The Councils, the Creeds, and the Salvation of Souls

I always say there’s nothing like reading error to motivate one to write truth.

I’m prone to writing error here and there, too. I’m human. I have things I don’t understand. I have things I forget to consider.

Teaching and Truth

Hopefully those of us who take it upon ourselves to teach will at least never make errors on purpose. Some do, however, Some are so bent on some supposed truth that they couldn’t care less about facts, history, Scripture or anything else. They’ll twist anything to prove their point. (Thus, the anti-Norman Geisler post two days ago.)

Catholicism, the Councils, the Creeds and Men’s Salvation

The one today, however, is not a purposeful twisting of history, I’m quite sure. It’s simply not considering history. It’s so easy not to notice the obvious.

On a “Equipping Catholics” blog, I read:

It is very important that we take a moment to recognize the impact heresies and anti-Christ philosophies can have on the eternal destinies of their adherents. False concepts of Christ can pull people away from the only narrow path that Jesus said leads to eternal salvation. False doctrines about Christ can result in the eternal loss of one’s soul.

And that is precisely why the Father gave us the Church — to protect us from those falsehoods and erroneous philosophies about salvation, sin and judgment …

Indeed, it was the early Church Councils (such as Nicea, Ephesus, Constantinople and Chalcedon) that handed down to the 21st century Church what is still considered the orthodox Christian faith — much of which is illustrated in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

What this writer means is that it’s a good thing that these councils came along to defeat heresies like Arianism and Nestorianism, or else people might be pulled away “from the only narrow path that Jesus said leads to eternal salvation.”

What the writer did not consider–nor have most of the rest of us considered–is whether it worked.

Did the councils of Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon lead people to follow Christ on the narrow path and save their souls?

Did they not rather lead to a top-heavy hierarchy, numerous false conversions, and a church full of corruption, superstition, and false doctrines? A church which later would be rightly called antichrist by the multitudes that fled its corruption and persecution?

Catholicism and the Dark Ages

After the councils, Christians became the persecutors rather than the persecuted. Rather than desecrating temples of idols, they created temples of idols so much that the emperor Julian the Apostate declared that Christians surpassed the pagans in their hero worship (by worshipping saints).

The last of the seven councils, of which the aforementioned are the first four, approved the “veneration” of icons. That Council, overriding a previous one, declared that it was appropriate to proskuneo a picture of a saint, as long as you didn’t latreia it.

Both those words are translated worship in the NT. In fact, both are used in Jesus’ statement to the devil, when he quoted Deuteronomy, “You shall worship (proskuneo) the Lord your God and him only shall you serve (latreia).” It seems clear to me that Jesus would not have approved of the worship of a picture of Peter, any more than Peter, who rejected proskuneo from Cornelius (Acts 10:25), would.

The Church produced from these great councils refused to allow its followers to hear the Scriptures, whether written or read aloud, in a language their followers could understand.  They burned John Huss and William Tyndale alive for giving people the Scriptures in the vernacular, and they burned John Wycliffe’s bones twelve years after he was buried because they couldn’t find him while he was alive.

This Church created “the Dark Ages,” the greatest time of ignorance in the world since before Sumeria in 6000 BC, and to this day they continue to produce Christians that are well over 90% Christian in name only.

I don’t think the councils succeeded at keeping people on the narrow path for the salvation of their soul.

Would Allowing Heresy Have Done Better?

Yes.

I suppose you want me to give reasons for asserting that.

  1. It could not have done worse; that’s impossible.
  2. It may have prevented the church gaining political power, and that’s always better.
  3. The churches did not hold a council to rout the gnostics, but they were driven out, anyway.
  4. If the Church had not gone into cahoots with the emperor, they may not have admitted all those unconverted pagans who switched to Christianity for purely political reasons.

Since the Church did hold the councils, and since they did get political help to win their battles, history went the way it did. We’ll never know what would have happened had it not happened.

However, I find it impossible to believe that a lack of understanding of the Trinity, which Tertullian said was common in the church in A.D. 200,  could have led to as many people forsaking the narrow path and losing their souls than the rout of councils and creeds did.

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13 Responses to The Councils, the Creeds, and the Salvation of Souls

  1. “We don’t limit Christians to those who are at RCV…”
    Good to hear it plainly put, and a real mark of distinction from the TT, which sadly is the most well known example of “Christian” community.

  2. Shammah says:

    Gosh, I feel like I’ve answered that question 3 or 4 times in this exchange.

    The Gospel is faith in Christ–real faith in Christ, not just agreement to some facts about Christ, which means repentance as well. It doesn’t do much good to enter the church if you have no relationship with Christ. The church is the sum total of its parts, and each part is supposed to have grace from God for the benefit of the whole.

    We don’t limit Christians to those who are at RCV. In fact, I just met well over a thousand people, all of whom seemed to be true servants of God who love Christ and the Gospel, just this last weekend at a medical missions conference. It was one of the most refreshing things I’ve ever experienced.

  3. “People will not merely experience community. They will experience Christ, real and powerful, that will drive them to the vertical relationship.”

    Yes, that is much what is lacking today. The church is to be a demonstration of both the power of God and the love of God. In Acts 5 we see both, a demonstration of supernatural power, in both positive and negative ways, and love which called souls know the source of, manifesting that it required repentance and faith, while actually deterring insincere souls from casually presuming to take part of it. The power aspect also testified to the reality of Christ in Acts 2, and worked great reverence for God in among the disciples. (2:33,43) I am inferring i am an example of this, nor do i much of that in the Evang. church at large (and aberrations that repel faith), but do see it as an ideal.

    But as my concern is that as i see the actual preaching of the gospel to be one of calling souls, wherever the lost may be, to be born again thru repentance and faith, if they have a poor and contrite heart, so my question was whether this is what RCV does, over needing to come to the community to do so, and whether you consider souls to have been saved, born again, before they joined RCV (unlike TTT).

    Thank God for your patience in responding to my posts.

  4. I think we substantially agree on the need for evangelism by both verbal/written means as well as corporate witness, but i would like to comment on some of your statements in emphasizing the latter.

    1. You assert that the belief that the great commission was for more than the apostles is “without justification or reference”, and that “there’s nothing in any of those Scriptures [i provided] about anyone except the apostles preaching.” However, Acts 8:4 and 11:19-21 do show that the scattered disciples went everywhere preaching the word, “to none but the Jews only”, but which resulted in converts “preaching the Lord Jesus ” to Gentiles who were then converted. Hearing of this, the church which which was in Jerusalem sent forth Barnabas to minister to them, and they became part of a church at Antioch.

    And additional note is that the apostles were not alone in giving miraculous witness to the resurrection, as deacons Stephen and Phillip also did so, (Acts 6:8; 8:6) and which “the hand of the Lord” being with the disciples in 11:21 might also convey.

    You do go on to affirm that Stephen Philip, and Timothy preached, but you seem to use this to restrict the preaching the gospel to a select few who are sent forth, formally by the church i assume, as missionaries (which office does exist), while 8:4 states the disciples at large did so. To which number could be added Apollos, a previous disciple of John, for was tutored by a more learned Christian couple, and who then “mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.” (Acts 18:28)

    As part of your argument you also state that “Paul went nowhere preaching for over a decade before God sent him.” I think this which requires a problematic chronology, as Acts 9 indicates that no longer than 3 years after his conversion, and perhaps much sooner, “straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20)

    When you do deal with, “the scattered believers went everywhere preaching the Word”, you seem to be trying to make a distinction between distinctly preaching the gospel, as part of the great commission, to preaching the word. While it is true that not all that Jesus did is in Scripture, (Jn. 21:25) nor all that can be revealed, (Rv. 10:4), and so “the Word” can include “parts that we do not have in the Scriptures even today” yet is by the objective written authority of the Scriptures – which progressively came to be established as the wholly inspired Word by their power, purity and consistency, and which body of writings are explicitly declared to be so (2Tim. 3:16) – that all other spiritual or moral revelation is tested.

    The RCC examples what happens when one presumes to infallibly declare themselves infallible (and infallibly define under what conditions, if not when all have been met), and then “teach for doctrines the commandments of men,” being things which clearly contradict the Scripture, which authority is what Jesus (and Paul, etc,) invoked (Mk. 7:7-13; Acts 7:2,11; 28:23, etc.)

    I think preaching the word can easily also include valid personal testimony of Christ, as seen in John 4:28-30,39-42, as well as explaining the gospel message (Acts 10:36ff), and Scriptural reproof, rebuke, and exhortation. (2Tim. 4:2)

    “If Christians were doing what the Scriptures do command, then they’d have something to speak.” Or more than just what God did or their soul, though the multitude of great hymns primarily testify and wonderfully express that.

    “When the disciples multiply, God’s Word grows!” Yes, as the “containers” express it, but as the text (Acts 6:7) states, and others conflate, it is faith in the word that is what essentially results in witnessing, and which I see as the gospel message more than how wonderful the community is, though that serves as “a vase to the flowers.”

    “there is nothing in the epistles exhorting the church to evangelism.” This is true, and we also do not see exhortations to invite people to church, as the focus is on heart and life purity. But evangelists are a primary office, (Eph. 4:11) and “follow me” was a command given by those who did such, and it is impossible to read the gospels and Acts and not see the importance of public preaching/witnessing as done therein. But we are so exhorted that both individually and corporately our life witness is to be so different as to cause inquiry.

    Finally, as re your conclusion that Protestant’s emphasis on evangelism “causes many to fall away, and prevents far more people from coming to Christ than it brings to Christ”, i dare say that today their is little emphasis, outside “friendship evangelism”, and actually relatively very few Evangelicals, much less mainline Protestants, actually personally evangelize as opportunity arises, and most seem to believe their life witness is sufficient. Instead, what is the cause which works against souls coming to Christ is the rejection of the surrender to Him which results in individual and corporate witness, and can be accompanied by true supernatural attestation (some are thus gifted), not the counterfeit.

    And in all this, i write as one who looks to balance on a higher ground, which i come much short of.

  5. Shammah says:

    Well, we could keep arguing, but …

    You said: >>It is this relationship that is at the core of all that expresses it, and which alone can and will carry you through, while even brethren can fail you.<>The danger is that community becomes magnified over the person of Christ, and He first and foremost must be the attraction, and Lord and Savior.<<

    If the community is the body of Christ, that can't happen. With a caveat, I would agree that this is a real danger.

    The caveat is that the person of Christ will be found in a community that is the body of Christ. People will not merely experience community. They will experience Christ, real and powerful, that will drive them to the vertical relationship.

    I've seen it happen repeatedly, even with a couple atheists who came here.

    Shammah

  6. I see your replies, and want to again state that I am not advocating evangelism by actual preaching of the gospel (by verbal or written means) without the need and viability of the visible, corporate witness of the church, if it is to be found, yet the church exists and grows thru faith in the Word (the meaning of which will be commented on), with the church testifying to its power, as do miracles done by God (and just getting Christians to be of one accord is one!).

    When souls hear and believe in “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” they are born again, (Eph. 1:13; Acts 15:7-9) and spiritually become part of the church, (1Cor. 12:13) the general household of faith. (Gal. 6:10) This of course, will result in wanting to be part of a local, visible body, and i am sure such souls as the Ethiopian eunuch, who were save without a visible corporate testimony, would seek out.

    I think the main distinction is that I do not see the thrust of recorded evangelistic preaching in Acts as inviting souls to be part of the unity and fellowship of a corporate communal body, which seems to be the main message on your site, though the miraculous testimony of the holy prima N.T. church was powerful when visible, (Acts 5:13) but what they called souls to was reconciliation with God, to fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ through repentance and faith directly in Him. It is this relationship that is at the core of all that expresses it, and which alone can and will carry you through, while even brethren can fail you. (2Tim. 4:16,17) I believe that it is this holy eternal life relationship which is really what 1Jn. 1:1-3 (on your RCV home page) primarily speaks of.

    The danger is that community becomes magnified over the person of Christ, and He first and foremost must be the attraction, and Lord and Savior.

    I will comment on the specifics of your message below.

  7. Shammah says:

    My response to you kept growing, so rather than put it here, I just wrote a new blog with today’s (Nov. 10) date.

    It’s here: http://rosecreekvillage.com/shammah/archives/112

    Directly to you, though, is that I’m not picking on you when I question your results, Dan. I’m pointing something out. That emphasis on evangelism doesn’t work without an emphasis first on the church.

    From day one, the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Protestants don’t seem to know it’s necessary to add people to the church. Of course, they don’t have any churches. They only have Christian clubs for converts to attend. Therefore, almost all (over 90% by some estimates, over 80% by all estimates) fall away.

    RCV does not reject evangelism. We love to evangelize.

    However, emphasizing evangelism to Protestants just accentuates what has already turned into a false doctrine that causes ***MOST*** of them to fall away.

    So going after your right to say these things is a purposeful attempt to call into question your authority, lest that false emphasis–so dangerous and deadly–grow in others.

  8. Shammah, I am sorry that you think i am arguing that preaching without community is the answer, as while I see living together as an community as an ideal, my contention is that church cannot substitute actually preaching the gospel of salvation with the passive witness of a community,

    Where are the Scriptures that tell the church to go out preaching?

    The great commission was not only for the apostles, and “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name” (Luke 24:47) was first by actual preaching, not primarily by example of community.

    It is evident that after the organic church community which is first seen in Acts 2-7 was broken up by persecution then the church “went every where preaching the word”, except the apostles who stayed in Jerusalem. (Acts 8:1-4)

    As regards the second proposition, the book of Acts evidences what manner of preaching the apostles and the scattered church primarily actively engaged in. (Acts 2:14-40; 3:12-26; 9:26-39; 10:34-43; 9:26; 11:19-21; 13:16-49; 17:2,3, 17-31; 24:25; 28:23-27; etc.) While obedience to Christ would result in church community, it was the call to a vertical relationship thru repentance and faith with Christ which came first.

    >They also powerfully emphasized living as the family of God, taking care of one another, and sharing all things….the Scriptures speak on almost every page as to how Christians should treat each other.Sometimes we go out and talk to people on purpose, and sometimes we don’t.Paul…didn’t have to preach near the Thessalonians because of the powerful testimony of their church.The Welch Revival had a powerful effect. I did not “minimalize” it, as you say, but I said what was true. Its effects drained away.You can preach the cross a lot, and most people will then talk about it, but they will not deny their own lives.Some of them, like you, look very religious, so they can claim to be denying themselves.I am not going to act like you have a place to speak of these things, Dan. It is fruit that gives a prophet a right to speak.

    “A right to speak these things”? Shammah, this is a blog, with a place for comments, and i have been seeking to discuss, with some challenge, doctrinal issues in sincerity

    But yes, I do come much short of the ideals of which i wrote, but my speech has been much in the interest in seeking what manner of fruit RCV produces (as one attracted to such), of its doctrine and spirit, which your replies help reveal. Thank you.

  9. Shammah says:

    Dan,

    On what basis do you say the things you say?

    The early churches did powerfully preach the cross. They also powerfully emphasized living as the family of God, taking care of one another, and sharing all things. The churches that heard the apostles continued to do the same thing.

    Hundreds of churches say what you say, and most of them, like you, are ineffective. They have a lot of talk, but very little results.

    You can preach the cross a lot, and most people will then talk about it, but they will not deny their own lives. Some of them, like you, look very religious, so they can claim to be denying themselves.

    Outside the church, that’s utterly meaningless. Outside the church, your words about the cross and about revival preaching are worthless. Where’s the results?

    Evan Roberts got results. That is true. The Welch Revival had a powerful effect. I did not “minimalize” it, as you say, but I said what was true. Its effects drained away. Worse, its principle preacher had a nervous breakdown and became a recluse for the last four decades of his life.

    To answer your question, RCV does preach a Gospel of repentance toward God and faith toward Christ, which I assume people can see even on this blog. Sometimes we go out and talk to people on purpose, and sometimes we don’t.

    The fact is, the Scriptures speak on almost every page as to how Christians should treat each other. They promise through Christ that if they live as they ought, they will be like a city that cannot be hidden. Then they speak of the fulfillment through Paul, who said that he didn’t have to preach near the Thessalonians because of the powerful testimony of their church.

    But what is happening today? People have forgotten the church, and now you ask if the church is the only testimony we have?

    Where are the Scriptures that tell the church to go out preaching? Where are all the exhortations to evangelize that Protestants dump on their cold, divided members? Where is the discussion about the need for revival preaching?

    Is there somewhere that Paul, Peter, James, or John talk about these things?

    There’s not.

    I am not going to act like you have a place to speak of these things, Dan. It is fruit that gives a prophet a right to speak. You speak of things that you have not experienced, and talk of results that you have not seen.

    There is a guy I went to hear in Kansas who has been studying and preaching revival for nigh on 30 years now. He was in New Zealand, and then “God” called him to the UK, and then to the USA, and now back to New Zealand. In 30 years he’s accomplished almost nothing.

    If he were willing to change, I wouldn’t fault him. If he weren’t still writing his powerless message on the internet, I wouldn’t fault him. I had to experiment, too. I had to preach a lot of things to people in hope that they would respond.

    However, when I found people who had fruit, who had God backing up their message, then I gave mine up and I followed theirs.

    You ought to do the same.

  10. Thanks for your reply.

    I was not arguing against the church as a community, but that the prima N.T. church, which was a family and an army, joined together in the Spirit, did not come to be due stressing becoming a Christian community, which have come and gone, but because of the powerful preaching of the cross and all that entails.

    Genuine revivals, such as the Welch revivals and numerous others, ( http://www.jedwinorr.com/video.htm) are not to be minimized, and such had profound effects (and are in contrast with manufactured ones). That the church cooled off need not fault that which quickened them (and Christian communities have also come and gone). But i think a further growth have should have resulted in the the church living more organically as a community. Like the Reformation, which was necessary but incomplete, our march to Zion must continue.

    However, what I was reacting against is the idea, real or perceived, that it is by focusing on exhorting people to live in organic communities that restoration of the church to its N.T. model (which was adaptable) will be realized. Instead, such can only happen when we have the kind of broken hearts and contrite spirits that preceded such, and which the apostolic preaching worked to bring.

    Jesus commission was first and foremost to actually preach the gospel, which is seen by the apostles so doing. The first church in Jerusalem did not begin by inviting the Jews to share a meal, or see how they lived in the upper room, but by compassionately convicting the lost of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. The resultant surrender to the Lord Jesus enabled the church to become an organic community.

    Until that’s restored, all of the emphasis on a community, is not going to change anything.

    My question is, does RCV actually go out to preach the gospel, as the apostles did in Acts, of repentance directly to God and faith in the Lord Jesus, or is their witness only that of a passive type, in living as you do, or calling souls to experience the communal Christian life (though that can be a result of conversion)?

    Re: The church is a family, a place where the shepherd knows every sheep.

    Yes, but as this can exist in small churches, what you left out was living as an organic community. While i think this aspect should be more prevalent, I do believe Christians owned houses, etc, and that overall it was not required of converts to literally leave all and join a community as the church grew, though true surrender puts all at God’s disposal.

    P.S. Tell Jim and Ed I said high.

  11. Shammah says:

    I don’t have any problems with leaving Dan Hamilton’s links up, but let me make it clear that while I prefer revival to a bunch of cold people in pews, the fact is that God’s plan is not hot, cold, or lukewarm people in pews.

    God’s plan is a family, knit together as one in the Spirit of God. I looked at Dan’s video link, and it’s just more preaching. There are a thousand preachers preaching exactly that message. I’ve heard it. I’ve heard it over and over and over and over and over in the midst of people who continue in division, denominationalism, and who grow cold over time.

    It is ONLY in the church that people can continue in the end. It is ONLY in the church–a family joined together in the Spirit–that the power of Christ keeps people growing from the beginning of their walk to the end.

    Under preaching like that in the video, there is often some excitement. On rare occasions, the Spirit of God moves and there is revival. None of it ever lasts because there’s no container for the life of God.

    The only container for the life of God is the church, and the church is not a building, nor a series of meetings. The church is a family, a place where the shepherd knows every sheep. It’s a place that you can’t simply attend. Joining means really being joined. Everyone knows your name, and if a sheep wanders, it is noticeable, and the shephends can leave the 99 to go get the one.

    Until that’s restored, all of the revival preaching in the world is not going to change anything.

  12. Shammah says:

    It’s important to point out that RCV itself is not suggesting that community is the answer. We are not a community; we are a church.

    If by “RCV model,” you mean multiple families to a large house or Christians all living in one neighborhood, then no, it’ is not the only way church existed in the NT. However, if you mean loving one another, actively being involved in one another’s lives, taking up one another’s burdens, and sharing everything you have with your brother in need as though it were as much his as yours, then yes, the RCV model is the only NT model.

    In America, where everyone is rich, people are not going to survive without learning to share with each other and overthrow the trust in money that leads us to idolize college educations, good careers, and a safe retirement fund.

  13. The problem is not “trying them which say they are apostles, and are not,” (Rv. 2:2), but the means by which heretic are dealt with. The N.T. church is set up in such a way that it requires spiritual power to gain converts and to deal with its enemies. (2Cor. 6:1-10; 10:3-5) It was the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation, not the power of the sword, and it is by regeneration that the church grows, (1Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13) not by the things which result from that (though necessary).

    The charter of the church is to bring souls to be controlled from within, by God and conscience, while only the State is sanctioned to justly use gun control and physical force (Rm. 13:1-5; 1Pet. 2:13,14; take that away and who will obey?).

    The church was not to rule over those without, (1Cor. 5:12,13), as was the situation during the Crusades (and the Roger Williams experienced), nor did it use physical force against those under its overseership*, as in the Inquisitions. Instead, spiritual power was its means, passively as in disfellowship, and pro-actively as in Acts 5, 1Cor. 5, Acts 13:6-11; 1tim. 1:20)

    When we seek to use Saul’s armour in spiritual battles, versus that of God under the New Covenant, then we actually become more vulnerable, while the fire of god will not fall. When persecution of the early church ceased, and it actually gained State sanction, it faced an different sort of test than that of persecution, and it began a course of declension which resulted in it becoming the great gates of Hell for multitudes who placed their trust in it, being conformed to the Empire in which is was birthed. And is it that conformity that we find ourselves yielding to today, imperceptibly as well as evidently. http://peacebyjesus.witnesstoday.org/RevealingStatistics.html

    The answer however, is not simply community, nor do i think that the RCV model is the only way the the church existed in the N.T., but in the kind of humble and contrite seeking and preaching the precipitated revivals in times past (and which the devil worked to infiltrate and imitate), and the active outreach to he lost in actually preaching the gospel, with supernatural attestations (all of which I much fail in) , and not that of showboat evangelists either. (I think this man is the best and most genuine preacher i have heard http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=B.%20H.%20Clendennen.&sourceid=navclient-ff&rlz=1B3GGGL_enUS227US237&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wv# http://www.schoolofchristinternational.com/media/index.html)

    *children are under parents, and i think the wise corporeal force is allowed, as needed, nor is that force otherwise disallowed always for Christians.

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