A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Apologists #8: Heresy, Part 3


In A.D. 144, a young Christian moved from Asia Minor to Rome. His name was Marcion. Marcion had money. He made a generous gift to the Roman Christian community. Of course, he was received by the believers in Rome very enthusiastically. Soon, however, his ideas began to disturb the Roman Christians. If God is good, Marcion asked, would he really create a world like ours, filled with evil and suffering? The God of the Jewish Scriptures was bloodthirsty, harsh, angry, and vindictive. This does not seem like the God that Jesus portrayed as a loving Father.

Marcion offered a simple dualistic solution. There were two Gods-- one was evil, the other was good. The evil God is the God described in the Old Testament. He created the material world that was also evil. The Supreme Father, the loving God of Jesus, did not intend for there to be a physical world, just a spiritual one.

The Supreme God was uninvolved in the physical world until the advent of Jesus. For Marcion, this meant that Jesus did not come to restore us to our rightful place, but to offer us undeserved salvation out of pure love. God requires nothing of us. As Gonzalez states, "This God does not seek to be obeyed, but to be loved" (The Story of Christianity, I). Since God is absolutely loving, God will simply forgive us.

In reference to the person of Jesus, Marcion claimed that Jesus was not born of Mary, for this would have made him subject to the Hebrew God, who was evil. Instead, Marcion claimed that Jesus simply appeared as a grown man.

Marcion, as can be imagined, dismissed the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Old Testament was the world of the inferior God, it should not be read in the churches, nor used as the basis for Christian instruction" (Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, I). Marcion developed his own canon of Scripture. (The word, "canon" comes from the Greek and means "measuring rod" or "rule." The canon of Scripture is the rule by which doctrine is to be measured.) It was Paul's message of unmerited grace in Christ which resonated with Marcion. Of the four Gospels, Marcion accepted only Luke. He rejected the doctrines of incarnation and resurrection. Gonzalez points out that Marcion posed a greater threat than Gnosticism in that he organized his own church with bishops and its own Scripture. We will deal with this in more detail when we consider the church's response to heresy.
Previous Posts:

The Apologists #1: Introduction

The Apologists #2: Pagan Culture and Judaism

The Apologists #3: Justin Martyr, c. 100-165, part 1

The Apologists #4: Justin Martyr, c. 100-165, part 2

The Apologists #5: The Search for Orthodoxy

The Apologists #6: Heresy, Part 1

The Apologists #7:Heresy, Part 2

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