Well, it’s been a while; over 2 weeks.
So this will lightly touch on several subjects.
Email Rumors: Taking Things With a Grain of Salt
I had an email forwarded to me titled "Interesting Facts." It read:
This October has 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays, all in 1 month. It happens once in 823 years. These are considered money bags months, based on Chinese fengshui.
That is interesting!
That isn’t true!
Think about this a minute. Why does October have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays, all in 1 month?
It’s because October has 31 days and starts on a Friday.
Do you really think that a 31 day month—there’s 7 of them each year—only starts on a Friday once every 823 years?
The last time a month had 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays was January, 2010. That’s not quite 823 years ago.
The last time October had 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays was 2004. That’s also a bit short of 823 years.
The day a month starts on goes forward one day of the week each year because a year is 52 weeks and one day long. Thus, next year, October will start on a Saturday.
The exception is a leap year, when the starting day jumps two days of the week forward. So, normally, October will have 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays every six years right on schedule, except when a leap year makes it jump from Thursday to Saturday. In that case, it will be 12 years between such Octobers, making it average out to exactly once every 7 years, which is what you’d expect since there’s 7 days in a week.
Back to Christianity
I was told that I spread "vile calumny" because of my teaching on the fall of the church.
I’ve been asked what I mean by that a lot, so I wrote a page explaining myself.
That page has a "What To Do About It" section that might be considered a wee bit controversial, but seems to me to be the only logically consistent step. I think that those who long for the purity of the church already know that’s what needs to be done.
On the Early Church Fathers
There’s a bloke (I hope that’s just a general word and not insulting in anyway; my English is a little lacking) from England who is probably going to think at some point that he provides most of the material for my blog. Half the time he writes me, I write a blog on the subject.
The truth is that the majority of everything that I write is prompted by questions. The rest is prompted by news reports or teachings I hear.
For example, the page I link above was prompted by a question from an Orthodox bishop in Jerusalem. Normally it would be gratifying to know a Jerusalem bishop is reading my site, but since he compared me to Jews who insult Jesus, I probably shouldn’t get too excited.
Anyway, I hope none of you think I’m recommending following everything the early church fathers said as though they’re some sort of second set of Scriptures!
The idea is to get as clear a picture as we can of the faith as it was practiced in the apostolic churches.
We can claim all we want that all we need is the Bible, but that’s not Biblical and it’s clear to see in real life that it doesn’t work. Look around. Real Christians who really have the Spirit and really want to know the will of God end up not only differing on Bible interpretations, but even dividing over them.
I bolded that for a reason. Division will send you to hell (Gal. 5:19-21).
That’s one key area where we’re off Biblically. We divide from one another like there’s no consequences. Oh, too bad, we think.
Yeah, well, Biblically and historically, that’s like shrugging off adultery or bank robbery. You don’t shrug it off. You confess, repent, and do everything in your power to make it right.
Anyway, the point of knowing what the early church fathers taught is not to do or believe everything they say. It’s to get a good general picture of the faith as it was known in the apostolic churches.
For example, Ignatius of Antioch puts an extreme emphasis on the importance of the bishop in the churches he writes to. He has 7 letters that he wrote in either A.D. 107 or 116, just 40 to 50 years after Peter and Paul were executed for the name of Jesus.
His letters stand out because there’s nothing else like them in his time period. Had he written his letters in A.D. 207 rather than 107, they would not have stood out so much. If he had written them in 307, they would not have stood out at all.
Ignatius wrote at a time that the gnostics were still in the church, dividing it and spreading false doctrines. John’s Gospels and letters had probably only been written a decade or two earlier, and the letters address gnosticism directly. So do Ignatius’ letters.
Ignatius, however, had a different solution than John did, a solution that must have seemed obvious to him: stick to the bishop.
Why? Schools of that day were simply homes or shops with a shingle hung out front. Gnostic teachers easily set up their own schools, took in students, and taught what they wanted without supervision and accountability. Then the teacher and his students would mingle with other members of the churches and spread their heresies (which at that time did not mean false doctrines, but doctrines which divided Christians).
Ignatius solution? Don’t go to those schools unless the bishop tells you it’s okay. Definitely don’t go to a baptism unless the bishop has approved it, or you could wind up baptized by an non-Christian heretic!
So what do we learn from Ignatius?
I don’t recommend simply following his suggestion unless your bishop—that word just denoted the head elder of a church in Ignatius’ writings—is a man you ought to follow.
What I do recommend is learning. The church in Ignatius’ day was free! Church members baptized freely, it seems, or Ignatius would not have had to tell them to stop doing so without the bishop’s permission. People taught the Scriptures freely, and church members were free to attend each others’ teachings, or else Ignatius would not have had to tell them to make sure those teachings were checked out by the bishop.
This is the purpose of the early Christian writings. There are important global things to learn! Such as …
I hope that’s clear. I don’t recommend just following whatever they say. Overall, I do think there was a couple things that crept into the church early. They had a negative view of sex in marriage and honored lifetime virginity in a way that seems clearly unscriptural to me. The authority of and emphasis on church leadership, and the divide between "clergy" and "laity," grew quickly, though that did not really even begin until the middle of the 2nd century.
Things the Fathers Taught
I do recommend knowing what the church was like, however. It’s worth knowing that no one believed in a purely symbolic communion or baptism for centuries after the time of Christ. Baptism was the point of conversion, not a sinner’s prayer, and the believers all thought they received grace and power from eating the fellowship meal.
They were exceptionally gracious in allowing variance of opinions on doctrines, they did not all speak in tongues, and they did not believe in taking lives …. even in war. Their emphasis was on behavior, not theological doctrines.
All those things are global things that the church, not just any individual fathers, taught, and those things are worth knowing.