183) Church Splits

The historical record shows that, just as YHVH’s Savior and the New Testament writers foretold, various heretical ideas and teachers rose up from within the early Church and infiltrated it from without. Himself warned his followers: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name… and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5).

You can read many similar warnings in other passages (such as Matthew Acts 20:29-30; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; 2 Timothy 4:2-4; 2 Peter 2:1-2; 1 John 2:18-26; 1 John 4:1-3).

Barely two decades after YHVH’s death and resurrection, the apostle Paul wrote that many believers were already “turning away . . . to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). He wrote that he was forced to contend with “false apostles, deceitful workers” who were fraudulently “transforming themselves into apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13). One of the major problems he had to deal with was “false brethren” (2 Corinthians 11:26).

By late in the first century, as we see from 3 John 9-10, conditions had grown so dire that false ministers openly refused to receive representatives of the apostle John and were excommunicating true Christians from the Church!

Of this troubling period Edward Gibbon, the famed historian, wrote in his classic work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire of a “dark cloud that hangs over the first age of the church” (1821, Vol. 2, p. 111).

It wasn’t long before true servants of God became a marginalized and scattered minority among those calling themselves Christian. A very different religion, now compromised with many concepts and practices rooted in ancient paganism (such mixing of religious beliefs being known as syncretism, common in the Roman Empire at the time), took hold and transformed the faith founded by Jesus Christ.

Historian Jesse Hurlbut says of this time of transformation: “We name the last generation of the first century, from 68 to 100 A.D., ‘The Age of Shadows,’…

“For fifty years after St. Paul’s life a curtain hangs over the church, through which we strive vainly to look; and when at last it rises, about 120 A.D. with the writings of the earliest church fathers, we find a church in many aspects very dfferent from that in the days of St. Peter and St. Paul” (The Story of the Christian Church, 1970, p. 33)…

By the second century, faithful members of the Church, Christ’s “little flock” (Luke 12:32), had largely been scattered by waves of deadly persecution. They held firmly to the biblical truth about Jesus Christ and God the Father, though they were persecuted by…those who professed Christianity but were in reality teaching “another Jesus” and a “different gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6-9).

Marcion rejected the theology of the Old Testament entirely and regarded the God depicted there as an inferior being. In the Antithesis, he claimed the theology of the Old Testament was incompatible with the teaching of Jesus regarding God and morality…

He spread his beliefs widely; they became known as Marcionism. In the introduction to his book “Early Christian Writings”, Henry Wace…”could not refuse to discuss the question raised by Marcion, whether there is such opposition between different parts of what he regards as the word of God, that all cannot come from the same author.”

In the second century CE the Christian writer and thinker Marcion of Sinope (c. 85–160 CE) refused to accept Yahweh, the deity described in the Old Testament, as the “Heavenly Father” proclaimed by Jesus.

Marcion concluded that the Old Testament god was…a mere tribal god of the Jewish people, while Jesus preached of a God marked by compassion, love, and mercy. Marcion wrote his Antitheses, in which he contrasts these two beings…

Speaking of antitheses, Marcion’s opinion is antithetical to Jesus’ and Paul’s words.

“And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.(Mark 12:28-34)

For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do itI call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life.” (Deuteronomy 30)

“But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;” (Romans 10:6-8)

So how do people get by claiming that the God of the Old Testament is completely different from the God of the New?

There is a psychological condition called “splitting” found in the psychotic disorder of schizophrenia and Borderline personality disorder, which is called “borderline” precisely because it often hovers on the border of psychosis.

Splitting is a term that came out of classical (psychoanalytical or psychodynamic) schools of thought and refers to an unconscious ego defense mechanism by which a fairly complex entity cannot be accepted into consciousness in its entirety because it contains aspects that are both acceptable to a person as well as unacceptable. [Emphasis added.] Relatively underdeveloped personalities, most especially borderline personalities, have a hard time incorporating into consciousness seemingly contradictory aspects of the same person or thing. So, they unconsciously separate or “split” objects into two categories, seeing the “good” side of a person or thing as the part they find acceptable and the “bad” side of the person or thing as the part they find painful or unacceptable.

Do you see where I’m going with this? The defense mechanism of splitting allows dysfunctional personalities to reject the Old Testament righteous YHVH who punishes sin while believing in a contradictory New Testament YHVH’s Savior who blithely dismisses sin.

This is a disorder leading to self destruction.

Popular evangelist Andy Stanley…said that Christians need to “unhitch” the Old Testament from their faith…“Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures,[Really! This is a statement that demands research.] and my friends, we must as well.” 

In his sermon, Stanley expressed his concern that many Christians are turning away from the faith because of certain passages in the Old Testament. He argues the early church moved past the Old Testament for the sake of newly converted Gentile believers…

“Jesus’ new covenant, His covenant with the nations, His covenant with you, His covenant with us…does not need propping up by the Jewish scriptures,” Stanley told the congregation. “The Bible did not create Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus created and launched Christianity. Your whole house of Old Testament cards can come tumbling down…It’s liberating for men and women who are drawn to the simple message that God loves you so much He sent His Son to pave the way to a relationship with you…it’s liberating for people who find it virtually impossible to embrace the dynamic, the worldview, and the values system depicted in the story of Ancient Israel.” [Emphasis added]…

The video of Stanley’s “Aftermath” series on the North Point Community Church’s website has the following introduction.

“If you were raised on a version of Christianity that relied on the Bible as the foundation of faith, a version that was eventually dismantled by academia or the realities of life, maybe it’s time for you to change your mind about Jesus. Maybe it’s time for you to consider the version of Christianity that relies on the event of the resurrection of Jesus as its foundation. If you gave up your faith because of something about or in the Bible, maybe you gave up unnecessarily.”

Let’s consider the reality of a “version” of Christianity that unhitches from the foundation of the Old Testament.

To begin with, in the first century, what we call the Christian Church was unquestionably a minority sect of Judaism.

all the church…were all with one accord in Solomon’s porchAnd believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women…There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem…Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation.And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life…they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel…they doubted of them whereunto this would grow…And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said…Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sinsWhen they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them

  • For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.
  • After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.” (Acts 5)

As the capitol of the Empire, Rome had become home to a vast population of Jews who had been brought back as slaves after wars, or had emigrated voluntarily for economic opportunities. Think New York City.

As in Jerusalem, the large population of Jews in Rome presented both opportunities for expansion among the people, and suppression by the entrenched leadership who feared reprisal by Rome for any disruption to Roman law and order.

[Writing in 59 BC] “You know what a big crowd it is, how they stick together, how influential they are in informal assemblies….” Cicero’s remarks…indicate misgivings about their separatist tendencies. “[T]he great section of Rome on the other side of the Tiber is occupied and inhabited by Jews, most of whom were…brought as captives to Italy [then] liberated by their owners… [T]hey have houses of prayer and meet together in them, particularly on the sacred Sabbaths when they receive as a body of training in their ancestral philosophy…

“with the proscription of the Egyptian and Jewish rites…a senatorial edict directed that four thousand descendants of enfranchised slaves…suitable in point of age, were to be shipped to Sardinia and there be employed in suppressing brigandage … The rest had orders to leave Italy, unless they had renounced their impious ceremonial by a given date.”

[In AD 41 The Emperor] Claudius…ordered them, while continuing their traditional mode of life, not to hold meetings”….[and then] “Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome…” [Another Roman historian writes] Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome because in their resentment against Christ they were continually creating disturbances…’

Paul’s first encounter with Aquila and Priscilla can be dated to around A.D. 49…

Paul addresses Christians in the city…in the late 50’s…[indicating] the development of Christianity in Rome…years before Paul’s direct contact with the people there. Christians such as Prisca and Aquila had returned to Rome after having been banished from the city…

From Paul’s greetings in Romans 16, we can discern the existence of several gatherings of Christians in the city…[S]ome of the individuals are identified as Jews…while many of the remaining are likely Gentiles…mirrors the shared identity the Jews felt in spite of their participation in separate synagogues…

Acts 2:10 includes visitors from Rome in the list of people who witnessed the events of Pentecost…

Once Jewish Christians reached Rome, they would have had relatively unhindered ministry access in the synagogues, since no Jewish controlling authority could step in to quickly and definitively oppose the propagation of the message.

A competing theory promotes Peter as the carrier of the gospel to Rome…More likely, relatively obscure Christians made contributions to the church’s establishment…“It is established that there were Jews living in Rome in the times of the apostles, and that those Jews who had believed [in Christ] passed on to the Romans the tradition that they ought to profess Christ but keep the law … One ought…to praise their faith; because without seeing any signs or miracles and without seeing any apostles, they nevertheless accepted faith in Christ.”

And sure enough, both the Jews as a whole and the sect of believers experienced too much direct persecution in Rome to be in a position to lead anything, the prime examples being Paul and Peter.

To all its subject peoples, Rome granted religious toleration as long as they also honored Roman gods…

In 63 B.C., the Romans conquered Judea…the Jews refused to pay homage to Roman gods. Rome gave in and…recognized Judaism as a legal religion, allowing Jews to worship freely…

Rome had good reasons to tolerate the Jewish religion. First, it was a well-established religion with a long history. Most important, Rome wanted to keep the people of Judea from revolting. Neither of these reasons applied to Christianity. This new offshoot of the Jewish religion had little support at first among the people of Judea…

[W]hen Rome first became aware of Christianity around A.D. 30…[t]hinking this sect might weaken the always bothersome Jewish religion, Emperor Tiberius asked the Senate to legalize the Christian faith and declare Christ a Roman god. But the Senate refused. Instead, it pronounced Christianity to be an “illegal superstition,” a crime under Roman law.

[In] A.D. 64, a fire began in…the great arena in Rome…and for six days consumed much of the city, including Emperor Nero’s palace.

Immediately, the rumor spread that Nero himself had caused the great fire to clear space for a new palace…

Fearful that Roman mobs would turn on him, Nero cast about for a scapegoat…an unpopular small religious minority, the Christians.

Christians made an easy target for scapegoating. The common people of Rome believed rumors about Christians…because they…withdrew from normal social life. Many pagans feared that the gods would become angry and punish the Roman people since Christians refused to participate in the old religious rituals…

Since the Christian religion was still illegal, it was easy to order mass arrests, trials, and executions. The Christian martyrs suffered horrible deaths. Roman historian Tacitus described Nero’s methods of execution:

Dressed in wild animal skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be ignited after dark as substitutes for daylight. Nero provided his Gardens for the spectacle, and exhibited displays in the Circus…

For many years, Christians lived with the uncertainty that another persecution could erupt at any time.

Paul only reluctantly transferred leadership of the body of believers in YHVH’s Savior from Jews to Gentiles, detailed in his letter to the church in Ephesus, after he could not raise enough leadership among the Jews in Rome.

“And when we came to Rome…Paul called the chief of the Jews together…to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the [leadership for the] salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” (Acts 28:16-31)

“For fifty years after St. Paul’s life a curtain hangs over the church, through which we strive vainly to look; and when at last it rises, about 120 A.D. with the writings of the earliest church fathers, we find a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of St. Peter and St. Paul” (The Story of the Christian Church, 1970, p. 33)…

By the second century, faithful members of the Church, Christ’s “little flock” (Luke 12:32), had largely been scattered by waves of deadly persecution. They held firmly to the biblical truth about Jesus Christ and God the Father, though they were persecuted by…those who professed Christianity but were in reality teaching “another Jesus” and a “different gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:6-9).

in the year 315, Constantine issued the following edict: We wish to make it known to the Jews and their elders and their patriarchs that if, after the enactment of this law, any one of them dares to attack with stones or some other manifestation of anger another who has fled their dangerous sect and attached himself to the worship of God [Christianity], he must speedily be given to flames and burn— together with all his accomplices. Moreover, if any one of the population should join their abominable sect and attend their meetings, he will bear with them the deserved penalties. This law had two purposes. One was to prevent Jews from interfering withrelatives or friends who converted to Christianity. The other was to discourage Christians from converting to Judaism…[Actually, the edict is against the “population”, i.e. pagans, joining the original Jesus Movement of Messianic Judaism instead of Christianity.] By 325 CE, Constantine had absolute power in Rome; in ancient times this meant both political and religious power. That year he summoned 250 Christian bishops to a council in Nicaea… The council began by adopting a creed—a statement of common beliefs. The Nicene Creed expresses a belief in God, in Jesus Christ as the son of God, and in the Holy Spirit. But the bishops of the church went beyond simply defining what Christians believe. At this and later councils, they also moved to distinguish Christianity from Judaism. For example, early Christians, like other Jews, had observed the Sabbath on the seventh day of the week and then celebrated Jesus’s resurrection with special gatherings and meals on the first day of the week (Saturday night or Sunday). Now the council insisted that Christians would observe only Sunday and not the traditional Jewish Sabbath. The bishops also separated Christian commemorations of Easter from Jewish observances of Passover (the Jewish festival during which Jesus was crucified).

After the 2020 American elections that has got to sound like politics as usual.

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