Friday, August 11, 2006

Only One Way

In the 19th century denominational discord was much more common than it is today:

My revered ggg grandfather, probably ordained by Francis Asbury, over his lifetime went through the South establishing Methodist churches. He always gave away whatever money he might acquire.

Ca 1860 he was 86; his numerous children had all pushed on to greener pastures. His cousin Nelson, an Episcopalian, had been much more provident than the preacher and had acquired large holdings of land. He felt led to provide a house and "life style" for Old Cousin James and his wife, Salley.

The old couple spent their declining years there, during which O.C.J. never failed to take Nelson and family to task for their Episcopalianism and to threaten them with hellfire and brimstone.

In the 2nd century there were two strong churches in 'Ephesus' (or wherever this happened). Like present day Quakers the Thomasines held "that of God in everyone": through the Eternal Light that shines upon us all and the divine and merciful word from the Source we may all become brothers or sisters of Jesus.

John, the founder and father of the other church, had a different idea. He implied that Jesus was present with the Father before the creation of the world. Furthermore Jesus was the only (begotten) One, and there was no other way.

How could John combat the insidious heretical propaganda of the Thomasine Christians. Well John would just say a few things about Thomas. In case you haven't read John for yourself, Elaine Pagels of Beyond Belief tells us what they were.

Check John 11:16; also John 14:5; and John 20:27.


Zach Young said...

This is such an interesting topic. Recently, I've been studying a bit on the topic. Pagel's books are great.

I wonder how things would be different if the early groups could have talked more, fought less, and survived to tell their side of the story. Now, we can just study the texts (luckily many have been found in the past century) but all the tradition is more or less lost.

I also wonder if John was as opposed to Thomas' teachings as it appears today, or if there was just friendly sparring going on that was later interpreted as right and wrong.

Larry said...

That's a good point, Zach. Unfortunately there was terrible controversy for centuries. The hopeful thing is that more and more of us have come to see how minimal and inconsequential most of the controversies are.

I owe my primary loyalty to the "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ", but I'm convinced that Jesus thought of Buddha and all the others as brothers.

There is only one way, but it has been described and taught by people from many different places in life. God blesses us all.

Larry said...

David McKay said...
On going both ways:

Back on the cusp of the Reformation, one of my favourite Christians, Erasmus, tried desparately to hold the Catholic Church together, to get Lutheran reforms going within the church and avoid the split.

Way back then he spoke of something called Christian Humanism.

8/14/2006 10:00 PM

Thanks, David. I'll have to take a look at Erasmus.

This morning Ellie and I got to arguing about Pagels. She disapproves, aware that Pagels is pretty light on anything other than a literal approach, in spite of perceiving the primary different between Irenaeus and his opponents as the literal as opposed to the metaphoric interpretations of John. She held up Joseph Campbell as a better guide.

I agreed with her to a point. As a historian Pagels is more focused on the literal. However she put her finger on what IMO has always been the primary bone of contention with Christendom: between people whose mind is more or less confined to the literal and others of a more imaginative bent. It was very true re Irenaeus and his opponents, and it's very true today.