June 28, 2007

Irenaeus

Category: Communion of Saints — Micah @ 12:00 am

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Good day, and welcome to Communion of Saints from stjeromeschapel.org. I’m your host, Micah Jackson. Today is June 28th, 2007: the feast of Blessed Irenaeus.

If you browse the trendy religion section of your local bookstore, you’ll discover that the latest popular craze in fringe Christianity is Gnosticism. Based on the Greek word that means “knowledge” the Gnostic systems (and there are many) all have in common the idea that there is some secret knowledge that is known to an inner circle of initiates—secrets which have been hidden from others. If this reminds you of the plot of The Da Vinci Code, it should. Some of the Gnostic systems were far more obscure, though, claiming secret knowledge about cosmology and so on.

Today there are many who would happily refute these unorthodox Christianities. The early church, which faced these Gnostic systems head on, had Irenaeus, arguably the first systematic theologian, to defend the orthodox position. His most famous work is The Refutation and Overthrow of Gnosis, Falsely So-Called. It is most often referred to as Against Heresies. In it, he takes on many forms of Gnosticism, sometimes with surprising fervor for one whose name means “the peaceable one.” He writes,

Certain people are discarding the truth and introducing deceitful myths and endless genealogies, which, as the Apostle says, “promote speculations rather than the divine training that is in faith.” (1 Timothy 1:4) By specious argumentation, craftily patched together, they mislead the minds of the more ignorant and ensnare them by falsifying the Lord’s words. Thus they become wicked interpreters of genuine words.

Irenaeus was more peaceable that some, though. He was willing to engage those who held and taught doctrines he felt were incorrect. In the struggles of today’s church, we seem to have many with his strength, but few with his genuine desire to understand the other position. Perhaps we would all do well to remember one of today’s lections, “Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:22b-26)

Let us pray: Almighty God, you upheld your servant Irenaeus with strength to maintain the truth against every blast of vain doctrine: Keep us, we pray, steadfast in your true religion, that in constancy and peace we may walk in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, now and for ever. Amen.

Thank you for listening to Communion of Saints. Please join us tomorrow at stjeromeschapel.org for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. I’m Micah Jackson. May God be with you.

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