Now before we get going to far here, let’s remember that the Christian Church which is the body of all true believers was at one point in history only the Catholic Church. So, by that fact alone we would expect to see significant agreements between Christian church groups or denominations.
The fact that many protestant and evangelical churches have thrown out all church history prior to the reformation I thin impoverishes the church. Hey you Protestants, have any of you even read Agustin, Anselm or Aquinas, or any of the books on the lives of the saints? You are missing out on a lot.
Yes, I know it would take effort to discern what was good and true and what was worthless but hey, what the heck, life is hard. Get over it!
I want to challenge my protestant reader to expand their horizons a bit and read some of the great classics of the Fathers of the faith. Start with Augustine’s Confessions, on to the topic of the day.
Ok, on to chapter one, the first area of doctrinal agreement is Revelation: What is meant by Revelation? This basically means, who did God, reveal Himself to be, and how did he do it?
The first five centuries of the church was a time of relative unity and a time of getting many areas of the faith defined. The main focus was on, who was Jesus and what did he do?
So, what do we hold in common?
One Bible (we will discuss the apocryphal books later)
- Apostles Creed (c. AD 150) defined true believers
- Nicene Creed (AD 326) condemned Arius, as Anti-Trinitarian, denying the deity of Christ.
- Anthanasian Creed (AD 428) taught Trinity and incarnation.
- First Nicea (AD 325) Jesus is the son of God and the same Nature.
- First Constantinople (AD 381) taught Divinity of the Holy Spirit
- Ephesus (AD 431) Mary is “bearer of God”
- Chalcedon (AD 431) Christ has two natures, human and divine.
This is a huge deal! And yes, we have all this in common.
If you look at any cult or any of the heresies, they stray from one or more of these basic teachings.
So, we have all these creeds and councils, what was used to come to the conclusions that these councils came to? If these are truths, how did we find the truths? Was it just whoever had the most persuasive argument style won the point, or whoever had the most political power won the day?
Well, truth is revealed in several different ways, but central to all of the methods of revelation is Scripture. Yes Protestants and Catholics differ on the apocryphal books, but they agree o 66 books of the Bible and all of these truths can be derived from these 66 books.
So, what about Scripture?
“All Sacred Scripture is but one book, and that one book is Christ”
The Old Testament laid the ground work for salvation with the first covenant. The New Testament shows salvation in its final form, in Christ, the new covenant.
So, what are the types of Revelation?
General Revelation: Basically consists of nonverbal communication from God.
“The Heavens declare the glory of God”
These are supernatural truths revealed at creation and passed down even through primitive tribes etc. Natural Law describes this concept of man knowing what the truth is just because God created man in his image, we just know intuitively. “When the glory of God is ignored idolatry” and moral disaster is the result.
Aquinas taught that “since natural law is common to all people, not just believers, it can be used as a basis for civil law in religiously pluralistic societies”
Do you remember the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings? He invoked natural law many times in the defense of his positions on abortion etc.
Remember the apostle Paul arguing in the Areopagus to the Greeks (Acts 17). He was using natural law to argue with them quite effectively.
While General Revelation/Natural Law is not complete in itself, it is powerful.
Special Revelation: Being human reasoning is limited and corrupted because of the fall, more insight is needed. Truth also has to be delivered by faith. “Being told the them (mankind) by God himself, who cannot lie”. God decides to give faith to those he chooses to give faith to.
How does God tell us about Himself? He reveals Himself through Scripture. “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”
The study and preaching of scripture are mandatory. Not optional. Special Revelation is progressive in nature. You start as just a baby in Christ and you “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”.
The authoritative Nature of Revelation: Aquinas believed “we are bound to believe all the contents of Sacred Scripture”, “The Scriptures are, therefore, as infallible and inerrant as is God”
Public vs Private Revelation:
Public prophetic revelation ceased with the Apostles.
Private revelation is God talking to individuals thru scripture or other means. This still occurs.
Many Church Fathers have also strongly supported the Scripture. “The priority of Scripture over tradition was clearly enunciated by Thomas Aquinas.”
So what have we learned about the purpose of Revelation? “By revealing himself God wishes to make them (human kind) capable of responding to him.”
Next time I will move to the second area of agreement, God.
Did you get your book yet so that you can join in on the conversation?
Find the complete series here.