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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Why Are There 27 Books In The New Testament?

There are many things that may come to an individual’s mind when it comes to sacred scripture.  Some may ask why there are so many translations.  Some may wonder if the Bible as we know it fell from the sky at Pentecost.  However many have questions on how we have the books we have.  For sure it was long and arduous process, but it was one guided by the Holy Spirit and the church.

One rule that was used to determine inclusion of the twenty seven books was linkage to an Apostle, or apostolic origin.  In the first three centuries after the church started there were many books bearing the name of various Apostles.  As an example there was the Gospel of Thomas, Luke, Peter, and the proto gospel of James.  In addition to these there were several hundred Acts and Apocalypses.  Some of these writings were spurious and contradicted the Gospel being preached by the church.

Apostolic origin does not mean that it has to be written by an apostle, but that an Apostle “stands behind writing in such a way that the essential teaching is preserved within it (Nichols, page 104).”  This would explain why the Gospel of Luke was included in the canon.  Great care was made to ensure that writings had apostolic backing, and if they did not they were denied canonical status.

Another rule that was used in determining if a book was worthy of the canon was its conformity to the faith of the church.  Would a collection of Holy writings from any religion be deemed authoritative if they contradicted each other?  The answer to the question is obvious.  The church used great care in determining that the twenty seven books in the canon were in compliance with what the church taught.

The church was able to do this by utilizing the oral tradition that was handed down from the Apostles.  As a Nichols documents “around 190 a bishop in Antioch stopped people from using the Gospel of Peter on the grounds that its author did not regard the human body of Jesus as real (Nichols, page 104).”  The church teaches that Christ was a real person, divine, and bled on the cross.  This writing taught that Christ was a spirit that entered into a man that was being crucified.  There were many writings like this floating around, and since they did not pass the test of orthodoxy they were not included in the canon.

Thirdly the writing had to be valued by the church that was respected for its own Apostolic origin (Nichols, page 104).  Perfect examples of this are the Epistles of Saint Paul.  There is little doubt that these writings are his for he states at the end of letters that he wrote them with his own hand.  Also he wrote them to churches that he started and they knew him very well.  These churches preserved these letters and read them in their liturgies.

Using these three criteria, the fathers of the church started to develop the New Testament.  The letters of Paul were among the first to be recognized in 90 ad and were being assembled in small collections.  The four Gospels were decided on around the year 200.  There were various canons proposed, but the Pauline letters and the four gospels seemed to have staying power.  Other books such as Revelation and Hebrews were battled over.  Some areas of the church accepted them and others did not.  There were also books with no apostolic link that were considered such as the Shepherd of Hermas and Clements letter to the Corinthians.  However they did not meet the criteria previously discussed and were denied canonical status. Through many debates and hefty quarrels we know that the canon was final by the end of the fourth century (Nichols, Page 105).

 

References

Nichols, Aiden. The Shape of Catholic Theology: An Introduction to Its Sources, Principles, and History. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

Guest Post: Typology in the Bible

Today’s post is a guest article written by Catholic Apologist Eric Shearer.  Eric has a blog titled On This Rock Apologetics.  He is doing great work for the church and you will be richly blessed by his writing.  So go on over and give him a follow.  Enjoy the article!

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I’m often told that I’m the spitting image of my dad, less about 30 years. And not just because I’m his lookalike. The similarities continue through our interests, tastes, and even career. By all accounts, I’d imagine any fair observer might look at the two of us and think, “Yup. That makes sense.”

Many people approach the Old and New Testaments of the Bible looking for a similar resemblance. The Old Testament tells us of God creating the universe, calling Israel to be His people, and leading them into the days of Christ. The New Testament tells us about Jesus and His ministry, provides us with instruction on how to live a Christian life, and even gives us a glimpse of heavenly worship. Yet sometimes people struggle to see how the two connect.

There are many different ways in which we can relate the two testaments, but I would like to focus on just one right now. As St. Augustine put it eloquently: “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”1 The study of this relationship between the Old and New Testaments is called Typology.

What is Typology?

Typology is the study of how various things in the Old Testament prefigured what was later fulfilled in the New Testament. And these “things” we call types (from the Greek typos). Scripture Scholar Scott Hahn describes a type as a, “real person, place, thing, or event in the Old Testament that foreshadows something greater in the New Testament.”2

In this light, we see in the Old Testament not only the progress of salvation history, but many divine analogies to greater New Testament realities.

The New Adam
We see this in St. Paul’s description of Adam as a type of Jesus. He explained that “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” (Rom 5:14, emphasis added). Paul viewed Jesus as a new Adam. Among many other similarities, they were both born in a state of original innocence, they both faced off with Satan, and they both impacted the whole of humanity.

Though with this comparison we can see just how superior the new Adam is when compared to the old. The first Adam failed where Jesus succeeded. “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man [Adam], how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Rom 5:15).

Other Types of Types
Not all types refer to Jesus. As I plan to demonstrate in future articles, typology can be applied to other things in the New Testament.

We can see an example of this when the author of Hebrews describes the Old Testament tabernacle as a, “shadow of the heavenly sanctuary” (Heb 8:5). (Or click here to see an example of Eve as a type of Mary).

It’s important to note, as Hahn said earlier, that a type is always inferior to its fulfillment in the New Testament. What was once a shadow is revealed in all its glory in the New Testament.

Learning from the Master

Some might be interested to hear that this method of reading scripture isn’t new. Christians have seen the typological relationship between the Old and New Testaments for centuries. And for good reason too. Jesus himself read the Old Testament in this way.

Take the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Two of Jesus’ followers were walking on the road to Emmaus shortly after reports of Jesus’ resurrection began to spread. The two encounter Jesus on the road, but they didn’t recognize him. The three talked for a while, and we’re told that “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). How great of a Bible study would that have been!

Now remember, at this time there was no New Testament. They were still living it. The “scriptures” referred to the Old Testament. And from the Old Testament, Jesus showed “the things concerning himself.”

Why Study Typology?

Some may think of typology as a highfalutin method of biblical study reserved for academics in halls of higher education. And no doubt it could be. But the value of typology is more than that. It’s how the first Christians approached the scriptures. It’s how Jesus himself approached the scriptures.

By reading the New Testament in light of Old Testament types, a whole new dimension of the Bible opens up to us. We can see the brilliance of the divine analogies that were made so long ago. So much of Biblical history spells out the heavenly realities that we now know in the Christian era. And we can use these Old Testament types to shape our understanding of Christian doctrine.

Last, but certainly not least, typology allows us to approach the Bible with a new appreciation as we see the handy-work of a master storyteller unfold.

 

Sources

  1. St. Augustine, Questions on the Heptateuch 2.73; and Catechism of the Catholic Church 129.
  2. Hahn, Scott W. Hail, Holy Queen: the Mother of God in the Word of God. Image Books, 2006, pp. 23.

 

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Grace and Merit in the Creation of Man

When we look to the world around us it is hard to believe that there once was a world without sin.  In Question 95 of Thomas Aquinas’s masterpiece, the Summa Theologica, he describes the relationship between grace and merit in pre-lapsarian man.  Was man initially created in a state of grace, and if so how does that relate to merit?  In answering this question Aquinas first looks to sacred scripture.  He quotes a section of Ecclesiastes 7:30 which states, “God made man right” (Douay-Rheims).

Aquinas concludes that man was created in a state of grace.  The reason of man was subject to God and the lower powers of man to reason, and the body to soul (ST1, Q95, A1).  After the fall the lower parts, of man that were once captive to reason, were not longer captive to reason.  If this were the case, then Adam and Eve would not have been ashamed when they noticed they were naked.  Their reason was subject to God and the loss of grace “dissolved the obedience of the flesh to the soul” (ST1, Q95, A1).

So, if in a pre-lapsarian state was created in a state of grace, then how does merit relate to grace?  Regarding merit Aquinas writes, “the degree of merit is measured by the degree of the action itself” (ST1, Q95, A4).  When one thinks of merit one thinks of a reward.  Man was made in a state of innocence and God said that man was good (GN 1:31).  For a period, man lived in a state of innocence.  During this period of innocence, the work of man is more meritorious than when man is in a sinful state (ST1, Q95, A4).  This brings us to the two kinds of merit:  absolute and proportional.  When in a state of innocence man, the absolute work done would made greater virtue in man because of the work.  In proportion a greater need for merit exists after sin, and this can only be done through grace.  Pre-lapsarian man, though created in grace, still used grace in an absolute manner to do meritorious works.

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981.  Accessed July 17, 2018.

The Legacy of Vatican II

The legacy of Vatican II is one that can bring up mixed emotions.  Many see the council as something that was needed, but the implementation was flawed.  Others go as far to say that the Church broke from its sacred duty with the council.  No matter what view one may take, the council’s influence is still felt within the Church, and within the world.

The world was changing in the twentieth century, and the Church needed speak of its relevance in a culture in the face of a modernist society.  The tone of the council is one that is vastly different than it 19th century counterpart Vatican I.  Vatican I addressed the issue of Papal primacy and infallibility, and at time did so in a triumphalist tone. The Vatican II council fathers, addressed issues, but did so in a tone that seemed to me for inclusive.  This inclusion did not change doctrine or tradition.

The tone was one of a Church seeking dialogue and was welcoming.  Regarding this Christopher McMahon writes, “Furthermore, the tone of the Church is far less trimphalistic than seen in the controversies surrounding the battles between the Church and secularism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries” (McMahon 90).  This paper will look at the legacy of the Vatican II documents concerning ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and religious freedom.

 

 

ECUMENISM

As previously stated, the council father of Vatican II used a different tone than was used in previous councils.  Gone were the words, but still agreed upon by Pope Pius IX, “We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation” (EWTN).  Though this is the consistent teaching of the Church, it is something that is seen as a negative by other Christian groups.  The Vatican II document Unitatis Redintegratio, or decree on Ecumenism, lays a foundation that helps to foster further communication among Christians of all kinds.

The document lays out the case that it is the will of the Lord Jesus Christ that all Christians be unified.  We see this in his high priestly prayer in John 17.  Our Lord states in John 17:20-21, “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word,  that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (RSV).  The thousands of denominations that are in Christendom provide an obstacle to missionary work.  In paragraph one of the Decree on Ecumenism the council fathers state, “Certainly, such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the gospel to every creature” (UR, para 1).

The council’s legacy on Ecumenism goes further that stating the obvious about the divisions in Christianity.  In regards to Protestants previous councils, such as the Council of Trent, openly anathematized those who were not part of the Church.  Vatican II, while still saying that are not in full communion, call our Protestant brothers and sisters separated brethren.  This can be seen in para four on the decree on Ecumenism, “Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren” (UR, para 4).

This language of the Church continues today, and Catholics are encouraged to be in dialogue for the good of the whole Christian community.  It is not a Catholic versus Protestant mentality, as this is not the will of the Lord.  By virtue of their Trinitarian baptisms our Protestant friends are worthy of the title of Christian.  The call of Vatican II was also seen in the 1996 encyclical by Pope Saint John Paul the II titled Ut Unum Sint.  In the opening paragraphs the document lays out the intentions of the Holy Father.  In it he writes, “The courageous witness of so many martyrs of our century, including members of Churches and Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church, gives new vigor to the Council’s call and reminds us of our duty to listen to and put into practice its exhortation “(Ut Unum Sint para 1).  As a result, the legacy of Vatican II regarding Ecumenism is once again shown in our time.  The Church is committed to the cause as Christian unity is something that we should all strive for the sake of the gospel.

 

INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE

To Catholics today the decrees of Vatican II may seem to be from that of a bygone era, but they are a vital moment in the history of the Church (McMahon 75).  In the previous paragraphs we see the legacy it left with ecumenism.  The legacy is great in the area of interreligious dialogue.  In fact, it can be said that without the Church’s commitment to ecumenism that its strides in religious dialogue would not have made the strides it has.

This commitment can be seen in the Church’s communication with leaders of the Eastern church’s.  The Eastern Orthodox churches have valid orders, apostolic succession, and valid sacraments.  However, the issues of the Great Schism (such as Papal Primacy and the Filioque), are still prevalent.  The council fathers drafted Orientalium Ecclesiarum, or the Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches.  Of special consideration here is the emphasis on those eastern churches that are not in communion with Rome.  The council fathers write in paragraph 25, “Nothing more should be demanded of separated Christians who come to catholic unity under the influence of the grace of the holy spirit” (OE 25).

As a convert this section was very telling as it is applicable to converts that make the Catholic profession every Easter vigil.  The Church sees baptism done in the trinitarian formula as valid, no matter the denomination.  Our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters have received valid sacraments, and the church has the door wide open for them.  The same can be said with the Anglican, as several Anglican ordinariates have popped up across the world.  Vatican II left a legacy of teaching the faithful to find common ground with all religions to further the cause of humanity, and also as a means to evangelize.  To this end Pope Francis at the plenary assembly for the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue states,

It is for this reason that interreligious dialogue and evangelization are not mutually exclusive, but nourish each other. We do not impose anything, we do not use any underhanded strategy to attract the faithful, but witness with joy and simplicity to what we believe and who we are (pciinterreligious.org).

 

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

 

The thirteenth document of the Council was the Declaration on Religious Liberty, or Dignitatis Humanae.  This document is controversial because some think that it breaks with earlier magisterial writings which describe the governmental role of suppressing religious error.  One document that is often cited is an encyclical by Pope Gregory XVI titled Mirari Vos.  Paragraph thirteen of that document states, “This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained” (MV para 13).

            The irony is that this encyclical, and the Vatican II document on religious liberty are not in conflict.  The Council fathers address this very quickly in the document and say that the Catholic Church is the “true religion and one church of Christ” (DH para 1).  The document lays out the case that it is a matter of human dignity that one should not be made to act contrary to one’s conscience.  As such there should be no government coercion, and people should not be made to feel less than human if they adhere to a different religious creed.

This concept of religious liberty is one that we see engrained in American culture, and in other denominations.  Our Baptist friends as an example were founded on the very concept of religious freedom, and advocate that for all as well.  Religious freedom has become a hallmark of our society, and that is part of the legacy that the council leaves behind.  While advocating for the rights of the individual, the church maintains its traditional stance towards the faith and still advocates for the proclamation of the gospel message.

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CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the second Vatican council left a legacy that has left the Church in a better place to evangelize the world.  Though the implementation of the council was less than desirable that is not the fault of the council itself.  The church continues to demonstrate its commitment to ecumenical dialogue, with the end goal being Christian unity in the face of a world that desperately needs it.  More than ever before Church leadership is speaking more with leaders of other faiths and denominations.  And lastly, the Church is embracing its motherly role in advocating for the protection of those who practice another religion altogether.  The combination of these three allows all members of the Church to evangelize more effectively.  Though the council is without controversy, its legacy lives on and its effects are still felt today.

  WORKS CITED

Donovan, Colin.  “No Salvation Outside of the Church”.  EWTN.COM.  Accessed September 4, 2017.

Flannery, Austin ed.  The Basic Sixteen Documents of Vatican Council II.  Northport, NY:  Costello Publishing, 2007.  Print.

Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version

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

Pope Francis.  “To Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue”.  PCIINTERRELIGIOUS.ORG. November 28, 2013. Web.

Pope Gregory XVI.  Mirari Vos On Liberalism and Religious Indifferentism.  Vatican: Holy See.  Rome.  August 15, 1832

Pope John Paul II.  “On Commitment to Ecumenism-UT Unum Sint”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  May 25, 1995.

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on Ecumenism-Unitatis Redintegratio”.  Vatican:  Holy See. Rome.  November 21, 1964.

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on Religious Liberty-Dignitatis Humanae”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  December 7, 1965

Pope Paul VI.  “Decree on the Catholic Eastern Churches-Orientalium Ecclesiarum”.  Vatican:  Holy See.  Rome.  November 21, 1965.

Gospel Reflection: We all Need a Helper

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.

“I have told you this so that you may not fall away.
They will expel you from the synagogues;
in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you
will think he is offering worship to God.
They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.
I have told you this so that when their hour comes
you may remember that I told you.”- John 15:26-16:4A

We all need a helper.  From the beginning of creation God said that it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).  In today’s Gospel passage Jesus is telling the disciples that the world will hate them because they hated Christ.  Sometimes we tend to forget that the disciples were Jews, and because they followed and proclaimed Christ they were excommunicated from the fellowship of Israel.  They were not able to go into the synagogue and worship as they had always done.  This was serious business, and it becomes even more serious when one looks at the Rabbinic interpretation of Numbers 25:1-13 in the Talmud.  The rabbinic tradition says that apostates were to be killed as a sacrifice to God.  Yikes!

What does all this have to do with us today?  Just like the disciples we are in need of a helper.  Christ has not left us as orphans, but loves and cares for us.  The Holy Spirit was sent from the Father and the Son to be of advocate and comforter.  Just as with the disciples the Holy Spirit will give us courage to live in a world that has a growing hatred for Christ and his Church.  Take heart and have faith.  Christ is with us until the end of the age.  The Holy Spirit will help us testify to the person of Christ, and stand up for what is right.  Go forth today in the peace of Christ, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your steps.

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Quote

Enrich your soul in the great goodness of God: The Father is your table, the Son is your food, and the Holy Spirit waits on you and then makes His dwelling in you. — St. Catherine of Siena

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