Lonergan and The Law of the Cross

Bernard Lonergan was a Jesuit priest and one of the most influential Catholic thinkers in the twentieth century.  In an effort help others understand the redemption he proposes a theory called the Law of the Cross.  Lonergan looked to the development of western culture and developed his theology to include human science and degradation of human value.  Regarding this William Loewe writes, “it invites theology to enrich itself with the discoveries of the empirical and human sciences and of historical consciousness; more grimly, it presents the cultural crisis engendered by the deterioration of the objective status of meaning and value” (Loewe 162).  Lonergan proposes that Christian faith is the example that changed the world.

The goal of humanity is to make the world a better place.  In short, we want to humanize everything.  This does not mean that are seeking to get rid of God, but that we are seeking the greater good.  However, we are human and we get greedy, try to pump up our ego, and look to satisfy self.  Individual bias, group bias, and common-sense bias distort our humanity and development.  In our individual bias we do what is best for ourselves at all costs.  We make a God of ourselves and our satisfaction reigns supreme.  In our individual bias we look to the good of our group instead of the good of the whole of humanity.  The benefit of the group is what is important even it hurts someone else.  This is an individual bias that is taken to the next level.  The result is two groups that have a hatred for each other and the criticism of the group is not heard because it is not in their interest to hear it.  The only way to maintain “happiness” in the group is with more money and power.  Common sense bias states that one can solve all problems.  It is cocky and thinks too much of itself.  In short, this bias leads to over confidence and pride.  This bias can lead to a way of thinking that leads to a complacency in the way things are.  Since it has always been that way then it must stay that way.  This line of thinking has led to many evil and destructive acts in the world.

The solution to these three biases, or reign of sin as Lonergan puts it, is the Law of the Cross.  This view offers a fresh perspective on Christian identity and it s implications in the world (Loewe 163).  The Christian faith looks to the example of Christ, and the belief that he changed the world.  Through his work on the cross he gave the world a whole new meaning.

The three-bias mentioned above are counteracted by the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.  Charity, or love as we call it now, counteracts these acts of evil.  It is through charity that we let go of our egos and recognize the image of God in other people.  It is through charity that groups look out for the welfare of others to make the world better.  It is through charity that we look past our own common-sense views to see if there is a better way.  We hope that others see the sufficiency of Charity, and faith holds the other two together because it helps us grasp the truth of who God is.

 

Works Cited

Loewe, William P. “Lonergan and the Law of the Cross”. Anglican Theological Review 59 (1977) 162-74

Advertisements

Chalcedon and the Condemnation of Nestorianism

The Council of Chalcedon took place a mere twenty years after the Council of Ephesus.  Its impact on Christology and doctrine is one that cannot be understated.  The council came about because of a new teaching on the nature of Christ by a monk by the name of Eutyches.  To summarize his view, he taught that Christ had two natures, but after they were united they were only one.  He was an opponent of Nestorius, and his way of describing the nature of Christ was damaging.  This way of putting it seems to destroy both the humanity and the divinity of Christ. Sadly, this is not far from the belief of many Christians today.

Chalcedon affirmed that the natures of Christ do not change, and in doing so they avoided Nestorianism.  However, the story of the council started before that with the afore mentioned story of the monk Eutyches.  Upon hearing of Eutyches explanation regarding the nature of Christ, Patriarch Flavian felt he had to respond to the matter.  Flavian, then patriarch of Constantinople, held a synod and condemned the teaching of Eutyches.  Flavian was upholding orthodox teaching, but issues of Christology were still being worked out in the ancient world.  Eutyches would find an ally in the bishop of Alexandria by the name of Dioscorus, who just happened to be Cyril of Alexandria’s cousin (Norris 29).  According to Richard Norris, “Dioscorus, with imperial support, presided over a council in Ephesus” (Norris 29).  This council deposed of Patriarch Flavian and restored Eutyches.

Prior to this deposition, Pope Leo had sent a letter of support to Flavian accepting the decision of the synod he held on behalf of the whole church.  Pope Leo called the council that reinstated Eutyches a “rubber synod” and invoked the authority of the Roman church (Norris 29).  Leo’s demand for a new council was answered and Bishop Dioscorus was removed from his bishopric immediately.

The council’s statement of faith was not trying to declare how the natures of Christ could be, but was declaring what over 400 years of Christian witness could not deny.  The council reiterated the two natures of Christ, which was a concern Nestorius had though he argued for it in a heretical manner.  The council also affirmed the view held by Cyril at the Council of Ephesus within the tradition established at Nicea.  The Tome of Leo was also a factor in the definition at Chalcedon.

The “definition” at Chalcedon affirms the creeds of Nicea and Constantinople when it comes to defining the redemption and the person of Christ (Norris 30).  The council also stated that the extreme forms of Christological tradition in the Antiochene and Alexandrian schools were now condemned (Norris 30).  The definition is closed with a statement that was composed based on the wishes of the emperor.  As Norris writes, “This statement, draws for its language on Cyril, Leo, and the Formula of Reunion” (Norris 30).  It emphasizes the Unity of Christ in his complete deity and complete humanity.  More importantly it says that Christ exists in two natures and not out of two natures.  It is because of this language that the definition accepts the emphasis of both Antiochene and Alexandrian schools.

Image result for council of chalcedon

Works Cited

Norris, Richard A.  The Christological Controversy.  Fortress Press Philadephia: PA, 1980.  Print.

Apollinaris and Christology

Apollinaris is a figure in the early church that certainly has his share of controversy.  At the young age of twenty, he was excommunicated for singing a hymn to the Greek god Dionysius.  He eventually would come back to Christianity and confessed the newly formed Nicean creed under the tutelage of Basil of Caesarea.  In 360AD, he became bishop of Laodicea and was a supporter of St. Athanasius in his battle against the Arians.

Apollinaris sought to circumvent the Arian view that Christ was a created being.  He sought to deny the notions that the Logos dwelled within human nature of Christ, and wanted to establish and affirm the two natures, human and divine, of Christ.  He argued that Christ’s humanity could only result through divine union.  In his letter On the Union of Christ in the Godhead Apollinaris writes, “And in this regard, he differs from every other body, for he was conceived in his mother not in separation from the Godhead but in union with it” (Norris 103).  In his view this had to happen then the Logos would have descended upon a man, and that would mean that Jesus was just an ordinary man.  This is the adoptionist mentality that Apollinaris was seeking to avoid.

As seen above, his views of Christ appear to be orthodox, but he would later stray.  His desire to oust the Arian view would lead him into a bit of Christological trouble himself.  This all comes down to his definition of man.  In the orthodox view, man is made up of flesh and a soul.  Apollinaris took this a step further and taught a two-soul theology.  In his view, man has an animal soul and a rational soul.  Regarding this Apollinaris writes, “But the flesh is not soulless, for it is said to fight against the spirit and to resist the law of the intellect, and we say that even the bodies of beasts without reason are endowed with a soul” (Norris 108).  To complete the humanity of Christ Apollinaris says the animal soul was necessary, but the unity with the Godhead came to be when the rational soul of Christ became unified with the Logos.  This unity replaced, even eliminated, the human soul of Christ.

This position was rejected, but some explanation must be made as to why.  The human soul, as most of us can vouch for, is weak and can be swayed.  In the view of Apollinaris, this soul, as previously stated, was replaced by a unity with the Logos.  If the human soul of Christ was replaced, that would mean that Christ was not completely human.  He may have had flesh, but if his soul was replaced by a unity with the Logos then Jesus would lack a basic humanity.  In short, he would not be able to identify with what we go through as Hebrews 4:15 states.  Therefore, humanity is in the same condition it was before because the human nature of Christ was eliminated.

Works Cited

Norris, Richard A.  The Christological Controversy.  Fortress Press Philadephia: PA, 1980.  Print.

Questions and Christological Development

Children are full of questions.  They are beautiful little creatures as babies who make cute sounds.  When they reach the toddler age they start to ask more questions.  When they reach the age of five or six the questions come at a rapid-fire pace.  This happens as their brains develop, and they are starting to learn and investigate the word around them.  As a child asked many questions to learn, the Church did something similar when developing a proper Christology.  The role of questions in the development of New Testament Christology is something that cannot be underestimated.  In his book, Jesus:  A Portrait, Gerald O’Collins examines seven key questions that helps establish who Jesus was.

The questions that O’Collins discusses in his section titled “Jesus the Questioner” come from the Gospel of John.  John is laid out in such a way that it makes a clear statement about the divine nature of Christ (O’Collins 202).  The first questions that Jesus poses in the Gospel in found in John 1:38. Jesus simply asks Andrew “What are you looking for?” (NRSV). In the early Church they were striving to understand Christ in a deeper way.  It is important to note that when these questions were being asked the whole New Testament had not been formally compiled.  So, looking solely to scripture would not have been possible, but apostolic tradition played a big role in the process.  We are all looking for something, and that something is the savior.  Jesus asks this question in such a way that he is not forcing himself on anyone but challenges us (O’Collins 203).

The above question is only one that Christ asks in the Gospel of John.  The following are the remaining six questions:

Will you also go away (John 6:67)?  Do you believe this (John 11:26)?  Do you know what I have done for you (John 13:12)?  Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Phillip (John 14:9)?  Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you looking for (John 20:15)?  Do you love me (John 21:15-17)?

Questions in the Bible are not an obtuse thought or a New Testament invention.  Many questions are asked, and many truths and commands are conveyed through their use (O’Collins 202).  Christ was God incarnate, came to earth, and started asking questions.  O’Collins brilliantly states, “The God who says to Adam ‘Where are you?’, and to Job ‘I will question you’, has come among us and slips at once into the divine habit of asking questions” (O’Collins 202).

Likewise, the Church followed the example of its founder and started asking questions.  These questions led to inquiry, scriptural exegesis, and a deeper consultation of Sacred Tradition.  Because of questions there were various heresies that popped up.  Some of these, such as Arianism, were very popular and lasted longer than anyone would have thought.  These heresies also brought up more questions about the nature of Christ, and the Church was forced to answer more questions.  This led to a better understanding of Christology and served as the foundation for our understanding today.  Questions were vital in this process.

Works Cited

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

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

The 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.  The 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.

Image result for jewishness of christ

 

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

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

The Heresies of 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.

Image result for adoptionism and docetism

Works Cited

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

 

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

Apostolic Succession and the Arian Controversy

To those who study Church history the Arians are a familiar foe of orthodoxy.  The heresy came to the forefront in the 4th century, and was declared heretical at the Council of Nicea in 325 and again at the Council of Constantinople in 381.  How was the proper view of Christ upheld?  Was it strictly by St. Athanasius’s brilliant exposition of scripture?  No doubt that was part of the equation, but Arius was also pleading his case from sacred scripture.

By all accounts Arius was also a brilliant orator, and was able to get crowds riled up into a frenzy (Olson, 141).  He was a charismatic individual who was also able to coat his words with enough of a shadow of orthodoxy to get some bishops to agree with his opinion.  So who was Arius, and what was he propagating?  Though that question will be answered, the most interesting question is how the heresy was thwarted?

St. Athanasius gets a lot of credit, and deservedly so, for championing orthodoxy against the false view of Christ that Arius was teaching.  As previously stated he did so using scripture, but the canon would not have been declared until the Council of Rome is 382 (Marshall).  The unsung hero during the whole Arian controversy of the 4th century is apostolic succession, and the teaching authority that springs from it.  In this paper, I will look at Arianism and how it is still a factor today.  I will also look at the sources from Church history that show how apostolic succession was used to combat the heresy.

WHAT IS ARIANISM?

            As previously stated, Arianism is a heresy that became popular in the early Church in the fourth century.  It is tempting to say that Arianism was a denial of the full divinity of Christ (Cross, 100).  To get the full story of the Arian controversy it is necessary to dig a little deeper.  This deeper exploration will assist in understanding, not only the nature of the heresy, but the role that apostolic succession played in getting it condemned.

The beginning of the controversy can be traced to the earliest patristic fathers such as St. Justin, St. Clement of Alexandria, and Origen.  This is not suggesting that they were denying the divinity of Christ, but has to do with the idea of the Logos (Gonzalez, 182).  The Greek philosophers saw God as immutable, and the philosophers were told that Christians believed in such a God.  In regard to the Logos Richard Norris writes, “Logos was the divine reason uttered as the divine Word for the sake of forming and governing the world (Norris, 6).  At least that is the understanding that the Stoics and Platonists had as this is not orthodox teaching.  This was dangerous as some Christians began to say that the Father was impersonal while the Son, or Logos, was capable of human relationships.

It was hard for a pagan people to understand the Trinitarian concept.  Specifically, that the Father, Son, and Hold Spirit have always existed in unity.  It was easier to accept that the Son was somehow subordinate, and this is where a priest named Arius enters the doors of Church history.  To these pagan converts Arius made Christ out to be a type of divine hero, and that was easier for them to grasp (Shelley, 100).

Arius was a student of Lucian of Alexandria, and while studying under Lucian he became friends with a man by the name of Eusebius of Nicomedia.  This Eusebius must not be confused with the great church historian of the same name.  Eusebius plays an important role in the promulgation of the Arian heresy.

Arius was a priest who was ordained in Alexandria is 311 (Olson, 144).  He was a charismatic individual who came to openly challenge the doctrine of the Trinity that his Bishop, Alexander of Alexandria, was teaching.  Many of the locals relayed behind Arius because of his persuasiveness as a public speaker, and used verses such as Proverbs 8:22 to support his doctrine.  Proverbs 8:22 states, “The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old” (RSV).  This basis for Arius’s argumentation continues through Proverbs 8:31, and it describes the role of wisdom in creation.  Since Christ is the Logos he is God’s personified wisdom, or reason, on earth.  Since this passage of scripture says that he was created then he must not be the same substance of God.  If he is not the same substance of God then he must not be fully divine.  In this regard Arius writes, “Before he was begotten or created or ordained or established, he did not exist (Pelikan, 192).

In Arius’s view Christ was a created being and he had the tendencies that created being have.  This meant that he was even liable to change or even to sin.  Saint Athanasius sums up the views of Arius quite nicely.  In his first discourse against the Arians he writes:

For what can they say from it, but that ‘God was not always a Father, but became so afterwards; the Son was not always, for He was not before His generation; He is not from the Father, but He, as others, has come into subsistence out of nothing; He is not proper to the Father’s essence, for He is a creature and work?’ And ‘Christ is not very God, but He, as others, was made God by participation; the Son has not exact knowledge of the Father, nor does the Word see the Father perfectly; and neither exactly understands nor knows the Father. He is not the very and only Word of the Father, but is in name only called Word and Wisdom, and is called by grace Son and Power. He is not unalterable, as the Father is, but alterable in nature, as the creatures, and He comes short of apprehending the perfect knowledge of the Father (Schaff, 310).

PASTRISTIC RESPONSE

 

The temptation when looking at the Arian controversy is to immediately look to the Council of Nicea, but there is much more to the church’s response.  As any good Pastor would be, Bishop Alexander became concerned by the teaching of one of his priests.  This error has eternal consequences for those who became wooed by this new doctrine.  Alexander admits that he initially ignored the false doctrines and hoped they would die out on their own.  Plans changed when Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia came to the aid of Arius.  To This Alexander of Alexandria writes:

But seeing that Eusebius, now of Nicomedia, who thinks that the government of the Church rests with him, because retribution has not come upon him for his desertion of Berytus, when he had cast an eye of desire on the Church of the Nicomedians, begins to support these apostates, and has taken upon him to write letters everywhere in their behalf, if by any means he may draw in certain ignorant persons to this most base and antichristian heresy (Schaff, 69).

Image result for arian controversy

 Seeing that a fellow bishop is no longer teaching doctrine that is part of scripture, or sacred tradition Alexander used his authority, received via Apostolic Succession, to try to correct the situation.  Alexander of Alexandria called a local synod that formally condemned the teachings of Arius, and letters were sent to surrounding bishops to inform them of the synods conclusion (Ferguson, 192).  The way that Alexander pleaded his case against Arius was nothing short of brilliant.  As previously stated, Arius said that Jesus could not be God because God is immutable.  Alexander’s argument was polemical in nature, but very effective.  He said that Arius denied the immutability of the Father by saying that he was not immutable until the son was created (Olson, 148).  According to Alexander, “Now when Arius and his fellows made these assertions, and shamelessly avowed them, we being assembled with the Bishops of Egypt and Libya, nearly a hundred in number, anathematized both them and their followers” (Schaff, 70).

Over one hundred bishops exercised their authority that they received by apostolic succession to anathematize Arius and his followers.  The teaching that was contrary to the apostles was to risk the salvation of souls.  The early fathers had no choice but the exercise their authority.  According to the synod there was one view of Christ which was handed down directly from the apostles.  Sadly, this would not be the end of the heresy.  Though the synod had a near unanimous ruling, the eastern bishops were split.

We look back on this event now and say that this was a serious situation, but a schism this early into the Christian era could have been disastrous.  Emperor Constantine heard of the controversy from his Bishop named Hosius (Olson, 148).  Regarding this the ancient church historian Socrates Scholasticus writes, “To this end he sent a letter to Alexander and Arius by a trustworthy person named Hosius, who was bishop of Cordova in Spain, and whom the emperor greatly loved and held in the highest estimation” (Scholasticus, 17).  Constantine needed Christianity to be unified in an already crumbling Roman empire.

To maintain unity the emperor called all the bishops in the empire for a council.  This council would become known as the first ecumenical Council of Nicea.  The council commenced in 325 and set a precedent for all other ecumenical councils.  This council was so important that all other councils would reference it as being so (Sanders, 18).  The council was made of 318 bishops.  The Holy Father was absent from the council, not because he was not invited, but because he was too elderly to make the trip.  In his place he sent two priests to be legates, and to act in his place and authority.  Church Historian William Carroll writes, “The recommendation for a general or ecumenical council . . . had probably already been made to Constantine by Ossius [aka Hosius], and most probably to Pope Silvester as well.  Ossius presided over its deliberations; he probably, and two priests of Rome certainly, came as representatives of the Pope” (Carroll, 11).

Championing the orthodox cause at the council was St. Athanasius.  Athanasius was a brilliant theologian who argued from scripture the case that Christ is eternal.  He argued that terms in scripture such as “was handed over” do not imply that the Son was not divine (Norris, 95).  The Council fathers rallied behind St. Athanasius, as he was preaching the faith that had been handed on to them (Schroeder, 14).  The great saint said many things, but one struck the heart of Arius’s argument.  Regarding the Logos Athanasius said, “It is plain, therefore, to everyone that not knowing is proper to the flesh, whereas the Logos, insofar as he is the Logos, knows all things even before their origination” (Norris, 97).  Only God knows all things before their origination.  This was a statement of deity that had been passed on from the beginning of the church (Bokenkotter, 51).

Both sides of the controversy appealed to scripture, but the orthodox side coined the usage of a term that is not in scripture to describe Christ’s deity.  This Greek work word is known as homoousios.  The term means that the Son is of the same substance, or consubstantial, as the Father (Sanders, 18).  These are the same words we use at mass when we recite the Nicean creed.  The teaching was passed on by valid apostolic succession.  The irony is that while the bishops condemned Arianism, the term was a source of controversy.  The terminology and definitions were defined more narrowly in 381 at the Council of Constantinople thanks in part to the Cappadocian fathers.  Regarding the definition St, Gregory of Nazianzus writes, “Because they are from him, though not after him.  Being unoriginate necessarily implies being eternal, but being eternal does not entail being unoriginate” (Nazianzus, 71).

 

WHY APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION?

            In the previous pages thee has been much said about apostolic succession, but I think some clarification is in order.  Apostolic succession is much more than one taking an office from a predecessor, though that is part of it.  In combating the Gnostics, St. Irenaeus listed apostolic succession as a reason, and boasted in each bishop being able to trace his lineage to the apostles.

In the early days of the church succession and tradition were like terms and were synonymous with the Greek word diadochí (Benedict XVI, 23).  Tradition involves teaching, but again it is much more than that.  It is forever linked to the person from whom that teaching derives.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes that tradition is “linked to a person, is a living word, that has its concrete reality in faith” (Benedict XVI, 23).  Succession is proclaiming something that had been entrusted to someone by Christ himself.  In Apostolic succession the lineage is not mutually exclusive from the teaching.  They both go hand in hand.

Throughout the Arian controversy, and the modern variations there has been one constant.  There was deviation from what was taught in the beginning.  Apostolic succession is “holding fast to the apostolic word, just as tradition means the continuing existence of authorized witnesses” (Benedict XVI, 24).  Apostolic succession and apostolic tradition assist in defining each other.  The succession is the form of the tradition, and the tradition is the content of the succession (Benedict XVI, 28)

Image result for apostolic succession

CONCLUSION

            It is very tempting to look at the Arian controversy and think that it is a thing of the past.  To do so would be irresponsible from a theological and historical perspective.  The denying of the divinity of Christ is still something that is an issue among those who call themselves Christians.  Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons have a view of Christ that is contrary to scripture and to the tradition of the Church.  What would Christianity be like today if the bishops in Alexandria and Nicea not exercised the authority given to them by apostolic succession?

The infant Christian church would have experienced a sizable schism.  The Roman empire may have possibly collapsed and been thrown into utter chaos.  It would have been a disaster.  There were men who resisted the temptation, stayed faithful, and championed the cause of apostolic teaching.  That is the way the Christ set things up.  He established a Church with Apostolic Succession to help guide the flock in the way of the master.  As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI states, “Apostolic succession” is by its nature the living presence of the word in the personal form of the witness. The unbroken continuity of witnesses is derived from the nature of the word as authority and oral statement” (Benedict XVI, 31).

 

WORKS CITED

Benedict XVI. God’s Word: Scripture—Tradition—Office. Ed. Peter Hünermann and Thomas Söding. Trans. Henry Taylor. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008. Print.

Bokenkotter, Thomas.  A Concise History of the Catholic Church.  Image Books.  New York, NY:  2004.  Print.

Cross, F. L., and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church 2005 : n. pag. Print.

Denzinger, Henry, and Karl Rahner, eds. The Sources of Catholic Dogma. Trans. Roy J. Deferrari. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1954. Print.

Ferguson Everett.  From Christ to the Pre-Reformation.  Zondervan.  Grand Rapids, MI:  2005.  Print.

Fred Sanders & Klaus Issler.  Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective.  B&H Academic.  Nashville, TN:  2007.  Print.

Gonzalez, Justo L.  The Story of Christianity, Volume 1:  The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation.  HarperOne.  New York:  2010. Print.

Gregory of Nazianzus.  On God and Christ.  St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.  Crestwood, NY:  2002.  Print.

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

Pelikan, Jasoslav.  The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition.  University of Chicago Press.  Chicago:  1975.  Print.

Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, eds. St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters. Vol. 4. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892. Print. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series.

Schroeder, H. J. Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: Text, Translation, and Commentary. St. Louis, MO; London: B. Herder Book Co., 1937. Print.

Shelby John.  Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism. Harper Collins.  New York: 1991. Print.

Shelley, Bruce L.  Church History in Plain Language.  Thomas Nelson.  Nashville, TN:  2008.  Print.

Socrates Scholasticus. A History of the Church in Seven Books. London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1844. Print.

William Carroll.  The Building of Christendom.  Christendom College Press.  Front Royal, VA:  1987.  Print.

Theotokos and the Council of Ephesus

Within the early church there were many issues when it came to Christology.  Some would take a piece of scripture and develop a whole theology without properly exegeting or considering what other scriptures say on an issue.  To put it in modern terms it was proof texting, but on a grandiose scale.  A scale in which souls were at stake.  The Council of Ephesus was called to discuss the unity of Christ.  More specifically, how can he be truly God and truly human?  As if this issue were not enough to cause division there was a political component as well.  The Christian patriarchs of Antioch, Constantinople, and Alexandria had a rivalry which stemmed from Constantinople calling itself the “New Rome”.  At the center of the council were two bishops by the names of Nestorius and St. Cyril of Alexandria.

Nestorius was a priest who became the patriarch of Constantinople.  He was trained in Antioch which had a very good reputation of defending the humanity of Christ.  Nestorius starts with diversity in Christ (two natures) then gets into trouble when trying to explain how they come together.  In attempting to explain the humanity of Christ, Nestorius looked at the blessed virgin Mary.  Most churches at the time called Mary the theotokos, or mother of God.  Nestorius made the suggestion that Mary should have the title of theodochos, or the recipient of God (Norris 26).  Later on he would make the suggestion to call her Christotokos, or the mother of Christ.  By doing this Nestorius was making an attempt to preserve the humanity of Christ, but the way he did so was complex and in the end failed to preserve the unity of Christ.

Nestorius used a Stoic concept of what makes an individual in his argument.  Properties are inseparable to the person, and Nestorius believed that Christ should exist as two individuals (hypostasis) or two person (prosopon).  He didn’t believe that natures changed which is good because that would make him just like Apollinaris about a century earlier.  Since natures can’t change Nestorius proposed that there was a third person involved (Lecture Notes).  Problem is Christ only has two natures, and third nature or person being involved is a big Christological problem.

Hearing the argument of Nestorius, Cyril took the opportunity to say that Christ was one individual.  He did this by employing the term mia physis, or one nature.  To Cyril, the view of Nestorius implied that there were two different Christ’s.  By saying that there is one nature, Cyril is not saying that Christ did not have a human nature.  He is saying that there is a human soul that is in union with his divinity.  This term is known as the hypostatic union and is still a term that is used today.

Nestorius was eventually condemned at the Council of Ephesus for his “two sons” doctrine (Norris 28).  Cyril, who by all accounts was very uncharitable to Nestorius, called him a “New Judas”.  The council righty confirmed the orthodox position of Mary being the theotokos.  She gave birth to the whole person of Christ, not just his humanity.  To think the divine came later would be a type of adoptionism.  The council was crucial in upholding the humanity and the divinity of Christ, and it is one we can look to today for those who deny the theotokos. 

Image result for theotokos

Works Cited

Norris, Richard A.  The Christological Controversy.  Fortress Press Philadephia: PA, 1980.  Print.

 

St. Thomas Aquinas and Christology

Thomas Aquinas is known as one of the greatest thinkers in the history of the church.  He was a prolific writer, and writings are still widely read today.  When it comes to Christology Aquinas had a lot to say, and his writings on Christology can be read in the third part of his Summa Theologica and his Commentary on Matthew (Lecture Notes).

His view on the incarnation was different because he assumed its necessity was hypothetical.  This does not mean that it was a theory and that it did not happen, but it was only a necessity if it was something that God had planned from the beginning.  Like Anselm and many others before him, Aquinas believed that nothing can coerce God.  In simpler terms, did God only ordain the incarnation as a result of the fall?  Or was the incarnation already put in place because God knew the fall would take place?

Through the fall man became separated from God, but through the incarnation this was remedied.  It was remedied because God sought to unite humanity to himself.  Though dawning a human body was below God, he loved us so much that Christ did it so we may be united with him.  Aquinas delves into two kinds of necessity.  The first necessity in one in which there is no way we can achieve the end.  There is nothing, as humans, that we can do to satisfy the due penalty for sin.  This is not possible because original sin has corrupted our very nature.  The second necessity spoken of is that of man being sufficient because of the actions of another.  In this case it is Christ who sustains us.

Aquinas goes on to say much more about the incarnation is section three of the Summa.  He answers the question of whether the incarnation should have happened at the beginning of time, or at the end.  His answer is masterful, but simple at the same time.  He quotes scripture to say that in the fullness of time Christ came to save sinners.  If this happened at the beginning of the world there would have been no sinners as the fall had not taken place.  If it happened at the end of the world then it would have been too late for those sinners scripture says he came to save.

Image result for thomas aquinas

            In conclusion Aquinas takes the best of those before him to assist in his Christology.  He is very proud to quote from Augustine, Anselm, John Chrysostom, and many others in support of his position.  His affirmed the necessity of the Hypostatic union and thinks that it is necessary for one to believe.  The unity of man and God was the work of the incarnation.  In the incarnation we find the love and forgiveness of God.  It was the decision of God, long before time began, that the suffering of Christ would be the material element of his love for humanity.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑