Are Church Attenders Being Set Up To Accept Coming Of Antichrist?
The Spirit of Antichrist: Polycarp vs. Bishop John Shelby Spong
May 13, 2011
It has been said that there are no new heresies. In light of that, apologists have a wealth of scholarship to draw upon in the works of the apostolic fathers. One such early leader, Polycarp, died for his faith when he refused to treat the emperor as a god. It is interesting to note that Christians were called atheists by the Romans because they denied their pantheon of gods. Polycarp was martyred February 22, 156 when he would not renounce Christ. Here is an excerpt from the very oldest of Christian martyrdom accounts, The Martyrdom of Polycarp:
‘Swear by the genius of Caesar; change your mind; say, “Away with the atheists!” ’ Then Polycarp looked with a stern countenance on the multitude of lawless heathen gathered in the stadium, and waved his hands at them, and looked up to heaven with a groan, and said, ‘Away with the atheists.’ The Proconsul continued insisting and saying, ‘Swear, and I release you; curse Christ.’ And Polycarp said, ‘Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong: how then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?’
In my study this week, I was researching the arguments concerning John’s epistles 1, 2, and 3 John. One of the supporting arguments for the Johannine authorship of 1 John is that it was quoted very early in second century by his disciple Polycarp. Polycarp was an inspired apologist who fought vigorously against heretics. He quotes 1 John 4:2-3 in reference to the Antichrist and false teachers. When it came to refuting heresy, neither John nor Polycarp minced words or bothered with pleasantries.
As I read Polycarp, it occurred to me that these words certainly travel across the many years and cultural conditions and can still find application today. I teach a Sunday school class of single adults. A year or so ago a visitor told me that, “Not everyone believes in atonement theology.” I replied with something along the lines of, “I don’t see how anyone can call themselves a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word without believing in the doctrine of substitutionary atonement.” A week or so later I saw him carrying a book by the Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, Jesus For the Non Religious.