Friday, July 29, 2011

What Is Won by Christ's Death and Resurrection

The worship of demons then has ceased: creation has been sanctified by the divine blood: altars and temples of idols have been overthrown, the knowledge of God has been implanted in men’s minds, the co-essential Trinity, the uncreate divinity, one true God, Creator and Lord of all receives men’s service: virtues are cultivated, the hope of resurrection has been granted through the resurrection of Christ, the demons shudder at those men who of old were under their subjection.  And the marvel, indeed, is that all this has been successfully brought about through His cross and passion and death.  Throughout all the earth the gospel of the knowledge of God has been preached; no wars or weapons or armies being used to rout the enemy, but only a few, naked, poor, illiterate, persecuted and tormented men, who with their lives in their hands, preached him who was crucified in the flesh and died, and who became victors over the wise and powerful.  For the omnipotent power of the cross accompanied them.  Death itself, which once was man’s chiefest terror, has been overthrown, and now that which was once the object of hate and loathing is preferred to life.  These are the achievements of Christ’s presence: these are the tokens of his power.  For it was not one people that he saved, as when through Moses he divided the sea and delivered Israel out of Egypt and the bondage of Pharaoh; nay, rather he rescued all mankind from the corruption of death and the bitter tyranny of sin: not leading them by force to virtue, not overwhelming them with earth or burning them with fire, or ordering the sinners to be stoned, but persuading men by gentleness and long-suffering to choose virtue and vie with one another, and find pleasure in the struggle to attain it.  For, formerly, it was sinners who were persecuted, and yet they clung all the closer to sin, and sin was looked upon by them as their God: but now for the sake of piety and virtue men choose persecutions and crucifixions and death.

Hail!  O Christ, the word and wisdom and power of God, and God omnipotent!  What can we helpless ones give you in return for all these good gifts?  For all are yours, and you ask nothing from us save our salvation, you who yourself are the giver of this, and yet are grateful to those who receive it, through your unspeakable goodness.  Thanks be to you who gave us life, and granted us the grace of a happy life, and restored us to that, when we had gone astray, through your unspeakable condescension.

John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Book IV, cap. 4

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Camping at Lake Red Rock

Wednesday: We drove two hours to North Overlook Campground next to the dam for Lake Red Rock.  Temperatures were forecast near 100 F.  Thankfully, the campground was as depicted on the website, and afforded a great deal of trees and shade.  Still there was enough heat and humidity that we had to take early showers in order to enjoy the small campfire while eating a light snack of cheese, crackers, and cold beverages.

Thursday: Today was to be in the low 90s, and we could tell by the cooler morning temperature.  After a breakfast of French Toast we ventured out on the bicycle path which is within 50 feet of our campsite.  We rode one direction and back for about one hour.  Sandi wanted to go down to the lake and lay out, so I drove her there and came back to read.  A side project I finished was to repair the screen on the camper door.  It was an easier job than I had feared.  After about two hours, I was getting hungry and went down to the beach to fetch Sandi to eat our sandwiches.  I had also brought peaches and cottage cheese--a pleasant treat on a hot day.  After eating Sandi recommended I come down to the water in order to cool off.  We both got in the lake, and I admit that it felt good.  A side benefit is that I got to put my arms around Sandi without concern for the feel of perspiration.  After we got back to the campsite and changed, we headed into town for more ice and sundries.  Supper comprised chicken breast cooked on the grill, coleslaw, and Peanut Butter/Oatmeal bars.  Later that evening while sitting in front of the fire, we saw an owl above us in the trees.  I tried getting a shot but the pictures were blurry because the shutter speed was so slow.  For an evening snack we popcorn.  It has been a long time since we had that last.

Friday: We were awakened at 5:00 AM to rain, so we closed up the camper windows to keep out the rain.  Thankfully, the camper was cool enough with the fans we brought that we could go back to sleep for a couple of hours.  When we got up Sandi prepared eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns.  After cleaning up we went on the bicycle path the other direction toward the dam.  We rode out on the top of the dam to the spillway and got a wonderful view of the lake on one side and the river on the other.  After that we rode down the path to the base of the dam.  Both of us were thinking about the steep climb back.  After looking around the base, we headed back up the path to our campsite.  As expected, we were too tired to pedal, so we walked up.  The trek was still a struggle.  There are many buzzards that roost around the dam, I managed to get a photo of some flying overhead.  I do believe they wait to prey on unsuspecting bicyclists trying to climb the hills and wait for the to expire in the attempt.  How we survived, I will never know.

Buzzards circling Waiting patiently for my demise
Temperatures got into the mid-90s, and the rain caused a great deal of mugginess.  Supper was pork chop sandwiches and the remaining cole slaw, followed by another of the bars.  That evening we got rain about 8:00.  At 8:15 the park ranger came through with a severe storm warning.  I used my cell phone to check weather, and the warning was to last until 8:45.  Thankfully, all we had was heavy rain, and we were able to stay inside our dining tent and enjoy our cheese and crackers.  The storm did not stop until almost 10:00.  As is typical, the temperature dropped about ten degrees during the storm, so we were comfortable sleeping that night.

Saturday: We awoke to an overcast day with cooler temperatures forecast.  There seemed to be a constant threat of rain, so we decided to go to the Cordova Tower that we had passed the previous day.  It is an old water tower that was converted to be a lookout point.  The original tower pedestal is used as infrastructure to hold the continuous fiberglass staircase winding around the outside.  About halfway up, I asked Sandi if she would carry me the rest of the way.  She said I could just wait at the bottom.  You give your life to someone for over 30 years, and all you get is put in your place.  We managed to make it to the top together.  We discovered later that the platform is 106 feet high.

After coming down, we stopped at the butterfly garden and looked around.  Across the road was a nature trail that adventurous Sandi wanted to try.  I say adventurous because the trail was long and did not lead back to the beginning in a circle, but let out at the tower.  There was a second trail going back to where the parking lot.  Rather than taking the trail, we decided to just follow the road around to the van.  What seemed like 50 miles later (actually about 50 yards) we were back on the road to our campsite to shower.  That evening we had hobo dinners for supper (hamburger patty, cut-up potato, and green beans wrapped in foil and placed on the fire) and another bar.  Because the previous evening's fire was rained out, we were able to have a large fire with the rest of our wood.

Sunday: At about 6:45 we awoke to thunder.  Fearing the inevitable, we started breaking camp.  We only received light showers for a short time, so the tent and camper were dry by the time we got fully loaded.  The return trip was as expected but early in the day than planned.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Christ's Resurrection Provides Hope of Our Own

Christ the Lord, then after he had destroyed death and ensured our salvation in this manner, returned to heaven, leaving behind him the hope of a similar ascent to those who cultivate sanctity.  "And I, if only I am lifted up," He says, "will draw all men to myself."

Such is the loving care of the God of the universe for men. Such providence has the creator exercised for his thankless creation. Such is the attention of the prototype for his own image. He fashioned it from the beginning and honored it with his own likeness. But it was ungrateful to its make, destroyed the divine image, received the characteristics of wild beasts, and changed from divine into animal form. The creator did not look askance at what had assumed animal form, but renewed it, restored it to its pristine splendor, gave it back its old gracefulness, and made those his sons who were unworthy to be his servants.

Theodoret of Cyrus, On Divine Providence, Discourse 10.42-43

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Baked Iowan

I am vacationing this week and would enjoy it more if the temperatures were below 95° F.  While yesterday and today have have generally been lounging about the house with brief trips outside, this morning found me in the garage trying to tune up the bicycles for our camping trip tomorrow through the weekend.  I was outside approximately 30 minutes and came in drenched with sweat—not a pretty sight.

What's that you ask?  Why are we camping during the hottest week of the year?  Elementary, Holmes: to make up for camping last October when the evening temperatures dipped below 30° F.  At least that is my story.  I have no other plausible explanation.  (And believe me, cold is easier to handle than the heat.)  If life is about finding balance, Iowa would have to be removed from the planet.  As any Iowan knows, the weather can change from sunny to precipitation to hail to tornado to sunny again on any given day with temperature fluctuations that look like an EKG readout.

All this with humidity somewhere above 115%.  Seriously, there are days so muggy, SCUBA gear is required to go outside.

All that said, my output will fall precipitously for the rest of the week, unless perhaps I can squeeze in something that I can schedule to post later.

Christ's Incarnation as the Prime Example of God's Providence and Care

Come, let us say a few words about the incarnation of our savior, which is the summit of God's providence toward men.  For nothing shows his immeasurable goodness so well, neither sky, nor earth, nor sea, nor air, nor sun, nor moon, nor stars, nor the whole visible and invisible creation which has been created by a single word, or rather which a word has produced as soon as it is willed, nothing shows his providence so well as the only begotten son of God, who was in the form of God, the brightness of his glory and the figure of his substance, who was in the beginning and was with God and was God, by whom all things were made taking the form of a servant to be made in the likeness of man and found in human form, and he was on the earth, and he conversed with man, and he took our weaknesses and bore our infirmities.  Now the blessed Paul recognized this as the greatest proof of the love of God for men and exclaimed: But God commends his love toward us because when as yet we were sinners Christ died for us.  And again: He that spared not even his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how has he not also, with him, given us all things?

Saint John agrees that this is so: For God so loved the world as to give his only begotten son for it so tat whosoever believe in him may not perish but may have life everlasting.  God, then, has not simply a care for men, he has a loving care for them.  Such is the excess of his love that he gave us his only begotten son, consubstantial with him, born before the rising of the daystar, who, he used as his collaborator in creation, to be our physician and savior and to confer through him the gift of adoptive sonship on us.

For when the creator perceived that mankind had gone over to the standard of the hated tyrant and had fallen into the very abyss of evil, trampling recklessly on the laws of nature when he saw too that the visible creation, though it manifests and proclaims that it is the work of a creator, is unable to convince of this fact those who have fallen into the depths of insensibility, he contrived our salvation with wisdom and justice. For he did not wish to liberate us merely in virtue of his omnipotence, nor did he want mercy to be his sole weapon against the enemy who had enslaved our nature—the enemy might misrepresent such mercy as unjust—but instead he contrived a way that was full of kindness and adorned with justice. Uniting conquered nature to his own, he enters the contests, prepares to reverse the defeat, and to retrieve by conquest the one who had been badly vanquished of old and to undo the tyranny of the one who had bitterly enslaved us, and restore us to our former freedom.

Theodoret of Cyrus, On Divine Providence, Discourse 10.12-14

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sing Me a Love Song

Consider for a moment the following song lyrics.

The more i seek you,
the more i find you
The more i find you, the more I love you

I wanna sit at your feet
drink from the cup in your hand.
Lay back against you and breath, here your heart beat
This love is so deep, it's more than I can stand.
I melt in your peace, it's overwhelming

They are pretty much your standard fare for a love song with someone being caught up in anticipation of intimacy with a lover.  Now have someone on stage sing this three times with the audience on its feet with raised hands, and we call it a worship song.  That's right.  This is "The More I Seek You" by Kari Jobe.

And then churches wonder why their members feel no need to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In Whom Do You Believe?

A former missionary I have heard preach enjoyed quizzing his listeners about what they believe, especially concerning the person of Jesus Christ.  In that same spirit, here is a True/False quiz of my own.
    T F In order to be saved, one must hold to the faith given by Christ and delivered through his apostles.
    T F In order to be saved, one must think correctly about the Trinity.
    T F In order to be saved, one must believe correctly about the incarnation of Christ.
    T F If one does not hold to the first three above, that person cannot be saved.

The answer to each is True.  How did you fare?  Were any difficult or questionable?  The statements are paraphrases of those originally given in an ancient document in the same order as they first appeared.  Let's examine them in their more commonly worded form.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith – A catholic faith is one universally presented regardless of circumstance or audience.  For the ancient church that comprised confidence in Christ's death, burial, and resurrection for sin (1 Cor 15:3-4) plus belief
in one God, the Father Almighty, who made the heaven and the earth and the seas and all the things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who made known through the prophets the plan of salvation, and the coming, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his future appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father to sum up all things and to raise anew all flesh of the whole human race.
Irenaeus, Against Heresies (see also Tertullian, Prescription against Heretics)

Not that everything about each point needs to be understood nor that a full understanding must be held, the individual should have some understanding of these basic tenets in order to have faith in the true God and in the atoning work for sin accomplished by the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary.  The document then goes on to describe specific points of the faith that proved contentious because of the mystery in which they are wrapped.

He therefore that will be saved must think thus of the Trinity – This sentence concludes a detailed, deliberate explanation of the interrelation in the Godhead between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three co-equal and eternal persons, yet there is not three gods but one eternal, uncreated, incomprehensible, almighty God.

Does this admittedly difficult doctrine really matter?  Is it more than just a philosophical exercise for academicians?  Yes, for if we do not know the God of the Bible, how can we say that we believe in him.  If the Jesus we confess as the savior of sinners is not the one fully revealed in scripture and explained here, that Jesus cannot save.  Our faith is worthless. If the Holy Spirit we have is not a personality but an emoting of the Father, we have no comforter to help us in our weakness.

At this point we must acknowledge there is a small percentage of those considering themselves as true believers who hold to a belief that God reveals himself, not in three persons, but in three modes—using the one appropriate for the moment.  Within popular Christian circles, the most well-known adherents of this position are T. D. Jakes and the contemporary Christian music trio Phillips, Craig, and Dean.  Are these men true believers?  We want to give an affirmative answer, saying that what really counts is that they believe Jesus died for their sins—Romans 10:9-11 says so.  Does it really?  What does that passage actually say?
[B]ecause, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
While Jesus is the only name explicitly mentioned, the passage delivers more than what is surface level.  At the time Paul wrote his epistle, Jews had already used the Greek word for Lord in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament for YHWH, God's personal name.  So confessing “Jesus is Lord” relays more than “he is my sovereign.”  It is stating emphatically that Jesus is YHWH.  This is all well and good until the next sentence which separates God from Jesus.  Confessing and believing now is an affirmation of the uniqueness of the Father and Son in their respective redemptive work.  One must be Trinitarian to take hold of the full truth of this passage.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ – Besides a proper understanding of who Jesus is as relating to the Godhead, one also needs to take in who he was during the time of his incarnation here on earth.  He is fully God and fully man having both divine and human nature in much the same way that any offspring is of the nature of both parents: not in a way that we might speak of percentages of one or the other, but that he is fully (100%) both at the same time.

Why is this important to understand for our salvation?  If Jesus is not fully God, he could not have taken the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).  Some would still be left to deal with.  If he is not fully man, he cannot take my place as sin-bearer.  Only a man can atone for a man.  Either way, salvation would not be a finished work.

This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved – Herein is the crux of the matter.  One does not need to fully understand but be fully persuaded that these things are true in whatever capacity they might be understood.  Of course, believers will have varying degrees of knowledge and wisdom as they walk in newness of life.  This was written in the face of those who denied the very things mentioned, not in ignorance, but in open rejection of the truth.

Where did I get these ancient statements?  They are from the Athanasian Creed, so-called not because Athanasius wrote it but because it expressed what he believed and taught in the fourth century.  The language of necessity and inability are abrasive, standing in stark contrast to the prevalent relativism of a postmodern mentality.  Indeed, in a recent a guest commented that deep down even Christians want to be universalists concerning salvation, especially when confronted with statements like these, yet here we must stand to rightly defend the truth of scripture.  Belief must be in a salvation wrought by a Father who gave his Son so that the Spirit might work in us.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Getting a Handle on Things

In a recent e-mail exchange concerning the advisability of adhering to an historical creed (Apostle's, Nicene, Athanasian, etc.), one Christian brother stated that he would take the Bible over man's words any day.  I once was taught and thought the same until someone nicely pointed out that any believer or local church indeed does hold to a creed, though it may not be formalized.  The word “creed” comes from the Latin credo meaning “I believe.”  As soon as someone utters “I/We believe...” a creed has been communicated.  Where this typically manifests itself is in a mission statement or statement of faith at the denomination or individual church body level or both.  In so many words, a cogent statement of existence is articulated for all whether inside or outside their fellowship.  This is what we believe and do.

At this point the discussion moves from “Do I have a creed?” to “What is my creed?”  There are several that have been written beginning with those mentioned above written in the early centuries of the church.  Later in history, councils and synods convened in prominent cities to establish what their churches teach: Westminster, Augsburg, London, and Trent to name a few.  The free church traditions are not without their own ranging from Schleitheim Confession to “No creed but Christ.”1

How does one choose what creed or creeds to study for benefit?  The earliest creeds2 are ecumenical in nature and can be trusted for content as an attempt by the early church to work out fine points of doctrine already believed.  These can and should be studied as profitable.

Centuries later there would be great splits in the universal church, first between East and West, then later between Reformers and Church of Rome, making a choice problematic.  As these forks are met, the path taken is generally in accord with the history of the church or denomination one has joined as a disciple of Christ or in the case of a church body, with whom they wished to be aligned.  All three major branches of Christendom—Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant—have elements of their confessions that are strengths, but each has weaknesses as well.  It is this problem that ignites those eschewing written creeds altogether.  We cannot ignore the divisions, but we can step carefully through the bodies of doctrine to see where they are in clear agreement with apostolic teaching using the early creedal statements as guides through the minefield.

Lastly, look at your own denominational or independent church statements.  Do they agree with what has been historically understood?  Compare the findings with wise, trustworthy men whom you know personally or others writing today.  Does the doctrine espoused now match up to that which was once delivered to the saints?  If not, make the necessary adjustments.  The creeds addressed internal and external conditions of the church at the time of their writing.  As such they will emphasize certain aspects of holy writ.  Learn from them and bring the knowledge forward.

1 This statement demonstrates ignorance of the facts.  While there may be no written confession, one exists as oral tradition based on a systematic theology handed down from a prior generation.
2 Those coming out of, but not limited to, the Seven Ecumenical Councils: First Council of Nicaea (325); First Council of Constantinople (381); Council of Ephesus (431); Council of Chalcedon (451); Second Council of Constantinople (553); Third Council of Constantinople (680); Second Council of Nicaea (787).

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's a Wrap (Laodicea - Summary Thoughts)

I did not present Canon 60 because it is missing from many manuscripts and is therefore of questionable status. The content delineates a biblical canon of all the current books save that of the Revelation.

As one commenter had noted, this synod set down canons in increasingly legalistic rigor.  Though many of them were instituted with good intention—many with solid scriptural backing—the synod set down laws where instruction would have sufficed.

Someone may ask what is wrong with setting written rules since governments do this on a daily basis.  First, God has made evident that the life of the believer is not one of adherence to laws, commands, and precepts but of an outworking of gratitude for the abundant grace and mercy received through Christ.  That life of grace is at odds with the life under law.  By adding rules of conduct we are no better than the spiritual leaders in Malachi or the Pharisees of Jesus' day.

Second, these laws tell us that scripture is not sufficient.  The thing is like this: since God did not give us enough particulars for ecclesiastical affairs, we must make laws prohibiting certain practices as a necessary safeguard for our circumstance.  This type of reasoning allows the culture to define the application of scripture in a way that mimics situational ethics—the only difference being that the group has an higher beginning ethical standard.

In the end these are doomed to fail.  Whereas Nicaea laid down what it taught and practiced, Laodicea has moved into the realm of determining what is good and proper for all by their unique church standards.  I could not help but think of Christ's warning to this church in Rev 3:14-22 where the diagnosis is that this church thinks it is rich and abounding, when in actuality it is lukewarm to the Lord's things, wretched, and pitiable.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Don't Bring That Around Here (Laodicea - Canon 59)

No psalms composed by private individuals nor any uncanonical books may be read in the church, but only the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments.

The psalm exclusion was directed to those songs composed by heretical teachers, not those of sound and trusted teachers.  Some groups throughout church history have taken a position of exclusive psalmody.  While this practice safeguards the lyrical content—a worthwhile gesture much needed today—it prevents the inclusion of God-honoring pieces written later.

No Private Oblations (Laodicea - Canon 58)

The Oblation must not be made by bishops or presbyters in any private houses.

An oblation is any offering, but the intention here concerns the bread and cup of the Lord's Supper being taken only on the local church. With the degree of concern during this time to avoid secret dealings and promote the unity of the local church, this rule might be expected.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Just Visiting (Laodicea - Canon 57)

Bishops must not be appointed in villages or country districts, but visitors; and those who have been already appointed must do nothing without the consent of the bishop of the city.  Presbyters, in like manner, must do nothing without the consent of the bishop.

Similar canons had already been given in Antioch and Ancyra as a method of preventing interference or usurpation.

Please Be Seated (Laodicea - Canon 56)

Presbyters may not enter and take their seats in the bema before the entrance of the Bishop: but they must enter with the Bishop, unless he be at home sick, or absent.

This canon did not implement a processional hierarchy with elders and overseers in their places. The intent was to ensure the overseer did not walk into the meeting place unless accompanied elders as a guard.

The startling aspect of this canon is the mention of the bema.  Paul used this language with the appearance before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10) to receive what is due.  The seat in the local church would be a place authority and reserved for the man in charge.  From it judgment was pronounced.  Most likely, it is this use which would later be more commonly known in Roman Catholic circles as speaking ex cathedra.

A noteworthy designation here is that the overseer is not alone in the bema but joined by the elders.  Judgments were not granted in isolation but as a result of council.

Bema at Corinth (courtesy of Stephen Pohl)Close-up of plaque (Courtesy of Stephen Pohl)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Act Your Calling (Laodicea - Canon 53, 54, 55)

Christians, when they attend weddings, must not join in wanton dances, but modestly dine or breakfast, as is becoming to Christians.

Members of the priesthood and of the clergy must not witness the plays at weddings or banquets; but, before the players enter, they must rise and depart.

Neither members of the priesthood nor of the clergy, nor yet laymen, may club together for drinking entertainments.

Christians, not just church leaders as delineated, are to remember that a joyous occasion does not give license to act in an unbecoming manner.  The apostle Paul's instruction for self-control and good deportment among adults regardless of maturity is not situational in nature (Titus 2:1-10).

Mystery of Godliness on the Cross

Antiphon XV,
Holy Friday Matins
Dcn. Sergius Trubachov
English adaptation by V. Morosan

Today He who hung the earth on the waters is hung upon a tree.
He who is King of the Angels is arrayed in a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan receives a blow on the face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the Cross with nails.
The Son of the Virgin is pierced by a spear.
We worship Your passion, O Christ.
We worship Your passion, O Christ.
We worship Your passion, O Christ.
Show us also Your glorious Resurrection.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Great Is the Mystery of Godliness

He was born—but he had been begotten: he was born of a woman—but she was a virgin.…In his human nature he had no father, but also in his divine nature no mother.…He dwelt in the womb—but he was recognized by the prophet, himself still in the womb, leaping before the Word, for whose sake he came into being.  He was wrapped in swaddling clothes—but he took off the swathing bands of the grave by His rising again.  He was laid in a manger—but he was glorified by angels, and proclaimed by a star, and worshiped by the magi.…He had no form nor comeliness in the eyes of the Jews—but to David he is fairer than the children of men.  And on the mountain he was bright as the lightning, and became more luminous than the sun, initiating us into the mystery of the future.

He was baptized as man—but he remitted sins as God—not because he needed rites of purification himself, but that he might sanctify the element of water.  He was tempted as man, but he conquered as God; he bids us be of good cheer, for he has overcome the world.  He hungered—but he fed thousands; he is the bread that gives life, and that is of heaven.  He thirsted—but he cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.”  He promised that fountains should flow from them that believe.  He was wearied, but he is the rest of them that are weary and heavy laden.  He was heavy with sleep, but he walked lightly over the sea. He rebuked the winds, he made Peter light as he began to sink.  He pays tribute, but it is out of a fish; he is the king of those who demanded it.  He is called a Samaritan and a demoniac;…the demons acknowledge him, and he drives out demons and sinks in the sea legions of foul spirits, and sees the prince of the demons falling like lightning.…He prays, but he hears prayer.  He weeps, but he causes tears to cease.  He asks where Lazarus was laid, for he was man; but he raises Lazarus, for he was God.

He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only for thirty pieces of silver; but he redeems the world, and that at a great price, for the price was his own blood.  As a sheep he is led to the slaughter, but he is the shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also.  As a lamb he is silent, yet he is the word, and is proclaimed by the voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He is bruised and wounded, but he heals every disease and every infirmity.  He is lifted up and nailed to the tree, but by the tree of life he restores us; yea, he saves even the robber crucified with Him; he wrapped the visible world in darkness.  He is given vinegar to drink mingled with gall.  Who?  He who turned the water into wine, who is the destroyer of the bitter taste, who is sweetness and altogether desire.  He lays down his life, but he has power to take it again; and the veil is rent, for the mysterious doors of heaven are opened; the rocks are cleft, the dead arise.  He dies, but he gives life, and by his death destroys death.  He is buried, but he rises again; he goes down into Hades, but he brings up the souls; he ascends to heaven, and shall come again to judge the living and the dead.

Gregory Nazianzen, On the Son

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Lenten Practices (Laodicea - Canon 49, 50, 51, 52)

During Lent the Bread must not be offered except on the Sabbath Day and on the Lord’s Day only.

The fast must not be broken on the fifth day of the last week in Lent,1 and the whole of Lent be dishonored; but it is necessary to fast during all the Lenten season by eating only dry meats.

The nativities of Martyrs are not to be celebrated in Lent, but commemorations of the holy Martyrs are to be made on the Sabbaths and Lord’s days.

Marriages and birthday feasts are not to be celebrated in Lent.

Lent was and is taught to be a time of fasting to prepare men for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ.  In view of that, any celebratory feast was not to be held.  The only exception was the Lord's Supper, which for this season of the year could only be observed on Saturday or Sunday.

1 I.e., on Maunday Thursday.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rites of Baptism (Laodicea - Canon 45, 46, 47, 48)

[Candidates] for baptism are not to be received after the second week in Lent.

They who are to be baptized must learn the faith [creed] by heart, and recite it to the bishop, or to the presbyters, on the fifth day of the week.

They who are baptized in sickness and afterwards recover, must learn the Creed by heart and know that the Divine gifts have been vouchsafed them.

They who are baptized must after Baptism be anointed with the heavenly chrism, and be partakers of the Kingdom of Christ.

By this time, baptisms were performed on Resurrection Sunday. In order to ensure proper preparation for those desiring to be baptized, a cutoff date was enforced.

One baptismal requirement was knowledge of "the creed"—most likely of Nicaea since it was the most complete available and reflected the theology handed down from the apostles to the current day.  As has been noted in a past posting, there were those baptized because of serious illness and the threat of death.  Should the baptized person recover, he or she was to memorize the creed and fulfill that requirement.

An addition brought into baptismal practice was the chrism or anointing with oil, usually by making a sign of the cross on the forehead.  Most likely the idea was to bring together the anointing given by the Holy Spirit with an outward sign.  At that point the baptized were considered in full fellowship.  This extra-biblical practice demonstrates the encroachment of outward manifestations to build pseudo-spiritual practices prevalent to today that give the appearance of godliness but do nothing to further true righteousness.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Being Out of Place (Laodicea - Canon 44)

Women may not go to the altar.

God, through his word, emphasizes the place of male leadership. They are divinely designed to fulfill that role. Women, as well, have roles which fulfill a separate, complementary function as they work and live with men. Both of these are commensurate with their place of divinely-ordained headship (1 Cor 11:3). In a corporate worship setting this is demonstrated by men taking the leadership place in meeting activities while their wives support (1 Cor 14:33-35; 1 Tim 2:11-14).1 That being the case, the men were responsible for the administration of the Lord's Supper.

1 I do not advocate women being absolutely silent in the meetings.  The issue is the application of leading and submitting as the Lord has revealed.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sentry Duty (Laodicea - Canon 43)

The subdeacons may not leave the doors to engage in the prayer, even for a short time.

Subdeacons were posted at the doors to escort out those who were not in full fellowship at the proper part of the service, and then prevent entry until the Lord's Supper was completed. The prayer mentioned is occurring during that latter part of the service.

New Testament Manuscript Studies on iTunes U

Shaun Tabatt at Bible Geek Gone Wild has passed along information concerning videos from The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts and made available through iTunes U. If you are interested in the N.T. manuscripts and history, this will be worthwhile.

Traveling Wilburys (Laodicea - Canon 41 & 42)

None of the priesthood nor of the clergy may go on a journey, without the bidding of the Bishop.

None of the priesthood nor of the clergy may travel without letters canonical.

Travel during the fourth century had a more onerous affect on the local church than today.  Care had to be taken that the flock had proper shepherding from week to week.  Plus there needed to be sufficient precautions that traveling clergy were operating within the bounds of the office.  The inherent authority of a clerical position allowed freedoms of expression and control over others that may be pressed too far.  To help curb this, the canon regulated the sending authority and proper ecclesiastical identification.

P.S.  Upon deciding a title for this post, I had a dreadful urge to imbed "End of the Line" but refrained.