Every now and then I like posting something incisive that was written in the past because it speaks so well into the present. The sweet thing about this is that these guys, who are often waved away today, have dealt with a lot of the same issues while remaining simultaneously (by the modern mind) ignored.
Right up front, some of these guys are making a good point. To read the text through the lens of later theological developments winds up ignoring what the text is actually saying. So in some sense, they are (at least on the surface level) trying to be faithful to the reading of the text as it stands.
But some of them go further: the text, they conclude, doesn’t contain any of those things that later theologians noticed. Some are quick to add some note about the importance of tradition but they do so to point out what they see as a deficiency in relying on Scripture as ones ultimate guide.
In so doing they suggest, without being explicit, that these doctrines originated in a vacuum filled only by necessity. A teaching arose, a response had to be formulated, a doctrine was created. But, it wasn’t Christ’s Deity ex nihilo and I think history proves that. The teaching arose and was recognized as aberrant exactly because there was something substantial already in place.
If you recall, the council of Nicaea was in 325 AD. But jumping solely to Nicaea leaves one ignoring years choc-full of declaring Christ as the Divine God.
So here’s a sampling of early church writings I’ve found that underscored the understanding that Christ is God.
The idea reads something like this: obviously, the Church at Nicaea believed Jesus was the Son of God in terms of deity, but the authors of the Bible didn’t think in that category. They believed Jesus to be Son of God in terms of Israel’s King. Theology progressed—that is unsurprising; but first and foremost the Gospel is a presentation of Jesus as Israel’s King.
Here’s a few quotes that bear markings of the proposition above. Some outright deny the claim that Jesus is God and should not be taken as representative of Christianity.
Modern readers may imagine that until recently pastors never dared to provide sex and marriage counseling. Not so. These selections from the earliest period of the Christian pastoral tradition (pre-Nicene, before 325 a.d.), will provide glimpses of the sort of counsel Christian pastors have been giving from the very outset of the tradition. It should be kept in mind that much of the writing of this period was done under hazardous conditions of persecution and social stress, when the Christian community was a tiny minority in a hostile political environment. Our purpose for including these selections is not to imply that a completely adequate view of sexuality was worked out by these earliest pastoral writers, or one that could be adequate for all other historical situations. At least they demonstrate that the need to provide guidance and understanding of sexuality has been perceived from the beginning of Christian pastoral activity.
The satisfying crash of falsehood dashed against reality is lost on those stubbornly clinging to falsehood.