On a recent road trip, I encountered a bulletin board advertising a Pentecostal church, pitching for visitors to join them for services on the upcoming date of Pentecost. At the bottom of the billboard was the claim this church was founded in 33 A.D.
Just saying you are something doesn’t make it so. I can declare until I am blue in the face that I am, in fact, a fire engine, but NEVER will I be a fire engine. And just declaring ones’ self to be along the line of Apostolic Succession, linked to the original followers of Christ, does not make it so, either. One does not “recover” the early church by paying attention in a different way to theology or worship, nor does one claim to be a true “apostle” or “bishop” unless you really are one.
I am not trying to be a church snob, I’m really not. But I really think for the sake of accuracy, one should take a look at this. It was this little diagram, and others like it that I could NOT argue around when I was wandering through church-land.
I grew up thinking, as a Baptist, that we weren’t Protestants, that we didn’t protest. I had even heard that we were descendants from John the Baptist. I was misled. And just by saying “we’re not Catholic” didn’t make us any closer to that orginal church. It was a hard pill to swallow–one I choked on for years.
The reality of it is this. Christ founded His church, His Body, on Peter and the Apostles. It was revealed dramatically at Pentecost, with the presence of the Holy Spirit. That Body, that work, continued un-interrupted in a major way until the Great Schism of 1054. (However, there were a few minor schisms, groups splitting off over major heresies involving Christology). In some ways the Reformation is secondary to the tragedy of the first major split, and the further I go into Orthodoxy, the more depressed that 1054 thing makes me.
In the comments section on an earlier post, I mentioned a comment by The Relic blogger in defense of Orthodoxy to an argument from the “emergent church”. History, I said, is hard to work around. I do not want to disparage or attack any other church or group, especially those that seek to restore the life and vibrancy of the early Church in their faith communities. To them I again say “Come and see.” As demonstrated on that little map up there, we’re still around.
I have a bumper sticker that says “Orthodox Christianity: Preaching the Truth since 33 A.D.”
That’s exactly as advertised.