightness from themselves, so souls wherein the Spirit dwells, illuminated by the Spirit, themselves become spiritual, and send forth their grace to others. Hence comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of good gifts, the heavenly citizenship, a place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God”

Prophecy of the martyrs

PolyCarp The Martyrdom of Polycarp Chapter 5

“But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard [that he was sought for], was in no measure disturbed, but resolved to continue in the city. However, in deference to the wish of many, he was persuaded to leave it. He departed, therefore, to a country house not far distant from the city. There he stayed with a few [friends], engaged in nothing else night and day than praying for all men, and for the Churches throughout the world, according to his usual custom. And while he was praying, a vision presented itself to him three days before he was taken; and, behold, the pillow under his head seemed to him on fire. Upon this, turning to those that were with him, he said to them prophetically, “I must be burnt alive.”

Perpetua: The Passion of the Holy Martyrs Perpetua and Felicity 3

“I saw a golden ladder of marvellous height, reaching up even to heaven, and very narrow, so that persons could only ascend it one by one; and on the sides of the ladder was fixed every kind of iron weapon. (Skipping a bit) And I immediately related this to my brother, and we understood that it was to be a passion, and we ceased henceforth to have any hope in this world.”

V. Jesus and the Spirit

St. Ambrose on the Holy Spirit Book III

“In the former book we have shown by the clear evidence of the Scriptures that the apostles and prophets were appointed, the latter to prophesy, the former to preach the Gospel, by the Holy Spirit in the same way as by the Father and the Son; now we add what all will rightly wonder at, and not be able to doubt, that the Spirit was upon Christ; and that as He sent the Spirit, so the Spirit sent the Son of God. For the Son of God says: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me, He has sent Me to preach the Gospel to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and sight to the blind. And having read this from the Book of Isaiah, He says in the Gospel: Today has this Scripture been fulfilled in your ears; that He might point out that it was said of Himself.”

Modern Church Tradition

I am not sure of a Church tradition that doesn’t acknowledge the Holy Spirit working in the Churches. There may be certain degrees or so. Even Evangelical cesasionalists in some small way still affirm that the Holy Spirit is at work doing something.

Conclusion

So to conclude this section I just want to highlight that my main arguments concerning the Holy Spirit are these. First is that He is obviously God in the Church and thereby an authority of Himself. The second is that He is the empowering person whereby all things true to Christianity find their power. His person and work in these things make Him someone to look to as an authority. There are many things today that are said to be done of the Holy Spirit, I get it. This is the same case when it comes to the canon of Scripture and its interpretation. We don’t skip out on reading Scripture simply because we know that there is error out there, but instead we continue to read and discern it to find the truth. Sometimes when it comes to the moving of the Holy Spirit some take an all or nothing approach, and by that I mean some seem to think that if the Holy Spirit doesn’t always do something that He isn’t active at all. This is false and when we don’t engage in sifting through the working of the Holy Spirit we ourselves are lazy and unfaithful.

Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice​ (Part 2)

Tradition

Tradition. In evangelicalism and in some of mainline Protestantism it is something to be hated, disregarded, and put down. I believe that Apostolic or Christian tradition is not in competition with the Scriptures and is a necessary means of Christian interpretation. Without it our view of Christianity is less than complete. Christianity is a tradition, it was started as tradition, and it will continue to be a tradition until the day our Lord returns. We understand that our Lord Jesus started the Church, but He then gave His work to the Apostles whom when empowered by the Spirit began to work. The Apostles and early Christians understood that the Apostles were the ones who had the final say in what was to be believed and practiced in Christianity. The Apostles believed that they were the foundation of the Church with Jesus as the most important piece, the corner stone. It therefore necessitates that we believe and follow their practice as well. We all know that we do that from Scripture, but another way we do that is by following the traditions that they passed down to us that are not recorded in Scripture. Maybe for you who are reading this, this is the first time you have ever considered that a tradition may be out there from the Apostles which is not recorded in Scripture. I ask you to keep an open mind about this. After all we already believe that not everything that Jesus Himself has done is recorded in the Apostles writings; for the Apostle John records that if such things were to be recorded the world could not contain the writings to be written. Separating Apostolic Tradition from the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit is something I think is impossible, but in as much as is possible I mention it here. Tradition as an authority and interpretive method of Christianity is the historically passed down practice and teachings. It is Apostolic when interpreted as true religion, yet nominal when taken in its broad sense. Apostolic Teachings and Practice are to be understood as Jesus’ Directives and therefore important. Tradition is then to be interpreted for the search of Apostolic Tradition which equates to Jesus’ directives for us (making it by implication authority). So as I said before I will continue to validate the necessity of Apostolic Tradition through the threefold method of the Holy Spirit, Tradition, and the Scriptures. Before I start I just want to point out that my main point in this section is that Tradition as a method of interpretation is not only valid and authoritative, but it is also necessary to get the best and most faithful picture of Christianity. 

The Outline

  1. Apostolic Tradition is not only Scripture and therefore we cannot go by Scripture alone.
    1. Evidence from Scripture
      1. Foundations of the Church are living beings not letters and it is good to listen to them Ephesians 2:19-20/ 1 Corinthians 11:2 NRSV
      2. Their traditions have not been passed down in letter only 2 Thessalonians 2:15 NRSV
    2. Evidence from Tradition (Early and Now)
      1. Early Christians affirmed the above
      2. They saw Scripture alone as problematic
  2. These things are continued to be believed by the vast majority of those in Christianity
  3. Holy Spirit Empowers both of these (Apostles and their Tradition)

Evidenced in Scripture

So let’s take a look at Scripture and see what it says.

I spoke earlier about the Apostles being the foundation of the church and the authoritative means by which Christianity has flowed from. One of the common verses appealed to for this is, Ephesians 2:19-20.

“So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.” Ephesians 2:19-20 NET

A common principle that our Lord taught is that those who comes in the name of another are associated with that person. Jesus says those whom He sends, when accepted, are those whom receive Him, and then when they receive Him they receive the Father also. I appeal to John 13:20 for this. The Scriptures also record that the Apostles themselves also appealed to their association with Jesus as means of authority through the Apostleship. I appeal to 1 John 1:1-3 and when it comes to Paul Galatians 2 and 1 Corinthians 9:1-3. I also want to bring up that the Apostles are obviously recorded as the ones who are mainly founding the Churches as we see recorded in Acts. They Preach Christ, gather assemblies, and eventually establish leaders. So from the historical side we see in Acts, the Apostles can be said to be the founders of the Churches, but also as the authoritative directors in the churches. So as I said earlier they accomplished this by means of word of mouth and written letter. I’d like to focus on two verses from Paul that highlight the need for tradition that is both written and unwritten.

“I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you.” 1 Corinthians 11:2 NRSV

“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15 NRSV

As Paul writes to these two different churches he praises them and warns them concerning holding to the traditions or practices that he gave them. Some of these practices could be referenced in these individual epistles, but the majority of these traditions were given in person and are not recorded in any epistle given to them. This highlights the fact that authoritative Apostolic tradition of teachings and practice existed in the world that were never recorded in any writing. The implications of this being that (1) Scripture alone is not capable or sufficient in supplying these and (2) that knowing this (taking into account that one wants to be faithful) they must consider and interpret the traditions as passed down in the earliest Christian traditions. Of which can be done through surviving living Christian tradition and written records of Church history. So to recapitulate this section, my arguments are that Scripture itself records that unwritten Christian tradition exists, is necessary in Christianity, and flows from the Apostles; hence Apostolic authority from Christ. With the main implication for Christians that if we want to be faithful then we need to first interpret the traditions out there and incorporate the true ones into our faith.

Evidenced in Tradition

From Tradition

Now let’s look at tradition. When it comes to looking at Christian tradition the main two ways I will be doing this is by looking at a few quotes from a couple of different early Christians and referencing from traditions that are still alive today in Christianity. By quoting these early Christians I hope to present the truth that early Christians believed and valued tradition as totally necessary for practicing faithful Christianity. By referencing existing traditions and faiths such as Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, I hope to show that tradition is continually affirmed to be necessary in Christianity to this day. And as an obvious side note show that Sola Scriptura was not affirmed by the early church faithful and still to this day is not affirmed by the overwhelming majority of Christians.

I want to start out by quoting some well respected early Christians who affirmed that the necessity of tradition of the Apostles and that it was both written and unwritten. Before I do so I’d like to answer an important question. Does it really matter what early Christians thought about Christianity? I think it does. These people were the ones who the Apostles passed the baton to. These were the ones they wrote to. Some of these people lived during the times of the Apostles and others within 1 to 2 generations. These were the people who spoke the languages of the New Testament and were in the same cultural contexts as the Apostles. So I think their words are incredibly important.

(1.)

Basil of Caesarea, De Spiritu Sancto 66

“Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us “in a mystery” by the tradition of the Apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay;—no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?”

Origen De Principiis, Preface, 2

“Since many, however, of those who profess to believe in Christ differ from each other, not only in small and trifling matters, but also on subjects of the highest importance, as, e.g., regarding God, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit; and not only regarding these, but also regarding others which are created existences, viz., the powers and the holy virtues; it seems on that account necessary first of all to fix a definite limit and to lay down an unmistakable rule regarding each one of these, and then to pass to the investigation of other points. For as we ceased to seek for truth (notwithstanding the professions of many among Greeks and Barbarians to make it known) among all who claimed it for erroneous opinions, after we had come to believe that Christ was the Son of God, and were persuaded that we must learn it from Himself; so, seeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the apostles, and remaining in the Churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition.”

John Chrysostom’s Homily on 2 Thessalonians Homily 4

“Hence it is manifest, that [the Apostles] did not deliver all things by Epistle, but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no farther.” 

Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 61.6.4

“(The Scriptures) need examination, and the perception to understand the force of each proposition. But Tradition must be used too, for not everything is available from the Sacred Scripture. thus the holy Apostles handed some things down in Scriptures but some in traditions.” 

Augustine On Baptism, Against the Donatists Book II.12

“And this custom, coming, I suppose, from apostolic tradition (like many other things which are held to have been handed down under their actual sanction, because they are preserved throughout the whole Church, though they are not found either in their letters, or in the Councils of their successors) — this most wholesome custom.” 

Irenaeus Against Heresies book 3, 2.2
“But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth.” Skipping a bit. It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition.” 

(2)

Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius Book 4.6

“Let our author, then, show this to begin with, that it is in vain that the Church has believed that the Only-begotten Son truly exists, not adopted by a Father falsely so called, but existing according to nature, by generation from Him Who is, not alienated from the essence of Him that begot Him. But so long as his primary proposition remains unproved, it is idle to dwell on those which are secondary. And let no one interrupt me, by saying that what we confess should also be confirmed by constructive reasoning: for it is enough for proof of our statement, that the tradition has come down to us from our fathers, handled on, like some inheritance, by succession from the apostles and the saints who came after them.”

“But with respect to the man for whose sake you enter on the discussion of the Scriptures, with the view of strengthening him when afflicted with doubts, (let me ask) will it be to the truth, or rather to heretical opinions that he will lean? Influenced by the very fact that he sees you have made no progress, whilst the other side is on an equal footing (with yourself) in denying and in defence, or at any rate on a like standing he will go away confirmed in his uncertainty by the discussion, not knowing which side to adjudge heretical. For, no doubt, they too are able to retort these things on us. It is indeed a necessary consequence that they should go so far as to say that adulterations of the Scriptures, and false expositions thereof, are rather introduced by ourselves, inasmuch as they, no less than we maintain that truth is on their side.”

Tertullian The Prescription against Heretics 18-19

“Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures; nor must controversy be admitted on points in which victory will either be impossible, or uncertain, or not certain enough. But even if a discussion from the Scriptures should not turn out in such a way as to place both sides on a par, (yet) the natural order of things would require that this point should be first proposed, which is now the only one which we must discuss: “With whom lies that very faith to which the Scriptures belong. From what and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that rule, by which men become Christians?” For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions.”

Basil De Spiritu Sancto 25.

“The one aim of the whole band of opponents and enemies of sound doctrine is to shake down the foundation of the faith of Christ by levelling apostolic tradition with the ground, and utterly destroying it. So like the debtors — of course bona fide debtors — they clamour for written proof, and reject as worthless the unwritten tradition of the Fathers. But we will not slacken in our defense of the truth. We will not cowardly abandon the cause. The Lord has delivered to us as a necessary and saving doctrine that the Holy Spirit is to be ranked with the Father. Our opponents think differently, and see fit to divide and rend asunder, and relegate Him to the nature of a ministering spirit. Is it not then indisputable that they make their own blasphemy more authoritative than the law prescribed by the Lord?” 

Modern Tradition

Christian faith continues to this day to hold that tradition is authoritative. In fact the overwhelming majority holds this to be true.

Roman Catholicism

Dei Verbum is view held by Catholic which affirms that the Roman Church practices and follows the Words of God as presented in Scripture and Tradition

Eastern Orthodoxy

Eastern Orthodoxy also holds that tradition is to be valued, practiced, and to be viewed as of Apostolic nature. Same with the Oriental Orthodox.

Evidenced by the Holy Spirit

In order to not be redundant I am going to save my argumentation that the Holy Spirit also proves the necessity of Christian tradition for when I speak in support of the Holy Spirit. I will just say this. The Holy Spirit empowered the Apostles and has been involved in the life of the Church from its inception unto to this day.

End of Section

To recapitulate this entire section, I have set out to prove that tradition when from the Apostles is necessary for our understanding of Christianity and that it is authoritative in the Churches. I have attempted to do so through referencing Scripture, Christian tradition in the past and present, and the Holy Spirit. They support that Apostolic tradition, and by extension the directives of our Lord Jesus, are important and not Scripture only.

Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice

Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit as the Rule of Faith and Practice

Introduction

Have you considered what the rule of the Christian faith should be? By asking this I mean do you know the authorities that govern our faith and how they show us what true Christianity is? If you have taken a look at Christianity for more than five minutes you have probably noticed that there is a lot of disagreeing that goes on. I believe when it comes to our faith, we should look to the Christian Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and Tradition to begin to discern what true Christianity is in its teaching and its practice. To be clear all three of these need to be interpreted, but they are Christianity’s governing force from which we begin to interpret. I’d like to begin my support for this with a short recap of what Christianity is. In the parts that follow this article I will begin to support and authenticate this method with Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit. 

Short Re-cap of Christianity

Jesus the divine man came to Earth to gather those whom His father had given. He called out the twelve Apostles and the original disciples whom He taught, instructed them in the ways of God, and promised them the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower them. When He left them and ascended He gave them the reminder to withhold their preaching until the Promised Spirit would come upon them. Upon the time of the Promise, the Apostles were then supernaturally empowered to continue the work of Christ in founding the Churches. It is through their working, being empowered and inspired by the Holy Spirit, that Christ continued His mission of gathering those whom His Father gave Him. Jesus has been at work ever since and continues to this day to gather those who are His. The threefold method I present to you is this. One faith governed by One Lord Jesus who has started and continues His work through Empowered Apostolic tradition. The Scriptures themselves are equal because they themselves are the work of the Apostles and therefore find themselves within this Empowered, Apostolic Tradition. Therefore the threefold method of Christianity’s origin, authority, and means of interpretation should then be broken down simply and equally as the Holy Spirit, Apostolic or Christian Tradition, and Scripture.

I believe if you consider our Holy Faith you will also find this to be true. I also believe that all three of these methods affirm and authenticate one another and therefore make one Christian faith. So mainly I am going to attempt to back this up by referring to evidences from these three. But before I do that I would like to say this. When it comes to the Christian faith not everyone comes to believe in it the same way. Mainly all of us have believed because someone first spoke it to us. There are some of us I am sure that maybe first believed by picking up a Bible or seen a work of the Holy Spirit that first made them believe the religion, but usually this number is pretty small compared to the number of those being told about Christianity. I guess there is two points to what I said. The sub point is “hey, tradition is still works”. But my main point is this. No matter what way we enter Christianity we all give a trust to something that first makes us believe. The implications being that we give our faith to the Bible, the Tradition handed to us, and experiencing a work of the Holy Spirit. So without further ado I would like to demonstrate and support this method.

Halloween and Christian Tradition

Halloween and Christian Tradition

Introduction

What is Halloween and is it good for Christians to take part in the holiday? Halloween is celebrated by many worldwide and for a few different reasons. Certain Protestant and Evangelical groups deride the celebration as satanic and a day for the devil. Knowing a little bit more about the holiday can help us decide what to do with the practice and determine if it is good for one to take part in it.

Contested Origins

Today we call the day “Halloween”. It is made up of two words. “Hallow”, which means holy, or honorably set apart from. “E’en” which is an old way to say “evening”. The two then put together are holy evening. It is also known today by Catholics and other such groups that hold to this religious day as “all saints eve” or “all saints day”. Catholics today use this date as a day of mass, or coming together, to venerate the saints and dead Christians who have gone before them. All ancient groups of Christianity have either a day or feast for celebrating the saints who have gone on ahead of us. Catholics, Anglicans, and other Protestants track this day throughout the historical Christian tradition. Now some hold that Halloween has solely Christian origins, while others hold that it is a type of syncretistic day that combines Christian practice with an old Celtic tradition. Think of another holiday that does something similar to help you get the point. Christmas is a helpful example of a Christian tradition, the celebration of Jesus’ Birthday, that has other traditions mixed with it (think of the good ole Christmas tree in our house).

A Continued Religious Practice

Surprisingly many Christians that deride the holiday have no idea that it holds a large candle within Christian tradition. They also have no idea that their neighbors (other Christian groups) continue to worship God on this day. This ignorance usually comes from a teaching that supposes that Catholics and other historical groups are not Christians, but more so pagan. This ignorance is also supported by a lack of knowledge of church history and a total de-valuing of historic Christian tradition. Christian tradition of venerating the saints goes back to its origin. Even before Christianity emerged, second temple Judaism showed signs of venerating, respecting the saints. One great witness to it is the apocryphal and deuterocanonical books that existed before Jesus. Considering this Christian practice can help one make a decision on what to do with this day.

A Modern Holiday

Halloween, like many holidays before it, has undergone changes. Today Halloween is about dressing up as something scary or interesting and collecting candy from neighbors. Maybe it’s about going to a party or putting up some spooky decorations. The holiday is vastly different from its origins and holds absolutely no religious connotation to the majority of secular adherents. Whether that is pagan or Christian religious connotations, there exists none of these in the minds of the secular adherent. Kind of like Jesus for the secular Christmas adherent.

Conclusion

Halloween today, in the form of parties, dressing up, getting candy, and spooky decorations, has no religious undertone in it whatsoever. There are many Christians who worship God by venerating the saints on this day. There are some out there who use this day for either historic pagan celebration or evil satanic celebration. The majority of secularists however do not use this day as celebrating any religious custom. Christians should not condemn the day which holds special and ancient practice within their greater tradition. Nor should they condemn the modern secular practices that go along with it. I mean, if in your neighborhood they are celebrating Halloween by cutting off the heads of chickens and attempting to conjure demons, then by all means find another neighborhood for your child to collect your candy from.

Inspiration of Scripture

Inspiration of Scripture

What do you think about God “breathing” or “inspiring” Scripture? Historically Christians have held to the inspiration of Scripture and the Holy Spirit being the one who influences people in this process. Does He influence the author upon writing? Does He influence only when He reveals things to people? Is it another way? I’d like to highlight two things concerning inspiration in this article. The first is that inspiration may not have happened when the author wrote, but before when the Holy Spirit gave revelation. The second is that the Scriptures contain life giving content from the breath of God. Here are my thoughts on the inspiration of Scripture.  

Inspiration? God Breathed?

“It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.​” John 6:63 NRSV

So what does “inspired” or “God breathed” mean? While the literal understanding of God breathing is pretty self explanatory, inspiration is not. Inspiration is an old English word which means to breathe. They’re the same thing, but the term inspiration is more common in English usage. So what does breath have to do with the Scriptures?  Well, in Genesis it is recorded that when God created the body of Adam He breathed into him the breath of life and then Adam began to live. In the culture and language of both the Old and New Testament writers spirit meant life or soul. In both Greek and Hebrew “spirit” and “breath” are not two different words, but rather they are actually the same word. Inspiration can then be understood as life giving. Paul’s usage of “God breathed” in 2 Timothy in relation to Scripture indicates that the contents of Scripture find its influence from God Himself and that the teachings of Scripture lead to life. The saying used by Paul here is that God’s life giving agent is found in the teachings of Scripture. The authors of Scripture often record that following God’s ways lead to life. Jesus also is recorded as saying that God’s words are life. Its likely because of this connection that Christians have early on referred to the Scriptures as God’s word. 

The Content; The Holy Teachings

“He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3​ NRSV

I think Inspiration has to do with the original contents of the Scripture as they were originally given to the Prophet and Apostle. The Holy Spirit’s influence then pertains to the psalms, prophecies, acts of God and other such content which was then recorded in Scripture. This understanding differs from the theory that the Holy Spirit influenced the author at the time of writing because it affirms that Holy Spirit gave influence to the original revelators such as the Prophets whom He came upon. I don’t believe the ancients who went before us would have made a differentiation between the teachings as originally given with the Scripture which records them. Nor would they have questioned the accuracy of the written content of the historical experience. Paul’s use of “God breathed” in 2 Timothy is connected with the purpose of Scripture. It is to instruct and to change the reader into living a righteous life. These are God’s ways as was said in the last paragraph. The teachings prepare Christians to do the deeds which God wants of us and by doing them we find life. The Scriptures then acts as a life giving agent to those who apply its teaching. Because of this it as though the ink and script have been blown into by the very life giving breathe of God.

The Origin of the Prophecies

“First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 2 Peter 1:20-21 NRSV

2 Peter 1:21 is often a verse that is used to help better understand the way inspiration of Scripture works, although it does not contain the word inspiration, but rather the concept in other words. Peter writes to the Church that the Holy Spirit came upon those of old who spoke the prophecies. Some make the mistake that Peter meant that the Holy Spirit made men write instead of speak. I think this should be interpreted as the Holy Spirit giving them the revelations and prophecies to speak. The Holy Spirit is also promised by Jesus to give the Apostles words to speak, instead of words to write. Now is it possible the Spirit did both? Sure, but this verse can’t be used to unilaterally support the view in question. I suggest that my theory of the ancients which says that they probably did not question the accuracy of what was recorded concerning the prophecy should be applied to us as well. Today it is often those trying to prove a strict inerrancy position, which this author does not recommend, that want to be dogmatic on a position which says that Holy Spirit inspired upon writing as the main way of inspiration. The religious teachings of the Prophets and Apostles are true and they were given inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but probably not upon writing, at the very least they were not only. 

In Conclusion

The inspiration of Scripture is something that Christians have historically held to. How different Christian traditions define this is another story. I suggest that we consider a position that points to the Holy Spirit influencing the original person from whom the contents of Scripture come from. This would be psalmists in their psalms, the teachers in their teaching, and the prophets in their prophecy. While I don’t think we should totally rule out inspiration upon writing we do need to be careful when trying to prove this from passages of Scripture. The teachings of Scripture are God’s ways. Following them will lead us to life. Just as the first man was breathed into and began to live so it happens to us in our fallen, fleshly nature when we read and apply His written breath.