Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ignatius to the Ephesians - Smelly doctrine

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius again cautions the Ephesians to be wary of those who would teach false doctrine.
"Do not err, my brethren. Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with any one who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such an one becoming defiled [in this way], shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him." (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 16)
It is interesting that Ignatius considers it a greater offense to come in and corrupt someone's doctrine than to come in and corrupt their family. Both, for sure, he condemns, but he sees on as having eternal consequences for the corrupted while the other has only temporal consequences pertaining to this life only. Such a one who would do this is justly condemned to eternal perdition.

Ignatius again repeats his warning.
"For this end did the Lord suffer the ointment to be poured upon His head, that He might breathe immortality into His Church. Be not ye anointed with the bad odour of the doctrine of the prince of this world; let him not lead you away captive from the life which is set before you. And why are we not all prudent, since we have received the knowledge of God, which is Jesus Christ? Why do we foolishly perish, not recognising the gift which the Lord has of a truth sent to us?" (Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chapter 17)
The more time we spend in the truth the more we come to recognize the odor of false doctrine. False doctrine smells like self-love, self-righteousness, indulging the flesh, denying Christ and His divinity, and all other things that are contrary to sound doctrine. These things we should run from. We should continually contend for the truth of the Gospel that has been delivered to us through Jesus and His apostles for this truth is our life and our freedom.

So what causes us to drift into error; what makes us susceptible to the odors of falsehood? Ignatius encourages us towards prudence in our lives. Webster defines prudence as, among other things, "the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason." (Webster Dictionary) When it comes to the truth, we must deploy self-government and reason. Self-government to obey the truth and reason to discern between truth and falsehood. If we blindly go through our lives we may fail to spot the lie that intends to snare us and, if we fail to obey the truth then we will never come to recognize what truth "smells" like and how its odor differs from that of error. The best defense of error is our commitment to the truth.

David Robison

1 comment:

  1. I like Ignatius, but I think he is off-base in some points. Regarding docrine (beliefs), he says "Any one who corrupts by wicked docrine the faith of God...shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens to him."

    Really? We will burn in hell for eternity because we were mistaken in what we believed? What kind of god is this?

    In addition, he attributes bad doctrine to the prince of this world (Satan?). It seems to me that variances in belief arises from differnt human thinking in response to what we understand. Ignatius seems to imply that we should NOT use reason but should accept 'truth' on authority. On whose authority? The bishops?

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