Wednesday, March 19, 2008Joe... this one is for you...
Unless I'm mistaken, it was Napoleon Bonaparte who said: "History are but a set of lies agreed upon." Now while I must say that with age, I have grown more and more cynical, Napoleon has got me beat in this category. That being said, I believe that there is some measure of truth to Napoleon's view. It's not that history can't be a source of great knowledge, it's just that, like all things, a lot depends on the user, and the provider.
To this very day, if you were to search through Romanist documents on the subject of the Reformation, you would find nothing but negative historical accounts of how terrible the Reformation was. Stories of people fearing Hell and being manipulated by some Protestant ogre who would leave these poor souls in torments over their spiritual state. I posted about such an account not too long ago. Strangely enough though, if you were to say, read documents from Protestant sources, and even totally secular sources on the Reformation, you would find a myriad of positive effects on Christianity and the even the public at large, all brought on by the Reformation. Hence, my statement: a lot depends on the user.
If we need to be wary of the user, just imagine how careful we must be before placing our faith in those from whom we receive our history lessons. As a Christian, the Bible is my premier historical resource. Why? Simple, it is a divinely preserved, perfect work. I need not worry about the Provider. He is altogether perfect. Any and all other historical resources are, at varying degrees, flawed... and that is why we must be careful what assumptions we formulate through these flawed resources.
To clarify my points so far, consider this simple example: Today, I have read some works about World War II, I've also read some online material on the student massacre at Tiananmen Square, and in my local newspaper, I've read about a 10 car pile-up on a local highway which claimed the lives of 10 people. Now suppose for a moment that this church age is to continue another 500 years, and let's fast forward those 500 years. I can pretty much guarantee you that, even 570 years after the fact, you will still find a treasury on information on World War II. Information on the Tiananmen Square massacre, on the other hand, will be quite sparse, but surely, something of this event will still exist even 520 years into the future. Now the 10 car pile-up I read of in my local paper, I assure you, dear readers, will be nowhere in any historical documents, 500 years later. Why? Again, simple: it wasn't a big enough deal to be recorded. It affected such a small portion of individuals (unlike WWII and the Tiananmen Square Massacre), that history simply forgot the albeit, major traffic accident.
My point: would it be fair then, for a futuristic historian (remember, we're still 500 years in the future) to claim that major traffic accidents simply didn't happen in the early 2000's? Or without going too melodramatic, would it be fair for our historian to claim that the accident I read of in my newspaper, never actually happened? Of course not. It would simply mean that major traffic accidents weren't frequent and catastrophic enough to be worthy of historical record.
Now, to the matter at hand. Romanism and church history. My friend Joe (who is directly responsible for this post) asked me: "If you believe that there are no Catholics alive who would make it to heaven, what about the time period between the Apostles and the Reformation? The Catholic (and Orthodox) Church was pretty much all we had." Okay, in his question, Joe makes an assumption. Do you see it?
"The Catholic (and Orthodox) Church was pretty much all we had."
With the above statement, Joe points out, quite accurately I might add, that those who labeled themselves as Christians, 1000-1700 years ago, would have been part of some form of the "Roman Catholic church", or one of it's Orthodox counterparts. Note that I have written "some form of", since these institutions have changed a lot over time, and without a doubt, the Romanists of today are a somewhat different beast than the Romanists of 1500 years ago (just as an example, "transubstantiation" wasn't in Romanist dogma until the Council of Trent in the 1500s). There is more in Joe's statement though than just a historical statistic. There is the assumption that these institutions were the ONLY "churches" that "we", meaning Christians, had. It is an assumption that would make the pope (and no doubt, the devil) proud.
This is where my introduction to this post fits in: the user and the provider. We'll start with the provider. I don't know where EXACTLY Joe got the information to base his assumption on, but it isn't too hard to figure out how one would come to this view. Want to see how? Just click on the link below...
If you don't understand the relevance of the link, let me explain. According to the pie chart over at Wikipedia, which is as secular as you can get, 33% of the world's population is Christian. Now that would mean that there are, presently, roughly 2.3 BILLION Christians in the world. I have only one thing to say about that: YEAH! RIGHT!!! Can you imagine the kingdom age we would be living in if we actually had 2.3 BILLION SAINTS IN THE WORLD??? No, no... everyone knows how outfits like Wikipedia get their numbers when it comes to faith statistics: the question "are you a Christian" is asked, and if the answer is "yes", then you're counted in. The fact that most of these "Christians" are living in fornication, are drunkards, and/or have never disturbed the centuries worth of dust on their Bibles bears ABSOLUTELY NO IMPACT on Wiki's statistics.
My point: Wiki doesn't care about what makes a genuine Christian, Christian. It's all about what the majority says; irregardless of whether what the majority says is true or not. Were 90-95% of those who called themselves Christians over 1000 years ago Romanists or Orthodox? More than likely. Does this mean that these were then, necessarily, all true, born-again saints of God? Of course not. Does this mean that God's people were then necessarily part of these "churches"? Nope. Genuine believers, with the exception of the great Old Testament and New Testament revivals have always been in the minority; and this minority could meet together anywhere, under any banner to worship and fellowship together. God has always been the Lord of a faithful REMNANT, not a vast majority.
"God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. (Romans 11:2-5)
In conclusion, and I hope my friend Joe doesn't take offence to this final aspect: the user. Joe isn't a fundamentalist (not by my definition of the word anyway), and I suspect that in the circles he fellowships in, the number of Christians in the world is far larger than the number I perceive. There is no point for Joe and I to argue about this, he probably has his mind made up, and I'm pretty convinced of my views as well. That said, one thing Joe cannot deny is this: his assumption of just how many people did and does God have in the world will greatly influence his view on church history, as my assumption will greatly influence my view of church history. If Christians, real Christians were fewer in number than the small numbers we have today, is it inconceivable that groups of Bible-only Christians did indeed exist throughout the Dark Ages, with history books largely ignoring their existence?
For the record, I have no problem confessing that there may have been many souls truly and honestly saved during the Dark Ages through pseudo-Romanist/Orthodox churches or other groups that have come and gone throughout the first millenium. Saving faith in Christ Jesus is what is required for salvation, not being part of a KJV-only, Baptism-by-immersion, Premillenial, Calvinistic, Baptist church (which couldn't and didn't exist). That said, we are told, in the Scriptures, that Jesus came into the world to save His people FROM their sin... not IN them. That is why when I am asked to believe that men and women who worshipped Mary and who bowed the knee to the papacy, were indeed saved believers... well, sorry... I find that totally inconsistent with the doctrines of the Word of God.
And that's my usual fundamental 0.02$,