Doctrine Matters

Imagine someone saying that they love Jesus, but they abhor sacred doctrine and theology. As unfortunate as this sounds, it is something that happens on a daily basis within Christendom. There are also those, some through no fault of their own, that do not understand the importance of sacred doctrine. Understanding of sacred doctrine is important in many facets of our lives, not just the spiritual.

Sacred doctrine is important because we are oriented toward God, and this orientation exceeds that which we can describe. These truths are given to us by divine revelation. Some of these may have become known by some, but over time error would creep in (ST 1, Q1, A1). Sacred doctrine is important because it is taught by divine revelation. Furthermore, it is important because it is the study of our creator, and if we truly love him, we would strive to know everything possible to build a stronger relationship.

Sacred doctrine and the use of reason are not at odds. Quite the contrary, reason can lead to some truths of sacred doctrine (ST I, Q1, A1). However, reason can only get us so far and we eventually need to be enlightened by God to other truths. Sacred doctrine includes the philosophical and natural sciences. This is because both have their origins in God, and sacred doctrine is the study of God. As St Thomas Aquinas states, “But in sacred science, all things are treated of under the aspect of God: either because they are God Himself or because they refer to God as their beginning and end” (STI, Q1, A7).

Works Cited

Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica. Trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province. London: Burns Oates & Washbourne. Print.

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St. Augustine and the Trinity

The Trinity is a doctrine that some have had issue with since the earliest days of Christianity.  The great church father, St. Augustine, was not immune to having to deal with Christological heresies.  Though the heresies are Christological, they deal with the Trinity because Christ is the second person of the Trinity.  If a there is a false understanding of who Christ is, then there is a false understanding of what the Trinity is.  In discussing these various heresies, St. Augustine wrote treatise titled On the Trinity.  This has become known as one of his most difficult works and it took him sixteen years to complete (Augnet 2135).  His work is gift to all of us and shows various arguments supporting the equality of divine persons against Christological heresies.

In chapter one, St. Augustine warns the reader of those who commit heresy through the misuse of reason.  They fall into error by misinterpreting the sacred text through crude love of reason (Augustine Ch.1).  By doing so they miss the point of the text and somehow twist scripture to mean something it does not intend.  In all fairness, this is still something that happens today regarding the Trinity.  In chapter five, Augustine speaks of the unity of the divine persons.  He does this specifically by describing how the three persons are one, how they have individua work, and yet work together.  Augustine states in regard to their work, “Father does some things, the Son other things, and the Holy Spirit yet others” (Augustine Ch.5.8).  The Holy Spirit is the spirit of both the Father and the Son and was not begotten.  Just like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit has no beginning or end.

In Chapter six Augustine seems to be teaching against a type of modalism that was going around.  Some were saying that God was not immortal because he changed into the Son and Holy Spirit through time, or that somehow Christ was less that the Father.  Augustine brilliantly answers with scripture.  This is still a method that is effective today.  He quotes John 1:1 to show that Christ has always existed, and that the scriptures call Him God (Augustine Ch. 6.9).  He then alludes to the baptism of Christ in Matthew chapter 3 to show the unity and equality of the three.  Jesus is present, it was the Father’s voice that spoke, and it was the Holy Spirit that was present in the dove.  This shows that they all exist at the same time, in unity, equality, and that it is not one form changing to another.

In proving his case of equality among the Trinitarian persons, St. Augustine looks to 1 Corinthians 8:6 which states, “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (NRSV).  This verse affirms the divinity of Christ by mentioning him in the same sentence as God.  Notice also how all things exist through the Father and the Son?  Each person of the Trinity has a clause, or duty, assigned.  One is not more important than the other, but they all work together for our redemption and salvation (Augustine 6.12).

Some may say that the verse mentioned above makes sense, but what of the Holy Spirit?  In Chapter 6, St. Augustine goes to great lengths to show that the Holy Spirit is equal to the Father and the Son.  The Holy Spirit is not something that had a point of origin.  In other words, he is not a creature that had a beginning and that will have an ultimate end.  The Holy Spirit is equal, coeternal, and of the same essence.  Regarding the Holy Spirit St. Paul writes in Philippians 3:3, “For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh” (NRSV).  Also in 1 Corinthians 6:9, St. Paul specifically mentions that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  We serve, worship, and ask the Holy Spirit for things just as we would the Father and the Son.  That is because they are coequal and God.

Image result for augustine and the trinity

Works Cited

Augustine. On the Trinity From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/130101.htm&gt;, accessed October 14, 2018.

Augustinians Australia. http://www.augnet.org/en/works-of-augustine/writings-of-augustine/2135-on-the-trinity/, accessed October 14, 2018.

Newman’s Development Hypothesis

After reading Cardinal Newman’s “The Development of Ideas” I came to the conclusion that ideas and doctrine do not just come about.  They started from an idea that was debated, was allowed to germinate, and must be allowed to mature.  This can only be done through debate and reason.  What is interesting is that this work was the turning point of Newman to Catholicism.  As many do he started as an evangelical, then Anglican, and finally seeing the ideas and doctrines that had matured, became a great asset to the Catholic Church.

Newman explains that at first man will have an idea, but will not be sure how to explain.  He may seem like a babbling fool unable to make a coherent point about the idea.  However over time something will be brought to light that will move the idea forward.  This new fact will be debated and judged by many, and after a time there will be something definite that comes from it.  Over time there may even be various views on the same subject, but there will be a definite teaching that came from the original idea.  History will show that great teachings of history can be boiled down to its original idea and this helps us understand it all the more.

This process, especially in terms of doctrine, can take a lot of time to develop.  It has been shaped and formed from many brilliant people with their own take on it.  We all have different experiences and an idea may mean something different to different people.  The ideas that came from the great councils of our church are great examples of this.  All the Bishops gathered together with their own input, and the Holy Spirit guided them in defining doctrine.  There was much debate and everyone learned from another.

Image result for cardinal newman

Works Cited

http://www.newmanreader.org/works/development/index.html

Cardinal Newman and the Development of Doctrine

After reading Cardinal Newman’s “The Development of Ideas” I came to the conclusion that ideas and doctrine do not just come about.  They started from an idea that was debated, was allowed to germinate, and must be allowed to mature.  This can only be done through debate and reason.  What is interesting is that this work was the turning point of Newman to Catholicism.  As many do he started as an evangelical, then Anglican, and finally seeing the ideas and doctrines that had matured, became a great asset to the Catholic Church.

Newman explains that at first man will have an idea, but will not be sure how to explain.  He may seem like a babbling fool unable to make a coherent point about the idea.  However over time something will be brought to light that will move the idea forward.  This new fact will be debated and judged by many, and after a time there will be something definite that comes from it.  Over time there may even be various views on the same subject, but there will be a definite teaching that came from the original idea.  History will show that great teachings of history can be boiled down to its original idea and this helps us understand it all the more.

Image result for cardinal newman

This process, especially in terms of doctrine, can take a lot of time to develop.  It has been shaped and formed from many brilliant people with their own take on it.  We all have different experiences and an idea may mean something different to different people.  The ideas that came from the great councils of our church are great examples of this.  All the Bishops gathered together with their own input, and the Holy Spirit guided them in defining doctrine.  There was much debate and everyone learned from another.

 

You can read Cardinal Newman’s full essay here.

The Four Marks: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic

The study of Ecclesiology is interesting in that it raises a dichotomy that ripples through the very fabric of Christianity.  Ecclesiology is the branch of theology that deals with the study of the Church.  What is the Church?  What are its functions?  Is it visible, invisible, or both?  These are questions that are often discussed in the field, but the root of Ecclesiology is the Greek word ekklesia.  When this word is translated into our own language we get the word “church” (McMahon 1).

The Church proclaims the Gospel of Christ, and spreads his message across the world to all peoples.  The Church is tasked to be a beacon of hope, and all who enter through her doors are taught the ways of salvation.  Just how the Church does this is the subject of debate.  The Church finds its foundation from Christ in Matthew 16:18 when our savior says, “And I say unto thee:  That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Douay-Rheims).  Saint Paul calls the Church the bulwark and pillar of truth in 1 Timothy 3:15.   The Church is categorized by the four marks of being One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.  These four marks, along with why the church is more Marian than Petrine in her nature will be elaborated on in this article.

THE CHURCH IS ONE

The first mark of the Church is that it is one.  One is more than a number, but conveys unity.  This unity comes from her source which is the eternal Godhead itself.  This is seen clearly in the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states, “the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit” (Catechism 233).  This does not mean that disagreements do not exist, but it does mean that doctrinally we have a united front.

Within the Church there are many gifts and charisms that people have.  That is the beauty of unity.  One person may be good at administration, another in teaching, and yet another may be able to seak in tongues.  In this way the Church has a valuable lesson for society.  Every gift that a person posesses is useful in the building up of the Church.  This is another way that the Church is one.  The individuals in the Church come together to build each other up and proclaim the faith that was proclaimed by the apostles.  The Vatican II document titled Lumen Gentium states in paragraph four, “He leads the church in all truth, and he makes it one fellowship and ministry, instructing and directing it through a diversity of gifts both hierarchical and charismatic, and He adorns it with His fruits” (Norman Tanner 108).

THE CHURCH IS HOLY

            The second mark of the Church is that it is holy.  The Church is holy based on Jesus Christ who is its founder.  This can be seen in the salutation of Saint Paul to the Corinthians where he writes, “to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Corinthians, 1:2, RSV).  The Church is sanctified, or made holy, by its call and mission.  The Church is made up of sinners, who by the grace of God, carry out the great commission of teaching and baptizing.

The Church is the bride of Christ, and just as a husband and wife are one flesh, so is the Church holy because of the bridegroom.  This is seen in paragraph 824 of the catechism which states, “United with Christ, the Church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes sanctifying” (Catechism 237).  The Church acknowledges that the people within are not perfect, but need God’s saving grace.  Like a loving mother, the Church holds those souls closely and provides them the means of which to be saved.  The Church, through its liturgy and sacraments, provides the means of grace which Christ instituted fully and perfectly.

THE CHURCH IS CATHOLIC

            The third mark of the Church is that it is catholic, but this means so much more than the name of the Roman Catholic Church.  The word first came into use by St. Ignatius of Antioch in the second century.  Saint Ignatius writes in his epistle to the Smyrneans, “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Alexander Roberts 701).

In using this word, St. Ignatius tells his readers that the Church is universal.  It is a Church not just for the Jews or gentiles, but for all people.  It is for the rich, the poor, slave, or free because we are all children of God, and his message is to be taught to everyone.  The Church is also Catholic because the full deposit of faith, which consist of sacred scripture and sacred tradition, have been given to her.  Through these deposits she can fulfill the final command of Christ laid out in Matthew 28:19-20.

How does this relate to other ecclesial communities?  The Church is also Catholic because of its structure of bishops, priests, and deacons.  Of course, the pope, the bishop of Rome, has authority.  This is a big hurdle for some Protestants.  However, this does not mean that they are not Christians and are not part of the universal Church.  They are just not in full communion with the Church that was established by Christ.

THE CHURCH IS APOSTOLIC

            The Church is apostolic because the apostles were given the authority from Christ to establish it.  The catechism in Paragraph 857 states, “the Church was built on the foundation of the Apostles, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by Christ through their successors” (Catechism 247).  As previously stated, the Catholic Church is made up of bishops along with the Pope.  This group of men have the great honor of carrying on the teaching of the apostles.  This is known as the teaching office of the Magisterium.  Contrary to what some think, scripture is not self-interpreting and interpretation can change based on one’s presupposition.  The Church is apostolic because the teaching office of the Church, the Magisterium, was given the divine task to interpret scripture (Hitchcock 79).

The apostolicity of the Church is seen clearly in sacred scripture.  Acts 1:24-25 which states, ““And they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place” (New American Bible).  Since the apostles replaced Judas it is only natural that this was meant to continue.  History shows that the apostles appointed men who would take over their ministry (LG 20).

MARIAN AND PETRINE INFLUENCE

            In the four marks, we see the Church’s mission, structure, and its establishment in scripture and tradition.  In addition to the four marks, the Church also has Marian and Petrine charisms.  In the Petrine charism, we see the church linked with the apostles.  As an example Pope Francis is Saint Peter’s successor, and thus the Church today has the historical link to the apostles.  Each bishop can trace their ecclesial heritage to one of the twelve apostles, and history shows that there was an early understanding of papal primacy.  This fact is often disputed with our Protestant brethren.

The marian charism is no doubt a very significant area of disagreement with other Christian churches.  As Mary was a mother to Christ, the Church is a mother to the faithful.  Regarding Mary and the Church, the catechism states, “The faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness.  And so, they turn their eyes to Mary:  In her the Church is already all-holy” (Catechism 829).  There are many sources in sacred scripture that allude to the Marian influence.  One such passage is John 19:26-27 “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home” (NRSV).  Our Lord was giving his mother to his John, and in the same way he gave us Mary to be our spiritual mother.  By teaching and administering the sacraments the Church acts in this motherly role for her children.  Thought the Marian and Petrine charism have their place, the Marian has a larger significance.

Image result for four marks

CONCLUSION

            In Ecclesiology, we study the Church and its doctrines.  The four marks of the church make up the theological foundation that differentiate it from other religions.  In John 17 Christ prayed for unity, and in Christianity this is hardly the case.  We have the promise of Christ that the powers of evil will not overcome what he has established.  We should take great joy and courage that we participate with the Church in its mission to the world.  The Catholic Church can trace its lineage and doctrine to the very foundations of Christendom.  As a result, the Church is not only the body of believers as Protestants believe, but is a visible entity in which the faithful can go for comfort and guidance.

 

WORKS CITED

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

 

Hitchcock, James. History of the Catholic Church: From the Apostolic Age to the Third Millennium. San Francisco:    Ignatius Press, 2012. Print.

 

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

 

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, 20012.  Print.

Newman's Development Hypothesis

Newman explains that at first man will have an idea, but will not be sure how to explain.  He may seem like a babbling fool unable to make a coherent point about the idea.  However over time something will be brought to light that will move the idea forward.  This new fact will be debated and judged by many, and after a time there will be something definite that comes from it.  Over time there may even be various views on the same subject, but there will be a definite teaching that came from the original idea.  History will show that great teachings of history can be boiled down to its original idea and this helps us understand it all the more.

This process, especially in terms of doctrine, can take a lot of time to develop.  It has been shaped and formed from many brilliant people with their own take on it.  We all have different experiences and an idea may mean something different to different people.  The ideas that came from the great councils of our church are great examples of this.  All the Bishops gathered together with their own input, and the Holy Spirit guided them in defining doctrine.  There was much debate and everyone learned from another.

When reading Cardinal Newman’s “The Development of Ideas” one can see the evidence and conclude that ideas and doctrine do not just come about.  They started from an idea that was debated, was allowed to germinate, and must be allowed to mature.  This can only be done through debate and reason.  What is interesting is that this work was the turning point of Newman to Catholicism.  As many do he started as an Anglican, and finally seeing the ideas and doctrines that had matured, became a great asset to the Catholic Church.

You can read the whole document here.

 

The Beginnings of Trinitarian Language

The doctrine of the Trinity is not an easy doctrine to grasp, and from the beginnings of the church there have been groups who have attempted to deny its validity.  Though the word itself does not appear in scripture it is a term used to describe the manifestation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit[1].  Though the Arian controversy brought the doctrine to the forefront, we can see the doctrine being defended by the early Church Father Irenaeus.  During the time of Irenaeus the Gnostic heresy was at its peak, and in fact, he was the first to use the term specifically[2].

The Gnostics denied anything material, so as a result they rejected that Jesus was a physical person and was not preexistent.  In his work Against Heresies, Irenaeus, writes “The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God[3].”  The Trinitarian language noted here would go on to appear in the Nicene Creed.

The church father Tertullian developed the term Trinitas, or Trinity[4].  Tertullian taught that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were of one substance.  One was not created from the other, but all preexisted as one being.  Another Church Father, Origen, attempted to describe the Trinity in a Philosophical way.  He stated that the Son was the Logos and was superior to all created creatures, and that the Holy Spirit dwelled within the saints.  In regards to this James Stevenson writes in regard to Origen, “The God and Father, who holds the universe together, is superior to every being that exists, for he imparts to each one from his own existence that which each one is; the Son, being less than the Father, is superior to rational creatures alone (for he is second to the Father); the Holy Spirit is still less, and dwells within the saints alone[5].”  From these two church fathers two Greek terms were used at the Council of Nicea.  Those terms were Homoousios which means “of one substance”, and homoiousios which means “of similar substance.”

These Greek terms were also philosophical and would be the basis for the Filioque.  Philosophical language was increasing in the church for a couple reasons.  For one it was a way to combat an attitude in the Roman Empire that Christians were ignorant atheists[6].  The romans claimed that Christians were atheists because of their denial to worship the Roman gods.  The Christian apologists, such as Justin Martyr, appealed to Philosophy and reason as a way of proving the Christian ideal.  This language was used throughout the early church and terms that were used previously were derived from that.  A second reason is that philosophers at the time of the early church believed in a supreme being.  Who that Supreme Being was a matter of debate, and Christians were up to the challenge.  This went a long way in evangelizing and spreading the gospel to a people who were told that Christianity was atheistic and dangerous to the empire.

 

Bibliography

“Anf01. The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed June 1, 2016 July 13, 2005, http:/​/​www.ccel.org/​ccel/​schaff/​anf01.ix.ii.xi.html.

Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity:  The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. New York, NY: Harperone, 2010.

Kreeft, Peter, and Ronald K. Tacelli. Handbook of Christian Apologetics. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1994.

Stevenson, J., ed. A New Eusebius. London: Spck, 1987.

Water, Mark. Bible Teachings Made Easy. Hampshire, UK: Hunt and Thorpe, 1998.

 

[1] Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 502.

[2] Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1994), 105.

[3] “Anf01. The Apostolic Fathers With Justin Martyr And Irenaeus,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed June 1, 2016 July 13, 2005, http:/​/​www.ccel.org/​ccel/​schaff/​anf01.ix.ii.xi.html.

[4] Mark Water, Bible Teachings Made Easy (Hampshire, UK: Hunt And Thorpe, 1998), 44.

[5] J. Stevenson, ed., A New Eusebius (London: Spck, 1987), 1653.

[6] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity:  The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation (New York, NY: Harperone, 2010), 182.

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