Getting to know the Christian Salaf-us Sahih
Anyone who knows anything about Islam knows the key group of people in Islamic history are the Salaf. To those unfamiliar with the term "Salaf" is a Arabic word that basically means predecessor. In Islam history the Salaf where the direct followers of Muhammad their students then their students(some would also include the fourth generation). If you think it over it makes sense to up hold the Salaf and refer back to them, these people where the eyewitnesses to the birth of Islam, they where closest to the main source of supposed revelation Muhammad.
This is why when moderate and liberal western Muslims try and tell the public Islam is this and not that, knowledgeable folks weather Muslim or not go back to the books of narrations and biographies to find out what the Salaf said. Their Islamic ideologies represent the pure pristine Islam, unadulterated by the modern world and foreign ideas. The Salaf were not tainted with post modernism, or secular humanism, they had no pressure to modernize or update Islam to makes its image fit the direction the world is currently going in.
With all that said many Muslims and unfortunately many professing Christians do not know that the Church has its own Salaf..or should I say predecessors. I plan to highlight some of these exceptional individuals from Christian history for the blog audience. These Christian predecessors were disciples of Christ, and disciples of disciples, looking at them and their writing gives us a clear picture of what Christians believed in ancient times. The reason that would be important is that we can test some of the claims made about Christian history by comparing these claims to what the disciples and Church fathers said.
The Man of God we will profile today is no other then Clement of Rome. Clement is considered one of the Fathers of the Church, his exact date of birth is unknown. What we do know about Clement is that he was Bishop of Rome from 88 A.D to about 98 A.D(1), that he was appointed or ordained Bishop by The Apostle Peter(2) in fact he was his successor(3), and that he was a direct student of the Apostles(4). Also it is believed by many that Clement is the person mentioned by name in the letter to Philipians written by Apostle Paul. This is backed up by illustrious scholars such as Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius, and Jerome(5) Clements most famous and attested to work is 1st epistle to Corinthians written in 96 A.D.
Whats so important about the 1st epistle to Corinthians is that it refutes the idea that the New Testament was written after the first century. Examining its contents also shows that a knowledgeable authority like Clement believed what Christian of today believe, fundamentally his doctrine was no different then what is now considered orthodox Christian doctrine. So the idea that at some unknown point in history the Gospel was corrupted or changed is partially destroyed by the writings of Clement of Rome.
Clement opens his letter with acknowledging Jesus Christ as mediator between the Father and man and that Jesus is the Lord.
" ... to them that are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ"
The significance of this is that it affirms the divine status of Christ and the mission of his glorious incarnation which was to reconcile sinful man and God. Man is sanctified or made holy through Jesus Christ. And Jesus is called with the divine title Lord. Clement also discussing the death of Christ and that this happened to achieve mans salvation from sin .
" Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world."
Also he says...
" Let us reverence the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood was given for us"
Clement is a few places mentions the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
"The ministers of the grace of God have, by the Holy Spirit, spoken of repentance"
Throughout his work Clement quotes the words of Jesus found in the Gospels, and reasons from the resurrection of Jesus that true believers in Christ will also be resurrected in like manner.
All this lets us know for certain that as of 96 A.D, according to a non-biblical source, Christians believed the following doctrines:
1. Jesus was divine
2. Jesus was the Savior
3. Jesus died
4. Jesus was resurrected
5. The Godhead consisted of the Father the Son and the Spirit
6. Salvation was by Grace
Clement learned these things directly from the mouths of the Apostles of Jesus. From this we glean that the Gospel of Jesus could not have been "corrupted" after this point in history, let alone in 325 A.D during the Counsel of Nicaea. Because we see the beliefs conspiracy theorist claim were invented at the counsel of Nicaea were believed in the first century. This means Christianity could have only been "corrupted" during its transmission between the apostles and the first Church Fathers. The problem with that from a Islamic prospective is that the Quran affirms the trustworthiness of the Disciples and that "Allah" gave victory to the early Christian church.
So there is no point in history that we could say "this is the time the message of Jesus was corrupted". We know that the Apostles and the early Christians literally gave up their lives for their doctrine, you would think on the way to being put to a agonizing death someone would have confessed "hey we made all this stuff up let me go" if there really was some conspiracy to change the message. No instead we see the hero's of the faith being stoned, crucified, and imprisoned confessing Jesus as Lord to their death.
Here is a copy of Clements 1st Epistle to the Corinthians
1: "Clement of Rome", http://orthodoxwiki.org
2: "Against Heresies", Chapter 23
4: "Pope St. Clement I", http://www.newadvent.org
5: "Clement of Romes 1st Epistle to the Corinthians" http://www.letterofmarque.us