Studies in Historical Theology

Part four of our study considers the steps in the apostasy of the church.

N.J. Waldorf

No. IV — The Apostasy of the Church

Limited space forbids an adequate exposition of all the causes that led to the downfall of the pure Christian church, which eventually became the papacy. The original sources, which for the first six centuries were the last court of appeal, were the Bible, the ante-Nicene, the Nicene, the post-Nicene Fathers, the canons of synods and councils, and the church historians, such as Eusebius, Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, Evagrius, with a few oth­ers. These sources have three great schools of interpretation; namely, the Catholic, Protestant, and Greek Cath­olic schools. The Protestant school is seemingly hopelessly divided in so many sects that unity in expositions of doctrines is an apparent impossi­bility.

On the other hand, the Roman Cath­olic and Greek Catholic Churches have endeavored to maintain an externally united front, each in its own sphere and territory. In our interpretation of Daniel 7: 24, 25, and Revelation 12 and 13, we claim that the supremacy of the papacy would last 1260 years. This is right, and history fulfills the pro­phetic demands.

Incidentally, this question has often been presented: If the woman went into the wilderness 538 A. n. and dwelt there till 1798, which is 1260 years, where was she during the years from the time of Christ to 538 A. D.? Was the woman one of the three hundred sects that sprang out of the Catholic Church during the first five centuries? These will be answered in a later article.

In tracing down the apostasy of the church the aim shall be to plow a deeper furrow into church history than we have been accustomed to do in times past. From the original sources, documents will be produced to prove our denominational position on pro­phetic interpretation. Under several contemporary steps we will outline the gradual decay of the Christian church.

First Step

The safest guide is Bible prophecy. In the second and third chapters of Revelation we have a prophetic outline of the seven churches, and the admo­nition to the church of Ephesus (de­sirable) tells us what was wrong in the first church. She had left her first love. In other words, she had begun to lower the standard of Christian con­duct, not only among, the original Christians, but the new converts brought in after the death of the apos­tles were not fully instructed in the gospel nor were they genuinely born again, as can be seen by carefully read­ing Galatians and Corinthians. The mystery of iniquity was working in Paul's day. As the church increased in membership she became more and more destitute of true godliness. Hun­dreds and thousands would accept a nominal Christian faith without the experience of a newborn heart.

This was the fatal step. Just as long as the church stood uncompro­misingly for the revelation of the mys­tery of godliness which was the life of Christ in them, she had nothing to fear from paganism. But just as soon as she lowered her standard and catered to worldly applause and ap­probation, imbibing the mysteries of heathenism, she had taken the fatal step, for Christ will never share His throne with another. Christ must rule alone upon His throne, the mind of man. (See 2 Cor. 1: 4, 5.) The mys­tery of iniquity is the substitution of human fear for the fear of Christ. Back of this movement is Satan him­self. His one great aim is to enthrone himself personally, or by proxy, in the mind of man. His one great aim is to control rulers or men in high positions, and then cause the multitude to obey these men who are under his direct control. This was paganism — the cen­tralization of power in a few men.

Second Step

With this step came another. Side by side for hundreds of years, these two steps in backsliding widened the gulf between God and His church. In order to save His church, God per­mitted persecution after persecution to rage against the church so as to save it from destruction. So long as the ministry and the laity were one broth­erhood, there was little or no fear for any division or undue exercise of arbi­trary power. But in proportion to a continued apostasy there was a grad­ual separation of the ministry from the laity and in due time a hierarchy was created which excluded the laity from partaking in synods and councils.

The cause for this was rooted in pa­ganism. Let us analyze the situation: The Christian church believed in the sleep of the dead. They believed in the resurrection in order to receive im­mortality (1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessa­lonians 4); this resurrection depended upon the second coming of Christ. Christ was to them the only, Mediator between God and man. Paganism be­lieved in the consciousness of the dead and the deification of the dead and the living. By separating the ministers from the laity an earthly mediatorial priesthood was established between God and man. A holy order was cre­ated which later on deified the dead and called them saints, just as pagan­ism had done before. This priesthood became a privileged class and connived to keep the laity in the depths of ig­norance. Later, this priesthood placed the virgin Mary as the mediatrix be­tween Christ and man, and a host of other saints became the mediators be­tween God and men. Thus we have the earthly priesthood, the canonized saints, and Mary the mother of God as intermediary ministers between Christ and man. Over one thousand years passed into history before the church reached the crisis resulting from the terrible step she took in her early days. From the tenth to the thirteenth century may rightly be called the mid­night of papal supremacy, Not only the laity, but almost the entire priest­hood, was sunk in absolute darkness and degradation.

The next study deals with the Impe­rial State Church.

Orlando, Fla.


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N.J. Waldorf

November 1928

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