By Manolis Kalomiris
Republished from the magazine: "Explorer of the Truth" Edition Νο. 30.
Republished from the magazine: "Explorer of the Truth" Edition Νο. 30.
We shall present some of the assertions of these religious groups: “The devil began to introduce dogmatic changes, as of Emperor Constantine’s time, deceiving quite a few of the bishops… So, they developed a different theology to that of the Bible, because they embraced too much of Plato’s philosophy…. Eventually, a complete deterioration set in… With the passing years and centuries, historical Christianity became a religion that had completely distanced itself from the apostolic simplicity and spirituality, so that today, it appears entirely mutated…. During the fifth century, Christianity appeared to have conquered idolatry, however, idolatry had already corrupted Christianity.” (Evangelical magazine RESEARCH AND FAITH, March-April 1992, page 8)
“However, after the demise of the Apostles, a gradual change came over the Church. During the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries, many in the Church distorted and even rejected the truths that Christ and the Apostles had taught. (Adventist magazine “HERALD”, July-September 2004, page 19)“Because the Church, with its careless stance, altered its God-founded constitution, thus upsetting everything.” (The book “THE REVERSALS OF RELIGION” by S. Charalambakis, page 26) This same author asserts that the church that “the Disciples of the Divine Savior delivered to us, was preserved to the 3rd century”, hence, he proposes, “this is the Church that we must return to: the roots” (RETURN TO THE GENUINE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN ROOTS, page 9). In another of his texts, he maintains that the apostasy took place later on: “Based on biblical and historical facts, we know that the Church retained its Apostolic guidelines up to about 500 A.D.” (pamphlet “THE ORTHODOX CHURCH AND ITS HISTORY”)As we can see, there is no agreement as to when the Church apostatized; others place it in the 2nd century, others in the 3rd and others in the 4th or 5th. So, where is the truth? Did the Church of Christ really fall into apostasy? What does the Holy Bible teach on this matter? If apostasy did occur, when did it occur historically and which teachings did it affect?One, huge contradictionIf however, the Ancient Church did not remain within the truth – as various protestant groups and heresies maintain – then they have a serious problem. They place themselves in the predicament of acknowledging the authority of an apostate Church that ruled on the Canon of the New Testament! How can they trust the Canon of the 27 books of the New Testament, if it was composed by alleged apostates of the truth? How can they be certain that those involved had made the correct choice as to which books are divinely inspired or not, if they had apostatized from the divine truth? If the Church had apostatized, how can they be sure that those people hadn’t chosen the books that were considered expedient and rejected those that weren’t to their advantage? If, on the other hand, they trust the Canon of the New Testament, then they –unwittingly- also trust the Church that created that Canon!
The oldest, complete catalogue of the 27 books of the New Testament did not exist until 367 A.D., when Athanasios the Great wrote his 39th commemorative epistle!! The Canon that we have, was finalized in 397 A.D., in the Council (Synod) of Carthage. At least that Church – which gave us the Canon for the New Testament – was surely “a pillar and foundation of the truth” (Timothy I, 3:15). If the Church had indeed preserved apostolic tradition, then it certainly was capable of deciding on the Canon of valid books for the New Testament; if, however, it had become corrupt and apostate, it would obviously not have preserved apostolic tradition and subsequently any decision that it may have reached for this Canon would have been erroneous! To quote the Holy Bible: “Who can extract the clean from the unclean? No-one” (Job, 14:4 – Vamvas Translation). But, if we accept that apostolic tradition was properly preserved by that Church, qualifying it to decide on the Canon, then it could not have been in apostasy!Consequently, those who maintain that the Church had apostatized, have only two choices:
- Either to reject the Canon on the 27 books of the New Testament ruled by that “apostate” Church and commence their own councils (synods) and discussions in order to instate a new Canon for the New Testament, or:
- Admit that they have made a mistake and that the Canon on the New Testament that they acknowledge could not have been created by an “apostate” Church.
Various Protestants invoke certain passages, in order to support the alleged apostasy of the Church. They assert that what the Apostle Paul prophesied in his Epistle I to Timothy has been fulfilled, i.e., ‘in later times, some will apostatize from the Faith, paying attention to spirits of deception and to demonic teachings etc.’.. But this passage of Timothy I, 4:1 doesn’t imply that the entire Church was supposedly going to apostatize. The verse clearly says that ‘…….. some will apostatize from the Faith….’, not the entire Church! The Holy Bible speaks of those who will apostatize, in other verses also: “…. With faith and an innocent conscience, which some – after discarding it – became shipwrecked in their faith” (Timothy I, 1:19); “which some, in professing it, strayed from the faith” (Timothy I, 6:21). Furthermore, in Acts 20:28-30, there is no inference that the entire Church is going to apostatize; it only says that “some men will appear, who will teach the truth falsified” (Evangelic translation “Logos”).
The Holy Bible says: “They came forth from among you, but they weren’t one of your kind; for if they were one of your kind, they would have stayed with you. But they came forth so that it might be revealed, that not all of them are one of your kind.” (John I, 2:19). It is obvious that this verse proves that those individuals who apostatize from the true faith DO NOT remain in the Church, but move out of it, thus allowing the Church to preserve its dogmatic teaching unadulterated!
 From letter of some reader of ResearcherAccording to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Church cannot apostatize: “… the portals of the underworld shall not overpower her (the Church)” (Matthew, 16:18). The Holy Bible also clearly states that the truth shall remain in the Church forever: “...for the truth, which resides in you, and shall be with you for all time” (John II, 2); just as Jesus Christ Himself likewise promises that He shall continuously be with the Church, from the 1st century to the end of time, unfailingly: “I am with you, for all days, until the end of time” (Matthew, 28:80). The Holy Spirit also eternally resides in the Church, continuously, from the 1st century: “And I shall ask the Father, and He shall send you another Paraclete, to remain with you to the end of time” (John 14:16).
Therefore, the Church cannot ever apostatize, because Christ – the head of the Church – remains forever joined to His Body, just as the Holy Spirit remains continuously within it, to guide it throughout the truth (John 14:26), hence the truth must also perpetually reside within the Church! If the Church had indeed apostatized, as various teachers of deception claim, it would mean that Christ had given false promises, which He didn’t keep! But, isn’t that a blasphemous conjecture?
However, some protestants maintain that those promises do apply, but not to the visible Church, only the invisible one! But the Holy Bible doesn’t say that the Church founded by Christ was an invisible one! Quite the opposite, it very clearly talks about a visible Church: “ ….and if someone disobeys them, tell this to the Church; but, if he disobeys the Church also, then you should treat him as a gentile and a tax-collector” (Matthew 18:17). If the Church is invisible, then how does someone speak to the Church, and how does an…. invisible Church reprimand the one who has sinned?
“For I am the least of the apostles, who is unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God” (Corinthians I, 15:9). If the Church were invisible, then how did Paul manage to persecute it?“For if one does not know how to govern his own home, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (Timothy I, 3:5). How does a bishop take care of an ….. invisible Church?”These are just a few of the verses that prove that the Church founded by Christ is definitely visible, and not invisible. Consequently, in this visible Church, the promises that it cannot apostatize hold true, and the truth, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit will remain inside it eternally!The biblical theologian Rick Wade mentions in his article “Scripture and Tradition in the Early Church” (www.probe.org/docs/tradition.html) that occasionally, someone will find references to the idea of a “decline” of the Church after the conversion of the emperor Constantine during the 4th century. Some believe that under Constantine, the Church began to slip, into a state religion that became corrupted by power and riches…. This threw a heavy cloak over the whole of ecclesiastic history, up to the era of Reform. Tradition was considered to be an element of a corrupt and institutionalized church. While it is true that the newly-acquired freedom that the Church enjoyed under Constantine had its negative points, it doesn’t mean that the Church “declined” as some say. During all of its history, the Church may have made mistakes in its dealings with secular society and its during its discovering how to appropriately handle the freedom and power that it had acquired, but, the idea that the Church rapidly became corrupt and that the councils (synods) that were convened during his reign were merely the emperor’s pawns, is too naïve a notion. The Church continued to be faithful to its duty of clarifying and spreading the apostolic tradition. “The faith that was confessed and practiced by the ancient churches was not defined by the political intrigues of emperors and the hierarchies of the prelates” Williams said..
“The essential form and structure of the Christian identity was something that the fourth century inherited and continued to expand, through biblical explanation and the liturgical life as expressed in the tradition of the Symbols of the Faith."
Let’s take a look at what ensued after Constantine’s reign. Williams says: “…The theology that developed after Constantine did not reflect a radically subversive shift in the Holy Bible and apostolic tradition. On the contrary, the most important Symbols of the Faith (Creed) and official dogmatic discussions were the conscious expansion of a precedent Tradition and teaching of the New Testament, in an attempt to formulate the Christian understanding of God and salvation in the light of new challenges. The reason this is important for our study, is that some have allowed this idea (of the Church’s decline towards the end of the Patristic period) to influence them to the point of rejecting the whole of that period. This is wrong. There was good and there was bad for the Church under Constantine’s reign. Nevertheless, the Church continued to develop itself in its understanding of the apostolic Tradition. We should not ignore the ancient church because of unfortunate setbacks.”
 D.H.Williams, Retrieving the Tradition, and Renewing Evangelicalism: A Primer for Suspicious Protestants (Eerdmans, 1999).Is a political power’s favor, proof of apostasy?Most Greek (*) Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons etc. believe that the Church apostatized because Constantine the Great ended the persecutions and swayed the Empire’s favor towards Christians. But does the Holy Bible agree with this?
Let’s take a look at the Persian Emperor Cyrus as an example. The Holy Bible says that God spurred Cyrus’ heart (an idolatrous king!) into rebuilding the destroyed temple of God in Jerusalem, and to even return the sacred vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had stolen from it (Ezra, chapter 1). Was the favor of the idolatrous king towards the Judeans (especially his initiative to rebuild the Temple of God) proof that Israel had apostatized from the truth at the time? The Holy Bible replies with a resounding NO, because God stated the following about the idolatrous king Cyrus: “He is my shepherd, and he will perform all my errands; and I say unto Jerusalem: “You shall be rebuilt” and to the temple: “your foundations shall be planted” (Isaiah 44:28, Translation “PERGAMOS”). So, the Holy Bible clearly indicates that God can use even worldly potentates in order for His will to be done (Proverbs 21:1). The same happened with Constantine the Great: God swayed the favor of the idolatrous Emperor to the benefit of the Christians, using him as His instrument in order to terminate the state’s persecutions of the Church and allow the unhindered spreading of the Gospel throughout the Empire.
Consequently, the assertion of many contemporary movements that the Church apostatized opposes the Holy Bible as well as common logic, because if their assertion is accepted, then the Canon of the New Testament that they hold in their hands loses its validity! In closing, we submit something that the familiar Protestant Hank Hanegraaf said to the Mormons (although the same applies to every religious group that stresses the same argument: “In reply to this teaching (of the church’s apostasy), we should ask the Mormons exactly how would the Church be able to praise God ‘in every generation, for ever and ever’, if – as the Apostle Paul clearly wrote in Ephesians 3:21- it had declined into complete apostasy?” (www.equip.org/free/CP0306.htm).