12 October 2011

The Foundation of Christianity from Orthodox Apologetic Theology by Ivan M. Andreyev

Old Testament religion, notwithstanding its exceptional superiority over all natural religions and in view of its clearly divine character, was nonetheless only a preparation for the religion of Christianity. Old Testament religion was foreordained, not for the whole world, but only for the people of Israel selected by God, for which reason many of the legislative and ritualistic decrees bore only a local, national character. The people of Israel were elected in order to give the world from amongst them a series of prophets and teachers and, through them, to prepare the whole world for the reception of the New Testament.

All the dogmatic and ethical teachings of the Old Testament, notwithstanding their loftiness, were not complete, not wholly clear, and, in themselves, represented only steps to the higher Revelation. The Old Testament prophets profoundly understood this and fixed their gaze on the future religion of the New Testament. For example, the Prophet Jeremiah says: I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah (Jer. 31:31). This new covenant is Christianity, which, without any basis, is denied by modern Judaism.

Christianity possesses an amplitude of proofs of its truth and divinity. These proofs are so numerous and diverse that they can satisfy the questions of the most dissimilar habit of mind and character as we see in the history of Christianity. Besides general proofs, suitable for all eras, Christianity contains many particular proofs suitable for definite periods. Any epoch can find exceptionally convincing proofs of the truth of Christianity for itself.

The most important and most interesting question is the one of the origin of Christianity. The question is summarized as follows: Is the appearance of Christianity in the world natural or supernatural?

The naturalistic (rationalistic) school of investigators comes to the conclusion that Christianity was wholly conditioned by all proceeding history and was the natural product of the primitive world. From the point of view of this school, Christianity is totally and completely explained by a combination of naturalistic, historical reasons. It made its appearance as a regular historical synthesis of struggle and completion (logical) of two elements: Judaism and paganism. Such is the opinion of the so-called New Tubingen (negatively critical) School of Baur and Strauss.

But with this abstract reasoning and assertion, the Orthodox Church can in no wise agree. On the contrary, for the Orthodox Church, the supernatural, divine origin of Christianity is completely indubitable.

For this assertion there are very well-grounded proofs. First of all, we are led to this by an objective examination of historical circumstances preceding and accompanying the appearance of Christianity. Christianity appeared as a long-awaited "fulfillment of time." Before the time of the Nativity of Christ, an expectation reigned in the East of a great change in the world, during which the central and initial point of this change, according to the unanimous evidence of such notable world historians of antiquity — such as Josephius Flavius, Tacitus, and Suetonius — was designated as Judea! (For example: the coming of the Magi from the East to salute the new-born Savior at the same time that there was a special sign in the heavens, the appearance of a particular star). Even in far-off China, during the period before the Nativity of Christ, the coming of a "great holy one" was awaited, for it was foretold in antiquity by Chinese sages. The era preceding the Nativity can be characterized as a trepidation in the general expectation of an upheaval, combined with the appearance of a particular personality.

This was reflected, too, in classical literature; for example, the fourth eclogue of the Roman poet Virgil, in which is mentioned the expected birth of a miraculous child who will bring with him the golden age. (For which Dante in his Divine Comedy represents Virgil as the guide of the author).

Especially clear, alarming, and definite was the expectation of the Messiah amid the people of Israel, chiefly reflected in the works of the prophets. It should be noted that, in general, the expectation of the Messiah was the very soul of Old Testament religion. (For example, "the seed of the woman" which was to destroy the power of evil, in Genesis 3:15; the prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel, Malachi, Haggai, and others). It was accurately established in Old Testament religion that the Redeemer would come 1) during the period of the existence of the Judean kingdom 2) preceding the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, and 3) after the appearance of a great prophet (the Forerunner). The place — Bethlehem; and the time — after seventy year periods; and the name — Christ or the Savior, were all known.

But the most convincing proof — not to be doubted — of the divinity of the origin of Christianity is the personality and character of its Founder. The foundation of Christianity.

Old Testament religion, notwithstanding its exceptional superiority over all natural religions and in view of its clearly divine character, was nonetheless only a preparation for the religion of Christianity. Old Testament religion was foreordained, not for the whole world, but only for the people of Israel selected by God, for which reason many of the legislative and ritualistic decrees bore only a local, national character. The people of Israel were elected in order to give the world from amongst them a series of prophets and teachers and, through them, to prepare the whole world for the reception of the New Testament.

All the dogmatic and ethical teachings of the Old Testament, notwithstanding their loftiness, were not complete, not wholly clear, and, in themselves, represented only steps to the higher Revelation. The Old Testament prophets profoundly understood this and fixed their gaze on the future religion of the New Testament. For example, the Prophet Jeremiah says: I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah (Jer. 31:31). This new covenant is Christianity, which, without any basis, is denied by modern Judaism.

Christianity possesses an amplitude of proofs of its truth and divinity. These proofs are so numerous and diverse that they can satisfy the questions of the most dissimilar habit of mind and character as we see in the history of Christianity. Besides general proofs, suitable for all eras, Christianity contains many particular proofs suitable for definite periods. Any epoch can find exceptionally convincing proofs of the truth of Christianity for itself.

The most important and most interesting question is the one of the origin of Christianity. The question is summarized as follows: Is the appearance of Christianity in the world natural or supernatural?

The naturalistic (rationalistic) school of investigators comes to the conclusion that Christianity was wholly conditioned by all proceeding history and was the natural product of the primitive world. From the point of view of this school, Christianity is totally and completely explained by a combination of naturalistic, historical reasons. It made its appearance as a regular historical synthesis of struggle and completion (logical) of two elements: Judaism and paganism. Such is the opinion of the so-called New Tubingen (negatively critical) School of Baur and Strauss.

But with this abstract reasoning and assertion, the Orthodox Church can in no wise agree. On the contrary, for the Orthodox Church, the supernatural, divine origin of Christianity is completely indubitable.

For this assertion there are very well-grounded proofs. First of all, we are led to this by an objective examination of historical circumstances preceding and accompanying the appearance of Christianity. Christianity appeared as a long-awaited "fulfillment of time." Before the time of the Nativity of Christ, an expectation reigned in the East of a great change in the world, during which the central and initial point of this change, according to the unanimous evidence of such notable world historians of antiquity — such as Josephius Flavius, Tacitus, and Suetonius — was designated as Judea! (For example: the coming of the Magi from the East to salute the new-born Savior at the same time that there was a special sign in the heavens, the appearance of a particular star). Even in far-off China, during the period before the Nativity of Christ, the coming of a "great holy one" was awaited, for it was foretold in antiquity by Chinese sages. The era preceding the Nativity can be characterized as a trepidation in the general expectation of an upheaval, combined with the appearance of a particular personality.

This was reflected, too, in classical literature; for example, the fourth eclogue of the Roman poet Virgil, in which is mentioned the expected birth of a miraculous child who will bring with him the golden age. (For which Dante in his Divine Comedy represents Virgil as the guide of the author).

Especially clear, alarming, and definite was the expectation of the Messiah amid the people of Israel, chiefly reflected in the works of the prophets. It should be noted that, in general, the expectation of the Messiah was the very soul of Old Testament religion. (For example, "the seed of the woman" which was to destroy the power of evil, in Genesis 3:15; the prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel, Malachi, Haggai, and others). It was accurately established in Old Testament religion that the Redeemer would come 1) during the period of the existence of the Judean kingdom 2) preceding the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, and 3) after the appearance of a great prophet (the Forerunner). The place — Bethlehem; and the time — after seventy year periods; and the name — Christ or the Savior, were all known.

But the most convincing proof — not to be doubted — of the divinity of the origin of Christianity is the personality and character of its Founder.

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