Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may pe

I’ve been using the BCP for devotions off and on for a few years now. At one time I believe it was nothing more than popish doctrine made more palatable to Protestants (see Gill here and here) but I have since changed my mind and recommend it as a source guide for devotion and prayer. I’ll include some information for your perusal:

How to use the Book of Common Prayer

About the Canadian Prayer Book

App – I found mine using Play Store

daily prayer app

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Ecstasy

LYRICS: John Leland (1754-1841)leland

“Rev. John Leland was born in Grafton, Mass., May 14, 1754. At the age of eighteen he passed through an experience not unlike that of John Bunyan, coming out gradually into the liberty of the gospel. Within a month after his conversion, in June, 1774, he made his first attempt at public speaking. Having connected himself with the church in Mount Poney, Culpeper Co., Va., he was ordained by the choice of the church. He preached from place to place, everywhere proclaiming “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Wonderful revivals everywhere followed the labors of Mr. Leland in Virginia. Hundreds came under the power of converting grace, and professed their faith in Christ. The summary of his labors during the fifteen years of his ministry in Virginia is thus recorded, — 3009 sermons preached, 700 persons baptized, and two large churches formed, one of 300 members, and another of 200.

Having finished the work which he thought his Master had given him to do in Virginia, Mr. Leland returned to his native State, and made his home for the most of the remainder of his life in Chesire, Mass. Here, and in the region about, the same power and the same success followed his ministry. He reports the whole number of persons whom he had baptized down to 1821 as 1352. “Some of them,” he says, “have been men of wealth and rank, and ladies of quality, but the chief part have been in the middle and lower grades of life. Ten or twelve of them have engaged to preach.” Missionary tours were made in almost every direction, and multitudes crowded to hear him. The story of the “mammoth cheese” sent by the people of Cheshire to President Jefferson belongs to this period. He was the bearer of the gift to Washington. “Mr. Jefferson,” remarks Rev. J. T. Smith, “Treated taking him with much deference, among other things taking him into the Senate chamber.” Year after year he went on doing that special work to which he believed the Lord had called him. “From seventy to beyond eighty years of age he probably averaged more sermons a week than most settled pastors.” And it is interesting to have the following recorded of him by one who could speak intelligently about him, “The large attendance on his preaching was as creditable to the hearers as to the preacher. A sensational preacher he was not, nor a mere bundle of eccentricities. The discriminating and thoughtful listened to him with the most interest and attention.” He was evidently “a born preacher.” The life of a settled pastor would have been irksome to him. He wanted freedom from all restraint, and to do his own work at his own time and in his own way.

In politics he was a Democrat of the Jeffersonian school, a hater of all oppression, whether civil or ecclesiastical. His warmest sympathies went out to his Baptist brethren in their efforts to secure a complete divorce of the Church from the State. Everywhere he pleaded with all the energy of his soul for civil and religious liberty, and he had the satisfaction of seeing it at last come out of the conflict victorious over all foes. Among the class of ministers whom God raised up during the last century to do the special work with it was given the Baptist denomination to perform, John Leland occupies a conspicuous place. We doubt if his equal will ever be seen again. Mr. Leland died Jan. 14, 1841.”

Source: The Baptist Encyclopedia, William Cathcart, editor, 1881; reprint, 1988, pp. 682-683

Oh, when shall I see Jesus,
And reign with Him above?
And from the flowing fountain
Drink everlasting love?

Chorus:

Oh had I wings,
I would fly away and be at rest,
And I’d praise God in His bright abode.

Whene’er you meet with troubles
And trials on your way,
Then cast your care on Jesus
And don’t forget to pray.

(Chorus)

Gird on the gospel armor
Of faith and hope and love,
And when the combat’s ended,
He’ll carry you above.

(Chorus)

Oh, do not be discouraged,
For Jesus is your friend;
And if you lack for knowledge,
He’ll not refuse to lend.

(Chorus)

Neither will He upbraid you,
Though often you request;
He’ll give you grace to conquer,
And take you home to rest.

(Chorus)
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Enjoy your Friday,

jm

The Doctrine Of Justification

It’s a new year but I want that old time religion!john_gill

John Gill explains the heart of the Gospel – the doctrine of justification:

Justification is an act of God’s free grace, whereby he clears his people from sin, discharges them from condemnation, and reckons and accounts them righteous for the sake of Christ’s righteousness, which he has accepted of, and imputes unto them. Some very excellent divines have distinguished justification into active and passive.

Active justification is God’s act, it is God that justifies;

passive justification is the same act, terminating on the conscience of the believer;

active justification is strictly and properly justification,

passive justification is improperly so;

active justification precedes faith,

passive justification is by faith.

Again, justification may be considered either in foro Dei, and so it is an eternal, immanent act in God: or in foro conscientiae, and so it is declarative to and upon the conscience of the believer; or in foro mundi, and so it will be notified to men and angels at the general judgement.

The Everlasting Covenant of Redemption

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God the Father is the contriver of the scheme and method of our justification; he was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses; (2 Cor. 5:19) he drew the model and platform of it, which is Nodus Deo vindice dignus. It would have remained a puzzling question to men and angels, how should man be just with God? had not his grace employed his wisdom to find out a ransom, whereby he has delivered his people from going down to the pit of corruption; which ransom is no other than his own Son, whom he sent, in the fullness of time, to execute the scheme he had so wisely formed in his eternal mind which he did by finishing transgression, making an end of sin

 

, making reconciliation for iniquity, and bringing in an everlasting righteousness; which righteousness, being wrought out by Christ, God was well pleased with, because hereby his law was magnified and made honourable; and, having graciously accepted of it, he imputes it freely to all his people, and reckons their righteous on the account of it.

God the Son, as God, is the co-efficient cause of it, with his Father. As he has equal power with him to forgive sin, he also has to acquit, discharge, and justify from it. As Mediator, he is the Head and Representative; in whom all the seed of Israel are justified; as such, he has wrought out a righteousness, answerable to the demands of the law, by which they are justified; and is the Author and Finisher of that faith, which looks unto, lays hold on, and apprehends that righteousness for justification.

God the Holy Ghost convinces men of the weakness, imperfection, and insufficiency of their own righteousness to justify them before God; he brings near, and sets before them, the righteousness of Christ, and works faith in them to lay hold on it, and receive it; he intimates to their consciences the justifying sentence of God, on the account of Christ’s righteousness, and bears a testimony to and with their spirits, that they are justified persons; and hence the saints are said to be justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God; (1 Cor. 6:11) but this testimony of the Spirit is not so properly justification in itself, as an actual perception of it, before granted, by a kind of a reflex act of faith, as Dr. Ames expresses it. Now this is the part which Father, Son, and Spirit, severally bear in justification: the Father has contrived it, the Son has procured it, and the Spirit applies it. 

 

One Last Thing

It is an act of God’s free Grace: Being justified freely by his grace. (Rom. 3:24) It was grace that resolved on, and fixed the scheme and method of justification: and which called and moved Christ to engage as a surety for his people; and which sent him, in the fullness of time, to work out a righteousness for them. And then it was grace in God to accept of this righteousness for them, and to impute it to them, and bestow faith on them to receive it; especially will all this appear to be free grace, when it is considered that these persons are all by nature sinners, and ungodly ones; yea, many of them the chief of sinners.

It is universal and not partial. All God’s elect are justified, and that from all things, as in our text, that is, from all their sins, and are freed from all that punishment which is due unto them. The whole righteousness of Christ is imputed to them; by being hereby justified, they are perfect and complete in him.grace

 It is an individual act, which is done at once, and admits of no degrees. The sins of God’s elect were laid at once on Christ, and he made satisfaction for them at once. God accepted of Christ’s righteousness, and imputed it at once unto his people, who all have their sins and transgressions forgiven at once. The sense of justification, indeed, admits of degrees: for the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; (Rom. 1:17) but justification itself does not. There are several fresh declarations, or manifestations, or repetitions of the act of justification; as at the resurrection of Christ; and again, by the testimony of the Spirit to the conscience of the believer; and last of all, at the general judgement, before men and angels. But justification, as it is an act of God, is but one, and is done at once, and admits of no degrees; and is not carried on in a gradual and progressive way as sanctification is.

 It is equal to all, or all are alike justified. The same price was paid for the redemption of one, as for another; and the same righteousness is imputed to one, as to another; and, like precious faith, is given to one, as to another though not to all in the same degree, yet the weakest believer is as much justified as the strongest, and the greatest sinner as the smallest. Though one man may have more sanctifying grace than another, yet no man has more justifying righteousness than another.

It is irreversible and unalterable. It is according to an immutable decree, which can never be frustrated. It is one of God’s gifts, which are without repentance: it is one of the blessings of the covenant of grace, which can never be broken. The righteousness by which the saints are justified is an everlasting one; and that faith, by which they receive it, shall never fail: And though a righteous man may fall into sin, yet he shall never fall from his righteousness, nor shall he ever enter into condemnation, but be eternally glorified.

 Justification, though it frees persons from sin, and discharges them from punishment due unto it, yet it does not take sin out of them. By it, indeed, they are freed from sin, insomuch that God sees no iniquity in them to condemn them for it. Though he sees and beholds all the sins of his people, in articulo providentiae, in respect of providence, and chastises them for them; yet in articulo justificationis, in respect of justification, he sees none in them; they being acquitted, discharged, and justified from all. Nevertheless sin dwells in them For there is not a just man upon earth that liveth and sinneth not. (Eccl. 7:20)

It does not destroy the law, nor discourage a careful performance of good works. It does not destroy the law, or make it void; no, it establishes it; for the righteousness by which we are justified, is every way commensurate to the demands of the law; by it the law is magnified, and made honourable. Nor are persons, by this doctrine, discouraged from the performance of good works; for this doctrine of grace teaches men, That denying ungodliness, and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. (Titus 2:11, 12) To conclude: If your souls are under the powerful and comfortable influence of this doctrine, you will, in the first place, bless God for Jesus Christ, by whose obedience you are made righteous: You will value his justifying righteousness, and make mention of it at all proper times; you will glory alone in Christ, and will give the whole glory of your justification to him; and will be earnestly and studiously desirous of having your conversations as become the gospel of Christ, and this truth of it in particular.

(complete article here)

Interpretation of the Scriptures

a. w. pink

Arthur Walkington Pink is one of my spiritual fathers. His work the Interpretation of the Scriptures really helped me iron out issues I’ve had with biblical interpretation. I still refer to his works when needed (especially his commentary on Hebrews) when studying the word. He is far from perfect but always enlightening and I thank God for devout men such as him who display such careful handling of the word of God with a real zeal for truth. For every rule he provided in the “Interpretation of the Scriptures” I provided the amen. His refutation of Dispensational theology was instrumental in helping me shed some of that interpretive framework and become more biblical in my management of God’s word.

A brief outline of A. W. Pink’s work published by Baker.

Chapter 1: The first chapter highlights the need and importance of interpreting scripture without falling prey to two common extremes.  One extreme would be the idea held by Rome and other denominations that teach the scriptures are too difficult to understand and therefore need to be presented to the average person by someone with special authority.  The other extreme teaches that we are simply to read and believe without any interpretation needed at all. Pink gives three reasons for interpretation: 1) explain seeming contradictions, 2) to seek the meaning and sense of the words and 3) inserting of an explanatory word into the text.

Chapter 2:  To understand scripture Pink tells the reader that we must have both the tools and the skill.  We must be humble when we approach the word and avoid arrogance when we seeking an interpretation.  Being a regenerate believer does not guarantee we will be able to understand all things perfectly or even well but that we must continue to work on it.  We understand the Bible through reason that is impressed by the Holy Spirit. Pink gives five elements needed to interpret the word: 1) a mind illumined by the Holy Spirit 2) an impartial spirit 3) a humble mind 4) a praying heart 5) a holy design.

Chapter 3:  Expository preaching is covered in this chapter with the emphasis on preaching solid doctrine.  To quote Bible verses is not enough, the student of the word must labour to gleam a meaning from the text to feed self and others.  The lessons learned are not taught through diligent study alone but through experience.  Pink writes, “No one can learn what humility is by means of the concordance, nor secure more faith by studying certain passages of Scripture. The one is acquired through painful discoveries of the plague of our hearts, and the other is increased by a deepening acquaintance with God.”

Chapter 4: The Bible is described as the sole textbook for the student with the author using the Authorized Version.  Commentaries are viewed as useful only when you have exhausted a concordance.  Pink takes a dig at Dispensational theology on pages 25 – 26 for their unbiblical focus on things that differ instead of unity.  Pink gives us the first three rules of biblical interpretation in this chapter: (1) there is a need to recognize the “inter-relation and mutual dependence of both testaments,” (2) to carefully study scripture when it quotes scripture, and to (3) “conform all interpretations to the analogy of faith.”

Chapter 5: Rule 3 is explained in further detail at the beginning of this chapter.  Here the author introduces two more rules, that of (4) context and (5) scope.  It is mentioned that “proof texting” is quoting scripture outside of its context to support the theologians thoughts rather then scripture.

Chapter 6:  Continues with examples of proper and improper use (4) context and (5) scope with Dispensationalism once again in his cross hairs.  The next rule offered is to (6) interpret scripture by scripture or “comparing spiritual things with spiritual things.”

Chapter 7:  The thoughts expressed in chapter 6 are carried over and explained in full detail before recommending the next rule, that being, (7) briefer statements are to be interpreted by fuller ones.   Little is written but common sense agrees with Pink.

Chapter 8:  Collecting and collating (8) scripture is explained as the next rule.  The author goes on to give examples, one being the term “born again.”  It is used in scripture to describe regeneration but idea is found elsewhere with such as “passing from dark to light,” “renewing,” and “resurrection.”  By collecting and collating passages the doctrine will become clear.

Chapter 9:  The rule of (9) simple negative is briefly touched upon as well as (10) interrogative form and the proper use of (11) reason.  It is explained that negative conclusions can be used to infer the opposites, rhetorical questioning of the Socratic method proves useful and human reason does play apart in understanding divine things, although it is subject to divine things.

Chapter 10: Pink gives us an idea of how we find (12) limitations of general statements in this chapter.  The example being “judge not,” being considered in light of “judge righteous” and “thoroughly judge.”  We cannot make a universal truth statement from general truth statement.  In the same line of thought we are told that (13) positive statement with a comparative force, or, seek the context of absolute statements keeping our understanding within the analogy of faith.  This will help to remain consistent.

Chapter 11:  (14) Non-literal language must be viewed as such.  Both translators and expositors must be aware of the finer nuances of the languages.  The wooden literalism found in the more classic schools of Dispensationalism are to be avoided since they remove the original meaning from the text and fail to (15) understand types.

Chapter 12:  The use of the analogy of faith is mentioned in connection with the next rule, to seek a proper (16) exposition of the parables, which are supplementary to direct teaching.  Pink’s sharp mind then directs the Bible student to be aware that words are not translated uniformly so we are to seek other (17) or different meanings that each word might have.

Chapter 13:  The idea is carried forward from the previous chapter with a different emphasis, this being, (18) the Holy Spirit’s use of the words.  We are to note the actual use of the word in scripture alone and not to rely on classical literature to seek a meaning.  The author sites his suggestion of a concordance rather then a dictionary.  Although we find a dislike of Dispensational theology in this work (19) distinguishing between things that differ is still important, and well explained, just not the crux of our theological grid.

Chapter 14 & 15:  The next rule we are instructed to follow is to seek (20) the spiritual meaning of scripture, that scripture often has a double purport, a natural and a spiritual.  Chapter 15 explains this concept in great detail giving plenty of examples.  Anyone familiar with A. W. Pink’s work will know he does implore this rule often and takes care to fully detail its use and importance.

Chapter 16: (21) Double reference and meaning is now taken on and explained. In this chapter, to my surprise, the author confuses a belief that man is tripartite!  Using the rule of double reference Genesis 1:26 is used as support for this belief.  Interesting.

Chapter 17:  The author enlightens the reader to the (22) the law of order, meaning, the position the idea is found within scripture and how it relates to what follows it.

Chapter 18:  (23) The law of cause and effect traces the steps and connection between events.  The example of Peter’s fall is given; self-assurance (Mark 14:29), failed to pray and watch (Mark 14:38-40), disregarded the warning to be sifted (Luke 22:31-33) and trying to take control by force (John 18:10).  This is explained to be a law of cause and effect.  The next canon is that of (24) emphasis.  What God has placed emphasis on, should be well noted to the believer.  The Companion Bible written by the famous Ultra Dispensationlist is mentioned.

Chapter 19:  The (25) origin of a word is understood as being of some use but we are direct back to rule 19 where we are instructed to seek out the Holy Spirit’s use of the words.  (26) The law of comparison and contrast was written to be of interest but of less importance overall.

Chapter 20 & 21:  The first use of a word, (27) the law of first mention, should guide our understanding of it.  (28) The law of progress or progressive revelation is explained in detail and we are reminded that the Bible is full of life.

Chapter 22:  We come to the last chapter and the last interpretive rule given to us by A. W. Pink.  We are reminded of the (29) law of full mention with examples given of John 17 where Christ is interceding for believers, the total inability of man in Romans 3 and election and reprobation in Romans 9.

(more detail)

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The Need for Interpretation

Pink opens this work with a warning:

“Man is notoriously a creature of extremes, and nowhere is that fact more evident than in the attitude taken by different ones to this subject.”

O Lord how true this is!  In my own life I wish someone had warned me to avoid the “notorious” extremes that permeate natural man and our understanding of the simple things God has revealed.  “…obscurity is not in them” but in us.

“Since the imagination of man, like all the other faculties of his moral being, is permeated and vitiated by sin, the ideas it suggests, even when pondering the Divine oracles, are prone to be mistaken and corrupt. It is part of our sinful infirmity that we are unable of ourselves to interpret God’s Word aright; but it is part of the gracious office of the Holy Spirit to guide believers into the truth, thereby enabling them to apprehend the Scriptures.”

We find the light of God’s word so bright at time we turn away and hide the truth or hide from it.  I am guilty of trying to obscure the truth using a manmade scaffold that, by the Grace of God, could not support the word and I was eventually convicted of this sin leaving Dispensationalism forever.  We are to test what we find in theology and give thanks for both the milk and the meat we find therein.

We must seek rules or canons for interpretation because interpretation is needed to understand the deeper things that God has revealed.  These rules guide us and help us to be consistent with the word and we read they will help to:

1) explain seeming contradictions

2) find sense of the words

3) inserting of an explanatory word to assist in our understanding

We gain a deep knowledge of God by using these canons as tools to develop skills of interpretation.

“To declare that I need none but the Holy Spirit to teach me may sound very honoring to Him, but is it true? Like all human assertions that one requires to be tested, for nothing must be taken for granted where spiritual things are concerned.”

When helping to instruct new Christians this is often the idea many have, that since they are born again, it’s all done.  The important work is complete, finished so don’t argue with me but argue with the word of God!  “Study to shew thyself approved” seems to have to slipped their minds if they have even gone that far in their Bibles.  I wonder if we can blame Post Modernism for this idea, that since they have “experienced” the goodness of God in the regeneration of their souls, nothing is left for them.  It is assumed that everything will be given them including a perfect interpretation of the word of God.  Perhaps I’m going too far but the false idea remains and I have personally encouraged this dozens of times in person and on the internet.  I really like the point A. W. Pink makes against this misunderstanding, he points out that God has supplied Pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints, the Holy Spirit uses these men and their instruction to aid the believer in understanding the scriptures.  To believe all we need is the Holy Spirit is to possess a low view of the Body of Christ.  This, of course, does not lessen our reliance upon God, but should humble us before Him.  God found it pleasing to use man.

While listening to “Christian radio” recently one of the speakers said she was, “waiting for God to speak to her, just resting in His will…”  God has give us His word and has spoken to us.  We must interpret it and interpret correctly.

Avoiding Extremes

Although we gain an understanding of scripture through reason and understanding our understanding must be impressed or influenced by the Holy Spirit.  I believe Thomas Manton is quoted as writing, “Our hearts are overcast with strong affections of the world, and so cannot clearly judge practical truth.”  This quote is offered along with a few preliminary points that I believe offer the student of the word sound, spiritual direction:

1) a mind illumined by the Holy Spirit

The sinner must be brought to a place, by God, where we can understand divine revelation.  Christ tells in Matthew, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”  And, “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:” Ephesians 4:17-18

J. K. Popham who was a minister of the word for over 50 years in the United Kingdom has delivered some of the most powerful, experiential sermons I have ever read.  He tells us of the Holy Spirits work;

“One end, one covenant to open, one mercy to give, one life to impart, one justification to bring, one salvation to work, one heaven to give to those who deserve hell.”

The work of the Spirit is in building a united Body of Christ.  This is the beginning and not the end as some believe.

2) an impartial spirit

It is a commonly held idea that we can approach a subject with a spirit of impartiality, that we can understand the world around us from a neutral standpoint, which is contrary to scripture.  “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Romans 8:7  Even after we have come to faith in Christ the old man remains.  We seek to find what we want in scripture and ignore the often weightier or more difficult passages.

3) a humble mind

I will quote Pink on this point given that he is so crystal clear, “The knowledge of a proud man is the throne of Satan.”  Charnock put it this way, “A proud faith is as much a contradiction as a humble devil.”  How many times has the church proclaimed the Gospel, answered the objections using evidence and presuppositionalism only to have a far more “educated” person proclaim us “ignorant!”  A servant shall not be greater then his master.  Pink warns the Bible student to be humble before God by studying His word from a position of a beggar asking for the riches of God’s knowledge and not a rich man.

4) a praying heart

We approach the inspired work with a humble heart, a heart that realizes we do not deserve what we have in our hands, that being the thoughts of God.  If we are to “think God’s thoughts after Him” we must place our vanities aside and seek Him and His will.  Our minds must be open to the impressions of the Spirit and the way this is accomplished is with a prayerful heart.  Pink refers to the “prayerless scholar” who uses the word of God as he would use a work made by the mind of man ultimately failing to understand the need for a divine assistance.

5) a holy design

Lastly, we must not seek the answers to our curiosities but to learn truth from the scriptures.  Not too long ago God has gave me the opportunity to aid a fellow believer in setting his house in godly order, whose background is in the The Gospel Hall churches or Brethren Assemblies.  After one evening of discussing scripture I was astounded at how little practical truth, day to day truth, his previous church had equipped him with.  Instead of understanding his role as a father and leader of the home in all matters he was taught about the Rapture.  Instead of learning from God’s word how to raise children for the Lord he was instructed about pre-flood giants that walked the earth who were the offspring of Angels and man!  This is not following “a holy design” to seek truth but a feeding of the curiosities and vanities of the old man.  More then a thought or form of entertainment the truth of scripture is truth to live by.

A Note to Ministers

Having laid a preliminary foundation in the first two chapters Pink now explains the need to be faithful to seek the pure word of God and to be faithful to what we find.  The emphasis is on preaching with the warning too many have failed to heed:

“Every minister of the Gospel will yet have to render a full account of his stewardship unto the One whom he claims called him to feed His sheep (Heb. 13:17), to answer for the souls who were committed to his charge. If he fails to diligently warn the wicked, and he dies in his iniquity, God declares “his blood will I require at thine hand” (Ezek. 3:18).”

Much of this chapter applies to anyone proclaiming the truth of the Gospel and should serve as a reminder to keep subservient to the word. The exposition of the word is hard work so Pink tells the reader to work hard at it.  It must be expounded and applied not simply read from the pulpit, or in the case of the layman quoted and dismissed, it must be explained for as quickly as the minister delivers truth Satan takes great pains to obscure sound doctrine.  The truth of the word is to be proclaimed in all its wonder and beauty, not for the adulation of the flesh or for the praise of our brothers and sisters in Christ, but for God’s glory alone.

Our Textbook

A. W. Pink reminds the Bible student that his textbook for study is the Bible.  Only after he has exhausted his abilities in exegesis of the sacred text does the student go beyond the covers of his Bible.  It might sound simple but in our time, when many commentaries are free online, it is far more tempting to read a commentary instead of the word or to read the word with a commentary open beside it.  It can be more tempting to quote an authority then take the time to dig deeper into scripture.  The Bible and the Bible alone contains the direct revelation of our Triune God and therefore should be studied before any human work is consulted.

“The Bible is to be his sole text-book, and from its living waters he is to drink deeply and daily. Personally, we use nothing else than the English Authorized Version and Young’s concordance, with an occasional reference to the Greek Interlinear and the American Revised Version. Commentaries we consult only after we have made a first-hand and exhaustive study of a passage.”

Amen.  This is solid advice to all those new Christians who are given or purchase “study” Bibles.  The damage done by Scofield’s notes is incalculable.  The struggle to understand a difficult passage is where the blessing is.  The struggle to see how it relates to the greater context of scripture is where godly wisdom is found, but many today prefer the word to be opened for them, the work already done.

“The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.” Proverbs 13:4

“If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.” 1 Corinthians 3:14

The Evangelical church has been lulled into a lazy stupor and distracted by the world.  From Pink’s other writings it is clear he saw the beginnings of it in his day.  The father no longer leads the home but feels the influence of an ungodly world and delegates his job to the wife.  The mother no longer has time for the children believing she could better serve them by planning a getaway to have “me time.”  The children are left to their own devises without much guidance.  This is in the “Christian” home.  I write without much guidancebecause, after all, they do have their televisions, internet and video games.  The church has become lazy and distracted foregoing the difficult task of handling God’s word and have been left with only a shadow of truth.  It is at this point Pink begins to outline the principles to guide the Bible student as they study.

The Principles of Interpretation

It total there are 30 principles varying in their importance listed in Arthur Pink’s work “Interpretation of the Scriptures.”  It was truly a blessing to read this work and find confirmation to some of the principles I was using previously.  It was also convicting because I had learned where I need improvement.  Instead of trying to deal with all 30 principles I will try to interact with what I believe are some of the most important and useful rules to understanding scripture.

The Analogy of Faith

Some suggest the “analogy of faith” should be called the “analogy of scripture” and for the sake of clarity and I must agree.  The church has seen the misuse of this rule as an ecclesiastical tool wielded like a club in the hands of the Roman Catholic magisterium.  I believe this is one of the most important, but often misunderstood and inconsistently used, rules describes by A. W. Pink.  (It can be found at the closing of chapter 4.)  My own understanding of this principle hindered my ability to properly handle God’s word and continues to a lesser extent today and I wish the author would have spilled more ink on this subject with emphasis on its importance in sound interpretation.  What he did give us is sound advice,

“The exposition made of any verse in Holy Writ must be in entire agreement with the Analogy of Faith, or that system of truth which God has made known unto His people. That, of course, calls for a comprehensive knowledge of the contents of the Bible—sure proof that no novice qualified to preach to or attempt to teach others.”

Again, Pink reminds us of our need to have a comprehensive understanding of our textbook, the Bible.  This analogy or rule of faith is gleamed from the scriptures themselves:

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;” Romans 12:6

“And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” Galatians 6:16

This rule is explained in the London Baptist Confession of 1689 as follows:

1.9 The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched by other places that speak more clearly.  ( 2 Peter 1:20, 21; Acts 15:15, 16)

To illustrate the importance of applying this principle with consistency I would like to point out a few verses from Acts 15,

“And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.”

If we use the analogy of the scriptures expressed in the Reformed confessions it is easy to see the apostle Luke referring to Amos 9,

“In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old”

The passage from Acts 15 is alluding to Amos 9 in reference to the assembled church.  A common Dispensational interpretation of Amos 9 misses the meaning completely and regulates a complete fulfillment of these verses to a future Israel and millennial reign of Christ.  Instead of using the analogy of the scriptures we see a system of belief forcing a literalistic understanding of Amos 9 and gives us with a clear case of dogma influencing the interpretation.  The mind of God is then subjective to exegesis and not objective truth revealed.

_______________________________________

Arthor Walkington Pink has given the church so much to think about in this tiny volume on interpretive principles.  He worked in what must have seemed, at times, in utter obscurity but he remained faithful to the God that saved him, working for His glory, a worthy servant of the truth.

[details; Interpretation of the Scriptures, published by Baker 1996, ISBN: 0801070252]

jm

two great works of the devil

flamingo

The Protestant church has consistently taught that “two great works of the devil” are the Papacy and Islam.

Edwards recognizes the Kingdom of Satan set up in the East by Islam and in the West by Papal Rome.

“They began their empire about the year of Christ twelve hundred and ninety-six; began to invade Europe in the year thirteen hundred; took Constantinople, and so became masters of all the Eastern empire, in the year fourteen hundred and fifty-three. And thus all the cities and countries where storm those famous churches of which we read in the New Testament, as Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, etc. now became subject to the Turks. These are supposed to be prophesied of by the horsemen in the 9th chapter of Revelation, beginning with the 15th verse. And the remains of the Christians in those parts of the world, who are mostly of the Greek church, are in miserable slavery under these Turks are treated with a great deal of barbarity and cruelty, and are become mostly very ignorant and superstitious.” Source

It seems Islamic States/Countries are obsessed with porn. Some CRAZY and DISGUSTING facts.

Quote:

Google, the world’s most popular Internet search engine, has found in a survey that mostly Muslim states seek access to sex-related websites and Pakistan tops the list. Google found that of the top 10 countries – searching for sex-related sites – six were Muslim, with Pakistan on the top. The other Muslim countries are Egypt at number 2, Iran at 4, Morocco at 5, Saudi Arabia at 7 and Turkey at 8. Non-Muslim states are Vietnam at 3, India at 6, Philippines at 9 and Poland at 10.

[Khalid Hasan – Pakistan most sex-starved – Daily Times, May 17, 2006]

Quote:

Here are the Muslim countries and how they placed in the top five world ranking of various bestiality-related internet search terms:

Pig Sex:Pakistan (No. 1) Egypt (No. 2) Saudi Arabia (No. 3)

Donkey Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Iran (No. 3) Saudi Arabia (No. 4)

Dog Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Saudi Arabia (No. 3)

Cat Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Iran (No. 2) Egypt (No. 3) Saudi Arabia (No. 4)

Horse Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Turkey (No. 3)

Cow Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Iran (No. 2) Saudi Arabia (No. 4)

Goat Sex: Pakistan (No. 1)

Animal Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Morocco (No. 2) Iran (No. 4) Egypt (No. 5)

Snake Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Malaysia (No. 3) Indonesia (No. 4) Egypt (No. 5)

Monkey Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Indonesia (No. 3) Malaysia (No. 4)

Bear Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Saudi Arabia (No. 2)

Elephant Sex: Pakistan (No. 1) Egypt (No. 3) United Arab Emirates (No. 4) Malaysia (No. 5)

Fox Sex: Saudi Arabia (No. 1) Turkey (No. 4)

[Watcher – Pakistan: Muslims Are Sex-Starved Surfers, With Bestial Interests – Eye On The World, May 18, 2006]

Ishmael, or, A natural history of Islamism:

“Had it not been for the recent outbursts of Moslem fanaticism, it would almost have been forgotten, that Islamism maintains an unequivocally hostile relation to Christianity. We should doubtless have continued to flatter ourselves with having done our duty towrads its followers, in praying once a year that God might ‘have mercy upon all…Turks,…and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of his Word.’ But if the calculation of learned French infidel Bayle be correct, that were the globe divided into thirty equal portions, nineteen of them would fall to the dominion of Paganism, six to Islamism, and five only to Christianity–we must acknowledge that something more is to be done, and if so, the object of this work can scarcely be deemed futile or chimerical [wishful thinking].” –from the book’s Preface, written in 1859

We know that not all Muslims are violent, radical terrorists.We know that many Muslims are peaceful, loving individuals.

But how many of the over 1 billion Muslims are radical?

If 5% of 1 billion are radical [just playing with numbers, work with me…this is just a percentage I pulled out of the air], that would be 50,000,000 radical Islamic terrorists that want to see our way of life end.

Is 5% too high?

Ok, what about 1%?

1% of 1 billion = 10,000,000 radical Islamic terrorists.

Something to think about while your driving to or from work today.

 

In Danger?

Posted in 2012: “Do you feel in danger? are you afraid of losing the word, of missing it, as Paul says, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God” (Heb. 12:15); lest professing it, he should not process it? Then this prayer will suit you, it will suit you as an individual; and if we as a people realize our weakness and our enemies, and the devils that are within us and without us, it will be a suitable prayer to us: “Take not the word of truth away from us.” If the Lord should walk among us, what would He see? May He grant there may be no prevailing heresy, no prevailing evil to provoke Him to threaten to remove the candlestick. I can but say, as I have said before, we are in a solemn time; and the Lord’s absence is very, very visible to some people, and the lack of power is mournfully felt and acknowledged by some. What He will do with us as a nation, what will become of the churches that profess the truth, I do not pretend to say; but I do, speaking in a general way, believe that solemn times are upon us, and that the churches will know it. “All the churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts” (Rev. 2:23). The whole world shall know it, for the center of the world is the church. There will begin the judgments of God. May, then, this be our prayer, may this be our petition, poor people we are, we need it; ministers need it, greatly need it. They may be supposed to have some knowledge of truth, but it will only be dry and sapless and useless, if they only speak out of naked knowledge. Hearers need it; they may think they can discern the truth, but they may be blind all the while. So we need the Holy Spirit greatly, to do for us that for which the psalmist here prays, and for which he prays in another place in different words, “Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.” Let the gospel continue, let it be in power and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance in our hearts and in our midst. Amen.”  – J. K. Popham

Gnosticism’s Influence on Early Church Monasticism and Asecticism

Gnosticism_s Influence on Early Church Monasticism and Asecticism

Reblog from Orthodox Christian Theology written by Craig Truglia in October 2016:

Several crucial doctrines separate Roman Catholicism/Eastern Orthodoxy/Etcetera from Reformed Christianity. Among these are the beliefs in baptismal regeneration, propitiatory penances, and the idea that sexual gratification (even in marriage) exists only for the purpose of procreation.

What if I told you that not only are all of these ideas not explicitly Biblical, but that they actually have origins in Eastern mystery religions and Greek philosophy? This would mean that the adherence to these ideas in Christianity are the result of a historical transformation over time where Gnostic influences permeated the Church.

This is a thesis I am not entirely convinced of, but let me make the case for the sake of motivating you to conduct further research.

Scriptural Teaching on Asceticism. Certainly self-denial is a Christian virtue. The Scripture admonishes a believer that if he wants to be Christ’s disciple, “let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24). This self-denial is meant to be radical and lead to actions consistent with the willful emptying of oneself for the sake of others: “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none” (Luke 3:11) and “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 John 3:16). Marriage is even knocked down a peg, because even though it is “good” it is not as good as celibacy, because “the unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided” (1 Cor 7:32-34).

Certainly, Christians are taught that for the sake of others and devotion to God, forgoing  life’s pleasures is a positive good. However, the Scripture also warns of those who teach “doctrines of demons.” “They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Tim 4:3). A long treatment is given in Col 2:20-23:

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.

In the preceding passages, Paul is not writing against a strictly Jewish heresy, as there is nothing distinctly Jewish about severely treating the body or not marrying. Rather, Paul is speaking of an ascetic strain in Greek thought which taught that the way to knowing God is through emptying oneself of all distractions and punishing oneself for all of his sins.  Even mentioning such concepts causes people to immediately think of Christian monasticism.

The Example of Monks. Monks are known for their asceticism. Further, no one seriously entertains the notion that monks were originally part of Christianity. No second century Christian writer makes mention of them.

Traditionally, the first known Christian hermit was Paul of Thebes. He lived some time in the fourth century. While there is no reason to doubt that other men like him lived some time before, historically we would have no reason to believe that the monastic movement would predate him by several centuries.

Some may point to the fact that Paul was celibate, the Essene movement within Judaism, or the Nazirite vow as antecedents to monasticism. The problem would be that none of these may be properly understood as monastic. Paul was simply a celibate missionary, the Essenes married, and Nazirites had only temporary vows.

Yet, according to a scholar nearly 100 years ago, Joseph Ward Swain in his book The Hellenic Origins of Christian Asceticism, monks that look similar to early Christian monastics did indeed exist. These ascetics belonged in “eastern” (usually Middle Eastern) “mystery cults” such as the Manichees, Mithraists, Galli, and Isis cultists.

Of the Cybile cultists called Galli, Swain writes:

The Galli resembled a mendicant and begging order. By this mode of life, they won the admiration of multitudes. “Their ardent faith, their ascetic life, their austere disciplines were an effective and contagious discipline. Many a troubled soul was borne towards these interpreters of a divine word, who appeared superior to other men because they were no longer men, who heard confessions and directed consciences, forgave sins, and gave consolations and sublime hopes.” Others did not attain the lofty place held by these Galli, but led an ascetic life nevertheless. Some who had merely undergone a simple initiation organized themselves into communities called the “Religious of the Great Mother,” and led a life of greater strictness than that of other people, supported wandering Galli, let their hair grow long, wore special costumes ; but they were not pagan monks in the full sense of the term, for they did not cut themselves off from the world altogether they married and became fathers of families (p. 74).

Of the Mithraists:

“They [Mithraists] praised abstinence from certain foods and absolute continence.” The cult had a clergy upon whom ascetic rules were imposed. Tertullian says that the supreme pontiff might marry only once, and that, like the Christians, the worshippers of this god had their “virgins” and “continents.” “The existence of this sort of Mithraic monasticism is the more remarkable,” says Cumont, ” because this value attached to celibacy is contrary to the spirit of Zoroastrianism” (p. 78).

Of the Isis cultists:

Weingarten seriously attempted to explain the whole rise of Christian monasticism from them [the Isis cult], alleging that Pachomius, the legislator of Christian monasticism, had been such a recluse in his youth; this is obviously too simple a theory, and is not held by any serious scholars today, but the very posing of the question directed considerable attention to these men, and their ascetic character has been made very evident (p. 79).

Weingarten’s speculation  concerning Pachomius (one of the earliest Christian monks), is essentially unfounded, but the overall point is clear: These cultists followed monastic practices before the existence of Christian monasticism. Further, Christian monasticism did not  develop  in a cultural and intellectual vacuum.

The Gnostics were the intellectual go-between for eastern mystery religions and orthodox Christianity. While their cosmology and odd doctrines would appear to the modern eye to be so foreign from Christianity that one could not possible have anything to do with the other, contemporaries like Irenaeus did not take this view. To the ancient, Hellenized mind, the Gnostic view made some sort of sense and so to those hearing the message of Christ, the Gnostic spin on it had an appeal. So, while we may rightly expect that eastern, pagan monastic orders would have very little to do with Christian monasticism, Gnostic monasticism would have been visibly Christian, even if it were heretically so.

Concerning the Manichees (a Gnostic sect) a more recent source writes:

[T]he Manicheans…prove again that in decades prior to Pachomius’s emergence upon the scene a wide variety  of sometimes eccentric and sometimes ascetic experiments in religious life were underway (Philip Rousseau, Pachomius: The Making of a Community in Fourth-century Egypt, p. 31).

Scholars may not say that the preponderance of Manichee and Isis-cultist monks in Egypt directly led to Christian monasticism, but certainly they predated it and affected the mindsets of everyone, including Christians, that lived during the time. In the words of Swain:

[I]n the second and third centuries, the land [of Egypt] was filled with anchorites and wandering ascetics, who not only made it a point to abstain from flesh, wine and sexual intercourse, but who also inflicted upon themselves all sorts of severe mortifications. Egypt became preeminently the land of extravagant ascetics, so that the eccentric Christians had but little to add to what these Egyptians had already done (p. 79).

The Issue of Remarriages and Sexual Satisfaction. The debate over remarriage may be foreign to the modern mind. After all, the Scripture is so clear that not only is remarriage permissible, it is commanded: “I would have younger widows marry, bear children, and manage their households, so as to give the adversary no occasion to revile us” (1 Tim 5:14). Yet, great thinkers like Tertullian (probably) and Saint Hippolytus (temporarily) left the Church because it was permitting remarriage.

Why? It appears that very early on the Church started taking the view that sex, in of itself, is not good apart from procreation. For example, the second century Apologist Athenagoras writes in his Plea for Christians:

[W]e despise the things of this life, even to the pleasures of the soul, each of us reckoning her his wife whom he has married according to the laws laid down by us, and that only for the purpose of having children…Nay, you would find many among us, both men and women, growing old unmarried, in hope of living in closer communion with God. But if the remaining in virginity and in the state of an eunuch brings nearer to God, while the indulgence of carnal thought and desire leads away from Him, in those cases in which we shun the thoughts, much more do we reject thedeeds.  For we bestow our attention, not on the study of words, but on the exhibition and teaching of actions,— that a person should either remain as he was born, or be content with one marriage; for a second marriage is only a specious adultery (Chap 33).

Now, there s a lot here which might make one think, “Did Athenagoras read his Bible?” The Bible commends the enjoyable qualities of wine and sex (Prov 5:18-19). In commending man to marriage (1 Cor 7), Paul’s reasoning is that it satisfies lust. Nowhere did he write that the purpose of marriage was strictly for procreation and surely Paul was not admonishing man to take part in a lesser evil (the satisfaction of sexual desire) when he called the institution of marriage “good.”

Athenagoras was an Athenian philosopher who converted to Christianity, and he apparently imported the Hellenisitic (often pagan and Gnostic) idea that remarriage and sexual enjoyment is sinful into his own theology. The Eastern mystery religions taught that celibacy “prevented the introduction of deadly elements into the system” and that “chastity…preserved men from pollution and debility, became means of getting rid of the domination of evil powers and of regaining heavenly favor” (p. 72). Cynics, Pythagoreans, and Gnostic Platonists also taught the virtues of celibacy and avoiding marriages/remarriages. Gnostics Basilides, Marcion, and Valentinus all taught that celibacy was especially virtuous. For example:

For Basilides, marriage was at best a concession to men, and he strongly advised abstention from it (p. 81).

He [Marcion] condemned the flesh and forbade marriage. If married, his disciples had to renounce all sexual relations… Marcion even made continence a condition of baptism. “Marcion does not baptise flesh unless it is virgin or widow or celibate, or unless it has bought baptism by a divorce” (p. 82).

In short, the historical teachings that contraception is sinful sprouts from the Gnostic and Hellenistic asceticism, which had an aversion against the sexual act itself as it was thought to make someone impure and incapable of contemplating higher philosophical truths. To pretend that Athenagoras’ belief that sex is only for procreation stems from the example of Onan ignores the obvious truth that he viewed both sexual satisfaction and remarriage as bad and that he expected his pagan audience, in his Appeal, to approve wholeheartedly of this reasoning. Why? Because such negative views of the sex drive permeated the pagan Mediterranean world and would have been immediately identified as virtuous.

Penance. Repentance is in the Bible, but works of penance whose role is to restore salvation is not. Yet, works of penance are mentioned in some of the earliest writings of the Church Fathers, including On Penance by Tertullian and the Epistle of Barnabas. “Barnabas” wrote:

Thou shalt remember the day of judgment night and day, and thou shalt seek out day by day the persons of the saints, either laboring by word and going to exhort them and meditating how thou mayest save souls by thy word, or thou shalt work with thy hands for a ransom for thy sins (19:10).

Tertullian wrote:

Thus he who, through repentance for sins, had begun to make satisfaction to the Lord…It is intolerable, forsooth, to modesty to make satisfaction to the offended Lord! To be restored to its forfeited salvation (On Repentance, Chap 5, 10)!

Both “Barnabas” and Tertullian appear to be saying that salvation can be lost and that through works of penance, salvation is restored. Whether or not this is something they earnestly and literally taught, or they felt that repentance merely satisfied God in a general sense, I won’t debate here. Let’s simply concede they were speaking of works of penance as the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox would understand them.

The idea that works of penance restore one to God is not necessarily anti-Christian. Surely, visible acts of penance are seen throughout the Old Testament. However,  this changes in the new covenant when the crucifixion of Christ  atoned for all the sins of His Church that have ever existed and ever will:

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us (Col 2:13-14).

Any additional works, whose purpose would be to satisfy God and effect the forgiveness of sins, in light of this are superfluous. This is not my opinion, this is literally Paul’s point in Colossians 2. After stating the preceding tenet of doctrine he makes an application:

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day…If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch” (Col 2:16, 20-21; read 16-23 for entire context)!

As we can see, because Christ has effected a total forgiveness of sins, therefore the Christian is not obligated to observe Jewish and Gnostic rituals whose purpose is to satisfy God and effect the forgiveness of sins. So, being that Paul spoke againstpenances effecting satisfactions for sin, where did the idea come from? According to Swain, eastern mystery religions:

Macerations, laborious pilgrimages, public confessions, sometimes flagellations and mutilations, in fact, all forms of penance and mortifications uplifted the fallen man and brought him nearer the gods (p. 71-72).

To Hellenized thinkers Tertullian, “Barnabas,” and the future purveyors of the preceding rite, penance made sense. As said before, their thought did not develop in a vacuum. In light of this, it appears they were importing pagan thought and misappropriating Old Testament texts.  This may have led to an anti-new covenant view of penance being practiced in the Church even very early on.

Baptismal Regeneration. There is no evidence that any of the church fathers before Cyprian explicitly believed in the doctrine,  as they usually conflated baptism with faith or repentance as the operative saving act. For example, Tertullian wrote:

We are not washed in order that we may cease sinning, but because we have ceased, since in heart we have been bathed already (On Repentance, Chapter 6).

Yet, not long afterwards, church fathers were arguing that baptism really effected a one-time get-out-of-hell free card that could even save those who did not have faith or repentance, such as infants. Where did this idea come from?

It is entirely possible that the idea arose from overly literal interpretations of verses such as Acts 2:38 and John 3:5. Further, references to the “laver of regeneration” from Justin Martyr, Theophilus of Antioch, and Irenaeus when read apart from context (they are clearly speaking of repenetance) would make it appear that these men believed that water literally effected the regenerating. So, to arrive at the doctrine of baptismal regeneration would not be unexpected given what the Scriptures and traditions say.

However, just as we said before, early Christian doctrine did not evolve in an intellectual vacuum. Swayne identifies that eastern mystery religions taught that baptisms and annointings effected an one-time-only complete remission of sins:

Two new things in particular were brought by the Oriental priests : mysterious methods of purification, by which they claimed to wash away the impurities of the soul, and the assurance that a blessed immortality would be the reward of piety…They had a series of ablutions and lustrations supposed to restore original innocence to the mystic. He had to wash himself in the sacred water according to certain prescribed forms (p. 70).

This did not belong to the eastern rites alone. Gnosticism, which essentially acted as the gateway between eastern mystery religions, Greek philosophy, and Christianity, also adopted the practice. Irenaeus condemns a Gnostic baptism by sprinkling rite in Against Heresies 1.21.5:

Others still there are who continue to redeem persons even up to the moment of death, by placing on their heads oil and water, or the pre-mentioned ointment with water, using at the same time the above-named invocations, that thepersons referred to may become incapable of being seized or seen by the principalities and powers, and that their inner man may ascend on high in an invisible manner, as if their body were left among created things in this world, while their soul is sent forward to the Demiurge.

Conclusion. The argument has been made that the preponderance of ascetic practices, found in pagan thought before the existence of Christianity suggests that Hellenistic intellectual norms permeated the Church at a very early date. This had a marked effect on the development of monasticism and peculiar, extra-biblical doctrines ranging from the admonishment to have sex only for procreation to propitiatory penances.

Now, it is possible to overstate this argument as there were specific Christian doctrines that early Church Fathers themselves recognized were found in Mithraism and the like. Justin Martyr wrote:

[W]hen those who record the mysteries of Mithras say that he was begotten of a rock, and call the place where those who believe in him are initiated a cave, do I not perceive here that the utterance of Daniel, that a stone without hands was cut out of a great mountain, has been imitated by them, and that they have attempted likewise to imitate the whole of Isaiah’s words (Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 70)?

In chapter 66 of his First Apology, Justin likewise accuses the Mithraists of copying the eucharist. In the First Apology he blames “wicked devils”  for deceiving man into imitating the sacrament. We may easily infer that the Mithraists copied Christianity, and certainly, we have evidence of eastern mystery religions in later centuries mimicing Christian symbolism and the like. Certainly, this is what Gnosticism did.

However, it appears impossible to ignore that we certainly have evidence of pre-Christian practices that, though not Biblical like the Eucharist, did find their way into Christian practice and belief. There are two possible reasons why:

  1. Christianity simply has some practices and beliefs identical to that of pagan belief systems, and we can chalk that up to a broken clock being right twice a day.
  2. Early Christians were effected by the intellectual ideas of their time, and they interpreted God’s revelation in light of this intellectual climate.

While the former is possible, the latter appears much more likely. Why? For one, as we see in Athenagoras Appeal, some of these beliefs are actually against the Scripture and the Church universally has rejected  some of them (such as no re-marriage). So, we have bona fide examples of Hellenistic cultural import into the early Church. It would seem like special pleading to say that the other examples of doctrines listed here would not be similar, Hellenistic imports.

Secondly, Christians always have and always will be affected by the society in which they live. For example, we have churches that elect their pastors and makes decisions based upon popular vote. Clearly, democratic ideals have found their way into ecclesiastical practice. Woman’s liberation and hairstyles have virtually eliminated women’s headcoverings from the Western Church, even though there is no justifiable textual or traditional basis to do so. The same intellectual tradition has also helped destroy complementarianism. I have been to both Catholic and Protestant churches and have watched them try to explain away the fact that the Scripture calls wives to submit to their husbands. (To be fair, more ancient churches went beyond what the Scripture taught and were overtly misogynistic.)  In many churches, fornication is turned a blind eye to (look how Catholics and Protestants alike spoke so highly of men like Karl Barth.)

Saint Augustine warned:

[S]ins, however great and detestable they may be, are looked upon as trivial, or as not sins at all, when men get accustomed to them; and so far does this go, that such sins are not only not concealed, but are boasted of, and published far and wide (Chapter 80, Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love).

Social norms have a very strong effect on the Church. Did social expectations about virtue lead to the importing of pagan and Gnostic forms of asceticism? Most likely, yes. It would have been natural for God-fearing Christians to seek excellence in virtue. It is just that their sense of virtue was colored by the intellectual climate of their time, and with some Scriptural justification, pagan and agnostic beliefs found their way into Christian practice.