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A History of Christianity

A History of Christianity. Part 4: Unity of Belief: Mission Impossible?. Inquiry Question. How possible and even desirable is it for Christianity to have its key beliefs about God, Jesus and being Church expressed in precisely the same, unchanging way for all peoples and all time?.

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A History of Christianity

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  1. A History of Christianity Part 4: Unity of Belief: Mission Impossible?

  2. Inquiry Question How possible and even desirable is it for Christianity to have its key beliefs about God, Jesus and being Church expressed in precisely the same, unchanging way for all peoples and all time?

  3. Has there ever been Unity? • It is evident from the Gospels and letters of the New Testament that from the very start there have been many interpretations of the Jesus message. • This continued into the first and second centuries- from house churches to Gnostic versions of Christianity to segregated agape meals between rich and poor and Jews and gentiles. (I Cor 11:21) • The attempts by Constantine to impose unity and order actually resulted in division and persecution- this time of variant groups.

  4. East and West, Latin and greek • As can be seen from the experiences of the early Christian writers and thinkers following, the more closely they sought to define the nature of God, Jesus, Trinity, Holy Spirit, the Church, living the Gospel etc, the more argument and division seemed to occur. • The accusations of heresy, excommunications and division between the Latin and Greek church also had some basis in the inability of each language to be precisely translated into the other. Much of the scholarship and dissent seemed to arise in the East- North Africa, Asia Minor, Constantinople, Palestine.

  5. Early Christian Thinkers: Paul • Paul, with his classical upbringing and understanding, was the first to attempt to frame the life and teachings of Yeshua of Nazareth and the Jewish sect established by his followers in European language and thought processes. • It was Paul who changed Yeshua to Jesus and Mashiah to Christ. • Paul profoundly shaped how the Good News would be presented to the Gentile world.

  6. Early Christian Thinkers: Mark, Matthew, Luke and John • The four gospel evangelists did not write biographies of Jesus: they wrote cleverly constructed Chreiai (attributions of sayings and deeds to a person for a particular purpose) of Jesus drawing on the techniques of the Progymnasmata (literary techniques) used in the pan-Mediterranean world of the time. • The evangelists were writers, not memorisers; thinkers, not parrots. They constructed events and teaching passages in their gospels (note the plural) about Jesus for specific purposes, for specific audiences.

  7. Early Christian Thinkers: Gnostic Christians • Some 2nd Century Christian writers were influenced by Gnosticism- a philosophy that drew on elements of Greek Philosophy, Zoroastrianism and Egyptian mystery religions. • Gnosticism taught that only a select/chosen few were able to attain the “secret knowledge” that enabled them to know Sacred Truths and thus achieve salvation. • Some applied this to the new Christian teachings and communities of believers wrote gospels and accounts of Jesus’ teaching in this style. • The Gospel of Thomas, discovered in 1946, is an example. • Early orthodox Christian writers such as Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Origen, Tertullian and Epiphanus challenged the incursion of Gnosticism into Christianity.

  8. Early Christian Thinkers: Ignatius of Antioch • A second century bishop at Antioch, Ignatius wrote seven letters addressed to churches in Asia Minor while on a journey to Rome for execution (110-115 CE). He strongly condemned Docetism, which taught that Jesus only seemed human and did not really die. • Ignatius was a key figure in structuring the Early Church. • He worked to consolidate house churches into a central authority overseen by the bishop. • Ignatius based his church structure on Roman civil government. • The Early Church therefore came to resemble a Roman municipality with Elders/bishops and deacons as authority. • Women, therefore, were excluded and lost the power and authority they had held.

  9. Early Christian Thinkers: Justin Martyr • Born in Palestine and a pagan, Justin converted to Christianity. • His classical philosophy came to include his new faith in Christ. • His First Apology, addressed to the Emperor, claimed Christian beliefs and practices reflected a higher reason and morality. His second Apology protested injustice. His Dialogue with Trypho records his deep disagreement with Judaism. • Justin was martyred under the reign of Marcus Aurelius in 165 CE.

  10. Early Christian Thinkers: Origen • Origen was born into a Christian family in Alexandria in 185CE. • He is known as the greatest scholar and most prolific author of the early church. • Loyal and deeply spiritual, he tried to harmonise Greek philosophy and the Christian tradition. • Some of his teachings, including his belief in universalism, were repudiated by the church and helped to bring about his later condemnation. • Origen died in 254 under Decius’ persecution.

  11. Early Christian Thinkers:Tertullian • The first major Christian author to write in Latin, Tertullian lived in Carthage. His surviving works date from 196-212 CE. • Tertullian had strong views on church discipline, remarriage, fasting and fleeing to avoid persecution. • Tertullian joined the Montanists around 207 CE. (A heretical sect- see Montanus) • The speedy advent of Christ, and the establishment of the millennium, are the fundamental ideas of his theology as a Montanist. • He coined the phrase: “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church”.

  12. Early Christian Thinkers: basil of Caesarea • Basil was born into a wealthy Christian family in Caesarea about 330 CE. He chose to live an ascetic lifestyle on his family estate in Pontus. • He was dedicated to biblical study and compiled an anthology of Origen’s works. • He was ordained a presbyter and became bishop of Caesarea in 370. • Basil’s writings on monastic life stressed love and community. • Basil’s studies on Trinity paved the way for the work of the Council of Constantinople in 381.

  13. Early Christian Thinkers:Irenaeus • Irenaeus (2nd century – c. 202) was Bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, then a part of the Roman Empire (now Lyons, France). • He was an early church father and apologist, and his writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology. • He was a hearer of Polycarp who in turn was a disciple of John the Evangelist, writer of the fourth Gospel. • Irenaeus' best-known book, Against Heresies (c. 180) is a detailed attack on Gnosticism, which was then a serious threat to the Church. • As one of the first great Christian theologians, he emphasized the traditional elements in the Church, especially the episcopate, Scripture, and tradition. • Irenaeus wrote that the only way for Christians to retain unity was to humbly accept one doctrinal authority—Episcopal councils.

  14. Early Christian Thinkers: Arius • ARIUS one of the most famous heretics was born about 256, in Libya (according to others, in Alexandria); d. 336, at Constantinople. • He held a prominent position as presbyter in the Church of Alexandria when the Arian controversy with Bishop Alexander began (about 318) concerning the eternal deity of Christ and his equality with the Father (homoousia). • Arius denied this, holding that Christ was of a different essence, and a creature of the Father, though created before the world. • Condemned by the synod of Alexandria (320),it was evident that not a few of the Asiatic churches favored his ideas. But, in spite of his many and powerful friends, Arius was defeated at the Council of Nicaea (325), and banished to Illyria.

  15. Arius • Arius was formally recalled from banishment; and all the chiefs of the Eusebian party were assembled in Constantinople to receive him back into the bosom of the church, when he suddenly died the day before the solemnity (336). • This was interpreted by the Orthodox as God’s judgment on his heretical views.

  16. Early Christian Thinkers:Ambrose • Aurelius Ambrosius, better known in English as Saint Ambrose (c. between 337 and 340 –397), was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. He was one of the four original “Doctors of the Church.” • Ambrose was known to be Catholic in belief, but also acceptable to Arians due to the charity shown in theological matters in this regard. • In the confrontation with Arians, Ambrose sought to theologically refute their propositions, which were heretical. The Arians appealed to many high level leaders and clergy in both the Western and Eastern empires.

  17. Ambrose • Under Ambrose's major influence, Emperors Gratian, Valentinian II and Theodosius I carried on a persecution of Paganism. His defence of monks and a bishop who destroyed a synagogue gave implicit immunity to such acts against Jews throughout the Empire. • Ambrose’s theology centered around doctrinal teaching, priestly ministry; liturgical flexibility and Mariology.

  18. Early Christian Thinkers: Augustine • Aurelius Augustinus [more commonly “St. Augustine of Hippo,”(354– 430 C.E.) is considered one of the most influential thinkers of the Early church. • One of the decisive developments in Western philosophy was the widespread merging of the Greek philosophical tradition and the Judeo-Christian religious and scriptural traditions. Augustine is one of the main figures through and by whom this merging was accomplished. • Augustine is most known for his works Confessions and City of God.

  19. Augustine’s Legacy • In particular, philosophy for Augustine was centered on what is referred to as “the problem of evil”, that is, how to make sense of and live within a world that seemed so adversarial and fraught with danger, a world in which so much of what matters most to us is so easily lost. • Augustine’s concepts of Original Sin and the nature of women had significant impact on the church’s attitude to the unbaptised and its negative view of women up to the present.

  20. Early Christian Thinkers:Donatus • As a direct result of the persecution of Diocletian, there arose among the Christians a great enthusiasm for sufferings, and even for death, for the sake of the faith. • At that time some Church leaders - unwilling to endure torture or death and become martyrs - had been ready to take such acts as worshipping the gods of the old pantheon, considered idols by Christians, or surrendering church books and property to the imperial authorities. Such people became known as traditors or surrenderers. • One of these "traditors", named Caecilian, had returned to the fold of the Church once the persecutions ended, and was consecrated Bishop of Carthage and Primate of North Africa. • Those of the faithful who refused to accept the authority of such a spiritual leader raised Majorinus as a rival bishop; however, Majorinus died shortly after being consecrated, and it fell to Donatus to take his place and continue the struggle.

  21. Donatism Augustine founded the heavy-handed edict against the Donatists when he wrote: “Why should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return, if the lost sons compelled others to their destruction? (The Correction of the Donatists, 22–24) • The Donatists contended that traditores could not be reinstated without being re-baptized and re-ordained to take office. They also contended that church rituals performed by traditores were invalid. Therefore persons who were baptized, ordained or consecrated should not be recognized by the Church. • The Roman Church believed that lapsed clergy could perform rituals such as baptism as long as they followed church ritual. • During his tenure of some 40 years Donatus oversaw the expansion of the Donatist Christian sect but struggled unsuccessfully against the Roman Christian wing to obtain Church recognition as the legitimate Primate of North Africa. Augustine debates the Donatists

  22. Early Christian Thinkers:Montanus • About the middle of the second century Montanus appeared as a new prophet in Phrygia. • Prophecy was the most prominent feature of the new movement. • Ecstatic visions, announcing the approach of the second advent of Christ, and the establishment of the heavenly Jerusalem at Pepuza in Phrygia, and inculcating the severest asceticism and the most rigorous penitential discipline, were set forth as divine revelations. • In spite of the sensation it created and the discussion it caused, the movement remained for a long time within the Church, but by the late 180’s, it became necessary for the Montanists to separate from the Orthodox Church in Phrygia, and form a schismatic congregation, organized by Montanus himself. Sts Perpetua and Felicity were Montanist martyrs.

  23. Montanus • Condemned in Rome and in its native country, Montanism found a new home in North Africa, and its most prominent representative in Tertullian. • Montanus advocated fasting, chastity and martyrdom. He was strictly orthodox. • Some would argue that Montanism was simply a reaction of the old, the primitive Church against the obvious tendency of the Church of the day, - to strike a bargain with the world, and arrange herself comfortably in it.

  24. Early Christian Thinkers: The Shepherd of Hermas • Three ancient witnesses, one of whom claims to be contemporary, declare that Hermas was the brother of Pope Pius I, whose pontificate was not earlier than 140 – 155. • The book consists of five visions granted to Hermas, a former slave. This is followed by twelve mandates or commandments, and ten similitudes, or parables. • It is a Christian literary work of the 2nd century, considered a valuable book by many Christians, and considered canonical scripture by some of the early Church fathers such as Irenaeus. The Shepherd had great authority in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

  25. Early Christian Thinkers: Clement • Titus Flavius Clemens (c.150 - c. 215), known as Clement of Alexandria is counted as one of the early Church Fathers. • Clement is best remembered as the teacher of Origen. He united Greek philosophical traditions with Christian doctrine and valued gnosis – in his understanding a term for deeper knowledge of the Word of God. Clement presented the goal of Christian life as deification, identified both as Platonism's assimilation into God and the biblical imitation of God.

  26. End of Section 2 part 1You may wish to add some details to the unit work sheet

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