Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Something to remember

For the next time you get into a discussion with gnostic types:

He said, "It's also significant to note that the early Christians were more spiritual than religious, without the need for a hierarchical church." (He went on to describe himself as "more spiritual than religious, but I did take my kids to church on Easter.")

Waitt's private views likely color his perception of Church history. When he said that "early Christians were more spiritual than religious," he apparently meant that they operated without any sense of a formal Church structure--as Waitt himself operates now. The only problem with this idea is that it is demonstrably false.

All one needs to do is to read any of the Church Fathers. Take Ignatius of Antioch, for example. There he is, being hauled off to Rome for execution. The year is 110. The last of the apostles, John, has been dead about a decade. There still can be found old men who had heard Jesus speak.

Roman soldiers escort Ignatius toward the capital, and the man they escort is a bishop, which is to say a leader of an organized, hierarchical Church. Ignatius knows his authority and exercises it, even as he is in captivity. During his last journey he writes letters to local churches in Asia Minor.

We still have them. They can be found in translation in most larger book stores. They are short and can be read in a single sitting, and no one can read them without seeing that Ignatius was not a member of a loose agglomeration of like-minded people but was a member of--even a hierarch of--an organized Church.

It's not like there's a disputed witness in the early Church. The documents clearly state what was afoot, and the importance of the hierarchy to the functioning of the Church. It's not until well after the earliest period that these things are disputed. Keep your wits about you and stick with the facts, and soon maybe you'll convince people that DVC is in fact not true.

Then again, maybe not.

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