The Need for Formal Formulation of Trinitarian Dogma

In the early church many were attempting to understand the divinity of Christ, and in extension the Holy Trinity.  Today, we have the benefit of the Church correcting false ideas.  However, when these ideas were formulated there was not a dogmatic decree regarding the Trinity though the dogma had been taught in the earliest days of the church.  The heresies of Monarchianism, Sabellianism, Subordinationism, and Arianism required that the church formally formulate the Trinitarian doctrine.

Dynamic Monarchianism taught that the Father was true God, and that Christ was a man who was indwelled with a divine spirit (Preuss 126).  Patripassian Monarchianism takes it a step further by acknowledging Christ as divine but does not go far enough as the two are not of the same substance.  Sabellianism, or Modalism as it is also called, taught that God manifested himself in different modes and that there was only one person of the Godhead.  In short, God was made up of one person (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch.5).  Arianism denied the divinity of Christ and taught that He was a creation of the Father (Lecture Notes), and this was also the Arian view of the Holy Spirit.  In that regard, he was subordinate to the Father.  The heresies mentioned all have elements of subordinationism, because in various respects the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit is lowered.

With these heresies being taught the souls of the faithful were at risk.  The church rightly saw that an attack on the persons of the Trinity was a salvific issue.  Afterall, if Christ was not fully divine then his sacrifice on the cross meant little or nothing.  The church responded to the heresies, and formally defined the Trinity at the Council of Nicea in 325.

 

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#05, accessed November 13, 2018.

Preuss, Arthur. The Divine Trinity.  https://archive.org/details/divinetrinityad00pohlgoog, accessed November 12, 2018.

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Bernard Lonergan and Apologetic Methodology

In the Post-Reformation era theology, which had once been standard curriculum at universities, was pushed in the seminaries.  One of the unintentional results was that theologians began to only spoke with those in whom they were already in agreement.  In his essay Theology in its New Context, theologian Bernard Lonergan gives a critique of classical apologetic methodology.  The differences between a classicist mentality and historical consciousness will also be given.

The classicist mentality regarding apologetics has a starting point with proving the existence of God.  One with this mentality will employ classic argument such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological arguments to prove God’s existence.  The classicist mentality relied on things that had always been assumed, and sometimes it continues to do so even considering new scientific discoveries or developments.  Regarding this Lonergan writes, “The classicist thought standardized, but tended to overlook, that modern studies have brought to light, thematized, elaborated, illustrated, documented” (Lonergan, 413).  In this form we see that God becomes known to us through divine revelation (i.e. Scripture and Tradition), and in the material universe.  This approach falls into the category of Dogmatic theology as they were considered “considered settled beliefs of the universal Church” (Lecture notes).

In the 19th and 20th centuries a movement call historical consciousness began to creep into the church.  It raised a series of questions, with one of those being how traditional texts and teachings to be interpreted in the contemporary church?  This method became even more popular after the second Vatican Council, as the church began to seek unity among other Christian groups.  They seek to see historical Christian writing as something that can be applied the same way as they were when originally written.  Regarding this Lonergan writes, “One type of foundation suits a theology that aims to be deductive, static, abstract, universal, equally applicable to all places and to all times” (Lonergan 415).

Though both methodologies have their place in apologetics, it is important to make way for new developments or discoveries.  This is not to say that some new doctrine will be unearthed, but our knowledge of apologetics is growing more by the day.  One example is when dealing with those who identify with the new atheist movement.  This movement seems to be more a religion than anything else, but they know all the arguments from classical apologetics.  The firmest adherents have taken the time to answer classical methods of proving the existence of God.  In is my experience in interracting with them, that they shut down when these arguments are brought up.  This is similar to what Lonergan describes when he discusses arguments being the same in all times.  We must be able to adjust and make room for new developments in physics and science when arguing for the existence of God.  In addition to presenting those facts from science and reason, it is also important to live a life that has been transformed by the Gospel.  This has been my experience when applying ideas classicist assumptions in apologetics.

 

WORKS CITED

Lonergan, Bernard J. F., et al. The Lonergan Reader. University of Toronto Press, Scholarly     Publishing Division, 1997. Lonergan Studies. EBSCOhost, accessed December 10, 2017.

 

Adoptionism and Docetism in the Early Church

When we think of the early days of Christianity, there is a tendency to think about our ancestors in the faith in today’s terms.  We may think they met in churches when they actually met in homes.  That every doctrine that we hold to today was laid out the same back then.  Unfortunately, this line of thinking could not be further from the truth.   The early Church dealt with many issues, and one of those issues was over Christology.

When it comes to Christology the early Church specifically had to deal with Adoptionism and Docetism.  These are two Christologies that were heretical in nature, but they were attractive to people because they answered some lingering questions that had not yet been answered.  Before those answers are discussed it is prudent to define these two terms.

Adoptionism is a Christological belief that Jesus was adopted as the son of God either after his baptism, resurrection, or ascension.  This view was seen in many parts of early Christianity, but a writer by the name of Apollinaris wrote about it extensively.  Regarding this Richard Norris writes, “The divine Logos ‘became human’ in the sense that he became embodied and thus shared the structural constitution of a human being” (Norris 22).  In the view of Adoptionism Christ only became Christ after he was adopted after spending his life doing God’s will.  In other words, the He was not born with two natures.

 

 

 

The other Christological view to be discussed is known as Docetism.  Docetism was an early form of Gnosticism which taught that all matter was evil.  Since all matter was evil it stands to reason that Christ was not crucified.  They saw no need for the Son to make himself involved in physical matters (Norris 13).  Many Church Fathers such as St. Irenaeus and Tertullian fought against the growth of this sect. The sect hated the flesh and taught that the divine spirit left the person of Christ before he died on the cross.  They failed to realize that man was made in God’s image, and even with all its faults the flesh is an object of God’s love and grace (Norris 13).

These two theories became popular, and even thrived, because they answered two questions.  Firstly, can a “whether a mediatorial Logos, when he becomes incarnate, can honestly be understood as God present in person” (Norris 8).  Secondly, if the idea of the incarnation is a contradiction.  There were several reasons why they were rejected.  In the case of Adoptionism it simply contradicts scripture.  Scripture teaches in many places that the Son always was and was not something that came later.  One such passage is John 1:1 which states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (NRSV).  This shows that Christ always, and since the womb Christ was fully human and fully divine.  For his sacrifice on the cross to be redemptive it had to be a sinless offering.  Tis could not have happened if it was a man who was adopted at thirty years of age.  In the case of Docetism scripture also states that Christ willingly put on flesh.  We see this in Hebrews 2:14, “Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil” (NRSV).  This shows again that if Christ was not also flesh then the cross meant nothing, and the Gospel is nullified.

 

WORKS CITED

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Norris, Richard.  The Christological Controversy.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press.  1980.

We All Need Sympathy

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.- Hebrews 4:15 (NRSV)

 

Like it or not, we are in the throws of the holiday season.  Christmas songs are already on the radio, and a couple weeks ago retailers started to put up their “holiday” decorations.  This is also the time of the year when people feel alone and get lost in the business that has become the holiday season.  With the popularity of social media people who are hurting may say so on the platform of their choice.  They may be depressed, alone, lost a loved one, or are hurting in some other way.  It is in our nature to want to connect, and that desire is heightened when we are hurting in some way.

Why?  Because, whether we want to admit it or not, we all need sympathy.  We want to know that people are supporting us during our darkest of times, and that other people have been where we are currently and have made it through to the other side.  Today’s verse shows us something remarkable, simple, and reassuring.  It shows us that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, is not some unfeeling and uncaring figure.  He walked on this Earth and felt what we felt.  He was tempted (Matt. 4:1-11), he felt the pain of someone close to him dying (John 11), and his friends abandoned him in his hour of need (Mark 14:50).

What are you struggling with today?  Do you feel that nobody understands what you are going through?  I want to encourage you and say that many sympathize and care for you.  Jesus Christ himself sympathizes and loves you with an everlasting love.  Throughout life we will always have hard times, but our savior lived on this earth and knows all about them on a personal level.  Jesus is there to sympathize, guide you, and walk you through the dark times.  Keep your head up!

Deeds of Christ

Every Sunday in the creed we declare that Jesus is our Lord, but what does that mean?  What implications does that have on our lives?  In the Gospels Jesus tells us to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31), love God (Matthew 22:37), and show mercy (John 8:11).  How do his words correlate to his deeds, and what does that mean for us as his followers?  This essay will take a deeper look at the scriptures referenced to illustrate how the words that Christ spoke correspond with his actions.

Jesus often spoke of what we now the call the perfect commandment.  Jesus spoke about loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbor as yourself.  The first verse mentioned above is Mark 12:31 which states, “The second is this ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these” (NRSV).  To love your neighbor means so much more than greeting them when they are in their front yard.  Whether they treated him as he deserved or not, Jesus showed compassion to everyone (Collins 51).  He healed the centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:13, St. Peter’s mother in law in Matthew 8:14, and healed a multitude in Matthew 14:14.  In healing the centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:13, Jesus shows that his salvation is for Jew and Gentile alike.  In addition, this was a member of the occupying government and an enemy of the Jewish people.  He shows us what we must do with those we do not agree with.  We must still them as people as they are created in the image of God.

To go along with loving our neighbor, Jesus tells us “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 NRSV).  How is loving God a deed of Jesus?  As the Son of God he is the only way to the Father, and Christ said we can only know the Father through him (John 14:6).  To love God with all your heart is to go where he leads and to do what he is telling us to do.  In short, we must follow his will if we love him with our whole being.  Jesus demonstrated this is many ways, with the most notable being his Passion.

In the garden of Gethsemane, we see the human will of Jesus manifesting itself.  He is so terrified about what he must endure that he begins to sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44).  This is a medical condition known as Hematidrosis, and occurs when an individual in experiencing extreme stress.  He prayed that he may not have to endure, and this shows he is human.  He was scared, and above all it means he can relate to what we go through.  Though he was terrified, Christ knew his mission and because of his overwhelming love we are redeemed.

In John chapter 8 Jesus encounters a group of Pharisees who are circling a woman and looking to stone her for the sin of adultery.  According to Leviticus 20:10 this was the consequence for such an action, but adultery takes two people.  The woman was about to get stoned, but where was the man?  It is speculated that the man was in the crowd that was wanting to stone the woman, and this was a way to trap Jesus.  He knew what was going on, and said if someone present has never sinned then he could throw the stone (John 8:7).  Jesus told her to stop sinning, and did not condemn her.  He forgave her for the sin by saying “Neither do I condemn you.  Go your way, and from now on do not sin again” (John 8:11 NRSV).  Jesus showed mercy and did not just talk about it.  We see this several times in the Gospels, but this example is significant as the penalty was death for such a sin.  He gave the woman a new life and hope, and he does the same for us.

 

He is Faithful

Lamentations 3:22-33

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,     his mercies never come to an end they are new every morning;     great is your faithfulness. (NRSV)

 

                When I was a child I got in a fight with my best friend.  As most childhood arguments go it was over something trivial.  I was so upset that I took a multi-colored crayon and expressed my feelings about him.  The problem was I didn’t do this on paper, but on the side of my house.  Imagine the shocked look that my parents had when they finally got a glimpse of my masterpiece.

My dad yelled my name, and I courageously barricaded myself in the bathroom hoping to escape the wrath to come.  When I emerged from my hideout I was not met with yelling or a spanking, but with a concern on why I would do such a thing.  I pleaded my case, was told that if I was truly sorry that I would do something about it.  My dad handed me a paintbrush, a can of paint, and told me to go say sorry to my friend.

The point I’m trying to get across is that we all do something that we regret.  Like this scenario from my childhood we try to hide and pretend that it didn’t happen.  My parents are wonderful people, and they showed me incredible love and patience that day.  It is the same in our relationship with the Lord.  His love and mercy are always available.  He is faithful to forgive us even when we have trouble forgiving ourselves.  Is there anything you have been holding onto?  Pray, and give it to the Lord.  In 1 John 1:9 we read “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NRSV).  Let Him love you and forgive you for everything you have ever done.

 

Jewishness of Christ

Within theology there are many different topics.  One such topic is known as Christology, and it deals with who Jesus is.  It deals with his nature, divinity, and how it is portrayed within the New Testament.  There are many views of Christology that have been debunked over the years, and some are still taught today.  Who was Jesus, and how does his Jewish heritage affect our understanding of the New Testament?

When we read the New Testament, we tend to read it through modern eyes.  We read the Gospel accounts and see the divinity of Christ, but we often overlook key aspects that assist us in understanding him in a deeper way.  We may have a good understanding of the doctrines that Christ preached, but pay little attention to his relationships and social interactions (Carter 150).  In fact, understanding the Jewishness of Christ will have a big impact on our exegesis of the New Testament.  By viewing the Jewishness of Christ, we are removing the presuppositions of western culture, and placing the New Testament back into its cultural and societal context.

One thing that many see Jesus as doing is abolishing the law, but is this really accurate?  Certainly, there are some things a that are no longer applicable under the New Covenant, but Jesus tells us himself that he came to fulfill the law in Matthew 5:17.  This seems to indicate that He recognized his Jewishness and embraced it.  Regarding this Gerald Collins writes, “We throw away any right to comment on the way Jesus perceived reality, if we ignore the earthly particularity of his language’ (Collins 47).

Jesus spoke in a manner in which his Jewish audience would understand.  Like other Rabbis of the time, he taught lessons by telling a story.  One example is His example of putting new wine into old wineskins in Luke 5:36. A surface reading of the text suggests a disagreement between Jesus and the Pharisees in regard to Jewish dietary laws.  These parables give us peeks into Jewish culture, and a proper understanding of them assists us in understanding the New Testament in a fuller way.

As previously stated, we tend to read these parables within the context of our western culture, but to do so is to miss the point.  By reading scripture in this manner we run the risk of coming to a conclusion that in totally foreign to the intention of the text.  That has ramifications for how we engage the rest of the New Testament.

Jesus was Jewish, and the first Christians were Jewish.  They worshipped in the synagogue, kept kosher dietary laws, and strove to keep other aspects of the law.  Most Christians are gentiles, and as a result it becomes hard to imagine Jesus as a Jewish man.  We say it, but it is something that comes from our mouth with little understanding of the ramifications.  This means that the Gospels should be seen as a conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders of his day, particularly in regard to the interpretation of the law.  It also means that we measure what Jesus said with the understanding that he was a Jewish Rabbi in 1st century Palestine.  These two things may be difficult for us to grasp, but when we do so we see the New Testament in its proper context, and the message of scripture become more fully alive.

 

WORKS CITED

Carter, Warren. “Proclaiming (in/against) Empire Then and Now,” Word & World 25/2 (2005) 149-158

O’ Collins, Gerald. Jesus: A Portrait. New York: Maryknoll, 2013

 

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