Some memes are utterly useless – this one certainly is:
OK, this is a very loaded question to ask. After all, there are kazillions of memes floating around out there on the social media, and millions of them would be bad, awful, cringeworthy, idiotic, illogical, senseless, ridiculous, and just plain dumb. So trying to pinpoint one that really takes the cake is risky business indeed.
But this one surely is in the running. Sure, I need to narrow things down here. This one would fit into Christian, biblical, and theological categories. And yes, there have been plenty of lousy memes just in these particular categories, and I have seen far too many of them. But the one I want to discuss here most certainly could be our prize-winner.
It starts off this way: “Man made religions”. It goes on to talk about John Smyth, who “created the Baptist religion,” Charles Parham who “created the Pentecostal religion,” Joseph Smith who “created the Mormons religion,” Charles T Russel who “created the Jehovah’s Witness religion,” and William Miller who “created the Seventh Day Adventist religion.”
But wait, there’s more. The second half of the meme says this:
“Constantine, the first Christian emperor, introduced the pagan doctrines of
Christianity, First Council of Nicaea, 325AD”
Good grief. This is perhaps the most idiotic and brainless meme I have seen in a very long time. It manages to get just about everything wrong. Only an ignoramus could claim most of this stuff. Perhaps those without a basic understanding of Christian theology and church history might push it, but no biblical Christian who actually uses his brain could ever run with it.
But sadly, I have even seen some good Christians who should know better happily sharing this meme. The abysmal state of Christian knowledge and understanding nowadays is certainly a matter of grave concern. Is this the most undereducated and biblically illiterate generation of Christians ever?
Let me then look at just some of the foolishness being presented here. First of all, lumping legitimate, orthodox and biblically based denominations such as the Baptists with heterodox heretical cults such as the JWs is just ridiculous. Oh, and it would help if whoever made this meme learned how to spell, including the name Charles T Russell.
While orthodox and biblical Christians may have differing views on Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement, except for a few fringe groups, they are hardly heretical. Most are quite solid when it comes to major biblical doctrines and teachings.
Not only are there clear-cut cults being lumped together with mainstream biblical groups, there is also a group that basically fits somewhere in between. The SDAs are a mixed bag. Cult expert Walter Martin did not feature this group in his very important 1965 volume, Kingdom of the Cults. I discuss them further here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2014/02/26/ben-carson-potus-and-the-sda/
And one of the key teachings of the cults is a denial of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. So first this meme warns against several actual cults (that do of course deny the Trinity), and then it informs us that the Trinity is a pagan doctrine! Um, so which is it?! The Trinity is of course a fundamental doctrine of orthodox Christian teaching. Always has been. See more detail on this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2018/07/03/the-trinity-for-dummies/
And the nonsense about all these teachings suddenly appearing with Constantine and Nicea is really the stuff of nutter fiction writers such as Dan Brown (recall his The Da Vinci Code book and film). But I have dealt with him and his claims elsewhere. In one piece I said this:
The idea that Constantine changed Scripture, by creating a new Bible, while suppressing the old one, is ludicrous. There would have been thousands of copies of Scripture circulating at this time. Does anyone seriously believe he managed to track down every single copy of the original version of Scripture, destroy them, and then circulate his new improved version? Talk about the greatest cover up in history! This Constantine must have had superhuman powers to carry out such a feat.
And what of the claim that the deity of Christ was here for the first time advanced? As was just mentioned, the church from day one proclaimed the deity of Christ. What the Council of Nicea did at this time was to refute the heresy of Arianism (which denied that Jesus was co-eternal with the Father, but was in fact the first being created by God).
This was done by writing a creed to challenge the Arian writings, and this in turn became the blueprint for the Nicean Creed. The Creed merely formulates what had been held to for several centuries: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.” https://billmuehlenberg.com/2006/04/26/the-gospel-according-to-dan-brown/
Consider also the six “pagan” doctrines that this meme says we must totally reject. I have already discussed the Trinity. As to Easter, this is another bit of foolishness, something we get each year when a small group of loons try to insist that it is somehow a pagan festival that believers should have nothing to do with. I deal with this claim in some detail here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2013/03/29/easter-of-pagan-origins/
As to Lent, this is also something like Easter that believers can have freedom to participate in if they like, or give a miss to if they would rather. It of course involves a period of fasting and/or self-denial around the time of Easter, and both Catholics and some Protestants have run with it. There is no compulsion here, and Christians are free to decide if they want to get involved with it. Fasting, and more importantly, repentance, is something the Christian should constantly be involved in, not just at certain times of the year.
Sunday worship was a practice established early on by the first Christians, following on from the resurrection of Christ. It became a key Christian day to commemorate the rise of Christ from the dead. We read about this in places like Acts 20:7. There is nothing at all sinister about it. And Paul warns against making a big deal about things like sabbath days, etc (see for example Colossians 2:16). Those desiring more info on this can consult D. A. Carson, ed., From Sabbath to Lord’s Day: A Biblical, Historical and Theological Investigation (Zondervan, 1982).
And the Christian cross is pagan? Really? These folks think that the very heart and soul of the Christian faith is to be eschewed? Not according to Scripture. The Apostle Paul for example says he will boast in nothing but the cross (Galatians 6:14). And he wants to know nothing other than Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).
If what the creator of this meme really has in mind – but was not bright enough to state correctly – is the crucifix, that is a somewhat different matter. It is an image of a cross with Jesus hanging on it. That has long been a part of all sorts of various Christian groups, including Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans and Lutherans. As long as it does not become an object of worship, believers are free to decide if they make use of such things, as well as things like jewellery featuring a cross.
As to the fish symbol, this also goes way back to earliest Christianity. It was a means by which believers could communicate with others in a hostile environment. With persecution rife in the first few centuries of the church, this symbol helped Christians easily and safely find and identify other Christians.
The symbol itself contains the Greek word icthus (fish). It is actually an acronym, using the first letter of five Greek words which in English read: “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour”. And of course fish had strong Christian connections, including the words of Jesus to the disciples that they will become fishers of men (Mark 1:16–18). Absolutely nothing wrong with that either!
All up, this is NOT at all a helpful meme. The whole meme is so very idiotic that it serves no good purpose at all, except to demonstrate how NOT to think about such matters. Indeed, it demonstrates how NOT to think – period! Christians are commanded to love God with their minds, and not throw away their brains when they come to Christ and become his disciples.
As I have said so often before, it is incumbent upon every single believer to carefully know and study the Word of God, and to have at least a modicum of awareness about basic theology and church history. If they do, they will have little chance of being lured into cults and heretical beliefs and movements.
And they also will not be all that likely to endorse and circulate utterly useless and foolish memes such as this.