Historical Church Series – Early Church Heretics: Marcion of Sinope

This week I missed the Tuesday in the Twisted Tuesday post, and posted on Wednesday instead. We dealt with monotheism, the essential, Biblical, doctrine of one God. This doctrine was attacked early on in church history by a man named Marcion. Marcion was born in around 85 ad, moved to Rome in 135 ad, and died in 160 ad. Before we go more into detai about him, and as we leave the book of Acts and the New Testemant, to push forward into the second century I want to bring you along through the men who were trained by the Apostles. This will give you a better idea of who was fighting these ancient herecies.

First is Clement of Rome, whose writings are considered the oldest outside of the New Testemant, from which he quotes often. Clement was born just a few years before the crucifixtion, and was personally trained by Paul and Peter, most likely mentioned in the Bible, and was a personal friend of Polycarp. Polycarp was born a year before the Temple was destroyed, and had been personally discipled by John, whom he quotes often in his extant works. As well as being friends with Clement, Polycarp was also friends with Ignatius, and personally discipled Irenaeus. There are others that we could talk about in great detail, but it’s Polycarp that I want to focus on today.  It was Polycarp who rebuked Marcion, the heretic we’re discussing today. Marcion had been the son of a wealthy man, and had made a very large donation to the church. This had not stopped the same church from declaring him a heretic a few short years later, giving him back his donation, and excommunicating him. When he asked Polycarp if he knew who he was, Polycarps response has lasted the test of time.

“Do you know who I am?” Marcion asked.

“Yes, I know who you are, you first born son of Satan.” Answered Polycarp

Marcion, with his strong gnostic bent, was the first heretic to unhitch the Old Testament. Much like Andy Stanley today, he refused to accept most of the New Testament. He believed, and taught, that the God of the Old Testament was evil, and that Jesus came to save us from that evil God. This belief led him to remove any verses where Jesus, or His disciples, quote from the Old Testament. This directly opposed the Biblical doctrine of monotheism, trinitarianism, and inerrancy. It was in response to this particular heretic that the early church fathers were led to clarify the cannon, the hypostatic union, and the trinity in their writing. Both Irenaeus and Tertulliun have extact works that deal directly with the heretical teachings of Marcionism and Gnosticism. What man meant for evil God meant for good.

Today we hear the echoes of that ancient herecy, in voices like Andy Stanley. There are also churches which call themselves the Marcionite Church of Christ, which are, as their names say, cults repeating the same error Marcion did. This particular heresy, in the rest of the professing Christian world, is more subtle. You’ll hear it in the cults, like Scientology, but you’ll also hear it in the preaching of men who claim to be orthodox. They’ll recommend not reading the Old Testament, they’ll preach that it’s not for today, that the God of the OT isn’t like the God of the New Testament. These men, regardless of how buttoned down they seem, ought to be called out, warned, rebuked, and prayed for. It’s not a small thing to reject Gods Word. I hope this series continues to be a blessing to you, my dear friends. As always, be good bereans and study to show yourselves approved.

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Thursday Movie Review – Double Feature: 7 Reasons and The Fool

Hello again, I hope this finds you all doing well. Today I’d like to review two movies, both by LivingWaters. The first movie I want to review is 7 Reasons, a sequel to 180, we briefly talked about here. 7 Reasons premiered May 9th, and is available free on YouTube. The second movie I want to review is The Fool, which premiered April 20th and is also freely available online. I’ll link to both movies at the bottom of the page.

7 Reasons is, as its title explains, a movie refuting the seven most common reasons given for why murdering the unborn is acceptable. The movie is much more hard hitting than the first one on the topic. This, in the face of a push towards full term abortion, is a needed escalation. Ray Comfort interviews young people through-out the movie, addressing each point they make about the morality of infanticide. By the end of each interview almost all of them have changed their minds. This was mostly due to the explanation of the babies quick development, and the horrific methods used to kill them in their mother’s womb. Comfort then makes a segue into the Gospel, listing the sixth commandment first. This movie is not just an excellent tool to prevent abortions, it also includes a Gospel presentation. I can’t recommend it for young children, due to the clip of a baby being torn limb from limb by the abortionists vacuum, and the frequent discussion of rape. However, preteen and on would be appropriate, depending on the maturity level and parental preference.

The Fool, a movie which addresses the Banana Man phenomenon, is, by far, my favorite movie by LivingWaters. I’ve always held to the belief that if an argument is answered with an insult, then it’s most likely due to a lack of refutation. This is why you can give a beautiful presentation of truth, only to have your grammar mocked and the argument ignored. The ability for mature debate ends, replaced with playground level accusations. We must, as born again believers, refuse to lower ourselves to this standard. If you have, like Ray Comfort, been the subject of online ridicule then this movie will tremendously bless you. If you have not yet been treated in such a way, watch this movie so you know how to handle it when it does happen. This was an encouraging, instructive, and edifying movie on humility, as well as having the presentation of the Gospel clearly stated.

Twisted Tuesday – Essential Doctrines: Monotheism

Today, dear ones, we’re going to discuss the essential doctrine of monotheism. Monotheism relates to two other, equally important, doctrines which we’ll discuss. One being that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the New, and the other that the Trinity is Biblical. The cults will inevitably get one of these three points wrong, as ancient heretics did, which leads to confusion or rejection of other Biblical truths.

First, let’s define monotheism. This is the belief that there is only one God (Duet. 6:4 , Isaiah 43:10-11). The God of the Bible is the only one, true God (Isaiah 44:8). This truth is rejected by many cults, such as Mormonism which teaches polytheism, and an endless regression of gods. This sets them apart from Hindus, which actually have a set number of idols. They also believe they can become gods themselves one day. The World Missions Society also rejects monotheism, teaching that there is a father god and a mother god.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-pTSllh7kJA&t=2166s

I am shocked in today’s age of relative ease, as far as research goes, to see a call for unhitching the Old Testament. On Friday we’re going to talk about the earliest church heretic which proposed the same thing. While Andy Stanley is not the first person to suggest we should not read the Old Testament, he certainly was the most publicized. This stems mostly from a desire to be liked by the world, and what worldly sinner is going to enjoy hearing of Noah’s flood? It’s better, some say, to just stick to what Jesus says. The Old Testament God is literally set against the New Testament God (1 Cor. 8:5-7). What confusion! No, my beloved friends, the God of the Old Testament is not different, there is only one God and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The truth is, when we unhitch the Old Testament God from Christianity we are denying monotheism (1 Th. 2:13 , Ps. 12:6). The Word of God is not to be chopped up into bits and pieces, only using the ones you like. We read Gods Word in its context, from beginning to end, taking the whole counsel of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

The last point I want to discuss is the doctrine of the Trinity (2 Cor. 13:14). I have often heard Muslims and Jews mischaracterize the Trinity. Mormons do this as well, and it can certainly be shown that Joseph Smith did not understand Biblical Trinitarianism when he suggested it would make a monstrous god. Roman Catholics, by adding Mary as a co-redemptix have also confused the rolls of the Godhead. Jehovahs Witness, Christadelphianism, Islam, Oneness Pentecostals, and the Way International all believe God is one person (1 Cor. 12:4-6) The Biblical understanding of the Trinity is one God, the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mat. 3:16-17). The Westminster confession words it beautifully…

In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. – Chapter 2.3

Monotheism is essential to the faith, my friends, as it is the only one, true God, that sent His only begotten Son to die in our place. There are many counterfeit dollar bills in the world, that does not mean the real dollar is fake, or that the fakes are somehow real. Many idols exist in this world, many false doctrines taught as truth surround them. They take Scripture out of context to attempt to fit their belief. When that doesn’t work, some unstable men remove portions of Scripture altogether, and give approval to others who do so.(2 Pet. 3:15-16). Others confuse the Trinity, taking the Lord God and splitting Him up into different beings. This is what happens when cults suggest Jesus was not God the Son. We must read God’s Word as a complete, masterful, inerrant, work which flows in perfect unison from Old to New Testament. Without just exegesis we will take His Scripture and misunderstand it, or worse, purposefully make it say what we want it to say. Handle His Word with care, brethren, and as always, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved

A Field Trip to Play!

I wanted to discuss the next Essential doctrine today, but I forgot we were planning a homeschooling trip. Other families in the community invited us, and I hate to miss any opportunity to get to visit with homeschooling parents. I will push today’s post off until tomorrow, when I can ensure it will be accurate, and detailed. I hope you’re all enjoying your day, and are safe from the storms that hit the US yesterday. Please join me in praying for those who lost homes, health, or loved ones in the past couple weeks. Also, pray for those who were hit by the recent earthquake in Peru. Until tomorrow, my dear friends, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

Memorial Day by Tom at ExCatholic4Christ

I simply couldn’t have said it any better, so I’ll just let our brother say it for me!

Today, the country rightly commemorates the servicemen and servicewomen who sacrificed their lives so that we can enjoy the many freedoms we possess. There are billions of people throughout the world who can only dream about the freedoms that we often take for granted. Today we remember that those freedoms were secured for us by those who sacrificed their lives, and we are grateful.

As a believer, today I also remember all of those martyrs who paid with their lives so that we could have the Gospel. When people think about “the martyrs,” they generally think about the members of the early church who were persecuted by the Roman Empire. But believers have suffered persecution over the past two-thousand years, mainly at the hands of the institutional church. Do we ever think about those who sacrificed their lives so that we could hear the genuine Gospel and have God’s Word to read for ourselves? For the HIGH PRIVILEGES of hearing the Gospel of grace before you accepted Christ, for worshiping the Lord at church yesterday unmolested, and for being able to absentmindedly pick up your Bible today, millions of believers over the centuries suffered harassment, persecution, or death.

I am grateful to all those who purchased our temporal freedoms with their blood. And I am eternally grateful for all those believers who boldly proclaimed the Gospel of grace and would not recant and suffered persecution and death.

https://excatholic4christ.wordpress.com/2019/05/27/memorial-day/

Saturday Homeschool Resources – Essential Doctrine Worksheets and Updates

Hello again, friends, I hope this post finds you all doing well. Today, as I did last Saturday, I want to share some homeschooling lessons that teach the essential doctrine we discussed on Tuesday. I also recommend Songs for Saplings Volume 3 which you can find here, these go so well with this area of Bibllical truth.

Deity of Christ

The greenhouse plants are doing very well, my little gardener has been able to pick us enough lettuce to make an entire salad this week! All the other plants are taking their time, which has been a great way to teach patience. On top of being a green thumb, Kayliegh is preparing to start summer softball. This usually means we bring lessons down a notch, as she’ll now be practicing daily. I was never athletic, so I’m thankful she did not inherit that side of my genetics! Sports teach so many wonderful things, like team work, and sportsman like behavior, so I was relieved when she fell in love with the game.

As we finish up in May, I’m preparing for a new unit in science: Mechanics. There are a ton of camps around her that teach coding, or mechanical ingenuity. Unfortunately, they’re insanely expensive so I’m going to have to get creative! If anyone has any ideas, we’re all ears. Other then that change, history is going to have to be switched around. I wanted to move backwards but it’s not as instructive as I had hoped. Instead, I’m going to start her where we are in the early church series, and will be posting the lessons on Saturdays as we go. English is moving along the same as it always does, the only change is that she has suddenly become a reading machine! Instead of watching anything, or even playing with her clay, she has been spending all her spare time reading. I’m not sure what changed, but I’m not going to complain!

If I’ve never mentioned this special clay, I have to apologize! For anyone who has creative, or inventive, little ones, this is the only clay I buy. It’s not hard to mold like other clays, it mixes well with slime, and dries into a soft foam. I don’t even remember how we found it, but I’m glad we did. This is the type we order here. That’s all the updates I have for today, I hope you’re all having a fantastic weekend! As always, beloved brethren, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

Historical Church Series: The Early Heretics – Christian Gnosticism

Dear ones, today’s discussion of early heresy once again requires Tuesday’s article, which you can read here. The early church faced a group who, among many other heretical beliefs, did not believe Jesus was God the Son. This group was called Christian Gnostics. Gnostic comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning knowledge. This is the perfect term for the group, as they held to the belief that salvation comes from secret knowledge. Of course, only they had that secret knowledge, so to be saved you had to join their cult. We see this two dangerous false doctrines repeated in all the cults of today.

It’s true that ancient Gnosticism is alive and well today, and some attempt to trace its roots back before Christ. Either way, the ancient heretics, which it seems John addresses in 1 John, adopted Jesus Christ as one who had come down to impart the secret knowledge needed for salvation. The basic belief in Gnosticism is dualism, good and evil, the material universe is evil, God is good, therefore God could not have entered His creation as Jesus Christ the Son of God. This denial of the deity of Christ negates the atonement, Christ could only make atonement for our sins as the perfect, sinless, Son of God. The deity of Christ is not the only area of Gnosticism that’s in disagreement with Christianity.

Gnosticism has many faces, but the general view is that God is unknowable, and that he is too pure to have created the wicked material world. So, instead, he created emanations, which were lesser beings. One of those emanations wanted to know the unknowable god (which is not the true God) and through this desire an evil god was created. That evil god was the one who created all things, including the universe and humanity. Obviously, all of these beliefs are in direct opposition to the Biblical, orthodox doctrines of the historical Church.

The idea that one group has secret knowledge that leads to salvation is popular with all the cults we face today. It’s not Christ that they put their faith, but in the charismatic leader, prophet, or pope. Whether it’s Mary Baker Eddy, Joseph Smith, John Thomas, the Pope, Muhammad, or Charles T. Russel, these groups claim their leaders speak for God, or as God. In the same way, only a Gnostic teacher can give truth to their followers. Likewise, as the Gnostics have historically claimed, the cults all get the deity of Christ wrong. All, except Roman Catholicism, teach that Jesus Christ was just a man. Some teach that He became divine through His sacrifice, which leads to the little gods doctrine. The Roman Catholic Church is, as far as I know, the only group outside of orthodoxy that teaching Jesus exists in the communion wafer which is sacrificed over and over again for sin, called transubstantiation.

The Gnostic heresy is unique, in that it exists today on its own, as well as having its doctrines borrowed by other cults. Ironically, many of the cult leaders have a tendency to draw connections with early gnostic heretics, as if that somehow gives credence to their being a segment of Christianity. We need to be wise as serpents, and gentle as doves when we address these false religions. Each of these groups has a false gospel, or flawed view of salvation, which can not save. Let us love the lost enough to learn about the error and how to address them with the truth. We can not be the people who stand silently while Gods name is blasphemed among the nations due to these false religions. Lovingly, patiently, and with knowledge of the Scriptures, we must speak truth to those that believe in lies. I hope this series blesses you all, dear friends. As always, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

Thursday Book Review: The Wars of the Jews by Flavius Josephus

Hello beloved, I have finally finished this book and could not be more thrilled to review it for you all. In keeping with the early church heretics series on Friday’s I thought it would be appropriate to read and review historical books from the same time period. I had already placed Josephus’ work on my list of needed reading, however I had no idea how beneficial his works would be. Flavius Josephus was a Jewish historian that lived through the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. The Wars of the Jews is believed to have been published in 75 AD, although the original document has not survived. The oldest known codex is a Latin translation believed to have dated back to the fifth century.

I want to make a quick side note here, as you’ll rarely find scholars that will say that we can not be sure Josephus’ works we’re really written by him, even though the closest copy was written five hundred years after the fact, in a different language, the closest dated Greek codex is from the tenth century. However, we do see this accusation constantly repeated by secularists in regards to the Bible. The earliest known manuscript found to date was copied only a few decades after the New Testament was written. A counsel didn’t have to come together and decide these books were Scripture, that was already assumed, as we see Peter referring to Paul’s writings in this very manner (2 Peter 3:16). The counsel, which we’ll be discussing in the Friday series soon, only came together to discuss what was not to be considered Scripture, since some were attempting to add their own preferred books. Scholars in the area of textural criticism will note these two facts, whether they’re Christians or not. Unfortunately the atheists, and Mormons, of the internet don’t know, or don’t care. I wanted to point this out, dear ones, in case you came across these arguments.

The War of the Jews, also known as Jewish Wars, is broken into seven books, beginning with a historical recounting of Jerusalem’s fall to Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 164 BC. Josephus also gives a detailed description of the surrounding areas, rulers, and wars that would eventually impact Israel, or directly lead to its destruction. The books end with the eventual fall of the temple in 70 AD. Josephus was born in 37 AD to a priestly lineage on his fathers side. In 66 AD he would be made commander in Galilee over the Jewish rebellion against the Romans. While they were unable to defeat the Romans, Josephus survived. I want so badly to tell you this part of the story, but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read it. Needless to say, this is not a historical book that will put you to sleep.

To that point, I have to say that this was a fascinating, page turner, from beginning to end. There is no modern book, whether fiction or nonfiction, that can hold a candle. Throughout the book names and places familiar to us all made the description of each battle come alive. From Mark Antony and Cleopatra to Pontius Pilate, King Agrippa, and Nero, the history right before, during, and after the life of our Lord comes together in this book unlike anything I’ve read on the subject. Before reading this my thoughts on the first century were fragmented, and disconnected, but I now have a better understanding of how it was that the Jerusalem fell.

For starters, without giving too much away, the world around Israel seemed to be in as much chaos as Jerusalem was in within. Robbers had taken over the temple, named themselves rulers and priests, killed or imprisoned anyone who could fight back, then called a neighboring group to come to their defense acting as if they were the innocent ones. They took up the type of debauchery that’s currently being celebrating in our country today, and desecrated the temple. They killed anyone who tried to escape, and refused to allow the dead to be buried. When a worse tyrant came with his army, the Jews welcomed him into their city, hoping he would rid them of the robbers. Rome was also in a state of confusion, as the empire was divided, and more then one man was declared Caesar.

While I can’t recommend this to young audiences, I do recommend all born again believers read this. It will give you a better understanding of the time Christ Jesus lived in, what led up to the fulfillment of His prophecy that the temple would fall, and how believers lived in the decades after His resurrection. It’s a lot like learning about the Holocaust, heartbreaking but important. Perhaps if the world hadn’t forgotten this past, the world wars that mark our modern time wouldn’t have happened. With the graphic nature, I would recommend 16 and up for this one. It’s in the public domain, which means it’s free! You can find the entire book free here, the free audiobook here, a pdf here, Kindle version here, and a hard copy here.

Wednesday Testimony – Dr. James White

Dear ones, I often feel these testimonies are the most encouraging thing I can watch. Much of today’s news and entertainment is discouraging, frustrating, or even frightening. Hearing the power of God in the life of a sinner can remind us of the one with whom we have to do. God is Lord, Christ is King! The Holy Spirit is at work within His people. I have been blessed greatly by Dr. Whites debates, church history lectures, and work on Biblical translations. I pray his testimony will bless you all. As always, beloved brethren, be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.

Twisted Tuesday – Essential Doctrines of the Faith: The Deity of Christ

Hello again, I hope this post finds you all doing well! We’re going to continue in our series on the basic doctrines of Christianity, but if you missed the previous posts you can find them here, here, and here. I’m very excited about continuing this series, today’s topic is as misunderstood, or abused by the cults as last weeks. The deity of Christ, the hypostatic union, and His place as our Lord and Savior, are either rejected or twisted in cults. It’s one of the sure fire calling cards for having left orthodoxy, as each group redefines Christ they immediately alter, or destroy, the Gospel message.

The deity of Christ, meaning God the Son (Col. 2:9), eternally God (Phil. 2:5-8), entered His creation (John 1:14-16), is essential for understanding salvation. If Christ was just a good man, or just a prophet, then His death on the cross can save no one. Why? Because it had to be a perfect, sinless, man to die in our place. All those born of Adam sin, we have all fallen short, and if any man says he is without sin he is a liar and the truth is not in him. Christ came, God the Son, and did what no one else could do, lived a sinless life. There is no darkness in Him, in fact darkness flees from Him, because He is light. It is the sinless perfection of Christ’s life that is imputed onto the believer. His death on the cross in place of the sinner gives salvation, because He is God. Many of the cults will teach that Jesus was just a man, given a promotion to deity because of His death. Unfortunately, this heretical doctrine is making inroads into mainstream churches through the Word of Faith movement, which we discussed here and here.

The second part of this essential doctrine is an understanding of the hypostatic union. This is the truth that Jesus Christ is both human (1 Tim. 2:5-6) and divine (John 8:58). Early heresies centered around Christ being divine, while denying His humanity. We see something similar today in Christian Science, when talking about humanity and spirituality. Anytime we see a push against matter, or flesh as evil and spirituality as morally good, we’re seeing the fruit of early heresy. You’ll often hear this language in New Ageism, much of which has been adopted by professed believers. How often do we hear “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual?” The roots of that statement are found in the teachings of early “Christian Gnostics”, who believed the flesh too wicked for God to enter it, thus He must have just been spirit. Spirit, in this belief, is good, flesh is bad, or in other words religion is fleshly, spirituality is not. If you’ve had a chance to listen to Defecting From Bethel, you’ll hear Lindsey Davis explain how she was accused of having a ‘spirit of religion’ when she began to oppose Bethel’s heresies. I’ll link here to Part One, Two, and Three in case you haven’t seen it.

The last thing I want to address in regards to Christ’s deity is our faith in Him (Romans 5:1-2). We dealt with the need for faith in Christ as our savior here. Friends, the doctrine of Christ’s deity is essential to the Christian faith, yet sadly what we see in the cults is that they turn away from this doctrine and place their faith in something other than Christ. I like to use the example of a Chicken. Let’s say a new employee comes to work with you, and in talking with them they explain that they are worshipers of Jesus Christ. You get so excited, another Christian to work with! You invite them to your church, they invite you to their home so you can both worship together. Fellowship? Yes please! Off you go to your new pals home, only to be introduced to their pet chicken named Jesus Christ. The chicken has an alter where your new friend offers gifts, and a throne instead of a roost. Is this co-worker going to be saved by their faith in the chicken named Christ? No, of course not. That’s a silly example of exactly what’s happening in the cults, they name their idol Jesus Christ, but he’s not the Jesus of the Bible (John 8:23-24). They’ve strayed from Scripture, added their own leaders prophecies, writings, or traditions. They are now putting their faith in a false god. Saving faith must be placed in the Biblical Jesus Christ. No other faith can save. I pray this series is edifying for you, my beloved brethren, as always be good Berean’s and study to show yourselves approved.