Disunity – What Erasmus can teach us

by Frank Muller

The Wall Street Journal had an excellent opinion piece on Erasmus and his role trying to mediate between Martin Luther and the Catholic Church.

As we know Christianity has divided through the centuries and at each division the pace quickened, and the disintegration increased.

It is hard to evangelize the love of Christ to others when Christians do not even worship together as One Body. The splits started small but grew ever more palpable as the centuries advanced. Here are the big picture events in order to see the seismic shifts but I break out the major heresies later many of which continue to percolate to this day.

  1. First the corruption of false teachers and heresies (still in existence today) described in the New Testament clearly reveals the start of schism and disunity and this started appearing in the historicity of Christianity by the 2nd Century AD.
  2. Then, the split with the Orthodox Catholic Church about 1000 years ago dividing East and West along political and cultural lines.
  3. Then, the Reformation split Christianity along the lines of obedience to the Church versus “private interpretation” as informed by Scripture alone regardless of Church practices and teachings from the prior 1500 years.
  4. Then, the Reformation within 50 years starting splitting to the point that there are more than 20,000 different Protestant denominations today as the “private interpretation” genie now works its’ inevitable disunity by replacing Truth for truth.
  5. Then, the denominations themselves starting in the 19th Century started becoming “non-denominational” meaning that the Authority on Scripture and dogma fell to individual pastors (thus church shopping) who discern Truth through their own authority to interpret. Essentially, the denominations in their specific doctrinal teachings were splintered just as they had with the Catholic Church 400 years prior.
  6. Now, the splitting is down to the individual level as each person determines own own “truth” and “morality” and casts judgement on others from our role as a minor deity.

Erasmus pleaded for Unity and warned of the consequences of not working within the Body to handle and address issues and concerns.  Under no circumstances should Christian’s divide was his point, and the greater destruction of disunity will inevitably outweigh the temporary good of divorce.

However, we all want our change “now” and we are not willing to allow our Creator to work change according to His plan and His timetable through our efforts within the One Body. That would require patience with God’s plan and not impatience due to it being our own plan however well intentioned.

This fracturing is replete throughout Scripture from the beginning and our Lord always called us back to Unity both in Spirit and Body to Truth.

Learning how to peacefully and lovingly and patiently strive together in unity even when there is disagreement or misunderstandings or just plain sins – this is the model our Lord left us.

Let us pray that this model can be restored to our one Church and further that our culture returns to unity in Faith, Morals and Dogma but diversity in all its glorious wonder under that One Unity of Faith.

How Strong is the “STRONGEST Argument Against Catholicism”? – Word on Fire

For many Christians what has been lost is a knowledge of the arguments that caused the splits and to go back (at any of the six phases of disintegration above) and reexamine the arguments from both points of view dispassionately. Above is an interesting link to a conversation regarding Catholicism and its’ claim that it is the Church our Lord founded with Peter as its’ Vicar.

So often when we do this, we can see the weak logic, we can see the passions of folks color their reasoning, we can see what they could not – what we will find in that is Unity is not only possible – it is inevitable. Below is a list of the heresies the Church fought/fights against. Read carefully each one and think about how in some quarters each these heresies remain.

  • Adoptionism: Belief that Jesus was born as a mere (non-divine) man, was supremely virtuous and that he was adopted later as “Son of God” by the descent of the Spirit on him.
  • Apollinarism: Belief that Jesus had a human body and lower soul (the seat of the emotions) but a divine mind. Apollinaris further taught that the souls of men were propagated by other souls, as well as their bodies. Declared to be a heresy in 381 by the First Council of Constantinople
  • Arianism: Denial of the true divinity of Jesus Christ taking various specific forms, but all agreed that Jesus Christ was created by the Father, that he had a beginning in time, and that the title “Son of God” was a courtesy one. Arius was first pronounced a heretic at the First Council of Nicea, he was later exonerated as a result of imperial pressure and finally declared a heretic after his death. The heresy was finally resolved in 381 by the First Council of Constantinople.
  • Docetism: Belief that Jesus’ physical body was an illusion, as was his crucifixion; that is, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body and to physically die, but in reality, he was incorporeal, a pure spirit, and hence could not physically die. Docetism was rejected by the ecumenical councils, and largely died out during the first millennium AD.
  • Donatists:  Donatists were rigorists, holding that the church must be a church of saints, not sinners, and that sacraments administered by traditors (Priests themselves who were in a state of mortal sin) were invalid. They also regarded martyrdom as the supreme Christian virtue and regarded those that actively sought martyrdom as saints.
  • Ebionites: A Jewish sect that insisted on the necessity of following Jewish law and rites, which they interpreted in light of Jesus’ expounding of the Law. They regarded Jesus as the Messiah but not as divine.
  • Gnosticism:   Gnosticism is a collection of religious ideas and systems which originated in the late 1st century AD among Jewish and early Christian sects. These various groups emphasized personal spiritual knowledge (gnosis) over the orthodox teachings, traditions, and authority of the church. Viewing material existence as flawed or evil, Gnostic cosmogony generally presents a distinction between a supreme, hidden God and a malevolent lesser divinity… who is responsible for creating the material universe. Gnostics considered the principal element of salvation to be direct knowledge of the supreme divinity in the form of mystical or esoteric insight. Many Gnostic texts deal not in concepts of sin and repentance, but with illusion and enlightenment.
  • Marcionism: An Early Christian dualist belief system. Marcion affirmed Jesus Christ as the savior sent by God and Paul as his chief apostle, but he rejected the Hebrew Bible and the Hebrew God. Marcionites believed that the wrathful Hebrew God was a separate and lower entity than the all-forgiving God of the New Testament. This belief was in some ways similar to Gnostic Christian theology, but in other ways different. Marcionism continued in the West for 300 years, although Marcionites ideas persisted much longer. Marcionism continued in the East for some centuries later.
  • Montanus: The beliefs of Montanism contrasted with orthodox Christianity in the following ways:
    The belief that the prophecies of the Montanists superseded and fulfilled the doctrines proclaimed by the Apostles. The encouragement of ecstatic prophesying. The view that Christians who fell from grace could not be redeemed. A stronger emphasis on the avoidance of sin and church discipline, emphasizing chastity, including forbidding remarriage.
    Some of the Montanists were also “Quartodeciman”.
  • Manichaeism: A major dualistic religion stating that good and evil are equally powerful, and that material things are evil. Thrived between the 3rd and 7th centuries and appears to have died out before the 16th century in southern China.
  • Nestorianism: Belief that Jesus Christ was a natural union between the Flesh and the Word, thus not identical, to the divine Son of God. Condemned at the First Council of Ephesus in 431 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451, leading to the Nestorian Schism.
  • Valentianism: A Gnostic and dualistic sect. Considered heresy by Irenaeus and Epiphanius of Salamis

Source: Wikipedia

Let us always strive towards Truth together. As Erasmus tried in the 16th Century, may we follow in his example of love and charity. Let us love one another and our differences not by splitting but by joining together as One body in pursuit of the Truth. There is no Big C, little c. One is one. It is Unity in diversity. Let no one and no thing divides us against ourselves in the Truth.

Peace be with us all.

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