committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

SECTION II.

DUALISM AND THE PHANTASTIC THEORY OF OUR LORD’S ADVENT IN THE ORIENTAL
CHURCHES.—THE DOCTRINES THEY REJECTED.—THEY HELD TO BAPTISM.

As a matter of history, we find that most of the Oriental churches, and indeed some of those of Asia Minor which had been founded by the apostles, were permeated with these dualistic doctrines, though in different degrees. It would not be far from the truth were we to say that there have been traces of it among the most evangelical churches of all the ages since, even down to our own time. As to the doctrines which they did not believe, the evidence is more satisfactory. They honored the Virgin Mary as the mother of our Lord according to the flesh—though there were different opinions even on this point but they refused any worship to her as a divine or superhuman being. True to their old Aryan training, they repudiated alike picture and icon, statue and image, crucifix and crosier. They recognized no bishop or high priest; their elders served them in their simple ritual, and expounded to them the word of God. The initiatory rite of their faith has been to some extent a matter of dispute; with nearly all there is ample evidence that it was as in the Greek Church, an immersion in water, though probably not a trine immersion, and without the anointing, and other ceremonies.

But many of their enemies, overlooking the fact that all their members received baptism on their admission into the church, because it was not attended with the ceremonials and adjuncts of the Greek Church, have spoken of their ceremony of ordaining and setting apart their elders and "perfect ones " as a spiritual baptism, called by them consolamentum and administered by the simple imposition of hands.[1] The denial of their practice of water-baptism is due solely to this misapprehension. The strictness and ascetic character of their doctrines led them to prohibit all architectural display. Their churches were simple, plain, barn-like buildings, without tower, steeple, or bell. They knew nothing of nave, transept, chancel, or altar. The bare walls of the room had no ornaments; rude seats accommodated the worshippers; a table covered with a white cloth, on which lay a copy of the New Testament, or, if they were unable to obtain this, the Gospel of St. John, sufficed instead of pulpit for their aiders.[2]

At first, with but limited instruction, and with only a small portion of the New Testament in their hands, there is no reason to doubt that their doctrinal views, whether measured by the standard of the Christianity of those times or of our own, were in some respects heretical. The leaders of the Paulicians in the fifth and sixth centuries are reputed to have held these opinions: that God had two sons; that the elder, whom they called Satanael, had been at first endowed with all the attributes of deity and was chief among the hosts of heaven; that by him, through the power bestowed upon him by the Father, the material bodies of the universe—suns, moons, and stars—were created, but, in consequence of his ambition and rebellion, he was driven from heaven, and took with him the third part of the heavenly host. Then, they said, God bestowed the power on his younger son, Jesus, whom he made the heir of all worlds, and gave him the power over all spiritual intelligences. Satanael had created our earth, but Jesus breathed into man the breath of life, and he became a living soul. Thenceforth there was a constant conflict between Satanael and Jesus. The former compassed the death of the latter after his assumption of the human form and nature, but by this very act Satanael secured his own defeat, for Jesus rose from the dead, the conqueror over his great enemy and all his foes, and was received into heaven in triumph, having redeemed by. his death all who should trust in him.[3] We see in this system of doctrine—which it is only right to say comes to us through their enemies—many traces of the old dualistic theory of the good and the evil spirits, but the whole is illumined by a brighter and better hope—that of the speedy triumph of the right and the good— than ever cheered the heart of Zartusht or gleamed from the pages of the Zendaves.

 
 
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