Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.
- Matthew 24:4-5
“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.
- Matthew 24:22-25
And you, Pashhur, and all who live in your house will go into exile to Babylon. There you will die and be buried, you and all your friends to whom you have prophesied lies.’”
You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived;
you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long;
everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I cry out
proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the Lord has brought me
insult and reproach all day long.
But if I say, “I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.
I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!
Denounce him! Let’s denounce him!”
All my friends
are waiting for me to slip, saying,
“Perhaps he will be deceived;
then we will prevail over him
and take our revenge on him.”
But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior;
so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced;
their dishonor will never be forgotten.
Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous
and probe the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them,
for to you I have committed my cause.
- Jeremiah 20:6-12
“All who wish to see the truth can clearly contemplate, in every church, the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world. We can list those who were by the apostles appointed bishops in the churches and their successors down to our own time. They neither taught nor knew anything like what these heretics rave about. Suppose the apostles had known hidden mysteries which they were in the habit of imparting to ‘the perfect’ privately and in secret. Surely they would have handed them down especially to those to whom they were also entrusting the churches themselves. For they wanted their successors to be perfect and blameless in everything. ([Irenaeus,] Against Heresies 3.3.1)
“The church, though scattered throughout the whole world to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth and the sea and all things in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who through the prophets proclaimed God’s saving dealings with man and the coming, virgin birth, passion, resurrection from the dead and bodily ascension into heaven of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ and his second coming from heaven in the glory of the Father to sum up all things and to raise up all human ﬂesh so that he should execute just judgment upon all men. ([Irenaeus,] Against Heresies 1.10.1)”
- Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought
The Scriptures from Matthew are about how Jesus warns His disciples that false prophets and even people claiming to be the Messiah will come. But the Jeremiah passage is interesting, once he prophesies something that Pashhur, the priest, did not like, Jeremiah was beaten. Then he prophesies that Pashhur will be sent to Babylon into exile, which I am sure Pashhur did not like either. Then Jeremiah laments that God had deceived him. Maybe Jeremiah wanted to proclaim something that was acceptable within a fallen world, but notice that even in this lament, Jeremiah says that he is incapable of not telling the truth, no matter how unpopular it is. We can learn from this passage alone that heresies will come and go, but the Gospel will live on.
Irenaeus (130?-202?) was a bishop who had sat at the feet of Polycarp who had, in turn, sat at the feet of the Apostle John. He is sometimes referred to as Irenaeus of Smyrna, signifying his connection to Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. Thus we are only two generations after those who had heard the teachings of Jesus first hand. Yet, Gnosticism was spreading like wildfire. Irenaeus may have considered himself a church leader, but he became a philosopher and apologist. As C. S. Lewis wrote something along the lines that good philosophy must exist if for no other reason than bad philosophy must be answered.
We know a great deal about the heresies of the Gnostics through the writings of Irenaeus. To answer the bad philosophy, he had to clearly state what they were saying in order to refute it.
In the first paragraph above, Irenaeus did a masterful job of using Logic. If there were hidden mysteries as the Gnostics claimed, then those mysteries would have at least been taught to the Apostles and each Apostle would have taught them to their appointed bishops. Since he, Irenaeus, had learned from one of those appointed bishops and Polycarp had no knowledge of hidden mysteries, then the “hidden mysteries” were just something the Gnostics were using to draw in a crowd.
This same argument formula was used in a book that I read a few years ago. Charles Stanley wrote a wonderful book on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but he expressed concern with faith healers. He quipped that if the faith healer truly had the power to heal people, why did he/she never visit a hospital? This does not mean that faith healing is a sham, but many of the big names out there are careful as to who they allow near the stage. I wrote a review of the documentary, American Gospel: Christ Alone, and they go into detail, interviewing people on both sides of faith healing.
But simply refuting philosophical arguments is inadequate when establishing an organized state of faith. Thus, Irenaeus wrote statements that he felt were at the core of the Christian faith. Note in the second paragraph quoted above, the words sound a lot like the Apostles’ Creed. Since the Roman Catholic Church produced the Apostles’ Creed within Irenaeus’ lifetime, it is possible that they started with his writings and then edited and expanded what he had written.
And thinking of the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, written around 312AD, they were both created to combat heresies that were emerging within the church.
Thus, with us today, we continue to fight heresies within the church. Apologists come forward and argue minute details with those who find arguments against the Scriptures. Yet, it is much like in the time of Irenaeus. The heresies take root. Gnosticism was still around in the time of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430).
I heard an anonymous quote recently. Someone once said, “It is far easier to fool people than it is to convince them that they have been fooled.”
Oddly, I feel that the more someone protests that they have an open mind, their mind is decidedly closed when you try to show them how they have been fooled by the garbage that the secular progressive society is pumping out. As C. S. Lewis wrote, if you have an open mind on fundamental things, you should at least keep your mouth shut.
But here in the 2nd century, two generations past the Apostles who walked and talked with Jesus, we have heresies that draw people away from the true faith. But in so doing, you have champions of the faith, such as Irenaeus who started in motion a statement of faith based on the Gospels. As Jesus said during the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, if the crowd did not sing praises, God would have the stones cry out. God’s will is going to be done. No matter what heresies that the church opens its doors to, God will ensure that true believers are still coming to Jesus. If not, then we have truly reached the End Times.
If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
Leave a Reply