Modern Christian Fundamentalism: A Contradiction in Terms (No. 208)
(Edition 1.0 19970628-19970628)
Most modern Christians assume that the religion they follow is derived from the apostles and was taught by Jesus Christ. Yet the world is in a mess and Christianity has caused and is causing much of the misery and devastation. Their Christian leaders in fact appear to be part of the problem. What is the true position and the answer to the problem?
Christian Churches of God
PO Box 369, WODEN ACT 2606, AUSTRALIA
(Copyright ã 1997 Wade Cox)
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Modern Christian Fundamentalism: A Contradiction in Terms
Most of modern Christianity assumes that what it believes and practises was what was taught by Christ and the apostles. Few people realise that the religion they practice is actually nothing like the faith that was taught and practiced by Jesus Christ and the apostles or the early church.
Many Protestant churches deny the authority of the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church and yet are totally dependent upon the Councils of the church for the doctrines they hold.
Most so-called Modern Fundamentalist Christians believe that they hold a body of doctrine that is derived from Scripture alone and that this doctrine called sola Scriptura by the Reformation Protestants, such as Calvin and Martin Luther, is the basis of their belief.
What they do not realise is that the Reformation did not go back to the Bible and Scripture alone. It failed in its objectives and did not go beyond Augustine and the Councils of the fourth century. So-called Modern Christian Fundamentalism is totally dependent upon the Councils of the church for the validity of its doctrine. Most do not even know what the history of the church is and what took place from the time of Christ and the apostles up until the formation of the so-called orthodox Christian position as determined by the Councils of the fourth century.
There are some major false assumptions made by these so-called fundamentalists. Our task is to present a simple overview of the problem and show that fundamentalism is anything but that and is totally dependent upon the Councils of the church under the authority of the Roman empire.
False Assumption 1: The Trinity
Most people assume that the Trinity is found in the Bible. It is not found there. Both Catholic and Protestant theologians agree that the Bible and the logical belief system which is called rational theism are Unitarian. That is, they do not have three personalities vested in God.
Bishop Shelby Spong in his book Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism said simply: Paul was not a Trinitarian. None of the apostles were Trinitarian.
No official of any of the major churches believes or argues that Christ and the apostles were Trinitarian. They acknowledge that the Triune god was grafted onto the God of the Bible (see, for example, LaCugna God For Us). How then do the fundamentalists deal with this fact? They simply ignore the history and use Scripture selectively.
The truth is that the view that Christ was God in the same co-equal and co-eternal way as the Father was God was not accepted in the church until the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE and then under duress of the Roman emperor.
This was three hundred years after the ministry of Christ. They had to use armed force to achieve it.
The Holy Spirit was not defined as a person and a third part of the Godhead until the Council of Constantinople in 381 CE.
The full doctrinal position was not agreed until the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE.
Even then, there was not agreement as to the way in which it operated. The Catholics would later claim (from the Council of Toledo) that it proceeded from the Father and the Son, and the Orthodox would disagree saying it proceeded from the Father only.
How then did we get to this extraordinary state of affairs where the God decided on in the fourth century was not the God of the early church?
What other important changes took place that we do not know about? The answer is that there were a multitude of changes. These changes involved the changes from Sabbath to Sunday worship and from keeping the Passover to keeping the pagan festival of Easter. The pagan festival which we now call Christmas had not even then been adopted by the church.
Fundamentalists try to argue that Sunday worship was kept by the early Church – but all scholars know that this is not true. It is a lie or, more correctly, a self-delusion of the people who say they are fundamentalists. They say they only do what the Bible says and so they have to try to find some basis in the Bible for the things they do – such as going to church on Sundays.
How did it all start?
False Assumption 2: Sunday worship
The early church came under attack from a number of religions. The chief enemy of the church was a religion called Gnosticism – this name comes from the Greek word gnosis meaning knowledge. These people thought they had a secret knowledge which they labelled as Mysteries, and they derived much of their views from the Mystery cults.
These cults invaded other religions and took over the beliefs but adapted themselves to the system.
Some of the Mystery cults, especially in a country called Phrygia in Asia-Minor, spoke in what is now called tongues. No one could understand what they said, but they pretended that it was some important message from the higher powers. They later argued that this was done by the apostles at Pentecost. That was not so. The apostles spoke in other languages that could be understood, but the Gnostics claimed they did not and the practice is now in what is called Charismatic churches. These churches also claim to be fundamentalist. The practice called speaking in tongues came from the early Gnostics (see the papers The Nicolaitans (No. 202) and also The Tongues Question (No. 109)).
These Gnostics undermined the church from within. Their biggest success was in Rome. They did not come from there originally but they went there as it was the centre of power in the Roman Empire.
In Rome, from about 140-152 CE, they began to worship on Sundays. It was not done anywhere in the church until then and the first record we have of the practice is with Justin Martyr writing about 140 CE, but in his Dialogue with Trypho he says they also worshipped on the Sabbath.
False Assumption 3: Easter
From about 152 CE under the bishop Anicetus, the Romans started to worship on Easter Sunday. Up until that time, the church kept the Passover which would fall on any day of the week. It was determined by the early Hebrew calendar which was determined by the moon and the sun and not just the sun alone, as came to be adopted by the Romans from the Egyptian system.
This change caused a lot of problems and many people would not adopt it. Polycarp, the disciple of the apostle John, argued with this bishop of Rome and refused to change the practice of the early Church. He and the churches in the east refused to keep this pagan festival called Easter named after the goddess Easter or Ishtar with a Friday death and Sunday resurrection. This Easter festival was also derived from the Mystery cults. These cults were based on sun worship and, hence, they kept Sunday.
Up until that time, it was never thought that Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday. The accepted time was a Wednesday, but the early church writers and the calendars had the date of 25 March for the Hebrew date of 14 Nisan – the correct date of Christ’s death according to the Hebrew calendar. The only time this fell on 14 Nisan around the death of Christ was on a Sunday in 31 CE.
So Easter not only depends upon the later Councils of the church but also it is pagan in origin and was not the time when Christ was crucified.
Again, the fundamentalists have it wrong and depend upon the Gnostics in Rome for their authority.
This problem continued more or less continuously up until 190 CE. It was called the quarto-deciman dispute and was called that because quarto-deciman means 14th which was the date on the Hebrew calendar on which the Passover lamb was to be killed. Christ was killed as our Passover lamb on that day.
From 190 CE, they began to punish people for not keeping Easter and keeping the old Passover that the apostles had kept. This Passover went from 14 Nisan up until the Sunday of the week which was known as the Wave-sheaf Offering when Christ was understood to have ascended into heaven to the Father after his resurrection and before he appeared to the apostles as the risen Christ later that Sunday afternoon.
False Assumption 4: The law was done away by another true God who was Christ
The disputes went on and on with the Roman system always coming up with some new idea derived from the influence of these Gnostics. They first decided that they wanted to eliminate the laws of the Bible. These were all in the Scriptures which we now call the Old Testament. The New Testament was the writings of the apostles recording the sayings of Christ and the letters they wrote concerning the disputes in the church. Many of these disputes were caused by these Gnostics. These letters of the apostles were written to show how the Scriptures were to be interpreted.
In order to eliminate the laws of the Bible which the Gnostics hated, they had to produce the idea that the law of God was changed by another God equal to the first God who they called the God of the Jews. Initially, the Gnostics tried to say he was a bad God but that would not work. Their followers in Christianity then said that the God was the same God who simply appeared as Father and then as son and then as Holy Spirit but they were all only one God. This was called Modalism. This idea was altered later and ultimately became the Trinity.
The Modalists in Rome did not have full power and were opposed from other sources.
The idea, however, was logically necessary to remove the law of God and, so, Christ had to be made equal to God. To do that they had to claim first that he had always existed beside or with God and was not a product of the Father as any other son would be and as the other sons of God were products of the Father. They tried to say that the other sons of God were not really sons but creations that were different to Christ and he was not a product of the Father in the same way. This became the Roman view, which came to be established at Nicaea in 325 CE.
False Assumption 5: The immortal soul and life in heaven
The Gnostics also held a belief in an immortal soul. This was not adopted by the Christians. The Gnostics held that when you die you go to heaven. This was absolutely rejected by the Christians and they regarded anyone who said that when they died they would go to heaven as being a false Christian. It was a test of the true Christian and the Gnostic so-called Christian. If you said that when you die, then you, as an immortal soul, went to heaven you showed that you were influenced by Greek philosophy or you were a Gnostic and not a Christian. This problem is recorded by the early Christian writers Tatian and Justin Martyr (see the papers The Soul (No. 92) and Early Theology of the Godhead (No. 127)).
The fundamentalists today who claim an immortal soul and existence in heaven (or in Hell) on death are dependent upon Greek philosophy and Roman theology for the doctrine. It is not in the Bible.
The family of Christ
Up until the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE, the Church had been persecuted by the Jews. James the brother of Jesus Christ was bishop of Jerusalem until he was martyred in 63 CE. He was replaced by the nephew of Christ named Symeon who was the son of Cleophas and Mary the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus Christ. They are mentioned in John 19:25.
John 19:25Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. (KJV)
Mary’s sister was also called Mary according to the English translations. However, the truth is that the mother of Christ was called Mariam and her sister was called Maria (see Greek Interlinerars). Both words are derivatives of the original Hebrew Miriam. The name of Christ’s mother was not Mary or Maria – that was the name of her sister. She was called Mariam. The boys of the family also had the same names (with variations) and their offspring carried these names. Christ’s brothers were called James, Joses, Simon and Judas (Matt. 13:55). Judas was also called Jude and was the son of Joseph and brother of Christ but referred to himself as the brother of James (cf. Cassiodorus, ANF, Vol. II, p. 573) and as a servant of the Lord. His cousins were called Little James and Joses and Symeon and Judas. From this, we see the confusion with the two families. However, the record is clear that Mary or, more correctly, Mariam the mother of Jesus had other children and these and the sons of her sister and her cousin Elizabeth made up the family of Messiah. This third branch was descended from the brothers of John the Baptist. They were all called Desposyni or Belonging to the Lord.
After James the Just was killed in Jerusalem, his cousin Symeon and the younger cousin of Jesus Christ became bishop of Jerusalem. He took the church to Pella over the period which saw the destruction and occupation of Jerusalem and returned in 72 CE with the church. They remained there until the rebellion under bar Kochba. Jews were banned from Jerusalem in 135 CE by Emperor Hadrian. That also meant that the church at Jerusalem could no longer be the centre for the collection of moneys called the tithe of the tithe as had been done up until then. The family of Christ were the elders of the church for these first few centuries. They held offices as bishops in Alexandria and Antioch as well as Jerusalem and throughout Asia-Minor. During all this time, they kept the law and the Sabbath and the New Moons and the Holy Days. They kept the food laws and they tithed. They kept the church together. They and the disciples of the apostles of the other nations ran the church in the same way that Messiah had instructed them and according to the laws of God as laid down in the Bible.
The persecution of the family of Christ and the true church by the Roman system under Gnostic influence
The Roman church had come to be wealthy under patronage. When Constantine tried to establish the Christian system in order to use it, he gave the edict of Toleration at Milan circa 314 CE. After this, the Christians became influential. In 318 CE, the emperor paid for the travel of the family of Christ to Rome to confer with bishop Sylvester at the Lateran Palace. He was, by this time, a very wealthy person living like a prince. The party of the family of Christ came by ship to the port of Ostia and then they went by donkey to Rome. They were dressed in woollen homespun garments and leather hats and boots. They spoke Aramaic and Greek. Bishop Sylvester spoke only Latin and Greek so the conversation was carried on in Greek. It seems likely that Simon was their spokesman (see the paper The Nicolaitans (No. 202) and also the ex-Jesuit historian Malachi Martin The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church, pp. 42 ff).
They expressed their concern that the laws of God had been removed as the basis of the church. They wanted the Sabbath reinstated. It had been made inferior to Sunday from the Council of Elvira in 300 CE. They argued for the Torah, which was the Hebrew name given to the law of God, to be reinstated to its correct position. That included the Holy Days and food laws. They asked that the Greek bishops put into Alexandria and Antioch and elsewhere be replaced by the family of Christ. They asked also that Jerusalem again be made the centre of the faith and the money for the church be able to be sent there.
They went home. Instead of using his influence with Constantine to reform the church of these Gnostic influences and restore it to the true faith once delivered to the saints, as the brother of Christ wrote (Jude 3), Sylvester set about destroying the faith and the family of Christ with it.
Events were then set in train which would see the church make Christ a true God. This was called Binitarianism and it happened from the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. The bishops who did not agree were banished. However, after a little while Constantine realised that the church was not all in agreement with these people in Rome. He recalled the bishops from exile in 327 CE and replaced them as the heads of the church. The Binitarian doctrine of the Gnostic heretics was stopped. Constantine was not made a Christian until he was baptised by Eusebius of Nicomedia on his death-bed. He was, in fact, a sun worshipper and that is why he encouraged the Christians originally as he thought they, too, had the same beliefs. He did not realise they had inherited them from the Gnostics and the Mystery cults and that it was not true Christianity.
The Roman pagan religious system tried to reassert itself under Emperor Julian but he was not successful. In 366 CE, at the Council of Laodicea, the Sabbath was outlawed and Sunday worship was officially enforced. Easter had been declared earlier from Nicaea. The true Passover of the original Church was not supposed to be practiced. The eastern church ignored the rulings.
In 381 CE, the Spanish born Emperor Theodosius was made emperor by Emperor Gratian. He was the first baptised Athanasian emperor of the Roman system. Theodosius threw his weight behind Athanasius and another three priests who were from Cappadocia named Basil and the two Gregorys. One was Gregory of Nyssa and the other was Gregory of Nazianzus. These people developed the belief in the two Gods of Father and Son into three persons in the Godhead as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This became the Trinity, which by 451 CE when the Council of Chalcedon was held, was the official doctrine of the church ruling from Rome and Constantinople. This became known as the Orthodox or Catholic Church. Up until that time, the term catholic had meant universal. When the eastern church split with the western church they were called Orthodox and Catholic churches.
From the fourth century, the Roman church system with the help of the army then began systematically exterminating the family of Jesus Christ. They hunted and killed them by the sword. They removed their lands and forced them into zero population growth. By the fifth century, they were all but exterminated within the empire.
The Jews then also came into the picture by changing their calendar to a system quite different to the original Hebrew calendar based on a Babylonian model. This was done in 358 CE. It then became very difficult for the faith to make headway against this false system established under Gnostic influence. Indeed, the Gnostics had penetrated Judaism, Paganism and Christianity.
This so-called Orthodox Church came into England in 597 CE with Augustine of Canterbury and the Angles were converted at Kent. From that time, the British Church which was also Sabbath-keeping and kept the food laws and other aspects of the law of God was forced to change and adopt these non-biblical practices which emanated from Gnosticism. This change was forced from 663 CE at the synod of Whitby.
As we can see, the so-called fundamentalism of modern churches is not in accordance with the Bible as is claimed. Fundamentalism is not biblical literalism. It is dependent upon the Councils of the church for its basic doctrines which do not appear in the Bible. The doctrines are derived from ancient sources within Gnosticism and the Mystery cults involving sun-worship.
Christian Churches of God
PO Box 369 Woden, ACT 2606 Australia
E-mail: CCG Secretary
Copyright: The papers on this site may be freely copied and distributed provided they are copied in total with no alterations or deletions. The publisher's name and address and the copyright notice must be included. No charge may be levied on recipients of distributed copies. Brief quotations may be embodied in critical articles and reviews without breaching copyright.
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