I’m traveling … not much time to be posting blogs, but this email discussion I’m having addresses an important issue. So here’s the email …
I don’t have the confidence that you have to say, “How can the pope and ecumenical bishops deny the first 300 years of the church if brought to them accurately?”
I’ve been asking questions of Christians–Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, and Independents alike–for 28 years now. I used to believe that if they only knew what was true, they would change. It took me a long time and a lot of heartache to realize that most of them don’t want to know what is true. No matter how you present the truth, they will not understand it because they don’t want to understand it.
THE GATES OF HADES
I’d like to also question one of your premises. You said that the promise that the gates of Hades would not prevail against the church means that the true church will always be here until Jesus returns.
Does it really mean that? I know the Roman Catholic Church says it means that, but does that interpretation really make any sense?
Think about it. Since when are gates offensive weapons?
Gates are for defense. I think that Jesus is saying that the church, wherever it exists, will have the power to overthrow death (Hades being the place of the dead in Scripture). If it happens not to exist at some time, that doesn’t mean Jesus promise isn’t true. It’s not the gates of Hades that caused the church to begin accepting carnal people during the time of Constantine.
It is simply true that the testimony of the church was at least reduced and perhaps absent during the 4th century.
It is also true that if you wanted to see a group of people with the same testimony that 2nd century churches had–unity, love, commitment to Jesus Christ, rejection of this world–then the place to find that testimony was among the Anabaptists, not among the Catholics or Protestants.
Thus, I would argue that God doesn’t recognize or care about hierarchies. The church is an organism, not an organization, and it always has been.
Let’s take my small town, for example. If the Gospel of Christ is preached, and people begin to live by his Spirit, displaying the righteousness that is always the product of the Gospel, and uniting with one another as a family in love … why should those people bother to contact a hierarchy that is neither scripturally nor historically justified?
Why shouldn’t those people simply continue in the Gospel together, opening their hearts and homes for fellowship with any other churches living the same way?
As Tertullian put it: “Those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine.”
It is teaching (and the holy living that results from teaching) that marks a church as apostolic, not its attachment to an unscriptural organization.