In a pluralistic world and in a divided Christian church, how do you know that Christianity that is considered historic and called “orthodox” is indeed true? It is because Darrell Bock answers, quoting the great theologian Chris Berman, “it goes back…back…back…back…”
This week, Dr. Darrell Bock, DTS Professor and author of Breaking the DaVinci Code, commentaries on Luke, and Jesus According to Scripture, has delivered a series of Gheens lectures as Southern Seminary. In this lectures, Dr. Bock has argued for the authenticity of orthodox Christianity, over against alternative Christianity’s seen on the History Channel, in Barnes & Noble, and found in university settings. Today, in his most stimulating lecture, Bock drew on the the historicity of 1st century Christianity and argued that “orthodoxy in an oral culture without a sacred and written text” is indeed possible, and after looking at the evidence is in fact warranted. In short, he is arguing that even before a recognized canon, the message of Christianity was certain and singular.
To aid in his efforts, Bock adduced five alliterated ways in which the early church would taught a singular and unified doctrine. These five ways contend against the notion, espoused by secular media and academia, that the earliest Christianity was pluriform. These historically certifiable means of instruction serve to evidence that the message of the Bible was original to the earliest converts and not created after the fact–as has been maintained lately in books like The DaVinci Code.
Here are five ways for early church instruction:
- Scriptures: In the Hebrew Bible, God has revealed himself to the people of Israel and given promises and prefigurations that found telic fulfillment in Jesus Christ. THe earliest Christian community read these regularly in corporate settings and would have depended heavily on them to understand Jesus the Messiah of Israel (see Matthew 1-2 for ways in which Jesus “fulfilled” OT Scripture; cf. 2 Cor. 1:20; John 5:39)
- Schooling: In the early church, short, theologically-informing confessions and creeds helped retain, defend, and the instruct the church of God. Written for the purpose of educating converts, these terse statements can be found today in the NT. Examples of these are in 1 Corinthians 15:1ff; 8:4-6; 1 Timothy 3:16.
- Singing: Through hymns the church learned core doctrine and worshiped the triune God. Two examples can be found in Philippians 2:5-11 and Colossians 1:15-20. These ancient hymns, predate Paul’s letters and take us back to the first decade after Pentecost.
- Sacraments: Jesus left his church with two gospel-revealing ordinances–baptism and the Lord’s supper. Both of these are to be regular parts of worship. The first being recapitulated as often as a new convert professes faith; the latter being done on regular basis within the life of the church. In the NT, these ‘sacraments,’ occur in places like Luke 22; 1 Corinthians 11 (Lord’s supper); and Romans 6; Colossians 2; and 1 Peter 3 (Baptism). Every time these reenactments commenced they retold the story of a believer’s union with Christ–his death and resurrection and the hope of eternal life with Christ.
- Supervisors: Finally, God gave apostles to the church to supervise the doctrine and the teaching (cf. Eph. 2:20-21; 4:11ff). This is why the requirement in Acts 1 was that the 12th apostle replacing Judas be one who was a witness of Jesus’ life from the beginning. They had to be eye witnesses of all Jesus did and taught to ground the earliest church in the truth of Christianity.
Listening to Dr. Bock’s lectures this week was not only informative, but entertaining. Bock is a gifted speaker, and today’s lecture was superb. It not only informed the mind, but warmed the affections for the glory and greatness of the resurrected Christ. All of them are worth listening to, but today’s especially. You can listen to them here.
Sola Deo Gloria, dss