Towards Safeguarding the Church’s Identity. Vol.5 No.2

In one of our previous series, we discussed how the Church commissioned ministry as the first step towards safeguarding its identity with the apostolic authority, who are the direct successors of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we promised to discuss the other two measures as we shall analyse below.
The second measure taken by the church to guarantee the integrity of its tradition and safeguard its identity with the church of the Apostles was its decision to recognized a certain limited body of writings as “Scripture.” The task to select some books and call them bible was a herculean one because the church would forever be subject to them as an absolute norm of its life and faith. Meanwhile, the criteria for the selection of these books were critical first and foremost, they must have been written by either an apostle or someone in torch with the apostles, they must be authentic with the tradition of the church as well as orthodox in doctrine. The canon (i.e. the selection of the books of the bible) was virtually complete by the early decades of the second century but definitely finalized in the West around 380-90AD and even later.
The final means used by the church to uphold its authenticity and safeguard orthodox was by the formulation of a creed, the rule of faith” (commonly known as “I believe in God.”), the earliest example of such a rule is found in the writings of Irenaeus. But it gradually develops to what we have today as the Apostle’s creed “i.e. I believe in God.”
In conclusion, the individual churches were related to one another in such a way they were from the onset, deeply conscious of their unity and oneness in Jesus Christ. And then, bishops of a particular region began to meet in synods to discuss their common problems and adopt common solution. First of its kind was in Asia between 160 and 175 AD. Gradually, some churches acquired metropolitan status over churches of a province while Rome, Alexandria and Antioch acquired supra-metropolitan status. History revealed that the political preponderance of a town inevitably secured its ecclesiastical preponderance.
However, over and above sheer political preponderance, Rome enjoyed certain attributes that raised it above all the other churches and destined it for a unique role as a Centre of the church unity. First and foremost, as Irenaeus cited, Rome became an unquestioned channel of pure apostolic doctrine because it was there that the Blessed Apostle (Peter and Paul) founded and built up the church, and handed over the ministry of Episcopate to Linus. In addition, as the capital of the empire, it attracted churchmen of rival schools of thought who were extremely desirous of having the support of the bishop of Rome. Above all, it became a very wealthy church, noted for its munificent charity; its willingness to be of assistance to other churches around the world considerable enhanced its influence. Having been able to overcome the internal challenges and controversies that threatened the integrity and authenticity of the church by establishing a system of authority out of Bishop, Scripture and Creed. The church suffered persecution by the Roman state that lasted over two centuries but contributed greatly to the spread of the church as we shall discuss next week

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