This online institute is designed to give a brief analysis and discussion of all scientific disciplines through the lens of a biblical world view. +++ SDG +++

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Lesson #93

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #93
            Previously we focused primarily on the first 1500 years of Christianity’s history. Now, we will proceed from there forward, focusing on the Lutheran perspective. We just celebrated the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses to the castle church in Wittenberg on October 31st, 1517. This is seen by most of the world as the beginning of the Reformation. The 95 Theses themselves were primarily concerned with the practice of selling indulgences; full-fledged Lutheran theology was “hammered out” much more thoroughly in the years that followed. From the time of 1517 and on, the Reformation can be covered from many historical angles, but I would like to track it through its clear confession of biblical truth as we believe, teach, and confess it today. Because of Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, these confessional documents were mass-produced and distributed, spreading the faith eventually all over the world.

            1529 is the next significant date. Luther wanted to produce a simple tool for parents to use to teach their children the faith. So, he produced The Large and Small Catechisms, which give the clearest and briefest explanations of what the 10 commandments, creeds, Lord’s Prayer, baptism, confession & absolution, and Lord’s Supper mean in the daily life of every Christian. In the same year Luther was brought before the diet (a royal legislative court) at Worms and on the 18th of April, refused to recant his writings with the famous “Here I Stand” speech. On the 25th of May (the next month), Luther was made an outlaw by that same court.

            Many would contend that June the 25th, 1530 is the date that should be celebrated as the birth of the Reformation, because this is when The Augsburg Confession was presented. In order to exclude the people, the little chapel of the episcopal palace was appointed in place of the spacious city hall where the meetings of the diet were held. Written copies in German and Latin were presented. The document was read before Emperor Charles V (initially against his wishes) and the electors of the Roman Empire from 3 to 5 o'clock in the afternoon. Christian Beyer, a Saxon chancellor, read it aloud in German quite loudly, so that the crowds in the courtyard could hear each word through the open windows. The originals no longer exist, but it was soon published and widely distributed.

            In 1531, The Apology to the Augsburg Confession was published. The Roman Catholic church refuted the Augsburg Confession, and the Apology was published to clarify and explain the misconceptions, misunderstandings, and misrepresentations contained in their response and asserted by many others who disagreed with the Augsburg confession.

            In 1537, Luther wrote The Smalcald Articles in preparation for an ecumenical council. When the council took place, however, the Lutherans were not allowed to make any presentations. Luther was very ill when he wrote it, and many refer to the document as his theological last will and testament.

            Philip Melancthon wrote The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope in 1540 at a conference of theologians and princes in Smalcald. It summarized the view of the papacy taught by Luther and was endorsed along with the Augsburg Confession and The Apology by all present.

            Due to doctrinal disagreement between Lutherans on a number of issues, the elector (a regional prince who votes for or “elects” the emperor) of Saxony assembled respected theologians to produce The Formula of Concord in 1577 to provide a common confession regarding the disputed issues.  

            In 1580, The Book of Concord (a collection of the aforementioned documents) was published for the first time in Dresden. This book is the confessional standard for all orthodox Lutheran church bodies today. LCMS pastors publicly commit to teach in accord with its confessions at their ordinations and installations. All LCMS congregations also have an unalterable article in their constitution that commits them to teach in accord with the Book of Concord’s confessions.

            We believe, teach, and confess that The Book of Concord is the clearest expression of biblical truth currently in existence. In 2006, CPH published a readers’ edition of The Book of Concord, which I recommend as a great historical and theological reference to have in your home library.

Lesson #92

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #92
            Dark ages, Middle ages, Renaissance, many western Christian historians define the general period from around 500 to around 1500 with these titles more specifically the fall of Rome’s western empire in 476 followed by the Dark ages which in some areas lasted until the 1300’s. The Middle ages begin when King Charlemagne of the Franks is crowned first Holy Roman Emperor of the West by Pope Leo III in 800, also known as the Western Christian Medieval period. The event that marks the end of this period is when the Last Crusader city (Acre) falls to the Mamelukes in 1291. The late middle ages or Renaissance begins with Dante’s writings know as the Divine Comedy written between 1307–1314. This period comes to a close with a number of key events such as the discovery of the Americas by the west in 1492 by Christopher Columbus and the beginning of the Reformation in 1517. Some carry the time of the renaissance to 1700.

            We spent the last two sessions on the crusades which take place right in the middle of this 1000-year period. Now let’s take a little time on this window to see some of the major world history events taking place primarily in the western Christian World.

            Dark Ages: After the fall of Rome as is the case in any fall of a society decades or even centuries of chaos, disease and war tend to leave less written history than the times before and after ergo the title dark ages.  The first big blow to civilization was the devastation of some 40% of Europe’s population due to a plague in 541 & 542.  Another reason it is often called the dark ages is various Germanic peoples conquered the former Roman Empire in the West (including Europe and North Africa), shoving aside ancient Roman traditions in favor of their own. The negative view of the so-called “Dark Ages” became popular largely because most of the written records of the time (including St. Jerome and St. Patrick in the fifth century, Gregory of Tours in the sixth and Bede in the eighth) had a strong Rome-centric bias. A good read on the History Channels website is “6 Reasons the Dark Ages Weren’t So Dark”

            The Middle Ages: AKA Early Medieval period in the Christian west circa 800-1300. As the church climbed in the leadership vacuum of in the west during the dark ages this led to quite a disagreement on who the actual pope was. The Western Schism or Papal Schism as it is called was a split within the Catholic Church which lasted from 1378 to 1417. Three men simultaneously claimed to be the true pope. Driven by politics rather than any theological disagreement, one in southern France and two in Rome.  the schism was ended by the Council of Constance (1414–1418). For a good read on this I suggest Christianity Today’s article titled “1378 The Great Papal Schism”. As we call these ages Dark and middle I like to point out again that many great advances came to pass in the human condition, it is just that as progressive moderns we often look down our noses at the past not realizing that just because they lacked some of our technologies and suffered plagues, war and stife, does not mean they were not as intelligent if not more intelligent than we are today.

            Renaissance:  or Late Medieval period in the Christian west circa 1300-1700. Is regarded by most historians as the cultural bridge between the Middle Ages and modern history. It started as a cultural movement Florence Italy in the Late Medieval period and later spread to the rest of Europe, marking the beginning of the Early Modern Age. It was a time when all forms of art, architecture, Humanism, Science, Music, Religion began grow and flourish in many cultures. Leading to the age of enlightenment beginning in the 1600’s. but we will save the enlightenment for another lesson. I thing we will kick things off next month with the Reformation in 1517.

Till then
In Christ Pastor Portier  

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

#91 Crusades part 2

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #91
The source of the following information is if you go to this website you will also see some nice art work for each crusade. . Copyright © 2012-2016 - 

            Fifth Crusade (1217 - 1221) Despite the infamous failure of the Fourth Crusade, the Popes continued to preach for military expeditions to the Holy Land. Pope Innocent’s successor Honorius III managed to convince Andrew II of Hungary and Leopold VI, Duke of Austria to take up the cross and lead the expedition. However, they chose to start their campaign in Egypt. In 1219, they captured the port of Damietta and were offered all the holy cities in return for withdrawing from Egypt. Encouraged by the success, the crusaders refused which proved to be a mistake. The march to Cairo failed and the crusaders were forced to return home without capturing either Egypt or the holy cities.

            Sixth Crusade (1228 - 1229) The Sixth Crusade was a major success for the crusaders despite the fact that it saw little action. At the same time, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederic II who led the campaign was at the time under excommunication. Shortly after arriving to the Holy Land, Frederick II entered into negotiations with the Egyptian sultan who agreed to cease Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem and other holy cities to the Christians.

            Seventh Crusade (1248 - 1254) The Seventh Crusade was launched by the French king Louis IX who decided to recapture the Holy Land by conquering Egypt first. Just like the leaders of the Fifth Crusade, Louis IX succeeded to capture Damietta but he failed to capture Cairo. In addition, he was taken captive while trying to return to the port of Damietta. A ransom was paid and the French king was released. But as he prepared for a campaign to the Holy Land, he received a letter that his mother died and returned to France.

            Eighth Crusade (1270) In 1270, the French king Louis IX decided to give it another try and launched his second crusade. But rather than the Holy Land or Egypt, this time he chose to start his campaign in Tunis. However, disease broke out among the troops shortly after landing and the French king who got ill himself died shortly thereafter. His brother Charles of Anjou who arrived one day before his death immediately entered into negotiations with the Caliph of Tunis to ensure safe departure of the crusader army.

            Ninth Crusade (1271 - 1272) The last in the series of military expeditions that sought to recapture the Holy Land from the Muslims was launched by Prince Edward of England who also took part of the Eight Crusade. After the French king’s death and the departure of the French crusaders, the English prince decided to launch his own expedition. In 1271, he landed in Acre and tried to win support for his cause but lack of interest and news from England about his father’s illness prompted him to return home. With Prince Edward’s departure, the attempts of the Christian Europe to capture the Holy Land finally came to an end.

            There were also People's and Children's Crusades; In 1096 a People’s army, consisting mainly of unexperienced and poorly equipped peasants preceded the First Crusade, however, didn’t stand a chance against the Muslim forces and was destroyed before the main army arrived to the Middle East. In the early 12th century, several thousand children set out to the Holy Land. The idea was that the knightly army failed to capture Jerusalem and other holy places due to impurity and that children would succeed with their innocence. Many, however, perished from disease and hunger before reaching the Italian ports, while others were sold into slavery. Only a few managed to return home.

            This is a very short summary of some 200 years of history associated with the church that has a very bad reputation these days. But what missing from the narrative is the fact that many Christians were misguided into sacrificing much in many cases their lives for at best dubious and mixed motives of church and political leaders. This in no way diminishes the dedication and service of the saints of that era.

Till next time
In Christ Pastor Portier 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Lesson # 90 Crusades Part 1

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #90
The source of the following information is if you go to this website you will also see some nice art work for each crusade. Copyright © 2012-2016 - 

            The Crusades were a series of 9 military expeditions which sought to recapture Jerusalem and other places sacred to Christianity from the Muslims. They were formally launched by Pope Urban II in the late 11th century to help the Byzantine Empire against the Seljuk Turks. Soon, however, the Holy Land became the primary objective of the crusaders, many of which weren't led only by noble motives but economic, political and social as well. Listed below are 9 crusades (will probubly take two articles)  to the Holy Land between the 11th and 13th centuries.

            First Crusade (1096 - 1099)
            The First Crusade was launched after Pope Urban’s call to help the fellow Eastern Christians against the Muslims. Conquered lands supposed to be returned to the Byzantine Empire but after capturing Jerusalem in 1099, the leaders of the crusade divided the territories among themselves. They created the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Principality of Antioch, County of Tripoli and County of Edessa and established themselves as the rulers of the newly formed crusader states in the Holy Land.
            Second Crusade (1147 - 1149)
            The second military expedition to the Holy Land was called for by the Church to recapture the County of Edessa that fell to the Muslims in 1144. Two kings, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany, decided to lead the crusade. One year later, they laid siege to Damascus but after failing to capture the city, the German king decided he had enough and left the Holy Land. His French counterpart soon followed his example and the Second Crusade came to an end, failing to achieve anything.

            Third Crusade (1189 - 1192)
            Also known as the Kings’ Crusade because it was participated by as many as three European kings, the Third Crusade was launched after the fall of Jerusalem to the Muslim leader Saladin in 1187. However, Frederick I (Barbarossa) of Germany died on the way to the Holy Land, while Philip II soon departed for France due to conflicts with Richard I of England. The latter won several notable battles but failed to recapture Jerusalem. Before returning to Europe, however, the English king managed to negotiate a free access to Jerusalem for Christian pilgrims.

            Fourth Crusade (1202 - 1204)
            Unable to cope with the loss of Jerusalem, Pope Innocent III energetically preached for crusade. He succeeded to raise an army of crusaders who, however, never made it to the Holy Land. On their way to Jerusalem, they captured the Adriatic city of Zara for Venice and shortly thereafter got involved in the struggle for the Byzantine throne. Instead of recapturing Jerusalem as the Pope hoped, the Fourth Crusade ended with the Sack of Constantinople and formation of the short-lived Latin Empire on the conquered Byzantine territories.

            That’s all for this month we will wrap things up in the next lesson

Till then in Christ Pastor Portier

Saturday, July 8, 2017

SMBI #89 The Great Schism

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #89
            Before we address the Crusades, there was a window of relative calm in Church history between 787 (when the last official worldwide Christian council met) and The Great Schism between east and west in 1054.  By calm, I do not mean peaceful; I mean relatively uneventful from a church perspective. During this time, there was much fluctuation in borders as fiefdoms rose and fell, expanded and retreated within what was once the Roman Empire in the west and what remained of it in the east. For example, Roman Britain went through many changes; first the Anglo-Saxon invasion, then Christianization followed by the Viking challenge and the rise of Wessex. For a short time, the kingdom was a unified England, then there was a Danish and Norman conquest, followed by Plantagenet reign and the Magna Carta in 1215. So, while quite a bit happened as borders and cultures of the west came to be as we know them today, the church was generally unified on a world scale; there was one Holy Catholic Church.

            So, let’s talk briefly about the Schism, or split, between eastern and western Christianity and briefly summarize the major doctrinal differences between eastern Christianity (which from the point of the split is called Orthodoxy, Greek for straight or right practice) and Catholicism of the west (which is called Roman). First, as I mentioned two months ago, the synod of Toledo in Spain officially accepted the “filioque” “and the Son” phrase in the Nicaean creed in 589. This was the first seed of major disagreement between east and west. Then in 1054, Rome claimed papal supremacy and the split became the state between east and west. This is often referred to as the “Great Schism”. Other points of disagreement between east and west that have developed over the years are as follows:

                                    Doctrine                                  East                 West
                                    Marriage of clergy                  yes                   no
                                    Purgatory                                no                    yes
                                    Papal infallibility                   no                    yes
                                    Immaculate conception          no                    yes

            While things continued to get worse between eastern and western Christianity, the straw that broke the veritable camel’s back (in essence insuring that east and west would no longer be in dialogue or even attempt to in some way reconcile their differences) was the sack of Constantinople. In essence, the capitol of eastern Christianity in 1204 was Constantinople, and the 4th crusade conquered and pillaged the city of all its wealth and holy relics. While the east and west acknowledge each other as creedal Christians they have functioned separately for the most part for most of the last 1000 years.

            Now that we have a brief sketch of the religious and cultural context in which the crusades existed we can begin with an introduction next month as we kick off with the first crusade in 1095.

Till next month
In Christ Pastor Portier


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Islam #88

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #88

            It would be helpful at this point in our walk-through world History to look at a brief summary of the history of Islam. Islam is the religion of Muslims; the word means follower of Islam. Currently close to 22% of the world’s population are Muslims around 1.6 billion people claim to follow Islam.

            Muhammad is believed to have been born in 570 and was orphaned at the age of 5 he was raised by his grandfather for a few years then an uncle. He then became a merchant, married a wealthy widow and had about 6 children. It was in 610 that he claims to have had his vison from the angel Gabriel after some time of fasting and meditation in a cave outside the town of Mecca. From 613 to 622 he developed a small group of followers but they were not received well in Mecca so they moved to Yatrib later called Medina. For the next few years his power and influence grew to the point that the people of Mecca noticed. This led to a few battles which led to a treaty that the Meccans broke in a year but they were later conquered in a bloodless coup. In a few years, Mohammad and the Muslims had united most of the Arabian Peninsula.

            Unlike most other world religions which at some level separate religious and civil matters, causing the church and the state to struggle for power and influence throughout history. From the beginning this relatively young 1400 year old religion was both a religious and a civil system. This can be seen in what is called Sharia law which is the legal system that developed within Islam. This can also be seen in tracking the history of Muslim kingdoms and empires known as Caliphates. The first began after Mohammad’s death in 632 the  Rashidun Caliphate (632-661), The Umayyad Caliphate (661-750), the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258) The Fatimid Caliphate (909-1171), The Ayyubid dynasty (1171-1260), The Mamluk Caliphate (1250–1517), The Ottoman Caliphate (1299 –1923). The maxim extent of these empires covered north Africa, most of Spain, as far east as India and north into Turkey and Pakistan. Many western lands were also controlled on and off by the Muslim kingdoms. The reason there are overlapping dates is because these Caliphates, Kingdoms and dynasties ruled different areas over different times and often were at odds with each other. The only thing they always seem to  unite around and work together in were struggles against the west. We see this play out in the 9 crusades which we will discuss in another lesson.

            Unlike divisions between Christians, Jews and the things that separate most of the eastern mystic religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, the things that separate Muslim groups is not mainly doctrinal. The doctrine of most Muslims is very much the same, 5 pillars;  1. Declaration of Faith 2. Obligatory Prayer 3. Compulsory Alms, 2.5% 4. Fasting in the month of Ramadan 5. Pilgrimage to Mecca. No pork, and many of the cultural norms are the same as well. There are some doctrinal differences but none are sufficient to cause any real division. 

What separates these groups is Central Authority….who is in charge? The 1.6 billion Muslims fall into 3 groups 1. Sunni 1.2 billion 85-90% of all Muslims for them the authority is with the Caliphate seen as a successor to the prophet. This position has been empty sense 1920 until ISIS claimed to fill it and started trying to conquer the world. 2. Shia 150 to 200 Million 10-12% of Muslims for them authority is with the Imamate; a religious body headed by the Imam – He must be a descendant of Mohammad, chosen by God and sinless. The remaining 5 to 8% are 3. Ibadi Primarily in Oman Iraq started in the 8th century and teaches that Islam needs no earthly leader. There are other strains of Islam but most function within the three above or are very small sects relatively speaking; Sufism, Quranism, Ahmadiyya (founded in British India in the late 1800’s) Black Muslim movements such as the Nation of Islam run by Louis Farrakhan sense 1981 and there are even Muslims who identify as Nondenominational.                              

Till next month

In Christ Pastor Portier  

Saturday, May 13, 2017

#87 The 7 Ecumenical Councils

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #87
       The word ‘ecumenical’ means worldwide or general in extent, influence, or application.  So, as we reference the 7 Ecumenical Councils from 325 to 787, what is an Ecumenical Church council?  A Church Ecumenical council is a council with representation from the whole body of churches across the world. If you remember, until the east and west split on a few theological issues, there was only one universal Catholic (Christian) church. Let’s get to the councils, first these are not meetings of a few church leaders for a few days to do a ‘little church business’.  Business was not really done democratically at that time.  Councils were often preceded by much conversation and multiple small councils about some issue of doctrine or practice that needed attention. The Ecumenical council would then come together and hash out what God’s word had to say on the topic and seek to communicate clearly to the universal church what the biblical position of the church was on the topic or topics. These gatherings could take weeks or months and sometimes even years. So take out the idea of quorums and votes and think of lots of bishops, pastors and other church leaders coming together in order to reach consensus on issues of faith. In order to get all seven into this article I will limit commentary to Dates, Locations and Major Topics addressed.

-        The Council at Nicaea 325, The remains of ancient Nicaea are located in modern day Iznic in North western Turkey. The major issue they dealt with was Arianism, the belief that Jesus is a created being with a beginning. This leads to the development of the Nicaean creed minus the “and the Son” phrase which begins to appear in Western practice around 410.
-        The Council at Constantinople I 381, The current location is called Istanbul. Arianism is again condemned and so is a heresy called Apollinarism.
-        The Council at Ephesus Jun – Aug of 431, The current location is still called Ephesus just south of Izmir western Turkey. Pelagianism and Nestorianism are condemned.
-        The Council at Chalcedon Oct 8-31 of 451, Was the ancient town of Bithynia and is now a district in the city of Istanbul. Monothelitism is condemned.
-        The Council at Constantinople II May – Jul of  553, From this point forward councils become a bit more political and signs of division between east and west are starting to emerge. This is further solidified when the synod of Toledo in Spain officially accepts the “filioque” “and the Son” phrase in the Nicaean creed in 589. This also affirmed the teaching that Mary can be rightly called “Theotokos” (Greek for Mother of God).
-        The Council at Constantinople III Nov 7 of 680 to Sep 16 of 681, Luther had issues with many of the conclusions of the last three councils.
-        The Council at Nicaea II 787, The Iconoclastic controversy was the main doctrinal issue addressed by this council.

These are the seven historic councils accepted but most of modern trinitarian Christianity. All of the conclusions and decisions made by these councils are not fully recognized by all Christians however most of world Christianity does hold that the conclusions of the first four councils are in keeping with scripture.

The first Crusade was in 1096 -1097 but before we discuss the Crusades we will need to address a brief history of Islam and have a brief discussion of the division between Eastern and Western Christianity.

Till next month
In Christ Pastor Portier 


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Post Nicene Fathers SMBI # 86

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #86

            As I mentioned last month, throughout history the church has taken the best works of all the church fathers and used them to better teach and project the faith into the world around them.  Much of what they wrote still guides us today. Over time the church continues to add the best of each past Christian generation to its vast written and musical data base to teach the faith in worship, word and sacrament in multiple cultures and languages.           

            As we enter a discussion on the Post Nicene Fathers, it would be helpful to have a little information on the relationship between the Eastern and Western parts of civilization and the church at the time. There were multiple kingdoms because the Roman empire was divided from 286 to 337 and again for the last time in 364. The western half of the Roman empire collapsed in 476, while the Eastern half, also known as the Byzantine empire, didn’t fall until 1453. Primarily due to the geography of the kingdoms, the church fathers of the time  are called East and West. The Christian church functioned as one Holy Catholic (universal Christian) Apostolic Church in those multiple kingdoms at first, but during the time of the seven Ecumenical councils, 325 to 787, there started to be small differences in how the faith was believed and taught and confessed in the regions. This became even more pronounced with the Post Nicene Fathers, discussed here in two groups, the East and the West.

John Chrysostom (374-407) made bishop of Constantinople in 398, Gregory of Nazianzus (330-390) Gregory of Nyssa (330-394) & his brother Basil (329-379). The two Gregory’s were instrumental in clarifying Trinitarian doctrine and Basil (with a short ‘a’ sound not a long one like the herb) wrote one of the first sets of monastic rules in 370. Cyril of Alexandria (376-444) helped the church come to grips with a number of Christological controversies.

Ambrose (340-397) Bishop of Milan, wrote “Savior of the Nations Come” a favorite Advent hymn (LSB 332). Ambrose is also a great example of speaking the truth to power; he stood with his congregation, barricaded in the church at Milan, rather than hand it over to the emperor. He also excommunicated Emperor Theodosius (379-395) for a massacre of 7000 people in Thessalonica, readmitting him after he repented. Jerome (345-420) was the primary translator of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, known as the Vulgate (382-405) Agustine (354-430) Bishop of Hippo (Algeria) published “City of God” in 427. He is also gets credit for our current numbering system of the 10 commandments.

            There are many other early church fathers who also provided the church with a wealth of valuable writings and insights into the Christian faith. Some other key dates during the 4th and 5th centuries are: 311 the Edict of Milan recognizes and tolerates Christianity; 330 Constantinople becomes the capital of the East; 367 in an Easter letter, Athanasius lists the 27 books of the New Testament Canon; 380 in the Edict of Thessalonica, Christianity becomes the state religion of the Roman Empire; 410 Alaric the Goth sacks Rome; and in 451 Attila the Hun attacks Italy. In the latter half of the 5th century the “Goths & Vandals” Germanic tribes of the north, have started expanding their territories to the south and that leads to the sack of Rome in 455 and the fall of the western empire in 476. The Vandals (the eastern Germanic tribes) began a persecution of Christians in 478.

            Next month we will spend some time discussing those 7 Ecumenical councils from 325 to 787.

Till next month Pastor Portier                         

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

SMBI #85 Early Church Fathers

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #85

            It has been a few months since we departed from our time line but we return. We are at around 180 AD. The first 400 years of Christianity show both growth and persecution. After centuries of strife and struggle eventually the Gospel message goes from being the faith of persecuted minorities to a faith that spans the Roman Empire and eventually becomes the faith of the emperor and all respectable citizens. That actually presents the church with a new and different set of problems.

            It may be helpful to cover early church history from the perspective of early church leaders called ‘Fathers’. For the sake of our discussion we will break the ‘Fathers’ into five groups and address each group separately, including notable historic facts associated with each of them or their group. This list is by no means exhaustive but instead is an overview.

Apostolic Fathers: called this because they learned directly from Jesus’ apostles. Polycarp (69-155) Bishop of Smyrna in Turkey and student of the apostle John. Ignatius (35-117) Bishop of Antioch. Clement (30-100) of Rome, said to have been consecrated by Saint Peter and listed as the 4th of Rome’s 266 Popes.

Early Apologist: Justin Martyr (100-165) Known for his theological writings, most of which are lost but his works titled “First Apology”, Second Apology”, “Dialogue with trypho” and fragments of the work “On the Resurrection” are available to this day. Tertullian (155-240) 31 of his works are still available today and cover many areas of the Christian faith.

The following were church fathers who, through their leadership and writings, contributed to the organizing and clarifying of what the universal Christian church believed, taught and practiced in accord with God’s word.    

Early Fathers Origen (185-254), Sextus Julius Africanis (160-240) known as the father of Christian chorography, Irenaeus (130-202) Bishop of Lyons.

Nicene Fathers Called that because they lived during the council of Nicea (325) the council in which the church adopted the Nicene Creed.  Athanasius (296-373) Bishop of Alexandra Egypt, the man for whom the Athanasian Creed (later in the 4th or 5th century) is named because of his stand against the Arian heresy (which, in its modern form, is Jehovah Witnesses), Eusebius (263-339) a bishop and historian, wrote his famous church history in 303.  Lactantius (c240-c325) Christian writer who became an advisor to Emperor Constantine.   Hilary (c291-c371) Bishop of Poitiers and a Doctor of the Church. He was sometimes referred to as the "Hammer of the Arians".

            Throughout history the church took the best works of all these Fathers and used them to better teach and project the faith into the world around them, and much of what they wrote we still us to guide us today. 

            Some other key events during this window of time would be the Edict of Tolerance for Christians in 260 by Emperor Valerian. Arius and the Arian heresy condemned at Alexandria in 318, debated and finalized at the Council of Nicea in 325. We will look at group five, the Post Nicene Fathers, in our next lesson.  

Till next month Pastor Portier                         

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

SMBI #84

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #84
Let’s continue our discussion of how we got the bible this month. Some early historical witnesses and early church witnesses. Irenaeus of Lyons is a man studied under Polycarp who was martyred in 155 AD, and it is traditionally held that Polycarp was a student of the Apostle John. So, Irenaeus was only one generation from the original writers of Scripture.  This makes him a very reliable witness.  Irenaeus is one of the earliest and greatest defenders of Scripture’s divine inspiration.  In his writings from around 180 AD, he quoted over 1000 scripture passages from all but 5 books of the New Testament. Irenaeus called them “the Scriptures” given by the Holy Spirit.  Similar claims of divine inspiration can be cited in the 3rd century by the early church fathers, Clement and Origin of Alexandria.  They too cite Scripture as a fixed number of writings with divine authorship. Origin is the first to mention all 27 books of the NT in 240 AD. Let’s look at one more church father—Athanasius of Alexandria. He too cites 27 NT books in 367 AD, and he wrote the following words: “These are the fountains of salvation, that whoever thirsts, may be satisfied by the eloquence which is in them.  In them alone is set forth the doctrine of piety. Let no one add to them nor take anything from them.” You may think these witnesses are biased and they probably were, but their bias does not invalidate their witness.  Their credibility is not historically in question, so their witness is of great value.

            We also have the Jewish historian Josephus who is accepted world-wide as one of history’s earliest historians.  He refers to sacred scriptures divided into three parts: the five books of the Torah; thirteen books of the Nevi'im, and four other books of hymns and wisdom. Since there are 24 books in the current Jewish canon instead of the 22 mentioned by Josephus, some scholars have suggested that he considered Ruth part of Judges, and Lamentations part of Jeremiah. “The Jewish Canon has only 24 books because of the combination of books like Kings & Chronicles their 24 contain the same information as our 39.  So let’s see what he had to say about our Old Testament.  In about 90 AD, Josephus wrote the following words: “for we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another [as the Greeks have] but only twenty-two books, which contain all the records of all the past times, and which are justly believed to be divine.” 

Till next month Pastor Portier                         

SMBI #83

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #83

So let’s do a brief discussion of how we got what we today call the bible. Discussing what we know as the 66 books of the bible and how they came together in the first three centuries of Christianity. Much of this was covered way back in lessons 3 and 4 but it is appropriate to review that here as we addressed that over 7 years ago.

            First let’s look at the Old Testament (OT).  39 books written between 1446 BC to around 433 BC.  It constitutes the solid foundation upon which the New Testament stands, and points to Christ in its entirety.  All Hebrew scholarship is in agreement as to what constitutes the TANAK, The Torah or (Law); Genesis, through Deuteronomy, Neviim or (Prophets); Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the 12 minor prophets, The Kethubim (writings); Psalms Proverbs, Job, Ruth, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Ester, Daniel, Ezra & Nehemiah, Chronicles.  This Old Testament Canon has been accepted as the divine Word of God by His people for almost 2500 years.  And since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we have copies of OT text that range in age from 2100 to 2300 years old with the exception of the book of Esther the oldest copy being just over 1000 years old. 

            Trinitarian Christianity and all of biblical scholarship find full agreement on the 27 books that constitute the New Testament, written between 45 and 95 AD.  The earliest list is the Muratorian Canon from 150 AD listing 24 books.  Origen of Alexandria listed all 27 in 240 AD, and by 397 AD Eusebius, Athanasius, and the Council of Carthage had all listed the 27 books we call the New Testament.

            Now you might ask: Why did it take them so long, some 150 to 300 years to identify these 27 books?  Well, that would be a very good question and here are some very good answers.
            - Over half of the NT is letters that were spread all over the Roman Empire, The Gospels were also spread throughout the early church.  These obviously took time to be brought together and for their authorship to be verified.
            - The “technology” of the day was not conducive to large collections of books: scrolls which can only hold one or two books.  Scrolls were replaced by what is called a Codex or “books with pages” and these did not start being produced until the second and third centuries.
            - The first century Christians probably did not see the need for a collection of books because they thought Christ’s return would be very soon, but “soon” for us and “soon” for our eternal God are very different.
            - Heretical writings existed, like the Gnostic gospels, and other “pseudepigraphalbooks—spurious writings falsely attributed to biblical characters or times.  These texts were written between 200 BC--200 AD and were easily identified by the early church as fraudulent because of their clear contradiction to the rest of the canon.  But excluding these fraudulent works also took time.

            Now many say that centuries of copying to replace old worn-out text would introduce many errors.  Well, let’s look at all the errors introduced into the book of Isaiah between the Dead Sea Scroll copy (from about 100 BC) and the earliest copy we had available (before the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered) known as Codex Leningradensis (1000 AD).  The differences between these two texts over that 1100 year period, can be described as changes in the style that a particular letter is written, changes in the way words are spelled, changes in the way sentences are constructed, changes in prefixes or suffixes.  It seems that over time as the language changed, but God’s word grew to communicate the same truth. So, while grammar and spelling have changed, God’s word has not. 

Till next month In Christ Pastor Portier

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
(Est. 2009) Lesson #82

Last time we ended at around 180 AD and I said we would make our way up to around 300 AD. Discussing how what we know as the 66 books of the bible how they came together in the first three centuries of Christianity. However, one of your classmates asked a question about the iron age and I remember discussing that topic a few years back so for the sake of time and space we will come back to our time line next year and for now I will re-present to you lesson # 43 from march of 2013 in answer to that question.

To give a thorough treatment of history, we must have a brief discussion of prehistory.  I say brief because as a “young earth” creationist, I believe most, if not all, topics of discussion in the bulk of scientific study that would fall under the umbrella of prehistory to be incorrectly dated.  However, just because I disagree with most experts on the timing of prehistoric research, does not mean there is not a lot of valuable information to be drawn from that research. So, what we will do in this lesson is see how a young earth creationist can piece together all the great information in the prehistoric realm of study (what is popularly held to be a period from 3.5 million years ago to around 5000 BC when ancient recorded history began), and logically plug that information into the biblical timeline that starts around 4000 BC.  I would like to suggest that all that is called prehistory can fit logically into a timeline that starts around 4000 BC and ends around 1500 BC.  This proposal will seem ridiculous to some, but in prehistory, all timeline assertions are based for the most part on Carbon 14 dating and other assumptions.  I addressed these false assumptions in lessons #21 and #22.  To do this, we must first discuss the commonly held timeline for prehistory, and then discuss how that can be applied to a biblical timeline.

            Prehistory forms the popularly held three-age world view:  Stone age 3.5 million to 4500 BC, Bronze age 3750 BC to 300 BC, and Iron age 1300 BC to 400 AD.  You will notice some peculiar things about my summary of ages here. First, there are some major overlaps and second, this goes deep into the time of recorded history. This is because I have summarized the entire world’s progression through these ages.  Different regions of the world entered and exited these ages at different times.  What I have listed here is the earliest entry into an age followed by the latest exit from that age.  These ages are determined by when these regions progressed through these technologies (stone, bronze, iron) be it through conquest, commerce, or ingenuity. Prehistory also starts at different times in different places based on the development of written languages which is popularly held to be between 3500 BC and 2500 BC. Ancient history is typically defined as around 3300 BC to 600 AD. To finish things out, the Middle ages is popularly defined as 300 AD to 1500 AD with the Renaissance starting around 1350 AD, and the modern period beginning as early as 1450 AD. Again, you will see overlaps due to different regions entering and exiting these ages at different times. As you can see in a discussion of world history, a simple question of where to begin can be a bit complicated.

            I propose that all the prehistoric scientific dates listed above are simply misdated and can logically be placed in a biblical prehistoric time of 4000 BC to 1500 BC. During this biblical period of prehistory, the world was created around 4000 BC, plus or minus no more than 50 years.  The world was populated to about 25 billion in the first 1650 years. Then the world was destroyed in a flood around 2350 BC reducing the population to 8 and covering the earth with a large fossil layer and causing what remained of pre-flood civilization to be hard to date and analyze because of the vast geographic and geological changes that took place. In the 700 years that followed the flood, large ice caps formed and receded (see lesson #35).

            From a biblical perspective, the oldest written words are found in the book of Job from around 2000 BC. The next books in line are the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible written by Moses from 1446 BC to 1406 BC during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.  While we can have an intelligent debate on when history began, you would be hard pressed to find any written historical accounts that talk about events that predate 4000 BC because they do not exist.  This means that all discussion of prehistory must depend on areas of research outside the realm of written history.  When it comes to written history, the most dependable is the written account of a firsthand witness. What we have in Genesis, chapters 1 through 11, is the first-hand account of the Creator given directly to Moses for him to record in the Hebrew language some 3400 years ago. So, there is a basic representation of Lesson #43 and next month we will resume our time line walk and probubly end up at around 300 AD. And a brief discussion on the canonization of scripture. Full plate for January.

Till next month Pastor Portier