Christian Unity and Orthodoxy
|CHRISTIAN UNITY AND ORTHODOXY
by Mark J. Bonocore
Throughout my dealings with Protestant brothers and sisters, I have often pointed out how Protestantism is heterodox -- that it is hopelessly disunified, divided into literally thousands of contradictory sects -- all with the same Bible, but all interpreting it differently. In response to this, I often get the Evangelical Protestant response:
"But we (i.e., Protestants) all agree on the fundamentals."
And, in this, "the fundamentals" are inevitably described as the common belief that Jesus is Lord and Savior and that we are saved by faith in Him, etc.
Yet, is that enough? Is that all that is required to be an orthodox Christian? Is that all the Apostles required? Well, not according to the Scriptures.
For example, in Scripture, we have several verses referring to the "unity of mind" within the early Church:
Acts 4:32: "The community of believers was of one heart and one mind ..."
1 Corinth 1:10: "I urge you, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose."
Philippians 1:27: "...that you are standing firm in one Spirit, with one mind struggling together for the faith of the Gospel, not intimidated in any way by your opponents."
Philippians 2:2: "...complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking of one thing."
1 Peter 3:8: "Finally, all of you, be of one mind ..."
This last verse (1 Peter 3:8) is most significant when it comes to orthodoxy, since as 1 Peter 1:1 shows us the Apostle is not writing to merely one city-church, but to a great many city-churches in a total of five separated provinces of the Roman Empire! Therefore, Peter is indeed speaking in a Catholic (i.e., universal) sense.
Now, what do these verses mean by "one mind"? Well, an Evangelical will no doubt claim that it refers to the "fundamentals," as defined above. However, Scripture tells us a different tale.
Case in point: The Nicolatians.
Revelation 2:6 and 2:15-16 both condemn this heretical Asian sect, which was centered at Ephesus.
Rev. 2:6: "But you have this in your favor: you hate the works of the Nicolatians, which I also hate." (note: This is Jesus speaking)
Rev. 2:15-16: "Likewise, you also have some people who hold to the teachings of the Nicolatians. Therefore, repent. Otherwise, I will come to you quickly and wage war against them with the sword of my mouth (i.e., the Word of God)."
So, from these verses, it is clear to see that the Nicolatians are NOT orthodox Christians. Rather, they are clearly depicted as heretics. But, why? Did the Nicolatians deny the "fundamentals" which the Evangelicals refer to? Well, let's take a look at what the Nicolatians really denied.
In the words of the Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea (drawing on St. Clement of Alexandria), here's "the scoop" on the Nicolatians:
Therefore, the Nicolatians were, at first, an extremist sect which promoted asceticism and denied all earthly pleasures (including marriage), so as to "fight against the flesh." And, now that we know this, it becomes very clear who St. Paul is talking about in 1 Tim 4:1-5. Here, remember, Paul is writing to Timothy who is stationed at Ephesus (in Asia) -- the same city-church referred to in Revelation 2:6. And St. Paul writes:
So, Paul is clearly talking about the Nicolatians (or at least some early Gnostic sect) here. And he backs this up by telling Timothy (in the very next verse: 1 Tim 4:6):
So, to be a Nicolatian was not to be an orthodox Christian. Because the Nicolatians denied marriage and earthly pleasures, they were "unsound," and had "turned away from the faith," being deceived by "demons." Paul clearly says this above.
Therefore, even though the Nicolatians never denied the "fundamentals," as invoked by modern Evangelicals, they were still judged to be heretics by the standards of the Apostles. Even though they still accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they were not of "one mind" with the rest of the Church.
And so, by Apostolic standards, as presented in SCRIPTURE, the Protestant world is heterodox and mutually heretical. They are not "of one heart and one mind," as Scripture says the Church must be. They do not follow the principal set down by St. Paul in Ephesians 4:1-6:
Mark J. Bonocore
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