Patristic Testimony and the Trinity

If the Trinity is of such vital important to the faith and to the Christian life, what did the testimony of the patristic fathers have to say about it?  This question is asked because it is a question asked by some skeptics of the Trinity dogma.  While the Faith is explained in a plain and direct manner in the first centuries, the substance of the mystery is rightly shown in the following centuries.  The patristic testimony regarding the Trinity, has a definite influence on the doctrinal and liturgical life of the church now as it did then.

The work of the early church fathers can be divided in what is called Anti-Nicene and Post-Nicene.  The reason for these distinctions is because the Council of Nicea was a sort of dividing line because after Nicea the dogma of the Trinity was formally defined (Preuss 142).  At any rate, the first four centuries were crucial as dogma was not only defined, but even before then we see development and manifestation of the dogma in the liturgy (Garrigou-Lagrange Introduction).

At mass there are two creeds that can be said after the homily.  One is the Nicean creed, and the other is the Apostle creed.  The Apostles creed is only slightly older than its Nicean counterpart, but in it we profess the Trinity.  Though it is made up of a few lines it declared the divinity of all three persons of the Godhead, and it is a creed that we still profess today (Preuss 144).  Regarding this Garrigou-Lagrange states, “according to the arrangement of the Apostles’ Creed is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost and those things attributed to them in the order of salvation” (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. 1).

The creed itself is an extension of the sacrament of Baptism.  In Baptism, one is immersed, or water is poured on the head, three times in the name of each person of the Trinity (Lecture Notes).  The Trinitarian formula of baptism has biblical roots in such places as Matthew 28, but it was carried on into the liturgy and the writings of the Fathers.  Tertullian, a second century Christian writer, stated that the Trinity itself is the substance of the New Testament (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch.1).

There is also evidence of Patristic testimony in the doxologies in the early church and those in use today.  As was the case with Baptism, origins of these doxologies have their roots in the Pauline epistles where St. Paul writes the earliest doxologies.  The prayer that we sometimes call the “Glory Be” (Gloria Patra) today, has very ancient Christian roots (Lecture Notes).  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.  World without end, amen.  This prayer reflected the publicly professed faith of the early Christians, and early Christian writers (Preuss 146).  It is one of the basic prayers taught to children at an early age to teach them the dogma of the Trinity.  It is one that links us today with great saints such as St. Justin Martyr, wo also was familiar with this doxology (Preuss 146).

The doctrine of the Trinity is echoed in the confessions of the early martyrs.  Patristic testimony celebrated these martyrs as heroes of the faith, and in some cases the patristics were among these martyrs.  These martyrs are celebrated in the liturgy on various feast days throughout the liturgical calendar.  St. Polycarp was martyred in 166 A.D., and before his martyrdom he gave glory all here persons of the Trinity (Preuss 145).  There were many others with St. Epipodeus and St, Euplus of Cantonia just to name a couple more.  These holy martyrs died for the Trinity because it was true.  Just because the dogma had not been formally defined does not mean that it had not always been taught.

 

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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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).

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 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)

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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.

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.

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            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.

Called to Communion

Within Christendom Ecclesiology is looked at in a variety of different ways.  Within Protestantism the church may be seen within a synod, a presbytery, or an autonomous unit.  Within Catholicism Ecclesiology revolves round the sacrament of the Eucharist and those who are in union with the Bishop.  This is what is known as communion ecclesiology.  In this paper, the development of communion ecclesiology will be seen from sacred scripture, the church fathers, and councils.

From its humble beginnings, the church has taught the centrality of the Eucharist.  There are those that say that this practice started later within the church’s history, but its roots can be found within the pages of sacred scripture.  Saint Matthew, Saint uke, and Saint Paul both write about the institution of the Eucharist at the last supper.  In Matthew 26:26 Matthew writes, “And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body (Douay-Rheims).”  Saint Luke’s account in Luke 22:19 we read very similar language, “And taking bread, he gave thanks, and brake; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me (Douay-Rheims).”  In koine Greek, the language of the New Testament these inspired writers use the word esti.  This one word is so significant because reiterates what we read in the english translations.  According to Strong’s concordance this word is translated into English as is, are, consists, and come.

In short, this word contains the whole of communion ecclesiology.  In the original language, our Lord said that the bread and wine are his body.  He did not say that they are like his body, or are symbolic of his body.  Saint Paul takes it a step further in 1 Corinthians to remove any doubt about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  In chapter eleven of 1 Corinthians he writes that he received the words from Christ himself.  The church at Corinth had been treating the Eucharist in a very irreverent manner.  People were feasting, and there were some who were unable to participate.  As if that were not bad enough, there was also a man who was having sexual relations with his stepmother (1 Corinthians 5:1).  By acting in this manner this individual broke communion and was no longer in union with the church.

The theme of communion ecclesiology is continued in the ministry of the early church fathers.  The patristics have a lot to say about the centrality of the Eucharist and the authority of the bishop.  Saint Ignatius of Antioch paragraph twenty of his letter to the Ephesians writes, “Come together in common, one and all without exception in charity, in one faith and in one Jesus Christ, who is of the race of David according to the flesh, the son of man, and the Son of God, so that with undivided mind you may obey the bishop and the priests, and break one Bread which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ.”  Also in his letter to the Philadelphians St. Ignatius states, “Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of His Blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons.”

St. Ignatius makes it clear that it is the Eucharist is of vital importance to the Christian faith.  The Eucharist can only be consecrated by someone who is ordained in Apostolic Succession.  He must be in communion with the bishop and hold that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In regard to this Saint Pope John Paul II writes, “This explains the lively concerns which finds authoritative expression in the work of the Councils and the Popes (Ecclesia de Eucharista, 9).”

Throughout history we can see the role that communion ecclesiology has played in fighting heresy.  In the second century, the Gnostics claimed to have secret teaching that they received directly from the apostles.  The Gnostics believed all matter to be evil, and since the eucharist consisted of matter they opted to abstain.  In his pivotal work, Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus outlined what became known as the rule of faith.  St. Irenaeus writes, “The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith (Roberts 486).”  To be validly part of the universal church, it was understood that one had to be under the authority of the bishops in apostolic succession.  He goes on to say that although language vary, the traditions and teachings of the church remain the same.

As if this were not enough to deduce that the Gnostics were not in communion he goes to the Eucharist.  Regarding the Eucharist St. Irenaeus writes, “But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we offer to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit (ccel.org).”  These are only a sampling of Irenaeus’s treatises, but they establish that the church had an understanding of what it meant to be in communion.

Throughout history there have been those who challenged this communion.  As a result, they broke away and developed various ecclesiological systems that were vastly different from what has been passed down in the church.  We are rapidly approaching the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  This development caused a division in the church, and at the heart of this divide was authority.

As previously stated, one of the components of communion ecclesiology is the apostolic succession of the bishopric (CCC, para 1142).  The church is visible institution with validly ordained clergy who administered the sacraments for the faithful.  However, the concept of a visible church was one that did not sit well with the reformers.  In their eyes, the church was an invisible entity and made visible only by the work of its members.  In describing this concept Dr. Christopher McMahon writes, “Although Luther and Calvin, the two patriarchs of the Reformation, disagreed on many issues, including substantial ecclesiological issues, they both agreed with their predecessor, Jan Hus, on the theological emphasis on the primacy of an invisible church (McMahon, 63).

The Council of Trent set out to combat the teachings of the Reformation, and to address certain reforms within the church.  As previously stated, the reformers grew to distrust the established institutional structures of the church.  As a result, they said that the church was made up of believers who were truly converted.  By all accounts to council was successful in its aims, and reiterated the historic teaching of a visible institutional church (McMahon, 66).  One prominent figure during this era was Cardinal Bellarmine, and he addressed the topic of the visible church quite well.  He wrote in his treatise De Controversiis, “Our view is that the church is only one reality, not two, and that this single and true reality is the group linked by profession of the same faith and by communion in the same sacraments (McMahon, 66).”

This concept of communion ecclesiology has been carried on into our own time.  The second Vatican Council addressed this issue in a number of areas, and Saint Pope John Paul II addresses it at length in his great encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia.  In that document, the Holy Father discusses how our baptism is renewed whenever we partake of the Eucharist.  By doing so we are entering into sacramental communion with each other (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, para 22).

In the second paragraph of the Council document titled, Unitatis Redintegration, the council fathers state, “In His Church He instituted the wonderful sacrament of the Eucharist by which the unity of the Church is both signified and brought about (Decree on Eucumenism, para 2).  This statement is strengthened by other council documents such as the decree on Ministry and Life of Priests.  In article six of that document the council fathers discuss how no Christian community can be built unless the Eucharist is at the center of it.

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CONCLUSION

            Communion ecclesiology, as Pope Emeritus Benedict the XVI states, “is in its inmost nature a Eucharistic Ecclesiology (Ratzinger, Kindle location 1634).”  Throughout its history the church has rallied around the Eucharist as the pinnacle of Christian worship, and has taught that this same Eucharist can only be administered through those in communion with the Bishop.  The Bishop in this case is the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome.  Through this communion we can confidently know what has been taught by the apostles, and how to live the Christian life.

WORKS CITED

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2 ed.  New York:  Doubleday, 2003.  Print.

 

McMahon, Christopher. Called Together: An Introduction to Ecclesiology. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2010. Print.

 

Pope John Paul II. Encyclical on the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church Ecclesia de Eucharistia

 

Ratzinger, Joseph.  Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith:  The Church As Communion.  San Francisco, CA:  Ignatius Press, 2005.  Ebook.

 

Roberts, Alexander, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885. Print. The Ante-Nicene Fathers.

 

Tanner, Norman ed.  Vatican II:  The Essential Texts.  New York:  Image Books, 2012.  Print.

 

Patristic Theories of Redemption

The fathers of the early church fought very hard to preserve orthodox teaching regarding the person of Christ.  There were numerous assaults on his divinity and nature, and the Council of Chalcedon seemed to put the issue to rest for good.  The teaching that Jesus Christ, was eternal, always existed, is fully divine, and fully human was now put to rest.  Though this was crucial part in the Christological story, it was not complete.  The Church fathers wrestled with various theories regarding Christ.  These theories did not deal with who Jesus was, but dealt with what he did to redeem us.  In this paper, three patristic will be discussed along with what is common among them.

One of the redemptive theories discussed in the Patristic period was the Pedagogical or Christ-the-teacher theory of salvation.  This theory teaches that Christ with a new knowledge, or law and demonstrated this with the example of his life.  The idea that Christ is our example is a theme throughout much of the New Testament.  There are many passages, but 1 Peter 2:21 specifically mentions that Christ is an example for us to follow.  That passage of scripture states, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps” (NRSV).  The concept of a new knowledge from God is also present outside of scripture in some of the earliest Christian writings.  Regarding this Joseph Mitros writes, Such expressions such as ‘Immortal knowledge’ ‘new knowledge’…recur quite often in the Didache, the First of Clement and the Shepherd of hermas” (Mitros 418).

Another theory set forth in the patristic era was known as the recapitulation theory.  This theory was made popular by St. Irenaeus, and taught that Christ rescued humanity by “recapitulating in himself the whole human race” (Mitros 416).  St Irenaeus found support for this theory in the writings of St. Paul.  One such passage from Paul is Romans 5:18-19 which states, “Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.  For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (NRSV).  Since Adam was the cause of the fall, Christ came to live the life that Adam should have.  As a result, we are now redeemed and restored to the life we once had prior to Adam (Mitros 427).

A third theory that arose in the Patristic age is the transactional theory.  It is known better as the Christus Victor theory.  This theory claims that a ransom had be paid to Satan for the redemption of humanity.  The ransom was supposed to be part of a kind of contractual obligation between God and Satan.  There are no passages in scripture that speak of such a contract, but there was an understanding in the early church about the term slavery.  Humanity were slaves to Satan, and Christ died to redeem them.  In this regard Joseph Mitros states, “Now, the term of redemption, understood within the context of slavery, meant a liberation of a slave upon the payment of a ransom to the owner” (Mitros 422).  Gregory of Nyssa elaborated this view by introducing the concept of a fishing hook.  Just as in fishing, Satan clamped down on this hook (i.e. Christ), and found a surprise.  This surprise was the claims of all the souls taken from the devil.

There are many other theories that were developed and discussed during the Patristic era.  As has been seen, there is quite a range in belief and teaching.  However, there is one constant that stands out among them.  The redemption that is found in Christ and seeks to transform individual persons (Lecture Notes).  That is what the fathers sought to do in these various theories.

Works Cited

Mitros, Joseph. “Patristic Views of Christ’s Salvific Work,” Thought 42 (1967), 415-447.

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