Restoring the Biblical Faith
History Church History Biblical Studies
One may ask why is Christianity corrupt? How did it happen and who is responsible for it? How can this situation be changed?
The wicked dislike the Scriptures and prefer other books to them. They hate the true religion, and with the purpose to do away with it they develop their own fictitious religions, such as ‘natural religion’, ‘rational religion’, ‘deism’, ‘theism’ etc. (The ambiguity of these terms makes it difficult to understand what they mean.)
Unable to appreciate the merits of the sacred Biblical texts, the wicked admire the writings of philosophers and scholars who never were saints. They study those writings although they are worth nothing if compared with those of the Biblical prophets.
Christianity has its value as long as it remains Biblical. For Christianity to be based exclusively on the Bible is crucial. Moreover, it is immensely important for the lives of Christians.
God is infallible, but the Church that exists here on earth, with its whole history and many denominations, is not infallible. The Church is supposed to play a big spiritual role, but it seems it does not conduct its spiritual role well. The flaws of the Church lie in its traditions, in its culture, in its organization, in its doctrines.
There is a typical Western way of viewing God that has a long history and is rooted in Western philosophy with its ideas of Platonism, Aristotelianism, Neo-Platonism, Stoicism, Epicureanism etc. The devil strives to undermine the Biblical faith by disseminating such false ideas that lead people away from God.
I know this because I have experienced it in my life. Like others, I admired the culture of Ancient Greece and Rome. I read the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Plotinus. I have read almost all the extant ancient writings although neither in Greek, nor in Latin, but in their English translations. I philosophized until I realized the need to focus on the Scriptures.
The so-called classical education paying tribute to paganism is one of the causes of corruption of Christianity. The ancient philosophers were pagans. Although they wrote about Deity, they never knew the true and living God, the Lord of Israel. Therefore, when Jesus Christ came, their wisdom fell into disrepute, appeared worth nothing. The apostle Paul witnessed it.
“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1Co 1:20)
Since the ancient thinkers, such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and their followers were pagans, after their death they most likely found themselves in Hell, in the place of eternal punishment. Yet their writings have been read, studied, admired by the educated classes since antiquity till the modern times.
Throughout its history the Church favored pagan ideas, to the detriment of the Biblical faith. A proof of this can be found in the text of the so-called Nicene Creed (AD 325). It was designed to ensure unity within the Church, but its quality of being Christian is disputable. First, its authors could have explicitly decreed the need to adhere to the Scriptures as the basis of theology, but the Scriptures as such are not mentioned in it. Second, the Nicene Creed contains the philosophical terms ‘essence’ and ‘substance’ that are not scriptural and represent the pagan philosophy of Aristotle.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was especially responsible for the mixing of Christianity with paganism. His education was pagan, and he took an interest in pagan philosophy and rhetoric before he converted to Christianity. Having studied the writings of Plato and his followers, he created a form of theology on which the doctrines of the Church are based even today.
Augustine saw the deplorable state of the Empire when Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410. He wrote a huge treatise De Civitate Dei (The City of God) to vindicate Christianity against the attacks of those who blamed it for the misfortunes that befell the Roman state. His seeming purpose was to expose the wickedness of the pagan culture, but it is noticeable that he loved it because of his pagan education.
A professional rhetorician, Augustine had a passion for philosophy. He praised the pagan philosophers from whom he learned and attempted to reconcile their philosophical systems with Christianity. He called Socrates "illustrious both in his life and death" and described Plato as one who he approached "nearly to Christian knowledge". He wrote that "it is evident that none come nearer to us than the Platonists", calling the Platonists "justly esteemed the noblest of the philosophers". According to Augustine, the City of God is, as he put it, "the true Jerusalem eternal in the heavens". He draws a distinction between the heavenly Jerusalem and the earthly one, so that it follows that there are two of them, which is absurd.
Augustine knew the Scriptures, he could not have been unaware of what is written in them about Jerusalem. The City of God is spoken of in one of the Psalms, and this phrase clearly means Jerusalem and no other city on earth.
“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress”. (Psa 46:4-7)
Just as the only true God is one, Jerusalem is one, and nowhere in the Scriptures it is written that there are two, three or more of them. It is one as an entity, as the capital of the Jewish state, as having a certain location on earth. It far surpasses all other cities by the number of times it is mentioned in the Bible, which is 763 times in the NIV version. By contrast, Rome is mentioned only 10 times, and Athens, the center of the Greek culture, only 5 times. The prophet Isaiah speaks of Jerusalem as the holy city, extolling it.
“Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again.” (Isa 52:1)
Augustine's system is unscriptural and dualistic in that it is characterized by a sharp distinction between the heavenly and the earthly realms. He also emphasizes the contrast between the two realms. This accords with the fact that, as it is known from his biography, Augustine was a Manichaean before he converted to Christianity. Manichaeism is a dualistic religious system in which Good and Evil are believed to be two radically opposed, conflicting substances.
Like Augustine who failed to overcome paganism, modern Christians, as it seems, are unable to do away with it. One of the most dangerous things in today’s world of politics is that the traditions of Imperial Rome are admired while the Biblical lessons are neglected.
The wicked do not want to learn from the Bible. Instead, they extoll the vices of the ancient Greeks and Romans. If they studied history well, they would know how cruel the ancient Romans were (which is why they crucified Jesus and brutally persecuted Christians). It is known that Rome was a wicked city. The moral depravity of the populace depreciated the value of life to such a level that, according to modern historians’ estimates, the average life expectancy in Rome, the capital of the Empire at its peak, was about 20 years or so (!). Among the contributing factors that made life so short were diseases, violence, slavery and oppression of the poor.
The Bible teaches to learn from history. However, it is known that historical lessons are rarely learned, they are mostly ignored.
As Scholasticism flourished in the Middle Ages, paganism was revived. Let me mention Thomas Aquinas (1225-74), another big name in history, who was a devout Aristotelian. In his book Summa theologiae Aquinas frequently refers to Aristotle, reverently calling him 'the Philosopher'. In a great degree his theology is based on the pagan philosophy of Aristotle. Today Aquinas' books are studied by scholars although they are imbued with pagan ideas.
Scholasticism is the devil’s trap into which many have fallen since the time of Aquinas, yet it remains inseparable from the Church. It seems the lessons of the Reformation have not been learned, for Scholasticism remains a problem, it is like a chronic disease, like a pestilence that affects some Christian denominations.
Augustinianism, Thomism, Neo-Thomism and other unscriptural scholastic systems were used as weapons against the genuine Biblical faith. And the subversion of Christianity went further. Today paganism is part of the modern culture and education from which the devil's servants learn to look down on those who believe in God. Now the world is in chaos as millions of sinners are heading toward Hell because of the false values that are instilled in them.
Christianity and the Church should be cleansed of the philosophical dross that has accumulated for many centuries. This is a serious issue, it affects all of us, affects our spiritual health and our wellbeing. Our future depends on the accomplishment of this task.
The task of restoring the Biblical faith is likely to appear difficult, time-consuming and even risky. The Church is responsible for the subversion of Christianity, but you can never hear a clergyman confessing his sins publicly.
The ability to reason well is not enough for salvation. Reasoning is unreliable in that it is prone to make untenable conclusions. The Aristotelian logic with its syllogisms proves nothing. Philosophy with its rational postulates designed to explain everything, including the nature of God, is sinful, if not to say blasphemous. The apostle Paul warned against it,
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ”. (Col 2:8)
Only those words that come from God have value and weight. Philosophical rationalism is unreliable, but the Scriptures, because they are given by the Lord, are reliable, trustworthy and indispensable for our spiritual growth. Let us not look down on the Bible. We should be more principled, more firm, more resolute in our stance against sin, more committed to the Biblical tradition.
The wicked speak and write to show off their competence but invariably disagree with the Scriptures or simply ignore them. They consider the Lord Almighty as an abstraction or as a thing that is lifeless. As they have no respect for the God of Israel, they have no respect for the Word of God.
The Church’s duty is supposed to be the educating of Christians according to the Bible, but it poisons them with philosophy and with a way of thinking that is not scriptural. As a result, philosophy and theology are studied in academies, but the Biblical lessons are neglected. One of them follows from the fact the Scriptures tell not only about God, but also about the history of Israel. God's chosen people and Israel, their country that exists here on earth, with its certain location, will always matter. The Lord Almighty established a decree that cannot be subverted when He chose Israel.
"On the day I chose Israel, I swore with uplifted hand to the descendants of the house of Jacob and revealed myself to them in Egypt. With uplifted hand I said to them, 'I am the LORD your God.' (Eze 20:5)
However, what God has declared is ignored by the wicked. Instead of understanding God's will and following it, they pursue their own interests. They believe they can take from God what they want without giving nothing in return, without following His will. They love their homes, their native countries and national cultures, having no respect for the Holy Land.
The Holy Land is neither an abstraction, nor a metaphor. It is real and concrete. Where is its location? It is the land allotted to the Israeli nation by the Lord and about which it is said,
"Thus he brought them to the border of his holy land, to the hill country his right hand had taken. He drove out nations before them and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance; he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes." (Psa 78:54-55) "The LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem." (Zec 2:12)
God’s people remember well where the Holy Land is. They revere it as the land where Jesus Christ lived, taught, died for their sins, rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples. It is the region where God's people will live in faithfulness, happiness and peace until their ascension to the heavens. If we belong to the Lord, then the Holy Land is our land, our inheritance. It adds to our faith a very concrete, practical meaning.
Another key point is that since the initial language of the Scriptures was Hebrew, the knowledge of Hebrew, the ability to read in Hebrew are important.
The Bible teaches how to live and to believe in God. Among other things it teaches how to deal with words, which has nothing to do with Scholasticism. The way the Biblical prophets listened to God, talked with the Lord, followed His will, prayed, wrote their writings is how such things should be done. Their statements are straightforward. All this is different from how some of those who call themselves Christians practice their faith, for they used to talk a lot, but their words lack weight.
There is more to say about the mistakes we Christians often make and how we can avoid them. If God permits, I will continue to deal with this subject in my other posts.