Friday, June 27, 2014

The Standard Model

Faithfully passing on the teaching
While talking yesterday about everybody's favorite segment, "Theologian Thursday," I said that the theologians Authentic Light gives a platform to are those who base their ideas on what was

"taught by Christ to his Apostles, passed on by them to the Christian Movement, and it's ramifications largely unfurled and explained by around AD 400... the consensus reached by the Christian Movement doing the hard work of theology during that time." 

In other places I've mentioned that this site essentially teaches the Apostle's Creed or a deposit of faith that was filled in as time went by.

Behind each of those descriptions is a bit of history that I'd like to spell out for you in case you've ever wondered. It's nothing very complex but is important to realize. In one sentence: You can trace a smooth, direct line through history from Jesus teaching in the1st century to what the Christian Movement was teaching in the 5th.

By "smooth" I don't mean easy; there was plenty of debate and controversy. But they are the same profound "doctrines" -- Jesus' doctrines -- once they have been unpacked.

Jesus, humanly speaking, was a 1st century Palestinian Jew whose deeds and words as Messiah have that fact as their background. He taught his Apostles who faithfully handed it on to the Christian Movement. We can see those same teachings being elaborated in the New Testament and on through the first several centuries until a consensus on most questions was reached.

This "Standard Model" Christianity is the authentic light that we teach here -- as will all the theologians who visit.

To put it differently

Here are the same points elaborated a bit for people who like elaborated points:

1. Jesus of Nazareth did not exist in a vacuum. Instead he lived in a specific time and situation (namely 2nd Temple Judaism in early 1st century Palestine) carrying out the role of Messiah of Israel. What this background was like has been nailed down to a high degree of detail by historical research, and in this atmosphere a good number of silly ideas about him could, frankly, never have happened. On the other hand, the general situation described in the Gospels fits that time like a glove. Therefore his life, death, resurrection, and teaching must be understood against that backdrop if you want to know how people originally took him.

2. Like any good rabbi, Jesus taught his way by word and deed to his students, the Apostles. Unlike most rabbis, he specifically ordered them to teach it to the rest of the world. History shows that the "Easter Event" (fancy scholar talk for his resurrection) brought the Christian Movement into being, and Jesus' teaching was faithfully passed on to them.

3. From there you can trace a smooth progress of those teachings being elaborated and explained. You can see this happen throughout the New Testament, out into the 2nd century after the first generation of Christians had died out, and through the following centuries until most of the big questions had been settled through prayer, discussion, debate, and peer review finally leading to a consensus.

Lost History?

 Some groups have the belief that somewhere along the way something awful happened that radically corrupted Christ's Movement into a "false church." I used to belong to one of those groups. We liked to quote a book whose name I forget to the effect that, "And so [after the last Apostle died, around AD 96] a curtain fell over church history for 100 years. When it rose again a very different church had taken its place."

But this is untrue. No curtain fell and we have at least as much information on what happened during the 2nd century as we do concerning the first, when the New Testament was being written. In fact, while writing this post I just the idea of putting up a list of all the Christian writings from AD 96 through AD 196.

My point is that the history of the 2nd century shows that same smooth progress of elaboration and explanation of Jesus' original teachings as had happened in the first. The only thing that had truly changed by AD 200, which was already changing when "the curtain came down," was how the church was governed now that the Apostles were gone. But then, that would make a good subject for another post!

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