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Exam 1 Christian Thought
History of Christian Thought
Religious Studies
Undergraduate 2

Additional Religious Studies Flashcards




What is the relationship between the three persons of the Godhead? (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
a) what did the relationship between divine and human in the one person of Jesus Christ
B) How does Jesus Christ go about doing his work? How does the Savior save?
• Jews were always subject to other rulers
o They had a privileged position in the Roman Empire
• Ancient people and religion (romans liked/respected/tolerated)
• Allied with Rome during Maccabean era
o But they had some freedoms
• Exempt from worshipping Roman deities (jews said you had to be exclusive, but romans did not and didn’t like it)
• Regulated own communal life
• Some exemptions from military service
• Christians could get this if seen as part of the Jewish sect (Romans didn’t like the new religion, life or death matter trying to prove to the Romans that Christians were an old religion who inherited the bible)
o Pharisees
• Torah and Tradition
• Oral law equated with written
• Survive revolt (flexible, focused on oral, you can build a synagogue anywhere)
o Sadducees
• Conservative on religion
• Collaborated with politicians and Roman rulers
• Centered on Temple
o Essenes
(Thought the end of history was at hand)
• Eschatological
• Qumran and Dead Sea Scrolls (written or preserved documents, withdrawing from the world)
• Messianism
o Jewish movements weren’t about the messiah who restores fortunes, more on new age to come.
• Focus on restoration of Israel more than individual
• Jesus of Nazareth
o Born in 4 BCE in Galilee (Palistine operating under the Roman authority)
o Grew up in Nazareth (know very little)
o Itinerant ministry begins at 30-ish
• Lasted one to three years
o Tried & executed by Romans for sedition ca. 30 CE
o Life, ministry, death, resurrection recorded in four gospels as written by further generations
• Paul and the Mission to the Gentiles
o Jewish covert after Jesus’ death
o Focused on converting non-Jews
• Controversial among Jewish Christians
• Insisted non-Jews need not undergo circumcision, follow dietary laws, etc.
o Ministry foreshadows early controversies
• Legal Status of Early Christians
o Romans initially treated Christians as Jews
o Distinguished by late first century (start to debate theological questions causes separation)
o Pliny the Younger to Emperor Trajan (112 CE)
• How to address accusations of being a Christian
• Don’t seek them out, but if reported, they must sacrifice to gods (Don’t accept anonymous accusations)
o Illegal on an official level by 112, though persecutions were sporadic and localized (Romans public, Christians not)
• Jewish Debate in the NT
o Most significant controversy
o Earliest “heresies” extensions of this controversy
o How Jewish did a Christian need to become?
• Paul vs. Jerusalem church leaders (internal debate for new testament)
• Ebionites (1st & early 2nd century)
Small numbers because of no distinctions
o Jesus a Jewish Messiah sent to Jewish people
o One must become Jewish
o Adopted as Son of God (no virgin birth)
• Kept the Law perfectly so god liked him
o Rejected Pauline writings because he wanted separation between Jews and Christians
o Maintained beliefs came from Jerusalem church leaders
• Marcionites (2nd century)
o Law is bad news – harsh commandments, guilt, judgment, punishment, etc.
• God of Jews cannot be same as God of Jesus
• God of Jews created this world, gave Jews law
• God of Jesus came to save people from vengeful God of Jews
o Developed own “New Testament”
• Privileged a few Christian writings at expense of others
• Religious movement of 2nd & 3rd centuries
• Gnosis means “knowledge” – ultimate spiritual truths
• Salvation possible through secret knowledge
• Christian and non-Christian forms
• Gospel of Thomas
• Gnostic Christian Cosmology
o In the beginning, One God who is completely unknowable
o Generates a divine realm (Pleroma) – other divine entities (aeons) emanate from God
o One of aeons, Sophia, desires to know God – her desire produces the demiurge (creator of material world in OT)
o Material world is evil and a place of imprisonment for Sophia
o Sparks of Sophia reside in some humans
o Salvation – knowing the spark within, learning of its true home, and endeavoring to release it so it can return
o Origins of saving knowledge – a divine redeemer from beyond the material world comes to teach us the truth about who we are and where we belong
The “Threat” of Christian Gnosticism
Gnostics were focused on what they could unlock inside, which not everyone could. They see Jesus as the divine teacher who comes, teaches and leaves.
Gnostic Teachings
o No fall – origins of evil in the divine realm
o Creator is a demiurge and not supreme being
o Rejection of material world
o Salvation through knowledge for a few
Gnostic Organization
o Formed within “orthodox” churches
o Ebionites & Marcionites formed rival churches
The Writing of the NT
• Designation first used by Irenaeus
• No NT book written in Jesus’ life
o First Christian Bible was the OT
• Pauline letters first (50-60 CE)
• Gospels (70-95 CE)
• Other NT lit. (late 1st & early 2nd CE)
o 2 Peter - - 120 CE?
Reasons for the Formation of a NT Canon
• Diversity of belief and practice
• Distance from first generations
• “Heresies”
o Muratorian Canon
(late 2nd CE)
• Four Gospels, 13 Pauline letters, two Johannine epistles, Jude, Revelation, Wisdom of Solomon, Apocalypse of Peter
o NT Acknowledged
• Athanasius letter to Egyptian churches in 367 (act of negotiation, common consensus over 4 cent.)
• Criteria for NT Inclusion (that the debates seemed to apply)
o Apostolic (written by or in time of apostles)
o Orthodox (does the teachings dive with Christian ideals)
o Catholic (universal)
= unwritten or written teachings of the apostles handed down (authority from apostles, who became first bishops)
• Referred to as the Rule of Faith
o Condensed summary of apostolic teachings
o Content: Trinitarian in structure, belief in creator God, birth/life/death/resurrection of Jesus, activity of Holy Spirit
o Appealed to over against claims of “heretics”
o Ultimately replaced by creeds of 4th & 5th centuries once churches began to meet and create doctrines
The Monotheistic Heritage
• Inherited monotheism from Judaism
• Platonic philosophy also tended toward monotheism, but differed from Judaism & first-century Christianity
o One perfect and supreme god, that does not involve with the imperfect
o Rejected idea of supreme God as creator
o Insisted on intermediary between unchanging God and changing world
• No direct intervention of Supreme Being
• Jesus will be the intermediary so God doesn’t get his hands dirty (NOT JUDAISM)
Trinitarian Thought before Nicaea
saying there is only one god, but still believing in the father son and holy ghost [conflict]
• Gospel of John
o Jesus is the Logos/Word
o Jesus is a pre-existent, secondary being & agent of creation (similar to later Platonism)
• Synoptic Gospels
o Jesus is a human raised to divine status
o Prevalent in early Jewish Christianity
Trinitarian Thought through 2nd Century
• Monotheism preserved through hierarchy and subordination
o Son & Spirit are secondary & derivative beings not equal to God the Father
• Son described as Logos/Word and agent of creation and redemption (borrowed from John’s gospel)
• Son is pre-existent, but no effort to explain his eternal relationship to the Father
• Little attention given to the Spirit
• Tertullian
o New language: substantia, personae, & trinitas (Trinity word did not exist before Tertullian)
• Modalism (Tertullian was anti-modalist)
o A.k.a. Sabellianism
o Feared Logos theology jeopardized God’s oneness (worried about preserving monotheism)
o Blurred distinctions between the three
• Three manifestations of one being (goes against platonic idea of God being perfect, because he is only one being at a time. Jesus also prayed to God, which jeopardizes this idea)
o Rejected by most theologians
• Origen of Alexandria
Alexandria (ca.185-ca.251)
o Arguably most significant theologian before Augustine
o Would influence opposing schools of thought on Trinity and Christology
o Influenced by Platonism
• Origen on the Trinity
o Subordinationism maintained
o Eternal generation of the Son – Emphasis on Son’s eternal existence and relationship to the Father
The Outbreak of the Arian Controversy
• Arius a presbyter (priest) in Alexandria
• Began debating with Alexander, the bishop, ca. 318
• Alexander followed one strand of Origen’s thought (Son’s co-eternal nature), Arius another (monotheism through subordinationism)
Arian Positions
• Only one God the Father & Creator
• Therefore, Son is not properly God – must be a creature
• God created the Son ex nihilo (out of nothing) before the creation of the world
o “There was when He was not.” There was a time when Jesus did not exist.
o Son pre-existent because he existed before the world [if he has not always existed]
Arian Positions II
• Son is above all other creatures as the First Born
o God creates world through the Son
• As a creature, Son must be capable of changing (Platonism 101) and of sinning (he can mess up as a creature)
o Also capable of being faithful to God
Arians on God to Jesus
• God sends Son into world as a human (Jesus) to achieve salvation. How? (by fidelity to God, by not sinning, and staying on God’s path)
o Jesus battles demons, resists temptation, overcomes evil, remains faithful – he could have failed but didn’t
o God rewards him by raising him from the dead and promoting him “upward” (judge & ruler)
o God makes him perfect & unchangeable
• Arians appeal to Phil. 2: 6-11
The Council of Nicaea
• Constantine convened meeting of bishops at Nicaea in 325
o Constantine converted in 312
• Christianity no longer an illicit religion after he won a battle, and thought it would unite the kingdom.
o Believed Christianity could unite empire
• Three parties present: Arians, followers of Alexander, uncommitted
• Majority rejected the Arian position, saw it as heresy
• Adapted a local baptismal creed, lead to the Nicene creed (anti-arian)
The Aftermath of Nicaea
(back and forth debate)
• Arian/anti-Nicene party makes a comeback
o C. baptized (337) by an Arian bishop
• From 337-350, empire is split
o East favors Arianism, West the Nicene position
• Nicene creed slightly modified and then ratified in 381 at Constantinople
Christology before Nicaea: Christology in the Gospels
• Christology: the relationship between the divine and human within the person of Jesus
• John vs. Synoptics
o John’s Jesus is secondary, pre-existent divine being
o Synoptic Jesus is a person endowed with divine qualities – a human raised to divine status
• Earliest theologians favor John’s Christology but do not explain how divine & human in Jesus relate
Early Christological “Heresies”
• Debates for is he human or divine.
• Ebionites and later Paul of Samasota (d.268) rejected Jesus’ divinity & pre-existence
• Gnostics endorsed docetism
• Arians rejects Jesus’ inherent divinity- spends time more with the relationship between god and jesus, he may be a special creature but not made of the same things. He shows us that we too can battle the demons and renounce sins.
• School of Alexandria
o Emphasis on unity of divine and human natures
o Tendency to emphasize divine with little room left for human soul or will (divine will being predominate so he can overcome sin)
o Primary Reps: Athanasius & Cyril
o Extreme Rep: Apollinaris
• School of Antioch
o Emphasis on the distinctiveness of divine and human natures
o Tendency to emphasize an active human will
o Primary Rep: Gregory of Nyssa
o Extreme Reps: Theodore & Nestorius
• Athanasius (Alexandrian)
o Only the divine is unchangeable and incapable of error
o Creatures by definition are not
o God cannot change a creature into the divine
o If Jesus is a creature, we cannot trust that he can save us (he’s just one of us!)
o When divine & human join, the former dominates (doesn’t eliminate)
• Example: Jesus knows everything – when Jesus suggests that he doesn’t know something, it’s feigned ignorance
• Apollinaris (ca.315-392) (Alexandrian)
o Extreme representative
o Divine Word replaces the rational, human soul of Jesus
o Wants to guard against two contradictory wills
• Gregory of Nyssa (ca.331-ca.395) (Antiochian)
(standard middle of the road)
o Keeps divine & human distinct
• Humanity suffers (not divinity)
o Potential for conflict of wills exists, but divine wins out (garden of gasthemonie, I will continue on god’s path)
• Theodore of Mopsuestia (ca.350-428) (Antiochian)
• Extreme rep.
• Christ’s human nature is independent, undergoes real growth in knowledge, truly struggles with temptation
• Uncertain if there is a real union of divine & human
• Nestorius (ca.381-451)
o Influenced by Theodore, applys it to the debate over Mary.
o Maintains distinctiveness of divine & human by rejecting the Theotokos (God bearer/mother of god)
• Cyril of Alexandria (ca.375-444)
o Two natures are distinct prior to but not after incarnation
o With incarnation we must speak of one nature
• We can say Mary is the mother of God
• Divinity has a preeminent place in union
The Council of Chalcedon (451) (2nd most important)
• Compromise between Alexandrian & Antiochene positions
o Balances the concerns of both: how?
• Council affirms Theotokos
• Creeds sets for rules on how not to talk about person of Christ
• Becomes orthodox position on Christology
o Rejected only by Monophysites (Egypt, Syria, Palestine) Extreme Alexandrians, you can only count on one nature.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
Born to a Christian mother (Monica) and a non-Christian father (Patricius) in North Africa
Received a classical education and became professor of rhetoric in Milan in 385
Had shown little interest in Christianity prior to Milan, despite Monica’s efforts to convert him
• Had demonstrated more interest in worldly ambitions and other philosophical & religious movements (such as Manichaeism)
• Fond of sex and his concubine, and didn’t want to give them up.
Augustine Career
In Milan, A. hears the preaching of the bishop, Ambrose, and is baptized by him in 387
After baptism, makes his way to Hippo in N. Africa to establish a monastery
Instead, he is ordained a priest, and in 395, he becomes bishop of Hippo
His career as a bishop and theologian would witness several important theological controversies as well as the fall of Rome to the Goths in 410 (Constantine was trying to use Christianity to keep the people together, and the Germanic tribes were increasingly attacking)
• Hippo would be sacked by the Vandals just months before A.’s death in 430. Chopping up North Africa during this time.
Augustine's writings: The Confessions
• Written in 397-398
• Autobiographical account of A.s struggles with sin (particularly sexual sins), his disenchantment with Manichaeism & astrology, and his conversion to Christianity (trying to figure out how he got from a pagan to a Christian)
The City of God - Augustine
• Written just after 410 and fall of Rome (who said that Christianity was responsible for the fall of Rome, the old roman gods would have helped)
• Defends Christianity against the charge that Rome’s decline and fall was due to the Roman abandonment of traditional gods in favor of Christianity
• Describes relationship between political realm (the state) and Christian community (the church)
Pelagian Controversies
• Originated with the views of Pelagius (ca.350-ca.425) in early 5th century
emphasized human freedom (and free will) and the ability (indeed, the responsibility) of individuals to obey God’s commandments through the natural powers of the human will apart from special divine assistance (i.e., grace)
Pelagian Faculties
• Pelagius affirms humans have three faculties: capacity (the ability to be righteous), volition (the will to be righteous), and action (living in a righteous manner) one of which can only be grace, capacity.
• The capacity (for righteousness) is bestowed on us by the Creator and made a part of our nature
• Volition (will) and action are our own doing – God does not assist these except indirectly (through the Law and teachings of the Gospel)
Pelagius on the Fall
• The Fall does not result in the transmission of the guilt of Adam’s sin
– Every child born into a state of primal innocence
– Every person is able by free choice to sin or not to sin - - we are born in same condition as Adam
– Adam’s sin was his own - - we do not participate in his disobedience, he has not prevented us from following the teachings of Jesus.
Augustine’s Theology: Creation and the Fall
• God’s original plan was to create humans with earthly bodies that possessed appetites, emotions, and passions
o These would be subject to control of reason
o A & E had this control - - they knew what God wanted them to do, and they were endowed with a will that enabled them to love God and to choose and do the good commanded by God (he still had bodily needs but they were given the capacity of will to control emotions and passions.
o A & E could either love God and do the good, or they could sin
Augustine's Theory: A&E's Sin
• A & E used their freedom and sinned
• Their sin came in two stages
o A & E committed the sin of self-love and pride – they turned from love of God to love of self, putting themselves in place of God, loving their own goodness and seeking to be autonomous (put their own needs and emotions and passions in place of obeying god, but it is inside and god knew, so he put the tree in the garden)
o A & E then actualized this sin of self-love and pride by eating from the tree that was forbidden - - outward act of disobedience was preceded by inward sin of pride and desire to be godlike
Original Sin
• Consequences of A & E’s sin viewed much more severely by Augustine than previous theologians
• Augustine goes beyond this view – humans inherit not simply a tendency toward sin with the Fall but the actual guilt & consequences of Adam’s sin
o We inherit the guilt & consequences of A & E’s sin through sexual reproduction
o We inherit the desire to serve our appetites and passions, to love ourselves above God (we forget what our urges are supposed to be for, lust and sex is not supposed to happen)
o Original sin in Paradise is more than a tendency - - it is a disease that leaves us powerless to will and choose the good without divine grace and assistance
• Prior to Augustine, understanding of the Fall
o Fall results in ignorance, conflicting passions, and mortality
o A & E’s sin made it more difficult clearly to perceive and do the good (feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, charitable acts)
o In other words, the Fall results in the body, with its passions and appetites, clouding the mind
o God reaches out to help us through OT law and teachings of Jesus - - these help us to see more clearly what needs to be done (and they inspire us to do it)
o Humans still retain the capacity to will and choose the good, and in doing so, they can attain salvation
Augustine's theory of original sin's effect on us
• Because all humans inherit consequences and guilt of A & E’s sin, then all people are guilty of sin apart from the individual sins they actually commit
o Infants thus share in this guilt - - must be baptized because baptism is the primary means of removing the guilt of sin (if they die before they were baptized they would go to hell, later anyone could baptize a baby under emergency circumstances)
o Augustine opposes Pelagius - - P. argues that we do not inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin but are born with the same freedom of will that Adam possessed
• We are so damaged by the Fall & original sin that we are powerless to will and choose the good
o But we must will & choose the good to be saved
• Solution = Grace
o Grace: the divine operation in creatures by which God moves people to know and love God and to choose and do the good (not free will)(it doesn’t matter what activities you do, God chooses whether or not to grant it to you, not because you’ve earned it)
o Without grace (God’s assistance), we have no hope of salvation
• Four stages of grace: Before the Law, Under the Law, Preaching of the Gospel, Under Grace
Because grace is at work in each stage of the path to salvation, and because it has no relationship with what you do and is only God’s free choice, the logical conclusion is predestination
• Predestination
the doctrine that God has elected some people to receive salvation apart from their own merits or accomplishments
• To respond to preaching of Gospel, to repent of one’s sins, to love God for God’s sake, etc., can happen only if God’s grace moves a person to do these things
• Grace is undeserved – it’s a gift, not a reward that we earn
• For Augustine, it’s clear that not all people have received this gift – salvation must therefore be a result of predestination
1. The Necessity of Grace
a. Grace sets the process of salvation in motion, and it enables the process to come to completion
b. Fallen humans do not have the capacity to love God and choose/do the good without divine help
2. The Gratuity of Grace
a. Grace given to all creatures prior to Fall
b. With Fall, humans have given into love of self and into their passions & appetites – they therefore rejected initial gift of grace
c. God owes fallen humanity nothing – any grace that is given is purely gratuitous and given irrespective of merits of person (gift not reward)
3. The Efficacy of Grace
a. God’s gift of grace to the elect is always efficacious – God guarantees the choosing/performing of the good by the elect
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