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Survey of Church History

Survey of Church History

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Survey of Church History

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  1. Survey of Church History BI 3325-2

  2. Formation of the Canon • The Need for a Canon • 6 main developments forced the church to formulate a canon of the NT. • 1. Need for a Scripture to spell out the message of the Apostles. • By the end of the 1st c. most of the contemporary witnesses to the message of Jesus and the apostles were gone. • Believers wanted a body of Scripture that would spell out the authoritative message of the apostles.

  3. Formation of the Canon • The Need for a Canon • 2. Need to decide on what should be read in the churches. • From the beginning Scripture was read in the worship services for edification. • Leaders became increasingly concerned that the readings be truly God’s message. • 3. Need for a true canon to answer heretical ones. • Heretics like Marcion were forming canons to promote their own special viewpoints.

  4. Formation of the Canon • The Need for a Canon • Ca. 140 M. composed a canon of a mutilated Luke & 10 of Paul’s epistles. • He rejected the OT; in self-defense the church had to decide what books belonged in the canon. • 4. Need to establish authoritative truth to answer error. • At almost the same time the Gnostics & Marcion were making inroads, the Montanists began to claim a continuing revelation. • The church in response declared that revelation had ceased.

  5. Formation of the Canon • The Need for a Canon • 5. Need to decide which of many books claiming to be canonical were false. • Apocryphal books began to appear in increasing numbers. • These gospels, acts, and epistles attempted to fill in gaps in the narrative of the life of Christ and the apostles and to round out the theological message of the Christianity. • Some of these books were obviously not on a par with NT books, others were closer. • An effort was made to distinguish.

  6. Formation of the Canon • The Need for a Canon • 6. Need to decide which books to die for when possession resulted in martyrdom. • The Diocletian persecution in 303 called fro the burning of all sacred books and the punishment of those who possessed them. • Preservation of Scripture in the face of such determined imperial opposition required great effort and endangered the lives of those who hid or copied it. • Therefore, one wanted to be sure he was risking his life to protect a genuine work.

  7. Formation of the Canon • The Greek word kanon (rule or standard) designated the laws that governed the behavior society expected or the state demanded of its citizens. • Word is used in that sense in Gal. 6:16. • By middle of 2nd c., the terms canon of truth or canon of faith were applied to the creed of the church. • The connection of the word with the books of the NT seems to have originated with Athanasius ca. the middle of the 4th c.

  8. Formation of the Canon • Later, in his Festal Epistle, written in 367, he spoke of the Scripture as “canonized” in contrast to the apocrypha. • Thus the word came into church vocabulary, although the idea behind it had arisen in the earliest days of the church. • Canonical Scripture, then, on the one hand provides a standard of doctrine and holy living and, on the other hand, meets the standard or tests of inspiration.

  9. Development of the Canon • Tests of canonicity had to be employed. • Secondary tests were required; one of the most important was apostolicity—was it written by an apostle or one close to the apostles? • Thus, Luke’s gospel was accepted because of his close relationship with Paul; Mark’s because of his close association with Peter and Paul. • Matthew and John were apostles.

  10. Development of the Canon • Then there was the test of internal appeal. • Did a book contain moral or doctrinal elements that measured up to the standards set by the apostles in their acknowledged writings? • As these and other tests were applied in various ways over the centuries, the canon gradually developed. • Archaeological evidence quite effectively confirms the conservative claim that all the NT books were written by about the end of the 1st c.

  11. Development of the Canon • Almost from the time of their writing, the 4 Gospels and Acts were accepted as divinely inspired accounts of the life of Christ and the development of the early church. • Various churches to which Paul addressed his epistles accepted his word to them as coming from the mouth of God. • Gradually nearby churches came to feel that letters sent to sister churches were of value for them also and made copies.

  12. Development of the Canon • In this way the Pauline epistles began to circulate individually and by the end of the 2nd c. as a collection. • Testimony to the existence and value of various NT books is extensive, beginning with Clement of Rome in the 90s. • Then there are other pieces of evidence; ca. the middle of the 2nd c. Tatian composed the first harmony of the gospels. • This wove together elements of the 4 Gospels in such a way as to present a continuous narrative.

  13. Development of the Canon • Composed about the same time, the Gospel of Truth, one of the Gnostic works from Nag Hammadi, refers to an authoritative group of NT writings, including Matthew, Luke (possibly with Acts), John, the Pauline epistles (except the Pastorals), Hebrews, I John and Revelation. • A decade or two later a list was drawn up, now bearing the name Muratori, after the Italian scholar who published it (1740).

  14. Development of the Canon • The document was slightly damaged, but it apparently recognizes the 4 Gospels, Acts, the Pauline epistles, Revelation, two (or 3) epistles of John, and Jude. • But it adds the Apocalypse of Peter and omits I & II Peter and Hebrews and possibly one of John’s epistles. • From the time of Irenaeus (c. 175), the principal spokesman of the church’s response to Gnosticism, the canon was thought to contain essentially the same books that appear in it today, though there were some disagreements.

  15. Development of the Canon • Clement of Alexandria (c. 200) seemed to recognize all the NT books. • Origen (c. 250) divided the books into categories of universally accepted works and disputed works. • In the former he put the four Gospels, the 13 epistles of Paul, I Peter, I John, Acts and Revelation. • In the latter he put Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, James, Jude, and four works not now part of the NT.

  16. Development of the Canon • He himself seems to have accepted nearly all the books now included in the NT. • Hebrews was disputed because its authorship was uncertain; 2 Peter because it differed in style and vocabulary from 1 Peter; James and Jude, because they represented themselves as servants rather than apostles; 2 & 3 John because the author called himself an elder rather than an apostle.

  17. Development of the Canon • Eusebius, the 4th c. historian, also divided the NT books into accepted and disputed categories. • In the former he listed the same ones as had Origen. • He himself seemed to accept all those now included, and apparently he put them in 50 copies of the NT that Constantine ordered him to have made in 330. • Later in the century Jerome also accepted the present 27 books in his Vulgate.

  18. Development of the Canon • At a local council in 393 at Hippo, where Augustine was bishop, the contents of the canon were spelled out as our current 27 books for the first time. • A record of the decision has not been preserved, but it was repeated at the Third Council of Carthage in 397 with the proviso that no other books be used as authoritative Scripture. • When the Sixth Council of Carthage (419) reaffirmed the decision, it directed that the statement be sent to the bishop of Rome and other bishops.

  19. Development of the Canon • From that time on there was little debate in the West; the e.g. of the West and the influence of several great theologians in the East finally settled the matter there also. • Since the 5th c. there has been no serious controversy over the contents of the NT canon. • The formation of the canon was a long one, not involving any hasty decision on the part of any ecclesiastical body.

  20. Development of the Canon • Basically, there were 3 steps in the process: • 1) Divine inspiration • 2) Gradual human recognition and acceptance of the separate works • 3) Official ratification or adoption of those books already universally accepted in the church

  21. The Early Creeds • Creeds, like the NT canon, developed in response to a need. • In the early days when there were few copies of the NT books in circulation, believers needed some standard to keep them in the path of truth. • They also needed a standard by which to test heretical opinions. • So, possibly near the end of the 1st c. or beginning of the 2nd, a rule of faith came into existence.

  22. The Early Creeds • It generally taught that Christ, the Son of God, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified and died, was buried, rose again, and ascended in Heaven—for the remission of sins. • This rule, which has come to be called the Apostles’ Creed, reached its present form about 750. • Other creeds were formulated too, in an effort to settle controversies that tore the church into opposing factions.

  23. The Early Creeds • Some had to do with the nature of Christ, some with the Holy Spirit, and one with the nature of man. • These doctrinal quarrels of the 4th and later centuries were handled very differently from those of the 2nd & 3rd c. • When Christianity became a legal religion early in the 4th c., Constantine regarded himself as head of the Christian religion along with the other religions of the state.

  24. The Early Creeds • Thus when difficulties arose he called a church-wide or ecumenical council to deal with the matter and to formulate a statement (creed) of settlement. • Other emperors followed the practice. • Although the differences over Christ, the Holy Spirit, and man sometimes were going on concurrently, it is easier to deal with them separately.

  25. Controversy: Nature of Christ • The Arian Controversy: Nicea • C. 318 Arius, a presbyter (elder) in Alexandria, had difficulty in accepting the trinitarian nature of the Godhead. • He was torn between monotheism (one God) and the wish to preserve the Logos-Christ as in independent being on the other. • He began to teach that Christ was different in essence from the Father—that he was created by the Father and before that did not exist.

  26. Controversy: Nature of Christ • Athanasius, archdeacon of Alexandria, challenged him asserting that Christ and the Father were the same in essence and that the Son was eternal. • His primary concern was that if Christ were a mere creature, faith in him could not bring salvation to humanity. • A synod in Alexandria deposed Arius in 321 but did not end the struggle; Arius was able to win over some leaders in the East to his view.

  27. Controversy: Nature of Christ • Constantine felt obliged to step in and restore harmony; he called an ecumenical council at Nicea (northwest Asia Minor) in 325. • Over 300 bishops and a number of lesser leaders assembled. • The Athanasian party won and the emperor supported that decision. • The creed drawn up declared that the Son was the same in essence with the Father, the only begotten of the Father, and very God of very God.

  28. Controversy: Nature of Christ • But, in the seesawing fortunes of subsequent years, as emperors and church personnel changed, Athanasius was banished no less than 5 times, with the resulting periodic restoration of the Arian party. • Gradually, however, the orthodox party came to enjoy a majority in the empire.

  29. Controversy: Christ’s Humanity • In the process of asserting the full deity of Christ, some theologians had done so at the expense of His humanity. • They taught that a complete humanity could not be sinless and that the divine nature, while assuming a human body, took the place of the higher rational principle in man. • Several synodical meetings condemned the idea of the defective humanity of Christ, and in 381 the council of Constantinople finally asserted His true and full humanity.

  30. The Nestorian Controversy • Another issue arose: if Christ was both fully divine and fully human, how were the two natures related in one person? • Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople, was one of those who saw the two natures in loose mechanical conjunction. • Neither nature shared in the properties of the other; so the divine did not have a part in the sufferings of the human nature of Christ. • This was not just an academic question.

  31. The Nestorian Controversy • As Cyril of Alexandria pointed out, if N. were right, a sinner would be redeemed by the sufferings of a mere man. • And, though a man might pay a penalty for himself or a limited number of others, it took the linkage of the divine with the human in the God-man to make the payment of the penalty effective for an infinite number of human beings. • The Nestorian controversy led to the calling of the 3rd council at Ephesus in 431.

  32. The Nestorian Controversy • The council met and anathematized the teachings of Nestorius before the Nestorian party arrived. • When they arrived, they set up a rival council. • The emperor finally decided against the Nestorians and Nestorius went into a monastery. • The council was a demonstration that the majority of bishops favored the doctrines of Cyril (who argued for a true union of the two natures), but the clarification was left for a later council.

  33. The Nestorian Controversy • Nestorius argued that he himself did not hold such views; was he the object of a smear campaign? • The Council of Ephesus was not a true resolution of the issues. • Further, Eutyches, abbot of a monastery near Constantinople, in an effort to demonstrate the true unity of the person of Christ, began to teach that after the incarnation of Christ the two natures fused into one so that the one nature partook of the properties of the other.

  34. The Nestorian Controversy • Distinctions between the two natures were obliterated; thus his arguments heightened the controversy considerably. • Vos’s illustration of the problem: omniscience and omnipresence are attributes of deity only.

  35. One Person, Two Natures • A new council was called at Chalcedon in 451; its decision was that Christ was both truly God and truly man, and that the two natures were united in one Person without confusion, change, division, or separation. • It did not bring final settlement; in Palestine, Egypt and Syria, groups arose to perpetuate the teachings of Cyril and Eutyches. • They held out strongly for one nature in Christ.

  36. One Person, Two Natures • Finally they were able to force a 5th ecumenical council, the 2nd at Constantinople, in 553, which ratified the Chalcedonian creed but make changes that tended to favor the Eutychians. • After that council, another conflict arose over the person of Christ and concerned whether Christ had only one will. • The supporters of this view held that if Christ had two wills, He would have sinned, because certainly the human will would have succumbed to temptation.

  37. One Person, Two Natures • Ultimately the 3rd council at Constantinople met in 681 to deal with this issue. • The decision was to ratify the Chalcedonian Creed with the addition that Christ had two wills, the human and divine, the human will being subject to the divine. • While the great councils did not settle for all time discussion concerning the nature of the person of Christ, they did set for the chief elements that have characterized an orthodox Christology down through the ages.

  38. One Person, Two Natures • The elements were: His true and full deity, His true and full humanity, and the true union of the two natures in one person, without fusion or confusion.

  39. Controversies Concerning the HS • Not only did Arius teach that Christ was different in essence from the Father, the HS was as well. • He seems to have believed that the HS was the creature of a creature, that is, of Christ. • Given its primary concern, the Council of Nicea merely affirmed, “we believe also in one Holy Spirit.” • Later Arian attacks on the deity of the HS brought forth an array of orthodox writings.

  40. Controversies Concerning the HS • At the 1st C. of Constantinople (381) a creed was formulated asserting that the HS was to be worshiped and glorified as the Father, that He proceeded from the Father, and that He was responsible for revelation. • In later decades the doctrine of His deity was further defined; and in 451 the C. of Chalcedon made the declarations of the 1st C. of Constantinople more explicit.

  41. Controversies Concerning Humanity • This is the only controversy which took place in the West. • The chief protagonists were Augustine and Pelagius, a British or Irish monk who ultimately found his way to North Africa. • They formed their views independently. • After coming to Carthage, P. clashed with the prevailing viewpoint and the controversy spread to other provinces. • P. taught that Adam’s sin affected only Adam; mankind was still born on the same plane as Adam.

  42. Controversies Concerning Humanity • There was no such thing as original sin. • Sins of individuals in history involved acts of the will and were due to the bad e.g. of Adam and society since his time. • God’s grace was especially an enlightenment of mankind’s reason, enabling persons to see and do the will of God. • Humans could do right without such aid; in fact, it was possible for them to lead a sinless life.

  43. Controversies Concerning Humanity • Divine grace sought only to assist man, who chooses and acts in complete independence. • Physical death had nothing to do with sin but was a natural feature of the human organism. • Augustine held to the unity of the race—that all had sinned in Adam. • Men sinned because they were sinners and were so totally corrupt in their natures that they were unable to do good works that could achieve salvation.

  44. Controversies Concerning Humanity • Faith to believe was a gift from God. • God elected some to salvation; He simply passed by the nonelect. • But on occasion A. did refer to some as predestined to everlasting damnation. • He also spoke of the divine gift of perseverance in faith; so salvation was for him a work of God from start to finish. • But, justification was a process rather than a single act.

  45. Controversies Concerning Humanity • P. was condemned by a synod at Carthage in 412, by Innocent I in 416, by a general council of African churches in 418 and finally at the C. of Ephesus in 431. • On the other hand A. was out of step with the church of his time. • He stressed the inner life much more than the external ceremonies. • He denied that the Eucharist had any sin-atoning power apart from the faith of the partaker.

  46. Controversies Concerning Humanity • Although he advocated asceticism, he denied that it had any value apart from the transformation of life into Christlikeness. • He opposed the predominant sacramental method of achieving salvation.

  47. Early Middle Ages • Ignatius • His heavy emphasis on obedience to bishops seems to be an indication that such subordination did not then exist. • Also, there is no hint that he intended more than an overseer of a single congregation. • He urged obedience to bishops to prevent churches from being doctrinally torn apart, not to facilitate their normal functions.

  48. Early Middle Ages • Irenaeus • I. asserted the unity of the church (spiritual unity, not organic) by virtue of the headship of Christ and community of belief handed down through a succession of bishops. • He taught that the Roman church had been established by Peter and Paul and that they appointed successors.

  49. Early Middle Ages • Irenaeus • Speaking of Rome: “For with this church, because of its position of leadership and authority, must needs agree every church, that is, the faithful everywhere; for in her the apostolic tradition has always been preserved by the faithful from all parts” Against Heresies, III, 1. • During decades following the distinction between presbyters and bishops became firmly established.

  50. Early Middle Ages • Irenaeus • And, bishops with authority over the several individual churches of a large city became commonly accepted. • A community of belief was also developing. • Polemicists frequently appealed to a body of true doctrine handed down by apostolic succession in an effort to defeat heretics. • Tertullian took this approach in On the Prescription Against Heretics (XX,XXI).