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Source: (consider it) Thread: Biblical interpretation of apparently anti-gay passages
Gamaliel
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Yes, I think it's reasonable to claim that the Reformation was a product - or by-product - of the printing press. Don't forget that the Catholics used the new technology too, though - for missals and Books of Hours and so forth.

I don't have an issue with the symmetry you mention nor the 'providentiality' or any of this - provided we hold these things in balance and tension - rather than the kind of 'hardly anything of value happened from about AD 150 to 1517' trope that seems to run through Anabaptism like a stick of rock ...

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Steve Langton
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
Where we have a problem with the RC, Orthodox, Anglican and similar is that they are basically 'Constantinian';

Zzzzzz.

quote:
that is, derived from the era when the church was wrongly connected with the state in contradiction of scripture.
Both the RCC nor the EOC predate Constantine by some hundreds of years. The Anabaptists, on the other hand, were derived from the individualism and anti-authoritarianism of the Reformation. This game plays both ways.

Yes I expected the 'Zzzzz'. Still think my point is valid....

AIUI the church pre-Constantine was neither RCC nor EOC exactly as currently practised. Surely you can't speak about a 'Roman Catholic Church' (as opposed to 'the Roman branch of the Catholic Church') until there was the distinctive doctrine of the interpretative supremacy of the Pope, which again AFAICS was actually post-Constantine.

Fact remains that a state church, as both RCC and EOC were from Constantine onwards, has the problems I outlined above because of its connection to 'the world' and its interpretative competency is open to challenge for that reason.

Remember that Reformers and Anabaptists alike were reacting to an RCC which even many of its supporters (eg Erasmus) seem to have been increasingly unhappy about. While some of the changes that caused that unhappiness, and which the Reformers reacted against, were pre-Constantine, the being a state church 'fixed' some arguably dubious developments and paved the way for many more. (The EOC wasn't, AIUI, all that involved in the Reformation controversy).

The Anabaptists managed communal Bible study before widespread literacy by people who could read reading to others and those others learning the texts as much as they could. Accounts suggest that they were generally more biblically knowledgeable than their opponents. I'd think it would have been similar in the early church which was of course rather like Anabaptism.....

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
AIUI the church pre-Constantine was neither RCC nor EOC exactly as currently practised.

This is so obvious as to be obvious. But so what?

quote:
Surely you can't speak about a 'Roman Catholic Church' (as opposed to 'the Roman branch of the Catholic Church') until there was the distinctive doctrine of the interpretative supremacy of the Pope, which again AFAICS was actually post-Constantine.
There was no Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox Church because there was just The Church. But it sure as hell wasn't Anabaptist. The early church didn't give rise to Protestantism, let alone Anabaptism, whatever it did or whatever it became.

quote:
I'd think it would have been similar in the early church which was of course rather like Anabaptism.....
Of course it absolutely was NOT.

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hatless

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Why wasn't the early church Anabaptist? All movements, Protestant, Congregationalist or Pentecostal find sympathetic support in scripture and also in earlier Christian traditions. Benedict and Francis of Assisi, for example, would clearly have both been members of the Baptist Union of Great Britain had it existed when they were alive.

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Gamaliel
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Assuming that is, that the BUGB would be comfortable with the Marian devotion and high sacramental theology that Saints Benedict and Francis held to ...

Perhaps it would be. I chuckled at a story told by an Anglo-Catholic priest friend.

He was at an Anglican conference to which a prominent female Baptist minister was among the speakers.

Before she arrived to give her presentation, he was sitting over coffee in the waiting area outside the lecture theatre. Nearby, some evangelical Anglican clergy were deep in conversation and - unaware that he was a FiF Anglo-Catholic priest, were busily slagging off the Catholic wing of the CofE.

Terrible ... all those bells and smells, all that Mariolatory, all that fiddle-faddle ...

Just then, the Baptist minister arrived and, recognising one of the evangelical clergy, approached their table and gave effusive greetings. Unaware of what they'd been talking about she immediately launched into an account of her visit to Walsingham.

'I've just come back from Walsingham ... how marvellous! I had a fantastic time! Have you ever been? No? You really should, it's wonderful ... I joined in the devotions to Mary at both the RC and the Anglican shrines - so moving, so prayerful, so ...'

The faces of the evangelical clergy at the table dropped ...

[Big Grin]

So, perhaps you're right. Perhaps Benedict and Francis would have been good BUGB Baptists ...

[Biased]

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hatless

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Effusive? I can probably guess who that was!

Tradition establishes breadth. It's not really about ruling out the new and the different. We can all appeal to it and interpret it anew.

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Gamaliel
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I suspect you can, but I've forgotten the woman's name so couldn't help you there ...

Meanwhile, hatless, you would certainly make a good Anglican. I suspect you knew that already ...

[Big Grin] [Biased]

Meanwhile, I'm chuckling to myself as to how St Francis's stigmata, for instance, might play out at a Baptist Union committee meeting ...

Regional Secretary: So you're telling us that you had a vision and afterwards were left with marks corresponding to the wounds of Christ?

St Francis: Yes-a, that's-a-right ... would like to see them? Here, let-a-me strip off all-a my clothes ...

Regional Superintendent: Really, this is most irregular ...

Chair of Bible Study Committee: Steady on, do you have chapter and verse for that?

Regional Superintendent (sighs): He's not going to quote Galatians 6:17 at us is he?

St Francis: No, but I showed them at the last Church Meeting and they all-a agreed that is was-a ok. The vote went 60/40 ... but then ze Treasurer intervened to say it would attract more donations to the building fund - so we voted again and it was unanimous ...

Regional Secretary: Ah, now you're talking!

Regional Superintendent: Why didn't you mention this before? The Perugian province of the Umbrian region could do with some imaginative fund-raising initiatives ... perhaps this ... this stigmata thing might help?

Chair of Bible Study Committee: I'm not convinced of your exegesis but the plan sounds feasible to me ...

St Francis. Gracie.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
The Anabaptists managed communal Bible study before widespread literacy by people who could read reading to others and those others learning the texts as much as they could. Accounts suggest that they were generally more biblically knowledgeable than their opponents. I'd think it would have been similar in the early church which was of course rather like Anabaptism.....

Why? One of the most obvious traps of historical analysis is 'reasoning' along the lines of "this historical group was the 'good guys', so naturally they were exactly like me!" It's almost as bad as "this historical group was the 'bad guys', so naturally they were exactly like my present day enemies!"

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Gamaliel
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Also, there is a very obvious anachronism too insofar as there was widespread illiteracy in the 1st century too, just as there was in the 16th.

The idea of 1st century Christians sat around engaging in post-Reformation style Bible studies is a fatuous one.

That's not to say that Christians in the first centuries didn't debate or discuss theological points - of course they did. There's the famous quip by whoever it was (I've forgotten the source) who said that you couldn't visit the barber in Byzantium or have your horse groomed without the barber or the groom asking you whether you believed the Spirit proceded from the Father or from the Father and the Son ... and so on.

Of course, there wasn't a great deal of lay Bible study as such in the late middle ages but literate people were 'consuming' the scriptures in some form or other - through Psalms and daily offices, Books of Hours and so on.

So, no, any resemblance between early Christian practice and that of 16th century Anabaptists or their modern day descendants is purely coincidental ... [Biased]

That's not to disparage Anabaptism nor discourage its proponents - they've got some excellent values and strike a note at times that needs to be heard - but to imagine that they are somehow closer to 1st century Christianity is a fond notion.

Of course, I'm not saying that High Mass at the Brompton Oratory or what goes on at one's nearest Orthodox parish is exactly the same as what went on in the early Church either.

I agree with hatless that all of us - of whatever tradition - base our practices in our own particular understandings of scripture and tradition and we have all evolved from whatever went before ... nor am I saying that the practices of the Anabaptists have little or no precedent in scripture or tradition ...

But to claim that the early church looked and felt more like our own churches and assemblies than any one else's is a pretty daft claim all round.

I've been there, done that.

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LeRoc

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I've been wondering a bit: the religions that were competing with Christianity at 1C, like the Mithras cult for example, did they have a structure of written letters that were passed around? To what degree did this contribute to Christianity 'winning' in the end?

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Gamaliel
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To be fair to 16th and 17th Anabaptists, they did develop a fairly high level of scholarship within their own communities. Some of them were also quite 'mystical' in a kind of medieval and more 'Catholic' way that some of their modern day descendants might find embarrassing.

Catechesis in the historic Churches has always been somewhat hit and miss - and I've heard enough of eye-rolling stories from both RC and Orthodox priests to convince me it's still an issue in those Churches today.

Overall, I've heard that theological education across much of the Orthodox world is in a pretty parlous state - and that's not me saying it, that's the Orthodox themselves.

That doesn't mean it doesn't exist, of course.

The Reformed, and I'm sure the Anabaptists, are no slouches when it comes to the study of the scriptures - but in some circles, I suspect, their approach can be rather narrower and less holistic than you might find among some of the other Christian traditions.

I am making very broad brush generalisations there as there are exceptions to every rule.

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Gamaliel
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That's an interesting point, Le Roc.

I suspect, in the case of Mithraism that what we would be dealing with is something where the teaching/values were transmitted almost exclusively by ritual and symbol rather than the exposition of sacred texts.

The cult of Mithras was similar to Freemasonry (and I'm not positing a direct connection) in that you learned particular rituals, passwords and codas in order to progress through each level.

It was also a lot more restrictive in its appeal - primarily to military men and officials - whereas Christianity was broader in scope.

Of course, I would say this wouldn't I, but in the case of Christianity you have a both/and thing going on - the performance and transmission of dramaturgy and ritual (primarily in the eucharist) and the exposition and proclamation of beliefs from sacred texts.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
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http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by LeRoc:
I've been wondering a bit: the religions that were competing with Christianity at 1C, like the Mithras cult for example, did they have a structure of written letters that were passed around? To what degree did this contribute to Christianity 'winning' in the end?

The most obvious competitor to Christianity at the time was Judaism, and this was about the time period where what was known as the "Oral Torah" was first being committed to parchment in what would become known as the Mishnah, so there's that.

I know Orphism had an extensive written corpus, now largely lost. The Homeric Hymns are another example of religious texts circulating in the first century Mediterranean. Part of the problem is that a lot of these other religions (like Mithraism) were Mystery Cults, meaning that there was secret knowledge only imparted to initiates and not to be passed on to outsiders. "Secret knowledge" is, of course, best imparted orally. In cases where writing this secret knowledge down was absolutely necessary only a few well guarded copies would be made. Interestingly the gnostics seem to be a Christian adaptation of the idea of the Mystery Cult.

Another interesting religious writing that's come down to us from that time is a description of the processes and rituals associated with the mummification of the Apis bull. Because of this we actually know more about how the Egyptians mummified the Apis bull than we do about the equivalent process for humans. Humans died all the time, so their mummification process could be passed on orally (and through practical, hands on training). There was only one Apis bull at a time and it could live up to thirty years, so it was distinctly possible that the master embalmers who had worked on the last Apis bull would be dead by the time the next one needed their services. Hence the need for preserving the process in written form.

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SvitlanaV2
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Gamaliel

It seems that lots of good Protestants admire RC spirituality. Unfortunately, they're not keen on RC 'rules' (namely on marriage, sexuality and the priesthood, etc.)

Soul competency could be useful in that it allows to us as individuals to take what we like and ignore the rest, but of course that doesn't mean other Protestants have to approve of our choice. Maybe there's no such thing as a 'church of one', but the official teachings of a church are probably not the primary attraction when ordinary people choose to inhabit its pews. And when it comes to the Baptists, I think a lot of them would like to have their cake and eat it....

As it happens, I participated in a Marian pilgrimage at Walsingham earlier this year. It was moving, and was helpful to me at the time. But I wouldn't dream of becoming a RC! Perhaps in future someone will create a merger of RC spirituality, URC tolerance and Baptist dynamism and positive growth stats. With some CofE visibility. Just for the British context!

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Steve Langton
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
The Anabaptists managed communal Bible study before widespread literacy by people who could read reading to others and those others learning the texts as much as they could. Accounts suggest that they were generally more biblically knowledgeable than their opponents. I'd think it would have been similar in the early church which was of course rather like Anabaptism.....

Why? One of the most obvious traps of historical analysis is 'reasoning' along the lines of "this historical group was the 'good guys', so naturally they were exactly like me!" It's almost as bad as "this historical group was the 'bad guys', so naturally they were exactly like my present day enemies!"
Had my tongue slightly in my cheek when I wrote that - but clearly the early church was a long way from the formal institution that arose by the end of the 4th Cent, and the Anabaptists patterned their church life on the NT evidence so naturally the two would be significantly 'rather like' each other.

And the assorted sniping here, while quite funny, is not really answering my point that
a) a church redefined to be part of the state has changed in ways which put a big question mark on its interpretative competency, and
b) it was that state church and its derivatives/successors which went from simply teaching "Christians consider gay sex to be wrong" to the much nastier position that "Our 'Christian' state must impose Christian standards on all and therefore must criminalise and persecute those who engage in gay sex". A pretty good example of a serious lack of interpretative competency....

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
Had my tongue slightly in my cheek when I wrote that - but clearly the early church was a long way from the formal institution that arose by the end of the 4th Cent, and the Anabaptists patterned their church life on the NT evidence so naturally the two would be significantly 'rather like' each other.

Here's this version of church history in graphic form.

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Gamaliel
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I wouldn't be averse to that kind of combination, SvitlanaV2 ...

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Steve Langton
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
Had my tongue slightly in my cheek when I wrote that - but clearly the early church was a long way from the formal institution that arose by the end of the 4th Cent, and the Anabaptists patterned their church life on the NT evidence so naturally the two would be significantly 'rather like' each other.

Here's this version of church history in graphic form.
Very funny - but NOT my version of Church History, as it happens. And still not actually
answering the important points I made earlier.

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hatless

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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
Had my tongue slightly in my cheek when I wrote that - but clearly the early church was a long way from the formal institution that arose by the end of the 4th Cent, and the Anabaptists patterned their church life on the NT evidence so naturally the two would be significantly 'rather like' each other.

Here's this version of church history in graphic form.
Isn't that everyone's version of church history?

The first bit is the problem area, the early church which we all need to claim in some way. No one's roots can begin in the Reformation, and the Bible is inseparable from the earliest churches, so we can't start from the Bibke. We have to find our roots back in the early history but, to avoid looking silly, find them in a way that is not exclusive, but leaves room for others to find their roots there as well.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
Here's this version of church history in graphic form.

Very funny - but NOT my version of Church History, as it happens.
Seems pretty close to what you're arguing: that "Christianity" existed for a century or two after Christ, ceased to exist, and was only recently resurrected in the form of your particular church.

quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
And still not actually answering the important points I made earlier.

If you insist. Your points were:

a) that those who disagree with you (and therefore Jesus) about the proper relationship between church and state were not just wrong, but because of this disagreement have revealed themselves as utterly incompetent at interpreting Christian scripture

b) that those who disagree with you (and therefore the "true" form of Christianity practiced by the Apostles) about whether society can use religious teachings to enforce codes of behavior are (again) not only wrong but literally not competent to read and understand Christian scripture.

It's an arrogant position, but that doesn't necessarily make it incorrect. What's striking is that these are positions with remarkably little scriptural backing. There's no New Testament passage saying "don't be theocrats", which is surprising given how widespread the practice is in the Old Testament. Usually when the New Testament breaks with some longstanding Old Testament tradition (dietary restrictions, allowing non-Israelites to join the faith, which Jewish rituals, if any, do Gentile converts have to follow, etc.) there's a lot of ink spilled discussing, justifying, explaining, and expounding on the break from prior tradition. On the supposed doctrine of separating church and state though, there is silence. Silence and a lot of historical "Christians" who apparently saw no conflict between the two cooperating. Which is surprising for a doctrine that is supposedly so clear that failure to notice is demonstration of incompetence.

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Crœsos
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Plus I'm not really sure what your usual hobby horse about church/state separation is supposed to prove about your claim that naturally the first century church had Bible study just the same way modern anabaptists do. It seems, at best, a tangent.

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
And the assorted sniping here, while quite funny, is not really answering my point that
a) a church redefined to be part of the state has changed in ways which put a big question mark on its interpretative competency, and
b) it was that state church and its derivatives/successors which went from simply teaching "Christians consider gay sex to be wrong" to the much nastier position that "Our 'Christian' state must impose Christian standards on all and therefore must criminalise and persecute those who engage in gay sex". A pretty good example of a serious lack of interpretative competency....

It's the first teaching that I'm discussing in the OP. "Christians consider gay sex to be wrong". Why? Because the Bible seems to say so? That's an answer to the question "Why do Christians consider that?" but not an answer to "Why is it actually wrong?"

The difficulty is that there appears to be no one who can tell me why gay sex is wrong. I know for a fact that you can't, because we did all that on the Hell thread, and you've got nothing. No one else can either. The harder they try, the stupider their arguments appear. It is, literally, an indefensible proposition, now that we know that gay people are just like straights, only more gay. There's no discernible basis for making a moral distinction.

It seems to me that you are suggesting that the plain meaning of the Bible, no matter how immoral and absurd it may seem, is to be preferred to the best moral judgement human beings are capable of. If you are saying that, the whole 'Constantinian' point is a bit of a red herring, because however compromised the Constantinian churches may be, you actually agree with them that "Gay sex is wrong because the Bible says so - just accept it". That they (or some of them) go on to try to impose the Bible on others is deplorable, of course, but so long as we are just talking about how Christians free of state coercion should choose to live, you and they are on the same page.

And that is what I'm talking about. I don't see that gay sex could possibly be wrong in circumstances where straight sex would not be wrong. Am I free to interpret scripture against its natural meaning, for no other reason than that it's natural meaning is obviously wrong?

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Richard Dawkins

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SvitlanaV2
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Whether or not the Bible is wrong or ridiculous regarding homosexuality is a different issue, ISTM.

Within their own groups Christians may believe whatever they like, no matter how peculiar, inconvenient or nonsensical it seems to some. The question is rather whether they should have the right to impose their particular theology or moral universe on the whole society.

A truly non-Constantian church would make no Christian demands on the sexual behaviour of the wider society. Only those individuals who joined this particular church, or were raised in it and decided to say, would be obliged to grapple with its demands.

In the British context, of course, various churches and clergy can make noises in the direction of parliament, but no one is really obliged to pay much attention. And many clergy and laity alike ignore or defy some of the teachings of their own denominations. I'd say that Constantinianism in our context now mostly serves the purpose of keeping the Christian 'brand' in the secular public consciousness.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by hatless:
Why wasn't the early church Anabaptist?

Because the early church was hierarchical and sacramental.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by hatless:
Why wasn't the early church Anabaptist?

Because the early church was hierarchical and sacramental.
And recognised infant Baptism, making re-Baptism not just unnecessary but heretical.
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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by hatless:
Why wasn't the early church Anabaptist?

Because the early church was hierarchical and sacramental.
And recognised infant Baptism, making re-Baptism not just unnecessary but heretical.
Not exclusively. And, I do wonder how the early church "got" to infant baptism from the practice of adult initiation, accompanied by cleansing water, which was much in evidence before.

It depends of course what you believe about baptism: if you believe it brings you into the church then you will have a very different understanding as opposed to those who believe that it (baptism) is a personal testimony and a sign of already being a believer. A child can't give a personal, verbal testimony: the only thing they can "be" is there.

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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
1. In the British context, of course, various churches and clergy can make noises in the direction of parliament, but no one is really obliged to pay much attention.

2.And many clergy and laity alike ignore or defy some of the teachings of their own denominations.

1. No one is obliged to pay ANY attention - unless of course they want somoen to beat up or project their anger onto.

2. True. That's me as well. There are those in my own "denomination" who are gay - more openly so now - in contradiction of the ministerial "rules." There are others, like Steve Chalke, who look for change on a wider approach to the same issue.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by hatless:
Why wasn't the early church Anabaptist?

Because the early church was hierarchical and sacramental.
And recognised infant Baptism, making re-Baptism not just unnecessary but heretical.
The early church would resemble Judaism, would it not? The variations and additions occurring over time.
ISTM, the early Christians would need a lot of "instruction" to fit into the contemporary churches of their spiritual descendants.

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hatless

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Early Church is not a precise term, but if we look at church life as Paul knew it, the first NT churches, it appears not to have been hierarchical (a hierarch is literally a high priest) and to have been informal and variable in its breaking of bread.

Two generations later, still within the NT period, the servants of the churches start to be called elders and considered worthy of respect because of their position - we're rapidly heading towards office and status, though still far short of anything you could call a hierarchy.

Who was the first high priest or bishop in the modern sense, I wonder; someone able to exercise control through an authority structure? Not Irenaeus or Clement or Ignatius, I'd think. Late 3rd Century, probably.

Similarly the origins of infant baptism are unclear, as is the style of worship and church life in the beginnings. I find the view that Christians found their place within the groups of God-fearers, the penumbra of non-Jewish worshippers that formed around synagogues in Graeco-Roman communities persuasive. So I don't see the churches importing many Jewish practices into their worship, though they would have had a Jewish flavour.

This is a fun area for guesswork. If we all wrote an essay describing our visit to a Christian church in Ephesus in 180CE you could probably tell at once which 21st Century denomination we belonged to. You might even be able to distinguish between a Methodist and a URCer.

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Gamaliel
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Well, it does seem that the Apostle Paul was prepared to be a lot more 'authoritative' on some things than others - he didn't seem to have qualms about stating when he believed he was speaking ex cathedra, as it were, or when he was allowing lee-way and wiggle-room ...

Not that I think that he or any of the others was wandering around with a triple-tiara or wearing a funny hat ...

The infant/adult baptism thing is a condundrum ... I was once strongly credo-baptist but from what I can gather from what I've read about the 'Early Church' - in all its forms, so far as we can gather - both infant and believers' baptism ran concurrently - and that still applies today in the historic Big C Churches - the Orthodox will baptise both infants and adults - and in some jurisdictions - controversially - even adults who have been baptised previously in other Christian churches.

I think you're right that if we were all to write an essay imagining a visit to a 1st or 2nd century church it'd say more about our respective denominations and traditions than it would about the imagined church itself ...

There was a risible example in Arthur Wallis's 'The Radical Christian' back in the early 1980s in which he imagined a visit to 1st century Ephesus. It sounded like his own restorationist house-church only in togas ...

I had a lot of time for Arthur, but that went too far ...

When I first read the sub-apostolic Fathers - Iranaeus, Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch - I was struck by how 'sacramental' and heirarchical the whole thing sounded. I'd gone there to check out and to mine 'proof-texts' for the continuation of restorationist style 'apostles and prophets' rather than nasty bishops, priests and deacons ... and there I found the second and third generation of Christians apparently practising things I would associate with the Orthodox and RCs (although not yet in a fully 'realised' form) ...

I've been challenged by that by some Baptists. 'That's not what I saw when I read it ...' which may or may not say something more about them than it does about me - or perhaps it says something about both of us?

[Big Grin] [Biased]

Who was it who said that the first century church disappeared into a dark tunnel at the close of the century to emerge around the middle of the next with Metropolitan bishops, priests and deacons?

[Biased]

I'm sure there was plenty of variation - I've read that scholars have identified at least 30 distinct forms of Christianity in the first centuries - some of it rather Gnostic, some of it closer to what gradually emerged as received orthodoxy ...

I don't think any of us can, say, point to the Brompton Oratory or to Butt Lane Baptist and say, 'there you are, this is closest to how it would have been ...'

I'm not even sure it's the right question to ask.

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Praise the Lord for He is kind.

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Gamaliel
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Proponents of traditional episcopacy do draw on hints and suggestions in Clement and the others - the way they appealed to some notion of apostolic succession for instance - the way they expected some of their comments/suggestions or instructions to apply to other places beyond their own immediate setting ... the rather 'high' way they talk about elders representing Christ and so on ...

It's all there if you've a mind to find it.

If we've a mind not to, then we can come up with alternative explanations.

I'll be accused of post-modernism again, but it's back to the thing about assessing things through the lens of whatever tradition we adhere to or have been most influenced by.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
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mousethief

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"Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."

Ignatius of Antioch is pretty darned early as these things go. If you want to say that this kind of ecclesial hierarchy is wrong, then the church went wrong long before Constantine. What it sometimes sounds like some Evangelicals are saying is, as soon as the ink was dry on John's gospel, the entire church disappeared, only to reappear in Wittenburg 1400 years later.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Gamaliel
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Yes, that was one of the quotes I had in mind, Mousethief ... and imagine my shock as an earnest young restorationist evangelical when I found it ...

'That can't be right ... they all went to hell in a hand-cart as soon as the ink was dry on the pages of the NT ... the fools, the goddarn fools ...'

[Biased]

No, actually what I thought was, 'Heck, perhaps we've overlooked something? Perhaps ... just perhaps ...'

I'm still working on that one 30 years on ...

[Biased]

It all depends, of course, how we understand these things. The Apostle Paul makes some pretty hyberbolic statements too - 'I bear in my body the marks of Christ' and so on and who the heck knows what he was on about in saying that he was 'filling up what was lacking in Christ's afflictions ...'

Colossians 1:24
http://biblehub.com/colossians/1-24.htm

I still don't think I've ever seen a satisfactory explanation of what he was on about there any more than I've ever seen a satisfactory one that attempts to square the circle between Paul in Romans and James in his 'right, strawy epistle' ...

But's that another issue ...

I think the safest thing we can say - he said hedging his bets - [Biased] - is that whoever we are we share some kind of family resemblance to those first Christians - otherwise how would we even recognise one another or begin to dialogue?

And that what later developed into the full-on heirarchical three-fold ministry thing - bishops, priests and deacons - was there from a relatively early stage ... how early is impossible to determine - but the seeds were there ...

Of course, the same seeds could have grown in a different direction - history is full of what-ifs - but the fact is, they grew in the direction they did - whether we like it or not.

We can either try to place bean-poles alongside them to train them in the direction we would prefer or we can try to prune things right back and hope to start again ... which is of course fraught with difficulty if not an impossibility.

We are all of us who we are because of who has gone before.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Gamaliel
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Of course, what Ignatius meant by 'bishop' wasn't what RCs and Orthodox understand by the term ... he wasn't referring to an heirarchical or sacerdotal function, he was referring to an 'elder' - just as the Anabaptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Brethren ... [delete as appropriate] have today ...

[Biased] [Big Grin]

Whatever he did mean by it, it's pretty clear that things did develop in that heirarchical direction ...

What evangelical Protestants and other 'low' church people would assert, of course, is that this wasn't ideal and not the trajectory that things should have followed ...

The onus is on the RCs and the Orthodox and other episcopal or heirarchical churches to prove that it was and on the lower church types to prove that it wasn't ...

Ultimately, it's a 'faith decision' either way - however much chapter and versing we might engage in ...

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http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by hatless:
Early Church is not a precise term, but if we look at church life as Paul knew it, the first NT churches, it appears not to have been hierarchical (a hierarch is literally a high priest) and to have been informal and variable in its breaking of bread.

Two generations later, still within the NT period, the servants of the churches start to be called elders and considered worthy of respect because of their position - we're rapidly heading towards office and status, though still far short of anything you could call a hierarchy.

Given the way the early church deliberately established and maintained a leadership council from its earliest days, I think you're defining "hierarchical" much too narrowly.

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Humani nil a me alienum puto

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hatless

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The author of Acts tells us that the post resurrection disciples restored their number to the magic twelve. He also tells us that the total number of believers numbered about 120, and that they were in Jerusalem. I'm not sure how accurate this is; I suspect there is a lot of surmise here. But it doesn't look anything like the creation of a hierarchy to me. A hierarchy needs levels of authority and well-defined roles and probably titles. People love titles.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by hatless:
The author of Acts tells us that the post resurrection disciples restored their number to the magic twelve. He also tells us that the total number of believers numbered about 120, and that they were in Jerusalem. I'm not sure how accurate this is; I suspect there is a lot of surmise here. But it doesn't look anything like the creation of a hierarchy to me. A hierarchy needs levels of authority and well-defined roles and probably titles. People love titles.

"The Twelve" (capitalized!) seems a lot like a title, and a group set aside with special authority. They seemed to have the authority to delegate tasks (defining roles!) and set up additional layers of hierarchy. You've even got examples of this group setting policy and controlling the actions of field agents. Even within the Twelve you seem to have an "Inner Circle" consisting of Peter, John, and James.

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Gamaliel
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Then we're all stuffed ...

I've seen with charismatic house-churches how apparent informality and bonhomie can mask naked ambition and jockeying for position. At least the historic Churches are upfront and don't try to mask the heirarchy.

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LeRoc

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quote:
Gamaliel: I've seen with charismatic house-churches how apparent informality and bonhomie can mask naked ambition and jockeying for position.
Don't get me started.

[ 07. October 2015, 18:51: Message edited by: LeRoc ]

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I know why God made the rhinoceros, it's because He couldn't see the rhinoceros, so He made the rhinoceros to be able to see it. (Clarice Lispector)

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:
quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
1. In the British context, of course, various churches and clergy can make noises in the direction of parliament, but no one is really obliged to pay much attention.

2.And many clergy and laity alike ignore or defy some of the teachings of their own denominations.

1. No one is obliged to pay ANY attention - unless of course they want somoen to beat up or project their anger onto.

2. True. That's me as well. There are those in my own "denomination" who are gay - more openly so now - in contradiction of the ministerial "rules." There are others, like Steve Chalke, who look for change on a wider approach to the same issue.

Well, I presume that the govt felt obliged to make the CofE formally exempt from having to conduct SSMs because some CofE (arch)bishops had requested it. If they hadn't made such 'noises' perhaps the legal situation for the CofE would've been rather different. In this case, the CofE had the power to influence the govt.

One Muslim group actually thought it unfair that they couldn't be granted a similar exemption, which leads to the second point: ISTM that nothing legal is stopping Baptist and other clergy who currently conduct legal marriages from conducting SSMs if they want to. The problem appears to be that most of the clergy who would like to do so are wedded to denominational restrictions. Few of them are willing to risk their jobs and/or denominational affiliations the way that Steve Chalke has done.

In theory, independent congregations are ideally placed to host SSMs (or to be otherwise positive about gay relationships), since only their own members have to be convinced that this is a good idea, not a whole denomination. In reality, those Christians who are the most tolerant on these matters often appear to be the most rigid about denominational allegiance. This isn't entirely sensible, IMO.

The future may belong to independent congregations who forge their own path, rather than to those who are waiting for 1000s of other people in other circumstances, sometimes globally, to come to a shared denominational 'biblical interpretation' on one thing or another.

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hatless

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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
quote:
Originally posted by hatless:
The author of Acts tells us that the post resurrection disciples restored their number to the magic twelve. He also tells us that the total number of believers numbered about 120, and that they were in Jerusalem. I'm not sure how accurate this is; I suspect there is a lot of surmise here. But it doesn't look anything like the creation of a hierarchy to me. A hierarchy needs levels of authority and well-defined roles and probably titles. People love titles.

"The Twelve" (capitalized!) seems a lot like a title, and a group set aside with special authority. They seemed to have the authority to delegate tasks (defining roles!) and set up additional layers of hierarchy. You've even got examples of this group setting policy and controlling the actions of field agents. Even within the Twelve you seem to have an "Inner Circle" consisting of Peter, John, and James.
I suppose even a Baptist church is hierarchical if you look at it like that.

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Gamaliel
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My experience of the Baptists is that they are less heirarchical than most but not as non-heirarchical as they might like to think they are.

They are often dominated by strong families or deacons. Sometimes they are an inverse heirarchy with the minister being shat on by the congregation.
.

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Steve Langton
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by Croesos;
quote:
Plus I'm not really sure what your usual hobby horse about church/state separation is supposed to prove about your claim that naturally the first century church had Bible study just the same way modern anabaptists do. It seems, at best, a tangent.

Neither is a tangent; two separate points.

Somebody queried the possibility of Bible study in a relatively illiterate society and I pointed to the historical record of the ways Anabaptists achieved sufficient biblical awareness for meaningful discussion/interpretation by the church/congregation as a whole rather than totally individualistic. A similar (NOT absolutely identical) kind of situation seems to be implied for the NT church as well, and certainly possible for them.

The point about the state church is that when the church has been redefined from "All the born again believers" to "everybody baptised as a baby in our state", the resultant worldly body is so different from the NT church that it can't realistically make the kind of quasi-magical claim to special interpretative 'competency' that has been made by such institutions, for example EOC and RCC, let alone more narrowly nationalist bodies like Anglicans and Lutherans.

The non-state church is not exactly perfect; but it at least belongs to and is comprised of those who have personally chosen their faith when that faith does not carry worldly advantage and may even be risky.

I've just got back late from an extended period off line and I'm going to need some time to absorb what's happened in my absence - the above is just a minor point I felt I could clear up quickly. Back tomorrow....

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by hatless:
The author of Acts tells us that the post resurrection disciples restored their number to the magic twelve.

Those were not the disciples. Those were the apostles. There were many many disciples. Mary and Martha and Lazarus were disciples but not apostles.

On the day of its birth the church already had a hierarchy: the apostles and everybody else. Then they created the diaconate before the ink was dry on Acts 2. And Paul is already using "episcopos" ("overseer") and telling Timothy what to demand from them. Timothy not being one of the 12, nor was Paul, but under Paul and over the episcopoi in his locale. Sounds pretty darned hierarchical to me.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
ISTM that nothing legal is stopping Baptist and other clergy who currently conduct legal marriages from conducting SSMs if they want to. The problem appears to be that most of the clergy who would like to do so are wedded to denominational restrictions. Few of them are willing to risk their jobs and/or denominational affiliations the way that Steve Chalke has done.

That's right - it is perfectly possible.

In the BUGB set up you could be removed from the list as an "accredited" minister for certain "infringements" one of which is promoting same sex relationships as equivalents to opposite sex ones. Any such removal doesn't stop you being the minister of a local church - there's a significant opportunity or threat here (depending on your view of such things).

In BUGB the denomination has few controls over the local church - baptist eccelesiology emphasises the decision making process and power being in the gathered community of the local church. A lot o churches (like the local ones here) have had ministers who have been "called" by the church but who are not accredited ministers through the denomination. In some areas there are retired Anglican Priests filling the roles.

It's all moot anyway. Steve Chalke has written and done what he did (performed a SSB in a baptist context) and he's received no censure. The precedent has been set and the door is wide open - provided the local church agree that it is ok to do it, then practically and legally it can be done.

[ 08. October 2015, 05:04: Message edited by: ExclamationMark ]

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hatless

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by hatless:
The author of Acts tells us that the post resurrection disciples restored their number to the magic twelve.

Those were not the disciples. Those were the apostles. There were many many disciples. Mary and Martha and Lazarus were disciples but not apostles.

On the day of its birth the church already had a hierarchy: the apostles and everybody else. Then they created the diaconate before the ink was dry on Acts 2. And Paul is already using "episcopos" ("overseer") and telling Timothy what to demand from them. Timothy not being one of the 12, nor was Paul, but under Paul and over the episcopoi in his locale. Sounds pretty darned hierarchical to me.

Alternatively, the terms disciples and the Twelve, are often used with imprecision and apparently interchangeably. We have varying lists of the Twelve and no information beyond a name for several, which might imply that all the gospel writers knew was that there should be a dozen of them.

Other people can be described as those who followed Jesus, but sometimes as disciples, which is a surprise since it is usual reference is to the Twelve or members of the group. But indeed, Mary of Bethany is described as a disciple, though English translations often conceal that.

My suspicion is that Jesus called and involved in his mission both men and women. When he sent out the Seventy, I think he sent out couples, a woman with a man. I think he talked about the restoration of Israel, and in the retelling, 12 and the Twelve got written in. I doubt if there ever were 12 of the (male) disciples who could say that they were the Twelve.

So in Acts I think we've still got this retrospective fitting of the mixed sex mission of Jesus into a pattern of 12 important men.

The term apostle is very loose. Paul, muscling in to the church claims it for himself and gives it to various other significant people amongs the churches, female and male.

I think the letters to Timothy are very late, and the term supervisor shows this. And how depressing it is. There was a new way of handling power in the beginning. Remember who is the greatest? Remember children and tax collectors and street workers? It is not to be so among you. But it is so, and you can see the grubby tide of male ambition for power and prestige moving in before Jesus' body is cold in his grave. If he could see us now ..

Do you know what was the biggest and most beautiful house I've been in over the last twenty years or so? It was a suffragan bishop's palace. I've not come across wealth and privilege like that outside the church for half my lifetime.

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Gamaliel
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I'm not sure how much personal wealth Anglican bishops or suffragan bishops have - but they do tend to have nice pads ...

I've certainly come across US-style independent charismatic evangelical leaders who live a more lavish lifestyle than would be the norm for Baptist ministers and Anglican clergy.

I'm not sure any Christian tradition denies that there were women among the 'apostolic band' as it were - there are plenty of NT references to women playing prominent roles and operating alongside menfolk - Priscilla and Aquila spring to mind.

In the Orthodox tradition, St Nina Equal-to-the-Apostles is venerated for bringing the Gospel to Georgia, if I understand it correctly.

The only difference, it seems to me, is that RCs and Orthodox tend to put Capital Letters on these things and treat them in a more sacrosanct kind of way ...

Others will tell me, but I'm not sure how this works out on the ground. I've seen RCs and Orthodox lay people answer back, heckle and argue with their clergy in a way that would have astonished and alarmed me back in my restorationist house-church days where, for all the bonhomie and apparent informality, there was a highly deferential and very unhealthy attitude towards the leaders and elders.

My wife has an issue with bishops since two pompous blokes in purple shirts called her 'young lady' when she worked behind the counter in a Christian bookshop.

My own experience of Anglican bishops has largely been more positive - and at the risk of hero-worship, Rowan Williams has to be one of the most humble men I've met.

Some of them are complete arses, though, but then so are some leaders, ministers, pastors and what-have-you in other churches ... no tradition has the monopoly on pillocks.

On the issue of early Christian Bible study and any analogies between this and early Anabaptist practice - again, I'm not sure this is the right question to ask. That's not to say the Anabaptist approach was 'wrong' or that it needs some kind of NT or early centuries justification in order to give it a green-light ...

What the Anabaptists did, in effect, was to democratise the process - which is no bad thing - but their own micro-communities could - and did - become pretty rigid and isolated. That's always the danger of the sectarian model.

The upside, of course, is that it provides a model you can regulate at a local level - in the case that Steve cites by somehow regulating and determining who is and isn't 'born again' according to his definition of the term.

Again, Steve writes as if there is one, single, incontrovertible way in which a term derived from the NT - in this case 'born again' can be understood. The various Christian traditions understand it differently. A sacramentalist would understand it very differently to how an evangelical understands the term.

Which brings us back to the interpretation and to the tradition thing again. As ever.

There are plenty of non-State, non-'Constantinian' churches which would understand the term differently to how Steve Langton is applying it here - so again the standard fall-back mantra of 'Yah boo Constantine!' doesn't fit as neatly as he seems to suggest.

--------------------
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

Posts: 15405 | From: Cheshire, UK | Registered: Jul 2001  |  IP: Logged
Steve Langton
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# 17601

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by Gamaliel;
quote:
Again, Steve writes as if there is one, single, incontrovertible way in which a term derived from the NT - in this case 'born again' can be understood. The various Christian traditions understand it differently. A sacramentalist would understand it very differently to how an evangelical understands the term.

Which brings us back to the interpretation and to the tradition thing again. As ever.

I'd accept that a 'sacramentalist' in a non-state church has, or at least can have, a somewhat different view to one in a state church. But history rather suggests that when you baptise everybody indiscriminately you end up with a lot of nominal Christians who have little reality of personally facing their sins, repenting of them, and understanding they need a changed relationship to God. And they have little motive to go beyond outward and superficial conformity to the state requirement of, well, outward and superficial conformity!

The kind of 'born again' described in the Bible would rather seem to require voluntary faith, at least humanly speaking. Put this back into the NT context, Nicodemus (and Jesus' other early hearers) had undergone the 'sacrament' of circumcision; yet Jesus clearly thought that insufficient and challeged Nicodemus to go beyond that dependence on a rite.

When different Christian traditions understand something differently there are various options.

One is to simply check whether the differences matter; they may just be differences of emphasis which are essentially saying the same thing, and the church may be richer for reconciling and incorporating both approaches.

Where there is contradiction, and the differences can't just be reconciled, then you have to go into the interpretation/tradition thing and try and work out who is right. And in this case I don't think there are many on the Ship who actually disagree with me that the state church was a considerable and significant misstep. As I said above, it involves redefining who is the church, a change from church of voluntary believers 'in but not of the world' to a church of 'everybody in our (very much 'of the world') state'.

There will be people in that mass who have truly repented and have true faith; but the institution is surely no longer 'THE CHURCH' as defined in the NT. And there is no guarantee of the leaders being among the true believers when their appointment can involve all kinds of worldly politics and when there is a considerable incentive of worldly benefit in being a church leader. Such institutions (eg the RCC) have claimed special interpretative competency (capital-T Tradition) - but when they are fundamentally different in nature to the NT church, by reason of their state-church status, is that claim credible?

As far as I can see, all the bodies that claim such special competency do in fact suffer that question about their credibility from being, or having been, in that kind of entanglement in/confusion with the world. And if they can't make a realistic claim to authority, then it seems reasonable to go back to the Bible - as Jesus did in opposition to the worldly Jewish authorities of his day. Anabaptism seeks to do that - not in a vacuum, but with a healthy distrust of worldly 'authorities'.

Can we perhaps leave this issue aside for a bit - though bearing it in mind - and get back to the OP? It's all very well to discuss 'tradition' academically - but it may be enlightening to look at how things work out in a 'real-world' situation....

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Gamaliel
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# 812

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So, how does that apply to the URC minister I know whose soteriology and baptismal polity differs from yours and who is, and never has been, part of a state-church construct?

Has he nefariously been compromised by 'the world' in a way that Anabaptists haven't?

How is his ability to interpret and apply the scriptures any more compromised than an Anabaptist one?

I'm only raising this issue because you have and you seem to believe that Anabaptists are in a more priviliged position to interpret the scriptures than anyone else - to the extent that you even appear to concoct tainted 'Constantinian' connections where none actually exist.

We get that Anabaptism is the acid test for orthodoxy as far as you are concerned. That's fair enough provided you are aware that you are interpreting the scriptures in line with a particular tradition or set of traditions just like the rest of us.

--------------------
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Crœsos
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# 238

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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
by Croesos;
quote:
Plus I'm not really sure what your usual hobby horse about church/state separation is supposed to prove about your claim that naturally the first century church had Bible study just the same way modern anabaptists do. It seems, at best, a tangent.

Neither is a tangent; two separate points.

Somebody queried the possibility of Bible study in a relatively illiterate society and I pointed to the historical record of the ways Anabaptists achieved sufficient biblical awareness for meaningful discussion/interpretation by the church/congregation as a whole rather than totally individualistic. A similar (NOT absolutely identical) kind of situation seems to be implied for the NT church as well, and certainly possible for them.

That was me, commenting on the difficulties involved in your proposed "right" style of hermeneutics in the absence of "the printing press and widespread literacy". I note you completely ignored the former in favor of a lot of hand-waving about the latter.

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Humani nil a me alienum puto

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