Images of Hate - Ministers of Fear
WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?
Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity,
of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectical compositions
From the beginning of Christianity there have been those who considered themselves qualified to determine what constitutes Christianity and what does not. The damaging struggle between Arius and Athanasius was not the first of the major struggles for the coveted title of orthodox. New Testament writings contain evidence of widespread conflict about the teaching of Jesus and the apostles. They demonstrate the presence of corrupting influences, false doctrines, foretelling that worse would follow. Paul wrote to the elders at Ephesus:
For I know that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears.
Paul's refers to apostate factions within the church gaining strength after his leaving. His words to the Thessalonican saints were even more chilling:
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was with yet you I told you these things?
The "falling away" referred to here has been understood by some Bible scholars to mean a gradual process of some members losing ground in their Christian faith. However, the word in Greek is the root of the English word 'apostasy', whose meaning is drastic, being synonymous with political and religious rebellion depending upon its context. In verses 3 and 4 Paul prophesies that the result of this rebellion would be to place a supplanter on the throne of God as head of the church. Paul does not infer that the structure of the church would succumb, but that God would no longer be at the head. He does not imply that this will happen because the church is abandoned by God, but the church would be led astray because,
Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived... For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables.
Paul warned Timothy that the Holy Spirit had revealed that,
In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
The epistle of Jude deals with an assault on the church by certain groups of Gnostics. Jude writes,
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ...but, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
Some have difficulty discovering the specific meaning of Jesus' words to the apostles as recorded in Matthew's gospel:
And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The Roman Catholic position is that this short passage affirms the primacy of Peter as chief apostle of the Church of Christ and forerunner of popes. Paul does not appear convinced by this. He describes the foundation of Christ's Church as greater than a solitary apostle.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.
In this passage Paul identifies the foundation as the college of apostles and available evidence points to the college of apostles headed by the triumvirate of Peter, James and John, through whom Jesus passed on his authority.
Paul was the main actor in establishing Christianity as a world religion. The Jerusalem Church never rose above the equivalent of a Jewish sect and was subsequently swamped in the Roman-Jewish War. Christianity was adopted by the failing empire by Constantine as he struggled to hold it together. When Constantine moved his seat of empire eastwards, the Church moved into the political vacuum. It suited its purpose as it sought world domination under the banner of Christendom, by advancing the claim of supremacy of the Roman bishop over all the Church and over all other bishops.
The greatest contribution to the rise of papal power was a document known as the Donation of Constantine in which Constantine supposedly grants to Pope Sylvester I and his successors spiritual supremacy over the patriarchates, and the spiritual and temporal power over Rome and the Western Empire. The document was discovered to be an eighth century forgery, but not until the fifteenth century, by which time the damage was done. Discovery of the forgery did nothing to temper papal claims.
The history of Christianity is well documented, as is its continuing deviation from the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, which eventually resulted in universal apostasy. The gates of hell had not prevailed against the Church of Christ, but men's minds had been persuaded to seek religious truth in other directions and from sources other than that which rested upon the foundation of apostles and prophets. It is a mistake to consider the apostate church as without worth, or to believe that those who worshipped in it are lost souls. It is proper to recognise the many good people who constantly sought to reform the Church in its "roots and branches." The hundreds of thousands who died for maintaining their religious consciences are powerful witnesses for the strength of their internal religion. Many historians denigrate the wealth of devotion displayed, ignorant of the impressive faith that informed their daily lives.
The claim of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ restored after a long period of apostasy contributed to the hostile attention it received from other Christians. But how realistic is the Latter-day Saints' claim to be Christian? If those who accept the claims Jesus made about himself, and what the New Testament says about him, are Christians, then Latter-day Saints are Christians. But if one takes the view, as some do, that a Christian is one who accepts the ruling of certain councils of the post-Apostolic Church, and later decisions, in relation to the nature of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, that raises problems.
A primary objection is Mormon rejection of the Holy Trinity. While they accept The Fatherhood of God and the Sonship of Jesus Christ and the divinity of the Holy Ghost, they are regarded as three separate entities within one Godhead. Mormon doctrine on the Godhead insists on the subordination of the Son on the Father as evidenced in the words of Jesus:
Father if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.
Two separate wills were evident here, and Jesus is submissive to that of his Father. The Nicean and Chalcedonian doctrines of one person in the Godhead will not admit of two different wills, for if there are two wills there must be two persons. The heresy of Noetus claimed that God the Father died on the cross, accusing those who opposed this view of having another person, Jesus, die on the cross, which he claimed was ditheism. Hyppolitus took up the challenge around the middle of the second century and controverted the heresy.
If, again, he uses his own word when he said "I and the Father are one," let [Noetus] attend to the fact that he did not say, "I and the Father am one," but "are one." For the word 'are' (esmen) is not said of one person, but it refers to two persons and one power
He has himself made this clear, when he spake to the Father concerning the disciples, "The glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be made perfect in one; that the world may know that thou hast sent me." What have the Noetians to say to these things?
Are all one body in respect of substance, or is it that we become one in the power and disposition of unity of mind?...
A man, therefore, even though he will it not, is compelled to acknowledge God, the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who being God, became man, to whom also the Father made all things subject, himself excepted, and the Holy Spirit; and that these therefore, are three.
The translator of Hyppolitus added a note:
Justin Martyr says that the Son is "eteron ti (something other) than the Father," and Tertullian affirms, "Filium et Patre, esse aliud ab alio," with the same intent as Hyppolitus here, Viz: to express the distinction of the Son from the Father.
As if to confirm the separateness of himself and the Father, Jesus told that there he did not know something which the Father knew. If they were the same person it would follow that what one knew the other would also know.
Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
Ecclesiastical historian, Tixeront, comments on the distinction of the Father and the Son, according to the Church fathers who defended the doctrines to pagan philosophers and Jews.
The Verb, who later will be Jesus Christ, is the Son of God....Hence and by virtue of this generation, the Son is distinct from the Father. This distinction is placed more or less in relief by the Apologists: Saint Justin strongly insists on it. In relation to God the Creator, the Son is another, another as to number, although in accord with him. He is not distinguished from him by name only, as the light is distinguished from the sun, but he is numerically something else....Tatian and Athenagorus use equivalent expressions.
This doctrine is older than the Nicean development by almost a hundred years, and older than the Chalcedonian Definition by almost two hundred years. It is nearer the time of Jesus Christ's personal ministry, and was taught before the Christianization of the pagan empire which made a philosophical explanation of Christology necessary so that the Greeks and Romans could appreciate it on their terms. The development of the Trinity marks this compromise, a result of charges that Christians were not strict monotheists. Tixeront also says,
Origen does not cease to combat Modalism by affirming the real distinction of the Son from the Father.
These quotations demonstrate the tenacity with which the early church held that the Father and the Son were distinct persons, following the teachings of the New testament and of the Saviour himself.
Ye have heard how I said to you, I go away and come again unto you. If ye love me ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father; for my Father is greater than I.
One wonders what more Jesus could say to express his distinction from his Father. If one is greater than the other, they can not be the same. Otherwise there is a contradiction such as is inherent in the doctrine of the Trinity. Attempts to define Trinitarian doctrine in the Bible is a reading back into the documents a doctrine that did not originate in them. For the most part, the New Testament documents are simple compositions, meant to explain what the Church taught and believed. They are not theological or philosophical treatises, and attempts to understand them on these terms are but preparations for failure.
Because of their faith in the divine mission of Jesus of Nazareth as the very Son of God, and their faith that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the divinely Restored Church of Jesus Christ, Mormons are superlatively Christian. They are Christian on foundation, in faith, in practice and in aspirations. Because these self-evident truths are clearly demonstrated in the lives of Church members, it is increasingly difficult for anti-Mormons to continue denying Christian status to Latter-day Saints. Jesus said, "By their fruits ye shall know them," and speaking of the "Mormon Jesus" in opposition to the Saviour and Redeemer of the world is an imprudent falsehood intended to deceive the uninformed.
There is hope that those who have been mislead by writers hostile to the Restored Gospel will be able to open their minds sufficiently to consider the claims of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not only to rid them of false notions, but that they might share in the blessings of a just God.