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1st Affirmative Constructive (revised)
Terms of Reference
Apostasy, for this discussion, is the falling away from or abandoning of the true faith. In the Greek NT bible, Apostasia (Strong: 646, falling away, forsake, defection) was used twice. First in Acts 21:21 referring to the Jews forsaking Moses regarding circumcision and customs. Second in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 referring to the apostasy before the coming of Jesus Christ. For this debate, my proposition is based on the Apostasy (Greek: Apostasia) in the context of 2 Thess. 2:3. However, I will also use the definition as used in Acts 21:21 but in different context. Also as used in LXX and in other OT renditions, Apostasy means rebellion against God ( Joshua 22:22), disobedience against the commandment of God (Jer. 2:19), and following other gods (Judges 2:19). Also, the bible portrays apostasy as adultery (Ezekiel 16) and a prostitution (Isa. 1:21).
The “first century church”, without distinction whether it be called Church of God or Church of Christ or by any other biblical name, refers to the church founded by Christ in Matthew 16:18. The qualification “first century” refers to the organization or church that started in 1st century. Thus, my proposition doesn’t mean that the completion of apostasy happened in 1st century.
The qualification “completely” refers to apostasy of the organization and leadership of the church when it espoused false philosophies of men. It is not my intention to show that each and every member of the 1st century church apostatized. If the leader(s) of the church led the organization to apostasy then the members were led astray also. Some who stayed faithful were killed or died in natural death. For in any case, in normally accepted fate of every man (except our Lord Jesus Christ), they are dead already by this time. Also, the word “completely” doesn’t mean “totally” because the church was restored after a certain period of time. It means that there was a point or period in time when the church was completely apostatized. Let me quote the Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03712a.htm), “Not everything in false religion is false…” In the same manner, “completely” doesn’t mean that all teachings of the true church were completely abandoned.
Wherefore, my thesis is clear: The first century church was completely apostatized.
Apostasy of the church doesn’t mean the Jesus Christ lied, nor the Holy Spirit is weak. When God established the nation of Israel as His own and made many promises to Israel that He will be with them, God did not lie when Israel apostatized. Where is Israel now? You can answer that for yourself.
Israel is a just a proof of the possibility of complete apostasy. But this debate is about the first century church.
The First Century Church and the hints of the coming apostasy
Let us flashback to the first century. Jesus Christ built a church (singular) as stated in Matthew 16:18. During the time of the Apostles, the church was once in the status that “remained true to the faith (Acts 14:22).” They were strengthened in faith and grew in number (Acts 16:5) as the “the Lord’s hand was with them (Acts 11:21).” Apostle Paul called them “pure virgin” (2 Cor. 11:2) but was “afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning,” [their] minds may somehow be led astray from [their] sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (v3). His fear was shown again when he went to Ephesus and left a message to “keep watch over the flock” (Acts 20:28) because “savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock (v29).” Not only Paul had this fear. Peter also warned “there will be false teachers among you (2 Pet. 2:1). Most of these warnings were given before the end of the first century. We can see that the church was already infested with “false teachings” and “false preachers” even before the last apostle died near the turn of the century. The direst warning came from Jesus Christ, the founder, who prophesied “you will ALL fall away…” (Mark 14:27), which marked the beginning of apostasy until its completion. I will reserve my exegesis of the verse.
From Pure Virgin to Prostitute
Paul said the church was a pure virgin (2 Cor. 11:2) and we know that apostasy is called adultery (Eze 16) and prostitution (Isa. 1:21). Thus, if the church was apostatized, it must have become a prostitute. In Revelation 17:3-5:
Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery: BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES, AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
In the bible, the true church and apostate church were usually symbolized by a woman. In this case, it was of a prostitute woman called Babylon the great. This is the symbol of complete apostasy. But did it really happen? How did it happen? How the virgin became an adulterer and a prostitute?
Apostasy is real and it happened
Apostasy is real as it will happen before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:1, 3).
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
To any bible-believing Christians, it is not a question of whether apostasy is real or not, or will it happen or not. That’s beyond debate now. The question is when. My proposition said “was”, therefore I believe that it happened and I should prove it. It was a really slow process. This hypothesis is supported by facts.
According to Haley’s Bible Handbook pages 760 – 762, the church was in a very extreme persecution under several Roman Emperors from 2nd to 3rd century. Many Christians were killed. During this period, the church also underwent changes and doctrinal crises. The bible gave us some hints on how it could happen. It starts with breaking the command of God for the sake the tradition (Mat. 15:3). Tradition per se is not bad but if one breaks the command of God because of it, it is apostasy. Thus, they “…let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions (Mark 7:8). Examples of human traditions are “hollow and deceptive philosophies” of man and “elemental spiritual forces of this world” (Col. 2:8). In Acts 17:18, Paul encountered some “stoic philosophers” who existed almost at the same time as the first century church. Stoic philosophy was popularized by Philo. [Note: I am not quoting the Catholic Encyclopedia because I believe in all it says but we can separate some facts versus its own bias]. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia I quoted earlier, Philo influenced the writings of early Christians. This caused the apostasy of the church or Christianity as referred here; let me quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia again as it quoted the rationalists:
“the union of the Gospel with the Greek spirit (a) due to the conquests of Alexander and the consequent mingling of Jew and Gentile, (b) further strengthened about A.D. 130, when Greek converts brought into Christianity the philosophy in which they were educated, (c) again, about a century later, when Greek mysteries and Greek civilization in its widest range were admitted, and finally, (d) about the middle of the fourth century, when the Greek spirit finally prevailed and polytheism and mythology (i.e. the worship of the saints) were admitted”.
Further it says referring to the quotes “…we may admit many of the statements made without drawing from them the rationalistic inferences”.
By middle of fourth century, the church let go of the commands of God, held on to human traditions, followed deceptive philosophies and unionized with the “Greek spirit” that prevailed over the gospel. By the definition we stated earlier, this is complete apostasy. In my next stand, I will give examples of these “Greek Spirit” that prevailed over the gospel.
The first century church used to be pure in doctrines and spirit. It flourished and grew in number. However, the apostles warned of the upcoming apostasy. Even during their time, there were already preachers that incorporated Stoic and Greek philosophies into the doctrines. Thus, the doctrine itself became polluted. By the 4th Century, the ‘Greek Spirit” prevailed over the doctrines of the church and the leaders of the church adopted them.
This debate is not anymore a question whether Apostasy happened or not. The bible has mentioned so many instances about apostasy of different kinds and prophesied about it. History has attested that it happened already.
In my next stand, I will put more details and specifics.
Thanks for your understanding and patience.
Cross-Examination of Affirmative by Negative (Catholic)
You mentioned in your First Affirmative that the First Century Church that was founded and built by Jesus Christ apostatized completely though it does not necessarily mean that it happened in the First Century, right? My first question would be, when exactly did the same Church apostatized completely that paved the need for it to be restored in 1914 as what the INC claims? It would be arrogant to claim that restoration is necessary without properly identifying the complete falling away of the original.
You affirmed that the words “you will ALL fall away…” by Jesus Christ in Mark 14:27 was a prophecy about the complete apostasy that would happen on the Church, right? My second question would now be, when did this “all falling away” in Mark 14:27 happened? Did it happen pre-ascension or post-ascension?
You have also mentioned 2 Thessalonians 2:3 that says “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there came a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;”. My third question will be, was this verse referring to a complete apostasy of the Church or was it referring to just an apostasy? I am of the assumption that you know the difference between a complete apostasy and that of just an apostasy.
Also, you mentioned that by the middle of fourth century, the church let go of the commands of God, held on to human traditions, followed deceptive philosophies and unionized with the “Greek spirit” that prevailed over the gospel. My fourth question would be, based on the Catholic Encyclopedia, which is the source of the excerpt you quoted, did the Greek Spirit prevail over the Church?Also, since you are quoting directly from the source, please include in your answer the link showing your point.
And lastly, you mentioned quite an intriguing thing. You said that the word “completely” doesn’t mean “totally”, right? My fifth question would now be, are there any vocabulary sources out there that would agree with your aforementioned statement?
The www.freedictionary.com puts totally as being into a complete degree or to the full or entire extent. www.learners-dictionary.computs totally as completely or entirely. British English based onhttp://dictionary.cambridge.org defines totally as completely.
I’ve searched the net high and low but I can’t find even a single vocabulary reference saying that “completely” doesn’t mean “totally”. I would be indebted to you if you can show me even one valid vocabulary reference.
Affirmative Replies (Iglesia Ni Cristo)
Q1: My first question would be, when exactly did the same Church apostatized completely that paved the need for it to be restored in 1914 as what the INC claims?
Right, but if you are asking for the exact date of the completion of the Apostasy, the apostatized church will never claim to be the apostatized church and declare that on certain date, it officially apostatized from the true faith. It might also honestly not know that it apostatized already. However, circumstances surrounding the history of the church tell us that apostasy is completed in the middle of fourth century as already stated in my 1st affirmative. Again, it might still hold some true teaching as “Not everything in false church is false” but still, it is false. Whether it needs restoration or not is not a subject of our debate but it is a logical response if and only if apostasy was recognized as had happened.
In analogy, a person came back to his place and found out that his house is completely destroyed by fire. Whether the investigator can tell exactly tell or not at what time the fire completely destroyed the house, it can’t be denied by the evidences that the house is completely burnt. The person will not wait until the exact time is known before he re-build or buy another house.
Q2: when did this “all falling away” in Mark 14:27 happened? Did it happen pre-ascension or post-ascension?
Yes, the declaration of Jesus Christ that “…you will ALL fall away” was a prophecy about complete apostasy. It happened from pre-ascension through post-ascension. As stated in my 1st affirmative, apostasy was a slow process. It didn’t happen at just one point in time, but rather in a period of time where in another point in time is completed. If we look at the account according to Matthew 26:31, “This very night” Jesus said “…you will fall away”. That night was the beginning of the slow process and it continued even after ascension. Let us not forget the following words from Christ “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” He quoted these words from Zechariah 13:7, which says after “…and I will turn my hand against the little ones”. The “little ones” are the “disciples” (Matthew 10:42 NIV) and evidences can be shown even in the book of Acts that most disciples were killed after ascension.
Q3: was this verse referring to a complete apostasy of the Church or was it referring to just an apostasy?
The verse 2 Thessalonians 2:3, along with the verses following it, refers to the apostasy of Church, not just an apostasy. Let’s quote verses 3-4:
Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.
This man of lawlessness took his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. The “temple of God” is used as a symbol for the Church (1 Cor. 3, 1 Tim. 3:15, 2 Cor. 6:16) of which Christ is the foundation. In this prophecy, the man of lawlessness took seat in the Church to be her leader. Thus, this is not just an apostasy but actually an apostasy of the Church because her leader is an apostate, himself.
Q4: did the Greek Spirit prevail over the Church?
The article also mentions this: “Abandoning the Apostolic Age, Harnack, in his “History of Dogma”, ascribes the hellenization of Christianity to the apologists of the second century (1st German edit., p. 253). Also, in the beginning of the article, it defined that “Christianity of which we speak” is that realized in “Catholic Church alone”. Thus, when the article quoted Harnack and said “Hellenization of Christianity”; “Hellenization” meant Greek spirit while “Christianity” meant the Catholic Church. Of course, in its defense, the article said that the essential doctrines are contained already in the New Testament but giving due force of the traditions of corporate Christianity. That’s its own bias and that’s the debate itself. Let me take this opportunity to reason why I am taking the stand of Harnack et al.
In the book “The investigation of the Trinity of Plato and Philo Judaeus,” by Cersar Morgan, Cambridge University Press 1853, pp. 92 states that “many were converted to the Christian religion who had made progress in in Platonic or Eclectic Philosophies and retained many of their prejudices”. Here are some of the so-called Early Church Fathers:
1. Origen– an admirer of Philo’s system (ibid. pp XI)
2. Justyn Martyr – familiarly conversant with the principles of Plato and other Grecian philosophers before he embraced Christianity (ibid. pp 154)
3. Theophilus – in his second book Autolycus p. 94 followed partly with hints taken from Philo, partly his own, to make the whole apply to Christianity (ibid. pp 101).
One of the Hellenistic or Greek Spirit philosophes is the Trinity. Thus, “Most defenders and opposers of this doctrine in modern times agree in maintaining that the doctrine of the Trinity is delivered and inculcated in the writings of Plato” (ibid pp. 167). The doctrine of the Trinity is a proof that Greek Spirits won over the doctrine and history attest that it won over the church as well. Most churches today, including the Eastern and Roman Catholic Churches espouse this Platonic Trinity.
Q5: And lastly, you mentioned quite an intriguing thing. You said that the word “completely” doesn’t mean “totally”, right? My fifth question would now be, are there any vocabulary sources out there that would agree with your aforementioned statement?
According to “The grammar of English grammars: with an introduction, historical and critical” by Goold Brown, Samuel U. Berria, pp. 187:
“We often speak of “the same words” and of “different words” but wherein does the sameness or the difference of words consists? …The sameness of words, then, must consist in something which is to be recognized with great diversity. Yet every word is itself, and not another; and every word must necessarily have property peculiar to itself, by which it may easily be distinguished from every other. Were it not so, language would be unintelligible. But it is so; and therefore, to mistake one word for another, is universally thought to betray great ignorance or great negligence, though such mistakes are by no means of common occurrence. But the question about the identity of the words is not a very easy one, may appear from the fact, that the learned often disagree about it in practice.”
The proposition I took somehow made those two words peculiar from each other. We chose to have a topic that is passive in structure rather than the direct and active “The first century church was completely apostatized”; thus modifying a verb. The presence of linking verb “was” made it more peculiar in both understanding. The presence of “was” made the word “apostatized” act like more of an adjective than a verb. For the verb “apostatize”, we should have used “had” to make it past perfect.
Both words are adverb of degree and one or another may be used as an adverb of intensity to modify an adjective. The adverb of degree can also be divided into four segments including intensity and completeness and when used to modify an adjective, the word “completely” may take also the meaning of “ practically, almost, nearly”. ( http://www.grammar-quizzes.com/adv_degree.html).
Let me quote the whole sentence: Also, the word “completely” doesn’t mean “totally” because the church was restored after a certain period of time. I guess we are not here to debate the difference between two words; thus, take the words “was completely apostatized” together, rather than separating them. If I insert those two words in the proposition to make it clearer: “The first century church was completely apostatized at the end of the period of a certain time but not totally in the whole dispensation of time”. This is also in conformance to the terms of reference I laid out in my 1st Affirmative Constructive.
Thank you for your interesting questions.
to be continued……