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New Threats to the Gospel After Suppression and Expansion

Late Antiquity had Christian apologists who withstood such inroads. Among them were John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, Patrick of Wales most often associated with Armagh in northern Ireland, and several others. Devotion extended upward to Jesus and outward to others in loving service. They opposed anything that was inward and introspective. In the 700s, John of Damascus took another tack in the attack against mysticism, the paranormal, and a feel-good spirituality.

We recognize that we too face the onslaught of many “spiritualities.”

How this relates to us today is that we recognize that we too face the onslaught of many “spiritualities.” There are movies and television series which throw onto screens a brew of parapsychological dramas, talk shows which talk about nothing of consequence, books which promote Hindu or Buddhist derived meditative practices which focus upon-self realization and feeling good, and virtual-reality shows which have nothing to do with reality. It is like living back in late antiquity. We can thank God for the persons of Ravi Zacharias, Os Guinness, and others who are effective in unmasking these spirituality hucksters.

We in the church need to be less spiritually-minded and more Christ-minded, to live within his presence. People who fancy themselves more spiritual than those they call carnally-minded need to take heed lest they fall. It is a form of pride and fosters an aura of elitism which has no place in the body of Christ.

Similarly, we need to be less institutionally-minded and more community-minded as the Body of Christ. Institutionally we render ourselves ineffective as witnesses to the Lord Jesus Christ. By involvement with civil government, as what has happened in the west, or by a case of “caesaropapism” which hurt the Orthodox for many years, we absent ourselves from our actual calling. The Orthodox, to their credit, often called civilian rulers into question as did John Chrysostom and was just as eloquent and outspoken in exile. Ambrose, in the West, rebuked Theodosius. Similarly, we do not want to withdraw into the desert of “the separation of church and state” and stay there. The City of God is a transcendent reality having a colonial status in this world as pictured in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The powerful effect is that of an influence beyond measure without getting mired within political contests.

The syncretism which Alexander Severus favored had a motto like “all roads lead to God,” a false teaching still with us today. However, this can and should be challenged because all roads do not lead to God. God has drawn near to us in the Person of Jesus. Only He has revealed the heart of God toward mankind. In the words of theologian Leander Keck, Jesus is the face of God. If ministers, teachers, pastors, evangelists, and counselors stick to the basics tenets of our Christian faith, without getting upset over theological differences among ourselves, we not only will have a powerful impact upon the present world, we will also learn from each other. We, in the West, want to understand the Cross of Christ, whether we be Protestant or Catholic. In the East, we want to stand under the Cross before coming to any understanding. Each person’s life is different and Jesus meets us in our differences and that makes all the difference both within the community of believers and without in the unbelieving world.

 

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Category: Church History, Fall 2016

About the Author: Woodrow E. Walton, D.Min. (Oral Roberts University School of Theology and Missions), B.A. (Texas Christian University), B.D. [M.Div.] (Duke Divinity School), M.A. (University of Oklahoma), is a retired Seminary Dean and Professor of biblical, theological and historical studies. An ordained Assemblies of God minister, he and his wife live in Fort Worth, Texas. Walton retains membership with the Evangelical Theological Society, American Association of Christian Counselors, American Society of Church History, American Academy of Political Science, and The International Society of Frontier Missiology.

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