Marcion, Law Verses Gospel, and Christian Fragmentation

I recently had the opportunity to discuss with a former partner in ministry why Orthodoxy has remained whole throughout the ages, since the call of the Apostles by Christ. This friend continued to mention that all Christianity has been fragmented from the beginning and that the Orthodox Church is not exempt from this.

I have two things to say about this. The first is that although the Orthodox Church has had people break off, it has not been in modern times over modern heresy, unlike the West which has been fragmenting since the break of Rome from the East in the 11th century into tiny fragments to this day. The second thing is that both St. Paul and Christ himself said that there would be many that would fall away – it is a prophetic aspect of the Church…not that the Church would fragment into many churches but that many would fall away from the Church.

As the Church began to be attacked upon in first few centuries they began to ward off the heretics through debate and preaching. A popular heretic example that sticks in my mind is Marcion (b. 85 A.D.), who taught a type of New-Testament-only gospel with heavy Gnostic leanings where creation is seen as evil in and of itself. Marcion is the father of the Reformation, believe it or not! One of the major arguments the reformers proposed – and still do in Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian churches –  is the separation of the Law from the Gospel. TERTULLIAN wrote in the second century, “The separation of the Law and the Gospel is the fundamental work of Marcion.” Reformer John Calvin taught that the law “leads us to the Gospel.” He also wrote that the Law picks back up somehow for the believer but that part did not stick with many that descended from Calvin’s theology (it really did not make much sense in the first place).

Marcion, in my opinion, was the father of the fall of the West. He opened the doors for angry-god-theology – that we are all guilty and God is angry with us until we have a conversion experience; what is now called by the modern/West Church “Penal Substitution.” Marcion’s forming of the Law against the Gospel was what seems to be one of the first ‘scholastic’ heresies of the Church – dividing and fragmenting the Gospel so as to create a rhetorical avenue – for those who desire a more intellectual Christianity.  Marcion also taught that the Gospel account was only valid with the accompaniment of St. Paul’s Epistles. This is what modern Christians of the West do today, in some sense. St. Paul’s words take precedence over most anything else, even the words of Christ. You can see my comments on this, here.

During the first millennium of the Church the seeds were being planted for the largest falling away ever: the West from the East. As stated, Marcion had a huge influence on this in the beginning, but shortly after the Great Schism, Anselm, Western Bishop of England, capitalized on Marcion-thought by introducing what many today call “satisfaction” teaching of atonement;  similar to Marcion’s teachings that the Law is opposed to the Gospel. Anselm wanted to use this legalistic teaching to evangelize the lost. Simply preach that the entire world is guilty of breaking the commandments from birth and that debt was paid by Christ rather than you. The Protestant Reformers took it a step further and taught the “penal” aspect of atonement, that we ask to receive this transfer-of-execution as our debt paid. Again, Law against Gospel!  This is how most modern Christians evangelize today. Rather than building a relationship with an individual and showing them the beauty of Christ and his worthiness to be worshipped, they present a guilt trip to the unbeliever. This is not to say that a non-believer does not need repentance. On the contrary! But repentance is not a one time event. Repentance is a path of life. The Marcion crew, along with the modern West has created an almost cultic aspect of the Gospel so as to present the Gospel as a magic formula rather than a spiritual journey.

Marcion is an example of how, yes, the Orthodox Church has had “schisms.” This is one reason why the Ecumenical Councils were formed, to call heresy what it is so that the Church can continue through the ages.

The Orthodox Church has remained since the beginning and has shed its heresy off. The Western churches have not remained in any sense. The historical Reformed churches, for instance, are completely liberal and heretical. The original Lutherans are heretically liberal, even in Germany, Luther’s home. The original Presbyterians are heretically liberal too. The original Presbyterian church in America is calling the Trinity by a different name of wind, fire and some type of other nonsense. Episcopal/Anglican, need I say more!  Many Baptists are dispensationalists (a modern theology that divorces the Old Testament even harsher than the Reformers did) and most all Baptists are “Sola Scriptura,” which causes major division against apostolic Christianity. Other Evangelicals such as Charismatics and Pentecostals would fall in to the Baptist camp, regading this Sola Scriptura model. Modern churches have not lasted long at all. Some break off and attempt to claim to be the original, but they too fragment and divide over ethics and other ridiculous doctrines that have evolved from the legal aspects of Marcion and Anselm.

The strange things is that the modern churches do not see the truth of Orthodoxy as they split. They continue to return to their vomit as the prophet Isaiah puts it. They divide on a topic and then camp on that topic, but after it has been split in two!

Unlike the West, the East has retained its blessings that the Lord first granted them. They still retain the very power that God granted; the power of the Holy Spirit to take dominion across the earth, through the presence of the Church, which has been dominating the East and is continuing to grow in the West. The Western Church has not done this. Its establishments are dying and the so-called conservatives that are claiming to be the original will never gain ground since they never really had it to begin with. Their buildings, their traditions, their very authority has been crushed. They have been reinvented by the modern Evangelical.

What about Rome? Rome is the original Western fragmentation of the Church, but they took enough congregations with them in the Great Schism to continue to spiritually prosper and take dominion…Until the mid 20thcentury, that is. Vatican II is killing Roman Catholicism with its liberal tendencies to include Islam in the covenant and to refuse to discipline heretical and perverted leaders. But Rome has a love for the Early Fathers and for the Eastern Orthodox Church. Did you know that Rome ONLY allows Eastern Orthodox to receive communion at their churches? They do this because they know the history of the Church. Many of them want to reconcile with the East but are afraid to give up much of what the West has worked for over the past few centuries. They fought Islam, they fought the Reformers (Protestants) but they are now running out of weapons. Perhaps if they had only sent forth martyrs rather than soldiers they would not be so exhausted today. Perhaps if they would have kept the sword closer to their side then to their head they would have been able to last. But this is what Anselm has given them: a Gospel of division, one that does not know its way, one that does not know the Law of Christ but the “Law of the Old” and passive “Grace of the New.”  I’m afraid the Gospel does not survive with this false dichotomy of Marcion. The Gospel is the Law of Christ, the obedience of the Spirit which was given to the Church, the body of Christ. Become a part of the body and become a part of what Christ has left us to preserve through worship, adoration, healing and dominion.