In the early Church there was a man by the name of Marcion (c. AD 85–160), who stands for us not as an exemplar but as a warning. Marcion held to a number of grave errors. He held a dualistic view of matter and spirit and saw all physically things as evil (vs. Genesis that says God created all things as “very good”). He also dismissed the Old Testament and any Jewish portions of the New Testament as irrelevant, unnecessary, and again, evil. These two errors stemmed from the third, his view of God. Marcion believed that the god of the OT and the god of the NT were in fact two different gods. One was filled with wrath and anger (the OT god) and the other with love (the NT god). Marcion was a gnostic, a complicated religious view that essentially believed a secret knowledge [gnosis= knowledge] was necessary for the spirit to find salvation and escape the body. Though originally a part of the church in Rome, he was condemned as a heretic for these pernicious lies. However, parallel gnostic churches arose and co-existed with orthodox ones for many years.
The older I get and the more I study history the more—on the whole—I am convinced that there is “nothing new under the sun.” Like Marcion, there are many today who believe—if not explicitly at least implicitly—that the god of the OT is a different god than the NT (and if they were following C2C would rejoice to have left the drab and dreary OT behind them and be in the bright and cheery NT).
Not only does this view fail to comprehend the grand story of salvation history, seeing, instead of continuity, discontinuity; it also fails to see God’s character as more than merely loving. It fails to see the characteristics of God so hated in the OT in the NT and the characteristics of God so cherished in the NT present in the OT. The same God is in fact God of and in the OT and the NT.
For example: in the OT God shows grace and not wrath (full wrath) when Adam sinned; He began a rescue plan to save mankind through Abraham’s descendant. When the Israelites made a Golden Calf, He did not destroy them all but only judged the perpetrators. In the face of spirals and circles of evil in Judges and Kings He showed patience. All of this is why the resounding chorus of the OT, and you’d be deaf not to hear it, is expressed in Ps 103:8: The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. (c.f. Ex 34:6).
Turning to the NT when God, expressed in gentle Jesus meek and mild, is supposed to be woolly love (a love Biblically unrecognizable), while finding great displays and teachings on love, forgiveness, mercy, etc, we also find words such as:
Do you see the point, why Marcion was dead wrong on a fundamental point and why so many progressives and liberals are today? The God of the OT is the same as the God of the NT, one and the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit: full of justice and grace, truth and love, wrath and mercy.
As we continue in C2C and go about our lives may we never forget the perniciousness of this ancient heresy, often expressed today, but unveil it for what it is: gravely mistaken.
There are many things I, as a pastor, would rather write about, but it often behoves me, for the sake of my sheep and those who would be gathered in, to defend the faith, to protect and guard from error, so that the saints may be edified and sinners saved. This is where Jude found himself:
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3)
Liberalism (and I daren’t even give it the satisfaction of enjoining it to that blessed title, Christianity), is a new religion that was birthed in the nineteenth century (1800s). Like Satan posing as an angel of light or a wolf dressing in sheep’s clothing, Liberalism (lateral deists as a friend of mine calls them), guises itself as Christian, though in peering into the [initially] subtle differences, one finds an entirely different religion. We’d do well to know what Liberalism is, so in spotting it, we might turn from error fix our eyes upon the truth of Jesus.
A newspaper from the 1920s, an era where Liberalism and orthodox Christianity were in conflict, contrasted the chasm like differences between the two.
One author who wrote on the subject was J.G. Machen in Liberalism and Christianity (1923). In his classic work he argued that Liberalism was indeed a new religion.
To further illustrate the differences, consider the Fellowship’s Statement of Faith (1953) (and still today) contrasted with the much more orthodox United Church Statement of Faith (1925) and their most recent statement, Songs of Faith (2006), on the subjects of the Bible, Jesus and Mankind (these three are chosen because of their centrality in the faith):
Doctrinal error and moral misguidedness—accommodating to the world, syncretism—has meant that the once largest Canadian Christian denomination is now one of the fastest dying religions in Canada (the old statistic was that one church building closed each week; now the figure is that, with the Anglican Church and some others, 10,000 buildings will close in 2020 alone). While a dead orthodoxy can certainly lead to closed churches, a vibrant orthodoxy normally to lead to spiritual flourishing and healthy churches (as seen in the independent and non-religious study from Ontario in 2015).
Like Jude, may we cling to the “faith once for all delivered to the saints,” which along is true, which alone can save; and having come near the end of our Old Testament journey in Cover to Cover, may we take heed of the danger that will come to God’s people when we compromise with the world in belief and practice (i.e. Judges).
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.