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    CHAPTER IV. THE SECRET OF THE GREAT APOSTASY

    IN spite of the infinite contrast repeatedly drawn by Inspiration in the Scriptures between Greek ignorance and Christian knowledge, Christianity had barely become rooted in the world before there were those amongst the Christians who began to incline to the world’s way, and to claim virtue for Greek ignorance. And this was the origin of the great apostasy.PBE 28.1

    The exaltation of worldly wisdom, which was but Greek ignorance, was the secret of the “falling away” from the truth of the gospel. And the divine warning against this thing was especially urged to the Ephesians. First, in the letter to the Ephesians, as follows: “This, then, is what I say unto you and urge upon you in the Lord’s name. Do not continue to live as the heathen are living in their perverseness. Owing to the ignorance existing among them and the hardening of their hearts, their powers of discernment are darkened, and they are cut off from the Life of God. For lost to all sense of shame, they have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, in order to practice every kind of impurity without restraint.PBE 28.2

    “But as for you, FAR DIFFERENT is the lesson that you learnt from the Christ—if, that is, you really listened to Him, and by living in union with Him were taught the Truth, as it is to be found in Jesus. For you learnt with regard to your former life that you must lay aside your old nature, which, owing to the passions fostered by Error, was in a corrupt state; and that you must undergo a mental and spiritual transformation, and once for all clothe yourselves with a new nature—one made to resemble God in the righteousness and holiness demanded by the Truth.” Ephesians 4:17-24.PBE 28.3

    And again, at that important meeting when, from Miletus, Paul “sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church,” in his address to them, he spoke thus: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” Acts 20:28-32.PBE 29.1

    This apostasy was the burden of the apostle’s warning, not only at Ephesus, but in other places. At Thessalonica, both in his preaching and in his letter to the Thessalonians, he dwelt much upon this. For concerning the day of the coming of the Lord in glory, having in his first letter written much of this, he wrote to them in his second letter thus: “As to the coming of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and our being gathered to meet Him, we beg you, Brothers, not lightly to let your minds become unsettled, nor yet to be alarmed by any so-called ‘inspired’ statement, or by any message, or by any letter, purporting to come from us, to the effect that the day of the Master is here. Do not let any one deceive you, try as they may. For come it will not, until after the Great Apostasy and the appearing of that Incarnation of Wickedness, who is born for destruction, and who opposes himself to every one that is spoken of as a God or as an object of worship, and so exalts himself above them that he seats himself in the Temple of God, and displays himself as actually being God!” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4. Then, after having thus stated what that apostasy would reveal, he appeals to the memory of the Thessalonians, thus: “Do you not recollect how, when I was with you, I used to speak to you of all this?”PBE 29.2

    Much more is said of this in the Scriptures, but there is no need to cite more of it here. This is sufficient to enable all to see how certainly the apostasy was connected with the bringing in of worldly ignorance, and the mingling of it with the knowledge of God. And it was only in proportion that worldly ignorance—science falsely so called—was brought in, that the apostasy grew. And when the apostasy gained the ascendancy, it was but the ascendancy, under the Christian name, of the original Pagan Greek philosophy and science—Greek ignorance—in the professed Christian Church.PBE 30.1

    Against this evil, the apostles preached, wrote, and warned, all their days. For they saw the enormous consequences that must result from the entertainment only of the small beginnings that were apparent, even in their day. Yet in less than fifty years after the death of the last of the apostles, this apostasy had become so prominent that there were schools of it conducted under the Christian name and passing for Christian schools. The leaders in this thing, the heads of these schools, made the so-called philosophy of the world their standard; and amongst the standard world’s philosophers they regarded Plato as “wiser than all the rest, and as especially remarkable for treating the Deity, the soul, and things remote from sense, so as to suit the Christian scheme.”—Mosheim.PBE 31.1

    This thing was readily adopted by large classes of would-be philosophers and their imitators, who thus could assume the credit of being Christians without any of the self-denial or the correction of the inner life that is essential to Christian experience. The same old heathen life could be maintained under the name and profession of Christianity. This evil made such progress that it was not long before “the estimation in which human learning should be held was a question upon which the Christians were about equally divided. Many recommended the study of philosophy and an acquaintance with the Greek and Roman literature; while others maintained that these were pernicious to the interests of genuine Christianity and the progress of true piety.PBE 31.2

    “The cause of letters and philosophy triumphed, however, by degrees; and those who wished well to them continued to gain ground, till at length the superiority was manifestly decided in their favor. This victory was principally due to the influence of Origen, who, having been early instructed in the new kind of Platonism already mentioned, blended it, though unhappily, with the purer and more sublime tenets of a celestial doctrine, and recommended it in the warmest manner to the youth who attended his public lessons. The fame of this philosopher increased daily among the Christians; and in proportion to his rising credit, his method of proposing and explaining the doctrines of Christianity gained authority, till it became almost universal.”—Id.PBE 32.1

    The position of Origen at that time may be estimated from the fact that to this day he is one of the chiefest of the Fathers of the church; and from the further fact that “from the days of Origen to those of Chrysostom [A. D. 220-400], there was not a single eminent commentator who did not borrow largely from the works of” Origen; and “he was the chief teacher of even the most orthodox of the Western Fathers.” “Innumerable expositors in this and the following centuries pursued the method of Origen, though with some diversity; nor could the few who pursued a better method make much head against them.”PBE 32.2

    But “this new species of philosophy, imprudently adopted by Origen and other Christians, did immense harm to Christianity. For it led the teachers of it to involve in philosophic obscurity many parts of our religion, which were in themselves plain, and easy to be understood; and to add to the precepts of the Saviour no few things of which not a word can be found in the Holy Scriptures.... It recommended to Christians various foolish and useless rites, suited only to nourish superstition, no small part of which we see religiously observed by many even to the present day. And finally, it alienated the minds of many in the following centuries from Christianity itself; and produced a heterogeneous species of religion, consisting of Christian and Platonic principles combined. And who is able to enumerate all the evils and injurious changes that arose from this new philosophy—or, if you please, from this attempt to reconcile true and false religions with each other?”—Mosheim.PBE 32.3

    The result of all this is expressed in the one word—“the Papacy,” as it has been, and as it is. Then occurred a curious though perfectly logical thing: In order to be “scientific,” the apostasy adopted that pagan science falsely so called. Then, when she had filled the world with this pagan ignorance as Christian knowledge, and true science in the simple reading of nature sought recognition, she anathematized, and prohibited, and persecuted it.PBE 33.1

    That philosophic trend, as already stated, found its spring in Plato. But when it is borne in mind that Plato was only the reporter and continuator of Socrates, who was the great Greek educator, the basis of whose system of education was only “a profound and consistent skepticism,” it is plainly seen that this system of the new Platonism which made the Papacy was nothing else than the system of Greek education swung in under the Christian name, and passed off as Christian knowledge when it was only Pagan ignorance.PBE 33.2

    And this is “how” it is that “we are to account for the supreme elevation of this man [Plato] in the intellectual history of our race.” This is “how it happens that the writings of Plato have preoccupied every school of learning, every lover of thought, every church, every poet,—making it impossible to think, on certain levels, except through him.” This is how it is that “he stands between the truth and every man’s mind, and has almost impressed language, and the primary forms of thought, with his name and seal.”—“Representative Men,“ by Ralph Waldo Emerson, page 46. And this is also how it is that “in the history of European thought and knowledge, down to the period of the revival of letters, the name of Aristotle was without a rival, supreme.... It even came to pass that, for a long period, all secular writings but those of Aristotle had dropped out of use in Europe.... All sought in Aristotle the basis of knowledge. Universities and grammar schools were founded in Aristotle.”—Encyclopedia Britannica, article “Aristotle.”PBE 34.1

    And this, in turn, is how it is that when Christianity was revived for modern times, in the great Reformation, when Luther began to preach Christianity, and to introduce Christian education anew into the world, he was compelled to meet, to renounce, and to denounce, Aristotle, and other teachers of “a deceitful-philosophy,” as follows:—PBE 34.2

    “Do not attach yourself to Aristotle, or to other teachers of a deceitful philosophy; but diligently read the Word of God.”PBE 35.1

    “He who says that a theologian who is not a logician is an heretic and an adventurer, maintains an adventurous and heretical proposition.PBE 35.2

    “There is no form of syllogism which accords with the things of God. 1[Page 35] The special point in this will be more clearly seen when it is understood that in the Greek system, logic was the test of truth: than which it would be impossible to make a greater mistake.PBE 35.3

    “In one word, Aristotle is to theology as darkness to light.”PBE 35.4

    “Aristotle, that blind heathen, has displaced Christ.”PBE 35.5

    And again, of education wholly: “I much fear the universities will become wide gates to hell, if due care is not taken to explain the Holy Scriptures and engrave it on the hearts of the students. My advice to every person is, not to place his child where the Scripture does not reign paramount. Every institution in which the studies carried on lead to a relaxed consideration of the Word of God must prove corrupting.”PBE 35.6

    And it was the double placing of the worldly ignorance of Greek philosophy and logic—Plato and Aristotle—above the divine knowledge of the Word of God, that, at the very beginning of this revival of Christianity for modern times, led Wycliffe to declare that “there is no subtlety in grammar, neither in logic, nor in any other science that can be named, but that it is found in a more excellent degree in the Scriptures.”PBE 35.7

    Such was the key-note of the Reformation. And though to the sincere Christian it is all so plain and true; yet after the death of Luther, when the apostasy of Protestantism had begun to come in, in less than one hundred years Aristotle was again given the chief place in the seats of learning, and the Greek system of education was continued; so that to-day it reigns supreme in the schools of both the Church and the State, even in professed Christian and Protestant lands.PBE 36.1

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