Why Does Christian History for Everyman Exist?

Put simply: because dishonesty and deceivers make me furious.

A Background

In 1990 I was just beginning to read the writings of the 2nd century church.

It had been only a year since I found out they existed. I was still very excited about them and reading them a good hour each day.

I lived in Sacramento, California, and I was able to listen to the Bible Answer Man every day. I had been a big fan of Walter Martin, the original Bible Answer Man, in the 80's, and I was thrilled to find out I could listen to his successor, Hank Hanegraaff, on the radio every day.

The Bible Answer Man is a radio ministry of the Christian Research Institute (CRI). CRI is an apologetics ministry. Their job is to defend the true Christian faith from "cults."

The Historic Christian Faith

They do this by standing on something they call "The Historic Christian Faith." The CRI website at www.equip.org says, "A cult is any group that deviates from the orthodox teachings of the historic Christian faith being derived from the Bible and confirmed through the ancient ecumenical creeds."

In other words, the historic Christian faith, besides being derived from the Bible, should be confirmed by the ancient creeds. This is what makes it "historic" rather than just the "Biblical" Christian faith.

This is important because even the so-called "cults" claim to go by the Bible. The Jehovah's Witnesses directly claim that, and—although they have other sources of authority—the Mormons claim their beliefs can be justified by the Bible.

CRI would include some denominations among the cults as well, such as the United Pentecostals (for rejecting the Trinity). They class others, such as the Churches of Christ, as aberrant for their emphasis on baptism and works. Nonetheless, both claim to believe the Bible.

An additional standard

It seems fair enough to ask for another standard besides the Bible. Why fight over Bible interpretations when they can be put to the test of historical interpretation? Remember, we're talking about a standard to test our interpretations of the Bible, not a standard to test the Bible itself.

Even "orthodox" believers (orthodox in CRI's judgment) disagree on some rather important issues of faith. Calvinists disagree with the rest of Christendom on who Jesus died for. Eternal Security believers differ from the others on how a person keeps his salvation.

"Orthodox" churches disagree on baptism in water and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They disagree on prophecy and the return of Christ. They disagree on the Lord's Supper and on the role and importance of the church and its leaders.

In fact, it's hard to find anything that "orthodox" churches all agree on except the authority of the Bible itself. We just can't agree on what it says!

So let's get a standard to test our Bible interpretations.

CRI suggests the historic Christian faith as that standard. The question did need to be asked, though: what is the historic Christian faith?

What Is the Historic Christian Faith

CRI has told us that the historic Christian faith is "derived from the Bible and confirmed through the ancient ecumenical creeds."

Which creeds are those?

CRI answers that, too. "They are, by the way, the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Creed of Chalcedon."

The Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed are on this site. The Apostles Creed is just an adaptation of the Nicene Creed. The Creed of Chalcedon adds nothing to the Nicene and Athanasian Creed except the statement that Mary is the mother of God.

Note: CRI objects to that last statement. Maybe the problem is that they haven't actually read the creeds which confirm "the historic Christian faith."

The bigger problem is that none of those creeds address any issues churches today argue about. They address the Trinity and the dual nature of Christ (his divinity and manhood). Those issues are long resolved.

What about the role of works, which Pentecostals, Baptists, Nazarenes, and Methodists all have differing and significant views on? What about the baptism in the Holy Spirit? What about baptism in water, infant baptism, and baptismal regeneration?

What about transsubstantiation? Even Martin Luther believed in the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine of communion (though he rejected the physical transsubstantiation taught by the Roman Catholics).

None of those things are addressed in "the ancient ecumenical creeds."

Putting the Bible Answer Man to the Test

I decided to test the commitment of CRI to the historic Christian faith. I wrote, asking them about the matter of baptism.

Baptism is an easy one. You may not know this, but everyone believed in baptismal regeneration until at least the Anabaptists in the early 1500's. It's difficult to determine—at least for me—what some of their writings are saying about baptism. Some of the Anabaptists may have believed in a symbolic baptism, rather than one that communicated some sort of grace.

All three major Reformers—Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli—also believed in baptismal regeneration. In fact, they all continued the Roman Catholic practice of baptizing infants and supported drowning—a "death by baptism"—Anabaptists for rebaptizing those baptized as infants.

It was not until the Pietists of the 1700's that symbolic baptism was widely taught.

I asked CRI what their position was on baptism, since the historic Christian faith—including the bishops at Nicea and Chalcedon—clearly and strongly supports baptismal regeneration.

Their answer?

They replied that the historic Christian faith is whatever the Bible teaches.

I wish I had kept the letter. However, I received it 17 years ago, and I've moved a number of times since. I've now lost it.

Dishonesty and the Bible Answer Man

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