Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Tracking the True Church

(From the archives and reedited)

This comment appeared on AW a few years back:

[T]he church has existed somewhere in the world continously [sic] since it's founding, and has kept the sabbath and holy days (among the other doctrines) the whole time.

Oh really? Says who?

This was the position of Dugger and Dodd (and later Herman Hoeh), taking a leaf from Ellen G. White's writings. It's a dogma maintained by any number of splinter sects today. For want of a better term, we could call it "remnant" history (as opposed to "restoration" history promoted by Mormons and some others.)

If you buy into the restoration package, you'll be convinced that the "true church" actually died out, swallowed up by Orthodoxy and Catholicism. The Reformation amounted to little more than shuffling deck chairs. Poor old God had no choice but to perform a complete "reboot" using Joseph Smith, or someone else.

More familiar to us is the remnant package, standard issue in Adventist churches. It maintains that the true church went underground, but survived despite persecution, eventually resurfacing in whichever sect you happen to belong to. Keen believers then go back to dredge the history books to see who might have been the genuine article in past ages, resulting in many a fanciful romp. Dugger and Dodd were convinced, for example, that "Saint Patrick" was a Sabbath-keeper!

Following on from this same remnant fiction the United Church of God at one time proclaimed on its website: "We trace our origins to the Church that Jesus founded in the early first century. We follow the same teachings, doctrines and practices established then."

Bollocks! Consider this.

The Churches of God without exception use the 66-book Protestant canon of scripture. Why? The ancient Jerusalem-based church certainly didn't. They used the Septuagint (as do Orthodox Christians even today). This distinguishing mark, if nothing else, should alert us to the fact that our heritage is lot more recent than the inflated age it claims; any resemblance is superficial and misleading. The Churches of God have absolutely no linear relationship to so-called "apostolic christianity", despite Rod Meredith's constant refrain.

We weren't buying a Rolex, just a Mumbai sweat-shop rip-off.

(To be continued)


Pam said...

What is surprising is that the Seventh Day Baptists... from which the Sabbatarian Adventists directly through the "evangelizing" of SDB Rachel Oakes in 1844 got the Sabbath notion... had no notion of the "continual history" of Sabbatarianism. The SDB's earliest founders considered themselves to be "restoring" the Sabbath doctrine. I think they likely admired the earlier "rebel movements" that stood up to the hierarchy of Roman Catholicism such as Waldenses, but didn't seem to feel it necessary to insist they had been Sabbatarians.

This reality seems to particularly affect the "laying on of hands" theory that the WCG preached. Every elder supposedly had to have had hands laid on him by a previous Sabbatarian elder, going back to the first century--in an unending chain of passing on the Holy Spirit-- in order to have a "valid" ordination. Yet there is no evidence that any of those earliest Adventist preachers had been ordained by a Seventh Day Baptist... one or two just responded to "visitor" Rachel's urging about the Sabbath doctrine, and started preaching the Sabbath.

Miller Jones said...

As I've noted before, Scripture wasn't the only thing that Herbert Armstrong twisted/perverted for his own purposes. An unbiased review of the available historical evidence will lead any objective researcher that the majority of Christianity was observing Sunday as their principal day of worship well before all of the apostles had died. Moreover, Sabbath observance was for all intents and purposes a dead letter among Christians by the end of the First Century. It is appropriate to note that the available evidence points to the presence of outliers throughout history, but it does not support the notion that there was anything approaching a homogeneous and/or continuous set of beliefs that these "heretical" groups adhered to. Pam is correct in observing that modern observance of the Sabbath has its roots in the folks who came to be known as the Seventh Day Baptists (still in existence, by the way). And Gavin is absolutely on solid ground in pointing out that Armstrong used a Canon that was created/certified by the "false" and "pagan" Christians that HWA railed against. Finally, the historical evidence is not favorable to either a remnant or restoration interpretation (although, I guess one could say that Protestants would have some justification in claiming the mantle of "restoration" - that's the angle that Seventh Day Baptists and Adventists pursue). However, if one accepts Christ's statement that the gates of hell would NEVER prevail against his church, then that individual is faced with the inescapable conclusion that God's Church includes at least some Catholic and Orthodox Christians!

Miller Jones said...

Insert "to the conclusion" into the appropriate place in my comments.

Steve D said...

If one had to have hand placed on them for the giving of the HS and this has been done in a continuous chain throughout church history, what if one "minister" was a phony, who never was really converted in the first place. Did the chain break at this point?

Jim Butler said...

Just a few thoughts.

Miller, you are probably correct that the majority of
"Christians" were observing Sunday before all the apostles died. They were deceived. Sunday observance by the majority might have started a little later. The issue is, does the Bible teach Sunday observance? Even the Catholic Church admits it does not.

You are also correct that Armstrong used a canon created by false Christians. There is a good amount of corruption of scripture in that canon. The issue, the hard job of discerning what the original language was actually saying and then the even harder job of understanding what the original language scriptures really mean.

The gates of hell...I think Christ was simply saying there would always be true Christians. Nothing to do with an organization, denomination, or whatever.

The laying on of hands point is irrelevant. There have been many true elders that have had that ceremony done by an unconverted person. On a similar issue, even Herbert Armstrong admitted being baptized by,if memory serves, a Baptist (not Seventh Day) minister.

Byker Bob said...

Herbie was baptized by a Baptist, but probably received laying on of hands from COG-7 during his ordination.

I agree, the endless chain is a fantasy. The Jewish Christians had disppeared by 300 A.D. HWA proclaimed that he had restored the truths that had not been preached for over 1900 years. Considering that, it would be talking from both sides of the mouth to invoke the supposedly endless chain. True Christians come from all parts of the Christian spectrum, not just sabbatarian.


Connie Schmidt said...

There likely have been Sabbatarians in one form or another throughout history, and there is some evidence to support the idea, although at times , they may have been extremely small in size , just a few dozen or so.

There is absolutely NO EVIDENCE of a provenance or succession of organizations thru time. There is also no evidence that there have been 7 annual Holy Day observers through the centuries either. Dugger and Dodd did not make the claim for 7 Holy Days, rather one of observing the New Testament Passover on the 14th day of the First Hebrew month. There is no historical evidence for that claim either from Dugger and Dodd.

So, who , or exactly where the Church existed can be a bit of a mystery. Even in the present, who is converted and who is not, is also a mystery, even if they are attending a Sabbath church. God in Heaven knows who are his and who are not. It is only petty man who tries to apply HIS JUDGEMENT and control as to attempt to label who is in the flock and who is not.

At the Lords Supper, that determination can only be made by one person, (not an outsider) as to whether they are worthy or not before the Lord.

Miller Jones said...

Great comments. THE CHURCH has nothing to do with human organizations. I'm confident that there are saints in all of the man made organizations that claim to be Christian, and I'm equally confident that there are folks in the pews every Sunday/Sabbath who do not have God's Holy Spirit. The only way given in Scripture to determine whether or not someone has that Spirit is the evidence of its fruit in his/her life.

Minimalist said...

Miller Jones:An unbiased review of the available historical evidence will lead any objective researcher that the majority of Christianity was observing Sunday as their principal day of worship well before all of the apostles had died

Wow, I don't think so, Sunday-sabbath even needed a State ruling in the 4th century! Though it does have its imprimatur in mid 1st century radical Pauline antinomial soteriology - only possible in the context of an effete Judaism! This gradually opened the way for the Christian adoption of the popular Roman rest-day, especially after Marcion's Pauline revivalism in the early 2nd century.

Miller Jones said...

Minimalist, I was under the impression that you were very familiar with the material in the book of Acts and Paul's epistles. I was also under the impression that you were familiar with the writings of the men who followed the apostles (e.g. Ignatius, Justin Martyr, et al). And, I would have never imagined that you would buy that hogwash about Constantine.

Minimalist said...

Miller Jones, Sunday-meeting Christians like yourself shouldn't be using Acts as a precedent, the ACOGS are right on this one, but they are wrong on Paul as it is his reckless anti-Sabbath stance that allowed Sunday to (slowly) dominate.

Miller Jones said...

Minimalist, sorry, I'm a Sabbath keeping Christian. I simply don't buy the conspiratorial history manufactured by HWA (and some other Sabbath keepers) to explain the switch to Sunday. And, no, the available evidence does not support a slow transition over several hundred years that was finally mandated by the Roman Emperor Constantine. I've written more extensive posts on this subject on my blog if you care to look them up and carry on the conversation there.

Minimalist said...

Christianity is #1 because it is able to adapt: syncretizing customs and superstitions from the cultures it invades. From Sabbath to Sunday is a good example. That would be a good title for a book: "From Sabbath to Sunday" - oops, it's already taken!