Bible doctrine – the nuts and bolts of doing what God says – is not really the source of arguments and disagreements among brethren. I don’t think it a stretch to state the following: everyone who believes in Jesus as Messiah believes that Jesus died for the church and that each Believer should do what God and Jesus teach. Disagreements and arguments arise because of Theology. Theology is the human-derived method of interpreting the Bible in order to arrive at “doctrine”. Doctrine does not create Theology; Theology creates Doctrine.
Like my Restoration Movement history has asserted, my church experience has revealed that the church – historically – has failed to maintain the original intent. So convoluted are the outcroppings of the church in history and the church in modernity that it seems almost impossible to understand the First Century Church.
Previous to this section, I spent a great deal of time in the Book of Acts revealing Ancient Church History, and then from the Book of Acts and the Epistle to the Romans presented Ancient Church Theology. However, we could simply see “when” post-First Century Theology was established. Doing so proves, rationally, independent of Scripture, that Restoration Theology cannot use post-First Century Church theology and effectively restore the First Century Church.
So, in presenting my case of “Why?” I have challenged theology upon which doctrine is based. This probably has angered and frustrated some. But, without actually examining the support structures of doctrine, I ask: How does one really know that they are aiming for the correct biblical interpretation for original intent?
Books and encyclopedic volumes have been devoted for the sole purpose of Church History. I, however, chose to limit my examination to the Book of Acts and the Epistle to the Romans in Ancient Church History and Ancient Church Theology. In those sections, I discussed the earliest roots of the church and the theology of the church, and discussed how the Council of Jerusalem and the Apostle Saul supported those roots and that theology.
In this section, I will provide a brief chronological comparison of the six theologies in my first book: “Theology: My Assessment of Six Theological Viewpoints” it is also available in the original web-series. I will chronologically compare Replacement Theology against Olive Tree/Branch Theology, Cessation Theology against Continuation Theology, and Dispensational Theology against Covenant Theology. I will then provide my chronological conclusion. Afterwards, it is up to readers to decipher for themselves whether the church, and all its schismatic divisions, and church actions in history are faithful to God’s intent.
Olive Tree/Branch vs. Replacement
It is my hope that readers have spent time reading Ancient Church History and both parts of Ancient Church Theology. If not, I implore readers to spend time in Ancient Church History and Ancient Church Theology. In this sub-section, I offer no rationale for my conclusions. In this sub-section, I treat my conclusions as proven.
Ancient Church History revealed that the Holy Spirit helped establish the Church in Jerusalem through Jews – for Jews, devout men, proselytes, and strangers. Later, the Holy Spirit anointed a very specific devout man, Cornelius and his household proving to the Jews that the pathway was open for the Gentiles to freely enter into the assembly of Messiah.
Later still, the Ancient Church had to wrestle with the Gentiles’ responsibility to circumcision and the Law of Moses. That Ancient Church, lead by Jewish Apostles, Jewish Elders and Jewish Believers convened a Church Council in Jerusalem. That Council told Gentile Believers to abstain from four things, however that Jewish Church did not tell the Gentile Believers to abstain from learning from the Law of Moses
In Ancient Church Theology – Part 2, the Epistle to the Romans was discussed in detail. It revealed that Saul presented a highly complex Jeo-Centric Theology about the relationship of the Law of Moses to the Believer – both Jew and Gentile. In that very same Epistle, Saul presented the very special relationship that Gentile Believers have to Israel. Much time was given detailing things about the Gentile Believers’ relationship to Israel by looking at Romans Chapter Nine, Ten, and Eleven where Olive Tree/Branch Theology was mentioned. For more information about Olive Tree/Branch Theology see my first book: “Theology: My Assessment of Six Theological Viewpoints”.
The previous things are offered as review points, not reason structure. For the rationale, please see Ancient Church History and both parts of Ancient Church Theology, and Theology: My Assessment of Six Theological Viewpoints because this section assumes reader awareness of those documents. As such, this sub-section compares Replacement Theology against Saul’s Olive Tree/Branch Theology in Romans.
Tracing the way in which Replacement Theology came to be is quite extensive, however I limit my discussion to origination points. According to my research, the catalyst for this movement lies with Marcion of Sinope. Marcion was a Believer who lived in the late First Century and died Mid-Second Century (circa AD/CE 90-150). While Marcion believed in Jesus as Christ, he could not reconcile the God represented from Genesis to Malachi against the God represented in the Gospels and Epistles. Thus, Marcion sought reconciliation in many different ways, part of which was the inception of the concept “Old Testament” versus “New Testament”.
Marcion rejected the Gospel writings of Matthew, Mark, and John. Marcion also rejected the Epistles from Peter, James, Jude, and the writer of Hebrews. Marcion established the first known version of a “New Testament” canon. Marcion believed that Paul best represented the understanding of Jesus, so Marcion chose portions of Luke and several of Paul’s Epistles. In doing that, Marcion established a NT canon consisting of far fewer books than the twenty-seven books modern Christians call NT.
Because of Marcion’s theological interpretations, the church of Marcion’s day labeled him heretic. The Church, contemporary to Marcion, felt compelled to deny Marcion’s conclusions. By sheer happenstance of defending the scriptural and spiritual truth against Marcion’s heresy, the Church unwittingly adopted Marcion’s working philosophy. Marcion’s philosophy was unknown to Jesus, unknown to the Apostles, unknown to the disciples of the first Church, and unknown to the Council of Jerusalem.
To stand firm against Marcion, the Church confirmed the importance of the Scriptures. The Scriptures they confirmed as important originated as the Hebrew Bible and/or the Greek Translation of the Hebrew (LXX). Interestingly, The Church in affirming the importance of those Scriptures, somehow accepted Marcion’s philosophy of “Old Testament”. However, Jesus and the Apostles knew those writings as “The Scriptures” not the “Old Testament”.
To continue standing firm against Marcion, the Church confirmed the importance of many more Scriptures about the Messiah (Gospels) and from the Messianic writers (Epistles). At the time, and while important to the church, the writings of the NT had not yet supplanted the importance of the OT writings. So, again, the Church affirmed more writings than the few selected by Marcion; but somehow Marcion’s philosophy of “New Testament” was accepted. Again, Jesus and the Apostles never knew these writings as “New Testament”.
My research has led me to conclude that when studying Marcion and the Church’s decisive reaction to him, the influence of Marcion’s philosophy on the Church is neglected. It seems certain that by purview of the circumstances surrounding Marcion, both Marcion and that time-period’s Church affected what would become the rest of Church History. That time-period’s Church unwittingly accepted Marcion’s philosophy of “old” and “new”, thus a foreign idea was inserted into Scripture. Consequently, much of Church History has the Scriptures delineated into OT and NT, which affects all Biblical interpretation.
Through the centuries, the conceptual division of OT and NT became ingrained into the church. So ingrained is this division of OT and NT that, to many, the concept is sacred. Thus, it is considered sacrilege to declare the OT/NT division unwarranted. But, and this is important, that time-period’s Church unwittingly accepted Marcion’s philosophical concept: the concept of OT and NT. Since then, those “two” Testaments have been at odds – like a competition OT versus NT, seemingly one set against the other, and have remained constantly at dispute for hundreds of years.
As I discussed in Ancient Church History and Ancient Church Theology, the first First Century Church had no NT writings. That Ancient Church studied the Holy Scriptures, those Scriptures first labeled “old” by Marcion. That Ancient Church used the Law of Moses to find convincing arguments that Jesus was the Promised Messiah, and then used that very same Law of Moses to identify worship and lifestyle practices for the Church and Christian.
Since, those Holy Scriptures were delineated as “OLD”, the “Old Testament” unfortunately became relegated to the Scriptures of the Jews. Thus, by the time of the Council of Nicea in the Fourth Century (AD/CE 325), the influence of the Jewish flavor of the Ancient Church was being systematically abolished.
The truth (as shown in Ancient Church History and Ancient Church Theology) is that the Church began Jewish and used the Jewish Bible (The Holy Scriptures – now known as the OT) to preach Jesus and teach the Church. That Ancient Church never expected a “new” canon because they did not speak in such terms. That Ancient Church always referred BACK to the Law of Moses for guidance.
Along with the Scriptures being divided into OT and NT, Rome occupied Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. Along the way, Jerusalem steadily lost influence within the Church. Then the church divided West and East, which now has an innumerable amount of offshoots. However, those things, along with other events, thoroughly reduced and almost eliminated the influence of the Jewish Church upon the Church Universal.
As the Church moved through history, and with the Scriptures firmly divided into OT and NT, the Gentiles either unknowingly or unwillingly began interpreting the Scriptures with less and less Jewish influence (from the Jewish Apostles, or the Jewish Elders, or the Jewish Disciples, or the Jewish Council of Jerusalem). As such, the pages of the “NT” began being interpreted as superseding and superseded the Scriptures of the Jews, which had been labeled “old”. Thus, the “old” seemed as unneeded spirituality in the New Covenant, which is at complete odds with Saul in his Epistle to the Romans. Yet, through that process Replacement Theology came to be.
Readers can investigate the details of Church History, schisms and divisions for themselves, but one thing is certain, Saul, in Chapter Eleven of his Epistle to the Romans, said that the Gentiles were grafted into an existing holy root system. The Jews supported the Gentiles; the Gentiles did not support the Jews. As such, the Gentiles were told not to boast against the root.
While challenging, the fruit of church history, examined against the original intent of the Book of Acts and Saul’s Epistle to the Romans, reveals many startling contrasts. As one who was taught Restoration Movement principles: seek the First Century Church, learn them, know them, and love them. Listening to and appealing to the divergent views of the Second Century Church onward becomes incongruent with Restoration Movement principles.
I want to offer a difficult analogy. Christians often uphold the traditions of the Ante-Nicean Fathers, the Church Councils, and Church Commentaries throughout the ages; yet deride the Jewish writings of the Mishnah, the Talmud and other various and sundry Jewish Commentaries. I deride no commentary that is in keeping with the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the remainder of the writings of the “OT”. Nor do I deride any commentary that is in keeping with the Gospels, the Epistles and the Revelation of the “NT”.
Without malice, I say that the Modern Church greatly misunderstands the original intent of the Church established in Jerusalem, that same church that quickly accepted Gentile Believers. The pages of the Gospels, the pages of the Epistles, and the Book of Revelation support no such concept as Replacement Theology, no matter how well Replacement Theology is articulated.
For further considerations, readers should see my thoughts regarding Replacement Theology and Olive Tree/Branch Theology, in my first book entitled: Theology: My Assessment of Six Theological Viewpoints.
Continuation vs. Cessation
As I explain this, I am not advocating that intellect, logic, rationale and/or sciences should be in any way negated; they should not be negated. God created the human mind; thus, God created the human mind to ask questions, look for answers and solve problems. It seems wholly ungodly to negate the power of the intellect and mind. Having said that, I want to discuss the reality that the mind negated a truth of the spiritual world. This requires discussing The Renaissance and The Reformation and their influences on the Restoration Movement (RM).
It is commonly accepted that the Renaissance began in the 1300s (14th Century), which still has influences on our modern way of life. It is commonly accepted that the Reformation began in the 1500s (16th Century), which still has influences in the modern Protestant Church. Within my religious heritage, we accept that the Restoration Movement began in the 1700s (18th Century) and the RM continues to influence our churches.
For those specifically associated with my religious heritage, as difficult as it may be, we should accept that the developments of the 1300s-1700s gave birth to the RM. If that is not possible, at a minimum, we need to accept as reality the development of human rationale since the 1300s, because that human rationale directly influences the RM.
In many ways, The Renaissance and its focus on the individual and the individual’s independence empowered individual Christians. That reality helped birth The Reformation, which, in turn, gave birth to the Restoration Movement. Thus, I believe it completely valid to say:
I want to point out these elements of history and their broad-based philosophies:
When considering the broad-based philosophies, it becomes interesting that The Renaissance Mind rejects many spirituals (e.g. afterlife, dreams). Spirituals are rejected because spirituals exist outside of logical, rational, scientific empirical evidence. Unfortunately, some Renaissance Minds now seem to reject God and any afterlife.
As we continue considering the broad-based philosophies, it becomes interesting that The Reformation Mind accepts spirituals (e.g. afterlife, dreams). But, the Reformation Mind does so by classifying the spirituals into categories like ancient-spirituals. Thus and importantly, The Reformation Mind ends up rejecting certain specific spirituals, because the spirituals have been classified as ancient-spirituals and are thus not applicable for either modernity or the Modern Church. Allow me to explain.
God certainly influences The Reformation Mind, and as such, The Reformation Mind accepts Scriptures as evidence for spirituals (e.g. God, creation, resurrection, dreams, visions). However, because that same Reformation Mind has classified certain spirituals as ancient, The Reformation Mind created a bifurcated theological system.
On the one side things like dreams, visions, and miracles are identified as ancient-spirituals, and are relegated to Ancient Church History. Thus, those types of ancient-spirituals are deemed either unneeded or irrelevant to modernity. Yet, on the other side, that same Reformation Mind accepts other ancient spirituals (e.g. God and His involvement in creation, and afterlife) as applicable to modernity.
In using such rationale, The Reformation Mind has to resolve that bifurcated dilemma and offers a myriad of rationale for such thinking. One such rationale reasons that once the New Testament was compiled, ancient spirituals like dreams became unneeded – the reason being, the Scriptures are completed. Not saying I agree with that rationale, just mentioning one rationale I have heard.
My studies reveal that The Reformation Mind rejects ancient-spirituals (like dreams, visions and miracles) for two reasons. First, The Reformation Mind rejects the ancient-spirituals because those things were practiced by the unlearned unreformed mind. Second, The Reformation Mind rejects those ancient-spirituals because those ancient-spirituals are deemed non-discernible and impracticable for modernity.
Such reasoning makes The Reformation Mind similar to The Renaissance Mind. Both Minds reason spirituals (whether ancient or modern), by the nature of spirituals. By their very nature spirituals exist outside empirical evidence, logic, rationale, and science. Thus, the Reformation Mind is caught and then torn between reason and spirit. This reality is inescapable and directly influences both Protestant theologies and Restoration Movement theologies.
Even though both The Reformation and the Restoration Movement utilize God’s gift – human intellect – to reason out God and Church, the human mind is aware of and has to cope with the spirituals (dreams, visions, miracles, signs and wonders). The rational mind, even when governed by God and His Scriptures, has a real problem with the spirituals.
Knowing that helps explain why the rational reformed mind perceives as uncouth the Charismatics and Pentecostals. For now, Intellect should set aside any potentiality of Charismatic Pentecostal malpractice and consider an intellectual idea. The Modern Christian using God’s gift of intellect should consider the ancient-spirituals (Miracles, Signs and Wonders) discussed in Ancient Church History where via the Book of Acts many various ancient spirituals were enumerated.
The Book of Acts reveals specific actions the First Century Church practiced. The Book of Acts mentions some things significantly different than what I have witnessed in the Modern Church. The Ancient Church practiced dreams and visions, and experienced miraculous healings and raised people from the dead. My practical church experience has none of that, perhaps my readers have experienced similar.
When either The Reformation Mind and/or Restoration Movement Mind classify dreams, visions, miracles, signs and wonders as “ancient-spirituals” the Modern Church relegates those spirituals to the dustbin of history. That rationale leads to incorrect theology. But more importantly, that rationale deprives the modern embodiment of the Bride of Christ of one of its most fundamental and foundational realities.
Conclusively and simply stated: the discipled-human mind of the First Century Church accepted spirituals (dreams, visions, miracles, signs and wonders). Some will try to dismiss this aspect of the Church, but the Church from the First Century through the Middle Ages, Dark Ages (1300s) accepted as commonplace these spirituals. However, the discipled-human mind from the 1300s on, gradually and steadily, moved itself almost completely away from the spirituals of dreams, visions, miracles, signs and wonders.
That decision is reached by logic and reason after studying historical human events. When examining the evidence of the First Century Church against the evidence post-1300s, I am compelled to reject post-1300s intellectual thoughts and/or church theology that negate or nullify any spirituals. Whether I am (or my readers are) uncomfortable with the spirituals is irrelevant, the spirituals are part of the First Century Church, period.
Again, I write without malice. But, after years of examining the evidence (and if need be, by intellect alone), I am compelled to believe that Cessation Theology cannot be God’s intent for the Church. From the pages of the Book of Acts, God wants the Church to continue experiencing the spirituals – this is Continuation Theology. For my intellect to believe otherwise would be like saying that if the Miracles, Signs and Wonders could cease, then so could the Church. Such thinking is intellectually impossible when accepting as true this statement from Jesus, “The gates of hell shall not prevail.”
For further consideration, readers should see my thoughts regarding Cessation Theology and Continuation Theology, in my first book entitled: Theology: My Assessment of Six Theological Viewpoints.
Covenant vs. Dispensational
It is my hope that readers have spent time reading my book: “Theology: My Assessment of Six Theological Viewpoints” or read that information in the original web-series. If not, I implore readers to spend time in that material. In this sub-section, I offer no rationale for my conclusions. In this sub-section, I treat my conclusions as proven.
The Bible unfolds in many ways, one of which is chronologically. Sometimes the Scriptures are very chronological, but so many events seem anything but chronological. Perhaps the most difficult thing about the Scriptures is that they simply do not unfold in a theological way that is easily understood.
At times, it is difficult to interpret the Scriptures for God’s overall plan for humanity. Thus Jews, Christians and other individuals have worked and still work to understand the Scriptures. That may sound like I am being overly simplistic or making some kind of uneducated statement regarding the Bible. Yet, the reality is this: the Bible is not always easy to understand. This is why so many theologians exist, attempting to reconcile so many questions.
In this sub-section, I will compare Covenant Theology against Dispensational Theology. In my book Theology: My Assessment of Six Theological Viewpoints, I offered, what I consider, sufficient explanation of these theological problems. So, this sub-section will be brief.
As I have studied the differences between Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology, I have found something interesting. It seems true that Dispensational Theology is very easy to understand. However, Dispensational Theology simply cannot address complex questions. A dilemma that Dispensational Theology cannot adequately address is the idea of humanity’s collective accountability to God’s word.
Dispensational Theology claims that every human being is accountable to the New Testament. Yet, when one reads the Old Testament, we find that God has Israel accountable to a unique system, a covenant mediated by Moses, to which the remainder of the world simply is not held accountable. That Covenant reality exists for Israel. And a similar Covenant reality exists for Abraham.
The Covenant of Circumcision that God made with Abraham simply was not a Covenant that God made with the entire world. God made that Circumcision Covenant with Abraham and his household, a subsection of humanity. According to the Genesis Scripture, there are many more people (the Ishmaelites, and the other descendents of Abraham) accountable to the Covenant of Circumcision than just Children of Israel. While Israel is descended from Abraham, Israel is simply another subsection of humanity, a subsection that received another Covenant mediated by Moses at Sinai. Furthermore, we must keep in mind that the New Testament is a Covenant, and we must theologically interpret the pages of the NT as such.
Covenant Theology is significantly different than Dispensational Theology. Covenant Theology is not as easy to understand. But, Covenant Theology existed centuries before Dispensational Theology. While I was trained up to interpret the Bible through Dispensational Theology, intense dedicated study led me away from that training.
The English Scriptures contain the word covenant, both in the singular and the plural. The Greek word that supports the English word is diatheke. There are times that this NT Greek word is translated as testament. And while there are times the NT speaks of a dispensation, the Scriptures – both OT and NT – are simply replete with the word covenant. The Law of Moses, the Prophets, the Messiah, and the Apostles all speak of God and His covenants.
Again, I write without malice. Yet, after intense examination of these two competitive theologies, and after writing Ancient Church History and Ancient Church Theology, I am thoroughly persuaded that God still operates and governs humanity through Covenants. My Restoration Movement heritage instilled in my soul a concept: seek to understand the First Century Church. Thus, logic and reason simply do not permit me to interpret First Century Writings (the Scriptures) through Dispensational Theology when Dispensational Theology originates 1800 years after the writings of the NT.
For further considerations, readers should see my thoughts regarding Replacement Theology and Covenant Theology, in my first book entitled: Theology: My Assessment of Six Theological Viewpoints.
My heritage claims it wants the First Century Church, but has attempted to reconcile the Scriptures via theologies that originate after AD/CE 100. My heritage properly asserted: if one wants the original church, the Christian and the Church need to “jump over” the developments of church history and land at the original.
The problem, as my studies and experiences have revealed, is that my church heritage jumps over the First Council of Nicea and lands squarely in the Ante-Nicean Church Fathers. While that appears theologically sound, after studying Ancient Church History and Ancient Church Theology, the Ante-Nicean Fathers, no matter how close to the Apostles, make some decisions not in harmony with the Ancient Church’s Theology. As such, the Ante-Nicean Church Fathers’ theological counsel, no matter how rationally sound, began losing the influence of the Jewishness of the faith, and with that loss came unintended theology.
As a Restoration Movement person, rationally it seems incongruent to use theologies that originate after the First Century to understand the First Century Church. For me, it becomes extremely difficult to harmonize the Restoration Movement – both intellectually and spiritually – when my heritage attempts to use Second Century to Present Theologies to interpret the Bible to determine modern-day application of the doctrine and practices of the First Century Church. Since, the Restoration Movement instilled in me a love to understand the First Century Church, and instilled in me an appreciation for rational investigation of Scriptural and spiritual truths, I am compelled to conclude the following the three thoughts.
Chronologically, in the First Century, the Apostle Saul wrote Olive Tree/Branch Theology in his Epistle to the Romans. In the Second Century, Marcion of Sinope’s heresy ushered in Replacement Theology and supportive arguments for Replacement Theology from that point forward. Since it is true that Marcion’s concept of OT and NT were expanded and expounded from the Second Century, then it seems to follow that Replacement Theology is not the original intended theology, but that the First Century Olive Tree/Branch Theology is the original intended theology.
Chronologically, the First Century Church experienced spirituals like dreams and visions, and they expected those spirituals to continue as part of spiritual and experiential life in the church, and the church experienced such up through about the 1200s. However, in the 1300s, the Renaissance fueled an extreme focus on human intellect and that intellectualism influenced Reformation Theology that gave Cessation Theology. In its own way (Renaissance Ideologies, Reformation Theologies, and Restoration Movement Theologies), each attempt to debunk the spirituals of the First Century. Since it is true that the newest centuries have attempted to explain away and/or relegate spirituals to ancient history, then it seems to follow that Cessation Theology is not the original intended but that Continuation Theology is the original intended theology.
Chronologically, the First Century Church preached and taught about the Church and its Covenant relationship to God and God’s Covenants with His people and the earth. Yet, in the 1800s, Protestant Theologians attempted to resolve their theological dilemmas by proposing Dispensational Theology. Since it is true that the newest centuries offer the newest theologies about God’s governance, it seems then to follow that Dispensational Theology is not the original intended theology, but that Covenant Theology is the original intended theology.
Considering the time-frame development of Replacement Theology (AD 150s +), and Cessation Theology (AD 1300s +), and Replacement Theology (AD 1800s +), the Restoration Movement faces a challenge. The Restoration Movement must recover and restore the First Century Church’s Theology, or the Restoration Movement shows itself to have fallen short of its proclamation and simply becoming another Protestant offshoot.
In the next segment, I will continue answering “Why?” by examining Communion and Comprehensive Context. I am currently finalizing this section, which should be available soon.
Blessings and Peace