INFLUENTIAL THEOLOGICAL FACTORS
Need for Church Unity
As great as the influences of the Jewish and Gentile environments were, they were eclipsed in importance by the pressures exerted on the young church by questions of doctrine and discipline. Both issues threatened to sunder the church. The remedy for both problems was sought in the establishment of a doctrine of church unity, the key to this unity being the authority of the bishop.
Ignatius: The Person of the Bishop
In his letters to the seven churches, Ignatius is primarily concerned with combating doctrinal error, since Judiazers as well as Docetists were stirring up the churches and threatening schism. The canon of N.T. Scripture had not been established, so Ignatius sets forth the person of the bishop as the measure of sound doctrine. He warns the Smyrnaeans against the Docetists: “All of you are to follow the bishop as Apostles …Apart from the bishop no one is to do anything pertaining to the church” (Grant, Ignatius, p.120). A Christian could be assured of his faithful obedience to God if he was obeying the bishop and preserving the unity of the local church. “For as many as belong to God and Jesus Christ, these are with the Bishop” (Grant, Ignatius, p.99). Unlike Cyprian, Ignatius does not try to prove the authority of the bishops by succession (or through the Scriptures), but he merely posits it, with some reference to Christian tradition prior to himself (Grant, “Introduction,” p. 169). Continue Reading…