In today’s world, when there are so many Christian denominations, it is difficult for people to distinguish between them and discern which is the true church. Some argue their authenticity in that they have apostolic descent, that is, authority has been passed from the apostles, one by one, to the present day. Others say they are based on the Bible or the church fathers of ecumenical councils, and so on. In this article I come to make a brief analysis of these things that are to a greater or lesser extent at the foundation of the true church.
The canon of the Old and New Testaments is recognized by all churches equally.
Although there are some divergences regarding the books included in the Old Testament canon, there are no discussions and divergences when it comes to the 27 books that make up the New Testament. These books are considered entirely inspired by God, that is, the revelation of God. No other book can pretend this position and authority. The primary church had as its foundation in the teachings set out in the New Testament and vice versa, the New Testament describes the teaching of the apostles, preached in the early church and the experience of the early Christians.
The Apocryphal writings are other books
These books claim to be written by the apostles (the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Didache, etc.) but which were not accepted as fully inspired by God and part of the New Testament Canon, because they convey teachings that contradict the teachings of the New Testament. Many of these books contain important information about the early church, different interpretations of the New Testament books, but they are not and can never be accepted as the norm or foundation of true faith. In fact, Dan Brown, the author of “The Da Vinci Code,” used them extensively and speculated on the teachings of these apocryphal books in order to attack true Christian doctrine.
The Church Fathers are priests, theologians, and church leaders from the first centuries who received the challenge of the world at that time and gave the relevant answer.
The challenges were twofold. On the one hand, heresies arose that attacked the church, and then the church fathers were forced to make profound studies of God’s Word and apply these profound studies to expose heresies and to protect the church. On the other hand, pagan philosophers and writers of the time, such as Celsius, attacked Christianity, and church fathers had to defend Christian teaching from these attacks by pagans.
One thing is certain: the church fathers fought to defend the true teaching of the New Testament and not to replace it with their own writings, which is what is being done today. It is not good when one is more concerned with the teachings of the church fathers, but does not give importance to or study the Holy Scriptures. In fact, I’ve met people who claimed to be acquainted with the writings of church fathers but did not even know the “Lord’s Prayer,” which is written in the Gospel of Matthew 6. I decided to protect myself from this danger and study the Scriptures first and foremost. Thus, at the time of writing, I am studying the Sermon on the Mount (Gospel of Matthew 5-7) and reading the Church History of Eusebius of Caesarea.
Ecumenical councils have been a great necessity of the times
It was so because the sound teaching of the Lord Jesus was again attacked by heretical teachings. The reason for the convocation of the first council, that of Nicaea (325 AD), was the appearance and spread of the heresy of Arius who attacked the doctrine of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The same reasons mostly existed for the convocation of the other ecumenical councils – to defend and keep intact the sound teaching of the Lord Jesus which was preached by the apostles. To what extent this has been achieved in these councils, I urge you to study their history, one by one, to make your own conclusions. What is certain is that the councils were not called to replace the teaching of the Bible, but to defend it.
The conclusion is that the true foundation of the true church and the true faith is the Word of God – the Bible. The apocryphal writings were not accepted as part of the New Testament, precisely because they contradict the teachings of the Lord Jesus in the New Testament. The Church Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils aimed to defend the sound teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ set forth in the New Testament and not to replace them with other scriptures or doctrines.
In conclusion, I would like to leave you with two questions for meditation and I invite you to express your opinion in the comments:
- Does the apostle Paul still remain a true Christian if he does not accept certain teachings from the apocryphal writings, the church fathers, or the decisions of the ecumenical councils?
- Is the church described in the Acts of the Apostles authentic, if the Christians of that time did not know about the writings of the church fathers and about the decisions of the ecumenical councils?
Translated by Liza Biladeanu