Re: Seely's Views 2

From: Innovatia <>
Date: Thu Sep 16 2004 - 21:18:30 EDT

From: George Murphy
  The description of the Orthodox Church as "the eastern splinter off the Church of Rome" is quite inaccurate. They never had accepted the claims of papal primacy of jurisdiction which were developing before 1054. OTOH it is much more accurate to call the Byzantine Church as "imperial" than it is the Roman. In the west the bishops of Rome tried to claim secular authority while in the east caesaropapism, control of the church by the emperors, was more the pattern.
There is some confusion over which "eastern church" we are talking about. By it, I meant Byzantium, the church of Constantine, in distinction to the Church of the East, the Judean church, the church which traced back historically to the church of Jerusalem, having relocated first northward to Antioch, then successively eastward, to Seleucia, Edessa, Ctesiphon and eventually Baghdad. That church did not claim to be "Orthodox" (nor was it all that unorthodox either), did not mix church and State as did Byzantium and Rome, and included the early Bible school of Lucian at Antioch. This church is also sometimes called the Syrian church, and traces to the apostle Peter. Wilkinson writes: "The church organization developed by the apostles and continued largely by Syrian theology was simple and evangelical. Fundamentally, it rejected the union of church and state. The church organization developed by the Papacy is hierarchal. Throughout its history it has believed in the union of church and state." He further elaborates:

Lucian died before Constantine had consummated the union of the church with the state. Lucian's teaching, however, lived on to plague imperial Christianity. The heritage he left behind became embosomed in the Church in the Wilderness. [The Church in the Wilderness (after the expression in Revelation 12) are those chuches of apostolic origin who did not recognize the authority of the church of Rome.] As late as the fifteenth century the Catholic clergy displayed a bitter hatred to Greek learning.52 The knowledge of Greek, however, remained in the bosom of the Church in the Wilderness whether in Syria, northern Italy, among the Celts, or in Oriental lands. And wherever the true faith was held, the New Testament, verified and transmitted by Lucian, was venerated and followed.
            Conditions continued thus until the dawn of the Reformation under Luther. The Papacy waxed more powerful and more autocratic. The churches remaining true to New Testament Christianity became more and more sure of their ground, following the leadership of Lucian. Finally, when the great Reformation began, almost the first thing they did was to reach out, seize, and place at the foundation of the Reformed Church the Greek New Testament of Lucian. On the other hand, the first four decisions of the Council of Trent - the first Catholic world council after the powerful beginnings of the Reformation - condemned Lucian's text and insisted on Jerome's Vulgate. ...

           Lucian by his life and by his opposition to Alexandrian errors showed that he would never accept any doctrines of the Trinity which destroyed the moral obligation of the Ten Commandments; that he refused any teaching which exalted the inspiration of the church above the inspiration of the Bible, and that he did not countenance any authority which divided the Decalogue into moral and ceremonial, is proved by his writings. ...

The churches throughout the world were almost universally patterned after the church of Jerusalem in belief and practice. "It is true that the Antiochene liturgy describes Jerusalem 'as the mother of all churches.'"40 Paul wrote,

            "Ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus."(1 Thessalonians 2:14.)

       As early as the second century, Judean Christianity in Syria produced scholars famous in Bible manuscripts. "The work of Malchion is generally regarded as commencing the 'Early School' of Antioch. The actual leader in the critical work was Lucian who came from Edessa and was Malchion's pupil. The result was an Antiochene revised Greek text of both Testaments."43 Lucian and his school, like Origen, worked in the field of textual criticism, but he used different manuscripts from those used by Origen. Erasmus rejected the manuscripts of Origen, as did Lucian.44

What might cause some confusion is that the Greek Orthodox Church, which has some of the distinguishing characteristics of the Church of the East (such as married pastors), historically traces back to the apostle to the Goths, Ulfilas. If that is the inaccuracy you mean, George, then I accept that they were not part of the imperial church. As Wilkinson writes (ch. 10):
At this point it should be clearly stated that the Goths are not being presented as constituting the Church in the Wilderness. However, they certainly were not in sympathy with the church at Rome. They were a people in which truth was struggling to come to the surface.
Because of Constantine's favor, the party of the church at Rome was dominant. ... Consequently when thousands of churches and church leaders of the opposition were stigmatized as Arians, it is not surprising to find Ulfilas standing for these beliefs.
Since the Goths had no written language, Ulfilas was compelled to invent an alphabet. He reduced Gothic sounds to writing. The first great piece of literature which the people of these vast nations, lying north of the empire's frontiers, looked upon was the Bible. ... But, as Massmann observes, there is no trace of what was called Arianism in the surviving remains of the Gothic translation of the New Testament.

Since his ancestors were from Asia Minor (the provinces where the apostle Peter had been especially instructed by God to plant the gospel), Ulfilas was undoubtedly influenced by the doctrines of the apostle to the Jews; ...

  Of course you are right that not all eastern Christians beyond the bounds of the empire were Nestorian: I was probably too brief in my statement. But I can't comment
  further on the supposedly "the more extreme speculations in later councils of the Imperial Church" unless I know what they are.
  I can't find "wilkerson" from the link you give. I have some familiarity with the material and the types of arguments at the site site & it doesn't give me much confidence.
I checked the link It brings up the title page to Wilkinson's book, Truth Triumphant: The Church in the Wilderness. It is an SDA-oriented site. Wilkinson (not Wilkerson, as the link itself wrongly puts his name) was an SDA, and his emphasis upon the Sabbath observance of the Church in the Wilderness is obvious throughout the book. I'll not comment either way on that. A possibly better site is:

In chapter 7, he says this about "extreme speculations" in the context of the Celtic church of Patrick's day:
The Council of Nicaea, convened in A.D. 325 by Emperor Constantine, started the religious controversy which has never ceased. Assembling under the sanction of a united church and state, that famous gathering commanded the submission of believers to new doctrines. During the youth of Patrick and for half a century preceding, forty-five church councils and synods had assembled in various parts of Europe. ...

The burning question of the decades succeeding the Council of Nicaea was how to state the relations of the Three Persons of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The council had decided, and the papacy had appropriated the decision as its own. The personalities of the Trinity were not confounded, and the substance was not divided. The Roman clergy claimed that Christianity had found in the Greek word homoousios (in English, "consubstantiality") an appropriate term to express this relationship.[41]

Then the papal party proceeded to call those who would not subscribe to this teaching, Arians, while they took to themselves the title of Trinitarians. An erroneous charge was circulated that all who were called Arians believed that Christ was a created being.[42] This stirred up the indignation of those who were not guilty of the charge.

Patrick was a spectator to many of these conflicting assemblies. It will be interesting, in order to grasp properly his situation, to examine for a moment this word, this term, which has split many a church and has caused many a sincere Christian to be burned at the stake. In English the word is "consubstantial," connoting that more than one person inhabit the same substance without division or separation. The original term in Greek is homoousios, from homos, meaning "identical," and ousia, the word for "being."

However, a great trouble arose, since there are two terms in Greek of historical fame. The first, homos, meaning "identical," and the second, homoios, meaning "similar" or "like unto," had both of them a stormy history. The spelling of these words is much alike. The difference in meaning, when applied to the Godhead, is bewildering to simplehearted believers. Nevertheless, those who would think in terms of homoiousian, or "similar," instead of homoousian, or "identical," were promptly labeled as heretics and Arians by the clergy. Yet when the emperor, Constantine, in full assembly of the Council of Nicaea, asked Hosius, the presiding bishop, what the difference was between the two terms, Hosius replied that they were both alike. At this all but a few bishops broke out into laughter and teased the chairman with heresy.[43]

As volumes have been written in centuries past upon this problem, it would be out of place to discuss it here. It had, however, such profound effect upon other doctrines relating to the plan of salvation and upon outward acts of worship that a gulf was created between the papacy and the institutions of the church which Patrick had founded in Ireland.

While Patrick was anything but an Arian, nevertheless he declined to concur in the idea of "sameness" found in that compelling word "consubstantial" or homoousian. Usually when violent controversy rages, there are three parties. In this instance there were the two extremes, one of which was led by the papacy, the second by the Arians, and the third party was the middle-of-the-road believers whose viewpoint was the same as Patrick's.[44] As Dr. J.H. Todd says of homoousian, the test word of the papal hierarchy, when commenting on Patrick's beliefs, "This confession of faith is certainly not homoousian.[45] Another fact verifying this opposition of the British churches to the extreme speculations of the Council of Nicaea respecting the Trinity is the story of the Council of Rimini in A.D. 359, held approximately at the time of Patrick's birth. This, it seems, was the last church council to be attended by Celtic delegates from the British Church before the withdrawal of Rome's legions in A.D. 410, and it was followed by the overrunning of England by the pagan Anglo-Saxons. This Council of Rimini passed decrees denouncing and rejecting the conclusions of Nicaea respecting the Trinity. The pope of Rome had recently signed similar decrees in the Council of Sirmium. No one will blame the evangelicals for recoiling from the papal view of the Trinity, when history shows that their views were strong enough to cause two popes to sign decrees contrary to the policy of the papacy respecting Nicaea.

 One of the reasons, no doubt, why the papacy for many years did not mention Patrick's name or his success was the position of the Irish Church respecting the decrees of Nicaea. Centuries were to pass [a little over two before Patrick appears in the Vatican records - DLF] before the papacy discovered that his merits were too firmly established to be overlooked. It labored to gather Patrick into its fold by inventing all kinds of history and fables to make him a papal hero. It surrounded with a halo of glory a certain Palladius, apparently sent by Rome to Ireland in the midst of Patrick's success. He also has been called Patrick.[46]

Patrick beheld Jesus as his substitute on the cross. He took his stand for the Ten Commandments. He says in his Confession: "I was taken to Ireland in captivity with many thousand men, in accordance with our deserts because we walked at a distance from God, and did not observe His commandments." Those who recoiled from the extreme speculations and conclusions of the so-called Trinitarians believed Deuteronomy 29:29: "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever."

    Just a comment in passing - the "eastern church" you refer to is the eastern splinter off the Church of Rome - the Constantinian church. Besides these was the Church of the East, or Syrian church, which did not recognize the authority of the Pope (Imperial Christianity), whether Western or Eastern branch, and eclipsed both in size and importance. Many other church traditions historically trace back to apostolic origins independent of the Constantinian church. These include the Vaudois, Waldenses, Albigenses, Celtic church, Italic church, and the many churches scattered across central Asia, from Antioch to China, who rejected the authority of the imperial church - western or eastern branch.

    Following George Murphy's comment about Nestorians in the eastern Roman church, the Church of the East was not, for the most part, Nestorian either, as some church histories suggest, though they rejected the more extreme speculations in later councils of the Imperial Church, as church historian Benjamin G. Wilkinson describes in his book, on-line at:

    Dennis Feucht
Received on Fri Sep 17 11:13:36 2004

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