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

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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

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.

Image result for vatican ii

 

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.

Book Review: All The Pope’s Men

All The Pope’s Men was an interesting book.  When I started reading it I was expecting more of a theological expose of how the Vatican works, but to my surprise this was not the case.  This was not a bad thing, but a very good thing.  It allowed me to step back and see the church in a whole new light.  As Catholics we see the Vatican as this holy place, which it is, but it is so much more.  It is literally a country of its own, and it has diplomatic relations with other countries.  I think that is one of the reasons for the book’s popularity.  It gives detailed insight into the different aspects and offices that comprise the Vatican.  I found it particularly fascinating that the various offices of the Vatican are totally autonomous from each other.  They each have their own separate leadership.  In the pages about the Roman Curia Allen wrote about how one office was comprised of two people who spoke two different languages.  This was done so they would not develop a favoritism toward each other.

Another reason for the book’s popularity is that it is not a theological treatise or a church history book about the importance of the Vatican.  Allen strives and succeeds in my opinion, between the roll of the Holy See and its relationship with the rest of the world.  A third reason for the books popularity is that it acts as a myth buster about popular conspiracy theories about the Vatican.  I recommended this book to a non-Catholic friend for those pages alone.  They are filled with sources that can be easily obtained.  Allen’s views on the American and Vatican perspectives is also interesting, and if you look closely you can see them play out pretty regularly.  In America we want things done the way we want yesterday (immediately).  The Vatican doesn’t work that way.  It is a 2,000 year old Institution that moves slowly.  It isn’t because it doesn’t care, but because it is concerned with Catholics worldwide not just in Los Angeles, CA.  Because of that there are times where relations between the two seem strained, but overall relations are good.  Overall I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

You can check the book out here.

Christ and Theology of the Body

From the beginnings of sacred scripture, we read many prophecies about the coming of the Messiah.  This first gospel announcement can be seen as early as Genesis 3:15. After much anticipation the Savior is born of a virgin and walked among us.  In our fallen state he revealed himself as the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15 NRSV).  Adam sinned in the garden, but Christ is perfect in every way and comes among us as the new Adam.  As the new Adam he shows each of the human person as it was intended in the beginning.

This is an important concept when it comes to the Theology of the Body.  The body is the mystery of God revealed in human flesh, and this is one factor that makes Christianity logical (Ostrowski 201).  The human body is a study of God as it is His creation, and He created us out of love.  He wants us to share that love, and as such the marital act of spouses is the created version of His love, making visible the invisible reality of His mystery.

From the beginning God wanted his plan to be plainly visible.  Regarding this Christopher West writes, “God wanted this great marital plan of union and eternal life to be so plain to the world that He impressed an image of it right in our bodies by creating us male and female” (Ostrowski 202).  Therefore, the model for human sexuality is that which was present before the fall of our first parents.  Though we have fallen we have redemption in Christ who showed us the way as the new Adam.  We are made for union, and we long for union, but we must only be in union with our spouse.  Until then we must be celibate and rely on the grace of Christ to overcome our lustful desires.

Image result for theology of the body

WORKS CITED

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

 

Ostrowski, Thaddeus ed., Primary Source Readings in Christian Morality.  Winona, MN: Saint Mary’s Press, 2008, Print.

Christ’s Fulfillment of the Covenants

Throughout the Old Testament there are several instances of God establishing a covenant.  He did so with Adam in the Garden, with the nation of Israel through Moses where the Law was delivered, with Noah after the great flood, with Abraham and his descendants, and lastly with King David.  These covenants are a part of salvation history that prepared the world for the coming of the Messiah.  Each one of these covenants was important and significant, and each one was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.  This covenant is known as the new covenant, and it is everlasting.  Regarding this the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “God has revealed himself fully by sending his own Son, in whom he has established his covenant forever. The Son is his Father’s definitive Word; so there will be no further Revelation after him” (CCC para 73).

The Adamic covenant is the first that the Lord had established.  As its name states, it was established with our first parents on behalf of all humanity.  We read in Genesis 1:26-31 about the creation of mankind, and how God rested on the seventh day.  The number seen in the Hebrew language is the number of covenant (Lecture Notes).  However, there is a second part of the covenant that applies after the fall.  God gives the first Gospel pronouncement which is known as the protoevangelium.  Genesis 3:15 states, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (NRSV).  Christ is the fulfillment as his death, burial, and resurrection redeemed us from the sin of our first parents.

 

After the great flood mentioned in Genesis, God made a covenant with Noah never to destroy the Earth with water again (Lecture Notes).  The rainbow became a sign of the covenant that God made with Noah.  This can be seen in Genesis 9:13 which states, “I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (NRSV).  Man will still struggle with sin, but Christ gives strength in the battle.  The Vatican II document Gaudium Et Spes states, “But the Lord Himself came to free and strengthen man, renewing him inwardly and casting out the prince of this world” (Ostrowski 18).  It also brought into focus the issue of capital punishment in Genesis chapter nine.  It took on a new meaning when Christ was crucified.  The covenant is for all time and for all people, as is the sacrifice of Christ.

God continued in his promise and made a covenant with Abraham.  Genesis 12:2 states, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (NRSV).  God promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars, and this included those by adoption (Lecture Notes).  This was fulfilled in Christ, because having faith in Christ we adopted sons of Abraham as Galatians 3:29 states.  In the Mosaic covenant, God made a covenant with the people of Israel.  Regarding this Dr. Koehne writes, “Through the leadership of Moses, God freed His people from slavery, then made a covenant with them on Mount Sinai” (Lecture Notes).  Christ fulfills the covenant by showing us how to live the law and calling to a higher standard of living as Christians.  This can only be done through his grace and mercy.

Lastly, God made a covenant with King David and said that through his lineage the Messiah would be born.  The promise can be seen in 2 Samuel 7:12-13 which states, “ When  your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (NRSV).

In St. Augustine’s great work the City of God he equates King David to an Old Testament prefigurement of Christ (Newadvent.com).  This covenant is fulfilled because he is proven to be in David’s lineage as is seen in Matthew Chapter one, and his kingdom will have no end.

Crucifixion

Works Cited

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

Ostrowski, Thaddeus ed., Primary Source Readings in Christian Morality.  Winona, MN: Saint Mary’s Press, 2008, Print.

Dods, Marcus. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 2. 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/120117.htm&gt;.

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

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.

 

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