The Church


Christian Unity and Orthodoxy

by Mark J. Bonocore


Throughout my dealings with our Protestant brothers and sisters, I have often pointed out how Protestantism is heterodox -- that it is hopelessly disunified, divided into literally thousands of contradictory sects -- all with the same Bible, but all interpreting it differently. In response to this, I often get the Evangelical Protestant response:

"But we (i.e., Protestants) all agree on the fundamentals."

And, in this, "the fundamentals" are inevitably described as the common belief that Jesus is Lord and Savior and that we are saved by faith in Him, etc.

Yet, is that enough? Is that all that is required to be an orthodox Christian? Is that all the Apostles required? Well, not according to the Scriptures.

For example, in Scripture, we have several verses referring to the "unity of mind" within the early Church:

Acts 4:32: "The community of believers was of one heart and one mind ..."

1 Corinth 1:10: "I urge you, brothers, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose."

Philippians 1:27: "...that you are standing firm in one Spirit, with one mind struggling together for the faith of the Gospel, not intimidated in any way by your opponents."

Philippians 2:2: "...complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking of one thing."

1 Peter 3:8: "Finally, all of you, be of one mind ..."

This last verse (1 Peter 3:8) is most significant when it comes to orthodoxy, since as 1 Peter 1:1 shows us the Apostle is not writing to merely one city-church, but to a great many city-churches in a total of five separated provinces of the Roman Empire! Therefore, Peter is indeed speaking in a Catholic (i.e., universal) sense.

Now, what do these verses mean by "one mind"? Well, an Evangelical will no doubt claim that it refers to the "fundamentals," as defined above. However, Scripture tells us a different tale.

Case in point: The Nicolatians.

Revelation 2:6 and 2:15-16 both condemn this heretical Asian sect, which was centered at Ephesus.

Rev. 2:6: "But you have this in your favor: you hate the works of the Nicolatians, which I also hate." (note: This is Jesus speaking)

Rev. 2:15-16: "Likewise, you also have some people who hold to the teachings of the Nicolatians. Therefore, repent. Otherwise, I will come to you quickly and wage war against them with the sword of my mouth (i.e., the Word of God)."

So, from these verses, it is clear to see that the Nicolatians are NOT orthodox Christians. Rather, they are clearly depicted as heretics. But, why? Did the Nicolatians deny the "fundamentals" which the Evangelicals refer to? Well, let's take a look at what the Nicolatians really denied.

In the words of the Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea (drawing on St. Clement of Alexandria), here's "the scoop" on the Nicolatians:

"At this time the so-called sect of the Nicolaitans made its appearance and lasted for a very short time. Mention is made of it in the Apocalypse of John. They boasted that the author of their sect was Nicolaus (i.e., Nicholas of Antioch), one of the deacons who, with Stephen, were appointed by the Apostles for the purpose of ministering to the poor (Acts 6:5). Clement of Alexandria, in the third book of his Stromata (c. 190 A.D. ), relates the following things concerning him: 'They say that he had a beautiful wife, and after the Ascension of the Saviour, being accused by the Apostles of jealousy, he led her into their midst and gave permission to any one that wished to marry her. For they say that this was in accord with that saying of his, that one ought to 'abuse the flesh.' And those that have followed his heresy, imitating blindly and foolishly that which was done and said, commit fornication without shame. But I understand that Nicolaus had to do with no other woman than her to whom he was married, and that, so far as his children are concerned, his daughters continued in a state of virginity until old age, and his son remained undefiled. If this is so, when he brought his wife, whom he jealously loved, into the midst of the Apostles, he was evidently renouncing his passion; and when he used the expression, 'to abuse the flesh,' he was inculcating self-control in the face of those pleasures that are eagerly pursued. For I suppose that, in accordance with the command of the Saviour, he did not wish to serve two masters, pleasure and the Lord. But they say that [The Apostle] Matthias (Acts 1:26) also taught in the same manner that we ought to 'fight against' and 'abuse the flesh,' and not give way to it for the sake of pleasure, but strengthen the soul by faith and knowledge.' So much concerning those who then attempted to pervert the truth, but in less time than it has taken to tell, it became entirely extinct." (Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia Ecclesia, Book III, Chapter 29).

Therefore, the Nicolatians were, at first, an extremist sect which promoted asceticism and denied all earthly pleasures (including marriage), so as to "fight against the flesh." And, now that we know this, it becomes very clear who St. Paul is talking about in 1 Tim 4:1-5. Here, remember, Paul is writing to Timothy who is stationed at Ephesus (in Asia) -- the same city-church referred to in Revelation 2:6. And St. Paul writes:

"Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will turn away from the Faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic instructions through the hypocrisy of liars with branded consciences. They forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For, everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving, because it is made holy by the invocation of God in prayer."

So, Paul is clearly talking about the Nicolatians (or at least some early Gnostic sect) here. And he backs this up by telling Timothy (in the very next verse: 1 Tim 4:6):

"If you will give these instructions to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished on the words of faith and of the sound teaching you have followed."

So, to be a Nicolatian was not to be an orthodox Christian. Because the Nicolatians denied marriage and earthly pleasures, they were "unsound," and had "turned away from the faith," being deceived by "demons." Paul clearly says this above.

Therefore, even though the Nicolatians never denied the "fundamentals," as invoked by modern Evangelicals, they were still judged to be heretics by the standards of the Apostles. Even though they still accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they were not of "one mind" with the rest of the Church.

And so, by Apostolic standards, as presented in SCRIPTURE, the Protestant world is heterodox and mutually heretical. They are not "of one heart and one mind," as Scripture says the Church must be. They do not follow the principal set down by St. Paul in Ephesians 4:1-6:

"I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to PRESERVE UNITY of the Spirit through the bond of peace: ONE Body and ONE Spirit, as you were also called to the ONE hope of your call; ONE Lord, ONE Faith, ONE Baptism; ONE God and Father of all, Who is over all and through all and in all."

Amen!

Mark Bonocore
The Catholic Legate
March 3, 2004