A Chronology of Leaven (2006/06/17)

by Patrick Collins

Introduction

The Lord Jesus warned us in Matt 13.33 that “the kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened”. The parables of wheat and tares and of the mustard seed in the same chapter give us a similar warning that the enemy of our souls would perform a corrupting work within the sphere of God’s activities. He was not slow in doing so, as Paul’s writings show. In 2 Thess 2.7 he warned that “the mystery of iniquity is already at work” and in Acts 20.29-30 said that “after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves men will arise speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them”. John too alerted the church to the fact that “many antichrists have arisen” (1 Jn 2.18).

What this paper presents is a historical, chronological record of the introduction of leaven into the sphere of God’s activity, so we can see that what started as a pure and powerful church was corrupted into dead religion. We will identify, as far as possible, three things, namely the what, who and when - who introduced what error and when. What we shall see is that Satan, as we should expect, used craft and guile, moving carefully one small step at a time. He introduced nothing rapidly, for then the saints would have been alerted. Instead he introduced small degrees of error that eventually led to large deviations as people grew colder towards God. Step by step the church paid less attention to Scripture, listened less to the Holy Spirit, and instead turned to men, until what God established at Pentecost became barely recognisable. But there were usually some who spoke against the errors so that we have a record that we can trace. There are those who like to see the Reformation as the beginning of the recovery process and some who see it as the end of the process but both these ideas are grossly in error. Attempts to speak against the errors were made long before then, and that event in itself was only one small part of the correction needed - it went nowhere near far enough, as we shall see, for it left the saints still trapped by so many Babylonian devices.

It is interesting to note the simplicity of the early believers’ meetings. A pagan testimony from AD 110 has been preserved and it clearly shows how close to the original pattern they still were then. “they are accustomed on a certain day to meet before daylight and to sing among themselves a hymn to Christ as a god; and to bind themselves by an oath not to commit any wickedness; not to be guilty of theft or robbery or adultery; never to falsify their word nor to deny a pledge committed to them when called upon to return it. When these things were performed it was their custom to separate and then come together again to a harmless meal, of which they partook in common without any disorder”. This speaks of an experience far removed from the modern “church service”. As we proceed with our analysis we shall see how we were sidetracked step by step, away from reality into religion.

One note of caution needs to be sounded before we begin our historical report and that concerns our Bible translations. Since they were all made by churchmen they are made by people wearing tinted glasses: the prejudice of their position shows through. It is therefore necessary in some instances to go back to the Greek of the New Testament to understand what was really written and how it should really be translated, for leaven was at work in the translators too, as we shall see.


Sources of Leaven

When we look at the historical records we see that deception came from several sources, and it is worth mentioning these before we start our analysis. We should also be aware that some errors flow from more than one source, but each source is a poisoned well that corrupts the simple truth of the Gospel.

Judaism

We see this source combated in the New Testament as the apostles contended for a faith that was weaned from its Jewish roots. See in Galatians how Paul resisted the observance of circumcision and the law, how in Colossians he rejected holy days and fasting, and see how Hebrews explains that Christianity is far superior to the obsolete Old Covenant. Nevertheless, down through the years there have been numerous groups of people who to a greater or lesser extent have failed to see the newness of the New Covenant. This accounts for such errors as priests, clerical robes, tithes, holy days, buildings, abstinence from certain foods, and such like.

Paganism

Sadly, Christendom drew much from paganism as its deceived leaders thought that the way to get people into church was to meet them halfway. From this source came “church” buildings, infant baptism, Christmas and Easter festivals, Mary worship and other evil practices. Although there is an abundance of evidence, few realise that all these practices were copied from the pagans as their gods and rituals were accepted by unthinking (or uncaring) churchmen. At this point we must also add the influence of politics, for as church leaders grew more powerful they took political decisions instead of righteous ones. It still happens much today.

Renaissance

This period of history saw a great focus on learning, which is no bad thing, for it beats ignorance. The problem, however, was that learning was seen as a qualification for ministry. Furthermore, the church adopted current university practice of exposition of the classics, so from this source we collected learned preachers with their expository sermons.

Business

The influence of modern business practices can be seen wherever the church has been infected by western consumerism. Here we see groups motivated by growth targets, promoted by advertising and run by businessmen as businesses, where the bottom line profit is the guide to the measure of success. This recent leaven is a practice assimilated from American charismatic churches who have modelled their methods on prosperity teaching and the business school strategies of corporate management.


AD 107 - Leaders

The first trace we can find of someone setting himself up in a position above his brothers was Ignatius, one of that group known to church history as the apostolic fathers but known to the apostles as “fellow labourers“ (Phil 4.3). These men were successors to the apostles, having known them and learned from them, but they did not hold fast to all that was taught, as we shall see.

There is no such thing as the “apostolic succession” taught by Rome, for it is clear from Scripture that the apostles appointed no successors. They did appoint a plurality of elders (presbyters or bishops) in every city (Titus 1.5) but that was all. The leader of the church(es) was to be the Holy Spirit, with all believers on a common level as brothers. We are a family, not a corporation. But the church soon left its first love, whereby it remained sensitive to the heavenly voice within, and turned instead to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which the Lord hates (Rev 2.4-6; 2.15). That word translates as “rulers of the laity”. Ignatius, who had been an elder in Antioch for forty years, said, “let us take heed that we set not ourselves against the bishop, that we may be subject to God. It is therefore evident that we ought to look upon the bishop even as we do upon the Lord himself‘”. In another letter he wrote, “your bishops presiding in the place of God”. No apostle ever wrote anything like that. From this point on, right down to today, the church stopped listening to the Holy Spirit and started following men. No wonder god hates such a system, for it seeks to separate us from God and make us deaf to his voice.

Here we have clear testimony of the first move of Satan to introduce a Babylonian hierarchy into church life. This was the source of papal power and the Reformation never removed it, simply replacing the pretender of Rome with a multitude of local pretenders, ever seeking to stand as a block between God and his people. This is the spirit of antichrist (for “anti” in Greek means, “in place of”). Every church hierarchy, whether Roman or Charismatic, flows from this evil source.

We must also consider here the leaven of the translators, for every “church leader” will tell you that the New Testament speaks of leaders in the church. Yes, it does - in English. This is because of the mistranslation of Greek participles into nouns. The only place in the Greek New Testament where the noun “leader” appears is when the Lord speaks of the Pharisees as “blind leaders of the blind” (Matt 15.14). In Heb 13.17, a favourite with supporters of hierarchical systems, we do not have a noun but a participle. What is that? “The participle is in form a noun but one partaking at the same time of the nature of the verb” (Driver). “It describes an action” (Hudson, but my underlining). Thus any translation of a participle, and there are thousands of them in both Testaments, must reflect not the state of a thing but the action involved. Therefore, Heb 13.17 should not read, “obey your leaders” but, “have confidence in those who guide you” - a sure reference to the elders but not one that gives them a position of eminence. You will note that “obey” is also a mistranslation, for that verb is not in the active voice but the middle, which in Greek gives it a much softer, more indirect meaning.

Growing out of this error of leaders having a position of eminence came the divide between clergy and laity, that separation of a special professional ministry that is perpetuated by every group, even those who claim to believe in the priesthood of all believers. The difference should be clear. The New Testament proclaims God the Father, Jesus Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit the executive director. All church systems negate this by exalting man to a position of authority, following Satan’s perversion of the truth. This was the first introduction of leaven, the removal of the authority of God expressed through the church (Matt 18.17; Acts 15.28) and replacing it with human authority.


AD 180 - Baptismal Errors


The exact time of the entry of this error is unclear, but the first reference to it is found in the writings of Irenaeus, “Bishop” of Lyons, who died in AD 200, so we can safely shift the time back a while before his death. There are two matters to consider here and they go together - the mode of baptism and the candidate. This man wrote, “Christ came to save all persons by Himself, all, I mean, who by Him are regenerated - baptised - unto God: infants and little ones, children and youths, and elder persons”. Tertullian, who died in AD 240, stated that infants were baptised in his day although he did not approve. Origen (AD 240) said, “infants are baptised for the forgiveness of sins”. Cyprian, “Bishop” of Carthage followed what he called “the rule of circumcision”, that none should be baptised before the age of eight days.

Here we see a mix of Judaism and paganism. Paganism is evident in the belief in the baptismal regeneration of children, for the rites of Isis, Mithra and Odin all required a baptism of new-born children to take their sin away. Without baptism no pagan baby could enter paradise, the Elysian fields. As we know too well, conversion does not automatically root out all past beliefs and as a result, many of those early Christians brought their pagan fears about their babies into the church. The leaven of Judaism is seen in the link to circumcision, a link still preserved by the Dutch Reformed Church, who teach that baptism, like circumcision, provides a child with membership of God’s covenant people. This is of course flying in the face of Scripture, which teaches that the inheritance is by faith, and that he who relies on his circumcision has been separated from Christ (Gal 5.2-5).

There is no suggestion in Scripture that baptism removes sin; rather that we are saved by faith in Christ’s finished work. Baptism in water follows that as our step of obedience and testimony, the outward washing testifying to a clean conscience (Heb 10.22). Since faith is required to receive Christ, baptism cannot be administered to those too young to confess Christ.

The issue of the mode of baptism is hardly worth a mention, since even those who do not baptise by immersion admit with one voice that immersion was the practice of the early church. Since we have so sure a testimony by the paedobaptists that they themselves are in error, we need comment no further other than to point out that the Greek word “baptise” should not be transliterated, as our translators have done, but translated, so that Mk 16.16 would read, “He who believes and is submerged shall be saved”. See also Mk 1.9, which has been wrongly translated, since it should read, “into the Jordan”, not “in the Jordan”.


AD 200 - Gnosticism

This date does not reflect the beginning of this problem but rather its full flowering into a major threat. Its teachings are clearly attacked in the New Testament, especially in Colossians, but through men such as Valentinus and Cerinthus it found powerful spokesmen. These men were treated as heretics, but not many years later, about 240, Origen presented many similar teachings yet he is honoured as one of the “church fathers”, which shows how much decline in standards there had been. Some evil heresies successfully opposed at this time were the denial of Trinity and the denial of Christ‘s deity (heresies promoted today by certain sects) but other heresies crept in unnoticed and remain in much current teaching. These influences came from paganism - the Greek philosophy of Platonism - and many have been deceived. Despite claims to the contrary, there is no similarity between Christ’s message and Plato’s. The underlying philosophy of the Bible is rooted in a Hebrew world view that sees no dichotomy between spirit and matter, and certainly does not see matter as evil, as do the Gnostics.

One error is the concept of gnosis (knowledge). This metaphysical notion proclaims that the way to salvation is through increased knowledge, that some can get closer to the divine by increased “spiritual” experiences. It is very popular among certain branches of the church, especially Charismatics. There are those who think that by fasting, intercessions, attendance at meetings and the subjugation of the flesh that they can rise to a spiritual plane higher than their brothers. It is nothing less than pride. Its error is refuted by Paul in Col 1.28, where Paul says that every man is complete in Christ. There are not two classes of believer, for we can all walk in the Spirit.

A second aspect of Gnosticism that has caused huge damage is the concept of a “spiritual” understanding of Scripture. This error, rooted in a belief in the evil of matter, ignores the plain teaching of Scripture and looks instead for an underlying spiritual, esoteric meaning. The result of this is a denial of the predictions of the Old Testament (denying a future for Israel and instead interpreting those prophetic passages as referring to the church), denying a literal Millennium by claiming that Rev 20 must be interpreted allegorically, and denying the erotic love poetry of the Song of Solomon, trying instead to read it as an allegory of Christ and the Church. This philosophy paved the way for monasticism as men tried to flee the world and the flesh in their search for God. This was deception, for the New Testament teaches us that our bodies are his temple (1 Cor 6.19). We are to avoid sin, not the world, but this monastic spirit still infects many, even though they do not see themselves as monks, for they do their best to stay away from anything “worldly“, preferring to live in a spiritual “ghetto“, a circle where the only contacts they have are with other believers.


AD 220 - Buildings


How interesting that the first ecclesiastical building should have been in Rome. Until Prince Alexander gave the Christians a plot of land in that city on which they could erect a building they had met in homes or out in the open. This was something the heathen could never understand, for to them gods required temples in which to dwell. They were correct, but what they did not understand, as obviously the Christians did not either, is that the believer is the temple where Christ is worshipped. This pagan attitude that still deceives many believers, the demand for a divine residence, is the first source of this pollution.

The second source is Judaism with its influence of the synagogue system. Do not underestimate this influence, for while it is written in the Gospels that Christ and the apostles went to synagogue, few pay attention to the facts written in Acts. The church did not stay in those Jewish confines but soon escaped, for new wine cannot function in old wineskins. The synagogues were not God’s idea; the Jews invented them when in captivity in Babylon. In the Old Testament (under the Law) God had first a tabernacle then a temple. Now, in the New, he has the believers as his temple and tabernacle and their homes as meeting places.

Added to these two sources was the worldliness of the believers, who had become accepted in society, had forgotten their heavenly calling, and wanted a holy place just like all the other religions. This desire for the possession of property is still very strong and still leading many to invest vast sums in real estate instead of in the Gospel. Thus the three sources of holy places are paganism, Judaism, and worldliness. Since there is no mention of such a requirement in the New Testament, such things are clearly leaven.


AD 250 - Prosperity

The prosperity “gospel” of the modern televangelists is not their invention, but in fact goes back a long way, to when believers first took their eyes off their heavenly calling. Cyprian, “Bishop” of Carthage said “a divine judgement was sent to re-establish our fallen, slumbering faith. Forgetting what believers did in the times of the apostles, and what they should always be doing, Christians laboured with an insatiable desire to increase their earthly possessions. Many of the bishops who, by precept and example, should have guided others, neglected their divine calling to engage in the management of worldly concerns”. The church had forgotten the Lord’s warning that where your treasure is, there will be your heart also (Matt 6.19-21). Those who are truly Abraham’s children look for a heavenly city, confessing that they are strangers and pilgrims on earth (Heb 11.13-16). We cannot be effective for God once Satan has entangled us with the cares of this life (2 Tim 2.3-4).

By the middle ages, the Roman church was as financially powerful as many European kingdoms, hence the uneasy attitude some rulers had towards the church. The church of England, on breaking away from Rome, kept the share of this wealth that was in England, and it too remains a wealthy, powerful, landowning business enterprise. Nearly all have followed this deceptive path, forgetting that God is not interested in real estate (he owns the whole world already, and does not have to buy parcels using mortgage schemes). Every church group that has invested in stocks, shares or real estate has wandered down a demonic bypath.


AD 250 - Salaried Clergy

It is surely not a coincidence that this problem should arise at the same time as the last. Once our eyes are off Christ and on this world and its rewards, we want to ensure our full compensation. Also, since the church had long since introduced leaders they thought it only right that the managers be paid. Thus it was that clergy were forbidden to follow “worldly” employment and became paid officials of an organisation. ”This change began towards the end of the second century; and it is certain that at this period we find the first complaints of the incipient corruption of the clergy” (Waddington). It was at this time that bishops in the city began to exalt themselves over those in smaller towns, leading to the establishment of dioceses and metropolitans (church districts and their superintendents). These men started to claim personal dignity and expect honours. Later, they received place at royal courts. This greed of men who had supposedly forsaken the world for Christ led to tithing (and more recently) the grasping perversion called terumah.


AD 250 - Sabbath Observance

This one is difficult to date, for in AD 230 Tertullian wrote of believers thus: “We who are strangers to Sabbaths, and new moons, and festivals once acceptable to God.”. We shall look at the rest of this quotation later, as it relates to another type of leaven, but what we note here is that he knew of a distinct difference between the Old Covenant and the New. “Sabbath” observance later became a big issue in ecclesiastical circles once the distinctions between the two covenants became blurred. Worth noting here is that other Judaistic practices have also been retained by sections of the church - priests, robes, tithes, first fruits and the like. All stem from a failure to see in Acts how the early church broke away from Judaism, having recognised that the Old Covenant had been fulfilled.


AD 280 - Monks

Antony, born in Upper Egypt, is considered the father of monasticism. “Antony was evidently sincere and honest, though utterly mistaken and misled by the craft and power of Satan. In place of acting upon the Saviour’s commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, he thought to attain a more elevated spirituality by withdrawing from mankind” (Miller). This attitude can clearly be seen as a fruit of Gnostic teaching, for the attitude of withdrawal and celibacy is typical of the neo-platonic view of the flesh as evil. Miller’s comment sets in stark contrast the challenge of the Gospel and the deception of Satan, and we should mark it well, for there are Christian groups today who once again are advocating monasticism and celibacy, for the same reasons that diverted Antony from the truth. They claim that their self-control and denial will be a witness against the excesses of the world. Whether it is or is not is irrelevant - Christ did not command or even advise such a step. He did say that some are called to be eunuchs for the Kingdom, but that is not the same thing at all. That is giving one’s life for the Gospel, the other is a feeble attempt to overcome the flesh, contrary to the advice of Paul in Col 2.20-23. See also 1 Tim 4.1-3.

If we want to know where the idea of monasticism came from, we do not need to look far. Buddhists have monks and they have existed in every pagan system since Babylon. Antony was not inspired by the Holy Spirit, nor did he have a brilliant brainwave - being deceived by Satan he copied from Babylon, the mother of harlots. We should not think that this deception is dry and dusty history, for I have recently (March 2006) come across a magazine produced by a Charismatic group that praises monasticism and advocates it as a suitable lifestyle in today’s hedonistic world.


AD 300? - Priests

The Church of England teaches that the distinction between clergy and laity is derived from the Old Testament, claiming that the early church patterned itself on the Jewish system of priests. There is no biblical evidence for the latter part of this statement, rather the contrary, but it clearly shows us one of the polluting streams, namely the failure of men to notice that the Old Covenant with its ritual had become obsolete. Old Testament priests went where common people could not - into the holy place, but all that is done away with now that the veil has been torn asunder. We all have access now, so there is no need for any mediator between God and man except the Lord Jesus Christ.

The other source of this pollution is paganism, for every heathen temple had its priest standing between its god and the worshippers. When so many unregenerate pagans came into the “church” in the fourth century they wanted priests to approach their god for them, so the pagan practice was continued. It is still continued in many places today, even where the staff are not called priests, for they function as such. Either they, their congregants, or both, believe that they have a better access to God than the laity.

A function of priests, pagan or Jewish, was the offering of sacrifices, and this function continues in the Roman Catholic Church. That is why their buildings have an altar. They do not hold the memorial meal Christ instituted, but Mass, which is not the same thing at all. It is a sacrifice, for they blasphemously claim every time to sacrifice Christ anew. This evil teaching crept in in the fourth century, having been adopted from pagan practices, as is evidenced by their insistence on a circular, unbroken wafer, as was used in the ancient Egyptian idolatry.


AD 312 - Spiritual Adultery

Rev 17.1-2 speaks of “the great harlot with whom the kings of the earth committed adultery” and Rev 2.22 speaks of an adulterous church. These things happened at this time, when Constantine became emperor of Rome. Up to this time the church consisted of groups of people with no official recognition but Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. As a spur to “conversion”, Constantine even offered gifts and honours to those who would become Christians! What a horror that faith in Christ should be regarded as a religion, and what a poor state the church was in to be officially recognised as inoffensive to fallen man. How awful that those who called themselves leaders made no protest at this harlotry. The church that had lost its first love now prostituted itself to gain the favour of temporal power and all kinds of evil followed in the wake of this unfaithful deed. Bishops were accepted at the royal court and the emperor ruled on dissentions within the church and even took upon himself the power to excommunicate. Here is the origin of papal power.(eagerly copied by many Charismatic ministers who hold themselves accountable to no one and claim the right to act as they like).


We must remember that at this time the Roman emperor was also pontifex maximus, the head of paganism, so that now the pagan leader became head of the church, thus uniting Christianity with paganism under one ruler. Note that the title pontifex (pontiff) is still used by popes today, for they are the successors to the ancient pagan throne.

With church and state united, and with no more threat of persecution, there came a flood of pagans into church assemblies, so that the distinction between saint and sinner was obscured. Faith in Christ was no longer the distinguishing mark. It had been replaced by baby sprinkling and obedience to the pontiff. The church was no longer seen in the Biblical meaning of the word, but as a group of people who met in a particular building, or even the building itself. Further, Church and State were no longer separate, a confusion that still leads many astray today, as they press legislatures to pass statutes agreeable to Christians.

“Intellectual and philosophical questions took the place of the truth of the gospel” (Miller). Hence we find that many of the church fathers of the time wrote volumes of theology as they tried to reduce the Christian walk to an ethic for life’s every situation. Creeds replaced reality as the books of men replaced the leading of the Holy Spirit. This situation is unchanged, as a visit to any “Christian” bookshop will testify.


AD 312 - Clerical Robes

There is no indication in the New Testament that the Lord Jesus or the apostles wore clothing different to anyone else. Yet ecclesiastics have been dressing up for centuries to distinguish themselves from the masses, whether it is the Roman cardinal in red, the Reformed doctor in his university gown or the Pentecostal preacher in his Sunday suit. It all dates back to the days of Constantine when bishops were accepted at the royal court and dressed according to their new-found upper class status.


AD 320 - Relics and Holy Places

This date is approximate. What we do know is that Helena, the mother of Constantine claimed to have discovered the wood of the true cross. She also had excavated the supposed site of the holy sepulchre and had a building erected thereupon. The superstitious passion for pilgrimages to “holy” sites and the search for (and treasuring of) supposedly sacred relics started with this deceived woman. This stupid chase after holy grails still deceives many, besides providing prosperous material for modern novelists. There are no holy places in Christianity nor any holy relics. We are a pilgrim people, yes, but not on our way to Mecca or earthly Jerusalem.


AD 325 - Mary Worship

The Nicene council was called to denounce the Arian heresy, which denied Christ’s divinity, but other things also happened there that were not so commendable. It confirmed the date of Easter and at that council the Egyptian church claimed that the three persons of the trinity were the Father the virgin Mary and Messiah their Son. (Note the absence of the Holy Spirit, who, since leaders were introduced, has become the forgotten member of the Godhead.) This is the first record we have found of anyone elevating Mary to the exalted position claimed by Rome. A century later, Nestorius was excommunicated for denying Mary the title, “God bearer”. He and his friend Athanasius were objecting to Mary being exalted as “the mother of God” and they suffered much rebuke from the church authorities for their stand against this leaven. The pronouncements of this council show how careful we should be not to accept without question the things they approved (e.g. their decisions on the canon or on any doctrinal matter).


AD 325 - Easter

As mentioned above, the date was fixed at the council of Nicea, but the festival itself had been held for some time before, though exactly when is hard to say. What we should observe here are two sources of pollution. The first is Judaism. The early church (sometime after apostolic days) started celebrating Passover. The problem here is that that was an Old Covenant ritual that had been fulfilled in Christ. There is no New Testament injunction to continue it; the celebration of Christ’s sacrifice for our deliverance is in the communion meal. This polluted source was later replaced by the even more polluted source of paganism as Passover was replaced by Easter. Its name evidences its pagan origin, for it was a festival of Astarte, but we also have other evidence, in the preceding forty days of Lent. Churchmen claim that this is in honour of Christ’s forty days in the wilderness, but that is a convenient excuse. We are not commanded in Scripture to imitate that event. Forget the excuse, the forty day period of abstinence was an old pagan practice that was introduced into the church. Cassianus, writing in the fifth century, admits that, “the observance of the forty days had no existence so long as the primitive church remained inviolate”. It is interesting to note that Islam incorporated exactly the same fast into their religion, for there is abundant evidence that Ramadan was celebrated by the pagans of Arabia long before Islam started. It was just one of several pagan devices the Moslems took on board


AD 350 - Fathers

We saw earlier how bishops took authority over their brothers but this evil trend developed yet further by the hand of a monk named Pachomius. He established a rule in his monastery that everyone there had to give absolute obedience to the abbot. That word, derived from the Aramaic aboth simply means “father”, as does papa, the Italian word for pope. Although the Reformation brought about a release from popery, the concept of men in authority was never rooted out of the church, so that it remains in various forms today. Possibly the most pernicious are the offshoots of the Charismatic movement where various preachers have set themselves up as did Pachomius, describing themselves as fathers and expecting filial obedience from their followers. It is evil because it contradicts Scripture (Matt 23.8-10) and interposes a man between God and his saints.


AD 370 - Christmas

Chrysostom, writing in Antioch in 380 AD said, “it is not yet ten years since this day was made known to us”. The day was of course well known to pagans as one of their festivals and it was introduced into the church to encourage pagans to come to the meetings - exactly the same excuse that is used today. Not only its date, but also its trappings, the ivy, mistletoe, trees with presents underneath, the yule log, the goose and the boar’s head, and the excess of drinking were all well known pagan practices accompanying the festival.


AD 400 - Purgatory

Augustine, “Bishop” of Hippo was the first churchman to postulate this doctrine, although it only became a formal doctrine of Rome in AD 600 under Gregory. But this teaching was nothing new, for the pagans had long believed that the souls of the dead lingered in some sort of limbo and that they could be helped towards paradise by the prayers and sacrifices of the living. You will look in vain for any Scripture to support this pagan belief.


AD 400 - Church music

It would appear that the musical forms of the church became more elaborate around AD 400 and continued to develop after that. Read again in the introduction the description of an early Christian meeting and read Matt 26.30 and you will see simplicity. Read the Epistles and Acts and you will struggle to even find a reference to music. But as time went on and the reality of Christ was sidelined, people wanted elaborate services to entertain them and to encourage outsiders to attend. By 1700 we meet the phenomenon of Bach writing a new piece of music for every Sunday’s meeting and soon after we read of the hymn writing of Wesley and Watts in England. These things progressed to the rock concerts and music extravaganza of the modern Charismatics. What is the origin of this phenomenon? It is the spirit of the world blended with a little Old Testament theology. The latter part is easy to understand, for music was part of the Old Testament worship - for a time. But the temple ritual has not been carried forward into the New Testament church, any more than any other Old Covenant requirement. The worldly spirit is seen in the copying of business practices. People want entertainment, so a deluded church gives them what they want - not what they need. Today, "Christian" music is a huge industry, supporting multiple bands, equivalent tours, awards ceremonies and so on.


AD 1150 - Pulpiteering or Sermonising

Our first task in this section is to clarify our understanding of that biblical word “preach” so that our minds are no longer clouded by traditional practices. Three Greek words are translated as “preach”. The first is euangello, which means “tell the good news”. The second is rather similar (katangello) which means “announce, proclaim”. The third is kerusso, meaning “trumpet as a herald”. Possibly more important is the context in which these words are used, for they are never used of church meetings - they are words describing the proclamation of the gospel to the unsaved. The New Testament church did not have sermons delivered from pulpits; indeed, they did not have pulpits. The important thing to remember is that no one person had the pre-eminence for the Holy Spirit might use anyone to bring something edifying. Anyone could contribute to the meeting; all were expected to (1 Cor 14.26).

Where then did the pulpit sermon come from? The answer is the scholastic renaissance of the middle of the-twelfth century, from the universities. Scholars would present their studies of classical writings from a lectern, giving their students or audiences a reasoned discourse or exposition of whatever writing he was examining. When the Reformation broke the ignorance of popery, the reformers looked for a good idea on how to teach the masses and they copied university practice. It seemed sound - indeed it did banish a lot of ignorance in some quarters - but it was not biblical for it left people dependent on a leader and many abdicated their responsibility of searching the Scriptures for themselves under the Holy Spirit’s direction. It did not deliver people from the leaven of leaders but kept them enslaved to the professional preacher.

A second strain of pulpiteering arose in the eighteenth century in the USA as dry exposition was found to be ineffective in the half wild, semi-literate settler communities. Exposition and biblical content was replaced by emotionalism, the source of much Pentecostal and Charismatic preaching today, where content is secondary to what is erroneously called “anointing”. Once again this remedy cured nothing, for it left the leaven untouched. You still had the clergy/laity divide, the leader in the pulpit and the followers in the pews. Furthermore, both models still left the mass of people undeveloped in their walk with God. Man’s good ideas simply do not have the right effect.


Bibliography

Miller, A. - Church History

Hislop, A. - The Two Babylons

Hudson, D.F - New Testament Greek.

Driver, S.R - Treatise on the use of Tenses in Hebrew

Collins, P - An Entrée to Christianity

Pearse, M. and Matthews, C - We must stop meeting like this


Home

NB: This work may be freely copied and reproduced on condition that no part of the text is changed.  The work should be cited as: Collins, P, A Chronology of Leaven, www.emeth.co.za/pcleaven.html