As we put together to learn the New Testomony for Come, Comply with Me in 2023, there are various ways in which we will improve our research. The Lord has instructed us to hunt “out of the most effective books phrases of knowledge” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118), and Brigham Younger taught that we should always “collect up all of the truths on this planet pertaining to life and salvation,” even “to the Gospel we preach.”
One technique to comply with this counsel is by turning our hearts to our religious ancestors, our historic Christian fathers and moms who lived within the centuries after the mortal ministry of Jesus and his Apostles. Listed below are 5 issues that Latter-day Saints ought to find out about these historic Christians.
1. They taught that changing into like God begins on this life.
As early as AD 180, Irenaeus of Lyons taught that Christ grew to become “what we’re, that He would possibly carry us to be even what He’s Himself.”1 This concept was reaffirmed by different historic Christians. As an example, Athanasius of Alexandria (ca. AD 296–373) wrote that Jesus Christ, the Phrase of God, “assumed humanity”—that’s, he took on all that it means to be human—“that we’d develop into God.”2
Historical Christians had totally different understandings from Latter-day Saints concerning what it meant to develop into like God. Professor Daniel Becerra explains: “Irenaeus and Athanasius understood God (as Creator) and people (as creations) as totally different species, so to talk, somewhat than the identical species albeit at totally different factors of improvement.”3 Regardless of this vital distinction, Latter-day Saints can nonetheless discover this historic Christian educating insightful and edifying.
As an example, some historic Christians noticed mortal life as a possibility to develop into the likeness of God by creating Christlike attributes. Origen of Alexandria (ca. AD 185–254) learn in Genesis 1:26, the place God says, “Allow us to make man in our picture, after our likeness,” and observed the subsequent verse says solely that God creates human beings in his picture (Genesis 1:27). He interpreted this as follows:
Humankind acquired the dignity of God’s picture of their first creation; whereas the perfection of God’s likeness was reserved for them on the consummation. The aim of this was that people ought to purchase it for themselves by their very own earnest efforts to mimic God, in order that whereas the potential of attaining perfection was given to them to start with by the dignity of the “picture,” they need to ultimately by the accomplishment of those works receive for themselves the right “likeness.”4
For Origen, human creation doesn’t finish in Eden. Somewhat, we develop into like God as we develop Christlike character all through our lives and into eternity. In Eden we’re given the potential to progress once we had been made within the picture of God, in heaven that potential is totally realized as we receive the likeness of God.
2. They believed the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are distinct personages.
The phrase Trinity (Latin, trinitas) was first utilized by a Christian named Tertullian round AD 200.5 He used the time period to encapsulate his perception that the Father and the Son had been distinct individuals who had been one in different methods. Latter-day Saints have generally assumed that Christians who settle for the Nicene Creed (AD 325) consider that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one particular person. In any case, the creed states that God the Father and the Son are homoousios—a Greek phrase generally translated as “similar substance” or “one being.” But this time period was clarified by the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) within the following manner: Jesus Christ is “one substance [homoousios] with the Father as regards his divinity, and … one substance [homoousios] with us as regards his humanity.”6
In different phrases, Jesus is “one substance” with the Father simply as he’s “one substance” with us people—and clearly we’re not the identical particular person as Jesus. For historic Christians, the phrases “being” and “particular person” meant various things. Christians used the time period “being” to explain the oneness of God, the divine nature of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. These similar Christians additionally affirmed that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct “individuals.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught, “I feel I’m secure in saying that a part of the rationale we’re so misunderstood by others within the Christian custom is as a result of in stressing the person personages of the Godhead, we’ve not adopted that up usually sufficient by each conceding and insisting upon Their unity in just about each different conceivable manner. For this we’ve reaped pointless criticism, and we’ve made our LDS place more durable to be understood than it must be.” Understanding how historic Christians described their beliefs in regards to the nature of God may also help us admire the beliefs of others and extra precisely perceive and clarify our personal beliefs.
3. They discovered scriptural symbolism of their sacred ordinances.
Latter-day Saints can higher perceive our fashionable types of worship, together with temple ordinances, by studying how historic Christians worshipped. As an example, by the fourth century, baptism developed right into a richly symbolic, multistep ceremony. This historic baptismal service started in personal. Typically the candidate could be anointed with oil after she had renounced Devil and the evils of this world. Then she entered the font, maybe kneeling within the water.
As she confessed religion in God the Father, she would bend ahead and be immersed within the water by the bishop. Then she confessed religion within the Son, Jesus Christ, and once more was immersed within the water. She was immersed a 3rd time after confessing religion within the Holy Ghost. This newly baptized lady subsequent “acquired the laying on of fingers with one other anointing of oil” and “was clothed in a white gown.”7 She may now be a part of the congregation of these already baptized, who had been ready to have a good time with the latest Christians by receiving the Eucharist—what we name the sacrament.
As Latter-day Saints, we will see related symbolism in a few of our personal sacred ordinances. Professor Mark Ellison explains:
The white gown worn by the newly baptized alluded to Paul’s educating, “All of you who had been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27 NASB). … The image of the gown developed specific richness within the Syriac custom of a “Gown of Glory” that Adam and Eve had initially worn in Eden however had misplaced: “At his or her baptism, the person Christian, in ‘placing on Christ,’ places on the Gown of Glory, thus … on the Resurrection of the Lifeless, the simply will in all actuality reenter the celestial paradise, clothed of their Robes of Glory.”8
The traditional Christian symbolism of the white gown will possible resonate with any Latter-day Saint who participates in our baptismal companies or who worships in our sacred temples at present.
4. They powerfully taught in regards to the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
When the Apostle Paul taught in regards to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, he would usually draw on metaphorical language that had meanings exterior a Christian context. The phrase “grace,” for example, was used to explain relationships between Roman patrons and their shoppers. The time period “justification” was utilized in authorized settings to explain a correct relationship to legislation. And when the earliest Christians first heard the phrase “atonement,” they might have considered animal sacrifices supplied by monks on the temple. Paul used every of those ideas to assist his readers perceive higher Jesus Christ’s nice work of salvation.
After the primary century, different Christians continued to mirror on these metaphors and on all that scripture taught in regards to the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Metaphors developed into totally different fashions that sought to clarify (1) the dilemma that Christ had come to resolve and (2) exactly how Jesus Christ resolved that dilemma. As an example, Professor Cecilia M. Peek has proven that the dilemma for some historic Christians was that people had been misplaced and not using a information, so Jesus got here to indicate us the way in which.9
Irenaeus (ca. AD 180) wrote: “We may have realized in no different manner than by seeing our Trainer and listening to His voice with our personal ears, that, having develop into imitators of His works in addition to doers of His phrases, we might have communion with Him.”10
Historical Christians acknowledged that no single mannequin may totally clarify all that Jesus Christ had completed for us. Trendy Latter-day Saint leaders have echoed that sentiment, describing the character and results of Christ’s Atonement as mendacity “past the information and comprehension of mortal man.” President Dallin H. Oaks taught: “The magnificent and incomprehensible impact of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is predicated on God’s love for every of us. … His plan motivated by love should be acquired with love.” This lovely and profound educating echoes the phrases of Clement of Alexandria (died AD 215):
God himself is love, and for the sake of this love, he made himself identified. And whereas the unutterable nature of God is as a Father, his sympathy with us is as a Mom. … For this [the Son] got here down, for this he assumed human nature, for this he willingly endured the sufferings of humanity, that by being diminished to the measure of our weak spot, he would possibly increase us to the measure of his energy. And simply earlier than he poured out his providing, when he gave himself as a ransom, he left us a brand new testomony: ‘I offer you my love’ (John 13:34; 14:27). What’s the nature and extent of this love? For every of us he laid down his life, the life which was value the entire universe, and he requires in return that we should always do the identical for one another.11
5. We might not all the time agree with historic Christians, however we will nonetheless be taught from them.
Latter-day Saints who search to grasp our historic Christian ancestors will possible not agree with every little thing we discover of their writings or view within the artwork and structure they left behind. Though lots of our core beliefs are the identical, historic Christians who lived within the centuries after Jesus’s Apostles believed and practiced some issues that differ from what has been revealed to the Latter-day Saints.
After all, we should always count on to come across some variations as a result of God speaks to totally different peoples “in line with their language, unto their understanding” (see 2 Nephi 31:3; see additionally Doctrine and Covenants 1:24). Retaining this in thoughts, Latter-day Saints can profit from learning each similarities and variations in a spirit of charity. In so doing, we comply with Christ’s admonition: “As ye would that males ought to do to you, do ye additionally to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).
As we discover the world of historic Christianity in a spirit of humility and love, we are going to uncover new richness and new understanding about our personal beliefs and practices, and we are going to come to grasp higher lots of our fellow Christians at present. I consider that turning our hearts to our historic Christian fathers and moms is a part of what President Brigham Younger had in thoughts when he inspired us to hunt reality amongst different church buildings and collect it to Zion.
You possibly can be taught extra about our historic Christian ancestors within the new e-book Historical Christians: An Introduction for Latter-day Saints, printed by BYU Maxwell Institute.
- Irenaeus, Towards Heresies 5, preface (ANF 1:526).
- Athanasius, On the Incarnation 54 (NPNF2 4:65).
- Daniel Becerra, “Turning into Like God: Incarnation, Ethical Formation, and Everlasting Development,” in Historical Christians: An Introduction for Latter-day Saints, ed. Jason R. Combs, Mark D. Ellison, Catherine Gines Taylor, and Kristian S. Heal (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Non secular Scholarship, 2022), 377; field 10.3.
- Origen of Alexandria, On First Rules 3.6.1; in On First Rules, trans. G. W. Butterworth (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2013), 321.
- For extra on the that means of “Trinity,” see Jason R. Combs, “The Nature of God: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” in Historical Christians, 290–326.
- For the Chalcedonian Definition, see Combs, “Nature of God,” 310, field 8.9; examine John 17:21.
- See the abstract offered by Mark D. Ellison, “Connecting with Christ: Rituals and Worship” in Historical Christians, 214.
- Ellison, “Connecting with Christ,” 214–16; quoting Sebastian Brock, St Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns on Paradise (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1990), 67.
- Cecilia M. Peek, “Receiving Christ: Atonement, Grace, and Everlasting Salvation,” in Historical Christians, 343.
- Irenaeus, Towards Heresies 5.1.1 (ANF 1:526); as quoted by Peek, “Receiving Christ,” 343.
- Clement of Alexandria, The Wealthy Man’s Salvation 37 in Clement of Alexandria: The Exhortation to the Greeks, ed. G. W. Butterworth, Loeb Classical Library 92 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard College Press, 1960), 346.