[CS-FSLUG] Open Source Theology

Michael Bradley, Jr. michaelsbradleyjr at gmail.com
Thu Jun 15 13:35:53 CDT 2006

On 6/15/06, dmc <edoc7 at verizon.net> wrote:
> > Michael Bradley, Jr. wrote:
> > How did the early Christians, particularly their more vocal and
> > well-known teachers-leaders feel about the subject of "church
> tradition?"
> "Early" loosely identified "christians" varied
> greatly in their faithfulness to the Word of God.
> Some were rank heretics, some indulged syncretism
> as they attempted to merge personal preferences
> with the Word of God, others were simply careless.

Thanks for replying in good humor.  :-)

But I must ask what is your measuring stick for determining the bounds of
heresy? If you ranswer is "the Holy Bible, and it alone" then I must ask
you, based on your reading of the Bible, how it is that you know precisely
which books, chapters and verses belong in the Canon?  If you admit that
this "table of contents" is itself extra-Biblical then you must explain to
me why you give credence to this particular Church Tradition and not to

I have met "oneness" Pentecostal Christians who give no little emphasis to
rejection of the Doctrine of the Trinity.  They read and believe the same
Scriptures that you and I, and St. Athanasius and St. Augustine, do.  They
have reached very different conclusions, ones that go to the heart of Public
Revelation and to the manner in which we relate to God the Father, God the
Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  I don't doubt their sincerity nor am I in any
position to speculate whether these non-Trinitarian Christians achieve
eternal salvation -- I suspect and hope  and pray that many of them do, as
many are faithful to the twofold command of Christ to love God and neighbor,
and that die repentant of their inevitable post-conversion sins -- yet I am
saddened that fulness of the doctrine of Christ is obscured within their
believers' families and communities of worship.

The Apostle Paul even had to correct his fellow
> Apostle Peter for such carelessness and warned
> his ward Timothy to defend against similar error.
> God had to directly intervene in Peter's thought
> process to cause him to reach out to non-Jews.

True, very true.  The action of the Holy Spirit in leading and guiding the
Church, on a number of levels, is part and parcel of the age of Salvation
History in which we live, the era post-Pentecost.  That guidance takes a
great many forms, is mediated through human counsel and deliberation as you
note, and does not guarantee defense against sinfulness in the members of
Christ's mystical body.

You have well-documented some of the traditions of
> one specific denomination based on writings not in
> the accepted Canon of most non-Roman Catholics.

They aren't in the Catholic canon either.  :-)

Catholics don't consider the writings of the Fathers to be inspired, in the
same manner as Scripture.  They do witness to us, though and powerfully,
about the "methods of doing church" in the early centuries of Christianity.
More importantly, they give us insight into how those believers understood
the Scriptures, understood the Church, understood salvation, understood the
Eucharist and Baptism, etc.  It is also instructive to ask why, for example,
Ignatius of Antioch believed and preached and taught and wrote one way and
*not* another.  It wasn't like he had a leather bound copy of the OT and NT
which he carried around with him. No doubt he read and honored the physical
copies of those Scriptures which were in his personal possession and the
collective possession of the local church he shepherded (such as scrolls of
the Prophets and copies of the letters of St. Paul).  Ignatius' claim to
authority though was his instruction under the Apostle John, John's disciple
Polycarp, and other immediate disciples of the Apostles; and his appoitnment
as bishop of Antioch by the Apostle Peter himself!

In fact, in the age immediately following that of the Apostles, the
verifiable claim to having been instructed and appointed (to church
leadership) by the Apostles and/or their immediate disciples and appointees
was a *truly critical* means of protecting the flocks of believers by the
rampant false teachings and teachers that were popping up left and right (as
the always have, and always do in years BC and AD).  So to read their
writings, carefully comparing the differences and similarities in what they
taught, and ultimately in light of what the Church's leaders expounded when
gathered in ecumenical (and other local) councils in the proceeding
centuries, is an important means to discerning what exactly the Apostles
taught the early Church apart from those things written down in what became
known as the NT, and how the early Christians themselves interpreted and
employed the texts of both the OT and NT.

My point is that such is not useful to one seeking
> a pure Biblical Christian faith.

Again, what is the measure of that?  What if two Christians arrive at
irreconcilable positions of interpretation, what decides between them, or
does it even matter?  Can it be of help to look to what and how the early
church believed, worshipped, interpreted the Scriptures, etc.?

> The emergent church movement correctly identifies some serious
> flaws in the non-emergent church where traditions
> and fears prevent reaching the modern culture --
> something Paul worked hard to overcome. The
emergent church gets into trouble where some
are sloppy in their theology as they imagine that
> they have to modify the Word of God to accomplish
> the work of God.

Yes, modifying the Word of God doesn't sound to good.  :-p

I will have to take a look -- I mean it sounds like an interesting movement,
and I enjoy reading the reflections of all sorts of Christians.

As soon as one adds anything to the basic Canon
> and gives it an authoritative status equivalent to
> the Canon one injects uninspired error -- as well
> as triggering the condemnation of Rev. 22:18-19.
> "18I testify to everyone who hears (BC)the words of
> the prophecy of this book: if anyone (BD)adds to
> them, God will add to him (BE)the plagues which are
> written in (BF)this book;
> "19and if anyone (BG)takes away from the (BH)words
> of the book of this prophecy, God will take away
> his part from (BI)the tree of life and from the
> holy city, (BJ)which are written in this book."

But does that condemnation apply to the Book of Revelation itself? To the
whole of the NT? To the NT and OT together?  If the latter, how do you know
what constitutes the OT and NT to begin with?  [Yes I realize it's a repeat
of my earlier question; I've repeated it for emphasis.]

> That any group of humans may choose to develop
> local traditions is predictable, that they will
> attempt to evangelize their extra-Biblical traditions
> is also predictable, such is Biblically discouraged.

It is a good point.  For example, some churches make heavy use of the pipe
organ in their worship. Other congregrations may feel that Sunday worship is
incomplete without the squeals of an eletric guitar.  Yes, it would be great
folly to insist that use of one or the other instrument was absolutely
necessary to the Christian Faith and to Christian worship.  That has not
stopped some from making such assertions ...   ;-)

On the other hand, what about a *tradition* that was handed on by an Apostle
yet was not so clear in Scripture that one could hold to a different
position. For example, the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary.  The
Fathers defend this belief as being wholly Apostolic.  John Calvin in his
day wrote that only a person who was fond of disputation would deny her
perpetual virginity.  Yet many Christians today do deny it.

Of what use is it to "ask" the early Christians -- by way of reading the
writings of the Fathers -- what they were taught by the Apostles concerning
say the Eucharist (Lord's Supper), Christian marriage, the role and nature
of the ministerial priesthood, etc.?  Can such study help us?

The point is that there must be a clear wall of
> separation between the Word of God and everything
> else.  Fallen-human uninspired error is must not
> ever be lifted to equivalence with the perfect Word
> of God.
How do build build/define that wall?  Can the printed Word of God, in the
form of say a NASB that I purchase today from Barnes & Noble, itself prove
to me that every sentence therein properly belongs between those book

All in good humor and with a spirit of brotherly affection in Christ.

In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

Michael Bradley, Jr.

My home on the Net ::

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