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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Comments From Church Historian J.N.D Nelly On Tradition In The Early Church

  • Introduction:
           -Apologists for the Church of Rome are notorious for quoting the early church fathers to support their views on "apostolic traditions". They use this tactic with practically all topics pertinent to their peculiar doctrines. But following are some rather insightful comments from Church Historian J.N.D. Nelly in regards to how the most primitive Christians after biblical times used the word tradition in their writings. The following excerpts have been taken from his work titled "Early Christian Doctrines", pages 36 through 46:

[Tertullian] insisted that Christians must not pick and choose doctrines according to their whims; their sole authorities were the apostles, who had themselves faithfully transmitted Christ’s teaching.  Both [Tertullian and Irenaeus] on occasion described this original message as tradition, using the word to denote the teaching delivered by the apostles, without any implied contrast between tradition and Scripture.  p.36

On the other hand, Irenaeus took it for granted that the apostolic tradition had also been deposited in written documents.  As he says, “what the apostles at first proclaimed by word of mouth, they afterwards by God’s will conveyed to us in Scriptures.” pp. 37-38

Did Irenaeus then subordinate Scripture to unwritten tradition?…. his real defense of orthodoxy was founded on Scripture.  Indeed, tradition itself, on his view, was confirmed by Scripture, which was “the foundation and pillar of our faith.”  Secondly, Irenaeus admittedly suggested that a firm grasp of “the canon of truth” received at baptism would prevent a man from distorting the sense of Scripture.  But this “canon,” so far from being something distinct from Scripture, was simply a condensation of the message contained in it. … The whole point of his teaching was, in fact, that Scripture and the Church’s unwritten tradition are identical in content, both being vehicles of the revelation. 
pp. 38-39

[Tertullian] was emphatic that no secret tradition existed, and that it was incredible that the apostles did not know, or failed to pass on, the revelation in its entirety.  p.40

Like Irenaeus, Tertullian is convinced that Scripture is consonant in all its parts, and that its meaning should be clear if it is read as a whole.  But where controversy with heretics breaks out, the right interpretation can be found only where the true Christian faith and discipline have been maintained, i.e. in the Church.  The heretics, he complained, were able to make Scripture say what they liked because they disregarded the regula.  p.40

It was the Bible, declared Clement of Alexandria about A.D. 200, which as interpreted by the Church, was the source of Christian teaching.  His greater disciple Origen was a thorough-going Biblicist who appealed again and again to Scripture as the decisive criterion of dogma.  The Church drew her catechetical material, he stated, from the prophets, the gospels and the apostles’ writings; her faith, he suggested, was buttressed by Holy Scripture supported by common sense.  “The holy and inspired Scriptures,” wrote Athanasius a century later, “are fully sufficient for the proclamation of the truth”; while his contemporary, Cyril of Jerusalem, laid it down that “with regard to the divine and saving mysteries of faith no doctrine, however trivial, may be taught without the backing of the divine Scriptures…. For our saving faith derives its force, not from capricious reasonings, but from what may be proved out of the Bible.”  Later in the same century John Chrysostom bade his congregation seek no other teacher that the oracles of God; everything was straightforward and clear in the Bible, and the sum of necessary knowledge could be extracted from it.  In the West Augustine declared that “in the plain teaching of Scripture we find all that concerns our belief and moral conduct”; while a little later Vincent of Lerins (d. c. 450) took it as an axiom the Scriptural canon was “sufficient, and more than sufficient, for all purposes.”  pp.42-43

Further, it was everywhere taken for granted that, for any doctrine to win acceptance, it had first to establish its Scriptural basis.  p. 46 

Ye Are Gods!

  • Introduction:
         -Of course, one could easily reach the conclusion that I am embracing an extremely heterodox doctrine by ignoring all of the contents presented within this article. The title only serves to add some humor to the subjects pertaining to Mormonism. In reality, this paper intends to refute the Mormon misinterpretation of John 10:34, which is a quotation from Psalm 82. Mormons interpret the phrase "You are gods" in the mentioned passage from John's Gospel and Psalm 82:6 to mean that we can become gods in the afterlife. Although Mormons, Hindus, and New Agers alike have made this biblical argument to substantiate their belief in humans becoming deity in the afterlife, this article is primarily directed to adherents of Mormonism.
  • Addressing The Problem:
         -First of all, it is vitally important to realize that our Lord Jesus Christ never said, "You are able to become gods." Taken completely out of context, the phrase from the two parallel biblical texts in question say, "You are gods." This is in the present tense, which makes the Mormon interpretation of this minuscule phrase totally inconsistent because Mormon theology does not teach that human beings who are present here on earth are gods, but rather can become gods in the afterlife. In other words, the underlying reason for John 10:34 being a poor argument for Mormon apologists to use is that Mormonism does not teach that Mormons are gods here on this earth.
         -John 10:34 is a quotation from Psalm 82, which speaks of divinely appointed human judges, who would "die like men" (Psalm 82:7). In John 10, Jesus Christ was simply pointing to the fact that the Jewish teachers of His time were fatally erring in their doctrine. They were doing so in the same manner as the judges of Psalm 82 erred. Christ was criticizing the grave doctrinal errors of the Scribes and Pharisees who constantly challenged His teachings. He refereed to them as being "whitewashed tombs" (Matthew 23:37). He said that their father was the devil (John 8:44). He rebuked them for teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15; Mark 7). It would therefore make no sense for Jesus Christ to refer to these sinful men as being "gods". The context of John 10:34 is about the rebuking of false doctrine (John 10:35-37). According to the Bible, there is only one God (Isaiah 43:10-11; 44:6-8; 1 Corinthians 8:4-8), which means that we cannot become gods in the afterlife.
         -While it is true that Christians will eventually receive new, perfected, glorified bodies, it still remains evil to call them gods.