The Family History Recorded in the Bible of God the Father of Love’s Ongoing Adopted Covenant Family since Adam (Gradually Raised Towards Maturity in Love Through a Series of Covenants) Leads up Deliberately and Specifically to the New Covenant Christian Church as it Actually Existed in the Undivided First Millennium Universal (Catholic) Christian Church’s Catholic (Universal) Family Communion of Orthodox Christian ‘Sister Churches’
This Chapter presents an overview of what I call “Family Theology,” which combines classic Trinitarian theology with the wonderfully refreshing Covenant Theology put together by my well-known theology professor (and prolific author) Scott Hahn, drawing from the work of many Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant theologians (like me, Dr. Hahn has the benefit of having belonged to both the Protestant and the Catholic arms of Christ’s Body the Church, and he has used this richly varied Christian background to bring rich insight and great Christian refreshment and renewal to his readers). Trinitarian theology recognizes the three-in-one Godhead as a Trinitarian Family of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and Covenant Theology recognizes that Covenants make families, and typically since ancient times Covenants use the family language of marriage or adoption, hence I call my theological approach (built upon Dr. Hahn’s Covenant Theology) “Family Theology.” This Volume I Chapter 4 overview and my much more thorough book The Bible’s “Big Picture”: Using “Family Theology” to Understand the Single Overarching Story Told Throughout the Scriptures, Which Makes the Bible Our Family History as Christians, both mainly seek to explain my “Family Theology” approach, which I believe is extremely fruitful as a Biblical theological framework for tying together the fundamentals of orthodox Christianity, the complete texts of both Testaments, and early Christian history in one coherent whole: everything else in Christianity flows directly from the nature of God as Love and as Trinity. My book-length essay Love Unbounded: Tracing Salvation History from the Eternal Trinity to the New Covenant Church – Using Family Theology to Answer the Question “How and Why Does Jesus’ Death Save Us?” (which was originally a term paper for Dr. Scott Hahn which he wrote was “outstanding” and “clear, thoughtful and thorough”) does more to “prove” from the Scriptures some of the things merely asserted in this chapter.
I hope that this chapter will help focus readers of all Christian churches on the goal of re-establishing First Millennium Christian Unity in Diversity by showing that just what we have lost in the Second Millennium of Christian Divisions is what God intended for His Covenant Family right from the beginning of the human race, to help motivate us to make this the Third Millennium of Christian Reunification.
[This Chapter is unfinished and what is here was prepared somewhat hurriedly in order to be in the First Draft and Internet Edition 1.0 of So That The World May Believe (though it is in complete sentences and paragraphs and contains several excerpts from more edited and refined books of mine, the “flow” of ideas between excerpts is sometimes somewhat disjointed. However, I believe the different sections are individually fascinating and together a very good understanding of Family Theology is presented). My intention for Chapter 4 is to put together what I have said in Chapter 3 with additional details from my book The Bible’s Big Picture and with hints of what I will deal with more thoroughly in Volume III, in order, I hope, to give a sense of the flow of God’s human Covenant Family since Adam all the way to present day when we Christians have the opportunity to recapture but with more permanence the loving family structure of the Undivided Early Church as God’s intention for humanity since He made Adam.]
[The first two short sections, God: The Trinitarian Family of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and The Single Overarching Story Told in the Bible, can also be found in the collection The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church: An Overview of the Family Theology that Revolutionizes Bible Reading and its Implications Towards the Eventual Re-Establishment of the Undivided Early Church’s Unity in Diversity]
The Christian Family’s History starts with
God: The Trinitarian Family of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
God Is Love in its Deepest Essence, and Love Is the Essence of Family
In the primary Christian Mystery of the Trinity the One God who is Love eternally exists in 3 Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Love is Self-Giving: From all Eternity The Father gives of Himself completely, holding nothing back, and the Son is eternally generated; the Son, as the perfect image of the Father, is also a self-giving lover and gives Himself completely in Love back to the Father; the Holy Spirit is the Love Proceeding eternally in both directions, from the Father through the Son back to the Father. All acts of love on Earth parallel the Love that God the Holy Trinity is within Himself; thus every act of love has three elements; every act of love involves: 1. a lover (someone doing the loving); 2. a beloved (the object of the lover’s love, who also is lover back to the first lover who is also beloved); and 3. the bond of love which binds them. Parenthood and childhood and the love proceeding between that binds them are within God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus human beings most display the “image of God” in the human families they form in which they learn self-giving love as God loves within the Trinitarian Family. Like within the Holy Trinity of Love, the love between a human lover and beloved is itself alive and after 9 months they may have to give it a name; the love between them forms a third new person, as love proceeding between the Father and the Son is a Divine Person called the Holy Spirit.
Love by its nature is self-giving; the super-abundant Love that the Trinitarian God is within Himself is so rich and full and overflowing that God desires to reach out and give beyond Himself in Love, He desires to expand the Trinitarian Family that He is within Himself, and thus God creates humanity (Hebrew adam), in His own image and likeness which is capable of free self-giving love, specifically intending to adopt His human creation into His own Heavenly Eternal Trinitarian Family of Love.
Adam is the first human being who represents all humanity, and all humanity is descended from Adam. Adam/humanity is first created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26), from his beginning being in loving supernaturally-adopted family relationship with God which made Adam “the son of God” (Luke 3:38). Noting that later on Genesis 9:6 refers to mankind (Hebrew adam) being in the image of God only, the Early Church Fathers understood that the likeness of God was what Adam lost through his Original Sin, which Jesus Christ “the New Adam” restores to humanity redeemed in Him: the indwelling Holy Spirit of supernatural adoption into God’s Family. We are supernaturally adopted by God when His Divine Holy Spirit of Love dwells within us, meaning His own very Divine Life of Love is in us which makes us part of His Family. The loving family relationship with God Adam the Head of the Human Race was created with but lost is restored in Jesus “the New Adam,” the new Head of Humanity Redeemed in Him (though we still await the redemption of our bodies in the final resurrection, and until that Eternal Covenant era New Covenant Christians still struggle with sin – Romans 8:22,23, 7:14-25). The Early Church Fathers saw the image of God which remained even after Adam’s Fall from Grace as the Eternal Spiritual Soul which distinguishes humanity from animals and makes us still capable, once redeemed in Jesus the New Adam, of living eternally with God as He intended when He created humanity.
When He created Adam/humanity for the explicit purpose of expanding His own Trinitarian Family of Love by adopting humanity into it, the God who is Love found it necessary to create mankind with free will, since free will is necessary for Love (without free will, without the free choice to love or not love, humanity would be like a robot running a program when it did nice things, and could not truly love). Free Will meant the potential for sin, which is anti-love, which is the moral choice against doing the truly loving thing in any given situation.
God the Holy Trinity of Love foresaw that His new human creation which He intended to live forever with Him would initially be too immature to properly manage its Free Will and hold onto the supremely great gift of the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit; therefore God took steps to ensure that humanity would still be God’s adopted child even if the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit was lost, as He knew it would be. Thus God instituted the first legal, Covenant adoption:
The 7th Day Covenant with Adam
(The Adamic Covenant)
Covenants make Families . What distinguishes a covenant from a mere legal contract is the exchange of persons (not just property or services) in a covenant family bond. The one covenant still common in our age and culture is the marriage covenant – where two parties who were not related to each other swear the covenant oath and then together form a new family. Moreover, covenants make bonds of Sacred kinship, because they are witnessed and guaranteed by the Deity by whom the covenant oath is sworn. Adam was created with the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit, but lost it through sin. God, foreseeing Adam’s inability to keep the gift of supernatural adoption into His Family, before Adam sinned united himself to Adam and his descendants (humanity) through a legal covenant adoption as well. This happened on the 7th Day – 7 being the number of Covenant Oath, and the Hebrew word for swearing an oath literally means “to seven oneself.” The Covenant is what made the 7th Day Holy, and the ongoing sign of the Family-making Covenant with Adam and his descendants (humanity) was the Sabbath day, the seventh day of the week which marked God’s original Creation of the universe, humanity and His Covenant with humanity. God made this 7th Day Covenant with Adam/humanity so that when Adam lost the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit, as God knew he would, Adam and his human descendants would still be God’s children through the lesser, legal adoption of covenant – whether they remained faithful to the Covenant Father or became estranged from Him (runaways or prodigals but still His children).
The Single Overarching Story Told in the Bible
The Gift, Loss and Eventual Restoration of the Indwelling Holy Spirit of Supernatural Adoption Through the Means of a Series of Lesser Legal, Covenant Adoptions Through Which God the Father of Love Raised His One Ongoing Covenant Family to Gradually Higher and Higher Stages of Maturity in Love
The single overarching story told in the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament together, is that of the gift, loss and eventual restoration of the indwelling Holy Spirit of supernatural adoption which had made Adam “the son of God” (Luke 3:38), supernaturally part of God’s Family – through the means of a lesser legal, Covenant adoption through which God the Father raised His one ongoing Covenant Family to gradually higher and higher stages of maturity in love through the five Old Testament Covenants, until the faithful family line was mature in love enough to no longer take adoption into God’s Family by Covenant for granted but would die rather than lose or deny their Covenant Father (as so many other lines of the family had), showing they had become ready to no longer take the greater gift of supernatural adoption into God’s Family for granted and lose it as Adam had, so that God the Father could restore it through sending His Eternal Son Incarnate (enfleshed), Jesus Christ, the New Adam who restored what Adam had lost: the indwelling Holy Spirit of supernatural adoption into God’s Family – first to the now more mature faithful family line (the Jews) and then, through the Jewish Christians’ Gospel ministry empowered by the restored Holy Spirit, to all the many previously broken away, runaway, prodigal, “Gentile” lines of the human Covenant Family descended from Adam and Noah in the Old Testament, who came into the New Covenant along with the Jews who accepted Jesus to form one Universal (Greek Katholikos, or Catholic) New Covenant Church Family of Jew and Gentile both restored to the supernatural adoption Adam had lost through Jesus Christ the New Adam.
This is why Jesus “the Good Shepherd” says in John 10:16 that
“I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. ”
Jesus the “one shepherd” has “other sheep” who are “not of this sheep pen” of the Jews he is preaching to who are becoming the first, Jewish, Christians – the Gentiles of the Noahic Covenant, descended from Adam and faithful Noah. Jesus knows “they too will listen to” His voice, so that Jewish Christians and Noahic Gentiles will together form “one flock,” one Church, under Jesus the “one shepherd.”
This is why the Bible further says in John 11:51-52 that
“Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one”.
All human beings are adopted children of God through the Covenants with Adam and Noah, but they were scattered through their unbelief and sin, except for the faithful line of the adopted Covenant Family, that line of faithful Sethites, Semites, Hebrews and Israelites known as the Jewish nation,1 and those Jews who accepted Jesus as Messiah (Christ in Greek) would be restored to the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God which Adam “the son of God” (Luke 3:38) lost, and this Jewish nation renewed in Jesus “the New Adam” would minister the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit to all the scattered children of God from the Adamic and Noahic Covenants – to all human beings who will come – and those ministering Jews and the Gentiles who accepted Jesus through their ministry would be brought together and made one in Jesus Christ. One human family renewed in Jesus, one Body of Christ, the Christian Church. This was the loving family reality of the Undivided Early Catholic (Universal) Christian Church, one worldwide Church made up of many different nations (civilizations, cultures) restored in Christ, the restored portions of those nations becoming the different Rites or “Sister Churches” which together made up the early Undivided Universal or Catholic Church of Jesus Christ . This universality or catholicity of the Undivided Early Church was so important to Early Christian identity that Early Christian writers constantly refer to the Church as the Catholic Church, which was the Catholic (Universal) Communion of different culturally-based Sister Churches united in orthodox Christian faith against many breakaway heretical or unorthodox Christian churches (most of which died out though a small few remain since ancient times).
Remember that God Himself at Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) had ensured that humanity descended from faithful Noah would spread throughout the Earth and thus develop into different cultural groups (because of different language and geographic location), different cultural groups which, once renewed in Messiah Jesus, would have different perspectives upon the infinite truth of God revealed in Jesus Christ, which would give them different insights into Divine Revelation which they would be able to pool together at the Early Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils of the Christian Church so as to together come up with the most accurate and precise understanding of the Christian fundamentals, against many heretical challenges to the saving Christian faith . The very differences of human cultures are mutually enriching and part of God’s plan for His Church, which is, as Saint Augustine said, “the world, redeemed.” The culturally-based Rites of the Church are “the nations of the world, redeemed.” Understanding the Church this way, the way the Undivided Early Church actually lived its life, is key to the eventual restoration of the loving First Millennium Christian unity in diversity lost by the currently divided Christian Churches in the Second Millennium, who are already united in vast common Christian faith but express it differently, as the First Millennium Sister Churches did but without being divided from each other. Most of our many differences are of the sort which did not cause divisions in the Undivided Early Church but which enriched all Christians. [see Volume I Chapter 5]
© 2007 Peter William John Baptiste, SFO
The One Ongoing Covenant Family of God Gradually Raised to Its Maturity in Love Through a Complete Series of 7 Covenants
The Early Church Fathers said “Abel was a Christian” even though he lived thousands of years before Christ because they recognized that Abel the faithful son of Adam, who pleased God, belonged to the one ongoing human Covenant Family of God which culminated in the Christian Church of Jesus Christ the New Adam. The New Testament in Romans 11 refers metaphorically to this one ongoing “Family Tree” of the Covenant Family of God as the cultivated “Olive Tree” of God’s faithful people, most recently made up of the Jewish people before the Gentile Christians were “grafted in” but also including Abel and Noah and Shem all those faithful to God long before Abraham, the ancestor of the Jews.
The Weekly “Sabbath” Day of Rest – Marking either the Original Creation and Covenant on the “7th Day” (Saturday) or Marking the Beginning of the New Creation in the Resurrected Body of Jesus on the “8th Day” (Sunday) and His New Covenant – Is a Common Feature of All of the Individual Covenants Which Together Make up God’s One Ongoing Covenant Family
Jesus said that He did not come to abolish the previous Covenants but to fulfill them. Thus many elements of the older Covenants (five in the Old Testament) are simply continued largely unaltered in Jesus’ New Covenant (such as the 10 Commandments), and other elements are continued but transformed in Jesus’ New Covenant, such as the Passover Liturgy which was transformed and altered to become the Eucharistic or Holy Communion Liturgy and the Saturday Sabbath which was transformed into a Sunday Sabbath.
The Seventh Day (Saturday) Sabbath which marks the Creation of the world and the Covenant made with Adam/humanity was continued unaltered in all the later Old Testament Covenants, demonstrating the continuity of the one ongoing Covenant Family, and it was later transformed in the New Covenant into an “Eighth Day” (Sunday) Sabbath celebration which superceded the “Seventh Day” Sabbath because it marked the beginning of the New Creation in the Resurrected and Glorified Body of Jesus (which happened on Sunday), and the New Covenant made with Jesus the New Adam. The Bible tells Christians to expect a future resurrection of our bodies which will be like Jesus’ resurrected and glorified body, and a “New Heavens and a New Earth,” but this New Creation began on Easter Sunday with the resurrection and glorification of Jesus’ physical body which had once been part of the original Creation. Thus it is totally appropriate that Christians frequently apply Old Testament texts about keeping the Sabbath holy to the weekly Christian Sunday celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. Sunday is the New Covenant weekly Sabbath which marks the New Creation and New Covenant begun on Easter Sunday as the Saturday Sabbath in the older Covenants marked the original Creation and original Covenant on the first Saturday.
The Created Universe or Cosmos – the ‘Cosmic Temple’ and Family Home God the Father of Love Originally Made to Live with His Adopted Human Family
In the original Hebrew, the Bible uses the same terms to describe the Creation as it does to describe the later Tabernacle and Temple where God dwells. The Earth, Eden, and the Garden of Eden in Creation deliberately parallel the Outer Court, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies of the Temple. This is because the Creation or Cosmos was originally made as a Cosmic Temple where God would dwell with His beloved human creation. 12-year-old Jesus called the Temple “My Father’s House,” and the Cosmic Temple of the Universe before sin entered it was likewise the House the Father built to live in with His adopted children. The material universe is the material Family Home which God the Trinitarian Family of Love built specifically for humanity which is made of material bodies joined to eternal spirits. The Universe is the Family Home God made for humanity which He made in His Image and Likeness specifically in order to adopt them into His Heavenly Eternal Family. Adam/humanity originally lived in the Garden of Eden, which is the Holy of Holies of that Cosmic Temple of Creation. The sin of humanity in its ancestor Adam caused humanity to lose the ability to freely walk in the Garden of Eden, the Holy of Holies where God is most fully present in His material Creation. The later Tabernacle and Temple in the later Old Testament Covenants would symbolize this primordial loss of humanity because no-one could enter the Holy of Holies without being struck dead because sinful humanity cannot survive in the supremely Holy Presence of the God who is “a consuming fire” of infinitely burning Love. Only the High Priest could enter, once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), to offer a sin offering of a spotless lamb which prefigured the atoning sacrifice of Jesus who is both the High Priest of the New Covenant and the spotless Lamb of God who is sacrificed in a supreme act of self-giving Love, like God Loves within the Holy Trinity. The Old Testament High Priests would go into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement with a rope tied around their ankles so the other priests could pull him out without going in themselves, in case he was struck dead for doing the slightest thing wrong in the Holy of Holies which was the place where God dwelt most fully in Creation, the place on Earth most close to Heaven where “nothing impure will ever enter” (Revelation 21:27). Jesus the New Adam and High Priest of the New Covenant who sacrifices Himself as the spotless Lamb of God restores through His loving obedience to His Father unto death what Adam and his descendants (humanity) lost through unloving disobedience to his Creator who had become his Father through the 7th Day Adamic Covenant: the indwelling Holy Spirit of supernatural adoption into God’s Family. This means that human beings as renewed in Jesus, as long as we remain in Him as members of His Body, are now able to once more enter the Holy of Holies, the Presence of God, and this was symbolized by the tearing of the veil of the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple when Jesus died. As members of the Body of Jesus Christ the High Priest who has made the atoning sacrifice, there is no longer a barrier preventing us from coming into the Holy Presence of God – in fact the Bible says we now are the Temple wherein God’s Divine Holy Spirit dwells on Earth. The intensely meaningful symbolism of the Temple as representing that Cosmic Temple of Creation God built as a Family Home for His adopted human children also continues through to the last book of the Bible. The Old Testament Temple’s Holy of Holies was a cube-shaped room in the Temple, and in the Book of Revelation’s rich imagery the Heavenly City of the New Jerusalem is described as being cube-shaped – Heaven, where “nothing impure will ever enter,” is a Holy of Holies big enough for everybody, representing the restoration and fulfillment of the Garden of Eden’s role as the Holy of Holies of the original Cosmic Temple of Creation in which the first Adam initially functioned as High Priest. The “New Heavens and New Earth,” after Christ returns, when the whole Creation is renewed and transformed as the human body of Jesus (the New Covenant High Priest) was after His resurrection, will completely represent the fulfillment of Jesus’ redemption, when the whole cosmos once more truly functions as the Family Home God made for His adopted human Covenant Family to live forever with Him. This will be the period of the 7th, Eternal Covenant which Christians look forward to after Christ returns. Seven is the number of completion in the Bible, since the original Creation and Covenant were completed on the 7th Day, and this future 7th, Eternal Covenant will complete the five major Old Testament Covenants which prepared for the 6th, New Covenant of Jesus Christ in which we Christians live restored to the indwelling Holy Spirit of adoption but still await our “full” adoption by God in “the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22,23).
the next several sections are a supporting digression (much of it rough but full of fascinating ideas), which consider the reliability of the Biblical accounts of the human family and how to best consider them in relation to the secular sciences of history and archeology and especially the sciences of natural history and anthropology, which deal in their distinct way with the origins of humanity. As will be shown, I actually find it quite easy to reconcile these two distinct accounts of human origins even in their little details, but the ease only comes with consideration of considerable background information.
For those who are not so concerned with such reconciliation because they are already ready to simply live their lives according to the Word of God and wish to learn Family Theology as a way to sublimely and beautifully understand the Bible’s ‘Big Picture’ or single overarching story, please skip ahead to the section, The Faithful People of God of the 7th Day Adamic Covenant: the Sethites or “Sons of God,” after the next break (******), which continues the description of Family Theology. In a later draft I may move this more “scientific” section to an appendix of Volume I, but for now I like having all the possible “scientific” questions cleared up before going deeper into Family Theology in the early Biblical record and into the Christian era up to today.]
The First Eleven Chapters of Genesis Are Pre-historical and Are Certainly an Extremely Condensed and Symbolic Inspired Literary Account Intending to Reveal the Religious Truth about Human Origins Which Orthodox Christians Need Not Take as a Strict Historical Record; Nevertheless the Divine Revelation of These Chapters must Not Be Simply Discounted as Unhistorical or We Will Miss Some of the Important Truths They Contain, and it Is in Fact Unreasonable to Discount Them as a Source of Historical Truth since Secular History’s Identified Distribution Pattern of Human Civilization (And Other Evidence) Matches the Bible’s Account of Noah’s Ark and the Tower of Babel (There Is Even a Good Historical Candidate for Tower Itself)
Before getting into some of the details of the inspired record of God’s human Covenant Family, it is worth briefly discussing the historicity of that account, just because the modern secular mindset, which has influenced many Christians, tends to be critical of the Bible and many people far too readily discount the Bible’s truth assertions, historical or spiritual, without good reason. The time of Abraham and after is within the period that the secular science of history knows a fair bit about, although history itself, especially ancient history, is a “piecemeal” process of organizing fragments of what remains and making theories, and the more ancient the period, the less fragments remain. The Biblical account from Abraham to the end of the Old Testament coincides with extra-Biblical historical evidence and archeology extremely well: Generally those details in the Biblical account which can be verified have been, and in several cases where critics of the Bible claimed the Bible was historically inaccurate, newer archeological discoveries proved the Bible accurate. By the time of the more recent but still ancient period of Jesus, the Gospels are the best attested historical records of the centuries around it – most ancient documents have nowhere near as many still-existing ancient copies, and the oldest existing copies are nowhere near as close to the date of the originals as the Gospels. Still, it must be kept in mind that the Bible’s books were not written in the format of modern historical reports, and in fact in some cases they are superior to strict historical reports because they have been crafted by the inspired author in ancient literary genres using literary devices which make clear the spiritual meaning and importance of human events, some of which may not be near as clear even if one had a “videotape” of the actual historical events! The Bible was written within history in many genres, many having nothing to do with history, and the historical narratives often refer to ancient historical works (such as the Annals of the Kings of Judah) if its readers want to know more about the historical details of Biblical accounts; but the Bible itself was written not as a strict modern historical account but to reveal the spiritual truths behind human and historical events.
[the following is inserted from another book of mine on this theme – I apologize for the lack of “flow”]
I know that some people have trouble with the first 11 chapters of Genesis (Adam through the Flood up to the time of Abraham) because they do not at first seem to fit easily into human history as historians and anthropologists have been able to reconstruct it (with theories based on their piecemeal fragments of historical and archeological evidence). The period before Abraham is pre-historical (before recorded history) and so some people wonder about the historical trustworthiness of the Bible’s account of this time. It may be helpful to keep in mind that dozens of diverse cultures all over the world have a flood destruction myth of some kind, which strongly supports the Bible’s claim that all these diverse cultures are indeed ultimately descended from Noah’s family who the Bible records as the only human survivors of a world-wide flood. More importantly, it must be remembered that Genesis is not a strict historical record written to satisfy modern historiography, it is a piece of literature written in ancient times by the inspired author to reveal to us the ultimate religious truth about human origins (Genesis means “origin” or “beginning”). The fact that the word adam means “mankind” or “humanity,” a generic word, might be taken to mean that the story about Adam is symbolic of humanity in general and not strictly historical without negatively affecting traditional Christian faith as long one understands that the religious truth about human origins and the fallen human nature we experience is faithfully told in the inspired Genesis account, however this “actually” played out historically. But, since there had to be an actual historical beginning to the human race, an actual first man, I find there is no problem with accepting the basic historicity of Adam as recorded in the Bible (such that adam means humanity in Hebrew because humanity is the descendants of Adam!), while I also acknowledge that there is no need to treat the Book of Genesis, written for a theological purpose using literary styles and devices, as if it were a modern historical report. The most important thing is, as Christians we accept in faith that Genesis accurately reveals the truth about God as Creator of the Universe and the truth about the fallen human condition in which we find ourselves, and we build theology, which is “faith seeking understanding,” upon the data of what God has revealed. The Family theology I present for understanding the overarching message of the whole Bible can be understood and accepted even if one has difficulty with the strict historicity of Genesis and chooses to see Adam (adam being Hebrew for “mankind”) as generically symbolic of humanity in some primitive past lost to history, as long as Genesis is understood as an inspired account of human origins which tells the basic truth about human origins even if not in a strictly historical but literary manner. Genesis certainly gives us, whether literally or literarily (or somewhere in between), what God wanted us to know about our origins, and so it is appropriate to build theology upon what God has revealed to us, and it is appropriate to refer to these stories and people as real and significant, whether they are strictly literal, literal but possibly literarily embellished (my own position), or literarily symbolic.
[the following is inserted from another book of mine on this theme – I apologize for the lack of “flow”]
At Babel God Ensured That Different Groups of People Living in Different Geographical and Climatic Locations and Speaking Different Languages Would Develop into Different Nations, in the Ancient Sense of That Word: Different Civilizations, Different Cultures
The different gene pools separated by geography combined with different climatic conditions also eventually resulted in what we call different races of humanity, each with common superficial external differences such as skin tone or eye shape. Although the first 11 chapters of Genesis are generally regarded as “pre-historical” and are certainly extremely condensed accounts of thousands of years and certainly have symbolic (not necessarily strictly historical) elements, as they are intended to teach the religious truth about the condition of humanity and were not written as historical reports, still the around four thousand years of human history recorded in the Bible (ending two thousand years ago) are plenty of time to account for these racial differences among Adam and Noah’s descendants which we know – in only a few centuries of the selective breeding of dogs, one species has developed into many very widely externally different breeds or races of dogs, which remain one fully genetically compatible species. Thus there was plenty of time for the different lines of Noah’s family (whatever skin color and so on which they had), once separated geographically, to develop the racial variations of humanity we know today.
Regardless of any symbolic elements in the very condensed accounts, the first chapters of the Bible are also consistent with history. There is nothing in the sciences of history and archeology that contradicts the Bible’s very condensed testimony in the first 11 Chapters of Genesis about where human civilization began and spread out from (and approximately when). Scientific human history proper begins in Mesopotamia (between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers) and spreads out from there (this is “the cradle of civilization”). The Bible likewise describes the Garden of Eden’s location in relation to these rivers, and Mount Ararat, the site of Noah’s Ark’s landing, where the only survivors of the Flood came out, is also close by to this area where the earliest archeological evidence of human civilization is found. Naturally Noah’s family left the mountains to settle in the nearby fertile plains of Mesopotamia! The further an area is from Mesopotamia (from where Noah’s family left the Ark and settled), the longer it took in history for there to be any human presence or any relatively advanced human civilization there. The distribution pattern of human civilization identified by secular history is completely consistent with the Bible’s account of Noah and the Tower of Babel! By the time there was any significant civilization in what we call China (the “warring states”), Mesopotamia and its nearer regions (including Egypt and Greece) had seen the rise and fall of many great empires. By the time there were the barest beginnings of any significant civilization in the Americas, Rome, the last and greatest of the ancient Empires, was established (the very first empire of China would come later in 221 BC). The Mayan, Aztec, and Incan empires, the most advanced early civilizations of the Americas, did not begin until Medieval times. More remote areas, reached by humans in huge ocean-going canoes, never developed advanced civilizations.
There is even a good historical candidate for the Biblical Tower of Babel, where the Bible says languages were confused and the human race spread out from, in Etemenanki (later rebuilt as the Temple of Jupiter Belus and later destroyed), the huge towering “temple of the foundation of heaven and earth,” located in the Mesopotamian area of Shinar or Babylonia which the Bible gives as the location of the Tower of Babel (Babylonia even getting its name from this tower). It was made of brick, not stone, as the Bible says the Tower of Babel was made of. It is unknown when the great structure was first built, but very likely well before the great ancient Babylonian King Hammurabi (1792 BC) as it is probably this temple that is referred to in the Babylonian creation poem Enûmo Elish (shortly after Hammurabi) as being created immediately after the creation of the world – it was already ancient and its origins shrouded in mystery at this ancient time. Since according to the Bible, human civilization as we know it began with Noah’s descendants after the Flood who settled in Shinar/Babylonia and built the Tower of Babel there before being scattered abroad by God, this great tower in Babylonia whose origins were shrouded in mystery and legend even to the ancient Babylonians, who identified it as the first temple made after the world’s creation, could well be the Tower of Babel, which was according to the Bible the first temple or great structure built by men after the “re-creation” of the world after Noah’s Flood. The very fact that dozens of cultures all over the world have some sort of Great Flood myth is also good evidence supporting the Bible’s assertion that all humanity is descended from Noah and his family who survived the Flood. While the first 11 Chapters of Genesis may be “pre-historical” and may contain symbolic elements, they are still historically consistent with the reality of the world today and its known human history.
In any case, as Christians, we must take the Bible’s Divinely Revealed account of human origins seriously, and as revealing what is most important for us to know about our origins even if we have some ‘scientific’ questions about these literary accounts. We will harm our Christian theology and miss out on important things God needs us to know if we do not take the first 11 chapters of Genesis seriously as Divine Revelation about humanity’s origins, as I do here.
Aside: the Bible’s Credibility Is Also Demonstrated in the Fact Science Is Actually Rooted in the Bible: Exposure to the Old Testament Gave the Ancient Greeks the Philosophical Foundation for All Logic and Science
It is worthwhile (as a digression) to briefly mention more of the reasons Christians have to be confident in the Bible, despite the secular culture’s disparagement of the Bible in favor of science, because the secular view of science being more reliable than the Bible is based on a 200 year-old myth, and in reality the Bible is part of the foundation of science! The modern university system itself owes its existence to the Bible, since the early modern university system (in which Theology, “the study of God and all things in relation to God,” was considered “the Queen of the Sciences”) grew out of the medieval Cathedral Schools, which themselves came to be primarily for the purpose of answering questions raised by close reading of the Bible. The pure sciences and the modern scientific method developed nowhere else in the world but in Christian Europe precisely because science requires the worldview which the Bible teaches: the basic understanding of the universe as an ordered cosmos (not a random chaos) which can be studied to identify patterns of order so as to make predictions – order implying an intelligent orderer, a Creator God, as the Bible teaches. The Greek philosophers of the Socratic School who are recognized as the first scientists, who laid the foundation for doing science with their Metaphysics/ Ontology (the study of Existence), laid a foundation which is in complete accord with the metaphysics/ontology the Bible testifies to, and it can justifiably be said they got the idea from the (much older) Bible, since the Greeks were certainly very familiar with the Jewish Bible, the Christian Old Testament. The Israelite/Jewish civilization was much older than the Greek, and the Israelite King Solomon’s wisdom was legendary, so the Greeks, who honoured wisdom, familiarized themselves with Judaism. There is an ancient rumor that Socrates, who studied with the Jew Ahitophel, converted to Judaism in his old age, and certainly his star student Plato was so well-versed in the Jewish Bible, the Christian Old Testament, that his critics said that Plato was “nothing more than Moses speaking Attic” (Attic being the Greek dialect Plato spoke). It was Plato’s star student Aristotle who most clearly articulated the “First Principles of Being/Existence” which underlie all logic and science – and they match the metaphysics testified to (much earlier) in the Bible! See my essay, Why Believing in Science Leads Logically to Believing in God, as Einstein and All the Greatest Scientists Did: Debunking the 200-year-old Enlightenment Era Myth that Science Opposes Faith. Einstein himself noted that “there is no conflict between science and genuine religion” and in fact that “science without religion is lame” – science can’t even get on its feet without recognizing the universe as an ordered cosmos, which implies an intelligent orderer (God) who designed the ordered patterns which science discovers. Thus Einstein said “the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible” – the mere fact we can in great degree comprehend the universe means that it is ordered, order implies intelligence, and thus the supremely intricate and elegant order science has discovered in the natural universe points to the existence of a super-natural orderer-God beyond nature. Since the Judeo-Christian religious tradition is the religion which understands God and the universe this way, Einstein, widely recognized as the most intelligent person and the greatest scientist of all time, said that “the Jewish-Christian religion is the best thing we have.” Einstein was himself Jewish, but he recognized the close connection between Judaism and Christianity – a close connection which this book defines quite precisely. Biblical Judaism was the stage of the one ongoing Covenant Family of God which started with Adam (long before Abraham, father of the Jews) which was just before Christianity, the latest stage of that one ongoing Covenant Family.
[the rest of this section is very rough, though in complete sentences and paragraphs – and I think, intensely interesting. Though somewhat of a digression, it does come back to the Bible’s account of human origins and Family Theology, the subject of this chapter]
Before returning to the consideration of the family line of the human race and the ongoing Covenant People of God testified to in the Bible, I would like to briefly mention another way to reconcile the Bible’s inspired account with the currently dominant scientific theories of human origins, especially now that I have just established a major reason why the Bible should be respected as a source of truth even by “scientific” people, since the Bible historically provided humanity with the solid philosophical foundation for the entire scientific enterprise.
I will further digress to give some background to this reconciliation of the Bible with current science: The limitations of science must be always kept in mind. Science is not competent to say anything about anything above nature – other than that something beyond the natural universe, which ordered it, must exist – as in Einstein’s observations above. Science (and logic) only works at all because the universe is in fact elegantly ordered, but the natural universe’s order cannot explain itself and thus points beyond nature to a super-natural orderer (in all daily human experience, order implies intelligence). Since science depends upon the universe being ordered, and order always implies intelligence in everyday human experience (you could not live your life free of an insane asylum without this assumption), it is both intelligent and scientific to believe in the Judeo-Christian Creator/orderer God – that is, it is in accord with the solid philosophical First Principles and foundation of science, science itself assumes such a God exists (making science’s search for intelligent, comprehensible order fruitful), although science is not competent to say anything more about this super-natural orderer since science can only competently study nature. The first, Greek scientists worshiped this God, rejecting the traditional Greek pantheon of gods as silly superstition. All great scientists saw the distinction between superstitious forms of religion and genuine forms of religion, which is why Copernicus and Galileo were good Catholic Christians (they were good enough scientists and Christians to know there was no conflict despite some Church authorities not seeing this1), and which is why Einstein said “there is no conflict between science and genuine religion.” To Einstein, “religion without science is blind” – that is, superstitious religion, while “science without (genuine) religion is lame” – science cannot even “get off its feet” to look for patterns of order without assuming the existence of an intelligent orderer, a Creator God.
A further limitation of science is that the qualified purview of the natural sciences with their “scientific method” is the study of the natural universe in the present. The scientific method of investigation requires that you be able to observe something and repeat it before you have possibly “proven” your hypothesis. Thus, in any questions regarding the past, science is not on its most firm area of expertise. Science can evaluate presently-existing evidence and make speculations about the past which may be reasonable, but it is forced to make many assumptions, many of them untestable, when it does so, and thus scientific “conclusions” about the past are much less solid than those which concern the natural universe as observed in the present. Even conclusions about the present universe frequently require assumptions which may not be testable, and thus it is normal for scientists to vigorously disagree with each other even when speaking of present things, and all the more so of past things. Science is not in fact a source of certitude the way it is often thought of, especially when it concerns the past. My son loves dinosaurs and I am amazed at all the different and contradictory opinions among scientists about them in the books he gets from the library. Some of them are honest about the limitations of scientific knowledge and the speculative nature of their assertions. Most of them state the scientific speculations about dinosaurs and their time-periods as if they were certain facts, which is how most people (inappropriately) take scientific statements. However, whether concerning the present or the past, at most, science can only give us a “consensus opinion of the majority of scientists” – but the history of science shows that the “majority of scientists” often held an opinion that was later proved incorrect or incomplete. What was once a minority scientific opinion becomes a majority scientific opinion – at least until the next “revolution” in scientific thinking which causes scientists to completely revise how they organize their data. Such scientific “revolutions” are not infrequent in the history of science, whether concerning present or past things. Whatever happens to be the current “consensus of the majority of scientists” is frequently adjusted and altered, and is occasionally completely abandoned in favor of a whole new revolutionary way of organizing the data. The Bible, which gave us the foundation for doing science, is much more reliable as a source of certitude: the “current consensus of the majority of scientists” changes all the time, but “the Word of the LORD stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
Thus, I refer to the generally accepted scientific theory of human origins – including millions of years of animal evolution leading up to a maximum of 500,000 years of some kind of human (or “hominid”) population (and 50,000 years of homo sapiens sapiens, “modern man”) – as “the current consensus of the majority of scientists.” Who knows whether this current consensus will stand in the long term? But, if it is true, or “more or less true” (this general evolutionary approach has been modified and altered many, many times already, and scientists disagree with each other on many points of it), it is actually not that hard to reconcile it with the Bible’s inspired account of human origins.
Before doing so, I should note that whether the Theory of Evolution is true or not makes no difference to the Christian Doctrine of Creation, which states that God is the source and designer of all that exists, whatever mechanism He utilized in the process of Creation – including possibly an evolutionary mechanism. Darwin himself believed in an intelligent orderer God even though he rejected the orthodox Christianity of his upbringing, and no wonder – any natural process wherein things are driven to get consistently ever more and more intricately ordered is not at all consistent with a universe of random chaos, but only with the “ordered cosmos” (with its intelligent orderer) the ancients Greeks identified when they founded science. Even if the “monkey on the typewriter” could manage, through a purely random process, to produce the works of Shakespeare, it would only be within billions of pages of nonsense, soon degenerating again into nonsense – the process could not produce anything consistently ordered, never mind always ever more and more elegantly ordered, as Evolutionary Theory requires. The very Theory of Evolution, if true, is evidence of the existence of the intelligent orderer God!
I am personally unconvinced either way about the Theory of Evolution because it seems to have both many strengths and many weaknesses as scientific theories go. Some of the “Creation Science” explanations seem to really have strengths where the evolutionary model has weaknesses, and vice-versa. There are good Christians who are good scientists on both sides of the issue. Despite the current dominance of evolutionary theory, I have read hardly scientific articles by atheist evolutionists who attack Creation scientists in their areas of weakness, but ignore the Creationists’ stronger arguments against certain weaknesses in evolutionary explanations and untestable or demonstrably invalid assumptions, which is tantamount to admitting the Creationist argument is stronger in those areas. The issue is confused by scientists both for and against evolution who inappropriately use the scientific method to try to bolster their own personal philosophical position as to whether or not God exists. The scientific method is only competent to study nature and cannot possibly answer this philosophical and super-natural (above nature) question. However, it is still within the purview of science to note that “Intelligent Design,” while it does not qualify as a proper scientific theory, is in fact part of the philosophical foundation of science, it is part of the foundation upon which the scientific method is built. While not strictly “scientific” evidence according to the method of science, it is valid philosophical evidence according to the philosophy behind bothering to do science in the first place that science assumes intelligent order and proceeds from that assumption, and finding order – an ever more intricate and increasingly elegant order than scientists ever imagined when they started the process – is powerful evidence the assumption of an intelligently designed universe whose order makes it possible to study it scientifically is correct! Every field of knowledge has its “First Principles,” which cannot be strictly proven but which the field cannot proceed without assuming are true. The “First Principles” of science (and logic) are the First Principles of Being (or Existence) articulated by Aristotle, who noted that even if one says one disagrees with them, one cannot help but live their lives as if they were true (all existence is in fact constructed such that it is impossible to violate these principles – even in our most fevered dreams we cannot even imagine something that violates the Principle of Non-Contradiction – “a thing cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect”). These principles flow from the Greek insight that the universe is an ordered cosmos (implying an intelligent orderer) and NOT a random chaos. Science could make no predictions nor test them unless the universe was ordered and not random. So ultimately science can only be used as evidence for God’s existence: Science works, therefore the orderer God science assumes in its First Principles must exist. It is useless for scientists to fight over whether God exists – using the scientific method at all is tantamount to admitting science’s philosophical foundation is true and therefore some kind of intelligent orderer/Creator God beyond nature (and therefore beyond science’s area of competence) who constructed the ordered universe must exist. Atheist scientists are mere scientific technicians using a method whose philosophical foundation they do not even understand – while the vast majority of history’s great scientists were conscious of the fact that in doing science they were studying God’s Creation. So the atheist philosophical position is defeated merely by the fact they ridiculously try to use science, which depends on the Creator God who ordered the universe, to deny God! Once the 200-year old Enlightenment Era myth of the supposed “conflict” between faith and science has depleted its force2 and science is recognized as having always required God (lame without Him, as Einstein said), it is my hope that more real science can be done regarding the Theory of Evolution – scientists of “evolutionary” and “Creationist” bent really listening to each other’s insights, seriously considering the strengths and weaknesses of their own and the other’s scientific opinions on their scientific merits (appropriately tested), without their scientific judgement clouded by their personal desire to misuse the scientific method (applying it beyond its area of competence) to bolster their personal philosophical belief in the existence or non-existence of God (it having been recognized that science from its philosophical foundation assumes and requires God).
Should the Theory of Evolution turn out to be more or less true (generally correct despite its constant modifications), it is wholly reconcilable with the Bible’s account of human origins. Above I have dealt with the fact that the first 11 chapters of Genesis, thanks to their particular literary features and devices, do not strictly need to be taken as literal history but can be seen as inspired symbolic accounts and one can still maintain traditional, orthodox Christian faith in the religious truths these chapters teach about human origins, the calamity sin entering the world, and so on. Many orthodox Christians reconcile the current dominant theory of the natural history of mankind with the Bible’s accounts this way. However, I have also expressed above that whatever literary forms and devices the inspired author may have used, I think it likely (and most respectful of the truthfulness of God and His Scriptures) that God who inspired him gave him strictly factual details to use in the crafting of his inspired account.3 Two thousand years of Covenant Family history is dealt with extremely briefly in these mere 11 chapters, so of course the accounts are very condensed and may contain literarily crafted “representative” stories that would not play out on a videotape of the actual events in exactly the same way. None of the later chapters of the Old and New Testaments, which are much more historically verifiable, are written in the form of modern historical reports either, and the events they relate also may not always play out on a videotape (if one was available!) exactly as written in the Bible, but as Christians we have faith that the Bible actually gives us a superior account of historical events than videotape, since the inspired reports are crafted using literary genres and features which bring to the surface the religious and spiritual meaning of historical events which may not always be so clear to the merely physical senses, which are all a videotape can capture. Some of the minor but not easy to reconcile differences between the four Gospel accounts can be understood this way – for example, Mark was emphasizing different spiritual truths present in the historical life of Jesus than Luke was, and thus may have crafted his literary account of a specific historical event in a somewhat different manner than Luke did, so that the accounts differ incompatibly in small details though both agree in the major features of the eyewitness testimony they consulted (note four eye-witness accounts of a traffic accident or a crime also typically vary in small details but are consistent in major features).
Although, according to such principles, I do not expect nor insist that every little detail of the inspired literary accounts must be literally true in terms of strict historical facticity as would show up on a videotape, I would say that the Bible, the Written Word of the God of Truth, is always essentially true, whatever literary crafting has been done (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God) to tell a good story that brings out the deeper spiritual meaning of historical events, meaning which may only be possible to see through “eyes of faith” and would not show up on videotape. Thus, the figures in the Bible should always be treated as essentially real and the stories in the Bible should always be treated as essentially true, including miracle stories.
It is only the Enlightenment Era’s bias against the supernatural (thanks to its ridiculous confusion of genuine religion with superstitious religion) which tempts Christians (especially mainline Protestant Bible scholars) to interpret all or most Biblical miracle stories figuratively or symbolically. The course of world events centered in places like Egypt, Babylon, Palestine and the whole Roman Empire (and from there the whole world) was in fact vastly altered because of miraculous events in history (most especially the resurrection of Jesus) which really happened, or else they would have had no credibility from the outset and no power to change the whole world as they in fact historically did. Supernatural experience of some level is part of the daily spiritual life of Christians, and even of non-Christians, who, as above, may have genuine access to God through the pre-Christian Biblical covenants (or who may have access to deceiving demonic forces). The Enlightenment era did something good in discrediting superstitious forms of religion, but, in its asinine lumping together of genuine religion with superstition (its failure to recognize a distinction brilliant thinkers always made), it actually “endarkened” Western society’s sensibility to the genuine religion that actually provides the foundation for the science the Enlightenment exalted as the main source of truth “instead.” Thus so-called “enlightened” Western society largely lives in a very limited “dream world” where only things which can be experienced by the five senses are considered “real.” This completely ignores the common, even daily religious experience of most of humanity throughout most of history. This is hardly a “scientific” approach, to ignore such vast and consistent experiential evidence (not only of religion but of other non-physical things like justice which all of humanity experiences as something real which can be violated), just because it is outside the limited realm of competence of the scientific method to study. It is absurd to say, as scientific empiricists literally or effectively do, that if it cannot be studied by the scientific method, it does not exist. It is particularly absurd given that the scientific method was itself built from the solid foundation of its First Principles’ assumption of an intelligent orderer beyond the extremely ordered physical universe which science is (only because of this order) competent to study.
Believing in the super-natural (above nature) order and miracles within the natural order thanks to super-natural interference does not in any way contradict science. Human beings daily connect personally with God who is above the natural order. Miracles, although by definition they are temporary suspensions of the natural order which do not happen every day, are still not uncommonly reported, not uncommonly subjected to rigorous scientific investigation, and science frequently has no good explanation for certain happenings.4 This is entirely to be expected since we live in a universe which is itself a miracle, whose intricate order cannot be explained by science but is assumed in its First Principles of the ordered cosmos with an intelligent orderer. While we reasonably expect that most of the time the Laws of Nature set up by God will function normally, there is no intellectual problem with the Lawmaker occasionally temporarily suspending His Laws for His own purposes, thus it is not anti-intellectual nor anti-scientific to believe in miracles either today or in the Bible.
I think the best default way to treat the figures and stories (miracle or otherwise) in the Bible as essentially real and true is to assume historical facticity unless there is a particular reason to think a certain detail may be part of the inspired embellishing or literary crafting of details to bring the deeper spiritual meaning to the surface. In most cases there is no good reason to doubt a literal miracle happened, those Biblical miracles being part of why the entire history of human civilization has in fact been shaped the way it has been.5 While recognizing the “pre-historical” first 11 chapters of Genesis are more likely to be symbolic, representative or amalgamated accounts if only because they cram 2000 years of humanity into 11 short chapters (and do not rely on eyewitness testimony the way much of the later, more historical Biblical accounts do), these chapters also must be treated as “essentially true” if not always necessarily literally precise, but I find there to be no good reason to doubt the historical facticity of many of the details the accounts give. Certainly we must consider that any detail God inspired the author to put in, when so few details of this 2000 year period are given at all, must be important for our proper understanding of our human beginnings (which is what Genesis means). And even details that are more incidental, like the list of names of the patriarchs of the civilizations descended from Adam and Eve’s sons Cain and Seth, it seems to me we should assume are drawn from the actual, historical facticity of these very ancient times, even if they are put into an (inspired) literarily crafted and very condensed account loaded with symbolic religious meaning about human origins. Why should we doubt that real people who really existed are named in the genealogies? Everybody agrees there were people before recorded history, and God was there, He knew their names, and what kind of relationship He had with them, so we should assume the details included even in a condensed and representative, symbolic account are drawn from real people and real events concerning them.
It Is Easy to Reconcile the Current Dominating Scientific Theory of Human Origins with the Bible’s Inspired Account of Human Origins
The above has been a great deal of background for what I am about to briefly propose, but I hope worthwhile, since I believe it will make the proposal much more readily acceptable to most minds. I have included this whole discussion, rough as it is, within this chapter, mainly to deal intelligently with any “scientific” or “historical” question or objection any reader may have to my using the “prehistorical” Biblical record of Genesis 1-11 so much in the crafting of the Family Theology framework for Biblical reading. I cannot apologize for my doing so, since any Christian must take the entire Bible seriously as the Written Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit of Truth, so of course any Biblical Theological framework for understanding the whole Bible must start with what the Bible starts with, which is what the Holy Spirit of God thought was most important for us to know about our origins as a human family intended to be adopted into God’s Divine Family. Genesis 1-11 must of course be our first “building blocks” for building any fully Biblical theology. But, since our (formerly Christian) Western society has been so greatly influenced by Enlightenment era thinking, both its truths and its errors, and Western Christians have been raised in this environment, I know that many Christians may love the sublime simplicity and beauty of the Family Theology framework for Bible reading, but also have serious questions about just how to reconcile Family Theology, which takes Adam and Eve and their whole Biblical genealogy at face value, with the current and now long-dominant evolutionary approach to human beginnings.
I have already said that many orthodox Christians reconcile the Biblical and the dominant scientific accounts of human origins simply by taking the first 11 chapters of the Bible as symbolic literarily-crafted stories inspired by the Holy Spirit to teach the religious truth about human origins without being necessarily literal at all (adam after all is Hebrew for mankind, humanity, so it is very possible to read the story symbolically). I have already indicated that such a reconciliation works for Family Theology’s important use of the Adam and Eve and Tower of Babel stories from these chapters as well. Orthodox Christianity can be maintained as long as these chapters are understood as divinely revealing the most important religious truths God wanted us to know about our origins and primitive (pre-historical) history, whether or not the stories are always literally precise in how they (very briefly) describe a very long period of very early humanity, a period which the secular sciences also have something to say about (though such very early humanity is shrouded in mystery, with many questions unanswered, from both a Biblical and a scientific viewpoint).
However, I find that it is not at all necessary to discount the basic historical facticity of the Bible’s first 11 chapters even though I recognize that (inspired) literary craftmanship and religious symbolism has been used in these chapters. I find that there is no intellectual problem at all in accepting a literal Adam and Eve and Noah with literal human descendants, many of them named specifically in Genesis and many unnamed, from whom all of humanity alive today are physically descended. And, despite certain reservations I have about the Theory of Evolution and the currently dominant theories about the timeline of humanity on Earth, I also have no problem accepting that such scientific understandings of human origins (although they are adjusted and altered all the time) might well be true, that evolution might be a generally correct scientific approach despite the frequent alterations or refinements in the details of the theory. I can accept both very different perspectives on human origins quite readily, even in their smaller details.
Partly this is due to the factors I mentioned earlier, such as: the time-frame of actual scientific human history proper and the Bible’s account of Adam are approximately equal, between 6 and 7 thousand years ago; the geographical and historical distribution pattern of human civilization matches exactly what would be expected if all humanity alive today was indeed descended from Noah’s family which came out of the ark on Mount Ararat and naturally settled in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia below, known by historians as “the cradle of civilization”; the evolutionary “millions of years” are not at all necessary to explain the merely superficial racial variations among humans today – the several thousands of years since Noah is plenty of time for Noah’s descendants to develop the racial variations we know today (much more radical racial variations among one species have been observed in only a few centuries of the selective breeding of dogs into different “races” or “breeds”); in fact dozens of diverse cultures all over the world have a flood destruction myth of some kind, which strongly supports the Bible’s claim that all these diverse cultures are indeed ultimately descended from Noah’s family who the Bible records as the only human survivors of a world-wide flood; archeology has even identified a great towering but now-destroyed temple (its very ancient origins shrouded in mystery even to the ancient Babylonians who called it Etemenanki) made of the material (brick, not stone) which Genesis 11 says the Tower of Babel was made of and located where Genesis 11 says the Tower of Babel was – in Shinar/Babylonia, in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia, from where all later human civilization spreads out geographically through recorded history. The first 11 Chapters of Genesis may be generally “pre-historical” and may contain symbolic elements, but they are still historically consistent with the reality of the world today and its known human history.
The above explains how it is easy to reconcile the formal sciences of history and archeology with the Bible’s inspired accounts of very early human history in the first 11 Chapters of Genesis (the later Biblical records are concurrent with other historical records and are generally even easier to reconcile). What about the sciences of natural history and anthropology, which have long been dominated by the evolutionary perspective? These sciences frequently refer to discoveries of “cave men” or other very primitive, prehistoric human settlements with dates much older than the 6000 or so years ago that most Biblical scholars estimate to be the time of Adam, the first human being in the Bible. How can this be reconciled?
It is very easy to do so based on a fairly obvious (in hindsight) insight of one anthropologist who happens to be a Catholic Christian, and I as a theologian can further explain his insight in terms of the details of the Biblical account of human creation (for this first draft I will largely give the Biblical details by inserting an excerpt from another of my books after this section). This anthropologist [I do not remember his name, only his theory which was taught to me in a class], plotted a diagram with time since the dawn of modern mankind (according to the dominant evolutionary theories used by natural historians and anthropologists) on the x-axis and a compiled measure of civilization (considering things like agriculture, architecture, writing, engineering, music, and so on – everything that makes a human society civilized) on the y-axis. I do not currently have access to his plotted graph, but his graph line is roughly similar to that below. I do not need more precision here since it is general knowledge that pre-historic man was primitive and the ancient civilizations of ancient history were civilized (though less advanced at first). So anyone who knows anything about the scientific model of the natural history of man and anyone who knows anything about ancient history will be able to see this rough diagram of mine is basically correct in how it connects the timeline of the two. But putting the timelines from the two sources together on one graph shows a striking fact which leads us to how the Biblical and scientific accounts of human origins can be easily reconciled.
[insert diagram here – for now the above and below paragraphs describe the diagram sufficiently for the reader to “picture” it without actually seeing it]
The diagram shows only what scientists call the species homo sapiens sapiens, “modern man,” or “us.” This species (“we”) emerged approximately 50,000 years ago (before that were other less developed, more primitive species of hominids like homo sapiens, Cro Magnan, Neanderthals and so on, stretching back as far as 500,000 years ago). Note the line on the diagram, from its beginning and for many tens of thousands of years of the modern human presence on Earth, stays very near the bottom of the scale of civilization. For all this vast amount of time the modern species of humans on Earth, our ancestors biologically just like us, had no real civilizations at all, but only very small and primitive, usually nomadic settlements. The occasional tiny “spike” within these tens of thousands of years of modern humanity mark where anthropologists found evidence of things like a new (but still primitive) tool being used. Then, at approximately 4000 BC (6000 years ago), the rating of civilization absolutely skyrockets – in a very short period of time, there is suddenly evidence of agriculture, architecture, engineering, writing, music, and so on and so on – all the marks of great human civilizations, very quickly present in human history (human history proper begins around here, with the advent of writing by which formal written records of human events and transactions are made). What happened all of a sudden, after such a vast stretch of time of the modern species of humanity being mere “cave-men” and the like? Well, this is the time that most Bible scholars give as the date for Adam.
So how can one make sense of the striking extremely sudden advent of human civilization with almost all of its major features, getting ever more and more complex exponentially and with lightning speed, such that by 1900 AD steam locomotives and railways connect continents and only 100 years later humanity can fly into space and communicate with each other instantly around the globe by telephone and internet? How can we explain this vast and exponential proliferation of ever more advanced human civilization in only 6000 years, after 44,000 years of the same species of modern humans remaining very primitive? This anthropologist used the Bible as a source of true information, as is wholly appropriate to do, especially given that the Bible gave humanity the solid philosophical foundation for science in the first place, by inspiring the first, Greek scientists with its testimony of a universe that is an ordered cosmos with an intelligent orderer, and not a random chaos. In looking at the Bible and seeing that the Bible also testifies that God made Adam, the first human being, at about 4000 BC, which “happens” to be about the date this incredible exponential explosion of human civilization started, this anthropologist, working from within the evolutionary assumptions of his scientific field of study, theorized that at that specific time in history God, the orderer of the natural universe, did something to a member of the previous population of homo sapiens sapiens, which changed the whole character of the species descended from that one even though they (we) remained physically the same as before. In this case the Bible saying that God made Adam “in the Image and Likeness of God” means that God shared something of Himself and His unlimited rational intelligence and creativity with a member of His animal creation, God did something to an advanced product of animal evolution which made it suddenly much more than just an advanced animal, something we know as a human being.
Thus this anthropologist speaks of a “pre-Adamite” and “post-Adamite” human population: the species homo sapiens sapiens in its “pre-Adamite” form was merely a very advanced animal, which, though more advanced than other primate species like apes, like apes, like mere animals, still lived pretty much the same way for 44,000 years. There was no human civilization to speak of in all that time, and the pre-Adamite human population, though capable of forming simple tools and such, did not really develop in all those tens of thousands of years – like troops of apes today live as they did tens of thousands of years ago. But, the post-Adamite human population, suddenly given the gift of “the image of God,” was suddenly unlimited, because the infinite God had shared His nature with them. Thus in the only 6000 years since Adam they (we) accomplished not only actual civilizations of ever more complexity, but space travel and instant worldwide communications – with no end in sight to what we can accomplish with this great gift of our rational intelligence, unique among all animals, our higher reason in the image of God’s intelligence. There is no end to what we might accomplish with our utterly unique spiritual soul which does much more than merely animate us.
The Latin word for soul is anima – the soul is what animates living things. The ancient Greek philosophers (who founded science) distinguished between the vegetative soul (the life-force proper to plants), the animal soul which animates animals, and the spiritual soul which is unique to human beings and far beyond that of animals, not only in degree but also in type. According to this anthropologist’s theory, I would say that the pre-Adamite human population had only an “animal soul,” the same type as apes though more advanced in degree, which is why for 44,000 years their communities did not advance into even primitive civilizations, as ape communities have not advanced in a similar time frame. But the post-Adamite human population was given the gift of a spiritual soul, bearing “the image of God,” a unique kind of psyche (the Greek word for soul) which not only animated them as the pre-Adamite humans (and other animals) had been physically animated but caused them almost immediately to form actual civilizations which just got more and more advanced as time went on, with no end in sight. There is no reason to believe we will not solve current problems, break current barriers, colonize the oceans, the solar system and beyond if just given enough time (before God’s Son Jesus returns). Since Adam, homo sapiens sapiens are made in the image of God the Creator, and we are creative like Him in ways unimaginable for our pre-Adamite counterparts. Our science fiction writers have already created much in their imaginations, some of which our scientists and inventors have already made reality through the applied science of technology. We reasonably expect more “science fiction becoming reality” as time goes on, as we use our uniquely rational minds which reflect God’s to uncover more and more of His intricately ordered Creation. Atoms – from the Greek for indivisible – are so called because they were supposed to be “the smallest” particles of matter. Sub-atomic particles (protons, neutrons and electrons) are now well-known to be the building blocks of atoms, but these themselves have been discovered to be made of smaller sub-sub-atomic particles (quarks), and so on. How many “sub-sub-sub-sub-ad infinitum” particles might be discovered as human scientists made in God’s Image continue to apply their rational minds (which are His gift) to His rational and intricately ordered Creation? What vast technological possibilities will come from our ever-increasing knowledge of the created universe? The pre-Adamite “modern humans” had no such potential, as their 44,000 years with no substantial civilized growth demonstrates, compared with our post-Adamite 6000 years which took us from their primitive, nomadic life all the way to the moon, with much more in reach.
I find it a useful distinction to say that the pre-Adamite population of homo sapiens sapiens were human animals, while the post-Adamite population of homo sapiens sapiens were (and are) human beings. Some secular people say we are animals, and it is popular today to confuse “animal rights” with “human rights,” failing to make the appropriate distinctions between just what level of dignity and treatment ought to be accorded to animals and just what level of dignity and treatment ought to be accorded to human beings (something is skewed when people lavish their pets with luxuries and give them the finest medical attention, but do not support humanitarian efforts). “Animal rights” can be appropriately Christian, rooted in God’s Genesis 1 command to take care of Creation, and they are epitomized in Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. There is no doubt that we are indeed animals, and share many physical features in common with them, as well as the features of the basic animal soul (anima) which animates the body and is even capable of a very limited expression of intelligence, emotion, and will. If the evolutionary model of God’s Creation is accepted, we can even say we share common physical ancestry with our “animal brothers.” But human beings are much, much more than just animals – and even small human children can quickly see how limited the highest of non-human primates is compared to them.
Thus, as I said, while I would not insist the Theory of Evolution must be true (nor that it must be false), and I have certain reservations about it on certain scientific grounds, still I find it easy to reconcile a literal Adam and Eve as the first parents of today’s human family with the full range of science’s currently dominant theories of the evolutionary natural history of humankind. It is fully compatible, and fits the facts of the history of human civilization compared to the proposed natural history of the human race, to suggest that God the Creator after patiently bringing the physical universe into being and ordering it, and patiently guiding an ever-more ordered evolutionary process of life on planet Earth, after His evolutionary process had brought about hominid creatures whose physicality was suitably advanced enough to serve as an instrument for an eternal spiritual soul made in God’s Image, gave the gift of an eternal spiritual soul to one of His creatures, called Adam, whose name became the Hebrew word for humanity, the race of human beings (not mere pre-Adamite human animals) descended from him, the race with infinite potential reflecting the image of the infinite God. From an evolutionary perspective of course the descendants of Adam, with their vast potential and rational abilities far beyond the pre-Adamites, would easily out-compete any remaining pre-Adamite population on the Earth who would quickly die out – and I have already noted that in fact the historical and geographical distribution pattern of human civilization matches exactly what one would expect from the (post-Adamite) descendants of Adam and Noah spreading out from Mesopotamia, “down the mountain” from Mount Ararat where Noah’s Ark landed. Some of the anthropological finds which date a human presence in a certain area outside this distribution pattern much earlier than Noah or Adam are easily reconciled because the very primitive finds are most likely pre-Adamite human remains (though in some cases the finds might be post-Adamite nomads who had not yet settled and developed a more advanced civilization, and it is the dating theories and methods which are incorrect in placing the find earlier than 6000 years ago – the dating of distant past things requires many assumptions and is certainly open to scientific debate).
Remember that it is also acceptable to orthodox Christianity to interpret Adam (Hebrew for mankind/humanity) symbolically – therefore there are other possible precise ways to reconcile the Bible and Science than my preferred way. It could possibly be speculated that God imbued the gift of His image to pre-Adamite humanity (Hebrew adam), and not to just one member of it whose descendants are the race of human beings today. However, I think that it is most respectful of the Bible and its inspired details, and still fully compatible with the currently dominant scientific theories of human origins, to at least assume the literal existence of all those individuals named in the first 11 chapters Genesis, including a literal Adam and Eve as the first parents of the race of human beings, even though the accounts indeed use literary devices and are symbolic or “representative” at least in as much as they are extremely condensed accounts of 2000 years. It is the most beautiful, and makes the most beautiful sense of the Bible’s revelation, to believe that humanity today is in fact quite literally one human family descended from Biblical Adam, the first human being (if not the first human animal). For Catholic Christians, an early document of the Pontifical Biblical Commission (or its predecessor – I will have to check on this) stated several things that Catholic Christians must consider true from the pre-historical Genesis accounts even if they need not be taken completely literally, including a single source of the human race, such as Adam. This is actually not very unexpected – even an atheist evolutionist would have to admit a single source for humanity, since once the first individual of a distinct new species develops, by definition it is no longer genetically compatible with the parent species but has to breed with those like itself. Evolutionists have noted that very similar animals from radically different places, who evolved very similar characteristics, are still distinct species who are not genetically compatible. From the Biblical perspective this of course means that of many children of Adam and Eve who lived a very long time during which they followed God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth,” people at first had to marry brothers and sisters – but this makes sense in the Bible too, for God’s command against brothers and sisters marrying, which has since become common the world over, is not given until thousands of years later, in the Mosaic Covenant. Our current repulsion at the idea of brothers and sisters marrying comes from our position thousands of years after God outlawed it, and because of the now-known problem of birth defects among the progeny of such unions – a problem that would not have existed at the beginning of the race. As mentioned, even from a purely evolutionary standpoint, brothers and sisters who are “like” would have to breed to continue their species, once their distinct species has first emerged so there are no other compatible mates around. From either perspective, Biblical or scientific, it is taken that the race is “hardier” when it is new, and so “close relative interbreeding” problems do not occur until much later (at which point God established the laws against it). The “hardiness” of the race when new could also explain the very long life-spans the pre-historical chapters of Genesis give for many individuals of early humanity, though this could also be seen as part of God’s spiritual gift to Adam when He chose Adam from among the pre-Adamite human population, a gift shared among the earliest of Adam’s descendants but eventually fading. A Bible verse which could be seen as supporting this notion is Genesis 6:3, “Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not remain in man forever, for he is corrupt; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.’ ” There are very few who live beyond this age after this point in the Bible, and roughly a hundred and twenty years is about the very longest anyone has lived in recorded history since (of course, diet, disease, and many other factors have influenced the “average” life-span in the many eras and regions humanity has lived in since).
In any case, there are many questions which can be asked of the Bible and science in the process of reconciling them, and many possible ways of finding reconciliation. In (my preferred) case of a literal Adam and Eve, although I think it much more likely Cain’s wife in the Bible was a sister, one of the many unnamed daughters of Adam and Eve who had followed God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth,” it is conceivable that he took a pre-Adamite wife. Such a wife would be physically homo sapiens sapiens like Cain but just lacking God’s special gift of His Image, and so would still be genetically compatible. However, any such “mixed” line of post-Adamite humans and pre-Adamite humans (who would most likely inherit from Cain “the image of God,” which is not a physical trait, in any case), would have certainly been ended in the Flood. The Bible actually lists the patriarchs of the ungodly Cainite civilization descended from Cain. Imagine a civilization possibly descended from both Cain, the world’s first post-Adamite murderer, and a pre-Adamite brute! (With possible continuing pre-Adamite marriages before they died out, out-competed by the vastly superior post-Adamites). It would be all the more little wonder, once the godly Sethite civilization, descended from Adam and Eve’s son Seth, became corrupted through intermarriage with the Cainites, that the world became “full of violence,” provoking God to send the Flood which wiped out all vestiges of the Cainite civilization!
In any case, there are many questions that could still be asked about this general way of reconciling the Biblical and currently dominant scientific accounts of human origins, both from the Biblical and scientific viewpoints. However, as far as I have looked into it thus far, it seems to me that most apparent problems with reconciling all the tiny little details of the Bible with history and archeology, and with natural history and anthropology, disappear as soon as one recognizes that any specific dates in natural history and the history of ancient mankind and of Biblical events are always very approximate dates, based on only fragmentary evidence left over from the past organized according to different theories, and scholars in each field can vary widely on the dates they will assign to certain finds or certain recorded events. All sciences which deal with the past have to rely on whatever limited information they can still get hold of, and even the natural sciences are on much less stable ground when it comes to the past which they can neither see nor repeat, as scientific method requires. What I have proposed here has tremendous potential as a reconciling principle because the current states of these different fields of study give us hypothesized dates from the distant past that are all “in the ballpark” of each other to make this reconciliation very reasonable, and any individual find that seems not to agree can likely be challenged on the basis of untestable assumptions in the dating process or theory, so such apparent exceptions would not topple this general theory of reconciliation. I think the general approach of this Catholic anthropologist gives a very fruitful guiding principle for further study in all these related fields.
[thus ends the largely rough but fascinating supporting discussion of possible scientific and historical questions or objections to the Bible’s account of human origins and Family Theology’s use of it. To add more Biblical and theological depth to this first draft’s above discussion about human animals versus human beings in the reconciliation of the Bible and science, I here insert an excerpt dealing with just what a human being is, according to the Bible , from my book Love Unbounded: Tracing Salvation History from the Eternal Trinity to the New Covenant Church – Using Family Theology to Answer the Question “How and Why Does Jesus’ Death Save Us?”]
[excerpt starts here]
The Individual Image and Likeness of God: The Spiritual Soul and The Indwelling Holy Spirit
Although it is as human families that humanity most fully displays the image and likeness of God the Trinitarian Family, as individual human beings we also bear a special gift of the image and likeness of God which distinguishes us from the animal creatures whom we otherwise resemble as material beings with biological life. These gifts of image and likeness are what make us “like God” enough to enable us (and not animals or plants, who also have biological life) to relate to God and participate in His family life forever.
So what is the image and likeness of God uniquely given to human beings? Certainly it includes our rationality, our God-given human reason which sets us completely apart from even the most advanced animals. And it must include that eternal part of us, that continues after our death to be with God (and awaits the resurrection of the body, glorified, as was Jesus’ body). People often call this part “the soul,” which is not incorrect but is imprecise. The word “soul” in Latin is anima – from where we get the word “animal.” The soul is the “animating principle” or life principle in living things. Thus some philosophers will distinguish the “vegetative soul” (the life principle proper to plants), the “animal soul” proper to animals that animates them – which even includes a certain limited degree of intelligence, emotion, and will6 – and the “spiritual soul” unique to humanity, which demonstrates an intelligence, emotion and will not only far beyond that of the animals but of an entirely different character, with infinite possibilities7, because it reflects the infinite God. This is humanity’s unique gift of the image of God – the eternal, rational, “spiritual” soul.
Why do I identify the uniquely human kind of soul as the image of God in individual human beings but not the likeness? Because the Early Church Fathers distinguished the image of God from the likeness of God, the image being the gift unique to humanity which remained after the Fall of Man, and the likeness being that unique gift to humanity which was lost through Adam’s Original Sin. The Bible confirms this quite simply: adam (humanity) in Genesis 1 is created in the image and likeness of God, but after the Fall of Man, when murder is prohibited in the Noahic Covenant, it is on the basis of man being made in the image of God only. So Adam was created with something specific, referred to as “the likeness of God,” which he lost through sin. And fallen humanity descended from Adam after the Fall likewise lacks this “likeness of God.”
Clearly, our fallen human nature which is so easily prone to sin must be due to this lack. Humanity (adam) was created with something called “the likeness of God” which since the Fall we lack, meaning that we are not whole as human beings, we are missing something which God intended us to have which would complete us as human beings and make us not so very prone to sin (though still capable of it, as Adam proved). The Western Christian terminology of “Original Sin” developed by Saint Augustine is not incorrect but can be misleading then: I do not “inherit” Original Sin from Adam – “Original Sin” is not something that exists that is passed on in the human race descended from fallen Adam; rather it is a lack of something which was supposed to be passed on in generation from Adam which Adam lost as a consequence or result of his Original Sin. The only “Original Sin” which exists in time and space is that committed by Adam: but this Original Sin has consequences for every human being generated from fallen Adam who now lack what he lacked due to his personal Original Sin. We are incomplete, wounded human beings, because of loss of “the likeness of God” with which Adam was created.
So exactly what is the “likeness of God” which we are born lacking because of Adam’s Original Sin? The answer lies in a close reading of the Genesis 2 creation account and in what the New Testament tells us Jesus the New Adam restored to us. And the answer fits neatly into Trinitarian and Covenant theology (“Family” Theology). 1 Thessalonians 5:23 tells us what a complete human being looks like: “May the God of peace make you perfect in holiness. May he preserve you whole and entire, spirit, soul, and body, irreproachable at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So a human being who is “whole and entire” is composed of not only a body, and of not only a soul (even a special eternal, rational, spiritual soul made in the image of God), but also a spirit. We are ideally tri-partisan or three-part beings, made of a body, soul and spirit. What is the nature of this previously missing spirit which Jesus has returned to us? The only one which the Scriptures speak about, repeatedly, is The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of sonship who enables us to cry to God “Abba (literally Daddy), Father!” (Galatians 4:6). The Spirit of sonship who “testifies with our spirit [that is, our spiritual soul] that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16). Thus it is that Luke 3:38 says that Adam was made as “the son of God.” Adam was created with the Holy Spirit, the indwelling Spirit of sonship, which made Adam supernaturally related to God, in a state of supernatural Grace, part of the Trinitarian Family of God, living with the Holy Spirit of God Himself (who cannot be separated from the other Persons of the One God), walking with God in the Spirit as through Christ we are now re-enabled to do. This makes perfect sense, because the Trinity created Adam/adam/humanity specifically for the purpose of sharing in His Trinitarian Family Life – so of course the Trinity created Adam within that Family fellowship of supernatural sonship, and of course the Trinity created humanity to not be complete without the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are literally made for God and will not be whole as human beings unless we are indwelt by God! Hence Saint Augustine says to God, “we are made for you, and we are restless until we rest in you.”
Genesis 2 confirms that Adam was created with the indwelling Holy Spirit. “the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). On initial reading this would seem to suggest that God fashioned Adam’s body, like a corpse without a soul/anima, and after God’s breathing into Adam’s body it was animated, started moving, breathing, living biologically. However, this “breath of life” God breathed into Adam which made him “a living being” cannot be referring to biological life. Genesis 2:19 says God also “formed out of the ground” all of the animals – but God did not “breathe into” them “the breath of life” – yet they moved around, they had biological life. You see, there are two different kinds of “living” referred to in Genesis – biological life and supernatural, spiritual life – the life of the indwelling Holy Spirit. So both animals and Adam are formed out of the ground, their formation including the principle of biological life (man after all, physically is an animal, though much more as well). But God does something unique with adam/Adam – He breathes into him the Ruach, the Spirit of supernatural Life. This is clear because the Hebrew word for breath used is Ruach – the same word used for Spirit. It is the very same Ruach of God, the Spirit of God who hovered over the waters in Genesis 1:2 who God breathes into Adam as the Ruach of Life which makes Adam distinct from the other animals also “formed out of the ground” with merely biological life. Adam is proclaimed as “a living being” and the animals likewise fashioned out of the ground are not because Adam has uniquely been given the supernatural life of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which makes him “the son of God” (Luke 3:38), sharing in God’s Trinitarian Family Life, uniquely created in both the image and the likeness of God through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
That this is so is also clear because as there are two different kinds of life described in Genesis – biological and spiritual, there are two different kinds of death, biological and spiritual. In addition to the normal Hebrew verb “die,” Genesis uses an emphatic form, literally “die die,” which is usually translated as “surely die” or “die the death” or similar. God tells Adam that he must not disobey His one command to not eat the fruit because “when you eat of it you will surely die [die die]” (Genesis 2:17). The serpent tells Eve (and Adam, who is with her – 3:6) that “you will not surely die [die die]” when they eat the fruit. We must understand “die die” to be referring to spiritual death, or else it means God lied and the serpent told the truth. Adam and Eve did not die biologically when they ate the fruit, like the serpent said, and against what God had said – but in their disobedient sin they died spiritually, they lost the indwelling Holy Spirit, they lost the principle of supernatural life and sonship which they had, exactly as God had said they would. So the serpent did lie. They did die spiritually. Thus in Genesis 3:19 God tells Adam, “dust you are, and to dust you will return.” Contrasting this with Adam’s original creation in Genesis 2:7, we see that even though Adam is still alive biologically – as he was before God breathed the Spirit into him, alive like the animals into whom God did not breathe – we see that now Adam is just dust. Before, he was biologically living dust that had been made into a supernaturally “living being” through the breathing of the Ruach, the Holy Spirit, into him. Now he is once again just dust, merely living biologically, no longer having the indwelling Spirit which made him a (supernaturally) living being.8
How the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Adam Differs from the Indwelling in Christians
The “likeness of God,” the supernatural sonship of the indwelling Holy Spirit with which Adam was created is both greater and lesser than the manner in which the Holy Spirit indwells Christians in the New Covenant. It is greater in the sense that unlike us, Adam possessed the Holy Spirit in an uncorrupted body in an uncorrupted creation – therefore Adam was not prone to the great daily struggle with sin to which we are prone, even having had the Holy Spirit of adoption restored to us. Adam not only lost the Holy Spirit which communicated with his spiritual soul (cf. Romans 8:16), the entirety of the Creation was marred by sin in humanity, the pinnacle of Creation. Christians in the New Covenant have received back the Holy Spirit of sonship which Adam lost – but we have received it back into corrupted bodies which still await their bodily resurrections.
Thus the Apostle Paul laments in Romans 7:14-25 his great weakness and the great struggle with sin that he has, a struggle he often loses. He affirms the spiritual renewal of his “inner being,” which indeed “delights in God’s law” (Romans 7:22), “but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (7:23-24). Paul says that “it is no longer I myself who do it [sin], but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh.” (7:17-18). Using different terminology at different times (e.g. new man versus old man), Paul consistently opposes his soul and Spirit which have been renewed in Christ (by the indwelling Holy Spirit) specifically to his unregenerate body, to his flesh, which he disciplines (“I beat my body and make it my slave”) so it will not lead him into sin.
This great struggle happens in Christians, restored to Divine sonship through the Holy Spirit, because human beings are not primarily a soul which happens to be attached to a body, as if we were angels trapped in matter. Angels belong to different order of Creation. Human beings are a body, soul, and spirit (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:23) – we are tripartite beings, yet another way in which we image the Eternal Trinity. We are ultimately inseparable from our bodies. A body separated from a soul is the condition known as death – declared in the Bible as a specific result of sin, and one over which Christ has won the victory, “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). The resurrection of our bodies (after the pattern of Christ’s resurrected and glorified body – altered, superior, but with which He even ate food) is so plainly taught in Scripture that few Christians deny it although many, apparently suffering from a kind of leftover dualism from the long string of heresies throughout Christian history (starting with the Gnostic heretics) which taught that matter is evil and the spirit is good, seem to imagine that Heaven is a spiritual, angelic existence. The Bible instead testifies that God made Creation for adam, a cosmic Temple, a house for the Father’s children to grow up in, making a covenant with the whole Creation, not just mankind, and that this entire Creation will be renewed in Christ. The physical body of Jesus Christ was the first part of Creation to be renewed and glorified – different, superior, yet recognizable. The glorification of that matter is our guarantee that our own sinful bodies, and indeed all Creation, will also be glorified when Christ returns, a “new heavens and a new Earth.” We will live the Family Life of the Holy Trinity, forever in an intimate communion of persons with Him and with each other, but it will not be as disembodied souls.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23)
This passage not only indicates that Creation will be renewed, but that our own adoption as sons, testified to by the Holy Spirit of adoption, is incomplete until the redemption of our bodies in the final resurrection. Thus, human beings in the New Covenant, with our souls reborn through the “water and the Spirit” (John 3:5) of Baptism (the New Covenant oath), will struggle with sin as long as we are still in our corrupted bodies. We must be careful not to separate our bodies and our souls too completely in our minds, for they are bound together in one being and exert tremendous influence on each other. Hence physical chemical imbalances in the brain affect personality (as in bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia, and so on) and these mental/emotional disorders – functions of the soul – can be treated with physical, chemical drugs.9 But the locus and the source of the sin we struggle with is in our unregenerate bodies, and the locus and the source of our goodness is in the indwelling Holy Spirit (the likeness of God) which completes us as human beings, renewing our spiritual souls (the image of God) with Grace, the life of God shared with us.10 The grace of Christ gives us the strength to overcome sin, we can master the sin which still reigns in our bodies in the strength of Christ, but it will not be easy as long as we are in these bodies. Death will free us from sin, to a temporary existence as a disembodied soul, until we receive our glorified bodies. Yet though we will commit no new sins after death separates us from our bodies, our disembodied souls will still require the purification of 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, burning off the “wood, hay and straw” (verse 12), the effects of sin still on our souls from our time intimately united to our corrupted bodies.
In the meantime there is this struggle, traditionally known as concupiscence. Concupiscence is the link between Adam’s personal Original Sin and our own personal sins. Although we are still personally responsible for our own sins, the fact remains that the fallen human nature which makes it so easy for us to sin personally is not our fault but the result of Adam’s personal sin. All the sin in the world is thus linked to Adam’s Sin, which will be important for our redemption. Jesus the New Adam very specifically personally atones for the damage done by Adam’s personal sin, thus taking out sin at its very source.
Created in communion with God, it was not easy for Adam to sin (see below this passage in my book Love Unbounded). But because of the Holy Spirit of sonship within the Trinitarian family which Adam lost, which we thus failed to receive from Him, fallen wounded humanity is concupiscent, our bodily passions are disordered and not reigned in by our reason, which is darkened by sin,11 and thus fallen humanity finds it very easy to sin against love. So easy in fact, that for many sinners there is no struggle at all. But the New covenant Church is truly the new Israel. Israel literally means “he struggles with God.” The new Israel (similar to the old Israel which went back and forth between the LORD and idols) is characterized by the fact that our renewed souls, empowered by the restored Holy Spirit, struggle with sin (which still reigns in our corrupted bodies) out of our love for God. We struggle, and by grace we overcome.
It is important to note also that the Holy Spirit indwelt Adam in a manner that is inferior to the way Christians are indwelt in the New Covenant. The difference between the indwelling supernatural life of grace of the Holy Spirit in Adam and us is that in Adam, humanity was given the gift of supernatural sonship to start with, but Adam, Head of adam/humanity, had to pass the test of self-sacrificing love to keep it (see below this passage in my book Love Unbounded), and when he failed the test he lost it. The new adam, the new humanity redeemed in Christ the New Adam, Head of redeemed humanity, has already passed the test on the Cross, and because the New Adam is also God the Eternal Son Incarnate, His nature guarantees He will never lose it – He will always love like God and never sin against love. Thus Jesus, as Head of redeemed humanity, will never force the grace of Divine sonship given to humanity in Him out of His human life, as Adam did by sinning against love. Individual human beings only have to “remain in Him” to not lose it. Thus, united to Christ the New Adam, the supernatural sonship we have is much more secure than Adam’s ever was.
[end of excerpt]
[continuing on with the discussion of Family Theology…]
The Faithful People of God of the 7th Day Adamic Covenant: the Sethites or “Sons of God”
The Bible calls Adam, who effectively functioned as the “high priest” of the 7th Day Adamic Covenant, “the son of God” (Luke 3:38), and Adam’s descendants through his son Seth, who “called upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26), who were faithful to God’s Covenant with Adam and His descendants even after the Fall, are called “the sons of God” in Genesis 6:2 and 4. Unfortunately, eventually the godly “Sethite” line of Adam’s descendants through Seth (whose patriarchs are listed in Genesis 5, including Enoch who “walked with God”) began to intermarry (Genesis 6:2) with the Cainite line descended from Cain the world’s first murderer (the patriarchs of this other civilization descended from Adam are listed in Genesis 4:17-24) and the godly Sethite “sons of God” being corrupted by the Cainite “daughters of men” made the world become “full of violence” (see Genesis 6:11-13), which motivated God to send the Flood to wipe out the corrupted human civilization and begin a new civilization from the family of Noah, the last Sethite faithful to God under the simpler terms of the Adamic Covenant. God would institute a new Covenant with Noah and his descendants, since Noah had mastered the kind of test of maturity in love Adam (and most of the Sethites) had failed, showing that humanity descended from Noah would be ready for the next Covenantal step in the long process of God the Father of Love very patiently raising His Covenant child humanity/adam to its maturity in love (For more details see chapter 5 of the full version of The Bible’s ‘Big Picture’).
Salvation Is a Work of the Whole Trinity of Love: God the Father of Love Sent Jesus the Son of Love Incarnate to Restore to Humanity the Indwelling Holy Spirit of Love Which Makes Us Supernaturally Adopted Children of God
It is important to remember that everything God does in the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, is done by the Trinitarian God who is Love, and doing it in accordance with His character as Love and as Family (much deficient theology which compromises God’s character as Love has been done by Christians who forget this). In the Godhead God the Father is self-giving love who eternally gives Himself completely in love, holding nothing back, which eternally generates God the Son, who also eternally gives of Himself completely in love, holding nothing back, and the Holy Spirit is the Love Proceeding eternally in both directions, from the Father through the Son back to the Father.12 So God the Father is the fountain of the Eternal Love which is God, and He must not be envisioned as anything but a Loving Father (sadly, His fatherly character has often been maligned even by well-meaning Christian theologians). It was so important to God that He be humanity’s Father that He bound Himself to humanity/adam as its adopted Father by legal Covenant even before the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit was lost by Adam, so that He remains the adopted Father of all humanity whether or not they remain faithful in family love to any of His ongoing Covenants. Remembering that God is humanity’s loving Father, we can see that if God is a lawmaker and a judge, His laws are the Family Rules governing His Family household for the children’s protection and His courtroom for judgement is the Family Living Room. If God expresses wrath or anger, He expresses it as a loving father whose anger is provoked most by His children disregarding His rules which were lovingly made for their own protection from harm to body, soul, or spirit. As a father myself I can testify that my anger likewise comes out most strongly precisely when my beloved children are doing something by which they could harm themselves, and my rage is displayed in such moments in order to shock them into stopping doing whatever they are doing by which they can or will be harmed if they do not stop. There are, sadly, too many Christians who display to the world a notable lack of charity and love towards certain groups of human beings, usually groups of human beings who believe in other religions than Christianity or who commit certain sins. These Christians, sadly, feel somehow justified in their anger and even hatred towards whole groups of human beings Jesus died for because God showed wrath or anger in the Bible. But they do not understand the nature of God’s wrath in the Bible and how very different it is from their own anger, hatred, or unforgiveness towards sinners and followers of other religions. The Bible does not say “God is wrath (and He sometimes loves)” but that “God is Love” – and thus although He sometimes expresses wrath or anger He does this out of the love that He is. The Bible says God is the Father from whom all fatherhood on Earth is named. Therefore my own experience as a father is a valid source of insight into God the Father, as my human fatherhood is made “in the image” of His Divine Fatherhood. So if I, in my pathetic human weakness as a human father, in my own gross imperfection of love, can still say that I get the most severely angry at my children and shout at them the loudest only when they are harming or about to harm themselves due to their not obeying the loving family rules made for their protection, how much more must we recognize that when God, who is Himself the Perfection of Love, gets angry, He does so only out of His very nature as Love, out of loving concern for His disobedient children and loving concern for their well-being in body, soul, and spirit. I would yell angrily at my children about to step into the road and be hit by a car because of their disobedience to the family rule made for their protection not to play on the road because I love them and I hope the sound of my rage will shock them into stopping their disobedient actions whereby they are about to harm themselves by running onto the road. God the Father similarly gets angry out of His loving concern for His disobedient children and sends judgement which He intends to motivate repentance and obedience to the Family Rules (Laws) which keep His Covenant children safe from spiritual harm. Satan’s name literally means the Accuser, and it is Satan the Accuser of humanity for their sins who wants human beings to be destroyed in Hell, not the God who is Love. So my challenge to those Christians who feel justified in their anger or hatred towards sinners and non-Christians because of God’s anger and wrath in the Bible is this: Examine your feelings and if the wrath or anger YOU feel at sin or error is not out of loving concern for how they are harming themselves as well as others, then it is not God’s anger but Satan the Accuser’s anger you have, and I remind you that you are called by your baptism to imitate the God of Love, not Satan the Accuser (doing so will win over many more sinful and misled human souls to Jesus, as the Father of Love wishes).
In any case, remembering that all humanity (Hebrew adam) is God the Father’s adopted family through the legal adoption of the 7th Day Covenant with Adam (who lost the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit through sin), we can see that God raises His child humanity/adam like human parents raise their children. Humanity was initially very young and immature, disobedient, and got very out of control, bringing upon itself strong parental discipline, but once it had essentially mastered the first step towards maturity in love, God gave humanity a new Covenant with a new goal to strive for which would bring it another step closer to His ideal of Self-Giving Love (like God loves within the Trinity). Thus Adam and Eve were not given a complicated moral law of even 1 never mind 10 ‘commandments,’ but only a simple test of obedience (“do not eat the fruit from this tree”), since, as human parents know, very young children cannot yet understand the reasons behind formal rules which safeguard them from various harms, and for their own protection they must first be taught simply to obey whatever they are told by their parents. Adam and Eve failed the test of obedience, and most of their descendants, both Cainites and Sethites, eventually fell into violent and murderous habits of disobedience. As very small children receive the harshest physical discipline to correct their behavior since they cannot be reasoned with so as to be effectively disciplined any other way, so immature infant humanity brought upon itself its first severe “spanking” in the Flood. Those fallen-away Covenant children of the Adamic Covenant brought upon themselves the loving Covenant Father’s stern discipline of the Flood for their own good, since God saw that, hardened in their violent and murderously sinful ways, they would all certainly suffer eternal spiritual death in Hell unless at least some of them were, hopefully, shocked into “deathbed repentance” at the sight of the Covenant Father’s fast approaching judgement for their violent and murderous disobedience in the rising Flood waters. Noah, however, the last faithful Sethite, proved that he had passed the test of obedience Adam and Eve had failed. Noah achieved the goal of the Adamic Covenant within the series of Covenants God planned to gradually train humanity to maturity in love. By building a boat on dry land, Noah proved that he would obey no matter what, proving that humanity was ready to lovingly and trustingly obey God the Covenant Father even without understanding His directions, as small children first learn to simply obey, meaning humanity was ready for the next step:
The Covenant with Noah
(The Noahic Covenant)
So God made a Covenant with Noah and his descendants (all humanity alive today), with the Covenant Sign of the Rainbow which we still see, indicating that as the Adamic Covenant Sign of the Sabbath has continued throughout all the later Covenants, so the Noahic Covenant is still “in force,” as it is also part of God’s one ongoing human Covenant Family (“Abel was a Christian”). God was pleased that in Noah His Covenant Child humanity had matured enough to pass the first goal of maturity in love He had set in His first, Adamic Covenant, but humanity still needed to grow in love more, though slowly, in accordance with its still limited abilities due to its continuing youth and immaturity.
In this second Universal Covenant (for all humanity descended now from both Adam and Noah) God had higher expectations from His adopted human Covenant Family, and He gave them another goal to strive towards to show they were further maturing in love: the first clear and strict moral Commandment, prohibiting murder, that violent sin of Cain which had eventually engulfed all of humanity except for Noah’s family and brought upon it the severe judgement of the Flood to hopefully shock deathbed repentance from among the murderous individuals while God continued the human race through Noah the last faithful Sethite who had shunned such sin (sin being, essentially, anti-love – God is love, as His children we are called to be like Him, and sin is any choice against love, it is anti-love).
God Prepared for the Universal (Catholic) Christian Church at the Tower of Babel
One of the most important things that happened in the early period when the Noahic Covenant was God’s most recent Covenant with humanity was the Tower of Babel incident, wherein God’s plan for the spread of humanity was accomplished, ‘setting the stage’ of the Earth for His long-term plan to bring about the New Covenant Christian Church. Since before Adam sinned God had intended Adam’s descendants (humanity) to “fill the Earth,” and He commanded that they do so. This command of the Adamic Covenant was repeated in the Noahic Covenant, wherein Noah and his descendants were likewise commanded to “fill the Earth.” When immature humanity descended from Noah tried to build a city and tower at Babel specifically in disobedience to the Covenant Father’s command, “so that we may … not be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4), God the loving Covenant Father used a parenting strategy used by many human parents of young children. This disobedience of His directions to spread out was not so dangerous and deadly to the soul as the moral disobedience of murder, so the Father’s anger or wrath was not provoked (as a human father’s might be at children’s disobedience which puts them in immediate and serious danger, for example yelling “get your toys off the road!”). So, as human parents often find a way to “trick” disobedient toddlers into doing what the parents want instead of getting angry with less serious and dangerous disobedience of the very young and immature, so God found a way to motivate still-infant humanity into obeying His direction to “fill the Earth” – by confusing their languages so that the work on the Tower of Babel stopped and the different groups who could understand each other each moved off together and spread out “over the face of the whole Earth” (Genesis 11:9), as God had desired of humanity from before the time Adam sinned. God had intended humanity to spread out and gradually form different cultures so that, when He revealed Himself fully to humanity in Jesus Christ, the human family could look at Him in His infinite beauty from their different cultural perspectives and share their different views and insights, so that they could together come to understand Him better – as happened in the Early Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils in which the different cultures renewed in Jesus as different Christian Rites or Sister Churches in the Universal (Catholic) Christian Communion pooled their different insights so as to together clearly articulate the common fundamentals of traditional Christianity .
Though humanity had improved some with age and experience, and was never again engulfed entirely in violence and murder as before the Flood but gradually became more civilized, humanity after Noah was still very immature and easily fell into violence and easily fell away from close relationship with God their Covenant Father, coming up with many incorrect ideas about Him and often starting to worship instead the things they could see which were apparently beyond them, like the sun and moon. For a long time many remained faithful to God under the still relatively simple terms of the Noahic Covenant, however. As a people the Semites, the descendants of Shem (Noah’s specially-blessed son), are particularly associated with faithfulness to God (since the most famous Semites today are the Jews, irrational hatred of Jews today is often called anti-Semitism). Job and King Melchizedek in the Bible function as priests of God of the Noahic Covenant, and even some Hamites of Abraham’s day (descended from Noah’s son Ham and not Shem), like Abimelech, seem to have a good relationship with God (Abimelech talks with God in a very comfortable manner and God affirms his innocence, see Genesis 20:3-6). Centuries later even Balaam, despite his sins, appears to be a Semite prophet under the simpler and less demanding Noahic Covenant13 who genuinely speaks back and forth with the LORD God on a regular basis and prophesies only what the LORD God genuinely tells him to – which is the test of a true prophet! (Numbers 22-24). It may be because he was a genuine Semite prophet of the Noahic Covenant that he is later so harshly condemned for his sins, particularly his opposition to Israel in the hopes of personal gain, wherein he used his genuine knowledge of God unlovingly, to successfully advise Israel’s enemies to tempt Israel into doing something that would provoke the LORD’s anger.
It is important to recognize that even though the various nations (civilizations, cultures) of humanity which God had desired to come into being “over the face of the whole Earth” were still very immature and often easily fell away from close connection with Him, God the Loving Covenant Father continued to lovingly be a father to His Noahic Covenant children – even after He chose one nation of humanity among the many nations descended from faithful Noah as His “firstborn son” nation (Exodus 4:22) which He would set apart for specialized training in maturity in love, until they (Israel) were mature in love enough to no longer take God’s legal Covenant adoption for granted and lose it easily as Adam had easily lost the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Indeed, it was specifically because of God the Father’s Covenant love for His adopted children of the Noahic Covenant (all humanity) that God made provision for all of them to eventually reach greater maturity in love as well, through the ministry (once they were mature and renewed in their Messiah) of Israel His chosen “first-born son” nation among all the nations which were all sons of God through the Noahic Covenant, even if runaways or “prodigal” sons.
Parents have lesser expectations of very young children – they do not expect very young children to behave as well or as maturely as older and more mature children, and they do not expect young children to understand their parents and their adult ways as well as they will when they are older. Noah, Shem, Melchizedek and other Semites and godly Hamites and so on of the Noahic Covenant had a genuine loving and saving relationship with God their Covenant Father even though they did not intellectually understand God and His ways in the more sophisticated and precise ways Jews and Christians later did and even though God did not have as high moral expectations of them as He would later have of His more mature Covenant children of the later Covenants (just as I as a parent expect both more understanding of me and more good behavior from my 10-year old child than I do from my 4-year old child or my baby). God instituted the Covenant with Noah and his descendants (all humanity) which, representing a stage in the maturity of God’s one ongoing human Covenant Family, remained in force (we still see the Covenant Sign of the Rainbow) even after God instituted later Covenants to raise humanity to even higher standards of maturity in love.
[The following are some more rough thoughts and some excerpts from other works of mine relating to the question of salvation outside of strictly Christian faith, which the Bible, especially in Romans 2, indicates is possible but which has been the subject of much Christian theological speculation over the centuries in order to reconcile this possibility (this exception) with the general rule that knowing Jesus is necessary for salvation, “neither is their salvation in anyone else, for there is no under name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved.” I think the Family Theology perspective which my above and below thoughts come from makes this possibility make the most sense, recognizing that none of the Old Testament Saints had explicit Christian faith either but were in Covenant Family relationship with the same Covenant Father who later sent Jesus to save humanity, hence the Early Church Fathers’ principle that “Abel was a Christian.” Thus modern descendants of Noah may be saved under the same Covenant terms the Old Testament Saints were saved. We can be sure that All the Saved Are Saved by Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, Regardless of Which of God’s Covenants They Were Adopted by God Through (see my concluding section on this topic below). Early Christians respected “virtuous pagans” like Socrates (though there is an ancient rumor that Socrates, who studied with the Jew Ahitophel, may have actually converted to Judaism in his old age), and both Protestants and Catholics, contemplating the God who is Love, frequently find it unacceptable to think that God created millions of human beings in pagan countries without them even having a chance to know and love God and be saved because they never met a Christian.]
God demonstrated His ongoing concern for His Noahic Covenant children by sending the Israelite prophet Jonah to Nineveh, the greatest city of the Assyrian Empire (and site of the world’s first library), originally built by Noah’s descendant (possibly his great-grandson) Nimrod who was “a mighty hunter before the LORD” (see Genesis 10:8-12). Whatever this title means, as it includes God’s Covenant Name (Yahweh, translated LORD) and as this detail is important enough to go into the Bible which tells us almost nothing about the approximately 2000 years of Covenant Family history between Adam and Abraham, it seems very positive, indicating Nineveh may have been founded as a faithful city under the Noahic Covenant which may be why God singles it out among the Gentile cities to call it to repentance, to get back to its faithful origins. Certainly the Ninevites are saved in the Book of Jonah not by joining the newer Mosaic Covenant of Israel but by repenting of their violent and murderous ways which were forbidden in the Covenant with Noah – that is, they were saved by keeping the Noahic Covenant even though there was a newer Covenant. Understanding that every human being is in Covenant relationship with God through the first two Universal Covenants of the one ongoing Covenant Family (“Abel was a Christian”), whether they are faithful to the Covenant Father or not (runaway, “prodigal” sons but still sons) is important for understanding Romans 2:6-16, which indicates the possibility of salvation outside of explicitly Christian faith (remember that none of the Old Testament Saints of whichever of the five Old Testament Covenants had explicitly Christian faith, though they did love the God of later Christianity). Since the Bible indicates the possibility of salvation without formally being a member of the New Covenant Christian Church, just as Nineveh could be saved without joining the newer Mosaic Covenant of Israel, we must understand such “irregular” salvation (outside of the most recent Covenant) as being on the basis of faithfulness to an older Covenant within the one ongoing Covenant Family of God under its simpler terms with lesser expectations of precise knowledge of God and overall lower moral expectations. And, of course, on the basis of love. Thus Jesus taught the Jews before there were any Christians, in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46) that the nations (that is, the Gentiles, not Jews nor Christians) are judged based on the presence or absence of actions motivated by love, which display the “law written on their hearts,” and show their faithful Covenant relationship with the God who is Love – under the simpler terms of the Noahic Covenant.
Thus the Ninevites were saved by lovingly renewing their Covenant relationship with God under the simpler terms and expectations of the Noahic Covenant. And thus, when I was a Protestant Christian missionary, I heard stories of an African tribe who, when the Christian missionaries taught them about Jesus, said, “we already knew your God. We just didn’t know His name.” This was a case where this line of Gentiles, broken away from strict knowledge of the Covenant with their ancestor Noah, by the law “written on their hearts” still kept the Noahic Covenant of their faithful ancestor and maintained a genuine, if simpler, relationship with their Covenant Father God – such that when they encountered New Covenant Christians they immediately recognized that the missionaries knew the same God they knew, but knew more about Him, new Christian truths of a later Covenant Revelation which they readily accepted, becoming Christian, because they already had a good relationship with the God of Christianity who is also the God of their ancestor Noah. We must recognize that the Wise Men who visited the Baby Jesus specifically to worship Him (Matthew 2:2,11) represent God’s children of the earlier Noahic Covenant welcoming Jesus Christ to Earth, alongside the Israelite shepherds of the later Mosaic Covenant. The Wise Men apparently had a genuine and good relationship with God under the simpler terms of the Noahic Covenant, and on this basis God led them to the Christ Child as He led the Christ Child to the faithful Jew Simeon before his death (Luke 2:25-35). The Wise Men did not become Jews or Christians yet as faithful children of the Noahic Covenant they were led by God’s Spirit to welcome the Christ Child. God even communicated clearly with the Noahic Covenant Wise Men through dreams (Matthew 2:12) as He did with Joseph, the Jew of the newer Mosaic and Davidic Covenants. They were all His Covenant children. Certainly we cannot reasonably say (as some Christians foolishly do) that the Ninevites after repenting as Jonah called them to and the Wise Men after visiting and worshiping Christ all burned in Hell eternally anyway, sent there by the God who is Love, just because they were not Jews nor Christians, just because they did not belong to the latest Covenant in the one ongoing Covenant Family of God since Adam. Abel loved and pleased God under the very simple terms of the Adamic Covenant, and thus, in a sense, “Abel was a Christian,” as the Early Church Fathers understood. Many since Abel have likewise loved and pleased God their Covenant Father whichever Covenant their family line was adopted by God through, and many have showed their family relationship with the God of Christianity, who is Love, by loving, thus passing Jesus’ standards of judgement in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (by which a destiny of Heaven or Hell is determined simply by the presence or absence of loving actions), even if they did not officially belong to the most recent Covenant with the most mature understanding of God and the most sophisticated Divine Revelation.
Although they mature quicker and better with explicit training, it is normal for children to mature just with time and experience. We can see this also in God’s Noahic Covenant children. God focused His attention on training Israel the “first-born son” nation descended from Noah, teaching Israel more details about Him and His ways and just how best to be loving. But the other “Gentile” nations descended from faithful Noah, even though they often fell away and came up with some incorrect ideas about God who had not revealed Himself to Noah in near as much detail as He did to later Jews and Christians, still gradually matured somewhat just with time and experience. Thus the major non-Christian religions of today are vastly superior to the pagan religions of Biblical times, most of them incorporating a moral code quite similar to Christianity’s and none of them approving human sacrifice or other such grotesqueries – just by living and learning by experience over thousands of years, the fallen-away Covenant children of Noah have matured and come closer to their Covenant Father’s ideal for them (though they need the further Divine Revelation of the later Covenants to help them really grow in love). The genuine truths they have maintained since Noah or re-discovered are “seeds of the Gospel,” things which prepare them to receive the full Gospel of Jesus Christ. [unfinished paragraph]
Israel the “first-born son” nation at first is very little more mature than all the fallen-away Gentile “prodigal son” nations of the Universal Noahic Covenant Family – for centuries the main difference between the Jews and the Gentiles is that Israel repents and renews its Covenant commitment to God after each of the many times Israel, like the Gentile nations, falls away from faithfulness to God their Covenant Father (most of the Tribes of Israel in fact permanently fell away just like the other Gentile nations had). After the Babylonian Exile, when the Jews (from the Tribe and Southern Kingdom of Judah) are all that is left of Israel, the Jews have matured tremendously in love for their Covenant Father and become known as a nation for being zealous for God, preferring death to abandoning God. God the Father’s sending Jesus to the Jews and then to the nations must be regarded partly as a result of the readiness of His “first-born son” Israel… [unfinished paragraph]
Modern Jews too, descendants of the eras of the latest Old Testament Covenants with Moses and David, have matured a great deal just with time and experience since their ancestors failed to enter the New Covenant Christian Church. Thus certain things which were non-ideal portions of the Mosaic Covenant but concessions to Israel’s weakness of the time have been largely abandoned by modern Jews even though the Mosaic Covenant allows for it, such as polygamy. God the Father raises His Covenant children as human parents raise their children. Human parents tolerate certain bad behaviors from very young children because they know the children are not yet mature enough to keep a strict rule on the behavior yet. Human parents alter their expectations of their children (for a time) when it becomes obvious they are not yet ready for a certain mature responsibility. Thus God tolerated Jacob’s polygamy without saying anything about it, and thus God put regulations governing polygamy (as well as slavery) in the Mosaic Covenant, not endorsing polygamy or slavery but, knowing His Covenant children were not yet mature enough to handle strict rules about these things which were not as against love as murder and adultery and so on, in His Laws (Covenant Family rules) He made concessions to their weaknesses of the time, allowing certain non-ideal behaviors but giving limiting guidelines of just how to practice them if they were to be practiced, so that the evil potential in them did not go too far. But modern Jews, even though their Mosaic Covenant allows for slavery and polygamy within certain limits, for the most part do not practice these things – just with time and experience, reflecting on the Covenant, they have outgrown the need for the concessions God the Father earlier gave them when they were less mature in love.
[the following is an excerpt from the full version of my book The Bible’s ‘Big Picture’ that deals with the theme of salvation outside of strictly Christian faith]
The Many Unfaithful Lines of the Covenant Family
All humanity is in Covenant Family relationship with God through at least the Adamic and Noahic Covenants. Jews and Arabs are in Covenant Family relationship with God through the Abrahamic Covenant as well, and Jews are in Covenant Family relationship with God through the Mosaic and Davidic Covenants as well (whether they are living by these Covenants or not, they belong to them, since these Covenants were made with Adam, Noah, Abraham and their descendants). However, all of these groups which are not in the current New Covenant Church of Jesus Christ are from fallen-away branches of the One ongoing Covenant Family of God in full good standing, no longer living under the Father’s roof in the “new house” He built for His children – The Church of Jew and Gentile restored in Christ. They are in greater or lesser degree estranged from the Covenant Father, although they may achieve salvation through faithfulness in love to the God who is love, under the simpler terms of these older covenants they belong to wherein God did not yet expect as high a standard of moral maturity in love and in which God did not expect His Covenant children to have as precise and clear intellectual doctrinal knowledge about Him (if “Abel was a Christian,” as the Early Church Fathers understood, he and all the Old Testament Saints were “Christians” who did not understand God as Trinity and so on, though they did have a loving Covenant Family relationship with the God they did not understand as well as Christians do). God is the judge of exactly what kind of relationship He has with each human being, and thus Romans 2:6-16 indicates the possibility of salvation outside of explicit Christian faith on the basis of people following the Covenant “law written on their hearts” even when they do not belong to the most recent Covenant – a possibility which is best understood as being on the basis of faithfulness in love to the older, less detailed Covenants which were certainly the means of salvation for the Old Testament Saints who lived when those Covenants were “the latest Covenant.” Remember that the Bible describes all of the individual Covenants as “everlasting,” so they all still participate in the one ongoing Covenant Family of God. We still see the Rainbow, the Sign of the Noahic Covenant, indicating this Covenant is still in force and has the potential to save those who live by it as Noah and Shem did. This principle is shown clearly in the Book of Jonah, wherein God sends the Israelite prophet Jonah to warn the wicked city of Nineveh to repent, and the Ninevites are saved from destruction not by joining the most recent Covenant which God had made with the Israelites, but by returning to living by the older Covenant with Noah which had prohibited the sin of murder which the Ninevites had since become infamous for. Jesus continues to teach this principle in His parable of “the Sheep and the Goats”(Matthew 25:31-46) wherein the nations (that is, the Gentiles, neither Christians nor the Jews Jesus is directly speaking to) are judged based on actions motivated by love (whereby they prove themselves truly related to the God who is love). Despite this Scriptural possibility of individual personal salvation outside of explicit Christian faith (especially for those who never had any opportunity to hear and respond to the Christian Gospel), Christians are still obligated to preach the Gospel to all nations seeking to make them explicitly disciples of Jesus (see Matthew 28:20), for the following reasons: To have the certainty of salvation if they persevere in love (Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13), and to have the restoration of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of supernatural adoption to help them persevere in love, and to have the fulness of power and joy in this life, the many fallen-away branches of the one ongoing Covenant Family need to come back into Covenant Family membership in good standing through joining the New Covenant Church of Jesus Christ.
This is exactly what large portions of the previously fallen-away branches of the older covenants did in the Early Church, these “Gentile” (non-Jewish) converts to Christianity becoming the original four Sister Churches or Rites which together with the original Jewish Christians made up the one Universal (that is, Catholic) Church of Jesus Christ. Each of these four original “Gentile” Christian Sister Churches in the Catholic Communion of Sister Churches has had many successful missions to those still fallen away branches of the Covenant Family, which became “daughter rites” of the original four Gentile Christian Sister Churches (regrafted back into the faithful “Olive Tree”).
[this following excerpt is my conclusion on the matter in the Appendix of the full version of The Bible’s Big Picture]
All the Saved Are Saved by Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, Regardless of Which of God’s Covenants They Were Adopted by God Through
Certainly all who are saved are saved by God Incarnate, Jesus Christ. All of the Old Testament saints could not go to Heaven before Christ but had to wait in Sheol, (Hebrew – Hades in Greek), “the Place of the Dead,” since the redemption of humanity (adam) by Jesus the New Adam had not yet taken place, and certainly all who are saved will on their way to Heaven have their knowledge about God “filled in” where it is lacking due to no personal fault of their own (having been raised in long-ago broken away lines of the one human Covenant Family of God). It is likely that those non-Christians who know a lot about the Christian faith but still reject it will be held accountable by God for this rejection even if they otherwise keep their older covenant lovingly and well, and of course, they often formally belong to other religions developed since their ancestors broke away from the Covenant Family, religions which both share things in common with Christianity (and the older covenants) and contain many errors which take them away from God’s truth. We can reasonably expect that those Muslims whose personal faith in God focuses upon the many things Islam has borrowed from Judaism and Christianity (and maintained from the Abrahamic and Noahic Covenants of their ancestors), and attempts to live lovingly according to them, are likely to be invited to God’s Heavenly House after God informs them of where their knowledge of Him was lacking due to no fault of their own, whereas we can reasonably expect that those Muslims whose personal faith in God focuses upon the many things in Islam which are contradictory to Christian truth, and live in hatred, anti-love, will not be so invited.
The bottom line of this teaching is that we as Christians judge no one (as Jesus instructed us, “do not judge”), we do not consign any person to Hell by our own reckoning, and we instead trust God the loving Father as the just judge of just what kind of family relationship He has with any particular human being, while we preach the Gospel to encourage all to come to know and love God Incarnate in Jesus Christ explicitly in order to have the certainty of salvation if we persevere in love, in order to have the restoration of the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit to fill us with and maintain us in that love, and thus in order to have the fullness of joy in this life as well.
[another useful paragraph excerpt used in Chapter 3]
This is why the Bible says in John 11:51-52 that “Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one”. All human beings are adopted children of God through the Covenants with Adam and Noah, but they were scattered through their unbelief and sin, except for the faithful line of the adopted Covenant Family, that line of faithful Sethites, Semites, Hebrews and Israelites known as the Jewish nation,14 and those Jews who accepted Jesus as Messiah (Christ in Greek) would be restored to the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God which Adam “the son of God” (Luke 3:38) lost, and this Jewish nation renewed in Jesus “the New Adam” would minister the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit to all the scattered children of God from the Adamic and Noahic Covenants – to all human beings who will come – and those ministering Jews and the Gentiles who accepted Jesus through their ministry would be brought together and made one in Jesus Christ. One human family renewed in Jesus, one Body of Christ, the Christian Church. This was the loving family reality of the Undivided Early Catholic (Universal) Christian Church, one worldwide Church made up of many different nations (civilizations, cultures) restored in Christ, the restored portions of those nations becoming the different Rites or “Sister Churches” which together made up the early Undivided Universal or Catholic Church of Jesus Christ. This universality or catholicity of the Undivided Early Church was so important to Early Christian identity that Early Christian writers constantly refer to the Church as the Catholic Church, which was the Catholic (Universal) Communion of different culturally-based Sister Churches united in orthodox Christian faith against many breakaway heretical or unorthodox Christian churches (most of which died out though a small few remain since ancient times).
[the following is another excerpt which lays out important themes relating to the series of Covenants God the Covenant Father used to train His children]
Jesus Christ “the New Adam” restored the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit (which Adam had lost), which makes all Christians children of God and brothers and sisters to each other not only as New Covenant Family members in good standing, but at a much higher and more wonderful level, as Pope Benedict XVI in The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood describes – but all non-Christians are still related to God as His children, and thus Christians are also still related in family bonds to all non-Christians, through the lesser covenant adoption of all humanity descended from Adam by God. Thus all humanity indeed falls into Pope Benedict’s two categories of 1) the Christian brother – united to each other and God through covenant and the wonderful supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit – or 2) the other brother – Covenant Family members estranged from the Covenant Father, lacking the marvelous bond which supernaturally unites all Christians under God the Father – the “other brother” whom Christians are called to seek to reconcile with their Father, bringing them back into living in the Father’s Household, the Christian Church (see 1 Timothy 3:15), living by the Family Rules (the New Covenant Moral Law of Love, encapsulated in the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount).
So once one understands the succession of Biblical Covenants God used to gradually train His one human Covenant Family descended from Adam to higher and higher standards of love, one understands that the Bible reveals that every human being is in fact related to God as His children through covenant adoption – as either
1) a Covenant Family member in good standing, who is from the “Olive Tree” (see Romans 11) of the faithful family line since Adam who remained in loving relationship with God the Covenant Father (or at least consistently repented and renewed the covenant soon after falling away), a Covenant Family member who lives under the Father’s House Rules (moral laws which train us to love like the Father loves), or as
2) a Covenant Family member who is estranged from the family, descended from a branch of the faithful “Olive Tree” since Adam and Noah which earlier fell away or was cut off for unbelief and sin, (becoming a “wild olive shoot”) and thus lost close connection with God’s Covenant Family – a Covenant Family member who no longer lives under the Covenant Father’s House Rules (Judeo-Christian morality) – a runaway or prodigal child who need to be restored to full relationship with the Father and the Covenant Family through being reconciled with the Family’s Loving Father and coming into the New Covenant Church.
Moreover, there are two Biblical kinds of adoption by God:
1) covenant adoption, whereby God legally adopts humanity as His children through making a covenant (as He did with the entire human race descended from Adam and Noah); and
2) the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit of adoption, whereby God’s very life of love indwells a person to make them supernaturally related to God as His children – this is the condition Adam was created in but lost, which Jesus Christ the New Adam restores to members of His New Covenant Christian Church (though we still await the redemption of our bodies in the final resurrection, and until that Eternal Covenant era New Covenant Christians still struggle with sin – Romans 8:22,23, 7:14-25).
[A Final Note on the Series of Covenants God Used to Bring His Covenant Child Humanity (Hebrew Adam) to its Maturity in Love – Christians Are Still Maturing in Love and We Still Look Forward to the 7th and Final Covenant, the Eternal Covenant of the Fulfilment of God’s Kingdom in the New Heaven and the New Earth after Christ’s Return ]
The number 7 in the Bible is symbolic of fulfilment, completion – thus it seems odd that there are only 5 major covenants in the Old Testament and only 1 in the New Testament, for a total of 6 – until we recognize the future fulfilment of the Christian Church in the Kingdom of Heaven when Christ returns as the 7th, Eternal Covenant. Covenant renewals are not counted here. On a number of occasions after temporarily falling away from faithfulness, God’s People renewed their commitment to the previous major covenant, as they did under Joshua and Ezra. Undergoing Baptism is taking the New Covenant Oath.
So as Christians we look forward to:
The Eternal Covenant
(The Fulfilment of God’s Kingdom in the New Heavens and New Earth)
[I think the following two excerpts from the full version of The Bible’s Big Picture are for now a good way to end this Chapter’s overview of what I call Family Theology in a way which emphasizes our Christian responsibility to seek unity with other]
Family Theology Explains Both Biblical History and Christian History as the Story of God’s One Ongoing Covenant Family Being Patiently Raised to Maturity in Love
Family Theology not only explains the entire Covenant Family history in the Bible from Adam to the New Covenant Christian Church of Jesus Christ the New Adam, it also explains New Covenant Family (Christian) history since the Christian Church was established and the Biblical Revelation ended, including the failures of Christians – most notably our failure to keep the family unity in love – as a continuation of God the Father very patiently raising His one ongoing Covenant Family from Adam to the Church today towards living by ever higher standards of love which will culminate ultimately in the Eternal Covenant Family of the Kingdom of Heaven fulfilled in “the New Heavens and the New Earth” after Christ’s return . As the Christian Church we are not yet the final expression of God’s Covenant People, which is a Heavenly reality yet to be fulfilled (and we sure do not yet look like the final expression of God’s People as long as we are divided and not always even loving each other very well, never mind the world). We Christians are indeed a “pilgrim” people on this Earth, still not living all that God has for us though we seek to. But we can take heart from the lessons of the Bible, revealed through Family Theology, that it is because we as the New Covenant Christian Church are the continuation of God’s ongoing Covenant Family since Adam that we continue to strive to live by the ever higher standard of love that God has called us to live by and often struggle and sometimes fail, as the one ongoing Covenant Family of God always has . Old Covenant Israel never ceased to be God’s Chosen People despite their many failures including divisions (between the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah), periods of moral laxity, and even idol worship. Likewise the “New Covenant Israel” of the Christian Church has never ceased to be God’s Chosen New Covenant People despite their many failures including divisions (many more than Old Covenant Israel) and periods of moral laxity (not near as extreme as Old Covenant Israel, and never degenerating into idol worship). Old Covenant Israel went back and forth between worshiping God and worshiping idols during its history, and the New Covenant Church which continues the Covenant Family has continued to have a back and forth cycle in its history, between dedicated fervor for God and moral laxity and abuses which sometimes led to divisions (still a huge improvement over degenerating into idol worship, showing that the new stage of the ongoing Covenant Family inaugurated by Jesus is indeed generally more mature in love despite still having “growing up” to do). Anyone who parents or teaches children know that this back and forth cycle is normal for any child growing up into maturity. Some days they surprise you with their great maturity, then they surprise you with their great immaturity. We should be encouraged by the fact that we are children to God, and we are children raised by a wise and loving and patient Father, such that the one Covenant Family has always made progress in love, however slowly, and however many setbacks it has – although it took many centuries, Israel did in fact gradually mature from as a nation regularly going back and forth from worshiping God to worshiping idols, to as a nation being zealous for God and willing to die rather than deny Him (the backwards steps in the cycle became not near so far backwards). So we know that however long it takes, we as the latest expression of that one ongoing “Olive Tree” Covenant Family can gradually become more and more mature in love as well – including healing our current Christian divisions with love .
How Old Covenant Israel Eventually Matured So as to Recapture its Early Success in its Mission after Failing for Centuries, Showing that the New Covenant Israel of the Church Can Likewise Mature and Recapture What We Have Lost from the Undivided Early Church after Centuries of Divisions
One of the parallels between Old Covenant Israel and the New Covenant Israel of the Church which demonstrates how we as the Christian Church indeed continue the typical life cycle of God’s one ongoing Covenant Family, and shows us what our responsibility before God is towards our own maturation as the living Body of Christ the Church, is as follows:
God gave Old Covenant Israel, His “first-born son” nation among His many Gentile, prodigal, “other son” nations descended from Adam and Noah, a mission – to be a “holy nation” that would testify God’s truth to the “other son” nations and influence them so as to gradually lead them back to God their Covenant Father. It took a while for Israel to establish itself as the ruling nation in the Promised Land – Joshua succeeded only in establishing Israel’s permanent presence in the Promised Land of Canaan, while huge numbers of Canaanites remained in the land (including the Philistines) and they often ruled over Israel. But once Old Covenant Israel was established as the ruling nation of the Promised Land, by King David, the “man after God’s own heart,” Israel had some early success in its mission, a brief “golden age” of Israel being what it was meant to be in the United Kingdom of Israel under King David and the early reign of his son King Solomon (hence later prophecies would hearken back to this time in their imagery).
All the countries surrounding Israel had become conquered vassal states who came to Israel to pay tribute. Solomon ruled the territory all the way to Egypt and extended the influence of God’s “first-born son” nation Israel also to his ally Egypt and beyond. The Gentile nations were in fact hearing about the True God, the Lord and how wonderful and powerful the Lord was and they were coming to Israel, voluntarily, from all over the world to hear God’s legendary wisdom given to Solomon. Israel God’s “first-born son” nation was influencing the “other son” nations and teaching them about the Lord, as Israel was supposed to do.
But unfortunately, Israel as God’s Covenant Child was still too immature to remain in their early success in the mission God gave them. Solomon himself became half-hearted towards God by the end of his reign and the ideal of the United Kingdom of Israel under the Lord was lost by the next generation in the division of the Northern Kingdom of Israel from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and by both halves of Israel slipping back and forth into idol worship, thus failing to be a mature “first-born son” of God leading the “other son” nations back to the Father, despite their early success.
However, later, once a portion of Israel, the Jews (from the Tribe and Southern Kingdom of Judah), had matured through the Father’s patient upbringing, after the Babylonian Exile, Old Covenant Israel would once again be a true sign of God the Father to the “other son” nations, in a much more consistent way. Never again would Israel, in the Jews, degenerate into idol worship, and they would become known to the nations as consistent in their devotion to the Lord their God. Through their steadfast ministry for the Lord King Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon and King Cyrus of Persia would publicly praise the God of Israel and use their power and influence to encourage the worship of the Lord. Alexander the Great would put the Jews in charge of the great library at Alexandria, the great city in Egypt he had named after himself. The Gentile nations descended from faithful Noah were once again being influenced towards the Lord for their own good by Israel, God’s “first-born son” nation, now more mature. Israel was now more mature, it had recaptured its early success in its mission to influence the Gentiles but in a more consistent way, and it was ready to be transformed into Israel Renewed in Messiah and His Holy Spirit so that it could bring the Gentiles all the way back to God, consistently, in the New Covenant Church of the Messiah.
The New Israel of the Church also had great early success in its greater mission to the world, as the Undivided Early Church of All Nations Restored in Jesus – the Jewish nation and the various Gentile nations together in the one Universal or Catholic Church of Jesus Christ, a Universal/Catholic loving Communion of different Sister Churches sharing a mutually enriching unity in diversity by which the individual “nations, redeemed” of the Sister Churches together made up what Saint Augustine called “the world, redeemed” of the Christian Church. The Christian Church was supposed to represent what the world of nations looked like once it was redeemed by Jesus Christ! And this Undivided Early Church of many nations, redeemed, coexisting in harmony in Christian love while sharing their distinctiveness with each other for mutual benefit in the Ecumenical Councils, had tremendous early success in being what God intended it to be. Empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit which Old Covenant Israel had lacked (but had prepared itself to receive), the New Covenant Israel of the Church succeeded in bringing millions upon millions of Gentiles into the New Covenant Church within the various Gentile Sister Churches within its Universal/Catholic Communion, and within this loving Christian Communion, nations/cultures that were enemies were enemies no longer but were together one loving Family of God through Jesus Christ. Saint Augustine said that “the Church is the world, redeemed” because those portions of the Jewish and Gentile nations of the world which were renewed in Christ together in the loving Universal/Catholic Christian communion showed the world what the world was meant to look like in God’s original plan in creating the world in love and in ensuring the world was made up of many nations by ordering humanity to “fill the Earth” and making sure they did so at Babel.
Unfortunately, just like Old Covenant Israel, the New Covenant Israel of the Christian Church was also initially too immature a Covenant Child to remain in its early success. Like Old Covenant Israel, there would be a “back and forth” cycle – this time of periods of spiritual fervor and renewal followed by periods of laxity and abuses which harmed the Church’s witness of Christ, though the New Covenant Israel being generally more mature, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, ensured that in the backwards motions New Covenant Israel never degenerated near as far as Old Covenant Israel had.
Although the formal and long-term divisions between fundamentally orthodox Christians did not happen until the Second Millennium, the latter half of the First Millennium already showed signs of New Covenant Israel’s immature weakness and inability to maintain the Undivided Early Church’s unity in love. Just like idolatry had been too deeply ingrained in the hearts of Old Covenant Israel to let go of easily after they became nation-sized over 400 years in idolatrous Egypt, and they fell back into it easily after having some early success as the United Kingdom of Israel witnessing the Lord to the nations, so the typical human failing of dividing human beings into “us” and “them” was too deeply ingrained in the hearts of Christians to let go of easily and New Covenant Israel fell back into divisive cultural prejudices easily after having great initial success as the loving Universal/Catholic Communion of Sister Churches, Jew and Gentile, Eastern and Western, one adopted Family of God and one Body of Christ sharing a loving unity in diversity. The “us” and “them” way of looking at different groups of human beings with different ways which still causes wars between countries and political strife or “ethnic cleansing” genocides in countries like Yugoslavia or Rwanda which have more than one nation/culture, was and is still ingrained in Christians despite the universal celebratory love for all mankind Jesus came to establish in us, just like idolatry was still ingrained in the Israelites despite what God intended them to become. Old Covenant Israel lost its early witness to the nations because it was too immature in love to remain consistently faithful to the Lord, and the New Covenant Israel of the Church lost its witness of God’s Universal love for mankind who could be united as one in Jesus because it was too immature in love to fight the ingrained “us” and “them” ways of thinking which eventually tore the one Church of Jesus Christ apart .
Earlier than the second half of the First Millennium, after the original Jewish cultural Sister Church had been absorbed into the Gentile Sister Churches because the numbers of Jewish Christians were too small in any area after the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews, the Gentile Sister Churches eventually adopted policies of requiring Jewish converts to Christianity to renounce their Jewish cultural heritage when they became Christians, even though none of the Gentile (Roman, Greek, Syrian, etc) converts had had to renounce their cultural heritage when they became Christians, but the original Jewish Christians, led by the Holy Spirit in the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council, had only required them to “baptize” their Gentile cultures so they conformed to the norms of the Gospel, washing away only those cultural elements which were truly incompatible with Christianity (the Jewish culture, being strongly rooted in the Old Testament Biblical faith, had much less that required washing away than did the pagan Greek and Roman cultures!) The Gentile Sister Churches were eventually led into adopting these culturally prejudiced policies because of practical problems with “Judaizing” Jewish converts to Christianity who held the opinion condemned at the Acts 15 Jerusalem Council that the original Jewish Christianity was the only proper or best form of Christianity, and problems with distinctly Jewish Christians becoming heretics on the basis of their refusal to submit their Jewish theological traditions to the orthodox Christian faith on the basis of their Jewish cultural prejudice (not everything that was Jewish was good, and Jewish theological traditions included some errors or misunderstandings of the Jewish Scriptures which had led many Jews to not recognize Jesus as Messiah when He came at all). Added to this was the continuing persecution of Christians by the non-Christian majority of Jews, who had used their rare status in the pagan Roman Empire as a legally tolerated religion to persecute the Christians themselves and to deny to the pagan Romans that Christianity was a sect of legal Judaism (as it had initially been considered), which brought the persecution of pagan Rome upon the Christians as well. All this meant that Christians came to see Jews as being either persecutors of the true faith, heretics who denied aspects of the true faith, or Judaizers who tried to make all Christians into Jewish Christians, and in the troubled times of the Early Church it seemed simplest to require new Jewish converts to Christianity to renounce their cultural heritage – a case of the Gentile Churches responding to Jewish cultural prejudice with anti-Jewish cultural prejudice, a very poor solution which led to there being very few Jewish converts to Christianity since then (despite the Jewish Scriptures testifying powerfully to a Messiah very like Jesus Christ), as Jews were required to sacrifice their entire cultural identity to become Christians, an unreasonably difficult sacrifice no Gentile was ever required by God to make, and one against the Biblical principle of the Acts 15 Council that it should not be difficult, and no more burden than is necessary should be required of people coming to God.
Then cultural prejudice between the different Gentile culturally-based Sister Churches reared its ugly head in the Catholic/Universal Christian Communion after the ceasing of regular contact between East and West after the 476 AD Fall of the Western Roman Empire to the barbarians (whose more primitive cultures were despised by the sophisticated Byzantine civilization of the Eastern Roman Empire which had not fallen). There came to be some small and temporary divisions based on Christians of different Gentile Sister Churches judging each other as being wrong for theologically expressing and practically celebrating their common faith differently, and both sides gradually lost sight of their initial wonderfully mutually enriching unity in diversity. Though the small formal divisions were healed and Universal/Catholic Christian unity officially restored in the First Millennium, culturally-based tensions remained and the Eastern and Western Sister Churches, having little contact with each other, got more used to living their common Christian faith in their own way, without often pooling their insights for mutual enlightenment on the infinite mysteries of God revealed in Jesus, though such things did happen in occasional Ecumenical Councils until 1439. Christians from the different Sister Churches gradually started thinking that their own ways of intellectually understanding and practically celebrating their common faith was the only proper or best way, and started wondering if other churches’ faith was different since they expressed it differently – losing sight of the fact the Sister Churches together pooling their different insights into the Triune God they all loved were more than the sum of their parts, losing sight of the fact that together the one Catholic/Universal Church of Jesus Christ was superior to any of its united Sister Churches alone.
With such bad habits of thinking, against the lived reality of the Undivided Early Church which had had such unparalleled success in being what God intended it to be, when the first formal and long-term break between the Christian East and West was forced by the Muslim conquerors of the East in 1472 (the famous 1054 date was neither a total nor permanent break of Universal/Catholic Christian Communion), the majority of the Christian East, used to being on its own and thinking its ways were best, and fearing “Romanization” by Roman Rite Christians who were also used to being on their own and thinking their ways were best, never came back into the Universal/Catholic Christian Communion even when it had opportunity (though substantial minority portions did, including half of Ukraine, and some portions of the Eastern Churches had never been separated, including the entire Eastern Maronite Church). The ancient Catholic/Universal Christian Church now consisted mostly of Roman Rite Catholic Christians who had, like the Eastern Christians, developed bad habits of thinking of their Sister Church as the “best” form of Christianity, and they often failed to properly respect even those smaller portions of the Eastern Sister Churches which remained together in a truly Catholic/Universal Christian Communion with them, with whom they typically had very little contact. When one of the typical “backwards motions” in the New Covenant Family’s life as children of God being patiently raised by Him provoked the Protestant Reformation against abuses in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the Protestant Reformers took with them from Roman Rite Christians not only the Bible and the essential core of orthodox Christian faith but also the bad notion of thinking that there was only “one way” or at least only one “best” way to theologically express and practically live the Christian faith, and so the Protestant churches began with no notion that the Christian Church was meant to be a mutually enriching unity in diversity among different Sister Churches. Each Protestant Reformer thought his way of reforming the Church was the “only” or “best” way (the different major Reformers called each other “sons of Satan” and the like), resulting in dozens of Protestant Reformation Churches which have continued to divide from each other on the basis of later “reformers of the Reformers” also thinking there could only be one proper way of being a fundamentally orthodox Christian (theirs). Thus today there are 35,000 distinct registered Protestant churches worldwide, and even the majority which still share with each other (and with Catholic and Orthodox Christians) the common core of orthodox Christian faith (many others have gone “doctrinally liberal” or unorthodox) still frequently quarrel with each other and cannot exist together in One Church of Christ, which has totally fragmented the original Christian unity in diversity and the great witness it once was to the world of the Love of Christ which transcends all barriers between human beings who are one in God’s adopted Family.
Thus the world which needs to know Jesus today looks upon the Christians who maintain the orthodox faith of the Undivided Early Church as a divided and squabbling bunch of Roman Catholics (whose continued truly Catholic/Universal union with minority portions of all the Eastern Churches is largely unknown), various Eastern Orthodox Churches who have only a very loose and increasingly strained union with each other (there are now even three separate denominations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church!), and 35,000 smaller Protestant churches who often fight with or criticize each other and Catholic and Orthodox Christians – which completely hides any sense of the Christian Church being the answer to the world’s problems because it unifies human beings in love! These divisions among Christians are a major scandal than impedes missionary work in non-Christian lands, as potential converts cannot understand why the Christian Church is divided if Jesus’ love is so great, and the actual new converts are trained to separate themselves from and criticize other Christians than the missionary’s group, maintaining the scandalous divisions.
So like Old Covenant Israel was unable to maintain its early United Kingdom success as a true witness of the Lord to the Gentile nations, despite its early success at converting both Jews and Gentiles and unifying them in one Universal (Catholic) Christian Church, the New Covenant Israel of the Church was unable to maintain its one loving Universal (Catholic) Communion of Sister Churches collectively known as the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ. However, like Old Covenant Israel did in fact eventually mature in love and eventually became consistently zealous for God, so we the New Covenant Israel also can and must mature in love to the point that we consistently overcome the things which have divided us and which thus have greatly marred our collective Christian witness to the world which needs to see the Universal Love of Jesus in us for each other. As Christians with a mission from God to witness His Love to the world of nations we cannot afford any longer to act like the divided Northern Kingdom of Israel and Southern Kingdom of Judah, making war on each other until God scatters us for our sins against love. Like Old Covenant Israel, we are meant to grow up and mature in love and we too can recapture our early success in our mission, but in a more consistent way, as Old Covenant Israel did. When Old Covenant Israel, after the Exile, finally regained its lost status as a nation which truly witnessed the Lord to the nations, it did so much better and more consistently than it had before, because of how it had matured in love. It never lost its zeal for God again because of its greater maturity in love. This is our challenge as the New Covenant Israel of the Church: we also must reestablish our lost unity in diversity, “so that the world will believe,” rebuilding our unity in a more mature fashion which ensures it will not be so easily lost again, showing our Covenant Father that we have matured as He requires of us and that we will take our responsibility to live the mission he gave us, to witness to His Universal Love in the world which overcomes all barriers between human beings and unites them in His Love, more seriously than we have in the past. Family Theology shows us we are the same ongoing Covenant Family since Adam that Old Covenant Israel was, and we know that if they could regain the early success in their mission that they had lost but do it better and more consistently, so can we.
Israel Only Gradually Matured in Faith until it Was Ready for God to Send Jesus the Messiah
It takes a very long time for Israel to become a mature “first-born son” who is consistent at keeping the Mosaic Covenant. Israel’s history from the Egyptian captivity to the Babylonian captivity is one of a constant “back-and-forth” between worshiping God the Covenant Father and worshiping the idols of other powerful nations. In fact, Israel as a whole never achieves maturity – the United Kingdom of Israel is first divided into the (mostly idolatrous) Northern Kingdom of Israel and the (mostly faithful) Southern Kingdom of Judah, and for its idolatry God eventually allows the Northern Kingdom of Israel to be destroyed, its people scattered throughout the world by their Assyrian conquerors. The 10 northern tribes descended from 10 of Jacob/Israel’s 12 sons become the 10 “lost tribes of Israel.” Only the Israelites of the Southern Kingdom of Judah survive as a people. This company consists of a few faithful “refugees” from the earlier destroyed Northern Kingdom Israel, the Levite priests stationed in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, the small tribe of Benjamin and the large, specially blessed Tribe of Judah (which the minority groups intermarried with) – which is why God’s chosen people, the faithful line of the Covenant Family, become known as the Jews – the descendants of Judah. Despite some excellent reforms (such as that under King Josiah) which show the faithful line of the Covenant Family is definitely maturing, even the Jews as a nation continue to waffle back and forth between God and idols until God allows them to be taken into captivity in Babylon, in fulfilment of the curses (set consequences for sin) detailed in the reorganized Mosaic Covenant of Deuteronomy, after God gave Judah many warnings through many prophets who were ignored. God’s disciplinary punishment of exile finally gets through to the Jews, however: the Jews are never again a self-ruling nation after the Babylonian Exile, but they are finally cured of their temptations to worship idols, they have finally matured as the Covenant Family of God enough to never again deny their Covenant Father, and even to die for their faith in God on a regular basis. After they return from the exile under Ezra and Nehemiah, the Jews as a nation become known as truly zealous for God, willing to die rather than deny their faith (as the Jewish martyrs the Maccabees), and it is then that God finally sees that His one faithful Covenant Family which He has raised very patiently since the time of Adam is now ready to be restored to the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
At this point the “Olive Tree” of the faithful line of the Covenant Family had finally, at last, matured enough in love to love God self-sacrificially, to the point of regularly giving up their very lives for love of God, which meant God could now trust they would not take the great gift of supernatural adoption for granted and lose it easily as Adam did. They had already proven that they would not take the lesser gift of Covenant adoption for granted and lose it easily, but would hold on to it even at the cost of their lives, unlike all the previous generations of the Covenant Family who easily fell away from Covenant Family membership in good standing. This is the level of maturity God the Covenant Father had been waiting for, and so it became “the fullness of time” for God to send Jesus Christ the Jew to restore the supernatural adoption first to these mature, faithful (though still imperfect) Jews, who would then become the core of the New Covenant Family, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the long-ago-fallen-away nations.
The New Israel of the Church Is Only Gradually Maturing until it Is Ready for God to Send Jesus the Second Time
The Jews which were renewed in Christ Jesus and the Gentiles which through their ministry were renewed in Christ Jesus would become the Christian Church, the one Universal (Catholic) Church of Jew and Gentile in one Universal New Covenant Family. Those Jews and Gentiles both who did not come into the New Covenant Catholic Church Family are now “the other brother,” and it is the continued mission of the Catholic Church of Jew and Gentile in the one New Covenant Family to bring the other Jews and the other Gentiles back in to the “Olive Tree” of the faithful line of the ongoing Covenant Family since Adam through the New Covenant Church, reconciling them with the Covenant Father with whom they have become estranged in greater or lesser degree (the non-Christian Jews are less estranged from the Covenant Father than are the non-Christian Gentiles, because they are God’s adopted children through the most mature of the Old Testament Covenants).
This Church Family, while achieving a much higher level of holy love with much greater consistency than previous generations in the older covenants, is still working on maturing more and more in the new standards of the New Covenant – the perfection of love – and we have had many substantial failures, as all the older Covenant families before us did in reaching the lesser standard God had set for them. Thankfully the “backwards motions” of the typical “back-and-forth” Covenant Family growth cycle in New Covenant Christian history have gradually become less far back into laxity and abuses (and never into idolatry as in the Old Testament growth cycle). The most notable continuing failure is in the divisions and lack of charity/love among fundamentally orthodox Christians (who all are still “Catholic at heart” by their unswerving devotion to the fundamentals of the ancient Undivided Catholic Christian Church), all of the branches which broke away from full communion with the ancient Catholic Church of Jesus Christ, the Catholic Communion of orthodox Sister Churches, doing so in response to past failures of love among Catholic Christians during “backwards motions” in the typical Covenant Family growth cycle (the New Covenant Catholic Church Family being still imperfect at living the New Covenant as all the previous Covenant Families were inconsistent at living the Covenant). We all long for the fulfillment of our Church Family in the Eternal Covenant of the Kingdom of Heaven (established by Jesus in the Church but not yet fulfilled) at last reaching its fullness when Christ returns. This will likely only happen after the New Covenant Church Family has achieved the general level of maturity in love God wished us to achieve when He initially gave us the New Covenant standard of love to strive for, just as it became “the fullness of time” for God to send Jesus only after the Jews had achieved the general level of maturity – as a nation consistently dying rather than deny the Covenant Father – that He wished them to achieve when He initially gave them their lesser standard of love to strive for.
It will be most helpful for restoring Christian unity for all Christians to stop thinking as if the Christian Church established at the end of the Bible’s account of God’s Family is the end of God’s plan for humanity until Jesus decides to return, instead of understanding the initial establishment of the Christian Church as the beginning of the latest stage in the process of God’s growth plan for His Covenant child humanity descended from Adam. This first kind of thinking leads to some groups of Christians judging other groups of Christians as “less the true church” than they are if they display any kind of imperfection or failure, becoming full of pride as they remain blind to (or more tolerant of) their own imperfections and failures. It is a grave mistake to have the attitude “I belong to the truest or best Church, these other Christians belong to an untrue or inferior expression of the Church, and they should become members of my church to be better” – completely failing to understand the pilgrim nature of the entire New Covenant Church, given a task from the Covenant Father to grow up into the latest (and highest) standard He set for us (the perfection of love), which in humility we all need to keep striving towards (knowing we will often fail), empowered to make gradual progress in love by God’s Grace . The above attitude also completely fails to understand the original nature of the Christian Church as a unity in diversity among Jewish and Gentile Rites or Sister Churches of the One Universal (Catholic) Church, who are necessarily and properly different from each other, so they can enrich and aid each other in progressing towards the common goal and challenge of growing up into the new standard of maturity God has set for His New Covenant Family. Family and Covenant Theology show us that God the Holy Trinity of Divine and Perfect Love is still raising His one ongoing Covenant Family descended from Adam and Noah ever closer towards the full maturity of love, and the New Covenant Christian Church is simply the latest stage in that ongoing process of maturation. Though the Church is truly the last major stage before the prophesied culmination at Christ’s return, we must not fail to recognize in humility that the Church is still God’s child and has a responsibility to grow up into maturity as the Father wishes, according to the new and very high standard that He gave us. We must realize that we all still have a ways to go yet to really please our Father and we must not stop striving for this growth and instead start judging our brothers for our perception of how far they have to go yet. This kind of judging each other of course is what more than anything else hampers the Christian mission to the world and it behooves us to seek the restoration of the ancient Undivided Universal (Catholic) Church of Jew and Gentile (East and West).
It should be easier for us as divided Christians today to forgive each other for the things which separated us in the past, once we understand that God our Covenant Father expected us to be very immature at first when He gave us the New Covenant Law in the Sermon on the Mount – which obligates us to strive for the perfection of love! God our Father expected us His adopted children to be immature, and we are, He expected us to fail at first and we did, but He also expects us to keep striving to mature in love so we can be more like Him. Today is our opportunity to show our Father that we are maturing in love, by starting at last to truly heal our current divisions and recapture our early success in the period of the Undivided Early Church, but more consciously and more effectively so that this time our unity in love will last.
[end of excerpts]
The text content in the following 3 Parts of The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church was originally designed (with graphics which sadly did not transfer to this Internet Edition) as concise “handouts” or “overhead projector transparencies” for use in teaching Family Theology. These and some of the following sections in this “First Draft” of Volume I Chapter 4 were “handouts” for teaching Family Theology and its Ecumenical implications which are also available on this website within the larger collection of “handouts” entitled The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church: An Overview of the Family Theology that Revolutionizes Bible Reading and its Implications Towards the Eventual Re-Establishment of the Undivided Early Church’s Unity in Diversity
The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church
(The Formation of the Different but United Culturally-based Rites of the Universal (Greek Katholikos, or Catholic) Church, the Different ‘Sister Churches’ in the Universal (Catholic) Communion of Sister Churches Known Collectively in the First Millennium as the Catholic Church)
Part 1: The Old Testament History Leading up to the New Covenant Christian Church
- The 7th Day Covenant with ADAM (The Adamic Covenant)
Universal (Catholic) in scope, including all humanity descended from Adam
- The Covenant with Noah (The Noahic Covenant)
Universal (Catholic) in scope, including all humanity descended from Noah
- The Covenant with Abraham (The Abrahamic Covenant)
Limited in scope to Abraham’s descendants, but Universal (Catholic) in purpose, for the blessing of all nations descended from Noah
- The Covenant with Moses (The Mosaic Covenant)
Limited in scope to Israel, but Universal (Catholic) in purpose, to train Israel God’s “first-born son” nation descended from Noah to maturity so it could become a witness to lead the fallen-away “other son” nations back
- The Covenant with David (the Davidic Covenant)
Limited in scope to David’s descendants, but Universal (Catholic) in purpose, for the blessing of all nations descended from Noah
The Bible describes each of the individual Covenants above as “everlasting” because they are all part of the one ongoing Covenant Family of God (“Abel was a Christian”). In the period when each of the Covenants above was the most recent Covenant, God the Covenant Father of Love expected more maturity in love from His adopted Covenant children and often gave them a higher moral standard of love to aim for, beginning a new Covenant each time the new goal was satisfactorily achieved. All the Old Testament Covenants Are Fulfilled in Jesus Christ and His Universal New Covenant Church, Which Is in Covenant Family Continuity with Them: God Has Fathered One Human Family descended from Adam Through Successive Stages Through the Various Covenants.
The Faithful Line of the Covenant Family
(The Ongoing “Olive Tree” Family Tree of God’s Faithful People)
The faithful descendants of Adam (through his son Seth) are:
descended from them (through Noah the last faithful Sethite before the Flood and his son Shem) are:
descended from them (through the Semite Eber) are:
descended from them (through the specially chosen Hebrew Abraham and his grandson Jacob/Israel) are:
descended from them (from the Israelite Tribe [and Southern Kingdom] of Judah) are:
The Fallen-Away ‘Gentile’ Lines of the Covenant Family
In each of the Covenants there are many Covenant children who fell away from faithfulness to their Covenant Father. The Cainite Civilization which corrupted the godly Sethites except Noah was ended by the Flood, but there were many continuing lines of faithful Noah’s descendants who fell away at various times after Noah, becoming ‘Gentiles’, including the Midianites and Arabs (Ishmaelites) descended from Abraham, the whole 10 Northern Tribes of Israel, and many Jews, especially before the Babylonian Exile. After the Exile, however, the Jews had matured tremendously as a nation, they satisfactorily achieved the goal of their 3 non-universal Covenants , proving that as a nation they would now rather die than fall away, meaning they were ready for:
- The New Covenant of Jesus Christ the New ADAM
Universal (Catholic) in scope, composed of Christian Jews and the Gentiles they invited back.
© 2008 Peter William John Baptiste, SFO
The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church
(The Formation of the Different but United Culturally-based Rites of the Universal (Greek Katholikos, or Catholic) Church, the Different ‘Sister Churches’ in the Universal (Catholic) Communion of Sister Churches Known Collectively in the First Millennium as the Catholic Church)
Part 2: The New Testament Spread of the Gospel From Christian (‘Messianic’) Jews to the Gentiles
The faithful line of the legally adopted Covenant Family since Adam, those faithful Sethites and Semites and Hebrews and Israelites known as the Jewish Nation, through God’s very patient fathering throughout the Old Testament’s series of ever-more-mature Covenants, are at last mature enough in love to no longer take legal covenant adoption for granted and lose it easily, meaning they are at last ready for Jesus Christ the New Adam to come from among them and restore to them the supernatural adoption of the indwelling Holy Spirit and not lose it easily as Adam had. Those now-more mature Jews who accept Jesus as their Messiah are thus empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit to at last successfully fulfill the mission God had called Israel from among the nations of descendants of Noah to perform in the first place: To lead the other ‘Gentile’ nations back to the Covenant Father they had left between the time of Noah and the Exile, re-joining the one ongoing Covenant Family since Adam through the New Covenant Christian Church, so that the once-fallen-away Gentiles too, like the Jews from the line which had been faithful to the Covenant Family since Adam, could also receive the restored indwelling Holy Spirit of supernatural adoption which Adam had lost, becoming members of the Body of Jesus Christ the New Adam: the Christian Church.
Through the original Jewish Christians’ ministry, empowered by the Holy Spirit of adoption restored to them by Jesus Christ the New Adam, huge numbers of the unfaithful, fallen-away ‘Gentile’ lines of the legally adopted Covenant Family descended from Adam and Noah are brought back into the faithful line of the one ongoing “Olive Tree” of the faithful People of God through the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, which forms:
The Universal (Catholic) Christian Church of Jew and Gentile
Christ has “created in Himself one new man out of the two (Jew and Gentile)…in this one body He has reconciled both of them to God through the cross” (cf Ephesians 2:15-16). In the “New Israel” of the Catholic, Christian Church, Jew and Gentile are once again one Universal (Catholic) family (as before Abraham was called from among the descendants of Noah), except for those Jews and those Gentiles who refused to join the New Covenant Family. They represent our continued mission as the “New Israel” of the Universal (Catholic) Church of Jesus Christ.
At Pentecost (Acts 2), the Church was born in:
Center of the Jewish Culture as Renewed in Jesus
Center of the Foundational Jewish Rite of the Christian Church
Jesus Christ was Jewish. His Chosen Apostles, and all the first Christians were Jewish and Christian, and in the New Testament they never saw themselves as “ex-Jews.”
Since all Christians were Jewish, many thought that one needed to be Jewish to be saved, and thus that Gentile converts to Christianity should become culturally Jewish and be circumcised, etc. Others, notably Peter and Paul, strongly disagreed. The issue was settled by:
THE COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM (Acts 15)
The Proto-Council and Pattern of All Later Ecumenical (Worldwide) Councils of the Universal (Catholic) Christian Church
This Holy Spirit-guided Council of ordained Apostles and other Christian leaders determined that Gentiles did not need to become culturally Jewish to be saved, they only needed to adjust their cultural practices to the norms of the Christian Gospel, as the Jewish cultural practices had been adjusted (Gentiles only had to abandon certain cultural customs related to sexual immorality and idolatry). At this time in the New Testament, there were two distinct culturally-based Rites of Christianity, both approved of through a formal Council of all the gathered ordained Christian leaders led by the Holy Spirit – Jewish Rite Christianity and Gentile Rite Christianity. Acts 15:1-16:5 and 21:17-26 prove that this multi-ritual form of Christian brotherhood was the norm for the New Testament Church. Both Jews and Gentiles retained their distinct cultural identities when they became Christians, but simply became the very best Jews and Gentiles they could be, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Those of the original Jewish Christians who, either before or after the Council of Jerusalem, sadly did not accept its teaching and insisted Gentiles must become Jewish to be Christian, were called “Judaizers” (whom Paul frequently opposed in his Scriptural letters).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ first spread from Jerusalem to Antioch as the first Gentile “daughter” Church or Rite of the original Jewish Rite Jerusalem Church:
Center of the Jewish Culture as Renewed in Jesus
Center of the Foundational Jewish Rite of the Christian Church
Center of the Syrian Culture as Renewed in Jesus,
the first Gentile culture introduced to Christianity by the original Jewish Christians. The disciples of Jesus were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:19-26).
© 2008 Peter William John Baptiste, SFO
The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the First Millennium of the Undivided Early Church
(The Formation of the Different but United Culturally-based Rites of the Universal (Greek Katholikos, or Catholic) Church, the Different ‘Sister Churches’ in the Universal (Catholic) Communion of Sister Churches Known Collectively in the First Millennium as the Catholic Church)
Part 3: The Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Formation of the Original Pentarchy of Five Patriarchates (Church Provinces) of Different Culturally-Based Sister Churches or Rites Which Together Clearly Articulated and Established the Traditional Essential Fundamentals of Christian Orthodoxy (Against Many Early Christian Heretical Interpretations of the Bible) at the First Millennium Ecumenical (Worldwide) Councils of the Undivided Early Catholic (Universal) Christian Church
Jesus’ Jewish Apostles and the original Jewish Rite Christians, based in Jerusalem, took the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all of the surrounding Gentile (non-Jewish) cultures to the North, South, East, and West, and Christianity gradually settled in the major center of the vast Roman Empire in each general direction, where it gradually formed distinct culturally-based Rites (distinct cultural responses to and expressions and celebrations of the Gospel). These Rites were gradually organized (for accountability to the Gospel and protection against heresy) into distinct cultural ‘Sister Churches’ which looked to the ordained overseer (bishop or eparch) of the nearest major center to settle disputes and set guidelines for Christian worship in each cultural area to ensure no heresies crept into Christian worship liturgies. Each of the first five cultures renewed in Jesus which became organized Sister Churches each celebrating different cultural Rites eventually were formally recognized as legitimate forms of orthodox Christianity at the Early Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church by being declared Patriarchates, the overseer of the major center who pastorally guided each one being declared a Patriarch. The first five Patriarchates were:
Center of the Jewish Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the Foundational Jewish Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church which brought the Gospel to all others.
Center of the Syrian Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the first Gentile Rite of the Christian Church, the Antiochene (or Antiochian) Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church.
Center of the Egyptian Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the Alexandrian Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church.
Center of the Roman Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the Roman Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church.
Center of the Greek Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the Byzantine (Greek) Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church.
These are the original “Pentarchy” of five Christian Patriarchates which together made up the Early Christian Church, the Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches, and these are the “Mother Rites” of all later culturally-based Christian Rites or Sister Churches or Patriarchates formed when missionaries from one of these five Churches evangelized a new culture (in Ethiopia, England, Ukraine, Armenia, Russia, India etc.). This fulfilled the prophecy “Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one” (John 11:51-52). This fulfilled God’s plan since He told Adam and Noah and their descendants to “fill the Earth,” and made sure they did so at Babel. God thus planned the formation of different cultures which, renewed in Christ, would each have a different cultural perspective on the infinite truth of God revealed in Jesus which would give them different insights into Divine Revelation which they would be able to pool together at the Early Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils of the Christian Church so as to together come up with the most accurate and precise understanding of the Christian fundamentals, against many heretical challenges to the saving Christian faith.
© 2008, 2009 Peter William John Baptiste, SFO
Some Undivided Early Church First Millennium Highlights of the Pentarchy of the First Five Christian Patriarchates and their Contributions to the One Universal Church of Christ
THE PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM
Center of the Jewish Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the Foundational Jewish Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church which brought the Gospel to all others
Recognized as a Patriarchate at the 4th Ecumenical Council 451 AD, Which Defined That Jesus Is Fully God and Fully Man Against the Monophysite Christian Heretics
Site of the First Church Council or Proto-Council Recorded in Acts 15, Biblical Pattern of All Later Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church
The Early Church Fathers such as Saint Jerome report that no Jewish Christians died in the First Jewish War of 70 AD in which the Temple was destroyed (in fulfilment of much Biblical prophecy including that of Jesus in Matthew 24), because the Jewish Christians recognized the signs of Jesus’ warnings and got out of the city. After the non-Christian Jews under false messiah Simeon bar Cochba lost the Second Jewish War of 135 AD, the pagan Romans scattered the Jews from their homeland until modern times (the re-establishment of the Jewish State of Israel in 1948), building the Roman city of Aelia Capitolina over the ruins of Jerusalem. Biblical, Second Temple Era Judaism ended with the destruction of the Temple and priesthood and the destruction of Israel as a nation in their own land, which necessitated that Judaism be recodified and regularized if it was to survive at all, and so it was that the rabbis of the Pharisees, the only Jewish leaders (of many previous different sects) to survive the Second Jewish War, started codifying all Judaism in a “final form” (an anti-Christian form), in the Mishnah and Talmud, as the official interpretive guides to practising the Jewish faith without a Temple or priests or land (this is modern Judaism, which is younger than Christianity). Meanwhile the foundational Jewish Rite of the Catholic Christian Church, which was the portion of God’s “first-born son” nation of Israel which accepted its true Messiah and in the power of the Holy Spirit finally fulfilled the mission God had given Israel of bringing the fallen-away “other son” nations descended from faithful Noah back to God within the Universal (Catholic) Christian Communion, because it was a minority of Jews even before the Jews were scattered abroad, did not survive as a distinct Christian Rite but the few Jewish Rite Christians in any given area were gradually absorbed into the mass ranks of Gentile Christians through intermarriage and so on. Possibly this was God’s will so that the Gentile Rites could establish themselves without being inappropriately dominated by the Foundational Rite which even in New Testament times struggled with the temptation of “Judaizing” the new Gentile Christians, and also so that the majority non-Christian Jews could eventually enter the Universal (Catholic) Christian Communion exactly the same way the Gentile Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, and Syrians had entered it – humbly, as a nation once fallen away from God’s ongoing Covenant Family since Adam, but restored in Christ Jesus, with a distinct cultural response to and celebration of the Gospel of Jesus which enriches all the others within the Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion.
Even though Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews scattered and a pagan Roman city built on top of its ruins, because it was the birthplace of the Church Jerusalem remained very special to all Christians. Even though the original Jewish Rite of the Christian Church centered in Jerusalem did not survive the scattering of the Jews (and even though the unfortunate policy of assimilation of individual Jewish converts had entered the Church), when the Early Christian Church had Ecumenical Councils which established the fundamentals of orthodox Christianity and which formally recognized the four major different Gentile cultural Sister Churches centered in Antioch, Alexandria, Rome and Constantinople as Patriarchates, Christians could not imagine the Holy City of Jerusalem not also being given the dignity and honor of being recognized as a Patriarchate. Thus even though it had become mostly Gentile and was not a major center of Christianity whose overseer/bishop pastorally guided a Christian Rite followed by vast numbers of Christians, like all the other Patriarchates were, Jerusalem was still declared a Patriarchate, specifically in honor of the original (Jewish Rite) Christian Church of Jerusalem which brought the Gospel of Jesus to all the other Rites. If the current Association of Hebrew Catholics and/or other Jewish faith communities which seek to embrace Jesus as Israel’s Messiah (as (‘Messianic Jews’ have) are ever formally made into a new Hebrew or Jewish Rite of the Catholic Church in the process of the Catholic Church’s reforming itself according to the model of the Undivided Early Catholic Church, as the Catholic Church’s 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) prepares the way for, the new Hebrew/Jewish Rite should most appropriately be established under the ancient Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
© 2008 Peter William John Baptiste SFO
THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH
Center of the Syrian Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the first Gentile Rite of the Christian Church, the Antiochene (or Antiochian) Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church
Recognized as a Patriarchate at the 1st Ecumenical Council 325 AD, Which Defined That Jesus Is God, One in Being with the Father, Against the Arian Christian Heretics
Antioch has the distinction of being the first Gentile “daughter Church” of the original Jewish Jerusalem Church, and furthermore, the disciples of Jesus were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:19-26). Antioch was the site of one of two first famous theological schools of the Christian Church, the School of Antioch . This school did much to develop the Early Church’s theological understanding of the true humanity of Jesus, and of the ‘literal sense’ of the Scriptures upon which any ‘spiritual senses’ must be based. Antiochene Christian missionaries spread the Gospel of Jesus eastward and the ‘Daughter Rites’ of the Antiochene Patriarchate include the Malabarese and Malankarese Rites in India, which traditionally were first begun by St. Thomas the Apostle himself (recent archeology seems to confirm this tradition).
Several things about the ancient Patriarchate of Antioch relate to the future conscious restructuring of the Catholic Church according to the Undivided Early Catholic Church model. First of all, the Antiochene Maronite Rite in Lebanon and Malabarese Rite in India are of the few Eastern Catholic Churches which were never even temporarily separated from the ancient Catholic (Universal) Communion of Christian East and West by the Muslim conquerors of the Christian East.
Second of all, the Armenian Rite, one of the mature ‘Daughter Rites’ of the ancient Antiochene Patriarchate which has been recognized as a Patriarchate of its own, produced an Armenian Catholic Patriarch (Gregory Peter Cardinal Agagianian) who as recently as 1958 was considered a frontrunner among the Cardinals to be elected pope of the Catholic Church, which would have been the first time a non-Roman Rite Catholic was made pope in over 1000 years (which certainly would have reminded the world that the Catholic Church is much more than the huge Roman Catholic Church, reminding them that one does not even have to be Roman Catholic to be made pope – in fact over 20 popes of the First Millennium’s Undivided Early Catholic Church were not Roman Catholics before being made pope). It turned out that the Holy Spirit had something even better in mind for the 1958 conclave than an Eastern Catholic being made pope however; Roman Catholic Cardinal Roncalli was elected pope instead, and as (Blessed) Pope John XXIII, he called the Second Vatican Council, which was the first Ecumenical Council in Christian history to prayerfully consider and, with the Holy Spirit’s aid, dogmatically define the ancient nature and structure of the Undivided Early Catholic Christian Church, which has paved the way for the future conscious re-establishment of the Early Church’s unity in diversity among different but mutually enriching Christian Sister Churches. At this Council the current huge Roman Rite majority of the Catholic Church Communion started learning to properly understand and respect the “fully equal dignity” of the current minority Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church and no longer inappropriately dominate them.
Thirdly, the Chaldean Rite of the Catholic Church, another Daughter Church of the ancient Antiochene Patriarchate, sets an important precedent for the reunification of the Christian Church. The Chaldeans were originally Antiochene Christians who left the Undivided Early Catholic Church after the 3rd Ecumenical Council of 431 AD to follow the Nestorian heresy which did not accept that Jesus was one Person with two natures, divine and human, as the 3rd Ecumenical Council dogmatically defined against Nestorius who had taught that Jesus was two people, the merely human Jesus inhabited or possessed by the Divine Christ. These heretics recanted their serious Christological heresy in the 16th Century and asked to be reunified with the Catholic Church they left in the 5th Century. On the basis of their accepting the orthodox Christian faith these former Eastern heretics were accepted back into the Catholic Communion of East and West as the Chaldean Rite of the Catholic Church, wherein they continued to practice all of their Christian worship and devotional customs developed within their thousand year separation from the Catholic Church which were not directly based on their former heresy but based on the large amount of orthodox Christian faith they had maintained the whole time. This is an important precedent because the Eastern Orthodox and conservative/Evangelical Protestant churches of today do not differ with the Catholic Church on anything remotely so serious as the Nestorian heresy, which means that once both sides work out mutually agreed solutions to their current (very few) substantial disputes over much lesser matters, there should be no problem with them rejoining the ancient Catholic Communion and, as new Catholic Rites, continuing to practice all of their distinct worship and devotional customs which are based on the vast amount of common faith they already share with the Catholic Church – by which they will enrich the Catholic Communion.
© 2008 Peter William John Baptiste SFO
THE PATRIARCHATE OF ALEXANDRIA
Center of the Egyptian Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the Alexandrian Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church
Recognized as a Patriarchate at the 1st Ecumenical Council 325 AD, Which Defined That Jesus Is God, One in Being with the Father, Against the Arian Christian Heretics
Since before Christ Alexandria in Egypt had been a major center of the Jewish diaspora. The story is told that Alexander the Great (from whom the city gets its name) honored the Jewish High Priest and had the Jews run the famous library of Alexandria. Seventy Jewish scholars there translated the Jewish Bible into Greek, the famous Greek Septuagint (LXX) version of the Old Testament Scriptures (named after the “seventy” – Latin LXX – scholars), which was the version of the Jewish Bible used all over the diaspora and by Christ’s Apostles who wrote the New Testament in Greek and quoted the Old Testament from the Septuagint. The Apostle Apollos, mentioned ten times in the New Testament (in Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Titus), was a learned Alexandrian Jew who became a Christian (Acts 18:24-28) and did much to spread the Gospel. With such a reputation for scholarship, it is not surprising that Alexandria was the site of the other of the two great theological schools of the Early Church, the School of Alexandria . Saint Clement of Alexandria is one of the most famous very early Christian theologians of this school. The School of Alexandria did much to develop the Early Church’s theological understanding of the Divinity of Jesus, and of the ‘spiritual senses’ of the Scriptures (built upon the literal sense but going beyond it thanks to the Divine Holy Spirit’s co-authorship of the Bible with the inspired human author – orthodox Christianity depends upon spiritual exegesis [exegesis means “to draw out” the meaning of the Bible], which is one reason why modern liberal Protestant scholarship’s over-emphasis on the literal sense has resulted in their loss of Christian orthodoxy – some liberal Protestant scholars even accuse Paul of abusing the Bible with his spiritual exegesis of the Old Testament in his New Testament letters. Some conservative Protestants similarly accuse the Catholic Church of interpretational “excesses” because they do not understand the rules governing spiritual exegesis and they mistakenly think just any speculation on the meaning of the Bible can be called a “spiritual sense”).
Probably the single greatest contribution of the ancient Alexandrian Patriarchate to the whole Universal (Catholic) Christian Church was the Canon of the New Testament in the 4th Century after Christ . While there were early heretical Christians who had some different books in their New Testament Scriptures (such as the heretical Gospel of Thomas which has become popular among liberal/unorthodox Protestant Christians today), the early orthodox Christians in different areas had a variety of different collections of the New Testament as well (though nothing in their collections was heretical). Jesus did not write a book, and He did not tell His followers to wait for a book: Instead He founded a Living Faith Community He called the Church which He promised His Holy Spirit would guide into all the truth (John 16:13), a Church which the Apostle Paul in his letters said was united to Christ in such a “profound mystery” (Ephesians 5:32) that the Church was the Body of Christ Himself and “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). This Living Faith Community and Body of Christ the Church wrote many books in the decades following Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven, many of which were eventually regarded as inspired Scripture on a par with the inspired Old Testament which was the original Bible of the Christian Faith Community, but the collections of such books varied from local community to local community of orthodox Christians. The four Gospels and the letters of Paul were widely regarded as belonging to the New Testament Scriptures, but beyond this many New Testaments of the first centuries did not have books like Hebrews, Revelation, 2, 3 John, 2 Peter, James, Jude, and so on, and many orthodox New Testaments had books like the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didaché, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistles of Clement to the Corinthians, and so on. To settle controversies with Christian heretics, the Church, as the Living Body of Christ and “pillar and foundation of the truth,” held many local Councils of ordained Christian overseers (bishops or eparchs) and two Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils which dogmatically declared the foundational Christian beliefs in the Divinity of Jesus (325 AD) and the Divinity of the Holy Spirit and true humanity as well as divinity of Jesus (381 AD) before the Church settled the question of just which books which were beloved Christian heirlooms from the 1st Century definitely belonged in the New Testament Scriptures. It was Patriarch Saint Athanasius of Alexandria who was the first person to put together the traditional 27-book New Testament as all Christians know it today (except his list was in different order), in 367 AD.
Athanasius’ list was used as Scripture in the Alexandrian Patriarchate under his jurisdiction but not in the whole Universal (Catholic) Christian Church. Two local Councils of ordained Christian overseers/bishops in the general vicinity of Alexandria met to discuss the issue of the New Testament Canon, in 393 AD at Hippo and in 397 AD at Carthage, and they both agreed with Patriarch Athanasius’ list, arranging it in the order we know today, but said that it had to be confirmed by “the Church across the sea” in Rome. Pope Innocent I in Rome gave his confirmation of Athanasius’ Alexandrian collection of the New Testament in 405 AD, ending all dispute among Christians as to the Canon of the New Testament – until modern liberal Protestant Christians, who on the basis of the Protestant belief that “the Bible Alone has authority over a Christian’s faith,” do not accept the ancient Church’s authority as the Body of Christ to authoritatively settle disputes among Christians for all time, including Christian disputes over just which parts of the Catholic Church’s traditional New Testament really are inspired and therefore actually have the “sole authority” over a Christian’s faith. Therefore such Protestant Christians have started questioning the Bible’s traditional Canon and sometimes promoting the heretical Gospel of Thomas and other works declared heretical by early Church’s authority which as Protestants they do not consider to be binding on their Christian faith.
The Alexandrian Patriarch Saint Athanasius himself must be considered one of the great contributions of the Alexandrian Patriarchate to the Christian Church entire, not only for being the first person to put together the Canon of the New Testament but also for being the greatest defender of the Divinity of Jesus against the Arian heresy (which denied the full Divinity of Jesus), which rocked the Church with controversy throughout the 4th Century. Many consider Saint Athanasius the greatest of the “Doctors” (Latin, literally “teachers”) of the Early Church, that is, the theologians who did the most to help clarify and articulate the fundamentals of orthodox Christianity in clear and concise formulas, against many early Christian heresies. Saint Athanasius wrote the Athanasian Creed, which is known as the “third” great Creed of Early Christianity (after the earlier Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed), which beautifully and thoroughly describes the true Divinity of Jesus Christ.
Though there were many heresies before and after, the Arian heresy of the 4th Century stands out as the worst one, which took the longest for the Church to defeat, because the Arian Christians had a sophisticated and thorough interpretation of the Bible (though the full Canon of the Bible had not yet been confirmed, they knew all the books which were considered Scriptural) which denied the full Divinity of Jesus. Since the Arian Christians, as the orthodox Christians of the time, spoke Biblical (Koine) Greek as a first language, they knew that their interpretation of the Bible was linguistically valid even though it was not the interpretation handed down in the Church’s largely implicit Apostolic Sacred Tradition of how to interpret the Scriptures. Thus, even though the 1st Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 AD declared (on the basis of Sacred Tradition) that the Bible must be interpreted to mean, as was traditional, that Jesus was Divine, specifically “one in being with the Father,” the Arian heretics simply replied that they were not bound to follow the Council’s interpretation of the Bible, since the Bible (Alone) did not specifically say that Jesus and the Father were one in being. It was linguistically valid to interpret that the Bible verse where Jesus says “the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28) was an interpretive key for other Scriptures, so that when Jesus said “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) it meant oneness of purpose not of being, priority being given to “the Father is greater than I” instead of being given to “I and the Father are one” as in the orthodox (and Sacred Traditional) interpretation of the Bible, which interpreted “the Father is greater than I” to mean Jesus was speaking from His human nature (as He does when He says “I am thirsty”) and not from His Divine nature. This controversy over Bible interpretation split the Church in half for most of the 4th Century, as most Christians became unsure of which interpretation was correct and whether or not an Ecumenical Council had the authority to settle the issue (these were called “Semi-Arians” by orthodox, that is, Catholic, Christians). Saint Athanasius was exiled several times by Arian Christian rulers for championing the orthodox interpretation of the Divinity of Jesus (and was sheltered by the Pope in Rome). At last the Semi-Arian majority was won over to the orthodox position confirmed by the 2nd Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 381 AD which re-affirmed the Divinity of Jesus as proclaimed at the 325 AD 1st Ecumenical Council the Arian heretics had rejected, and also formally affirmed the Divinity of the Holy Spirit (which confirmed the traditional Christian belief in the Trinity, another word not in the Bible (Alone) which had also been challenged by heretics). This Council in Constantinople in the East was not in itself truly Ecumenical (worldwide), since no Western Christian overseers/bishops were present, but Pope Saint Damasus in the West in 382 AD confirmed the findings of the Eastern Council and declared the Council therefore had Ecumenical (worldwide) authority over the entire Universal (Catholic) Christian Church. The Early Church learned through the nearly one century-long Arian crisis that in order to preserve the true sense of the saving Christian faith of the original Apostolic Community through all eras of history with their ever-new challenges to Christian orthodoxy, the Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils of the gathered Christian overseers ordained in line from the original Apostles, who were charged with guarding the Apostolic faith which had been handed down (Latin tradere) to them in a Living Sacred Tradition (Latin traditio), as one generation of Christians introduced the next personally to Jesus, must be considered authoritative: the Church learned through the Arian crisis that the Ecumenical Councils which settled major Christian disputes, patterned after the Acts 15 Jerusalem Proto-Council, must be considered (like the Acts 15 Council) as the Holy Spirit speaking through the Church as the Living Body of Christ Himself and therefore as “the pillar and foundation of the truth,” as the Bible calls the Church (1 Timothy 3:15), guided into “all the truth” by the Holy Spirit as per Jesus’ promise, or else the very core of saving Christian faith itself could be lost. The Arian Christians, who started off as good Christians reading the Bible as the inspired Word of God, seeking to defend monotheistic Christianity from the polytheistic pagans about them (who found the non-Biblical word “Trinity” sounded a lot like three gods), came up with a sophisticated and thorough Biblical interpretation which was against the interpretation which had been at least implicitly passed on in the Church’s Living Sacred Tradition since Apostolic times. As a baby knows its mother but cannot intellectually articulate the experience yet, so the Church knew its Lord and Savior Jesus Christ but had not yet developed clear and concise intellectual articulations of all it knew. It was the very fact of the Arians coming up with clear and concise statements against the more implicit Sacred Tradition which made firmly orthodox Christians know immediately something was wrong about the Arian interpretation, which forced them to figure out exactly what was wrong, and to make their implicit faith more explicit in clear and concise (non-Biblical) phrases like “Jesus is one in being with the Father,” which the 1st Ecumenical Council declared was the only orthodox way to interpret the Bible so that it matched the Church’s constant but implicit Sacred Tradition. The Arian heretics temporarily confused the Church as a whole over the 4th Century by refusing to submit to the first Council’s declaration on the basis of the Arian theory that only the Bible text itself had authority over their Christianity and not the 1st Ecumenical Council of the Church. Having learned through the Arian crisis the importance of recognizing the Ecumenical Councils as the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit speaking through the Church as Christ’s Body on Earth, the Second and later Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Early Church were considered by all to have this definite authority of Christ the Head speaking through His Body the Church, led into “all the truth” by the Holy Spirit as per Jesus’ promise, and thus the later Ecumenical Councils much more quickly and effectively and finally settled the later major controversies among early Christians when they defined the rest of the fundamentals of traditional, orthodox Christianity (those who like the Arian heretics did not accept a Council’s judgements became breakaway heretical churches, most of which died out but a few of which survive to this day, like the Nestorian and Monophysite churches known as today’s “Lesser Eastern Churches”).
Since the Arian heresy thrived for many decades after the 1st Ecumenical Council declared the Arian Bible interpretation heretical, on the basis of people accepting or considering the Arian theory that the text of the Bible “Alone” and not the Ecumenical Councils of the Church had authority over Christian faith, it is no surprise that the great many Arian heretics today (or Semi-Arians, who are unsure of whether or not Jesus is God) are all Protestant Christians from the oldest and largest Protestant “mainline” denominations, those older churches most mature in their Protestantism, who follow Luther’s “Bible Alone” doctrine which is very similar to the argument the ancient Arian heretics used to justify their rejecting the 1st Ecumenical Council’s precise definition of the fundamental Christian doctrine that Jesus is Divine.
Since Saint Athanasius, as the Patriarch of the Alexandrian Rite of the Undivided Universal (Catholic) Church of the First Millennium, is the greatest “Doctor” or Teacher of the Early Church, who first put together the traditional Canon of the New Testament as all Christians know it today and who did the most to defend the Divinity of Jesus Christ against the Arian heretics who denied it and against the temporary majority of Semi-Arians who were unsure of it due to the strength of the Arian arguments (from “the Bible Alone”), the contribution of the Alexandrian Patriarchate to the Christian Church entire must be said to be incalculable, despite the misfortunes later suffered by the Patriarchate of Alexandria (discussed in the next section on the Patriarchate of Constantinople).
© 2008 Peter William John Baptiste SFO
THE PATRIARCHATE OF BYZANTIUM/ CONSTANTINOPLE
Center of the Greek Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the Byzantine (Greek) Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church
Recognized as a Patriarchate at the 4th Ecumenical Council 451 AD, Which Defined That Jesus Is Fully God and Fully Man Against the Monophysite Christian Heretics
Byzantium was renamed Constantinople by Roman Emperor Constantine who moved his capital there (he ended the Roman persecution of Christianity in 313 AD). The Eastern (Christian) “Byzantine Empire” centered there lasted almost 1000 years after the fall of the Western (Christian) Roman Empire fell to barbarian invaders in 476 AD, lasting until the Muslim conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The stability of the Byzantine Empire helped the Byzantine/Greek Rite of the Church to reach out to the world and so the Patriarchate of Constantinople has the largest number of daughter Rites or daughter Churches, distinct Eastern cultures renewed in Jesus through the ministry of Byzantine/Greek Christian missionaries, notably Saints Cyril and Methodius, known as the “Apostles to the Slavic Peoples,” whose groundbreaking missionary work was given hearty approval by the Pope in Rome when they sought it from him. Though each have their cultural distinctives, the ritual Christian worship of the many Byzantine daughter Churches retained much from their Greek “Mother Rite” based in Constantinople which brought the Gospel to them, notably the beautiful, completely-sung Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom who was Archbishop or Archeparch of Constantinople before it was declared a Patriarchate headed by a Patriarch. While the Roman Patriarchate (discussed next) emphasized the Passion and Death of Jesus in its ritual, the Byzantine Patriarchate emphasized the Resurrection of Jesus and the Eternal Life He won for us, which emphasis perhaps led to the development of very beautiful, “heavenly” typically Byzantine expressions of Christian worship in music, architecture and artwork. Constantinople became famous for the Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom, the largest and most beautiful Church in all of Christendom. Byzantine religious art or icons are still greatly admired and borrowed by Western Christians, both Roman Catholic and Protestant. The story is told of how when Vladimir, the ruler of Kiev (capital of Ukraine and first capital of Russia) wanted a common religion to unify his people and sent emissaries to investigate the religious options, the delegation to Constantinople, experiencing the beautifully sung Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom resounding through the vast Hagia Sophia Church, its great dome and its walls covered in glittering gold and beautiful mosaics and other icons, reported to the king “we did not know if we were in Heaven or on Earth” and heartily recommended (Byzantine Rite) Christianity be adopted by the kingdom, which it was, heartily, in 988 AD.
The older Eastern Patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria had been devastated in the First Millennium. The Nestorians, heretics mostly of the Antiochene Rite, did not accept the 3rd Ecumenical Council of 431 AD which dogmatically clarified that the Bible must be interpreted to mean that Jesus is one Person with two natures, Divine and human, and broke away from the Catholic (Universal) Church Communion. The Monophysites, heretics mostly of the Alexandrian Rite, did not accept the 4th Ecumenical Council of 451 AD which dogmatically clarified that the Bible must be interpreted to mean more specifically that Jesus is in fact “fully God and fully man,” and they also broke away from the Catholic (Universal) Church. Both the unorthodox/heretical Nestorian and Monophysite churches are still around today as the small “Lesser Eastern Churches.” With so many Eastern heretics around, the 5th Century Eastern Sister Churches still in the Catholic Church Communion started calling themselves “Eastern Orthodox Churches” to clarify that they were Eastern Churches who belonged to the Catholic Communion of Western and Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches and were not Eastern heretical Churches . What remained of the Antiochene and Alexandrian Patriarchates after the heretics left was later mostly wiped out by Muslim conquest, and the Patriarch of Constantinople came to influence what was left of the these older Patriarchates, as well as the Jerusalem Patriarchate which was always small since the pagan Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews. With such influence over the other 3 ancient Eastern Christian Patriarchates, the Patriarch of Constantinople is still known as the “Ecumenical Patriarch” of the Christian East today, though his city is now called Istanbul in the Muslim country of Turkey. The Muslim conquerors of Constantinople in 1453 later, in 1472, forced the separation of the Eastern Christians under their dominion from the Catholic Church Communion of West and East which had recently been joyfully reaffirmed at the 1439 17th Ecumenical Council . The Muslims did this because Catholic Church popes in the West had sent Crusaders to free the Holy Land from Muslim dominion, and the First Crusade had even protected Constantinople from being overrun by Muslims centuries earlier. Since the Patriarch of Constantinople influenced all of the Eastern Patriarchates, the Muslim-forced separation resulted in the creation of today’s Eastern Orthodox Churches of all Eastern Patriarchates which are no longer Catholic, no longer part of the Universal (Catholic) Christian Communion of the Eastern and Western Patriarchates. Some of the Eastern Sister Churches (like the Antiochene Maronite Rite) were never out of the Catholic (Universal) Communion, and portions of all of the others later came back into the Catholic Church Communion of Eastern and Western Sister Churches afterwards, including half of the Byzantine Ukrainian Church in 1595, after 123 years out of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion.
© 2008 Peter William John Baptiste SFO
THE PATRIARCHATE OF ROME
Center of the Roman Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the Roman Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church
Recognized as a Patriarchate at the 1st Ecumenical Council 325AD, Which Defined That Jesus Is God, One in Being with the Father, Against the Arian Christian Heretics
Since Rome was the center of the vast Roman Empire, people from all over came to live in Rome, making it a very multi-cultural city though predominantly Roman. As such, the Christian Rite of Rome was more than just one culture’s response to and expression and celebration of the Gospel. This meant the Rite of Rome was more flexible than that of the other cultures renewed in Jesus, which is one of the reasons that the Roman Rite has changed its ritual Christian worship more often than any other Christian Rite (though another reason for this is that all of the four Eastern Patriarchates were eventually militarily conquered by the Muslims, meaning that Eastern Christians had to work hard to preserve both their culture and their distinct cultural expression of the Gospel [their Rite] against a greater culture hostile to Christianity, which meant of necessity that their ritual forms became more fixed and rigid, since they did not have the luxury the Roman Patriarchate did of being free to develop and change with the times as a Christian culture).
After the (Western) Roman Empire fell (the Byzantine Empire was the Eastern half of the ancient Roman Empire) to the invasions of various barbarian tribes in 476 AD, the Church’s leadership structure was the only organization left functional. The Pope in Rome, the Patriarch of the Roman Patriarchate, sent missionaries (mostly of the relatively new Benedictine religious order) all over barbarian Western Europe, eventually successfully bringing the Gospel of Jesus to the various barbarian tribes and civilizing the barbarians. The finalization of this accomplishment was done non-ideally, by Charlemagne in the 9th Century (whose grandfather Charles Martel “the Hammer” had protected Western Christendom from falling to Muslim conquest as much of Eastern Christendom had). Charlemagne militarily conquered the last of the barbarians who were either pagans or Arian heretical Christians (the Arian heretics had had successful missions in barbarian territory even though the Arian heresy within the Roman Empire had been defeated by the Second Ecumenical Council). Charlemagne imposed orthodox Christianity upon his conquered subjects, which was not ideal, but at least the conquered barbarians did not feel abused by this as it was normal for the tribal chieftain to decide which god was worshiped, and Charlemagne, realizing that Christianity must ideally be accepted freely, made sure that missionary schools were readily available throughout his new “Holy Roman Empire” to train the next generation of conquered barbarians so they would know and be likely to freely accept orthodox Christianity (Charlemagne’s far-reaching educational reforms are known as “the Carolingian Renaissance”). This was successful, and until modern times all of Western Europe felt privileged and proud to be known as Christian Europe, the advanced civilization it spread over all the globe through its colonies known as “Western Christian Civilization.”
The evangelization and civilization of all Western Europe by Roman Rite Christian missionaries (both before and after Charlemagne conquered Europe) meant that all of Western Europe, despite the cultural differences between the tribes and later countries of Europe, had a common “cultural baseline” in the Roman culture of the Roman Catholic missionaries who evangelized and civilized all of Western Europe. This, together with the fact that the Roman Rite had been the most flexible of the Christian Rites from the beginning because Rome was a multi-cultural city, resulted in the Roman Patriarchate not forming distinct daughter Rites and daughter Churches near as much as the Eastern Patriarchates did. Instead, major cultural responses to the Gospel within the Roman Patriarchate such as the Celtic Rite and the Gallican Rite ended up being “mainstreamed,” absorbed into the Roman Rite as a whole but altering it, leaving their permanent mark on it. For example, Roman Catholic liturgy was quite “bare,” utilitarian, like the Roman culture which had militarily conquered and organized the known world but had had to borrow its religion and philosophy and arts from Greece, until the Gauls (later Franks, ancestors of the modern French) became Christian, and the Gallican Rite once absorbed into the mainstream Roman Rite made Roman Catholicism as a whole much more ‘flowery’ and poetic in its Christian worship than it had been. The North African Roman Rite Church of Saint Augustine (the greatest Western theologian of the Early Church, who became the Roman Catholic bishop of Hippo just shortly after the 393 AD Council of Hippo which first confirmed Saint Athanasius’ list of the New Testament Canon) was distinct enough from the Roman Rite in continental Europe that it may have become a distinct Roman “daughter Church” (recognizably Roman yet culturally distinct, as the distinct Byzantine daughter Churches are recognizably Greek) had it not been utterly destroyed by the Muslim conquerors of North Africa.
The island of Britain, like North Africa, was also not as “attached” to continental Europe and Roman Rite Christianity there also took on the character of a distinct ‘daughter’ Rite or Church, which was effectively the Anglican Rite of the Catholic Church, with the Archbishop of Canterbury (who still heads the Protestant Anglican Communion today) effectively functioning as its head overseer – to use Eastern terms, as the metropolitan or ‘patriarch’ of the Anglican Rite. The Church of England was founded originally by Saint Augustine of Canterbury who was sent to evangelize England by Pope Saint Gregory the Great, and it remained a Catholic Rite, effectively a Roman Catholic daughter Church (even though the West was not so used to such terms because it had so few compared to the East), until the schism of English King Henry VIII who broke the Church of England (with its distinctly English Rite or “Use”) away from the Catholic Church when the pope refused to allow him to divorce his wife who had not given him a son. Thus the major distinct daughter Rites of the Roman Patriarchate were either absorbed into the mainstream Roman Rite or lost to the Catholic Communion, and most of today’s Roman daughter Rites are small and local, like the Ambrosian and Mozaribic and Bragan Rites.
All of the Patriarchs were at one time called Popes, both the word Pope and Patriarch being derived from the word Father, since the Christian Family of the Church is a family communion of those adopted by God, and leadership roles in the Church are roles of pastoral guidance of the family. But the word pope eventually became reserved for the head overseer of the Church, the chief bishop, who resided in Rome, where Peter died. Since in the New Testament accounts Peter is easily recognized as the Chief Apostle, who usually speaks for all of the Apostles and whom Jesus sets apart to give special commissions He gives to no other Apostle (most notably the keys of the Kingdom, which in the Old Testament the Davidic King gave to the man who would function as the “Prime Minister” of Israel, running the daily affairs of the Kingdom on behalf of the Davidic King – the Davidic King Jesus had just announced Himself to be, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey as David’s immediate son Solomon had done when he was crowned King), the Early Church instinctively recognized the Christian overseer/bishop of Rome where Peter died as having pastoral responsibility from Jesus (the King) beyond that of the other overseers (bishops or eparchs) the Apostles had ordained to lead and teach the Church (the portion of the Earth which already acknowledges Jesus as King) after them (see So That The World May Believe Volume III’s Chapter 4). Thus the Bishop of Rome exercised authority in the settling of disputes among Christians far outside of his own local Roman jurisdiction right since Apostolic times, as in Clement of Rome who settled a dispute in far away Corinth while the Apostle John was alive and closer to Corinth, and Clement’s 1st Century letter to the Corinthians was so highly regarded by the earliest Church that it was part of many orthodox Christian New Testament collections until the Catholic Church fixed the New Testament Canon between 367-405 AD. Most of the Early Ecumenical Councils were presided over by those the Pope in Rome chose, and the same Early Ecumenical Councils which established basic Christian orthodoxy against the heretics, and established the Patriarchates as Church provinces, also formally recognized the Pope in Rome as the Successor of Peter and therefore as Head Pastor of the entire Universal (Catholic) Christian Church, notably in the 3rd, 4th, and 6th Ecumenical Councils, where the papacy is mentioned in the Acts of the Councils as something clearly accepted by all of the Sister Churches in the Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion of East and West.
The historical details laid out in So That the World May Believe Volume III’s Chapter 5 demonstrate beyond doubt the existence of the papacy in at least implicit form since Apostolic times, becoming a clearly defined and explicit part of orthodox Christian faith at the same time Jesus’ nature as “fully God and fully man” did, these two doctrines in fact being related, since it was Pope Saint Leo the Great who articulated this doctrine, the “crown” of the Church’s Christology, and who used “the keys of the kingdom” Jesus gave to Peter to “bind on earth and in heaven” to in fact bind the Church to interpret the Bible this orthodox way, since some of the Eastern bishops at the 451 AD 4th Ecumenical Council called by Leo were willing to compromise with the heretics by adopting a less precise and clear dogmatic definition. Just a few decades afterwards Patriarch Acacius of Constantinople wrote a compromise formula (the Henoticon) to be used instead of “Jesus is fully God and fully man,” to make the Monophysite heretics happy, and he attempted to excommunicate the Pope in Rome for his opposition to the Henoticon. This brief “Acacian Schism” was settled by the whole Church accepting the 517 AD Creed of Pope Saint Hormisdas which affirmed both the orthodox Christology of the Church that Jesus is “fully God and fully man” (first articulated by Pope Leo I) and the office of the papacy, of Peter’s Successor being Head Pastor of the entire Christian Church.
The second time someone (Photius) attempted to excommunicate a pope, the 8th Ecumenical Council was held in 869 AD, at which all the assembled Eastern and Western Christian Patriarchs and bishops dogmatically decreed the papacy a necessary part of Christian faith. They did not even have to come up with a new understanding of the papacy, but just gave the 517 AD definition (which took into account the description of the papacy in the Acts of the earlier Ecumenical Councils) dogmatic force, confirmed by Ecumenical Council. Those Eastern Orthodox Churches which are no longer part of the Catholic Communion of East and West only call themselves “the Church of the Seven Ecumenical Councils” because the 8th Ecumenical Council dogmatically defined the papacy they are currently out of communion with as necessary to orthodox Christian faith (and indeed, the Protestant lack of recognition of the papacy which helped define and defend the fundamentals of orthodox Christianity in the First Millennium is a big part of the reason many Protestant churches “go liberal” and lose their grip on orthodox Christians fundamentals. The Eastern Orthodox Churches are only unshakably orthodox because they act as if the early popes really did have authority from God to lead, guide, and ratify the Early Ecumenical Councils as they in fact did). The Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs and eparchs in fact participated in most of the first 17 Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church, before the Muslim conquerors of Constantinople forced the total separation of today’s Eastern Orthodox Churches from Catholic (Universal Christian) Communion. In the midst of the 4th Century Arian crisis, Saint Jerome (ordained in the East though he did special commissions for the Pope in the West, notably the Latin Vulgate which he translated in Israel) noted the importance of the papacy being that “once a head has been appointed, there may be no opportunity for schism” – and indeed, the 26 ancient or semi-ancient orthodox Christian Sister Churches that recognize the pope as the head chosen by Christ who gave Peter (and his successors) the keys today still form one massive worldwide Catholic Communion sharing a unity in diversity of Eastern and Western Rites, as did the Early Church. The churches which do not recognize the pope as the one earthly head pastor of the Church are, instead, hopelessly divided from one another. The “loose communion” of dozens of Orthodox Churches are less unified as time goes on (today there are 3 separate denominations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church) and the Protestants and Evangelicals have split into 35,000 denominations since the Protestant Reformation.
The main point here is to show briefly (thoroughly in So That the World May Believe Volume III, especially its Chapter 5) that the papacy which is disputed by non-Catholic Christians simply was a historical fact of the Undivided Early Church, and one that was integral to the formation and establishment of basic Christian orthodoxy (and it was the center of the Undivided Early Church’s Unity). It is not helpful for Christians to be “for” or “against” the papacy – they all must acknowledge the reality of its existence, intertwined very much with basic, fundamental Christian orthodoxy, as well as Early Christian Unity, and they must come to terms with this existence, ideally eventually coming to mutually agreed-on solutions to current disputes, in which the legitimate concerns of all sides are taken into account. It is certainly true that not everything popes have actually done in history is considered good even by Catholics who respect the office of the papacy, but the Catholic Church has a sophisticated understanding of the nature and limitations of the papacy (described in So That the World May Believe Volume III) which non-Catholic Christians must learn in ecumenical discussion – one which has come out of Catholics listening to the concerns and complaints of the Protestant Reformation, so non-Catholic Christians may find many of their concerns about the papacy have already been addressed in the Catholic Church’s modern official self-understanding.
I would also like to mention in this section how the Protestant Churches are very much like Roman daughter Churches, which simply are no longer on good speaking terms with their Mother Rite, the Roman Catholic Church. However, as with the Eastern daughter Churches, the Protestant churches retain much from their Mother Rite – many Western, Roman perspectives and theological approaches and traditions which Eastern Christians do not share. Also, like the once-separated Eastern Catholic Chaldean Rite, even while out of the Catholic Communion they have developed many valid worship forms and so on which are based on the vast amount of Catholic orthodoxy they took with them when they left, which allows them already to enrich the whole Catholic Christian Communion which has and still does in fact borrow many good things from Protestant churches (especially worship music, and more recently Bible Studies). As the Chaldean Rite was an Antiochene daughter Church separated from the Catholic Communion in the 5th Century because they embraced the Nestorian heresy, but was restored to the Catholic Communion in the 16th Century after recanting Nestorianism, so Protestant churches which recant much less serious errors of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation (which lead liberal Protestants to unorthodoxy but which are not gross heresies themselves) could be restored to the Catholic Communion in new daughter Rites of the ancient Roman Patriarchate, after Vatican Council II, which at last formally defined the nature and structure of the Christian Church according to the Undivided Early Universal (Catholic) Church model, is fully implemented within the Catholic Church.
© 2008 Peter William John Baptiste SFO
The “Daughter Churches” of the Original “Pentarchy” of Christian Sister Churches and Patriarchates, Including Those Which Broke Away from the Universal (Catholic) Christian Communion in the 2nd Millennium
[Unfinished Section – I intend to here graphically display the Pentarchy of First Patriarchates as above, but with their daughter Rites attached. I will note that in the First Millennium “Eastern Orthodox” meant “not heretic” and did NOT mean “not Catholic”, and will show the Eastern Orthodox Churches as broken away portions (albeit usually large ones) of the Eastern Catholic Churches, noting that despite strained relations with the Western Church earlier the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches were fully unified at the 1439 17th Ecumenical Council, until shortly after the Muslim conquest of Constantinople in 1453, when in 1472 the Muslims forced the first total break of Christian Communion between Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. I will also note the 1965 and 2006 Joint Declarations of Catholic Popes and Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchs towards full Christian reunification of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches]
[I intend to show the Western Protestant Schisms from the ancient Catholic Christian Communion as well, showing their real attachment to the Roman Patriarchate, such that even though what they rejected from the Undivided Early Church means most of them are no longer even constituted like a full Sister Church (hence the Vatican II term for them, “ecclesial communities”), they still have potential, as the work of Ecumenism slowly bears its fruit, to be reincorporated into the ancient Catholic Church Communion as the former Nestorian heretics who reestablished full Catholic orthodoxy were, as new Rites which enrich the whole Universal Catholic Communion – hence, as the Holy Spirit reunites us, the Lutherans may one day belong to the “German Rite” of the Catholic Church, the Presbyterians to “the Scottish Rite”, the Evangelicals to “the North American Rite” and so on – but based on the Undivided Early Catholic Church model which has been at last dogmatically recognized as the proper form of the Catholic Church in Vatican II, it is certainly not appropriate for reunification to ever happen by separated churches giving up what is good they have and just joining the one Roman Rite of the Catholic Church which is already so big that it dwarfs the other 25 Catholic Rites and thus hides the true universality of the Catholic (Universal) Church.]
[The following 2 Parts on the “Daughter Churches” are my first attempt to fulfill my intention for this section. For now I simply use text to list the ancient Christian Patriarchates together with all their daughter Rites, both those which remain in the ancient and unbroken Catholic Christian Communion and those which are currently outside of it but could once again become part of it in a Christian reunion based on the model of the Undivided Early Church. I hope to find a program that makes it easy for me to graphically show the “branching out” of the “daughter” churches in the family (including those currently estranged from each other) through history.]
The “Daughter Churches” of the Original “Pentarchy” of Christian Sister Churches and Patriarchates,
Including Those “Estranged Daughters” Which Broke Away from the Universal (Catholic) Christian Communion in the 2nd Millennium but Which Remained “Catholic at Heart,” Still Committed to the Traditional Essential Fundamentals of Christian Orthodoxy Which Were Clearly Articulated and Established (Against Many Early Christian Heretical Interpretations of the Bible) by the Original Pentarchy of Five Patriarchates (Church Provinces) of Different Culturally-based Sister Churches or Rites at the First Millennium Ecumenical (Worldwide) Councils of the Undivided Early Catholic (Universal) Christian Church, the Catholic Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches
Part I: The Structure of the Undivided Early Church
The Church is the “profound mystery” (see Ephesians 5:22-32) of the Bride and Body of Jesus Christ, animated by the Divine Holy Spirit as the “soul” which enlivens that Body of Christ the Church and leads it into “all the truth” (John 16:13), which makes the Church “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), which is why the judgements of the Undivided Early Church’s Councils of ordained Christian overseers (bishops, eparchs, patriarchs and popes) as to just what the Canon of the New Testament is and just how the Christian Bible must be interpreted (so as to yield the traditional Christian fundamental doctrines) can be trusted by all Christians today (“doctrinally liberal” Protestantism, which dominates the oldest and largest Protestant “mainline” denominations today, is typically uncertain about even basic Christian orthodoxy, and sometimes blatantly unorthodox/heretical, Catholic Christians would say precisely because the Protestant Reformation rejected this Biblical understanding of the Church in history as truly though mysteriously (see Ephesians 5:22-32) the Living Body of Christ on Earth, in communion with and directed by Christ the Head of the Body through His Holy Spirit, despite the human failings of individual Church leaders).
For certain, the Undivided Early Church called itself the Catholic Church because it was a Catholic (Greek for Universal) Communion of different culturally-based “Rites” (different cultural responses to and celebrations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ). These Rites, once established and organized, were also called ‘particular’ (or ‘Sister’) Churches which together made up the one Catholic (Universal) Christian Church. Structurally this ancient Catholic Church was (and is) made up of:
1) the ancient Jerusalem (initially Jewish) Rite or Sister Church , where the (initially entirely Jewish) Church of Jesus Christ began with the descent of the Holy Spirit, and where the very first (Holy Spirit-led) Church Council was held in settlement of the very first major dispute among Christians (Acts 15);
2) the ancient Antiochene (Syrian), Alexandrian (Egyptian), Roman (currently by far the largest but this was not always so), and Byzantine (Greek) Gentile (non-Jewish) Rites or Sister Churches which developed thanks to the preaching of the Gospel by the Jewish Apostles and disciples of Jesus who started from Jerusalem (these four Sister Churches together with the Jerusalem Church were known as the “Pentarchy” of Church Patriarchates or Provinces which participated in the (Holy Spirit-led) Early Ecumenical Councils which clearly defined the essential truths of Christianity in settlement of major disputes among early Christians caused by early Christian heretics); and
3) the many missionary “daughter” Rites or Churches of the above ancient Gentile Sister Churches (the first four Gentile cultures as renewed in Christ), which were initially mission fields for the above ancient Rites of the Church but which eventually developed their own distinct cultural response to and expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, while still retaining many elements of their “mother” Rite which had initially evangelized them (today’s Catholic Church has 26 Sister Churches including all the “daughter” Rites which remain in the Catholic Communion – but it could have many more Rites, all of them still “daughter” Rites of the original five cultures renewed in Jesus, if the fundamentally orthodox, “Catholic at heart” already churches rejoin the ancient Catholic Communion they formally left though they unconsciously still remain in it “in heart” by their orthodoxy. Such reunion according to the structure of the Undivided Early Church would absolutely not mean Protestant churches being absorbed into the huge Roman Catholic Sister Church but formally becoming their own Catholic ‘Sister Churches’ of “fully equal dignity” with the Roman Rite, according to the Catholic Church’s own recent official and dogmatic teaching of the nature and structure of the Church in Vatican II, the 21st Ecumenical Council).
In consideration of the Undivided Early Church’s structure it is helpful to distinguish between these 3 terms:
1) a Rite is a particular Christian sub-group’s identifiable particular way of expressing their Christian faith, usually a particular cultural response to, expression of and celebration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, though Rites are also sometimes spirituality-based rather than culturally-based – based on the spirituality of a particular saint or religious order or spiritual movement within the Church.
2) a Sister Church (or particular Church within the Catholic/Universal Church) is an older and more organized Rite which actually has its own separate hierarchy of ordained overseers (bishops or eparchs) within the Catholic (Universal) Communion of Sister Churches (or, sadly today, sometimes outside of it).
3) a Patriarchate is a very well-established Sister Church of venerable age and historical contribution to the Church. The oldest and most well established distinct Rites or Sister Churches eventually become officially known as Patriarchates, with the ordained overseers (also called bishops or eparchs) who head them known as Patriarchs.
So all Patriarchates are Sister Churches, and all Sister Churches are Rites, but not all Rites are yet Sister Churches and not all Sister Churches are yet Patriarchates.
© 2009 Peter William John Baptiste, SFO
The “Daughter Churches” of the Original ‘Pentarchy’ of Christian Sister Churches and Patriarchates,
Including Those “Estranged Daughters” Which Broke Away from the Universal (Catholic) Christian Communion in the 2nd Millennium but Which Remained “Catholic at Heart,” Still Committed to the Traditional Essential Fundamentals of Christian Orthodoxy Which Were Clearly Articulated and Established (Against Many Early Christian Heretical Interpretations of the Bible) by the Original Pentarchy of Five Patriarchates (Church Provinces) of Different Culturally-based Sister Churches or Rites at the First Millennium Ecumenical (Worldwide) Councils of the Undivided Early Catholic (Universal) Christian Church, the Catholic Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches
Part II: The Patriarchates of the Undivided Early Church’s ‘Pentarchy’ Together with Their “Daughter Rites,” Those Currently in or out of the Ancient Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion (This Leads to What a Christian Church Reunified According to the Undivided Early Church Model of Unity in Diversity Would Look Like)
All of the 5 ancient Jewish and Gentile Christian “Mother Rites” (centered in Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and Byzantium/Constantinople) and several of the older of their daughter Rites are formally known as Patriarchates (this way of organizing the Church was established at the very same Early Ecumenical Councils which established the fundamental doctrines of Christianity against heretical challenges). So a Patriarch, generally speaking, is the chief overseer or bishop of an entire cultural expression of Christianity, an entire well-established Rite or Sister Church within the ancient Catholic Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches, whose responsibility is to keep the cultural Rite of Christianity which is under his jurisdiction accountable to the orthodox Christian faith, even as cultures (and thus cultural expressions of Christianity) change with time and circumstance.
The following five sections show the first five Patriarchates of the Undivided Early Church’s Pentarchy, with their “daughter” Rites or Churches listed. Some of the “daughter” Rites are just Rites, distinct worship forms (sometimes reflecting a distinct spirituality not a culture) which are not large enough or organized and established enough to be their own distinct “Sister Churches”; some of the “daughter Rites” are old and established enough that they have been declared Patriarchates in their own right; some of them are portions (often majority portions) of ancient “Sister Churches” or Patriarchates which are no longer within the Universal (Catholic) Christian Communion (such as the Eastern Orthodox Churches); some of them are churches or “ecclesial communities” historically broken away from a Patriarchate of the Catholic Communion (and still sharing some of the Patriarchate’s distinct features) which are not constituted as the Undivided Early Church’s Sister Churches were, but which still display a valid distinct cultural or spiritual expression of orthodox Christianity (such as the conservative/ Evangelical Protestant churches and “Messianic Judaism”). Groups which otherwise have a definite historical connection to one of the ancient Patriarchates of the Catholic Church they broke away from but are no longer strictly orthodox in the fundamentals of Christian faith are not included here (such as the “Lesser” Eastern Churches and historically orthodox Protestant “mainline” churches which no longer heartily affirm basic Christian orthodoxy).
THE PATRIARCHATE OF JERUSALEM
Center of the ancient Jewish Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the Foundational Jewish Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church which brought the Gospel to all others
Declared a Patriarchate at the 4th Ecumenical Council, 451 AD, Which Defined That Jesus Is Fully God and Fully Man Against the Monophysite Christian Heretics
The historical Jerusalem Rite is no longer specifically culturally Jewish, but Gentile, since the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews by pagan Rome, however, the Jewish liturgy of Saint James (Christ’s Apostle, the first overseer/bishop of Jerusalem who hosted the Acts 15 Council, martyred circa 54 AD) is still used in this Rite. There are both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians of the Jerusalem Rite (the current Patriarch is Eastern Orthodox). Within the Catholic Church, there is an Association of Hebrew Catholics (AHC) who there is talk of re-establishing as a “Hebrew Rite” of the Catholic Church. This group is mostly made of Roman Catholics of Jewish ethnicity seeking to have a more authentically Jewish cultural practice of their Christian faith, but a formal Rite would most appropriately be constituted under the ancient Jerusalem Patriarchate and drawing from the Jewish Christian liturgy of Saint James rather than the Roman liturgy in the Christianization of Jewish rituals, so as to be more appealing to even whole Jewish communities who become ready to accept Jesus as Israel’s Messiah. Such is not inconceivable, as there are now more Jewish believers in Jesus than at any time since the primitive Church, because the AHC and the Protestant movement of “Messianic Judaism” (founded by Protestant Christians of Jewish ethnicity) give Jews a place to be both Jewish and Christian (as the original Jewish Christians allowed Gentiles to be both Gentile and Christian after the Acts 15 Council). In an ideal Church reunification patterned after the Undivided Early Church, both the AHC and “Messianic Jews” would become a Hebrew or Jewish Rite of the Catholic Church, under the ancient Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
THE PATRIARCHATE OF ANTIOCH
Center of the ancient Syrian Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the first Gentile Rite of the Christian Church, the Antiochene (or Antiochian) Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church
Declared a Patriarchate at the 1st Ecumenical Council, 325 AD, Which Defined That Jesus Is God, One in Being with the Father, Against the Arian Christian Heretics
Daughter Rites include: The Maronite Rite (in Lebanon); the Syrian Rites; the Armenian Rite; the Chaldean Rite; the Malabarese and Malankarese Rites (in India, started by St. Thomas the Apostle). The current Patriarch is Eastern Orthodox. Most of the Antiochene daughter Rites today have both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox members, though the Maronite and Malabarese Rites are of the few Eastern Sister Churches which were never even partly nor temporarily out of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion. The Armenian Rite is recognized as a Patriarchate in its own right (in 1958 the Armenian Catholic Patriarch was considered a front-runner to be elected pope). The Chaldean Church consists of Antiochene Christians who broke away from the Undivided Early Catholic Church in the 5th Century to embrace the Nestorian heresy, but recanted their heresy and rejoined the Catholic Communion in the 16th Century.
THE PATRIARCHATE OF ALEXANDRIA
Center of the ancient Egyptian Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the Alexandrian Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church
Declared a Patriarchate at the 1st Ecumenical Council, 325 AD, Which Defined That Jesus Is God, One in Being with the Father, Against the Arian Christian Heretics
[Saint Athanasius, the Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria, was the first to put together the New Testament in the form we know it in 367 AD, confirmed for the whole Christian Church by Pope Innocent I in 405 AD, and, though exiled for it (and sheltered by the pope), he was the greatest defender of the Divinity of Jesus against the Arian heretics.]
Daughter Rites include: The Coptic Rite (in Egypt); the Ethiopian Rite (started by St. Phillip the Apostle). The Copts are the Egyptians descended from the race of the Pharaohs, who embraced Christianity in the Early Church (and still have whole cities in Egypt), while most Egyptian citizens today are Arab (Ishmaelite) Muslims. There are both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians today of the Alexandrian Rites (Coptic or Ethiopian). The current Patriarch is Eastern Orthodox.
THE PATRIARCHATE OF ROME
Center of the ancient Roman Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the Roman Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church
Declared a Patriarchate at the 1st Ecumenical Council, 325 AD, Which Defined That Jesus Is God, One in Being with the Father, Against the Arian Christian Heretics
Daughter Rites include: The tiny Ambrosian, Bragan, and Mozaribic Rites (distinct local Roman daughter Rites which are not organized as distinct Sister Churches; the Celtic and Gallican Rites (absorbed into the mainstream Roman Rite, leaving their permanent cultural mark on it); the Zairean Rite (a newly recognized distinctly African cultural expression of the Gospel, not yet organized into its own distinct Sister Church with its own hierarchy); the Carthusian, Carmelite and Dominican Rites (spirituality-based verus culturally-based Rites, with distinct liturgical worship expressing the particular spirituality of these religious orders); extinct Rites including the distinct North African Church of Saint Augustine; the Anglican Rite (founded by Saint Augustine of Canterbury at the request of Pope Saint Gregory the Great in the 7th Century, with the Archbishop of Canterbury functioning as its Catholic “Patriarch”or Head of Rite; lost to the Catholic Communion in the 16th Century schism of King Henry VIII which created the Church of England with its later worldwide Anglican Communion thanks to worldwide British colonization).
The many other Protestant Churches are new breakaway Roman “daughter Rites” no longer in full communion with their “Mother Rite” nor with the ancient Catholic Communion of Sister Churches East and West to which their Roman “Mother Rite” belongs, yet they remain distinctly Western and Roman, continuing many theological, ritual and practical approaches to common Divine Revelation which are not shared by the Eastern Rites of Christianity. Conservative, orthodox Protestants (including Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Charismatics) specifically conserve about 90% of the ancient Catholic Christian faith of the Undivided Early Church and are still “Catholic at Heart,” having kept all the fundamentals of the ancient Catholic Christian Church they left, while those many “liberal” Protestants who no longer conserve but doubt or deny even the basic Catholic Christian fundamentals are truly “Protestant at heart,” protesting against the traditional New Testament Canon and fundamental Bible interpretation of the Undivided Early Catholic Church, and so they may be unorthodox “heretics.”
The Pope in Rome functions as both the Universal overseer or bishop (Head Pastor) of the entire Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches, and as the Patriarch of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church specifically (and as the local overseer of the city of Rome, hence the traditional papal “triple-crowned bishop’s mitre” representing the 3 offices).
THE PATRIARCHATE OF BYZANTIUM/CONSTANTINOPLE
Center of the ancient Greek Culture as Renewed in Jesus, the Byzantine (Greek) Rite of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Church
Declared a Patriarchate at the 4th Ecumenical Council, 451 AD, Which Defined That Jesus Is Fully God and Fully Man Against the Monophysite Christian Heretics
Daughter Rites include: The Greek Rite; the Italo-Greek Rite (which escaped persecution by moving near Rome); the Ukrainian Rite (and related Ruthenian Rite); the Melkite Rite; the Arabian Rite; the Romanian, Russian, Belarusan, Georgian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Albanian, Serbian, Croatian, Hungarian & Slovak Rites. The stability and sophistication of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire centered in Constantinople for 1000 years after the fall of the Western Roman Empire helped the Byzantine Patriarchate to have successful missions to many Eastern cultures and thus develop the largest number of “daughter” Churches of any Patriarchate. The First Millennium was unkind to the Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria, mainly through the Muslim conquest of their territories. The poor fortunes of these Patriarchates also located in the East meant that they came under the influence of the Byzantine Patriarch (the “Ecumenical Patriarch” of the East). At the turn of the Second Millennium the Patriarchate of Constantinople was as large in numbers of Christians as that of Rome, though the later Muslim conquest of the Byzantine Empire would reduce its fortunes, and by 1472 would result in there being both Catholic and separated Eastern Orthodox portions of almost all of the Byzantine “daughter” Rites/Churches as well as the Rites of the other Eastern Patriarchates influenced by Constantinople. All 4 of the Eastern Patriarchs of the ancient Pentarchy have since been Eastern Orthodox, repudiating the Catholic (Universal Christian) participation of their Patriarchates in almost all of the Catholic Church’s first 17 Ecumenical Councils until 1439 (calling themselves “the Church of the 7 Ecumenical Councils” since the 8th Ecumenical Council of 869 AD which they participated in dogmatically defined the papacy which they are no longer in communion with). Portions of all of the Byzantine and other Eastern Patriarchates and all their daughter Rites either remained in the ancient Catholic Communion of Sister Churches or returned to it after a temporary separation. In most cases the larger portion of each Eastern Rite is now Eastern Orthodox, but the dominant half of the Ukrainian Rite returned to the Catholic Communion in 1595 and the Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church (or Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) is today’s largest non-Roman Rite Catholic Church. It was also the largest “underground” Church of the 20th Century, since it officially did not exist in Ukraine under Soviet rule; even its church buildings were given to the Russian Orthodox Church which operated under strict Soviet supervision. Yet after the fall of Soviet Communism the Ukrainian Catholic Church emerged from the underground with 5 million members (even despite the reduction in its membership from the Holodomor, Stalin’s genocidal forced starvation of 7 million Ukrainians in 1932-3). The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) is a new Byzantine “daughter” Rite among the Eastern Orthodox Churches no longer within the Catholic Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches, as are the newer successful missionary Eastern Orthodox Churches of Finland, Japan, and China.
© 2009 Peter William John Baptiste, SFO
Ecumenical Conclusion with A Few Suggestions Towards the Practical Re-Establishment of the First Millennium Church’s Unity in Diversity
There will be much more on the history of the Undivided Early Church and its implications for the re-establishment of Christian unity in diversity in Volume III of So That The World May Believe, but I would here like to note that the ancient Living Body of Christ the (unified Universal or Catholic) Christian Church in its 1st Ecumenical (worldwide) Council at Nicea (325 AD) dogmatically and irrevocably clarified, against the Arian Christian heretics with their sophisticated and thorough but not Traditional interpretation of “the Bible Alone,” the vital Christian belief that Jesus is God, “one in being with the Father.” The 2nd Ecumenical Council of 381 AD (which Pope Saint Damasus declared to be of Ecumenical (worldwide) authority although no Western overseer/bishops were present), first authoritatively articulated and clarified the Divinity of the Holy Spirit as well and thus the primary Christian doctrine of the Trinity, ending all the previous disputes among Christians about the Trinity. The 4th Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon (451 AD) under the direction of Pope Saint Leo the Great similarly precisely clarified in the Holy Spirit, against the Monophysite Christian heretics, the central Christian belief in the Incarnation, that Jesus is in fact “fully God and fully man.” Vatican Council II (1962-5) was the 21st Ecumenical Council of the same Catholic Church (the ongoing Universal/Catholic Communion of today 26 Orthodox Christian Rites or ‘Sister Churches’) , and it likewise precisely articulated something that had always been part of the Christian faith at least implicitly but had never been explicitly clarified, which had likewise resulted in some Christians coming up with incorrect notions that caused many problems (and divisions). Vatican II was the very first Ecumenical Council of the Living Body of Christ the Church to dogmatically clarify the nature and structure of the Christian Church, precisely articulating the instinctively lived reality of the Undivided Early Church of the First Millennium (a reality continued in the Catholic Church today but much harder to see since unlike in the First Millennium, the great majority of Catholics today are Roman Rite Catholics). This has tremendous implications for the eventual reunification of Jesus’ Body the Church which became divided in the Second Millennium, in fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer for Christian unity. As all Christians, including majority Roman Rite Catholic Christians who often have a more particularly Roman and less truly Catholic (Universal) understanding of their Church, come to fully understand and appreciate the nature and structure of the Undivided Early Church, it will become easier for today’s different Christian churches already united in vast common saving Christian faith (see The “Common Creed” of Christianity) to better reflect the Undivided Early Church’s loving and mutually enriching unity in diversity, “so that the world may believe” (John 17:21) in Jesus when it sees the love of Christians for “one another” (John 13:35) – even for as long as our current formal divisions remain.
A Few Suggestions Towards the Practical Re-Establishment of the First Millennium Church’s Unity in Diversity
Of course, mutually agreed-on solutions to the few actually substantial current disagreements between divided Christian churches will need to be found before full formal Christian Church reunification can occur. Volumes II and III of So That The World May Believe contribute considerably to loving dialogue about the biggest of these areas of tremendous misunderstandings and yes, real disagreement (Mary and the Papacy). But hopefully most readers can see by now, after the above consideration of the Undivided Early Church (which fulfilled God’s plan for His Church since Adam and Noah, as Family Theology reveals), that the vast majority of the many differences between currently divided Christians are of the sort which were no cause for division between the Undivided Early Church’s different Sister Churches: mere differences in theological approach to common Divine Revelation, mere differences in worship and devotional customs and practices rooted in common Christian faith.
But, as we, taking Jesus’ prayer for our unity as a serious obligation for us to pursue, work on those very few areas of substantial disagreement, we can already start thinking about what the future Christian reunification Jesus desires for us would look like, and how it may be accomplished.
I suggest that in an ideal Christian reunion situation according to the model of the Undivided Early Christian Church, that is, the Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches, the (usually larger) Eastern Orthodox portions (including the Patriarchs) of the ancient Eastern Patriarchates and their many “daughter” Churches would rejoin the Catholic portions of the same Rite, the Catholics teaching the Orthodox how to be in Universal/Catholic Communion with other, different Christian Rites “of equal dignity” and with the Communion’s Head Pastor, the pope; and the Orthodox teaching the Catholics how to be most true to each Eastern Rite’s traditional celebrations of Jesus’ Gospel in cases where there has been “Romanization” due to past inappropriate Roman Rite dominance of the minority Eastern Rites (this should eventually no longer be a problem, as Vatican II is gradually more and more implemented in the minds and hearts of the Roman Catholic majority, since the recent Vatican Council II, the Catholic Church’s 21st Ecumenical Council, dogmatically defined the appropriate structure of the Catholic Church according to the Undivided Early Church model, in which the Roman Rite, despite its huge size, is still just one cultural expression of the Gospel of “fully equal dignity” with all the others, the mutually enriching Catholic Communion being superior to any one of its Rites, even the current largest). This would also solve the problem of increasing divisions within the always only “loose” communion of Eastern Orthodox Churches – for example, today there are three separate denominations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church! In cases where many centuries of separation between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox portions of the same historical Rite has resulted in distinctly different organic growth and development of the Rite with time and circumstance, such that reunification in one Catholic Rite or Sister Church is impractical, reunion could still happen with the Eastern Orthodox portion rejoining the ancient Catholic Communion of Orthodox Sister Churches as its own distinct Sister Church “of fully equal dignity” with all the others. In any case, the two most influential Patriarchs of the ancient Pentarchy today, the Roman Patriarch (the pope) and the Byzantine Patriarch (the Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch), have already signed joint declarations (in 1965 and 2006) indicating that both sides are working towards the re-establishment of the Christian unity Jesus prayed for, which existed between both sides in the First Christian Millennium.
Within the now severely divided ancient Western, Roman Patriarchate (thanks to Western, Protestantism’s 35,000 distinct denominations, some losing basic Christian orthodoxy), the easiest Christian reunion to achieve according to the Undivided Early Church model would be the separated Anglican Rite rejoining the Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion. Before the Anglican schism of King Henry VIII over the pope not allowing the King to divorce his wife, the Church of England was effectively the Anglican Rite of the Catholic Church, under the Roman Patriarchate which evangelized England, with the Archbishop of Canterbury functioning effectively as its “patriarch” or Head of the Rite. This situation would be relatively easy to re-establish now that the Catholic Church has officially defined its ancient nature and structure according to the model of the Undivided Early Church and is no longer so prone to inappropriate Roman Rite dominance. There are in fact three major “streams” of the Church of England and its worldwide Anglican Communion today: the “Anglo-Catholic” stream, which is already very much like a Catholic Rite except it is no longer in communion with the pope; the Evangelical Anglican stream, which like the Anglo-Catholic stream, preserves the fundamentals of traditional, orthodox (Catholic!) Christianity; and the “liberal” Anglican stream, the largest, which, like so many of the oldest and largest Protestant “mainline” denominations, has gone “doctrinally liberal,” doubting or denying even fundamentals of traditional, orthodox Christian faith and morality. The cure for such uncertainty about even basic Christian orthodoxy (and sometimes blatantly unorthodox, heretical denial of aspects of it) is in rejoining the ancient Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion which firmly established the traditional New Testament and traditional fundamentals of undivided orthodox Christianity in history. Many high-ranking (and lower-ranking) Anglican clergymen, in response to today’s typically liberal Anglicanism, have personally rejoined the Catholic Communion by leaving the Church of England and rejoining the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. This is a personal choice, but I would suggest it would be ideal to remain Anglican but lead the Church of England and its worldwide Anglican Communion into seriously seeking reunion with the Catholic Church by re-establishing the Anglican Rite of the Catholic Church according to the Undivided Early Church model. Ideally the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time of reunion would formally become the Patriarch (or other title indicating Head of Rite) of the Anglican Rite or Sister Church within the Catholic Communion of Sister Churches collectively known as the Catholic Church, under the ancient Pentarchy’s Patriarchate of Rome which brought the Gospel of Jesus to England. Of course not all would follow their leaders in such a reunion, especially because of the entrenchment of “doctrinally liberal” Christianity within Anglicanism, but this way those many Anglicans who are already “Catholic at heart” – firmly committed to the traditional fundamentals of orthodox (and Catholic!) Christianity – can come to be where they belong, and those Anglicans who are “Protestant at heart” – preferring to maintain the old protest against the Catholic Church at any cost (including basic Christian orthodoxy) can remain Protestant. It would be my hope that the no-longer-hidden beauty of a reunited Christian Church loving each other on the basis of their vast common, orthodox Christian faith and enriching each other with their differences within one Christian Communion instead of criticizing each other for their differences will make “liberal” Christians jealous and shame them into embracing traditional Christian orthodoxy so that they too can be part of that wonderfully beautiful worldwide Christian Family.
[Update: Recently, the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) within the Anglo-Catholic Stream of Anglicanism has formally rejoined the Catholic Communion as an “ordinariate” of the Anglican Rite within the Roman Patriarchate of the Catholic Church. As more Anglicans reunify with the Catholic Church Communion they ideally should enlarge this already-reunified Anglican Rite body which should eventually be formally recognized as the (Roman) Anglican Catholic Church or the re-established Anglican ‘Sister’ Church within the Catholic Communion of orthodox Christian Sister Churches under the Roman Patriarchate.]
The original dozen or so Protestant Reformation Churches were often associated with a particular culture in which the denomination was born, so the portions of those churches (together with the portions of the major splits within each of them) which remain steadfastly orthodox (and therefore “Catholic at heart” in terms of the Undivided Early Church’s Catholic Communion of Orthodox Sister Churches) could potentially be received back into the Catholic Communion as their own culturally-based Sister Churches. For example, orthodox Lutherans (of the various major Lutheran splits) becoming a “German Rite” of the Catholic Church, Presbyterians a “Scottish Rite,” Reformed Christians a “Swiss Rite” (or “Dutch Rite” in the case of Dutch Reformed Christians) and so on. All of these churches have valid distinct theology, practices and customs based on the common Christian faith of the Undivided Early Catholic Church which appropriately enrich the entire Catholic (Universal) Communion the same way these distinctions in the various Eastern Rite Catholic Sister Churches do.
Of course, the Protestant Reformers split away from the Roman Catholic Church of the time which had already been largely separated from the Eastern Churches for a long time and had already largely forgotten that it was part of a larger Catholic (Universal) Communion and had already largely lost the sense of the First Millennium Catholic Church’s unity in diversity: that it was possible for many Christians to be very different and still belong to one Christian Church Communion. Thus, the Protestants inherited from the Roman Catholic Church they left the erroneous notion that there was only one proper or best way to worship God according to orthodox Christianity. Thus the many different Protestant Reformers hated each other and wrote to each other calling each other “sons of Satan” and the like for daring to “reform” the Church in different ways than their own. And, following the precedent of the Protestant Reformation which did not patiently wait for the Catholic Reformation of genuine problems and abuses (which began before the Protestant Reformation but had progressed very slowly) and which did not lovingly dialogue over disagreements as Christian brothers united in vast common faith (I am not saying there was no provocation here from the Catholic side), future Protestants likewise simply broke away from their current church to form whole new churches whenever they disagreed with each other, a process repeated over and over again such that by today the dozen or so Protestant Reformation churches have splintered into literally 35,000 registered church denominations worldwide. Protestants somehow cannot remain in one church body unless they are almost totally like-minded, which is totally against the Undivided Early Church’s unity in diversity.
To firmly recapture this unity in diversity they would need to rejoin the ancient Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion of orthodox Sister Churches (especially now that the unbroken Catholic Communion through history has recently “rediscovered” itself and formally defined its First Millennium nature and structure which previously, because of the Muslim conquests and other factors, had been largely hidden during centuries of the numerical dominance of the Roman Rite within the Catholic Communion). Unlike the Eastern Orthodox Churches which only have a couple dozen Rites to be reunified with the current 26 Rites of the Catholic Church’s orthodox Christian Communion (most of these being Catholic and Orthodox portions of the same historical Rite, which would leave the numbers of Catholic Rites still at about a couple dozen after reunification), it would not be possible to receive 35,000 different Protestant denominations back as their own distinct Rites within the Catholic Communion – and of course part of the point of reunion is to cure the particularly Protestant disease of absolutely fragmented unity. But there are major groupings of orthodox (“Catholic at heart”) Protestant denominations sharing many common features which could possibly be re-constituted as orthodox Catholic Christian Rites in a Christian reunion situation. For example, Evangelicalism, which likely accounts for a major portion of those 35,000 tiny splintered Protestant denominations, in many ways is a distinctly North American cultural response to the Gospel, which in a reunion situation might be able to be reconstituted as a “North American Rite” of the Catholic Church.1 Of course, although most of the historical Rites of the Catholic Church are culturally-based, there are also spirituality-based Rites of the Catholic Church, often associated with a particular Saint’s personal spiritual example, or with the spirituality of a particular religious order or other spiritual movement (the Carthusian, Carmelite, and Dominican Rites are distinct liturgical worship forms of this nature). Evangelicalism could also be regarded as a spiritual movement and thus reconstituted as an “Evangelical Rite” with a particular general spiritual style of loving and serving and worshiping God, and in similar manner the Pentecostal or Charismatic movements, which are each represented in thousands of different Protestant denominations, could also potentially become Pentecostal or Charismatic Rites of the Catholic Church. There are already several Protestant/Evangelical/Pentecostal “umbrella” organizations which include many individual but similar denominations, and this existing organizational structure might also possibly be adjustable into an organized Catholic Rite.
Not all Rites are nor become formal organized Sister Churches with their own hierarchy, so reunified once-Protestant Rites do not necessarily have to become formal Sister Churches as all the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches are (which was the universal form of the Undivided Early Catholic Church’s Communion of Sister Churches, which is also shared by the Protestant Church of England). But in many cases it would likely be the best thing for a reunified Rite to recapture what it has lost of the Undivided Early Church’s form by re-constituting itself with the basic organizational structure (for accountability to the orthodox Christian faith) which all the Undivided Early Church’s Sister Churches had, at least so that its own ordained leaders who best understand its particular spirituality can guide its particular development as a Catholic Christian Rite within the Universal (Catholic) Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches – in this way the “fully equal dignity” of reunified Rites with their particular contribution to the richness of the Catholic Communion entire would be best recognized and maintained.
It seems that God may be already preparing many Protestant churches for this kind of reunification. Charismatic and other Holy Spirit-focused Protestant churches, which are among the most vibrant and growing Protestant church communities today, are actually becoming more Catholic by the Holy Spirit’s leading, the Holy Spirit is restoring to these Protestants who are particularly open to Him elements of Early, Catholic Christianity which were rejected by the Protestant Reformation. Most notable among these elements are:
1. the belief in the mysterious Real Presence of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion, even if they do not (yet) regard the mystery in terms of the particular advanced theology of transubstantiation. The term “Holy Communion,” does, after all, mean intimate Holy Communion with Jesus, and many Holy-Spirit-filled Protestants, by God’s Grace, are starting to see and experience Communion in this way.
2. The belief in the real spiritual authority of Church leaders over their flock (not strictly of “the Bible Alone” although so far they usually still pay lip service to this doctrine). In many cases the genuine spiritual authority given by God to their leaders to lead them is even being seen by these Protestants in Apostolic terms, as the Catholic Church regards the authority of Church leaders in terms of Apostolic Succession. Whereas classic Protestantism maintains there is no Apostolic authority continuing after “the Bible Alone” was finished by the Apostles and the Canon of Scripture was closed, such Holy-Spirit-led Protestants speak of “the Gift of Apostleship,” or the “Five-fold Ministry of the Church” including Apostles (Ephesians 4:11-13) – and they even have often organized themselves into City-wide Protestant church councils of at least like-minded Protestant church leaders. Such Protestants are being shaped to be more like a Catholic diocese or eparchy [church jurisdiction based around a city] with leaders who have Apostolic authority. As this trend continues it will put such Protestant “ecclesial communities” on more equal footing with proper Catholic and Orthodox Churches constituted according to the model of the Undivided Early (Catholic) Church’s individual Sister Churches, which will aid Protestant/Catholic dialogue, and in a reunion situation such Protestant leaders who are certain the Holy Spirit gave them “the gift of Apostleship” (as indeed Paul himself had it after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus) could be formally ordained overseer/bishops over their reunified Rites of the Church within the Catholic Church’s constantly maintained Apostolic Succession since Apostolic times.
All this may seem strange to some, but Vatican II and other official Catholic Church documents regarding Church Unity mention the necessity of Catholics and other Christians being open to the Holy Spirit of Unity doing whatever He wills to aid Church reunification, since although to human minds the Church of Christ may seem hopelessly divided, the Divine Holy Spirit who indwells us all is capable of truly uniting us, since after all “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). In the words of Vatican Council II,
This sacred Council firmly hopes that the [Ecumenical] initiatives of the sons of the Catholic Church, joined with those of the separated brethren [Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christians], will go forward, without obstructing the ways of divine Providence, and without prejudging the future inspirations of the Holy Spirit. Further, this Council declares that it realizes that this holy objective—the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ— transcends human powers and gifts. It therefore places its hope entirely in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. “And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). (Vatican Council II, Decree on Ecumenism, UR 24)
As we seek the Holy Spirit’s loving guidance in this endeavor, the practical “nuts and bolts” of full Christian reunification will surely still take many years to work out. Today’s divided Christians must conquer their prejudices against other Christians; we must eliminate habits of divisive thinking successfully sown by the Devil, whose work we have been doing for centuries, marring the attractive beauty of the Body of Christ. Since the Hebrew word for accuser is in fact satan, and the Greek word for accuser is in fact diabolos (devil in English), this means that when Christians accuse each other of being wrong for being different we are doing the Devil’s work, and we Christians are showing the world Satan, the Accuser, instead of showing the world Jesus. We must first master unity in love despite our differences, based on our vast common saving Christian faith (below), keeping the Undivided Early Church’s unity in diversity in mind, before even attempting full, formal, structural reunification, which is a process that must be worked on lovingly and cannot be rushed. But Reunification is a goal that is worthwhile to work towards and indeed, all Christians are obligated to work towards this goal, since Jesus Himself linked the success of His Church’s mission to the unity of His followers:
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another … By this all men will know that you are [Christians], if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Jesus prayed to His Father “that all [Christians] may be one … so that the world may believe that You have sent me … May [Christians] be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me.” (John 17:21,23)
The Common Creed of Christianity: The Great Common Faith of Catholic, Orthodox, and Conservative/Evangelical Protestant Christianity (and “Messianic Judaism”) Which is the Basis for Restored Christian Unity
the One God, Creator of the Universe, who is Love, exists as a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Incarnation (enfleshment) of God the Son in Jesus Christ through Mary’s Virgin Birth, making Jesus fully God and fully man, able to make Atonement for the sins of all humanity, which He did by dying on the Cross and rising from the dead so that humanity can be forgiven and saved (and find human fulfillment) through Him; we acquire this forgiveness from sin and salvation unto eternal life through, drawn and empowered by God’s Grace, our turning away from sin (anti-love), accepting what Jesus has done for us and coming into loving, saving relationship with Him (and His Father and Holy Spirit) through belief and baptism, as He taught (Mark 16:16), which makes us members of the one Body of Christ the Church; Jesus’ literal Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven; Jesus’ future return in glory and judgement and the bodily resurrection of all the dead; the tenets of traditional Christian morality (described in the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, among other passages of Scripture) as how to be loving and so how to please the God who is Love; the inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures which testify to all these things.
© 2008 Peter William John Baptiste, SFO
If interested, one should also see A Proposal for the Reunification of Today’s Divided Christians According to the Model of the Undivided Early (Catholic) Church’s Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches, for the Great Benefit of Both Today’s Catholic and Non-Catholic Churches and Towards the Belief of the World Which Jesus’ Prayer Linked to Our Christian Unity
[I repeat that this last Chapter (4) is unfinished and it was prepared quite hurriedly, drawing whole sections from previous works, in order to be in the First Internet Edition of So That The World May Believe. My intention was to put together what I have said in Chapter 3 with hints of what I will deal with more thoroughly in Volume III, in order, I hope, to give a sense of the flow of God’s human Covenant Family since Adam all the way to present day when we Christians have the opportunity to recapture but with more permanence the loving family structure of the Undivided Early Church as God’s intention for humanity since He made Adam]
© 2005, 2009 Peter William John Baptiste SFO
Go To Chapter 5: Most of the Many Differences Between Today’s Divided (Eastern and Western) Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and (Western) Protestant Christians (And “Messianic Jews”) Who Are Already United in Vast Common Faith Are the Same Kinds of Differences Between the Ancient Jewish, Roman, Greek, Egyptian and Syrian “Sister Churches” Which Were No Cause for Division in the Undivided Early Church
1I would like to add here a footnote, more detailed than this one, about the fact that those religious authorities who opposed Copernicus and Galileo had the legitimate concern that if people understood the earth was not the center of the universe, they would jump to the incorrect conclusion that humanity was not the center of God’s plan, which in fact happened. Secularism regards us as an insignificant species on an insignificant planet in a vast universe. Interestingly, current astrophysics, which includes things like the Rare Earth Hypothesis and how we have what one scientist calls a very “Privileged Planet,” has started to bring forth evidence of purposeful design science cannot ignore – noting that even though Earth is not the physical center of the universe, it is in exactly the right spot in the solar system and the galaxy to be capable of discovering the universe, and in fact only places very much like Earth are places which the universe can be effectively observed from AND are the only places where advanced life (observers) can possibly develop. This is too big a coincidence for science, even science steeped in 200 years of the Enlightenment myth that faith and science are opposed, to ignore. It strongly implies that even though Earth is not the physical center of the universe, humanity is at the center of God’s plan, since the whole vast universe was designed so that it could only be observed from the only places capable of developing observers.
2as it has very nearly done – the “new atheists” are now even suggesting formal political marginalization of religious believers mainly because they cannot ultimately win any rational argument with intelligent believers. They foolishly try to lump all religion into the category of superstitious religion when the world’s greatest thinkers from Aristotle to Einstein have always understood the difference between superstitious religion and the genuine religion that underlies all logic and science. All the atheists have on their side is bluster and arrogance – they seem to think that if they can sound arrogant and condescending enough, and demean and disparage religious believers enough, they can fool themselves and others into believing their atheist position even though it has no solid foundation, no solid ontology/metaphysics to back it up, but in fact goes against the solid ontological/metaphysical foundation of the science and logic they appeal to! The bluster has worked to fool people for 200 years, but its force is nearly gone. It is up to intelligent believers to work to change the governmental structures, still steeped in Enlightenment era thinking, which give the groundless atheist position such undue power and influence in political affairs in our secularized culture (how else could prayer be illegal in public schools in countries with a majority of Christians?).
3I say “his” in the singular with full awareness of the “JEDP” or “4-source” hypothesis of the authorship of the Torah/Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), which has dominated critical Biblical studies for more than a century. If this theory is correct, there would still be a final editor/redactor (a “him”), and I have serious doubts about its correctness in any case. The theory has recently been challenged on many fronts, including a computer analysis which supports the traditional single authorship of the Pentateuch, and I find that the underlying theology of those who formulated the theory is quite deficient. For example, the theory argues for a “Yahwist” author (the “J” source) who calls God Yahweh (“the LORD”), and an “Elohist” author (the “E” source) who calls God Elohim (“God”), arguing that these distinct accounts were conflated together by a later editor. Not surprisingly, interpretations of the Bible based on this theory can be really disjointed. But a comprehensive Biblical theological framework like Covenant Theology and my Family Theology based on it brings out the great beauty and interconnection of all the different passages of Scripture, within and without of the Pentateuch, the ‘Big Picture’ or single overarching story told within the Bible. Covenant and Family Theology, as superior theological frameworks, discover the great spiritual significance and beauty behind God being called Yahweh in some places and Elohim in others – such as the personal Covenant Name for God Yahweh being first used immediately after the Bible’s account of the Seventh Day of Creation, the day when the Covenant with Adam and his descendants (humanity) was made. In Genesis 3 the Covenant Name Yahweh is used frequently but never from the mouth of the Serpent, Satan, who obviously does not have a Covenant relationship with God.
4While it is certainly true that in some cases a natural explanation can be suggested for what some person or group has experienced as a miracle, and I would agree that generally speaking a natural explanation for a phenomenon or event is to be preferred to a supernatural explanation since miracles are by definition exceptions to the normal working of the universe, a plausible natural explanation will not always be verifiable either, nor even always the most satisfying or “likely.” Given that science effectively proceeds from the assumption that an intelligent orderer God created the intricately ordered universe science observes, a Creator God who could surely bend or break His own natural laws if it suited His purpose, a truly “scientific” point of view (one that understands the philosophical foundation of science in the assumption of such a God) will always be open to the possibility that there might not always be a natural explanation for an event, though in most cases there will be and it is worthwhile looking for one (miracles are exceptions to the general rule of the universe running according to the natural laws the super-natural orderer set up). Atheists are not being truly “scientific” when they assume that everything that happens within the natural universe absolutely must have a purely natural explanation – they are in fact proceeding from an ultimately “religious” belief which they cannot at all prove, proceeding from an atheistic religious philosophy that there is no God, and therefore, only on religious FAITH that there is no God, they assume that everything MUST have a purely natural explanation, EVEN if SCIENCE cannot identify it. Committed atheists, faced with any total failure of science to adequately explain a phenomenon (or faced with credible, corroborated eyewitness testimony and other empirical evidence that is not reasonable to simply deny) will (only on FAITH, not reason) still choose to believe that there IS a purely natural, “scientific” explanation that current science simply has not discovered yet. In some specific instances they may turn out to be correct about this, but their whole approach is still ultimately a matter of (atheistic versus theistic) religious faith, and one that is far less reasonable than believing in God and His occasionally performed miracle, since atheism CANNOT explain the fact the universe is ordered in the first place and therefore comprehensible (as Einstein noted), capable of being studied scientifically at all. Theistic religious faith, Judeo-Christian religious faith, is a much more reasonable religious faith than atheistic religious philosophies, because it fits the ordered universe we in fact observe, and in fact science only got started because the first scientists (the ancients Greeks influenced by older Judaism) took seriously what the Jewish Bible/Christian Old Testament revealed about the universe being an ordered cosmos and not a random chaos.
Although Christians are thus justified in believing in miracles, being too quick to assign a supernatural explanation to something can lead to superstitious forms of religion. But Christian experience differentiates between rare actual super-natural miracles (which suspend the laws of nature) and much more common “natural miracles,” perhaps better called Divine Intervention or Guidance (traditionally Providence), wherein God the Lord of Nature works through the natural order He created for the benefit of His children. In this sense Christians are usually quite right to assign “happy coincidences” which benefit them or opportunities closing which guide them (or disasters which bring them to repentance for falling away from Him) to God who is the Lord of Nature. As Christians, we understand that God loves us, is always with us, and is concerned about our lives, and we understand that nothing happens – even something that proceeds from the normal laws of nature and of cause and effect – unless God allows it to happen (He has the power to interfere with the normal running of the natural universe at any time). Because of our conscious relationship with God and our knowledge of His character, we can much more easily see how God has allowed certain things to happen to us for our benefit or perhaps for our discipline and training, even amazing, unusual, “coincidental” things, without these things necessarily being formally “miraculous,” that is, involving any kind of supernatural suspension of the natural order.
5In some cases “literal” miracles may not necessarily be “supernatural” miracles – for example, Korah’s rebellious party being eaten up by an earthquake may well have been the result of natural plate tectonics, not a suspension of the laws of nature and natural cause-and-effect. The fire afterwards could possibly be a natural gas explosion caused by the earthquake – but in this case it is still “miraculous” that the quake happened during Korah’s rebellion and only his followers were affected. In this case the Biblical author relating the story rightly emphasized the spiritual meaning of this natural event in history as God’s choosing of Moses not Korah – a videotape might only have shown an earthquake.
6My cat demonstrates intelligence in problem-solving, how to get to the hidden food; my cat demonstrates emotion in fear or affection; my cat demonstrates will in choosing which lap to sleep on.
7 Note that ant colonies and meerkat or prairie dog communities or even communities of our “fellow” primates (like apes and chimps) do not vary from one another anywhere near as much as human communities do! Animal behavior is far more predictable than is human behavior, and animal communities of the same species exhibit no significant variations in organization or decoration or architecture (which is non-existent). While animals can communicate warnings and other rudimentary messages through chirps and calls, the famous linguist Noam Chomsky confirms that even the highest animals, the apes like gorillas and chimpanzees, a few of whom have been taught many symbols of Sign Language, “do not have the barest rudiments of real language.” The symbols they have been taught allow them to communicate with humans instead of just with apes, but their use of the symbols does not even approach human language. A gorilla who has been taught a 1000 word vocabulary in Sign Language still only “speaks” in one or two word sentences, with a “Mean Length of Utterance” of about 1.6 words per “sentence.” A small human child with less than half that size vocabulary can form complex grammatical sentences. God’s gift to human beings is utterly unique.
8But humanity still bears the image of God, adam is still much more than an animal. Thus Eve will later be called “the Mother of all the living” – of the no longer supernaturally living, but still living as the highest and most loved creature upon the face of the earth.
9J. Eccles, the nobel-prize-winning neurophysiologist, the scientist and medical specialist who knows more about the human brain than anyone on the planet, confirms that the physical structures of the brain do not near account for the range of human personality, intelligence, emotion, will – all traditionally identified by philosophy as functions of the soul – and he has written books describing the brain as the instrument of the mind, the body as the instrument of the soul. But still the instrument is part of who we are as integrated beings of soul and body, thus my personality and intelligence can be altered and damaged by damage to the instrument, brain damage.
10Note that God does not have a body, so our bodies are not part of the image and likeness of God, except in their physical representation of the Trinity in human families made of father, mother, children, or in the Trinitarian representation that our bodies together with our soul and spirit make us tripartite beings, as God is a three in one being.
11 The effects of Adam’s Fall was not only the loss of the indwelling Holy Spirit, “the likeness of God,” but the mar of the “image of God” in our eternal, rational, spiritual souls, as well as the corruption of all material creation, including our bodies. The three particular effects of sin in fallen humanity are the darkened intellect, which no longer knows what good is (hence Israel’s need for a very detailed and specific moral law to interpret the 10 Commandments in very specific cases), the weakened will, which finds it difficult to choose the good even when it is known, and concupiscence, the disordering of the passions, which make us desire too much of a good thing or good things out of their proper order (such as gluttony or fornication). I would suggest that the darkened reason is essentially (if not perfectly) healed in our receiving back the Holy Spirit; Christians now know the good or at least recognize it much more easily (hence Paul in Romans 7:25 distinguishes his mind as being of the side of good, against his body: “I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the flesh a slave to the law of sin” (also see Romans 8:5-9). Concupiscence is particularly associated with the bodily passions, so it against this primarily (if not wholly) that Christians still struggle. Our will, weakened by the Fall so that it cannot choose good except if empowered by Grace, is restored to the freedom to choose the good by our spiritual regeneration in Christ. Our will is essentially us, our power of choice. But we are composed of body, soul, and spirit. So our will is pulled on the one hand by the concupiscent flesh; it is pulled on the other hand by the soul renewed in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives empowering grace and freedom to choose the good, but being also pulled by the corrupted flesh, we will struggle to choose the good, though free and empowered to do so by Grace.
12That the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Father through the Son back to the Father” is a concise encapsulation of the more detailed teaching of the 17th Ecumenical Council at Florence in 1439. At this Council the Christian East and West together pooled their insights into the fundamental Christian doctrine of the Trinity and came up with the Christian Church’s most precise and detailed dogmatic definition of the Trinity, the primary doctrine of Christianity. See my book-length essay Love Unbounded: Tracing Salvation History from the Eternal Trinity to the New Covenant Church – Using Family Theology to Answer the Question “How and Why Does Jesus’ Death Save Us?”
13Possibly even a descendant of Abraham himself, being associated with the Midianites (who are descended from Abraham through his concubine Keturah) and the Moabites who are descended from Abraham’s nephew Lot.
14The Jews are physically descended from Judah, son of Israel (originally named Jacob), father of the Israelites, Israel is descended from Eber, father of the Hebrews (including Jacob’s grandfather “Abraham the Hebrew” – see Genesis 14:13), Eber is descended from Shem, father of the Semites (Genesis 10:21-31), and Shem (son of Noah, the last faithful Sethite before the Flood), is descended from Seth, the faithful son of Adam, father of the Sethites (also called “the sons of God” – Genesis 6:2,4 – as they were once-faithful descendants of Adam “the son of God” – Luke 3:38. The godly Sethite line (its patriarchs listed in Genesis 5) began to intermarry (Genesis 6:2) with the Cainite line descended from Cain the world’s first murderer (its patriarchs listed in Genesis 4:17-24) and the Sethites being corrupted by the Cainites made the world become “full of violence,” (see Genesis 6:11-13) which motivated God to send the Flood). For more details see Chapter 5 of the full version of The Bible’s ‘Big Picture’.
15The greater appeal, to certain individuals worldwide, of this form of Christianity parallels the fact that Roman Rite Christians are found worldwide. You do not have to be North American for you to find your personal spirituality most congruent with North American Rite worship any more than you have to be culturally Roman in order to be Roman Catholic, nor Ukrainian in order to be Ukrainian Catholic. There is a Ukrainian Catholic priest in Canada who is ethnically Chinese! Part of the point of the different Rites of the Church, especially in our increasingly multi-cultural world, is to provide different spiritual forms of worship which will most appeal to different people and most help different people to grow spiritually. These different Rites usually start among people who share a common cultural baseline, and so usually bear the name of the original culture, but they are not only “for” people of the original culture, especially in our increasingly multi-cultural world. It is a wonderful thing to be able to sample the different forms of orthodox Christian worship and be enriched by the different emphases of the different Rites.