Modern Day Marcionites

Posted by Patrick Mead on Sep 18th, 2007

ALL RIGHT — all of you who think I don’t blog enough — here’s the second blog of the day! So there! (don’t get used to it) 

Lauren Winner came to Rochester Church last week and spoke on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. She also spoke at Rochester College on Wednesday. While some were overwhelmed by her intellect and some of her polysyllabic ways, most of us were blown away by her story and what she had to share. She is a favorite author of some of my staff but I had never read her books. I think I will, now. 

One phrase she shared with us resonated with me so powerfully that I find myself thinking of it several times a day even a week later. She was asked, as a former orthodox Jew, what bothers her most about Christians? (NOTE: she is thoroughly committed to her Anglican faith and to the deity of Jesus. We just wondered what Christians think or do that rubs her the wrong way because of her "inside information" of the Jews and their faith). She quickly reviewed the heresy of Marcion.  

Marcion discarded the Old Testament and all the New Testament except for ten of Paul’s epistles. He excluded Paul’s books to Timothy and Titus because of their Jewishness. He ended up with a false picture of Jesus (see today’s first blog) because he ignored the rich tapestry of scripture and cherry picked a picture of Jesus with which he was more comfortable.

Lauren Winner admonished us to learn more about the Jewish holy calendar (she said something to the effect that it was the only calendar given to us by God so why should we use the Julian or Gregorian calendars?) and the holy days. Even though we are not bound to keep those days, they reveal something of God to us and, therefore, retain value for the church.

Agree or disagree, the phrase "modern day Marcionites" reverberated with me because of the conflicts I find myself coming into with those who are far to the political right or left and those who are pacifists. All have to ignore lots of the Old Testament or separate Jesus a long way from the God of the Old Testament to get to their religious/political position. They fall prey to a new form of Gnosticism, making Jesus less God than man or so "other" that he loses his ability to intercede for us. It is not a coincidence that those who espouse these doctrines are, like the gnostics, convinced that they are possessed of superior intellect, wisdom, and information.

As mentioned in the previous blog today, where God went in the Old Testament was often traceable by the blood trail. Blood was everywhere in the Old Testament and not just in the sacrifices and on the lintels and doorposts. It was also found in God’s commands about capital punishment, war, territorial conquest, etc. Even in the New Testament we see God killing Ananias and Sapphira right in the middle of the congregation. We lose Jesus when we divorce him from that God and make him only gentle, sweet, mild — a Prince of Peace who only makes that peace through his sweetness. To believe this we have to tear away most of the tapestry given us in our 66 books and believe that peace can be found without first making it.

Those who believe in boundless grace without any personal requirements also are modern day Marcionites. Make no mistake — we are saved by grace, yet Jesus says we will be judged over what we have said and done. Read about the fruits of the Spirit and read the lists of those sins which will keep us out of heaven and we can see that, while grace is free, it is not without cost to Jesus or us. (Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Paul said "God forbid.")

We should not make the opposite error and become a "works salvation" people or, like a couple congregations in our area, try to become a pseudo-Jewish church. A local congregation insists that God will only answer to Hebrew names, that Jesus must be called Yeshua, and that we must act as much like Jews as possible (sans the sacrifices, of course) to be pleasing to Him. Sigh. That smacks of reverse Marcionism — keeping the Old Testament bits we like and ignoring the New Testament bits about freedom from the ceremonial laws of the Jews.

No wonder we have a hard time getting a picture of Jesus. We keep grabbing only our favorite bits and running away with them, slapping them on a placard and declaring: "Here he is!" It is hard work to plow through the entire tapestry to get our picture of him, but it is the only way I know to get our tiny minds around the One True God — not the god we want, but the God who IS.

8 Responses

  1. Greg England Says:

    Excellent! Again . . .

  2. Kirsten Says:

    Intensely good post. Something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.

    Since Nathan and I moved to Ohio I have been going to a ladies bible study with my grandmother (his father’s mother) and the ladies in the bible study are all from her Assembly of God church. Somethings about what they believe doctrinally bother me, and yet they are women of AMAZING faith, so completely of the mindset that God is taking care of them. And yet, there are things they exclude from the bible too that I find pricking at me. Right now, we’re in a study of the old testament, specifically the Patriarchs by Beth Moore and so the heritage of our brothers and sisters who are Jewish has been on my mind so much.

    Needless to say, I am experiencing many things I hadn’t previously been exposed to before. I still feel the church of christ is my home now but it’s a unique experience to get out of that one day a week and study more of the old testament as well as interact with those who worship in the assemblies of God movement.

  3. Danny Gill Says:

    This has been brought home to me recently through Ray VanderLaan’s teachings. We miss so much when we forget that Jesus was Jewish and didn’t, as RVL says, “look like a member of the Swedish ski team.” We miss so much when we don’t know the culture of the Holy Land during the times the Bible was written. And I am shamed by the way the church through they ages has treated and written about Jews. Thank you for this.

  4. laymond Says:

    Whoever said you don’t blog enough?

  5. Toby Wilson Says:


    Great post! I mentioned Marcion (and modern day Marcionites) in my sermon Sunday, and a friend in church pointed me to your post. It’s cool to hear that God is working in your heart and in the hearts of many Christians regarding the goodness and value of ALL His Word. Thanks for your heart and ministry!

    In Christ,

  6. Ryan Says:

    I won’t lie to you…I didn’t read your other post because I don’t believe in reading more than one blog a day. It is my custom…don’t shun it.

    I’ve been talking to my teens about “Do we want the Jesus we have? Or do we want the Jesus we want?” It was good to read your thoughts on cherry picking scripture. We’re continuing our discussion this evening.

    Look forward to seeing you this weekend. God speed.

  7. TinaMarie Says:

    It’s amazing how we humans like to have all things “our way”. Your bolgs seem to always match what I’m dealing with in life. I will say that it is Our God working through you. At work I just had a conversation with a friend about how some of the staff only want the kind of help they want when it comes to help with children with special needs, especially when they have to change. HMMMM, are we the same way with God and Jesus?

    Saw a bummper sicker that made me think of your blogs. It said “What would Jesus bomb?” Then I read your blog that references his promise to burn the world. Again HMMMM.

  8. renee Says:

    I agree with Lauren. Several years ago our homeschooling group spent a school year meeting once a month as families to celebrate each of the Jewish Holidays. It was very enlightening and added a layer of richness to both the Old and New Testament scriptures. The interplay of the holidays and how they mirrored the past as well prophesy yet to be fulfilled is a wonderful study. It’s not something that is taught very much in our fellowship. IMHO their holidays would be soooo much better to enjoy and reflect on, not by command, but by choice, than the mostly secular holidays we have embraced in Christiandom. If you want an easy read book to start you on that journey, that is family friendly, here’s the book we used:

    A Family Guide to
    the Biblical Holidays by Robin Scarlata and Linda Pierce
    A multi level Bible Study by Family Christian Press.

    My favorite of the holidays that year was the Feast of Tabernacles. We studied what the Feast of Tabernacles meant to those in the past and what it meant to us today. You would be surprised. Then we came together and actually built a Tabernacle the way God instructed them. Everyone worked on, young and old, and it took both! We invited a Jewish Rabbi to come tell us stories and a Jewish Dance Company to teach us some of their dances. We spent the night in tents, had Sunday worship with Messianic Jews and ate Jewish feasts all weekend. FUN!

    I think it’s time to recycle this study into our group again.

    I suggested to our leadership that we do a Holiday VBS, during the Christmas season, going into the past and celebrating the Jewish Holidays the way Jesus would have, there are seven holidays, one for each night. I thought it would be a great outreach to the Christian community that isn’t very familar with them and also to our Jewish Community that would probably appreciate something they could participate in, as well as those in neither camp. I think it’s a great idea anyway, not sure what others might think of it but I threw it out there to consider. VBS in the summer hasn’t been working out so well. I figured we would at least get a chance to spend a lot of time with children while their parents went shopping and maybe draw the parents back on the last day for a Christmas play and a Jewish feast. The feast cover the entire Bible, front to back, what a great opportunity to share God’s word in story and celebrations (and did I say you get to eat great foods!)

    anyone listening?

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