Sunday, July 26, 2009

Diagnosis or autopsy?

"In describing the situation at that time Hegesippus goes on to say that until then the Church had remained a virgin, pure and uncorrupted, since those who were trying to corrupt the wholesome standard of the saving message,if such there were, lurked somewhere under cover of darkness.

"But when the sacred band of the apostles had in various ways reached the end of their life, and the generation of those privileged to listen with their own ears to the divine wisdom had passed on, then godless error began to take shape, through the deceit of false teachers, who now that none of the apostles was left threw off the mask and attempted to counter the preaching of the truth by preaching the knowledge falsely so called." -- Eusebius, History of the Church,3:33, written circa 300 A.D.

Eusebius clearly believed that this evil was snuffed out and that the Christianity of his day had triumphed over that campaign of falsehood and apostasy. But every man must judge for himself. In 300 A.D., the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, all lay in the future -- the Church had barely tasted of the temporal power that it would hold for the next 1,000 years.

What were some of the key tenets of the "knowledge falsely so called," Christian-speak for gnosticism?

An incorporeal, unapproachable, incomprehensible God.

De-emphasis -- even abhorrence -- of marriage and family life.

Denial of any literal resurrection.

Judge for yourself how many of these notions made their way into the post-apostolic Christianity.

I first encountered this quote by Eusebius in Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity, p. 132, where Nibley states:

"This outbreak of gnostic pretenders ... never could have occurred had apostolic authority remained in the church to overawe the upstarts, or had the true "gnosis" been available to oppose their false ones."

Ultimately, are Eusebius' words the diagnosis of past disease that he intended them to be, or a page for the coroner's report?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What's in a name?

It started with the unusual name: Holy Ghost Living Tabernacle.

Please note: I myself am a member of a church with an odd name – I saw firsthand as a missionary the challenge of translating the title The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into a non-English language – so I am not in any way making fun.

The Holy Ghost Living Tabernacle in McKenney, Virginia is doing a great thing for the school district where I work, and in the process of trying to establish communication with that faith group, I became curious: Was it a new, stand-alone Christian movement, or part of a larger church family?

I’m getting pretty Internet savvy and was quite pleased to untangle the mystery in less than 20 minutes. My initial guess that this congregation were Pentacostals was wrong – but not quite.
The church is in fellowship with the Full Gospel Baptist Church, which consider themselves Baptists of course, but who specifically embrace the kind of charismatic expression more typically seen in Pentacostal congregations.

Their motto is “Giving Baptists Freedom of Choice.”

Sunday, July 12, 2009


We talk a lot about the Tabernacle of Israel, and the ark at its holy center. But far less familiar to us is the ancient craftsman who was called to put it together, Bezaleel son of Uri.

How I would love to have a conversation, someday, on the other side of the veil, with this man of whom the scripture says, "[God] hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship." (Exodus 35:31).

His name has powerful significance, too. It is rendered by the KJV from the Hebrew Be-tsal-el, which means "In-the shadow/protection-of God."

"Tsl" has the meaning of shadow, the symbolism of protection, and also can mean "image." It is virtually the same phrase that appears in Genesis 1:27, in the Creation Story, "In the image of God created He [man]."

So in effect, each time this man's name was called, a piece of the Creation Story was retold, quite fitting for a man whom God blessed with powerful talents of creation himself.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Psalms 118:8

"It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man."

"Trust" is a fine word. But the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh translation prefers the literal meaning of the Hebrew word thusly translated by the KJV: "take refuge in." (chasa)

I like that better as well. "Trust" can be two people at the same level making an exchange, two businessmen shaking hands. "Take refuge in" implies a certain level of need and humility.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Motormouth Nephi

I came across an odd passage in the Doctrine & Covenants tonight. In the middle of a "missionary chapter," Section 33, v. 8, Elders Thayre and Sweet are told to "open their mouths and they shall be filled and you shall become even as Nephi of old..."

Now Nephi was a great guy and all but he never served a formal mission. So what are we supposed to understand from this?

Fact is, he spent his life sharing the gospel among his family and friends, and the cross reference to 2 Nephi 1:27 answers my question. He opened his mouth, it was filled by the Spirit and "he could not shut it."

Such was the promise for Thayre and Sweet, or any missionary filled with the Spirit. They followed in the footsteps of Jeremiah, who so burned with the zeal of the Spirit that it was "as a fire shut up in his bones and he could not forbear. (Jer. 20:29)."