Clarification on the Names and Concepts of Differing Theologies

Lately, I have written much about differing theologies, and I have used their names freely–without much thought of explaining them first. Particularly, I have used titles such as Covenant Theology, Reformed Theology, Dispensational Theology. These are not commonly talked about. So, not everyone realizes what they are and why they are different. Yet, they cannot be dismissed or ignored, because they are the systems of thought that drive the ideals of denominations, clergy, & seminaries. In other words, the reasons why Christian leaders do what they do is due to their conceptions of how to interpret the Bible. Don’t let anyone tell you that theology is unimportant, because ideas are important. Philosophies (even ones that attempt to be biblically based) drive everything that anyone ever does, writes, thinks or says.

The below links, especially the article by Dr. Tony Garland, is perhaps the most accurate and succinct explanation of these theologies.

Covenant, Reformed, and Dispensational Theology – What Do They Mean? by Dr. Tony Garland via Bible Prophecy Blog

Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism by Bruce Ware via BiblicalTraining.org — this article is especially helpful, seeing it leads into other lessons on Liberalism, Neo-Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism at the page’s bottom.

Constantine the Puppet

There has been a lot of talk and defences recently about the validity of Constantine’s Christianity.

This line of conversation is important, because Church leaders look to Constantine as the figure who fathered the Roman Catholic Church in its form of unity between State and Church. Some theologians and church historians who focus on the “First Things” of Christianity say Constantine was a genuine Christian with flaws like the rest of us.

[One can read Constantines-Christian-Creed.]

I posit that if Constantine was a genuine Christian, he was a puppet of the Roman Senate, and the Empire did more to destroy authentic Christianity through Constantine than all of the preceding emperors and persecutions combined.

I begin my discourse with a response to J.W. Wartick’s assertion that, “There was only one church, and Constantine, Eusebius, Athanasius, Augustine, Basil, Ambrose, Jerome, etc. each belonged to it.”

To say there was only one church is false information. I will tell you of two branches of Christian churches, starting from the time of Justin Martyr onward.

First, we must understand that in 67, Nero initiated Christian persecutions. Then in 81 and 88, Domitian and Trajan held respective persecutions of Christians, due to their growth and monotheistic influence against the pantheistic Romans.

Because 70 years of persecution had only grown a Christian presence in the Roman world (instead of ridding the Empire of Christians), the Roman Senate gave audience to the doctrines of Christianity via Justin Martyr’s defense to them (A.D. 140-150). Yet, the Senate and Emperors of Rome decided to persecute the Christians ever after. Altogether, there were 10 persecutions under Roman emperors, the 10th being under Diocletian (in 303), who instituted the Persecution Act the same year.

Due to these persecutions, there were (as today) placating groups of Christians, and there were those who stood true to the Apostles’ doctrine. These two kinds of Christianity evidenced themselves in the following historical events after the time of Justin Martyr.

Have you not read of the Monatists (c. A.D. 158), whose spiritual descendants withstood the doctrine of pedobaptism set forth first by Calixtus, pastor of Rome (A.D. 219-223)… and which doctrine was later accepted at the Council of Carthage (A.D. 252) and by Origen (who died in 254)? Have you never read that Novation (a protesting church leader) was excommunicated from Rome in 257 for holding contrary beliefs to the pedobaptism of Council of Carthage?

But, even after the Persecution Act by Diolcletian in 303 and the subsequent persecution of true-to-the-faith Christians by Rome, the population of Christians was not undermined.

Intriguingly, we read that the Senate underwent a major shift of tactic in 311. Whereas they persecuted Christians before, they now pass a Toleration Act (A. D. 311). Two (2) years later, Constantine ascended to the throne. Coincidence? I think not, because in 318, only 5 years after Constantine’s installment, we see a shift of focus in the Christian world to Carthage, where Donatus was appointed bishop. [Donatus is the father of the Donatist Movement (who did not hold to pedobaptism or to Constantine)].

If this group of Donatist Christians were a real affront to Constantine’s and Rome’s Christianity, then we would expect to see them persecuted by the Emperor. AND, that is exactly what happened! In the same year (A.D. 324/325) that Constantine declares his Christianity the religion of Rome, we see the Christians of Northern Africa being persecuted… and Rome does not come to their aid. In fact, the persecution of Donatists stems from Rome.

In the time that Jerome was compiling and writing the Vulgate–the Romanized Bible (331-420), 30+ pastors of Lybia and Egypt were martyred.

354-430 Augustine, having already aligned himself with Rome’s church, presents a defense to the Senate of Rome, explaining why Christians are not the reason for Rome’s collapse. His work, The City of God, becomes the basis for viewing the Christian religion as that which is best embodied as a City–a nationality, if you will. (a.k.a. Covenant Replacement Theology in seed form and grounds for the Vatican).

In 379, the Church of Rome holds “heresy” as a capital offense to be punished by death.

390 – Jovinion is condemned for holding to the regeneration by the Spirit, the Preservation of the Saints, and denying the equivalent of Mariology

415 – Donatists are forbidden by the Church of Rome to assemble

416 – Council of Milevium (Decrees Church Discipline–excommunication–for all who do not hold to Pedobaptism)

445 – Valentenian III “makes” Leo of Rome the rightful ruler of the Western Church

Thus, the Roman Catholic Church is established with its first Roman-recognized “pope.” And, here I thought Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are those who “make” Church leaders. [sarcasm]

From these facts, we conclude that Constantine was a product of the Senate’s choice to “Tolerate” Christianity. This Toleration Act was the alternate strategy to persecution, which had been unprofitable or ineffective over 70+ years and several emperors before. In solid Roman fashion, “divide and conquer” seems to have been the plan of the Senate and their new Emperor Constantine. They did divide the Christian Church, in doctrine and in location. Those who stayed with Rome and embraced a State Religion were the compromised. Those who were persecuted and went to Northern Africa (mainly Donatists) were the true.

Based on this study of history, I hold 2 pillars of “First Things:”

1. There was not just one Church
2. Constantine is a pretender Christian, or at least a puppet of the Senate.

And for that matter, who in his right mind (excepting those who today hold Catholic unification of Church and State and Divine Right of Rule and Covenant Replacement Theology) would ever say, “In this sign conquer” is a valid thing to cross the lips of a true Christian?

Noting that the author — to which you refer (Peter J. Leithart) for your information — lays out a case for “Reformational Catholicism” as a Presbyterian, I find your source biased, if not confused. Subsequently, I find your review of his materials both unprofessional as an objective historian and your defense of Constantine untenable.

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OTHER RESOURCES:

The Anabaptists by Scot McKnight via Patheos

ChristianHistory.net

Christianity Today Library

Christianity through the Centuries by Cairns

The Baptist Heritage Timeline

Phillip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church

The Works of Josephus

This Day in Baptist History, vols. 1-3, by David Cummins (my late Church History professor)

The Kingdom of Heaven and Its Keys

The Consolidation of the Covenant Community

Questions for the Pope

What Should We Make of the Discrepancies Found in the Bible? by Andy Rau

See the blog post in its original format at Bible Gateway Blog

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OTHER RESOURCES:

Doubtless Faith Ministries – Enabling Confidence in the Word of God (via Archaeology and Comparative Religion)

Dr. Norman Geisler’s response to Dr. Blomberg’s “Can we Still Believe in the Bible?”

Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel by David Limbaugh

The Bible – An Apologetic

The Bible is NOT Subjective Testimony

The Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties by Gleason Archer

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Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction.  Chicago:  Moody Press. 1994

Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable. Downers Grove, IL:  InterVarsity Press. 2001

Harrison, Roland Kenneth.  Introduction to The Old Testament.  Peabody, Mass.:  Prince Press. 1999. (pp. 85-143)

Orr, James D.D. The Problem of the Old Testament. New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1906

Parrot, Andre.  Neneveh and the Old Testament. New York:  Philosophical Library. 1955

Pfeifer, Charles F. The Biblical World: a Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology. Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House. 1966

Rowley, H. H. The Rediscovery of the Old Testament. Philadelphia:  The Westminster Press. MCMXLVI

Thomas, D. Winton. Documents from Old Testament Times. New York: Harper and Row Publishers. 1961

Thompson, J.A. The Bible and Archaeology. Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co. 1972

Unger, Merrill.  The New Unger’s Bible Handbook. Chicago:  Moody Press. 1984

Vos, Howard F.  Archaeology in the Bible Lands. Chicago:  Moody Press. 1977

Wilson, Clifford, Dr.  Ebla Tablet:  Secrets of a Forgotten City.  San Diego, CA:  Master Books. 1979

Wright, G. Ernest.  Biblical Archaeology.  Philadelphia:  The Westminster Press. 1957

 

 

@RaviZacharias #RaviUtah Synopsis

During his latest message delivered at the Mormon Tabernacle, Ravi Zacharias laid several foundational absolutes from history and the Bible which later will serve to reveal the faultiness of the Mormon belief system.

As one commentator on the YouTube feed posits:

TheApologistnky1315 — Dr. Ravi, of course will catch “heck” from other Evangelicals…just like last time. Many will continue to fail to see what he’s been doing for nearly 40 yrs…reaching out to the “unreachable!”

Then another adds:

pyr8t — Ravi will say, it is of no use to cut someone’s nose off, and then give them a rose to smell. Truth must be given in a charitable fashion in order to be heard.

But, perhaps the greatest observation about Dr. Zacharias’ message comes from Carson Weitnauer ‏@ReasonsForGod2m who notes the speaker’s use of 2 Pet. 1:19. “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,” (ESV).

By so saying, Ravi Zacharias establishes that the Word of God is absolute, greater than any eye-witnessed revelation or even the transfiguration of Jesus. Thus, he establishes that the Bible alone is the sole authority for absolute truth…. Later, I believe we will see Dr. Zacharias hold Mormon’s to that, so that the Book of Mormon and other extra-biblical books are of no authority.

Anyone who has studied rhetoric and oratory realizes that Ravi Zacharias made several clear points. Perhaps the most prominent of them was: “It is possible for one person to lead millions into untold evil.” This he repeated several times and centered all other illustrations and comments around it once initially stated. When one couples the postulate with another repeated quote such as, “it is very difficult to change after 70 years of believing a lie,” the overarching message of Dr. Zacharias comes ringing in the brain of anyone who had ears to hear… or, of anyone who knows how to think clearly and rationally for himself; which, according to Dr. Zacharias, most people can’t do any more in Western society–and I will add–but especially in cults.

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan serves as access for reason through the backdoor of imagination. The Angel of Dusk “points the way for Christian to walk toward the gates of the Celestial City… [and so] engages his intellectual needs and gives him the tools to instruct him along the journey. The Christian walk involves all three areas of life–the spiritual, the practical, and the logical–which are not mutually exclusive. God is an immensely practical being who also guides us with reason and wisdom….” (The Grand Weaver, Ravi Zacharias).

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Find the full oration at the following link, and especially view c. 1:15.00 onward for examples of leaders who attempted to control the thinking of others. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h3aVs4imQI&feature=share …