For many people today, non-Christians and (low church) Christians alike, when they hear the word “Catholic”, certain images spring to mind: the Pope, the rosery, Catholic school, big old churches buildings, choirboys, maybe monks or statues of Mary even; and sadly more recently, sex abuse scandals.
But generally speaking, all of these are actually aspects of Roman Catholicism — a particular branch of Christianity, and not what the word “catholic” truly means as we’ll see when examining how the early church used the word and what the original Greek word means.
The Greek word where we get the English word “catholic” from is καθολικός (katholikos) meaning “universal”, which comes from the Greek phrase καθόλου (katholou), meaning “on the whole”, “according to the whole” or “in general” (catholicus in Latin). In non-ecclesiastical use, it still retained its root meaning in English in some literature from the 1800s, though that usage has fallen out of common use in modern times.
The first reference to this word can be found in Acts 9:31 when speaking about “the church throughout [all] Judea, Galilee, and Samaria...”. The words “throughout” and “all” are καθ (κατά) and ὅλης (ὅλος) respectively in Greek, which together come to form the word καθολικός.
The earliest historical use of the word in the context of the Church can be found in one of the letters of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, written around AD 107, where he writes:
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.
From here on we begin to see that the word catholic was used in reference to mean “orthodoxy” (the word “orthodox” means “right belief”) as opposed to the non-orthodox heretics who were then by definition not catholic as they were not ‘according to the whole’ which was, as Jude wrote, “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The Catholic Church, in its original and Apostolic sense, would have meant the entirety of the Body of Christ across the world; i.e. all of the believers wherever they may be, rather than it being “universal” in the physical sense that the institution of “church” should be all encompassing (like as an official, global institution that all must attend). The difference may be subtle, but it’s an important one.
Historical Use of the Term
As we saw above, Ignatius was the earliest Christian writer we have who applied the word katholikos to the Church. Some people object to using Ignatius as evidence of this, as some of the letters attributed to him are considered spurious (not authentic), though scholarly opinion on this is pretty universal in which are genuine letters as neither Eusebius nor Jerome makes any reference to the eight spurious epistles.
Justo L. Gonzalez explains in his book, The Story of Christianity: Volume 1: The Early Church to the Reformation, Volume One:
The original meaning of Catholic church referred to this episcopal collegiality, as well as with the multiform witness to the gospel in several canonical gospels. … It was the church “according to the whole,” that is, according to the total witness of all the apostles and all the evangelists. The various Gnostic groups were not “Catholic” because they could not claim this broad foundation. … Only the Church Catholic, the church “according to the whole,” could lay claim to the entire apostolic witness. (pp.81,82).
The other early uses that appear after Ignatius are in the Martyrdom of Polycarp(around AD 150), “…and to all the congregations of the Holy and Catholic Church in every place…”, and then also in the earliest New Testament list from around AD 177, the Muratorian fragment the phrase is found three times: “…in the esteem of the Church catholic …. received into the catholic Church … used in the catholic Church …”.
…in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. (Commonitorium, ch. II)
Another interesting use of term appears in the Edict of Thessalonica, Theodosian Code XVI.i.2(AD 380), where Theodosius I, Emperor from 379 to 395, declared “Catholic” Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire for those who “believe in the one Deity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity” and that they should “assume the title Catholic Christians”. All others will be “branded with the ignominious name of heretics”!
All in all, from the earliest writers to the Emperor in the fourth century, the phrase “church catholic” referred only to those Christians and Churches who held to the ancient traditions passed on by the Apostles and evangelists (Gospels), and those doctrines that could be counted as having apostolic origin. This view was more formally solidified by the words added to the end of the Nicene Creed of AD 325 (“And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not … the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.”) and also its revision in the Nicene-Constantinople Creed of AD 381 (“And we believe in one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church.”), where you could call Nicene Christianity the “catholic faith”.
How the Roman Catholic Church Came to Be
In contemporary usage, the phrase “Catholic Church” (usually capitalised) brings to mind, for many, the Roman Catholic Church specifically. How did this perception shift from meaning the whole Church body to one particular branch of Christianity?
In the early days of Christianity, “Catholicism” was a broad term which encompassed both the Eastern and Western empire of the Greeks and Latins, respectively. The Western Church had its capital in Rome, whereas the Eastern in Constantinople, and all were overseen by the five main Bishops of the following regions, who were known as Patriarchs: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and Constantinople. Despite disagreements, catholicity, or unity, was somewhat kept across both East and West churches until rising tensions beginning around the 9th century finally came to a head in the 11th century resulting in what is now known as The Great Schism in AD 1054 (sometimes called the East-West Schism).
There was a variety of doctrinal factors leading up to this point mainly consisting of: the procession of the Holy Spirit (also known as the filioque controversy), if leavened or unleavened bread should be used in the Eucharist, the prominence of the See of Constantinople in the “Pentarchy” and, a major sticking point, the claim to universal jurisdiction by the Bishop of Rome. Out of the five Patriarchs (or “sees”), Rome was considered “first among equals” for the prominence and preeminence of Rome both within the Empire and within Christianity as a place of the Apostle Peter’s bishopric.
After the Great Schism, both Eastern and Western churches regarded themselves as “catholic”, but the West recognised only the Pope in Rome as their sole leader, whereas the East continued with their historically recognised Patriarchs, and both sides thought of the other as “not catholic” or “schismatics” for various theological reasons mostly related to the Filioque.
Due to the split, the two sides of the Church came to be known under different names to differentiate them: the Roman Catholic Church (as its center was now officially only in Rome), and the Orthodox Catholic Church which is more commonly known as the Eastern Orthodox Church. Both claiming to be “catholic” and the true lineage of the ancient Apostolic Church (usually in conjunction with Apostolic Succession), yet both rejecting the others claims and doctrine and having no universal unity at all which the name “Catholic” should imply.
Post-Reformation and Modern Times
After the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century when groups of churches, monks and bishops across Europe broke away from the church in Rome, some of the resulting groups have reclaimed the name “catholic”. Lutherans, Anglicans and some Methodists claim to be “catholic” in the ancient sense, believing themselves to be in continuity with the original Apostolic and universal church and in keeping with the faith as defined by the Nicene Creed, yet despite this, the phrase “Catholic Church” has been pervasive in the minds of the general populace as meaning only the Roman or Western church and nothing more.
As you can see, the word and meaning of “Catholic” is not so simple or straight-forward! It has a very wide history with a lot of nuance, and although the Roman Church has laid claim to the name, it is certainly not it’s only meaning or definition and some qualification of terms is often needed (or should be!) when speaking to Christians of various denominational backgrounds. I hope that this has been informative and helps you to see the wider and more historical context of the “one holy, catholic and apostolic Church”.
A meme doing the rounds on the internet
You may not have come across the image above before, or the similar variants of it, but it pops up on social media groups every so often. The underlying argument is quite ridiculous, but there does seem to be a sub-culture with Christianity which promotes this as fact quite vigorously. Having seen this get shared at least three times on Facebook in the last month, I decided to add a new category to the blog: Apologetics.
In here will be articles for defence of the faith, though sadly this particular one needs to be against those who are already meant to be a part of the same faith! But many people seem to accept these memes as truth without any further research, so here’s my quick apologetic against Jesus being some pagan deity name for “Zeus”.
No, Jesus doesn't mean "hail Zeus"
The whole argument hinges on the sound of the suffix “sus” being similar to “Zeus” and is apparently also the Latin word for the Greek god’s name, and the “Je” meaning “Hail”, therefore Jesus means “Hail-Zeus”. The whole 'argument' shows a total lack of even very basic knowledge in ancient languages which can be found from multiple sources online. See the image to the right for a breakdown of the Greek words for "hail" and "Zeus".
Another, similarly blasphemous argument, goes further to say that “Je-Sus” is a compound word, and that it means “Earth Pig” because in Latin, “sus” means “pig” or “swine” and the “Je-” means earth in Greek. Whilst the Latin part is technically correct the whole argument is wrong. For a start, “Earth” in Greek is γῆ (Ge) – there is no “J” letter, and the Greek letter gamma doesn't transliterate into a "J" either.
Secondly, “Jesus” isn’t a compound word (two separate words to make one single word). It comes from a single Greek word Ιησούς. And lastly, you can’t prefix a Latin word with ancient Greek word and say it has some sensible meaning! It’s two different languages which don’t mix like that!
But I digress. Back to the other “Hail Zeus” argument.
Claim 1: "PegaSUS means Horse of Zeus"
The first point is total nonsense, which doesn't bode well for the the rest. If you have to invent "facts" to prove your point, you've already lost the argument. A quick internet search reveals the lies in this meme.
"The poet Hesiod presents a folk etymology of the name Pegasus as derived from πηγή pēgē "spring, well": "the pegai of Okeanos, where he was born."A proposed etymology of the name is Luwian pihassas, meaning "lightning", and Pihassassi, a local Luwian-Hittite name in southern Cilicia of a weather god represented with thunder and lightning. The proponents of this etymology adduce Pegasus' role, reported as early as Hesiod, as bringer of thunderbolts to Zeus. It was first suggested in 1952 and remains widely accepted, but Robin Lane Fox (2009) has criticized it as implausible."—Pegasus Etymology
You can read plenty more about Pegasus, his origins in the mythology and how he got the name, here, here and here.
But let's keep going. If this meme is true, then some basic research should show it quite quickly.
Claim 2: "DionySUS means Wine of Zeus"
One thing is partially true: Dionysus' name does have a connection to Zeus. Except it's not as the image suggests.
"Behind the Name: Meaning, origin and history of the name Dionysos. From Greek Διος (Dios) meaning "of ZEUS" combined with NYSA, the name of the region where young Dionysos was said to have been raised"
— Behind the Name
The "DIOS-" part is the only aspect related to the name Zeus!
“The dio- element has been associated since antiquity with Zeus … The cult of Dionysus was closely associated with trees … the original meaning [is suggested] as "he who runs among the trees", or that of a "runner in the woods".”
Claim 3: "EpheSUS means Daugh...
Just a quick update for you about a couple of new and exciting things I am offering now! Firstly, I have now launched a new range of faith-inspired clothing, which you can see some examples of in the image banner above. If you want to proclaim Christ and your faith via what you wear (especially in these dark times where churches are closed), head on over to: https://thatancientfaith.teemill.com
The second thing to mention, as you may gather from the logo above, is that I now have a YouTube channel! I have begun it by doing a read through of my book, 40 Days with the Fathers, through Lent, so you can listen to the whole book for free. I also plan to create videos discussing the topics I write about where I can go into things in more detail or explain some of the thinking behind the various topics which I can't always fit into the blogs.
So if you enjoy watching things on YouTube, come on over and subscribe to my channel.
That's right: I have a new book in the works! It draws on some of the series and articles I've written on this site to do with Old Testament prophecy and its links into the New Testament, the Incarnation (briefly) and the Second Coming and what we have to look forward to (or worry about). Stay tuned for updates, I'll post some more information soon when there's something more solid to show.
If you want to get some insider previews or maybe some advanced reading or snippets etc. then come on over to my Patreon and sign up. Members will get advanced access to any news and updates before anyone else, plus other bonuses!
That's all for now, leave a comment if you have any queries or thoughts! ...
The season of Lent is here once again which of course brings up the topic of fasting, since the tradition of Lent comes from following Jesus’ example of his time in the wilderness (Luke 4:1–2). I wasn’t planning on writing anything specific this year like I have previous in previous years, but I felt inspired today at church from one of Gospel readings:
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
Often times when the topic of fasting, or Lent, comes up, people are quick to defend their inaction towards self-denial by claiming that, “Jesus didn’t command us to fast!”.
Let’s take a look at that claim for a moment. There may be no chapter and verse you can point to where Jesus says, “Thou shalt fast” — but it was certainly implied in a couple of places when Jesus spoke on the topic, the verse from Matthew above being one of those times, when he finishes off by saying: “and then they will fast” after the “bridegroom” (ie. Jesus) is taken away (death and ascension into heaven).
The other time Jesus talks about fasting is a little earlier on in Matthew’s Gospel, in chapter six:
And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Here we can see that Jesus clearly speaks with the expectation that his followers will fast and even gives instructions and guidance on how to do so and how to avoid being lumped together with the “hypocrites” (sometimes translated as Pharisees). When Jesus tells us how to fast and when it will be appropriate, he was making sure to raise the bar again as he did with many things he taught on. As the Jewish leaders would fast in an obvious way to make sure that everyone could witness their apparent piety, Jesus was telling his followers to go about the business like normal; to get up, have a wash and not look miserable in their hunger.
Reading past the Gospels and into Acts and the Epistles, we begin to see how the Apostles and other early believers took Jesus seriously and did begin to fast once the “bridegroom” has been taken away from them. In Acts, the Church was fasting and praying when making decisions about missionary work and who to send (Acts 13:2–3), before appointing leaders (Acts 14:23) and oftentimes fasting preceded receiving visions from God, which we see in both Old and New Testaments (Acts 10:10; 11:5; 22:17). Fasting was also used for various other needs people wanted from God, like petitioning for answers in prayer, for protection, forgiveness or simply for humbling yourself (Ezra 8:21; Nehemiah 1:4; 9:1; Esther 4:3; Psalm 35:13; 69:10; Daniel 9:3; Joel 2:12; Zechariah 8:18–19). As you can see, fasting has a long and active tradition within Judaism, which passed on into Christianity quite naturally.
During Second Temple Judaism, biweekly fasts were a common practice amongst Jews (see Luke 18:12 for a brief mention of it), and this is what Jesus would have been targeting in his teaching in Matt. 6. A late first century text from the early church, called The Didache (which was a sort of “church handbook”), expands on this teaching of Jesus and demonstrates to us how the earliest believers understood this and carried on the practice of fasting, taking the familiar model they were used to in Judaism, and reshaping it:
But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites; for they fast...
The other week we had a series of power cuts in our town. It doesn’t happen very often here where I am, but there was particularly bad weather recently which damaged some cables; but sitting in the dark winter evening, my phone low on battery power, it made me realise just how much we rely on electricity for nearly everything these days. We don’t even have a gas supply so we were completely cut off from doing anything!
Now it might sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget how dependent we are on modern conveniences until it’s suddenly taken away and you’re sat in the cold surrounded by tiny little tea-light candles. The following Sunday, the sermon at church touched on the fear of God, which got me thinking about how that concept is still kind of strange to me—God is love, He’s our Father, we’re His children… but then we are to also fear Him?
What does this have to do with electricity and power cuts, I hear you say—I’ll come to that in a moment. I’ve often been taught that the word “fear” used in this context actually means “respect”, so I decided to look up the Greek and Hebrew words that are used when we see the words “fear God” in the Bible.
It wasn’t exactly what I expected to find.
2 Corinthians 5:11 is where I began, as that was the verse quoted in the sermon.
Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are revealed to God, and I hope that we are revealed also in your consciences.
I thought I may see a Greek word with a semantic range which includes “respect” or “honour” maybe, but what I found was the word φόβος (phobos) which literally means “alarm or fright; be afraid, fear, terror”. It’s also where we get our English word “phobia” from!
So I went forward a couple of chapters to this verse:
2 Corinthians 7:1Having therefore these promises, beloved, let’s cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
But again, the word “phobos” was used, so now I decided to search across the New Testament for this phrase, and the next passage that came up was in Romans.
Romans 3:18“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
This is part of a larger passage which ends on this verse about the fear of God (still using the same Greek word), where I saw a footnote to say it had been a quote from Psalm 36:1. Ah, I thought, maybe the Hebrew word used for “fear” will show something different!
I thought wrong.
This particular verse in Psalm 36 used the word פַּחַד (p̱aḥaḏ), which has a wide meaning such as: a (sudden) alarm (properly, the object feared, by implication, the feeling): — dread(-ful), fear, (thing) great (fear, greatly feared), terror.
So again, the type of fear is an actual fear!
A little searching through the Old Testament revealed that the word “fear” has a couple of other Hebrew words which lie underneath the English translations, one of which does also mean “reverence” as well (יָרֵא [yârê], found in Gen 22:12 and 1 Sam 12:14). So maybe there is an element of that understanding in the Greek by the time the New Testament writers came along who meant that ‘fear’ as awe and reverence as well.
So this all leads me back to where I was a week or so ago, sat in church listening to a sermon, wondering when my power would be back on. As I thought about all of this, the combination of electricity and the fear of God combined into something that helped me put some perspective on it: the fear of God is like a live, sparking electric cable.
I’ll clarify my thinking—if we saw an electric cable on the ground, flailing around and sparking everywhere, we should be fearful of that because touching it could kill us! But when electricity is used right, it is good for and to us; it provides power and comfort etc. Without it we lose access to pretty much everything these days and go into darkness—Much like if we lose sight of,...
Hey everyone, so I’ve launched a new website called Patristics.info to be a new resource for all things early church related. I’ve added a few texts which I already had formatted from my book manuscript, plus other resources like timelines, maps, recommended books etc. I’ll be adding more soon in the coming days.
I’ve also created a “topical index” page too which is auto-generated from the tags on the pages to aid with searching, plus I created a word highlighter on each page so you can search keywords in a text and have them highlighted if you’re looking for particular things.
If anyone would like to be involved to contribute resources or blogs, or have any book you’ve written which you’d like linked/advertised on the site then just get in touch! I want this to be as useful a tool for people who are interested in this area as much as for people who are new to Patristics (the early church fathers).
Features and functionality
Much of the site is ready to go in terms of functionality and resources etc for the time being. I’m still working on adding more Early Church texts to the site, but this takes a lot of time as I need to transcribe them from unformatted text into a nicer format for reading, plus inserting all of the footnotes as well (I’m currently half way through 1 Clement now).
While I mention the footnotes, I’ve created a feature similar to Wikipedia where if you hover on a footnote number, it will display a popup with the footnote text in it hopefully making it simpler to read the Patristic text and quickly see any additional information from the original translators as you go. This should also work well on mobiles too.
Inline footnote hover popups
Another new feature I’ve created is the Quote Search page: https://patristics.info/quote-search.html
This is an experimental tool at the moment while I still perfect it, but please give it a go and submit any feedback if you can. The page will allow you to search a keyword and bring up a list of contextual quotes from within the Church Father texts where that word is mentioned. As far as I’m aware, there’s nothing else like this available online in this format so I hope it will prove useful for study!
Example quote search for the word “baptism”
I hope that you enjoy the site and find it a useful tool. Please share it online etc. and if you want to get involved with creating blogs or resources just get in touch, or if you feel so inclined, you can support this project financially via Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/LukeJWilson
Go and explore the site today: Patristics.info !...
Much like any major Christian holiday, there are the usual arguments and accusations about how it’s all just pagan festivities with a “Christian mask”. Easter is no different, and usually gets hit the hardest over its so-called “pagan roots”, or in the month or so preceding it, Lent being some “invention of the Catholic Church”.
Table of Contents
The Lenten Fast
The Easter controversy and why we celebrate it when we do
Is the Name “Easter” really the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre?
Chocolate eggs and bunnies?
Further Reading and Sources
I like to try and observe Lent, as it is one of the most ancient customs in the Church, which led me to researching its origins, along with the Easter celebration, to see where they have their basis. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that much of the accusations against Easter and Lent as “pagan” are either fabricated or is just misinformation. So let’s examine the different aspects of Easter to see how we got from Passover to resurrection, to little bunnies and chocolate eggs!
The Lenten Fast
A forty day fast prior to Easter has been a long established practice within the Church dating back to possibly within the first century. This is well established from ancient letters we still have available, such as from Irenaeus in the second century:
For some consider themselves bound to fast one day, others two days, others still more. In fact, others fast forty days … And this variety among observers [of the fasts] did not have its origin in our time, but long before in that of our predecessors.–Irenaeus (c.180)
Notice here that Irenaeus mentions that this was a practice passed onto them by their “predecessors”, a term often used in conjunction with the Apostles themselves, or those who immediately came after them, putting the origins of this Lenten fast much earlier than when Irenaeus wrote in 180, and also possibly having Apostolic origin.
The Easter controversy and why we celebrate it when we do
Back in the days of the early church, there arose a controversy around the celebration of Easter (or “pascha” as it was known then). But no, before your imagination runs wild, it wasn’t quite as exciting as it sounds and still had nothing to do with “paganism”. The dispute was over which day to hold the festival!
Yep, the controversy really is as mundane as that. In fact, it was one of the issues raised at the council of Nicea to be discussed and hopefully settled, and is officially known as the Quartodeciman (lit. Fourteenth) controversy/dispute. It’s called this due to the issue being over whether the Easter celebration should follow the Jewish pattern of Passover on the 14 Nisan or not and simply follow the days of the week (Friday and Sunday). It became a bigger issue when the not only the Jewish community of believers wanted to follow this method, but when the Gentile Asian communities also claimed that their Quartodeciman practice was of Apostolic origin!
It was a disciple of John the Apostle, and bishop of Smyrna, called Polycarp (c.69–c.155) who followed this practice in one of the seven churches of Asia as well as Melito, bishop of Sardis (died c.180). Irenaeus tells us that, in his old age, Polycarp visited the bishop of Rome to discuss this matter with him as the Roman church had diverged from the Quartodeciman custom and celebrated the resurrection according to the day Jesus rose instead: Sunday (the first day of the week).
We gain an important glimpse about this whole dispute from Irenaeus though, when he tells us of the meeting between Polycarp and Anicetus:
Neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John the disciple of our Lord, and the other apostles with whom he had associated; neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe it, as he said that he ought to follow the customs of the presbyters that had preceded him. … And they parted from each...
This is a guest post by David Jakubovic. The views are that of the author and don't necessarily reflect the views of That Ancient Faith.
A 20 year update of the 1996 book by the same name, this slim volume (211 pages) is a helpful cross-section of current evangelical thought on Final Punishment, sampling Denny Burk on Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT hereafter), John Stackhouse Jr on Conditional immortality (CI hereafter), Robin Parry on Christian Universalism (CU hereafter) and Jerry Walls on (a Protestant) Purgatory. Preston Sprinkle pens both Introduction and Conclusion, plus there are Scripture, Author and Subject indices.
The Introduction sets the scene, listing the 3 historically available views along with speculation about post-mortem purgatorial sanctification, before clarifying that it is not the existence of hell that is here in doubt: “They agree that hell exists, but they differ on what this hell is like.” (11) Sprinkle lists verses used by all 4 views, then introduces the academic background of the 4 essayists. He finally issues a substantial challenge to the reader:
“You, of course, will probably agree with only one of the following essays and disagree with the other three. But keep in mind: disagreement is not refutation. We must be able to refute the evidence of the views that we disagree with and then provide more compelling biblical evidence for the view that we uphold.” (15)
Burk kicks off Chapter One (‘Eternal Conscious Torment’) with a startling parable. He visualizes a man torturing creatures in increasing order of complexity and dignity: first torturing a grasshopper, a frog, a bird, a puppy and finally a human baby. Burk states:
“In each of the scenarios above, the ‘sin’ is the same – pulling the legs off. The only difference in each of these scenarios is the one sinned against…The seriousness of the sin is not measured merely by the sin itself (pulling off the legs) but by the value and the worth of the one being sinned against.” (19, italics his)
This macabre thought-experiment is of course a gruesome version of Anselm’s ‘Status Principle’, namely that to sin against an infinitely good God merits infinite or eternal punishment. But fellow pro-ECT essayist Walls squashes this analogy:
“There is profound disanalogy in the parable that undermines the central point he wants to establish. This resides in the fact that we do not have the power to do anything to God that is remotely analogous to the harm the character in the parable inflicts on helpless creatures ranging from grasshoppers to human
infants. Indeed, God is so far above us in power, glory, and moral perfection that we are utterly incapable of harming him.”1
Burk even ventures that ECT “will ultimately become a source of joy and praise for the saints as they witness the infinite goodness and justice of God.” (20) Yet it is grossly incongruous to place ECT side by side with notions of ‘joy’, ‘goodness’ or ‘justice’ as these are universally understood. The very philosophical logic behind the ‘Status Principle’ is itself highly suspect, as Kronen points out when dismantling the ‘Classical Doctrine of Hell’ (CDH):
“It is by no means obvious that an offense against an infinite being must be punished by the sorts of torments envisioned by CDH. One might sin more or less gravely against such a being, and in that case it does not seem that just any sin against an infinite being would merit eternal, continuous, and excruciating pain.”2
Spiegel adds that “human guilt is at most maximally great, not infinitely great”3, meaning that human guilt is still finite: “Finite guilt, however great, presumably does not warrant endless punishment in the form of ECT.” (Spiegel, op. cit. 41) He adds that, under the ‘Status Principle’, even the first sin you commit as a child is enough to incur ‘infinite guilt’, but this does not allow for the vast spectrum of p...
Most people have some idea about what the rapture is – or do they? Generally there is an idea or concept of a form of escapism from the world when Jesus returns, which happens pre, mid or post tribulation and in some connection to the millenium. Now, if you understood any of those terms, you are most likely on, or aware of, the Dispensationalism side of things.
There’s a lot of doctrine all bundled together in “end times” beliefs, and a fair bit of speculation around “the rapture” with its timing and logistics etc. which makes the whole thing a but murky, but nonetheless, it’s pretty much taken for granted as a staple belief within the Evangelical world. But has this always been so, and does it have any biblical basis?
In short: sort of.
What is The Rapture?
This is the primary verse where the doctrine finds its footing:
…then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. — 1 Thessalonians 4:17
On the face of it, that is a pretty obscure (and short) text, yet so much has been written on and speculated about around this event.
I’m not going to cover every aspect of rapture doctrine here, but rather want to just highlight the context of this verse and its parallels in Paul’s other letters, as this seems to get lost under centuries of doctrinal baggage, which, incidentally, also the leads to the next point to look at: is the rapture biblical?
The origin of The Rapture
The word “rapture” itself comes from the Latin word rapere, which means: “to seize” or “to abduct”. It is a translation from the Greek word that is rendered as “caught up” (ἁρπάζω / harpázō) in our English Bibles today.
For many, asking if this belief is biblical is a non-starter because it is assumed so based on 1 Thess. 4 so obviously it is. But this is a presupposition, reading the modern ideas of what “the rapture” means into the text. The modern idea being that Jesus comes back briefly (and maybe secretly), whooses all the Christians into the sky and takes them to heaven, away from all the troubles on the earth, before coming back later to do a proper “second coming”.
John Nelson Darby, a 19th-century theologian, is often credited with creating this premillennial rapture doctrine, followed closely by C.I. Scofield who wrote a best-selling annotated Bible which promoted Darby’s rapture views in its footnote commentary. This particular Bible became wildly popular across America in the early 1900s and ended up solidifying the futurist dispensational viewpoint for generations to come within Evangelicalism.
Despite the popularity of Scofield’s Bible, what it (and Darby) taught was a novel idea which had not been seen nor heard of before in the previous 1800 years of Church History, yet many Christians accepted it without hesitation, likely due to it being part of the exposition alongside the Scripture they were reading, and therefore a seeming authority.
I realise there is somewhat of an irony here in that I’m acting similarly like an authority telling you that this belief is wrong whereas Scofield was writing as though it were accurate, but in an even more ironic twist, just a handful of verses later, the same letter to the Thessalonians says to “test everything; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). This is what I would invite you to do: don’t just take my word for it, test everything and see if what I say is accurate.
The context of The Rapture
So what is the context of these verses, if not about being whisked away into the sky with Jesus? A couple of things, but one slightly more obvious than the other, though still overlooked by people, I’ve noticed; the other requires knowing some more about the ancient Greco-Roman culture of the time.
Firstly, we only need go back a few verses to see what Paul is writing about here: he begins the passage in verse 13 by say...
This is a guest post by Joshua Spaulding from eternalanswers.org. The views are that of the author and don't necessarily reflect the views of That Ancient Faith.
As you read through the Scriptures, you will come across some passages that seem to suggest that slavery is not condemned by God. Some who think this to be the case are sincerely seeking truth, while others are only looking for reasons to discount the Bible.
Some of the passages in question are Exodus 21:2-6, Deuteronomy 15:12-15, Ephesians 6:5 and Colossians 4:1 which provide instruction on the treatment of slaves.
In light of these Scriptures, does God condone slavery?
Before diving too deep into the topic, there is one very important thing we must understand before we can rightly interpret these Scriptures, and others. Forced slavery, like that which was ended in the U.S. in modern-day history, is not always the same as the slavery mentioned in the Bible. This is significant! (Just a side note: there are still to this day an estimated 21-36 million people¹ in slavery across the world.)
Additionally, seeing something such as forced slavery in the Bible does not necessarily mean God approves of it. The Bible consists of legal, historical, poetic, and prophetic books. The historical books are historical accounts of times past and sinful things are not excluded. God knows the heart of man. The laws He gave in regards to slavery were given as grace for those in slavery.We see at least two forms of slavery in the Bible and God gives guidelines, seemingly approving of one of those forms of slavery. We see the type of forced slavery that the Jews, God’s own people, were forced into (Exodus 1:13-14). The Lord delivered Israel from that slavery. So we know that this type of slavery certainly does not have God’s approval (Exodus 6:6). God would not need to “deliver” a people from something that is not sinful and wrong.
So God gives guidelines on one from of slavery, seemingly approving of it to a certain extent, while condemning another form of slavery and delivering His people from it. Herein lies the seed of the confusion. Some innocently read the Bible and don’t realize this, but most who bring this topic up are skeptics just looking for a reason to discredit the Bible. They do not realize, or willingly suppress the fact, that the type of slavery that God gives guidelines for, and seemingly approves of to a certain extent, is not the same type of slavery that God clearly condemns. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) and God’s Word does not contradict God’s Word.
In Bible times (1st century Greco-Roman times and prior) slavery was not exclusive to any one particular race or language, nor were slaves segregated². They were just like everyone else. These slaves were willing bond-servants. They were often times very well educated contributors to society. Their servitude was rarely for life, but sometimes they willingly agreed to it out of love for their master.
These servants were not kidnapped and forced into slavery, which God condemns (Deuteronomy 24:7, 1 Timothy 1:9-1:11). These servants were willing bond-slaves.
There is even a book (actually a letter) in the Bible (Philemon) that was written by the Apostle Paul to Philemon (a slave master) emphasizing the fact that all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness of their sin should be treated in the same way … with the same love and respect.
What about Leviticus 25:44-46?
It is true that God specifically made room for forced slavery, as seen in Lev. 25:44-46. However, this passage should not be seen in the same context as other passages we have considered when dealing with the moral implications of slavery. The reason being that this slavery was a form of judgement by Holy God on a paganistic, rebellious people. It was actually mercy that the Lord allowed them to live in slavery, rather than to be destroyed for their extreme rebellion against God in embr...