28 February 2023
And while we are on the subject of what it means to be spiritual, notice that it means not worldly.
Very early in Church History, starting with the second generation of scholars and leaders after the Apostles, the mystical Hebrew outlook was lost. You can look at the writings of the so-called "Early Church Fathers" and see it very clearly. They began substituting Hellenistic reasoning very quickly. All their sincerity didn't protect the truth from getting lost.
Part of the problem is that very early the church leadership got weary of the persecution. The Judaizers were making an all-out attack. When possible, Jews used Judean law to silence what was officially viewed as heresy. They also didn't hesitate to stir up Roman officials. But worst of all was the outright espionage of the Judaizers, slipping into churches while pretending to be followers of Christ. They kept trying to reinsert Talmudic reasoning, which itself was inherently Hellenized some three centuries before.
Some of the biggest names in the Early Church Fathers were so Hellenized that you wonder how they rose to such prominence. Most of the controversies were the result of how Hellenism opened the doors to heresy. When your understanding of the Gospel rests on human reason, then you are forced to assert things that cannot be found in Scripture. When it became a matter of logic versus logic, the mystical truth was drowned out.
The definition of "worldliness" rests on trusting human capabilities. It's a reference to the human system of avoiding the demands of divine revelation. It's rooted in the Fall, the choice to eat from the Tree of Knowledge (better translated as "Judgment", as in, choosing to judge what is good and evil based on fleshly abilities). It was a rejection of God's revelation, the temptation of Adam and Eve to trust in human capabilities, to displace God and become their own deities. "You shall be like gods..."
This is the very nature of Hellenism, a very man-centered culture. In Hellenism, humans are the measure of all things. It seeks human perfection without reference to revelation. This is exactly what the Early Church Fathers were doing, substituting Hellenized/Talmudic reckoning for the Hebrew mystical teaching of Jesus. They set aside the original Hebrew outlook in the Bible and tried to squeeze out of the words a logical meaning.
From that analysis, they proceeded to build structures of thinking that were a clear departure from what Jesus taught. Now, you may want to suggest that it was an attempt to speak to their Hellenized age, but it was a vast mistake. It was the firsts example of "seeker sensitive" evangelism, and it gave birth to a moral and spiritual disaster.
It left them vulnerable to feeling the need to get the pagan world around them to take their teaching seriously. That's not how it works. You go where they are, but you don't tweak divine truth to meet their expectations and frame of reference. You must demand they climb up to the transcendent truth. Making it too easy in turn left them wide open to whining about persecution as coming from a world that just didn't understand them.
So when Constantine came along looking for a political advantage, he decided that a now Hellenized Christian religion would serve that purpose. It was so very easy to seduce the church leaders into coming up with secular professional standards of theology and practice. In exchange, he would declare their religion officially tolerated, and even held up as the official religion of the empire. He cared not a whit what the answers were, as long as it could be politically unified before he then turned it on his political enemies in the empire. Thus, the church leaders were made completely worldly.
Today, we have religious-based colleges and seminaries that conform themselves to worldly standards of academics and professionalism. They still insist they must get the world to take them seriously. Fine, but faith lies dead on the side of the road way back there before 300 AD. Nobody has a clue what it means to be spiritual any more.
It's not as if the Hebrew didn't have high academic standards, but those standards were radically different from the crap that guides Christian religion today. It was a different brand of academic standard that would seem totally alien to anything in the West today.
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