[Papercut Press] 2004-07-26 - Early Heresies

Isaiah 57:1, "The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart; and devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from evil."

An interesting passage I came upon recently in my reading may seem a little academic, but it is the earliest I have seen prayer for the dead and what later became identified as purgatory linked to the Christian tradition. It is in John Brown's "History of the Christian Church," as he deals with the second century. The second century is early for these doctrines to have developed, and Brown links them to a pseudo-Christian Plantonism. The Roman Catholic Church tries to link these teachings back to the Apostles, but there seems to be little evidence of that, or of their view of Apostolic succession in general. Don't read into that comment more than is there. I did not say that Roman Catholics are not Christians. I think many are. Just as many Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists are also Christians. The issue is not what church one belongs to but rather where the individual places his/her faith and trust.

I have updated the 1771 text, so the lettering usage is set to today's usage (s's look like s's and not f's) and I have broken this one long paragraph into three. Other than that, this is as Brown presented it in his volume.

"Hitherto the doctrines and precepts of Jesus had been taught in a plain and easy manner, and few disputes had happened relative to the capital points. The doctors were more remarkable for their genuine piety, and laborious diligence, and for scholastic eloquence, or philosophic debates. Not a few, especially towards the end of this century, were of the learned denomination, and were mostly attached to the new Platonism. Pretending that philosophy was of marvelous use to explain and defend the doctrines of Christ, they gradually procured laws, that none but learned men should be admitted to the office of public teachers in the church.

Others, observing the wrong use made of philosophy, and the errors and vices of its adherents, insisted to have all accademical learning banished from the church. The introduction of human learning, as it then stood, into the Christian system, had quickly a fatal tendency. Not a few thought it a fine accomplishment of an evangelic doctor, to be able to represent the truths of Christ, in the language of philosophers, lawyers, or rabbins. Others, to confound the sophistical arguments of the Heathens and heretics, had recourse to logical definitions, and metaphysical distinctions. In the hand of the judicious, these arms of verbal warfare were often useful to the cause of truth; but in the hands of the ignorant and self-conceited, they produced the wildest confusion and mistakes; men thereby adding to, and transforming the doctrines of Christ.

He (Christ) had simply taught, that at death the souls of the righteous ascend to heaven; and that those of the wicked are shut up in hell. But Plato, pretending, that only the souls of heroes and eminent persons ascend directly to the mansions of bliss; while the souls of the most, weighed down with their lusts and passions, sink into hell whence they again emerge, after they are sufficiently purified. This the Platonic Christians improved as a commentary upon the declarations of Christ, and imagined that only the souls of the martyrs ascended directly to heaven, while the rest were shut up in some obscure place, till Christ's second coming, or at least till they should be sufficiently purified from sin; and hence they reckoned prayer for them useful, if not necessary. This notion, further enlarged by men's carnal fancy, became a fertile source of unspeakable error and superstition."

Soli Deo Gloria,

[email tim] godrulestb@aol.com