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Author Topic: Do the first-millennium schisms disprove Christianity?  (Read 2397 times) Average Rating: 0
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Trebor135
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« on: March 07, 2013, 01:57:27 AM »

A poster on another forum I belong to has said that one of the reasons they would remain agnostic was that even the Christian groups which trace themselves back to the apostles are still fractured. A little over a year ago, I almost lost my faith because of how difficult I found it to choose between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Here's how I'd make the case for the schisms among Assyrians, Orientals, and Byzantines disproving Christianity:

1) God loves us and wants us to know the truth.

2) The visible Church that was established by Christ teaches no salvation outside of its boundaries and warns all who adhere to heresy that their souls are in grave danger.

3) Among the issues that divided the early Christians were "Was Jesus fully divine?", "Was Mary the Mother of God?", "Did Jesus have one or two natures?", and "Did Christ have one or two wills?" The vast majority of these questions were abstract and technical, so the ordinary person alive then could not reasonably have been expected to determine which faction was correct and which was in error.

4) Most of what we now call heresies were resolved in a fairly short period of time, but a few issues remain outstanding. The divides over christology among the Assyrians, Orientals, and Byzantines were until recently deemed by many, if not all, in the three camps to involve differences which put the souls of the other groups' faithful in peril. No matter what, truth is on the line. With access to so little information about what was going on back then, when communications and transportation were so limited, the ordinary person alive just a couple hundred years ago, before greater understandings were reached by hierarches of the three parties, could not reasonably have been expected to determine which faction was correct and which was in error.

5) A loving God would not leave his honest, simple, and devoted followers hanging, with no way for the copious "uneducated masses" to find the truth, take whatever necessary steps to be sure that they were part of the Church established by Christ, and avoid losing their souls over abstract and technical matters which surely make the best-informed and brightest theologians scratch their heads.

6) Catholicism and Protestantism both teach doctrines not to be found in the early Church, so neither group is the solution (need we mention that Protestantism is subdivided into a whole baffling smorgasbord of forever-multiplying factions?).

7) Therefore, Christianity cannot be true.

What do you think?
« Last Edit: March 07, 2013, 02:03:25 AM by Trebor135 » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2013, 04:06:09 AM »

When you read New Testament Scripture you will see that Christ himself tells us that not everyone will accept his teaching, not everyone will agree, there will be false teachers, etc.  Even the Apostles themselves were challenged, the other disciples were challenged.  Christ had a huge number of disciples but by the crucifixion only St. John was there.  At this time St. Peter himself has already denied him thrice, and all the other Apostles also were in hiding for fear.

The problem here is the rhetoric discounts reality.  "If Christianity were true, God would have made it so obvious that people will know the truth."  Christ performed miracles in front of people and they still killed him.  God never took our free will away, therefore there will always be those who would go off on their own way regardless of what is presented in front of them.
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« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2013, 04:53:35 AM »

"If Christianity were true, God would have made it so obvious that people will know the truth."

Personally, I think the issue with this reasoning is the assumption that God is only concerned primarily with the end result of whether or not we accept Christianity. Sometimes I think that the journey and process of how we arrive to Christianity may be more important to God than the actual conversion itself. Maybe this is why God doesn't reveal a lot of things to us right away (which would make life much easier!) because He wants us to use our minds and bodies and really reflect upon these questions, journey and arrive somewhere.
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« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2013, 05:25:03 AM »

Nothing disproves Christianity.
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« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2013, 05:33:02 AM »

"There have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine." (1 Corinthians 11:19)
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« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2013, 07:33:52 AM »

A poster on another forum I belong to has said that one of the reasons they would remain agnostic was that even the Christian groups which trace themselves back to the apostles are still fractured. A little over a year ago, I almost lost my faith because of how difficult I found it to choose between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.


What does the conduct of the Church have to do with the question of whether there is a God or not? God either exists or he doesn't. Whether we are a church full of buttheads or not has nothing to do with it.
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« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2013, 07:47:03 AM »

A poster on another forum I belong to has said that one of the reasons they would remain agnostic was that even the Christian groups which trace themselves back to the apostles are still fractured. A little over a year ago, I almost lost my faith because of how difficult I found it to choose between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.


What does the conduct of the Church have to do with the question of whether there is a God or not? God either exists or he doesn't. Whether we are a church full of buttheads or not has nothing to do with it.

If God existed He certainly wouldn't allow anyone to be a butthead!!!!!!!!!
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« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2013, 09:18:25 AM »

The factions, schisms, etc all throughout the history of Christianity points to our sinfulness restlessness, our spiritual sickness, and our free will.  These divisions are also further evidence of the conflict between the world and Christ . . . Satan and his minions and the children of God.  The divisions are not reason for unbelief.  It may require from us a deeper faith but that is fine and perhaps how God uses this situation. It is remarkable that the remnant is as enduring as it is and even as large as it is and people are still being daily added! 

Also, I don't think damning everyone to hell who isn't a member in good standing of a canonical Orthodox jurisdiction is what God intends for His people.  I struggle with this as an inquirier.  As I drift away from my evangelical roots God is not asking me to damn everyone remaining in this Protestant tradition.  On the reverse, neither is God asking me to judge this tradition to be righteous, mature and a healthy reflection of His Kingdom.
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« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2013, 09:36:07 AM »

It seems that the general argument here is that because Christianity can be difficult to decipher, it's validity is in question.  I can see how people would be frustrated by that, but there is really no other aspect of our life that we agree that is true.  Even an atheist will admit that understanding quantum physics is very difficult even for qualified scientists.  There are many different fractures even within the scientific community on the proper interpretation of various data models.  Do we then throw the whole theory and deny quantum physics because it is hard to decipher? I think common sense would tell us no.

Christianity can be looked at similarly.  There are aspects that are very difficult to understand, but that doesn't mean there isn't a right answer and we should keep searching.  In my own person opinion, God will only judge for resisting His will, not for making mistakes. 
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« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2013, 10:30:38 AM »

A poster on another forum I belong to has said that one of the reasons they would remain agnostic was that even the Christian groups which trace themselves back to the apostles are still fractured. A little over a year ago, I almost lost my faith because of how difficult I found it to choose between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.


What does the conduct of the Church have to do with the question of whether there is a God or not? God either exists or he doesn't. Whether we are a church full of buttheads or not has nothing to do with it.

If God existed He certainly wouldn't allow anyone to be a butthead!!!!!!!!!
Here is the "Blade Runner" atheist. God does not act as I demand so I kill God by denying his existence.
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« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2013, 10:44:16 AM »

"There have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine." (1 Corinthians 11:19)

That settles it.
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« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2013, 10:49:05 AM »

When you read New Testament Scripture you will see that Christ himself tells us that not everyone will accept his teaching, not everyone will agree, there will be false teachers, etc.  Even the Apostles themselves were challenged, the other disciples were challenged.  Christ had a huge number of disciples but by the crucifixion only St. John was there.  At this time St. Peter himself has already denied him thrice, and all the other Apostles also were in hiding for fear.

The problem here is the rhetoric discounts reality.  "If Christianity were true, God would have made it so obvious that people will know the truth."  Christ performed miracles in front of people and they still killed him.  God never took our free will away, therefore there will always be those who would go off on their own way regardless of what is presented in front of them.

You raise good points here. Still, what are the miracles performed, or other revealing actions taken, by the Byzantines but not Orientals and Assyrians which show the first to be the true Church and the second and third to be in schism?
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« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2013, 10:52:30 AM »

"If Christianity were true, God would have made it so obvious that people will know the truth."

Personally, I think the issue with this reasoning is the assumption that God is only concerned primarily with the end result of whether or not we accept Christianity. Sometimes I think that the journey and process of how we arrive to Christianity may be more important to God than the actual conversion itself. Maybe this is why God doesn't reveal a lot of things to us right away (which would make life much easier!) because He wants us to use our minds and bodies and really reflect upon these questions, journey and arrive somewhere.

But is it not the case that, in a roundtable discussion between Assyrians, Orientals, Byzantines, and Latins, the participants from each side would express grave doubts about the salvation of the laity and clergy of the other three groups for not being part of the true Church and believing doctrine then considered heresy?
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« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2013, 10:54:38 AM »

Nothing disproves Christianity.

Why do you say so with such unshakable confidence? Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2013, 10:54:45 AM »

When you read New Testament Scripture you will see that Christ himself tells us that not everyone will accept his teaching, not everyone will agree, there will be false teachers, etc.  Even the Apostles themselves were challenged, the other disciples were challenged.  Christ had a huge number of disciples but by the crucifixion only St. John was there.  At this time St. Peter himself has already denied him thrice, and all the other Apostles also were in hiding for fear.

The problem here is the rhetoric discounts reality.  "If Christianity were true, God would have made it so obvious that people will know the truth."  Christ performed miracles in front of people and they still killed him.  God never took our free will away, therefore there will always be those who would go off on their own way regardless of what is presented in front of them.

You raise good points here. Still, what are the miracles performed, or other revealing actions taken, by the Byzantines but not Orientals and Assyrians which show the first to be the true Church and the second and third to be in schism?

That is why in earnest we should seek out the truth and pray to God for that.  There is no easy way to realize that, but that is the same with most anything in our life.  We don't just marry the first woman we meet, you date and you try to find out if you're compatible or not.  We have to investigate and understand what is being taught.  Don't expect it to be handed to you plainly and simply, you have to open your heart to God through earnest prayer and fasting.
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« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2013, 11:00:44 AM »

"There have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine." (1 Corinthians 11:19)

A variation on a question I asked above:

Other than appeal to complicated and perplexing theological arguments which the vast majority of Christians throughout history would not be able to ponder and resolve for themselves (they simply wish to get by financially while helping their spouse, children, parents, siblings, acquaintances, and friends to reach heaven), by what fairly objective and non-circular reasoning can one determine that the Byzantines are correct but Assyrians and Orientals in error?
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« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2013, 11:15:58 AM »

What does the conduct of the Church have to do with the question of whether there is a God or not? God either exists or he doesn't. Whether we are a church full of buttheads or not has nothing to do with it.

The God we believe in acts in history on the micro and macro levels--to affect individuals, groups, and nations.

He "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).

Thus, by not intervening to ensure the healing of schisms in a reasonable timeframe, so that the probability of salvation for Christ's followers can be maximized and the scandal caused to the world by the feuding among Christians be tamped down on, God is behaving irresponsibly, even cruelly, for leaving all genuine seekers of truth in the dark.
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« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2013, 11:19:03 AM »

"There have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine." (1 Corinthians 11:19)

A variation on a question I asked above:

Other than appeal to complicated and perplexing theological arguments which the vast majority of Christians throughout history would not be able to ponder and resolve for themselves (they simply wish to get by financially while helping their spouse, children, parents, siblings, acquaintances, and friends to reach heaven), by what fairly objective and non-circular reasoning can one determine that the Byzantines are correct but Assyrians and Orientals in error?


Seek first the Kingdom of God Wink

If you feel you have found the truth, be at peace.  Don't be constantly looking over the fence wondering.  Unless you have doubts about where you are.  It is a journey, those of us who converted to Orthodoxy did not do so instantly.
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« Reply #18 on: March 07, 2013, 11:28:41 AM »

That is why in earnest we should seek out the truth and pray to God for that.  There is no easy way to realize that, but that is the same with most anything in our life.  We don't just marry the first woman we meet, you date and you try to find out if you're compatible or not.  We have to investigate and understand what is being taught.  Don't expect it to be handed to you plainly and simply, you have to open your heart to God through earnest prayer and fasting.

You seem to presuppose that everyone is equally discerning, which cannot be the case given that unfortunate souls still become Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Muslims.

In order to learn how to be discerning, one must find a spiritual father. In order to settle upon a spiritual father, one must be sure that the candidate does not hold to soul-destroying heresy. In order to determine that a possible spiritual father does not believe perilous error, one must have learnt how to be discerning and already resolved the question at hand of which self-described true Church can provide a spiritual father who is not led astray and will not lead astray.
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« Reply #19 on: March 07, 2013, 11:30:28 AM »

It should also be remembered that it is quite easy to be a skeptic.  You just have to question things.  In traveling further down that road, not only can Christianity be questioned because of the difficulties in determining which is accurate and which is not, you can also question science because we have an inescapable human perspective that we view it from.  You can go further down that road and question if your mind is even sane and competent to ask the questions you are asking.

When looking at Orthodox Christianity, while we make exclusive claims that the Church holds the fullness of Truth, we do not make exclusive claims that only those in the Church can obtain salvation. I fully expect that many Oriental, Assyrian, Roman Catholic and  Protestant Christians will be united with God.
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« Reply #20 on: March 07, 2013, 11:44:12 AM »

That is why in earnest we should seek out the truth and pray to God for that.  There is no easy way to realize that, but that is the same with most anything in our life.  We don't just marry the first woman we meet, you date and you try to find out if you're compatible or not.  We have to investigate and understand what is being taught.  Don't expect it to be handed to you plainly and simply, you have to open your heart to God through earnest prayer and fasting.

You seem to presuppose that everyone is equally discerning, which cannot be the case given that unfortunate souls still become Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Muslims.

In order to learn how to be discerning, one must find a spiritual father. In order to settle upon a spiritual father, one must be sure that the candidate does not hold to soul-destroying heresy. In order to determine that a possible spiritual father does not believe perilous error, one must have learnt how to be discerning and already resolved the question at hand of which self-described true Church can provide a spiritual father who is not led astray and will not lead astray.


I'm not sure that's true, Trebor. I never had a single spiritual father. I mean, I guess we could assume that the priests in our churches fit that description, but it's not like some sort of student/yogi relationship or whatever, where I placed some sort of absolute trust in any one particular person to teach me everything. Lots of people helped me, and continue to do so. I learned more from waking up at 6 a.m. to sit and talk with the guy who makes the orban at my church than I have from talking to priests (usually), and he certainly doesn't possess any especially amazing insights or powers or whatever. He's just an average guy, who does what he can to prepare for liturgy in a reverent way.

Sometimes I think it pays to go where you think you should be, and trust that God will reveal to you His will for your life in time. You don't have to be 100% sure of everything all of the time. That's what this whole faith thing is about. Sometimes we are more like St. Thomas, and sometimes more like St. Athanasius. I mean, eventually you have to put the books down and pick a street (though it seems that some people never do), but this does not have to be a reason for anxiety, so long as you allow yourself the right to be wrong, and allow God to complete a good work in you, even though you inevitably are at least occasionally wrong.
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« Reply #21 on: March 07, 2013, 11:48:53 AM »

That is why in earnest we should seek out the truth and pray to God for that.  There is no easy way to realize that, but that is the same with most anything in our life.  We don't just marry the first woman we meet, you date and you try to find out if you're compatible or not.  We have to investigate and understand what is being taught.  Don't expect it to be handed to you plainly and simply, you have to open your heart to God through earnest prayer and fasting.

You seem to presuppose that everyone is equally discerning, which cannot be the case given that unfortunate souls still become Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Muslims.

In order to learn how to be discerning, one must find a spiritual father. In order to settle upon a spiritual father, one must be sure that the candidate does not hold to soul-destroying heresy. In order to determine that a possible spiritual father does not believe perilous error, one must have learnt how to be discerning and already resolved the question at hand of which self-described true Church can provide a spiritual father who is not led astray and will not lead astray.


I'm not sure that's true, Trebor. I never had a single spiritual father. I mean, I guess we could assume that the priests in our churches fit that description, but it's not like some sort of student/yogi relationship or whatever, where I placed some sort of absolute trust in any one particular person to teach me everything. Lots of people helped me, and continue to do so. I learned more from waking up at 6 a.m. to sit and talk with the guy who makes the orban at my church than I have from talking to priests (usually), and he certainly doesn't possess any especially amazing insights or powers or whatever. He's just an average guy, who does what he can to prepare for liturgy in a reverent way.

Sometimes I think it pays to go where you think you should be, and trust that God will reveal to you His will for your life in time. You don't have to be 100% sure of everything all of the time. That's what this whole faith thing is about. Sometimes we are more like St. Thomas, and sometimes more like St. Athanasius. I mean, eventually you have to put the books down and pick a street (though it seems that some people never do), but this does not have to be a reason for anxiety, so long as you allow yourself the right to be wrong, and allow God to complete a good work in you, even though you inevitably are at least occasionally wrong.

Great advice!
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« Reply #22 on: March 07, 2013, 11:56:22 AM »

I haven't studied any other faiths, and nor do I care to. That is because I believe Christianity depicts, clearly, what salvation means, and how to be saved.

Christ has said, and I'm paraphrasing because I don't remember the exact quote from the Bible, "Strive to enter through the narrow path/door." "And ALL are called, but FEW will enter."

It is human nature to question things. Nowadays moreso than before, and that is because there are so many opinions and 'educated minds' that either base things on 'scientific research' or simply have given up on the idea of patience and seek the immediate expectation of something.

In His teachings, Christ always emphasizes the need for us to be like "children." I believe He means that as children, we must totally depend on the parents (in this case God) and not seek or worry about anything else. To be like a child means to trust, wholeheartedly and without question, our parent (God), and by doing so we remain free and simple-minded.

Sadly, those who have rejected His Word are the ones who cannot see this. Also, sin & the devil can cloud our minds and especially those who are weak, spriritually, does the the devil prey on the most.

We are told to not question His Word, but to accept and believe in it. Just like little children, we accept it and are guided by it.
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« Reply #23 on: March 07, 2013, 12:07:05 PM »


A variation on a question I asked above:

Other than appeal to complicated and perplexing theological arguments which the vast majority of Christians throughout history would not be able to ponder and resolve for themselves (they simply wish to get by financially while helping their spouse, children, parents, siblings, acquaintances, and friends to reach heaven), by what fairly objective and non-circular reasoning can one determine that the Byzantines are correct but Assyrians and Orientals in error?

For the Assyrians "The Word became flesh" would be sufficient. The Orientals have pretty much the same faith as the Byzantine Orthodox but express it differently.
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« Reply #24 on: March 07, 2013, 02:02:18 PM »

For the Assyrians "The Word became flesh" would be sufficient.

Surely they've thought of decent responses to all the arguments against their christology, though?

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The Orientals have pretty much the same faith as the Byzantine Orthodox but express it differently.

That solution can be said to work in the present day although, I believe, some Orientals continue to regard the Tome of Pope St. Leo as containing language that Nestorians would accept.

But leaving that question aside, let's rewind to the sixteenth century, when the Latins and Byzantines on the one hand and Orientals on the other hadn't conducted extensive christological dialogue  and considered each other heretics. How could the ordinary person discern between the two groups?
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« Reply #25 on: March 07, 2013, 03:29:19 PM »

What does the conduct of the Church have to do with the question of whether there is a God or not? God either exists or he doesn't. Whether we are a church full of buttheads or not has nothing to do with it.

The God we believe in acts in history on the micro and macro levels--to affect individuals, groups, and nations.

He "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).

Thus, by not intervening to ensure the healing of schisms in a reasonable timeframe, so that the probability of salvation for Christ's followers can be maximized and the scandal caused to the world by the feuding among Christians be tamped down on, God is behaving irresponsibly, even cruelly, for leaving all genuine seekers of truth in the dark.
To declare that my dog does not exist because he refuses to fetch a frizbee would be nuts. Because God does not accomplish his will according to the parameters of our understanding and according to a time frame we dictate has nothing to do with the existence of God. It only means that we have a flawed or incomplete understanding of God.

We are to join ourselves with Gods will, not the other way around.
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« Reply #26 on: March 07, 2013, 03:50:55 PM »

But leaving that question aside, let's rewind to the sixteenth century, when the Latins and Byzantines on the one hand and Orientals on the other hadn't conducted extensive christological dialogue  and considered each other heretics. How could the ordinary person discern between the two groups?

Leaving aside what the point might be of approaching things this way when that's no longer where we are as individuals, churches, or societies, I have to wonder how much of this kind thinking might be projecting today's ideas onto the past. There is precious little evidence of extended contact, let alone theological dialogue, between, say, Catholics and Oriental Orthodox prior to the coming of Catholic missionaries into their territories around this time (e.g., Portuguese in Ethiopia, or Latins in Armenia a bit earlier). So how the existence, let alone the necessary sources, of all these other churches or beliefs would've bothered or motivated the ordinary person to contrast and compare them and make a choice accordingly is a bit beyond me. Even when there were scholars of ancient Eastern languages like Syriac and Coptic among them, there was not an attendant rise in conversions to the Syriac or Coptic churches on the part of the Latins any more so than a Greek who might know Latin would be likely to convert to the Roman Church. So I'm a little confused as to where this idea that ordinary people would've been making a choice between groups is coming from. Generally speaking, I imagine it would be much the same as it is today, wherein you would be born into the faith of your parents and probably stay that faith your whole life. The difference today, of course, is that experiencing the other faiths back then would've taken considerable travel and very unique and exceedingly unlikely contacts (hence most of the pre-20th century literature on the Eastern churches from Westerners came in the form of travelogues, not theological treatises), whereas now everything has a website. So, again, it seems like asking this question of people of the past is a rather anachronistic way of getting at some kind of answer.
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« Reply #27 on: March 07, 2013, 05:01:18 PM »

To declare that my dog does not exist because he refuses to fetch a frizbee would be nuts. Because God does not accomplish his will according to the parameters of our understanding and according to a time frame we dictate has nothing to do with the existence of God. It only means that we have a flawed or incomplete understanding of God.

We are to join ourselves with Gods will, not the other way around.
Good answer.  Cool
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« Reply #28 on: March 07, 2013, 05:14:16 PM »

"If Christianity were true, God would have made it so obvious that people will know the truth."

Besides Romaios already settling the thread, I think that quote is silly. Christ is the very center of all of human history; his influence is so obvious but not all of us want to accept the truth.

There is a difference between knowing something is true and then accepting it.
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« Reply #29 on: March 07, 2013, 06:27:38 PM »

Nothing disproves Christianity.

Why do you say so with such unshakable confidence? Smiley

For starters, people have been attempting to disprove it for over 2000 years, even under the threat of death, without zero results.  Secondly, it is impossible to disprove truth.  Even if you could, where would you start?  Which aspect?  One may be able to disprove certain groups or specific heresies; however, Christianity itself can’t be disproven.
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« Reply #30 on: March 08, 2013, 12:17:50 AM »

For starters, people have been attempting to disprove it for over 2000 years, even under the threat of death, without zero results.  Secondly, it is impossible to disprove truth.  Even if you could, where would you start?  Which aspect?  One may be able to disprove certain groups or specific heresies; however, Christianity itself can’t be disproven.

Couldn't a Muslim say something similar?
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« Reply #31 on: March 08, 2013, 12:22:20 AM »

Is this thread about Islam now?
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« Reply #32 on: March 08, 2013, 02:38:47 AM »

For starters, people have been attempting to disprove it for over 2000 years, even under the threat of death, without zero results.  Secondly, it is impossible to disprove truth.  Even if you could, where would you start?  Which aspect?  One may be able to disprove certain groups or specific heresies; however, Christianity itself can’t be disproven.

Couldn't a Muslim say something similar?

Sure.  I suppose anyone could say the same thing about Christianity.  Why do you ask?
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« Reply #33 on: March 08, 2013, 02:40:22 AM »

Is this thread about Islam now?

Next it will be about Betty Crocker.
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« Reply #34 on: March 08, 2013, 11:37:08 AM »

Is this thread about Islam now?

A poster essentially stated that the opening argument I proposed was moot because there isn't anything that could disprove Christianity. I'm not allowed to ask for a claim to be defended now?

The issue is, though, tangential. So, I'll have to start a new thread.
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« Reply #35 on: March 08, 2013, 11:46:23 AM »

Leaving aside what the point might be of approaching things this way when that's no longer where we are as individuals, churches, or societies,

The issue is worth pondering because another schism could happen again. It might not seem likely now, but in 351 AD did anyone see the split over Chalcedon coming? They couldn't have.

Quote
I have to wonder how much of this kind thinking might be projecting today's ideas onto the past. There is precious little evidence of extended contact, let alone theological dialogue, between, say, Catholics and Oriental Orthodox prior to the coming of Catholic missionaries into their territories around this time (e.g., Portuguese in Ethiopia, or Latins in Armenia a bit earlier). So how the existence, let alone the necessary sources, of all these other churches or beliefs would've bothered or motivated the ordinary person to contrast and compare them and make a choice accordingly is a bit beyond me. Even when there were scholars of ancient Eastern languages like Syriac and Coptic among them, there was not an attendant rise in conversions to the Syriac or Coptic churches on the part of the Latins any more so than a Greek who might know Latin would be likely to convert to the Roman Church. So I'm a little confused as to where this idea that ordinary people would've been making a choice between groups is coming from. Generally speaking, I imagine it would be much the same as it is today, wherein you would be born into the faith of your parents and probably stay that faith your whole life. The difference today, of course, is that experiencing the other faiths back then would've taken considerable travel and very unique and exceedingly unlikely contacts (hence most of the pre-20th century literature on the Eastern churches from Westerners came in the form of travelogues, not theological treatises), whereas now everything has a website. So, again, it seems like asking this question of people of the past is a rather anachronistic way of getting at some kind of answer.

I definitely see what you're saying. Let's rewind to the fifth century, which offers better examples. Given the geographical proximity between Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians there, Christians in Georgia/Armenia and Greater Syria would surely have been aware of the rupture following Chalcedon and been in a position, at least in some cases, to choose between the two sides. For the sake of being sure they were on the right path, how could the ordinary person back then have made a decision?
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« Reply #36 on: March 08, 2013, 11:58:32 AM »


5) A loving God would not leave his honest, simple, and devoted followers hanging, with no way for the copious "uneducated masses" to find the truth, take whatever necessary steps to be sure that they were part of the Church established by Christ, and avoid losing their souls over abstract and technical matters which surely make the best-informed and brightest theologians scratch their heads.

7) Therefore, Christianity cannot be true.

What do you think?

Your point 5 is an assumption and thus defective as a premise, yet it is the only premise that supports your conclusion. Therefore, your conclusion cannot be valid. BTW, such argumentation is also made made by agnostics and atheists.

On a related matter, I suggest you read "Heresy of Orthodoxy."
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« Reply #37 on: March 08, 2013, 02:23:00 PM »

It's true that #5 is the only premise that supports the conclusion, I think the argument would best be reworked as:

1) If Christianity is true, then one has to belong to the perfectly right-believing group to be saved.
2) If one has to belong to the perfectly right-believing group to be saved, then God must have left the uneducated masses with a means of determining truth in light of heresy and schism.
3) God did not leave the uneducated masses with a means of determining truth in light of heresy and schism.
Therefore, Christianity is not true.

This way the argument is logically valid, which may help focus the discussion and address the key premises.

That said, I don't think the argument is sound, but I'll have to comment on the problems I have with it later.
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« Reply #38 on: March 08, 2013, 02:53:12 PM »

It's true that #5 is the only premise that supports the conclusion, I think the argument would best be reworked as:

1) If Christianity is true, then one has to belong to the perfectly right-believing group to be saved.
2) If one has to belong to the perfectly right-believing group to be saved, then God must have left the uneducated masses with a means of determining truth in light of heresy and schism.
3) God did not leave the uneducated masses with a means of determining truth in light of heresy and schism.
Therefore, Christianity is not true.

This way the argument is logically valid, which may help focus the discussion and address the key premises.

That said, I don't think the argument is sound, but I'll have to comment on the problems I have with it later.

Thanks for this post--you expressed better what I was getting at. Smiley

I hope it's clear that I'm not intending to abandon Christianity because of this difficulty. I nearly did so, but Glenn Miller at ChristianThinkTank.com played an important role in helping me realize that the faith is nonetheless worth sticking with on its own merits.
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« Reply #39 on: March 08, 2013, 02:54:04 PM »

The issue is worth pondering because another schism could happen again. It might not seem likely now, but in 351 AD did anyone see the split over Chalcedon coming? They couldn't have.

True, I suppose it is possible, but let's not count our schisms before they're hatched.

Quote
I definitely see what you're saying. Let's rewind to the fifth century, which offers better examples. Given the geographical proximity between Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians there, Christians in Georgia/Armenia and Greater Syria would surely have been aware of the rupture following Chalcedon and been in a position, at least in some cases, to choose between the two sides. For the sake of being sure they were on the right path, how could the ordinary person back then have made a decision?

I can't answer for ancient people, of course, but reading through history it strikes me that the communions developed somewhat gradually, and especially in the places you mentioned there was a lot of back-and-forth, so to speak. If I recall correctly, the Georgians still venerate some Syriac anti-Chalcedonian saints, even though they're not likely to admit today that they themselves were ever anti-Chalcedon. There are other indications, of course (for instance, Georgian icons have a heck of a lot more in common with Ethiopian or other OO iconography than they do Byzantine), but the point is that, yes, there were people that were sort of caught in between. There is even a word for Chalcedonian Armenians, though I don't remember what it is (I've read it in scholarly sources, but I don't speak Armenian myself so I've forgotten it). Also too there's the whole issue of the origins of the Melkites, 'Melkite' being a translation from Syriac; as I've read it, it was originally applied pejoratively by non-Chalcedonian Syriacs to those of their community who had accepted the imperial/Chalcedonian definition (though today the Melkites are Arabized, in common with the rest of the Chalcedonians in the Levant). These things, plus historical facts like how it took the Armenians roughly 50 years to get around to officially condemning Chalcedon at the Council of Dvin (506) suggest to me that there wasn't one moment when all the Armenians or all the Syriacs or all the whatevers woke up and decided to collectively hate Chalcedon, or for the others to collectively love it. Again, I think it goes back to it being okay to where you find the faith, because you can't spend your life in limbo over something that people obviously much smarter than any of us haven't yet resolved. Even in the famous story in which the Coptic monks of the desert were brought a copy of the Tome of Leo, they read it before they tore it up...just like the fathers of Chalcedon read it before they accepted it. So for me, when I went to the Coptic Church and started hearing from Copts themselves, and reading their fathers and their history regarding this issue, I was satisfied that their Christology made a lot of sense, their reasons for rejecting Chalcedon made a lot of sense, and that these were consistent with the earlier, pre-Chalcedonian saints that they told me have provided them a clear, Orthodoxy Christology and Theology since the pre-schism days (e.g., St. Cyril, St. Athanasius, etc). So for me there wasn't any big choice to make, and I didn't agonize that maybe I should really be a Byzantine. But I can understand that some people do that...I just think it's odd to project this uncertainty on to the past. Everyone that we know about eventually ended up somewhere, whether they were a minority (like Chalcedonian Armenians; I guess by today they have been completely assimilated into the EO, maybe Georgian, church?) or eventually a majority (e.g., EO in Palestine). So you should eventually end up somewhere, too.
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« Reply #40 on: March 08, 2013, 03:11:42 PM »

The issue is worth pondering because another schism could happen again. It might not seem likely now, but in 351 AD did anyone see the split over Chalcedon coming? They couldn't have.

True, I suppose it is possible, but let's not count our schisms before they're hatched.

Quote
I definitely see what you're saying. Let's rewind to the fifth century, which offers better examples. Given the geographical proximity between Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians there, Christians in Georgia/Armenia and Greater Syria would surely have been aware of the rupture following Chalcedon and been in a position, at least in some cases, to choose between the two sides. For the sake of being sure they were on the right path, how could the ordinary person back then have made a decision?

I can't answer for ancient people, of course, but reading through history it strikes me that the communions developed somewhat gradually, and especially in the places you mentioned there was a lot of back-and-forth, so to speak. If I recall correctly, the Georgians still venerate some Syriac anti-Chalcedonian saints, even though they're not likely to admit today that they themselves were ever anti-Chalcedon. There are other indications, of course (for instance, Georgian icons have a heck of a lot more in common with Ethiopian or other OO iconography than they do Byzantine), but the point is that, yes, there were people that were sort of caught in between. There is even a word for Chalcedonian Armenians, though I don't remember what it is (I've read it in scholarly sources, but I don't speak Armenian myself so I've forgotten it).

Hai Horom, although Salpy seems to dispute their existence.
Also too there's the whole issue of the origins of the Melkites, 'Melkite' being a translation from Syriac; as I've read it, it was originally applied pejoratively by non-Chalcedonian Syriacs to those of their community who had accepted the imperial/Chalcedonian definition (though today the Melkites are Arabized, in common with the rest of the Chalcedonians in the Levant). These things, plus historical facts like how it took the Armenians roughly 50 years to get around to officially condemning Chalcedon at the Council of Dvin (506) suggest to me that there wasn't one moment when all the Armenians or all the Syriacs or all the whatevers woke up and decided to collectively hate Chalcedon, or for the others to collectively love it. Again, I think it goes back to it being okay to where you find the faith, because you can't spend your life in limbo over something that people obviously much smarter than any of us haven't yet resolved. Even in the famous story in which the Coptic monks of the desert were brought a copy of the Tome of Leo, they read it before they tore it up...just like the fathers of Chalcedon read it before they accepted it. So for me, when I went to the Coptic Church and started hearing from Copts themselves, and reading their fathers and their history regarding this issue, I was satisfied that their Christology made a lot of sense, their reasons for rejecting Chalcedon made a lot of sense, and that these were consistent with the earlier, pre-Chalcedonian saints that they told me have provided them a clear, Orthodoxy Christology and Theology since the pre-schism days (e.g., St. Cyril, St. Athanasius, etc). So for me there wasn't any big choice to make, and I didn't agonize that maybe I should really be a Byzantine. But I can understand that some people do that...I just think it's odd to project this uncertainty on to the past. Everyone that we know about eventually ended up somewhere, whether they were a minority (like Chalcedonian Armenians; I guess by today they have been completely assimilated into the EO, maybe Georgian, church?) or eventually a majority (e.g., EO in Palestine). So you should eventually end up somewhere, too.
at least somewhere Orthodox.
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« Reply #41 on: March 08, 2013, 03:13:55 PM »

Is this thread about Islam now?

A poster essentially stated that the opening argument I proposed was moot because there isn't anything that could disprove Christianity. I'm not allowed to ask for a claim to be defended now?

The issue is, though, tangential. So, I'll have to start a new thread.


Don't count on the most subtle of thinking around here.
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« Reply #42 on: March 08, 2013, 03:26:08 PM »

at least somewhere Orthodox.

Yes. I take that as a given. I thought that in the context of the post I was answering it was clear that the choice was between EO and OO. Obviously I've made my choice, but I wouldn't condemn anyone for looking at the same evidence and making the opposite choice. At least we are planted somewhere so that we can grow.

+++

I missed this earlier reply by Trebor until Orthonorm's reply to it. Better late than never:

Is this thread about Islam now?

A poster essentially stated that the opening argument I proposed was moot because there isn't anything that could disprove Christianity. I'm not allowed to ask for a claim to be defended now?

The issue is, though, tangential. So, I'll have to start a new thread.


Yeah, a new thread would be good. I'm not so taken with the poster's argument in the first place; I think that anything which could apply equally to the defense of any particular religion is not so good to defend Christianity in particular. And on that note I would say that the uniqueness of Christ and that He is who He says He is (and not who Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, etc. say He is) is enough for me to be convinced of Christianity, though yeah...it doesn't really make Chalcedon any easier to deal with.

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« Reply #43 on: March 08, 2013, 09:19:14 PM »

Let us ignore the distinctions of Christianity is a faith, a personal relationship, etc., and stick strictly to it as a world religion.  Then we can compare it to other world religions in the context of historical support.  It stands leaps and bounds ahead of any other religion in way of this historical and even tangible evidence to support it, with perhaps the only exception being Judaism, which would be equal at best. 

Having the understanding it is the most easily supported religion in the history of mankind; let’s move on to the question of whether or not the “schisms” in some way disprove it as a religion.  The answer is no.  It proves nothing more than man has attempted to bend Christianity to his will or his idea of what it should be and there was enough resistance to prevent this, thus, schism.  One group heading in one direction separate from the original.

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« Reply #44 on: April 07, 2013, 08:51:52 PM »

   Churches are not made from perfect people. Individual Christian traditions are all tainted by human sinfulness.  But then again, so are people in general.  The quest to find a pure church where your faith is never challenged is a futile one, a distraction from keeping your heart on Jesus through prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit.

  The various schisms in Christianity are not nearly as radical as the divisions in theology and practice in other world religions, for instance, in Hinduism or Buddhism.  Buddhism in particular is much more diverse in philosophy and practice than is immediately obvious.  Most Christians in their doctrines share a great deal in common, the belief that salvation is due to grace given through the Holy Spirit, for instance, or that Christ's death was necessary for human salvation, is universal to most Trinitarian Christian groups.
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« Reply #45 on: April 08, 2013, 12:40:39 PM »

  Churches are not made from perfect people. Individual Christian traditions are all tainted by human sinfulness.  But then again, so are people in general.  The quest to find a pure church where your faith is never challenged is a futile one, a distraction from keeping your heart on Jesus through prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit.

  The various schisms in Christianity are not nearly as radical as the divisions in theology and practice in other world religions, for instance, in Hinduism or Buddhism.  Buddhism in particular is much more diverse in philosophy and practice than is immediately obvious.  Most Christians in their doctrines share a great deal in common, the belief that salvation is due to grace given through the Holy Spirit, for instance, or that Christ's death was necessary for human salvation, is universal to most Trinitarian Christian groups.

Sure, but some of those Christian groups, or some of their members, deny that some of the other groups are really Christian and their members can be saved.

I just read last night that the late Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III held Protestants to be on their way to eternal damnation and the high-ranking Bishop Bishoy believes that Catholics are in the same boat. Further, the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox will say that their adherents who convert to the other because they deem it most likely to be the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church are in peril of losing their soul too. There are also Protestants who think all of the aforementioned churches are outside the bounds of true Christianity because they deny faith alone, believe in sacraments, and/or follow other "unbiblical" teachings that "deny" the "Gospel".

For the ordinary person, who doesn't have the time or inclination to delve into history and theology too much, how can they ever feel anything other than a state of terror over their salvation in the face of the confusion caused by it not being clear which Christian group is right?
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« Reply #46 on: April 08, 2013, 12:54:48 PM »

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« Reply #47 on: April 30, 2013, 04:21:50 AM »

  Churches are not made from perfect people. Individual Christian traditions are all tainted by human sinfulness.  But then again, so are people in general.  The quest to find a pure church where your faith is never challenged is a futile one, a distraction from keeping your heart on Jesus through prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit.

  The various schisms in Christianity are not nearly as radical as the divisions in theology and practice in other world religions, for instance, in Hinduism or Buddhism.  Buddhism in particular is much more diverse in philosophy and practice than is immediately obvious.  Most Christians in their doctrines share a great deal in common, the belief that salvation is due to grace given through the Holy Spirit, for instance, or that Christ's death was necessary for human salvation, is universal to most Trinitarian Christian groups.

Sure, but some of those Christian groups, or some of their members, deny that some of the other groups are really Christian and their members can be saved.

I just read last night that the late Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III held Protestants to be on their way to eternal damnation and the high-ranking Bishop Bishoy believes that Catholics are in the same boat. Further, the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox will say that their adherents who convert to the other because they deem it most likely to be the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church are in peril of losing their soul too. There are also Protestants who think all of the aforementioned churches are outside the bounds of true Christianity because they deny faith alone, believe in sacraments, and/or follow other "unbiblical" teachings that "deny" the "Gospel".

Where did you read this about Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III? I looked at his wikipedia page and it says that "he was well known for his ecumenism", so the opposite really. Personally, I've always found the various Churches in the east to be surprisingly amicable.  

Yes, there might be flashpoints of pithiness here and there, but overall I can see us getting together eventually.

For the ordinary person, who doesn't have the time or inclination to delve into history and theology too much, how can they ever feel anything other than a state of terror over their salvation in the face of the confusion caused by it not being clear which Christian group is right?

Working one's salvation out with fear and trembling = good.
Constant state of terror and confusion = lack of a trust in God's mercy.  

I can't imagine that God will take back his grace because you ended up in a Church that believes that Jesus has a two in one nature rather than two natures, or vice verse.  I know where you're coming from, but don't over think it.  If one thing is clear from reading the Gospels is that Jesus will honor sincere people wherever they are on their journey (Matt 21:31, 25:31-46, Luke 23:43, 23:3).


« Last Edit: April 30, 2013, 04:23:55 AM by john_mo » Logged

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