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.

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Short Prayers

Wiki:Jacob-Böhme

Jakob Böhme (/ˈbməˈb-/;[2] 1575 – 17 November 1624) was a German Christian mystic and theologian. He was considered an original thinker by many of his contemporaries[3] within the Lutheran tradition, and his first book, commonly known as Aurora, caused a great scandal. In contemporary English, his name may be spelled Jacob Boehme; in seventeenth-century England it was also spelled Behmen, approximating the contemporary English pronunciation of the German Böhme.

Re-blog:

A Short Form of Prayer Before the Eyes of God

O great, unsearchable, holy God, Lord of all being, who in Christ Jesus, out of pure love for us, revealed your holy being in our humanity, I, a poor, unworthy, sinful man, come before your revealed face, in the humanity of Jesus Christ, even though I am unworthy to raise my eyes to You, and I implore You, and confess to You that I have been faithless and disloyal to Your great love and grace that You have given us.  I have forsaken the covenant that You, out of pure grace, made with me in baptism, in which You took me as a child and heir of eternal life.  I have led my desire into the vanity of this world, and defiled my soul thereby, and made it completely bestial and earthly, so that, because of the mire of the sin, my soul does not know itself, and sees itself wholly as a strange child before Your sight, unworthy to desire Your grace.  I lie as deep as my soul’s lips in the mire of sin and in the vanity of my corrupted flesh, and have only a small spark of breath in me that seeks Your grace.  In vanity I have thus become dead to myself so that, in this vanity, I dare not raise my eyes to You.

O God in Christ Jesus, who for the sake of poor sinners became man so that You could help them, to You I cry; I still have a spark of refuge for You in my soul.  I have not regarded Your purchased inheritance that through Your bitter death You purchased for us, and I have shared the inheritance of vanity in Your Father’s wrath, in the curse of the Earth, and am trapped by sin and half dead to Your kingdom.  I lie in weakness before your power, and angry death waits for me.  The devil has poisoned me so that I do not recognize my Savior.  I have become a wild shoot in Your tree and have devoured my inheritance from You with with the devil’s pits.  What shall I say before You, I who am not worthy of Your grace?  I lie in the sleep of death that has trapped me, and I am bound fast with three strong chains.  O help me, You Breaker of death.  I can and am able to do nothing.  I have become dead to myself and have no power before you, and dare not lift my eyes to you because of my great shame.  I am a defiled swineherd and have spent my inheritance with the false adulterous whore of vanity, wasting it in the lusts of the flesh.  In my own lust I have sought myself and not You.  Now I have become a fool in myself and am naked and bare; my shame stands before my eyes; I cannot hide it.  Your judgment waits for me.  What am I to say to You, You who are the judge of the world?  I have nothing more that I can bring to You.  Here I stand before You naked and bare, and fall down before Your face, and complain to You of my misery, and cry for Your great mercy.  Although I am not worthy, take me into Your death and let me die Your death in my death.  Strike down my assumed “I” and destroy by Your death my “I,” so that I no longer live, since in myself I only sin.  Kill the evil beast full of false cunning and self-desire, and redeem the poor soul from its heavy bondage.

O merciful God, it is because of Your love and patience that I am not already lying in hell.  I give myself up with my whole will, thought, and mind to Your grace, and ask for Your mercy.  By Your death I call out of the small spark of my life surrounded by death and hell, which open their jaws to me, and seek to swallow me up in death.  You have promised You will not put out the glimmering wick.  I have no other road by which to come to You than by Your suffering and death, because You have made our death life by means of Your humanity and have broken the chains of death.  Therefore I sink my soul’s desire into Your death, into the broken gates of Your death.

O great Fountain of the love of God, let me die to my vanity and sin in the death of my Redeemer Jesus Christ.

O Breath of the great love of God, revive my weak breath in me so that it may begin to hunger and thirst after You.  O Jesus, sweet power, in Your fountains of grace give my soul to drink the sweet water of eternal life so that it may wake from death and thirst after You.  O how it has become completely exhausted in Your power.  O merciful God, convert me; I cannot.  O Conqueror of death, help me to strive since the enemy holds me with his three chains and will not let my soul’s desire come before You.  Come, and take my soul’s desire into You.  Be my pull to the Father, and redeem me from the devil’s bonds.  Do not look upon my deformity, that I stand naked before You, and have lost my cloak.  Clothe my breath that lives in me and desires Your grace and let me once again see Your salvation.

O deepest Love of all, take my soul’s desire into You, and, by Your death, lead it into You out of death’s bonds through Your death into Your resurrection.  Revive me in Your power so that my desire and will begin to grow anew.  O Conqueror of death and God’s wrath, conquer my “I” in me.  Break its will, and crush my soul so that it is in fear before You, continually falling on the ground before You, and make it ashamed of its own will before Your judgment so that it may become an instrument obedient to You.  Bend it in death’s bonds; remove its power so that it wills nothing without You.

O God, Holy Spirit, my Savior in Christ, teach me what I ought to do so that I might turn to You.  Redirect my will in me to You.  Draw me, in Christ, to the Father, and help me so that from now on I might leave sin and vanity and nevermore enter into them.  Awake true sorrow for past sins in me.  Keep me in Your bonds, and do not let me loose from deaths.  Enlighten my spirit so that I may see the divine way, and continually walk in it.  Take me from myself and give me completely to Yourself alone.  Do not let me begin, will, think, nor do anything without You.  O how long, Lord, will I not be worthy of what I desire of You?  Let my soul’s desire dwell merely in the doorways of Your outer room.  Make it a servant to Your servants.  Preserve it from the horrible pit in which there is no solace or refreshment.

O God in Christ Jesus, I am blind to myself.  I do not know myself because of vanity.  In my blindness You are hidden from me, You who are yet close by me.  Yet Your anger that my own desire has ignited has made me dark.  Take the breath of my soul’s desire to Yourself.  Test it, Lord, and shatter it, so that my soul may reach Your beam of sweet grace.

I lie before You as a dead man whose life, like a small spark, hovers at his lips.  Ignite it, Lord.  Direct my soul’s breath to You.  Lord, I wait on Your promise, for You have said, As I truly live, I have no desire in the death of the sinner, but that he turn and live, (Ezekiel 33:11).  I sink myself into the death of my Savior Jesus Christ, and wait on You, Your word is truth and life.

Amen.

CALVIN ON POSTURE IN WORSHIP

Source: The Calvinist International

SITTING ON THE PROMISES? Portrait of John Calvin

Two of the more common gestural accompaniments of prayer and worship in Scripture are kneeling and the lifting of one’s hands.

In several places in the Institutes and his commentaries, John Calvin reflects on the usefulness of such practices for Christian prayer and sketches an outline of what it is that God intends them to do; or, rather, what God intends to do by them (and the notion of instrumentality will emerge as clearly having been of great significance for Calvin).

We tend, I think, in the Reformed world particularly, to assume that posture has very little to do with prayer, for a variety of reasons (e.g., an allergy to certain traditions with which we’d rather not be associated; an intellectualizing and cerebral impulse in worship that has as a frequent corollary, though not as a necessary consequence, a perhaps too easy alliance with forms that fall within our collective comfort zones; 1etc.). Others perhaps move in the opposition direction, believing that certain actions must be done at certain times, and that a failure to perform these actions makes prayer less, well, prayerful.

For Calvin, both positions are errors because both misjudge the nature of externals and their relation to the worship of the heart–the former too easily dispensing with them and therefore too quickly leaving them to one side, the latter giving them more weight than is due to them. Worship of God without the heart is useless; but, at the same time, what we do with our bodies is closely bound up with what we do with our hearts, and not in a symbolic way merely. The posture of the body ought to be emblematic of the posture of the heart, yes. But, ideally, the posture of the body serves to form the posture of the heart as well: posture, that is, has what we might call, in syntactical terms, both an indicative and a hortatory function. Kneeling is not just a sign of submission; kneeling aids in producing submission.

To approach more closely to what should be involved in thinking about this issue, let us look at some excerpts from Calvin, beginning with the Institutes. (END QUOTE)

For the rest of the article please visit The Calvinist International

Yours in the Lord,

jm

Grace and Salvation

Amen, be encouraged, it is all of GRACE! john_gill

“That there are universal offers of grace and salvation made to all men, I utterly deny; nay I deny that they are made to any; no not to God’s elect: grace and salvation are promised for them in the everlasting covenant, procured for them by Christ, published and revealed in the gospel, and applied by the Spirit.” John Gill, The Doctrine of Predestination Stated

AGAINST TRANSUBSTANTIATION

FIFTY-FIVE THESES AGAINST TRANSUBSTANTIATION
Rev. Prof. Dr. F.N. Lee

First. Together with Holy Scripture, I assert the real presence of Christ, personally, at His Sacraments and in His Word and through His Spirit. Exactly that assertion of the omnipresence there of the Son of God, impels me to deny His physical presence in and under the sacramental elements, or even in the Bible as His Holy Word. Christ Himself insists against any view of a merely `local presence’ either in Jerusalem or in Samaria: “God is Spirit; and they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:20-26.

Second. Long before the incarnation of God the Son, He was indeed really present at the Old Testament preachings of His Word and at the administration of His Sacraments of Circumcision and of the Passover. Moreover, such presence must have been Spirit-ual and could not have been fleshly or physical. For the Son had then not yet become flesh.

doctor

False doctrine, a plague.

Third. John chapter six has nothing to do with the Lord’s Supper, which was instituted only later at the very end of Christ’s earthly ministry. The RC Church and other groups which appeal to that passage to try to establish that Christ is physically present in the bread and the wine at His Supper, err greatly. For John 6:9-13 is not sacramental. Nor is it an account of transubstantiating bread and fishes into Himself, but rather a description of His miraculous multiplication of five loaves and two small fishes into many more untransubstantiated loaves and fishes sufficient to feed about five thousand mature men and perhaps also their womenfolk and their children. John 6:10 cf. Matt. 14:14-21 & Mark 6:36-44 & Luke 9:14-17.

Fourth. From John 6:26 onward, Jesus said to the folk: “Truly I tell you, you seek Me …because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” Then, in 6:32, Jesus implied that He Himself is the bread from heaven. He did not anabaptistically bring His flesh with Him from heaven-but only His Own Person, and indeed in a Spirit-ual way. He took upon Himself flesh for the first time not in or from heaven, but only from and within the womb of Mary as His earthly mother.

Fifth. In 6:33, He says that the bread of heaven is not His earthly flesh but He Who [personally and now incarnately] came down to give life to the world. When in 6:34, the believers said to Him `Lord, give us this bread evermore!’- Jesus did not pick up a piece of earthly bread and turn it into Himself. Instead, in 6:35, He said to them `I am the bread of life’ [and not `I will become the bread of life’]; he who comes to Me [and not `he who comes to a piece of earthly bread that I will turn into Myself] shall never be hue.” Yet the latter indeed does happen, between Masses, to those that from time to time come and receive the RC Mass.

Sixth. In John 6:48f, Jesus added: “I am that bread of life.” He did not say: `Earthly bread will become Me.’ Of Himself He then said: “This is the bread that comes down from heaven [not `that earthly bread will become Me just whenever an earthly priest so alleges’]. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever [not `even if any man eats the Mass on earth, he might still end up in hell’]. And the bread that I will give [not `the bread which an earthly priest may give’], is My flesh which I will give for the life of the world.”

Seventh. In John 6:52-58, “the [unbelieving] Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, `How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”‘ This shows that they had a carnal, cannibalistic, materialistic, and `localized presence’ misunderstanding of what Jesus was saying.

Eighth. In 6:53, “Jesus said to them,`Very truly I tell you, unless you keep on eating the flesh of the Son of man and keep on drinking His blood [not `unless you from time to time keep coming to Mass’], you have no life in yourselves. Whoever keeps on eating My flesh and keeps on drinking My blood, has everlasting life. “‘ That cannot truthfully be asserted of all who are merely regular communicants. “For My [then and there untransubstantiated!] flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who keeps on eating My flesh and keeps on drinking My blood [rather than keeps on having the dark-red wine withheld from him by a creaturely earthly priest], keeps on dwelling in Me [not physically but spiritually!], And I in him [not physically but spiritually!] ….

Ninth. Jesus then insisted: “`He who keeps on feeding on Me [and not `he who from time to time consumes transubstantiated bread and wine’], even he shall keep on living by Me [not `by the Mass’]. This is that bread which came down from heaven [and not `you must physically eat my flesh which came forth from Mary!’] …. He who keeps on eating of this bread [namely the Christ from heaven], shall continue living for ever [and not `might end up in heaven after a reasonable term in purgatory, yet could possibly still end up in hell for ever’]!”

Tenth. In John 6:61f, when even His disciples kept on murmuring about this, Jesus said to them [altogether Proto-Calvinistically and totally untransubstantiatingly]: “It is the Spirit Who keeps on enlivening! The flesh profits not at all! The words which I have spoken (or keep speaking) to you, they are Spirit and they are life! But there are some of you who do not believe” [such as Judas Iscariot whom Rome would have us believe nevertheless physically ate and drank the Divinity and also the very flesh and blood of Christ]. Compare John 6:64-71.

Eleventh. Literalistic transubstantiation would imply Judas was a God-eating cannibalistic infidel who here physically ate God and the flesh and drank the blood of Jesus, Who had as then not yet died. But He would then (against His Own Word in Lev. 26:29 & Dent. 28:53) have had to have given a piece of His flesh and siphoned off some of His blood for Judas’s faithless consumption thereof!

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Twelfth. While insisting on Christ’s Spirit’s presence during preaching (I Cor. 2:1-4. c f. Gal. 3:1) and at water baptism (Acts 1:5 cf. I Cor. 12:13), I deny (even with the RC Church) that Jesus is physically present in or under the baptismal water. Similarly, while insisting on His Holy Spirit’s presence at His Supper, I deny that Jesus is physically present in or under the sacramental bread and wine. Indeed, I particularly deny that either the water or the wine become transubstantiated into His physical blood.

Thirteenth. It is obvious when Christ instituted the Supper and metaphorically or non-physically yet really called the bread His flesh-that His Own flesh had not yet been broken. He was, even after His consecration of the elements, in fact Himself still physically holding in His hand that which the Holy Bible still called bread and wine. Matt.26:26-29 & Mark 14:22-25 & cf. I Cor. 10:17f & 11:23-28.

Fourteenth. I heartily agree that the Ante-Nicene Fathers with their high view of Holy Scripture taught the real presence of our Saviour at His Table. For they believed what Holy Scripture here teaches. The Ante-Nicenes, holding with Holy Scripture to Christ’s Spirit-ual presence, therefore denied His physical presence in the bread and the wine. Indeed, even no Post-Nicene Church Father advocated transubstantiation-until Radbertus in 831, and more particularly Lanfranc in 1049 A.D. Nor was this false theory ever Eastern-Orthodox theory-nor even official RC theory until it became so in 1215 A.D.

Fifteenth. After the completion of the New Testament Scriptures, Clement of Rome (who was later regarded by the RC Church as her fourth pope), wrote around A.D. 99 to his “dear brethren” alias to his fellow Christians in his Letter to the Corinthians (cps. 1 & 40) that “it behooves us to do all things in order, which the Lord has commanded us at stated times. He has enjoined gifts and services to be performed …at the appointed times and hours.” Cf I Cor. 16: If. There is no mention of John 6:32-63; nor even of the Lord’s Supper; and still less of transubstantiation.

Sixteenth. Perhaps around A.D. 100, one reads in The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (ch.14): “On the Lord’s [Day] gather yourself together and break bread [but not `Physically eat the flesh of Christ’], and give thanks! …. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: `In every place and time, present to Me a pure offering!’ [Mal. 1:11 ]. Again, there is no mention of John 6:32-63; and still less of transubstantiation.

Seventeenth. Around A.D. 107, Ignatius wrote in his Letter to the Philadelphians (ch. 4): “Take heed then to have but one Eucharist! For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to [show forth] the unity of His blood.” The later and longer (Pseudo-)Ignatian version adds: “One loaf also is broken to all.” Once again, there is here no mention of John 6:32-63; and still less of transubstantiation.

Eighteenth. In his Epistle to the Trallians (ch. 8), Ignatius declares: “Be renewed in faith; THAT is the flesh of the Lord – and in love; THAT is the blood of Jesus Chris!” Here again, there is no mention of John 6:32-63; nor of transubstantiation; and still less of any withholding of the cup from the laity.

Nineteenth. Irenaeus pointed out in his Epistle To Smyrna 6:2 to 7:1 that heretics “have no regard for love; no care for the widow or the orphan or the oppressed; of the bond, or of the free; of the hungry, or of the thirsty [cf. Acts 6:1f & I Cor. 11:21A. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not profess the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ Who suffered for our sins.” Here, there is no mention of John 6:32-63; nor of transubstantiation. Interestingly, in the Longer Version, there is no mention whatsoever even of the Lord’s Supper.

Twentieth. Not in the Ignatian but in the later Pseudo-Ignatian `longer version’ of an Epistle to the Ephesians (ch. 5), one reads: “If any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God.” But even then, there is no mention of John 6:32-63 and still less of transubstantiation. Indeed, none of the extant writings of the Apostolic Fathers-those authorities who knew the Apostles personally -even once quote from John chapter six to prove anything at all!Pope Francis celebrates Mass during meeting with Augustinian priests in Rome

Twenty-first. In the A.D. 165 Justin Martyr’s First Apology (ch. 65), Justin says that “bread and a cup of water and wine are brought to the presiding brother. He receives them and presents praise and glory to the Father of all things through the Name of His Son and of the Holy Ghost …. And when he [the one presiding] has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people express their assent. And when the one presiding has given thanks and all the people have assented, they whom we call deacons give to each of those who are present a portion [not of any transubstantiated flesh or blood but a portion] of the bread and wine mixed with water.”

Twenty-second. Justin adds in ch. 66: “This food is called among us Eucharistia, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true …and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink” and still less as bread and wine transubstantiated into blood-yet indeed as uncommon bread and drink! “We have been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His Word and from which our [own] blood and flesh by assimilation [but not by transubstantiation] are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus Who was made flesh …. Jesus commanded them to do as follows: `He took bread [and not at all His flesh nor His blood] and gave thanks and said, “This do in remembrance of Me: this is My body [not `this becomes My body’].””‘

Twenty-third. Notice here that Justin claims that the elements (although not common bread and common drink) are indeed truly “bread” and “drink” and not physical flesh and blood. As even Gelasius Bishop of Rome observed in A.D. 490: “By the Sacraments we are made partakers of the divine nature, and yet the substance and nature of bread and wine do not cease to be in them.”

Twenty-fourth. Justin concludes in ch. 67: “On the day called Sunday, all …gather together to one place, and the Memoirs of the Apostles or the Writings of the Prophets are read …. Then we all rise together and pray …. When our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought” etc. Here again, there is no mention whatsoever of John 6:32-63; nor of transubstantiation.

Twenty-fifth. In Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew (ch. 41), he says that the Old Testament “offering of fine flour …was prescribed to be presented …as a type of the bread of the Eucharist, the celebration of which our Lord Jesus Christ prescribed in remembrance of the sufferings He endured” precisely “so that we may give thanks to God for having created the world for us” and “for having destroyed completely the principalities and powers by Him Who suffered according to His will …. Of the offerings given to Him in every place by us (the nations)-the offerings, that is of the bread of the Eucharist and likewise of the cup of the Eucharist – of these He foretells (in Mal. 1:11). Here again, there is no mention of John 6:32-63; nor of transubstantiation.

Twenty-sixth. In ch. 70, Justin defends Christians against the false charge of their enemies that God’s people were cannibals and drinkers of human blood. He does so, by saying that Isaiah 33:13-19 alludes “to the bread which our Christ gave us to eat in remembrance of His being made flesh for the sake of His believers.”

Twenty-seventh. In ch. 117, Justin told the Jew Trypho that “God, anticipating all the gifts which we bring through this Name and which Jesus the Christ enjoined us to present, i.e. the bread and the cup in the Eucharist, and which are presented by Christians in all places throughout the world, bears witness that they are well-pleasing to Him.” Here again-there is absolutely no mention of John 6:3263; nor of transubstantiation.

Twenty-eighth. Also the A.D. 180 Theophilus in his Letters to Autolycus (111:4) rebukes the “godless lips [which] falsely accuse us who are worshippers of God and are called Christians …that we eat human flesh.” However, if it had then been their teaching that in the Eucharist the bread and wine cease to exist by getting transubstantiated into human flesh and blood – Theophilus could not here have resented the false accusation of the Pagans that Christians are cannibals, as being “most barbarous and impious” (as he here indeed does).

Twenty-ninth. At that same time, in his Against Heresies IV: 17:5f, Irenaeus wrote that Jesus “took that created thing bread and gave thanks and said `This is My body [not “this becomes My body”]!’ …. It behooves us [Christians] to bring a present to God, and in all things to be found grateful to God our Maker in a pure mind and in faith without hypocrisy-in well-grounded hope, in fervent love-presenting the first-fruits of His Own created things. And the Church alone presents this pure gift to the Creator-presenting it to Him with thanksgiving. But the Judaists do not offer thus. For their hands are full of blood. For they have not received the Word through Whom it is presented to God_ We [Christians] give His own to Him, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit.” Hence we Christians present to the Triune God His Own creatures of bread and wine. And we proclaim the fellowship of the flesh with the spirit, in that the flesh of every believing human being is receptive to the Spirit. Here again in Irenaeus, neither John 6:32-63 nor tansubstantiation are mentioned at all.

Thirtieth. Around A.D. 190, in his Instructor (I:6), Clement of Alexandria repeatedly mentions John six (but not in connection with mature faith nor as regards the Lord’s Supper). Yet in his Instructor, Clement does say that “blood is figuratively termed wine” and that “the Lord’s blood is figuratively represented as milk” and that Christ “washes …His garment in wine [and] His robe in the blood of the grape” (Gen. 49:11). Indeed, in II:2, Clement distinctly says that “to drink the blood of Jesus is to become partaker of the Lord’s immortality” (which no apostate from the eucharist ever did) – “the Spirit being the energetic principle of the Word, as blood is of flesh …. The mixture of both-of the water and of the Word- is called Eucharist, renowned and glorious grace; and they who by faith [and not ex opere operato] partake of it, are sanctified.”

Thirty-first. So too in Clement’s A.D. 194 Stromata (I:1 & 10 and IV:26): “The Saviour, taking the bread, first spoke and blessed. Then, breaking the bread, He presented it so that we might eat it according to reason, and that knowing the Scriptures we might walk obediently …. Moses says Melchizedek King of Salem, Priest of the Most-High God, who gave bread and wine – furnished consecrated food for a type of the Eucharist.” Here, there is no transubstantiation but only the ProtoProtestant doctrine of the real Spirit-ual presence of God at the Lord’s Supper to the eye of faith.

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Thirty-second. In his A.D. 207 Against Marcion III:19-22, Tertullian wrote that “God …called His body bread” and that “He has given to His body the figure of bread, Whose body the Prophet of old [Jer. 11:19] figuratively turned into bread …. With this agrees also the prophecy of Malachi [ 1:11 ]: `I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord [to the Judeans]; neither will I accept your presents. For from the rising of the sun [in the East] even unto the going down of the same [in the West] -My Name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place a gift shall be presented to My Name, a pure presentation’ -such as the ascription of glory and blessings and praises and hymns.” No mention here of the Lord’s Supper, and still less of the Mass!

Thirty-third. Also again in his Against Marcion IV:40, Tertullian insists: “The Law prefigures His passion …. Moses had declared that there was a sacred mystery: `It is the Lord’s Passover’ [Lev. 23:5]…. When He [viz. Jesus Christ] so earnestly expressed His desire to eat the Passover, He considered it His Own Feast …. Having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body by saying, `This is My body’ [and not `this now becomes My body’] that is, the figureof My body. Yet there could not have been a figure, unless there were first a veritable body.”

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Thirty-fourth. Tertullian continues: “In order however that you may discover how anciently wine is used as a figure for blood, turn to Isaiah [63:1] who asks, `Who is this that comes from Edom, from Bosra, with garments dyed in red, so glorious in His apparel, in the greatness of His might? Why are Your garments red, and Your raiment like his who comes from the treading of the full wine-press? … He represents the bleeding condition of His flesh under the metaphor of garments dyed in red-as if reddened in the treading and crushing process of the winepress from which the labourers descend reddened with the wine-juice like men stained in blood.”

Thirty-fifth. “Much more clearly still, does the book of Genesis [49:11] foretell this, when (in the blessing of Judah out of whose tribe Jesus Christ was to come according to the flesh), it even then delineated Christ in the person of that patriarch, saying: `He washed His garments in wine, and His clothes in the blood of grapes.’ In His garments and clothes, the prophecy pointed out His flesh and His blood in the wine. Thus did He now consecrate His blood in wine- Who then (by the patriarch) used the figure of wine to describe His blood.”

Thirty-sixth. We would also cite Tertullian’s On the Resurrection of the Flesh (ch. 37), where he declares “`The flesh profits nothing’ [John 6:63] …. W e ought therefore to desire Him in order that we may have life, and to devour Him with the ear and to ruminate [or `chew the cud’] on Him with the understanding and to digest Him by faith. Now just before the passage in hand, He had declared His flesh to be `the bread which comes down from heaven’ [John 6:5 I] …. Because He perceived that they were going to be scattered from Him, He says: `The flesh profits nothing.”‘ A stronger argument against the later error of transubstantiation, is hard to imagine!

Thirty-seventh. Only in the A.D. 251f Cyprian do we find the very first beginnings of unbiblical sacramentalism in relation to the Lord’s Supper. This is clear from his statement in his Treatises IV: 18. There he writes: “We ask that this bread should be given to us daily – so that we who are in Christ and daily receive the Eucharist for the food of salvation, may not by the interposition of some heinous sin be prevented …from partaking of the heavenly bread …. He Himself predicts and warns, `I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If any man eat of My bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread which I will give is My flesh, for the life of the world’ [John 6:58]. When therefore He says that whoever shall eat of His bread shall live for ever, as those who partake of His body and receive the Eucharist by the right of communion are living, so on the other hand we must fear and pray lest any one …being withheld from communion and separated from Christ’s body-should remain at a distance from salvation.”

Thirty-eighth. Nevertheless, in other cases, Cyprian cites from John chapter six with no reference to the Lord’s Supper whatsoever. See for instance his Epistles 72(73):11 and his Treatises II:7 & IV: 14 & XII:I :T:22 & XI:3:T:19.

Thirty-ninth. Yet even in Cyprian, there is still no trace of the mass or of any transubstantiation. Consider, for instance, his Epistle 63:2f (62:2f) to Caecilius, where Cyprian insists: “Nothing must be done by us but what the Lord first did on our behalf, as that the cup which is offered in remembrance of Him should be offered mingled with wine …. We find in Genesis [9:20f] also, in respect of the Sacrament in Noah, this same thing was to them a precursor and figure of the Lord’s passion; that he drank wine …. Noah, setting forth a type of the future truth, did not drink water but wine, and thus expressed the figure of the passion of the Lord.PoperyCardinals

Fortieth. He continues: “Also in the priest Melchizedek we see prefigured the Sacrament of the offering of the Lord-according to what Divine Scripture testifies and says: `And Melchizedek King of Salem brought forth bread and wine ` [Genesis 14:18] …. Our Lord Jesus Christ,” he explains, “offered a sacrifice to God the Father – and offered the very same thing which [the High Priest] Melchizedek had offered, that is, bread and wine – to wit, His body and blood.”

Forty-first. Cyprian goes on: “In the blessing of Judah, also this same thing is signified, where there also is expressed a figure of Christ …. When the blood of the grape is mentioned [Gen. 49:11], what else is set forth than the wine of the cup of the blood of the Lord? … When the water is mingled in the cup with wine, the people is made one with Christ, and the assembly of believers is associated and conjoined with Him on Whom it believes …. In this very Sacrament, our people are show to be made one – so that in like manner as many grains collected and ground and mixed together into one mass make one bread, we may know that there is one body with which our number is joined and united.”

Forty-second. Also in his Epistle 75(69) to Magnus, Cyprian says: “When the Lord calls bread which is combined by the union of many grains, His body-He indicates our people whom He bore as being united. And when He calls the wine which is pressed from many grapes and clusters and collected together, His blood-He also signifies our flock linked together by the mingling of a united multitude.” Clearly, Cyprian is devoid of transubstantiationism.

Forty-third. The A.D. 254 Origen, in his Commentary on Matthew XI: 14, states: “The food which is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, as respects its material part, goes into the stomach; but as regards prayer which is added to it, according to the proportion of faith, profits. It enlightens the mind which beholds that which is profitable. Nor is it the matter of the bread but the words spoken over it which profit men who do not eat unworthily. And these things I speak of the typical and symbolical body No worthless person is able to eat it. For if it were possible for one who continues worthless to eat of Him Who became flesh, Who was the Word and the living bread – it would not have been written that `every one who eats of this bread shall live for ever’ [John 6:51 ].” This is the very opposite of transubstantiation!

Forty-fourth. Also in Origen’s Commentary on John, and specifically on chapter six thereof, there is no hint of ex opere operato sacramentalism. Nay more, in 1:23 & VI:26 & X:13 (“the Word of God is not flesh and flesh only”), there is not even a hint of it referring to the Lord’s Supper. So too the remaining references to John chapter six in Origen’s Commentary on Matthew (XII:5 & XII:33 & IV: 14).

Forty-fifth. Also in the A.D. Novatian’s Treatise Concerning the Trinity (ch. 14), the whole thrust is against transubstantiation. Asks Novatian: “If Christ is only man-how is it that `even as the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself [John 5:26] – when man cannot have life in him[self] after the example of God the Father, because he is not glorious in eternity but made with the materials of mortality?If Christ is only man-how does He say: `I am the bread of eternal life which came down from heaven’ [John 6:51], when man can neither be the bread of life (he himself being mortal)? Nor could He [then] have come down from heaven-since no perishable material is established in heaven!”

Forty-sixth. The A.D. 265 Gregory Thaumaturgus in his Twelve Topics 10:E cites John 6:55f only to establish Christ’s Deity and without reference to His Supper. The A.D. 315 Lactantius in his Divine Institutes IV: 15 refers John chapter six – simply to the miraculous but not at all to the Sacrament of the Eucharist. And the A.D. 320 Eusebius in his Evangelical Demonstrations VIII: 1, states that Christ “gave again to His disciples the symbols of the divine economy- and appointed them to eat bread as a symbol of His Own body.”

Forty-seventh. This brings us to Nicaea. (A.D. 325). Suffice it to say that even a century later, also the great Augustine follows his fellow-African theologians the older Tertullian and Cyprian in their non-transubstantiationistic theory of Christ’s real presence at the Lord’s Supper. Thus he says that Judas ate only the bread of the Lord, while the other apostles ate the Lord Who was the bread. Indeed, in his 25`h Treatise on the Sixth Chapter of John, he rhetorically asks: “Why do you prepare the teeth and the belly?” And then he himself answers: “Believe-and you have eaten!” See too his Christian Doctrine III:3f

Forty-eighth. It was only in A.D. 831 that (by Radbertus in his book The Body and Blood of the Lord) one first finds propounded the most novel notion that “the substance of bread and wine is effectually changed (efcaciter interius commutatur) into the flesh and blood of Christ”-so that once the priest has consecrated it there is “nothing else in the eucharist but the flesh and blood of Christ.” Transubstantiation was never accepted in any part of the Church Catholic whether Greek, Roman, or Proto-Protestant (alias Culdee or Waldensian etc.), until the Roman Church proclaimed it dogmatically as an article of her faith at the 4th Lateran Council in 1215.

Forty-ninth. Even since A.D. 831, many Roman Catholics still opposed such transubstantiation. So: Ratramnus, Berengarius, John Scotus Eriguena, Rabanus Maurus, Walafrid Strabo, Christian Druthmar, Florus Magister, Eusebius Bruno (Bishop of Angers), Frollant (Bishop of Senlis), and Elfric. Also, according to the famous RC Cardinal Bellarmine in his De Sacramento Eucharistea (111:5 and 4 dII q.6 art. 1,2 and q. 3 art. 1,2 and I:5) – even the celebrated Cardinal Cameracensus said: “Transubstantiation cannot be proved from Holy Writ …. To this Cardinal Roffensis, Cardinal Cajetan and also Scotus all concur.” Indeed, the RC scholars Gabriel, Nicolus, Cusanus, Tapper, Hessel and others all present the “Protestant” interpretation of John 6:54. See Dr. P.G. Logan’s Ph.D. dissertation The History and Doctrine of Transubstantiation, Sydney, 1994, pp. 84f.

Fiftieth. As Dr. Calvin says in his Commentary on John 6:53f “This sermon [of Christ] does not refer to the Lord’s Supper, but to the continual communication which we have apart from the reception of the Lord’s Supper …. As far as young children are concerned, Christ’s ordinance forbids them to participate in the Lord’s Supper – because they cannot yet try themselves or celebrate the remembrance of the death of Christ …. It is wrong to expound this whole paasage as applying to the Lord’s Supper.”

Fifty-first. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion (IV:18:5), John Calvin argues: “If Christ is sacrificed at each mass, He must cruelly be slain every moment in a thousand places. This is not my argument, but the apostle’s: `Nor yet that He should offer Himself often’; `for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world’ (Heb. 9:25f)… Though they [the Roman theologians] insist a hundred times that this sacrifice is bloodless (anaimakton), I will reply that it depends not on the will of man to change the nature of sacrifice. For in that way, the sacred and inviolable institution of God would fall. Hence it follows, that the principle of the apostle stands firm: `without shedding of blood is no remission’ (Heb. 9:22).

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Fifty-second. The true presence of our Saviour in the Lord’s Supper, then, is aptly professed in the Westminster Confession of Faith (29:2): “In this Sacrament, Christ is not offered up to His Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sins of the quick or dead (Heb. 9:22f); but only a commemoration of that one offering up of Himself, by Himself, upon the cross, once for all, and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God for the same (I Cor. 11:24-27). So that the Popish sacrifice of the mass-as they call it-is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect (Heb. 7:23-27 & 10:11-18).”

Fifty-third. Westminster says (29:6): “That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called Transubstantiation by consecration of a priest or by any other way is repugnant not to Scripture alone but even to common sense and reason; overthroweth the nature of the Sacrament; and hath been and is the cause of manifold superstitions, yea of gross idolatries(Acts 3:21; I Cor. 1:24f; Luke 24:6,39).

Fifty-fourth. The words of the Westminster Confession (29:7) aptly summarize the eucharistical teachings of the Holy Scriptures as well of the Ante-Nicene Church: “Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible element in this Sacrament (I Cor. 11:26f), do then also inwardly by faith really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but Spirit-ually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified and all benefits of His death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really but Spirit-ually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses (I Cor. 10:16).”

Fifty-fifth and finally. Let all heed Jesus, Who said: “The hour is coming, and is now, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit…. …. God is Spirit; and they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit …. It is the Spirit Who enlivens. The flesh profits nothing. The words which I spoke to you, they are Spirit!” John 4:23f & 6:63.

Evangelical Grace

London Baptist Confession of Faith:

This saving repentance is an evangelical grace, whereby a person, being by the Holy Spirit made sensible of the manifold evils of his sin, doth, by faith in Christ, humble himself for it with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrency, praying for pardon and strength of grace, with a purpose and endeavour, by supplies of the Spirit, to walk before God unto all well-pleasing in all things. ( Zechariah 12:10; Acts 11:18; Ezekiel 36:31; 2 Corinthians 7:11; Psalms 119:6; Psalms 119:128 ) chp. 15.3

John Gill:

Special faith in Christ is of the operation of the Spirit of God:
he produces it by his mighty power in the soul;
he enlightens the mind,
reveals the object,
brings near Christ, his righteousness and salvation, and
enables the sensible sinner to look unto him,
lay hold on him,
and receive his as his Savior and Redeemer;
hence he is called the Spirit of faith (2 Cor. 4:13);
because he is the author of it, who begins and carries on, and
will perform the work of faith with power:
the principal use of which grace is to receive all from Christ, and
give him the glory.

God has put this honor upon it, to constitute and appoint it to be the receiver-general of all the blessings of grace.

It receives Christ himself as the Father’s free-gift;
it receives out of the fulness of Christ,
even grace for grace,
or and abundance of it;
it receives the blessing of righteousness from the Lord of justification;
it receives the remission of sins through his blood, according to the gospel-declaration;
it receives the adoption of children,
in consequence of the way being opened for it through the redemption which is in Christ;
it receives the inheritance among them that are sanctified,
the right unto it, and the claim upon it; and to this post it is advanced,
that all the glory might redound to the grace of God; it is of faith, that it might be by grace (Rom. 4:16).

(FAITH IN GOD AND HIS WORD: HE ESTABLISHMENT AND PROSPERITY OF HIS PEOPLE: A Sermon, Preached at a Wednesday’s Evening Lecture, in GREAT EAST-CHEAP, Dec. 27, 1753.)

Again, The London Baptist Confession of 1689 reads;

ch.14

The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts,”

“By this faith a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word for the authority of God himself”

“and so is enabled to cast his soul upon the truth thus believed”

ch.15
“This saving repentance is an evangelical grace, whereby a person, being by the Holy Spirit made sensible of the manifold evils of his sin”

The idea that all men everywhere must repent is biblical, BUT, the repentance required of the reprobate is legal. All men are guilty of breaking God’s law and therefore must repent of their deeds and they never do. Sure, unsaved people feel guilt or regret over their sins but they still rage against the holy and living God. Only the elect are given the “evangelical grace” of repentance and faith that leads to eternal life.

John Gill’s comments on Acts 20.21 are useful in understanding this subject and so, I post them below.

Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks,…. To the Jews first in their synagogue, and then to both Jews and Greeks, or Gentiles, in the school of Tyrannus; opening and explaining to both the nature and use, urging and insisting upon, and proving by undeniable testimonies the necessity,

of repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ: the former of these is not a legal repentance, but an evangelical one; which flows from a sense of the love of God, and an application of pardoning grace and mercy, and is always attended with hope, at least of interest in it, and as here with faith in Christ Jesus:

it lies in a true sight and sense of sin, as exceeding sinful, being contrary to the nature and law of God, and a deformation of the image of God in man, as well as followed with dreadful and pernicious consequences; and in a godly sorrow for it, as it is committed against a God of infinite purity and holiness, and of love, grace, and mercy; and it shows itself in shame for sin, and blushing at it, and in an ingenious confession of it, and forsaking it: and the latter of these is not an historical faith, or an assent of the mind to whatsoever is true concerning the person, office, and grace of Christ; but is a spiritual act of the soul upon him;

it is a looking and going out to him, a laying hold and leaning on him, and trusting in him, for grace, righteousness, peace, pardon, life, and salvation. Now these two were the sum of the apostle’s ministry; this is a breviary or compendium of it; a form of sound words held fast and published by him: and as these two go together as doctrines in the ministry of the word, they go together as graces in the experience of the saints; where the one is, there the other is; they are wrought in the soul at one and the same time, by one and the same hand;

the one is not before the other in order of time, however it may be in order of working, or as to visible observation; repentance is mentioned before faith, not that it precedes it, though it may be discerned in its outward acts before it; yet faith as to its inward exercise on Christ is full as early, if not earlier; souls first look to Christ by faith, and then they mourn in tears of evangelical repentance, Zec 12:10 though the order of the Gospel ministry is very fitly here expressed, which is first to lay before sinners the evil of sin, and their danger by it, in order to convince of it, and bring to repentance for it; and then to direct and encourage them to faith in Christ Jesus, as in the case of the jailer, Ac 16:29 and this is, generally speaking, the order and method in which the Holy Spirit proceeds;

he is first a spirit of conviction and illumination, he shows to souls the exceeding sinfulness of sin, causes them to loath it and themselves for it, and humbles them under a sense of it; and then he is a spirit of faith, he reveals Christ unto them as God’s way or salvation, and works faith in them to believe in him. Moreover, these two, repentance and faith, were the two parts of Christ’s ministry, Mr 1:15 and are what, he would have published and insisted on, in the preaching of the word, Lu 24:47 so that the ministry of the apostle was very conformable to the mind and will of Christ. [end quote]

Yours in the Lord,

jm

Commune With God

Psalm 4:4 “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.”

Psalm 63:6 “When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.”

Psalm 16:7 “I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.”

Psalm 119:147 “I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word.”

The Two Witnesses

candles7THE TWO WITNESSES (taken from The Tragic Aftermath of Futurism)

see also The Witness of the Church

In Revelation 11:3-12 is described the two witnesses with their work, their death and their resurrection. From the fundamentalist, Futuristic standpoint of Biblical interpretation of prophecy, it is commonly taught that the two witnesses are two men of the Old Testament era that have been resurrected or either the two men of the Old Testament that did not die and therefore are brought back into their physical bodies and placed back on this earth as the two witnesses. Ordinarily, it is believed that the two witnesses are either Moses and Elijah, Elijah and Enoch or Moses and Enoch. There is quite a dispute over the difference of opinion as to which of the two men of these three it will be. These three men have been chosen because their lives, while they were on earth in their physical bodies, are somewhat a type of the work and description of the two witnesses described in Revelation 11. Staying true with the text, we are given the best clue as to their identity in verse four.

First, let us ascertain from the Old Testament who God refers to as His two witnesses. In Isaiah 43:10 it is stated unto Jacob which is inclusive of both houses of Israel, “Ye are my witnesses saith God and my servant whom I have chosen. . .” The prophet is referring to Jacob, yet he says, ye are my witnesses, which denotes more than one or a plurality of witnesses. In Isaiah 44:8 it is stated, “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? Ye are even my witnesses.”

Here again, God is speaking through the prophet unto Jacob His servant, that the house or family of Jacob are His witnesses. In Revelation 11:3 the possessive personal pronoun “my” is used again as it was in both Scriptures in Isaiah. He says, “I will give power unto my two witnesses.” “My” must have an antecedent which is referring back to the angel in verse one. This angel is Jesus Christ. He is telling us through the prophet Isaiah, who His witnesses are. Does Christ have different witnesses than what is stated in the Old Testament? No, His witnesses would be the same.

In Psalm 114:2 the Psalmist speaks of Judah as being the Lord’s sanctuary while Israel as being His dominion. This denotes a two-fold office of religious and civil authority within the family of Jacob.

In Revelation 11:4 we are given a strong clue as to the identity of these two witnesses by the reference to the two olive trees and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the whole earth. In Haggai 1:1 and 14 is mentioned two men and their respective offices which were instrumental in the restoration of the city of Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. Joshua the High Priest and Zerubbabel the Governor are the two men which are types of the two witnesses of Revelation 11. It is very significant to remember that the two God-given institutions that were reestablished during this post-exilic era were civil authority under the leadership of Zerubbabel the Governor and religious authority under Joshua the High Priest. The parallel remains the same. Those two institutions are civil authority and religious authority under the dual office of the Messiah originally intended to be exercised through His Church in His Kingdom. Someday Jesus Christ will execute full authority in both of these offices as is reflected in His title, King of kings and Lord of lords.

The three and a half prophetic days or three and a half literal years covers the period of time of May 5th 1545, the date of the fifth Lateran Council to October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five thesis to the Wittenberg Castle Church door in Germany. During this time there were no protestant voices crying out against the corruption of Papal Rome. The bodies of the two witnesses were “dead” (11:18) and the Papal Church of Rome rejoiced (11:10).

Through proper Biblical interpretation, while allowing the Scriptures to speak for themselves, we are given a clean understanding who the two witnesses are. While following the Futuristic scheme ‘Protestants’ remain in darkness and once again bow to the bidding of the Jesuits.

1689 Federalism compared to Westminster Federalism

“What is the nature of the federal union of an unregenerate person in the covenant of grace to Jesus Christ, and do they remain under Adam’s federal headship in spite of being in the covenant of grace (?) which is to say, can you be in the covenant of works and the covenant of grace at the same time? We would assert that you cannot.”

The Work of Dr. F. N. Lee

The works of Dr. F. N. Lee have been online and free for a while. The context is excellent but the site lacked in style until recently. Check out the update by clicking the picture below.lee