Christianity, over the centuries, has been described in many ways. For most people, it is a system of beliefs and practices based on the Jewish Scriptures and the New Testament teachings of Jesus and his Apostles. Those beliefs and practices were codified over the centuries into creeds, dogmas, and liturgies, created by numerous Church counsels as they reacted to heresies and underwent various attempts at reformation, which eventually lead to the great confrontation, the Reformation. This seminal event in the history of the Church resulted in splitting Christendom into the innumerable sects and denominations that we find today.
After the Reformation, gone were the plain distinctions caused in the initial split over the Council of Nicaea, in which the church organized into the eastern and western segments, following the political split of the Roman Empire into the same divisions. Instead, the Church entered into an ongoing period of continuous fragmentation, of doctrinal Armageddon where schisms occurred over increasingly less important issues, and anathemas were hurled back and forth with unrelieved furry. For me, the most important thing that the Church lost, was its ability to speak with one voice to a lost and hurting world, to stand united against its greatest challenges, that of Islam and the effects of Eastern religious inroads.
While the issues raised by the Reformation were vitally important to the faith once delivered unto the saints, it failed in its primary task, to bring necessary reform to the Western Catholic Church. In its impatience to see immediate redress, the Reformation turned away from the historically biblical approach of reform, repentance, and restitution, and instead played the political instead of the spiritual card. While it is true that the Western Catholic Church had become highly politicized by the time Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses, the decision to use political power and its divided loyalties against the Church succeeded in dividing Christendom in ways from which it would never recover.
I point out that history, not to condemn, but to enlighten. You, my reader, need to understand that my approach to this book will not be tied to any of the divisions or denominations of the post-Reformation Church, though I will draw insights from wherever the Spirit of Truth is found, as best as I am able. I say that, not as a formally trained theologian; my degree is in Ancient (Mediterranean) History), but as one who has struggled over a lifetime to come to the One in whom I live, move, and have my being: the Yahweh of Moses.
I should at this point explain why I do not use the popular form, Jehovah, for God’s name. There will be those, who after reading the next few sentences, will decide not to continue with me on this journey. However, I have good reasons for my decision.
Yahweh is an English rendition of (YHWH), the expressed name of the God of Israel in Hebrew, as given to Moses and written in four Hebrew consonants, called the Tetragrammaton. There is an excellent article on this particular form of the name of God in Wikipediea. While my use of this ancient version of the expressed name of God is for me not an article of faith, it does enable me to separate this study from the many problematic uses of the Medieval Latin form, Jehovah. Many heresies and heretics have appropriated this word form over the centuries, including the modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses. In addition, many others, with agendas not compatible with the purpose of my study, insist on the usage of this form of God’s name. By choosing Yahweh, an ancient and attested form, I am sidestepping all of that controversy.
Looking away from God’s chosen name and focusing on the almost twenty centuries of Christian preaching, teaching, evangelism, and discipleship we can see that underneath all of the various definitions, the point/counterpoints of the “faith once delivered unto the saints”, there is a personal relationship with Yahweh (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), enabled by the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth on cross of Golgotha. Jesus told his disciples that they were his friends (John 15:15). Nevertheless, even more than friends, those who are Christians have been born again (1 Peter 1:3) into a deeper relationship, into the family of Yahweh (John 1:12-13).
[to be continued]
See also the Preface.