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Author Topic: Origins of Paganism & Ecumenism in Early Church history..  (Read 2477 times)

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Here is a good explanation of the origins of Paganism & Ecumenism in
the Early Church History and how church leaders drifted into Greek philosophy and mysticism...

"...In his second letter Paul did not modify in the least
the doctrine that Christ is coming, or that he will then certainly gather his people to
himself. There was no mistake in the doctrine concerning the fact of his
coming. The mistake was in the time when they expected him to come. This is
the point which the apostle corrects in his second letter, and writes thus:
"Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and
by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or
be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as
that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for
that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that
man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth
himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as
God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Remember
ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye
know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery
of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be
taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord
shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the
brightness of his coming." 2 Thess. ii, 1-8.

All this he had taught them when he was there with them, and therefore
reminded them, in the fifth verse, "Remember ye not, that, when I was yet
with you, I told you these things? Then, having recalled to their minds the
fact, he simply appeals to their knowledge, and says, "And now ye know what
withholdeth that he [the son of perdition] might be revealed in his time."
(This plainly sets forth the prophecy of a great falling away or apostasy
from the truth of the gospel.) The purity of the gospel of Christ would be
corrupted and its intent perverted. The falling away of which Paul wrote to
the Thessalonians, is referred to in his counsel to the elder to the church
at Ephesns, whom he called to meet him at Miletus. To them he said: "For I
know this that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you,
not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking
perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch and
remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one
night and day with tears." Acts xx, 29-31.

This warning was not alone to the people of Ephesus in the three years that
he was there. It is seen through all his epistles. Because of this readiness
of individuals to assert themselves, to get wrong views of the truth, and to
speak perverse things, the churches had constantly to be checked guided
trained, reproved, and rebuked. There were men even in the church who were
ever ready to question the authority of the apostles. There were those who
made it a business to follow up Paul, and by every possible means to
counteract his teaching and destroy his influence. They declared that he was
not an apostle of the Lord at all, but of men; that he had never seen the
Lord; that he was simply a tent maker going about over the country working
at his trade, and passing himself off as an apostle. Others charged him with
teaching the doctrine that it is right to do evil that good may come.
But it was not alone nor chiefly from these characters that the danger
threatened. It was those who from among the disciples would arise speaking
perverse things, of which an instance and a warning are given in the letter
to Timothy: "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth
not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and
vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word
will eat as doth a canker; of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus; who concerning
the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and
overthrow the faith of some." 2 Tim. ii, 15-18.

Nor yet was it with such as these that the greatest danger lay. It was from
those who would arise not only speaking perverse things, but "speaking
perverse things to draw away disciples after them." Through error of
judgment, a man might speak perverse things with no bad intention; but the
ones here mentioned would speak perverse things purposely and with the
intention of making disciples for themselves -- to draw away disciples after
them instead of to draw disciples to Christ. These would pervert the truth
and would have to pervert the truth, in order to accomplish their purpose.
He who always speaks the truth as it is in Jesus, will draw disciples to
Jesus and not to himself. To draw to Christ will be his only wish. But when
one seeks to draw disciples to himself, and puts himself in the place of
Christ, then he must pervert the truth, and accommodate it to the wishes of
those whom he hopes to make his own disciples. This is wickedness; this is

There was another consideration which made the danger the more imminent.
These words were spoken to the bishops. It was a company of bishops, to whom
the apostle was speaking when he said: "Of your own selves shall men arise
speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them." From that order
of men who were chosen to guide and to care for the church of Christ, from
those who were set to protect the church -- from this order of men there
would be those who would pervert their calling, their office, and the
purpose of it, to build up themselves, and gather disciples to themselves in

the place of Christ. To watch this spirit, to check its influence, and to
guard against its workings, was constant effort of the apostle; and for the
reason as stated to the Thessalonians, that the mystery of iniquity was
already working. There were at that time elements abroad which the apostle
could plainly see would develop into all that the Scriptures had announced.
And scarcely were the last of the apostles dead when the evil appeared in
its practical workings.

No sooner were the apostles removed from the stage of action, no sooner was
their watchful attention gone, and their apostolic authority removed, than
this very thing appeared of which the apostle had spoken. Certain bishops,
in order to make easier the conversion of the heathen; to multiply
disciples, and by this increase their own influence and authority; began to
adopt heathen customs and forms.
When the canon of Scripture was closed, and the last of the apostles was
dead, the first century was gone; and within twenty years of that time the
perversion of the truth of Christ had become widespread. In the history of
this century and of this subject the record is, --
"It is certain that to religious worship, both public and private, many
rites were added, without necessity, and to the offense of sober and good
men." -- Mosheim.1

And the reason of this is stated to be that -- "The Christians were
pronounced atheists, because they were destitute of temples, altars,
victims, priests, and all that pomp in which the vulgar suppose the essence
of religion to consist. For unenlightened persons are prone to estimate
religion by what meets their eyes. To silence this accusation, the Christian
doctors thought it necessary to introduce some external rites, which would
strike the senses of the people, so that they could maintain themselves
really to possess all those things of which Christians were charged with
being destitute. though under different forms." -- Mosheim.2

This was at once to accommodate the Christian worship and its forms to that
of the heathen, and almost at one step to heathenize Christianity. No
heathen element or form can be connected with Christianity or its worship,
and Christianity remain pure.
Of all the ceremonies of the heathen, the mysteries were the most sacred and
most universally practiced. Some mysteries were in honor of Bacchus, some of
Cybele, but the greatest of all, those considered the most sacred of all and
the most widely practiced, were the Eleusinian, so called because celebrated
at Eleusis in Greece. But whatever was the mystery that was celebrated,
there was always in it as an essential part of it, the elements of
abomination that characterized sun worship everywhere, because the mysteries
were simply forms of the wide-spread and multiform worship of the sun. Among
the first of the perversions of the Christian worship was to give to its
forms the title and air of the mysteries. For says the record: --
Among the Greeks and the people of the East, nothing was held more sacred
than what were called the mysteries. This circumstances led the Christians,
in order to impart dignity to their religion, to say that they also had
similar mysteries, or certain holy rites concealed from the vulgar and they
not only applied the terms used in the pagan mysteries to Christian
institutions, particularly baptism and the Lord's supper, but they gradually
introduced also the rites which were designated by those terms." --

That this point may be more fully understood we shall give a sketch of the
Eleusinian mysteries. As we have stated, although there were others, these
were of such preeminence that they acquired the specific name by way of --
the mysteries. The festival was sacred to Ceres and Proserpine. Everything
about it contained a mystery, and was to be kept secret by the initiated.

"This mysterious secrecy was solemnly observed and enjoined on all the
votaries of the goddess; and if any one ever appeared at the celebration,
either intentionally or through ignorance, without proper introduction, he
was immediately punished with death. Persons of both sexes and all ages were
initiated at this solemnity, and it was looked upon so heinous one of the
heaviest accusations which contributed to the condemnation of Socrates. The
initiated were under the more particular care of the deities, and therefore
their lives were supposed to be attended with more happiness and real
security than those of other men. This benefit was not only granted during
life, but it extended beyond the grave, and they were honored with the first
places in the Elysian fields, while others were left to wallow in perpetual
filth and ignominy." -- Anthon.4

There were the greater and the lesser mysteries. The greater were the
Eleusinian in fact, and the lesser were invented, according to the
mythological story, because Hercules passed near Eleusis, where the greater
mysteries were celebrated, and desired to be initiated, but as he was a
stranger and therefore could not lawfully be admitted,a form of mysteries
was adopted into which he could be initiated. These were ever afterward
celebrated as the lesser, and were observed at Agrae. In the course of time
the lesser were made preparatory to the greater, and the candidate must be
initiated into these before he could be initiated into the greater. "No
person could be initiated at Eleusis without a previous purification at
Agrae. This purification they performed by keeping themselves pure, chaste,
and unpolluted during nine days, after which they came and offered
sacrifices and prayers, wearing garlands of flowers, and having under their
feet Jupiter's skin, which was the skin of a victim offered to that god. The
person who assisted was called Hudranos, from hudor, water, which was used
at the purification; and they themselves were called the initiated. A year
after the initiation at the less mysteries they sacrificed a sow to Ceres,
and were admitted into the greater, and the secrets of the festivals were
solemnly revealed to them, from which they were called inspectors.
"The initiation was performed in the following manner: The candidates,
crowned with myrtle, were admitted by night into a place called the mystical
temple, a vast and stupendous building. As they entered the temple, they
purified themselves by washing their hands in holy water, and received for
admonition that they were to come with a mind pure and undefiled, without
which the cleanliness of the body would be unacceptable. After this the holy
mysteries were read to them from a large book called petroma, because made
of two stones, Petrai, fitly cemented together; and then the priest proposed
to them certain questions, to which they readily answered. After this,
strange and fearful objects presented themselves to their sight; the place
often seemed to quake, and to appear suddenly resplendent with fire, and
immediately covered with gloomy darkness and horror." -- Anthon.5 After
initiation, the celebration lasted nine days.
These mysteries, as well as those of Bacchus and others, were directly
related to the sun for "the most holy and perfect rite in the Eleusinian
Mysteries was to show an ear of corn mowed down in silence, and this was a
symbol of the Phrygian Atys." -- "Encyclopedia Britannica."6

The Phrygian Atys, as we have before shown, was simply the incarnation of
the sun, and the mysteries being a form of sun worship, the "sacred" symbols
cannot be described with decency. Having given in a previous chapter the
characteristics of the celebration of the worship of the sun, it is not
necessary to describe the actions that were performed in the celebration of
the mysteries that were performed in the celebration of the mysteries after
the initiation, any further than is spoken by the apostle with direct
reference to this subject. "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of
darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those
things which are done of them in secret." Eph. v, 11, 12.

It was to accommodate the Christian worship to the minds of a people who
practiced these things that the bishops gave to the Christian ordinances the
name of mysteries. The Lord's supper was made the greater mystery, baptism
the lesser and the initiatory robe, and the celebration of the former. After
the heathen manner also a white garment was used as the initiatory robe, and
the candidate having been baptized, and thus initiatory robe, and the
candidate mysteries, was admitted into what was called in the church the
order of catechumens, in which order they remained a certain length of time,
as in the heathen celebration, before they were admitted to the celebration
of the Lord's supper, the greater mystery.
"This practice originated in the Eastern provinces, and then after the time
of Adrian (who first introduced the pagan mysteries among the Latins) it
spread among the Christians of the West." The reign of Hadrian was from
117-138. Therefore, before the second century was half gone, before the last
of the apostles had been dead forty years, this apostasy, this working of
the mystery of iniquity, had so largely spread over both the East and the
West, that it is literally true that "a large part, therefore, of the
Christian observances and institutions even in this century, had the aspect
of the pagan mysteries." -- Mosheim.7

Nor is this all. In the previous chapter we have abundantly shown the
worship of the sun to have been universal. These apostates not being content
with so much much of the sun worship as appeared in the celebration of the
mysteries, adopted the heathen custom of worshiping toward the East.
So says the history: --
"Before the coming of Christ, all the Eastern nations performed divine
worship with their faces turned to that part of the heavens where the sun
displays his rising beams. This custom was founded upon a general opinion
that God, whose essence they looked upon to be light, and whom they
considered as being circumscribed within certain limits, dwelt in that part
of the firmament from which he sends forth the sun, the bright image of his
benignity and glory. The Christian converts, indeed, rejected this gross
error [of supposing that God dwelt in that part of the firmament]; but they
retained the ancient and universal custom of worshiping toward the east,
which sprang from it. Nor is this custom abolished even in out times, but
still prevails in a great number of Christian churches." -- Moscheim.8

The next step in addition to this was the adoption of the day of the sun as
a festival day. To such an extent were the forms of sun worship practiced in
this apostasy, that before the close of the second century the heathen
themselves charged these so-called Christians with worshiping the sun. A
presbyter of the church of Carthage, then and now one of the "church
Fathers," who wrote about A. D. 200, considered it necessary to make a
defense of the practice, which he did to the following effect in an address
to the rulers and magistrates of the Roman empire: --
"Others, again, certainly with more information and greater verisimilitude,
believe that the sun is our god. We shall be counted Persians perhaps though
we do not worship the orb of day painted on a piece of linen cloth, having
himself everywhere in his own disc. The idea no doubt has originated from
our being known to turn to the east in prayer. But you, many of you, also
under pretense sometimes of worshiping the heavenly bodies, move your lips
in the direction of the sunrise. In the same way, if we devote Sunday to
rejoicing from a far different reason than sun worship we have some
resemblance to those of you who devote the day of Saturn to ease and luxury
though they too go far away from Jewish ways, of which indeed they are
ignorant." -- Tertullian.9

And again in an address to all the heathen he justifies this practice by the
argument, in effect, You do the same thing, you originated it too, therefore
you have no right to blame us. In his own words his defense is as follows:--
"Others, with greater regard to good manners, it must be confessed, suppose
that the sun is the god of the Christians, because it is a wellknown fact
that we pray towards the east, or because we make Sunday a day of festivity.

What then? Do you do less than this? Do not many among you, with an
affectation of sometimes worshiping the heavenly bodies, likewise move your
lips in the direction of the sunrise? It is you, at all events, who have
admitted the sun into the calendar of the week; and you have selected its
day, in preference to the preceding day, as the most suitable in the week
for either an entire abstinence from the bath, or for its postponement until
the evening, or for taking rest and banqueting." -- Tertullian.10
This accommodation was easily made, and all this practice was easily
justified, by the perverse minded teachers, in the perversion of such
scriptures as, "The Lord God is a sun and shield" (Ps. IXXXIV, II); and,
"Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with
healing in his wings." Mal. iv, 2.

As this custom spread and through it such disciples were multiplied, the
ambition of the bishop of Rome grew space. It was in honor of the day of the
sun that there was manifested the first attempt of the bishop of Rome to
compel the obedience of all other bishops, and the fact that this attempt
was made in such a cause, at the very time when these pretended Christians
were openly accused by the heathen with worshiping the sun, is strongly

From Rome there came now another addition to the sun-worshiping apostasy.
The first Christians being mostly Jews, continued to celebrate the passover
in remembrance of the death of Christ, the true passover; and this was
continued among those who from among the Gentiles had turned to Christ.
Accordingly the celebration was always on the passover day -- the fourteenth
of the first month. Rome, however, and from her all the West, adopted the
day of the sun as the day of this celebration. According to the Eastern
custom, the celebration, being on the fourteenth day of the month, would of
course fall on different days of the week as the years revolved. The rule of
Rome was that the celebration must always be on a Sunday -- the Sunday
nearest to the fourteenth day of the first month of the Jewish year. And if
the fourteenth day of that month should of the Jewish year. Sunday, then the
celebration was not to be held on that day, but upon the next Sunday. One
reason of this was not only to be as like heathen as possible, but to be as
unlike the Jews as possible: this, in order not only to facilitate the
"conversion" of the heathen by conforming to their customs, but also by
pandering to their spirit of contempt and hatred of the Jews. It was upon
this point that the bishop of Rome made his first open attempt at

We know not precisely when this began, but it was practiced in Rome as early
as the time of Sixtus I, who was bishop of Rome A. D. 119-128. The practice
was promoted by his successors, and Anicetus, who was bishop of Rome A. D.
157-168, "would neither conform to that [Eastern] custom himself, nor-suffer
any under his jurisdiction to conform to it, obliging them to celebrate that
solemnity on the Sunday next following the fourteenth of the moon." --
Bower.11 In A. D. 160, Polycarp, bishop of Ephesus, made a journey to Rome
to consult with Anicetus about this question, though nothing special came of
the consultation. Victor, who was bishop of Rome A. D. 192-202, likewise
proposed to oblige only those under his jurisdiction to conform to the
practice of Rome; but he asserted jurisdiction over all, and therefore
presumed to command all........

In the latter part of the second century, there sprang up in Egypt a school
of pagan philosophy called the "Eclectic." The patrons of this school called
themselves "Eclectics" because they professed to be in search of truth
alone, and to be ready to adopt any tenet of any system in existence which
seemed to them to be agreeable to their ideas of truth. They held Plato to
be the one person above all others who had attained the nearest to truth in
the greatest number of points. Hence they were also called "Platonists."
"This philosophy was adopted by such of the learned at Alexandria, as wished
to be accounted Christians, and yet to retain the name, the garb, and the
rank of philosophers. In particular, all those who in this century presided
in the schools of the Christians at Alexandria, Athenagoras, Pantaenus, and
Clemens Alexandrinus, are said to have approved of it. These men were
persuaded that true philosophy, the great and most salutary gift of God, lay
in scattered fragments among all the sects of philosophers; and therefore,
that it was the duty of every wise man and especially of a Christian
teacher, to collect those fragments from all quarters, and to use them for
the defense of religion and the confutation of impiety. Yet this selection
of opinions did not prevent them from regarding Plato as wiser than all the
rest, and as especially remarkable for treating the Deity, the soul, and
things remote from sense, so as to suit the Christian scheme." -- Mosheim.13

In the end of the second century, and especially in the first forty-one
years of the third, there flourished in Alexandria one of these
would-be-philosophers -- Ammonius Saccas by name -- who gave a turn to the
philosophy of the Eclectics, which caused his sect to be called the New
Platonists. The difference between the Eclectics and the system founded by
Ammonius was this: The Eclectics held, as above stated, that in every system
of thought in the world there was some truth, but mixed with error, their
task being to select from all these to form one harmonious system. Ammonius
held that when the truth was known, all sects had the same identical system
of truth; that the differences among them were caused simply by the
different ways of stating that truth; and that the proper task of the
philosopher was to find such a means of stating the truth that all should be
able to understand it, and so each one understand all the others. This was
to be accomplished by a system of allegorizing and mystification, by which
anybody could get whatever he wanted out of any writing that might come to
his notice.

One of the earliest attaches to this philosophy from among those who
professed to be Christians, was Clement of Alexandria, who became the head
of that kind of school at Alexandria. These philosophers "believed the
language of Scripture to contain two meanings; the one obvious, and
corresponding with the direct import of the words; the other recondite, and
concealed under the words, like a nut by the shell. The former they
neglected, as of little value, their study chiefly being to extract the
latter: in other words, they were more intent on throwing obscurity over the
sacred writings, by the fictions of their own imaginations, than on
searching out their true meanings. Some also, and this is stated especially
of Clement, accommodated the divine oracles to the precepts of philosophy."
-- Mosheim.14

The following highly edifying explanation by Clement, of the Scripture
relating to the fish which Peter caught, will illustrate this system of
interpretation: --
"That fish then which, at the command of the Lord. Peter caught points to
digestible and God-given and moderate food. And by those who rise from the
water to the bait of righteousness, he admonishes us to take away luxury and
avarice, as the coin from the fish; in order that he might displace
vainglory; and by giving the stater to the taxgatherers and rendering the
Caesar the things which are Caesar's might preserve to God the things which
are God's. The stater is capable of other explanations not unknown to us,
but the present is not a suitable occasion for their treatment. Let the
mention we make for our present purpose suffice, as it is not unsuitable to
the flowers of the Word; and we have often done this, drawing to the urgent
point of the question the most beneficial fountain, in order to water those
who have been planted by the Word."15

And this, of the Saviour's miracle of turning the water into wine, also
helps to an understanding of the excellent wisdom of this philosophy: --
"He gave life to the watery element of the meaning of the law, filling with
his blood the doer of it who is of Adam, that is, the whole world; supplying
piety with drink from the vine of truth, the mixture of the old law and of
the new word, in order to the fulfillment of the predestined time."16 Of
the benefits children will derive from a starvation diet, he gives this
valuable instruction: --
"They say that the bodies of children, when shooting up to their height, are
made to grow right by deficiency in nourishment. For then the spirit, which
pervades the body in order to its growth, is not checked by abundance of
food obstructing the freedom of its course."17

The close resemblance between the pagan philosophy and that of the New
Platonists is illustrated by the fact that but one of the classes concerned
could tell to which of them Ammonius Saccas belonged. The pagans generally
regarded him a pagan. His own kind of Christians counted him a good
Christian all his life. The genuine Christians all knew that he was a pagan,
and that the truth of the whole matter was that he was a pretended Christian
"who adopted with such dexterity the doctrines of the pagan philosophy as to
appear a Christian to the Christians, and a pagan to the pagans."18 He died
A. D. 241.

Clement is supposed to have died about A. D. 220, and the fame and influence
which he had acquired -- and it was considerable -- was far outshone by
Origen, who had been taught by both Clement and Ammonius. Origen imbibed all
the allegorical and mystifying processes of both Ammonius and Clement, and
multiplied upon them from his own wild imagination. He was not content with
finding two meanings in the Scriptures as those before him, but took the
secondary sense, the hidden meaning, and added to it four additional
meanings of his own. His system then stood thus: First, All scripture
contains two meanings, the literal and the hidden. Second, This hidden sense
has within itself two meanings, the moral and the mystical. Third, The
mystical has within it yet two other meanings, the allegorical and the
anagogical. According to this method of mysticism, therefore, in every
passage of Scripture there are at least three meanings, and there may be any
number from three to six.

His explanation of it is this: First, Man is composed of three parts, a
rational mind, a sensitive soul, and a visible body. The Scriptures resemble
man, and therefore have a three-fold sense; (a) a literal sense which
corresponds to the body; (b) a moral sense corresponding to the soul; and
© a mystical sense which corresponds to the mind. Second, As the body is
the baser part of man, so the literal is the baser sense of Scripture; and
as the body often betrays good men into sin, so the literal sense of
Scripture often leads into error. Therefore, those who would see more in the
Scripture than common people could see, must search out this hidden meaning,
and yet further must search in that hidden meaning for the moral sense. And
those who would be perfect must carry their search yet farther, and beyond
this moral sense which they found in the hidden meaning they must find the
mystical sense, with its additional train of allegorical and anagogical

As in this system of philosophy the body of man was a clog to the soul and
hindered it in its heavenly aspirations, and was therefore to be despised,
and by punishment and starvation was to be separated as far as possible from
the soul, it followed that the literal sense of Scripture, which
corresponded to man's body likewise, was a hinderance to the proper
understanding of all the hidden meanings of the Scripture, and was to be
despised and separated as far as possible from the hidden sense, and counted
of the least possible worth. Accordingly, one of the first principles of
this teaching was the following: --
"The source of many evils lies in adhering to the carnal or external part of
Scripture. Those who do so will not attain to the kingdom of God. Let us
therefore seek after the spirit and substantial fruit of the word, which are
hidden and mysterious." -- Origen. 19

And the next step was but the logical result of this; namely: --
"The Scriptures are of little use to those who understand them as they are
written." -- Origen. 20 By such a system as this it is evident that any
one could find whatever he pleased in any passage of Scripture, and that the Scripture could be made to support any doctrine that was ever invented by the wildest fancy of the veriest fanatic. Even though the doctrine might be flatly contradictory to the Scripture, the Scripture could be made fully to agree with and teach the doctrine.

From this sketch of Platonism as held by Origen, the essential truth of the
following passage will be readily seen : --
"This new species of philosophy, imprudently adopted by Origen and other
Christians, did immense harm to Christianity. For it led the teachers of it
to involve in philosophic obscurity many parts of our religion, which were
in themselves plain and easy to be understood; and to add to the precepts of
the Saviour no few things, of which not a word can be found in the Holy
Scriptures. . . . It recommended to Christians various foolish and useless
rites, suited only to nourish superstition, no small part of which we see
religiously observed by many even to the present day. And finally it
alienated the minds of many, in the following centuries, from Christianity
itself, and produced a heterogeneous species of religion, consisting of
Christian and Platonic principles combined." -- Mosheim. 21
On the part of real Christians, those who loved the truth as it is in
Christ, there was strong opposition from the first to this whole system of
philosophy with its mystification and allegory. "But the friends of
philosophy and literature gradually acquired the ascendency. To this issue
Origen contributed very much; who, having early imbibed the principles of
the New Platonism, inauspiciously applied them to theology, and earnestly
recommended them to the numerous youth who attended on his instructions. And
the greater the influence of this man, which quickly spread over the whole
Christian world, the more readily was his method of explaining the sacred
doctrines propagated." -- Mosheim. 22

While this effort was being made on the side of philosophy to unite all
religions, there was at the same time a like effort on the side of politics.
This was the aim of Elagabalus, A. D. 218 to 222. We have already shown that
it was the ambition of Elagabalus to make the worship of the sun supersede
all other worship in Rome. It is further related of him that a more
ambitious scheme even than this was in the emperor's mind, which was nothing
less than the blending of all religions into one, of which "the sun was to
be the central object of adoration." -- Milman. 23 But the elements were not
yet fully prepared for such a fusion. Also the shortness of the reign of
Elagabalus prevented any decided advancement toward success.
Alexander Severus -- A. D. 222 to 225 -- held to the same idea, and carried
it into effect so far as his individual practice was concerned. "The mother
of Alexander Severus, the able, perhaps crafty and rapacious, Mammeaea, had
at least held intercourse with the Christians of Syria. She had conversed
with the celebrated Origen, and listened to his exhortations, if without
conversion, still not without respect. Alexander, though he had neither the
religious education, the pontifical character, nor the dissolute manners of
his predecessor, was a Syrian, with no hereditary attachment to the Roman
form of paganism. He seems to have affected a kind of universalism: he paid
decent respect to the gods of the capitol; he held in honor the Egyptian
worship, and enlarged the temples of Isis and Serapis. In his own palace,
with respectful indifference, he enshrined, as it were, as his household
deities, the representatives of the different religions or theo-philosophic
systems which were prevalent in the Roman empire, -- Orpheus, Abraham,
Christ and Apollonius of Tyana. . . . The homage of Alexander Severus may be
a fair test of the general sentiment of the more intelligent heathen of his
time." -- Milman. 24 His reign was also too short to accomplish anything
beyond his own individual example. But the same tendency went rapidly

On the side of philosophy and the apostasy, the progress was continuous and
rapid. About the middle of this century, Origen and Celsus, a pagan
philosopher, held a protracted discussion upon the respective merits of the
pagan and the Christian philosophy. And the standing of the two systems at
this time, is well described in the following statement: --
"Heathenism, as interpreted by philosophy, almost found favor with some of
the more moderate Christian apologists. . . . The Christians endeavored to
enlist the earlier philosophers in their cause; they were scarcely content
with asserting that the nobler Grecian philosophy might be designed to
prepare the human mind for the reception of Christianity; they were almost
inclined to endow these sages with a kind of prophetic foreknowledge of its
more mysterious doctrines. `I have explained,' says the Christian in
Minucius Felix, `the opinions of almost all the philosophers, whose most
illustrious glory it is that they have worshiped one God, though under
various names; so that one might suppose either that the Christians of the
present day are philosophers, or that the philosophers of old were already

"These advances on the part of Christianity were more than met by paganism.
The hesthen religion, which prevailed at least among the more enlightened
pagans during this period, . . . was almost as different from that of the
older Greeks and Romans, or even that which prevailed at the commencement of
the empire, as it was from Christianity. . . . On the great elementary
principle of Christianity, the unity of the supreme God, this approximation
had long been silently made. Celsus, in his celebrated controversy with
Origen, asserts that this philosophical notion of the Deity is perfectly
reconcilable with paganism." -- Milman. 25

The emperor Decius, having no sympathy with any religion, philosophy, or
morality, but that of the old original Roman, did his best to restore it
throughout the empire. Hence the persecution, as described in Chapter IV of
this book. Valerian followed closely the course marked out by Decius; but in
the forty years of peace to religion, from the edict of toleration by
Gallienus to the edict of persecution by Diocletian, all these elements
worked steadily forward in the same general direction. Of the progress of
the apostasy during this time, we have a powerful illustration in the
practice of Gregory Thaumaturgus, the "wonder-worker."
Gregory was a pupil and a convert of Origen's. Origen strongly urged him "to
devote his acquirements in heathen science and learning, to the elucidation
of the Scriptures." When he left Origen's school at Alexandria, he returned
to Pontus, and became bishop of Neo Caesarea, A. D. 240 to 270, and how
fully he followed the advice of Origen is shown by the following: --
"`When Gregory perceived that the ignorant multitude persisted in their
idolatry, on account of the pleasures and sensual gratiflcations which they
enjoyed at the pagan festivals, he granted them a permission to indulge
themselves in the like pleasures, in celebrating the memory of the holy
martyrs, hoping that, in process of time, they would return of their own
accord, to a more virtuous and regular course of life.' There is no sort of
doubt that, by this permission, Gregory allowed the Christians to dance,
sport, and feast at the tombs of the martyrs, upon their respective
festivals, and to do everything which the pagans were accustomed to in their
temples, during the feasts celebrated in honor of their gods." -- Mosheim.

Neo Caesarea was one of the most important cities in Pontus. Yet so
diligently did Gregory thus employ the talents committed to him by Origen,
that it is related of him that whereas "there were said to be only seventeen
Christians in the whole city when he first entered it as bishop, there were
said to be only seventeen pagans in it at the time of his death." 27 It is
manifest, however, from Gregory's practice, that those who were by him
brought to the Christian name were as much pagan as before except in the
mere matter of the name.

In the time of Diocletian, that which was known as paganism was so far
different from the original paganism of Rome that Milman plainly designates
it as the "new paganism." This new paganism was so little removed from the
apostate form of Christianity which we have traced, as really to differ from
it only in name. The standing of the two systems at the accession of
Diocletian is thus described : -- "Among the cares of his administration,
he by no means neglected the purification of the ancient religions. In paganism itself, that silent but manifest change of which we have already noticed the commencement, had been
creeping on. . . . This new paganism, as has been observed, arose out of the
alliance of the philosophy and the religion of the old world. These once
implacable adversaries had reconciled their differences, and coalesced
against the common enemy. Christianity itself had no slight influence upon
the formation of the new system; and now an Eastern element, more and more
strongly dominant, mingled with the whole, and lent it, as it were, a
visible object of worship. From Christianity, the new paganism had adopted
the unity of the Deity, and scrupled not to degrade all the gods of the
older world into subordinate demons or ministers. The Christians had
incautiously held the same language: both concurred in the name of demons;
but the pagans used the term in the Platonic sense, as good but subordinate
spirits, while the same term spoke to the Christian ear as expressive of
malignant and diabolic agency. But the Jupiter Optimus Maximums was not the
great Supreme of the new system. The universal deity of the East, the sun,
to the philosophic was the emblem or representative; to the vulgar, the
Deity. Diocletian himself, though he paid so much deference to the older
faith as to assume the title of Jovius, as belonging to the lord of the
world, yet, on his accession, when he would exculpate himself from all
concern in the murder of his predecessor, Numerian, appealed in the face of
the army to the all-seeing deity of the sun. It is the oracle of Apollo of
Miletus, consulted by the hesitating emperor, which is to decide the fate of
Christianity. The metaphorical language of Christianity had unconsciously
lent strength to this new adversary; and, in adoring the visible orb, some,
no doubt, supposed that they were not departing far from the worship of the
`Sun of Righteousness.'" -- Milman. 28

Diocletain himself really contemplated the same fusion of all religions into
one, with the sun as the one great universal deity, which Elagabalus had
contemplated in his day; but by Galerius and the leading philosopher of the
new paganism, he was persuaded to use all the power of the State in the
effort to make paganism alone supreme over and against every form and every
profession of the Christian name. The result, however, was as already
related, that Galerius was compelled to issue a public edict confessing his

Then came Constantine, the best imperial representative of the new paganism,
and the most devout worshiper of the sun as the supreme and universal deity,
with the avowed purpose, as expressed in his own words, "First to bring the
diverse judgments formed by all nations respecting the Deity to a condition,
as it were, of settled uniformity." In Constantine the new paganism met its
ideal and the New Platonism -- the apostate, paganized, sun worshiping form
of Christianity -- met its long-wished-for instrument. In him the two
streams met. In him the aspiration of Elagabalus, the hope of Ammonius
Saccas and Origen, and the ambition of the perverse-minded, self-exalted
bishops, were all realized and accomplished -- a new, imperial, and
universal religion was created. Therefore, "The reign of Constantine the
Great forms one of the epochs in the history of the world. It is the era of
the dissolution of the Roman empire ; the commencement, or rather
consolidation, of a kind of Eastern despotism, with a new capital, a new
patriciate, a new constitution, a new financial system, a new, though as yet
imperfect, jurisprudence, and, finally, a new religion." -- Milman. 29
The epoch thus formed was the epoch of the papacy; and the new religion thus
created was the PAPAL RELIGION....."Chapter 8 of 'The Two Republics or Rome
and the United States of America'- By Alonzo T. Jones

Lil Star

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Re: Origins of Paganism & Ecumenism in Early Church history..
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2008, 08:37:36 AM »

I read some of this post but when it got to the length that it did, I think I got about half way down and decided not to read anymore of it. So, is there a way that we can ask the admin to restrict posts being a page long? 

Reddogs, I knew another guy that raised red dogs :dogwag:
« Last Edit: May 05, 2008, 10:55:46 AM by Lil Star »
RIP mom

Jesus IS enough


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Re: Origins of Paganism & Ecumenism in Early Church history..
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2008, 09:48:29 AM »

I read some of this post but when it got to the length that it did, I think I got about half way down and decided not to read anymore of it. So, is there a way that we can ask the admin to restrict posts being a page long? 

Reddogs, have we met on another forum?  :dogwag:

Lil Star,

I think why it may seem familiar is knowing another that had red dogs
Beware of those that verbally try to convince you they are Christian. Check your back pocket and make sure your wallet is still there. Next check your reputation to see if it is still intact. Chances are, one or both will be missing


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Re: Origins of Paganism & Ecumenism in Early Church history..
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2008, 04:01:36 PM »

I read some of this post but when it got to the length that it did, I think I got about half way down and decided not to read anymore of it. So, is there a way that we can ask the admin to restrict posts being a page long? 

Reddogs, I knew another guy that raised red dogs :dogwag:

Oops, you edited after I posted I think. Sorry about that.
Beware of those that verbally try to convince you they are Christian. Check your back pocket and make sure your wallet is still there. Next check your reputation to see if it is still intact. Chances are, one or both will be missing


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Re: Origins of Paganism & Ecumenism in Early Church history..
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2008, 04:13:14 PM »

I started to read but realised it was going to take ages and I'd need to leave it till I have a day to spare with nothing else to do. Maybe in future, you might cut your posts into manageable bite sized pieces and go and feed the red dogs in between posting each piece?

"Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?"
~ Frank Sculley.
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