History of the Christian Church http://www.sanctorum.us History of the Christian Church Sun, 20 Aug 2017 09:01:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 http://www.sanctorum.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/cropped-New-CS-Logo-black-32x32.png History of the Christian Church http://www.sanctorum.us 32 32 Communio Sanctorum is Latin for “The Communion of Saints.” This podcast Communion Sanctorum is a weekly podcast on the History of the Christian Church.<br /> <br /> Church History can be a complex and confusing subject with endless lists of names, dates, and issues. The podcast is an attempt to give believers a popular and non-academic review of church history in a manageable format with episodes that are under a half hour.<br /> <br /> While the Latin phrase Communio Sanctorum has been in use for centuries, the German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s dissertation was titled Sanctorum Communio. Written at the age of only 21, the book is a monumental tome describing Bonhoeffer’s ideas on the work of the Spirit in the Church building a community of the redeemed.<br /> Lance Ralston clean episodic Lance Ralston leralston@gmail.com leralston@gmail.com (Lance Ralston) Communio Sanctorum History of the Christian Church http://www.sanctorum.us/wp-content/uploads/powerpress/CS_Icon.jpg http://www.sanctorum.us TV-G Oxnard, Ca weekly Heretics – Part 07 // Imagery http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-07-imagery/ Sun, 20 Aug 2017 09:01:27 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1805 http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-07-imagery/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-07-imagery/feed/ 0 One of the most interesting moments in Church History comes in the conflict over the use of images in Worship. It’s born of the reality that Christianity has its roots in Judaism but had vast appeal among pagan Gentiles. During the time of the Kings of Judah & Israel, Israel struggled with its call by […] One of the most interesting moments in Church History comes in the conflict over the use of images in Worship. It’s born of the reality that Christianity has its roots in Judaism but had vast appeal among pagan Gentiles.

During the time of the Kings of Judah & Israel, Israel struggled with its call by God to abstain from idolatry. Indeed, a premier hallmark of religious revival under what are called the “Good Kings” was often marked by a systematic dismantling of idolatry across the land. King Josiah’s campaign to eradicate idolatry and pagan high places after the reign of his grandfather Manasseh is a prime example. But ultimately, these revivals weren’t able to stem the tide. Idols and high places went up as fast as they were torn down. So as warned by God, both Israel and Judah were carried away into captivity by foreign conquerors.

Carted off to Babylon, Idolatry Central, the Jewish exiles came to loath idols as well as to lament the tendency of their souls to turn to them. Babylon seemed to be a kind of aversion therapy for the Jews. “You want idols? Okay, have them aplenty!” And there in Babylon Israel was seemingly cured of idolatry; they never struggled with it again. On the contrary, they returned from exile with an almost allergic reaction to anything that even hinted at idolatry. So much so, that Jews were regarded as strange by their pagan neighbors, not just that they believed in a single, All-Powerful God, but that they utterly refused to give Him any kind of imagery & physical representation. Some pagans wondered if in fact Jews were atheists, because of their fierce reduction of the gods & goddesses to a single deity Who refused to be represented by an image.

And of course, the earliest Christians were Jews who understood their Faith, not as something new, but as something very old that had simply been moved along by God into the fulfillment He’d always pointed it toward. Jesus was THE fulfillment of what God had promised the First Jew = Abraham, all the way back at the beginning in Genesis 12. It was through Jesus all nations would be blessed. Fulfilling God’s promise to Adam and Eve in Gen, 3, Jesus was the seed of the woman Who crushed satan’s head and effected humanity’s salvation.

This Gospel quickly jumped the boundary between Jews & Gentiles. It turns out the Greco-Roman world of the 1st C was ripe for some much needed Good News. People were weary of the thread-bare of paganism with its pantheon of fickle gods and bitter goddesses. They were burned-out on the fatalism of Greek philosophy that locked them in a hopeless cage. The Gospel offered an entirely different way of looking at the world and life. It re-wrote peoples’ idea of God and offered an intimate & eternal love relationship with Him that infused them with boundless hope and joy. It filled life with meaning and purpose.

Once pagan Gentiles began coming to Faith in ever larger numbers, the Church had oit figure out what ot do with them. The NT book of Acts records an account of the Jewish leadership of the Church in Jerusalem wrestling with how to cope with all the Gentile converts. They didn’t deal with the issue of images then, but they’d have to later. Because it was inevitable that image-hating Jews & image-loving Gentiles would come to a loggerheads over the role of images in the practice of the faith.

Early on, Gentile converts to the Faith deferred to their elder Jewish brothers to define for them what to believe and how to conduct themselves. This included the use of images in worship. Pagans regarded opposition to the wor­ship of images as irreligious, and so the rumor began that Christians were atheists. But as more and more Gentiles came into the Faith and took on leadership of the Church, some of the old strictures fell by the wayside. From the 3rd to 7th Cs, a change in attitude toward imagery took place. In the 3rd C, the theologian Origen slammed the use of images worship. But by the 7th C images had become an indispensable part of religious life. The reasons and chronology for this sea change regarding images are obscured by a glaring lack of record. Like the transition form adult to infant baptism, it’s something that took place without much controversy or debate, at least that we have record of.

We don’t became aware of the importance of images in worship until there was a major controversy over them. It’s almost as though a significant portion of the Church woke up one day & said, “Wait. Where’d all these images come from and why are people worshipping them? This has to stop.” Now of course, that’s way overstating it; but as far as the record in concerned, that’s the way it appears. We don’t really see much about the ubiquity of images in worship until there was a movement to banish them in the 8th & 9th Cs in what’s called the Iconoclast Controversy. This controversy between image-haters and lovers stirred up fierce passion and is well documented. It concluded with the establishing of Eastern Orthodoxy as it’s practiced today, where images in the form of icons play a central role in worship.

With the arrival of Islam in the 7th C, the face of the Mediterranean World changed dramatically. In short order, vast regions that had looked to the Cross, now looked to the Crescent Moon. One time great centers of Christianity in Syria & Egypt became Muslim. But Islam’s relentless march into Europe was stalled in 4 yr long siege of Constantinople and in Southern France by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732. Until the 8th C, though Rome was the sentimental capital of the Roman Empire, the Pope it’s theological center, the far more populous East was the de-facto center of Christianity. With Islam’s conquest of the Middle East and North Africa, Christianity’s center shifted Westward into Europe, leaving Constantinople an increasingly isolated island in a Muslim Sea.

Deprived of its once vaunted status and vast resources  supplied by the East, the Church in Constantinople went into decline. It was unable to answer the challenge of the now dominant Islam that proved to be an effective adversary to the moribund Faith the Church had fallen to. Islam was nothing like the mish-mash of frayed paganism Christianity had contended with in its early Cs. Islam regarded Christianity as degenerate and polytheistic in much the same way Chris­tians had considered paganism. Church leaders realized they needed to turn things around. A new generation of theologians and leaders emerged to take on the challenge.

Leo III came to Constantinople’s throne in 717 during the 2nd Muslim siege. He attributed the Arab presence and pressure on the City to Divine displeasure. The solution was a thorough round of repentance; a systematic purification of both Church & State.

Leo established the Isaurian Dynasty after a 22 year period of near anarchy in Constantinople that saw 6 different emperors seize the throne. The Isurians ruled for the rest of the 8th C, repeatedly rescuing the Capital & what was left of the Christian East from the on-going menace of the Arabs and a new threat by pagan Bulgars. Even more thoroughly than Justinian the Great had, Leo reformed the Law Code, seeking to harmonize it with the Christian Faith.

When Leo III came to the throne in 717, the Muslims launched a major campaign to take Constantinople. In Mid-Summer, an Arab army laid siege round the walls on the land side. An Arab fleet arrived a month later to seal off the flow of supplies by water.  But the Arab Navy was hammered by strong storms and Imperial cutters using a new weapon called Greek fire. Dysentery, the perennial enemy of siege-forces, as well as other sickness, forced the Arabs to withdraw the next Summer. While the army was able to march away, nearly the entire Arab fleet was sunk by a fierce storm. The Christians attributed all this to divine intervention. With the people of Constantinople thankful toward God, Leo thought it a good time to launch a reform of the Church; especially in regard to something he assumed was obvious to all godly folk; the use of images in worship. Well, Leo couldn’t have misread the attitudes of his public more.

As I mentioned, the early church theologian Origen was vehemently opposed to the use of images in worship based on the clear reading of the Second Commandment. The little we know about the eventual use of images began with the inclusion of relics. In Acts 19:12 we read an interesting little story about how some of the Apostle Paul’s clothing was used to effect healing. Based on that, a theology was derived that used the remains and possessions of saints as touchpoints of devotion. And of course, a relic needed to be kept somewhere, so shrines were built to house them. Then churches were built to house the shrines. Both church and shrine were decorated with images pointing to the relic and the saint the relic came from.

But of course, the use of symbols and a simple iconography started very early in the Christian tradition. Who doesn’t know today that the fish became a secret symbol Christians used to identify themselves to one another in the midst of persecution? The catacombs of Rome are rich with imagery depicting the faith of those interred there. The anchor, ship and a shepherd are all early images Christians used to mark their faith.

A lingering reluctance from Judaism to cast Jesus in the form of a man saw Him instead depicted as the Lamb of God. It wasn’t till the very end of the 7th C  that a Council in Constantinople decreed Christ should be portrayed in His human form RATHER than as a lamb or some other symbol.

While both Jews & Gentile converts agreed God in His essence as deity ought not be represented by an image, Jesus Christ was God become man. Some argued that just as God became man, taking on human flesh so that people could see, hear, and touch Him, so it wasn’t just permissible to make images representing Him, it was necessary! Spurring the production of these images were the “discovery” of manuscripts that supposedly gave a description of Jesus, enabling artists to create a portrait. Wild reports of these portraits’ miraculous completion at the hands of an angel while the artist slept were heard. Such “not made by hands” images were then given created for effecting healings and miracles. When Constantinople was attacked by the Avars in 626, Patriarch Ser­gius had icons of Mary painted on the City’s gates & walls for protection.

At the dawn of the 8th C images were in wide use in the worship of the Eastern Church. The West used them primarily as instructional aids, but their coin as aids in worship was growing. But that’s not to say their use hadn’t been a point of debate, minor as it may have been. Beginning in the 5th C, there are a handful of protests by church leaders in both the East and West. In 599 Bishop Serenus of Marseille was appalled by the cult that had sprung up around the images in his diocese. He ordered their destruction. Pope Gregory I at the turn of the 7th C told him he was right to resisr the adoration of images but instead of destroying them ought to use them as aids in instruction the illiterate.

Our first record of a government action against images was a decree, not by a Christian ruler, but by a Muslim. In 723, Caliph Yazid II ordered the destruction of all images, not just in churches but in houses as well. This ban was secured by a Palestinian Jew’s promise such a command would yield long life to the Caliph.  A hollow promise since Yazid died the next year. That becomes a frequent charge made by Christians at that time; that Jews urged Muslim rulers to interfere with their worship as get back for the Cs Christians had troubled Jews.

The Quran doesn’t pro­hibit images per se; only when they’re turned into objects of worship; AKA idols. The first caliphs decorated their palaces with mosaics in the Byzantine style and used Roman coins that often bore the effigy of an Emperor or Christ. It was during this time Arabs began to reject all images, not merely those used in worship.

As far as Christian rulers, it was Leo III, following the successful breaking of the 2nd Siege by the Arabs, who installed reforms that moved to eradicate the use of images in worship. The Patriarch of Constantinople at the time was Germanus. He pushed back on the initial order but only tepidly. He really didn’t want to take on the Emperor. Besides many of the local bishops of Asia Minor were all for a suppression of images. In 720 Leo ordered that all coins be minted bearing the head of his son and co-emperor Constantine V, rather than the traditional bust of Jesus. Later, a simple cross was used. Leo’s zeal increased dramatically when a volcano erupted. He took that as a sign of God’s anger at the lingering presence of idolatry.  Leo personally took a hand in demolishing a bronze image of Christ tradition had assigned to the agency of no one less than Constantine the Great.

In 730, Leo replaced Patriarch Germanus, who’d been less than enthusiastic about Leo’s war on religious imagery.  The Imperial Chancellor Anastasius was made the new Patriarch. In the mean­time, John of Damascus, the most eminent Orthodox theologian since the Cappadocian Fathers, penned a defense of images from his refuge in Arab-ruled Palestine.

At this point in our story, we’ll switch from referring to religious imagery as images to their more accurate term – icons. Since we talked about what an icon was in Season 1 we’ll summarize by simply saying that an icon isn’t considered by those who make them as being painted; they are written. Artists who produce them attend extensive training and there are set rules for their production. They are deemed to be a means by which God’s grace flows to those who use them in worship. They aren’t worshipped, per se, they’re venerated as aids IN worship or aids TO worship.

Those opposed to the use of icons are called iconoclasts; icon-breakers. Supporters of icons were called iconodules; icon-servants.

The afore-mentioned Constantine V was named co-emperor by his father in 720. He reigned as sole Emperor, 741-75. He was even more opposed to icons than his father. A number of theological arguments were developed by iconoclasts, mostly relating to portrayals of Christ. They said that since His human nature can’t be separated from His divine nature, any attempt to portray Him was an at­tempt to portray God, which is forbidden by the 2nd Commandment. A similar line of reasoning was used with icons of saints who’d been raised into the heaven.  Icons were labelled by the boogeyman of being Nestorian. The only safe image iconoclasts allowed was the Cross. Emperor Constantine himself wrote an iconoclast treatise which is lost to us but which was cited by others. He ar­gued that while Christ’s human nature may indeed be represented by an image, his divine nature can’t. So, all portrayals separate the natures and are therefore heretical. Constantine V’s position is called by some historians, Christian Primitivism. He would have caused no problems in his thinking among Christians prior to the con­version of his namesake, Constantine the Great. He rejected the interces­sion of the saints, a practice unknown among early Christians.

In 754 Constantine V held what he numbered as the Seventh Ecumenical Coun­cil—a distinction denied by both Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Neither the pope nor the patriarchs of Alexandria, Anti­och, and Jerusalem, who by then were under Arab rule, attended. The patriarch­ate of Constantinople at the time was vacant. The Council lasted 7 months, and the record of its actions has been lost – all except its final decision regarding icons. The veneration of icons, that is, their use in worship was forbidden. So too was their destruction. A new iconoclast Patriarch was seated in Constantinople while the deposed Germanus, a Bishop of Cyprus, and John of Damascus were declared heretics.

Constantine V didn’t immediately treat iconodules as hated heretics. Threats from Islam obliged him to preserve internal peace for a time. But when the vast majority of monks became increasingly agitated iconodules, monasticism came under imperial scorn. In 761, 2 iconodule-monks were executed for speaking out against the Emperor. That action crossed a line in Constantine’s mind that saw him then proceed to ramp up persecution of those calling for a reinstitution of icons.

iThe Iconoclastic Controversy, as it is officially called, was the first period of persecution in Church history to be based on something other than a dispute concerning doctrinal fundamentals. Although to those caught up in it, it certainly seemed fundamental to them! Hey, when blood is being spilled, people tend to think it’s pretty fundamental. Anything that trumps the urge to survival will do that. We’re allowed the leisure of saying this was a controversy over non-essentials only because we’re so far removed from its bite. For the first time, Christians executed Christians for religious reasons.

When the main force of lingering iconodule support was found in monasteries and among monks, an Imperial military commander at Ephesus named Michael Lachanodracon decided to take matters into his own hands. He may have felt that he was only implementing what the Emperor wanted to but was restrained by politics from doing. In 770, he gathered all the monks and nuns he could find and ordered them to marry. Those who refused were blinded and exiled to Cyprus. He razed monasteries and those churches so filled with iconography it was easier to just level them. The military’s participation in this may have been partly fueled by their frustration at being handed one defeat after another by the Muslims. But they  were also furious at the monasteries and monks  who drained much needed resources form the war effort and robbed the army of much needed man-power. As Lachanodracon assumed, Constantine V expressed his appreciation for his brutal and bloody campaign.

When Constantine died in 775, the throne passed to his son Leo IV, The Khazar; so named because his mother was a Khazar princess named Irene. Which is a whole other fascinating tale. Influenced by his wife, also named Irene, who later played a gruesome role in Byzantine history, Leo abandoned the repressive iconoclast policies of his father. Leo named his 6 year old son Constantine VI co-emperor shortly after his own ascent. When he died only 5 yrs into his reign the 10 yr old became sole Emperor; except for that interesting mother of his who became the real power at court.

Irene had already backed down the iconoclastic policy of the imperial gov­ernment during her husband’s reign. With him out the way, she moved quickly to put an end to iconoclasm altogether. The iconoclastic patriarch Paul was forced to abdicate, allowing Irene’s secretary, Tarasius to be elected to the post. A new Council was called in 786 to restore the veneration of images. It’s called the 7th Ecumenical Council, even though that’s what Constantine V had called his 32 yrs earlier. The new Council was opposed by large numbers of the military still beholden to Constantine V. Irene replaced iconoclast units with more loyal troops from Thrace and reconvened the council in Nicaea. The veneration of im­ages was declared orthodox; iconoclasts who recanted were forgiven & restored, despite the hostility of monks who wanted some serious pay-back. The Council managed to get around the charge of idolatry by saying the veneration shown images was to be understood as applying to the saint depicted, not to the image itself. Worship was reserved for God alone.

When Constantine VI reached maturity, his power-hungry mom refused to step down. In the ensuing conflict, the ferocious icon­oclastic general Michael Lachanodracon took the son’s part. Irene was able to resist at first, but when Asian troops threw in with Constantine he prevailed and was proclaimed sole ruler in 790.

It seems Irene’s apple didn’t fall far from her tree in her son. He merged cowardice with cruelty, and lost the support of his followers. In  a shocking moment of scandal, he set aside his wife of 7 yrs to marry his mistress. That enflamed the hatred of the monks who went to Irene and gave her their support. So she was able to return and take the throne in August, 797. Constantine was blinded, a deformity that by Byzantine Law prohibited him from ever being ruler again.

Talk about being a bad mom! Way to go Irene.

Her cruelty may have done away with her son, but it provoked a coup that replaced her with Nicephorus I in 802. He died in battle 9 yrs later, to be succeeded by the inept Michael I Rangabe. Barely 2 yrs later Michael was deposed by another Leo, the V, who sought to restored the old Iconoclast policies of his namesake. He convened yet another council at Constantinople in 815, to once more do away with icons. But Leo V didn’t have any popular support and was murdered by supporters of the next Emperor, Michael II. This guy was a moderate iconoclast,; that is, while advocating a theological position opposed to icons, he didn’t use imperial force to make people stop their use. He hired an the out­standing iconoclastic scholar named John the Grammarian as tutor for his son and successor Theophilus, under whom iconoclasm enjoyed its last gasp. In 837, Tutor John was made Constantinople’s Patriarch. An energetic repression of iconodules once again began, with a special focus on those pesky icon-loving monk.

But by that time iconoclasm had lost its popular following and the movement ended with the death of Theophilus in 842. He was succeeded by his son Michael III under the regency of his widow, Theodora who immediately set about restoring the use of icons. John the Grammarian was deposed and in 843, a synod officially reinstalled the veneration of images.

The brief revival of iconoclasm that ended with the so-called “triumph of orthodoxy” in March of 843 produced what we know today as Eastern Orthodoxy, the “Church of the Seven Councils.” From the perspective of Eastern churches, the Council of Nicaea in 787 was the 7th and last ecumenical council.  The councils Rome  convened and labeled as ecumenical the East regards only as regional synods. Later events would drive a wedge between the two churches, that up to this point had been one.

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One of the most interesting moments in Church History comes in the conflict over the use of images in Worship. It’s born of the reality that Christianity has its roots in Judaism but had vast appeal among pagan Gentiles. During the time of the Kings of Judah & Israel, Israel struggled with its call by God to abstain from idolatry. Indeed, a premier hallmark of religious revival under what are called the “Good Kings” was often marked by a systematic dismantling of idolatry across the land. King Josiah’s campaign to eradicate idolatry and pagan high places after the reign of his grandfather Manasseh is a prime example. But ultimately, these revivals weren’t able to stem the tide. Idols and high places went up as fast as they were torn down. So as warned by God, both Israel and Judah were carried away into captivity by foreign conquerors.
Carted off to Babylon, Idolatry Central, the Jewish exiles came to loath idols as well as to lament the tendency of their souls to turn to them. Babylon seemed to be a kind of aversion therapy for the Jews. “You want idols? Okay, have them aplenty!” And there in Babylon Israel was seemingly cured of idolatry; they never struggled with it again. On the contrary, they returned from exile with an almost allergic reaction to anything that even hinted at idolatry. So much so, that Jews were regarded as strange by their pagan neighbors, not just that they believed in a single, All-Powerful God, but that they utterly refused to give Him any kind of imagery & physical representation. Some pagans wondered if in fact Jews were atheists, because of their fierce reduction of the gods & goddesses to a single deity Who refused to be represented by an image.
And of course, the earliest Christians were Jews who understood their Faith, not as something new, but as something very old that had simply been moved along by God into the fulfillment He’d always pointed it toward. Jesus was THE fulfillment of what God had promised the First Jew = Abraham, all the way back at the beginning in Genesis 12. It was through Jesus all nations would be blessed. Fulfilling God’s promise to Adam and Eve in Gen, 3, Jesus was the seed of the woman Who crushed satan’s head and effected humanity’s salvation.
This Gospel quickly jumped the boundary between Jews & Gentiles. It turns out the Greco-Roman world of the 1st C was ripe for some much needed Good News. People were weary of the thread-bare of paganism with its pantheon of fickle gods and bitter goddesses. They were burned-out on the fatalism of Greek philosophy that locked them in a hopeless cage. The Gospel offered an entirely different way of looking at the world and life. It re-wrote peoples’ idea of God and offered an intimate & eternal love relationship with Him that infused them with boundless hope and joy. It filled life with meaning and purpose.
Once pagan Gentiles began coming to Faith in ever larger numbers, the Church had oit figure out what ot do with them. The NT book of Acts records an account of the Jewish leadership of the Church in Jerusalem wrestling with how to cope with all the Gentile converts. They didn’t deal with the issue of images then, but they’d have to later. Because it was inevitable that image-hating Jews & image-loving Gentiles would come to a loggerheads over the role of images in the practice of the faith.
Early on, Gentile converts to the Faith deferred to their elder Jewish brothers to define for them what to believe and how to conduct themselves. This included the use of images in worship. Pagans regarded opposition to the wor­ship of images as irreligious, and so the rumor began that Christians were atheists. But as more and more Gentiles came into the Faith and took on leadership of the Church, some of the old strictures fell by the wayside. From the 3rd to 7th Cs, a change in attitude toward imagery took place. In the 3rd C, the theologian Origen slammed the use of images wors...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 25:34
Heretics – Part 06 // That Pendulum Thing http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-06-that-pendulum-thing/ Sun, 13 Aug 2017 09:01:24 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1799 http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-06-that-pendulum-thing/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-06-that-pendulum-thing/feed/ 4 One of the features of Church History is the tendency for the theological pendulum to swing to one extreme, then back in the other direction to another. At the risk of being simplistic but in an attempt to keep it brief, let me condense things like this . . . The theological discussion of the […] One of the features of Church History is the tendency for the theological pendulum to swing to one extreme, then back in the other direction to another. At the risk of being simplistic but in an attempt to keep it brief, let me condense things like this . . .

The theological discussion of the early church struggled first with how to understand Jesus and His place in the Godhead; His identity as both God and Man and how both the Son and Holy Spirit related to the Father in the Trinity. Nailing that down with just the right terminology, they then dove deeper into Who Jesus was, seeking to understand how his identity as both God and Man related to each other. All that was the subject & theological fodder for the first great Church Councils and their Creeds that have for the most part come to define Christian Orthodoxy.

But theologians didn’t all then hang up their scholarly hats and sail off to a tropical isle to lounge in beach chairs and sip fruit drinks with little umbrellas. They kept on theologizing; and theologizing and then theologizing some more. They made a list of all the things people wondered about related to the faith and went in search of answers. When they ran out of questions, they started making new ones up about things people had NOT been wondering over – like, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? And, why would an angel WANT to dance on a pin’s head? How big should a pin’s head be? à You get the idea.

This period of theology began in the 12th C as a part of Medieval Theology and is known as Scholasticism. Some of the names associated with Scholasticism are Anselm, Abelard, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and the Big Daddy of them all Thomas Aquinas who lived during the 13th C.

The problem with Scholasticism is that it became a purely academic movement that appealed only to intellectuals. Theology became the realm and prerogative of an elite class of highly educated academics. Gone were the days when theology touched the lives of the common people and informed them about their relationship with God. PRACTICAL theology was set aside in favor of theoretical ponderings on philosophical details. Commoners were too busy trying to survive to pay attention to all that. The Middle Ages in Europe saw a growing disconnect between theology and the common man. Priests, who’d been the interface between the workaday world and the Church, were torn between competing pulls. One pull was the desire to minister to commoners with their needs, pedantic & mundane as they often were. The other attraction was the desire to be honored among their theological peers as a learned & erudite man of the cloth. While some priests eschewed the later appeal in favor of keeping it simple and ministering to the needs of common people, many others succumbed to the draw of the hallowed halls of academia and Scholasticism.

The result was that path leading to a moribund church needing renewal and reform we looked at in Season 1 in the series “The Long Road to Reform.”

So the theological pendulum swung in Scholasticism way out toward a purely academic philosophizing. Then in the Reformation swung back toward Scripture as the basis of Faith and practice. But the Reformation didn’t produce a single brand of Protestantism; it launched a bunch. Each of them took on the task of justifying itself as the right one; most faithful to Scripture. Reformation theologians embarked on a kind of Protestant Scholasticism; at first producing pamphlets, then books and finally several volumes defending their views and attacking others. Polemics, that is works attacking other positions were frequent among Protestant theologians after the Reformation. A polemic became the cause of a reply, which itself would turn to a polemic, which would call up more responses. It was a War of Words & Ideas. Fought with the ammunition of paper & ink, and eventually, with real swords and spears and cannons as lines were drawn and being a heretic became just cause for killing.

Just as Catholic Scholasticism helped paved the way for the Reformation, it was inevitable Protestant Scholasticism would prompt its own Response. It came in what’s called Pietism, regarded by some as the most important movement between the Refor­mation and theological liberalism.

The first stirrings occurred among Calvinists in the late 16th & 17th C in the Northern European reaches of the Netherlands & Germany mainly among Lutherans. It’s main leaders were German Lutherans; Philipp Spener, August Francke, and Nikolaus von Zinzendorf. It was picked up and carried along by John and Charles Wesley, founders of Methodism.

By the middle of the 17th C, Protestant dogmaticians defined the fundamentals of saving faith in such elaborate detail no one but an advanced scholar could hope to know them. Theology, which the Early Reformers delighted to return to the common man was once again being sequestered in the skulls of academics. Luther used theology to reform public morality in Wittenberg. Calvin did the same far more systematically in Geneva. Both had the support of the State & a large part of the population. But by the end of the C, it looked like the Reformation had stalled. With rare exception, both nobility & commoners were as immoral as before the Reformation.

What came eventually to be called Pietism began simply as several uncoordinated efforts on the part of pastors to get their people to live out what they claimed to believe. There was no thought among these church leaders to start a movement and give it a distinctive label people would write books and do podcasts on hundreds of years later. They didn’t think of it as “Pietism;” they considered it normal Christianity – Following Jesus.

A forerunner of Pietism was John Arndt. Arndt resisted the trend of his day for pastors to pursue heady theology & advocated instead an intense pursuit of a personal, real, warm relationship with Christ. It wasn’t that Arndt rejected theological educations and discussions. It’s just that he felt they’d become a substitute for a genuine walk with God. His ideas quickly took root and moved other pastors to a similar message.

The first Pietists regarded themselves, not as in­novators, but as heirs of Luther. They weren’t launching some new movement; they were getting back to Martin. Pietism did develop distinctive emphases that set it apart from the emerging Lutheran orthodoxy. By far its most important emphasis was its belief in each Christian having a conversion experience in which they were born again. Pietists believed they had more than sufficient warrant for this in what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3 – “You must be born again.” That was NOT an emphasis in standard Lutheranism.

Pietism was intensely personal. It urged people to take their commitments as a sacred oath & obligation. In so doing, it made them better members of society and so came to the attention of civil rulers as a useful tool. So it was encouraged.

Pietism never became an established church or denomination. Rather, it was a movement that infiltrated most of the Protestant groups of Europe and aboard. It was the Pietistic urge to walk humbly with God that launched may of the distinctives that have marked a vibrant Evangelical Faith. Things like Bible printing and distribution, foreign missions, orphanages & schools, hospitals & ministries for the disabled & elderly. Pietists did all they could to fulfill the commandments to love God & others, and to carry the Gospel to the lost.

But, and here’s where the swinging pendulum ran too far with the Pietistic reaction to Protestant Scholasticism—In the move to prove true faith changes lives, some Pietists embraced the slogan “Life, not doctrine.” Instead of a balanced Both/And, they advocated an Either/Or that pitted theology against behavior.

Orthodoxy & Orthopraxy were divorced.

This indifference to doctrine saw Pietism becoming an unwitting ally to the Enlighten-ment’s attack on the Central Truth claims of Orthodox Christianity. Then it helped fuel the sentimentalism of the Enlightenment’s own pendulum swing into Romanticism.

With Pietism’s emphasis on the individual experience of conversion and a personal walk with God, the sense of Christian Community took a massive hit as well. Jesus wasn’t just the Savior of the world, He was now a PERSONAL Savior; the Savior of ME, rather than US. So, one of The Gospel’s greatest attractions, the priority & reality of restored love for God and others that had been so appealing since the first days of the Church, was diluted. Under a maturing Pietism, Christianity went from being a Faith that called people into community through a mutually shared life, to more of an individualistic focus on one’s personal experience of conversion & a daily walk with God.

A thoughtful reflection on modern Evangelicalism, especially as evidenced in North America, reveals the many connections to Pietism.  Many, maybe most, independent Protestant churches are thoroughly pietistic. Much of crusade-style evangelism flows from the pietistic urge to promote a conversion experience.

So, some might ask – Why are we talking about Pietism in a series on Heretics and Heresy?

Good question.

Pietism itself isn’t heretical, not even close. But its history reveals an important truth the wise will glean. In emphasizing one thing, there’s the tendency to de-emphasize another. When balance is lost to the swinging pendulum of trends in human society, a door is opened to errors that can do great harm.

Pietism’s emphasis on personal conversion and the individual’s walk with God became an unwitting ally to the Enlightenment’s assault on historic, orthodox Christianity. It helped pre-position hundreds of thousands for the sentimentality, emotionalism, and anti-intellectualism of Romanticism.

Pietism is one of many reminders that a good thing can become a bad thing when it’s not carefully made to be a balanced thing.

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One of the features of Church History is the tendency for the theological pendulum to swing to one extreme, then back in the other direction to another. At the risk of being simplistic but in an attempt to keep it brief, The theological discussion of the early church struggled first with how to understand Jesus and His place in the Godhead; His identity as both God and Man and how both the Son and Holy Spirit related to the Father in the Trinity. Nailing that down with just the right terminology, they then dove deeper into Who Jesus was, seeking to understand how his identity as both God and Man related to each other. All that was the subject & theological fodder for the first great Church Councils and their Creeds that have for the most part come to define Christian Orthodoxy.
But theologians didn’t all then hang up their scholarly hats and sail off to a tropical isle to lounge in beach chairs and sip fruit drinks with little umbrellas. They kept on theologizing; and theologizing and then theologizing some more. They made a list of all the things people wondered about related to the faith and went in search of answers. When they ran out of questions, they started making new ones up about things people had NOT been wondering over – like, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? And, why would an angel WANT to dance on a pin’s head? How big should a pin’s head be? à You get the idea.
This period of theology began in the 12th C as a part of Medieval Theology and is known as Scholasticism. Some of the names associated with Scholasticism are Anselm, Abelard, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and the Big Daddy of them all Thomas Aquinas who lived during the 13th C.
The problem with Scholasticism is that it became a purely academic movement that appealed only to intellectuals. Theology became the realm and prerogative of an elite class of highly educated academics. Gone were the days when theology touched the lives of the common people and informed them about their relationship with God. PRACTICAL theology was set aside in favor of theoretical ponderings on philosophical details. Commoners were too busy trying to survive to pay attention to all that. The Middle Ages in Europe saw a growing disconnect between theology and the common man. Priests, who’d been the interface between the workaday world and the Church, were torn between competing pulls. One pull was the desire to minister to commoners with their needs, pedantic & mundane as they often were. The other attraction was the desire to be honored among their theological peers as a learned & erudite man of the cloth. While some priests eschewed the later appeal in favor of keeping it simple and ministering to the needs of common people, many others succumbed to the draw of the hallowed halls of academia and Scholasticism.
The result was that path leading to a moribund church needing renewal and reform we looked at in Season 1 in the series “The Long Road to Reform.”
So the theological pendulum swung in Scholasticism way out toward a purely academic philosophizing. Then in the Reformation swung back toward Scripture as the basis of Faith and practice. But the Reformation didn’t produce a single brand of Protestantism; it launched a bunch. Each of them took on the task of justifying itself as the right one; most faithful to Scripture. Reformation theologians embarked on a kind of Protestant Scholasticism; at first producing pamphlets, then books and finally several volumes defending their views and attacking others. Polemics, that is works attacking other positions were frequent among Protestant theologians after the Reformation. A polemic became the cause of a reply, which itself would turn to a polemic, which would call up more responses. It was a War of Words & Ideas. Fought with the ammunition of paper & ink, and eventually, with real swords and spears and cannons as lines were...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 12:41
Heretics – Part 05 // Was He Really? http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-5-was-he-really/ Sun, 06 Aug 2017 09:01:18 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1759 http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-5-was-he-really/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-5-was-he-really/feed/ 2 As we’ve seen in other episodes, theologically, the Church spent the 4th & 5th Cs figuring out exactly how to articulate what it believed about the nature of God & Jesus. The main questions it dealt with in the 5th thru 7th Cs, centered on how God saves the lost. Theologians were consumed with properly […] As we’ve seen in other episodes, theologically, the Church spent the 4th & 5th Cs figuring out exactly how to articulate what it believed about the nature of God & Jesus. The main questions it dealt with in the 5th thru 7th Cs, centered on how God saves the lost. Theologians were consumed with properly understanding God’s grace, free will, and the nature of sin. Just what happened in the Fall? Instead of the nature of God, it was the nature of humanity that dominated Church councils.

In this episode of CS, we’ll deal with what’s become something of a boogeyman in theological discussions, especially those that take place between Calvinists and Arminianists.

That boogey is a man named Pelagius. His debate with the 5th C Church Father Augustine took center stage in the theological bruha over human nature and the extent of the Fall.

Pelagius was born around 354 in Britain. Descriptions of him cast a large figure; both tall and wide, who cut an imposing figure wherever he went. Pelagius took his faith seriously and followed the tradition of many of his Celtic peers by being an ascetic and becoming a monk. Having taken advantage of the finest education he could in his native Britain, mastering both Latin & Greek, in 380 he went to Rome, to further his studies in law & theology. What he saw there grieved him greatly.

The Church that had been persecuted through the 3rd C, had by the late 4th become something of a darling of the State. Hundreds of one-time pagans now filled the churches, many of them with dubious intent and less than altruistic motivation. They saw the way the political winds were blowing and so blew into the Church’s ready embrace. The consequence was many who called themselves “Christians” but whose lives gave little support to the claim.

Many Italian nobles kept a stable of mistresses in addition to their wives. They lived in luxurious ostentation while the desperately poor died nightly on the street outside the gate to their villa. Pelagius was shocked that the clergy took little action to confront all this. Priests allowed the rich to attend church as kind of half-way Christians. That is, they looked and sounded like believers, but hadn’t been baptized, because once baptized, a new level of obedience and morality was expected and the poser-noble didn’t want to go that far with it. Their attendance at church was a social thing, not a matter of a sincere faith. Pelagius was dumb-founded that this was going on in Rome. In one of his letters, he wrote, “Do you consider him a Christian who oppresses the wretched, who burdens the poor, who covets others’ property, who makes several poor so that he may make himself rich, who rejoices in unjust gains . . . and a man of this kind has the audacity to go to church!” Pelagius warned that unless a person denied himself and imitated Christ, he had no business calling himself a Christian.

From what he observed in Rome & from his own experience in following Jesus as a monk,  Pelagius developed a perspective on sin and salvation that centered on works. He said that sin doesn’t arise out of some pre-existing state. If it did, he said, that meant God created sin as part of human nature. He wrote, “To say that man cannot be without sin is like saying that a man cannot live without food or drink or sleep or other such things without which our human state cannot exist.” Rather, Pelagius said, sin comes from bad habits people form willingly. Continually sinning, their wills weaken & they sin more often. BUT: If they commit to doing good rather than sinning, they’re able to reverse their habits and develop patterns of behavior pleasing to God. God’s part in all this is 3-fold:

1) He gives people free will, with the ability to see for themselves what’s right and wrong.

2) God gives supernatural revelation through Scripture to guide them.

3) Christ is the ultimate manifestation of God’s grace; a perfect guide to demonstrate for humanity how to live.

But in the final analysis, people have to overcome sin by choosing not to, but rather to do that which pleases God.

The historical view of Pelagius is that he said Jesus was more an Example than a Savior.

It’s important to keep in mind that Pelagius’ primary motivation wasn’t theological so much as pastoral. He believed that the doctrine of Original Sin inherited from Adam & promulgated by Augustine, led Christians to be apathetic about their own sins, because it became a kind of cop-out for personal responsibility. He loathed the idea that people would say, “Well, I’m born a sinner, in sin, and have no choice in the matter. Since I came from fallen Adam, I’m fallen and can’t get up. So I might as well lie here in my sin and sin away.”  Pelagius reasoned along these lines: “If Christians are inherently sinful, but God forgives sins, what’s the motivation to even try to change?” He said the doctrine of Original Sin would gut the sense that sin was evil simply because it would be seen as inevitable. He worried when The Church accepted the idea of Original Sin, it would give people an excuse for sins, and that God would bring judgment.

During the next 3 decades Pelagius spent in Italy, he seemingly remained orthodox and was a popular author and speaker. He wrote a commentary on Paul’s NT letters and condemned the heresy of Manichaeanism. Though he held no official position or title, he was honored as a spiritual director and mentor to many. Regarding the things that mattered to him; namely, the moral purity of believers, Pelagius was only marginally influential.

Over against Pelagius who rejected the idea of Original Sin was it’s prime articulator, Bishop Augustine of Hippo in North Africa. Augustine had already made a name for himself in the controversy with the Donatists that we looked at in Season 1. This controversy with the Donatists prepared Augustine for the challenge Pelagius offered up. Against the Donatists, Augustine argued the Church isn’t made up of perfect people, but that it is peopled by those who’ve been Born Again, as evidenced by their baptism.

Augustine was convinced the doctrine of Original Sin was true. He said people begin life in the grip of a power their unable to shake. It draws them ever deeper into ruin unless God rescues them. In the same way that Pelagius’s ideas were formed in the crucible of his own experience, so were Augustine’s. He’d been a rank profligate, a true-blue pagan. Reform hadn’t come to Augustine by self-will or in a vow to do better. In His classic autobiography, Confessions, he leans on Romans 7 when he says, “Even though a person may be delighted with God’s law as far as his inmost self is concerned, how is he to deal with that other law in his bodily members which deliver him as prisoner to the law of sin dominant in his body. Who will free him from this death-laden body, if not your grace, given through Jesus Christ our Lord?” Augustine thus gives voice to how helpless he was in his former life, and how much he owed to God’s mercy.

Pelagius said human beings were posse non peccare = Able to not sin, apart from any supernatural enabling by God.

Augustine said they were non posses non peccare = Not able to not sin, apart from God’s enabling. He said even the good things people do aren’t out of a genuine of love of God but for some lesser, and ultimately selfish purpose. Augustine’s concept of grace isn’t the Pelagian nudge into doing good by being inspired by Jesus’ example, it’s a colossal power that liberates people to truly love & serve God. That grace-empowered love then conquers sin & installs the virtues of the Spirit-filled life. But, Augustine said, until that grace is given, people can’t even choose good, let alone DO it.

In Augustine’s conception of Original Sin, When Adam sinned, all humanity sinned with him.

The clash between Pelagius and Augustine might never have materialized if the Roman Empire had remained intact. But in 410 Rome was sacked by the Visigoths. Roman nobles fled to enclaves on the coast and North Africa. Among them was Pelagius and his followers. It was there that a disciple of Pelagius named Celestius began spreading his teacher’s ideas. A synod of African bishops met in Carthage in May of 418 to resolve the conflicting visions of God’s grace and human free will. They came down heavily on Augustine’s side.

Among the 8 canons the Council passed, are 3 that posed a major challenge to Pelagius’ theology.

1) The Council said infants require baptism because baptism is MORE than a symbol. The African bishops said it actually washes away sin; that is, the stain of original sin.

2) The Council decreed that the sinless life Celestius advocated was impossible. Quoting 1 John 1:8 where john says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us,” they said the Bible writers who admitted sin weren’t just being humble, as Celestius argued. The Council rejected the idea we’re in control of the good & bad in us, and so, the idea that we can perfect ourselves.

3)  The Council took a stand on the power & scope of God’s grace. Pelagius had said, or at least, his later followers said, that God’s grace had bestowed on people a natural, that is a HUMAN ability, to overcome sin. The Council said God’s grace isn’t simply a tool people use to conform behavior; it’s how God changes them from the inside out by empowering them to love & obey Him rather than sin. God’s grace is something He gives, not something we choose.

The Council of Carthage was conducted without the political shenanigans that marked some of the other councils. The exception was the work of Pope Zosimus, who was impressed by Pelagius and Celestius piety. He urged the African Bishops to declared Pelagius’s party as orthodox. They refused, politely and after several months, Zosimus agreed with their findings.

But because The Council of Carthage had been a local synod, its decisions weren’t accepted in the East. Several theologians questioned its canons. The Council’s pessimism about human freedom alarmed those who concluded the Africans had gone to an extreme in rejecting Pelagianism. They called for a moderate position that could serve the same purpose without falling into fatalism. So, a 2nd council was called a century later to resolve some of the more controversial issues left by Carthage in a way that was binding.

You see, most theologians opposed Pelagius, and were glad Carthage put down his ideas. But they were also concerned that the Council had been influenced by Manichaeanism, one of those dualistic religions we looked at recently. Manichaeanism said humanity is trapped in an utterly evil material world. The only escape is through the spiritual realm. That Augustine had once been a Manichaean and that his ideas were central to the Carthaginian Council heightened the suspicions. Theologians like John Cassian argued while the aim of the bishops at Carthage had been laudable, they’d left no room for human choice; at least choices that had any real meaning. Carthage made Christianity as fatalistic as Manichaeanism.

Those who questioned Carthage thought . . .

1) The idea that the unredeemed are unable to choose good is self-evidently false.

2) The fatalism in Carthage’s ideas about predestination is contrary to Scripture.

The most famous of the theologians who challenged Carthage was John Cassian. He argued that human freedom is not in conflict with God’s grace and that predestination is based on God foreknowing who’ll freely but by grace, come to faith in Christ.

Cassian cited the story of Zacchaeus, Jericho’s despised tax-collector. Zacchaeus was desperate to see Jesus. Being short and unable to see through the crowd, he climbed a tree and waited till Jesus passed by. Cassian argued that God did not cause Zacchaeus to climb the tree; he decided to do so of his own accord, and Jesus rewarded this act of faith.

So, a 2nd Council was called in 529 at Orange in S Gaul, today, SE France, to deal with these questions. It decided once again in favor of Augustine’s views. Augustine’s influence was so strong in the Council, many of Orange’s rulings used his language word for word.

25 canons passed ruling out the arguments of men like Cassian. They accused those bishops who refused to accept the canons of being influenced by Pelagius. But it wasn’t an all-clear for everything Augustine taught. Room is left in Orange’s canons for the mystery of human free will. Augustine’s doctrine of double-predestination was declared heretical.

Today, calling someone Pelagian, or accusing them of spouting Pelagianism, effectively shuts them up because it’s saying they deny The Gospel and have turned the distinctive Christian doctrine of salvation by grace through faith into the something someone can earn by their good works which don’t require the enabling of God’s grace.

I’d be remiss in this review of Pelagianism to not mention Semi-Pelagianism.

A dictionary definition of semi-Pelagianism is that it is a mid-way position between Augustinianism, with its emphasis on predestination and man’s total inability, and Pelagianism, with its insistence on man’s ability to obey God apart from divine grace. Semi-Pelagians claim human beings, though broken by sin, aren’t totally ruined. They retain a measure of freedom by which they’re able to cooperate with God’s grace. Man’s will is weakened by the Fall; his nature has fallen, but it’s not utterly depraved. God’s grace comes to people through the conviction of the Spirit and persuasion that Jesus is the only answer to our need. While God’s Spirit brings grace through many means, the primary means by which grace is activated is in and through The Gospel message. The Spirit’s dual work of conviction & persuasion is God’s grace, which the person who is saved surrenders to and is born again. This work of grace that leads to salvation is called prevenient grace. But advocates of this position believe it’s possible to resist this work of grace and remain in s a state of unbelief. The Calvinist believes in irresistible grace; that it cannot be resisted.

Among those that would be classed Semi-Pelagian there’s a wide array of understanding on what role the grace of God does in drawing and wooing the lost INTO Saving Faith. Some believe the message of The Gospel by itself has the power to save. Other would say it’s God’s grace working through The Gospel that convicts the sinner of both their need and the realization that the remedy is in Christ.

Sadly, in the discussions that all too often turn into acrimonious debates between Calvinists and non-Calvinists, the charge of being semi-Pelagian is often tossed out as a kind of theological trump card. If Pelagianism is a heresy, being Semi-Pelagian is being a half heretic and a half heretic is still a heretic.

Theological discussions aren’t going very far when one side calls the other heretical. And if the dictionary’s definition of Semi-Pelagianism is accurate, why not call it Semi-Augustinianism?

It might be wise to question if either Augustinianism or Pelagianism are Biblical before we set some position as a mediating stand between them.

What if BOTH Augustine and Pelagius were wrong? If that were the case, we don’t want to find some middle ground between them. Being halfway between wrong and wrong is doubly wrong.

]]>
As we’ve seen in other episodes, theologically, the Church spent the 4th & 5th Cs figuring out exactly how to articulate what it believed about the nature of God & Jesus. The main questions it dealt with in the 5th thru 7th Cs, In this episode of CS, we’ll deal with what’s become something of a boogeyman in theological discussions, especially those that take place between Calvinists and Arminianists.
That boogey is a man named Pelagius. His debate with the 5th C Church Father Augustine took center stage in the theological bruha over human nature and the extent of the Fall.
Pelagius was born around 354 in Britain. Descriptions of him cast a large figure; both tall and wide, who cut an imposing figure wherever he went. Pelagius took his faith seriously and followed the tradition of many of his Celtic peers by being an ascetic and becoming a monk. Having taken advantage of the finest education he could in his native Britain, mastering both Latin & Greek, in 380 he went to Rome, to further his studies in law & theology. What he saw there grieved him greatly.
The Church that had been persecuted through the 3rd C, had by the late 4th become something of a darling of the State. Hundreds of one-time pagans now filled the churches, many of them with dubious intent and less than altruistic motivation. They saw the way the political winds were blowing and so blew into the Church’s ready embrace. The consequence was many who called themselves “Christians” but whose lives gave little support to the claim.
Many Italian nobles kept a stable of mistresses in addition to their wives. They lived in luxurious ostentation while the desperately poor died nightly on the street outside the gate to their villa. Pelagius was shocked that the clergy took little action to confront all this. Priests allowed the rich to attend church as kind of half-way Christians. That is, they looked and sounded like believers, but hadn’t been baptized, because once baptized, a new level of obedience and morality was expected and the poser-noble didn’t want to go that far with it. Their attendance at church was a social thing, not a matter of a sincere faith. Pelagius was dumb-founded that this was going on in Rome. In one of his letters, he wrote, “Do you consider him a Christian who oppresses the wretched, who burdens the poor, who covets others’ property, who makes several poor so that he may make himself rich, who rejoices in unjust gains . . . and a man of this kind has the audacity to go to church!” Pelagius warned that unless a person denied himself and imitated Christ, he had no business calling himself a Christian.
From what he observed in Rome & from his own experience in following Jesus as a monk,  Pelagius developed a perspective on sin and salvation that centered on works. He said that sin doesn’t arise out of some pre-existing state. If it did, he said, that meant God created sin as part of human nature. He wrote, “To say that man cannot be without sin is like saying that a man cannot live without food or drink or sleep or other such things without which our human state cannot exist.” Rather, Pelagius said, sin comes from bad habits people form willingly. Continually sinning, their wills weaken & they sin more often. BUT: If they commit to doing good rather than sinning, they’re able to reverse their habits and develop patterns of behavior pleasing to God. God’s part in all this is 3-fold:
1) He gives people free will, with the ability to see for themselves what’s right and wrong.
2) God gives supernatural revelation through Scripture to guide them.
3) Christ is the ultimate manifestation of God’s grace; a perfect guide ...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 17:48
Heretics – Part 04 // Compelling Issues http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-04-compelling-issues/ Sun, 23 Jul 2017 09:01:19 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1750 http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-04-compelling-issues/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-04-compelling-issues/feed/ 2 This episode of CS will be significantly different from our usual fare. Whereas when I give commentary on things, I usually verbally mark it off by giving a caveat and saying I’m offering an opinion. Well, this entire episode is that. Here’s why . . . and hang with me for a bit because it’s […] This episode of CS will be significantly different from our usual fare. Whereas when I give commentary on things, I usually verbally mark it off by giving a caveat and saying I’m offering an opinion. Well, this entire episode is that. Here’s why . . . and hang with me for a bit because it’s going to take a little time to explain.

This series on Heretics, of which this is Part 4, assumes a right and wrong perspective on Christian Doctrine. To call a belief or person heretical, means accepting some standard of orthodoxy. To say someone is OUT, means knowing what “In” is. And not a few of the subscribers to CS no doubt find that assumption to be hideously arrogant; many more at least consider it at best to be arbitrary.

I wish I had solid figures but there’s no way to know what percentage of the CS audience hails from various faith & non-faith perspectives. But speaking anecdotally, I can say with confidence, a significant part of our audience is religiously un-affiliated. Some are agnostic, others, atheist. But they’ve shared their enthusiasm for the podcast because it’s helped fill in a hole in their education and knowledge of an important part of history. While there have been a couple non-theists over the last few years who’ve expressed their hostility both to the podcast and to me personally, the vast majority have been kind, civil; even respectful while expressing disagreement on theological issues. And I dig that!

The following comments are offered with the intention that they may, hopefully, add some perspective to the interaction that takes place between theists and non-theists today. It seems we’re talking about and AT each other more than with one another. So, what follows is aimed at two groups: 1) Post-modern skeptics & 2) Evangelicals.

It’s important that PM skeptics understand when they engage a sincere and consistent Christian, that person comes to the table with a set of fixed presuppositions that are part & parcel of their faith. They’re non-negotiables, if you will. Of course, HOW they hold and express them is another matter.

Evangelicals need to be reminded that when speaking with a PM skeptic, clinging tenaciously to The Gospel must be done in an overarching sphere of love. As the Apostle Peter said, our defense of the faith must be conducted in a spirit of meekness.

For those who’ve imbibed the post-modern conviction that truth is relative and that one person’s truth doesn’t necessarily have to be another’s – let me clarify that Classic Christian theology and a Biblically-consistent worldview don’t allow that as a presuppositional starting point. A Biblically-consistent Christian worldview regards Truth as absolute, eternal and unchanging. Truth corresponds to what is real. And reality is determined by an Eternal, Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent Creator Who exists in a category of being completely different from everything else, because that other category contains all that the Creat-OR, Creat- ED!

So, while for the post-modern, calling something “heretical” appears arrogantly judgmental and arbitrary, in a Christian WV, it’s simply a statement of fact. For sure, a judgment has been made, but it need not be made arrogantly. And if done properly, it certainly isn’t arbitrary. It’s the result of a laborious and careful analysis governed by a concern for truth but tempered by the virtue of grace and humility.

This is a good place to insert a comment about the Christian obsession with evangelism. While the religiously unaffiliated may be tempted to shut the episode off at this point, I ask you to indulge me for a moment because I think it may give you an important and helpful insight into Evangelicals like myself . . .

Christians living in Europe and the US are feeling the heat of opposition. As the West has grown increasingly secular and Christianity has been squeezed from the place of cultural favor it once enjoyed, the success of secularism has emboldened it to become more overt and hostile in its opposition to The Faith. Prayers & Schools, Christmas Trees & City Hall. The 10 Commandments & courtroom walls. The removal of the words Christmas & Easter from the holidays. All these harbinger society’s emerging hostility toward Christianity. Commensurate to all that is the sense of empowerment on the part of individuals to freedom from being “harassed” by Christians sharing their faith. Some would say that while Christians have a right to believe what they want, others have a right to not hear a Christian ever say what they believe! Being told Jesus can “save them” is offensive because it means there’s something they need to be saved FROM; that they aren’t okay. Yet for a good part of their lives they’ve been fed a steady diet of affirmation & told they could do and be anything they wanted to. So, being evangelized by a zealous Christian is considered deeply offensive and harmful since it erodes that fragile confidence.

We’re already seeing that mindset emerging. It’s certain to become more official as agenda-pursuing secularists continue to hammer away at Christianity.

What post-moderns need to keep in mind is that Evangelical Christians, living a consistently Biblical WV, are COMPELLED to share their faith and seek to persuade unbelievers to put their faith in Jesus precisely because they don’t want to be hypocrites!

That’s the biggest criticism modern Christians face; we’re all a bunch of hypocrites. Granted, there are a lot of people calling themselves Christians who lack a lifestyle consistent with Biblical morality and virtue. But to NOT share the Gospel and earnestly seek to persuade people to be converted would only ADD to the reputation of being hypocrites.

Maybe an illustration would help. Let’s say I claim to love my neighbors and want the best for them. Then one night while taking a walk in front of their 2-storey house, I see the 2nd floor is on fire. As I look in thru the living room widow, I see the family sitting around watching TV, oblivious to the fire over their heads. What does love compel me to do? It sends me running to their front door. If they ignore my knocking, telling me to go away, they’re busy watching their favorite show, I yell thru the door that their house is on fire. If they reply back that they don’t believe me, I’m not going to walk away and say, “Well, sucks to be them.” I’m going to kick their door in & PLEAD with them to at least come outside and see for themselves. They won’t be happy I kicked their door in; they may even get angry and hate me à UNTIL they realize I just saved their lives.

Here’s the point: Christians really believe the world is on fire & unless people get out of its way, they’re doomed to an eternal hell. The way out, the rescue comes thru The Gospel. And once received the Gospel changes the human heart to one that loves God and others. So if I really love people, I HAVE to tell them about Jesus and urge them to be saved. Anything else would be the worst kind of hypocrisy.

I preface what follows with all of that to lay the groundwork for following up on how we ended the last episode.

As a heretical sect, the Bogomils we looked at last time, were able to attract nominal Christians for 3 main reasons that have been repeated by other heretical groups ever since.

The first reason the Bogomils attracted Christians not well grounded in basic Christian theology was because some of them practiced their faith more zealously than many what we might call plain-stripe Christians. Of course, there were plenty of nominal Bogomilians as well. But they weren’t the one’s the easy-target Christians were influenced by. They weren’t because as nominal Bogomilians, they weren’t sharing their faith as the zealous were. And the zealous were because their religious system required them to. Not out of the love I spoke of earlier that ought to fuel the passion of Evangelicals, but because Bogomilians believed it scored them points with God.

This is a consistent theme with heretical sects. They alter The Gospel’s main point that salvation is a gift God gives, apart from merit or good works, into being a product of good work and religious devotion. The zeal of the heretic is less the product of a restored relationship with God as it is an endeavor to attain a restored relationship with Him.

Today, when a recent convert to Christianity encounters a cultist walking their beat, ringing doorbells or passing out literature while trying to talk to people about spiritual things, they compare that to the few Christians they know and wonder why their peers aren’t out doing what the cultist is. Maybe it’s because they’ve got the truth.

Once can be sincere and still be wrong.

Zeal isn’t evidence of truth; just that the person is motivated. The question is, motivated to and by what?

A second reason nominal Christians were attracted to Bogomilism was because it seemed to provide an easy answer for the sticky problem of evil; the key word being easy.

This is a philosophical problem that’s proven to be a major challenge not just to a Judeo-Christian WV but to all major religions and philosophies. It’s not within the scope of this podcast to handle it here. We’d have to devote several episodes of extended length to do so. Suffice it so say that the dualism of Bogomilism posited 2 poles; one good, the other evil that was easier for the uneducated and illiterate to grasp than that provided by medieval Christian theologians. There’s a really good answer from the Christians WV to the question & challenge: “If God is all loving and all-powerful, why is there evil in the world?” But it can’t be reduced to an 8-second sound bite, though some have tried. Actually, the answer is a powerfully persuasive apologetic for The Gospel. But that’s for another podcast to deal with.

It was easier for the uneducated of the 10th – 13th Cs to accept the spiritual-physical / good-evil dualism of the Bogomils than to wade through Orthodoxy’s sometimes labyrinthine explanation of The Fall.

And third, when too few Christians were properly equipped to dispel the heretical ideas of the Bogomils, civil authorities resorted to force to suppress them. The Church of the Martyrs became a Church of Martyr-makers. That may work to suppress a movement in the early stages, but it has a pernicious way of creating a controversy that fuels convictions, which only add to a more impressive display of zeal which perpetuates the sects attractiveness to the nominal.

Onlookers witnessing official persecution wonder why, if the sect is errant, it can’t be dealt with in the realm of words & ideas, rather than swords & spears. Beliefs are rarely altered by iron or steel. They’re changed by thoughts pressed home by a cogent argument. But when the mouth speaking the argument is connected to an arm wielding a weapon, threatening to use it if the subject doesn’t comply – the force of the argument is drastically diluted, not matter how erudite and convincing it may appear.

Historically, The Church of Jesus’ Followers grew far more rapidly when it was persecute-ed than when it did the persecute-ing.

The Church cannot not, it MUST not, look to the civil authority, no matter what banner it flies, to enforce its dictums or act as a regulatory agent over doctrine.

“Peter – put up your sword!”

As I said at the outset, this episode was a wide swing away from our usual fare for CS. But I hope it’s helped to set at least some of the philosophy behind the Church’s long battle with heresy.

]]>
This episode of CS will be significantly different from our usual fare. Whereas when I give commentary on things, I usually verbally mark it off by giving a caveat and saying I’m offering an opinion. Well, this entire episode is that. Here’s why . . . This series on Heretics, of which this is Part 4, assumes a right and wrong perspective on Christian Doctrine. To call a belief or person heretical, means accepting some standard of orthodoxy. To say someone is OUT, means knowing what “In” is. And not a few of the subscribers to CS no doubt find that assumption to be hideously arrogant; many more at least consider it at best to be arbitrary.
I wish I had solid figures but there’s no way to know what percentage of the CS audience hails from various faith & non-faith perspectives. But speaking anecdotally, I can say with confidence, a significant part of our audience is religiously un-affiliated. Some are agnostic, others, atheist. But they’ve shared their enthusiasm for the podcast because it’s helped fill in a hole in their education and knowledge of an important part of history. While there have been a couple non-theists over the last few years who’ve expressed their hostility both to the podcast and to me personally, the vast majority have been kind, civil; even respectful while expressing disagreement on theological issues. And I dig that!
The following comments are offered with the intention that they may, hopefully, add some perspective to the interaction that takes place between theists and non-theists today. It seems we’re talking about and AT each other more than with one another. So, what follows is aimed at two groups: 1) Post-modern skeptics & 2) Evangelicals.
It’s important that PM skeptics understand when they engage a sincere and consistent Christian, that person comes to the table with a set of fixed presuppositions that are part & parcel of their faith. They’re non-negotiables, if you will. Of course, HOW they hold and express them is another matter.
Evangelicals need to be reminded that when speaking with a PM skeptic, clinging tenaciously to The Gospel must be done in an overarching sphere of love. As the Apostle Peter said, our defense of the faith must be conducted in a spirit of meekness.
For those who’ve imbibed the post-modern conviction that truth is relative and that one person’s truth doesn’t necessarily have to be another’s – let me clarify that Classic Christian theology and a Biblically-consistent worldview don’t allow that as a presuppositional starting point. A Biblically-consistent Christian worldview regards Truth as absolute, eternal and unchanging. Truth corresponds to what is real. And reality is determined by an Eternal, Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent Creator Who exists in a category of being completely different from everything else, because that other category contains all that the Creat-OR, Creat- ED!
So, while for the post-modern, calling something “heretical” appears arrogantly judgmental and arbitrary, in a Christian WV, it’s simply a statement of fact. For sure, a judgment has been made, but it need not be made arrogantly. And if done properly, it certainly isn’t arbitrary. It’s the result of a laborious and careful analysis governed by a concern for truth but tempered by the virtue of grace and humility.
This is a good place to insert a comment about the Christian obsession with evangelism. While the religiously unaffiliated may be tempted to shut the episode off at this point, I ask you to indulge me for a moment because I think it may give you an important and helpful insight into Evangelicals like myself . . .
Christians living in Europe and the US are feeling the heat of opposition. As the West has grown increasingly secular and Christianity has been squeezed from the place of cultural favor it once enjoyed,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 13:53
Heretics – Part 03 // Can’t Keep a Certain Heresy Down http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-03-cant-keep-a-certain-heresy-down/ Sun, 16 Jul 2017 09:01:09 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1746 http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-03-cant-keep-a-certain-heresy-down/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-03-cant-keep-a-certain-heresy-down/feed/ 2 We’re going to go forward in time from our last episode nearly a millennium. Last time we talked about the Gnostics and the serious challenge they presented the Early Church. The dualism that lay at the heart of Gnosticism continued to rear its hoary head in the centuries that followed. It was part & parcel […] We’re going to go forward in time from our last episode nearly a millennium. Last time we talked about the Gnostics and the serious challenge they presented the Early Church. The dualism that lay at the heart of Gnosticism continued to rear its hoary head in the centuries that followed. It was part & parcel of the Zoroastrianism & Manichaeanism rooted in Persia and was the official faith of the Sassanid Empire. Dualistic ideas were so popular, they managed to infiltrate many Christians communities in both the eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire. When Rome fell and Byzantium carried on in its place, the influence of dualism lingered. Church leaders were able to hold it at bay by using the work of earlier fathers who fought Gnosticism. But as those works fell out of use, dualism resurged.

This dualism came in many forms, as we’ll see. But the basic idea was that the forces of Light, Good, and God are on one side with the powers of darkness, evil and the devil on the other. And if your response to that is, “Wait! Isn’t that what the Bible says?” There’s another important component we need to insert: In dualism, the two sides are equal in relevance and power. They are co-eternal, and going way back to the beginning, they were originally joined into a whole that somehow got split and led to the creation of the physical universe.

If all this sounds vaguely like the plot for an upcoming Superhero movie, it’s all just a coincidence. à Or is it?

The expression most forms of dualism take is to make the immaterial spiritual realm the side of light, good, and God while the physical realm of space & matter are the domain of darkness & corruption. So, as with the Gnostics, salvation in dualism get’s hijacked from being redemption from the Fall to an awareness of your innate inner goodness.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Dualism appears to have experienced a resurgence in both the East & West at about the same time in the 12th C, though the two streams probably weren’t connected. They became so popular, a couple Crusades and the Inquisition were used to stop them.

The first we’ll deal with was called Bogomilism and arose in the region of Bulgaria.

Bogomil is Slavonic for “beloved of God.” That was the name of the man who began the movement associated with him. He was a priest who lived at the in Bulgaria during the mid-10th C. Bogomil was influenced by a group known as the Paulicians, sometimes called the Paulicans. These were a moderately heretical group that was reconciled to the Roman Church in the 17th C and exists to this day as an affiliated group with Catholicism, though with their own rites.

There’s debate about the origin of the title “Paulician. They said they took their name from the Apostle Paul, claiming that their ideas were derived from the famous Apostle. Others say they drew their name from Paul of Samosata, a 3rd C heretical bishop of Antioch. Since so many of the Paulician beliefs ride tandem with the errors of Paul of Samosata, it’s safe to conclude that’s where they got their title. They flourished from the mid-7th to mid-9th Cs in Armenia.

Armenia has the distinction of being the first officially Christian nation. About AD 300, King Tiradates III became a believer and turned his court into a Christian concern. During the 4th C, the Armenian church was under the influence of the ultra-orthodox Cappadocian Fathers. But after the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Armenia sided with the Egyptian monophysites. Not long after the orthodox Faith was brought to Armenia, disciples of Paul of Samosata arrived and began spreading his adoptionistic ideas. Adoptionism was the belief that Jesus wasn’t the eternal Son of God. Adoptionists said God adopted a man named Jesus at His baptism to BE the Messiah.  He was a kind of first round draft-pick.

Armenia’s location next to Persia saw some of the dualistic ideas of Manichaeanism also infiltrate the church there. But 300 yrs would go by before the Paulicians would emerge as an identifiable group. When they did, the Byzantine Emperors alternately ignored and persecuted them. When Theodora became Empress, she had the Paulicians forcibly relocated to Thrace in the mid-9th C, hoping they’d act as a bulwark against the hostile Bulgars. That’s where they came into contact with the group that would later be called Bogomils.

The Bulgars were a Turkish people recently Christianized by missionaries. Their ruler, Boris, asked the Franks to send missionaries to help his people with their new Faith. He didn’t appeal to the much closer Constantinople because he was already wary of their influence and authority. But that was not about to stop the Byzantines from asserting their control over a region they deemed within the sphere of their hegemony. Constantinople not only sent missionaries to Bulgaria, they sent an army. Boris had to capitulate and was baptized in the Eastern Orthodox Faith, taking the new name and title Czar Peter.

Byzantium then had a slew of weak & mostly worthless emperors. They suffered a major defeat at the hands of Muslim forces at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. A decade later, relief arrived in the form of a new & vital leader, Alexius I Comnenus. Comnenus was more than a talented and decisive ruler. He was also an astute lay theologian. He formed the Paulicians in his hinterlands into an allied force & led them into a campaign against the Normans who’d been seizing territory in the West. But as they entered battle, the Paulicians proved false and deserted. Comnenus’ remaining army managed to pull off a victory. When the triumphant Emperor returned to Constantinople he imprisoned the Paulicians leaders. The remaining Paulician population, bereft of leadership, became an easy target for round two of Comnenus’ strategy in dealing with them. He sent in orthodox missionaries and priests who evangelized them into Orthodoxy. The imprisoned Paulician leaders were also evangelized by orthodox apologists, with many of them converting. Even the Emperor engaged in this proselytizing work. Their two chief leaders, Cusinus & Phulus, remained firm in their devotion to their heretical tenets and so were kept in prison in comfortable accommodations until they died.

It was this phase of Paulician history that saw the movement shed its more aberrant ideas in favor of an orthodoxy that allowed it later to become affiliated with Roman Catholicism. That it chose to merge with that branch of the Faith rather than the nearer Greek Orthodoxy of Byzantium stands as a reminder of the tension and animosity between the Paulicians and the Eastern Church.

And that leads us to another heretical movement: The Bogomils.

In the last 2 yrs of his reign, Emperor Alexius Comnenus was made aware of another religious movement that had sprung up in the Western reaches of his realm but had grabbed disciples right in Constantinople. By the time he was made aware of it, it had already established an underground church with its own bishop. Alexius pretended to be interested & invited that Bishop, named Basil, to the palace to share what this new movement called Bogomilism believed. Scribes hidden behind drapes recorded every word. As Basil listed off Bogomilian doctrine, he supposed he was speaking to a theologically un-informed civil ruler. He didn’t realize he was ticking off heretical ideas to an astute theologian who was mentally dismantling each and every idea. So when Basil was done, it was Alexius’ turn. He proceeded to list Basil’s erroneous doctrines, then he called on the bishop to renounce them. Basil refused and was imprisoned. Alexius then visited Basil in his cell several times in the following week, reasoning with & urging him to be converted to an orthodox faith. Basil refused, and was condemned to be burnt at the stake for heresy.

While such executions would became common in the West, they were a rare occurrence in the Eastern Empire.

Sorting out the beliefs of Bogomilism is a challenge because it was a faith in flux that evolved over time. But from Alexius’s diligent secretaries, here’s what their Bishop Basil said they believed . . . And get ready, because it’s a wild ride . . .

Bogomils said A singular supreme God who was utterly spiritual, had 2 sons: the elder was Satanael, while the younger was Jesus. The elder son rebelled and was banished from heaven. In exile, he created the material world and humanity. But he was unable to give the first man, Adam, life & asked God for help. Actually, he tricked God into it, saying the man would be a diligent servant to God. So God complied and man became a living being. But the man was a divided identity. Having a spirit, his potential was to be a servant to God, but possessing a body, he in fact became a servant and ally of Satanael. After fashioning Adam, Bogomils said Satanael created Eve, had sexual relations with her, the product of said union being Cain. Then, tempted by Eve, Adam begat Abel. Later in history, the human race produced a person who plead with God to save them. God answered by sending His Son, the Logos, who entered a Virgin’s ear, took flesh from her, and emerged with a body from the same era. Although, how He did that is difficult to fathom. The Son, known as “Jesus” grew to maturity, only appeared to die, descended into hell, where he defeated and bound Satanael, revoking his suffice –el and turning him into the more familiar Satan.

And this is where it gets really confusing, in case you aren’t already.

Even though The Son took flesh from somewhere inside Mary’s head, He didn’t really have a body; He only appeared to, which for those of you who are keeping track, is the ancient heresy known as à Docetism. Hey, seriously, if you said that to yourself before I said it, give yourself a pat on the back and go buy yourself your favorite hot or cold drink.

Here we see the inevitable internal contradiction that comes with dualism. How can Satanael, who ever & always remained a spirit BE evil, when Jesus the Son, Who took on a body, BE the Holy One Who affects salvation? “Well,” the Bogomilian replies, “Jesus didn’t really have a body; He only SEEMED to.” Okay, even if we give them that, we’re still faced with the fact that the Holy One, the Good Son, then play-acted at having something that was corrupt and evil, while the Evil One & Bad Son remained a pure spirit.

Listen: If my 15 yr old son tells me he wants to be a missionary, and gives every indication that he has a solid and mature walk with God, but one day I find him sitting on the couch in the living room reading a pornographic magazine, we’re going to have a chat. But let’s say once I sit down and start in on him, he smiles and turns the magazine toward me to reveal that it is in fact nothing but the cover, I’m going to be immensely relieved. But the question remains: WHY would he even have the cover? What’s going on in him that would move him to the appearance of evil – which of course God’s Word waves His people off from.

The dualism of Docetism, and it’s later manifestation in Bogomilism, fails epically right there. How could Jesus as the Son and Word of God even APPEAR to have a body, if a body was unalterably corrupt & evil?

Well, Jesus prevailed over Satan, whose realm of authority and power was then confined to Earth. Which of course according to the usual dualistic machinations was a realm of evil because it’s made of matter. But on that evil Earth dwell those dualistic creatures called man who are both body & spirit. So God sent the Holy Spirit to indwell his faithful ones, AKA Bogomils.

The Bogomillian End of the Age has the Holy Spirit ascending back to Heaven & together with Jesus the Word, both are reabsorbed into the Father, or one true God.

Bogomilism rejects such orthodox doctrines such as the Trinity. It regards the Cross as repugnant and has nothing to do with either baptism or communion, since such things require contact with physical matter. But Bogomilians often lived highly-disciplined lives of an apparently laudable morality that proved attractive to Orthodox believers who weren’t so impressed with the casual indifference some Orthodox leaders displayed. The same happens today. Some of the cults show a fastidious diligence in pursuing the rigors of their faith, in the mistaken hope of earning points with God and maybe getting into heaven. That religiosity can appear attractive to nominal believers who are used to seeing professing Christians failing to follow through on a consistent lifestyle of devotion to Christ. So converts were made from the ranks of orthodoxy into the Bogomilian camp, not out of doctrinal persuasion by but by the practical theology of daily life.

 

Like the Gnostics before them, Bogomilians divided their followers into ordinary, everyday believers and the choice elect. These elect had to face special trials  and challenges. If they proved their worthiness, they were given a secret and complex initiation that ushered them into the exalted ranks of the Bogomilian Elite. They were regarded as being equal to such lofty figures as the Virgin Mary and each were even called Theotokos = Mother of God. They only prayed one rote prayer; The Our Fa­ther, which they repeated several times a day.

After the conquest by Western armies of Constanti­nople in 1204, the Byzantine government’s check on the spread of Bogomilism was nearly shattered. The movement grew until the Balkans where they were centered was conquered by the Turks in the 15th C.

Like the Monophysites some 8 Cs before them, the Bogomils were receptive to conversion to Islam when it took hold of their homeland.

As we wrap up this episode, let’s consider how and why Bogomilism presented a challenge to orthodoxy.

1) Probably most telling for the average Christians was the fact that Bogomilians practiced their faith more zealously than the many of the Orthodox.

2) While Christianity seemed to struggle and to some, even stumble when it came to answering the age-old dilemma of evil, Bogomilism seemed to provide an answer.

3) Because too few Christians were equipped to dispatch the ideas of the Bogomils, authorities resorted to force, turning what had been a Church of the Martyrs into the Martyr-makers.

Those 3 points will shape our next episode, because they prove to be compelling issues in our examination of Heresy & Heretics.

]]>
We’re going to go forward in time from our last episode nearly a millennium. Last time we talked about the Gnostics and the serious challenge they presented the Early Church. The dualism that lay at the heart of Gnosticism continued to rear its hoary h... This dualism came in many forms, as we’ll see. But the basic idea was that the forces of Light, Good, and God are on one side with the powers of darkness, evil and the devil on the other. And if your response to that is, “Wait! Isn’t that what the Bible says?” There’s another important component we need to insert: In dualism, the two sides are equal in relevance and power. They are co-eternal, and going way back to the beginning, they were originally joined into a whole that somehow got split and led to the creation of the physical universe.
If all this sounds vaguely like the plot for an upcoming Superhero movie, it’s all just a coincidence. à Or is it?
The expression most forms of dualism take is to make the immaterial spiritual realm the side of light, good, and God while the physical realm of space & matter are the domain of darkness & corruption. So, as with the Gnostics, salvation in dualism get’s hijacked from being redemption from the Fall to an awareness of your innate inner goodness.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Dualism appears to have experienced a resurgence in both the East & West at about the same time in the 12th C, though the two streams probably weren’t connected. They became so popular, a couple Crusades and the Inquisition were used to stop them.
The first we’ll deal with was called Bogomilism and arose in the region of Bulgaria.
Bogomil is Slavonic for “beloved of God.” That was the name of the man who began the movement associated with him. He was a priest who lived at the in Bulgaria during the mid-10th C. Bogomil was influenced by a group known as the Paulicians, sometimes called the Paulicans. These were a moderately heretical group that was reconciled to the Roman Church in the 17th C and exists to this day as an affiliated group with Catholicism, though with their own rites.
There’s debate about the origin of the title “Paulician.” They said they took their name from the Apostle Paul, claiming that their ideas were derived from the famous Apostle. Others say they drew their name from Paul of Samosata, a 3rd C heretical bishop of Antioch. Since so many of the Paulician beliefs ride tandem with the errors of Paul of Samosata, it’s safe to conclude that’s where they got their title. They flourished from the mid-7th to mid-9th Cs in Armenia.
Armenia has the distinction of being the first officially Christian nation. About AD 300, King Tiradates III became a believer and turned his court into a Christian concern. During the 4th C, the Armenian church was under the influence of the ultra-orthodox Cappadocian Fathers. But after the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the Armenia sided with the Egyptian monophysites. Not long after the orthodox Faith was brought to Armenia, disciples of Paul of Samosata arrived and began spreading his adoptionistic ideas. Adoptionism was the belief that Jesus wasn’t the eternal Son of God. Adoptionists said God adopted a man named Jesus at His baptism to BE the Messiah.  He was a kind of first round draft-pick.
Armenia’s location next to Persia saw some of the dualistic ideas of Manichaeanism also infilt...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 17:08
Heretics – Part 02 // The First Heretics http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-2-the-first-heretics/ Sun, 09 Jul 2017 09:01:33 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1741 http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-2-the-first-heretics/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-2-the-first-heretics/feed/ 2 For 2nd generation Christians—let’s say, those who came to faith after AD 70, Jesus became less a person they’d personally known, or the friend of a friend—but more of a mysterious agent in a cosmic drama. Because so many of today’s pseudo-Christian cults deny Jesus’ deity, it comes as a surprise that the earliest of […] For 2nd generation Christians—let’s say, those who came to faith after AD 70, Jesus became less a person they’d personally known, or the friend of a friend—but more of a mysterious agent in a cosmic drama.

Because so many of today’s pseudo-Christian cults deny Jesus’ deity, it comes as a surprise that the earliest of the heresies to trouble the Church had no problem accepting Jesus’ divine status. What they struggled with was accepting His humanity.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up …

The first couple generations of Christians assumed Jesus was returning soon. That expectation may have fueled that amazing sense of community we find in the early chs of the Book of Acts where we read they sold off property and distributed to one another so all needs were met. Many scholar now believe Early Church leaders didn’t bother composing a systematic theology because they assumed Jesus’ return in glory was imminent. When delayed, they saw the need to establish a better system for leading the church & setting down guidelines for future believers. The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, AKA as the Didache written about a century after Christ, was just such a work.

After a while, Church leaders found they were answering the same questions and dealing with the similar objections over and over again. So individuals began penning replies as stock answers others could refer to.

Sometime around the mid 2nd C, Justin Martyr wrote his First Apology dealing with pagan arguments, then authored Dialog with Trypho the Jew, dealing with Jewish objections.

But it wasn’t until Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in S Gaul, wrote his master-work Against Heresies at the end of the 2nd C, that a work we might call a systematic theology was first produced. The actual title was The Unmasking and Refutation of Falsely So-Called Gnosis and gives us a hint of what prompted Irenaeus to set pen to parchment è Gnosticism.

The Gnostics put together a coherent body of belief before Christians did. And it might be said that Christian systematic theology was a reaction to the Gnostic challenge. Late to the game, when Christian theologians finally took up the task, they were so thorough in their refutation of Gnosticism, it petered out and fell into the abyss of oblivion. Waiting to be resurrected in modern times by skeptical scholars redacting history and selling books suggesting Gnosticism was the real faith of Jesus and the Apostles; ideas that depend on silence for their support.

As an editorial note, & maybe rant is a better description, and expressing my own opinion only: è Post-modernism regards the historical record with such suspicion, it’s assumed what really happened is in fact the opposite of where the evidence points. Using the rubric that “It’s the winners who write the history,” post-modern scholars eschew the records and assume all history prior to the last 50 yrs is rank propaganda. So whatever the record says, is fabrication. What REALLY happened is the opposite. It’s an argument from silence. But it’s that silence the post-modern assigns the weight of authority.

So if the record of history shows Gnosticism was an aberrant faith dismantled by early Christian theologians, well, the opposite must in fact have been the case. Gnosticism WAS early Christianity, beaten out by political elites who found it too egalitarian for their tastes and desire to remain in control of a poor and uneducated public; blah, blah, blah.

The problem with this skeptical post-modern view of history is not only that it’s an argument from silence—if true, it makes everyone an historical agnostic. We can’t really now ANYTHING prior to the Modern Era because everything is suspect. The post-modern would have us ignore any authority but theirs to tell us what NOT to believe.

Sorry, but I’ll stick with the classics, skewed as they may be. Wed can discern more about what happened by the record of the past than by layering post-modern sensibilities on top of previous generations and saying what OUGHT to have been is what really occurred.

End of rant.

As we saw in Season 1, Gnosticism was a widespread movement that drew impetus from the emerging Christian movement. It was a worldview that merged religion and philosophy and probably ought to have been expected in its time and place.

The Roman Empire stretched its sticky fingers into many regions that had mostly kept to themselves. There’d been trade btwn these areas for centuries, but Rome’s political and economic dominance saw borders drop and peoples of disparate cultures mix on a wide scale for the first time. Rome first imbibed the philosophy and religion of Greece, then this Greco-Roman worldview absorbed Eastern mysticism. The result was Gnosticism; a religious worldview that merged the Greek idea of dualism with the appeal of mysterious secrets that led the adherent to a salvation born of enlightenment.

But Gnosticism stalled when it came in contact with The Gospel because, while Gnostic sages sold their mysteries, Christians offered their stuff for free. And besides, converts to Christianity experience a genuine change that turned them from sinner to saint. In a clever marketing ploy, Gnostics adopted Christian terms & forms, presenting themselves as an advanced form of the Faith.

Most of what we know about Gnosticism, or at least that branch of it that sought to ride on the back of Christianity, is drawn from Irenaeus’s work refuting it; that 5 volume work known as Against Heresies.

While trying to retain several ideas and terms intrinsic to the Faith, Gnostics ejected dependence on Jewish history, a large part of the New Testament, the Biblical Jesus and Apostles. We might ask, “Well, after all that, what’s left?”

Gnostics replaced the Bible’s story of creation with an elaborate mythology of the spiritual realm being populated by a virtually endless hierarchy of spiritual beings they called “aeons.” Salvation was conceived of, not as deliverance from sin, but as enlightenment. That enlightenment came by being initiated into ever deeper levels of knowledge of the aeonic realm. Following Greek dualism, spirit was good while matter was bad. Both unalterably so.

So God, and by that I mean the Original First Cause, was so good, so holy, it could never have created the physical universe. No, something as corrupt as the Earth could only be the product of some far-down the line aeon that was SO distantly removed from the First Cause or the High God, that it was able to create matter; the physical universe.

The goal of the Gnostic was to learn the names of the aeons and their unique special character as far back up the line toward the First Cause as possible. The idea was that the higher aeon you knew, the more aware of the divine you became and the less the corruption of the physical had hold of you.

So Gnostics adored Christians words & phrases like “mediator, logos, the Holy Spirit, being filled with the Spirit, and regeneration.” But they stripped them of their origin in the Historic Gospel and Life of Jesus. What allowed Gnosticism to explode during the first half of the 2nd C was that the NT hadn’t come together as a recognized canon yet.

What made Gnosticism appealing and not just another philosophy for academics to debate was its claim of divine revelation. They loved that Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” They turned Him into one of their aeons. But of course, if He was a divine being, there’s no way He had a physical body. So Gnostics said Jesus was a divine spirit. Some Gnostics called Him angelic. Others said as an aeon He ought to be more properly regarded as a god; a lesser deity somewhere on the hierarchy of aeons reaching back to The First Cause.

But Gnostics categorically rejected the idea Jesus was human. In their system, something so holy would never have a physical body. So the appearance of Jesus was just that, an appearance, a phantom. He left no footprints, cast no shadow, didn’t eat.

Now, those of you who’ve read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the NT know these records of Jesus’ life have abundant stories of Jesus physicality. That’s why the Gnostics rejected so much of the NT.

As an aside, if you have a modern translation of the NT, you may note there are occasional footnotes that say something to the effect of, “This verse or this passage not found in the oldest and most reliable manuscripts.” That statement that they’re more reliable is an editorial comment on the part of the publisher. They’re indeed older, but reliable is a debate. The manuscripts they refer to are from the Alexandrian textual tradition, which some conservative scholars believe bear a Gnostic influence and editing. So most of the questioned verses deal with, can you guess? Right: Passages that speak of Jesus’ physicality, such as when He stooped and wrote in the sand.

That remark that the Alexandrian text is “more reliable” isn’t due solely to the fact the manuscripts are older. It’s also an assumption made by more liberal scholars that the shorter text must be more true to the original. Their presupposition is that over time, as manuscripts are hand-copied, those who pen them will be inclined to add material rather than delete it. The discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls nuked that idea. Some of them predated previously extant manuscripts by hundreds of years. Yet the text is virtually identical. It’s nothing but an assumption that the shorter text is more accurate. So if you read that in a footnote, remember it’s not a statement of fact. It’s merely an opinion, one that in all likelihood is based on an erroneous presupposition.

It’s long been believed that Simon Magus, referred to in Acts 8, started the Christianesque-flavored Gnosticism. Simon offered the Apostle Peter money if he’d “teach” him how to bestow the Holy Spirit on others. Peter rebuked Simon’s crass merchandising of the Faith, and it’s from Simon’s offer we get the term “simony” = the practice of purchasing religious office.

Okay, get this: According to the Gnosticm tale, Simon met a woman named Helena at a brothel in the City of Tyre. What he was doing in a brothel, we can only guess, but our guesses need be few; one actually. He wasn’t there to tune their piano. Simon said this Helena was a reincarnation of someone called Ennoia, a manifestation of the Spirit of God. In her previous identity as Ennoia, she’d created many ranks of angels, some of which rebelled against God. These rebels then captured and imprisoned her in a mortal body. She was then reincarnated many times, including one stint as Helen of Troy. But in Simon’s day, she was a prostitute in Tyre. And Simon, of course, was now the highest God’s manifestation come to rescue her.

Simon said the OT was the product of the malicious angels seeking to defame God. To follow Simon was to free oneself from the OT’s oppressive religious requirements.

Christians accused Simon and his devotees of practicing magic and the occult. This became a regular charge by Christians against the Gnostics; that they performed lying signs & wonders. How much of this was mere illusion; remember, Simon began as a magician, an illusionist; and how much of it was the working of demonic power is anyone’s guess. There was likely a bit of both.

Simon’s brand of Gnosticism included several points that will be repeated by later heretical groups.

  • There was a blending of Biblical ideas with paganism and Eastern mysticism.
  • There was a dualistic view of reality divided into the sacred spirit and profane physical.
  • The idea that a Savior had appeared to lead people into salvation.
  • A rejection of Jewish Scripture.
  • An intense interest in the hidden & secret because it was believed that’s where the good stuff that led to salvation lay. Those secrets were the domain of special teachers who’d impart their goodies upon payment.

Simon Magus reached Rome before people there were familiar with The Gospel. So he was able to present himself as a Savior and gained a significant following. Later Gnostic teachers had to work against a background of greater familiarity with The Gospel and left off claiming to be saviors themselves. They simply worked Jesus into their system as one of the Gnostic Aeons Who’d appeared to help enlighten humanity. And when I say “appeared” I mean that literally. The Gnostics said Jesus was a phantom; that He possessed no physical body but only SEEMED to do so, giving rise to a movement called “Seemism”  = Literally Docetism. Even Simon said that as a manifestation of the Highest God, he only appeared to people but had no real body. He only seemed to have flesh.

So, the crucifixion was a farce to Gnostics. Someone as lofty as one of their aeons would never consent to such a travesty! Some of them denied the cross ever happened. Other said that indeed a man did die on a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem, but it wasn’t The Christ; it was just a man named Jesus. They split the divine spirit called Christ & the human man named Jesus into two distinct entities. The Christ-Spirit supposedly descended upon a suitably prepared man named Jesus at his baptism by John. It was that Christ-Spirit that then said & did the stuff we read about in the Gospels. But in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion, the Christ-Spirit lifted off the man Jesus, so that the person the temple police arrested was a used & bereft shell. What hung on the cross was just a spent flesh-case. Jesus’ death did nothing for the Gnostic. It couldn’t, because Gnostic salvation had nothing to do with sin.

Humanity’s great problem, said the Gnostic, wasn’t sin and its resultant separation from God. Mankind’s problem was ignorance. For Christians, salvation meant deliverance from the penalty, power and ultimately, the presence of sin. The Gnostic aspired to knowledge that would help him / her realize their real identity and existence as primarily a spiritual being over whom the physical realm had no influence.

Gnostics tended to pursue this awareness in one of two ways. Some went the route of extreme asceticism, denying their bodies any and all pleasure. The idea was to abstain from all sensual pleasure, so as to give the spirit complete dominance over their will. But the intense hunger and thirst of severe abstinence has a tendency to have the opposite of the desired effect; it makes you KEENLY aware of the reality and presence of the body.

So while some pursued enlightenment via extreme asceticism, the far more popular route was the exact opposite; a hedonistic immersion in pleasure. An enthusiastic embrace of immorality. These Gnostics said that the way to enlightenment was to engage in scandalous debauchery, then while in the very center of it, to realize that all that was only happening to the body, which is unalterably corrupt anyway, yet their spirit remained pure and untouched by such corruption. It was having your religious & philosophical cake and eating it too.  But not just eating it; you were smearing it all over your face, rubbing it into your hair. Taking off you clothes and rolling across a field of 4” layer cakes with cream cheese frosting. All the while saying, “The real me isn’t covered in cake. I’m clothed in the glorious light of Heaven. What’s covered in cake is just the dirt-suit I’ve borrowed in this round of reincarnation.”

As previous said, Irenaeus wrote Against Heresies to refute Gnosticism btwn AD 180-89. But some scholars believe it was already waning as Christians became more conversant in what The Gospel really taught. Gnosticism was able to emerge and secure adherents in its early phase both because of the lack of a NT canon & a widely endorsed Creed. But all that changed during the 2nd C, when more and more books began to be accepted among the churches as normative for the Faith and the earliest versions of what much later was called the Apostles’ Creed settled in.

The history of Gnosticism is a tangled mess of names and conflicting ideas and tenets. It had its own denominations, movements, groups and factions who argued & fought with each other. And while it made a run at Christianity during the early 2nd C that seemed at times to present a real challenge, it ended up proving the truth of something Jesus said to His disciples; that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.

While Gnosticism became little more than a dead faith, a field for academics & historians to autopsy, renewed interest in it has flared up whenever the same factors that marked the late 1st C church have been repeated. When the veracity of Scripture is regarded as suspect. When the NT is subjected to the scoffing of critics and the OT is relegated to myth. Gnosticism has managed to flare back to a brief moment of interest when Christianity is cut loose of its historical moorings in real events and made into little more than a moral philosophy. When salvation is deemed a matter of deliverance from ignorance, rather than a return to innocence.

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For 2nd generation Christians—let’s say, those who came to faith after AD 70, Jesus became less a person they’d personally known, or the friend of a friend—but more of a mysterious agent in a cosmic drama. Because so many of today’s pseudo-Christian cu... Because so many of today’s pseudo-Christian cults deny Jesus’ deity, it comes as a surprise that the earliest of the heresies to trouble the Church had no problem accepting Jesus’ divine status. What they struggled with was accepting His humanity.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up …
The first couple generations of Christians assumed Jesus was returning soon. That expectation may have fueled that amazing sense of community we find in the early chs of the Book of Acts where we read they sold off property and distributed to one another so all needs were met. Many scholar now believe Early Church leaders didn’t bother composing a systematic theology because they assumed Jesus’ return in glory was imminent. When delayed, they saw the need to establish a better system for leading the church & setting down guidelines for future believers. The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, AKA as the Didache written about a century after Christ, was just such a work.
After a while, Church leaders found they were answering the same questions and dealing with the similar objections over and over again. So individuals began penning replies as stock answers others could refer to.
Sometime around the mid 2nd C, Justin Martyr wrote his First Apology dealing with pagan arguments, then authored Dialog with Trypho the Jew, dealing with Jewish objections.
But it wasn’t until Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in S Gaul, wrote his master-work Against Heresies at the end of the 2nd C, that a work we might call a systematic theology was first produced. The actual title was The Unmasking and Refutation of Falsely So-Called Gnosis and gives us a hint of what prompted Irenaeus to set pen to parchment è Gnosticism.
The Gnostics put together a coherent body of belief before Christians did. And it might be said that Christian systematic theology was a reaction to the Gnostic challenge. Late to the game, when Christian theologians finally took up the task, they were so thorough in their refutation of Gnosticism, it petered out and fell into the abyss of oblivion. Waiting to be resurrected in modern times by skeptical scholars redacting history and selling books suggesting Gnosticism was the real faith of Jesus and the Apostles; ideas that depend on silence for their support.
As an editorial note, & maybe rant is a better description, and expressing my own opinion only: è Post-modernism regards the historical record with such suspicion, it’s assumed what really happened is in fact the opposite of where the evidence points. Using the rubric that “It’s the winners who write the history,” post-modern scholars eschew the records and assume all history prior to the last 50 yrs is rank propaganda. So whatever the record says, is fabrication. What REALLY happened is the opposite. It’s an argument from silence. But it’s that silence the post-modern assigns the weight of authority.
So if the record of history shows Gnosticism was an aberrant faith dismantled by early Christian theologians, well, the opposite must in fact have been the case. Gnosticism WAS early Christianity, beaten out by political elites who found it too egalitarian for their tastes and desire to remain in control of a poor and uneducated public; blah, blah, blah.
The problem with this skeptical post-modern view of history is not only that it’s an argument from silence—if true, it makes everyone an historical agnostic. We can’t really now ANYTHING prior to the Modern Era because everything is suspect. The post-modern would have us ignore any authority but theirs to tell us what NOT to believe.
Sorry, but I’ll stick with the classics, skewed as they may be. Wed can discern more about what happened by the record of the past than b...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 19:56
Heretics – Part 01 // What is Heresy? http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-1-what-is-heresy/ Sun, 02 Jul 2017 09:01:48 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1735 http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-1-what-is-heresy/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/heretics-part-1-what-is-heresy/feed/ 1 We start a new series here in Season 2 of CS. This time we’ll take a look at some of the notable Heretics & Heresies in Church History. Most of these we covered in Season 1. This time we’ll go a bit deeper. As we do, we just might discover that some of those movements […] We start a new series here in Season 2 of CS. This time we’ll take a look at some of the notable Heretics & Heresies in Church History. Most of these we covered in Season 1. This time we’ll go a bit deeper. As we do, we just might discover that some of those movements and groups that have been classed as heretical, weren’t. Aberrant maybe, but heretical, not! As has been said; Winners write history. They get to tell the tale. It seems at least some of the reporting of Church officials misrepresented / mischaracterized the position of those they opposed and were able to stamp out. When the writings of these groups were systematically round & destroyed, all we’re left with is the account of their opponents; a questionable source at best.

That is not to say every group deemed heretical wasn’t. Many were. In the early centuries most were. But during the late Middle Ages, many of the groups labeled “heretical” may have simply been outsiders to the politically accepted norm.

As we begin, we need to carve out a little time to define precisely what we mean by heresy.

The English word “heresy” is a transliteration of the Greek word hairesis which simply means “party” as in a sect; a group of people gathered around some identifying & uniting feature. The early use of the word was neutral and is seen that way 3 times in the Book of Acts.                                (5:17, 15:5 & 26:5)

But the word took on a strongly negative connotation early when it was used to describe those who deviated from the teaching of the Apostles and went off into error, as seen in 1 Cor 11:19 & Gal 5:20. Heresy wasn’t just a difference of opinion on some minor issue. It was a departure from those aspects of The Gospel that made Christianity what it fundamentally was as a coherent faith. If accepted, a heretical teaching placed the adherent outside the saving benefits of The Gospel. Heresy wasn’t just a difference of opinion; it was a difference in Belief regarding Truth.

The antonym of heresy is orthodoxy; a word derived from 2 Greek words meaning right and honor. Orthodoxy honors God rightly. Heresy dishonors God by clinging to ideas about Him and His ways that are untrue.

In order for something to be genuinely heretical, it needs to have some point of orthodoxy against which it kicks. So, atheism can’t be considered heretical since it doesn’t just deviate from theism. It categorically rejects theism. There isn’t any point of connection between the two. They are diametrically opposite worldviews.

For convenience sake, people have made a distinction between heresy and mere aberration. A heresy places the one who embraces it outside the realm of saving faith. The heretic is someone regarded as doomed to hell because she/he fails to hold faith in The Gospel of Jesus Christ as defined by the Apostles in the New Testament. Aberrant beliefs and movements are those that have deviated from the general stream of Christian orthodoxy in some non-essential realm of belief or practice. That is not to say aberrations aren’t potentially dangerous; they may be. But embracing them doesn’t exempt someone from salvation. It may hinder some aspect in their experience of a complete Christian life, but it won’t eternally doom them.

What I’m about to share now is difficult for some moderns to grasp. But it’s crucial to understanding how the Church has historically understood and dealt with heresy. The Enlightenment’s emphasis on secularism has profoundly colored Western civilization. While the roots of Western Civilization lie deep in a Biblical worldview, secularism has nevertheless managed to insinuate itself into that worldview, turning the ancient and medieval preoccupation with “the life to come” into a preoccupation with “this life now.” Simply put modern people tend to ask, “What is Faith doing for me right now,” rather than the question that framed the thinking of centuries worth of people across the Middle East and Europe, “How does faith fit me for the life to come?”

The modern standard of living in democratic political and affluent economic systems presents people with a plethora of options and lifestyle choices simply not available to most of humanity throughout history. So people today tend to evaluate a philosophy or religion based on what benefits it accrues to them NOW; in this moment, which is the essence of secularism.

For the vast majority of people in ancient & medieval realms, living as they did in squalor with a tenuous hold on survival, this life was far less important than eternity. For as bad as this life might be for the poor and slaves, it was but a vapor compared to eternity; a bad dream to be dispelled and forgotten in the light of Heaven. And what gained heaven wasn’t anything the temporary world of today reckoned as important or valuable. No – what gained heaven is open and available to all equally in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Heaven, the rich would have no advantage on the poor; the slave, no disadvantage to the free. All such distinctions were left at the portal between this world and the next.

So understand WHY Christians of the past viewed heresy as such a danger. Persecution by unbelievers could only cut short one’s already miserable life on Earth and send the Christians to glory. Heresy threatened that glory. It made the misery of this life seem a blessing when it was realized heresy threatened to consign the eternal soul to the torments of hell. Persecuting pagans were to be pitied while heretics were to be loathed. The first threatened mere physical life. The second, eternal life.

This helps in understanding why, when Christians weren’t being persecuted, but had instead assumed a union with civil magistrates, that heretics were banned, and at times, executed. It’s the reasoning that lies back of the hideous moment in history known as the Inquisition. It in no way EXCUSES the atrocity of killing heretics, but it puts us in touch with the reasoning behind their treatment.

I imagine as moderns with a hopefully enlightened and Biblically consistent morality, we’d argue for the humane treatment of heretics. Instead of executing them, show why & how they’re in error. Persuade rather than condemn. Use heresy as a means of showing the reasonableness  & superiority of The Gospel and let THAT alone be the means of dealing with heretics and their heresy.

But imagine now that you’re a civic leader in an Italian town in the 13th Century. A known heretic who’s fled a previous city arrives and enters a piazza where he begins to publically proclaim his errors.  You know better, but you watch as dozens of illiterate citizens gather round to give their enthusiastic support of the new ideas.  You hesitate taking pre-emptive action because condemning a man to death is cause for pause. Plus, you’re now concerned about the reaction of the heretic’s supporters. Will they riot? Before you can condemn him, you need to get the local clergy to do an investigation and pronounce guilt with an official ruling of the Church. That takes time, during which the heretic garners even more support. But alongside that support are other citizens who rise up in opposition to the heretical ideas of the newcomer. Maybe, you hope, the people themselves will settle the matter and your hands can remain clean as you ride it out above the fray. Oh God, please, let it be so. But no; controversy simmers but never breaks out in violence or a public condemnation that forces the heretic to flee.

It’s clear that YOU, as a civic official, have to do something. You’ve begun to worry that your reticence has raised the anger of God Himself for ALLOWING error to flourish during your watch. When the seasonal rains are delayed, you worry the divine wrath has taken the form of drought.  When a nearby city begins to beef up its militia, you worry God is stirring them to act as the sword of His vengeance on your reluctance to do your duty as the agent of His wrath. You hurriedly convene a meeting of the city council that rushes through a condemnation of the heretic. There’s an urgency to your work as you seek to stay God’s judgment. The city guard is sent to apprehend the heretic, who’s carried to the main piazza, tied to a stake and burnt to death.

You don’t feel good about what you’ve done because a man has been put to death at your behest. But you do take comfort that you’ve averted the disaster of divine judgment. One man died that many more would not.

How many times was a scenario similar to that played out across geography and ages? We’ll never know,  but for sure MANY times. We may disagree with that thinking, but that doesn’t alter the fact it’s what justified the execution of thousands of people branded as heretics.

Which brings us full circle to where we began. Some, at least, of those who were declared heretics over the centuries, weren’t. Aberrant, maybe. But not heretical. Their aberrations set them outside the approved political alignments. They were condemned, less for the theological error they espoused as their refusal to kowtow to the religious establishment.

In the episodes to come, we’ll move back and forth in time to look at both well-known and more obscure movements and ideas Church History has come to call Heresy. Chances are, some of the groups we’ll look at you’re familiar with. Others will be new.

Get ready, because in for quite a ride.

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We start a new series here in Season 2 of CS. This time we’ll take a look at some of the notable Heretics & Heresies in Church History. Most of these we covered in Season 1. This time we’ll go a bit deeper. As we do, That is not to say every group deemed heretical wasn’t. Many were. In the early centuries most were. But during the late Middle Ages, many of the groups labeled “heretical” may have simply been outsiders to the politically accepted norm.
As we begin, we need to carve out a little time to define precisely what we mean by heresy.
The English word “heresy” is a transliteration of the Greek word hairesis which simply means “party” as in a sect; a group of people gathered around some identifying & uniting feature. The early use of the word was neutral and is seen that way 3 times in the Book of Acts.                                (5:17, 15:5 & 26:5)
But the word took on a strongly negative connotation early when it was used to describe those who deviated from the teaching of the Apostles and went off into error, as seen in 1 Cor 11:19 & Gal 5:20. Heresy wasn’t just a difference of opinion on some minor issue. It was a departure from those aspects of The Gospel that made Christianity what it fundamentally was as a coherent faith. If accepted, a heretical teaching placed the adherent outside the saving benefits of The Gospel. Heresy wasn’t just a difference of opinion; it was a difference in Belief regarding Truth.
The antonym of heresy is orthodoxy; a word derived from 2 Greek words meaning right and honor. Orthodoxy honors God rightly. Heresy dishonors God by clinging to ideas about Him and His ways that are untrue.
In order for something to be genuinely heretical, it needs to have some point of orthodoxy against which it kicks. So, atheism can’t be considered heretical since it doesn’t just deviate from theism. It categorically rejects theism. There isn’t any point of connection between the two. They are diametrically opposite worldviews.
For convenience sake, people have made a distinction between heresy and mere aberration. A heresy places the one who embraces it outside the realm of saving faith. The heretic is someone regarded as doomed to hell because she/he fails to hold faith in The Gospel of Jesus Christ as defined by the Apostles in the New Testament. Aberrant beliefs and movements are those that have deviated from the general stream of Christian orthodoxy in some non-essential realm of belief or practice. That is not to say aberrations aren’t potentially dangerous; they may be. But embracing them doesn’t exempt someone from salvation. It may hinder some aspect in their experience of a complete Christian life, but it won’t eternally doom them.
What I’m about to share now is difficult for some moderns to grasp. But it’s crucial to understanding how the Church has historically understood and dealt with heresy. The Enlightenment’s emphasis on secularism has profoundly colored Western civilization. While the roots of Western Civilization lie deep in a Biblical worldview, secularism has nevertheless managed to insinuate itself into that worldview, turning the ancient and medieval preoccupation with “the life to come” into a preoccupation with “this life now.” Simply put modern people tend to ask, “What is Faith doing for me right now,” rather than the question that framed the thinking of centuries worth of people across the ...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 11:57
Creeds – Part 11 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-11/ Sun, 25 Jun 2017 09:01:52 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1732 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-11/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-11/feed/ 0 We’ve worked our way through 6 of what are known as the 7 Ecumenical Councils of Church History. We’ve examined the Councils and the Creeds they produced. Although, after the First Council in 325 at Nicaea, each subsequent Council claimed that all it was doing was refining the verbiage of the Nicaean Creed. Each claimed […] We’ve worked our way through 6 of what are known as the 7 Ecumenical Councils of Church History. We’ve examined the Councils and the Creeds they produced. Although, after the First Council in 325 at Nicaea, each subsequent Council claimed that all it was doing was refining the verbiage of the Nicaean Creed. Each claimed it was merely an extension of the ground-breaking work of that first august Council convened by the Emperor Constantine I.

It seems fitting then that the last of the 7 Ecumenical Councils should come back to Nicaea 450 yrs later. But it’s work had little to do with the Nicaean Creed.

These 7 Councils are called Ecumenical because they are generally accepted by both the Western Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox churches as normative in defining doctrine. The Roman Church adds additional Councils and their creeds as definitive which the Eastern Church rejects as the Eastern Church recognizes its own councils and creeds Rome ignores. And of course the huge Nestorian Church in the East stopped honoring the councils with Ephesus.

Before we get to the 7th Council, we need to talk a bit about a Council that was held 12 yrs after the Third Council of Constantinople we ended the last episode with.

In 692, Emperor Justinian II convened yet another council in the Eastern capital to finish some of the work that had been omitted by both the 5th & 6th Councils, notably, some canons that needed addressing. For that reason, this Council is called the 5th-6th Council. But since that sounds silly, let’s use Latin so it’ll sound more scholarly = Voila! It’s the Quinisext Council. It was attended by 215 only Eastern bishops.

Most of the canon work that was done aimed at settling ritual differences and coming to a standard practice of discipline for clergy in different regions. Since the Council was attended exclusively by Eastern bishops, it was the Eastern practice what was approved, at the expense of those in the West.

The Council condemned the custom of Armenian churches who used undiluted wine in Communion. They also banned clerical nepotism, and the atrocious practice of eating eggs and cheese on the Saturdays and Sundays of Lent. Several canons seemed aimed at provoking hostility from Rome.

While the Orthodox Church accepts the Quinisext Council as legit, Western Churches never accepted it as authoritative or in any sense ecumenical. How could it be when no Western bishop attended. Oh, there was a supposed papal legate in attendance; at least the record marks him there.

But Rome says no such person ever existed! The Council made him up to make it appear the Pope’s authority was included. The Venerable Bede called the Quinisext Council the “Reprobate Synod.”

The Pope at the time of the Council was Sergius I. He refused to endorse the canons & was ordered arrested by the Emperor & carried to Constantinople. But the City of Ravenna’s militia thwarted the troops attempt to seize him.

Ah. Isn’t all this just lovely stuff? Isn’t it wonderful hearing about how loving and humble church leaders were? This is what happens when Church & State become aligned under the rule of frail, fallible human beings. This is what happens when those IN authority fail to abide under it.

One of the most important products of the Quinisext Council was the official establishment of Pentarchy.

Pentarchy was originally articulated in legislation laid out by Emperor Justinian I in the mid 6th C, then included in canon law in the Council which ranked the ecclesiastical sees of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem in order of authority & pre-eminence in that order. Justinian linked the administrative authority of the Church to that of the State. Rome was regarded as first among equals. But by the time of the Quinisext Council, Constantinople was regarded as New Rome and had achieve parity with Rome in terms of ecclesiastical weight. At least, the Eastern Bishops thought so. Rome and the west, not so much. So they rejected the Council outright.

While the Pentarchy was a technical reality due to Justinian’s legislation, it had little weight in determining anything other than one more point for the East & West to argue over.

And that brings us to the 7th Ecumenical Council – the Second Council of Nicaea, in 787.

In a word, it met to deal with the use of icons.

Since we dealt with the Iconoclast Controversy in Season 1, we’ll summarize here.

The veneration of icons was banned by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine V. His actions were endorsed by the Council of Hieria in 754. Now, you know how people are. Whatever the ruler says, they all happily comply with, right? Especially when it comes to religious sensitivities and issues of conscience. Yeah – not so much.

The iconodules, that is, the supporters of icons rallied and staged a protest that was nothing if not vehement. But the Emperor stuck to his guns and kept the iconoclast policy in place. He vigorously enforcement the ban & persecuted violators. His son, Leo IV continued his policy but died while still young. Leo’s widow, Irene of Athens, then acted as regent and began a restoration of icon veneration.

In 784, the imperial secretary Tarasius was appointed as the successor to Constantinople’s Patriarch, Paul IV. Not wanting to take charge of a fragmented church, he consented to become Patriarch on the condition icons could once again be venerated. But since a Council claiming to be ecumenical had abolished icons, another council could be necessary to re- allow them.

To make the Council genuinely ecumenical, the Eastern Church realized it HAD to include the Western Church and invited Pope Adrian I to participate. He accepted, but showed his authorization of the Council by sending legates as his reps.

The Council met in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople in 786. When iconoclast elements of the military sought to break it up, the government devised a way to get rid of them. They mocked up a bogus campaign & sent the troops to go deal with it. Once they arrived at their destination, they were surrounded, disarmed, and disbanded.

The Council was once again summoned to meet, but since the Capital was still torn by iconoclast factions, they chose to meet in nearby Nicaea. The Council met for their First Session on Sept 24, 787 with 350 bishops & their attendants. Patriarch Tarasius presided over 7 sessions that lasted through later October.

The main work of the Council was to reinstall the veneration of icons in the worship of the Church.

Both the Eastern & Western Churches endorsed the findings of the Council. The last time they’d agree on just about anything.

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We’ve worked our way through 6 of what are known as the 7 Ecumenical Councils of Church History. We’ve examined the Councils and the Creeds they produced. Although, after the First Council in 325 at Nicaea, It seems fitting then that the last of the 7 Ecumenical Councils should come back to Nicaea 450 yrs later. But it’s work had little to do with the Nicaean Creed.
These 7 Councils are called Ecumenical because they are generally accepted by both the Western Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox churches as normative in defining doctrine. The Roman Church adds additional Councils and their creeds as definitive which the Eastern Church rejects as the Eastern Church recognizes its own councils and creeds Rome ignores. And of course the huge Nestorian Church in the East stopped honoring the councils with Ephesus.
Before we get to the 7th Council, we need to talk a bit about a Council that was held 12 yrs after the Third Council of Constantinople we ended the last episode with.
In 692, Emperor Justinian II convened yet another council in the Eastern capital to finish some of the work that had been omitted by both the 5th & 6th Councils, notably, some canons that needed addressing. For that reason, this Council is called the 5th-6th Council. But since that sounds silly, let’s use Latin so it’ll sound more scholarly = Voila! It’s the Quinisext Council. It was attended by 215 only Eastern bishops.
Most of the canon work that was done aimed at settling ritual differences and coming to a standard practice of discipline for clergy in different regions. Since the Council was attended exclusively by Eastern bishops, it was the Eastern practice what was approved, at the expense of those in the West.
The Council condemned the custom of Armenian churches who used undiluted wine in Communion. They also banned clerical nepotism, and the atrocious practice of eating eggs and cheese on the Saturdays and Sundays of Lent. Several canons seemed aimed at provoking hostility from Rome.
While the Orthodox Church accepts the Quinisext Council as legit, Western Churches never accepted it as authoritative or in any sense ecumenical. How could it be when no Western bishop attended. Oh, there was a supposed papal legate in attendance; at least the record marks him there.
But Rome says no such person ever existed! The Council made him up to make it appear the Pope’s authority was included. The Venerable Bede called the Quinisext Council the “Reprobate Synod.”
The Pope at the time of the Council was Sergius I. He refused to endorse the canons & was ordered arrested by the Emperor & carried to Constantinople. But the City of Ravenna’s militia thwarted the troops attempt to seize him.
Ah. Isn’t all this just lovely stuff? Isn’t it wonderful hearing about how loving and humble church leaders were? This is what happens when Church & State become aligned under the rule of frail, fallible human beings. This is what happens when those IN authority fail to abide under it.
One of the most important products of the Quinisext Council was the official establishment of Pentarchy.
Pentarchy was originally articulated in legislation laid out by Emperor Justinian I in the mid 6th C, then included in canon law in the Council which ranked the ecclesiastical sees of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem in order of authority & pre-eminence in that order. Justinian linked the administrative authority of the Church to that of the State. Rome was regarded as first among equals. But by the time of the Quinisext Council, Constantinople was regarded as New Rome and had achieve parity with Rome in terms of ecclesiastical weight.]]>
Lance Ralston clean 8:52
Creeds – Part 10 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-10/ Sun, 18 Jun 2017 09:01:13 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1727 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-10/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-10/feed/ 0 Let’s get ready to rumble! Well–It’s not exactly a rumble we’re in for in this episode, so much as a tumble into the rabbit hole of theological wrangling that took place after the Council of Chalcedon that led to the 2nd & 3rd Councils at Constantinople in 553 & 680. And it all comes back […] Let’s get ready to rumble!

Well–It’s not exactly a rumble we’re in for in this episode, so much as a tumble into the rabbit hole of theological wrangling that took place after the Council of Chalcedon that led to the 2nd & 3rd Councils at Constantinople in 553 & 680.

And it all comes back to the debate fired up between Cyril & Nestorius over how to understand the natures and person of Christ.

“Wait!” you say. “Didn’t the last Council at Chalcedon clear all that up?”

We thought so. But large groups weren’t happy with the conclusions of Chalcedon. They said the wording of the Creed was too Nestorian. They claimed Cyril’s formulations that had been accepted at the Council of Ephesus didn’t figure strongly enough in the work done at Chalcedon and wanted the orthodox statement on the nature of Jesus amended along more Cyrillian lines.

It must also be said that by the beginning of the 6th C, the Nestorian Church of the East & centered in Persia, had by this time gone well beyond the actual position of Nestorius into the idea that Jesus was indeed, not just of two natures, but He was two persons; one divine, the other human. We’ll not broach the intricacies of that theology since it takes us on a tangent, and with my ineptitude, would only confuse us all anyway. The upshot is, the Orthodox Churches of East & West had already drawn a line over which they’d set the Nestorian Church of the East as heretics. It’s no wonder then that the Nestorians rejected both the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon.

But it wasn’t just the Nestorians who rejected Chalcedon. A growing number of groups along the Mediterranean coast in Syria, Egypt, Palestine, then inland in Armenia also rejected Chalcedon. These groups were uniformly Monophysites, that is, they believed Jesus possessed single nature, as opposed to the dual-nature proscribed at Chalcedon. But there were different groups of monophysites. That is, they arrived at their monophysitism via different routes.

Those following Cyril said that Jesus did indeed have two natures as God & Man, but that His deity utterly overwhelmed His humanity. Another group followed the ideas of the now officially declared heretic Eutyches and said Jesus did indeed TECHNICALLY have two natures, but that they’d fused together into a new, third nature that was a perfect union of human and divine. They preferred to refer to this not as mono-physitism, but as mia-physitism.

So, the Church was thus split in 3 segments; the Nestorians in the East, outside the Empire,   and the Chalcedonians & Non-Chalcedonian Monophysite sharing the Empire. The Second Council at Constantinople was an attempt to reconcile the Chalcedonians and the Monophysites by once more condemning Nestorius and putting the language of Chalcedon in more palatable terms for the Monophysites.

Before we get to the Council, we need to talk a bit about some writings that had been making the rounds called the Three Chapters. In 551, 2 years before he called the Second Council of Constantinople, the Emperor Justinian issued an edict condemning a collection of writings from 3 sources which collectively supported what Nestorius had really taught about the nature of Christ, rather than the misrepresentation of his critics, as well as a thorough examination of Cyril’s Christology, revealing its tendency toward monophysitism. The Three Chapters was keeping the whole Christological controversy alive and calling into question the validity of both the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon, so Justinian decided to shut it down by passing an edict condemning the Three Chapters.

But you know what happens when the man at the tope tells people not to read or heed something, right? Yep – it only makes more people curious. And the more that read The Three Chapters, the more were worried the Councils may have erred.

So Justinian called a new ecumenical council for May of 553, hoping to reconcile the recalcitrant Monophysites with the Chalcedonians by making clear his dismissal of Nestorianism.

The Council was presided over by the Patriarch of Constantinople, one Eutychius. Pope Vigilius was invited and as circumstance would have it, he was in the City at the time, due to having fled there for refuge from the rampage Ostrogoths in his native Italy. But Vigilius declined and issued a statement forbidding the Council proceeding without his authorization. The other bishops ignored him and went ahead. They condemned the Three Chapters, and in the 7th session, had Pope Vigilius’ name stricken from the diptych, that is, the official list of names with whom the bishops recognized as in fellowship with them. BY this action, they excommunicated the Pope for his refusal to appear at the Council. Vigilius was then imprisoned in the Capital by Justinian, his advisors exiled. 6 Months later, Vigilius agreed to condemn the Three Chapters, claiming he’d been misled by those now exiled advisors. He then approved the Council’s work.

The Council had hammered out a compromise they thought would uphold Chalcedon while ameliorating Monophysite concerns Cyril’s theology had been discarded. The Council showed great deference to Cyril’s ideas and cited his arguments as definitive in their Christological concerns. In several places they deliberately mention Christ as a single person, condemning those who want to cast Christ’s two natures in two persons, an obvious jab at the Nestorian Church.

The Council’s stated regard for Cyril’s theology moves some historians to believe this Council was really a counter by Monophysites meaning to undo Chalcedon. That’s probably not warranted since the creed this Council produced reinforced Chalcedon’s ideas. None of its adopted Cyrillianisms interfere with the language of Chalcedon.

And if this Council was an attempt at reconciliation, it failed. Monophysites rejected BOTH Chalcedon and this Second Counsel of Constantinople. To this day, the Syriac, Armenian, and Coptic Orthodox churches continue that tradition. The theological rift morphed into a political breach when these regions refused to honor the rule from the Eastern Capital. They were then subsumed under the Islamic Caliphate a century later.

When news of the Council’s treatment of the Pope, and its refined Creed reached the Western Churches, many dioceses rejected it and only came to a begrudged acceptance after a century or two.

All that brings us to the 6th Ecumenical Council, which was also held in Constantinople a hundred and thirty yrs later.

Because the Chalcedonians—Monophysites rift wasn’t sealed, a new idea about the nature of Christ was proposed. This time it dealt with Jesus’ will, or wills. The questions asked was, “If Jesus is One Person with two separate & distinct natures, as Chalcedon said and the last Council affirmed, then how many wills does He have; one or two?” One group came out with a resounding insistence Jesus had a single will. This was called Monothelitism.

Monothelitism came from the Monophysite camp, saying it was only Christ’s divine will that was active in the Incarnation. He still had a human will, but it was dormant, inactive; in a kind of spiritual hibernation. Adherents to this doctrine hoped it would prove an end to the long running controversy over the natures of Jesus. Christ retained two natures and two wills, but the human was subordinated to His divine. For Monotheliticists, there was no question about how Christ experienced his life in the Incarnation as a person. This doctrine was promoted by Sergius and a group of dedicated theologians. It had the enthusiastic backing of Emperor Heraclius, who hoped it was a way to mend the breach between Chalcedonians and Monophysites.

This issue of how many wills Jesus had may be one of the most obscure debates in Church history. As we’ve seen in previous episodes, early church fathers were concerned that if Christ was not completely human, humanity couldn’t be completely redeemed. Monothelitists said Christ was completely human, but that his divine will had taken over such human tasks as eating, drinking, and other activities that engaged the physical realm.

Set over against the Monothelitists were the, ready for another tongue-twister? The Dyothelites, who said Jesus had two co-equal wills, one human the other divine. They aregued that it’s pointless to say Jesus was fully human, but then to gut Him of one of the priome characteristics that makes a human, human, and not a mere animal – the will, the power to make real moral choices. The dyothelites were led by a theologian named Maximus. He said the divine and human wills of Jesus worked in concert; the human submitted to the divine, but not at all subsumed in some kind of dormant state. It was every bit as active as the divine will, but was in total submission to it, as the faithful & obedient believer ought to submit to the will of God.

Maximus was concerned to address an issue the Monothelites had raised; that two wills would mean an internal conflict in Jesus that would be difficult to resolve. Maximus said there was no reason to assume Jesus’ human will would be at odds with the divine, since He was without sin. Indeed, the Gospels repeatedly convey the idea of the human will of Jesus submitting to the divine. All this means that Jesus embraced the fullness of our humanity. He held nothing at bay in His experience of being human and taking our place. So when He died, it accomplished our complete salvation.

20 years after Maximus was martyred by a pro-monothelite Emperor, the 3rd Council of Constantinople adopted his position and the cooperation of the Jesus’ dual wills like this. The Creed says, “His human will was lifted up by the omnipotency of his divinity, and his divine will was revealed to men through his humanity.”

One writer describes the important difference between the one and two will positions like this . . .

Pyrrhus was a monothelite. Maximus, as we’ve seen was the leading dyothelite.

Regarding Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane, Pyrrhus said Jesus’ asking the Father to take the cup from Him was really just giving expression that what a human nature that loves life and does not want to die would say. But Christ wasn’t really asking the Father to spare him the cross, since that would mean He was willing something the Father didn’t. Instead, he simply empathized with how one of us would feel in that situation.

Maximus argued Christ genuinely wrestled with the question of dying, but redeemed our disobedience in Eden by making his human will obedient to the point of death.

Pyrrhus’s position may appear to resolve some difficulties with reconciling Christ’s divinity & humanity, but only by making, the Incarnation a kind of sham, where The Eternal Son takes on an only pseudo-human experience, like He’s acting out a part, rather than becoming it.

We have one Council left to cover. The Seventh and final Ecumenical Council takes us back to where it started, Nicaea, but 450 years after the first.

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Let’s get ready to rumble! Well–It’s not exactly a rumble we’re in for in this episode, so much as a tumble into the rabbit hole of theological wrangling that took place after the Council of Chalcedon that led to the 2nd & 3rd Councils at Constantinopl... Well–It’s not exactly a rumble we’re in for in this episode, so much as a tumble into the rabbit hole of theological wrangling that took place after the Council of Chalcedon that led to the 2nd & 3rd Councils at Constantinople in 553 & 680.
And it all comes back to the debate fired up between Cyril & Nestorius over how to understand the natures and person of Christ.
“Wait!” you say. “Didn’t the last Council at Chalcedon clear all that up?”
We thought so. But large groups weren’t happy with the conclusions of Chalcedon. They said the wording of the Creed was too Nestorian. They claimed Cyril’s formulations that had been accepted at the Council of Ephesus didn’t figure strongly enough in the work done at Chalcedon and wanted the orthodox statement on the nature of Jesus amended along more Cyrillian lines.
It must also be said that by the beginning of the 6th C, the Nestorian Church of the East & centered in Persia, had by this time gone well beyond the actual position of Nestorius into the idea that Jesus was indeed, not just of two natures, but He was two persons; one divine, the other human. We’ll not broach the intricacies of that theology since it takes us on a tangent, and with my ineptitude, would only confuse us all anyway. The upshot is, the Orthodox Churches of East & West had already drawn a line over which they’d set the Nestorian Church of the East as heretics. It’s no wonder then that the Nestorians rejected both the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon.
But it wasn’t just the Nestorians who rejected Chalcedon. A growing number of groups along the Mediterranean coast in Syria, Egypt, Palestine, then inland in Armenia also rejected Chalcedon. These groups were uniformly Monophysites, that is, they believed Jesus possessed single nature, as opposed to the dual-nature proscribed at Chalcedon. But there were different groups of monophysites. That is, they arrived at their monophysitism via different routes.
Those following Cyril said that Jesus did indeed have two natures as God & Man, but that His deity utterly overwhelmed His humanity. Another group followed the ideas of the now officially declared heretic Eutyches and said Jesus did indeed TECHNICALLY have two natures, but that they’d fused together into a new, third nature that was a perfect union of human and divine. They preferred to refer to this not as mono-physitism, but as mia-physitism.
So, the Church was thus split in 3 segments; the Nestorians in the East, outside the Empire,   and the Chalcedonians & Non-Chalcedonian Monophysite sharing the Empire. The Second Council at Constantinople was an attempt to reconcile the Chalcedonians and the Monophysites by once more condemning Nestorius and putting the language of Chalcedon in more palatable terms for the Monophysites.
Before we get to the Council, we need to talk a bit about some writings that had been making the rounds called the Three Chapters. In 551, 2 years before he called the Second Council of Constantinople, the Emperor Justinian issued an edict condemning a collection of writings from 3 sources which collectively supported what Nestorius had really taught about the nature of Christ, rather than the misrepresentation of his critics, as well as a thorough examination of Cyril’s Christology, revealing its tendency toward monophysitism. The Three Chapters was keeping the whole Christological controversy alive and calling into question the validity of both the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon, so Justinian decided to shut it down by passing an edict condemning the Three Chapters.
But you know what happens when the man at the tope tells people not to read or heed something, right? Yep – it only makes more people curious. And the more that read The Three Chapters, the more were worried the Councils may have erred.
So Justinian called a new ecumenical council for May of 553,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 13:31
Creeds – Part 9 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-9/ Sun, 11 Jun 2017 09:01:59 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1716 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-9/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-9/feed/ 0 In 431, the Council of Ephesus dismissed Nestorius’ explanation of the dual nature of Christ in favor of Cyril’s. But that Council was swayed more by circumstance and politics than by sound theology. While Nestorius’ Christology was mis-represented by his critics to be proposing, not just two natures to Jesus, but two persons, Cyril’s Christology […] In 431, the Council of Ephesus dismissed Nestorius’ explanation of the dual nature of Christ in favor of Cyril’s. But that Council was swayed more by circumstance and politics than by sound theology. While Nestorius’ Christology was mis-represented by his critics to be proposing, not just two natures to Jesus, but two persons, Cyril’s Christology put such heavy emphasis on Jesus’ deity, his Christology leaned toward monophysitism; that is, casting Jesus as having a single nature.

Now, to be clear, Cyril did not advocate monophysitism; that is, that Jesus had only one nature. He stayed orthodox, technically, by admitting Jesus was also human. But he said Jesus’ deity overwhelmed His humanity so that his humanity was like a drop of ink in the ocean of His deity.

The Council of Ephesus didn’t really provide a solid understanding on the nature of Christ. This was something the Church had wrestled with for 400 yrs. Church historian Justo Gonzalez ways, “Both sides were agreed the divine was immutable and eternal. The question then was, how can the immutable, eternal God be joined to a mutable, historical man?”

With Nestorius excommunicated & exiled, and Cyril’s Christology creating confusion, the scene was ripe for the emergence of even more confusion.

That came with the work of Eutyches, head of a monastery on the border of Constantinople. Though under Bishop Nestorius’ oversight, Eutyches disagreed sharply with him. He developed a view of the natures of Jesus that seemed a ready explanation that would bring both sides together. Eutyches emphasize the union of the two natures of Christ; a union so thorough it fused them into a new, third nature that was a hybrid of human & divine. This then is True Monophysitism, with a capital “M.” Eutyches agreed with Cyril Christ was only one person, but unlike Cyril, he said there was also only one nature.

The Fourth Ecumenical Church Council at Chalcedon in 451 was called to deal with the Eutychian challenge.

But before we get to that Council, we need to talk a bit about an unfortunate event that happened a couple years before in 449 back in Ephesus, scene of the last Church Council in 431.

The 70-year-old Eutyches lead a monastery of some 300 monks just outside the walls of Constantinople for 30 years. When he began teaching that the two natures of Jesus as God & man were fused into a single new third nature, Constantinople’s Patriarch Flavian convened a council deposing Eutyches for heresy and excommunicated both him and those monks who supported him. Joining Flavian in this censure was Domnus, patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria’s age-old theological and political nemesis.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Sure enough, Dioscoros, Patriarch of Alexandria cast all this as an attempt on the part of the two bishops as an attempt top restore Nestorianism. So Dioscoros threw in his enthusiastic support of Eutyches and convinced Emperor Theodosius II to call a new council at Ephesus in 449 to deal with the matter. Though Pope Leo I’s predecessors had tended to side with Alexandria on previous matters, Pope Leo wrote to Flavian reinforcing the dual-nature view in a weighty theological work now known as The Tome of Leo. The pope also sent legates to the council, one of which would later become pope himself.

The Emperor authorized the Council to deal with the issue of whether or not Patriarch Flavian had justly deposed & excommunicated Eutyches for heresy. But, Flavian and 6 assisting bishops were not allowed to participate at the Council in Ephesus. Further stacking the Council against Flavian was that the Emperor made Flavian’s opponent Dioscorus president of the council. The papal legate was expelled from the proceedings at some point. It was clear that of the 198 bishops in attendance, most leaned toward Dioscoros.

In the first session, after a message from Theodosius II was read laying down the Council’s objectives, the remaining papal legates moved to read Pope Leo’s letter to Flavian as part of the official proceedings. But Dioscorus refused them, stating matters of dogma were not a matter for inquiry, since they’d already been resolved at the previous Council of Ephesus in 431. The issue for them to decide was whether Flavian had acted properly in deposing and excommunicating Eutyches.

Eutyches then was introduced. He declared he held to the Nicene Creed. He claimed to have been condemned by Flavian on a technicality & misunderstanding and asked the council to exonerate and reinstate him. The bishop that was supposed to present the evidence against Eutyches wasn’t allowed to speak. At this point the bulk of the bishops agreed that the record of the council condemning Eutyches ought to be read so they could get a better understanding of what evidence they’d used. When the record was read, some claimed it was inaccurate. Flavian’s action was cast as a personal vendetta against an innocent man. When Flavian attempted to speak, he was shouted down. But more than that. One report has Dioscoros and his supporters physically attacking him. The account is confused, so we’re not sure if it was bishops who went to brawling, some of the Imperial troops standing guard over the proceedings, or both. The upshot is, blows were given Flavian’s party. When the vote finally came in, he was deposed & excommunicated and died of his wounds a few days into his exile.

Eutyches & his brother monks were reinstated and the Council went on to deposed several more bishops who’d opposed Dioscoros. A deacon named Anatolius who was loyal to the Alexandrian bishop was now placed in charge of the Church of Constantinople.

When Pope Leo received a report of this council from his legates he condemned it, calling it the Latrocinium, a Robber Council and refused to recognize Anatolius as Bishop of Constantinople. Emperor Theodosius ignored Leo’s refusal, but all that changed when not long after he was killed in an accident and his sister Pulcheria came back to the Eastern throne. She married the general Marcian & together they cleared the teachings of Dioscoros and Eutyches from the Church. Patriarch Anatolius knew who buttered his bread, so he also quickly also condemned Eutyches’ monophysitism. Pulcheria & Marcian knew that the Second Council at Ephesus was a bad deal and that another, genuine ecumenical council was called for to deal with the issue of Christ’s nature once & for all. It was called in the city of Chalcedon in 451, directly across from Constantinople.

The council began on the 8th of Oct, with some 500 bishops, the largest council so far. Pope Leo sent a group of legates along with his Tome which had been ignored a couple years before.

The Council opened by reading over the Nicaean Creed, along with the letter from Cyril to Nestorius and the Tome of Leo. The bishops agreed all this was enough to resolve the issue before them; that is, articulating an orthodox position on the dual nature of Christ in one person. Emperor Marcian, most likely at the insistence of Pulcheria, directed the Council to develop a new creed that would not only unite the Antiochenes with their emphasis on Jesus’ humanity with the Alexandrians emphasizing His deity, but that would adequately express a Christology both East & West could agree on. A committee was appointed to develop a draft for discussion.

The first draft pleased most of the bishops; all except for the papal representatives. They felt the language was too close to Eutychian Monophysitism. They moved to replace the draft’s wording with that of Leo’s Tome, “two natures are united without change, and without division, and without confusion in Christ.” This change pleased all and was recognized as a better terminology than originally proposed.

The Council made clear what they’d produced wasn’t really a new creed, creed but an interpretation and elaboration of the work of the previous the councils and their work in refining the Nicaean Creed. It reads . . .

Therefore, following the holy Fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance [and here they use the technical Greek word homoousios] with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before all ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer [here they use the disputer phrase Theotokos]; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence [hypostasis], not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.

The Council maintained a clear distinction between the concept of a person and a nature. Jesus was said to have a both divine and human nature while still being only one person; he had everything he needed to be divine and everything he needed to be human. The Second Person of the Trinity didn’t just assume human person (the error of adoptionism); He  took on a human nature. The Council also made an important technical distinction. The human nature of Christ did not exist as a person without the divine person of the Logos to assume it. This is called the anhypostasia/enhypostasia distinction, and may be simplified to this. Because of the power intrinsic to Himself as God, The Son could become man. But because of the limitations to himself as a mere man, Jesus could never become God. His divinity precedes His humanity. But because of the Incarnation, He remains human now in His glorified state.

We owe much in the way we speak of Jesus Christ today to The Council of Chalcedon. And as clear as its Christology is, the more you ponder the dual nature of Christ ion His one Person, the more the mystery of the Incarnation opens before you. We realize that the Chalcedonian Creed doesn’t so much explain or describe the nature of Chris as it does provide a set of rules for HOW we talk about Him. It’s more like the rules of grammar than literature. It sets boundaries and borders to work within, but leaves us to fill out what lies between them.

As we will see, Chalcedon didn’t answer all the questions that needed to be settled. A large part of the Eastern church concluded the Chalcedonian Dreed was too Nestorian and betrayed the simple idea of a single person Cyril fought for at Ephesus. Then, in Western churches, the question arose of how many wills Christ had, one or two. But all that was addressed with less drama because of the work of because of Chalcedon.

In the 16th C, the Reformers accepted Chalcedon as authoritative; it’s language incorporated in their own creeds and formulations. The in the 20th C,  when liberalism challenged Christ’s Christ, Fundamentalists like BB Warfield appealed to Chalcedon as a faithful expression of what the Scripture says about the Son of God.

While all that was the main body of work done at the Council of Chalcedon, as with the other Councils, a number of other decisions were rendered to tighten up church business. These rulings are called canons. There are 30 of them from Chalcedon. For the most part their technical, house-keeping kind of things having to do with the behavior of the clergy. But Canon 28 of Chalcedon was to have far-reaching and monumental import. It reads . . .

The bishop of New Rome shall enjoy the same honor as the bishop of Old Rome, on account of the removal of the Empire. For this reason the metropolitans of Pontus, of Asia, and of Thrace, as well as the Barbarian bishops shall be ordained by the bishop of Constantinople.

The papal legates weren’t present when this Canon was passed and protested afterward. It was of course rejected by Pope Leo and became a major point of contention in later discussions.

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In 431, the Council of Ephesus dismissed Nestorius’ explanation of the dual nature of Christ in favor of Cyril’s. But that Council was swayed more by circumstance and politics than by sound theology. While Nestorius’ Christology was mis-represented by ... Now, to be clear, Cyril did not advocate monophysitism; that is, that Jesus had only one nature. He stayed orthodox, technically, by admitting Jesus was also human. But he said Jesus’ deity overwhelmed His humanity so that his humanity was like a drop of ink in the ocean of His deity.
The Council of Ephesus didn’t really provide a solid understanding on the nature of Christ. This was something the Church had wrestled with for 400 yrs. Church historian Justo Gonzalez ways, “Both sides were agreed the divine was immutable and eternal. The question then was, how can the immutable, eternal God be joined to a mutable, historical man?”
With Nestorius excommunicated & exiled, and Cyril’s Christology creating confusion, the scene was ripe for the emergence of even more confusion.
That came with the work of Eutyches, head of a monastery on the border of Constantinople. Though under Bishop Nestorius’ oversight, Eutyches disagreed sharply with him. He developed a view of the natures of Jesus that seemed a ready explanation that would bring both sides together. Eutyches emphasize the union of the two natures of Christ; a union so thorough it fused them into a new, third nature that was a hybrid of human & divine. This then is True Monophysitism, with a capital “M.” Eutyches agreed with Cyril Christ was only one person, but unlike Cyril, he said there was also only one nature.
The Fourth Ecumenical Church Council at Chalcedon in 451 was called to deal with the Eutychian challenge.
But before we get to that Council, we need to talk a bit about an unfortunate event that happened a couple years before in 449 back in Ephesus, scene of the last Church Council in 431.
The 70-year-old Eutyches lead a monastery of some 300 monks just outside the walls of Constantinople for 30 years. When he began teaching that the two natures of Jesus as God & man were fused into a single new third nature, Constantinople’s Patriarch Flavian convened a council deposing Eutyches for heresy and excommunicated both him and those monks who supported him. Joining Flavian in this censure was Domnus, patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria’s age-old theological and political nemesis.
You can see where this is going, can’t you?
Sure enough, Dioscoros, Patriarch of Alexandria cast all this as an attempt on the part of the two bishops as an attempt top restore Nestorianism. So Dioscoros threw in his enthusiastic support of Eutyches and convinced Emperor Theodosius II to call a new council at Ephesus in 449 to deal with the matter. Though Pope Leo I’s predecessors had tended to side with Alexandria on previous matters, Pope Leo wrote to Flavian reinforcing the dual-nature view in a weighty theological work now known as The Tome of Leo. The pope also sent legates to the council, one of which would later become pope himself.
The Emperor authorized the Council to deal with the issue of whether or not Patriarch Flavian had justly deposed & excommunicated Eutyches for heresy. But, Flavian and 6 assisting bishops were not allowed to participate at the Council in Ephesus. Further stacking the Council against Flavian was that the Emperor made Flavian’s opponent Dioscorus president of the council. The papal legate was expelled from the proceedings at some point. It was clear that of the 198 bishops in attendance, most leaned toward Dioscoros.
In the first session, after a message from Theodosius II was read laying down the Cou...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 15:00
Creeds – Part 8 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-8/ Sun, 28 May 2017 09:01:57 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1709 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-8/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-8/feed/ 0 In the last couple episodes we’ve set the scene for the Council of Ephesus in 431. Last time we did biographies of the two main players at the Council, Nestorius and Cyril. We ended with a brief review of their different Christologies; that is, how they viewed the dual nature of Christ as God & […] In the last couple episodes we’ve set the scene for the Council of Ephesus in 431. Last time we did biographies of the two main players at the Council, Nestorius and Cyril.

We ended with a brief review of their different Christologies; that is, how they viewed the dual nature of Christ as God & Man. Let’s pick it up now with the events leading to the Council.

While Cyril was experienced in the art of ecclesiastical politics and had the support of the, what shall we call them? Let’s go with, pugilistic monks of Egypt at his back, Nestorius was more of a Donald Trump figure who eschewed politics in favor of a “My Way or the Highway attitude.  Not long after arriving at his new gig as Patriarch of the Capital church at Constantinople, Nestorius entered the fray of theological controversy by weighing in on THE discussion of the day è How to describe the dual nature of Jesus. As the de-facto standard bearer of Antiochan theology, he pointedly refuted the position of Alexandrian Christology, championed by Cyril. Alexandrians referred to Mary as Theotokos, a term which is literally translated as “Bearer of God” but which had come to mean, “Mother of God.” Nestorius’ Christology aimed to keep the two natures of Christ distinct and considered this label for Mary misleading. Mary was the vessel through which the Divine Son of God, became human and the Son of Man. He preferred the title Christotokos. God is eternal, and any attempt to say God was born of Mary seemed to Nestorius to re-open a door to Arianism, since Arians had said there was a time when the Son of God did not exist. In the ensuing discussions, when the Alexandrians rejected his suggestion of Christotokos, Nestorius said  he would consent to the title Theotokos for Mary if they would add the title Anthropotokos. That way Mary would be called the “Mother of God & Man.”

In 429, while sitting in his study in Alexandria, word reached Cyril of the discussions his supporters had had with Nestorius on the issue of Mary’s title. When he heard the Patriarch of Constantinople had rejected the sole designation Theotokos, he was furious and sent off a heated letter calling for Nestorius to change his views. Nestorius wasn’t the kind of person to kowtow to another, especially not the standard bearer of Alexandrian theology. He sent back and equally heated reply. And that elicited an angry retort from Cyril, which called out another barbed response from Nestorius. And so the missiles flew on parchment wings.

Both men then appealed to Pope Celestine in Rome. His response was to assemble a hasty a synod in Rome in 430 that took next to no time deciding to support the title Theotokos for Mary, against Nestorius’ position. Delighted the West had backed him, Cyril penned a long letter to Nestorius demanding he cease & desist his teaching and recant his position on the natures of Christ. This letter was more of a tome that included a dozen deliberately provocative anathemas; a formal curse by a pope or Church council, meant either to excommunicate someone or denounce a doctrine.

As the Patriarch of the Church at Alexandria, that is, it’s head bishop, Cyril had no authority to issue these anathemas. An anathema was an official ruling by the Church that said anyone who supported that which had been anathematized was consigned to hell. So when anathemas were issued, they were published far & wide. That’s why Cyril penned them. He didn’t aim to correct Nestorius. He wanted to destroy him. At least several of the 12 anathemas were gross distortions of Nestorius’ position. But Cyril wasn’t interested in accuracy. This was political theater. He aimed to carve away from his opponent any modicum of support. The anathemas made it look like Nestorius held t some cray-cray ideas about Jesus. And of course, Cyril didn’t just send the letter to Nestorius; he posted it in his blog for all to see. When the Emperor Theodosius heard of it, he hastily called a meeting in June or 431. That became the First Council of Ephesus. It was High Noon between Nestorius and Cyril.

From the outset, the entire thing was tilted in Cyril’s favor. The council was originally set for Constantinople, but Theodosius’ sister, Pulcheria, had it moved Ephesus.

Ah, Pulcheria! There was a woman, and one more major personality thrown into the mix that was the train wreck of The Council of Ephesus.

Pulcheria was the oldest surviving child of Emperor Arcadius and his wife, Empress Eudoxia. Eudoxia played a major role in the governing of the Eastern Empire alongside her husband. She cultivated her own political & religious party in the Byzantine court that had significant influence in both church and government matters. John Chrysostom and she had a long feud that saw him cast as the champion of the common people against her ostentatious displays of luxury and power. John was alternately banished and recalled during their feud.

Pulcheria was every bit her mother’s daughter in terms of her savvy use of position at court. When her father & mother passed, leaving her 7 yr old brother Theodosius II too young to rule, she became the de facto Empress as a placeholder till he turned 15. Even after, she continued to have a significant role in steering her brother’s policies.

Pulcheria eschewed her mother’s luxurious fashions in favor of a more sedate wardrobe. No one doubted her devotion to the Lord either. Under her rule the Imperial palace took on the flavor of a monastery; with regular times for prayers and fasting. She resisted her brother’s appointment of Nestorius as Patriarch and saw the brewing controversy with Cyril over the nature of Jesus as an opportunity to get rid of him. Being the political bumbler Nestorius was, he made matters worse by impugning the popular virgin Empress Pulcheria’s reputation by accusing her of having illicit lovers, removing her image from above the altar and refusing the use of one of her robes as an altar cover.

She backed Cyril, and convinced her brother to have the Council moved it to Ephesus. There was a popular shrine to Mary near the city, with many Ephesians devoted to her. Pulcheria knew Ephesus would be far more friendly to Cyril and his pals than Nestorius and his.

When the council finally gathered in June of 431 in Ephesus, some 250 bishops were in attendance. The Emperor didn’t attend, sending as his representatives, Candidian, head of his imperial guard. Candidian’s job was to ensure order and to officially opening & closing the Council under the Emperor’s authority.

The bishops trickled into Ephesus over several weeks. While waiting for the rest to get there, they did what work they could in the hope of making the work of the Council when it convened more efficient. It quickly became clear the two sides were at utter odds. Memnon, bishop of Ephesus, was of course already there of course, with 52 supporting bishops. Nestorius and his 16 bishops arrived first, escorted by Candidian and his troops. This set the Ephesians on edge, as they assumed Candidian’s presence was in support of Nestorius, though Theodosius had instructed him to remain strictly neutral. Knowing he had the support of the locals, Memnon sent out a covert word for people to be on their toes and that they might be needed to act as a deterrent to Candidian’s force. Memnon then closed the churches of the City to Nestorius.

Cyril then arrived with 50 bishops. There were no Western bishops present. The papal representatives didn’t arrive till July. A Palestinian delegation of 16 bishops arrived several days after the Council was set to open.

During the discussions that took place before the Council, Nestorius claimed Cyril’s theology did damage to a right understanding of Jesus as God. Remember that Cyril’s Christology said Jesus deity totally overwhelmed His humanity. Nestorius fired back that if Jesus’ divinity effectively negated His humanity, then Cyril would have to worship a God who was only 2 or 3 months old. By this he meant if Mary was Theotokos, mother of God, then she was mother of all His fullness, which is absurd. Cyril’s supporters seized on this to paint Nestorius as a heretic. They accused him of being an adoptionist, that is of saying Christ was a man God made divine. That charge resonated with many since it was from Nestorius’ hometown of Antioch that Paul of Samosata originally postulated Adoptionism, a heresy which had already been banned.

The Ephesians glommed onto the charge of heresy and threatened bishops friendly to Nestorius. Several abandoned him for Cyril’s side. When I say these bishops were threatened, I mean with physical violence, bodily harm.

When Cyril announced the council’s opening, Candidian stopped him, saying the Roman and Antiochean delegations hadn’t arrived. Cyril had to comply since the Council’s opening couldn’t happen with Candidian’s authorization from the Emperor.

As we’ve already seen, there really wasn’t going to be a Roman delegation; just a handful of representatives form the Pope who were instructed by him not to participate in the discussions. Celestine had already ruled on the issue and wasn’t going to have his decision debated. His reps were there just as observers who’d report back to him. The delegation from Antioch was another matter. Antioch’s bishop John knew which way the political winds blew and understood that Nestorius was likely to be declared a heretic. He did not want to be part of a Council that did so. So he delayed his arrival.

On June 22nd, 2 weeks after the Council was supposed to open, John and his 42 bishops still had not arrived. As president of the meeting, Cyril opened proceedings.

Despite 3 summons, Nestorius refused to acknowledge Cyril’s authority as president. He also protested the Council’s convening without the Antiocheans.  68 other bishops protested the Council’s opening & entered the church in protest. Then Candidian arrived and declared the assembly illegal. He asked Cyril to wait 4 more days for the Syrians to arrive. But, seeing that even the protesting bishops were now present, Cyril tricked Candidian into reading the Emperor’s decree of convocation. Candidian just thought he was TELLING the assembly what it said, not actually convening the Council. But Cyril latched  onto the reading and made it the basis for the commencement of proceedings.

John and the Syrians  bishops finally arrived 5 days later. Candidian informed them the Council had already commenced and had ratified Pope Celestine’s declaration of Nestorius as a heretic. Angered at having taken such a long and difficult journey only to be ignored, the Antiocheans held their own Council with Candidian presiding. This council condemned Cyril for espousing heretical views and condemned Bishop Memnon for inciting violence. Both Cyril and Memnon. Were deposed and at first, the Emperor accepted the actions of this alternative Ephesian Council. He later reversed course and endorsed the findings of the Council led by Cyril.

A couple weeks passed as the bishops who’d been in attendance at the first Council tried to decide what to do. That’s when the Papal reps arrived. So on July 10th, a meeting was held in Memnon’s house where the Pope’s letter and condemnation of Nestorius as a heretic was re-read and re-approved.

They met again the next day to compose a letter to the Emperor rehearsing what they’d done and why. It contained words from the Pope calling on him to enforce the Church’s decisions.

The bishops took a few days off, then met again to condemn John & the Syrians for holding their own Council.  They were summoned to appear the next day. John didn’t only not appear, he put up a placard in the city announcing that Cyril and his supporters were heretics. So the bishops excommunicated John and 34 of his bishops.

When the Emperor received the letter from the Council, he backed away from his earlier acceptance of The Syrians counter-council finding. Nestorius was deposed and sent into exile, where he attempted to rally support against Cyril with his own unsuccessful council. Because Nestorius did have supporters among Constantinople’s nobility, Cyril was imprisoned for a spell. But he returned to his office as Patriarch of Alexandria, where for the next 2 decades his Christology dominated the theology of the Empire.

Sympathizers & supporters were now declared by the canons of the Ephesian Council as heretics. They fled the Empire for the environs of Mesopotamia and Persia, where they established themselves in a burgeoning intellectual center at Nisibis. The Persian church honored Nestorius and eventually separated itself from the West when the Persian Empire clashed with the Eastern Roman Empire.

Over the next few centuries, Nestorian missionaries planted churches in Iran, India, Central Asia, and all the way to the Far East of China. So, the decision at Ephesus ended up leading to the expansion of Christianity.

As we said at the outset of this series on the Council of Ephesus, the political squabbling of the Church at this point is simply atrocious. When denominations differ on theological issues, they mustn’t look to Ephesus as an example of how to handle them. If anything, they ought to be warned BY them.

Fortunately, church leaders realized Ephesus was a bad deal and made moves a couple decades later to set things right at Chalcedon.

So, was Nestorius a heretic? After all the shenanigans surrounding the Council, was that verdict the correct one?

While there are aspects of later Nestorianism that are aberrant, the theology espoused by Nestorius himself was sound. He may not have stated it as well as others later did, but he in effect believed the same thing. In fact, later, from exile, when he read the formulae of other’s orthodox Christology, he said that’s what he’d always believed.

Cyril’s Christology, on the other hand ended up leading to the error of monophysitism; the belief that in the Incarnation Jesus single nature as God utterly overwhelmed His humanity, sending it into a kind of spiritual coma.

]]>
In the last couple episodes we’ve set the scene for the Council of Ephesus in 431. Last time we did biographies of the two main players at the Council, Nestorius and Cyril. We ended with a brief review of their different Christologies; that is, We ended with a brief review of their different Christologies; that is, how they viewed the dual nature of Christ as God & Man. Let’s pick it up now with the events leading to the Council.
While Cyril was experienced in the art of ecclesiastical politics and had the support of the, what shall we call them? Let’s go with, pugilistic monks of Egypt at his back, Nestorius was more of a Donald Trump figure who eschewed politics in favor of a “My Way or the Highway attitude.  Not long after arriving at his new gig as Patriarch of the Capital church at Constantinople, Nestorius entered the fray of theological controversy by weighing in on THE discussion of the day è How to describe the dual nature of Jesus. As the de-facto standard bearer of Antiochan theology, he pointedly refuted the position of Alexandrian Christology, championed by Cyril. Alexandrians referred to Mary as Theotokos, a term which is literally translated as “Bearer of God” but which had come to mean, “Mother of God.” Nestorius’ Christology aimed to keep the two natures of Christ distinct and considered this label for Mary misleading. Mary was the vessel through which the Divine Son of God, became human and the Son of Man. He preferred the title Christotokos. God is eternal, and any attempt to say God was born of Mary seemed to Nestorius to re-open a door to Arianism, since Arians had said there was a time when the Son of God did not exist. In the ensuing discussions, when the Alexandrians rejected his suggestion of Christotokos, Nestorius said  he would consent to the title Theotokos for Mary if they would add the title Anthropotokos. That way Mary would be called the “Mother of God & Man.”
In 429, while sitting in his study in Alexandria, word reached Cyril of the discussions his supporters had had with Nestorius on the issue of Mary’s title. When he heard the Patriarch of Constantinople had rejected the sole designation Theotokos, he was furious and sent off a heated letter calling for Nestorius to change his views. Nestorius wasn’t the kind of person to kowtow to another, especially not the standard bearer of Alexandrian theology. He sent back and equally heated reply. And that elicited an angry retort from Cyril, which called out another barbed response from Nestorius. And so the missiles flew on parchment wings.
Both men then appealed to Pope Celestine in Rome. His response was to assemble a hasty a synod in Rome in 430 that took next to no time deciding to support the title Theotokos for Mary, against Nestorius’ position. Delighted the West had backed him, Cyril penned a long letter to Nestorius demanding he cease & desist his teaching and recant his position on the natures of Christ. This letter was more of a tome that included a dozen deliberately provocative anathemas; a formal curse by a pope or Church council, meant either to excommunicate someone or denounce a doctrine.
As the Patriarch of the Church at Alexandria, that is, it’s head bishop, Cyril had no authority to issue these anathemas. An anathema was an official ruling by the Church that said anyone who supported that which had been anathematized was consigned to hell. So when anathemas were issued, they were published far & wide. That’s why Cyril penned them. He didn’t aim to correct Nestorius. He wanted to destroy him. At least several of the 12 anathemas were gross distortions of Nestorius’ position. But Cyril wasn’t interested in accuracy. This was political theater. He aimed to carve away from his opponent any modicum of support. The anathemas made it look like Nestorius held t some cray-cray ideas about Jesus. And of course, Cyril didn’t just send the letter to Nestorius; he posted it in his blog for all to see. When the Emperor Theodosius heard of it,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 17:23
Creeds – Part 7 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-07/ Sun, 21 May 2017 09:01:50 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1703 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-07/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-07/feed/ 0 In the last episode, we introduced the political situation framing the debate that ensued between two church leaders at the Council of Ephesus in 431. Those two leaders were Nestorius, Patriarch of the Capital Church at Constantinople and Cyril, arch-bishop at Alexandria. Let’s get in to the background on these two men so we can […] In the last episode, we introduced the political situation framing the debate that ensued between two church leaders at the Council of Ephesus in 431.

Those two leaders were Nestorius, Patriarch of the Capital Church at Constantinople and Cyril, arch-bishop at Alexandria. Let’s get in to the background on these two men so we can better understand the brueha that happened at Ephesus.

Nestorius was appointed as Patriarch of the Church in Constantinople by the Emperor Theodosius II in 428 after the death of the previous Patriarch, Sisinnius I.  The godly Sisinnius only served a year before dying on Christmas Eve in 427. Theodosius took 3 months to pick his successor and settled on Nestorius, a priest living at a monastery just outside the walls of Antioch in Syria.

Nestorius had developed a reputation as an excellent preacher, something the Emperor and his court required at the Capital. So Nestorius was summoned and consecrated to his office as Patriarch of the East in April 428.

And so the trouble began.

As we saw last time, there was a long and heated competition between the Churches at Alexandria & Antioch to supply the Patriarch for the Eastern Capital. Though Alexandria considered itself to be academically superior in every way to Antioch, Constantinople kept drawing its lead bishop from their rival, Antioch. With the selection of Nestorius, Alexandria once again had its nose tweaked. What made it worse, wasn’t just that they picked an Antiochan, but that they picked THAT Antiochan. As far as Cyril, leader of the Alexandrian Church was concerned, Nestorius was the WORST POSSIBLE choice.

By all accounts, Theodosius probably could have come up with a better choice. While a capable teacher, Nestorius wasn’t really cut out for the role of being the Patriarch of the Eastern Capital’s Church. He’d better serve as the vice-principle of a reform school than as lead pastor of a large church. He was both intense and stubborn; a dangerous combination. Having spent most of his time in a monastery, he was ultra, politically naive, which ill-equipped him in dealing with the massive political machinations of the Byzantine court. Upon his arrival, he immediately alienated many. In once example, he assured Theodosius the Empire would triumph over its enemies if he exiled all heretics. Then securing permission to assist in this task, Nestorius burned down a chapel belonging to holdouts of Arianism. But as it’s wont to do, the fire didn’t stop at the edges of the chapel. It burned down a large part of the City. This earned Nestorius the title “Torchie.”

Nestorius refused a request by the Roman bishop Celestine to return a group of heretics taking refuge in Constantinople.

Nestorius was completely intolerant of any views but his own. When someone who’s by far the smartest person in the room adopts that attitude, it’s bad enough. But Nestorius wasn’t that sharp. So when he was unable to answer the questions raised by some monks following one of his sermons, he invited them to his house the following day. When they arrived, Nestorius’s guards beat them. Within months of Nestorius settling into his roles as Patriarch, the list of his enemies was impressive. The only thing that kept opposition from going public was the Emperor’s support. And that didn’t last, as we’ll see.

The other main personality at play at the Council of Ephesus was Cyril, arch-bishop or Patriarch of Alexandria. He was working on a reputation not far off from that of Nestorius. Cyril was quite a character. Rabble-rouser might be a good description for him. When the previous bishop of Alexandria died in 412, a riot ensued between two factions, each of which wanted their leader to become the new leader of the church. One group favored Cyril, the other his rival, Timotheus. Cyril’s faction won and Cyril was installed as the head of the Church. This was at the time of the height of Alexandria’s influence and power in the Roman Empire. Cyril believed the church ought to have a more influential role in the governing of the city; something the Roman prefect Orestes was not about to give him.

Cyril wanted to prove to everyone he was large and in charge so, soon after being named patriarch of Alexandra, he closed down and appropriated the property of a splinter group.

There was ethnic and religious tensions in Alexandria at all times. But at this time the tension between Pagans, Jews & Christians was at an all-time high. It broke out in a riot with well-organized Jews on one side and hapless Christians on the other. It was obvious that the whole thing had been engineered by a small group of Jews who’d managed to slay not a few Christians. So Cyril called out the entire Christian community to ransack Alexandria’s synagogues and expel the entire Jewish community from the city. The governor Orestes was furious that so large and important a part of the city’s population was exiled. It was destined to ruin the city’s economy. And besides, who gave a religious leader the authority to take such an overt civil action?

Both men appealed to the Emperor for support. But in the absence of a reply the tension grew. That’s when a group of monks from a desert monastery arrived. These guys were nothing if not interesting. Their attitude was, “Submit or die.” They attacked Orestes, whose guards managed to rescue him.  One monk threw a rock that hit the governor in the head. He was arrested and tortured to death. Cyril pronounced him a martyr. The governor and bishops fired off another letter each to the Emperor.

Though Orestes claimed to be a Christian, having been baptized by the previous Bishop of Alexandria, a famous leader of the pagans there supported Orestes in his contest with Cyril. Her name was Hypatia, a philosopher, mathematician and astronomer who bore tremendous influence in the City. Hypatia’s reputation had spread over a good part of the Empire so that many students from wealthy families went to Alexandria to be taught be her. Those students went on to fill some of the Empire’s most important offices, both in government and the Church.

Though a Christian, as governor, Orestes sought to build a healthy relationship with both the Pagan and Jewish communities he was supposed to represent. His critics in the church used his familiarity with outsiders to say he was in truth a pagan. They wanted to drive a wedge between Orestes and his pagan supporters, so they dragged Hypatia form her chariot one day and hacked her body to pieces.

While there’s no evidence of Cyril’s direct involvement, word got out he was ultimately responsible for her assassination.

Can you see where all this is going in the controversy between Cyril & Nestorius? It’s not looking good for the patriarch of Constantinople, is it? Unlike the political neophyte Nestorius, Cyril had 25 yrs of political scheming the time of the Council. He’s also regarded by history as a more astute thinker & theologian than his rival.

Antioch and Alexandria hadn’t just been in competition with each other over who got to send someone to lead the Capital Church. They’d long argued over an array of theological issues. When it came to interpreting Scripture, Antioch tended to understand things literally. Alexandria followed a far more allegorical bent. They also differed in their Christology, that is, how they understood the nature of Jesus.

Nestorius’s hometown of Antioch, favored a straight-forward historical, literal approach emphasizing Jesus’ humanity. Alexandria emphasized His deity. When battle lines were drawn at the Ephesian Council, the attending bishops split pretty much along ethnic lines. That is, the Easterners from Syria over supported Nestorius, while in the West; Egyptians, Greeks, & Romans, backed Cyril.

As I mentioned in the last episode, to modern readers, all this political tension in the Church is disheartening. It may be helpful to keep in mind the ancient world operated under a different perspective than our own. One of the virtues of modern enlightened civilization is the idea of tolerance. That people ought to be free to believe what they will, without the threat of coercion by the civil government, or anyone else. In fact, it’s the duty of govt to make sure that coercion doesn’t rise. Tolerance doesn’t mean all views are equally true or right. It just means each ought to be free to decide for themselves and to respect the views of others while disagreeing with them.

That’s NOT AT ALL the attitude of the ancients. Both Nestorius and Cyril believed, as did all their followers, it was crucial to the peace & prosperity of the Empire and all it’s people, to have right thoughts about God. Ideas have consequences. And if people have wrong, even bad ideas about somethings as important as Who God is and What He’s like,. It will result in choices that have long lasting & deadly effects. And if a church leader ALLOWS people to hold wrong ideas about God, God may bring judgment on his city and church for allowing such blasphemy to go unchecked.

That we may scoff at that idea today, doesn’t make it any less certain in the minds of a Nestorius or Cyril. If we could climb into a time machine and go back to chat with these two guys, we might attempt to reason with them by asking where in Jesus’ ministry He stirred up riots and assassinated His enemies. But let’s be careful about judging the past based on modern values, which are themselves the result of a long process of development, those earlier years and characters helped shape.

Let’s move now to a description of the two Christological schools that butted heads at Ephesus.

Nestorius had developed his ideas on the nature of Jesus against the backdrop of two major heresies that had threatened The Faith: Arianism and Manichaeanism.

As you know, because we’ve been examining it over the previous episodes, Arianism said Christ wasn’t God. He was just a special being God created.

Manichaeanism took the opposite approach and said Christ was a divine being and not Man. He couldn’t be because physical matter is inherently evil.

Nestorius shaped his Christology in such a way that it refuted both of these heresies. He said Jesus was both fully God and fully man and that these parts were separate. Nestorius thought that the previous Councils, dealing primarily with the error of Arianism, had already done the work of affirming Jesus’ Deity.

It was the error of the Manichaeans that needed to be dealt with now, so he emphasized Jesus’ humanity, showing that Jesus was made human in all points like us. Therefore in His sacrifice, He’s able to be a complete and perfect substitute.

Nestorius rejected any sort of suffering in the divine nature of Christ at the same time he affirmed that His human nature grew and was tempted. In his mind, the separation of the natures of Christ and the emphasis on Christ’s humanity did not mean Jesus was two separate people or that he was not fully God. But his opponents, chiefly Cyril, accused him of holding that position.

If Nestorius emphasized the humanity of Jesus, Cyril emphasized His deity. Cyril was concerned that Nestorius’ views allowed the Humanity of Christ to obscure and block His divinity. It seemed to Cyril that if Nestorius was right, then when people worshiped Jesus during the Incarnation, they were worshiping a creature, and that’s forbidden, for worship is to be to God alone.

Cyril was insistent that emphasizing Jesus’ dual nature destroyed His unity as one person. He equated two natures with two persons and accused Nestorius of making Jesus a kind of spiritual schizophrenic.

This is not to say Cyril denied Jesus’ humanity. He certainly did NOT! But Cyril said Jesus deity was so overwhelming to His humanity that it was like a drop of ink in the ocean. The ink’s there, but totally taken up and over by the sea.

And once again, our time’s up.

We’ll get to the actual council in our next episode.

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In the last episode, we introduced the political situation framing the debate that ensued between two church leaders at the Council of Ephesus in 431. Those two leaders were Nestorius, Patriarch of the Capital Church at Constantinople and Cyril, Those two leaders were Nestorius, Patriarch of the Capital Church at Constantinople and Cyril, arch-bishop at Alexandria. Let’s get in to the background on these two men so we can better understand the brueha that happened at Ephesus.
Nestorius was appointed as Patriarch of the Church in Constantinople by the Emperor Theodosius II in 428 after the death of the previous Patriarch, Sisinnius I.  The godly Sisinnius only served a year before dying on Christmas Eve in 427. Theodosius took 3 months to pick his successor and settled on Nestorius, a priest living at a monastery just outside the walls of Antioch in Syria.
Nestorius had developed a reputation as an excellent preacher, something the Emperor and his court required at the Capital. So Nestorius was summoned and consecrated to his office as Patriarch of the East in April 428.
And so the trouble began.
As we saw last time, there was a long and heated competition between the Churches at Alexandria & Antioch to supply the Patriarch for the Eastern Capital. Though Alexandria considered itself to be academically superior in every way to Antioch, Constantinople kept drawing its lead bishop from their rival, Antioch. With the selection of Nestorius, Alexandria once again had its nose tweaked. What made it worse, wasn’t just that they picked an Antiochan, but that they picked THAT Antiochan. As far as Cyril, leader of the Alexandrian Church was concerned, Nestorius was the WORST POSSIBLE choice.
By all accounts, Theodosius probably could have come up with a better choice. While a capable teacher, Nestorius wasn’t really cut out for the role of being the Patriarch of the Eastern Capital’s Church. He’d better serve as the vice-principle of a reform school than as lead pastor of a large church. He was both intense and stubborn; a dangerous combination. Having spent most of his time in a monastery, he was ultra, politically naive, which ill-equipped him in dealing with the massive political machinations of the Byzantine court. Upon his arrival, he immediately alienated many. In once example, he assured Theodosius the Empire would triumph over its enemies if he exiled all heretics. Then securing permission to assist in this task, Nestorius burned down a chapel belonging to holdouts of Arianism. But as it’s wont to do, the fire didn’t stop at the edges of the chapel. It burned down a large part of the City. This earned Nestorius the title “Torchie.”
Nestorius refused a request by the Roman bishop Celestine to return a group of heretics taking refuge in Constantinople.
Nestorius was completely intolerant of any views but his own. When someone who’s by far the smartest person in the room adopts that attitude, it’s bad enough. But Nestorius wasn’t that sharp. So when he was unable to answer the questions raised by some monks following one of his sermons, he invited them to his house the following day. When they arrived, Nestorius’s guards beat them. Within months of Nestorius settling into his roles as Patriarch, the list of his enemies was impressive. The only thing that kept opposition from going public was the Emperor’s support. And that didn’t last, as we’ll see.
The other main personality at play at the Council of Ephesus was Cyril, arch-bishop or Patriarch of Alexandria. He was working on a reputation not far off from that of Nestorius. Cyril was quite a character. Rabble-rouser might be a good description for him. When the previous bishop of Alexandria died in 412, a riot ensued between two factions, each of which wanted their leader to become the new leader of the church. One group favored Cyril, the other his rival, Timotheus. Cyril’s faction won and Cyril was installed as the head of the Church. This was at the time of the height of Alexandria’s influence and power in the ...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 14:43
Creeds – Part 6 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-06/ Sun, 14 May 2017 09:01:14 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1698 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-06/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-06/feed/ 0 Buckle up for this episode, because it’s a rocky ride. We’ve come to the Third Ecumenical Church Council. And for those of you who remember this one from Season 1, you know where in for troubled times. We’re looking at the Council of Ephesus in 431 and the battle between Cyril & Nestorius. The First […] Buckle up for this episode, because it’s a rocky ride. We’ve come to the Third Ecumenical Church Council. And for those of you who remember this one from Season 1, you know where in for troubled times. We’re looking at the Council of Ephesus in 431 and the battle between Cyril & Nestorius.

The First Council at Nicaea in 325 dealt with the challenge of Arianism and it’s goofy ideas about the deity of Christ. It produced the Nicaean Creed, which became the standard statement of orthodox Christianity. But Arians managed to finagle things around and by a clever game of semantics, managed to hang on to their core ideas while appearing orthodox. The Nicaean Creed’s less than comprehensive statement on the deity of the Holy Spirit became their undoing, when they claimed the Spirit was merely a force or influence, not a divine person co-equal and eternal with the Father and Son. So another council was called in 381 at the Eastern Capital of Constantinople, where Arianism was finally outed as heretical, and the Nicaean Creed was filled out to embrace a more comprehensive orthodox statement on the Holy Spirit.

It was the language devised by the Cappadocian Fathers that was finally used to settle in on the Doctrine of the Trinity, that God is One in Essence, but Three in Person.

Once the doctrine of the Trinity was conveyed in language all could agree on, the next issue up for theological consideration was how to understand Jesus. It’s clear Scripture says He’s both God and Man. How then were people to understand that? Was He two persons or one? Did He have 2 natures or one? And if he had two natures, who did those natures related tone one another since God and man are very different? THAT’s the subject that was debated 50 years after Constantinople at the Council of Ephesus.

There were actually 3 councils held at Ephesus. The first in 431, a second 18 yrs later, and a third in 475. But it’s only the first in 431 that’s reckoned as being one of the 7 Ecumenical Councils.

As we get in to this, it’s good to know that the 23 yrs from 428 to 451 when the Council of Chalcedon met, is probably THE most crucial period in the development of Christology, that branch of theology dealing with the nature of Christ.

Nicaea had made it clear the orthodox position was that Jesus is both God and Man. It said: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father . . . For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”

The question next up after hammering out how to describe the Trinity was, “How do we describe the God-Man, Jesus? We just said He’s God & Man. How do those two natures interact and relate to each on IN Jesus? How much of Jesus is God and how much is Man? Does He have one mind or two? One Soul or Two? One Will or Two? Since God is bigger than man, maybe His divinity overwhelms the humanity. Or, maybe Jesus sublimated His deity and lived solely as a human?

To many modern believers, all this may seem abstract & too ethereal to worry about. That mentality can only exist precisely because theologians and church leaders of the 5th C wrestled with and settled the issue for us. Most Christians don’t concern themselves with such lofty ponderings because they assume smart guys figured all that out long ago and their formulas have ensured the success of the Church’s Mission ever since. So, no need to go back and worry about all that. The smart guys have it covered. Keep in mind, there was a time when that formula didn’t exist! And the smart guys hadn’t nailed down exactly how to understand, then SAY what they understood. One of their most difficult tasks was finding exactly the right words by which to articulate what they’d come to understand Scripture said.

Today we say that Jesus is Fully God & Fully Man. He is one person with two natures. These natures, while different, aren’t in competition with each other. Nor are they mixed into some kind of hybrid that merges the human & divine. Before the Incarnation, Jesus had one nature as God. But Jesus took on humanity in the Incarnation and as Phil 2 says, emptied Himself of His divine prerogatives. Exactly what that means, theologians and Bible teachers have wrestled with for hundreds of years. But from the way Paul describes it, we get the sense Jesus, while fully God, chose to live primarily out of His nature and identity as a man, so that being found in a mortal body, He fully experienced the reality of humanity and was in all points, tempted just as we are, yet without sin. So, He was no less God in the Incarnation, but He chose not to live His life on Earth from that nature. Then, after His ascension back to Heaven, He kept his humanity, so that today, a God-Man sits at the right hand of the Father in glory forevermore.

BUT – and here’s the point, we can state that with great confidence today only because there were people in the 4th and 5th Cs who labored over it for decades, to first understand it, then to put it in just the right words that they could state it without misrepresenting Who & What Jesus is. The Council of Ephesus was crucial, a major milestone in that development.

The Council was the result of a clash between two schools of thought on how best to understand the dual nature of Jesus. Both sides believed Jesus was one person with two natures, but they differed widely in how they understood and stated it.

One side so strongly emphasized his dual nature, it at times sounded as though they advocated, not just two natures, but two persons. The other side so emphasized Christ’s unity it seemed at times to say that while technically He had two natures, the divine so overshadowed the human, it reigned supreme and relegated the human nature of Jesus to a kind of spiritual coma.

Sadly, The Council at Ephesus was such a mess and so fraught with turmoil that while it took pains to crush the idea Jesus was two natures in two persons, it never really made clear how He was two natures in one person. That’s why the Council of Chalcedon was called just 20 years later. The Church realized Ephesus needed to be followed up by a Council that would tighten up its Christology and to wash the bitter taste from its mouth due to the wrangling at Ephesus.

JD Kelly writes of the Council of Ephesus, “At no phase in the evolution of the Church’s theology have the fundamental issues been so mixed up with the clash of politics and personalities.”

The story of the Council of Ephesus revolves around two individuals; Cyril of Alexandria and Nestorius of Constantinople.

But before we can get to them we need to back up and talk a bit about church politics.

Wait; what? Church politics? Is there such a thing? Sadly, yes, all too often. It’s the result of involving people. I know there are those of you who subscribe to CS who’ve been shocked and appalled by some of the sad chapters in church history. I know because you’ve written in to share your unease.

You see, we have this idea of the Early Church that it was all love and light. You know those early chs of the Book of Acts; they loved each other and had all things in common; Kumbaya!

Don’t forget the other passages earlier in the Gospels; when the disciples argued among each other over who was the greatest. Jesus had to set them straight on that account more than once. Then in Acts, we read even the great Paul had a falling out with Barnabas over how to conduct one of their missionary journeys. Acts 15 records the real first Church Council in Jerusalem when church leaders argued over what to do with all the new Gentile converts. And even with them deciding what to do, there were people who didn’t like the decision & continued to do their own thing, causing Paul a massive headache later.

No – regrettably, there’s always been a measure of politics in the Church. It may be at the Council of Ephesus the reality of that became most obvious for the first time.

As we saw in Season 1, in the first Cs of the Church, just a few churches rose to exert a huge influence over the regions around them. Jerusalem was of course considered HQ’s at first. Antioch in Syria became a regional center, as well as the Church in Alexandria. It’s understandable why they would. Alexandria was the Romans Empire’s 2nd largest city while Antioch was the 3rd, and by far the largest city of that entire area. Alexandria wasn’t just a large city; it had a long reputation going back many generations as a center of scholarship, bolstered by its world famous library. To these 3 centers, Rome was quickly added as a fourth. Later, when the official capital of the Empire was shifted East by Constantine to Constantinople, that city’s church became important due to its proximity to the Imperial Court. Constantinople’s rise coincided with Jerusalem’s decline. There just wasn’t anyone left in the leadership of Jerusalem’s Church that was recognized as carrying the mantle of the Apostles. That mantle now rested in Antioch, Alexandria, Rome and Constantinople. Two power axis developed; one btwn the Old Capital of Rome & New Rome, the new capital in Constantine’s City; then btwn Antioch & Alexandria. The thing is, Rome was way off in the West and selected its own leaders without meddling on the part of the others churches. In the East, it was a much different matter. The Church of Constantinople simply didn’t have the theological legacy and heritage to develop mature leaders of its own. So it picked its Patriarchs alternately from the older works at Antioch & Alexandria. And of course, whichever church had supplied the Capital church with its leader had bragging rights and the ear of the Emperor as well as his court. The problem was, while Alexandria was supposed to have superior academics & a more refined theological mojo, Constantinople often selected as its Patriarch someone from Antioch. And as far as the Alexandrian church was concerned, “That dog just ain’t gonna’ hunt.”

Have you ever heard the term “Byzantine?” I’m not referring to an era of history. I mean the adjective that speaks of something hopelessly tangled and complex. It’s often used to describe a bureaucracy that’s so elaborate and convoluted, negotiating it is a herculean task. That phrase comes from the royal court at Constantinople, the City whose original name was Byzantium. While the Emperor lived in ostentatious style in his palace, he surrounded himself with layers of bureaucracy to make the Sun King Louis XIV’s Versailles  look like a One Act Play. What that meant to the church in Constantinople was that there were factions at court always vying with each other for power. Since Church & State were hand in hand, the Patriarchate of the Church was a political football because whoever was the leader of the Church had massive influence on imperial policy. History tells us there were times when the Emperor wanted one Patriarch while factions of His court, even members of his family, wanted another.

All of that plays into the Council of Ephesus.

And like a serial episode of a TV story that ends each week in a cliffhanger, we’re ending this episode here, a step away from what ends up being bloody debate and brawl that was the Council of Ephesus.

]]>
Buckle up for this episode, because it’s a rocky ride. We’ve come to the Third Ecumenical Church Council. And for those of you who remember this one from Season 1, you know where in for troubled times. We’re looking at the Council of Ephesus in 431 and... The First Council at Nicaea in 325 dealt with the challenge of Arianism and it’s goofy ideas about the deity of Christ. It produced the Nicaean Creed, which became the standard statement of orthodox Christianity. But Arians managed to finagle things around and by a clever game of semantics, managed to hang on to their core ideas while appearing orthodox. The Nicaean Creed’s less than comprehensive statement on the deity of the Holy Spirit became their undoing, when they claimed the Spirit was merely a force or influence, not a divine person co-equal and eternal with the Father and Son. So another council was called in 381 at the Eastern Capital of Constantinople, where Arianism was finally outed as heretical, and the Nicaean Creed was filled out to embrace a more comprehensive orthodox statement on the Holy Spirit.
It was the language devised by the Cappadocian Fathers that was finally used to settle in on the Doctrine of the Trinity, that God is One in Essence, but Three in Person.
Once the doctrine of the Trinity was conveyed in language all could agree on, the next issue up for theological consideration was how to understand Jesus. It’s clear Scripture says He’s both God and Man. How then were people to understand that? Was He two persons or one? Did He have 2 natures or one? And if he had two natures, who did those natures related tone one another since God and man are very different? THAT’s the subject that was debated 50 years after Constantinople at the Council of Ephesus.
There were actually 3 councils held at Ephesus. The first in 431, a second 18 yrs later, and a third in 475. But it’s only the first in 431 that’s reckoned as being one of the 7 Ecumenical Councils.
As we get in to this, it’s good to know that the 23 yrs from 428 to 451 when the Council of Chalcedon met, is probably THE most crucial period in the development of Christology, that branch of theology dealing with the nature of Christ.
Nicaea had made it clear the orthodox position was that Jesus is both God and Man. It said: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father . . . For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”
The question next up after hammering out how to describe the Trinity was, “How do we describe the God-Man, Jesus? We just said He’s God & Man. How do those two natures interact and relate to each on IN Jesus? How much of Jesus is God and how much is Man? Does He have one mind or two? One Soul or Two? One Will or Two? Since God is bigger than man, maybe His divinity overwhelms the humanity. Or, maybe Jesus sublimated His deity and lived solely as a human?
To many modern believers, all this may seem abstract & too ethereal to worry about. That mentality can only exist precisely because theologians and church leaders of the 5th C wrestled with and settled the issue for us. Most Christians don’t concern themselves with such lofty ponderings because they assume smart guys figured all that out long ago and their formulas have ensured the success of the Church’s Mission ever since. So, no need to go back and worry about all that. The smart guys have it covered. Keep in mind, there was a time when that formula didn’t exist! And the smart guys hadn’t nailed down exactly how to understand, then SAY what they understood. One of their most difficult tasks was finding exactly the right words by which to articulate what they’d come to understand Scriptur...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 14:39
Creeds – Part 5 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-5/ Sun, 07 May 2017 09:01:14 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1693 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-5/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-5/feed/ 0 This is part 5 of our series on the Creeds in which we’ll be taking a look at the First Council of Constantinople. In Part 3 we looked at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. While the Church had a lot to deal with in the decades that followed, they didn’t convene another Council […] This is part 5 of our series on the Creeds in which we’ll be taking a look at the First Council of Constantinople.

In Part 3 we looked at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. While the Church had a lot to deal with in the decades that followed, they didn’t convene another Council for almost 60 yrs.

And before we dive into that Second Council, we need to back up a bit because it can get confusing keeping track of all these councils and how they relate to the Creeds.

Both the Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox Church recognize what’s called the First Seven Ecumenical Councils. Don’t be confused by that word “Ecumenical.” Today, the word carries the connotation of bringing together disparate groups. But as it’s applied to these Councils, Ecumenical meant that church leaders from every region and branch of the Faith were invited and a part. There were other councils that took place after the 7th, but it’s only these both the Western & Eastern churches recognize as legit.

It ought to be noted that the Oriental Orthodox church only accepts the first three councils, while the Nestorian Church of the East only accepts the first two.

And to complicate matters just a bit more, there was a council between the 6th & 7th called the Quinisext Council that the Eastern Orthodox Church accepts as legit while Rome does not. The reason this Council isn’t given an ordinal number like the rest is because it didn’t deal with any issues of theology. It dealt with more liturgical & organizational issues not resolved at the 6th Council, so  was considered to be an extension of that Council.

While Rome ignores the Quinisext Council & the Eastern Orthodox Church only recognizes the first 7, Rome embraces later councils the Eastern Church does not.

Alright, with that out of the way, let’s turn now to the Second Ecumenical Council, the First Council of Constantinople.

As you’ll remember from a couple episodes ago, the Council of Nicaea in 325 addressed the challenge of Arianism and the identity of Christ. They settled on the wording for their Creed, that Jesus was “very God of very God.” Contrary to what the heretic Arius taught, Christ wasn’t a created being God then used to create everything.

Certain modern authors & New Age spiritualists would have us believe the Emperor Constantine manipulated the Council to this end for some sinister political ambition, then by royal fiat waved his scepter and Christianized the empire, enforcing his decree with the sword and made Arian believers conform. But as we saw, that’s just not the case; not by a mile! The fact is, the problem of Arianism remained, with over the next decades Roman emperors favoring a form of Arianism. It was they who persecuted Nicaean Christians, not the other way around.

When 80 priests petitioned Emperor Valens, a rabid Arian supporter,  to reconsider an appointment he’d made that was highly a controversial, he rounded them up, put them in a boat, launched it from the shore and then had burning arrows shot into it so that they all burned to death.

Yeah, so that whole “Constantine MADE Christianity the only acceptable religion” line so many love to repeat, just doesn’t hold up.

By 381, while orthodox Nicaean Christians didn’t face the same kind of persecution they had under some of the emperors before Constantine, they were still caught up in a struggle for their faith; this time with people who claimed their Arianism was the truth Faith; “and we’ve got the Emperor on our side.”

We might think the Nicaean Council & Creed dealt the death blow to Arianism. It didn’t because Arians finagled a way to conform to Nicaea without giving away their key ideas.

Arius had taught that Christ was a created being.  Some Arians, called Semi-Arians, claimed Christ was like God. They appealed to some old language the church had used to answer the objections of those who said there was no difference between the Father & the Son. That was answered by saying Christ is “like God,” meaning the Father. He’s LIKE the Father, but Isn’t the Father; they’re two persons.

That language, which had been accepted by earlier Christians, was picked up by the Semi-Arians, who’d become the new standard bearers for Arianism. They said, “Look, we’re only saying what earlier Christians said.” You can’t condemn us without condemning them too.” But of course, they applied the phrase “like God” to a completely different application. They weren’t saying the same thing as those earlier Christians.

At first, the orthodox Nicaean Church Leaders showed the Semi-Arians grace & accepted them as orthodox believers. But it didn’t take long before the true colors of the Arians came out. What outed them was their position on the Holy Spirit.

Nicaea hadn’t said much about the Spirit; only that the Orthodox believe in Him as a member of the Trinity. But the super precise verbiage that had marked their identification of Christ was absent.  Arians on the other hand, clinging tenaciously to a single person as God, said the Holy Spirit was merely an impersonal force & spiritual influence. The orthodox understood the Biblical teaching that the Holy Spirit is a person, co-equal with the Father & Son. They regarded the Holy Spirit as Third Person of the Trinity. So, another council was called after the death of the Arian Emperor Valens to settle the issue.

To be fair, let’s give the Arians some ground to stand on to present their case for why the Holy Spirit is to be regarded as a force rather than divine person.

Joel 2:28, quoted in Acts 2 has God promising: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” How can a person be poured out?

In Psa 51, David asked God to not take the Holy Spirit from him. That seems to say the Spirit is something that God uses rather than a person who acts. In the NT, the Spirit sometimes seems to be described as a state of being; like when the disciples are filled with the Spirit & the Spirit can be quenched. The Arians maintained that if such passages referred to a person, it was unlike any other person we’ve encountered, to the point where what it means to BE a person has to be altered.

The Arians then looked outside of Scripture to the way the Holy Spirit was spoken of in some Church traditions and rituals. Often times the wording of such applied better to a power or force than a person.

For example, a 3rd C liturgy spoke of the church as a “place where the Spirit abounds.” That kind of language was just never used for the Father & Son.

Another reason the Arians managed to get away with all this for a while is because, to be frank, the Church didn’t possess a full-orbed, well rounded and thoroughly Biblical theology for the Holy Spirit yet. It was this controversy that helped develop it.

That came when orthodox Church leaders went to Scripture to see what it taught about the Holy Spirit. While there were verses that could be understood as referring to an impersonal Spirit, Gregory of Nazianzus found many more passages cast the Spirit is Personal terms that could NOT be connected to a mere force or power. A greater thing can do a lesser, but a lesser thing cannot do a greater. A person can do something a mere power or force can do. But a mere force cannot do what only a person can.

So the Bible said the Holy Spirit can be grieved, lied to, can speak, consoles.

And if the Arians wanted to appeal to long-standing church rituals as back up for their position, what about the fact that since the beginning, new believers were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

During the discussion of the First Council of Constantinople, orthodox Church Leaders were concerned the Arian doctrine of the Spirit undercut God’s promise to personally dwell in and with His people. He didn’t send a force, He came Himself in the Person of the Spirit. The Christian Life isn’t merely one that’s given some extra juice by the impartation at baptism of  a dose of spiritual energy, as Arians claimed. The Christian Life is nothing less than, as Paul said in Gal 2:20, Christ himself living IN and through us by the person and presence of the Holy Spirit.

When it was clear to Church Leaders Arianism had resurged and threatened to once again co-opt the faith, they convened a Council in early 381. They asked Emperor Theodosius to send out official invitations, summoning church leaders. Though Western Church leader did NOT attend the Council, they accepted it’s conclusions as though they’d been present and participated in ratifying its conclusions. The Emperor recused himself from any part in the Council and left it to the bishops to settle the matter among themselves.

Meletius of Antioch was selected to preside at the Council, but died shortly after it was called. Gregory of Nazianzus, the recently installed Patriarch of Constantinople took his place. Gregory, as one of the Cappadocian Fathers, was a scholar’s scholar. He was also a committed Orthodox Nicaean. Because Arianism prevailed in the East for decades before Theodosius’s rule, the Patriarchate of Constantinople had been filled by Arians. Gregory was something utterly new.

He was also exhausted by the time the Council began. Finding himself suddenly thrust in the role of presiding over it, he regarded the political squabbling over appointing a replacement for Meletius at the important bishopric of Antioch too much & resigned. Theodosius was loath to grant him his request, but was persuaded by Gregory’s impassioned appeal and released him. The Council was then lead by Nectarius, an unbaptized civil official.

Unlike some later Councils, this one was mostly free of political pressure and focused on theological issues, both sides being well represented. The decision of the Council favored the position of the orthodox which had been carefully crafted by Gregory of Nazianzus. Instead of coming up with a new Creed, the Nicene Creed was clarified and expanded to say, “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.”

Now: Put a little mental footnote in here because we’ll come back to this in a later episode. The Western church added a few more words to this later. That addition was never accepted by the East and became a major point of contention that goes on to this day.

This Constantinoplian-revised Nicaean Creed left not a millimeter’s worth of wiggle room for Arians. The Holy Spirit was now clearly identified as a divine person who fulfills a role that God reserved for Himself. He’s the Giver of Life, both physical and spiritual, intimately connected with the Father and not a separate deity, who deserves to be the object of worship, and who’s been active in the process of salvation throughout history.

This Council put the last theological nail in Arianism’s coffin. It was now officially banned.

Updating the Nicaean Creed wasn’t all the Council did. They also condemned as heresy the doctrine of Apollinarianism, which denied the dual nature of Christ, attributing only a divine nature to Him.

The Council also granted the Imperial Church at Constantinople an honorary primacy over all other churches, except Rome. Coming as the 3rd Canon, or ruling of the Council it reads, “The Bishop of Constantinople, however, shall have the prerogative of honor after the Bishop of Rome because Constantinople is New Rome.”

Remember, Western bishops weren’t present at Constantinople. This canon was a first step in the rising importance of the just 50 year old new capital. What’s remarkable is that by elevating Constantinople, it demoted older churches that figured far more centrally in the early history of Christianity. What about Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria? In fact, that was the push back that Rome gave. While the Roman Church would go on later and use this canon to assert its supremacy over other churches, they protested the diminished statues of the other traditional church centers.

]]>
This is part 5 of our series on the Creeds in which we’ll be taking a look at the First Council of Constantinople. In Part 3 we looked at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. While the Church had a lot to deal with in the decades that followed, In Part 3 we looked at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. While the Church had a lot to deal with in the decades that followed, they didn’t convene another Council for almost 60 yrs.
And before we dive into that Second Council, we need to back up a bit because it can get confusing keeping track of all these councils and how they relate to the Creeds.
Both the Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox Church recognize what’s called the First Seven Ecumenical Councils. Don’t be confused by that word “Ecumenical.” Today, the word carries the connotation of bringing together disparate groups. But as it’s applied to these Councils, Ecumenical meant that church leaders from every region and branch of the Faith were invited and a part. There were other councils that took place after the 7th, but it’s only these both the Western & Eastern churches recognize as legit.
It ought to be noted that the Oriental Orthodox church only accepts the first three councils, while the Nestorian Church of the East only accepts the first two.
And to complicate matters just a bit more, there was a council between the 6th & 7th called the Quinisext Council that the Eastern Orthodox Church accepts as legit while Rome does not. The reason this Council isn’t given an ordinal number like the rest is because it didn’t deal with any issues of theology. It dealt with more liturgical & organizational issues not resolved at the 6th Council, so  was considered to be an extension of that Council.
While Rome ignores the Quinisext Council & the Eastern Orthodox Church only recognizes the first 7, Rome embraces later councils the Eastern Church does not.
Alright, with that out of the way, let’s turn now to the Second Ecumenical Council, the First Council of Constantinople.
As you’ll remember from a couple episodes ago, the Council of Nicaea in 325 addressed the challenge of Arianism and the identity of Christ. They settled on the wording for their Creed, that Jesus was “very God of very God.” Contrary to what the heretic Arius taught, Christ wasn’t a created being God then used to create everything.
Certain modern authors & New Age spiritualists would have us believe the Emperor Constantine manipulated the Council to this end for some sinister political ambition, then by royal fiat waved his scepter and Christianized the empire, enforcing his decree with the sword and made Arian believers conform. But as we saw, that’s just not the case; not by a mile! The fact is, the problem of Arianism remained, with over the next decades Roman emperors favoring a form of Arianism. It was they who persecuted Nicaean Christians, not the other way around.
When 80 priests petitioned Emperor Valens, a rabid Arian supporter,  to reconsider an appointment he’d made that was highly a controversial, he rounded them up, put them in a boat, launched it from the shore and then had burning arrows shot into it so that they all burned to death.
Yeah, so that whole “Constantine MADE Christianity the only acceptable religion” line so many love to repeat, just doesn’t hold up.
By 381, while orthodox Nicaean Christians didn’t face the same kind of persecution they had under some of the emperors before Constantine, they were still caught up in a struggle for their faith; this time with people who claimed their Arianism was the truth Faith; “and we’ve got the Emperor on our side.”
We might think the Nicaean Council & Creed dealt the death blow to Arianism. It didn’t because Arians finagled a way to conform to Nicaea without giving away their key ideas.
Arius had taught that Christ was a created being.  Some Arians, called Semi-Arians, claimed Christ was like God. They appealed to some old language the church had used to answer the objections of those who said there was no difference...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 14:52
Creeds – Part 4 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-04/ Sun, 30 Apr 2017 09:01:53 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1687 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-04/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-04/feed/ 0 This is part 4 of our series on the Creeds. Because most of the creeds were the product of a Council of one kind or another, when dealing with the creeds, we have to talk about the Council. The Creed we’re looking at in this episode, the Athanasian Creed, wasn’t the product of a Council. […] This is part 4 of our series on the Creeds.

Because most of the creeds were the product of a Council of one kind or another, when dealing with the creeds, we have to talk about the Council.

The Creed we’re looking at in this episode, the Athanasian Creed, wasn’t the product of a Council. And, like the Apostle’s Creed we looked in the first episode, it almost certainly wasn’t composed by Athanasius, just as the Apostle’s Creed wasn’t written by the Apostles.

The origin of the Athanasian Creed remains a mystery. Athanasius, you’ll remember, was an elder at the church of Alexandria and accompanied his pastor, Bishop Alexander, to Nicaea for the council, where together, they were some of the chief voices arguing against another elders from Alexandria named Arius who’d gone off the rails on the deity of Christ. Following Alexander’s term as the Bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius took on that rol e, and in the years that followed, though Arianism ought to have been a moot point after being nailed into a theological coffin at Nicaea, it managed to go zombie and began once again chewing on the churches, many of which once again were infected. Athanasius stood against the tide of this resurgent Arianism; sometimes, seeming to be all alone. In fact, at times, the political winds blew against him and he was exiled for standing for Nicene Orthodoxy.

Think of Athanasius as a general leading an ever shrinking number of troops in a war of theology & doctrine. If we were to single him out for the one thing he clung to, it was the Nicene tenet that God the Father & God the Son share the same substance – in Greek, homoousios.

While Constantine deferred to the wisdom of theologians in settling the Arian challenge, following emperors weren’t as skilled. They were Arians and allowed the heresy to re-emerge. Since Arianism was the accepted doctrinal position of court, it became politically expedient for church leaders to tow the line. Athanasius refused to allow politics to corrupt either himself or his church. For this, he was exiled. At one trial, when told that everyone else had gone over to the other side, he replied, “Athanasius contra munduma” = Athanasius against the world. He spent 17 years in 5 exiles by 4 emperors.

And as much of a champ as Athanasius was, he almost certainly had nothing to do with writing the creed which bears his name.

Athanasius died in 373 and never mentions the creed even once in his writings. The next 3 creeds following his death never refer to it, as they most certainly would have in the formulation of their creeds. One the contrary, the Creed bears the marks of the work of those creeds. Our best evidence is that the Creed came from the churches of North Africa that had been influenced by Augustine.

In its earliest use, the Athanasian Creed wasn’t   called a creed; it was called “The Faith of Athanasius.” And like the Apostles’ Creed, it derived its relevance not from its author but rather to the truth it expressed and HOW it expressed it.

Maybe first evidence of the creed was connected to Caesarius of Arles about 502. He transcribed the entire creed in a preface to a collection of sermons. He said he was attaching the creed, “because it is necessary . . . that all clergy, and laymen as well, should be familiar with the Faith” so they’d know what to teach. By 1090, the medieval theologian Anselm of Canterbury linked the Athanasian, Apostles’, and Nicene Creeds as the Tria Symbola, the Three Creeds of the Christian Faith.

The creed wielded major influence during the Reformation. It lies at the opening of the Lutheran Book of Concord along with the Apostles’ & Nicene Creeds. It’s used by several Reformed churches, and it was mentioned approvingly in the Augsburg Confession, the Formula of Concord, the 39 Articles, the 2nd Helvetic Confession, the Belgic Confession, and the Bohemian Confession. Luther said the Athanasian Creed was “the most important and glorious composition since the days of the apostles.” Calvin considered it one of “the three symbols” that stand forever alongside God’s Word. Church historian Philip Schaff wrote of the Athanasian Creed, “This Creed is unsurpassed as a masterpiece of logical clearness, rigor, and precision.”

High praise! But the Creed was rejected by the Greek Church because of it’s position on the Holy Spirit.

The Creed consists of 42 articles, divided into 3 parts. The 1st addresses the Trinity, relying heavily on Augustine’s ideas, going so far as to quote him verbatim; making it pretty clear that it wasn’t written by Athanasius, since he died when Augustine was still young & a pagan.

The 2nd section defends the dual natures of Jesus the Council of Chalcedon explained in 451. We’ll get in to a lot more detail on all that when we take a look at the Councils of the 4th & 5th Cs. The 3rd section of the creed is a list of condemnations for those who refuse to the assertions of the creed. This part of the creed has proven to be difficult for those who don’t want their opponents consigned to a verbal damnation. But the fact is, most of the early creeds & confessions had a list of “anathemas,” that is, beliefs considered unacceptable in light of the beliefs that had just been articulated as embodying the Christian Faith. If “A” is exclusively true, “anti-A” can’t be.

Okay, enough jawing ABOUT the Creed. Let’s read it . . . à BUT . . .

Before we do, I need to clarify a word =  Catholic. We find it a LOT in the writings of the early church. It does NOT mean a denomination or branch of the church with headquarters in Rome. The word catholic meant universal. When the Church father wrote or spoke of the catholic faith, they meant the faith all genuine Christians believed.

Okay, here we go …

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence.

For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal.

As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord.

For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.

And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood by God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ.

Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Surely you noted how very careful this creed handles the issues, 1st of the Trinity, & 2nd, of the 2 natures of Christ. A word on that . . .

Theologians have long discussed how almost any attempt to [air-quote] “explain” God, and specifically, the Trinity, is destined to end up saying something that’s not quite right. And that not quite rightness becomes a toehold for misunderstanding and the geneis of error that can break out in heresy. Either God is made out to be three gods, or the 3 divine persons of Father, Son, and Spirit are turned into a messy amorphous mish-mash that does nothing but confuse. The reason for this is because to speak about God as a Trinity as the Bible presents Him, requires a vocabulary & philosophical background different from speaking about literally – any other thing. God is categorically separate from all other subjects. God is God, & nothing else is. When we are dealing with the Trinity, we’re entering into what theologians call the “aseity” of God; God as He is in & to himself. Since God is perfect & infinite, He will ALWAYS transcend His creation, of which we are. So while we struggle to grasp how the Trinity “works,” don’t get frustrated if you find your understanding falling short. Rather, take comfort in that. For a God you could completely understand would be a god too small to worship. The essence of worship is awe. WE need to have the sense that we stand in the presence of something infinitely bigger & beyond, or worship has no fuel.

Because of God’s gracious self-revelation, we can apprehend Him. But because of his infinity, we cannot comprehend Him.

Given this challenge in culling what Scripture tells us about the Trinity into a succinct Statement of Faith, the Athanasian Creed is about as careful and thorough an attempt as is found in history. It describes the core doctrine of the Trinity, then sets boundaries to prevent misunderstandings.

The Athanasian Creed guides through key qualities & attributes shared by all three persons of the Trinity. God is uncreated, unlimited, & eternal.

The wording of the Creed may at times seem a bit thick and heavy-handed in its repetition of God being 1 in Essence but 3 in Person. Whenever you see something like that, understand it as a clue to the historical setting that birthed it. A Neo-Arianism had risen that pretended to be faithful to Nicene orthodoxy, but was in fact a return to the idea that while Jesus & the Holy Spirit are God, they are less God than the Father, who alone sits at the top of the divine triangle. This was the position of royalty, because it allowed them some wiggle room to attach themselves to a position at the top of society with everyone else below them.

Some have wondered why, for goodness sake, the early Christians didn’t just chuck all this arguing about the Trinity and go for simply monotheism. The answer to that is simple= Because early Christians didn’t have a choice. Scripture was God’s Word, His self-revelation. So if it said there was one God, but 3 persons all claimed to be that one God, then that meant God is One in Essence but three in person.

Well, why not go along with the ideas of Sabellius in the early 3rd C who said there’s one God, who’s chosen 3 different modes to reveal Himself in; as Father with Israel, as the Son Jesus during the Incarnation, and as the Spirit after Jesus’ ascension. This idea was called Sabellianism, or modalism and persists to this day in some groups.

Again, Modalism simply doesn’t square with Scripture. Only one view does, classic orthodox Trinitarianism accommodates ALL of Scripture. And yes, that makes things difficult for us because it’s hard to reconcile intellectually. But the more one meditates on the Trinity, the more blessing and goodness flows from it. We see that built into the very nature and character of God is the reality of relationship & mutuality, fellowship, sharing.

The Creed ends with a bold but terse comment that those who believe its tenets are saved, but those who reject them are eternally damned. And as you may well imagine, that’s raised a hew & cry for many years. There are those who have no problem with other stating their beliefs in bold, clear terms. But to then say salvation lies in agreeing with them while failure to do so results in condemnation, well, wait just a minute there pal! Back the carriage up! Who are you to tell me what I HAVE to believe?

Consider this: Bill tells Ted he has to eat or he’ll starve. What would we think of Ted if he told Bill that was very narrow thinking & that Ted’s deeply offended by Bill’s certainty. Ted’s not hungry and is disturbed by the thought a failure to eat will result in his death.

In a situation like this, we judge Ted as unreasonable. Because we know the connection between food and health.

People who take offense at the Creeds for saying “Believe this and live, don’t a die” are like Ted. They assume that heaven and hell aren’t settled destinations all people end up in. They assume there’s some other way than the one the Creed is so careful to plot.

The authors of the creeds weren’t aggressively drawing a fence around the Faith to keep people out. They were posting big, bold signs pointing to the only way in.

]]>
This is part 4 of our series on the Creeds. Because most of the creeds were the product of a Council of one kind or another, when dealing with the creeds, we have to talk about the Council. The Creed we’re looking at in this episode, Because most of the creeds were the product of a Council of one kind or another, when dealing with the creeds, we have to talk about the Council.
The Creed we’re looking at in this episode, the Athanasian Creed, wasn’t the product of a Council. And, like the Apostle’s Creed we looked in the first episode, it almost certainly wasn’t composed by Athanasius, just as the Apostle’s Creed wasn’t written by the Apostles.
The origin of the Athanasian Creed remains a mystery. Athanasius, you’ll remember, was an elder at the church of Alexandria and accompanied his pastor, Bishop Alexander, to Nicaea for the council, where together, they were some of the chief voices arguing against another elders from Alexandria named Arius who’d gone off the rails on the deity of Christ. Following Alexander’s term as the Bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius took on that rol e, and in the years that followed, though Arianism ought to have been a moot point after being nailed into a theological coffin at Nicaea, it managed to go zombie and began once again chewing on the churches, many of which once again were infected. Athanasius stood against the tide of this resurgent Arianism; sometimes, seeming to be all alone. In fact, at times, the political winds blew against him and he was exiled for standing for Nicene Orthodoxy.
Think of Athanasius as a general leading an ever shrinking number of troops in a war of theology & doctrine. If we were to single him out for the one thing he clung to, it was the Nicene tenet that God the Father & God the Son share the same substance – in Greek, homoousios.
While Constantine deferred to the wisdom of theologians in settling the Arian challenge, following emperors weren’t as skilled. They were Arians and allowed the heresy to re-emerge. Since Arianism was the accepted doctrinal position of court, it became politically expedient for church leaders to tow the line. Athanasius refused to allow politics to corrupt either himself or his church. For this, he was exiled. At one trial, when told that everyone else had gone over to the other side, he replied, “Athanasius contra munduma” = Athanasius against the world. He spent 17 years in 5 exiles by 4 emperors.
And as much of a champ as Athanasius was, he almost certainly had nothing to do with writing the creed which bears his name.
Athanasius died in 373 and never mentions the creed even once in his writings. The next 3 creeds following his death never refer to it, as they most certainly would have in the formulation of their creeds. One the contrary, the Creed bears the marks of the work of those creeds. Our best evidence is that the Creed came from the churches of North Africa that had been influenced by Augustine.
In its earliest use, the Athanasian Creed wasn’t   called a creed; it was called “The Faith of Athanasius.” And like the Apostles’ Creed, it derived its relevance not from its author but rather to the truth it expressed and HOW it expressed it.
Maybe first evidence of the creed was connected to Caesarius of Arles about 502. He transcribed the entire creed in a preface to a collection of sermons. He said he was attaching the creed, “because it is necessary . . . that all clergy, and laymen as well, should be familiar with the Faith” so they’d know what to teach. By 1090, the medieval theologian Anselm of Canterbury linked the Athanasian, Apostles’, and Nicene Creeds as the Tria Symbola, the Three Creeds of the Christian Faith.
The creed wielded major influence during the Reformation. It lies at the opening of the Lutheran Book of Concord along with the Apostles’ & Nicene Creeds. It’s used by several Reformed churches, and it was mentioned approvingly in the Augsburg Confession, the Formula of Concord, the 39 Articles, the 2nd Helvetic Confession, the Belgic Confession, and the Bohemian Confession. Luther said the Athanasian Creed was “the most impor...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 17:42
Creeds – Part 3 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-03/ Sun, 23 Apr 2017 09:01:00 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1676 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-03/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-03/feed/ 4 With two introductory episodes on the Creeds under our belt, sash, or whatever else you use to hold up your pants, let’s move now to the Council & Creed of Nicaea. What’s referred to as the Nicene Creed is the product of not one, but two councils held about 60 yrs apart. The first was […] With two introductory episodes on the Creeds under our belt, sash, or whatever else you use to hold up your pants, let’s move now to the Council & Creed of Nicaea.

What’s referred to as the Nicene Creed is the product of not one, but two councils held about 60 yrs apart. The first was held in the city of Nicaea in 325, the other in Constantinople in 381. The 2 cities are about 140 kms or 86 mls apart. The Nicene Creed may be the most famous in Church history because it addressed the issue of the Trinity; that is, how Christians worship one God Who reveals Himself in three-persons; Father, Son, And Holy Spirit. The Nicene Creed was the first to obtain the imprimatur of authority over all churches.

It happened thus . . .

As we covered in Season 1, about the year 318, an elder in the church of Alexandria named Arius, began teaching as fact something earlier Christians had vehemently rejected; that Jesus wasn’t God. A clever & persuasive speaker, Arius said Jesus was a kind of special agent from God, but that the Father alone was fully God. Arius pointed to the limitations of Jesus’ humanity as proofs He wasn’t God, for according to his logic, humanity and deity simply cannot co-exist.

Arius laid claim to the theology of Origen in the previous century as a basis for his views. But in a recent episode, w e saw that Origen did go off into much wide ranging speculation in his work. So pinning a doctrine as important as the identity of Christ Origen is problematic.

Alexander, Arius’s own bishop, that is the lead pastor of the church there in Alexandria, disagreed with his elder’s teaching. And he did so with devastating logic. Alexander went ahead and used Origen’s own writings to prove that even by that standard, Arius’ conclusions about Jesus’ nature weren’t supported by Origen. Origen had said that the title “Father” is an eternal attribute of God. Since it’s not possible to be a father without having a parental relationship, the fact God is eternally a father means He eternally has a son.  Then Alexander lowered the boom & pointed out that God is perfect. Perfection means the inability to change. Because if you’re already perfect, any change would have to be away from perfection. So how could God change from not being a father to being a father? Arius’ attempt to exalt the Father in fact denigrated him.

Those old dudes were smart!

Despite Alexander’s annihilation of Arius’ position, Arius continued to propagate his error. He was able to because his explanations of his ideas were simple and appealing while the logic of his opponents like Pastor Alex were opaque and heavy; less appealing to the common man.

But Arius’ arguments ended up not so much centered on Origen as it was a debate about Scripture. At places, Jesus did seem to say He was subordinate to the Father. Yet other passages made it clear Jesus claimed to be both divine and equal with the Father. The challenge these early church leaders faced was how to maintain that Christians are dedicated monotheists, that is, worshippers of one God, while at the same time saying the worship both God the Father & God the Son? That wasn’t just a problem they had 2000 yrs ago, people ask it today. For reasons that we chart in Season 1 when we covered this, Arius’ ideas spread rapidly and ended up co-opting a large number of church members, and a few church leaders. But as Arius’ popularity rose, so too did the opposition against him. The refutation of his teaching became more sophisticated & effective. The controversy grew and threated to tear the church apart.

Well, that just wasn’t going to do for the new Emperor Constantine, a convert to the new and emerging Faith. The previous administration of the Roman Empire had sought to brutally eradicate the Church once and for all, but had failed miserably. In a question historians will debate forever, when Constantine became emperor, he moved to lift the official ban on Christianity. Was he a genuine convert, or was he merely a savvy political operator who read the direction the way the cultural winds were blowing and decided to make common cause with the Christians? Historians line up on both sides of that; each with supporting evidence. Whatever Constantine’s personal motivations and beliefs, he was a brilliant leader who recognized the force for unity a healthy church could be. So he used his influence as Emperor to call for a meeting of all church leaders to definitively deal with the challenge presented by Arius. He convened what’s called the first ecumenical, that is, fully representative, universally recognized council of the Christian church.

Modern critics have a penchant for exaggerating Constantine’s role in the council. They make it seem as though the Emperor acted as the main theologian & religious authority whose influence shaped the Christian Faith for centuries to come. Contrary to the sniping of scoffers, Constantine did not wave his scepter and declare Jesus God by royal fiat. He did not decide which books were in and out of the Bible.

During the early 320’s the Church in Spain was being troubled by the Arian Controversy. In a special conference of church leaders at Eastertime, they decided something needed to be done and charged one of their leaders, the bishop of Cordoba, to request that the Emperor convene a wider council.

So in May of 325, Constantine sent out an invitation to all 1800 pastors of the Church; a thousand in the East & 800 in the West, to attend the council at Nicaea. Numbers vary but come in at around 300 who made it. The Council began on May 20th & ended on August 25th.

Bishop Alexander from Alexandria along with one of his elders, Athanasius, led the Anti-Arian party at Nicaea. The Arians laid out their case, which sounded solid, until it was reviewed by the other side, which simply annihilated their position with logic and Scripture. Those church leaders who’d leaned toward Arianism realized it’s numerous errors and swiftly jumped ship. When the vote was taken, only Arius and 2 bishops voted to reject Arianism. Constantine then sent the 3 into exile. Within a short time, both the other bishops were shown the fallacies of Arius’ teaching and wrote letters recanting their position, asking to be reinstated as members in good standing in the Church.

It behooves us to read the Nicene Creed. BTW, this is the final form of the creed as it was later finessed.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Nicene Creed reflects the Council’s concern to address Arianism when it says the “Lord Jesus Christ” is “Son of God, … begotten of the Father,” & His “only-begotten.” These are all assertions drawn directly from Scripture itself. Jesus, the Creed declares is “God from God.” The Creed even includes an analogy at this point when it says Jesus is Light of Light.” How can you separate light from light?  This was a classic example in early Christian writing, which links God to the Sun & its rays. The sun can no more be separated from its rays than the Father can be separated from the Son, S-O-N. The Creed repeats that Jesus is “very God of very God.” He’s neither made nor created, nor is He a product of the true God. Jesus IS the true God.

Athanasius reports that up to this point in the development of the Creed, the Arians were still on board. He describes them as snickering to one another that there wasn’t anything in the Creed yet that was a deal buster. It’s like they had a trump card they knew they could play and hadn’t heard anything that would take it from them. Since the Anti-Arians knew the Arians held to a heretical tenet, they realized more needed to be stated to draw the line, even if it wasn’t directly tied to Scripture. Something was needed that would settle once and for all that the deity of Father & Son are the same. They settled on the phrase that Jesus is eternally “of one substance with the Father.” That did it. That broke the Arian claim on orthodoxy. They couldn’t; hang with that and were forced to admit they deviated from standard Christian belief. The Council affirmed that the Father is not “more God” than the Son.

The Council was mainly focused on parsing the language regarding the nature of Jesus, so the original creedal statement said little about the Holy Spirit. It was then upgraded by the Council of Constantinople 60 yrs later to bring in an emphasis on the deity of the Holy Spirit as well.

The Nicene Creed is Trinitarian. But it doesn’t elaborate on a clearly defined Trinitarian formula. That will be dealt with by later councils.

Because The Nicene Creed is a part of the liturgy of many churches today, it’s familiar to Christians across the globe. It captures the essence of the Gospel in a short, but packed summary. It describes a triune God, who comes to an alienated humanity in the person of Jesus, the God-man Whose atoning work restored mankind to the destiny God originally planned.

In contrast to earlier creeds, the Nicene Creed delineated a doctrinal minimum of Christian belief. Church leaders had learned by unfortunate experience there were areas in the earlier “rule of faith” that left too much open to interpretative creativity that took people into aberrant realms. Arius was just one case in point. The fact that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are as much God as the Father is a nonnegotiable part of Christianity because it’s firmly rooted in the revelation of Scripture. Church leaders came to the solid conviction that God WANTS His people to know Him as one God, eternally manifest in 3 persons. As subsequent history proved, the wording of the Nicene Creed may have solved one problem, but it stirred up others later councils would address. After Nicaea, Christians may not have had to a precisely detailed Trinitarian theology to be considered saved, but they atr least needed to have the outline described by the Creed in place.

Once Jesus’ and the Spirit’s deity were affirmed the question was, “What then is the relationship of the persons of the Godhead? And if Jesus is both God & man, how are we to understand Him in terms of His nature? Is there a percentage of God to man; a ratio? Is He 50-50, 100-100, 75-25? Or what?.

It’s always dicey playing “what if” with history, but then, some of my favorite novels are of the alternate history genre. If Arianism had been allowed to hijack Christianity, and Jesus ended up being regarded as some kind of lesser deity, there’s a good chance The Faith would have ended up being gobbled up by the polytheistic paganism of the Empire. The work of Christ in accomplishing atonement would have been rendered inert. No One less than God the Son, Who was also fully human, could sufficiently mediate a reconciliation between God and man & redeem a fallen creation. As Athanasius later wrote, only the Creator could enter & fix a busted creation, restoring it to its original purpose. He’s the one who used a word around which later controversy would swirl, when he said that the Father & Son are of one substance = the word he used in Greek was homoousios.

Arianism wasn’t the only thing the  Council addressed. They also handled the question of the timing of celebrating the Resurrection of Christ. They swiftly dealt with the challenge presented by an Egyptian bishop named Meletius. Meletius was pastor of the church in Lycopolis. He’d fomented a schism over the issue of how to handle lapsed Christians. I’ll leave it to you to listen to the episode we did on this is Season one called The Lapsed Dance. Meletius was of the Donatist mode; He refused to serve communion to repentant Christians who’d caved under the threat of earlier persecution, though the Church at large had decided to welcome them back into fellowship.

At Nicaea, Meletius was condemned and all clergy he’d ordained were instructed to secure ordination from orthodox bishops.

Finally, several matters regarding how to conduct church administration were discussed and defined in 20 rulings called canons. These dealt with such issue as . . .

What process the repentant-lapsed had to go through to demonstrate the sincerity of their repentance.

How to restore repentant heretics and schismatics and whether or not they should or could be returned to a role in leadership.

The role of deacons was discussed.

As well as basic liturgical practices, like whether people ought to standing or kneel when praying.

The organizational structure of the Church was discussed.

And behavioral standards for clergy were settled.

And à That’s IT!

There was no discussion about what books belong in the Bible.

Constantin’s role in the Council was minimal. Beside using his authority as Emperor to summon it, he had little influence in it’s decisions. He paid the attendees travel expenses and provided a place for them to meet. He opened the Council with an exhortation that they strive for unanimity by addressing the issues of debate from the Scriptures.

Once the Council settled the theological issues raised by Arius, Constantine used his civil authority to enforce the heretics exile.

So all the hullabaloo about the Emperor’s political manipulation of the Council to secure some theology that was utterly foreign to primitive Christianity is a pile of steaming compost.

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With two introductory episodes on the Creeds under our belt, sash, or whatever else you use to hold up your pants, let’s move now to the Council & Creed of Nicaea. What’s referred to as the Nicene Creed is the product of not one, What’s referred to as the Nicene Creed is the product of not one, but two councils held about 60 yrs apart. The first was held in the city of Nicaea in 325, the other in Constantinople in 381. The 2 cities are about 140 kms or 86 mls apart. The Nicene Creed may be the most famous in Church history because it addressed the issue of the Trinity; that is, how Christians worship one God Who reveals Himself in three-persons; Father, Son, And Holy Spirit. The Nicene Creed was the first to obtain the imprimatur of authority over all churches.
It happened thus . . .
As we covered in Season 1, about the year 318, an elder in the church of Alexandria named Arius, began teaching as fact something earlier Christians had vehemently rejected; that Jesus wasn’t God. A clever & persuasive speaker, Arius said Jesus was a kind of special agent from God, but that the Father alone was fully God. Arius pointed to the limitations of Jesus’ humanity as proofs He wasn’t God, for according to his logic, humanity and deity simply cannot co-exist.
Arius laid claim to the theology of Origen in the previous century as a basis for his views. But in a recent episode, w e saw that Origen did go off into much wide ranging speculation in his work. So pinning a doctrine as important as the identity of Christ Origen is problematic.
Alexander, Arius’s own bishop, that is the lead pastor of the church there in Alexandria, disagreed with his elder’s teaching. And he did so with devastating logic. Alexander went ahead and used Origen’s own writings to prove that even by that standard, Arius’ conclusions about Jesus’ nature weren’t supported by Origen. Origen had said that the title “Father” is an eternal attribute of God. Since it’s not possible to be a father without having a parental relationship, the fact God is eternally a father means He eternally has a son.  Then Alexander lowered the boom & pointed out that God is perfect. Perfection means the inability to change. Because if you’re already perfect, any change would have to be away from perfection. So how could God change from not being a father to being a father? Arius’ attempt to exalt the Father in fact denigrated him.
Those old dudes were smart!
Despite Alexander’s annihilation of Arius’ position, Arius continued to propagate his error. He was able to because his explanations of his ideas were simple and appealing while the logic of his opponents like Pastor Alex were opaque and heavy; less appealing to the common man.
But Arius’ arguments ended up not so much centered on Origen as it was a debate about Scripture. At places, Jesus did seem to say He was subordinate to the Father. Yet other passages made it clear Jesus claimed to be both divine and equal with the Father. The challenge these early church leaders faced was how to maintain that Christians are dedicated monotheists, that is, worshippers of one God, while at the same time saying the worship both God the Father & God the Son? That wasn’t just a problem they had 2000 yrs ago, people ask it today. For reasons that we chart in Season 1 when we covered this, Arius’ ideas spread rapidly and ended up co-opting a large number of church members, and a few church leaders. But as Arius’ popularity rose, so too did the opposition against him. The refutation of his teaching became more sophisticated & effective. The controversy grew and threated to tear the church apart.
Well, that just wasn’t going to do for the new Emperor Constantine, a convert to the new and emerging Faith. The previous administration of the Roman Empire had sought to brutally eradicate the Church once and for all, but had failed miserably. In a question historians will debate forever, when Constantine became emperor,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 17:14
Creeds – Part 2 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-2/ Sun, 16 Apr 2017 09:01:54 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1669 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-2/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-2/feed/ 0 While we got a good start in our series on the Creeds last episode, it behooves us to back up a bit and do a brief review of what we’re talking about when we look at the Creeds. There are four terms we need to define as sometimes they get confused; creeds, confessions, catechisms, and […] While we got a good start in our series on the Creeds last episode, it behooves us to back up a bit and do a brief review of what we’re talking about when we look at the Creeds. There are four terms we need to define as sometimes they get confused; creeds, confessions, catechisms, and their relationship to councils.

The English “creed” comes from the Latin credo & means “I believe.” While some tomes assign more exacting terminology to define a creed, it simply refers a statement of faith. As given by the body or organization that issues it, it’s believed to be a faithful record of what has been handed down from earliest times, what Jude 3 calls “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

With the passing of the original Apostles and their direct heirs, the Church used as a standard what was called “the rule of faith.” In their writings, Church fathers like Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian, and Hippolytus universally accept this “rule,” as they call it, as the indisputable summation of what the Apostles had taught. That rule became the core and basis for later Creeds, including the Apostles Creed that we talked about last time, and the Nicene Creed, which is reckoned by many as the first official Church Creed.

CS has an audience & subscriber base of people all over the world. Many live in cultures that are highly communal. But the vast majority of our listeners are based in Europe and North America which tend to be dominated by individualistic cultures where people generally have the freedom to pick and choose what they want to believe. Religion and philosophy is a smorgasbord affair where people take a little of this, a smattering of that, and a scoop of this other. When it comes to pick a church to be a part of, in most modern communities, they have dozens to choose from. There’s a good chance they can find one that’s lines up closely with their preferred religious options, as hybridized as they may be. And of course there’s always the option to attend no church at all, choosing instead the well-worn rubric, “Well, you don’t have to go to church to believe in God.”

We need to be clear; both the smorgasbord approach and opting out of fellowship were simply not acceptable to early believers. To be a Christian meant to be a part of a local fellowship. That fellowship was defined by definite parameters and clearly stated propositions. A creed wasn’t just a summary of what everyone agreed to; it was a promise made and kept as a group.

The best evidence we have is that a creed was taught to a new believer as part of her/his preparation for baptism. Being short, they were easy to learn. And we’re talking about a culture without the abundance of books we have today. All their education had come by way of memorization. Each line of the creed was explained in depth in a question and answer format. Then, the candidate recited the creed from memory as they were baptized. It was THAT faith, the one they’d just confessed, they were being baptized into.

These early creeds were often recited in unison when the church met. Later, longer and far more elaborate liturgies evolved from this. But in the first centuries, creeds weren’t complex formulas handed down form some ivory tower. They were the way both slaves & their masters, smiths, merchants, and farmers all learned about and pledged themselves to God.

Twenty-first C Christians, being literate, and owning dozens of books comprising a library an ancient king would envy, may wonder what purpose a creed serves today. When  we can own a Bible in a half-dozen versions, what need is there of a creed? Some even go so far as to regard creeds as standing in opposition to Scripture. Theologian John Webster suggest we regard creeds as a way to hear the Gospel. We don’t discern the truth of Scripture as an autonomous judge and jury. The creed becomes a safety net that says, “This is how the Body of Christ at large has understood The Faith.” Creeds are a distillation of the core elements of The Gospel. A creed doesn’t impose dogma on Scripture; it is instead the truth of God’s Word, in other words.

In contrast to a creed, a confession is more detailed in its description of the things of God. A creed sets the boundaries of the Christian faith, making a clear distinction between orthodoxy & heresy. And that’s largely why there developed different creeds. Some new challenge was leveled against some aspect of the Faith. Church leaders then met to address it and produced a new & updated creed. A Confession elaborates on a Creed.

Consider a child’s coloring book. It’s filled with pages of simple black & white line drawings. That’s the creed. It lays out the figure of The Gospel in bold clear lines. A confession colors in those lines. The earliest creeds were simple, much like the figures in a young child’s coloring book. Later creeds became more complex, like the figures found in adult coloring books that recently have become all the rage. Later in Church History, different groups added to these more complex creeds and colored them in to produce the plethora of denominations we have today.

CS Lewis likened a Creed to a great hall into which all believers gather. Off that hall are many doors leading to rooms filled with cozy chairs, fireplaces and tables set with a delicious banquets. Those rooms are the various confessions people move into to experience how The Faith interfaces with their daily lives.

Confessions are the distinctive that carve up the Church into different denominations. They are often expressions of a group’s belief on secondary issues. Things like, how baptism ought to be conducted, the order of End Times events, the nature of Predestination, how to conduct Communion, and the on-going role and work of the Holy Spirit.

Typically, a Confession says, “This is what makes us, us, and not someone else.” Those who hold to a particular confession ought to do so with a sense of committed loyalty, while at the same time acknowledging that what composes that confession are secondary issues, and don’t rise to the level of a creedal border that defines THE Faith.

There are two major kinds or orders of Confession. The first are those produced by the Reformation & Counter-Reformation. Subscribers to CS will remember them by such titles as . . .

  • The 39 Articles of 1563 which marked out Anglicanism.
  • The Lutheran Formula of Concord in 1577
  • 1621’s Arminian Confession
  • The Westminster Confession, laying the foundation for Presbyterianism in 1646
  • The Methodist 25 Articles of Religion, 1784
  • The Roman Counter-Reformation’s Council of Trent that produced The Confessions, in a monumental council lasting 18 yrs, from 1545-63
  • Vatican II, from 1962–65

Second tier Confessions arose as the different denominations the First Tier Confessions carved out attempted to apply the faith to emerging issues. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and the Lausanne Covenant are of this second tier. Each of them articulated a specific church’s, and in many cases, a group of churches, response to a specific theological issue regarded as being of great importance. These secondary Confessions are usually regarded as supplemental. They aren’t a complete statement of a church’s position on the entire Faith; just a portion of it that is currently under contemporary review. So the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy addressed the issue of that framed the Liberal vs Fundamentalist debate. The Lausanne Covenant addressed issues of contemporary world  missions.

The word “catechism” comes from the Greek word katechein, meaing “to teach; instruct.” Catechisms are basic outlines of the teachings of the Christian faith, set forth in a way those unfamiliar with doctrine can readily grasp it. The best way to think of a catechism is as an instruction method. It gives a brief summary of The Gospel in Q&A form. Catechisms merge elements from both Creeds & Confessions into practical, pithy sayings that capture the main tenants, not only of THE Faith, but its particular flavor the catechism comes from.

Catechisms were used in the Early Church, since the origin of the method was in the education of children long before. During the First Centuries, the Church saw it as imperative to inculcate a rich set of firmly held beliefs in new converts. This was because these new believers were converting out of a paganism derived from a worldview fundamentally different from a Biblical one. Cyril of Jerusalem described the process this way: “Let me compare the catechizing to a building. Unless we methodically bind and joint the whole structure together, we shall have leaks and dry rot, and all our previous exertions will be wasted.”

But Catechisms weren’t just a tool for the Early Church. They were alive & well in the Middle Ages. Thomas Aquinas wrote one based on the Apostles’ Creed.

But it’s the Reformation that’s known as the Golden Age of Catechisms. Martin Luther, wrote 2 catechisms, a shorter & longer.  He put the burden of teaching the Faith via the catechism oin parents rather than the church. John Calvin also regarded the catechizing of converts and children to be of utmost importance. He said the success of the Church was dependent on how well it raised its youth in the things of God. The Puritan divines John Owen and Richard Baxter both wrote several catechisms for different age groups.

Catechisms weren’t meant as an end in themselves. They were meant to lead to belief, practice, and a love for God & man that would draw those who’d been catechized into a deeper and hopefully self-directed investigation into the Creeds & Confessions.

From the beginning of the 4th C, most of the classic Creeds of the Church were the product of gatherings of Church leaders called councils. These brought together bishops, elders and scholars from all over the world to address issues that had arisen as points of debate or contention. The challenge of heresy, often beyond the intellectual capacity of a local pastor to address alone, was clarified, parsed, & analyzed in light of God’s Word by those best qualified through knowledge and gifting to deal with. Think of these councils as a Spiritual CDC – Center for Disease Control. Some new religious infection sprang up and began to infect churches. A Council was called to meet at a specific place on a set date. When the bishops & scholars arrived, they each shared their experience with the infection, laying out a clear picture of what was wrong. Then they went to work dissecting it with the scalpel of Scripture. They developed an antidote, which each pastor-bishop then returned home with a doctrinal syringe to inoculate the people of his church and city. That syringe was a Creed. Or better, not an entirely NEW Creed, but the old one, with some verbiage that had been added or edited that brought greater clarity to very issue the heresy had sought to hijack.

All major branches of the Church, Orthodox, Catholic, & Protestant, recognize 7 what are called Ecumenical Councils that frame the Creedal foundation of the Church. There have been an additional 14 Catholic councils.

The first council is found in Acts 15 the New Testament when there was a controversy over how to handle the large number of Gentiles who were coming to faith in Jesus. One group assumed they had to, in effect, convert to Judaism as part of their Faith in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Another group said it was unnecessary for Gentiles to come under the Mosaic Law since they’d entered the Covenant through Faith in Christ. This Jerusalem Council decided that Gentile converts were to abstain from those things that would hiunder fellowship with their Jewish brothers & sisters but they did NOT have to become Jewish or keep kosher. The Council made this a policy that was to be followed in ALL churches.

Like that first Council, later councils were called to address not just disagreements over theological issues but the impact correct doctrine had on the practice of the Faith in daily life.

The question that rises is, “Were a Councils’ decisions authoritative? And how were its decisions enforced?” Ahhh – there’s the rub.

We can look to what Paul says in 1 Cor. 8 in regard to whether or not believers can eat meat sacrificed to an idol. For his guidance, Paul did NOT look to the finding of the Jerusalem Council as the authority. He instead looked to the revelation he’d received from Christ. Paul regarded the Jerusalem Council as holding some measure of authoritative but not ultimately or definitively. He appealed instead to God’s Word as the arbiter of truth, not a council of fallible human beings.

While the first couple councils were purely pragmatic responses to a pressing need, their success in handling those needs created within Church leaders a more careful consideration of the value of Councils. Their composition took more thought. They brought together Christians leaders from all over. It wasn’t just the best and brightest, the most popular preachers, or the loudest activists. It was a measured cross-section of Christian leaders from every corner. Their goal was a diversity of voices and perspectives that would each add to the overall understanding of the church’s unique needs and opportunities. They then asked the Spirit to guide their deliberations to arrive at a thorough-going Scripturally faithful solution to the issues at hand.

And while that was the ideal, it wasn’t always followed, as we’ll see. Some councils were little more than partisan brawls more concerned with politics than Scripture. Realizing that, we question whether their findings and the Creeds they produced are worth following. The answer is a careful yes, because even they knew some of the Councils went off the rails and moved to correct them by follow up Councils. And some of the problem councils still produced valuable results. We don’t reject a pearl because it comes from sand inside a slimy oyster. Some councils were oysters that produced pearls.

It was my intention to get to the First Council of Nicaea in this episode, but we can’t and stay in our time limit, so with all this now as our background, we’ll take a look at Nicaea, next time.

 

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While we got a good start in our series on the Creeds last episode, it behooves us to back up a bit and do a brief review of what we’re talking about when we look at the Creeds. There are four terms we need to define as sometimes they get confused; cre... The English “creed” comes from the Latin credo & means “I believe.” While some tomes assign more exacting terminology to define a creed, it simply refers a statement of faith. As given by the body or organization that issues it, it’s believed to be a faithful record of what has been handed down from earliest times, what Jude 3 calls “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”
With the passing of the original Apostles and their direct heirs, the Church used as a standard what was called “the rule of faith.” In their writings, Church fathers like Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian, and Hippolytus universally accept this “rule,” as they call it, as the indisputable summation of what the Apostles had taught. That rule became the core and basis for later Creeds, including the Apostles Creed that we talked about last time, and the Nicene Creed, which is reckoned by many as the first official Church Creed.
CS has an audience & subscriber base of people all over the world. Many live in cultures that are highly communal. But the vast majority of our listeners are based in Europe and North America which tend to be dominated by individualistic cultures where people generally have the freedom to pick and choose what they want to believe. Religion and philosophy is a smorgasbord affair where people take a little of this, a smattering of that, and a scoop of this other. When it comes to pick a church to be a part of, in most modern communities, they have dozens to choose from. There’s a good chance they can find one that’s lines up closely with their preferred religious options, as hybridized as they may be. And of course there’s always the option to attend no church at all, choosing instead the well-worn rubric, “Well, you don’t have to go to church to believe in God.”
We need to be clear; both the smorgasbord approach and opting out of fellowship were simply not acceptable to early believers. To be a Christian meant to be a part of a local fellowship. That fellowship was defined by definite parameters and clearly stated propositions. A creed wasn’t just a summary of what everyone agreed to; it was a promise made and kept as a group.
The best evidence we have is that a creed was taught to a new believer as part of her/his preparation for baptism. Being short, they were easy to learn. And we’re talking about a culture without the abundance of books we have today. All their education had come by way of memorization. Each line of the creed was explained in depth in a question and answer format. Then, the candidate recited the creed from memory as they were baptized. It was THAT faith, the one they’d just confessed, they were being baptized into.
These early creeds were often recited in unison when the church met. Later, longer and far more elaborate liturgies evolved from this. But in the first centuries, creeds weren’t complex formulas handed down form some ivory tower. They were the way both slaves & their masters, smiths, merchants, and farmers all learned about and pledged themselves to God.
Twenty-first C Christians, being literate, and owning dozens of books comprising a library an ancient king would envy, may wonder what purpose a creed serves today. When  we can own a Bible in a half-dozen versions, what need is there of a creed? Some even go so far as to regard creeds as standing in opposition to Scripture. Theologian John Webster suggest we regard creeds as a way to hear the Gospel. We don’t discern the truth of Scripture as an autonomous judge and jury. The creed becomes a safety net that says, “This is how the Body of Christ at large has understood The ...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 17:16
Creeds – Part 1 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-01/ Sun, 09 Apr 2017 09:01:01 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1664 http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-01/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/creeds-part-01/feed/ 0 In the 150 episodes of Season 1, and now 9 episodes into Season 2 of CS, our review of the History of the Christian Church has only touched on the Creeds incidentally. We’ve mentioned the Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and so on. But we’ve not gone into depth on any of them. There are […] In the 150 episodes of Season 1, and now 9 episodes into Season 2 of CS, our review of the History of the Christian Church has only touched on the Creeds incidentally. We’ve mentioned the Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and so on. But we’ve not gone into depth on any of them. There are some students and scholars of Church History who’d consider that a kind of academic crime. To neglect the creeds as we have would be like studying flight without considering the rules of aerodynamics. It’s unthinkable!

John Leith begins his book Creeds of the Churches, “Christianity has always been a ‘creedal’ religion in that it has always been theological.” The Christian Faith was birthed from a thoroughly theological Judaism with clearly defined doctrinal positions. Christianity isn’t, as some have tried to recast it in recent times, an amorphous spiritualism that shuns an agreed on body of theological content in favor of a purely personal experience of the supernatural. Christianity is a religion whose content derives from the revelation of God in time and space. Christianity, like the Judaism that birthed it, embraces a profound connection to historical events. There really was a man named Jesus Who proved to be the Son of God by rising from the dead.

While there is a definite emotional component in following Jesus, it’s subordinate to the rational object that frames the core of the Gospel. Jesus died & rose again. The Christian firmly maintains that these are historical events. Her/His relationship with God isn’t ad hoc; it isn’t a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants improvisation. It’s a careful obedience to a path and pattern clearly articulated by God as revealed in Sacred Scripture. The Christian doesn’t make up their deity then follow that by whim. They take the Bible as the definitive revelation of God & bend their will to that.

Orthodoxy is the way the Church has understood the Faith and its individual doctrines since its inception. Orthodoxy is what we might call the Church’s standard way of interpreting Scripture to derive those beliefs and practices that have come to frame the Faith.

And the passage of years has seen constant challenges to that orthodoxy. The challenges come mainly from two sources. First are those who mis-interpret Scripture, and second are those who begin with a pre-supposition contrary to the truth, then go in search of support by bending Scripture, or contradicting it.

Most of the early heresies and challenges to the Faith were from this second source. Outsiders came up with their own religious positions and thought to take advantage of the burgeoning energy among the Christians by tweaking their terms and ideas in ways that sounded similar to the Gospel. They hoped to make Jesus the pitchman for their religious brand.

But Church leaders and mature believers realized these guys were religious con-artists and opposed them by going back to the source, the Scripture and parsing the pertinent texts to derive at a correct interpretation that pulled the rug out from under the false teachers & heretics. That’s what the Church did with guys & movements like Marcion & the Gnostics.

But the ideas spawned by Gnosticism managed to hang on for a long time. They eventually influenced not a few Church leaders, the very guys who ought to have been the standard bearers of orthodoxy. When it became clear things had reached a crisis, the Emperor Constantine hearkened to the counsel of several church leaders and called a large gathering of church leaders, bishops; that is pastors of some of the larger & more influential churches across the Empire. They met in Nicaea in 325 to set out in clear terms what the Bible said about the nature of Jesus, as well as to deal with some lesser issues the Church had grappled with over the previous decades.

But before we get to that First Council and the Creed it produced, let’s back up . . .

There have been attempts to produce a creedless Christianity. Indeed, some have disparaged creedal formulas as a way to shove God into a man-made box; to make God manageable, and so malleable & marketable. Those who argue for a faith divorced from creeds vaunt God’s infinity, His transcendence, His other-ness. They claim any attempt to reduce God to something the rational mind can access demeans and denigrates Him. An Orthodox take on Christianity maintains that God certainly is infinite, transcendent and other, but He is not the WHOLLY OTHER deity of Islam’s Allah. He also possesses traits accessible to the rational mind and seeking soul. The whole message of the Bible is that God pursues a real & intimate relationship with human beings. He wants us to know Him. That’s what The Gospel is all about; restoring the relationship between God and man broken by man’s failure and sin, but renewed through the work of the God-Man, Christ.

Both the Old Testament and New agree, the greatest commandment is that people love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. The Christian Faith isn’t just something for an esoteric corner of a person’s spiritual life. It embraces all she/he has and is, including the intellect. The God of the Bible is the True God, a God of Truth. That truth enters & impacts the soul via the rational mind.

Creeds are an attempt to give articulate expression to what Christians believe. They cull what Scripture says on various issues and succinctly states that in other terms. That there are multiple creeds comes from the fact that over time, various issues were challenged, different doctrines needed to be more carefully articulated. And to be frank, some creeds opened a door to misinterpretation that only later challenge revealed.

But this is not to say every creed accurately expressed what has come too be regarded as orthodoxy by each branch and stream of Christianity. Some creeds were partisan endeavors that ensconced that group’s position on an issue, in contrast to the creed adopted by another group.

Some creeds were long and formal; others short & informal. Some were simply widely accepted slogans used by early believers as formulas capturing the essence of their faith on an issue. Others were many pages in length and were the official findings of a council that met for months, and in some cases, years!

Examples of the simple & short creeds lie in Deut 6 & Judaism’s Shema: “Hear o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.”

Paul hints at an early credo when in 1 Cor 12:3 he speaks of those who say, “Jesus is Lord.”

Another is Rom 10:9 where Paul refers to confessing with the lips  that Jesus is Lord and that issuing into salvation.

1 Tim 3:16 is regarded by most Bible scholars as an early Creed, as is Phil 2:6-11.

In the very early 2nd C, Ignatius pens in his letter to the Trallians what we might call a standard catechism of what Christians at that time believed.

In the mid 2nd C we have the Epistula Apostolrum which said Christians believed, “In the Father, the Ruler of the Universe; And in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer; In the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete; In the Holy Church; and in the forgiveness of sins.”

About 165 Justin Martyr produced a creed, as did the elders of Smyrna about 180.

Then about 190, Irenaeus and a decade later Tertullian both prepared what they clearly intended to be definitive statements on what Christians believed. All these early creedal expressions contain the same things; a belief in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, as well as a conviction forgiveness form sin and salvation come through faith in the atoning work of Jesus. Furthermore, all those who’ve put their faith in Jesus have become a new community of a new humanity called the Church.

But in terms of the history of the Creeds, the one regarded to be the first is called the Apostle’s Creed. Legend says it was composed by the Apostles under the inspiration of the HS, on the 10th day after Christ’s Ascension. It most certainly wasn’t. If it had been, it would have been included in the text of Scripture. The Apostle’s Creed says,

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there he shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit.

I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

While the title Apostle’s Creed suggests it’s the earliest of the Creeds, the truth is, it’s earliest evidence lies in the late 6th C! almost 300 yrs after the Nicaean Creed. What we can say about the Apostle’s Creed, however, is that nearly all it’s individual tenets are found in previous summaries of the faith by AD 100. The Apostle’s Creed as it finally came to form lies in a creed developed at Rome at the end of the 2nd C, which grew over time and was most completely expressed in the Creed of Marcellus in 340.

As beloved and highly regarded as the Apostles Creed is in Western Christianity, in the mid 15th C, at the Council of Florence, the Eastern Church confessed they knew nothing of an Apostle’s Creed.

Indeed, in the East, the history of the creeds is shadowed in obscurity. Scholars have simply come up short in their attempt to find a cohesive and universal Eastern Creed prior to the 4th C. It seems there was great unanimity among the Churches of the East but that each developed its own credos. In 325, Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, produce this Creed,

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God of God, Light of Light, Life of Life, the only-begotten Son, the first-born of every creature, begotten of God the Father before all ages, by whom also all things were made; who for our salvation was made flesh and made his home among men; and suffered; and rose on the third day; and ascended to the Father; and will come again in glory, to judge the quick and the dead.
We believe also in one Holy Ghost.

We’ll pick it up at this point in our next episode as we look at the background for the First Council of Nicaea and the important but controversial creed it produced.

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In the 150 episodes of Season 1, and now 9 episodes into Season 2 of CS, our review of the History of the Christian Church has only touched on the Creeds incidentally. We’ve mentioned the Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and so on. John Leith begins his book Creeds of the Churches, “Christianity has always been a ‘creedal’ religion in that it has always been theological.” The Christian Faith was birthed from a thoroughly theological Judaism with clearly defined doctrinal positions. Christianity isn’t, as some have tried to recast it in recent times, an amorphous spiritualism that shuns an agreed on body of theological content in favor of a purely personal experience of the supernatural. Christianity is a religion whose content derives from the revelation of God in time and space. Christianity, like the Judaism that birthed it, embraces a profound connection to historical events. There really was a man named Jesus Who proved to be the Son of God by rising from the dead.
While there is a definite emotional component in following Jesus, it’s subordinate to the rational object that frames the core of the Gospel. Jesus died & rose again. The Christian firmly maintains that these are historical events. Her/His relationship with God isn’t ad hoc; it isn’t a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants improvisation. It’s a careful obedience to a path and pattern clearly articulated by God as revealed in Sacred Scripture. The Christian doesn’t make up their deity then follow that by whim. They take the Bible as the definitive revelation of God & bend their will to that.
Orthodoxy is the way the Church has understood the Faith and its individual doctrines since its inception. Orthodoxy is what we might call the Church’s standard way of interpreting Scripture to derive those beliefs and practices that have come to frame the Faith.
And the passage of years has seen constant challenges to that orthodoxy. The challenges come mainly from two sources. First are those who mis-interpret Scripture, and second are those who begin with a pre-supposition contrary to the truth, then go in search of support by bending Scripture, or contradicting it.
Most of the early heresies and challenges to the Faith were from this second source. Outsiders came up with their own religious positions and thought to take advantage of the burgeoning energy among the Christians by tweaking their terms and ideas in ways that sounded similar to the Gospel. They hoped to make Jesus the pitchman for their religious brand.
But Church leaders and mature believers realized these guys were religious con-artists and opposed them by going back to the source, the Scripture and parsing the pertinent texts to derive at a correct interpretation that pulled the rug out from under the false teachers & heretics. That’s what the Church did with guys & movements like Marcion & the Gnostics.
But the ideas spawned by Gnosticism managed to hang on for a long time. They eventually influenced not a few Church leaders, the very guys who ought to have been the standard bearers of orthodoxy. When it became clear things had reached a crisis, the Emperor Constantine hearkened to the counsel of several church leaders and called a large gathering of church leaders, bishops; that is pastors of some of the larger & more influential churches across the Empire. They met in Nicaea in 325 to set out in clear terms what the Bible said about the nature of Jesus, as well as to deal with some lesser issues the Church had grappled with over the previous decades.
But before we get to that First Council and the Creed it produced, let’s back up . . .
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Lance Ralston clean 12:55
The First Centuries Part 8 – Art http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-8-art/ Sun, 02 Apr 2017 09:01:22 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1653 http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-8-art/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-8-art/feed/ 2 This episode is a bit different from our usual fare in that it’s devoted to the subject of art in Church History. It’s in no way intended to be a comprehensive review of religious art. We’ll take just a cursory look at the development of art in the early centuries. Much has been written about […] This episode is a bit different from our usual fare in that it’s devoted to the subject of art in Church History. It’s in no way intended to be a comprehensive review of religious art. We’ll take just a cursory look at the development of art in the early centuries.

Much has been written about the philosophy of art. And as anyone who’s taken an art history course in college knows, much debate has ensued over what defines art. It’s not our aim here to enter that fray, but instead of step back and simply chart the development of artistic expression in the First Centuries.

It’s to be expected the followers of Jesus would get around to using art as an expression of their faith quickly in Church History. Man is, after all, an emotional being and art is often the product of that emotion. People who would convert from headlong hedonism to an austere asceticism didn’t usually do so simply based on cold intellectualism. Strong emotions were involved. Those emotions often found their output in artistic expression.

Thus, we have Christian art. Emotions & the imagination are as much in need of redemption and capable of sanctification, as the reason and will. We’d better hope so, at least, or we’re all doomed to a grotesquely lopsided spiritual life. How sad it would be if the call to love God with all our heart, soul & mind didn’t extend to our creative faculty and art.

Indeed, the Christian believes the work of the Holy Spirit after her/his conversion, is to conform the believer into the very image of Christ. And since God is The Creator, it’s reasonable to assume the Spirit would bend humanity’s penchant for artifice to serve the glory of God and the enjoyment of man.

Scripture even says we are to worship God “in the beauty of holiness.” A review of the instructions for the making of the tabernacle make it clear God’s intention was that it be a thing of astounding beauty. And looked at from what we’d call a classical perspective, nearly all art aims to simply duplicate the beauty God as First Artist made when He spoke and the universe leapt into existence.

Historians tend to divide Early Church History into two large blocks using The First Council of Nicaea in 325 as the dividing line. The Ante-Nicaean Era runs from the time of the Apostles, the Apostolic Age, to Nicaea. Then the Post-Nicaean Era runs from the Council to The Medieval Era. This was the time of the first what are called 7 Ecumenical Councils; the last of which, is conveniently called the 2nd Nicaean Council, held in 787. So the Ante-Nicaean Era lasted only a couple hundred yrs while the Post-Nicaean Age was 500.

It would be nice if Art Historians would sync up their timelines to this plan, but they divide the history of Church Art differently. They refer to Pre-Constantinian Art, while From the 4th thru 7th Cs is called Early Christian Art.

The beginnings of identifiable Christian art are located in the last decades of the 2nd C. Now, it’s not difficult to imagine there’d been some artistic expression connected to believers before this; it’s just that we have no enduring record of it. Why is easy to surmise. Christians were a persecuted group and apart from some notable exceptions, were for the most part comprised of the lower classes. Christians simply didn’t want to draw attention to themselves on one hand, and on the other, there wasn’t a source of patronage base for art in service of the Gospel.

Another reason there wasn’t much art imagery generated before the 2nd C is because early generations of believers were mostly Jewish with a long-standing prohibition of making graven images, lest they violate the Commandments against idolatry. By the mid 2nd C, the Church had shifted to a primarily Gentile body. Gentiles had little cultural opposition to the use of images. Indeed, their prior paganism encouraged it. They quickly learned they were not to make idols, but had no reluctance to use images a symbols and representations to communicate the Gospel and express their faith.

The style of this early art is drawn from Roman motifs of the Late Classical style and is found in association with the burial of believers. While pagans generally practiced cremation, the followers of Jesus shifted to burial as an expression of their hope in the Resurrection. So outside Rome’s walls near major roadways, numerous catacombs were excavated where Christians both met when the heat of persecution was up, and where their dead were interred. Some of the oldest of Christian imagery is a simple outline of a ship or an anchor scratched into the wall of a crypt. Both were symbols of the Church. The anchor is drawn from the NT Book of Hebrews which refers to the hope of the believer as an anchor or the soul. The ship was an apt picture for the Church. A vessel which is IN the Sea, but mustn’t have the sea in it, just as the Church is to be in the World, but the World is not to be in the Church. Another symbol used to make the resting place of Christians was the ubiquitous fish. As burial in the catacombs became de rigeur , families carved out entire rooms for the burial of their members. Bodies were placed in marble sarcophagi which over time were decorated with religious imagery; symbols and scenes drawn from Scripture.

Missing from the art crafted by Christians at this time are the scenes that will later become common. There’re few Nativity motifs, fewer crosses, and nothing depicting the resurrection. That’s not to say Christians in this early era didn’t regard the cross & resurrection as central to their faith. The writings of Ante-Nicene Fathers make it clear they did. It’s just that they hadn’t made their way into artistic expression yet. Rather than pointing DIRECTLY at Christ’s crucifixion & resurrection, artists instead used OT stories that foreshadowed the Gospel. Images of Abraham sacrificing Isaac, Jonah & the fish, Daniel in the lion’s den, Shadrach, Meshach, & Abed-Nego in the fiery furnace, as well as Moses striking the rock are all depicted in frescoes and tomb paintings.

The few images of Jesus from the Pre-Constantinian art we see him presented as The Good Shepherd, surrounded either by figures who likely represent the apostles, and symbols from nature, like peacocks, vines, doves and so on.

Nothing happened in the way of distinctly Christian architecture until Constantine for obvious reasons. Christians simply could not build their own places. When you’re trying to avoid attention due to persecution, engaging a construction project’s just not wise. But once The Faith was removed from the banned list, and the Rulers of Rome showed the emergent Faith favor, Christians began to shape their meeting places in a manner that maximized their utility, while also adorning them with imagery identifying them as dedicated to The Gospel. The discreet and out of the way places they’d met in before no longer served as suitable meeting places for the rapidly growing movement.

After Christianity was allowed to own property, it raised local churches across the Roman empire. There may have been more of this kind of building in the 4th C than there has been since, excepting during the 19th C in the United States. Constantine and his mother Helena led the way. The Emperor adorned not only his new city of Constantinople, but also embarked on a campaign to secure the assumed holy Places in the Middle East. Basilicas Churches were erected using funds from his personal account, as well as State funds. His successors, with the exception of Julian, called The Apostate, as well as bishops and wealthy laymen, vied with each other in building, beautifying, and enriching churches. The Faith that had not long before been a cause of great persecution, became a game to compete in; as the wealthy hoped to earn a higher place in heaven by the churches they raised. Churches became a venue for bragging rights. The Church Father Chrysostom lamented that the poor were being forgotten in favor of buildings, and recommended it wasn’t altars, but souls, God wanted. Jerome rebuked those who trampled over the needy to build a house of stone.

It might be assumed Christians would adopt the form for their buildings they were used to as pagans – a temple. Interestingly, they didn’t! Most pagan temples were relatively small affairs intended to hold little more than the idol of the god or goddess they were dedicated to. When pagans worshipped, they did so outdoors, often in a courtyard next to the temple. It wasn’t until the 7th C that believers began to re-purpose some of the larger now abandoned pagan temples for their own use. Even during Constantine’s time, Christians began to use layout of the secular basilica, the formal hall where a king or ruler would hold court.

The floor plan of one of these basilicas had a central rectangular hall, called a nave, with two side aisles. The main door was on one of the short sides of the nave, and on the opposite wall was the apse where a raised platform was built for the altar where the minister led the service.

During the 4th C saw Rome saw over 40 lrg churches built. In the New Rome of Constantinople, the Church of the Apostles and the Church of St. Sophia, originally built by Constantine, towered in majestic beauty. In the 5th C both were dramatically enlarged by Justinian.

As I said earlier, in the 7th C, the now abandoned pagan temples were turned over to Christians. Emperor Phocas gave the famous Pantheon to Roman’s bishop Boniface IV.

Anyone who’s been on a tour of Israel ought to be familiar with the term “Byzantine.” Because a good many of the ruins Christian tourists visit are labeled as Byzantine in architecture and era. The Byzantine style originated in the 6th C. and in the East continues to this day. It’s akin to the influence the French Classicism of Louis XIV had on Western architecture.

The main feature of the Byzantine style is a dome spanning the center of a floorplan that is cruciform. Let me see if I can help you picture this. Imagine a classic cross laid on the earth. The long bean is the central nave with the cross piece are the transverse sides used as side chapels. Suspended over the intersection of main & cross beams is a dome, decorated with frescoes of Biblically rich imagery.

Previous basilicas tended to be flat, blocky affairs; earthbound in their ponderance. The Byzantine basilica lifted the roof and drew the eye to that dome which seemed to pierce heaven itself. The eye was drawn upward. That idea will be perfected centuries later in the soaring ceilings and arches of Europe’s Gothic cathedrals.

The most perfect execution of the Byzantine style is found in the Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom in Istanbul. It was built by the Emperor Justinian in the 6th C on the plans of Anthemius & Isidore. It’s 220’ wide, 252’ long; with a 180’ diameter dome supported by four gigantic columns, rising 169’ over the central altar. The dome is so constructed that the court biographer Procopius describes it as being suspended form heaven by golden chains.

The cross, which today stands as the universal symbol for Christianity, wasn’t used in artifice until at least the late 4th C. The historical record suggest Christians made the sign of the cross on their foreheads, over their eyes, mouths, & hearts as early as the 2nd C. But they didn’t make permanent images of it till later. And then we find some church father urging Christians not to make magical talisman of them.

Julian accused Christians of worshipping the cross. Chrysostom wrote, “The sign of universal detestation, the sign of extreme penalty, has become an object of desire and love. We see it everywhere; on houses, roofs, walls, in cities and villages, in markets, along roads, in deserts, on mountains & in valleys, on the sea, ships, books, weapons, garments, in honeymoon chambers, at banquets, on gold & silver vessels, engraved on pearls, in paintings, on beds, the bodies of sick animals, & the possessed, at dances of the merry, and in the brotherhoods of monks.”

It isn’t till the 5th C that we find the use of the crucifix; that is a cross that isn’t bare. It now holds the figure of the impaled Christ.

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This episode is a bit different from our usual fare in that it’s devoted to the subject of art in Church History. It’s in no way intended to be a comprehensive review of religious art. We’ll take just a cursory look at the development of art in the ear... Much has been written about the philosophy of art. And as anyone who’s taken an art history course in college knows, much debate has ensued over what defines art. It’s not our aim here to enter that fray, but instead of step back and simply chart the development of artistic expression in the First Centuries.
It’s to be expected the followers of Jesus would get around to using art as an expression of their faith quickly in Church History. Man is, after all, an emotional being and art is often the product of that emotion. People who would convert from headlong hedonism to an austere asceticism didn’t usually do so simply based on cold intellectualism. Strong emotions were involved. Those emotions often found their output in artistic expression.
Thus, we have Christian art. Emotions & the imagination are as much in need of redemption and capable of sanctification, as the reason and will. We’d better hope so, at least, or we’re all doomed to a grotesquely lopsided spiritual life. How sad it would be if the call to love God with all our heart, soul & mind didn’t extend to our creative faculty and art.
Indeed, the Christian believes the work of the Holy Spirit after her/his conversion, is to conform the believer into the very image of Christ. And since God is The Creator, it’s reasonable to assume the Spirit would bend humanity’s penchant for artifice to serve the glory of God and the enjoyment of man.
Scripture even says we are to worship God “in the beauty of holiness.” A review of the instructions for the making of the tabernacle make it clear God’s intention was that it be a thing of astounding beauty. And looked at from what we’d call a classical perspective, nearly all art aims to simply duplicate the beauty God as First Artist made when He spoke and the universe leapt into existence.
Historians tend to divide Early Church History into two large blocks using The First Council of Nicaea in 325 as the dividing line. The Ante-Nicaean Era runs from the time of the Apostles, the Apostolic Age, to Nicaea. Then the Post-Nicaean Era runs from the Council to The Medieval Era. This was the time of the first what are called 7 Ecumenical Councils; the last of which, is conveniently called the 2nd Nicaean Council, held in 787. So the Ante-Nicaean Era lasted only a couple hundred yrs while the Post-Nicaean Age was 500.
It would be nice if Art Historians would sync up their timelines to this plan, but they divide the history of Church Art differently. They refer to Pre-Constantinian Art, while From the 4th thru 7th Cs is called Early Christian Art.
The beginnings of identifiable Christian art are located in the last decades of the 2nd C. Now, it’s not difficult to imagine there’d been some artistic expression connected to believers before this; it’s just that we have no enduring record of it. Why is easy to surmise. Christians were a persecuted group and apart from some notable exceptions, were for the most part comprised of the lower classes. Christians simply didn’t want to draw attention to themselves on one hand, and on the other, there wasn’t a source of patronage base for art in service of the Gospel.
Another reason there wasn’t much art imagery generated before the 2nd C is because early generations of believers were mostly Jewish with a long-standing prohibition of making graven images, lest they violate the Commandments against idolatry. By the mid 2nd C, the Church had shifted to a primarily Gentile body. Gentiles had little cultural opposition to the use of images. Indeed, their prior paganism encouraged it. They quickly learned they were not to make idols, but had no reluctance to use images a symbols and...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 15:12
The First Centuries – Part 7 – Origen http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-7-origen/ Sun, 19 Mar 2017 09:01:38 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1645 http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-7-origen/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-7-origen/feed/ 0 As I record  & post this episode, a new movie’s out called Logan. It’s appears to be the last installment for the venerable X-Men character Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman. Logan was an immortal who became the subject of a secret military experiment gone wrong. His skeleton was infused with a fictional metal called adamantium […] As I record  & post this episode, a new movie’s out called Logan. It’s appears to be the last installment for the venerable X-Men character Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman. Logan was an immortal who became the subject of a secret military experiment gone wrong. His skeleton was infused with a fictional metal called adamantium that bears the hardness of a diamond.

Why, you wonder, am I sharing this. What’s this have to do with Church History? I mention it, not because I’ve seen the movie, but because of the name of the church father we’re going to take a look at today. Or I should say his nickname; it was Adamantius. Roughly meaning, “Man of Steel” or if you prefer, “Tough Guy.”

Can you guess who we’re talking about, what his more common name was? Origen, a man both honored & despised. Honored because when he was good, he was very, very good and when he was bad he was awful!

I’ve come to think of Origen as a really smart guy with a basically good heart, who went off into weirdness because of one simple error, which we’ll take a look at later.

Origen Adamantius was born at Alexandria in Egypt around AD 185, the eldest of 7. His parents were committed Christians who diligently raised their family in the Scriptures. Persecution led to his father Leonidas’ beheading in 202. Origen was 17, and saw it as his duty to follow his dad’s example. His mother hid his clothes to keep him from going out of the house. As he searched for them, she persuaded him to consider that as the eldest son, it was now his responsibility to provide for her & his siblings.

To do just that, Origen opened a school for the wealthy children of Alexandria. He made extra money copying texts, and tutoring those seeking to become church members.

It became clear to all who engaged him that he was a genius. A wealthy patron offered to assist him in further schooling. Origen wanted to parlay his emerging intellect as a tool for the defense of the Christian faith and decided the best way to do that was by making sure he understood the arguments of the major contenders. So he enrolled in a school of the pagan philosopher Ammonius Saccas. It was during this time Origen began putting together his ideas that would later come out in his work refuting the challenges of the pagan critic Celsus that we’ll get to a bit later.

As Origen’s output grew, a wealthy friend supplied him with secretaries to capture his dictation and run his affairs.

When Origen was installed by the pastor of the church at Alexandria, Bishop Demetrius, as the head of the Catechetical, or we might say, new-member school, Origen began a life of ultra strict asceticism. He slept on the floor, ate no meat, drank no wine, fasted twice a week, owned no shoes, and according to the ancient church historian Eusebius, castrated himself in mistaken obedience of what Jesus said about eunuchs in Matt 19. There’s some debate if Origen actually did this, or just chose to stay celibate.

Reflecting the safety of travel on the now Roman Lake of the Med, Origen made several trips to Rome, and one to Arabia. In 215, when he was about 30, unrest in Alexandria caused by a visit from the Emperor Caracalla, moved Origen to make a visit to Palestine. While there, he was asked by the pastors of both Caesarea and Jerusalem to preach in their churches. He did, though he was only a layman. He’d never been ordained a pastor. When he got home, his pastor, Bishop Demetrius was livid as this was regarded as a serious breach of ecclesiastical protocol.

From 218 to 230, Origen devoted himself exclusively to writing. Then in 230 again set out for Palestine, where he the same pastor-bishops as before asked him to preach again. When he declined lest it create another brueha with Demetrius, they offered to ordain him then and there. Sounded good to Origen, so the deed was done.

Yeah, Demetrius wasn’t pleased and when Origen got back, fired him & revoked his ordination, claiming the other two pastors weren’t Origen’s spiritual authority, HE was.   That was too much for Origen to bear, so he moved to Caesarea in 231 where he opened a famous school, attracting scholars from all over.

Origen then gave himself to writing & preaching. In 250, at the age of 65, he was rounded up in the persecution under Decius, endured prolonged torture, in which they hoped to get him to recant. But Origen outlasted Decius. He was released, but managed to survive just a few years.

While Origen left a lasting impact on theology and the Church, his by far largest work was called the Hexapla, which he worked 20 years on. The Hexapla is a massive work 6000 pages spread over 15 volumes. It’s 6 versions of the OT arranged in columns side by side, like what we call a parallel bible today. It compares the Hebrew text to the Greek Septuagint translation, and 4 other Greek translations, including one Origen found in a jar near Jericho – and which modern scholars wonder was an early find of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Hexapla became an important step in the development of the modern Bible and went far in advancing the science of scripture translation. Chances are there was only a single full edition of the Hexapla, housed in the church at Caesarea, but was destroyed by the Muslims in their invasion in 638.

While the Hexapla was his largest work, his most significant was On First Principles, a systematic theology, the first ever for the Christian Faith. Origen merged a distinct  Christian philosophy with Greek rhetorical techniques and assumptions based on Scripture. In 4 volumes, Origen deals with God, spirits, man, nature, free will, & Scripture. The original text has all but disappeared, but a questionable Latin translation by Rufinus, and a more reliable rendering by Jerome convey most of it.

These two works alone, to say nothing of all the other material he produced, it’s easy to see how he kept 7 secretaries busy and moved Jerome a hundred yrs later to say, “Has anyone read everything Origen wrote?”

In Against Celsus, Origen gave a stellar defense of the Christian faith against the erudite attacks of the pagan philosopher Celsus. Nothing of Celsus remains, except where Origen quotes him. It seems Celsus had had enough of the upstart Christians and their crucified God. He leveled his not insubstantial genius at clearing away what he considered the foolishness of the Gospel. But his, what he thought were ace serves into the Christian side of the court were returned by the Wimbledon champion Origen, who sent them back on fire! Really, it was clear that paganism was a dilapidated old shack that needed to come down. Christianity was the wrecking ball that did it in. Against Celsus is one of the finest defenses of Christianity produced in that era. Answering Celsus’ accusation that by refusing military service Christians were poor citizens, Origen said, “We who by our prayers destroy all demons which stir up wars, violate oaths, and disturb the peace, are of more help to the emperors than those who seem to be doing the fighting.”

Origen produced commentaries on almost all the books of the Bible, though only fragmentary evidence survives of most. His homilies are the oldest examples of Christian preaching.

History has assigned many labels to Origen. He was at heart a biblical scholar whose intellect was nurtured by Scripture. But this is where Origen also seems to go off the rails. He applied a three-fold method when interpreting the Bible. He said the Bible could be understood literally, morally, and allegorically. Nothing too-too wild there. But where Origen DID go too far was in saying the allegorical method was the main way to view Scripture.

In contrast, modern Evangelicals would say the literal, straight-forward meaning of the text prevails. You don’t have to read anything INTO the text with a literal interpretation. Your goal is to get the meaning OUT of the text, not put it in. Now, there might be some allegorical meaning to some passages, but those ought to be considered only after first getting a good grasp on the literal meaning.

Origen flipped that. He claimed the allegorical meaning was the primary purpose of the text, while the literal was SO obvious, well, clearly something as important as God’s Word had to be deeper than just what any ole’ uneducated person could get.

That brings us to another error Origen made. He divided people into 2 categories; the mass of everyday commoners with average intelligence for whom a literal interpretation of the Bible was sufficient to help them muddle through. And the intellectually elite and enlightened for whom the lofty heights of allegory opened higher spiritual realms. For commoners, the Gospel with its message of the cross and resurrection were enough, but the elite who entered into the mysteries of allegory, the very mind of God was available.

Sadly, Origen’s view of interpreting Scripture dominated the European Medieval Church.

Other problems areas with Origen are his belief that all spirits are created in the spiritual realm then find homes in either demons, humans or angels. He believed that ultimately, all spirits would be saved and restored to God, including the devil.

Most problematic was Origen’s thoughts on the Trinity. He conceived of it as a hierarchy. The Father was the absolute, supreme God, while Jesu and the Holy Spirit were also in essence God, but not equal to the Father. And though he attacked Gnostic beliefs, like them, he rejected the goodness of material creation.

While Origen produced much helpful material, his nudging the Church to adopt an allegorical method for interpreting Scripture set it on a path that ended up obscuring God’s Word and removing it from the hands of everyday believers.  Now it became the sole domain of those properly educated to parse it’s esoteric truths.

Three centuries after Origen’s death, in 553, the Council of Constantinople declared him a heretic. His works were systematically removed.

Modern apologists for Origen suggest he was only seeking to cast the Faith in the thought forms of his day. That may have been his goal, but he simply went too far and introduced ideas that were clearly anti-Biblical, ideas that a literal, straight-forward understanding of the text would have cleared up, had Origen let them.

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As I record  & post this episode, a new movie’s out called Logan. It’s appears to be the last installment for the venerable X-Men character Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman. Logan was an immortal who became the subject of a secret military experiment ... Why, you wonder, am I sharing this. What’s this have to do with Church History? I mention it, not because I’ve seen the movie, but because of the name of the church father we’re going to take a look at today. Or I should say his nickname; it was Adamantius. Roughly meaning, “Man of Steel” or if you prefer, “Tough Guy.”
Can you guess who we’re talking about, what his more common name was? Origen, a man both honored & despised. Honored because when he was good, he was very, very good and when he was bad he was awful!
I’ve come to think of Origen as a really smart guy with a basically good heart, who went off into weirdness because of one simple error, which we’ll take a look at later.
Origen Adamantius was born at Alexandria in Egypt around AD 185, the eldest of 7. His parents were committed Christians who diligently raised their family in the Scriptures. Persecution led to his father Leonidas’ beheading in 202. Origen was 17, and saw it as his duty to follow his dad’s example. His mother hid his clothes to keep him from going out of the house. As he searched for them, she persuaded him to consider that as the eldest son, it was now his responsibility to provide for her & his siblings.
To do just that, Origen opened a school for the wealthy children of Alexandria. He made extra money copying texts, and tutoring those seeking to become church members.
It became clear to all who engaged him that he was a genius. A wealthy patron offered to assist him in further schooling. Origen wanted to parlay his emerging intellect as a tool for the defense of the Christian faith and decided the best way to do that was by making sure he understood the arguments of the major contenders. So he enrolled in a school of the pagan philosopher Ammonius Saccas. It was during this time Origen began putting together his ideas that would later come out in his work refuting the challenges of the pagan critic Celsus that we’ll get to a bit later.
As Origen’s output grew, a wealthy friend supplied him with secretaries to capture his dictation and run his affairs.
When Origen was installed by the pastor of the church at Alexandria, Bishop Demetrius, as the head of the Catechetical, or we might say, new-member school, Origen began a life of ultra strict asceticism. He slept on the floor, ate no meat, drank no wine, fasted twice a week, owned no shoes, and according to the ancient church historian Eusebius, castrated himself in mistaken obedience of what Jesus said about eunuchs in Matt 19. There’s some debate if Origen actually did this, or just chose to stay celibate.
Reflecting the safety of travel on the now Roman Lake of the Med, Origen made several trips to Rome, and one to Arabia. In 215, when he was about 30, unrest in Alexandria caused by a visit from the Emperor Caracalla, moved Origen to make a visit to Palestine. While there, he was asked by the pastors of both Caesarea and Jerusalem to preach in their churches. He did, though he was only a layman. He’d never been ordained a pastor. When he got home, his pastor, Bishop Demetrius was livid as this was regarded as a serious breach of ecclesiastical protocol.
From 218 to 230, Origen devoted himself exclusively to writing. Then in 230 again set out for Palestine, where he the same pastor-bishops as before asked him to preach again. When he declined lest it create another brueha with Demetrius, they offered to ordain him then and there. Sounded good to Origen, so the deed was done.
Yeah, Demetrius wasn’t pleased and when Origen got back,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 13:05
The First Centuries Part 06 / Tertullian & The Montanists http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-06-tertullian-the-montanists/ Sun, 12 Mar 2017 09:01:00 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1641 http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-06-tertullian-the-montanists/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-06-tertullian-the-montanists/feed/ 0 This is part 6 of our series titled The First Centuries, in Season 2 of CS. In the last episode we took a look at the Church Father Irenaeus. This episode we’ll consider Tertullian. That may prompt some to wonder if we’re going to work our way through ALL the church fathers of the Early […] This is part 6 of our series titled The First Centuries, in Season 2 of CS. In the last episode we took a look at the Church Father Irenaeus. This episode we’ll consider Tertullian.

That may prompt some to wonder if we’re going to work our way through ALL the church fathers of the Early Church. Uh, no – we won’t. Just a few.

While he’s known to history as Tertullian, his full name was Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus.

The story of his origins is a bit confused. Born & raised in the North African city of Carthage, he’s said to be both a Berber, and the son of a Roman centurion in the legion attending the proconsul of Africa. It’s not unheard of that his father could have been BOTH a Berber & legionnaire since by that time Rome conscripted soldiers from many of the people’s they ruled.

Berbers were an African ethnic group who called themselves the Amazigh. The label “Berber” was given them by Greeks, the word is derived from their designation for all non-Greeks from which we get the word “barbarian.” So racially, it’s likely Tertullian was a black African.

Tertullian was born sometime around AD 150 & raised as a pagan. Holding a keen mind, he was given a good education in literature and rhetoric, most likely in preparation for practicing law; a favored profession for young men seeking to enter the political realm in the complex game of Roman social advancement. While the details of his conversion are missing, he came to faith in Christ around the age of 40. Tertullian may have done a brief stint as a lawyer in Rome, but returned to his hometown of Carthage where he lived and worked for the rest of his productive life. While Jerome says Tertullian became a priest, others says he remained a layman, serving the church at Carthage as one of its elders.

As soon as Tertullian converted, he turned his considerable intellectual talents to defending the faith. He was the first to write a systematic set of apologetics and theology in Latin, for which he earned the title Father of Latin Theology.

Tertullian engaged a whole host of topics. He wrote Roman officials explaining in modes they were familiar with why persecution of Christians was unwise. He wrote some of the earliest work on defining the doctrine of the Trinity, using terms later writers drew on to develop the orthodox position of 3 Persons in 1 God. And like Irenaeus before him and form whom he drew inspiration, Tertullian defended the Faith against the Gnostics.

His writing has been described by a slew of interesting adjectives; Aggressive, Sarcastic, Caustic, Harsh, but across it all is a logical brilliance deeply rooted in sacred Scripture. His harshness wasn’t only directed at opponents; he employed it toward himself as well when he shares his own struggles. Though he wrote 2 Cs later, Jerome says Tertullian was well regarded in the Church and a much sought after speaker. If his wriritng is any indication, he understood the imperative of keeping one’s audience alert. It’s clear his learning was vast as he drew form numerous & diverse sources in building his case.

Over 30 of his works are known, though most today are based on ultra-slim manuscript evidence. It’s certain he wrote much more that’s been lost.

His most important work is the Apologeticum, a defense of the Christian Faith & its adherents. Second is his theological treatise titled Against Praxeas, in which Tertullian responds to a heretic named Praxeas who was butchering what the Bible taught about the persons of the Godhead. It was here, for the first time that someone used the term trinity in describing God.  In his work, On the Prescription of Heretics, Tertullian lays out a brilliant plan for how to conduct discussions with heretics.

If that’s all Tertullian accomplished he’d still go down as one of the more important of the Church Fathers. But what sets him genuinely apart is that he decided to join a splinter group called the Montanists¸ while at the same time writing prolifically in defense of orthodox Christianity. That alone, and the fact that Tertullian stands as an exemplar advocate of the Faith, move us to re-assess the label attached by some to the Montanists as heretics.

We took a look at the Montanism back in Episode 5 of Season 1. It behooves us to review that.

Sometime around AD 160, 3 people joined forces in Phrygia, a region in central Asia Minor, present day Turkey. A man named Montanus was the leader, but he was assisted by two capable & energetic women named Maximilla & Prisca. They claimed they were directed by the Holy Spirit, via a word of prophecy, to bring much needed reform to the Church.

Most of what’s known about the Montanists comes to us through their opponents and critics. So it’s not always simple knowing what’s an accurate description of their beliefs and what was altered to make them look bad.

Reading modern labels back onto the Montanists, hyper-Pentecostals is an apt description. Montanus claimed that the Holy Spirit spoke direction though him to the Church. He announced that the city of Pepuza in Phrygia would soon be the site of the New Jerusalem and set up his HQs there.

A central message of the Montanists was the soon return of Christ & the need for believers to get ready by adopting a strict asceticism that included much fasting. When they did eat, they were supposed to eat only dry foods, because apparently moist food was too easy to chew & too enjoyable, so it must be a sinful indulgence of the flesh. They were also required to abstain from sex, including married couples. Those who joined the movement were encouraged to relish persecution; regarding it a badge of genuine faith and loyalty to God.

Now, we might assume with such rigorous requirements, the movement wouldn’t be all that appealing and only have a small number of adherents. That’s not the case. It became quite popular. Its appeal was enhanced by a revival of teaching and practice in the use of spiritual gifts. Tongues, prophecy, and other manifestations of the Spirit as described by Paul in 1 Cor 12 were encouraged. And the strict asceticism practiced by Montanists apparently wasn’t merely a way for people to one-up each other in a contest to see who was more spiritually mature & disciplined. It was encouraged by the cherished conviction Jesus was coming soon. A careful watch over one’s moral life seemed a reasonable response to the belief they were about to stand in the presence of a holy God. They needed to pursue practical holiness in their daily lives, because on any one of those days, Jesus could come. Even more, He WOULD come.

The growth & challenge of the Montanist movement presented such a challenge, Church leaders convened some of their first synods to decide how to respond. It was decided the excesses of the New Prophets were too extreme to tolerate. In fact, it was suggested that Montanus’, Maximilla’s and Prisca’s ecstatic prophetic episodes looked more like a case of demons possession than the way the gift of prophecy had been practiced in the Church up tl that time. So exorcists were sent to deal with them. When nothing came of that and the Montanists refused to back down, they were excommunicated. What’s interesting to historians is that while the fact of their excommunication is given, its reason is not. All we know is that an official split occurred between the Montanists and Apostolic Church.

While historically Montanism has gone down as one of the early heresies to threaten the church, the more you read, the more the door opens to question that conclusion. Again, let’s remember most of what we know about them comes from the records of their critics. How would your lifelong opponent describe you? And we have to remember that Tertullian, a rock & pillar of the orthodox, catholic, Apostolic Faith, was a Montanist. So a re-assessment of the Montanists is probably due. This became abundantly clear to me after studying all the various groups that sprang up in Europe during the Middle Ages & Reformation. So many of those little groups History’s plastered with the designation “Heretics” most certainly were NOT! They just refused to abide in what they considered a corrupt and corrupting religious institution. Refusing to kowtow to its demands, they were systematically erased; along with all evidence of their existence, leaving only what their enemies said about them.

So, regarding the Montanists, something I shared in Episode 5 may be helpful à

If you live in an urban or sub-urban community, as you drive around town you see numerous churches with different signs & labels. Christianity is of hundreds of groups and thousands of sects. While the services held in different local churches may be similar, in others they differ widely in style, culture, values, & doctrine. Some services are sedate & composed, putting more emphasis on rationality and the centrality of the sermon or the practice of a liturgy. Others encourage an emotional encounter with God. So the music & worship take a more active place. I’m obviously generalizing widely.

My point is that 2 churches may be packed though each is on the opposite end of the other in regard to the culture they express. Each appeals to a different group of people. It isn’t that one is right & the other is wrong. It’s just that people are different. And God in His wisdom has provided a place for them to come closer to Him.

I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t some of that dynamic that occurred with the Montanists. Before coming to faith in Christ Montanus was a pagan priest of either Apollo or Cybele. Both gods were worshipped by priests & priestesses given to ecstatic trances. Whether these altered states of consciousness were induced by hallucinogenic drugs, extreme meditative rituals, or outright demonic activity – the person in ecstasy would enter a trance where  the eyes would roll up into the head, their bodies would go rigid, their voice would alter, & they’d make solemn pronouncements as though by the voice of a god.

That was Montanus’ background. And in light of some of the things he said and did, some have questioned the genuineness of his conversion. Did he really come to faith or like some of the other aberrant groups at this time, did he see the rising popularity of Christianity and simply adopt some of its terms and forms while carrying on under his old practices? Did he just rebrand his demonically-induced ecstasies?

That’s what some church historians conclude. Some of what Montanus, along with Prisca & Maximilla went on to prophecy was goofy. But a good number of the charges leveled against Montanus reflected his practices BEFORE his conversion. It was his critics who accused him of making his post-conversion prophetic announcements in the old pagan trance-like state. Others said that he did NOT operate that way after coming to faith; that he renounced his pagan past. But that he, like his supporters, was someone who yearned for a more emotionally engaged & experiential kind of faith & that the work of the Holy Spirit, so prominent in the earliest church, must not be forfeited. It was in danger of that very thing as the Faith had to contend with hostile government officials and an emerging mix of aberrant groups. All the energy by the church’s brightest leaders seemed to be going into the cerebral, the doctrinal, the apologetic – and this emphasis on the mind was numbing the heart of the Faith. The Montanists wanted to see the Holy Spirit kept active & present in the Church’s midst. Sadly, their claims to being the ESPECIALLY anointed led to excesses, and a discrediting of their movement – just as has happened in more recent times with the wild pronouncements & false prophecies of some of the hyper-charismatics.

Some of the criticisms of the ancient anti-Montanists in fact rested on the fact that the Montanists were so bold in proclaiming their faith and operating in the gifts of the Spirit, it was drawing attention to the Faith right at the time when others were telling believers to keep their heads down & their mouths shut because of persecution.

The decision to excommunicate the Montanists was anything but unanimous among Church leaders. Many believed while the New Prophets had indeed gone too far in their excessive emphasis on asceticism, their renewal of the use of spiritual gifts was a return to the primitive Christianity practiced by the Apostles & described in the Book of Acts.

But what brought Montanism into the greatest disrepute was the failure of some of its leaders’ prophecies about impending events. This and their ultra-strict asceticism earned them the label of being highly aberrant, if not outright heretical.

Though it was right for Church leaders of the late 2nd Century to censure the Montanists for their excesses, they probably went too far in labeling them “heretics.” Because the Montanists put such emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit, rejecting Montanism tended to put a damper on the exercise of spiritual gifts. An unfortunate turn at a time when Christians needed every bit of help they could get.

As we read Tertullian, it appears he’d grown disillusioned with the moral state of the Church which out of a desire to avoid persecution was accommodating more and more of the ways of the world. Martyrdom, once a badge of honor, was now being avoided even to the place of denying the faith. And Tertullian thought the way the Church was handling serious public sins was way too lenient.  Since the Montanists held positions on all these things matching his own, it seemed a natural fit to join them. So join them he did.

What’s not clear is whether that meant Tertullian actually left the church at Carthage to join some local Montanist church. In fact, we’re not even sure there WAS some separate place the Montanists met. It seems most likely they merely existed as a group INSIDE the church at Carthage.

Yet even while numbering himself with the Montanists, Tertullian continued to churn out theology defining and apologetics defending the orthodox, catholic, Apostolic faith. But the anti-Montanists managed to win the day and eventually the sect was declared heretical. So Tertullian was never recognized as a saint. Though his work became foundational to later formulations of the Faith.

Tertullian’s later life remains a mystery. All Jerome has to say 200 years later is that he died of old age.

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This is part 6 of our series titled The First Centuries, in Season 2 of CS. In the last episode we took a look at the Church Father Irenaeus. This episode we’ll consider Tertullian. That may prompt some to wonder if we’re going to work our way through ... That may prompt some to wonder if we’re going to work our way through ALL the church fathers of the Early Church. Uh, no – we won’t. Just a few.
While he’s known to history as Tertullian, his full name was Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus.
The story of his origins is a bit confused. Born & raised in the North African city of Carthage, he’s said to be both a Berber, and the son of a Roman centurion in the legion attending the proconsul of Africa. It’s not unheard of that his father could have been BOTH a Berber & legionnaire since by that time Rome conscripted soldiers from many of the people’s they ruled.
Berbers were an African ethnic group who called themselves the Amazigh. The label “Berber” was given them by Greeks, the word is derived from their designation for all non-Greeks from which we get the word “barbarian.” So racially, it’s likely Tertullian was a black African.
Tertullian was born sometime around AD 150 & raised as a pagan. Holding a keen mind, he was given a good education in literature and rhetoric, most likely in preparation for practicing law; a favored profession for young men seeking to enter the political realm in the complex game of Roman social advancement. While the details of his conversion are missing, he came to faith in Christ around the age of 40. Tertullian may have done a brief stint as a lawyer in Rome, but returned to his hometown of Carthage where he lived and worked for the rest of his productive life. While Jerome says Tertullian became a priest, others says he remained a layman, serving the church at Carthage as one of its elders.
As soon as Tertullian converted, he turned his considerable intellectual talents to defending the faith. He was the first to write a systematic set of apologetics and theology in Latin, for which he earned the title Father of Latin Theology.
Tertullian engaged a whole host of topics. He wrote Roman officials explaining in modes they were familiar with why persecution of Christians was unwise. He wrote some of the earliest work on defining the doctrine of the Trinity, using terms later writers drew on to develop the orthodox position of 3 Persons in 1 God. And like Irenaeus before him and form whom he drew inspiration, Tertullian defended the Faith against the Gnostics.
His writing has been described by a slew of interesting adjectives; Aggressive, Sarcastic, Caustic, Harsh, but across it all is a logical brilliance deeply rooted in sacred Scripture. His harshness wasn’t only directed at opponents; he employed it toward himself as well when he shares his own struggles. Though he wrote 2 Cs later, Jerome says Tertullian was well regarded in the Church and a much sought after speaker. If his wriritng is any indication, he understood the imperative of keeping one’s audience alert. It’s clear his learning was vast as he drew form numerous & diverse sources in building his case.
Over 30 of his works are known, though most today are based on ultra-slim manuscript evidence. It’s certain he wrote much more that’s been lost.
His most important work is the Apologeticum, a defense of the Christian Faith & its adherents. Second is his theological treatise titled Against Praxeas, in which Tertullian responds to a heretic named Praxeas who was butchering what the Bible taught about the persons of the Godhead. It was here, for the first time that someone used the term trinity in describing God.  In his work, On the Prescription of Heretics, Tertullian lays out a brilliant plan for how to conduct discussions with heretics.
If that’s all Tertullian accomplished he’d still go down as one of the more important of the Church Fathers.]]>
Lance Ralston clean 17:10
The First Centuries – Part 5 / Irenaeus http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-5-irenaeus/ Sun, 05 Mar 2017 09:01:23 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1634 http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-5-irenaeus/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-5-irenaeus/feed/ 0 The historical record is pretty clear that the Apostle John spent his last years in Western Asia Minor, with the City of Ephesus acting as his headquarters. It seems that during his time there, he ppoured himself into a cadre of capable men who went on to provide outstanding leadership for the church in the […] The historical record is pretty clear that the Apostle John spent his last years in Western Asia Minor, with the City of Ephesus acting as his headquarters. It seems that during his time there, he ppoured himself into a cadre of capable men who went on to provide outstanding leadership for the church in the midst of difficult trials. Men like Polycarp of Smyrna, Papias & Apolinarius of Hierapolis, & Melito of Sardis. These and others were mentioned by Polycrates, the bishop of Ephesus in a letter to Victor, a bishop at Rome in about AD 190.

These students of John are considered to be the last of what’s called The Apostolic Age. The greatest of them was Irenæus. Though he wasn’t a direct student of the Apostle, he was influenced by Polycarp, & is considered by many as one of the premier and first Church Fathers.

Not much is known of Irenæus’ origins. From what we can piece together from his writings, he was most likely born and raised in Smyrna around AD 120. He was instructed  by Smyrna’s lead pastor, Polycarp, student of John. He says he was also directly influenced by other pupils of the Apostles, though he doesn’t name them. Polycarp had the biggest impact on him, as evidenced by his comment, “What I heard from him, I didn’t write on parchment, but on my heart. By God’s grace, I bring it constantly to mind.” It’s possible Irenæus accompanied Polycarp when he travelled to Rome and engaged Bishop Anicetus in the Easter controversy we talked about last episode.

At some point while still a young man, Irenæus went to Southern Gaul as a missionary. He settled at Lugdunum where he became an elder in the church there. Lugdunum eventually became the town of Lyon, France. In 177, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the church in Lugdunum was hammered by fierce persecution. But Irenæus had been sent on a mission to Rome to deal with the Montanist controversy. While away, the church’s elderly pastor Pothinus, was martyred. By the time he returned in 178 the persecution had spent itself and he was appointed as the new pastor.

Irenæus worked tirelessly to mend the holes persecution had punched in the church in Southern Gaul. In both teaching and writing, he provided resources other church leaders  could use in faithfully discharging their pastoral duties, as well as refuting the various and sundry errors challenging the new Faith. During his term as the pastor of the church at Lyon, he was  able to see a majority of the population of the City converted to Christ. Dozens of missionaries were sent out to plant church across Gaul.

Then, about 190, Irenæus simply disappears with no clear account of his death. A 5th C tradition says he died a martyr in 202 in the persecution under Septimus Severus. The problem with that is that several church fathers like Eusebius, Hippolytus, & Tertullian uncharacteristically fail to mention Irenæus’ martyrdom. Because martyrs achieved hero status, if Irenæus had been martyred, the Church would have marked it. SO most likely, he died of natural causes. However he died, he was buried under the altar St. John’s in Lyons.

Irenæus’ influence far surpassed the importance of his location. The bishopric of Lyon was not considered an important seat. But Irenæus’ impact on the Faith was outsized to his position. His keen intellect united a Greek education with astute philosophical analysis, and a sharp understanding of the Scriptures to produce a remarkable defense of The Gospel. That was badly needed at the time due to the inroads being forged by a new threat – Gnosticism, which we spent time describing in Season 1.

Irenæus’ articulation of the Faith brought about a unanimity that united the East & Western branches of the Church that had been diverging. They’d end up reverting to that divergence later, but Irenæus managed to bring about a temporary peace through his clear defense of the faith against the Gnostics.

Irenæus admits he had a difficult time mastering the Celtic dialect spoken by the people where he served but his capacity in Greek, in which he composed his writings, was both elegant & eloquent without running to the merely flowery. His content shows he was familiar with the classics by authors like Homer, Hesiod, & Sophocles as well as philosophers like Pythagoras & Plato.

He shows a like familiarity with earlier Christian writers such as Clement, Justin Martyr, & Tatian. But Irenæus is really only 1 generation away from Jesus and the original Apostles due to a couple long life-times; that of John, and then his pupil, Polycarp. We find their influence in Irenæus’ remark impugning the appeal of Gnosticism, “The true way to God, is through love. Better to know nothing but the crucified Christ, than fall into the impiety of overly curious inquires & silly nuances.” Reading Irenæus’ work on the core doctrines of the Faith reveal his whole-hearted embrace of Pauline theology of the NT. Where Irenæus goes beyond John & Paul was in his handling of ecclesiology; that is, matters of the Church. Irenæus wrote on things like the proper handling of the sacraments, and how authority in the church ought to be passed on. A close reading of the 2nd C church fathers reveals that this issue was of major concern to them. It makes sense it would. Jesus had commissioned the Apostles to carry on His mission and to lay the foundation of the Faith & Church. The Apostles had done that, but in the 2nd C, the men the Apostles had raised up were themselves aging out. Church leaders were burdened with the question of how to properly pass on the Faith once for all delivered to the saints, to those who came next. What was the plan?

We’ll come back to that later . . .

Irenæus was a staunch advocate of what we’ll call Biblical theology, as opposed to a theology derived from philosophical musing, propped up by random Bible verses. He’s the first of the church fathers to make a liberal use of BOTH the Old & New Testaments in his writings. He uses all four Gospels and nearly all the letters of the NT in the development of his theology.

His goal in it all was to establish unity among believers. He was so zealous for it because of the rising popularity of Gnosticism, a new religious fascination attractive an increasing number of Christians.

Historians have come to understand that like many emergent faiths, Gnosticism was itself fractured into different flavors. The brand Irenæus dealt with was the one most popular in his region; Valentinian Gnosticism, or, Valentinianism.

While several writings are attributed to Irenæus, by far his most important and famopus was Against Heresies, his refutation of Gnosticism. Written sometime btwn 177 & 190, it’s 5 volumes is considered by most to be the premier theological work of the ante-Nicene era. It’s also the main source of knowledge for historians on Gnosticism and Christian doctrine in the Apostolic Age. It was composed in response to a request by a friend wanting a brief on how to deal with the errors of both Valentinus & Marcion. Both had taught in Rome 30 yrs earlier.  Their ideas then spread to France.

The 1st of the 5 volumes is a dissection of what Valentinianism taught, and more generally how it differed from other sects of Gnosticism. It shows that Irenæus had a remarkable grasp of a belief system he utterly & categorically rejected.

The 2nd book reviewed the internal inconsistencies and contradictions of Gnosticism.

The last 3 volumes give a systematic refutation of Gnosticism from Scripture & tradition which Irenæus makes clear at that time were one and the same. He shows that the Gospel which was at first only oral, was subsequently committed to writing, then was faithfully taught in churches through a succession of pastors & elders. So, Irenæus says, The Apostolic Faith & tradition is embodied in Scripture, and in the right interpretation of those scriptures by pastors (AKA as bishops). And the Church ought to have a confidence in those pastors’ interpretations of God’s Word because they’ve attained their office through a demonstrated succession. Of course, the succession Irenæus referred to was manifestly evident by virtue of the fact he wrote in the last quarter of the 2nd C & was himself, as we’ve seen, just a generation removed from the Apostle John.

Irenæus set all this over against the contradictory opinions of heretics who fundamentally deviated from this well-established Faith & simply could not be included in the catholic, that is universally agreed on, faith carved out by Scripture and it’s orthodox interpretation by a properly sanctioned teaching office.

The 5th and final volume of Against Heresies includes Irenæus’ exposition of pre-millennial eschatology; that is, the study of Last things, or in modern parlance – the End Times. No doubt he does so because it stood in stark contrast with the muddled teaching of the Gnostics on this subject. It might be noted that Irenæus’ pre-millennialism wasn’t unique. He stood squarely with the other writers of the Apostolic & post-apostolic age.

Irenæus’ view of the inspiration of Scripture is an early anticipation of what came to be called Verbal plenary inspiration. That is, both the writings and authors of Scripture were inspired, so that what God wanted expressed was, without turning the writers into automatons. God expressed His will through the varying personalities of the original authors. He even accounts for the variations in Paul’s style across his epistles to his, at times, rapid-fire dictation & the agency of the Holy Spirit’s urging at different times and in different situations.

Irenæus’ emphasis on both Scripture and the apostolic tradition of its interpretation has been seen as a boon to the idea of establishing an official teaching magisterium in the Church. Added to that is his remarks that the church at Rome held a special place in providing leadership for the Church as a whole. He based this on Rome being the location of the martyrdoms of both Peter & Paul. While Irenæus acknowledges they did not START the church there, he reasoned they most certainly were regarded as its leaders when they were there. And there was a tradition that Peter appointed the next bishop, one Linus, to lead the Church when he was executed. While it’s true Irenæus did indeed suggest Rome ought to take the lead, he said it was the CHURCH there that ought to do so; not its bishop. The point may seem minor, but it’s important to note that Irenaeus himself resisted positions taken by the Bishop at Rome. In our last episode we noted his chronicle of Polycarp’s & Anicetus’ disagreement over when to celebrated Easter. Anicetus’ successor was Bishop Victor, who took a hardline approach with the Quartodecamins and wanted to forcefully punish them. While as the bishop of the church in Lyon, Irenaeus was ready to follow the policy of the Church at Rome, he objected to Victor’s heavy-handedness and reminded him of his predecessor’s more fair-minded policy.

So while Irenaeus does indeed urge a role of first-place for the Church at Rome, we can’t go so far as to say he establishes the principle of the primacy of the bishop of Rome. He’s not an apologist for papal  primacy.

Nor does he advocate apostolic succession as it’s come to be defined today. What Irenaeus does say is that the Scriptures have to be interpreted rightly; meaning, they have to align with that which the Apostles consistently taught, and that the people who were to be trusted to that end were those linked back to the Apostles, because they’d HEARD them explain themselves.

He argued this because the Gnostics claimed a secret oral tradition given them from Jesus himself. Irenaeus maintained that the pastors & elders of the Church were well-known and linked to the Apostles and had always maintained the same message that wasn’t secret at all. Therefore, it was those pastors who provided the only safe interpretation of Scripture.

For Irenaeus, apostolic authority was only valid so long as it actually squared with apostolic teaching, which itself was codified in the Gospels and epistles of the NT – along with what the direct students of the Apostles said they’d taught. Irenæus didn’t concoct a formula for the passing of apostolic authority from one generation to the next in perpetuity.

Irenaeus became a treasured authority for men like Hippolytus and Tertullian who drew freely from him. He also became a major source for establishing the canon of the NT. He regarded the entire OT as God’s Word as well as most of the books our NT while excluding a large number of Gnostic pretenders. There’s some evidence that before Irenaeus, believers lined up under different Gospels as their preferred accounts of the Life of Jesus. The Churches of Asia Minor preferred the Gospel of John while Matthew was the most popular overall. Irenaeus made a convincing case that all 4 Gospels were God’s Word. That made him the earliest witness to the canonicity of M,M,L & J. This stood over against the accepted writings of a heretic named Marcion who only accepted portions of Luke’s Gospel.

Irenaeus cited passages of the NT about a thousand times, from 21 of the 27 books, including Revelation. Inferences to the other books can be found as well.

Irenaeus provides a perfect bridge from the Apostles to the next phase of Church History presided over by the Fathers, of which he’s considered among the first.

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The historical record is pretty clear that the Apostle John spent his last years in Western Asia Minor, with the City of Ephesus acting as his headquarters. It seems that during his time there, he ppoured himself into a cadre of capable men who went on... These students of John are considered to be the last of what’s called The Apostolic Age. The greatest of them was Irenæus. Though he wasn’t a direct student of the Apostle, he was influenced by Polycarp, & is considered by many as one of the premier and first Church Fathers.
Not much is known of Irenæus’ origins. From what we can piece together from his writings, he was most likely born and raised in Smyrna around AD 120. He was instructed  by Smyrna’s lead pastor, Polycarp, student of John. He says he was also directly influenced by other pupils of the Apostles, though he doesn’t name them. Polycarp had the biggest impact on him, as evidenced by his comment, “What I heard from him, I didn’t write on parchment, but on my heart. By God’s grace, I bring it constantly to mind.” It’s possible Irenæus accompanied Polycarp when he travelled to Rome and engaged Bishop Anicetus in the Easter controversy we talked about last episode.
At some point while still a young man, Irenæus went to Southern Gaul as a missionary. He settled at Lugdunum where he became an elder in the church there. Lugdunum eventually became the town of Lyon, France. In 177, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the church in Lugdunum was hammered by fierce persecution. But Irenæus had been sent on a mission to Rome to deal with the Montanist controversy. While away, the church’s elderly pastor Pothinus, was martyred. By the time he returned in 178 the persecution had spent itself and he was appointed as the new pastor.
Irenæus worked tirelessly to mend the holes persecution had punched in the church in Southern Gaul. In both teaching and writing, he provided resources other church leaders  could use in faithfully discharging their pastoral duties, as well as refuting the various and sundry errors challenging the new Faith. During his term as the pastor of the church at Lyon, he was  able to see a majority of the population of the City converted to Christ. Dozens of missionaries were sent out to plant church across Gaul.
Then, about 190, Irenæus simply disappears with no clear account of his death. A 5th C tradition says he died a martyr in 202 in the persecution under Septimus Severus. The problem with that is that several church fathers like Eusebius, Hippolytus, & Tertullian uncharacteristically fail to mention Irenæus’ martyrdom. Because martyrs achieved hero status, if Irenæus had been martyred, the Church would have marked it. SO most likely, he died of natural causes. However he died, he was buried under the altar St. John’s in Lyons.
Irenæus’ influence far surpassed the importance of his location. The bishopric of Lyon was not considered an important seat. But Irenæus’ impact on the Faith was outsized to his position. His keen intellect united a Greek education with astute philosophical analysis, and a sharp understanding of the Scriptures to produce a remarkable defense of The Gospel. That was badly needed at the time due to the inroads being forged by a new threat – Gnosticism, which we spent time describing in Season 1.
Irenæus’ articulation of the Faith brought about a unanimity that united the East & Western branches of the Church that had been diverging. They’d end up reverting to that divergence later, but Irenæus managed to bring about a temporary peace through his clear defense of the faith against the Gnostics.
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Lance Ralston clean 16:59
The First Centuries – Part 4 / An Easter Tussle http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-4-an-easter-tussle/ Sun, 26 Feb 2017 09:01:11 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1622 http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-4-an-easter-tussle/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-4-an-easter-tussle/feed/ 1 Have you noticed that, generally-speaking, Christians like to argue? Maybe we get it from our spiritual ancestors, the Jews. Once while on a tour of Jerusalem at what are called the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount, our Jewish guide told us that a frequent joke among his people was that where there are 2 […] Have you noticed that, generally-speaking, Christians like to argue?

Maybe we get it from our spiritual ancestors, the Jews. Once while on a tour of Jerusalem at what are called the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount, our Jewish guide told us that a frequent joke among his people was that where there are 2 Jews, there’s 3 opinions.

Yeah; it seems controversy has been a part of the history of The Church since its inception. And maybe that’s really more a “human” tendency than something unique to, or the sole prerogative of the followers of Jesus.

In this 4th episode on the The First Centuries of the Church, we’re taking a look at an acrimonious debate that split the Church into warring camps before the end of the 2nd C. Even while facing the pressure of persecution from without, believers decided to spin up their own internal stress.

Surely: If Christians were going to draw lines and take sides while being battered by a world of hostile pagans, what they argued over must have been super-important, right? I mean, we must be dealing with some critical issue of theology; an essential of the faith!

Well, they certainly thought it was important. We, on the other hand probably DON’T find it that crucial. It all had to do with the timing of Easter. Yep: They went to town on when to commemorate the death & resurrection of Jesus.

As we examine this, I could go into the minutiae of detailed terminology and the fine nuances theological musings that under-pinned the different positions taken at that time. I’m not going to do that for this reason à It would bore the bejeebers out of nearly everyone, and, I’d be mouthing stuff I don’t understand. BUT: by saying it, some might assume I do, and that would make me appear way, way smarter than I in fact am. That would be misleading. Honestly, as I read & researched this episode, I found I had to re-read numerous passages, several times, and only then conclude, “Uhh, I’m never going to understand that. Can someone please draw a picture; an illustration so my puny noggin can grasp that?”

Ha! One of the marks of greatness as a teacher is the ability to take complex ideas and make them accessible to those of average intellectual capacity. So, it’s been interesting over the years to read & research. When I find material that’s verbose but after reading it, I find I’m no closer to grasping it than when I began, I’ve come to realize it’s less about my incapacity as it is the writer’s inability to communicate. It’s rare that I read material that isn’t pitched to what we’d call a general audience. I expect technical jargon and a bit of the opaque when reading something the author assumed would be read by a set of professional peers.

And I say all that to share that when studying the early Easter Controversies, several of the authorities write of it in such a complicated manner, it makes me wonder if they grasped the material they recorded. Other authors admit handling this subject is a challenge. While we have some names and dates, parsing the subtlety of the debate is inordinately difficult.

So, there’s no way I’m going to shed light on the real crux of this issue. What I WILL do, is simply share a brief narrative of events as best we know it, and attempt to sort through the major themes.

While the first record we have of a discussion on the issue of when to commemorate Easter dates to AD 150, that it DOES arise at that time, means it was something that was already at play in the life of the Church. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor, visited Anicetus [Ah-nee-kee-tohs] the bishop of Rome. As they shared, the issue of when to celebrate Easter arose. The Church in Asia Minor, that is, all those churches Jesus sent letters to in Revelation 2&3 as well as dozens of other fellowship lcaoted across the region, commemorated the Last Supper on the 14th of Jewish month of Nisan, the same date as the Jewish Passover, & Jesus’ resurrection two days later, regardless of the day of the week. The Roman church was committed to commemorating Jesus’ Resurrection on a Sunday. While the two church leaders discussed the merits of their positions, neither persuaded the other and parted, literally, agreeing to disagree.

We have an interesting account of the dispute from Polycarp’s pupil, Irenæus. 2

When the blessed Polycarp sojourned at Rome in the days of Anicetus, and they had some little difference of opinion likewise with regard to other points, they forthwith came to a peaceable understanding on the [observance of Easter], having no love for mutual disputes. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe inasmuch as [Polycarp] had always observed with John, the disciple of our Lord, and the other apostles, with whom he had associated; nor did Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe who said that he was bound to maintain the custom of the [elders] before him. These things being so, they communed together; and in the church Anicetus yielded to Polycarp, out of respect no doubt, the celebration of the eucharist, and they separated from each other in peace, all the church being at peace, both those that observed and those that did not observe [the 14th of Nisan], maintaining peace.”

Irenaeus’ account proves Christians at the time of Polycarp knew how to keep the unity of the Spirit without requiring uniformity of ritual. Later in the same letter, Irenaeus goes so far as to laud this when he writes, “The difference in our [ways of] fasting, establishes the unanimity in our faith.”

Eastern churches, followed a Jewish chronology, adhering to the authority of the Apostles John and Philip. They celebrated a Christian Passover on the same day as the Jewish Passover, the 14th of Nisan, which of course, could fall on any day of the week. They did this by keeping a fast which ended by sharing a meal & taking communion in the evening. Because we love labeling people according to all kinds of things, these Eastern, Asian Christians came to be called 14th-ers, but that doesn’t sound very sophisticated, so they picked the latin Equivalent è Quartadecimanians. A little long to put on a team jersey, so I’m sure their more popular name was something like, “Quartas” or “Decamins.” Though the church at Rome followed a different calendar for commemorating Easter, the Quartadecimanian observance was most likely the oldest and accorded with the Synoptic Gospels  account of Jesus’ last Passover, which it commemorated.

The Roman church also appealed to custom and perennially celebrated Jesus’ death on a Friday, the day of the week it was reckoned to have originally occurred, with His resurrection always on a Sunday after the March full moon.

Nearly all Western churches agreed with Rome, and laid heavy stress on commemorating Jesus’ resurrection on a Sunday. The Roman practice created an entire week of solemn fasting, ending with a feast celebrating the Resurrection while the Asiatic practice ended their fast in the evening of the 14th of Nisan, which might fall several days before Sunday.

So, in short, the Eastern Church was more concerned to line up their commemoration of Jesus’ death & resurrection with the Jewish Passover on the 14th of Nisan, regardless of what day of the week it fell on. The Western Church was all about keeping the commemoration of Jesus’ death on a Friday and His resurrection on a Sunday.

It was a controversy over a date in the month versus a day of the week.

Heavy stuff. Break out the knives!

The debate eventually settled in around the idea of how closely the Christian commemoration of Jesus’ death & resurrection ought to be tied to the Jewish Passover. That was a no-brainer to the first Christians who as Jews continued to keep the Passover, though they saw it now as prophetic of, and fulfilled by Christ, the ultimate Passover lamb who takes away the sins of the world. But The Church became primarily Gentile in make-up, then hostility grew between Jews & Gentiles, Christians had no qualms of stepping away form its Jewish connections. On the contrary, some argued against the Quartadecimanians for precisely that reason. They wanted to expunge the Faith from any and all taint of Judaism.

But the Johannean tradition dominant in Asia represented a clinging to historical precedent and had the advantage of an immovable Easter, without being Judaizing in anything but the observance of a fixed day of the month. The Roman practice seemed to stand for freedom and discretion with an independent festival schedule. Looked at another way, the Eastern practice leaned heavily toward commemorating Jesus’ death, while the West placed the emphasis on His resurrection.

As I prepare this episode, I’ve just finished the message for this coming Sunday out of Mark 7 where Jesus was challenged by His critics over questions of ritualistic tradition. So I can’t help but analyze all this from what He said there. It seems clear to me that far more than questions of doctrine, Church leaders were consumed in these Easter Controversies with the dogmatic and ritualistic; with traditions far more about man-made rules than what God’s Word said. Truth be told – where in any of Jesus’ teaching, the Book of Acts, or in the letters of the NT do we see the Church being called on to commemorate Jesus’ death & resurrection once a year? What we have is His command to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, Communion, Eucharist, or whatever other label it goes by in the various movements of the Faith. But few and far between are those who think that means ONLY a once-annual event called Easter. Considering how acrimonious the whole argument got, with some coming to outright blows, we have to conclude the whole thing grieved God.

Still, considering it purely historically, and remembering to evaluate things based not on our values, but those of the time, the controversy was fueled mostly from a profound awareness that everyone who called themselves a Christian ought to believe the same thing. That title catholic really meant something.

Remember, the word means “universal” and long before it was used to describe a major branch of the Church and was modified by the term “Roman,” it simply meant what all Christians believed and practiced – as opposed to the schismatics who’d moved into error and broken away.

Church leaders all owned the priority to maintain unity and to root out what they deemed divisive. So they regarded it as crucial to make sure everyone kept the commemoration of Jesus’ death & resurrection on the same day. Heaven forbid that some people would be fasting in honor of His death at the same time others were feasting in celebration of His resurrection!

And because of this, the Roman tradition eventually triumphed. Easter became a movable holiday whose date varies from the end of March to the latter in April.

It was the first major church council at Nicea in 325 that the date for Easter was finally fixed. The Council condemned Quartodecimans as schismatics. Not heretics mind you – just schismatics. While a heretic has rejected the Faith and so is lost, a schismatic is going to heaven, but errors on an important point of doctrine. Not essential doctrine, but important enough they have to be put out of Communion with The Church.

We’ll end this episode by briefly say while the Council of Nicea effectively ended the Easer Controversy on the Continent, the Celtic Church in Britain refused to knuckle under and kept their own counsel regarding when to celebrate the death & resurrection of Christ. While ancient church leaders would likely argue the point, modern historians tend to see the Celtic position as more about the assertion of their independence than out of some dearly held belief of when & how to keep Easter.

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Have you noticed that, generally-speaking, Christians like to argue? Maybe we get it from our spiritual ancestors, the Jews. Once while on a tour of Jerusalem at what are called the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount, Maybe we get it from our spiritual ancestors, the Jews. Once while on a tour of Jerusalem at what are called the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount, our Jewish guide told us that a frequent joke among his people was that where there are 2 Jews, there’s 3 opinions.
Yeah; it seems controversy has been a part of the history of The Church since its inception. And maybe that’s really more a “human” tendency than something unique to, or the sole prerogative of the followers of Jesus.
In this 4th episode on the The First Centuries of the Church, we’re taking a look at an acrimonious debate that split the Church into warring camps before the end of the 2nd C. Even while facing the pressure of persecution from without, believers decided to spin up their own internal stress.
Surely: If Christians were going to draw lines and take sides while being battered by a world of hostile pagans, what they argued over must have been super-important, right? I mean, we must be dealing with some critical issue of theology; an essential of the faith!
Well, they certainly thought it was important. We, on the other hand probably DON’T find it that crucial. It all had to do with the timing of Easter. Yep: They went to town on when to commemorate the death & resurrection of Jesus.
As we examine this, I could go into the minutiae of detailed terminology and the fine nuances theological musings that under-pinned the different positions taken at that time. I’m not going to do that for this reason à It would bore the bejeebers out of nearly everyone, and, I’d be mouthing stuff I don’t understand. BUT: by saying it, some might assume I do, and that would make me appear way, way smarter than I in fact am. That would be misleading. Honestly, as I read & researched this episode, I found I had to re-read numerous passages, several times, and only then conclude, “Uhh, I’m never going to understand that. Can someone please draw a picture; an illustration so my puny noggin can grasp that?”
Ha! One of the marks of greatness as a teacher is the ability to take complex ideas and make them accessible to those of average intellectual capacity. So, it’s been interesting over the years to read & research. When I find material that’s verbose but after reading it, I find I’m no closer to grasping it than when I began, I’ve come to realize it’s less about my incapacity as it is the writer’s inability to communicate. It’s rare that I read material that isn’t pitched to what we’d call a general audience. I expect technical jargon and a bit of the opaque when reading something the author assumed would be read by a set of professional peers.
And I say all that to share that when studying the early Easter Controversies, several of the authorities write of it in such a complicated manner, it makes me wonder if they grasped the material they recorded. Other authors admit handling this subject is a challenge. While we have some names and dates, parsing the subtlety of the debate is inordinately difficult.
So, there’s no way I’m going to shed light on the real crux of this issue. What I WILL do, is simply share a brief narrative of events as best we know it, and attempt to sort through the major themes.
While the first record we have of a discussion on the issue of when to commemorate Easter dates to AD 150, that it DOES arise at that time, means it was something that was already at play in the life of the Church. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor, visited Anicetus [Ah-nee-kee-tohs] the bishop of Rome. As they shared, the issue of when to celebrate Easter arose. The Church in Asia Minor, that is, all those churches Jesus sent letters to in Revelation 2&3 as well as dozens of other fellowship lcaoted across the region, commemorated the Last Supper on the 14th of Jewish month of Nisan, the same date as the Jewish Passover,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 13:43
The First Centuries Part 3 http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-3/ Sun, 12 Feb 2017 09:01:34 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1601 http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-3/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-3/feed/ 0 The First Centuries – Part 3 In part 1 we took a look at some of the sociological reason for persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Then last time we began a narrative-chronology of the waves of persecution and ended with Antonius Pious. A new approach in dealing with Christians was adopted by Marcus […] The First Centuries – Part 3

In part 1 we took a look at some of the sociological reason for persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Then last time we began a narrative-chronology of the waves of persecution and ended with Antonius Pious.

A new approach in dealing with Christians was adopted by Marcus Aurelius who reigned form 161–180. Aurelius is known as a philosopher emperor. He authored a volume on Stoic philosophy titled Meditations. It was really more a series of notes to himself, but it became something of a classic of ancient literature. Aurelius bore not a shred of sympathy for the idea of life after death & detested as intellectually inferior anyone who carried a hope in immortality.

Reversing the Trajan policy of not going after Christians, Aurelius crafted a system of spies to gather intelligence and evidence against them. Rather than check riots that frequently called for martyr’s blood as the previous emperors had done, Aurelius encouraged them. It was during his reign Christians began to be blamed for natural catastrophes. The supposition was that the gods were upset Christians weren’t being persecuted by good Romans. With this as their moral backing, and making up for lost time, persecution under Aurelius moved to a new level of brutality. Thousands lost their heads or were tossed to beasts. It was at this time Justin Martyr became one.

But we have to note that as fierce as the Aurelian persecution was, no official edict calling for an Empire-wide extermination of Christians was issued. Nor did one come during the reigns of Septimius Severus from 193–211 or Maximinus from 235–238 when persecution of the followers of Christ was renewed. The Severian campaign sought to root out the church in Egypt and North Africa, while the Maximinian chapter aimed only at Christian leaders in specific locales.

The mid-3rd C saw a dramatic change.

As Rome celebrated its thousand-year anniversary, people cast longing eyes back to the Golden Age & Glory Days of a bygone era of power & prosperity. In comparison, Rome now seemed a tottering old-hag hobbling along on arthritic knees. She was no longer able to kick away the barbarian dogs snapping at her heels. The superstition of pagans, who of course were in the vast majority, believed the gods who favored their ancestors FOR their devotion, were now punishing them for allowing the Christians to reject them.

That being the case, wasn’t it morally right & for the public good to actively go after the followers of Jesus?

Decius only ruled from 249-51, but he was convinced maintaining Rome’s cultus was essential to political stability and a return to prosperity. As soon as he took the purple, he gave orders everyone in the empire had to swear by the Emperor’s genius; that is, practice emperor worship, as we talked about last time. This flushed out Christians who refused. They were declared traitors; enemies of the emperor, state, and public good. Their very presence was deemed a dangerous blight since the wrath of the gods was on them.

As harsh as all this sounds, the evidence indicates that at first, the goal wasn’t to kill them so much as it was to get them to recant under the threat of pain. Getting a Christian to recant was far more effective than killing them because many people are inspired by martyrdom. And of course, the martyrs were held in ultra-high esteem by The Church. So much so, a bit later, we’ll find Church Leaders telling church members to use common sense and to not run around making a big to-do about being a believer, just so they WOULD be arrested and executed!

No – most officials didn’t want to make martyrs; they preferred apostates. Think of it this way . . .

In ancient warfare, men would psych and pump themselves up in anticipation of battle. Once battle began, you wanted to present yourself like a man; tough, courageous. When you see your buddies taking blows and giving as good as they get, you stay shoulder to shoulder – a band of brothers!

But when one guy turns his back to the enemy and begins to run, it’s a fast spreading contagion of fear. Soon the entire line collapses in a rout.

Watching some Christian publicly executed for their faith often inspired as many as it freaked. But hearing of Christians recanting & returning to the paganism of their past made many wonder why THEY should remain true.

Under Decius, the 1st to be seized as treasonous were Church leaders. The hope was that a leaderless church would fall apart. In some places it did; but in others it went on as if nothing had changed.

In those places were the Church winked out, it was because by the mid 3rd C, Christianity had already produced a brand of Faith that was more image than substance. Shocking as it may seem to some, there’s been shallow Christians since the very beginning. And now, under Decius, they were flushed out into the open where they were forced to recant or die. Recant they did because their Faith was more social than sincere. But a host of others suffered martyrdom.

After a year it was clear the Decian persecution wouldn’t succeed in its goal of ending the Faith. In July of 251, Decius was killed in battle. His edict was no longer enforced.

In 253, Valerian became emperor. He was at first friendly to the Faith. But a series of calamities stirred his advisors to press him to renew the pogroms in appeasement of the gods. During this wave of persecution several great leaders of the church were killed.

The 40-some yrs from 260 to 303 were a time of relative peace for Christians. But it was the calm before the storm which arrived with the ascension of Diocletian.

While his origins are sketchy, it seems Diocletian was a slave’s son who worked himself up to supreme power. An utterly brilliant administrator, Diocletian recognized what pervious rulers ought have–that Rome was too large to be led by a single ruler. I’ll leave it to you to listen to Mike Duncan’s The History of Rome podcast to learn the details of Diocletian’s reign. Edward Gibbon calls Diocletian a 2nd Augustus because he believes he framed a new empire rather than just restore the old. And indeed, Diocletian distanced himself from his political ancestors & heritage. He very consciously adopted the ostentatiousness of an Eastern ruler, something previous Roman Emperors would have condemned as scandalous. It was he who divided the Empire into a formal E & W, each with its one major Augustus & subordinate Caesar.

In his first 2 decades, Diocletian honored the Toleration Edict Gallienus passed in 259 that restored Christians churches and burial places. His wife & daughter, along with most of his court & officials were either Christians or were favorable to them because THEIR wives & friends were. The Emperor himself was a pagan of the more superstitious flavor. But as a pragmatic politician, he believed restoring the Empire demanded a return to the old religion. Although due to family & friends he postponed the religious question, ultimately he had to take it on. There could be no peaceful co-existence between Christianity & Paganism. It was High Noon in Diocletian’s court.

The chief instigator in all this was Diocletian’s co-ruler, his son-in-law, Galerius. He prevailed on Diocletian to authorize the persecution for which his reign is so well-known.

In 303, at Gallerius’ urging, Diocletian issued a series of edicts calling for the total eradication of Christianity. Places of worship were to be torn down, sacred writings were to be burned, and clergy were to be slaughtered. The next year, all Christians had to engage in a very public display of emperor worship or face immediate execution. Although it wasn’t exactly like this, it’s close enough . . .

A raised dais was built in the center of town with a little altar where people would drop a pinch of incense and say, “Caesar is Lord.” Then they’d take a few more steps and be handed the libelli; that little scroll affirming they were good, loyal subjects. Another path led form the altar to a chopping block where an executioner stood. Those who refused to drop incense & said “Jesus, not Caesar, is Lord,” took that route where they got a haircut at the neck. Thousands died.

In the Eastern empire were Diocletian and Galerius ruled, the persecution was especially fierce. The Western Augustus Maximian, fastidiously carried out the edicts in Italy and Africa. But his subordinate, Constantius, who ruled Gaul, Britain, & Spain, refused to execute people for their faith. Persecution effectively ended in 305, when Diocletian abdicated and retired to grow cabbages at his estate.

But it was Galerius who’d put Diocletian UP to it in the first place. And Galerius stepped into the role of Eastern Augustus – so why didn’t the persecutions continue? The answer to that is because Galerius realized à It wasn’t working! He admitted that the policy of eradicating Christianity had failed miserably. In fact, he reversed himself and wrote à

“Wherefore, for this our indulgence, they ought to pray to their God for our safety, for that of the republic, and for their own, that the republic may continue uninjured on every side, and that they may be able to live securely in their homes.”

It’s reported that at the end of his life, as he lay abed, ill, he asked his Christians subjects pray for him. To encourage their prayers he passed an Edict of Toleration in 311, officially ending persecution. It was followed a year later by Constantine’s famous Edict of Milan saying much the same.

Since we shared a little about the interplay of the Early Church in the Roman Empire & their enemies to the East, the Persian Sassanids, in Season 1, we won’t go into that whole chapter now, except to say that when Christians were persona non-grata in the W, the Sassanids welcomed them with open arms. Many refugees fled there, turning the E into a Christian enclave that quickly developed into a HQs and center of scholarship. The Sassanids followed the old line that the enemy of my enemy is my friend & assumed the Christians would be allies in their on-going tussle with Rome. But when Constantine revoked persecution and claimed to be a Christian, the Sassanids began to fear Christians as a dangerous 5th column in their ranks and persecution began. More of the details to that are to be had in Season 1.

Let’s end this short series on the Persecution of the Church in the First Centuries by considering the impact in had on the Church. Most of the Emperors eventually realized, as did Galerius too late, persecution didn’t really work. Killing Christians didn’t end the Faith. On the contrary, many were won to Christ by observing the gracious & courageous way so many of the martyrs died. A quote from the early church father Tertullian is oft given: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The sheer NUMBER of Christians may be less due to persecution. But one positive effect persecution yielded was that those who DID claim the name of Christ were real-deal followers of the Son of God. People didn’t join a church just so they could pad their resume or enhance their social standing. Being a Christian was risky across the board. People stood in danger socially, economically & physically. Persecution also encouraged the spread of the faith to new regions as people fled hostility.

Persecution helped to settle the challenge church leaders faced on what belonged in the canon of NT Scripture. The tests they applied to settling the canon had to be rigorous, because they knew people would not give their lives for spurious inkings.

Persecution also sharpened the thinking of church leaders as they defended the faith in the face of often erudite attacks by pagan critics. What’s interesting is that the vast majority of arguments against the Faith voice by critics & skeptics today were leveled by critics of the 1st thru 3rd Cs. These critics were learned men, skilled in philosophy and rhetoric. But each of their objections were amply answered by early Church Fathers known today as The Apologists. The answers modern day apologists use in defense of the Faith are largely built on the pioneering work of the originals. Even many of the objections raised by the New Atheists are rebutted by 2000 year old answers.

Though it’s questionable whether or not they ever read them, the Early Apologists wrote some of their defenses of Christianity to no one less than the Emperor, seeking to reason with him on why persecuting Christians was bad policy. These “Apologies” as they’re called, weren’t wild-eyed polemics threatening the Emperor with God’s wrath if they didn’t lighten up. They were most often attempts to use Roman law, Greek philosophy and the weight of tradition, which remember the Roman’s put great store by, to persuade the Emperor that Christianity ought to be tolerated along with Rome’s other faiths.

All that is persecution’s up-side. What about the down? Well, Believers ended up so busy protecting themselves there was scant opportunity for them to develop a deep theological heritage to enrich those who came after. Yes, there were a handful like the Apologists who managed to get out some material, but with the many thousands who DID in fact come to faith, we would expect a much larger body of literary work. Persecution both limited the opportunity to produce that, and what work that WAS produced, was frequently used to fuel the fires Christians were then burnt on.

Another problem that rose, and we dealt with this in Season 1, was what to do with those believers who faltered during persecution and gave in to the pressure to recant. What was to be done with those Christians who burned a pinch of incense, said “Caesar is Lord,” took a libelli, then, once the threat of persecution was passed, repented of recanting and wanted to come back to church? These were called the lapsed, because their faith had lapsed in the heat of persecution. This became an especially trying issue after Constantine officially revoked persecution once & for all, for 2 reasons . . .

1) Constantine took over right after the 10th & most virulent phase of persecution. It was also  empire wide, though it was enforced more firmly in the E. A major test used for weeding out believers was the requirement of swearing by the Emperor’s genius, which as we’ve seen, the faithful could not do. But, a bunch of the lapsed, DID! And that leads to the 2nd reason à

2) All those who’d lapsed realized that with the Edict of Milan official persecution was most likely over for good. So, instead of staying de-canted, so as to avoid upcoming persecutions, they figured it was safe to return to Church. Andà Here they came.

The Church was split over whether to allow them back or not. Some favored restoration, others, not so much. Many fellowships split over the issue. Church leaders took sides in the debate and fired off sometimes heated missives at one another. For more on this, you can listen to the episode in Season 1 called The Lapsed Dance.

Another negative effect of persecution was a warped result of a positive. The faith & courage of the martyrs not only challenged the shallowness of rank paganism, it inspired people to follow their example. But not just to live by faith in Jesus; they went further and longed to die like their heroes. The desire to suffer martyrdom became a problem church leaders had to address at a few points.

Ha! Think of that. Instead of Pastor Alexius asking for volunteers for the nursery ministry, he had to plead with his people not to go to the marketplace crying out that they’re Christians; “Please! Somebody arrest & torture me to death.” But that gives us a hint as to just how highly martyrs were regarded in the Early Church. When they were regarded that highly, it’s not difficult to see why there were many in the Church who regarded lapsed believers as scum.

What made for a major brouhaha was when it wasn’t just everyday church members who’d lapsed, but when it as a pastor.

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The First Centuries – Part 3 In part 1 we took a look at some of the sociological reason for persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Then last time we began a narrative-chronology of the waves of persecution and ended with Antonius Pious. In part 1 we took a look at some of the sociological reason for persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Then last time we began a narrative-chronology of the waves of persecution and ended with Antonius Pious.
A new approach in dealing with Christians was adopted by Marcus Aurelius who reigned form 161–180. Aurelius is known as a philosopher emperor. He authored a volume on Stoic philosophy titled Meditations. It was really more a series of notes to himself, but it became something of a classic of ancient literature. Aurelius bore not a shred of sympathy for the idea of life after death & detested as intellectually inferior anyone who carried a hope in immortality.
Reversing the Trajan policy of not going after Christians, Aurelius crafted a system of spies to gather intelligence and evidence against them. Rather than check riots that frequently called for martyr’s blood as the previous emperors had done, Aurelius encouraged them. It was during his reign Christians began to be blamed for natural catastrophes. The supposition was that the gods were upset Christians weren’t being persecuted by good Romans. With this as their moral backing, and making up for lost time, persecution under Aurelius moved to a new level of brutality. Thousands lost their heads or were tossed to beasts. It was at this time Justin Martyr became one.
But we have to note that as fierce as the Aurelian persecution was, no official edict calling for an Empire-wide extermination of Christians was issued. Nor did one come during the reigns of Septimius Severus from 193–211 or Maximinus from 235–238 when persecution of the followers of Christ was renewed. The Severian campaign sought to root out the church in Egypt and North Africa, while the Maximinian chapter aimed only at Christian leaders in specific locales.
The mid-3rd C saw a dramatic change.
As Rome celebrated its thousand-year anniversary, people cast longing eyes back to the Golden Age & Glory Days of a bygone era of power & prosperity. In comparison, Rome now seemed a tottering old-hag hobbling along on arthritic knees. She was no longer able to kick away the barbarian dogs snapping at her heels. The superstition of pagans, who of course were in the vast majority, believed the gods who favored their ancestors FOR their devotion, were now punishing them for allowing the Christians to reject them.
That being the case, wasn’t it morally right & for the public good to actively go after the followers of Jesus?
Decius only ruled from 249-51, but he was convinced maintaining Rome’s cultus was essential to political stability and a return to prosperity. As soon as he took the purple, he gave orders everyone in the empire had to swear by the Emperor’s genius; that is, practice emperor worship, as we talked about last time. This flushed out Christians who refused. They were declared traitors; enemies of the emperor, state, and public good. Their very presence was deemed a dangerous blight since the wrath of the gods was on them.
As harsh as all this sounds, the evidence indicates that at first, the goal wasn’t to kill them so much as it was to get them to recant under the threat of pain. Getting a Christian to recant was far more effective than killing them because many people are inspired by martyrdom. And of course, the martyrs were held in ultra-high esteem by The Church. So much so, a bit later, we’ll find Church Leaders telling church members to use common sense and to not run around making a big to-do about being a believer, just so they WOULD be arrested and executed!
No – most officials didn’t want to make martyrs; they preferred apostates. Think of it this way . . .
In ancient warfare, men would psych and pump themselves up in anticipation of battle. Once battle began, you wanted to present yourself like a man; tough, courageous. When you see your buddies taking blows and giving a...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 19:26
The First Centuries – Part 2 http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-2/ Sun, 05 Feb 2017 09:01:36 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1597 http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-2/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-2/feed/ 0  The First Centuries – Part 2 This is part 2 in our follow-up series on the first centuries in Church History. We’re concentrating on the persecution Jesus’ followers endured. In part 1, we examined the social & civic reasons for persecution in the Roman Empire. The suspicion of nefarious intent by Christians, fueled by their […]  The First Centuries – Part 2

This is part 2 in our follow-up series on the first centuries in Church History. We’re concentrating on the persecution Jesus’ followers endured. In part 1, we examined the social & civic reasons for persecution in the Roman Empire.

The suspicion of nefarious intent by Christians, fueled by their withdrawal from society due to its tacit connection to paganism, morphed into a suspicion of covert actions Jesus’ followers were taking to subvert society. Why were Christians so secretive if they weren’t in fact doing something wrong? And if the rumors were true, Christians WERE doing odd things; like pretending slaves had the same dignity as freemen; that women and children were to be honored as equal to men; and they rescued exposed infants. Why, if they kept all that up, and more joined their cause, what was to become of the world? It would look very different from the one that had been.

Another concern was the reaction of the gods. What would they do if the Christians had their way and everyone came to faith in a single deity? Those gods and goddesses, responsible as they were for things like weather and fertility, might throw one of their classic hissy-fits and call up a drought, a storm, or war.

All this helps explain the 1st official wave of persecution at Roman hands. In AD 64, during Nero’s reign, fire leveled whole neighborhoods in Rome. This was neither the 1st nor last fire to devastated the City. But it was one of the most severe. For days it raged leaving a large part of the heart of Rome in ash. A rumor pointed the finger at Nero as the cause of the fire. It was well known that he planned a grand re-modelling of the City. What matter if his plans were hindered by several thousands homes. Seeing the fiction that as Emperor, he could do as he please beginning to crumble in the face of a quickly rising public rage, Nero searched for a scapegoat. He found a ready one in a group that was already under suspicion. Convenient that they held some belief in the end of the world by fire.

Large numbers of Christians were arrested. Then crucifixions began. When that got boring, they were sewn inside skins of cattle and torn apart by vicious dogs. Women were tied to bulls and dragged to death. One report says at night, Nero tied Christians to stakes in his garden, doused them with pitch, then lit them ablaze while he rode among them in his chariot.

Most likely, it’s during this persecution the apostles Paul & Peter were martyred in Rome.

This first wave of official persecution was uncommon for the 1st & 2nd Cs, but it did presage what was to come later. For long periods Christians enjoyed a measure of peace. But they knew persecution could break out at any moment. All it took was some influential person taking umbrage & the arrests started up again. Because being a Christian was technically illegal.

Things remained relatively quiet until the early 2nd C. Then a question began to rise over whether or not Rome ought to take a firmer hand in dealing with the Christians. After all, no one could ignore that fact that they were growing in numbers. Especially concerning was the number of soldiers converting to the new faith. What effect would their religion have on their fitness to serve in the legions?

As I shared in Season 1, in ad 112 Pliny, a governor in Asia Minor, wrote his friend the Emperor Trajan, asking advice in how to deal with followers of Christ. He was sure Christians were guilty of something. He just wasn’t sure what. He put no stock whatever in the wild rumors they were incestuous or cannibals.

He wrote, “I do not know just what to do with the Christians, for I have never been present at one of their trials. Is just being a Christian enough to punish, or must something bad actually have been done? What I have done, in the case of those who admitted they were Christians, was to order them sent to Rome, if citizens; if not, to have them killed. I was sure they deserved to be punished because they were so stubborn.”

What stubbornness did Pliny mean? HOW did these early Christians exhibit such stubbornness. What was it they were being required to do they couldn’t?

That arose from their failure to laud the Emperor’s genius – as it was called. The main cause of Rome’s persecution of Jesus’ followers came about from the tradition of emperor worship. The contest between Christ & Caesar didn’t happen overnight. It rose gradually because the PRACTICE of emperor worship rose gradually to attain a central place in the life of the Empire.

The roots of emperor worship lay in how Romans viewed the benefit of their hegemony. When & where they took over, a mostly impartial justice arrived. People were freed from the caprice of fickle tyrants. Roads were cleared of bandits, the seas of pirates. A superior security came to most regions. This came to be called Pax Romana, the Roman peace. But it was a peace enforced by a very sharp and deadly sword.

Many regions held a profound gratitude to Rome for disposing of their previous rulers & replacing them with, if not out-right benevolent governors, at least their avarice was restrained. Because they already believed in a host of deities, it was easy to make one more – Roma, goddess of Rome. By the 2nd C BC there were dozens of temples in Asia Minor to her. But humans like symbols, something they can see. So it wasn’t long before the spirit of Rome was regarded as imbuing the Empire’s leader – the Emperor. He was Rome. The first temple built to the godhead of the emperor was built in 29 bc at Pergamum in Asia Minor.

At first Roman emperors hesitated to accept this reverence. In the mid-1st C, Claudius refused to allow temples to be erected to him because of the ostentatiousness they suggested. But the idea grew began to grow and became attractive to later emperors.

The logic was that the Empire needed something to unite its far-flung provinces in a single, uniform practice. A kind of Pledge of Allegiance. Since nothing has the potential to unite like a common religion; Caesar-worship seemed a ready tool to forge loyalty. There was just no chance any of the disparate religions of the various regions of the Empire would be accepted by all, why not rally under the one things they’d all embraced – the political yoke of Rome. So emperor-worship became a centerpiece of imperial policy. It was officially organized in every province. Everywhere temples to the Emperor appeared.

BUT – if loyalty to Rome was announced by worshipping the Emperor, what did a refusal to worship him mean? Logic seemed to leave a single answer – Treason! So Christians who refused to offer a pinch of incense while saying “Caesar is Lord” were branded as dangerous traitors. Subversives whose presence couldn’t just be overlooked, for surely the gods were watching and required those who defied them to be punished.

During the reign of the Emperor Decius in the mid 3rd C, Caesar worship was made universal & compulsory for everyone in the Empire with the single exception of the Jews. On a set day each year everyone had to come to the Temple of Caesar & burn a pinch of incense while saying: “Caesar is Lord.” He was then given a libelli, a certificate to guarantee he’d taken the oath and sworn by the Emperor’s genius. He could then go and worship any god he liked, so long as the worship didn’t affect public decency and order.

Caesar worship was mainly a political loyalty test; a way to register someone as a “good citizen” at least as Rome defined it. But of course, it proved nothing about a person’s real loyalty. Christians, who COULDN’T participate in Caesar-worship were in fact, often better citizens than those who took the oath. Because their Holy Writings enjoined them to pray for those in authority.

Roman coins from that time have text given in adulation by Romans to the emperor remarkably similar to the praise Christians offered Christ. These coins, say things like, “Hail, Lord of the Earth, Invincible, Power, Glory, Honor, Blessed, Great, Worthy art Thou to inherit the kingdom.” That sounds an awful lot like praise directed to Jesus in Revelation.

The Worship of Christ & Caesar butted heads. No pious Christian would ever say was: “Caesar is Lord.” Jesus alone was Lord. But to most Romans, Christians seemed stupidly intolerant. Just go along to get along for goodness sake!

“For goodness sake; if there really is only 1 God as you Christians claim, then what harm is there in burning a pinch of incense & mouthing empty words. It’ll at least remove the suspicious & hostile eye of Rome from you!”

While an imminently practical idea to many Romans, it was unthinkable to most Christians. Although some in fact DID use this as justification for obtaining a libelli.

But most Christians saw it more like this: Saying Caesar is Lord was spiritual adultery; it was cheating on Jesus. Burning incense and taking the oath would be like cheating on your spouse, and justifying by saying there was no love involved; it was just sex.

è That dog’s just not gonna’ hunt!

Something for us to ponder is how this contest between Caesar and Christ which began near the start of the Church will, according to a Futurist interpretation, come round again at the end. In the Book of Revelation, John presents a major struggle between the forces of heaven and hell with Earth being the battlefield. It’s a contest of kingdoms; God’s and the devil’s, with satan’s merging with a political empire intent on wiping out believers. Historicists see that as having been fulfilled in the early centuries of the church. Futurists see it as something yet future, a recapitulation of what’s already happened but on a much wider scale.

The earliest phase of official persecution of the Church ran from about AD 64 to 100.

As already mentioned, it was touched off by the fire at Rome. The fire began July 19, 64 and lasted for 9 days. It destroyed 10 of Rome’s 14 districts and created massive suffering for the City’s million inhabitants. To divert attention from himself as the likely cause of the fire, the Emperor Nero blamed the Christians who were already suspect due to their secretiveness; and the report that they claimed the world would end in fire. If they wanted to end in fire, Nero was happy to oblige and used them as living torches in the gardens near his circus in the Vaticanus district. Both Peter and Paul were executed during this wave of persecution.

The Neronian persecution, as it’s come to be called, is notable in that it set a precedent for why the followers of Jesus were to be persecuted. Though the program of persecution didn’t really extend beyond Rome, Christians IN the City were subject to arrest and execution on the charge they were arsonists; fire being dread in Rome due to the its tendency to spread so rapidly form one house to the next.

After the first flurry of arrests and executions in the mid to late 60’s persecution diminished for some years, only to flare up again in 95, during Domitian’s reign. But this wave of hardship didn’t begin with Christians; it began with Jews, whom at that point Christians were still regarded as a reform movement of. Jews refused to pay a new tax levied to fund construction of Jupiter’s temple on the Capitoline Hill. Domitian decided to use this break with the obstinate Jews to enforce emperor worship. When they refused to take the oath, Christians were arrested for treason. Those arrested lost their property, many were banished, and others were executed; especially leaders. It was at this time the Apostle John was exiled to the prison-island of Patmos. Legend says John had been arrested by zealous officials hopeful to ingratiate themselves with the Emperor. They thought to execute John by boiling him in oil; sure to terrorize other would-be Christians leaders into submission. But God miraculously turned the experienced into a day at the spa. John came out with not hint of distress. Then fearful of whatever deity had preserved him John was bundled up and packed off to the one place he could do the least amount of damage – on a lonely prison-island in the middle of the Med. At least there his influence will be negated, right? Well, good luck with that plan you all-wise officials! It was on Patmos John received the visions that became Revelation, and which provided courage and succor to millions of persecuted believers ever since.

It wasn’t really till the early 2nd C that Rome established a policy for dealing with Christians.

A lawyer named Pliny, known to history as the Younger, because his famous uncle was known as Pliny, can you guess – yep, the Elder. The uncle was a famous author & philosopher. The Younger Pliny was as governor in northern Asia Minor from 111–13. Something of a revival must have taken place during his term as governor because there was a massive defection from paganism swelling the ranks of the Christians. Pliny was of a mind that to be a good Roman meant to hold that civic virtue we looked at last time – pietas; which meant adhering to the paganism still an official part of the Roman cultus. So many people forsaking the old gods was surely bad for the Empire. So Pliny gave anyone accused of, or who claimed to be a Christians 3 chances to recant; each time with increasing threats of punishment if they refused. If they resisted recantation after 3 warnings, they were executed.

But Pliny was unsure of this treatment accurately reflected the wishes of the one to whom he owed his office as governor – the Emperor Trajan. He wrote the Emperor asking for advice. Trajan responded that Pliny wasn’t to make it a policy to go on a search & destroy mission for Jesus’ followers. But if & when they happened to be brought to him, having been convicted of being a Christians, they were to be punished, some by torture to encourage recantation, the obstinate were executed. Trajan added that anonymous charges weren’t to be entertained; the accuser had to face the accused. This is the first real evidence we have of an official policy regarding Christians. It wasn’t long until officials across the Empire used Trajan’s guidelines in dealing with Christians. Many were martyred, including the Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, who in 115 was thrown to beasts in the arena at Rome.

Trajan’s successor, Hadrian generally continued Trajan’s policy from 117 to 138. I say generally, because Hadrian didn’t send out letters telling local officials to stay on task in regard to Christians. Some governors hated the new sect and used their official cover to persecute them. Most governors didn’t really care. Christians weren’t causing any troubles – so why kick a hornet’s nest? They left believers alone. But if suddenly there was a leanness in the ranks of fighters for the arena, well, they could always crank up another round of persecution, snag some Christians as fodder for the arena. And besides, the Church was getting pretty big – time to trim the hedge.

Occasionally at heathen festivals the mob would drink too much and want some entertainment, so they’d demand the blood of Christians. This became so common, Hadrian published an edict against such riots. Christians couldn’t’; just be roused by the mob out of their homes or meeting places & carried off to some temple or arena where their heads were used to crack rocks. No, Christians were to be given the justice of the courts. They could be executed for being Christians, but only after being properly charged and tried. During Hadrian’s reign, this policy saw the ranks of Christians grow, their wealth improve, their scholarship advance & their influence spread.

From 139-161, the Emperor Antoninus Pius appears to have personally favored Jesus’ followers. But officially he continued the precedent of imperial policy. What that means is, little direction was coming from Rome about how Christians were to be handled. Persecution at this time was sporadic, regional, and temporary. It might flare up for a few months with mobs rioting and demanding Christian blood, then several years would go by with nary a whisper of threat. A student of the Apostle John, Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, was martyred in this way; when a mob rioted and demanded some Christians pay for their defiance of the old ways and gods.

Let’s call this period, the time of provincial persecution.

We’ll end this episode here, and pick it up at this point next time as we continue to track persecution in the First Centuries.

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 The First Centuries – Part 2 This is part 2 in our follow-up series on the first centuries in Church History. We’re concentrating on the persecution Jesus’ followers endured. In part 1, we examined the social & civic reasons for persecution in the Rom... This is part 2 in our follow-up series on the first centuries in Church History. We’re concentrating on the persecution Jesus’ followers endured. In part 1, we examined the social & civic reasons for persecution in the Roman Empire.
The suspicion of nefarious intent by Christians, fueled by their withdrawal from society due to its tacit connection to paganism, morphed into a suspicion of covert actions Jesus’ followers were taking to subvert society. Why were Christians so secretive if they weren’t in fact doing something wrong? And if the rumors were true, Christians WERE doing odd things; like pretending slaves had the same dignity as freemen; that women and children were to be honored as equal to men; and they rescued exposed infants. Why, if they kept all that up, and more joined their cause, what was to become of the world? It would look very different from the one that had been.
Another concern was the reaction of the gods. What would they do if the Christians had their way and everyone came to faith in a single deity? Those gods and goddesses, responsible as they were for things like weather and fertility, might throw one of their classic hissy-fits and call up a drought, a storm, or war.
All this helps explain the 1st official wave of persecution at Roman hands. In AD 64, during Nero’s reign, fire leveled whole neighborhoods in Rome. This was neither the 1st nor last fire to devastated the City. But it was one of the most severe. For days it raged leaving a large part of the heart of Rome in ash. A rumor pointed the finger at Nero as the cause of the fire. It was well known that he planned a grand re-modelling of the City. What matter if his plans were hindered by several thousands homes. Seeing the fiction that as Emperor, he could do as he please beginning to crumble in the face of a quickly rising public rage, Nero searched for a scapegoat. He found a ready one in a group that was already under suspicion. Convenient that they held some belief in the end of the world by fire.
Large numbers of Christians were arrested. Then crucifixions began. When that got boring, they were sewn inside skins of cattle and torn apart by vicious dogs. Women were tied to bulls and dragged to death. One report says at night, Nero tied Christians to stakes in his garden, doused them with pitch, then lit them ablaze while he rode among them in his chariot.
Most likely, it’s during this persecution the apostles Paul & Peter were martyred in Rome.
This first wave of official persecution was uncommon for the 1st & 2nd Cs, but it did presage what was to come later. For long periods Christians enjoyed a measure of peace. But they knew persecution could break out at any moment. All it took was some influential person taking umbrage & the arrests started up again. Because being a Christian was technically illegal.
Things remained relatively quiet until the early 2nd C. Then a question began to rise over whether or not Rome ought to take a firmer hand in dealing with the Christians. After all, no one could ignore that fact that they were growing in numbers. Especially concerning was the number of soldiers converting to the new faith. What effect would their religion have on their fitness to serve in the legions?
As I shared in Season 1, in ad 112 Pliny, a governor in Asia Minor, wrote his friend the Emperor Trajan, asking advice in how to deal with followers of Christ. He was sure Christians were guilty of something. He just wasn’t sure what. He put no stock whatever in the wild rumors they were incestuous or cannibals.
He wrote, “I do not know just what to do with the Christians, for I have never been present at one of their trials. Is just being a Christian enough to punish, or must something bad actually have been done? What I have done, in the case of those who admitted they were Christians, was to order them sent to Rome,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 19:18
The First Centuries – Part 1 http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-1/ Sun, 29 Jan 2017 09:01:16 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1591 http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-1/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/the-first-centuries-part-1/feed/ 3 The First Centuries Welcome BACK to Communion Sanctorum: History of the Christian Church. We ended our summary & overview narrative of Church History after 150 episodes; took a few months break, and are back to it again with more episodes which aim to fill in the massive gaps we left before. This time, we’ll do […] The First Centuries

Welcome BACK to Communion Sanctorum: History of the Christian Church.

We ended our summary & overview narrative of Church History after 150 episodes; took a few months break, and are back to it again with more episodes which aim to fill in the massive gaps we left before.

This time, we’ll do series that go into detail on specific moments, movements, people, places, and other topics.

The title of this episode is The First Centuries – Part 1.

Ask almost anyone with at least a vague awareness of the early years of the Christianity, and they will likely tell you it was a time of intense persecution. Ask how many believers were put to death and the number will range from tens of thousands to a few million.

From stories, movies, and paintings of the era, many have the mental image of a mass of defenseless Christians dressed in white, huddled on an arena floor, surrounded by hungry lions. The stands are packed with spectators shouting for blood. But that image, common as it may be, is rather misleading. Did it happen? Undoubtedly. But it wasn’t the ubiquitous scene many assume. Before the dawn of the 3rd C, official imperial attempts to eradicate Christianity were largely unorganized and lukewarm. Roman emperors were rarely the terror to the Faith popular literature has made them. I say rarely, because there were some notable exceptions prior to the 3rd C. After that, things changed dramatically. Some emperors delighted in tormenting Jesus’ followers. Ending Christianity in the most brutal manner seems to have been a major focus for some of them.

Why did Rome persecute Christians? And why is it the popular concept of this time that it was an Era of Martyrs?

It’s best to get at this by backing up a bit to consider Rome’s attitude toward religion. And how are we to do that pray-tell? For attitudes toward religion vary from person to person, and time to time. Among the ancients; Roman, Greek, Jew, Parthian, or whatever, there were those who were devout, the profane, and a whole spread of shades of piety from one end of the religious spectrum to the other. What we’re considering here is the basic Roman civic approach to religion.

It might surprise the modern student to learn that political leaders of Rome served a religious function that was part & parcel of their political task. Their civic duties included cultic rituals. Roman religion was heavily invested in public ceremonies and sacrifices. Personally held religious beliefs weren’t as important as most modern religions regard them. What was important, pre-eminently so, was the possession of pietas. Pietas was religious duty. It meant honoring the sacred Roman traditions in the accepted way. The English word piety is derived from Pietas. But piety wasn’t an option for any Roman who desired to climb the political ranks. It was an absolute essential and something to be demonstrated publicly.

Pietas was THE distinguishing virtue of Rome’s founding hero, Aeneas, who’s given the epithet of “pius” by Virgil in the Aeneid. Cicero elevated pietas to the place Christians would later assign Agape. It was the duty a good Roman was to show to the gods and his fellow man. And by doing so, ensured the safety and prosperity of the State.

Romans of the 2nd C BC to the 4th AD saw themselves as owing a debt of gratitude to their ancestors who embodied the virtues they treasured. It seems our time isn’t the only one that looks to a past Golden Age of yesteryear when “all the women were strong and the men were good-looking.” Romans assigned themselves a custodial roll in preserving the traditions of their ancestors. And not just theirs. They expanded that custody over the traditions of those they conquered. So though they despised the Jewish religion for its seeming irreligious monotheism and refusal to cast Yahweh’s form – because it was an ancient belief, it came under their protection, as did several other Eastern faiths that were too divergent from that of the Greeks and Romans to allow for inclusion in the Roman pantheon.

Christianity was different. It was originally regarded by Rome as a Jewish reform movement; something Jewish leaders would have to deal with within their esoteric and opaque system.

What worried Rome was the rapidity by which the new faith grew. That, and it defied some of Rome’s most cherished ideas about how religion ought to be conducted. Rome was all about the PUBLIC display of ritual. Religion was a community thing. Christians, on the other hand, were secretive. They conducted their services in private and were reluctant to talk publicly about what they did behind closed doors. That reluctance owed to the wild & salacious rumors spread by critics. Calumny began early for Christians. In some places, Jewish opponents, jealous at the success of Christian evangelism, twisted aspects of the Christian message into accusations and whispered them in the ears of officials. Things like, Christians practiced cannibalism, because of the Lord’s Table. It was said they were incestuous, because they held what were called “Love Feasts” where they referred to each other as “brother and sister.” And most damning, was the pagan perception that Christians were in reality practical-atheists. That charge is incomprehensible to modern believers contending with the likes of Dawkins & Harris and their New Atheist compatriots. But in the early centuries, Christians were regarded by their pagan neighbors as atheists precisely because they believed in only ONE God, rather than a plethora.

Though believers tried to dispel these damning mis-conceptions, they lived on. As has been said; A lie travels half-way round the world before truth has put its shoes on. So Christians sequestered themselves behind closed doors and met in secret to conduct their clandestine meetings.

The popular Roman mentality toward religion was that it needed to be practiced in public as an expression of the community’s devotion to the gods, who’d reward this public piety with divine favor. It was relatively easy for them to accept the faiths of those they conquered since they already believed in a multiplicity of deities. What matter that there were now a few more?

That policy of tolerance for the religions of their conquests was sorely tried when it came to the Jews. Though many Romans despised the monotheism of Judaism, toleration was begrudgingly given simply on the basis of the antiquity of the Jewish faith. That toleration was strained to the breaking point under the reign of the mad Emperor Caligula who demanded to be worshipped as a god. Then after the First Jewish–Roman War of AD 66-73, the Jews were allowed to practice their religion only so long as they paid a new tax, the “fiscus Judaicus” ON TOP OF the exorbitant taxes that had sparked their revolt in the first place.

There’s debate among historians over whether the Roman government simply saw Christianity as a sect of Judaism prior to Emperor Nerva’s modification of the fiscus Judaicus in 96. From then on, Jews had to pay while Christians didn’t. SO that seems to suggest an official distinction was made between the 2 groups.

A measure of the Roman disdain for Christianity came from the belief that it was bad for society. In the 3rd C, the Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry labelled Jesus’ followers as impious & anti-social atheists. Their impiety was located, not in what we’d call traditional morality, but in their refusal to engage in the public religious rituals that were understood by the pagan world as a way to gain the favor of the gods.

Once Christians were distinguished from Jews, the Faith was no longer grand-fathered into reluctant acceptance. No – it became “superstitio.”

For Romans, superstition had a dangerous connotation; far more so that in today’s parlance. It meant religious practices not just different form the norm; they were corrosive to society. Superstition was a set of beliefs that if embraced, dehumanized someone. If enough embraced them and were detached from their humanitas, society would unravel; an ancient spiritual zombie apocalypse. Roman squelching of such dangerous superstitions happened in 428 BC when an unnamed group was eradicated for having caused a damaging drought. In 186 BC, the Romans moved against initiates of the cult of Bacchus when they got unruly. And of course, there’s the famous Roman campaign against the Druids.

The intensity of Christian persecution depended upon how dangerous they were deemed to be by the local official responsible for conducting such oversight. To be frank, Christian beliefs didn’t endeared them to many officials. Think about it. They . . .

1) Worshipped a convicted criminal,

2) Refused to swear by the emperor’s genius,

3) Railed against Roman depravity in their writings,

4) And conducted their suspicious services in private.

In his Apologeticus, addressed to the magistrates of Carthage in the Summer of 197 AD, the early church father Tertullian remarked, “We have the reputation of living aloof from crowds.”

One of the more frequent word used to describe Christians in the NT is hagios, translated “saints.” Literally = holy ones. Bu the root of the word means to be different, set-apart.  If something is holy, it’s different from other things. That difference lies in it’s purpose. It’s for God; dedicated exclusively to Him. So, a temple is holy because it’s different from all other buildings; the Sabbath is holy because it’s dedicated to God. Christians are saints, because they belong to God. Jesus’ followers felt this distinction keenly; they embraced it, knowing it set them at odds with their pagan neighbors.

It’s human nature to regard those who are different with suspicion. So the more seriously early Christians took their faith the more hostility they faced. Simply by living in obedience to Jesus, Christians condemned paganism. Christians didn’t run around wagging their fingers or tongues in condemnation of unbelievers. Nor did they advocate and promotes a self-righteous superiority. It just that the Christian ethic revealed the shabbiness of a pagan life.

If that’s all the Christians were guilty of though, persecution would not have broken out against them in such fury. What sparked it was their vehement rejection of the pagan gods. The ancient world had deities for everything. There was a goddess for sowing  & another for reaping. There was a god for clear skies and another for rain. Mountains had gods, as did trees & rivers & valleys. For Christians, most of who had at one time worshipped these deities, they were a fiction! And it would be one thing to go quietly about their business with that view, you know, keeping their religion to themselves. But pagans wouldn’t let them. Because every meal began by pouring out a few drops of wine as an offering to the pagan gods. Feasts & parties were held in a temple after sacrifice. The invitation was to dine at the table of some god. It was an ancient version of Chuck E Cheese. But instead of ignoring the dated mechanical rodent, you had to worship it before being allowed to eat your pizza. Christians simply couldn’t attend. When she or he turned down the invitation, they were reviled as rude & anti-social.

There were other events and gatherings Christians avoided because they considered them inherently immoral. They weren’t alone in that assessment. Many moral pagans objected to them as well. Gladiatorial contests are an example. In theaters across the empire, Romans made prisoners & slaves to fight to the death for amusement & entertainment of the crowd.

Refusal to practice idolatry led to financial difficulties. What was a mason to do if as a believer he refused to work stones for a pagan temple or a tailor balked at making a robe for a heathen priest, or a baker refused to make a cake for a . . . never mind.

Tertullian forbade Christians teaching school, because it meant using books with stories of the gods.

As I share that little piece of history, let’s be cognizant of the almost certain reality that Tertullian’s position was in all likelihood not something all believers, and not necessarily even all leaders agreed with. Truth be told, his may have been a minority opinion. The problem is we just don’t have much evidence of what the rest of the Church held regarding this. There was no tirade of tweets one February in the 3rd C over what occupations Christians could and couldn’t fill. It wasn’t a topic people blogged on. No Facebook pages were devoted to it. All we have is Tertullian’s remark. Maybe his pastoral peers disagreed and sent him pointed emails about it. Forgive the anachronism; I take it you get my point.

The larger point for us to glean is that during a time of widespread and aggressive paganism that REQUIRED Christians to go along to get along, many believers found themselves stepping away from public and civil life because in the contest with remaining faithful to Jesus, their conscience demanded it.

Everywhere Christians turned their lives and faith were on display because the Gospel introduced a revolutionary new attitude toward life. This was exhibited most clearly in the realms of Sex, Slaves, and Children.

The Church of the Modern Era has often endured scorn for its old-fashioned views on the sanctity of marriage & marital physical intimacy. That isn’t a criticism early Christians faced, at least from most moral philosophers. On the contrary, ancient Roman moral pundits lamented the abysmal sexual immorality of their times. Raising the sanctity of marriage, along with attitudes toward marital fidelity, was one of the Emperor Augustus’ pet projects. Christianity, infused as it was with a Biblical view of marriage and sex, regarded the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, withy marriage as a picture of the Church’s union with Christ. Couples who lived out the Gospel in their homes exhibited a quality of life pagans longed for. But it marked them as radically different; and we all know how the mass reacts to that!

Slavery was another matter altogether. It was here that Christianity was regarded as a dangerous force for it attributed dignity to all people regardless of status or state. It’s reported that when Christians met for their distinctive services, masters and their slaves shed the distinctions that marked their lives just before and after the service. Greco-Roman culture might regard slaves as mere living tools, as Plato described them. But Christians esteemed slaves as of equal value with the free. In a society stratified by endless causes for division, the followers of Jesus bore a shocking disregard for those differences. But with the horrors of periodic slave uprisings still fresh in the collective memory, outsiders came to regard the Christian message as dangerously subversive to the social order.

The attitude seemed to be à “Hey, look; it’s great the Christians see all people as equal yet are able to maintain the traditional roles our legal system has imposed. But we now that at some point, if more people go in for this Christian thing, the salves will reach a critical mass and will rebel again. Last time they did, I lost 2 friends and I don’t want to go through that again.”

The sanctity of human life that framed the core of the Christian attitude towards slaves & slavery applied toward children, and in particular, to infants. Unlike their neighbor-pagans, Christians refused to leave their unwanted or physically distressed children in some out of the way place to be left to die of exposure, or to be carried off by traffickers who’d invest a little food now for the pay-off of selling or using them later. In fact, not only did Christian refrain from this barbaric practice, they often rescued such exposed infants and raised them as their own, which of course put an additional financial burden on already strained incomes.

We’ll halt here and pick it up at this point in the next episode. We’ll begin by taking a look at the first systematic persecution under Nero in AD64.

]]>
The First Centuries Welcome BACK to Communion Sanctorum: History of the Christian Church. We ended our summary & overview narrative of Church History after 150 episodes; took a few months break, and are back to it again with more episodes which aim to ... Welcome BACK to Communion Sanctorum: History of the Christian Church.
We ended our summary & overview narrative of Church History after 150 episodes; took a few months break, and are back to it again with more episodes which aim to fill in the massive gaps we left before.
This time, we’ll do series that go into detail on specific moments, movements, people, places, and other topics.
The title of this episode is The First Centuries – Part 1.
Ask almost anyone with at least a vague awareness of the early years of the Christianity, and they will likely tell you it was a time of intense persecution. Ask how many believers were put to death and the number will range from tens of thousands to a few million.
From stories, movies, and paintings of the era, many have the mental image of a mass of defenseless Christians dressed in white, huddled on an arena floor, surrounded by hungry lions. The stands are packed with spectators shouting for blood. But that image, common as it may be, is rather misleading. Did it happen? Undoubtedly. But it wasn’t the ubiquitous scene many assume. Before the dawn of the 3rd C, official imperial attempts to eradicate Christianity were largely unorganized and lukewarm. Roman emperors were rarely the terror to the Faith popular literature has made them. I say rarely, because there were some notable exceptions prior to the 3rd C. After that, things changed dramatically. Some emperors delighted in tormenting Jesus’ followers. Ending Christianity in the most brutal manner seems to have been a major focus for some of them.
Why did Rome persecute Christians? And why is it the popular concept of this time that it was an Era of Martyrs?
It’s best to get at this by backing up a bit to consider Rome’s attitude toward religion. And how are we to do that pray-tell? For attitudes toward religion vary from person to person, and time to time. Among the ancients; Roman, Greek, Jew, Parthian, or whatever, there were those who were devout, the profane, and a whole spread of shades of piety from one end of the religious spectrum to the other. What we’re considering here is the basic Roman civic approach to religion.
It might surprise the modern student to learn that political leaders of Rome served a religious function that was part & parcel of their political task. Their civic duties included cultic rituals. Roman religion was heavily invested in public ceremonies and sacrifices. Personally held religious beliefs weren’t as important as most modern religions regard them. What was important, pre-eminently so, was the possession of pietas. Pietas was religious duty. It meant honoring the sacred Roman traditions in the accepted way. The English word piety is derived from Pietas. But piety wasn’t an option for any Roman who desired to climb the political ranks. It was an absolute essential and something to be demonstrated publicly.
Pietas was THE distinguishing virtue of Rome’s founding hero, Aeneas, who’s given the epithet of “pius” by Virgil in the Aeneid. Cicero elevated pietas to the place Christians would later assign Agape. It was the duty a good Roman was to show to the gods and his fellow man. And by doing so, ensured the safety and prosperity of the State.
Romans of the 2nd C BC to the 4th AD saw themselves as owing a debt of gratitude to their ancestors who embodied the virtues they treasured. It seems our time isn’t the only one that looks to a past Golden Age of yesteryear when “all the women were strong and the men were good-looking.” Romans assigned themselves a custodial roll in preserving the traditions of their ancestors. And not just theirs. They expanded that custody over the traditions of those they conquered. So though they despised the Jewish religion for its seeming irreligious monotheism and refusal to cast Yahweh’s form – because it was an ancient belief, it came under their protection,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 19:25
150-The End http://www.sanctorum.us/150-the-end/ Sun, 04 Sep 2016 09:01:05 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1397 http://www.sanctorum.us/150-the-end/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/150-the-end/feed/ 5 The final episode of Communio Sanctorum. We look briefly at the reaction of some Protestants  to Manifest Destiny. DL Moody, The Holiness Movement, Phoebe Palmer, The Azusa Street Revival. This 150th episode of CS is titled The End. 150 episodes! And this is the rebooted v2. We had a hundred episodes in v1 before I […] American_progressThe final episode of Communio Sanctorum. We look briefly at the reaction of some Protestants  to Manifest Destiny. DL Moody, The Holiness Movement, Phoebe Palmer, The Azusa Street Revival.


This 150th episode of CS is titled The End.

150 episodes! And this is the rebooted v2. We had a hundred episodes in v1 before I started over again in an attempt to clean up the timeline and fill in some gaps.

When I first set out to do this podcast I had no idea it would become what it’s turned out to be. I’m not much of a web guy and depend on the skill of others to help me figure out how to run the website, link to iTunes, and work the tech. Stat programs for WordPress sites are difficult to sort out and figuring out how many subscribers there are to CS is a bit of a challenge. The stat plugin I use says we have over 20K unique visitors a week. I’m assuming that’s mostly people who check in to grab each episode.

When I began, I thought maybe a couple hundred would join in the journey. To have 20K subscribers & be nominated the last 2 years for the Podcast Awards is way beyond what I anticipated.

So, thanks to all of you faithful CS subscribers. You’ve made the journey a rewarding experience. And if that sounds like I’m ending the podcast, you assumed correctly. As I’ve sat down to write the scripts over the last few weeks, I’ve asked myself, “Is this the last episode?” But when I finished, I realized there’s still material to cover.

There always would be. We’ve come in our narrative to the end of the 19th C and broached the early yrs of the 20th. But we’ve neglected some important stories, such as the massive Protestant Missions outreach of the 18th and 19th Cs. As I mentioned in a recent podcast, there’s so much historical record for this era, if we start following every trail of Church history it’ll never end.

So yes, this is the last episode of this iteration of CS. 150 seems a nice round number to end on. For those who are interested, I’ll be taking a break to turn my full attention to the expanding task of leading a growing church for a while; several months at least.

Then I want to pick it up again with some series where we’ll go into a lot more depth in moments & movements in the History of Christianity.

Check back after the first of the year and see if we’ve started up again. If not, I’ll still post an update with some information on when we will start back up.

I’ll have more to say at the end of the episode . . .

High school students in the United States learn about Manifest Destiny in their US History course as Juniors. MD was a late 19th political idea that the USA was divinely appointed to occupy all of the North American continent. MD captured the imagination of many Americans and was fueled by politicians and journalists. But the “America” MD believed was ordained by God to cover the continent had a specific flavor. It was white and Protestant. That is Northern European white and Protestant! Hardcore MD advocates went so far as to say once the USA had claimed all North America, it would spread its influence over Central & South America as well, and bring the blessing of the American system to the rest of the world.

But there was trouble in America. The Civil War may have helped end slavery, but it did not bring about racial harmony. On the contrary, things got worse in the South following the War. The large numbers of European immigrants flooding US shores in the North put pressure on urban centers which saw people of various ethnic communities banding together for mutual support, exacerbating an already fragmenting American society. The melting pot was leaking, quickly. Southern European immigrants faced a hard time in discrimination and as settlement moved Westward, Hispanics also faced it.

Josiah Strong, general secretary of the conservative Evangelical Alliance announced God was about to bring forth a “final competition of races” in which the Anglo-Saxons would prevail because they had the “best form of government, the purest expression of Christianity, and the highest civilization.” So they would fulfill their God-given destiny of sweeping aside weaker races, assimilating worthy races, and shaping the rest so as to, as he said id, “Anglo-Saxonize” humanity.

If that sounds a bit like the maniacal ramblings of a failed Austrian artist with a tiny mustache and bad haircut, you know where you’ve heard those claims before. But Josiah Strong made them several decades before Hitler. And while he was what we’d call a conservative Evangelical, there were oodles of more liberal Christians who held precisely the same ideas because they were all caught up in the idea of MD.

But these ideas contrasted strongly with the reality of the United States itself, especially in the urban centers. Immigrants were exploited and lived horribly overcrowded conditions. They had virtually no contact with organized Christianity, and especially that of the Protestant form.

When Protestant leaders realized they had no presence in some of the neediest places of their own country, they went to work to remedy the situation. The Young Men’s & Women’s Christian Association was imported from England set up chapters.

Sunday schools were established and were such a hit that many churches ended up having a more vibrant Sunday School program than their other functions.

The camp meetings that had been such a boon to the frontier were imported to Eastern cities. Mass meetings and revivals became a major part of the urban religious scene. The central figure of these revivals was a shoe salesman from Chicago named Dwight Lyman Moody. Moody knew the USA considered itself a “Christian realm” but saw precious little religion in the sprawling metropolis he called home. He began bringing the unchurched to his church, but when it became clear to him the leaders there weren’t interested in ministering outside the sphere of their own members, he began an independent work. He got involved with the YMCA, where his zeal for evangelism he recognized and encouraged. While visiting the HQs of the YMCA in London in 1872, he was invited to preach for the first time. The response moved him to take up a preaching career, focusing on the masses of urbanites in England, then in the US. While Moody was innovative in his methodology for conducting mass meetings, his message was a simple presentation of the Gospel with a call to repent of sin and put one’s faith in Christ as the only Savior. He was sure the best way to improve the condition of the urban poor was conversion. So while he concentrated his efforts in large cities, he was loath to speak out against social ills. He’d rather spend his time and effort lighting candles than cursing the dark. His success spun up many imitators, and soon revivals became a part of the American religious landscape.

The challenge of addressing the plight of urban poverty generated some new movements & denominations. Some Methodists in both Great Britain & the US observed that their denomination had become quite middle-class, neglecting the poor, which they regarded as a fundamental departure from the teaching of their founder, John Wesley. Since it was among such the movement had been birthed, they sought a return to their roots. In England, this impetus gave rise to the Salvation Army, founded by Methodists William & Catherine Booth. The SA was known for its work among the poor, providing food, shelter, & employment to the needy. Because the condition of the poor in the US was similar to England, when the SA arrived there, it found a ready mission field.

Another group to emerge from the Methodists at this time were less concerned for the poor, but no less concerned for another distinctive that had been prominent in Wesley’s ministry – the Call to Sanctification. The Holiness Movement was born out of a desire to recapture and reinfuse this central fixture of primitive Methodism.

At first there were many disconnected groups that comprised the Holiness Movement. Over time, they consolidated in a few denominations. The largest was the Church of the Nazarene, began in 1908.

A leading voice in the Holiness Movement was Phoebe Palmer, who in 1835 began leading women’s prayer meetings. A few years later, men joined as well. Then she took her show on the road, preaching and teaching all over N American & Europe. Palmer advocated sinless perfection – that it wasn’t just possible; rather—it ought to be the goal of all believers to achieve absolute moral purity. Of course she was not without her critics, even from within her own denomination. She founded the Methodist Ladies’ Home Missionary Society, which brought relief to some of the most deprived urban areas of the US. Her work, along with the work of many others, contributed to what later became the American Feminist movement.

Worship in many of the independent holiness churches was filled with a new energy & vitality unseen and unheard in most of the older denominations. Meetings would occasionally see what was called an outpouring spiritual gifts; things like speaking in tongues, prophecies, miracles & healings. And while all such went by the wayside in most churches after a few years, in 1906 they re-emerged in spectacular fashion at the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles.

The first glimmers of something happened among a small group at a house of one of the members on Bonnie Brae Street. Pastor William Seymour, a former slave who’d been trained by a Pentecostal minister named Charles Parham. As the little group prayed, the Holy Spirit moved and people began speaking in tongues. More wanted to attend but the house was too small so they moved to the Azusa Street mission. It was there a critical mass was reached. From there, Pentecostal fire spread to the rest of the country.

There were both whites & blacks present at Azusa Street Revival, so the work spread to both group’s churches. It quickly spread beyond its Methodist roots to include Baptists & others. In 1914, a gathering of Pentecostals, as they were called, saw the birth of the Assemblies of God denomination. Eventually, other Pentecostal groups formed. Most of them were eager to alleviate the suffering of the urban poor. When that task seemed to be largely addressed, an initiative of international missions was launched. The vitality and innovative inertia of Pentecostals fueled a new wave of world mission that saw Pentecostalism become a main feature of the World Christian Movement and Global Christianity.

Well, That’s it for CS for now.

Yeah, I know, there’s a lot of stuff we didn’t cover. That’s where all you aspiring podcasters can buy a mic, install a recording and editing program and go to town – filling in what I left out.

And I’m sure there were some who listened to these podcasts & said, “This guy’s an idiot. I could do a better podcast than that.” Well, here’s your chance. Go for it. Why not pick It up here and do a podcast on the history of your denomination, movement, or group. If you take on the task, let me know so I can give it a listen.

As I said earlier, check back early 2017 to see if there’s a fresh episode or update.

And if you’re a glutton for punishment and just miss my annoying voice each week for 15 minutes, you’re invited to subscribe to the weekly podcast of the church here I serve as lead pastor – just go to calvaryoxnard.org. If you use iTunes as your podcast portal, do a search for Calvary Chapel Oxnard in the iTunes store.

Okay, well  – That’s it. // Thanks so much for being a part of something special.

]]>
The final episode of Communio Sanctorum. We look briefly at the reaction of some Protestants  to Manifest Destiny. DL Moody, The Holiness Movement, Phoebe Palmer, The Azusa Street Revival. This 150th episode of CS is titled The End. 150 episodes! The final episode of Communio Sanctorum. We look briefly at the reaction of some Protestants  to Manifest Destiny. DL Moody, The Holiness Movement, Phoebe Palmer, The Azusa Street Revival.

This 150th episode of CS is titled The End.
150 episodes! And this is the rebooted v2. We had a hundred episodes in v1 before I started over again in an attempt to clean up the timeline and fill in some gaps.
When I first set out to do this podcast I had no idea it would become what it’s turned out to be. I’m not much of a web guy and depend on the skill of others to help me figure out how to run the website, link to iTunes, and work the tech. Stat programs for WordPress sites are difficult to sort out and figuring out how many subscribers there are to CS is a bit of a challenge. The stat plugin I use says we have over 20K unique visitors a week. I’m assuming that’s mostly people who check in to grab each episode.
When I began, I thought maybe a couple hundred would join in the journey. To have 20K subscribers & be nominated the last 2 years for the Podcast Awards is way beyond what I anticipated.
So, thanks to all of you faithful CS subscribers. You’ve made the journey a rewarding experience. And if that sounds like I’m ending the podcast, you assumed correctly. As I’ve sat down to write the scripts over the last few weeks, I’ve asked myself, “Is this the last episode?” But when I finished, I realized there’s still material to cover.
There always would be. We’ve come in our narrative to the end of the 19th C and broached the early yrs of the 20th. But we’ve neglected some important stories, such as the massive Protestant Missions outreach of the 18th and 19th Cs. As I mentioned in a recent podcast, there’s so much historical record for this era, if we start following every trail of Church history it’ll never end.
So yes, this is the last episode of this iteration of CS. 150 seems a nice round number to end on. For those who are interested, I’ll be taking a break to turn my full attention to the expanding task of leading a growing church for a while; several months at least.
Then I want to pick it up again with some series where we’ll go into a lot more depth in moments & movements in the History of Christianity.
Check back after the first of the year and see if we’ve started up again. If not, I’ll still post an update with some information on when we will start back up.
I’ll have more to say at the end of the episode . . .
High school students in the United States learn about Manifest Destiny in their US History course as Juniors. MD was a late 19th political idea that the USA was divinely appointed to occupy all of the North American continent. MD captured the imagination of many Americans and was fueled by politicians and journalists. But the “America” MD believed was ordained by God to cover the continent had a specific flavor. It was white and Protestant. That is Northern European white and Protestant! Hardcore MD advocates went so far as to say once the USA had claimed all North America, it would spread its influence over Central & South America as well, and bring the blessing of the American system to the rest of the world.
But there was trouble in America. The Civil War may have helped end slavery, but it did not bring about racial harmony. On the contrary, things got worse in the South following the War. The large numbers of European immigrants flooding US shores in the North put pressure on urban centers which saw people of various ethnic communities banding together for mutual support, exacerbating an already fragmenting American society. The melting pot was leaking, quickly. Southern European immigrants faced a hard time in discrimination and as settlement moved Westward, Hispanics also faced it.
Josiah Strong,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 14:51
149-Evangementalism http://www.sanctorum.us/149-evangementalism/ Sun, 28 Aug 2016 09:01:45 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1393 http://www.sanctorum.us/149-evangementalism/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/149-evangementalism/feed/ 0   Evangelism into Fundamentalism This 149th episode is titled Evangementalism. We’ve spent a couple episodes laying out the genesis of Theological Liberalism, and concluded the last episode with a brief look at the conservative reaction to it of what’s been called Evangelicalism. Evangelicalism was one of the most important movements of the 20th C. The […]  

  • BB Warfield

    BB Warfield

    Evangelism into Fundamentalism


  • This 149th episode is titled Evangementalism.

    We’ve spent a couple episodes laying out the genesis of Theological Liberalism, and concluded the last episode with a brief look at the conservative reaction to it of what’s been called Evangelicalism. Evangelicalism was one of the most important movements of the 20th C. The label comes from that which lies at the center of the movement, a devotion to an orthodox and traditional understanding of the Evangel, that is, the Christian Gospel. The Good News of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

    While Evangelicalism is used today mainly to describe that theological movement that came about as a reaction to Protestant theological liberalism, the terms can be applied all the way back to the 1st C believers who referred to themselves as people of the Gospel, the Evangel. The term was resurrected during the Reformation so that people at that time called themselves “evangelicals” before identifying as Protestants or any of the other labels by which we classify protestant denominations today.

    The modern flavor of Evangelicalism came about as a merging of European Pietism & THE revivals AMONG Methodists in England. Indeed, we could locate the real BIRTH of Evangelicalism in the First Great Awakening of the mid-18th C. Its midwives were people like Whitefield, Tennent, Freylinghuysen, & of course Jonathan Edwards.

    Since a major stress of all these was the need of a conversion experience and a spiritual new birth, revivalism and an emphasis on the task of evangelism has been front and center in Evangelicalism.

    As we’ve already seen in a past episode, the 1st Great Awakening was followed a century later by the 2nd Great Awakening which began in the United States and spread to Europe then the rest of the world and had a massive impact on how Christians viewed their faith and the role of faith in the world. What’s remarkable about the 2nd Great Awakening, is that it came at a time when many church leaders lamented the low state of the Church in Western Civilization and Christianity’s enemies were gleefully writing its obituary. Theological Liberalism had already helped to push the Faith toward an early grave. But the 2nd Great Awakening literally shook North American and Europe to their core. A wave of missionaries went out across the face of the earth as a result, spreading the faith to place where no church had existed for hundreds of years, and in some cases, never before.

    In the newly settled regions on the American frontier, Evangelicalism was carried out in week-long what were called “camp meetings.” Think of a modern concert with multiple bands. The camp meetings were like that, except in place of bands playing music were preachers passionately preaching the Gospel. Might not sound too appealing to our modern sensibilities, but the lonely pioneers of the frontier turned out in large crowds. They’d been too busy building their homesteads to consider constructing frontier churches. But now they returned home to do that very thing.

    One of the largest of these camp meetings took place at Cane Ridge in Kentucky in August 1801. Upwards of 20,000 gathered to listen to Protestant preachers of all stripes.

    Methodist minister Francis Asbury was just one of several circuit-riders who carried the Gospel all over the frontier. Both Baptists & Methodists worked tirelessly to bring the Gospel to blacks. But the fierce racism of the time refused to integrate congregation. Separate churches were plated for black congregations, of which there were many. In the early 19th C, Richard Allen left the Methodist Church to found the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In the US, it wasn’t long before Evangelical Baptists & Methodists outnumbered the older denominations of Episcopalians & Presbyterians, groups where theological liberalism was slowly infiltrating.

    Charles Finney was an attorney-turned-revivalist who transferred the excitement and energy of the rural camp-meetings to the urban centers of the American NE. And innovator, Finney encouraged the newly converted to share the story of how they came to the Faith – called ‘giving your testimony.’ He set what he called an “anxious bench” near the front of the rooms where he spoke as a place who wanted prayer or to make a profession of their need for Christ. That eventually morphed into the modern ‘altar-call’ that’s a standard fixture of many Evangelical churches today.

    By the start of the American Civil War in the mid-19th C, Evangelicalism was the predominant religious position of the American people. In an address delivered 1873, Rev. Theodore Woolsey, one-time president of Yale could say, without the least bit of controversy; “The vast majority of people believe in Christ and the Gospel. Christian influences are universal. Our civilization and intellectual culture are built on that foundation.”

    While there are many brands, flavors and emphases inside modern Evangelicalism, it’;s safe to characterize an evangelical as someone who holds to several core beliefs: those being à

    1) The authority and sufficiency of Scripture

    2) The uniqueness of salvation through the cross of Jesus Christ,

    3) The need for personal conversion

    4) And the urgency of evangelism

    Today, while there are specific and individual exceptions, we can say that collectively, Evangelicals are the most religiously active of Christians.

    A further refining of Evangelicalism took place when there was a debate over the first of its core doctrines – that is, the authority & sufficiency of Scripture. This is where Fundamentalism diverged from Evangelicalism. The other 3 core distinctive of Evangelicalism all rest on the authority and sufficiently of the Bible. And while Evangelicalism began as a reaction to theological liberalism, some of the ideas of that liberalism crept in to some Evangelical’s view of Scripture.

    You see, it’s one thing to say Scripture is authoritative and sufficient and another to then say the entire Bible is Scripture.  IS the Bible God’s Word, or does it just contain God’s Word? And we need scholars and those properly educated to tell us what is in fact Scripture and what’s filler? And are the actual WORDS God’s Words, or do the words need to be taken together collectively so that it’s not the words but the meaning they convey that makes for God’s authoritative message?

    Some Evangelical leaders noticed their peers were moving to a position that said the Bible wasn’t so much God’s Word as it contained God’s Message. While they weren’t as extreme as the Liberal Theologians, they effectively ended up in the same place. May I say, this debate is alive and well in the Evangelical church today and continues to be the source of much unrest.

    Conservative Evangelicals started linking the authority of Scripture to the doctrine of inerrancy; that is, belief the Bible’s original writings contained no errors, and that because of the laborious process of transmission of the texts over time, while we can’t say our modern translations are perfect or without any error, they are virtually inerrant; they are trustworthy versions of those originals.

    At the dawn of the 20th C, Princeton Theological Seminary became the epicenter of this debate as a leading defender of the authority of the Bible. It had long been an advocate for the infallibility of Scripture under such luminaries as Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, his son, AA. Hodge, named after Archibald Alexander, and BB Warfield. In a seminal essay on the doctrine of Inspiration in the Princeton Review, AA Hodge & BB Warfield defined inspiration as producing the “absolute infallibility” of Scripture. They said the autographs, the original writings of the Bible were free from error, not just in regard to theological matters, but in contradiction to what theological liberalism claimed, they were without error in regard to ALL their assertions, including those touching science & history.

    The theological liberalism coming from Europe had a mixed reception in the US at the outset of the 20th C. At first, most churches remained conservative and blissfully unaware of the slow sea-change taking place in the intellectual centers of American universities & seminaries. Battle lines were drawn between liberals and conservatives who were branded with a new label = Fundamentalists. The battle they carried out in the hallowed halls of academia soon spilled over into the pews. It was referred to as the contest between modernists and fundamentalists.

    While modernists embraced a whole host of varying ideologies, they shared two presuppositions. à

    First, they urged, Christianity must be reframed in light of new insights; that is the new beliefs of Protestant Liberalism.

    Second, the Faith had to be liberated from the cultural encrustations of traditionalism that had obscured the REAL MEANING of the Bible. What that effectively meant was that ALL and ANY traditional beliefs about what the Bible said were automatically no longer valid. It was a knee-jerk rejection of conservatism, simply because it wanted to conserve what had been.

    Though the term Fundamentalism wasn’t coined until 1920, it flowed from the 1910 publication The Fundamentals. It was a synthesis of different conservative Protestants who united to battle the Modernists who seemed to be taking over Evangelicalism. They banded together to launch a counteroffensive.

    There were 2 streams of the early Fundamentalist movement à

    One was an intellectual fundamentalism led by J. Gresham Machen [Gres’am May-chen] and his Calvinist peers at Princeton. [BTW – that IS the way to pronounce Machen’s name; the “h’ in Gresham is silent!]

    The other was a populist fundamentalism led by CI Schofield who produced the best-seller Scofield Reference Bible which contained his expansive notes and laid out a dispensationalism many found appealing.

    Other notable fundamentalist leaders were RA Torrey, DL Moody, Billy Sunday, and the Holiness Movement that moved in several denominations but most notably among the Nazarenes.

    While the intellectual and populist streams of fundamentalism attempted to unite in their opposition to modernism, there were simply too many doctrinal differences between all the various groups inside the movement to allow for a concerted strategy in dealing with Liberalism. As a result, Modernists were able to continue their infiltration & take-over of the intellectual centers of the Faith.

    In reaction to the modernists, in 1910, a group of conservative Presbyterians responded with five convictions that came to be considered the core Fundamentals from which the movement derived its name. Those 5 convictions flowed from their certainty in the inerrancy & infallibility of Scripture. They were . . .

    1) The inerrancy of the original writings.

    2) The virgin birth of Jesus.

    3) The substitutionary atonement of Jesus on the cross.

    4) His literal, bodily resurrection.

    5) A belief that Jesus’ miracles were to be understood as real events and not merely literary mythology meant to teach some ethical imperative. Jesus really fed thousands with a filet-o-fish Happy Meal, really raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, and really walked on water.

    These 5 fundamentals were elaborated and released between 1910 and 15 in a set of booklets called The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. The Stewart brothers funded their publication & ensured they were distributed to every Christian leader across the US. funded the publication of The Fundamentals, but also the wide distribution of these volumes to religious leaders all over America. 3 million copies were circulated before WWI to combat the threat Modernism.

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  Evangelism into Fundamentalism This 149th episode is titled Evangementalism. We’ve spent a couple episodes laying out the genesis of Theological Liberalism, and concluded the last episode with a brief look at the conservative reaction to it of what’s...
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Evangelism into Fundamentalism
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This 149th episode is titled Evangementalism.
We’ve spent a couple episodes laying out the genesis of Theological Liberalism, and concluded the last episode with a brief look at the conservative reaction to it of what’s been called Evangelicalism. Evangelicalism was one of the most important movements of the 20th C. The label comes from that which lies at the center of the movement, a devotion to an orthodox and traditional understanding of the Evangel, that is, the Christian Gospel. The Good News of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
While Evangelicalism is used today mainly to describe that theological movement that came about as a reaction to Protestant theological liberalism, the terms can be applied all the way back to the 1st C believers who referred to themselves as people of the Gospel, the Evangel. The term was resurrected during the Reformation so that people at that time called themselves “evangelicals” before identifying as Protestants or any of the other labels by which we classify protestant denominations today.
The modern flavor of Evangelicalism came about as a merging of European Pietism & THE revivals AMONG Methodists in England. Indeed, we could locate the real BIRTH of Evangelicalism in the First Great Awakening of the mid-18th C. Its midwives were people like Whitefield, Tennent, Freylinghuysen, & of course Jonathan Edwards.
Since a major stress of all these was the need of a conversion experience and a spiritual new birth, revivalism and an emphasis on the task of evangelism has been front and center in Evangelicalism.
As we’ve already seen in a past episode, the 1st Great Awakening was followed a century later by the 2nd Great Awakening which began in the United States and spread to Europe then the rest of the world and had a massive impact on how Christians viewed their faith and the role of faith in the world. What’s remarkable about the 2nd Great Awakening, is that it came at a time when many church leaders lamented the low state of the Church in Western Civilization and Christianity’s enemies were gleefully writing its obituary. Theological Liberalism had already helped to push the Faith toward an early grave. But the 2nd Great Awakening literally shook North American and Europe to their core. A wave of missionaries went out across the face of the earth as a result, spreading the faith to place where no church had existed for hundreds of years, and in some cases, never before.
In the newly settled regions on the American frontier, Evangelicalism was carried out in week-long what were called “camp meetings.” Think of a modern concert with multiple bands. The camp meetings were like that, except in place of bands playing music were preachers passionately preaching the Gospel. Might not sound too appealing to our modern sensibilities, but the lonely pioneers of the frontier turned out in large crowds. They’d been too busy building their homesteads to consider constructing frontier churches. But now they returned home to do that very thing.
One of the largest of these camp meetings took place at Cane Ridge in Kentucky in August 1801. Upwards of 20,000 gathered to listen to Protestant preachers of all stripes.
Methodist minister Francis Asbury was just one of several circuit-riders who carried the Gospel all over the frontier. Both Baptists & Methodists worked tirelessly to bring the Gospel to blacks. But the fierce racism of the time refused to integrate congregation. Separate churches were plated for black congregations, of which there were many. In the early 19th C, Richard Allen left the Methodist Church to found the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In the US, it wasn’t long before Evangelical Baptists & Methodists outnumbered the older denominations of Episcopalians & Presbyterians, groups where theological liberalism was slowly infiltrating...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 14:39
148-Liberal v Evangelical http://www.sanctorum.us/148-liberal-v-evangelical/ Sun, 21 Aug 2016 09:01:41 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1370 http://www.sanctorum.us/148-liberal-v-evangelical/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/148-liberal-v-evangelical/feed/ 0 The work of the Protestant Liberal theologians Schleiermacher & Ristchl. The Evangelical response. The title of this 148th episode is Liberal v Evangelical In our last episode, we considered the philosophical roots of Theological Liberalism. In this episode we’ll name names as we look at the early leaders and innovators or Liberalism. Some years ago […] Lib v Evan

The work of the Protestant Liberal theologians Schleiermacher & Ristchl. The Evangelical response.


The title of this 148th episode is Liberal v Evangelical

In our last episode, we considered the philosophical roots of Theological Liberalism. In this episode we’ll name names as we look at the early leaders and innovators or Liberalism.

Some years ago in a college Philosophy class, my professor gave his understanding of both faith and reason. After a lengthy description of both, he concluded by saying that faith and reason had absolutely nothing to do with each other. Reason dealt with the evidential, that which was perceived by the senses and what logic concluded were rationally consistent conclusions drawn form that evidence. Faith, he declaimed, was belief in spite of evidence. When I asked if he was thus saying faith was irrational, he just smiled.

The Professor was an adherent of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy. In Kant’s work Critique of Pure Reason, published in 1781, Kant argued reason is able to comprehend anything in the realm of space & time; what he called the phenomenal realm. But reason is useless in accessing the noumenal, or spiritual realm transcending time and space.

Kant didn’t argue against the existence of the spiritual realm. He simply said that it’s only something we can feel and experience. We can’t really THINK about it in the sense that it touches the rational mind.

Traditional, orthodox Christians pushed back against the Kantian view of faith as feeling and mere experience reminding themselves that Jesus had said the greatest command was to loved God with all they had, including their minds. But liberals found in Kant’s philosophy a justification for unhitching reason from faith and for allowing modern people to live in a secular world while still enjoying the benefits of religious sentiments about ultimate meaning.

A few years after the publication of Kant’s Critique, the German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher said the heart of Christian Faith isn’t an historical event, like the Resurrection. It was, he argued, a feeling one one’s absolute dependence on a reality beyond one’s self. That awareness, he claimed, could be developed to the point where a person would be able to imitate Jesus’ own good deeds.

He wrote, “The true nature of religion is immediate consciousness of Deity as found in ourselves and the world.” Schleiermacher has been called the Father of theological liberalism.

Schleiermacher was born in a pious Moravian home, but as a young man, he imbibed the rationalism of the Enlightenment and became an ardent apologist for accommodating Christianity to popular society. As a professor of the newly founded University of Berlin, he insisted debates over proofs of God’s existence, the authority of Scriptures, and the possibility of miracles weren’t the issue they ought to focus on. He said that the heart of religion had always been feeling, rather than rational proofs. God is not a theory used to explain the universe. Rather, God is to be experienced as a living reality. For Schleiermacher, religion isn’t a creed to be pondered by the rational mind. It’s based more on intuition & a feeling of dependence.

Orthodox Christians who identified religion with creedal doctrines, Schleiermacher maintained, would lose the battle for the Faith in the Modern world because those creeds were no longer rationally acceptable. Religion need to find a new base. He located it in feelings.

Sin, Schleiermacher said, was the result of people living by themselves, isolated from others. To overcome that sin that makes man independent from God and others, God sent a mediator in Jesus Christ. Christ’s uniqueness, wasn’t in doctrines about his virgin birth or deity. No à What made Jesus a Mediator who can help us is the perfect example he was of one utterly dependent on God. By meditating on Christ’s example, and feeling our own inner sense of dependence on the universe around us, we too can experience God as He did.

In Schleiermacher’s theology, the center of religion shifts from Scripture to experience. So, the Biblical criticism we looked at in the last episode can’t harm Christianity, since the real message of the Bible speaks to individual’s own subjective pursuit of the divine. The Bible doesn’t need to be factual or true, as long as it effects the feeling of dependence that is the spark that leads to spiritual illumination.

While Schleiermacher is the father of modern theology, Albrecht Ritschl enlarged on his ideas, taking them mainstream.

For Ritschl, religion had to be practical. It began with the question, “What must I do to be saved?” But he eschewed the merely theoretical. So the question “What must I do to be saved?” can’t just mean, “How do I get to heaven after I die?” Ritschl said salvation meant living a new life, free from sin, selfishness, fear, & guilt.

Ritschl’s practical Christianity had to be built on fact, so he welcomed the search for the historical Jesus we talked about in the last episode. The great fact of the Christian Faith is the impact Jesus has made on history. Nature, he maintained, gives an ambiguous understanding of God while History presents us with moments and movements that convey meaning.

Well, history conveys meaning alright – but I’m not sure all that history’s meant gives us a less ambiguous understanding of God than Nature.

Ritschl asserted that religion rests on human values, not science. Science conveys facts, things as they are. Religion weighs those facts and attributes more or less value to them.

Many Christians of the late 19th C considered Ritschl’s work helpful. It freed them from the destructive impact of the increasingly secular pursuits of history and science. It allowed biblical criticism to use scientific methodology in determining things like authorship, date, and the meaning of Scripture. But it recognized religion is more than facts. Values aren’t under the purview of science; that’s religion’s turf.

Protestant Theological Liberalism accepted higher criticism’s denial of Jesus’ miracles, his Virgin Birth, & his preexistence. But that did not in any way diminish Jesus’ importance. For Liberals, His deity didn’t need to arise from His essence. It resides in what Jesus MEANS. He’s the consummate human being who shows us the path to enlightenment and nobility. He’s the embodiment of supremely high ethical ideals whose example doesn’t discourage, but inspires us to emulation of His example. For Liberal Christian, The Church didn’t come out of some actual, factual events around Jerusalem 2000 years ago, it arose from Jesus’ awe-inspiring example. The Church isn’t a community of people who believe in a literally resurrected Savior so much as a value-creating community that gives meaning & mission to life. That mission is to create a society inspired by love, the kingdom of God upon earth.

The impact of this Theological liberalism wasn’t felt in just one denomination or region. It challenged traditional groups all over Europe and North America.  It appeared in the churches of New England under the title: New Theology. Its leading advocates came out of traditional Calvinism. Its greatest early popularizer was Lyman Abbott. Then came Henry Ward Beecher, William Tucker, & Lewis Stearns.

Prior to 1880 most New England ministers & churches held to some basic orthodox doctrines . . . The sovereignty of God; the depravity of humanity in original sin; the atonement of Christ; the necessity of the Holy Spirit’s in conversion; and the eternal separation of the saved and lost in heaven & hell.

But after 1880, each of those beliefs came under withering fire from Liberals. The most publicized controversy took place at Andover Seminary. The seminary was established by Congregationalists in 1808 to counter Unitarian tendencies at Harvard. Attempting to preserve Andover’s orthodoxy, the founders required the faculty subscribe to a creed summarizing their adherence to classic Calvinism. But by 1880, under the influence of liberalism several of the faculty could no longer make the pledge. The spark that lit the flames of controversy was a series of articles in the Andover Review by a few liberal professors who argued the unsaved who die without any knowledge of the Gospel will have an opportunity at some future point to either accept or to reject the Gospel before facing judgment. Several of Andover’s faculty came out in public defense of this, what was called at the time liberal theology.

Andover’s board filed an action against one of the authors of the articles as a test case. After years of moves and counter-moves the Supreme Court of Massachusetts in 1892 voided the action of the Board Smyth. By then, most denominations had their own tussles with liberalism seeking to infiltrate their colleges and schools.

The response to Protestant theological liberalism was a movement which many of our listeners have heard of – Evangelicalism.

Evangelicalism began in England in the 19th C, which in many ways belonged to Great Britain. England was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. London became the largest city and financial center of the World. British trade circled the globe; her navy ruled the seas. By 1914, Great Britain ruled the most expansive empire in history.

But the rapid commercial & industrial growth wasn’t equally distributed across England’s population. The pace of change left many stunned. Every traditionally sacred institution cracked at its foundation. Some feared the horrors of the French Revolution were about to be repeated on England’s hallowed shores while others sang the praises of Lady Progress and dreamed of even greater advances. They regarded England as the vanguard of a new day of prosperity and liberty for all. Fear and hope mingled.

As the Age of Progress dawned in England, Protestants attended either the Anglican Church or one of the Nonconforming denominations of Methodist, Baptists, Congregationalists, and a handful of smaller groups. But now, for maybe the first time, Christians form different denominations also formed specialized groups with a specific aim; like distributing Bibles, redressing poverty in urban slums, teaching literacy, and supporting missionaries in the far-flung reaches of the Empire.

While liberalism grew in seminaries and colleges among professors and professional theologians, many ministers working in churches as local pastors and the people in the pews grew increasingly uncomfortable with the emerging doubt in the intellectual centers of their denominations. They may not be as sophisticated or learned in the academic pursuits of the experts, but by golly, they didn’t think a PhD was necessary to believe in or follow God. And if owning a PhD meant having to deny some of the cardinal doctrines of the Faith, then no thank YOU, very much.

Evangelicals pushed back on Liberals, saying Christians ought not just accept what Science says, just because it says it. History proves today’s so-called “science” is tomorrow’s subject of mockery. The Christian faith isn’t just about how it makes you feel and the meaning it brings you. It’s a Faith that rests on the actual, literal events of history. To deny those facts and events is to depart from Traditional, orthodox Christianity.

The Evangelical Movement began with the work of John Wesley and George Whitefield. Its main characteristics were its emphasis on personal holiness, arising from a conversion experience. It was also devoted to a practical concern for serving a need world. That holiness & service was nourished by devotion to the Bible which was regarded as inspired & inerrant. The Evangelical message went forth form a large minority of Anglican pulpits and a majority in the other denominations.

The headquarters of Evangelicalism was a small village 3 miles from London called Clapham. It was the residence of a group of wealthy Evangelicals who practiced a remarkable personal piety. The group’s spiritual leader was John Venn, a man of culture and sanctified common sense. They met for Bible study, conversation, and prayer in the library of the well to do banker, Henry Thornton.

But the most famous member of the Clapham Groups was William Wilberforce, the parliamentary statesman. Wilberforce found a universe of talented help for Evangelical causes among his Clapham friends. These included John Shore, Governor General of India; Charles Grant, Chairman of the East India Company; James Stephens, Under-Secretary for the Colonies; & Zachary Macauley, editor of the Christian Observer.

At the age of just 25, Wilberforce was dramatically converted to Christ after reading Doddridge’s Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul.  He possessed all the qualities for outstanding leadership: ample wealth, a liberal education, and outstanding talent. Prime Minister William Pitt said Wilberforce had the greatest natural eloquence he’d ever known. Several testified of his amazing capacity for close friendship and his superior moral principles. For many reasons Wilberforce seemed providentially prepared for the task and the time.

He once said, “My walk is a public one: my business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the part which Providence has assigned me.”

Under Wilberforce’s leadership the Clapham friends were knit solidly together. At the Clapham mansions they held what they called “Cabinet Councils.” They discussed the wrongs and injustices of their country, and the battles they’d have to fight. Inside and outside Parliament, they moved as one, delegating to each member the work he could do best to accomplish their common purpose.

They founded . . .

  • The Church Missionary Society
  • The British and Foreign Bible Society
  • The Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor
  • The Society for the Reformation of Prison Discipline
  • And many more.

Their greatest effort though, was the campaign to end slavery. Which is a tale I’ll leave for others to follow up.

While the Clapham group accomplished much, it was their role in abolishing slavery that provides a sterling example of how an entire society can be influenced by a few people.

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The work of the Protestant Liberal theologians Schleiermacher & Ristchl. The Evangelical response. The title of this 148th episode is Liberal v Evangelical In our last episode, we considered the philosophical roots of Theological Liberalism.
The work of the Protestant Liberal theologians Schleiermacher & Ristchl. The Evangelical response.

The title of this 148th episode is Liberal v Evangelical
In our last episode, we considered the philosophical roots of Theological Liberalism. In this episode we’ll name names as we look at the early leaders and innovators or Liberalism.
Some years ago in a college Philosophy class, my professor gave his understanding of both faith and reason. After a lengthy description of both, he concluded by saying that faith and reason had absolutely nothing to do with each other. Reason dealt with the evidential, that which was perceived by the senses and what logic concluded were rationally consistent conclusions drawn form that evidence. Faith, he declaimed, was belief in spite of evidence. When I asked if he was thus saying faith was irrational, he just smiled.
The Professor was an adherent of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy. In Kant’s work Critique of Pure Reason, published in 1781, Kant argued reason is able to comprehend anything in the realm of space & time; what he called the phenomenal realm. But reason is useless in accessing the noumenal, or spiritual realm transcending time and space.
Kant didn’t argue against the existence of the spiritual realm. He simply said that it’s only something we can feel and experience. We can’t really THINK about it in the sense that it touches the rational mind.
Traditional, orthodox Christians pushed back against the Kantian view of faith as feeling and mere experience reminding themselves that Jesus had said the greatest command was to loved God with all they had, including their minds. But liberals found in Kant’s philosophy a justification for unhitching reason from faith and for allowing modern people to live in a secular world while still enjoying the benefits of religious sentiments about ultimate meaning.
A few years after the publication of Kant’s Critique, the German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher said the heart of Christian Faith isn’t an historical event, like the Resurrection. It was, he argued, a feeling one one’s absolute dependence on a reality beyond one’s self. That awareness, he claimed, could be developed to the point where a person would be able to imitate Jesus’ own good deeds.
He wrote, “The true nature of religion is immediate consciousness of Deity as found in ourselves and the world.” Schleiermacher has been called the Father of theological liberalism.
Schleiermacher was born in a pious Moravian home, but as a young man, he imbibed the rationalism of the Enlightenment and became an ardent apologist for accommodating Christianity to popular society. As a professor of the newly founded University of Berlin, he insisted debates over proofs of God’s existence, the authority of Scriptures, and the possibility of miracles weren’t the issue they ought to focus on. He said that the heart of religion had always been feeling, rather than rational proofs. God is not a theory used to explain the universe. Rather, God is to be experienced as a living reality. For Schleiermacher, religion isn’t a creed to be pondered by the rational mind. It’s based more on intuition & a feeling of dependence.
Orthodox Christians who identified religion with creedal doctrines, Schleiermacher maintained, would lose the battle for the Faith in the Modern world because those creeds were no longer rationally acceptable. Religion need to find a new base. He located it in feelings.
Sin, Schleiermacher said, was the result of people living by themselves, isolated from others. To overcome that sin that makes man independent from God and others, God sent a mediator in Jesus Christ. Christ’s uniqueness, wasn’t in doctrines about his virgin birth or deity. No à What made Jesus a Mediator who can help us is the perfect example he was of one utt...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 17:56
147-Why So Critical http://www.sanctorum.us/147-why-so-critical/ Sun, 14 Aug 2016 09:01:40 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1359 http://www.sanctorum.us/147-why-so-critical/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/147-why-so-critical/feed/ 0 Part 3 in our looks at Theological Liberalism. A summary Biblical Criticism and Liberalism’s overall goal in merging reason & faith. The title of this 147th episode is Why So Critical? Two episodes back we introduced the themes that would lead eventually to what’s called by many Theological Liberalism. Last episode we talked a bit […] bc4

Part 3 in our looks at Theological Liberalism. A summary Biblical Criticism and Liberalism’s overall goal in merging reason & faith.


The title of this 147th episode is Why So Critical?

Two episodes back we introduced the themes that would lead eventually to what’s called by many Theological Liberalism. Last episode we talked a bit about how the church, mostly the Roman Catholic church, pushed back against those themes. In this episode we’ll go further into the birth of liberalism.

The 20th C has been unkind to Theological Liberalism, with its shining vision of the Universal Brotherhood of Man under the Universal Fatherhood of God. Yet, most mainline Protestant denomination still hold solidarity with Liberalism. It was Professor Sydney Ahlstrom view that liberals had provoked as much controversy in the 19th C as the Reformers did in the 16th. The reason for that controversy lay in their objective, stated by one of its premier advocates and popularizers – Harry Emerson Fosdick. In his autobiography The Living of These Days, , the influential pastor of the famous Riverside Church in New York City, said the aim of liberal theology was to make it possible “to be both an intelligent modern and a serious Christian.”

Liberals hoped to address a problem maybe as old as The Faith itself: That is, how can Christians reconcile their faith to the intellectual climate of their time without compromising the Essentials of The Gospel? By the evaluation of modern Evangelicals, Liberalism failed in that quest precisely because they DID compromise those essentials in their desire to be relevant among their unbelieving peers. Richard Niebuhr expressed the irony of theological liberalism when he said in liberalism “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

Personally, I’ve been reluctant to produce this episode because the more I’ve studied Theological liberalism, the less certain of being able to handle it competently I’ve grown. Definitions for it are no easier than for political liberalism. In fact, many deny that Protestant liberalism is a theology at all. They refer to it as an “outlook,” or “approach.” Henry Coffin of Union Seminary described liberalism as a “spirit” that honors truth so supremely and it craves the freedom to discuss, publish, and pursue what it believes to be true.

But then, it THAT is true, it must certainly lead to certain convictions that derive values & produce judgments. And THAT is precisely what we see the history of Protestant liberalism producing.

In the words of Bruce Shelley, “Liberals believed Christian theology had to come to terms with modern science if it ever hoped to claim and hold the allegiance of intelligent men.” So liberals refused to accept religious beliefs on authority alone. They insisted faith must submit to reason and experience. Following the thinking of the Enlightenment, of which they were the spiritual children, they claimed the human mind was capable of thinking God’s thoughts after Him. So, the best insight into the nature & character of God wasn’t His self-revelation in Scripture, which smacked of the old authoritarianism they eschewed; it was human intuition and reason.

By surrendering to what we’ll call “the modern mind” liberals accepted the assumption of their time that the universe was a massive but synchronized machine, like a well-made watch. The key to this machine was harmony – Unity.

I’ll come back to that in a moment, but a little editorializing seems in order. And while some of you may be rolling your eyes now – I really do think this is germane to what this podcast is – a review of History – specifically Church History. I just made reference to “the modern mind.”

Modern is another term that has multiple meanings. Historians use it to refer to the Modern Era, which they debate over the time span of, but let’s go with the common view that it runs from about 1500 to 1900-ish. So wait! IF the Modern Era ended at the beginning of the 20th C, what Era are we in now? The Atomic or Nuclear Era, the Post-Modern Era, the Information Age? Different labels get assigned to the current historical epoch. But don’t we still refer to current trends and fashions as being “modern”? Aren’t we “moderns” in the sense that we’re living NOW? Not many people would want to be considered not-modern.

It gets confusing because the word modern is plastic with a lot of different meanings and connotations. But here’s where it adds to the confusion as it relates to our discussion on theological liberalism, and some of this spills over into political liberalism. There was a desire to accommodate Christian theology to the modern mind. By which emerging liberals meant accepting the findings of “modern science” as (air-quote) fact & making theology fit into those supposed facts. But there’s a difference, a vast difference between facts and interpretations of facts. A few years after a so-called “Fact” was established by science, others came along to say, “Yeah, uh, we weren’t quite right about that. It’s actually this.” And, it wasn’t uncommon for even that revised new paradigm to be revised yet again.

Is coffee good or bad for you? Right now it’s good. But wait a month and it’ll be bad again, But not to worry, a year out, coffee will be the key to long life and amazing prosperity. Okay. I exaggerate, but not by much.

My point is this, the current moment, what we mean by at least ONE of those definitions of “modern” – has a nasty habit of thinking that just by virtue of the fact that we’ve progressed to this point, we’re now smarter, more enlightened and so better than all the moments before this. There’s a kind of arrogance that seems endemic to the fact that we’re here now – the most evolved & educated class of human beings history’s known.

But a few moments from now, the people living then will think the same thing about themselves and see us as unenlightened bores. And the modern mind will have moved on to the new so-called facts of what turns out to not be science, but is in truth scientism.

When theology is hitched to “the modern mind” as liberals aimed to do, its eternal verities are traded in for the changing whims of what the mind is now, and now, then now. And we have to unhitch eternal form those verities – because they simply aren’t true any longer.

Okay, end of the editorializing. Adopting the modern view that the universe was a vast harmonious machine, liberals aimed for Unity. They tried merging revelation with natural religion and Christianity with other religions by looking for common themes. Thus, comparative religions was born as an academic pursuit. They aimed to lower the wall between those who were saved and the lost, between God and man.

Liberals regarded the traditional & orthodox belief in a transcendent God who exists in a realm above and beyond the natural as stalling their agenda to unify & harmonize. They blurred the lines between the natural & supernatural and equated the spiritual realm with human consciousness. The spiritual realm became little more than the intellectual and emotional activity of human beings. And God was defined as the universal life force that even now is creating the Universe. One liberal said it this way, “Some call it evolution; others call it God.”

Remember, theological liberals aimed to harmonize science with faith. The newest darling on the scientific scene was Darwin and his emerging theory of everything – Evolution by Mutation & Natural Selection. Theological Liberalism had no problem accepting Darwin’s theory.

While the challenge of some of the assertions of science to orthodox Christianity were serious, they were secondary to the new views of history. Those views were adopted from the scientific method, which began a rigorous review of the assumptions that had framed classical or traditional history. If facts are based on evidence & repeatable observations, what were we to do with history, which by its very nature refers to the past? Historical criticism became the framework for a new generation of historians and academics. If a defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, events regarded by traditional history as certain were now suspect until proven true. Modern sensibilities were read back into and layered over persons and events of the past.

The application of these liberal principles of historical inquiry to the Bible were called “biblical criticism.” But don’t understand the term criticism here to be pejorative. Biblical criticism simply meant a study of Scripture in order to discover it’s real meaning. But Biblical criticism discarded the dogmatics of traditional inquiry in favor of a more rationalistic approach.

Biblical criticism flowed into two streams, lower and higher criticism. The low-critic dealt with problems of the actual manual text; manuscripts and such. Their goal was to find the earliest and most reliable text of Scripture. In other words, as close as possible to the autographs; the original writings. The work of lower criticism helped produce the large number of NT manuscripts we have today and assisted translators in the work of producing modern Bible versions.

Higher criticism proved to be a very different matter. The high-critic was so much interested in the accuracy of the text. H was more concerned with the meaning of the text. To get at that meaning, he often read between the lines or went behind the text to the events that were assumed to have produced the text. This meant discovering who wrote it, when and why. Higher criticism held that we can only get at the meaning of a passage when we see it against its background. Higher critics then went to work, systematically dismantling traditional views regarding hundreds of passages of the Bible. A beloved Psalm, attributed right in the text to David, the higher critics tells us wasn’t in fact written by King D. No, because it has a word scholars says wasn’t used for a 42 years after David, it was therefore written by the Jews in exile.

No, let me be clear, the methods of Biblical higher criticism weren’t new. They’d been used for a while on other ancient texts. But during the 19th C, they were applied to the Bible. And for many liberals, all it took was some scholar with a PhD to say that a traditional view of the Bible was wrong, it was this other thing, for them to categorically throw over tradition in favor of the new view.

Higher criticism agreed generally that Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch as both Jews & Christians had universally agreed till then. Instead they’d ben penned by at least 4 authors. And passages that seemed to be prophetic of future events must have been written after the events they supposedly foretold, because well, modern scientific sensibilities don’t allow for the supernatural. High-critics said the Gospel of John, wasn’t = John’s Gospel, that is. The Apostle did NOT pen it. Besides that, it was atrocious in its recording of history.

Diverging from the discipline of Biblical Criticism was what’s known as the search for the “historical Jesus.” Liberals like the idea of Jesus, if not the actual Jesus presented in the Gospels. You know, the One Who made a whip and cleared the temple and called people white-washed tombs. A liberal reforming Jesus was someone they could get behind, but not the substitutionary-atoning Jesus of the Epistles because THAT Jesus meant a Holy God whose justice demands a sacrifice to discharge sins. And that was an archaic idea no longer acceptable to modern sensibilities. So, liberal critics assigned themselves the mission of saving Jesus from such outdated modes of thinking. They assumed the early church and writers of the Gospels embellished Scripture to that end. It as there task to sift through the text and pull out what was legit and what was to quit.

Literally dozens of so-called “lives of Jesus” were written during the 19th C, each claiming it revealed the true, historical Jesus. While most of them contradicted each other, they nearly all agreed that disavowing the miraculous was central to the genuine Jesus story. They were bound to this, since [air-quote] science proved the impossibility of miracles.

Quickly editorial comment – Let’s be clear, uh, science, that is the scientific method, can’t  prove miracles are impossible. Miracles are by their very definition outside the realm of scientific investigation because repeatability is one of the required elements of the scientific method. Miracles, by the very definition of what a miracle is, are a contravention of the laws that govern the material realm, and AREN’T typically repeatable. Miracles are –well = unexpected!

But in their quest to merge science & faith, liberal theologians allowed the so-called facts of their time to be the filter through which they re-worked the content of the Christian Faith. Jesus not only didn’t work miracles, He never claimed to be the Messiah, or that history would climax in His visible return to establish the kingdom of God.

The cumulative effect of all this was the doubt cast on the Bible as the inspired & infallible Word of God & the authority for faith and practice.

When higher critics were done, Liberals were free to sort through Scripture to pick and choose what they wished. They read the Bible through the filter of evolution and saw a progression from blood-thirsty deities requiring sacrifices, to the Jews who embraced the idea of a righteous God served by those who pursue justice, love mercy, and walks humbly. This progressive revelation of God reaches its climax in Jesus, where God is portrayed as the loving Father of all men.

So far, our review of Theological Liberalism has seemed bent toward more of a tearing down of traditionalism. That looks at just one side of the liberal coin. The other side was the concurrent movement known as Romanticism.

During the early 19th C, Romanticism was a movement that flowed mainly in the artistic and intellectual communities. It looked at life through feelings. The Industrial Age seemed to many to reduce man to a cog in some vast societal machine. Romanticism was an attempt to lift man out of the gears & set him down as the glorious creator & engineer. Why man was evolution’s apex achievement and he had every right, duty even, to exalt in his lofty place, as well as to aspire to even greater heights. Romanticism focused on the individual and his/her ambitions to attain to their ultimate potential. This was the genesis of the human potential movement.

So on one hand, liberals aimed for unity, but Romanticism exalted the individual. Liberalism broadened its agenda to unify the two by harmonizing them.

Theological liberalism saw itself as the force to do it. Biblical Criticism had rescued the historical Jesus from the muck & mire of traditional orthodoxy. Romanticism then wanted to plant the idea of Jesus in the hearts of all people so they could become all their potential made possible for them.

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Part 3 in our looks at Theological Liberalism. A summary Biblical Criticism and Liberalism’s overall goal in merging reason & faith. The title of this 147th episode is Why So Critical? Two episodes back we introduced the themes that would lead eventual...
Part 3 in our looks at Theological Liberalism. A summary Biblical Criticism and Liberalism’s overall goal in merging reason & faith.

The title of this 147th episode is Why So Critical?
Two episodes back we introduced the themes that would lead eventually to what’s called by many Theological Liberalism. Last episode we talked a bit about how the church, mostly the Roman Catholic church, pushed back against those themes. In this episode we’ll go further into the birth of liberalism.
The 20th C has been unkind to Theological Liberalism, with its shining vision of the Universal Brotherhood of Man under the Universal Fatherhood of God. Yet, most mainline Protestant denomination still hold solidarity with Liberalism. It was Professor Sydney Ahlstrom view that liberals had provoked as much controversy in the 19th C as the Reformers did in the 16th. The reason for that controversy lay in their objective, stated by one of its premier advocates and popularizers – Harry Emerson Fosdick. In his autobiography The Living of These Days, , the influential pastor of the famous Riverside Church in New York City, said the aim of liberal theology was to make it possible “to be both an intelligent modern and a serious Christian.”
Liberals hoped to address a problem maybe as old as The Faith itself: That is, how can Christians reconcile their faith to the intellectual climate of their time without compromising the Essentials of The Gospel? By the evaluation of modern Evangelicals, Liberalism failed in that quest precisely because they DID compromise those essentials in their desire to be relevant among their unbelieving peers. Richard Niebuhr expressed the irony of theological liberalism when he said in liberalism “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”
Personally, I’ve been reluctant to produce this episode because the more I’ve studied Theological liberalism, the less certain of being able to handle it competently I’ve grown. Definitions for it are no easier than for political liberalism. In fact, many deny that Protestant liberalism is a theology at all. They refer to it as an “outlook,” or “approach.” Henry Coffin of Union Seminary described liberalism as a “spirit” that honors truth so supremely and it craves the freedom to discuss, publish, and pursue what it believes to be true.
But then, it THAT is true, it must certainly lead to certain convictions that derive values & produce judgments. And THAT is precisely what we see the history of Protestant liberalism producing.
In the words of Bruce Shelley, “Liberals believed Christian theology had to come to terms with modern science if it ever hoped to claim and hold the allegiance of intelligent men.” So liberals refused to accept religious beliefs on authority alone. They insisted faith must submit to reason and experience. Following the thinking of the Enlightenment, of which they were the spiritual children, they claimed the human mind was capable of thinking God’s thoughts after Him. So, the best insight into the nature & character of God wasn’t His self-revelation in Scripture, which smacked of the old authoritarianism they eschewed; it was human intuition and reason.
By surrendering to what we’ll call “the modern mind” liberals accepted the assumption of their time that the universe was a massive but synchronized machine, like a well-made watch. The key to this machine was harmony – Unity.
I’ll come back to that in a moment, but a little editorializing seems in order. And while some of you may be rolling your eyes now – I really do think this is germane to what this podcast is – a review of History – specifically Church History. I just made reference to “the modern mind.”
Modern is another term that has multiple meanings.]]>
Lance Ralston clean 19:03
146-Push Back http://www.sanctorum.us/146-push-back/ Sun, 07 Aug 2016 09:01:15 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1353 http://www.sanctorum.us/146-push-back/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/146-push-back/feed/ 0 The Roman Church’s response to Modernism in the mid to late 19th Century. Pius IX’s development of Papal Infallibility. The title of this 146th episode is Push-Back As we move to wind up this season of CS, we’ve entered into the modern era in our review of Church history and the emergence of Theological Liberalism. […] Church Tank 01The Roman Church’s response to Modernism in the mid to late 19th Century.
Pius IX’s development of Papal Infallibility.


The title of this 146th episode is Push-Back

As we move to wind up this season of CS, we’ve entered into the modern era in our review of Church history and the emergence of Theological Liberalism. Many historians view The French Revolution as a turning point in the social development of Europe and the Western Civilization. The French Revolution was in many ways, the result of the Enlightenment, and a harbinger of things to come in the Modern & Post Modern Eras.

For convenience sake, but in what is probably a gross simplifying, let’s chop up the history Western Civilization into these eras, in regards to Church History.

First is the Roman Era, when Christianity was officially opposed & persecuted. That was followed by Constantinian Era, when it was at first tolerated, then institutionalized. With the Fall of the Roman Empire, Europe entered the Middle Ages and the Church was led from Rome in the West and Constantinople in the East.

The Middle Ages ended in the Renaissance which swiftly split into two streams, the Reformation and the Enlightenment. While many Europeans broke from the hegemony of the Roman Church to launch Protestant movements, others went further & broke from religious faith altogether in an exaltation of reason. They purposefully stepped away from spirituality toward a hard-boiled materialism.

This then gave birth to the Modern Era, marked by an on-going tension between Materialistic Rationalism and Philosophical Theism that birthed an entire rainbow of intellectual & faith options.

Carrying on this over-simplified review a bit from where our CS episodes have been, the Modern Era then turned into the Post-Modern Era with its full-flowering & widespread academic acceptance of the radical skepticism birthed during the Enlightenment. The promises of the perfection of the human race through technology suggested by the Modern Era were shattered by two World Wars and the repeated cases of genocide in the 20th & 21st Cs. Post-Moderns traded in the bright Modernist expectation of an emerging Golden Age for a dystopian vision of technology run amuck, controlled by mad men and tyrants. In a classic post-modern rant, the author George Orwell said, “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

In our last episode, we embarked on our foray into the roots of Theological Liberalism. The themes of the new era were found in the motto of the French Revolution: “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.”

Liberty was conceived as individual freedom in both the political & economic realms. As Al Mohler aptly identified recently in his excellent weekday The Briefing podcast, “liberalism” originally referred to this idea of personal liberty in regard to economics and politics. It’s come to mean something very different today. Libertarian connects better with the original idea of liberalism than the modern term liberalism.

In the early 19th C, liberals promoted the political rights of the middle class. They advocated suffrage and middle class influence through representative government. In economic terms, liberals agitated for a laissez faire marketplace where individual enterprise determined one’s wealth, rather than class.

Equality, 2nd term in the French Revolution’s trio, stood for individual rights regardless of legacy. If liberty was a predominantly middle class virtue, equality appealed to rural peasants, the urban working class, & the universally disenfranchised. While the middle class & hold-over nobility advocated a laissez faire economy, the working class began to agitate for equality through a rival philosophy called socialism. Workers inveighed for equality either through the long route via evolution within a democratic system or the shorter path of revolution via Marxism.

Fraternity, the 3rd idea in the trinity, was the Enlightenment reaction against all the war & turmoil that marked history till then; especially the trauma that had rocked Europe due to endless political, economic and religious struggle. Fraternity represented a strong sense of brotherhood that rolled across Europe in the 19th C. And while it held the promise of uniting people in the concept of the universal brotherhood of man under the universal Fatherhood of God, it quickly devolved into Nationalism that would opnly lead to even bloodier conflicts since they were now accompanied by modern weapons and their blood-letting devices. unleashed in the nineteenth century.

These social currents swirled around the Christian Faith during the first decades of the Age of Progress, but no one predicted the ruination they’d bring to the Church of Rome, steeped as it was in an inviolable tradition. For over a thousand years she’d presided over feudal Europe. She enthroned dozens of monarchs and ensconced countless nobles. And like them, the Church gave little thought to the power of peasants and the growing middle class. In regards to social standing, in 18th C European society, noble birth and holy calling were everything. Intelligence or achievement meant little.

Things began to heat up in Europe when Enlightenment thinkers began to question the old order. In the 1760s, several places around the world began to feel the heat of political unrest. There had always been Radicals who challenged the status quo. But it usually ended badly for them; being forced to drink hemlock or such. But in the mid & late 18th C, they became popular advocates for the middle-class & poor. Their demands were similar: The right to participate in politics, the right to vote, the right to greater freedom of expression.

The success of the American Revolution inspired European radicals. They regarded Americans as true heirs of Enlightenment ideals. They were passionate about equality; & desired peace, yet ready to fight for freedom. In gaining independence from the world’s most formidable power, Americans proved Enlightenment ideals worked.

Then, in the last decade of the 18th C, France executed its king, became a republic, formed a revolutionary regime, & crawled through a period of brutality into the Imperialism of Napoleon Bonaparte.

As we saw in an earlier episode, the Roman Catholic church was so much a part of the old order that revolutionaries often made it an object of their wrath. In the early 1790s the French National Assembly sought to reform the Church along rationalist lines. But when it eliminated the Pope’s control & required an oath of loyalty on the clergy, it split the Church. The 2 camps faced off against each other in every village. Between 30 & 40,000 priests were forced into exile or hiding. Atheists recognized that the cultural wind was at their back now and pressed for more. Why stop at reforming the Church when you could pry its grip from all society? Radicals moved to remove any and all traces of Christianity’s influence. They adopted a new calendar & elevated the cult of “Reason.” Some churches were converted to “Temples of Reason.”

But by 1794 this farce had spent itself. The following year a statute was passed affirming the free exercise of religion. & loyal Catholics, who’d kept a low profile during the silliness, returned. But Rome never forgot. For now, Liberty meant the worship of the goddess of Reason.

When Napoleon took control he struck an agreement with the pope; the 1801 Concordat. It restored Roman Catholicism as the quasi-official religion of France. But the Church had lost much of its prestige and power. Europe would never again be a society held together by an alliance of throne and altar. On the other side of things, Rome never welcomed liberalism.

But then, as Bruce Shelley aptly remarks, Jesus and the apostles spent little time talking about political freedom, personal liberty, or a person’s right to their opinions. Valuable and important as those things are, they simply do not come into view as values in the appeal of the Gospel. The freedom Christ offers comes through salvation, which places a necessary safeguard on liberty to keep it from becoming a dangerous license.

But during the 19th C, it became popular to think of liberty ITSELF as being free! Free of any and all restraint. Any restriction on freedom was met with a knee-jerk opposition. Everyone ought to be as free as possible. The question then became; just what does that mean. How far does “possible” go?

John Stuart Mill suggested this guideline, “The liberty of each, limited by the like liberty of all.” Liberty meant the right to your opinions, the freedom to express & act upon them, but not to the degree that in doing so, you impinge other’s ability to do so with theirs. Politically & civilly, this was best made possible by a constitutional government that guaranteed universal civil liberty, including the freedom to worship according to one’s choice. The Popes didn’t like that.

After Napoleon, in the political and economic vacuum that followed, several monarchs tried to re-establish the old systems of Europe. They were resisted by a new and empowered wave of liberals. The first of these liberal uprisings were quickly suppressed in Spain & Italy. But the liberals kept at it & in 1848, revolution temporarily triumphed in most European capitals.

The mid 18th C papacies of Leo XII, Pius VIII, & Gregory XVI were held by decent men. The problem is that they steadfastly refused to join the 19th C by clinging to the past. They simply failed to engage the time by ignoring what was taking place around them.

This early form of Liberalism wanted to address historic evils that have plagued humanity. But it refused to allow the Catholic Church a role in that work as it related to morality and public life. Liberals said politics ought to be independent from Christian ethics. Catholics had rights as private citizens, but their Faith wasn’t welcome in the public arena. This is part of the creeping secularism we talked about in the last episode.

One of the lingering symbols of papal ties to the Medieval world were the Papal States where the Pope was both spiritual leader & civil ruler. In the mid 19th C, a movement for Italian unity began that aimed to turn the entire peninsula into a single nation. Such a revolution wouldn’t tolerate the Papal States. Liberals welcomed Pope Pius IX, who ruled frm 1846–78, because he seemed to be a reforming Pope who’d listen to their counsel. And indeed, in 1848, he installed a new constitution for the Papal States granting moderate participation in government. This movement toward liberal ideals moved some to even suggest the Pope as leader over a unified Italy. But when Pius’ appointed Prime Minister of the Papal States was assassinated by revolutionaries, Pius rescinded the new constitution. Instead of putting the revolution out, it simply broke out in Rome itself and Pius had to flee. With French assistance, he returned & returned the Papal states to an absolutist regime. Opposition grew under the leadership of King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia. In 1859&60 large sections of the Papal States were carved away by nationalists. Then in March of 1861,  Victor Emmanuel was proclaimed King of Italy in Florence.

But the city of Rome was protected by a French garrison. When the Franco-Prussian War forced the withdrawal of French troops, Italian nationalists invaded. After a short engagement in September of 1870, Rome surrendered. After lasting for a millennium, the Papal States were no more.

Pius IX holed up in the Vatican. Then in June, 1871, King Victor Emmanuel transferred his residence to Rome, ignoring the protests and threatened excommunications by the pope. The new government offered Pius an annual salary together with the free and unhindered exercise of his religious roles. But the Pope rejected the offer and continued his protests. He forbade Italy’s Catholics to participate in political affairs. That just left the field open to more radicals. The result was an growing anticlerical course in Italian civil affairs. This condition, became known as the “Roman Question.” It had no resolution until Benito Mussolini concluded the Lateran Treaty in February 1929. The treaty stipulated that the pope must renounce all claim to the Papal States, but received full sovereignty in the tiny Vatican State. This condition exists to this day.

1870 not only marks the end of the rule of the pope of civil affairs in Italy, it also saw the declaration of his supreme authority as the Bishop of Rome in a doctrine called “Papal Infallibility.” The First Vatican Council, which hammered out the doctrine, represented the culmination of a movement called “ultramontanism.” The word means “across the mountains” meaning the Alps. Ultramontanism refers to devotion to Rome.

It came about thus . . .

Following the French Revolution (and here we are yet again, recognizing the importance of that revolution in European and world affairs) an especially storng sense of loyalty to the Pope developed there. After the nightmare of the guillotine & the cultural trauma of Napoleon’s reign, many Catholics came to regard the papacy as the only source of civil order and public morality. They believed only popes were capable of restoring society to sanity. Only the papacy had the power to guide the clergy to protect religion form political coercion.

Infallibility, was suggested as a necessary prerequisite for an effective papacy. The Church had to become a monarchy adjudicating God’s will. As Shelley says it, as sovereignty was to secular kings, infallibility would be to popes. Infallibility was Church’s version of sovereignty.

By the mid-19th C this thinking attracted a many Catholics. Popes encouraged it in every possible way. One publication said when the pope meditated, God was thinking in him. Hymns appeared that were addressed, not to God, but to Pius IX.  Some even spoke of the Pope as the vice-God of humanity.

In December 1854, Pius IX declared as dogma of The Immaculate Conception; a belief that had been traditional but not official; that Mary was conceived without original sin. Now, the subject of the decision wasn’t new. What was, was the way it was announced. This wasn’t dogma defined by a creed produced by a council.  It was an ex cathedra proclamation by the Pope. Ex Cathedra means “from the chair,” & defines an official doctrine issued by the teaching magisterium of the Holy Church.

Ten years after unilaterally announcing the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, Pius sent out an encyclical to all bishops of the Church. He attached a Syllabus of Errors, a compilation of 80 evils then in place in society. He declared war on socialism, rationalism, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, public schools, Bible societies, separation of church and state, and a host of other errors of the Modern Era. He ended by denying that “the Roman pontiff can and ought to reconcile himself and reach agreement with progress, liberalism, and modern civilization.”

It was a hunker down and rally round an infallible pope mentality that aimed to enter a kind of spiritual hibernation, only emerging when Modernity had impaled itself on its own deadly horns and bled to death.

Pius saw the need for a massive council in order to address the Church’s posture toward Modernity & its philosophical partner, Liberalism. He began planning in 1865, & called the First Vatican Council to convene at the end of 1869.

The question of the definition of papal infallibility was all the buzz. Catholics had little doubt that as successor of Peter the Pope possessed a special authority. The only question was how far that authority went. Could it be exercised independently from councils or the college of bishops?

After some discussion & politicking, 55 bishops who couldn’t agree to the doctrine as stated were given permission by the Pope to leave Rome, so as not to create dissension. The final vote was 533 for the doctrine of infallibility. Only 2 voted against it. The Council asserted 2 fundamentals: 1) The primacy of the pope and 2) His infallibility.

First, as successor of Peter, vicar of Christ, & supreme head of the Church, the pope exercises full authority over the whole Church and over individual bishops. That authority extends to all matters of faith and morals as well as to discipline and church administration. Consequently, bishops owe the pope obedience.

Second, when the pope in his official capacity, that is ex cathedra, makes a final decision concerning the entire Church in a matter of faith and morals, that decision is infallible and immutable, and does not require the prior consent by a Council.

The strategy of the ultramontanists, led by Pius IX, shaped the lives of Roman Catholics for generations. Surrounded by the hostile forces of modernity; liberalism & socialism, Rome withdrew for behind the walls of an infallible papacy.  // [tour]

A New Social Frontier

Lead, kindly Light, amid th’ encircling gloom,

Lead Thou me on!

The night is dark, and I am far from home!

Lead Thou me on!

these lines, today sung by millions, were written in 1833 by John Henry Newman, while traveling home to England from Sicily. The somber mood reminds us of the many troubled souls in nineteenth-century England. A decade later Newman fled to the Church of Rome for safety, but the same sense of impending gloom appears in the evangelical Henry Francis Lyte’s popular hymn “Abide with Me”:

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;

Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;

Change and decay in all around I see:

O Thou who changest not, abide with me!

No one in nineteenth-century England could ignore the pace of change. But two outstanding Christian movements helped literally millions of their fellow believers adjust to “life’s little day” and in the process won for themselves a respected place in Christian memory.

I speak of the Clapham Sect of evangelicals, and the Oxford movement of Anglican high-churchmen. Neither was, at first, numerically large. They remind us of Professor Gilbert Murray’s observation that “the uplifting of man has been the work of a chosen few.” Yet, to this day evangelical Christians regard the Clapham Sect as a model of Christian social concern, and “High Church” Anglicans look back to the Oxford movement as a well-spring of devout churchmanship.

A comparison of the two movements creates some interesting insights into the continuing questions about Christianity’s place in society. How, after all, are Christians to view the world?

Evangelicals in the World

We know that the church is under a twofold commission: God has sent his people into the world to proclaim salvation and to serve the needy. But he has also called his own from the world to worship and learn of him. Mission without worship can produce empty service, just as worship without mission can lead to careless religion. Thus, the church’s life in the world involves a constant conversation, a “yes” here and a “no” there. Protestants in nineteenth-century England found society changing so rapidly that they were not always sure whether they were talking to friends or to enemies.

In many ways the nineteenth century belonged to Britain. England was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. London became the largest city and the financial center of the world. British commerce circled the globe; the British navy dominated the seas. By 1914 Britannia ruled the largest empire in extent and in population ever fashioned by man.

This rapid industrial and commercial growth, however, left many Britains breathless. Every hallowed institution seemed to be cracking at the foundation. Some men, remembering the terrifying days of the French Revolution, feared the future. Other men sang the praises of change and called it progress. To them England was the vanguard of a new day of prosperity and liberty for all. Thus, fear and hope were curiously mingled.

The dawning of the Age of Progress found English Protestants either in the Established Church, Anglicanism, or in the Nonconforming denominations, Methodist, Baptists, Congregationalists, and a few smaller bodies. The striking movements of the nineteenth century, however, did not surge along traditional denominational lines. The increasing liberties of the age allowed Christians to form a host of religious societies to minister to English life in some vital way or to spread the gospel overseas. These societies were not churches in the traditional sense of sacraments, creeds, and ordained ministers. They were groups of individual Christians working for some specific objective, the distribution of Bibles, for example, or the relief of the poor.

At the opening of the Age of Progress, the greatest power in English religious life was the evangelical movement, sparked and spread by John Wesley and George Whitefield. The chief marks of the movement were its intense personal piety, usually springing from a conversion experience, and its aggressive concern for Christian service in the world. Both of these were nourished by devotion to the Bible, and both were directed by the central themes of the eighteenth-century revival: Gods love revealed in Christ, the necessity of salvation through faith, and the new birth experience wrought by the Holy Spirit. This evangelical message echoed from a significant minority of pulpits in the Church of England and from a majority in the Nonconforming denominations.

The Evangelicals of the Church of England were thoroughly loyal to their church and approved of its episcopal government. But they were willing to work with Nonconformist ministers and churches, because their chief interest was not the church and its rites. They considered the preaching of the gospel more important than the performance of sacraments or the styles of ritual. Such a position was called “Low Church.”

Impelled by the enthusiasm of the Methodist revival, the Evangelicals viewed the social ills of British society as a call to dedicated service. They threw themselves into reform causes for the neglected and the oppressed.

The Clapham Community

The general headquarters for Evangelical crusades was a hamlet then three miles from London called Clapham. The village was the country residence of a group of wealthy and ardent Evangelicals who knew what it was to practice “saintliness in daily life” and to live with eternity in view. A number of them owned their own magnificent houses in the village, while others in the group visited Clapham often and lived with their co-laborers. Historians have come to speak of them as the “Clapham Sect,” but they were no sect, they were more like a closely knit family.

The group found a spiritual guide in the minister of the parish church, John Venn, a man of culture and sanctified good sense. They often met for Bible study, conversation, and prayer in the oval library of a wealthy banker, Henry Thornton.

The unquestioned leader of the Sect was William Wilberforce (1759–1833), the parliamentary statesman. But Wilberforce found a galaxy of talent for Evangelical causes in his circle of friends: John Shore (Lord Teignmouth), the Governor General of India; Charles Grant, Chairman of the East India Company; James Stephens, Sr., Under-Secretary for the Colonies; Zachary Macauley, editor of the Christian Observer; Thomas Clarkson, an abolitionist leader; and others.

At twenty-five Wilberforce had experienced a striking conversion after reading Philip Doddridge’s Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul; but he also possessed all the natural qualities for outstanding leadership: ample wealth, a liberal education, and unusual talents. Prime Minister William Pitt once said he had the greatest natural eloquence he had ever known. Some called him “the nightingale of the House of Commons.” Many testified to his overflowing capacity for friendship and his high moral principles. For many reasons Wilberforce seemed providentially prepared for the task and the time.

“My walk,” he once said, “is a public one: my business is in the world, and I must mix in the assemblies of men or quit the part which Providence seems to have assigned me.”

Under Wilberforce’s leadership the Clapham friends were gradually knit together in intimacy and solidarity. At the Clapham mansions they held what they chose to call their “Cabinet Councils.” They discussed the wrongs and injustices of their country, and the battles they would need to fight to establish righteousness. And thereafter, in Parliament and out, they moved as one body, delegating to each man the work he could do best to accomplish their common purposes.

“It was a remarkable fraternity,” says Reginald Coupland, the biographer of Wilberforce. “There has never been anything like it since in British public life.”

Evangelicals and Social Issues

A host of evangelical causes sallied forth from quiet little Clapham: The Church Missionary Society (1799), the British and Foreign Bible Society (1804), The Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor (1796), The Society for the Reformation of Prison Discipline and many more.

The greatest labor of all, however, centered on the campaign against slavery. The first battle was for the abolition of the slave trade, that is, the capturing of Negroes in Africa, and shipping them for sale to the West Indies.

The English had entered this trade in 1562 when Sir John Hawkins took a cargo of slaves from Sierra Leone and sold them in St. Domingo. Then, after the monarchy was restored in 1660 King Charles II gave a charter to a company that took 3,000 slaves a year to the West Indies. From that time the trade grew to enormous proportions. In 1770 out of a total of 100,000 slaves a year from West Africa, British ships transported more than half. Many Englishmen considered the slave trade inseparably linked with the commerce and national security of Great Britain.

In 1789 Wilberforce made his first speech in the House of Commons on the traffic in slaves. He recognized immediately that eloquence alone would never overthrow the commercial interests in the sale of human beings. He needed reliable information, so he called upon his Clapham colleagues for assistance.

Two years later, after exhaustive preparation, Wilberforce delivered another speech to Commons seeking to introduce a bill to prevent further importing of slaves into the West Indies. “Never, never,” he said, “will we desist till we have wiped away this scandal from the Christian name, released ourselves from the load of guilt, and extinguished every trace of this bloody traffic.”

Once again oratory was inadequate, but support was growing. The workers for abolition came to see that hopes of success lay in appealing not only to Parliament but to the English people. “It is on the feeling of the nation we must rely,” said Wilberforce. “So let the flame be fanned.”

Stage by stage the Clapham Sect learned two basics of politics in a democracy: first, how to create public opinion; and, second, how to bring the pressure of that opinion on the government.

The Evangelicals secured petitions; they published quality abolitionist literature; they lectured on public platforms; they campaigned on billboards. They used all the modern means of publicity. Nonconformists rallied in support, and for the first time in history women participated in a political contest. The Evangelicals “fanned the flame,” then they carried the fire to Parliament where Wilberforce and four colleagues from Clapham—the “Saints” in Commons—tried to arouse complacent leaders to put a stop to the inhumane slave trade.

The End Of Slave Trade

Finally, victory crowned their labors. On 23 February 1807, the back of the opposition was broken. Enthusiasm in the House mounted with the impassioned speeches of supporters of abolition. When one member reached a brilliant contrast of Wilberforce and Napoleon, the staid old House cast off its traditional conventions, rose to its feet, burst into cheers, and made the roof echo to an ovation seldom heard in Parliament. Wilberforce, overcome with emotion, sat bent in his chair, his head in his hands, and the tears streaming down his face.

That halted the legal traffic in human lives, but the slaves were still in chains. Wilberforce continued the battle for complete emancipation until age and poor health forced him from Parliament. He enlisted the skills, however, of a young evangelical, Thomas Fowell Buxton, to assume leadership of the “holy enterprise.” Buxton was a wise choice. The certainty of the passage of the Emancipation Act, freeing the slaves in the sprawling British Empire, came on 25 July 1833, four days before Wilberforce died.

The significance of this action before the European colonial powers partitioned Africa is enormous. No one has described the impact better than Professor G. M. Trevelyan in his British History in the Nineteenth Century: “On the last night of slavery, the negroes in our West Indian islands went up on the hill-tops to watch the sun rise, bringing them freedom as its first rays struck the waters. But far away in the forests of Central Africa, in the heart of darkness yet unexplored, none understood or regarded the day. Yet it was the dark continent which was most deeply affected of all. Before its exploitation by Europe had well begun, the most powerful of the nations that were to control its destiny had decided that slavery should not be the relation of the black man to the white.”

For this reason above all others, the Clapham Sect remains the shining example of how a society—perhaps the world itself—can be influenced by a few men of ability and devotion.

The Oxford Movement

The second Christian movement, the Oxford movement, represents a contrasting response to the social crisis of nineteenth-century England. Like its predecessor, the Evangelical movement, it was more a movement of the heart than of the head. But unlike the Clapham group the Oxford men were deeply troubled by the direction of English society. They saw the reforms of the government as attacks upon the sanctity of the Church of England, and they determined to resist the intrusions of the world.

“We live in a novel era,” John Henry Newman wrote to his mother in March 1829. “Men have hitherto depended on others, and especially on the clergy, for religious truth; now each man attempts to judge for himself.… The talent of the day is against the Church.”

For generations the strength of the Church of England had rested with landed aristocrats who were strong in Parliament. The Industrial Revolution created rapidly growing industrial towns, such as Manchester and Birmingham, but these had no representatives in Parliament. The cry for reform mounted.

The Reform Act of 1832 shifted the balance of power from the landed gentry to the middle class and signified a new sensitivity to democratic forces. This action meant that many of the new members of Parliament, though not members of the Church of England, wielded significant power over the Church. Some devout churchmen recoiled in horror. Dare profane politicians lay hands on the holy things of God?

One group of gifted and deeply religious men at Oxford University raised a cry against the thought. John Keble, Fellow of Oriel College, preached in the University Pulpit, 14 July 1833, a sermon titled “National Apostasy.” A nation stands convicted of the denial of God’s sovereignty, he said, when it shows disrespect for the successors of the apostles, the bishops of the Church, and appeals only to reasons based on popularity or expediency.

Keble found a staunch supporter in John Henry Newman (1801–1890), vicar of the University Church and a commanding figure in the academic community. Before long an older man joined them, Edward Pusey, professor of Hebrew. By their preaching and writing these three influential men turned their protest into a movement.

The Oxford men felt that the Church of England needed to affirm that its authority did not rest on authority from the state. It came from God. Bishops of the Church were not empowered by social position but by an apostolic commission. Even if the Church were completely separated from the state, the Church of England could still claim the allegiance of Englishmen because it rested on divine authority.

To spread their views the Oxford men launched, in 1833, a series of “Tracts for the Times,” a move that gave rise to the label “Tractarians.” In these writings the Oxford leaders published their convictions on a single article of the creed: belief in “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.” They emphasized the apostolic succession of bishops through history and the Church’s God-given authority to teach the truth and rule men’s lives. They magnified the place of the sacraments, ascribing to them an actual saving power. As an ideal for the Church of England, they held up the church of the first five Christian centuries. Then, they said, the Christian church was undivided and truly catholic.

While some of these historical ideas were fanciful, the Tractarians believed them enthusiastically. They called themselves Catholics, on the ground that they were in agreement with this early catholic Christianity, and they shunned the name Protestant, because it referred to a division in the church.

Public worship was vital to the Oxford men. They believed strongly in the religious value of symbolic actions in worship, such as turning toward the altar, bending the knee and elevating the cross. The worship of God, they said, demands the total response of man, so ritual should appeal to the senses: rich clerical garments, incense on the altar, music by trained voices. In short, Tractarian Christianity was a zealous version of “High Church” Christianity.

Step by step the Oxford men moved toward the Church of Rome. Then came the thunderclap. In 1841 John Henry Newman wrote Tract 90 and asserted that the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England were not necessarily Protestant. They could be interpreted in the spirit of the Catholic church. Did Newman really believe that a person could be a Roman Catholic and remain in the Church of England?

A storm of protest fell upon the Oxford movement. The Bishop of Oxford forbade Newman to publish other tracts. Newman concluded that the only way to be truly Catholic was to enter the Roman Catholic church. He converted to Rome in 1845 and during the next six years hundreds of Anglican clergymen followed him. In time Newman became rector of the new Catholic University in Dublin, and in 1877 he was made a cardinal in the Church of Rome.

The great majority of the Tractarians, however, stayed in the Church of England and saw an increasing number of clergymen adopt their “High Church” views. Religion for many focused on ritual, priests, and sacraments. The concern for beauty brought improvements in architecture, music, and art in the churches. Gradually the names “Oxford movement” and “Tractarian” gave way to “Anglo-Catholic,” which meant Anglicans who valued their unity with the catholic tradition in Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, but who refused to accept the supremacy of patriarch or pope.

The Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic views of Christianity’s role in society are alive, though not always well, in our time. Few generations can claim a Wilberforce or a Newman. Their convictions survive, however, because they are so basic to Christianity in any age: mission and worship. Early Christians believed that, amid his encircling gloom, the Lord Jesus himself prayed for his disciples: “Father,… My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:15–19, niv).[1]

 

[1] Shelley, B. L. (1995). Church history in plain language (Updated 2nd ed., pp. 364–372). Dallas, TX: Word Pub.

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The Roman Church’s response to Modernism in the mid to late 19th Century. Pius IX’s development of Papal Infallibility. The title of this 146th episode is Push-Back As we move to wind up this season of CS, we’ve entered into the modern era in our revie...
Pius IX’s development of Papal Infallibility.

The title of this 146th episode is Push-Back
As we move to wind up this season of CS, we’ve entered into the modern era in our review of Church history and the emergence of Theological Liberalism. Many historians view The French Revolution as a turning point in the social development of Europe and the Western Civilization. The French Revolution was in many ways, the result of the Enlightenment, and a harbinger of things to come in the Modern & Post Modern Eras.
For convenience sake, but in what is probably a gross simplifying, let’s chop up the history Western Civilization into these eras, in regards to Church History.
First is the Roman Era, when Christianity was officially opposed & persecuted. That was followed by Constantinian Era, when it was at first tolerated, then institutionalized. With the Fall of the Roman Empire, Europe entered the Middle Ages and the Church was led from Rome in the West and Constantinople in the East.
The Middle Ages ended in the Renaissance which swiftly split into two streams, the Reformation and the Enlightenment. While many Europeans broke from the hegemony of the Roman Church to launch Protestant movements, others went further & broke from religious faith altogether in an exaltation of reason. They purposefully stepped away from spirituality toward a hard-boiled materialism.
This then gave birth to the Modern Era, marked by an on-going tension between Materialistic Rationalism and Philosophical Theism that birthed an entire rainbow of intellectual & faith options.
Carrying on this over-simplified review a bit from where our CS episodes have been, the Modern Era then turned into the Post-Modern Era with its full-flowering & widespread academic acceptance of the radical skepticism birthed during the Enlightenment. The promises of the perfection of the human race through technology suggested by the Modern Era were shattered by two World Wars and the repeated cases of genocide in the 20th & 21st Cs. Post-Moderns traded in the bright Modernist expectation of an emerging Golden Age for a dystopian vision of technology run amuck, controlled by mad men and tyrants. In a classic post-modern rant, the author George Orwell said, “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”
In our last episode, we embarked on our foray into the roots of Theological Liberalism. The themes of the new era were found in the motto of the French Revolution: “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.”
Liberty was conceived as individual freedom in both the political & economic realms. As Al Mohler aptly identified recently in his excellent weekday The Briefing podcast, “liberalism” originally referred to this idea of personal liberty in regard to economics and politics. It’s come to mean something very different today. Libertarian connects better with the original idea of liberalism than the modern term liberalism.
In the early 19th C, liberals promoted the political rights of the middle class. They advocated suffrage and middle class influence through representative government. In economic terms, liberals agitated for a laissez faire marketplace where individual enterprise determined one’s wealth, rather than class.
Equality, 2nd term in the French Revolution’s trio, stood for individual rights regardless of legacy. If liberty was a predominantly middle class virtue, equality appealed to rural peasants, the urban working class, & the universally disenfranchised. While the middle class & hold-over nobility advocated a laissez faire economy, the working class began to agitate for equality through a rival philosophy called socialism. Workers inveighed for equality either through the long route via evolution within a democratic system or the sh...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 21:43
145-Liberal http://www.sanctorum.us/145-liberal/ Sun, 31 Jul 2016 09:01:10 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1345 http://www.sanctorum.us/145-liberal/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/145-liberal/feed/ 0 We examine the impact of the tendency for modernization to foster a creeping secularism in the 19th C. The title of this 145th episode of CS is Liberal. The term “modern” as it relates to the story of history, has been treated differently by dozens of authors, historians and sociologists. Generally speaking, Modernization is the […] Nietzsche

We examine the impact of the tendency for modernization to foster a creeping secularism in the 19th C.


The title of this 145th episode of CS is Liberal.

The term “modern” as it relates to the story of history, has been treated differently by dozens of authors, historians and sociologists. Generally speaking, Modernization is the process by which agricultural and rural traditions morph into an industrial, technological and urban milieu that tends to be democratic, pluralistic, socialist, and/or individualistic.

In the minds of many, the process of modernization is evidence of the validity of evolution. The idea is that evolution not only applies to the increasing complexity and adaptedness of biological life, it also applies sociologically to civilization and human systems. They too are evolving. So, progress is good; a sign of societal evolution.

But the critics of modernization decry the abuses it often creates. Not all modern innovations are beneficial. The increased emphasis on individual rights can weaken a person’s sense of belonging to & identity in a family & community. It guts loyalty to worth-while traditions and customs. Modernization builds new weapons that may encourage their inventors to assume they’re thus superior, and use them to subjugate & dominate those they deem inferior, appropriating their land for resources.

Modernization is often linked to a creeping secularization, a turning away from theistic religion. Periodic revivals are viewed as but momentary blips in societal evolution; temporary distractions in progress toward the realization of the Enlightenment dream of a totally secular society.

It was during the 19th C that the rationalist ideas of the Enlightenment finally moved out of the halls of academia to settle in as the status quo for European society. Christians found themselves caught up in a world of mind-numbing change. Their cherished beliefs were assailed by hostile critics. Authors like Marx & Nietzsche attacked the Christian Faith from a base in Darwin’s popular new theory.

In an attempt to accommodate Faith & Reason, Ludwig Feuerbach, author of The Essence of Christianity, published in 1841, reduced the idea of God to that of a man. He said God is really just the projection of specific human qualities raised to the level of perfection.

In 1855, Ludwig Büchner suggested that science dispensed with the need for supernaturalism. A materialist, he was one of the first to say that the advent of modern science meant there was no longer a need to explain phenomena by appealing to the miraculous or some kind of spiritual realm. No such realm existed, except in the minds of those who refused to accept what science proved. He said, “The power of spirits and gods dissolve in the hands of science.”

During the last half of the 19th C, Frederic Nietzsche made the case for atheism. Son of a Lutheran pastor, Nietzsche received an education in theology & philology at the Universities of Bonn & Leipzig.

A musician himself, Nietzsche became friends with the composer Richard Wagner, who like Nietzsche, admired the atheist Schopenhauer.

In Nietzsche’s philosophy, we see the fruit of something we looked at in an earlier episode. The rationalist emphasis on reason divorced from faith leads ultimately to irrationality because it claims omniscience. By saying there IS no realm but the material realm, it closes itself off to even the possibility of a non-material realm. Yet the process of reason leads inevitably & inexorably to the conclusion there MUST be a realm of being, a category of existence beyond, apart from the material realm of nature.

So Nietzsche embraced what have to be called non-rational ideas as the source for creativity, what he called “true living,” and art. Giving and early indication his a fracturing mind, he identified as a follower of Dionysus, god of sexual debauchery & drunkenness. And as would be expected, he indicted Christianity as promoting all that which he despised as weak. He hated its emphasis on humility and its acceptance of the role of guilt in aiming to better people by moving them to repentance and a renouncing of self. For Nietzsche, self was the only savior. He advocated that people exalt self and unapologetically assert their quest for power. He coined the term Übermensch, the superman whose been utterly liberated from the out-dated mores of Biblical Christianity & governed by nothing but truth & reason, decides what’s right or wrong by nothing more than personal autonomy.

Nietzsche claimed “God is dead,” so no absolutes exist. There were no facts, only interpretations. Many creatives; authors, painters, & researchers were inspired by Nietzsche & used his writings as inspiration.

It was at this time that advocates for what was called comparative religions argued Christianity ought to be studied as just one of a several religions rather than from a confessional perspective that views it as TRUE. The assumption was that religion, just like everything else, had evolved from a primitive to a more complex state. A comparative study might find the core idea that united all religions, just as paleontologists were looking for the common ancestor to man and apes. There was a missing link for man & his religion they assumed.

By the 2nd half of the 19th C, derivations of the word “secular,” along with new words like agnostic, & eugenics, were part of European vocabularies. Secularization was identified with an emerging modernist separation of morality from traditional religion.

Thomas Huxley minted the word agnostic to distinguish mere skeptics from hardboiled atheists. It seems his development of the term may have actually helped many students, academics, and members of the upper classes in Victorian England shed traditional religious faith & embrace a Rationalist-styled unbelief. They did so because they could now express their growing discomfort with supernaturalism without having to go all the way and declaim any belief in a Supreme being. In other words, it gave them some philosophical wiggle room.

Francis Galton introduced the word eugenics in 1883 to designate efforts to make the human race better by “improved” breeding. Galton, an evolutionary scientist, believed eugenics would favor the fittest human beings and suppress the birth of the unfit.

In light of all this, it’s not hard to understand why Christian leaders were suspicious that “modernity” and “secularization” seemed to go hand in hand. Many materialists came right out and said they were the same; to be modern meant to be secular & hostile to religious faith.

In 1874 John Draper published the hugely influential History of the Conflict between Science and Religion, in which he said religion is the inveterate enemy of reason & science. European society in particular saw a collapse of the political, religious, & social masters that had steered it for centuries. In their place intellectuals emerged who sought for a secular substitute to traditional religion.

What made this process seemingly unstoppable was the results of modernization and the fruit of technology that was rapidly enhancing the quality of life across the continent. Many Christians felt they faced a losing battle defending the faith, “once for all delivered to the saints” against the onslaught of a science delivering such wonderful tools every other week.

They began to wonder if they could remain “orthodox” while becoming “modern” Christians.

That challenge was complicated by the work of Charles Darwin. What made it an even greater challenge was when believers heard from scientists who said they were Christians, who told them Darwin was right. Humans were descended from the apes, not Adam & Eve.

Others, like Bishop Samuel Wilberforce boldly declared Darwin’s ideas were incompatible with Scripture. In 1860, Wilberforce published a well-crafted and lengthy response to the Origin of Species. He praised Darwin’s research and engaging style, and even gave a nod to  Darwin’s  admission to being a Christian. But Wilberforce was careful to mark out many of Darwin’s claims as erroneously conceived.

Wilberforce said God is the Author of both the Books of Nature and Scripture. So it’s not possible for the 2 to contradict each other. It’s been the object of one branch of Apologetics to justify that ever since.

In October 1860, Bishop Wilberforce and Huxley engaged in a famous debate at the British Association in Oxford over Darwin’s theories. Huxley shrewdly portrayed the cleric as meddling in scientific matters beyond his competency. Wilberforce used a classic debate rhetorical device that had little to do with the substance of the debate but would prejudice the audience against his opponent. Huxley took the barb, then turned it around & used it to paint Wilberforce as HAVING to use such tactics because of the supposed weakness of his argument. If the Bishop had stuck to the content of his original article in the British Digest, he’d have fared much better.

The debate over Darwin’s theory took many turns. Some wondered if he was right that evolutionary processes were progressive in the sense that they moved toward a species perfection. Darwin had said, “As natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.” Supporters of Darwinism had a rationale for what came to be known as Social Darwinism with its advocacy for racism & eugenics.

Ernst Haeckel introduced Darwinism to Germany. A brilliant zoologist, in 1899, Haeckel published The Riddle of the Universe, in which he argued for a basic unity between organic and inorganic matter. He denied the immortality of the soul, the existence of a personal God, promoted infanticide, suicide, and the elimination of the unfit. Using a hundred lithographs drawn from nature (1904), Haeckel campaigned for the teaching of evolutionary biology in Germany as fact. This was in contrast with the many scientists who viewed Darwinism as an evolving theory.

At the dawn of the 20th C, the debate over Darwinism continued. As early as 1910, some claimed the theory of evolution was already dead. As subsequent history has shown, yeah –uh, not quite.

Under mounting pressure, Europeans who wanted to be considered “modern, scholarly” yet remain “Christian” often made accommodations in the way they expressed their faith. Early in the century, liberal theologians found new ways to describing & explain the Christian faith. Friedrich Schleiermacher proposed that Truth in Christianity was located in a personal religious experience, not in its historical events or correspondence to reality. He criticized Scholastic Protestant orthodoxy emphasizing assent to propositions about God. He said what was far more important was one’s subjective experience of the divine.

Later in the century, Catholic modernists said the Roman Catholic Church must accommodate the advances in knowledge made by higher criticism & Darwinism. They also declaimed the lack of democracy in the running of the Church. Pushing back against all this in 1910 Pope Pius X condemned modernism as the “synthesis of all heresies.”

Faced with such dramatic changes & challenges, many 19th C Christians felt the need to define and defend their faith in new ways. That wasn’t an easy task in light of some of the charges being made against it. Those who wanted to align the Faith with the modern scholarship discovered its rules tended to ensconce naturalist presuppositions that allowed no room for the supernaturalism that’s required to even consider a theism.

Anglicans and those in the Oxford Movement saw no such need to adjust their beliefs. They simply reaffirmed the authority of their faith communities, & emphasized the importance of confessions, creeds, and Scripture. In mid July, 1833, the Anglican theologian John Keble preached a famous sermon, “National Apostasy,” that triggered the beginning of the Oxford Movement. Keble warned about the repercussions of forsaking the Anglican Church.

We’ll take a closer look at the emergence of Theological Liberalism in our next episode.

]]>
We examine the impact of the tendency for modernization to foster a creeping secularism in the 19th C. The title of this 145th episode of CS is Liberal. The term “modern” as it relates to the story of history,
We examine the impact of the tendency for modernization to foster a creeping secularism in the 19th C.

The title of this 145th episode of CS is Liberal.
The term “modern” as it relates to the story of history, has been treated differently by dozens of authors, historians and sociologists. Generally speaking, Modernization is the process by which agricultural and rural traditions morph into an industrial, technological and urban milieu that tends to be democratic, pluralistic, socialist, and/or individualistic.
In the minds of many, the process of modernization is evidence of the validity of evolution. The idea is that evolution not only applies to the increasing complexity and adaptedness of biological life, it also applies sociologically to civilization and human systems. They too are evolving. So, progress is good; a sign of societal evolution.
But the critics of modernization decry the abuses it often creates. Not all modern innovations are beneficial. The increased emphasis on individual rights can weaken a person’s sense of belonging to & identity in a family & community. It guts loyalty to worth-while traditions and customs. Modernization builds new weapons that may encourage their inventors to assume they’re thus superior, and use them to subjugate & dominate those they deem inferior, appropriating their land for resources.
Modernization is often linked to a creeping secularization, a turning away from theistic religion. Periodic revivals are viewed as but momentary blips in societal evolution; temporary distractions in progress toward the realization of the Enlightenment dream of a totally secular society.
It was during the 19th C that the rationalist ideas of the Enlightenment finally moved out of the halls of academia to settle in as the status quo for European society. Christians found themselves caught up in a world of mind-numbing change. Their cherished beliefs were assailed by hostile critics. Authors like Marx & Nietzsche attacked the Christian Faith from a base in Darwin’s popular new theory.
In an attempt to accommodate Faith & Reason, Ludwig Feuerbach, author of The Essence of Christianity, published in 1841, reduced the idea of God to that of a man. He said God is really just the projection of specific human qualities raised to the level of perfection.
In 1855, Ludwig Büchner suggested that science dispensed with the need for supernaturalism. A materialist, he was one of the first to say that the advent of modern science meant there was no longer a need to explain phenomena by appealing to the miraculous or some kind of spiritual realm. No such realm existed, except in the minds of those who refused to accept what science proved. He said, “The power of spirits and gods dissolve in the hands of science.”
During the last half of the 19th C, Frederic Nietzsche made the case for atheism. Son of a Lutheran pastor, Nietzsche received an education in theology & philology at the Universities of Bonn & Leipzig.
A musician himself, Nietzsche became friends with the composer Richard Wagner, who like Nietzsche, admired the atheist Schopenhauer.
In Nietzsche’s philosophy, we see the fruit of something we looked at in an earlier episode. The rationalist emphasis on reason divorced from faith leads ultimately to irrationality because it claims omniscience. By saying there IS no realm but the material realm, it closes itself off to even the possibility of a non-material realm. Yet the process of reason leads inevitably & inexorably to the conclusion there MUST be a realm of being, a category of existence beyond, apart from the material realm of nature.
So Nietzsche embraced what have to be called non-rational ideas as the source for creativity, what he called “true living,” and art.]]>
Lance Ralston clean 16:11
144-Coping http://www.sanctorum.us/144-coping/ Sun, 24 Jul 2016 09:01:18 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1339 http://www.sanctorum.us/144-coping/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/144-coping/feed/ 0 We take a look at what’s happening in the Eastern Church during the 17th to 20th Century. The title of this 144th episode is Coping. A quick announcement before we dive in. Go to the sanctorum.us website or the CS FB page and hit the link to the 2017 Reformation Tour we’re doing in March. […] Assyrian

We take a look at what’s happening in the Eastern Church during the 17th to 20th Century.


The title of this 144th episode is Coping.

A quick announcement before we dive in.

Go to the sanctorum.us website or the CS FB page and hit the link to the 2017 Reformation Tour we’re doing in March. We have all the info up with prices and dates. So take a look and think about joining us.

It’s time once again to lay down our focus on the Western Church to see what’s happening in the East.

With the arrival of Modernity, the Church in Europe and the New World was faced with the challenge of coping in what we’ll call the post-Constantine era. What I mean is, the social environment that was no longer favorable toward Christianity. The institutional Church could no longer count on the political support it enjoyed since the 4th C. The 18th C saw Western Christianity faced with the challenge of secular states that may not be hostile, but tended to ignore it.

In the East, Christianity faced more than just benign neglect for a long time. When Constantinople fell in 1453 to the Turks, The Faith came under a repressive regime that alternately neglected & persecuted it.

While during the Middle Ages in Europe, Popes were often more powerful than Kings, the Byzantine Emperor ruled the Church. The Greek patriarchs were functionaries under his lead. If they failed to comply, they were deposed & replaced by those who would. When the Emperor decided reuniting with Rome was required to save the empire, the reunion was accomplished against the counsel or will of the majority of Church’s leaders. Then, just a  year later, Constantinople fell to the Ottomans. Many Eastern Christians regarded this calamity as a blessing. They viewed it as liberation from a tyrannical emperor who’d forced them into a union with a heretical church based in Rome.

The new Ottoman regime initially granted the Church limited freedom. Since the patriarch had fled to Rome, the conqueror of Constantinople, Mohammed II, allowed the bishops to elect a new patriarch.  He was given both civil & ecclesiastical authority over Christians in the East. In the capital, half the churches were converted to mosques. The other half were allowed to continue worship without change.

In 1516, the Ottomans conquered the ancient seat of Middle Eastern Christianity in Syria and Palestine. The church there was put under the oversight of the Patriarch of Constantinople. Then, when Egypt fell a year later, the Patriarch of Alexandria was given authority over all Christians in Egypt. Under the Ottomans, Patriarchs had vast power over Eastern Christians, but they only served at the Sultan’s pleasure and were often deposed for resisting his policies.

In 1629, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Cyril Lucaris, wrote what was considered by many a Protestant treatise titled Confession of Faith. He was then deposed and executed. 50 yrs later, a synod condemned him as a “Calvinist heretic.” But by the 18th C, the Reforamtion wasn;t a concern to the Eastern Church. What was, was the arrival of Western philosophy and science. In the 19th C, when Greece gained independent from Turkey, the debate became political. Greek nationalism advocated Western methods of academics & scholarship. The Greeks also demanded that the Greek Church ought to be independent from the Patriarch of Constantinople. Conservatives wanted to subject scholarship to tradition & retain allegiance to Constantinople, even though he was still subject to the Turkish sultan.

During the 19th & early 20th Cs, the Ottoman Empire broke up, allowing national Orthodox churches to form, not only in Greece but in Serbia, Bulgaria, & Romania. Tension between nationalist & conservative Orthodoxy dominated the scene. In the period between the 2 world wars, the patriarchate of Constantinople acknowledged the autonomy of the Orthodox churches in the Balkans, Estonia, Latvia, & Czechoslovakia.

Early in the 20th C, the ancient patriarchates of Jerusalem, Alexandria, & Antioch were ruled by Arabs. But the newly formed states existed under the shadow of Western powers. This was a time when out of a desire to identify with larger groups who could speak for them with some voice, a large number of Middle Eastern Christians became either Catholic or Protestant. But an emergent Arab nationalism reacted against Western influence. The growth of both Protestantism and Catholicism was curbed. By the 2nd half of the 20th C, the only nations where Eastern Orthodox Christianity retained its identity as a state church were in Greece and Cyprus.

The fall of Constantinople in 1453 was viewed by Russia Christians as God’s punishment for its reunion with the heretical Rome. They regarded Moscow as the “3rd Rome” & the new capital whose task was to uphold Orthodoxy. In 1547, Ivan IV took the title “czar,” drawn from the ancient “Caesar” a proper name that had come to mean “emperor.” The Russian rulers deemed themselves the spiritual heirs to the Roman Empire. 50 yrs later, the Metropolitan of Moscow took the title of Patriarch. The Russian Church then churned out a barrage of polemics against the Greek Orthodox Church, against Roman Catholics, and even Protestants. By the 17th C, the Russian Orthodox Church was so independent that when attempts were made by some to re-integrate the Church with its Orthodox brothers, it led to a schism in the Russian church & a rebellion that became quite bloody.

Okay, I just mentioned the term “metropolitan.” We mentioned this in an earlier episode, but now would be a good time for a recap on terms.

The Roman Catholic Church is presided over by a Pope whose authority is complete. The Eastern Orthodox Church is led by a Patriarch, but his authority isn’t as far-reaching as the Pope. Technically, his authority extends just to his church. But realistically, because his church is located in an important center, his influence extends to all the churches within the sphere of his city. While there is only one pope, there might be several Patriarchs who lead various branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

A Metropolitan equates loosely to an arch-bishop; someone who leads a church that influences the churches around it.

Peter the Great’s desire to Westernize a recalcitrant Russia led to an interest in the Russian Church in both Catholic and Protestant theology. Orthodoxy wasn’t abandoned; it was simply embellished with new methods. The Kievan school adopted a Catholic flavor while the followers of Theophanes Prokopovick leaned toward Protestantism. In the late 19th C, the Slavophile movement under the leadership of Alexis Khomiakov applied some of Hegel’s analytics to make a synthesis called sobornost; a merging of the Catholic idea of authority with the Protestant view of freedom.

Obviously, the Russian Revolution at the beginning of the 20th C put an end to all this with the arrival of a different Western Philosophy – Marxism. In 1918, the Church was officially separated from the state.. The Russian Constitution of 1936 guaranteed “freedom for religious worship” but also “freedom for anti-religious propaganda.” In the 20’s, religious instruction in schools was outlawed. Seminaries were closed. After the death Russian of Patriarch in 1925, the Church wasn’t forbidden to name a successor until 1943. The State needed all the help it could get in rallying the population in the war with Germany. The seminaries were reopened & permission was given to print of a limited inventory of religious books.

In the late 20th C, after 70 years of Communist rule, the Russian Orthodox Church still had 60 million members.

In a recent conversation I had with a woman who grew up in the Czechoslovakia during the Soviet Era, she remarked that under the Communists the Church survived, though few attended its services. Freedom of religion was the official policy under the Soviets. But in reality, those who professed faith in God were marked down and passed over for education, housing and other amenities, thin as they were under the harsh Soviet heel. You could be a Christian under the communists; but if you were, your existence was pretty lonely.

Several years ago when Russia opened to the rest of the world, I had a chance to go in with a team to teach the Inductive Study method as part of Russia’s attempt to teach it’s youth morality and ethics.

An old man attended the class, who between sessions regaled us with tales of being a believer under Communism. He looked like something straight out of an old, grimy black & white photo of a wizened old man with thinning white hair whose wrinkled face speaks volumes in the suffering he’d endured. He told us that he’d spent several stints in Russian prisons for refusing to kowtow to the Party line and steadfastly cleaving to his faith in God.

It’s remarkable the Church survived under Communism in the Soviet Bloc. Stories of the fall of the Soviets in the early 80’s are often the tale of a resurgent Church.

There are other Orthodox churches in various parts of the world. There’s the Orthodox Church of Japan, China & Korea. These communions, begun by Russian missionaries, are today, indigenous & autonomous, with a national clergy & membership, as well as a liturgy conducted in their native tongue.

Due to social strife, political upheavals, persecution, & the general longing for a better life, large numbers of Orthodox believers have moved to distant lands. But as they located in their new home, they often transported the old tensions. You see, Orthodoxy believes there can only be a single Orthodox congregation in a city. Well, what to do when there are Greek, Russian or some other flavor of Eastern Orthodox believers in a community?

Keep in mind that not all church in the Eat are part of Eastern Orthodoxy. Since the Christological controversies in the 5th C, a number of churches that disagreed with established creeds maintained their independence. In Persia, most Christians refused to refer to Mary as Theotokos = the Mother of God. They were labeled as Nestorians , and declared heretical; though as we saw way back when we were looking at this, Nestorius was not himself a heretic. Nestorians are more frequently referred to as Assyrian Christians, with a long history. During the Middle Ages the Assyrian church had many members with missions extending into China. In modern times it’s suffered severe persecution from Muslim. Early in the 20th C & again more recently, persecution has  decimated its members. The recent predations by ISIS have been aimed at these brethren.

Those churches that refused to accept the findings of the Council of Chalcedon were called Monophysites because they elevated the deity of Christ over His humanity to such a degree that it seemed to make that humanity irrelevant. The largest of these groups were the Coptics of Egypt & Ethiopia. The Ethiopian church was the last Eastern church to receive state support. That support ended with the overthrow of Haile Selassie in ‘74. The ancient Syrian Monophysite Church, known more popularly as Jacobite, continued in Syria & Iraq. Its head was the patriarch of Antioch who lived in Damascus. Technically under this patriarchate, but in reality autonomous, the Syrian Church in India has a half a million members.

As we saw in a previous episode, the Armenian Church also refused to accept the Chalcedonian Creed, because it resented the lack of support from Rome when the Persians invaded. When the Turks conquered Armenia, the fierce loyalty of the Armenians to their faith became one more spark that lit the fuse of ethnic hostility. In 1895, ’96 & again in 1914 when the world was distracted elsewhere, thousands of Armenians living under Turkish rule were massacred. A million escaped to Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Greece, France, and other Western nations.

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We take a look at what’s happening in the Eastern Church during the 17th to 20th Century. The title of this 144th episode is Coping. A quick announcement before we dive in. Go to the sanctorum.us website or the CS FB page and hit the link to the 2017 R...
We take a look at what’s happening in the Eastern Church during the 17th to 20th Century.

The title of this 144th episode is Coping.
A quick announcement before we dive in.
Go to the sanctorum.us website or the CS FB page and hit the link to the 2017 Reformation Tour we’re doing in March. We have all the info up with prices and dates. So take a look and think about joining us.
It’s time once again to lay down our focus on the Western Church to see what’s happening in the East.
With the arrival of Modernity, the Church in Europe and the New World was faced with the challenge of coping in what we’ll call the post-Constantine era. What I mean is, the social environment that was no longer favorable toward Christianity. The institutional Church could no longer count on the political support it enjoyed since the 4th C. The 18th C saw Western Christianity faced with the challenge of secular states that may not be hostile, but tended to ignore it.
In the East, Christianity faced more than just benign neglect for a long time. When Constantinople fell in 1453 to the Turks, The Faith came under a repressive regime that alternately neglected & persecuted it.
While during the Middle Ages in Europe, Popes were often more powerful than Kings, the Byzantine Emperor ruled the Church. The Greek patriarchs were functionaries under his lead. If they failed to comply, they were deposed & replaced by those who would. When the Emperor decided reuniting with Rome was required to save the empire, the reunion was accomplished against the counsel or will of the majority of Church’s leaders. Then, just a  year later, Constantinople fell to the Ottomans. Many Eastern Christians regarded this calamity as a blessing. They viewed it as liberation from a tyrannical emperor who’d forced them into a union with a heretical church based in Rome.
The new Ottoman regime initially granted the Church limited freedom. Since the patriarch had fled to Rome, the conqueror of Constantinople, Mohammed II, allowed the bishops to elect a new patriarch.  He was given both civil & ecclesiastical authority over Christians in the East. In the capital, half the churches were converted to mosques. The other half were allowed to continue worship without change.
In 1516, the Ottomans conquered the ancient seat of Middle Eastern Christianity in Syria and Palestine. The church there was put under the oversight of the Patriarch of Constantinople. Then, when Egypt fell a year later, the Patriarch of Alexandria was given authority over all Christians in Egypt. Under the Ottomans, Patriarchs had vast power over Eastern Christians, but they only served at the Sultan’s pleasure and were often deposed for resisting his policies.
In 1629, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Cyril Lucaris, wrote what was considered by many a Protestant treatise titled Confession of Faith. He was then deposed and executed. 50 yrs later, a synod condemned him as a “Calvinist heretic.” But by the 18th C, the Reforamtion wasn;t a concern to the Eastern Church. What was, was the arrival of Western philosophy and science. In the 19th C, when Greece gained independent from Turkey, the debate became political. Greek nationalism advocated Western methods of academics & scholarship. The Greeks also demanded that the Greek Church ought to be independent from the Patriarch of Constantinople. Conservatives wanted to subject scholarship to tradition & retain allegiance to Constantinople, even though he was still subject to the Turkish sultan.
During the 19th & early 20th Cs, the Ottoman Empire broke up, allowing national Orthodox churches to form, not only in Greece but in Serbia, Bulgaria, & Romania. Tension between nationalist & conservative Orthodoxy dominated the scene. In the period between the 2 world wars,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 14:42
143-Coming Apart http://www.sanctorum.us/143-coming-apart/ Sun, 17 Jul 2016 09:01:25 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1323 http://www.sanctorum.us/143-coming-apart/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/143-coming-apart/feed/ 0 Christianity as a religion becomes a diminishing factor in the political affairs of 19th Century Europe and Latin America. This 143rd episode of CS is titled Coming Apart Europe in the late 19th C was recovering from the Napoleonic Wars. War-weary, the nations longed for a prolonged period of peace in which to take a […] Kids

Christianity as a religion becomes a diminishing factor in the political affairs of 19th Century Europe and Latin America.


This 143rd episode of CS is titled Coming Apart

Europe in the late 19th C was recovering from the Napoleonic Wars. War-weary, the nations longed for a prolonged period of peace in which to take a breath, and consider HOW they were going to rebuild from the devastation recent conflicts has left. A plethora of new economic and political theories were available for them to choose from as they rebuilt. Most settled on economic and political ideas that were more liberal in terms of individual rights. The prosperity that had marked Holland became a model for a good part of Europe as they moved to a classic free-market system. With few exceptions, the governments of Europe adopted modified parliamentary systems.

This is the time when Europe moved from kingdoms to the more modern notion of nation-states. And religious affiliation keying off the Reformation and Counter-reformation often played a part in defining borders. For instance, Germany under the leadership of Prussia was fiercely Protestant while Austria was doggedly Roman Catholic. Belgium was Catholic while The Netherlands were Protestant.

But probably the most important development that occurred from the mid to late 19th C in Europe was the escalating divide between church and state. Following the Reformation, in those regions where Protestantism reigned, the church maintained a relationship with the State, much as the Catholic Church had before. But after the French Revolution, things changed. This was due to the emerging power of civil govts who no longer were beholden to clerical authority. The laisse-faire economics practiced across Europe birthed an economic boom that had a remarkable impact on the way people regarded much more than just economics. While many nations kept a State church that was subsidized by public funds, there was a boom in free churches supported solely by the offerings of their members. Being economically independent, they didn’t see themselves as needing to comply with some overarching ecclesiastical hierarchy. Freedom of thought & the freedom of the individual conscience so exalted by Enlightenment philosophy was linked solidly to the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura, so that people valued their right to read and interpret the Bible for themselves. It got to the point where the free churches considered themselves as the real bastions of orthodoxy since their doctrine wasn’t tainted by economic interests and the need to endorse the State in order to keep their subsidy.

While Great Britain followed a parallel track to that of the Continent in the 19th C, the Industrial Revolution had a more marked impact there. The Industrial Revolution benefitted the middle class and those entrepreneurs who rode it’s wave, while diminishing the wealth & influence of the old nobility and pulverizing the poor. The too-rapid growth of cities led to overcrowding, slums, and increased crime. The poor lived in miserable conditions & were exploited at work. That led to a mass migration to the United States, Canada, New Zealand, & Australia. It also led to the birth of the Labor party which became a potent force in British politics. Let’s not forget that it was in England, against the back-drop of the abuses of the Industrial Revolution, that Karl Marx developed many of his economic theories.

All this influenced the church in England. During the French Revolution, the Church of England held several of the evils that had characterized the worst of the medieval church: Errors such as clerical absenteeism & holding multiple church offices for nothing more than personal gain. Then, a major renewal shook the Church of England. A reform-minded clergy managed to take control, and bolstered by laws enacted by Parliament, they were able to roll back the abuses. These reformers where of the Evangelical movement within Anglicanism, Pietists who longed to move away from the high-church magisterialism of Anglicanism to a greater solidarity with Continental Protestantism. A counter-movement responded in what came to be known as the Oxford movement. They went the other direction and came to be known as Anglo-Catholics. Heavily influenced by Romanticism & inspired by Eastern Orthodoxy, the Oxford movement emphasized the authority of tradition, apostolic succession, and Communion, rather than preaching, as the center of Christian worship.

But it was in the free churches in England that most spiritual vitality was found during the late 19th C. The growth of the middle class resulted in an upsurge in membership at the free churches. Numerous outreaches to the poor were conducted that helped alleviate the suffering of tens of thousands. Others worked politically to enact laws to curb the abuse of workers. This was also a time a massive missionary outreach from England. It was in their desire to help the poor that Sunday Schools were started. Others organized the Young Men’s Christian Association, better known by its acronym, YMCA, as well as the YW (women’s) A. New denominations were born, like the Salvation Army, whose primary focus was to help the urban poor.

It was the work of Methodists, Quakers, and others that led to the founding of labor unions, prison reform, and child labor laws. But the most important accomplishment of British Christians during the 19th C was the abolition of slavery. Quakers & Methodists had condemned slavery for yrs. But it was now, thanks to the leadership of William Wilberforce and other believers, that the British govt ended slavery. They first ended the slave trade. Then in they decreed freedom for slaves in the Caribbean. Following that slavery ended in other colonies. The British prevailed on other nations to end the slave trade. The British Navy was authorized to use force against slavers. Soon, most Western nations had abolished slavery.

In the Portuguese & Spanish colonies of Latin America in the 19th C, the tension between the peninsulares; immigrants recently arrived from Europe, & the criollos; descendants of earlier immigrants, was high. The criollos had become wealthy by exploitation of Indians and slave. They thought themselves more astute at running the affairs of the colony than the recently arrived peninsulares. The problem was, the peninsulares had been appointed to both governmental and ecclesiastical positions by officials back home. Despite the fact that the wealth of the colonies had been dug out by the sweat and toiul of the native population and imported slaves, the criollos claimed they were the casue of the wealth. So they resented the intrusion of the peninsulares. Although remaining faithful subjects, they abhorred laws that favored the hone country at the expense of the colonies. Since they had the means to travel to Europe, many of them returned home embued with the new political & economic ideologies of the Continent. The criollos were to Latin America what the bourgeoisie was to France.

In 1808, Napoleon deposed Spain’s King Ferdinand VII, & replaced him with his brother Joseph Bonaparte. Resistance to King Joe centered at Cadiz, where a board called a “junta” ruled in the name of the deposed Spanish monarch. Local juntas were also set up Latin America. The colonies began ruling themselves, in the name of the Spanish king. Then when Ferdinand was restored in 1814, instead of gratitude for those who’d preserved his territories, he reversed all that the juntas had done. When he abolished the constitution the Cadiz junta issued, the reaction was so strong he had to reinstate it. In the colonies, the criollo resentment was so strong to his iron-fisted attempt to re-assert control, they rebelled. In what is today Argentina, Paraguay, & Uruguay—the junta simply ignored the mandates from Spain & continued governing until independence was proclaimed in 1816. Then, 2 yrs later, Chile declared independence. To the N, Simón Bolívar’s army defeated the Spanish and proclaimed independence for Greater Colombia; which was eventually broken up into Colombia, Venezuela, & Panama. Ecuador, Peru, & Bolivar followed.

Brazilian independence came about as fallout from the Napoleonic Wars. In 1807, fleeing Napoleon’s armies, the Portuguese court took refuge in Brazil. In 1816, João VI was restored to rule but showed no desire to return to Portugal until he was forced to 5 yrs later. He left his son Pedro as regent of Brazil. When HE was called on to return to Portugal, Pedro refused & proclaimed Brazilian independence. He was crowned Emperor Pedro I of Brazil. But he was never really allowed to rule as his title implied. He was forced to accept a parliamentary system of government.

Events in Mexico followed a different course. The criollos planned a power-grab from the peninsulares but when the conspiracy was discovered, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, proclaimed Mexican independence on Sept 16, 1810 at the head of a motely mob of 60,000 Indians and mestizos—persons of mixed Indian and Spanish blood. When Hidalgo was captured and killed, he was succeeded by the priest José María Morelos. The criollos regained power for a time, but under the leadership of Benito Juárez, the native Mexicans re-asserted control. Central America, originally part of Mexico, declared independence in 1821, and later broke up into Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

Haiti’s independence was another result of the French Revolution. As soon as the French Revolution deprived the white population on the island of military support, the majority blacks rebelled. Independence was proclaimed in 1804, acknowledged by France in 1825.

Throughout the 19th C, the overarching ideological debate in Latin America was between liberals and conservatives. Leaders of both groups belonged to the upper class. And while conservatives tended to be located in landed aristocracy, liberals found their support among the merchants and intellectuals in urban centers. Conservatives tended to fear freedom of thought and free enterprise while those were cardinal virtues for liberals, because they were modern & were suited to their interests as the merchant class. While conservatives looked to Spain, liberals looked to Great Britain, France, & the USA. But neither group was willing to alter the social order so lower classes could share the wealth. The result was a long series of both liberal & conservative dictatorships, of revolutions, & violence. By the turn of the C, many had come to agree with Bolívar that the continent was ungovernable. The Mexican Revolution seemed to make the point. It began in 1910 and led to a long period of violence and disorder that impoverished the land and moved many to emigrate.

Throughout this colonial period in Latin America, the church was under Patronato Real = Royal Patronage. That meant the govts of Spain & Portugal appointed the bishops of the colonies. Therefore, the higher offices of the church were peninsulares while criollos and mestizos formed the lower clergy. While a few bishops came to support the cause of independence, most supported the crown. After independence, most returned to Spain, leaving their seats empty.

Now, we might think, “Well, that’s not difficult to sort out. Why didn’t those local sees just appoint their own bishops?” They wanted to, but in the tussle between Spain claiming the right to appoint bishops and the locals claiming the right, the Pope wavered. He wavered because Spain was still a main & much needed ally in Europe, while the new nations of Latin America were a substantial part of the Catholic flock. Papal encyclicals tried to walk a thin line between honoring European monarchs while at the same time culling back to the Vatican the ability to name its own bishops. It was a political sticky wicket that dominated the diplomatic scene for years.

The attitude of the lower clergy, again, made up mostly of criollos and mestizos, contrasted with that of the bishops who tended toward being conservative. In Mexico, 3 out of 4 priests supported the rebellion. 16 out of the 29 signatories of Argentina’s Declaration of Independence were priests.

Many of you may remember the Liberation Theology movement popular across Latin America in the early 80’s. It was led largely by Roman Catholic priests. They were following in the footprints of earlier priests from a century before.

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Christianity as a religion becomes a diminishing factor in the political affairs of 19th Century Europe and Latin America. This 143rd episode of CS is titled Coming Apart Europe in the late 19th C was recovering from the Napoleonic Wars. War-weary,
Christianity as a religion becomes a diminishing factor in the political affairs of 19th Century Europe and Latin America.

This 143rd episode of CS is titled Coming Apart
Europe in the late 19th C was recovering from the Napoleonic Wars. War-weary, the nations longed for a prolonged period of peace in which to take a breath, and consider HOW they were going to rebuild from the devastation recent conflicts has left. A plethora of new economic and political theories were available for them to choose from as they rebuilt. Most settled on economic and political ideas that were more liberal in terms of individual rights. The prosperity that had marked Holland became a model for a good part of Europe as they moved to a classic free-market system. With few exceptions, the governments of Europe adopted modified parliamentary systems.
This is the time when Europe moved from kingdoms to the more modern notion of nation-states. And religious affiliation keying off the Reformation and Counter-reformation often played a part in defining borders. For instance, Germany under the leadership of Prussia was fiercely Protestant while Austria was doggedly Roman Catholic. Belgium was Catholic while The Netherlands were Protestant.
But probably the most important development that occurred from the mid to late 19th C in Europe was the escalating divide between church and state. Following the Reformation, in those regions where Protestantism reigned, the church maintained a relationship with the State, much as the Catholic Church had before. But after the French Revolution, things changed. This was due to the emerging power of civil govts who no longer were beholden to clerical authority. The laisse-faire economics practiced across Europe birthed an economic boom that had a remarkable impact on the way people regarded much more than just economics. While many nations kept a State church that was subsidized by public funds, there was a boom in free churches supported solely by the offerings of their members. Being economically independent, they didn’t see themselves as needing to comply with some overarching ecclesiastical hierarchy. Freedom of thought & the freedom of the individual conscience so exalted by Enlightenment philosophy was linked solidly to the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura, so that people valued their right to read and interpret the Bible for themselves. It got to the point where the free churches considered themselves as the real bastions of orthodoxy since their doctrine wasn’t tainted by economic interests and the need to endorse the State in order to keep their subsidy.
While Great Britain followed a parallel track to that of the Continent in the 19th C, the Industrial Revolution had a more marked impact there. The Industrial Revolution benefitted the middle class and those entrepreneurs who rode it’s wave, while diminishing the wealth & influence of the old nobility and pulverizing the poor. The too-rapid growth of cities led to overcrowding, slums, and increased crime. The poor lived in miserable conditions & were exploited at work. That led to a mass migration to the United States, Canada, New Zealand, & Australia. It also led to the birth of the Labor party which became a potent force in British politics. Let’s not forget that it was in England, against the back-drop of the abuses of the Industrial Revolution, that Karl Marx developed many of his economic theories.
All this influenced the church in England. During the French Revolution, the Church of England held several of the evils that had characterized the worst of the medieval church: Errors such as clerical absenteeism & holding multiple church offices for nothing more than personal gain. Then, a major renewal shook the Church of England. A reform-minded clergy managed to take control,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 15:10
142-Off with Their Heads http://www.sanctorum.us/142-off-with-their-heads/ Sun, 10 Jul 2016 09:01:41 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1318 http://www.sanctorum.us/142-off-with-their-heads/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/142-off-with-their-heads/feed/ 0 The impact of the French Revolution on the Church in France. The title of this 142 episode of CS is “Off with Their Heads.” In this installment of the podcast, we’re going to give a brief review of The French Revolution, which may not seem at first blush to have much to do with Church […] Guillotine

The impact of the French Revolution on the Church in France.


The title of this 142 episode of CS is “Off with Their Heads.”

In this installment of the podcast, we’re going to give a brief review of The French Revolution, which may not seem at first blush to have much to do with Church History. Ahh, but it does. It does for this reason: What we see in The French Revolution is a proto-typical example of the Church, by which the institutional church, not necessarily the Christian Gospel and Faith, colliding with Modernity.

I know there are some astute CS subscribers who’ll take exception to this, but I’ll say it anyway. In the French Revolution we see the boomerang of the Enlightenment that sprang FROM the Renaissance, come back round to give the Church a mighty slap in the face. The Renaissance opened the door to new ways of thinking, which led first to the Reformation, which cracked the Roman Church’s monopoly on religion and made it possible for people to not only believe differently, but to go even further to choose not to believe at all. Rationalism may have ended up agnostic and atheistic, but it didn’t begin there. Some of the first and greatest scientists were worked their science in the context of a Biblical worldview, as we’ve shown in previous episodes. And the earliest rationalist philosophers based their work on the evolving theology of Protestant scholastics.

It was during the French Revolution when the dog bit the hand that had fed it. Or maybe better, when the lion mauled it’s trainer.

The French monarch Louis XVI was a weak ruler & inept politician. Economic conditions grew worse, especially for the poor, while of the king & his court were profligate in spending. In a desperate need to raise funds, the king convened the French parliament, called the Estates General.

The EG was composed of 3 orders, called Estates; the clergy, the nobility and the bourgeoisie or middle-class. Louis’ advisors suggested he enlarge the Third Estate, that of the middle class, so he could coerce the other two estates of the clergy & nobility to comply with his request for more taxes – FROM THEM. The ranks of the clergy were then enlarged as well by adding many parish priests to offset the bishops who were largely drawn from the French nobility. These priests were no friend to the hierarchy.

When the assembly gathered in early May, 1789, the Third Estate had more members than the other 2 combined. And among the clergy less than a third were nobles. The Third Estate insisted the EG function as a single chamber. The Clergy & Nobility were used to operating separately so that there were 3 votes. They usually united to vote down anything the Third Estate of the Middle class came up with. A row ensued but when priests sided with the Middle class members, it was decided things would be decided by a united house and simple majority vote. The nobility balked so Priests & Bourgeoisie formed anew body they called the National Assembly, claiming they were the legal government and represented the nation. 2 days later the entire Clergy joined the National Assembly.

The economy worsened, and hunger was widespread. Fearing what the National Assembly might do, the Crown ordered it to disband and forcibly closed the doors. Its members refused to comply and continued working on a new Constitution. The king moved troops to the outskirts of Paris, and deposed a prominent & super-popular member of the opposition government named Jacques Necker. The people of Paris expressed their outrage by rioting in a save of civil unrest that reached a climax on July 14, when they took the Bastille, an fortress that served as an armory, bunker and prison for the royal enemies.

From that point on, things moved quickly in the French Revolution. Three days later the king capitulated and recognized the authority of the National Assembly as the new official government of France. They then issued the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, which became foundational to democratic movements in France and other nations. But when Louis reneged and refused to accept the decisions of the Assembly, Paris rioted yet again. From then on, the royal family were prisoners in the capital.

The National Assembly reorganized the government of France, not only its civil & economic policies, but also its religious life. The most important step in this was the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, put ito effect in 1790.

You’ll remember that for centuries the French church had been governed by Gallican liberties, protecting it from interference by Rome. French bishops had a buddy system with the French crown. With the crown gutted of authority, the National Assembly assumed the role in the Church the king had played. Recognizing the need for reform, they set about to reform it. The highest positions in the hierarchy of the French church were occupied by members of the aristocracy. These prelates weren’t used to the real work of shepherding God’s flock. Their seat was a matter of income and prestige. Monasteries & abbeys had become like private clubs filled with debauchery. Abbots were known, not for their simple homespun smocks and bare feet, but for their excessive luxury & crafty political intrigues.

Some members of the Assembly wanted to reform the church. Others were convinced the Church and the Faith it was supposed to stand as the eternal servant of, was nothing but a lot of hog-wash, silly superstition from times long past, and ought now to be swept away. Those voices were few at first, but their numbers grew and took the foreground later in the Revolution.

Most of the measures the Assembly proposed aimed at reform of the Church. But the deeper challenge issued by many was, did the Assembly have authority to address such issues? Since when did the civil government have a say in Church affairs? And hold on – since the Reformation had introduced this big divide between Protestants & Catholics, which church was being addressed? A suggestion was made to call a council of French bishops. But the Assembly quashed that due to the fact it would put power back in the hands of aristocratic bishops, which they were loath to do. Others suggested the Pope be invited to weigh in. But the French were reluctant to surrender their Gallicanism by giving Rome a foothold.

Pope Pius VI sent word to Louis XVI the new Constitution was something he could never accept. The king feared the Assembly’s reaction if they found out about the Pope’s resistance so he kept it a secret. Then, at the insistence of the Assembly, the king agreed to the Constitution, but announcing that his approval was contingent on the Pope’s agreement. The Assembly tired of the delay and decreed that all who held ecclesiastical office had to swear allegiance to the Constitution. Those who declined would be deposed.

The Church was divided. You see, in theory, those who refused were to suffer no more that the loss of office. On the basis of the Assembly’s declaration on rights, they couldn’t be deprived of their freedom of thought. And anyone who wanted to maintain them as their clergy were welcome to do so. But they were on their own. Those who signed on to the new Constitution would be supported by the state. à Again, all that was in theory. In practice, those who refused to swear allegiance were persecuted and branded as dangerous counterrevolutionaries.

Revolutionary movements gained strength across Europe. Such movements in the Low Countries and Switzerland failed, but monarchs and the nobility feared the French movement would spread to other lands. That inspired French radicals to more extreme measures. In 1791, the National Assembly morphed into the Legislative Assembly, with far fewer voices calling for moderation. Half a year later, France went to war with Austria and Prussia—beginning a long series of armed conflicts that continued till the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815.

The day after securing victory at the Battle of Valmy, the Legislative Assembly again reformed into the National Convention. In its first session the Convention abolished the monarchy and announced the French Republic. 4 months later, the king was accused of high treason, was convicted & executed.

But that didn’t put an end to France’s problems. The economy was in shambles in every village, city town and all social classes. Peasants revolted. Fear of foreign invasion grew. All this led to a wave of terror where everybody was suspected of counterrevolutionary conspiracies, and most of the major figures of the revolution were put to death one after another at the guillotine.

Combined with all this was a strong reaction against Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant. The new leaders of the revolution were convinced they were the prophets & engineers of a new age where science and reason would overcome superstition and religion. They claimed that as the new age was born, time had come to leave behind the silly ideas of the old.

The Revolution created its own religion, called first the Cult of Reason; later the Cult of the Supreme Being. By then the Constitution with it’s rights for individuals was forgotten. The revolution wanted nothing to do with the Church. The calendar was changed to a more “reasonable” one where a week was 10 days & months were named after nature. Elaborate spectacles were staged to celebrate the new age of reason & new holidays were established to replace the old religious ones. Temples to Reason were built to replace churches, and an list of saints was issued—among whom were Jesus, Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, and Rousseau. New rites were devised for weddings, funerals and the dedication of children, not to God but to philosophical ideals like Frredom.

As I sit here recording this, and you listen, doing whatever activity it is you’re doing, all these radical rationalist ideas may seem ridiculous, in light of their ultra-short lifespan. Like demanding everyone suddenly call red blue, and blue is from now on going to be called green. Just because we say so. And it would be ridiculous, were it not for the fact that they were deadly earnest about it and killed thousands for no more reason than being under suspicion of thinking their ideas were absurd.

“Off with their heads” became a slogan that literally saw people slipped under the guillotine’s blade. Christian worship was supposedly permitted; but any priest who refused to swear before the altar of Freedom was accused of being a counterrevolutionary and sent to the guillotine. Somewhere btwn 2 & 5 thousand priests were executed, as well as dozens of nuns and countless lay people. Many died in prison. In the end, no distinction was made between those who’d sworn allegiance to the Constitution, those who had refused to, and Protestants. Although the reign of terror ended in 1795, the government continued to oppose Christianity. Where ever French troops marched and asserted their presences, their policies followed. In 1798, they invaded Italy and captured Pope Pius VI, taking himt o France as a prisoner.

Napoleon, who’d been rising thru the ranks of the French army for a while, became the ruler of France in Nov, 1799. Pius VI died a few months before. Napoleon believed the best policy for France was to seek a reconciliation with the Catholic Church, and opened negotiations with the new pope, Pius VII. In 1801, the papacy and French govt agreed to a Concordat that allowed the Church & State to work together to appoint of bishops to the French Church. 3 yrs later, Napoleon decided he wanted to be more than just the First Consul of France, he fancied the title “Emperor” and had Pius VII officiate at his coronation. Then Napoleon decreed religious freedom for Protestants.

Then Pope and Emperor fell out and France once again invaded Italy & the Pope was taken prisoner. But even in his captivity Pius VII refused to endorse Napoleon’s actions. He was especially critical of his divorce from Josephine. Pius remained a prisoner until the fall of Napoleon, when he was restored to Rome. There he proclaimed a general amnesty for all his enemies, and interceded for Napoleon before his British conquerors.

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The impact of the French Revolution on the Church in France. The title of this 142 episode of CS is “Off with Their Heads.” In this installment of the podcast, we’re going to give a brief review of The French Revolution,
The impact of the French Revolution on the Church in France.

The title of this 142 episode of CS is “Off with Their Heads.”
In this installment of the podcast, we’re going to give a brief review of The French Revolution, which may not seem at first blush to have much to do with Church History. Ahh, but it does. It does for this reason: What we see in The French Revolution is a proto-typical example of the Church, by which the institutional church, not necessarily the Christian Gospel and Faith, colliding with Modernity.
I know there are some astute CS subscribers who’ll take exception to this, but I’ll say it anyway. In the French Revolution we see the boomerang of the Enlightenment that sprang FROM the Renaissance, come back round to give the Church a mighty slap in the face. The Renaissance opened the door to new ways of thinking, which led first to the Reformation, which cracked the Roman Church’s monopoly on religion and made it possible for people to not only believe differently, but to go even further to choose not to believe at all. Rationalism may have ended up agnostic and atheistic, but it didn’t begin there. Some of the first and greatest scientists were worked their science in the context of a Biblical worldview, as we’ve shown in previous episodes. And the earliest rationalist philosophers based their work on the evolving theology of Protestant scholastics.
It was during the French Revolution when the dog bit the hand that had fed it. Or maybe better, when the lion mauled it’s trainer.
The French monarch Louis XVI was a weak ruler & inept politician. Economic conditions grew worse, especially for the poor, while of the king & his court were profligate in spending. In a desperate need to raise funds, the king convened the French parliament, called the Estates General.
The EG was composed of 3 orders, called Estates; the clergy, the nobility and the bourgeoisie or middle-class. Louis’ advisors suggested he enlarge the Third Estate, that of the middle class, so he could coerce the other two estates of the clergy & nobility to comply with his request for more taxes – FROM THEM. The ranks of the clergy were then enlarged as well by adding many parish priests to offset the bishops who were largely drawn from the French nobility. These priests were no friend to the hierarchy.
When the assembly gathered in early May, 1789, the Third Estate had more members than the other 2 combined. And among the clergy less than a third were nobles. The Third Estate insisted the EG function as a single chamber. The Clergy & Nobility were used to operating separately so that there were 3 votes. They usually united to vote down anything the Third Estate of the Middle class came up with. A row ensued but when priests sided with the Middle class members, it was decided things would be decided by a united house and simple majority vote. The nobility balked so Priests & Bourgeoisie formed anew body they called the National Assembly, claiming they were the legal government and represented the nation. 2 days later the entire Clergy joined the National Assembly.
The economy worsened, and hunger was widespread. Fearing what the National Assembly might do, the Crown ordered it to disband and forcibly closed the doors. Its members refused to comply and continued working on a new Constitution. The king moved troops to the outskirts of Paris, and deposed a prominent & super-popular member of the opposition government named Jacques Necker. The people of Paris expressed their outrage by rioting in a save of civil unrest that reached a climax on July 14, when they took the Bastille, an fortress that served as an armory, bunker and prison for the royal enemies.
From that point on, things moved quickly in the French Revolution. Three days later the king capitulated and recognized the ...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 14:47
141-Behind Enemy Lines http://www.sanctorum.us/141-behind-enemy-lines/ Sun, 26 Jun 2016 09:01:33 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1310 http://www.sanctorum.us/141-behind-enemy-lines/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/141-behind-enemy-lines/feed/ 2 We look at the church under the Ottoman Turks after the Fall of Constantinople. We then look at the Ukrainian Uniate Church and the Russian Orthodox Church during the reign of the Romanovs. This 141st, episode is titled, Behind Enemy Lines. Following up their conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Turks conquered most of the […] We look at the church under the Ottoman Turks after the Fall of Constantinople.
We then look at the Ukrainian Uniate Church and the Russian Orthodox Church during the reign of the Romanovs.


This 141st, episode is titled, Behind Enemy Lines.

Following up their conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Turks conquered most of the Balkans. They now controlled the former Byzantine Empire and the substantial region of Armenia. They required the Eastern Orthodox patriarchs in Constantinople to obey their rules & policies. The Ottoman Turks employed their Christians subjects in key positions in the military & government. The bureaucrats who’d served the labrynthine Byzantine system made excellent court officials in the new realm. And thousands of young Christian boys were inducted into the Janissaries; elite fighting units renowned for their ferocity and loyalty to the Sultan. If you want to read some fascinating history, dig into the story of the Janissaries.

Throughout Turkish lands, Christians and Jews were given a measure of autonomy in running their own affairs. Note I said “a measure.” They weren’t free to live however they pleased. While there was a general, persistent low-grade animosity between Christians and their Turk-masters, there were periods of intense oppression and outright persecution.

Western European governments were indifferent to the plight of Eastern Christians. They were anxious to maintain a favorable posture toward the Ottomans so as to have access to the rich trade that flowed btwn E&W. The conspiracies and conniving that went on between the competing nations of Europe for this rich trade was a thing of legend. Sadly, it was a prime example of how the desire for wealth trumped a deeper and more pressing humanitarian directive.

Thank God we’ve moved passed that today, huh?

Keeping our historical perspective, the lack of concern on the part of Western Europeans for their Oriental brothers & sister living under the Ottoman yoke isn’t so hard to understand. After all, how many years has it been since the rift broke between E&W? it’s been almost exactly 400 years. And the LAST time W met E was in the brutality of the 4th Crusade that shattered Constantinople and ultimately left it vulnerable to the Turkish conquest.

At the end of the 16th C,  Jeremias II, patriarch of Constantinople, ordained Bishop Job as the first patriarch of Russia. This established Moscow as a patriarchate on the same footing as the much older centers of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, & Jerusalem.

In the final yrs of the 16th C, 4 bishops along with the metropolitan of Kiev, created what became known as the Uniate Church. These churches became an Eastern branch of the Catholic Church. They looked to the Roman Pope as their spiritual head and embraced Roman doctrine. But they kept the Byzantine liturgy and the right of their priests to marry. For 3 centuries, Uniate Christians were the target of fierce persecution the the Cossacks. During the Cossack-Polish War of 1648–57, many of the Uniates were slaughtered.

Eastern Orthodox or as they are sometimes called, Greek Orthodox, theologians rejected the Protestant Reformation’s emphasis on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. But when Cyril Lucaris, patriarch of Constantinople, published a work in 1629 that seemed influenced by the theology of John Calvin, it sparked a firestorm of controversy and fierce opposition from other Orthodox theologians. One chapter said Scripture was infallible and inerrant. Its authority superseded that of the Church. Another ch said sinners are justified by faith rather than works and that it’s Christ’s righteousness applied by faith to repentant sinners that alone justifies.

The Turk Sultan Murad IV conspired to assassinated Patriarch Cyril Lucaris, because he was regarded as a theological as well as political troublemaker. The Janissaries were sent to kill him on June 27, 1638; his body dumped over the side of a ship.

The years 1598-1613 we labeled the “Time of Troubles” in Russia. It was a time of transition from the Rurik Dynasty to the Romanovs. The years saw a famine that killed some 2 million Russians, one third of the populace. It also witnessed the Polish-Muscovite War when Russia was occupied by a Polish-Lithuanian Consortium and endured endless civil uprisings. The Romanov’s went on to rule Russia for the next 300 yrs. During the period from Peter the Great thru Catherine the Great, Russia emerged as a military competitor to the French, Spanish, English, Prussians, and Hapsburgs. Her army & navy  grew and she gained large tracts of land at the expense of Sweden, Poland, and Turkey.

Russia’s conquests brought many non-Orthodox Christians under her control; most notably many Roman Catholics. It also brought in a lot of Jews. East Europeans rulers were wary of the new Russian bear & how it’s aggression could unsettle the cfareful blance European diplomats had managed to secure. In 1763, King Louis XV of France declared, “Everything that may plunge Russia into chaos and make her return to obscurity is favorable to our interests.”

The impact of the reign of Peter the Great on Russian society was profound. Fascinated by all things military, Peter as ruler was ruthless with his enemies as he was charming with those he wanted to woo. Peter assumed the arduous task of transforming Russia from an agricultural backwater into a modern economic powerhouse. During a more than yr long tour of Germany, the Netherlands, England, and Austria in 1697–8, he gained a working knowledge of economics, farming, munitions, and ship-building. He visited schools, hospitals, and factories. He was warmly received by kings & queens.

Once back in Russia, Peter used forced labor to build the port city of Petersburg as a “window on the West.” In 1713, it became the capital of Russia. He finally defeated the Swedes, gaining more territory. His trip to western European countries provided him new insights in how to streamline Russia’s military, government, and schools.

His opponents came from the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church as well as what were called the “Old Believers & Ritualists” drawn from the ancient Russian nobility and the Cossacks. The clergy said Peter was engaged in a blasphemous arrogance by moving the capital from Moscow, which they called the “Third Rome” to Petersburg.

Unlike the clergy, the Old Believers had a different beef with Peter. They were enraged by what they called his irreligious actions. He failed to support their departure form the Russian Orthodox Church due to a bruehaha over hwo to make the sign of the cross. These Old Ritualists, broke with the Russian Church in the 1650’s when the Metropolitan Nikon revised the liturgy along amore Byzantine fashion. Nikon said the sign of the cross was to be made with the first 3 fingers of the right hand, not 2 fingers as was the usual practice. THos who refused to put up 3 fingers was deemed a heretic.

So à “Off with is head.”

In 1682, a leader of the Old Believers, was burned at the stake. Some of his followers living in their own religious communities engaged in mass suicides.

Peter’s opponents among the clergy were really worked up about his requiring them to adopt more modern and Western clothes. Russian nobles were ordered to shave unless they paid a tax. Some Russian men assumed a shave would bar them from entering heaven.

Peter professed a faith in Christ, but it’s questionable if he did so for purely pragmatic reasons. He venerated icons, quoted Scripture at length, cited the Liturgy by heart, and sang on occasion in church choirs. But he had little patience with the Patriarch of Moscow who opposed his “Western” innovations.

One historian claims Peter the Great’s actions toward the Church in Moscow “led to a cultural shock from which Russia never recovered.” When Patriarch Adrian died in 1700, Peter postponed the election of a new patriarch. This dealt a major blow to the traditions and the structure of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1716 Peter declared that he alone ruled Russia, setting himself over the church.

The reigns of the next several Romanovs were marked by intrigue and palace coups.

For example, Peter III had a brief reign. He married the German-born and Lutheran-raised Catherine II, who converted to Orthodoxy so as to make entry into the marriage smoother. Peter disbanded the secret police and favored religious toleration. He despised the Orthodox Church and was accused of leaning toward “Lutheranism.” A conspiracy headed by his wife’s illicit lover, forced Peter’s abdication, then murdered him.

Catherine then became the ruler of Russia; Catherine the Great. She built on the expansionist policies of Peter the Great, adding 200,000 square miles to Russia. Her armies put down the Cossack Rebellion of 1773–5 and extended the borders of Russia in the Crimea and in Poland, Beloruss, & W’n Ukraine. She centralized & streamlined the government, which was now run by civilians with skills like those of their counterparts in Western Europe. Russia, traditionally introspective and self-congratulatory, looked for a while to be opening to the outside world, willing to embrace the cultures of its neighbors.

Catherine has sometimes been portrayed as an “Enlightened Despot.” She was steeped in the literature of the French philosophes. Diderot and Grimm spent time at her court, as did other Western thinkers. She mostly refrained from terror in dealing with her opponents in bringing reforms.

In 1773 Catherine promoted a measure of religious toleration. She defended the Jesuits in after the papacy dissolved the Society of Jesus. Both Roman Catholics and Protestants enjoyed limited religious rights.

Catherine’s openness to Enlightenment ideas had limits. She took over monasteries and turned them into state property. She was hostile to the Masons and feared the spread of subversive republican ideas by partisans of the French Revolution. She made 3 decrees that forced Jews to settle in a region called “the Pale” stretching from the Black to the Baltic Sea. It encompassed present-day Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Beloruss. Jews lived in the Pale under harsh poverty conditions & frequent pogroms.

18th C religious life in Europe & Asia is a harbinger of what lies ahead for us as we wrap up our narrative of church history over the next episodes.

The concern expressed by Roman Catholic leaders in the face of the Reformation was that if the Protestants were allowed to break away to form their own churches and movements, the fracturing would never end and Mother Church would disintegrate into a bo-zillion daughters who looked nothing like their mother. That concern has largely proven true, as is evidenced by the literally tens of thousands of different denominations, movements, groups and even independent churches that exists world-wide, all calling themselves the faithful followers of Jesus and the home of the True Gospel.

It’s during the 18th C in Europe, Asia, and to a lesser extent in the New World that we see that splintering reach an exponential rate.

And that’s why our review of the narrative of church history must necessarily come to a conclusion soon. Because now we’d need to track the growth and development of literally dozens of groups & that would be a royal pain in the boredom it would inflict. We could deprogram hardened terrorists by making them listen to that; or torture them.

That might be a good place for all you burgeoning podcasters out there to start your own podcast. I know you’re out there. You’ve been listening to CS for a while and regularly say to yourself, “I could do a better job than this.” I’ll bet you could. So why don’t you? Start your podcast where we’ll leave off. Track the origins of your group to where we end and take it from there.

To give ya’ll a heads up on what’s planned for CS . . .

I don’t know how many more episodes we’ll do in the narrative but it won’t be many.

Then, I plan to take a break of several months, and pick it up again by going back to do some in-depth episodes on specific people, events, moments, and trends in Church History.

As we end, I want to again say thanks to all you subscribers who write reviews in iTunes store, those who check in and give the CS FB page a like and leave comments there or on the sanctorum.us site.

There are some very popular podcasts out there with HUGE audiences. None of them have the amazing group CS has. I mean it when I say, You guys & gals are the best!

As most of you know, I’m a pastor at an independent Evangelical Christian church ins SoCal. If you like CS, don’t find my voice too annoying, and would like to hear something a little different, you might want to check out the church podcast. I teach twice a week; one is a general survey of the Bible, v by v, ch by ch & book by book. The other is a sermon where we go in depth in the same passage. You can find it in iTunes story by searching for Calvary Chapel Oxnard, or going to the calvaryoxnard.org website.

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We look at the church under the Ottoman Turks after the Fall of Constantinople. We then look at the Ukrainian Uniate Church and the Russian Orthodox Church during the reign of the Romanovs. This 141st, episode is titled, Behind Enemy Lines.
We then look at the Ukrainian Uniate Church and the Russian Orthodox Church during the reign of the Romanovs.

This 141st, episode is titled, Behind Enemy Lines.
Following up their conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Turks conquered most of the Balkans. They now controlled the former Byzantine Empire and the substantial region of Armenia. They required the Eastern Orthodox patriarchs in Constantinople to obey their rules & policies. The Ottoman Turks employed their Christians subjects in key positions in the military & government. The bureaucrats who’d served the labrynthine Byzantine system made excellent court officials in the new realm. And thousands of young Christian boys were inducted into the Janissaries; elite fighting units renowned for their ferocity and loyalty to the Sultan. If you want to read some fascinating history, dig into the story of the Janissaries.
Throughout Turkish lands, Christians and Jews were given a measure of autonomy in running their own affairs. Note I said “a measure.” They weren’t free to live however they pleased. While there was a general, persistent low-grade animosity between Christians and their Turk-masters, there were periods of intense oppression and outright persecution.
Western European governments were indifferent to the plight of Eastern Christians. They were anxious to maintain a favorable posture toward the Ottomans so as to have access to the rich trade that flowed btwn E&W. The conspiracies and conniving that went on between the competing nations of Europe for this rich trade was a thing of legend. Sadly, it was a prime example of how the desire for wealth trumped a deeper and more pressing humanitarian directive.
Thank God we’ve moved passed that today, huh?
Keeping our historical perspective, the lack of concern on the part of Western Europeans for their Oriental brothers & sister living under the Ottoman yoke isn’t so hard to understand. After all, how many years has it been since the rift broke between E&W? it’s been almost exactly 400 years. And the LAST time W met E was in the brutality of the 4th Crusade that shattered Constantinople and ultimately left it vulnerable to the Turkish conquest.
At the end of the 16th C,  Jeremias II, patriarch of Constantinople, ordained Bishop Job as the first patriarch of Russia. This established Moscow as a patriarchate on the same footing as the much older centers of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, & Jerusalem.
In the final yrs of the 16th C, 4 bishops along with the metropolitan of Kiev, created what became known as the Uniate Church. These churches became an Eastern branch of the Catholic Church. They looked to the Roman Pope as their spiritual head and embraced Roman doctrine. But they kept the Byzantine liturgy and the right of their priests to marry. For 3 centuries, Uniate Christians were the target of fierce persecution the the Cossacks. During the Cossack-Polish War of 1648–57, many of the Uniates were slaughtered.
Eastern Orthodox or as they are sometimes called, Greek Orthodox, theologians rejected the Protestant Reformation’s emphasis on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. But when Cyril Lucaris, patriarch of Constantinople, published a work in 1629 that seemed influenced by the theology of John Calvin, it sparked a firestorm of controversy and fierce opposition from other Orthodox theologians. One chapter said Scripture was infallible and inerrant. Its authority superseded that of the Church. Another ch said sinners are justified by faith rather than works and that it’s Christ’s righteousness applied by faith to repentant sinners that alone justifies.
The Turk Sultan Murad IV conspired to assassinated Patriarch Cyril Lucaris, because he was regarded as a theological as well as political troublemaker.]]>
Lance Ralston clean 16:26
140-Up North, Then South http://www.sanctorum.us/140-up-north-then-south/ Sun, 19 Jun 2016 09:01:33 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1290 http://www.sanctorum.us/140-up-north-then-south/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/140-up-north-then-south/feed/ 0 We wrap up our review of the Enlightenment effect on the Church in Europe by looking at Scandinavia, The Dutch United Provinces, Geneva, and Italy. This 140th episode is titled Up North, Then South. This will be the last episode where we take a look at Christianity in Europe following the Enlightenment. This narrative is […] We wrap up our review of the Enlightenment effect on the Church in Europe by looking at Scandinavia, The Dutch United Provinces, Geneva, and Italy.


This 140th episode is titled Up North, Then South.

This will be the last episode where we take a look at Christianity in Europe following the Enlightenment. This narrative is nowhere near exhaustive. It’s more an exhaustING summary of Scandinavia, The Dutch United Provinces, Austria, and Italy. We’ve already looked at Germany, France, and Spain.

The end of the 17th C proved to be a brutal time in Scandinavia. Some 60% of the population died from 1695-7 due to warfare & the disease & famine so often associated with its aftermath. As if they hadn’t had enough misery, the Great Northern War of 1700–1721 followed. In the desperation of the times, Lutheran provide devotionals offering hope & comfort, while at the same time calling on their people to pray & repent.

As in northern Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, & Finland were Lutheran strongholds. Citizens were required to swear loyalty to the Lutheran state church which was in league with the king who practice absolutism.

But during the Great Northern War, the Swedish King Charles XII suffered a massive defeat at by the Russian armies of Peter the Great. Sweden lost large tracts of land and the throne lost clout with the Swedish people. A so-called “Age of Liberty” followed that lasted for the most of the rest of the 18th C. The Swedish Parliament gained power & reformers attempted to give a utilitarian and rationalist slant to Swedish education. These Enlightenment reformers battled with the clergy, who wanted to retain a theological component in the education of Sweden’s young.

Many of the returning captured Swedish soldiers who’d been imprisoned in Russia from 1722-4, had been converted to Pietism by the missionaries sent by Francke from the University at Halle we talked about last time. The now Pietist soldiers became advocates of it in Sweden. Moravians also promoted revivals in Scandinavia.

After a grab for power in 1772, Gustavus III nullified the Swedish Constitution that restrained the reach of royal power. He imposed a new Constitution designed to reinforce Lutheranism as the basis of government. He said, “Unanimity in religion, and the true divine worship, is the surest basis of a lawful, concordant, and stable government.” But in 1781 limited toleration came to Sweden when other Protestant groups were allowed. Catholicism remained outlawed.

From 1609, when the Dutch won their liberty from Spain, until Louis XIVth’s invasion in 1672, the Dutch United Provinces had its “Golden Age” and enjoyed what Simon Schama called an “embarrassment of riches.” This was due mostly to their lucrative international trade & free market economy. The Dutch eschewed the traditional monarchy that dominated Europe in favor of a far more egalitarian Parliamentary system.

Amsterdam was a thriving commercial & cultural center. Its population more than doubled from 1600 to 1800. Amsterdam’s docks were always packed. Its warehouses stuffed with goods from all over the world & the fare of the massive and powerful Dutch East India Company. From its earliest days, this trading enterprise supported Reformed missionary work at posts in the Malay Archipelago, Sri Lanka, and South Africa. In July 1625, Dutch traders established New Amsterdam, later known as New York City.

The United Provinces were intellectual & religious crossroads for Europe through its universities, publishing houses, and churches. Protestant students from Germany, Finland, and France flocked there to study at the University of Leiden and other schools.

The main task of the faculty at the University of Leiden was the study of Scriptures. Its Leiden’s professors was Joseph Scaliger whose knowledge of the classics and biblical textual criticism made him one of the premier scholars of Europe. Other scholars included Arminius & Gomarus.

As many of our listeners know, the 17th C was the Dutch golden age of art. Thousands of painters created millions of paintings with scenes ranging from battles and landscapes, to churches, still life, & portraits. Among the more famous masters were Rembrandt, Frans Hal, & Vermeer. By the 18th C, the quality of Dutch art had fallen off somewhat.

The Dutch Reformed Church affirmed the Belgic Confession of Faith of 1561. It addressed topics ranging from the Trinity, the work of Christ, and the sacraments, to Church-State relations. Although the Reformed Church was the “official” faith, the United Provinces were known for their toleration of other groups. But that didn’t mean there weren’t heated theological rows. Two parties emerged in the Dutch Reformed Church: the “precise” Calvinists who wanted the churches to possess binding doctrinal authority, and the “loose or moderate” Calvinists who desired greater freedom of religious thought.

The Dutch Provinces often served as a haven for those seeking relief from persecution in other regions of Europe. Amsterdam was home to a Jewish community. Some 70K French Huguenots took refuge there & married into the populace. An Anabaptist community flourished. Religious dissidents like Baruch Spinoza and Anthony Collins, an exile from England, weren’t much respected but they were at least not beat up.

Many Europeans admired the Dutch Republic for its successful war of liberation from the Spanish, its egalitarian government, as well as its vital free market economy. By 1675,there were 55 printing presses & 200 booksellers in Amsterdam, adding to the burgeoning base of middle class scholars.

During the 18th C, the Dutch, while continuing to be officially Reformed, saw an increase in the number of those they’d been less tolerant toward; that is-Catholics, Dissenters, and Jews. Revivals frequently passed through the more rural domains. In 1749&50, emotionally-charged revival meetings took place in the ministry of Gerard Kuypers. Other villages in the Netherlands and in nearby Germany experienced similar revivals.

In a foreshadowing of Intelligent Design and the fine-tuning of the universe arguments, a number of Dutch theologian-scientists wrote works in which they sought to demonstrate that the intricacy of designs in nature prove God’s existence. Until the 1770s, the Reformed Church played a dominant role in Dutch public life. Some 60% of the population was Reformed, 35 percent Catholic, 5% percent Anabaptists & Jews.

There really never was a Dutch brand of the Enlightenment. Most of its participants never espouse a militant atheism, but sought to accommodate their faith to educational reforms and religious toleration. They appreciated the new science and advances in technology.

Now we turn back to Geneva; adopted home of John Calvin.

During the early 1750s, Geneva was the home of both Voltaire and Rousseau, well-known Enlightenment thinkers & scoffers at Christianity.

Several of Geneva’s pastors proposed a reasonable and tolerant form of Christianity that warmed to some of the more liberal Enlightenment ideas. This was a huge turn from the position of Francis Turretin who in the mid 17th C, led the Reformed & conservative theologians of Geneva to the idea that the city was a theocracy with God as its ruler. Turretin said the government ought defend “the culture of pure religion and the pious care of nurturing the church.” Turretin’s party defended the Masoretic pointing of the Hebrew text, making this belief binding on the Swiss church. These pastors feared if Hebrew vowels were left out, the Hebrew words of the Old Testament were susceptible to interpretations that varied  form those they accepted. They also tried to force pastoral candidates to repudiate the doctrine of “universal grace” that was being championed by an emerging class of theologians.

But in 1706 Turretin’s son, Jean, repudiated his father’s work & embraced a more liberal theology that advocated the role of reason in determining truth. He denied the his father’s soteriology, that is, the doctrine of salvation, & eschewed limited atonement. By the 1720s, Arminianism had taken firm root in Geneva.

In Feb, 1670, the Hapsburg, Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor and a devout Roman Catholic, ordered all Jews to leave Austrian lands. Vienna became a cultural center. After the defeat of the Turks, it’s population boomed, growing form about 100K in 1700 to twice that 80 yrs later. The construction of the Schwarzenberg & Schönberg Palaces enhanced its prestige while the music of Haydn and Mozart made the name of Vienna famous across Europe.

The Hapsburg Emperors Joseph I & Charles VI supported missionary efforts of Jesuits to convert Protestants. The Jesuits created a baroque Catholic culture in Austria and Bohemia with the construction of magnificent churches both in cities and the countryside. The architecture of these lavishly churches held few straight lines and focused attention on the eucharist placed on a central high altar so that parishioners would venerate it.

The Austrian Hapsburg emperors, though Catholic, didn’t accept the papacy’s right to intervene in Austria’s religious or political life. They believed their empire was universal and they’d defended Catholicism well. After all, hadn’t Leopold saved Christendom in 1683 by defeating the Turks? Wasn’t Austria in the “rock” upon which the Catholic Church was built?

Upon the death of her father, in Oct, 1740, Maria Theresa took the titles Archduchess of Austria, Queen of Bohemia, & Queen of Hungary. In 1745 her husband, Francis Stephen, became the Holy Roman Emperor under the name Francis I. Disturbed by the Prussian Frederick II’s seizure of Silesia, Maria Theresa attempted to reform the military and governmental structures of Austria after Enlightenment ideals. She became the proponent of what some have called “Enlightened Absolutism.” At the same time, she was ready to apply repressive measures against those who resisted her. On one occasion she warned that he is “no friend to humanity who allows everyone his own thoughts.”

Maria Theresa was a devout Catholic influenced by counselors favorable to Jansenism. With the advice of her chancellor, she tried to establish a national Catholic Church in which the pope had authority only in spiritual matters.

Maria Theresa did not allow Protestants to sell their property or leave her lands. She required those who refused to convert to Catholicism to emigrate to Transylvania, where Protestantism was permitted. Nor did Maria Theresa intercede to save the Jesuits when their society was dissolved. She allowed 2000 Protestants to live in Vienna, but she forced the city’s Jews to live in a ghetto.

Upon the death of Maria Theresa, Joseph II passed Edicts of Toleration that allowed greater freedoms for non-Catholics & continued the policy of subjugating Church power to that ofd the State. He confiscate the property of over 700 monasteries, displacing 27K monks and nuns & used the proceeds to build new churches.

Like Germany, during the 18th C Italy didn’t exist as a nation as we know it. It was a hodge-podge of various principalities; the Duchies of Savoy & Milan, the Republic of Venice, the Duchies of Parma & Modena, the Republics of Genoa & Lucca, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany; the Papal States; and in the S Naples and the islands of Sardinia, Corsica, & Sicily among several other smaller realms. They didn’t even share a common language.

The population of the peninsula grew from 11 to 15 million in the first half of the C. But in the 1760’s a severe famine struck Florence, Rome, & Naples.

Tuscany hosted a strong Jansenist party, who were also influential in Genoa and Milan.

A few Italians tried to promote rationalist views in the Catholic church, eliminating what they regarded as backward features of Italian culture, hide-bound to a long past era.

The popes of the 18th C had difficulty dealing with the now powerful rulers of Europe who no longer felt threatened by Church power or political machinations.

Even the Papal States themselves were frequently invaded by foreign powers. These conquerors only left after they’d extorted hefty ransoms. Popes were forced to make concessions that made the papacy’s weakness evident to all. Despite that, Rome continued to attract large numbers of pilgrims, students, and artists from all. Pilgrims still hoped for a a blessing from the Pope or a healing while visiting the various shrines.

Then there were the youth on the Grand Tour, as it was called. They were most often graduates of Cambridge, Oxford, The University of Paris or some other school who headed to Italy to gain knowledge in classical culture. In 1776, Samuel Johnson underscored the importance of Italy as an destination for those making the Grand Tour: “A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority. The grand object of traveling is to see the shores of the Mediterranean. On those shores were the four great Empires of the world; the Assyrian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman.”

Several of the popes supported the establishment of academies, colleges & universities and encouraged the general scholarship. Under their generous patronage Rome’s artistic riches in painting, sculpture, music, and monuments flourished. It was Pope Clement XI who initiated plans for the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps in the early 18th C.

But to give you an idea of how the tables has turned and now Kings often domineer popes, it was this same Clement, who became a pawn in the hands of Emperor Joseph I, and Louis XIV. Louis forced Clement to issue a papal bull dealing with the Jesuit-Jansenist controversy.

Papal prestige suffered seriously during the French Revolution. Pope Pius VI was obliged to condemn the “Declaration of the Rights of Man” as well as the “Civil Constitution of the Clergy.” This split the French between those revolutionaries who wanted to throw off the Absolutist government of the French monarchy but maintain their Catholicism, and those French who wanted to be done with religion as well.

Bottom Line: The Enlightenment witnessed serious challenges to both the papacy’s temporal and spiritual authority.

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We wrap up our review of the Enlightenment effect on the Church in Europe by looking at Scandinavia, The Dutch United Provinces, Geneva, and Italy. This 140th episode is titled Up North, Then South. This will be the last episode where we take a look at...
This 140th episode is titled Up North, Then South.
This will be the last episode where we take a look at Christianity in Europe following the Enlightenment. This narrative is nowhere near exhaustive. It’s more an exhaustING summary of Scandinavia, The Dutch United Provinces, Austria, and Italy. We’ve already looked at Germany, France, and Spain.
The end of the 17th C proved to be a brutal time in Scandinavia. Some 60% of the population died from 1695-7 due to warfare & the disease & famine so often associated with its aftermath. As if they hadn’t had enough misery, the Great Northern War of 1700–1721 followed. In the desperation of the times, Lutheran provide devotionals offering hope & comfort, while at the same time calling on their people to pray & repent.
As in northern Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, & Finland were Lutheran strongholds. Citizens were required to swear loyalty to the Lutheran state church which was in league with the king who practice absolutism.
But during the Great Northern War, the Swedish King Charles XII suffered a massive defeat at by the Russian armies of Peter the Great. Sweden lost large tracts of land and the throne lost clout with the Swedish people. A so-called “Age of Liberty” followed that lasted for the most of the rest of the 18th C. The Swedish Parliament gained power & reformers attempted to give a utilitarian and rationalist slant to Swedish education. These Enlightenment reformers battled with the clergy, who wanted to retain a theological component in the education of Sweden’s young.
Many of the returning captured Swedish soldiers who’d been imprisoned in Russia from 1722-4, had been converted to Pietism by the missionaries sent by Francke from the University at Halle we talked about last time. The now Pietist soldiers became advocates of it in Sweden. Moravians also promoted revivals in Scandinavia.
After a grab for power in 1772, Gustavus III nullified the Swedish Constitution that restrained the reach of royal power. He imposed a new Constitution designed to reinforce Lutheranism as the basis of government. He said, “Unanimity in religion, and the true divine worship, is the surest basis of a lawful, concordant, and stable government.” But in 1781 limited toleration came to Sweden when other Protestant groups were allowed. Catholicism remained outlawed.
From 1609, when the Dutch won their liberty from Spain, until Louis XIVth’s invasion in 1672, the Dutch United Provinces had its “Golden Age” and enjoyed what Simon Schama called an “embarrassment of riches.” This was due mostly to their lucrative international trade & free market economy. The Dutch eschewed the traditional monarchy that dominated Europe in favor of a far more egalitarian Parliamentary system.
Amsterdam was a thriving commercial & cultural center. Its population more than doubled from 1600 to 1800. Amsterdam’s docks were always packed. Its warehouses stuffed with goods from all over the world & the fare of the massive and powerful Dutch East India Company. From its earliest days, this trading enterprise supported Reformed missionary work at posts in the Malay Archipelago, Sri Lanka, and South Africa. In July 1625, Dutch traders established New Amsterdam, later known as New York City.
The United Provinces were intellectual & religious crossroads for Europe through its universities, publishing houses, and churches. Protestant students from Germany, Finland, and France flocked there to study at the University of Leiden and other schools.
The main task of the faculty at the University of Leiden was the study of Scriptures. Its Leiden’s professors was Joseph Scaliger whose knowledge of the classics and biblical textual criticism made him one of the premier scho...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 17:45
139-Pressed http://www.sanctorum.us/139-pressed/ Sun, 12 Jun 2016 09:01:45 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1283 http://www.sanctorum.us/139-pressed/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/139-pressed/feed/ 2 In this episode we finish off our look at the French Church of the 17th to 18th Centuries, then consider the impact of the German Enlightenment on the church in Germany. This 139th episode is title “Pressed.” In our last episode, we took a look the French church of the 17th C and considered the […] In this episode we finish off our look at the French Church of the 17th to 18th Centuries, then consider the impact of the German Enlightenment on the church in Germany.


This 139th episode is title “Pressed.”

In our last episode, we took a look the French church of the 17th C and considered the contest between the Catholic Jansenists & Jesuits.

It’s interesting realizing the Jansenists began as a theological movement that looks quite similar to Calvinism. Their theology eventually spilled over into the political realm and undercut the Divine Right of Kings, a European political system that had held sway in Europe for centuries, & reached its apex in France under Louis XIV.

In this episode we’ll take a look at what happened to the French Protestants, known as the Huguenots.

By the mid 16th C, Huguenots were 10% of the French population. They hoped all France would one day adopt the Reformed Faith. But their hopes were shattered by defeat in 9 separate political & religious wars.

You may remember from an earlier episode that the Henry IV, a Catholic convert from Protestantism, his conversion being a purely pragmatic and political maneuver, granted the Huguenots limited rights in the Edict of Nantes in 1598. 30 years later, those rights were revoked by the Peace of Alais. Then the fortified Protestant city of La Rochelle surrendered in 1628, ending any hope of France’s conversion to Protestantism.

For 24 years, Louis XIV waged a devastating anti-Protestant campaign. Nearly 700 Reformed churches were closed or torn down. And in 1685, Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes altogether in the Edict of Fontainebleau.

He ordered uniformed troops known as dragoons to move in to the Huguenot homes in Protestant centers. These troops were allowed by the king’s decree to use whatever means they wanted, short of murder & rape, to intimidate Huguenots into converting to Catholicism.

Some 200,000 Huguenots fled France. They took refuge in places like Geneva, Prussia, England, & North America. Those refugees were often people of great learning and skill who enriched the intellectual and economic life of their adopted countries.

But thousands of Huguenots stayed in France. Many made a show-conversion to Catholicism. While maintaining a scret embrace of Protestantism. They formed an underground church known as the “Church of the Desert.”  From 1684 to 98, 20 Huguenot pastors were hunted & kill.

Louis XIV feared the Huguenots because he equated them to the Puritan rebels who’d executed Charles I in England in 1649. Louis was also in competition with Leopold I, the Holy Roman Emperor, for hegemony in Europe. Allowing a large and politically powerful Protestant base in his own country did NOT commend Louis as a strong Catholic leader. Louis was already facing strong criticism for not sending troops to defend Vienna from invading Turks. Leopold had! It had been Louis’s plan to attack the Turks AFTER they’d taken Vienna! His plan fell apart when the Europeans managed to defeat the enemy before Vienna’s walls.

Louis’ suspicion of the Huguenots seemed justified by the Camisard War of 1702 to 4. They called for “freedom of conscience” and “no taxes.” Protestant prophets predicted a liberation of Protestants from their oppressors. But the prophets were proven wrong when Louis’ troops put down the revolt.

In 1726, an underground seminary for young French men was established in Lausanne, Switzerland. It received financial support from Protestants in Switzerland, England, and the Netherlands. Studies lasted from 6 months to 3 years in Lausanne. After that, graduates returned to minister to outlawed churches in France. If captured, they were executed.

During the 7 Years War, known in the US as the French & Indian War, French Protestants became the beneficiaries of an unofficial toleration. While no friend to Christianity, Voltaire assisted Huguenots by writing a book defending toleration. Finally, in the Edict of Toleration of 1787, Louis XVI gave Huguenots the right to worship.

But in the 3 years BEFORE that, 7000 Huguenots were executed, another 2000 forced to serve in the French Navy, which was a kind of living death, if you now anything about the life of a lowly sailor at that time.

Sadly, after 1760, several Reformed pastors were influenced by the thought of the Voltaire. They began to move toward theological liberalism.

From the late 17th to late 18th C, what we know as Germany today was a patchwork quilt of over 300 mostly autonomous principalities, kingdoms, electorates, duchies, bishoprics, & other political enclaves. Rarely used, the term “Germany” meant a nebulous region that included many of these regions, much like the term “Europe” refers to the content that holds many nations. And Germany was just one part of a larger entity known as the Holy Roman Empire. That realm included 1,800 territories. Places like Poland, the Hapsburg Empire, Bohemia, Moravia, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Transylvania, & Italy.

A Council of Electors, ranging from 7 to 9, chose the Holy Roman Emperor.

The Emperor’s ability to raise armies, collect taxes, and make laws was often hampered by the many groups in the empire that enjoyed a measure of their own sovereignty. The fiction that was the Holy Roman Empire ended under Napoleon.

In the 1740s, Frederick the Great, King of Brandenburg-Prussia from the Hohenzollern family & Calvinists since 1613, challenged the Hapsburg power. At the outset of the War of the Austrian Succession, Frederick’s troops seized Silesia. The Prussians became THE new military power in Europe.

In Germany the leading kingdoms were Brandenburg-Prussia, Saxony, the Rhineland Palatinate, Hanover, and Bavaria. Following the principle established by the Peace of Westphalia, the religion of these kingdoms was that of their prince.

While Bavaria was staunchly Catholic, Brandenburg-Prussia were Calvinists with strong pietistic leanings. During the first half of the 18th C, the population remained Lutheran, with a smattering of Pietists. The future king of England, George I, came from the electorate of Hanover è Lutherans. A unified “Germany” as a nation would not emerge until the days of the “Iron Chancellor” Otto von Bismarck in the 2nd half of the 19th C.

The emergence of Prussia as a great military power in the 18th C impressed their European neighbors. The kingdom’s army of some 83,000 ranked 4th in size among the European powers, though its landmass was 10th in area & only 13th in population. Its rulers promoted a disciplined lifestyle like that of the Pietists as a model for Prussian bureaucrats, military, & the nobles (called Junkers). The highly militaristic Frederick III ruled Brandenburg from 1688 to 1713. Being reformed in his theology, he encouraged French Huguenots who’d fled France to settle in his kingdom. In 1694 he founded the University of Halle as a Lutheran university. He welcomed Pietists like Jakob Spener and Hermann Francke. In 1698, Francke began teaching theology there. Frederick III also made the University of Konigsberg another Pietist center.

In his work Pious Desires, published in 1675, Spener, who you’ll remember was a the premier founder of Pietisim, centered his call for reform of the Church in the faithful teaching & application of Scripture. He called for daily private Bible reading & meditation and the reading of Scripture in small groups.

Spener urged that pastoral training schools should not be places for theological wrangling, but as “workshops of the Holy Spirit.” Nor should seminary professors seek glory by authoring lofty tomes filled with showy erudition. They ought instead to be examples of humble service. Spener emphasized the priesthood of ALL believers. Ministers should seek help from laypersons to ease their own pastoral burdens.

At the University of Halle, Hermann Francke insisted that those training for pastoral ministry ought to study Scripture it in Hebrew & Greek. Francke wrote: “The exegetical reading of Holy Scripture is that which concerns finding and explaining the literal sense intended by the Holy Spirit himself.”

In 1702 Francke founded the Collegium Orientale Theologicum. Advanced students could learn Aramaic, Arabic, Ethiopian, Chaldean, Syriac and Rabbinic Hebrew.

Francke established an orphanage in Halle in 1695. He created schools and businesses including a printing house where orphans could learn a trade. By 1700, Francke’s various institutions gained the support of Emperor Frederick III, who valued their contribution in fostering Christian discipline among his students, the Prussian populace, and his soldiers. Francke wanted to make Halle a center for Christian reform and world missions. In anticipation of what George Mueller would later give testimony to, Franke wrote of examples of how he prayed for specific needs and provision came to feed the poor and keep the schools open, sometimes arriving at the last moment. He wrote: “These instances I was willing here to set down so that I might give the reader some idea both of the pressing trials and happy deliverances we have met with; though I am sufficiently convinced that narratives of this kind will seem over-simple and fanciful to the great minds of our age.”

On one occasion, Frederick IV, King of Denmark, gave a direct order to his chaplain: “Find me missionaries.” That chaplain asked Francke for help. Francke proposed 2 students from the University of Halle. The Danish-Halle Mission was launched. On Nov. 29, 1705, Bartholomew Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Plütschau set sail for India. 8 Months later they arrived. They were dismayed to discover the horrid immorality of the Europeans there. Claiming to be Christians, the Indians assumed all believers in Christ were immoral. There was a great resistance to the Gospel at first, but the missionaries faithfulness eventually softened the hearts of the Hindus. Ziegenbalg translated the Bible into Tamil & set up both a school and a missionary college before he died at the age 36.

Christian Schwartz also served with as a missionary in India. Johann Steinmetz ministered in Teschen, Silesia, Moravia, and Bohemia. Others took the gospel to the Russia during the rieng of Peter the Great. Halle missionaries met the physical and spiritual needs of captured Swedish troops who, when they returned to Sweden, spread Pietism in their homeland. 60 students went forth from the University of Halle as missionaries.

The press of the Bible Institute in Halle produced more than 80,000 copies of the Bible and 100,000 copies of the New Testaments.

In 1713, the Pietitst Frederick William I became king. He not only built up the military, he funded the production of thousands of Bibles so that all his subjects could read it for themselves. He made Francke rector of the University of Halle. When he died in 1727, some 2000 students attended the school in Halle. His orphanage served as a model for George Whitefield’s in Savannah, Georgia.

In 1729 Frederick William I mandated that all students who hoped to teach theology in Prussia should attend the University of Halle for 2 years, which meant Pietists exerted a measure of control over the clergy there.

We need to do a bit of summarizing now so we can avoid that thing we’ve talked about before on CS – the reporting of history as a bunch of dates & names. I’ll do so by simply saying the Enlightenment that swept France & England, also impacted Germany. The original faculty of the University at Halle would have been shocked to see the way later professors turned away from what they considered orthodoxy.

We’ll jump ahead to the later 18th C and the work of Johann Semler, considered the Founder of German Higher Criticism.

Semler began teaching at Halle in 1751. He’d been a student of professors who merged Enlightenment philosophy with the Faith. For about 20 years, from 1757 till ‘79, Semler was the most influential of the German theologians. He called for a more liberal investigation of the Bible, one not tethered to long-held orthodox assumptions about the canon of Scripture’s or its infallibility.

Semler held forth that “religion” and “theology” ought not be regarded as linked. He also set a divide between what he called the “Word of God” & “Scripture.” He maintained that not all the books or passages of the Bible were in truth God’s Word and that God’s Word wasn;t limited to the Bible.

He taught that the authors of scripture accommodated their writings to the errant ideas of their times, especially the Jews, about the world. Sifting out the authentic Word of God from the mythological, local, fallible, and non-inspired dross in Scripture, by which he meant a belief in demons, heaven, & hell, is the task of the wise Bible student. Then, once the authentic canon within the Bible was identified, real doctrines would need to be parsed.

Astonishingly, Semler claimed his ideas were faithful to the work of Martin Luther.

The reaction to Semler was mixed. Some scholars supported him because his work opened a lot of wiggle-room that allowed them to accommodate the growing popularity of Enlightenment skepticism. But his critics pounced, accusing him of abandoning the infallibility of the Bible.

When Frederick the Great died in 1786, his nephew Frederick William II became King of Prussia. He attempted to rein in the growing volume of literature now exposing the German populace to heterodoxy; that is, ideas outside the pale of orthodoxy, by passing an edict calling for censorship of any work about God & morality. Any such work was to be submitted to a government commission of censors for approval.  Several Lutheran pastors resigned in protest, and the main publisher of such works, moved his operations out of Berlin. The government feared radical expressions of the German Enlightenment would subvert the faith of the people and their loyalty to the State.

In March 1758, Johann Hamann, was converted to Christ & became a brilliant counter to the Enlightenment. He pointed out the errors in Kant’s philosophy & said the light of the so-called “Enlightenment” was a cold thing, more like the moon, compared to that which comes from the Sun of Christian revelation in Scripture and nature.

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In this episode we finish off our look at the French Church of the 17th to 18th Centuries, then consider the impact of the German Enlightenment on the church in Germany. This 139th episode is title “Pressed.” In our last episode,
This 139th episode is title “Pressed.”
In our last episode, we took a look the French church of the 17th C and considered the contest between the Catholic Jansenists & Jesuits.
It’s interesting realizing the Jansenists began as a theological movement that looks quite similar to Calvinism. Their theology eventually spilled over into the political realm and undercut the Divine Right of Kings, a European political system that had held sway in Europe for centuries, & reached its apex in France under Louis XIV.
In this episode we’ll take a look at what happened to the French Protestants, known as the Huguenots.
By the mid 16th C, Huguenots were 10% of the French population. They hoped all France would one day adopt the Reformed Faith. But their hopes were shattered by defeat in 9 separate political & religious wars.
You may remember from an earlier episode that the Henry IV, a Catholic convert from Protestantism, his conversion being a purely pragmatic and political maneuver, granted the Huguenots limited rights in the Edict of Nantes in 1598. 30 years later, those rights were revoked by the Peace of Alais. Then the fortified Protestant city of La Rochelle surrendered in 1628, ending any hope of France’s conversion to Protestantism.
For 24 years, Louis XIV waged a devastating anti-Protestant campaign. Nearly 700 Reformed churches were closed or torn down. And in 1685, Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes altogether in the Edict of Fontainebleau.
He ordered uniformed troops known as dragoons to move in to the Huguenot homes in Protestant centers. These troops were allowed by the king’s decree to use whatever means they wanted, short of murder & rape, to intimidate Huguenots into converting to Catholicism.
Some 200,000 Huguenots fled France. They took refuge in places like Geneva, Prussia, England, & North America. Those refugees were often people of great learning and skill who enriched the intellectual and economic life of their adopted countries.
But thousands of Huguenots stayed in France. Many made a show-conversion to Catholicism. While maintaining a scret embrace of Protestantism. They formed an underground church known as the “Church of the Desert.”  From 1684 to 98, 20 Huguenot pastors were hunted & kill.
Louis XIV feared the Huguenots because he equated them to the Puritan rebels who’d executed Charles I in England in 1649. Louis was also in competition with Leopold I, the Holy Roman Emperor, for hegemony in Europe. Allowing a large and politically powerful Protestant base in his own country did NOT commend Louis as a strong Catholic leader. Louis was already facing strong criticism for not sending troops to defend Vienna from invading Turks. Leopold had! It had been Louis’s plan to attack the Turks AFTER they’d taken Vienna! His plan fell apart when the Europeans managed to defeat the enemy before Vienna’s walls.
Louis’ suspicion of the Huguenots seemed justified by the Camisard War of 1702 to 4. They called for “freedom of conscience” and “no taxes.” Protestant prophets predicted a liberation of Protestants from their oppressors. But the prophets were proven wrong when Louis’ troops put down the revolt.
In 1726, an underground seminary for young French men was established in Lausanne, Switzerland. It received financial support from Protestants in Switzerland, England, and the Netherlands. Studies lasted from 6 months to 3 years in Lausanne. After that, graduates returned to minister to outlawed churches in France. If captured, they were executed.
During the 7 Years War, known in the US as the French & Indian War, French Protestants became the beneficiaries of an unofficial toleration. While no friend to Christianity,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 20:13
138-Backing Up http://www.sanctorum.us/138-backing-up/ Sun, 05 Jun 2016 09:01:16 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1277 http://www.sanctorum.us/138-backing-up/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/138-backing-up/feed/ 0 We back up a bit in this episode to take a look at what happened in France in the 17th Century with the demise of the Divine Right of Kings. The Title of this 138th Episode is Backing Up. And its titled that because once again we’re backtracking a bit to hop into the story […] We back up a bit in this episode to take a look at what happened in France in the 17th Century with the demise of the Divine Right of Kings.


The Title of this 138th Episode is Backing Up.

And its titled that because once again we’re backtracking a bit to hop into the story of Church History earlier than where our last few episodes have taken us. We’re focusing this episode on what happened in France during the late 17th & into the 18th C.

This period saw a massive struggle between the French monarchy & 2 groups; Catholic  Jansenists & Protestant Huguenots. At stake was the throne’s claim that it alone had the power to determine the religion of the French people.

France was the most populous and wealthy country of Europe. It was also the most feared,  admired, and imitated. By the time of the French Revolution in 1789, the population was a notable 28 million.

From the late 17th C to the Revolution, the Court at Versailles, main residence of the Bourbon kings, was the center of French political life. But a mix of disparate factors led to a growing disillusionment with the Crown. Philosophes engaged each other in Parisian salons in political discussions that implemented dangerous new ideas; dangerous to the Crown anyway. And once the King found out about these discussions, they became dangerous to those who engaged in them. The power of the French courts grew. Masonic lodges popped up all over, advocating more subversive ideas. Illegal books and broadsides were printed by a clandestine press. All these challenged Versailles’s political dominance in the 2nd half of the 18th C. A powerful “court of public opinion” emerged to dare the status quo into change.

France’s monarchs wanted to protect their inheritance rights while expanding the kingdom’s economic and political power over more of Europe and overseas. Continental Wars often spilled over into the colonies. Louis XIV occasionally referred to “French Europe” and France’s on-going conflict with Spain. But after his passing, France often teamed with Spain in opposition to England & other European powers.

After the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga in 1778 during the War for Independence, Louis XVI, to spite the English, supported the Americans in their quest to gain independence from the British. But this French aid took an ironic turn. Louis abetted revolutionaries who aimed to throw off a monarchy in favor of a democratic republic, while at the same time adding to France’s already massive debt.

In Late Spring of 1789, Louis was forced to call a meeting of the Estates-General to deal with the now intense fiscal crisis. After some angry debates, delegates of the French people declared they represented the “nation” and invited members of the clergy and nobility to join them. Eventually, many did. On June 17, the Assemblée Nationale formed & claimed it, rather than the King, represented the nation.

This was a severe blow to a principle that had found varying degrees of expression in Europe for hundreds of years; that is, the Divine Right of Kings.

In his work Politics Drawn from the Very Words of Holy Scripture, Jacques Bossuet [boo-sway], advisor to Louis XIV, sought to justify the divine right of kings by citing Scripture. He wrote, “God is the King of kings: it is for Him to instruct them and to rule them as his ministers. Listen then, Monseigneur, to the lessons which he gives them in His Scripture, and learn from the examples on which they must base their conduct.” He said, “Rulers act as the ministers of God and as his lieutenants on earth. It is through them that God exercises his empire.” Bossuet argued the king’s power was absolute.  But the king wasn’t to act like a despot issuing arbitrary & selfish decrees. He was in covenant with his subjects & was called to care for them the way a father cares for his children.

According to divine right theory, the king was a sacred position, manned by a sacred person who occupied the center of the religious sphere. Without him chaos would descend. His lineage stretched back to Adam thru a mythical figure named Pharamond, Clovis, Pepin, and Charlemagne. From the Middle Ages on, writings knowns as the Mirrors of Princes called on the French monarch to be pious, just, & good; while avoiding wanton luxury, cruelty, & moral weakness.

At the king’s coronation, the archbishop of Reims anointed him with sacred oil and blessed his gloves, scepter, and ring. The king swore an oath to uphold the Catholic faith. If his subjects rebelled against him, since he was a God-ordained sacred person in a sacred office, they deserved death. In 1757 Robert Damiens attempted to assassinate Louis XV. He was pulled apart before a cheering crowd of thousands. A subversive word against His Majesty earned the author time in the king’s grotesque prison.

Louis XIV became king at age five but due to his age, wasn;t allowed to rule till he was 22. As he waited for the throne, France was torn apart by civil war in which his agents were barely able to eke out a victory. Traumatized by what he saw during this time, Louis determined to short-circuit future revolts by establishing of an absolute monarchy. He learned well how to rule under the watchful eye of the shrewd politician Cardinal Mazarin. He came to control of France by a sophisticated system of rewards & honors that kept everyone beholden to his favor. He understood the threat of various religious factions all vying for control and set a Gallican or French form of Catholicism for the French, regardless of what they might profess to believe.

Since 1516, the year before Luther published his 95 Theses, French kings selected bishops for the French church. They filled the positions with nobles loyal to them. When Pope Innocent XI rejected Louis XIV’s naming of bishops and his appropriation of funds from vacant bishoprics, the king, with approval of the Clergy, encouraged Bossuet to draw up a Declaration of Gallican Liberties of 1682, stipulating that kings “were not subject to any ecclesiastical power in temporal affairs.”

The result was that French bishops had sweeping authority to rule both in temporal and spiritual matters. Besides ordinations and baptisms they mandated that religious books could be published only with their permission. They regularly called on censors in the National Librairie to condemn what they called “wicked books.” The bishops’ personal  privileges were extreme. They ruled over a church that owned 10% of the land. In exchange for immunities from taxation, they gave a [uh-humm] “gift” to the king.

In 1690 Pope Alexander VIII condemned the Declaration of Gallican Liberties. In 1693 Louis XIV rescinded the declaration. Then 2 years later gave his bishops authority over priests. The French throne & church both exhibit a willingness to defy the papacy in temporal and spiritual matters. There was only one realm in which The Gallican Church & Vatican united; in the contest between the Jansenists & Jesuits.

As we saw in a previous episode, Jansenists were followers of Cornelius Jansen, a professor of theology at the University of Louvain & for a time, the bishop of Ypres. Jansen proposed an interpretation of Augustine’s theology in his posthumous work Augustinus that extolled God’s sovereignty & denied any role humans have in salvation thru free will. Jansen said the elect are saved by God’s grace alone. As their lives are transformed, the elect do the will of God by performing acts of love for God and others. In seeking assurance of salvation, the elect overcome temptation by following an austere lifestyle of rigorous penance & frequent celebration of the Mass. Yep; They were Catholic Calvinists; an oxymoron if there ever was one.

Jansenists argued forcefully for the inviolability of the individual conscience of the believer; even to the point of refusing to accept a church teaching they deemed errant.

Jansenists were especially critical of Jesuits, whom they believed had succumbed to the teachings of Molinism, a theology based on the work of Luis Molina who advocated man’s free will. Molina was a Spanish Jesuit who’d argued God provides sufficient grace to move someone to repentance, but did not force it. Molina said God elects according to His foreknowledge of our choices.

Jansenists also rejected the Jesuits’ defense of a papal monarchy. Like the Gallicans, they held a conciliarist position: that the authority of the church was vested in all the members of the body of Christ, including themselves as a Catholic minority.

The Jansenists criticized the Jesuits for their rule-based ethics, their love of classical pagan culture, and their worldliness. In the Provincial Letters, the Jansenist Blaise Pascal parodied the Jesuits to the delight of most Parisians. But Louis XIV wasn’t amused and ordered the book burned.

The Jesuits fired back; accusing Jansenists of being anti-monarchial Protestants.

To clear themselves of the charge of being Protestants, leading Jansenists of the mid-17th C, became major combatants in the Eucharistic Controversy of the 1660s & 70’s. This was the debate that raged in the Reformed churches over how to understand the elements in Communion. Just as the Controversy had run in the 9th C in the Catholic Church, now it ran in the Reformation churches of Europe in the 17th. Jansenists believed in the classic Catholic position of Transubstantiation, which all reformed churches had rejected to one degree or another. The Jansenists knew by adhering to it, they could set themselves over against the label Protestant being tossed at them by the Jesuits.

Despite their best anti-Protestant efforts, the Jansenists failed to win Louis XIV’s favor. In 1678 they were forced to leave France.

On September 1, 1715, Louis XIV died, leaving the French church deeply divided. Though the Jansenists had been officially exiled, many of the French were secret, and some, not so secret Jansenists. Numerous appeals where made to Rome by high ranking clergy for a repeal of anti-Jansenist rulings.

Then, a series of reported healings took place at Jansenist leaders graveside. This seemed to mark God’s favor on the movement.  Throngs of Parisians flocked to the cemetery. In 1732 the government closed it to curb its propaganda value. Either the police or a jokester posted a sign on the cemetery’s entrance: “By order of the king: God is prohibited to do miracles in this place.”

The Jansenists may have lost the support of the religious and political hierarchy, but their popularity soared with the lower classes.  Priests were regarded as successors to Christ’s disciples. This undercut the authority of bishops. Then the law courts reasoned if priests had as much authority as bishops, THEY had as much authority as bureaucrats & nobles.  As adjudicators of the Law, they collectively even had as much authority, maybe MORE, than the king.

So, although originally a theological movement, Jansenism took on political dimensions; as all theology eventually does. Jansenists effectively used the printed page to keep a large public current regarding their struggles flowing throughout France & Europe.

Rumors swirled through Paris in December 1756 and into January of armed revolt Three-fourths of Paris backed the Jansenists. One rumor said the Jesuits would soon be slaughtered.

On the bitterly cold afternoon of Jan 5, 1757, Robert-François Damiens broke through the king’s guards and drove a knife into the side of Louis XV. He was immediately arrested. The wound proved to be superficial. His thick coat and the assassin’s use of a small knife saved his life. But Parisians were shocked & profoundly saddened. They feared another St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre was upon them.

Despite torture, Damiens remained resolute in denying the existence of coconspirators. After a trial in which judges assumed his guilt, Damiens’s body was literally pulled apart at a public execution witnessed by a large & loud crowd.

Louis XV was badly shaken by the attempt on his life and the rumor his own cousin was behind it.  In September, he lost the will to enforce anti-Jansenist & Protestant restrictions.

In Nov. 1764, Jansenists scored a victory against the 3,300 Jesuits in France when the court ordered them to vacate the kingdom & its colonies, & Louis XV reluctantly agreed. The Jesuits had stumbled rather badly in some mission ventures in China and South America which badly tarnished their rep and raised public outcry against them.

Three years later, Charles III of Spain, the King of Naples and Duke of Parma, expelled the Jesuits from their lands. Eventually, in 1773, the papacy dissolved the order with its 26,000 members worldwide and its nearly 1,000 colleges and seminaries. It wasn’t till 1814 the Society of Jesus was reestablished.

Despite complaints Protestants brazenly touted their new toleration under Louis XV, the French Church affirmed Catholicism as the only legitimate religion in France. In 1765 the Assembly of Clergy declared, “There is, Sire, in your Kingdom, only one master, one single monarch whom we obey: there is only one single cult and one single faith.” They called on the king to uphold anti-Protestant legislation. Louis XV said he would, but as we stated before, he didn’t have the will to enforce it.

In 1774, Louis XV died of smallpox. Louis XVI was crowned king in the cathedral of Reims. During a magnificent coronation service, he affirmed his desire to uphold the Catholic religion and to reinvigorate the sacred character of his union with the people of France. In 1776 a resurgence of Roman Catholic devotion took place in Paris. But in 1787 Louis XVI yielded to a well-orchestrated campaign by Jansenists and the Protestant Pastor Rabaut Saint-Etienne. He issued the Edict of Toleration for Protestants.

Let’s wrap up this episode by noting that as the religious landscape opened up in France, so too did the political. New ideologies & political theories were popping out of the Enlightenment like fleas off a mongrel. John-Jacques Rousseau was popular, and his ideas began to infiltrate the minds of the French public. If the individual was free to think for him & herself, and worship according to one’s own conscience, why not extend that idea to the lesser realm of human governments? If bishops aren’t supreme, the Bishop of the bishops, that is The Pope isn’t either. And if the Pope isn’t supreme, neither is the king. The Divine right of kings was an ideology that was on the way out.

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We back up a bit in this episode to take a look at what happened in France in the 17th Century with the demise of the Divine Right of Kings. The Title of this 138th Episode is Backing Up. And its titled that because once again we’re backtracking a bit ...
The Title of this 138th Episode is Backing Up.
And its titled that because once again we’re backtracking a bit to hop into the story of Church History earlier than where our last few episodes have taken us. We’re focusing this episode on what happened in France during the late 17th & into the 18th C.
This period saw a massive struggle between the French monarchy & 2 groups; Catholic  Jansenists & Protestant Huguenots. At stake was the throne’s claim that it alone had the power to determine the religion of the French people.
France was the most populous and wealthy country of Europe. It was also the most feared,  admired, and imitated. By the time of the French Revolution in 1789, the population was a notable 28 million.
From the late 17th C to the Revolution, the Court at Versailles, main residence of the Bourbon kings, was the center of French political life. But a mix of disparate factors led to a growing disillusionment with the Crown. Philosophes engaged each other in Parisian salons in political discussions that implemented dangerous new ideas; dangerous to the Crown anyway. And once the King found out about these discussions, they became dangerous to those who engaged in them. The power of the French courts grew. Masonic lodges popped up all over, advocating more subversive ideas. Illegal books and broadsides were printed by a clandestine press. All these challenged Versailles’s political dominance in the 2nd half of the 18th C. A powerful “court of public opinion” emerged to dare the status quo into change.
France’s monarchs wanted to protect their inheritance rights while expanding the kingdom’s economic and political power over more of Europe and overseas. Continental Wars often spilled over into the colonies. Louis XIV occasionally referred to “French Europe” and France’s on-going conflict with Spain. But after his passing, France often teamed with Spain in opposition to England & other European powers.
After the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga in 1778 during the War for Independence, Louis XVI, to spite the English, supported the Americans in their quest to gain independence from the British. But this French aid took an ironic turn. Louis abetted revolutionaries who aimed to throw off a monarchy in favor of a democratic republic, while at the same time adding to France’s already massive debt.
In Late Spring of 1789, Louis was forced to call a meeting of the Estates-General to deal with the now intense fiscal crisis. After some angry debates, delegates of the French people declared they represented the “nation” and invited members of the clergy and nobility to join them. Eventually, many did. On June 17, the Assemblée Nationale formed & claimed it, rather than the King, represented the nation.
This was a severe blow to a principle that had found varying degrees of expression in Europe for hundreds of years; that is, the Divine Right of Kings.
In his work Politics Drawn from the Very Words of Holy Scripture, Jacques Bossuet [boo-sway], advisor to Louis XIV, sought to justify the divine right of kings by citing Scripture. He wrote, “God is the King of kings: it is for Him to instruct them and to rule them as his ministers. Listen then, Monseigneur, to the lessons which he gives them in His Scripture, and learn from the examples on which they must base their conduct.” He said, “Rulers act as the ministers of God and as his lieutenants on earth. It is through them that God exercises his empire.” Bossuet argued the king’s power was absolute.  But the king wasn’t to act like a despot issuing arbitrary & selfish decrees. He was in covenant with his subjects & was called to care for them the way a father cares for his children.
According to divine right theory,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 19:40
137-Then Away http://www.sanctorum.us/137-then-away/ Sun, 22 May 2016 09:01:49 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1270 http://www.sanctorum.us/137-then-away/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/137-then-away/feed/ 0 We look at Theological Liberalism and the Social Gospel, as well as a brief glance at the reaction to it of Fundamentalism. In this 137th episode of CS, titled “Then Away,” we give a brief account of the rise of Theological Liberalism. In the previous episodes we charted the revivals that marked the 18th & […] We look at Theological Liberalism and the Social Gospel, as well as a brief glance at the reaction to it of Fundamentalism.


In this 137th episode of CS, titled “Then Away,” we give a brief account of the rise of Theological Liberalism.

In the previous episodes we charted the revivals that marked the 18th & 19th Cs. Social transformation is a mark of such revivals. But not all those engaged in the betterment of society were motivated by a passion to serve God by serving their fellow man. At the same time that revival swept though many churches, others stood aloof and held back from being carried away into what they deemed as religious fanaticism.

As Enlightenment ideas moved into and through the religious community, several theologians moved to accommodate what had become the darling ideas of the academic community, to the Gospel. Instead of becoming outright agnostics, they morphed rationalism to Christian Theology and arrived at an amalgam we’ll call Theological Liberalism.

Not to be outdone by the Revivalists who were transforming culture through the power of a transformed life & the conviction they were to be salt & light in a dark and decaying world, Liberalism developed what came to be called The Social Gospel; a defining of the faith that emphasized doing as much, if not more than, believing.

The name most associated with the Social Gospel is Walter Rauschenbusch. He began pastoring a Baptist church in New York in 1886. It was there that he came face to face with the desperate condition of the poor.  He joined the faculty of Colgate-Rochester Theological Seminary, where over the course of 10 years he wrote 3 books that were hugely influential in promoting the Social Gospel.

“Hold on, Lance” someone might say at this point, “You’ve used that phrase a few times now. Just what is ‘The Social Gospel’?”

I’m glad you asked. >> The Social Gospel was a movement among Protestant denominations in the early 20th C, mainly in the United States & Canada, but also had a limited flurry in Europe. It addressed social problems with Christians ethics. It’s main targets were issues of social justice like poverty, addiction, crime, racism, pollution, child labor, and war. Advocates of the Social Gospel sought to implement that line in the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

They were most often post-millennialists who believed the Second Coming would not occur unless humanity rid itself of injustice & vice. The leaders of the movement were largely connected to the liberal wing of the Progressive Movement.

The Social Gospel movement peaked in the early 20th C. It began to decline due to the trauma brought about by WWI, when the Ideals of the movement were so badly abused by world events. A couple of the under-pinnings of theological liberalism are the Brotherhood of Man and the innate goodness of human beings. WWI conspired to prove the lie to both those assumptions & create doubt in the minds of millions that man was good or could be a brotherhood.

Though Rauschenbusch’s early theology included a belief in original sin and the need for personal salvation, by the time he’d written  his last tome, he regarded sin as an impersonal social ill and taught that reform would arrive with the demise of capitalism, the advance of socialism, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God by human effort. His views were accepted by such prominent spokesmen as Shailer Matthews and Shirley Jackson Case, of the University of Chicago.

Rauschenbusch’s impact has to be combined to other developments in liberalism during the 19th C. Unitarianism had made deep inroads into mainline denominations under the leadership of people like William Ellery Channing and Theodore Parker. Channing’s sermon “Unitarian Christianity” in 1819, deserves credit for launching the Unitarianism movement.

Another influential figure of the 19th C was Horace Bushnell. He published “Christian Nurture” in 1847, arguing that a child ought to grow up in covenant with God, never knowing he was anything but a Christian. This was contrary to the Pietist emphasis on having a datable conversion experience. Bushnell’s ideas of growing a child up from birth in a covenant of grace had a huge impact on Christian educators for generations.

In addition to Theodore Parker’s support of Unitarianism, he introduced German biblical criticism into American Christianity. By doing so, the way was opened for Darwinian evolution and the ideas of Julius Wellhausen. Wellhausen was one of the originators of the Documentary Hypothesis, which forms the core of much of modern liberal scholarship on the Bible to this day.

These influences led to a creeping theological liberalism based on the twin postulates of the evolution of religion and a denial of the supernatural. In their place emerged the idea of the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, & the establishment of God’s Kingdom as a natural outcome of evolution.

Three German scholars were also central to the development of Theological liberalism: Schleiermacher, Ritschl, and Harnack.

Friedrich Schleiermacher adapted the ideas of Existentialism to Christianity & said that the core of faith wasn’t what one believed so much as what one FELT, what we experience. Religion, he urged, involved a feeling of absolute dependence on God. For Schleiermacher, doctrine hung on experience, not the other way around. Today, a mature Christian might tell counsel a neophyte, saying something like, “Don’t; let feelings control you.” Or, “We need to evaluate our experiences by God’s Word, not the other way around.” Schleiermacher would disagree with that. Experience VALIDATES doctrine. Feels are key. A Faith that isn’t felt is no faith at all.

Albert Ritschl claimed Christ’s death had nothing to do with the payment of a penalty for sin. He said it resulted from loyalty to His calling of bringing about the Kingdom of God on Earth, and that it was by His death that He could share his experience of Sonship with all people, who would then become the vehicle and means by which the Kingdom could be constructed. The practice of a communal religion was of vital importance to Ritschl because Christ best shared Himself through the community of the Church. Ritschl’s impact on other scholars was great.

Probably the MOST affected by Ritschl’s works was Adolf Harnack. Harnack regarded the contributions of the Apostle Paul to the Gospel as a Greek intrusion on the Christian Faith. His goal was to get back to a more primitive and Jewish emphasis that centered on ethical imperatives as opposed to doctrine. As a professor in Berlin in 1901 he published his influential What Is Christianity? This focused on Jesus’ human qualities, who preached not about Himself but about the Father; the Kingdom and the Fatherhood of God; a higher righteousness; and the command to love.

The views of these 3 German scholars came ashore in America to further the liberal ideas of already underway.

If Theological Liberalism with its Social Gospel were a reaction to the Revivals of the 18th & 19th Cs, those who’d been revived were not going to sit idly by as that liberalism grew. They responded with a movement of their own.

Charles Briggs, a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, was put on trial before the Presbytery of New York and suspended from ministry in 1893 for promulgating liberal ideas. Henry Smith of Lane Seminary in Cincinnati was likewise defrocked by that same year, as was AC McGiffert for holding and teaching similar views. Other denominations had heresy trials and dismissed or disciplined offenders. The most famous conflict of the 20th C concerned Harry Emerson Fosdick, who in 1925 was removed as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of New York City to became an influential spokesman for liberalism as the pastor of Riverside Church.

Roman Catholicism wasn’t immune to the impact of theological liberalism and reacted strongly against it. Alfred Loisy, founded Roman Catholic Modernism in France, but was dismissed in 1893 from his professorship at the Institut Catholique in Paris. He was then excommunicated in 1908. The English Jesuit George Tyrrell was demoted in 1899 and died out of fellowship with the church. Liberalism invaded American Roman Catholicism. To silence the threat, Pope Pius X issued the decree Lamentabili in 1907, and in 1910 he imposed an antimodernist oath on the clergy.

In contest with Liberalism, Evangelicals had a number of able scholars during the latter part of the 19th & early part of the 20th Cs. Charles Hodge defended a supernaturally inspired Bible during his long tenure as professor of biblical literature and theology at Princeton. AA. Hodge carried on his father’s work at Princeton. In 1887, BB Warfield followed the Hodges as professor of theology. Fluent in Hebrew, Greek, modern languages, theology, and biblical criticism, Warfield staunchly defended the inerrancy of Scripture and basic evangelical doctrines in a score of books and numerous pamphlets. In 1900, the scholarly Robert Dick Wilson joined the Princeton faculty, and J. Gresham Machen arrived shortly after. In 1929, when a liberal realignment occurred at Princeton, Machen and Wilson joined Oswald Allis, Cornelius Van Til, and others in founding Westminster Theological Seminary. Of course other scholars could be mentioned, but these were some of the most prestigious.

This movement came to be known as Fundamentalism; a word with a largely negative connotation today as it conjures up the idea of wild-eyed religious fanatics who advocate violence as a means of defending and promulgating their beliefs. Christian Fundamentalism was simply a theologically conservative movement that sought to preserve and articulate classic, orthodox beliefs on the Fundamentals of the Christians Faith. They were called Fundamentals because they were regarded as those doctrines that were essential to the integrity of the Gospel message; things that had to be believed in order to be saved.

Fundamentalism was fundamentally a reaction to Theological Liberalism which appeared to many concerned Evangelicals, to be taking over the colleges and seminaries. Liberalism wasn’t popular among the populace; but it was among academics and those in charge of training the clergy. It was understood by evangelical leaders that what began in the classroom would soon be preached in the pulpits and then duplicated in the pews. So they began a counter-movement called Fundamentalism.

Since Theological Liberals had already managed to co-opt the chairs of many institutions of higher learning, they managed to cast their Fundamentalist opponents as uneducated & unsophisticated no-bodies. Knuckle-dragging Theological Neanderthals who didn’t really know or understand the complexities of higher criticism and the latest in theological research. That image has for many, become part & parcel of the connotative meaning of the word Fundamentalist. And it’s grossly unfair since those early Evangelical scholars who shaped the Fundamentalist movement were some of the brightest, best educated, & most erudite people of the day.

It hurts to hear the word Fundamentalist used as a pejorative today when you know it marks the career and work of someone like BB Warfield, Charles Hodge, & J. Gresham Machen.

]]>
We look at Theological Liberalism and the Social Gospel, as well as a brief glance at the reaction to it of Fundamentalism. In this 137th episode of CS, titled “Then Away,” we give a brief account of the rise of Theological Liberalism.
In this 137th episode of CS, titled “Then Away,” we give a brief account of the rise of Theological Liberalism.
In the previous episodes we charted the revivals that marked the 18th & 19th Cs. Social transformation is a mark of such revivals. But not all those engaged in the betterment of society were motivated by a passion to serve God by serving their fellow man. At the same time that revival swept though many churches, others stood aloof and held back from being carried away into what they deemed as religious fanaticism.
As Enlightenment ideas moved into and through the religious community, several theologians moved to accommodate what had become the darling ideas of the academic community, to the Gospel. Instead of becoming outright agnostics, they morphed rationalism to Christian Theology and arrived at an amalgam we’ll call Theological Liberalism.
Not to be outdone by the Revivalists who were transforming culture through the power of a transformed life & the conviction they were to be salt & light in a dark and decaying world, Liberalism developed what came to be called The Social Gospel; a defining of the faith that emphasized doing as much, if not more than, believing.
The name most associated with the Social Gospel is Walter Rauschenbusch. He began pastoring a Baptist church in New York in 1886. It was there that he came face to face with the desperate condition of the poor.  He joined the faculty of Colgate-Rochester Theological Seminary, where over the course of 10 years he wrote 3 books that were hugely influential in promoting the Social Gospel.
“Hold on, Lance” someone might say at this point, “You’ve used that phrase a few times now. Just what is ‘The Social Gospel’?”
I’m glad you asked. >> The Social Gospel was a movement among Protestant denominations in the early 20th C, mainly in the United States & Canada, but also had a limited flurry in Europe. It addressed social problems with Christians ethics. It’s main targets were issues of social justice like poverty, addiction, crime, racism, pollution, child labor, and war. Advocates of the Social Gospel sought to implement that line in the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
They were most often post-millennialists who believed the Second Coming would not occur unless humanity rid itself of injustice & vice. The leaders of the movement were largely connected to the liberal wing of the Progressive Movement.
The Social Gospel movement peaked in the early 20th C. It began to decline due to the trauma brought about by WWI, when the Ideals of the movement were so badly abused by world events. A couple of the under-pinnings of theological liberalism are the Brotherhood of Man and the innate goodness of human beings. WWI conspired to prove the lie to both those assumptions & create doubt in the minds of millions that man was good or could be a brotherhood.
Though Rauschenbusch’s early theology included a belief in original sin and the need for personal salvation, by the time he’d written  his last tome, he regarded sin as an impersonal social ill and taught that reform would arrive with the demise of capitalism, the advance of socialism, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God by human effort. His views were accepted by such prominent spokesmen as Shailer Matthews and Shirley Jackson Case, of the University of Chicago.
Rauschenbusch’s impact has to be combined to other developments in liberalism during the 19th C. Unitarianism had made deep inroads into mainline denominations under the leadership of people like William Ellery Channing and Theodore Parker. Channing’s sermon “Unitarian Christianity” in 1819,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 14:06
136-Yet Again http://www.sanctorum.us/136-yet-again/ Sun, 15 May 2016 09:01:08 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1262 http://www.sanctorum.us/136-yet-again/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/136-yet-again/feed/ 0 This 136th episode of CS is titled, Yet Again. Before we dive in, I want to give a hearty thanks to all those of you who nominated CS for the 2016 Podcast Awards. As I record this, I’m not sure where we came in, in the nomination process & whether or not we’ll be included […] This 136th episode of CS is titled, Yet Again.

Before we dive in, I want to give a hearty thanks to all those of you who nominated CS for the 2016 Podcast Awards. As I record this, I’m not sure where we came in, in the nomination process & whether or not we’ll be included in the general voting this year. They’ve changed the rules a bit this year & I’m not certain how things will sort out. If CS makes the final cut, I’ll let you know here on the podcast, the sanctorum.us site and the FB page.

The 2nd piece of business is that we now have air costs for the Reformation Tour next year. The dates are March 6-19, 2017. The Land only portion for those who want to meet us at the start in Prague is $____________. If you want to start the journey with us in Los Angeles, CA, the total cost including airfare is $_______________. Please visit the sanctorum.us site or the CS FB page for contact information. It’s crucial if you intend to go that you sign up right away. We need to meet a minimum of 20.

In the last episode we considered the Second Great Awakening and ended with this . . .

Fast-forward 50 years & it seemed the tide had gone out again. By the 1850’s the country was thriving, largely because of the benefits brought by the SGA. The Mid-west was being developed & the economy was booming. People were making 18% interest on their investments. But as is so often the case, economic prosperity turned into a neglect of the Spirit. The pursuit of pleasure replaced the pursuit of God. The nation was politically divided over the issue of slavery.  And it wasn’t just the States that were divided. Churches & denominations split over it.

Into this national argument that ended up tearing the country in two was added a dose of religious turmoil.

A veteran & farmer named William Miller rediscovered the doctrine of the 2nd Coming. For generations most of the Church considered Bible prophecy a closed book. Miller began teaching on the Return of Christ. But he made the mistake many have & said Christ would return in 1844. About a million people followed his views.  When it didn’t happen, they were bitterly disillusioned because they’d sold their homes, businesses, & farms. Skeptics piled on the fanaticism of the Millerites & fired up a new round of mocking faith.  Then, in 1857, things began to change.

Revival began as a movement of prayer. It was leaderless, though it produced several notable leaders.

In Sept. 1857, a businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier printed up a leaflet on the importance of prayer. It announced there would be a weekly prayer meeting at Noon, in the upper room of the North Dutch Reformed Church in Manhattan. When time for the 1st meeting came, only Lanphier was there. He prayed anyway & at 12:35, 6 more businessmen on their lunch break came up the stairs. They prayed till 1. As they broke up to return to work, they agreed they’d been so moved, they’d meet the following week at the same time & place.

The next week, their number doubled to 14. This time they sensed something special was about to happen & agreed to meet every day, Monday-Saturday in that room at Noon. A few weeks later the room overflowed & they filled the basement, then the main sanctuary. A nearby Methodist Church opened its doors for noontime prayer. When it filled, Trinity Episcopal Church opened. Then church after church filled w/people praying at noon, Monday-Saturday; mostly businessmen on their lunch-break.

Throughout the remainder of 1857 prayer meetings spread throughout the States. In Feb. 1858, NY newspaper editor Horace Greeley sent a reporter out to cover the story of the growing prayer movement. The reporter went by horse & buggy & was able to make a dozen stops during the noon hour. He estimated there were 6100 businessmen praying at those stops. Greeley was so surprised he made the story the next day’s headline. Other papers didn’t want to be outdone, so they began to report on the revival.

The publicity further fanned the flames & more began showing up. Soon every auditorium & hall in downtown NY was filled.  The theaters filled.

We might wonder what were these prayer meetings like. They were run by laymen, not professional clergy. Pastors were often present but did not conduct the meetings. They might be asked to open in pray or read a scripture, but then the meeting was turned over to 50 minutes or more of prayer.

There was a remarkable sense of unity that marked these meetings. Those who attended came from different churches but were cautious about debating doctrines. There was more a concern to focus on the things they agreed on. They were there to pray & that’s what they did.

At one prayer meeting in Michigan led by a layman, he said, “I see my pastor & the Methodist minister are here. Will one of you read a scripture & the other pray, then we’ll get started.”  They did, then the laymen said, “I’m not used to this kind of public & impromptu prayer so we’ll follow the example we’ve read about in the NY papers. We have so many here today please write your request down then pass them to the front. We’ll read them one at a time, & pray over each one.”

The first request said, “A praying wife asks the prayers of this company for the conversion of her husband who’s far from God.” (That’s certainly a common request.) But immediately a blacksmith stood up & said, “My wife prays for me. I must be that man. I need to be converted, Would you please pray for me?” A lawyer said, “ I think my wife wrote that note because I know I’m far from God.”  5 men all claimed the request was surely for them. All were converted in a few minutes.

This was common at the beginning of the revival. People were converted during the prayer meetings. They’d simply express their need for salvation then would be prayed for by the rest.

One minister stood up & said he’d stayed till 3 PM the day before answering the questions of those who wanted Christ. He announced his church would be open each evening from then on for the preaching of the Gospel. Soon, every church was holding similar meetings.

As the revival spread across the States, 10,000 were being converted each week. In Newark, NJ, of a population of 70,000; 2,785 were brought to faith in 2 mos. At Princeton University, almost half the students came to Christ & half of those entered the ministry.

The revival swept the colleges of the nation.

On Feb. 3rd, 1858 in Philadelphia, a dozen men moved their daily prayer meeting from the outskirts of the city to downtown. They met at the James Theater, the largest in Phil. A couple weeks later 60 were attending the meeting. By the end of March, 6,000 were literally crammed in.

That Summer, churches united to hold mass services. They erected big-top tents & conducted evangelistic meetings that thousands flocked to. In Ohio, 200 towns reported 12,000 converts in 2 months. In Indiana, 150 small towns saw 4,500 come to Christ.

In 2 years, of a national population of 30 million, 2 million made a profession of faith.

  1. Edwin Orr remarks that this points up the difference between Evangelism & Revival. In evangelism, the evangelist seeks the sinner. In revival, sinners come running to God.

It was during this Revival that a young shoe salesman went to the S/S Director of the Congregational Church in Chicago & said he wanted to teach a class. He was turned down because there were 16 ahead of him waiting to teach. They put him on the waiting list. He told the director, “I want to do something NOW.”

The director said, “Okay – start a class.”  He asked, “How?”

He was told to “Go get boys off the street, take them to the country & teach them how to behave, then bring them in.”

He went out to the alleys, gathered up a dozen street urchins & took them to the beach of Lake Michigan. He taught them Bible games & the Scriptures. Then brought them to the church where he was given a closet to hold his class.  That was the beginning of the ministry of DL Moody who went on to preach all over the US & England & led tens of thousands to Christ.

Today, we’re accustomed to the secular press giving a cold shoulder to the things of God. That’s not new; it’s usually that way. Even during times of revival, the world tends to stand back and wait for it to pass. They may give grudging acknowledgement of the good fruit revival brings, but they always dig up some critic who dismisses it as religious fanaticism & emotionalism.  So the Revival of 1857-8 stands out because the secular press received it w/enthusiasm. Maybe because it was a movement that began in the sophisticated urban centers of the nation & spread their first. It was called The Businessman’s Revival. These weren’t backwoods, country hicks who were “getting religion.” They were educated, literate, successful people being profoundly changed for the better. In a day when nearly everyone read the newspaper, they were familiar w/the revival because it consistently made headlines. There was near universal approval of it.

Yes, it had a few critics, but their objections were dismissed as the grousing of unreasonable skeptics & the envious. The Anglicans were at first against it, until their churches began filling w/seekers; then they approved of it as they saw its glorious effect. The same happened among the Lutherans.

The prayer meetings were marked by order. And the conversions were as frequent among the older & more mature members of a community as the younger.

It quickly spread up into Canada, then across the Atlantic to Ireland, Scotland, & England where conservative estimates say 10% of the population was brought to faith in Christ.  In London, every theater & auditorium was filled for prayer. It was during this time Charles Spurgeon built the Metropolitan Tabernacle & Hudson Taylor started the China Inland Mission.  Just a mile from where Taylor started, William Booth formed the Salvation Army.

All of these came out of the Revival of 1857-9. The revival spilled over into Europe & down into India. The Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa still celebrates the revival for the huge impact it had on them. Jamaica was covered as were numerous other cities & nations.

What I’d like to note as we end this episode is the date of this revival. It’s peak was from 1857-60. A few years later the US was torn in two by the Civil War; a bloody chapter in my nation’s history. Many of those who died in the war were saved in the Revival.

This seems to be a consistent pattern of revival; that it takes place just prior to a major war. Edwin Orr says that this has been a consistent pattern throughout our nation’s history.

The FGA occurred before the Revolutionary War. The SGA before the War of 1812. The Revival of 1857-8 before the Civil War. The Welsh Revival that so effected Great Britain, Europe & the US came right before WWI. It’s as though God pours out His Spirit to reap a harvest before evil falls & there’s a great loss of life.

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This 136th episode of CS is titled, Yet Again. Before we dive in, I want to give a hearty thanks to all those of you who nominated CS for the 2016 Podcast Awards. As I record this, I’m not sure where we came in, Before we dive in, I want to give a hearty thanks to all those of you who nominated CS for the 2016 Podcast Awards. As I record this, I’m not sure where we came in, in the nomination process & whether or not we’ll be included in the general voting this year. They’ve changed the rules a bit this year & I’m not certain how things will sort out. If CS makes the final cut, I’ll let you know here on the podcast, the sanctorum.us site and the FB page.
The 2nd piece of business is that we now have air costs for the Reformation Tour next year. The dates are March 6-19, 2017. The Land only portion for those who want to meet us at the start in Prague is $____________. If you want to start the journey with us in Los Angeles, CA, the total cost including airfare is $_______________. Please visit the sanctorum.us site or the CS FB page for contact information. It’s crucial if you intend to go that you sign up right away. We need to meet a minimum of 20.
In the last episode we considered the Second Great Awakening and ended with this . . .
Fast-forward 50 years & it seemed the tide had gone out again. By the 1850’s the country was thriving, largely because of the benefits brought by the SGA. The Mid-west was being developed & the economy was booming. People were making 18% interest on their investments. But as is so often the case, economic prosperity turned into a neglect of the Spirit. The pursuit of pleasure replaced the pursuit of God. The nation was politically divided over the issue of slavery.  And it wasn’t just the States that were divided. Churches & denominations split over it.
Into this national argument that ended up tearing the country in two was added a dose of religious turmoil.
A veteran & farmer named William Miller rediscovered the doctrine of the 2nd Coming. For generations most of the Church considered Bible prophecy a closed book. Miller began teaching on the Return of Christ. But he made the mistake many have & said Christ would return in 1844. About a million people followed his views.  When it didn’t happen, they were bitterly disillusioned because they’d sold their homes, businesses, & farms. Skeptics piled on the fanaticism of the Millerites & fired up a new round of mocking faith.  Then, in 1857, things began to change.
Revival began as a movement of prayer. It was leaderless, though it produced several notable leaders.
In Sept. 1857, a businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier printed up a leaflet on the importance of prayer. It announced there would be a weekly prayer meeting at Noon, in the upper room of the North Dutch Reformed Church in Manhattan. When time for the 1st meeting came, only Lanphier was there. He prayed anyway & at 12:35, 6 more businessmen on their lunch break came up the stairs. They prayed till 1. As they broke up to return to work, they agreed they’d been so moved, they’d meet the following week at the same time & place.
The next week, their number doubled to 14. This time they sensed something special was about to happen & agreed to meet every day, Monday-Saturday in that room at Noon. A few weeks later the room overflowed & they filled the basement, then the main sanctuary. A nearby Methodist Church opened its doors for noontime prayer. When it filled, Trinity Episcopal Church opened. Then church after church filled w/people praying at noon, Monday-Saturday; mostly businessmen on their lunch-break.
Throughout the remainder of 1857 prayer meetings spread throughout the States. In Feb. 1858, NY newspaper editor Horace Greeley sent a reporter out to cover the story of the growing prayer movement. The reporter went by horse & buggy & was able to make a dozen stops during the noon hour. He estimated there were 6100 businessmen praying at those stops. Greeley was so surprised he made the story the next day’s headline.]]>
Lance Ralston clean 13:33
135-A Second Awakening http://www.sanctorum.us/135-a-second-awakening/ Sun, 08 May 2016 09:01:02 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1259 http://www.sanctorum.us/135-a-second-awakening/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/135-a-second-awakening/feed/ 2 This 135th episode of CS is titled, A Second Awakening. We ended our last episode with the dour spiritual condition of both the United States and Europe at the end of the 18th C. I mentioned Dr. J Edwin Orr a couple episodes back. He was the 20th C’s foremost expert on Revival and Spiritual […] This 135th episode of CS is titled, A Second Awakening.

We ended our last episode with the dour spiritual condition of both the United States and Europe at the end of the 18th C.

I mentioned Dr. J Edwin Orr a couple episodes back. He was the 20th C’s foremost expert on Revival and Spiritual renewal. While he could speak with eloquence on literally dozens of Revivals, one of his favorite subjects was what’s come to be known as the Second Great Awakening.

Before it began, there were many who worried if God did not intervene, Christianity might die out of Europe and the US.

Following Independence from England, many American intellectuals fell in love w/France. But France was throwing off religious faith as fast as it could. The French Revolution made a mockery of the Church & Christianity.  A well-known prostitute in Paris was crowned Goddess of Reason IN the Cathedral of Notre Dame. A majority of churches in France closed & the famous skeptic Voltaire claimed Christianity would be consigned to the dustbin of history in only 30 years. Germany, Switzerland & the Netherlands were taken over by Rationalism. England was afflicted by a sophisticated Skepticism led by the philosopher David Hume. His attacks on faith are still used on college campuses today.

French radicals contributed millions of francs to propagandize & seduce American students. In Christian colleges like Harvard, Yale, & Princeton, students welcomed the new French ideas, not because they promised justice, but because of they welcomed immorality. It was a time of great moral decline. Of a population of 5 million–300,000 were alcoholics.  They buried 15,000 of them annually.

To give you an idea of just how prolific drinking was, President Washington had to call out troops to put down an armed revolt over alcohol in what’s come to be known as the Whiskey Rebellion. There was a plague of lawlessness w/bank robberies a daily occurrence. Out of wedlock births & STD’s sky-rocketed. Public profanity soared & cheating was epidemic. The turn toward immorality was so dramatic Congress appointed a special commission to investigate what had happened & how to correct it. The Commission discovered that in Kentucky, there’d been only 1 court of law held in 5 years. They simply could not administer justice on the frontier. It became so bad, a group of vigilantes formed & fought a pitched battle w/the outlaws è & LOST!

A poll taken at Harvard found most students were atheists. At Princeton, a far more evangelical college; there were only 2 believers in the entire student body. All but 5 were members of the Filthy Speech Movement. Christians were so unpopular they had to meet in secret. Students burned down buildings & forced college presidents to resign.  A mob of students attacked a Presbyterian church, breaking windows & burning the pulpit Bible. Students often entered churches during Communion to interrupt the service by spitting on the floor.

The largest & fastest growing denomination had been Methodists. But they were now losing thousands each year. The 2nd largest were the Baptists. They described this time as their most wintry season. The Presbyterians met in Philadelphia to express their dismay at the immorality of the nation. Lutherans & Episcopalians were so far gone they held talks to consider merging.

Samuel Provost, Bishop of NY had not confirmed anyone as a new member in so long, he quit & looked for other work. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshal wrote to Bishop Madison of Virginia that the Church in the US was too far gone to ever recover. Charles Lee, a popular hero of the Revolutionary War loudly advocated pulling down all the churches claiming they were obstacles to progress.

The church historian Dr. Kenneth Scott Latourette summed it up by saying it looked as though Christianity was about to be ushered out of the affairs of man. But it wasn’t. On the contrary, a mighty outpouring of God’s Spirit was about to come.

In 1784, Pastor John Erskin of Edinburgh, Scotland published a plea for pray by all Christians in Scotland.  He sent a copy to Jonathan Edwards in America.  Edwards replied in what became a book titled A Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement & Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion & the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth.

Erskin published both his book & Edwards’ reply as 1 volume & sent it to Dr. John Rylands, a Baptist leader in Britain. Rylands read it, was profoundly moved & pondered what to do with it.

He gave it to 2 men of prayer who determined to spread it among church leaders. They convinced dozens of Baptist churches to set aside the 1st Mon. of each month to pray for a spiritual awakening. Other denominations found out about what the Baptists were doing & joined. Congregationalists, Evangelicals in the Churches of England & Scotland & the Methodists all held monthly prayer meetings devoted to praying for revival. Within 7 yrs Britain was covered w/a network of prayer.

Then in 1791, the first evidence of an answer to their prayers began in the churches at Yorkshire. Mockers went to the monthly prayer meetings intending to disrupt them but went home converted. Some of these meetings were quiet prayer, others noisy.

Then in the city of Leeds, the Methodist Church there saw a thousand unbelievers brought to faith in just a few months. Soon all the churches were seeing the same thing. What they saw was the renewal of believers & the conversion of the lost. And this winning of so many to Christ blew the minds of both the Baptists & Congregationalists. They didn’t believe in instantaneous conversion. They assumed it took 3 months of challenge, then another 3 months of instruction to prove someone had been converted. That an alcoholic could go to a church meeting & go away converted & changed was hard to believe à Until they saw it happening in their own services.  It revolutionized their understanding of conversion & changed it forever.

The revival strengthened Evangelicals in the Church of England like William Wilberforce who went on to lead the abolition movement in England.

The revival moved into Scotland & swept Wales. By 1796 it had covered Norway.

One of the products of real revival is the new ministries it gives rise to. A pastor named Thomas Charles was moved by the story of Mary Jones, a serving girl who ‘d saved up her pennies to by a Bible. The nearest store was 30 miles away, so on her day off she walked there, to find they were sold out. She returned home in tears. Pastor Charles was so moved he went to London & asked the publishers to print more Bibles. They refused saying the revival was a fad, a temporary emotionalism that would quickly pass & no one would want any Bibles then. So Charles formed the British & Foreign Bible Society, the first of all the Bible societies that would end up printing millions of Bibles that went all over the world.

The SGA resulted in a massive missionary outreach as well as major social reforms. It led to the abolition of slavery, thousands of schools, & a host of organizations to help the poor & needy.

In the US & Canada, the first glimmers of revival began in 1792. It started in Boston where all but a couple of the churches had gone off into the error of Unitarianism. In Lenox, Mass. not a single young person had been received into the Church in 16 years. So a couple churches agreed to hold special prayer for revival. They prayed for 2 years, then in 1794 a few pastors sent out a letter to every congregation in the US calling for a concert of prayer.  They’d heard about what was happening in England & were doing the same thing.

The Presbyterians adopted it in-mass. The Congregationalists, Baptists, & Moravians all took it up. Soon Christians across the nation were praying the 1st Mon of every month for spiritual awakening. Their prayers were desperate as they realized the urgency of their need. The momentum built over the next 4 yrs until 1798 when the SGA began in earnest in the US.

One church in NYC began w/80 members. They prayed for revival & 3 yrs later had grown to 720. This was typical for most churches during the revival.

In the Eastern States there was little to no emotional extravagance. But in the Western states of Kentucky & Ohio things were different. Remember the horrible conditions that existed on the Western frontier. People were brought under such conviction of sin they were often in an agony that once confessed & repented of, was replaced by unbound joy in salvation.  Many would go from unrestrained weeping to dancing & celebration.

James McCeady was the pastor of 3 small churches in Kentucky. McCready’s chief claim to fame was that he was so ugly he attracted attention. His voice was coarse & his style of preaching was far from elegant.  In 1799 he said ministry was “Weeping & mourning with the people of God.” But a year later, an outpouring of the HS began in Kentucky.

The churches of the frontier were all small buildings totally inadequate to house all those who wanted to attend so minister like McCready rode to campsites where thousands had gathered to hear the Word of God & take Communion.

At these camp-meetings, as they were called, as many as 20,000 would show up and stay for 3-4 days as one preacher after another would give a message.

The revival swept Kentucky, Tennessee & Ohio. Dr. George Baxter, a Presbyterian minister from Philadelphia heard about what has happening & went to investigate. He said Kentucky was the most moral place he’d ever seen in his life. He heard not a word of profanity the entire time he was there. He said a sense of religious awe hovered over the entire countryside.

There was a great movement for the further evangelization of the Western frontier. Those who were converted traveled back East to attend college & get their degree in theology so they could return & continuing the revival. So, revival broke out in those colleges of the East we talked about earlier. The Westerners returned home & started dozens of colleges in what today we call the Midwest. ¾’s of all Midwest colleges were the result of the SGA.

The Revival swept the South & was as evident among the slaves as among the white population.

The War of 1812 interrupted the revival, but historians mostly agree that the SGA marked the US as a thoroughly Christian nation.

As the Second Evangelical Awakening began to lose steam, Charles Finney came on the scene with his revival efforts. Beginning in New York State in 1824, he conducted effective meetings in several Eastern cities. The greatest took place in Rochester, New York, in the fall and winter of 1830–31, when he reported a thousand conversions in a city of 10,000. The revival affected nearby towns as well, with over 1,500 making professions of faith. At the same time there were about 100,000 conversions in other parts of the country from New England to the SW.

In 1835, Finney became president of Oberlin College in Ohio, where he continued to be an influential revivalist through personal campaigns and the wide distribution of his book Lectures on Revival. It was from the Oberlin School that the Holiness and Pentecostal churches emerged. Not only did Finney’s work make a great impact on America, but he also made two trips to Europe, where he experienced extensive success.

Finney is credited with introducing something called the anxious bench in his meetings. This was a place for people who wanted to express a desire for conversion to sit & await someone leading them to faith by walking them through an understanding of the Gospel then praying with them. The modern day altar call that’s practice in many Evangelical churches and meetings is the descendant of Finney’s anxious seat.

Fast-forward 50 years from the SGA & it seemed the tide had gone out again. By the 1850’s the country was thriving, largely because of the benefits brought by the SGA. The Mid-west was being developed & the economy was booming. People were making 18% interest on their investments. But as is so often the case, economic prosperity turned into a neglect of the Spirit. The pursuit of pleasure replaced the pursuit of God. The nation was politically divided over the issue of slavery.  And it wasn’t just the States that were divided. Churches & denominations split over it.

Into this national argument that ended up tearing the country in two was added a dose of religious turmoil.

A veteran & farmer named William Miller rediscovered the doctrine of the 2nd Coming. For generations most of the Church considered Bible prophecy a closed book. Miller began teaching on the Return of Christ. But he made the mistake many have & said Christ would return in 1844. About a million people followed his views.  When it didn’t happen, they were bitterly disillusioned because they’d sold their homes, businesses, & farms. Skeptics piled on the fanaticism of the Millerites & fired up a new round of mocking faith.  Then, in 1857, things began to change. What that change was, we’ll take a look at next time.

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This 135th episode of CS is titled, A Second Awakening. We ended our last episode with the dour spiritual condition of both the United States and Europe at the end of the 18th C. I mentioned Dr. J Edwin Orr a couple episodes back. We ended our last episode with the dour spiritual condition of both the United States and Europe at the end of the 18th C.
I mentioned Dr. J Edwin Orr a couple episodes back. He was the 20th C’s foremost expert on Revival and Spiritual renewal. While he could speak with eloquence on literally dozens of Revivals, one of his favorite subjects was what’s come to be known as the Second Great Awakening.
Before it began, there were many who worried if God did not intervene, Christianity might die out of Europe and the US.
Following Independence from England, many American intellectuals fell in love w/France. But France was throwing off religious faith as fast as it could. The French Revolution made a mockery of the Church & Christianity.  A well-known prostitute in Paris was crowned Goddess of Reason IN the Cathedral of Notre Dame. A majority of churches in France closed & the famous skeptic Voltaire claimed Christianity would be consigned to the dustbin of history in only 30 years. Germany, Switzerland & the Netherlands were taken over by Rationalism. England was afflicted by a sophisticated Skepticism led by the philosopher David Hume. His attacks on faith are still used on college campuses today.
French radicals contributed millions of francs to propagandize & seduce American students. In Christian colleges like Harvard, Yale, & Princeton, students welcomed the new French ideas, not because they promised justice, but because of they welcomed immorality. It was a time of great moral decline. Of a population of 5 million–300,000 were alcoholics.  They buried 15,000 of them annually.
To give you an idea of just how prolific drinking was, President Washington had to call out troops to put down an armed revolt over alcohol in what’s come to be known as the Whiskey Rebellion. There was a plague of lawlessness w/bank robberies a daily occurrence. Out of wedlock births & STD’s sky-rocketed. Public profanity soared & cheating was epidemic. The turn toward immorality was so dramatic Congress appointed a special commission to investigate what had happened & how to correct it. The Commission discovered that in Kentucky, there’d been only 1 court of law held in 5 years. They simply could not administer justice on the frontier. It became so bad, a group of vigilantes formed & fought a pitched battle w/the outlaws è & LOST!
A poll taken at Harvard found most students were atheists. At Princeton, a far more evangelical college; there were only 2 believers in the entire student body. All but 5 were members of the Filthy Speech Movement. Christians were so unpopular they had to meet in secret. Students burned down buildings & forced college presidents to resign.  A mob of students attacked a Presbyterian church, breaking windows & burning the pulpit Bible. Students often entered churches during Communion to interrupt the service by spitting on the floor.
The largest & fastest growing denomination had been Methodists. But they were now losing thousands each year. The 2nd largest were the Baptists. They described this time as their most wintry season. The Presbyterians met in Philadelphia to express their dismay at the immorality of the nation. Lutherans & Episcopalians were so far gone they held talks to consider merging.
Samuel Provost, Bishop of NY had not confirmed anyone as a new member in so long, he quit & looked for other work. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshal wrote to Bishop Madison of Virginia that the Church in the US was too far gone to ever recover. Charles Lee, a popular hero of the Revolutionary War loudly advocated pulling down all the churches claiming they were obstacles to progress.
The church historian Dr. Kenneth Scott Latourette summed it up by saying it looked as though Christianity was about to be ushered out of the affairs of ma...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 17:11
134-Decline http://www.sanctorum.us/134-decline/ Sun, 01 May 2016 09:01:33 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1250 http://www.sanctorum.us/134-decline/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/134-decline/feed/ 3 This is episode 134-Decline. Following the Great Awakening, which produced a deep-seated sense of Faith in so many Americans prior to the Revolutionary War, as the new nation organized itself around its new national identity, it realized something unique was taking place. A genuine religious pluralism had taken root. That was very different from the […] This is episode 134-Decline.

Following the Great Awakening, which produced a deep-seated sense of Faith in so many Americans prior to the Revolutionary War, as the new nation organized itself around its new national identity, it realized something unique was taking place. A genuine religious pluralism had taken root. That was very different from the centuries of conflict that marked the Europe they or their ancestors came from.

There are several reasons for the religious pluralism of the United States. But when we speak of pluralism at that point in history, let’s make sure what we mean is a lack of the establishment of a specific Christian denomination as the National or Federal Church. 18th C pluralism didn’t include other major world religions. There were no Buddhist or Hindu temples; no Islamic mosques nor Shinto shrines. Americans were Christians, if not of the committed stripe, at least nominally.

The first reason for the religious pluralism of the US was the immigration into the colonies after 1690. It brought a mixture of people with various faiths so that no one of them was dominant. The Quakers who settled Pennsylvania opposed a formal church structure which prevented the rise of a State church there. Please note this: While the first Amendment prohibited the FEDERAL govt from establishing a National Church, there was no ban on the States establishing a State Church. Several states in fact HAD State churches. But the Quaker dominance of Pennsylvania resisted an established church. Their presence in New Jersey contributed to the religious mixture in that colony, and Pennsylvania’s control over Delaware during most of the colonial period meant freedom of religion there as well. The French Huguenots took refuge in several colonies. Having suffered brutal persecution in Europe, they had no desire to persecute others.

A second wave of immigrants in 1700, consisted mainly of 200,000 Germans. While most were either Lutheran or Reformed, there were also several smaller sects. What most of them shared as the Pietistic emphasis on a deeply felt personal faith. They had no desire to dominate others’ religious persuasion. These Germans settled in Pennsylvania and northern New York. Last came a wave of about a quarter million Scotch-Irish from northern Ireland. They were nearly all Presbyterians, persecuted by the Anglican Church of Ireland. They spread throughout the Middle & Southern colonies. By 1760the population of the colonies was about 2½ million. A third of them were born in a foreign land.

A 2nd influence favoring religious pluralism was that many of the colonies were Proprietary, meaning it was a business venture. For the sake of the business, religious feuds needed to be tamped down lest they prove a distraction to the profitability of the colony. Even in those colonies where a specific church or denomination was favored, the large numbers of people of others faiths meant the requirement to get along for the greater good.

3rd, the revivals we looked at in the last episode proved a leveling influence throughout the colonies. They crossed denominational lines like there was no distinction whatever. Revival-preacher & promoters universally stressed the equality of all in the sight of God.

4th, the Western frontier was another leveler. Pioneers were self-reliant individualists or they didn’t survive. And in case you haven’t noticed, rugged individualism and religious institutionalism don’t mix. Frontiersmen were suspicious of & opposed to attempts by them City-folk back East asserting their will over the Frontier – in any form, including dictating what church would be built where & led by who.

5th, following the revivals of the 18th C, spiritual apathy began to grow once more. The churches that had filled during the GA, began to empty. And without new ministers in training, it meant more and more churches were left without gifted leaders. And let me be clear, while the Frontier resisted Eastern denominations reaching into their realm, they still wanted their own churches. But the rapid evolution of the Western Frontier meant churches weren’t built or manned quickly enough. The Frontier became a largely unchurch region.  In proportion to the population, probably more than anywhere else in Christendom during the first third of the 18th C, the Western frontier of the British colonies was the least churched.

6th, The philosophy natural rights that had been percolating for a couple Cs and had coalesced during the Enlightenment began to influence many. One of the rights people came to accept was the privilege of deciding what religion they’d follow. John Locke’s Letters on Toleration argued for the separation of church and state and a voluntary religious affiliation for any and all. Most leaders of the generation that saw the American Revolutionary, such as Thomas Jefferson, were enamored with this philosophy, and were active in bringing down the church establishment in Virginia soon after the new nation won its independence.

When the Revolution began, the Anglican church suffered greatly because many of its ministers remained Loyalists who supported England. When the war was over, there were few Anglican ministers left in the country and many churches had been destroyed.

In all, the disestablishment of religion seemed a foregone conclusion in the United States. With the founding of the new nation, one after another, State churches toppled. The last to go was Congregationalism in New Hampshire, Connecticut, & Massachusetts in the first half of the 19th C.

I realize the narrative I’ve just shared appears to challenge the picture some modern apologists paint of the role of Christianity in the Early American Republic. A deeper look makes it clear there’s no challenge at all. To say United States saw a disestablishment of churches doesn’t mean Americans were irreligious. On the contrary; remember what we saw in the last episode. The Great Awakening had such a huge impact on the colonies that following it for a time, to be an American meant to be a Christian. And not just as a default label derived at by process of elimination. You know, that attitude some have that says, “Well, I’m not a Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim; so I must be a Christian.” Coming out of the GA, The American identity was one that was thoroughly and sincerely Christian of the pietistic stripe; where having a personal testimony of the experience of being born again was paramount.

So, if there was so much religious diversity and agitation against an established Church during the 18th C, what were the attitudes of the different denominations toward the Revolution?

As just noted, Anglicans in the Church of England were divided, but seem to have been dominated by a loyalist majority. In the N, Anglicans leaned heavily toward the loyalist cause. In the S, many of the great planters, men like Washington, favored the Revolutionary cause. Congregationalists gave enthusiastic support to the Revolution, their ministers preached fervent sermons favoring of the patriot cause.

Presbyterians leaned toward the patriot cause in a continuation of the old conflict back home between themselves and the Anglicans. Presbyterian John Witherspoon, was a signer of the Articles of Confederation and the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. Lutherans also supported the Revolution under the leadership of the Muhlenbergs. Though divided, Roman Catholics were generally patriots.

Baptists supported the Revolution because they felt the cause of separation of church and state was at stake. They believed a British victory would bring a round of new political control and a tightening on the religious scene.

Methodists were suspect because at the beginning of the war Wesley urged neutrality. Then colonial preachers came out in support of the Revolution. Although Quakers, Mennonites, and Moravians were pacifists, most of them were in sympathy with the Revolution and some joined the army.

The Revolution dissolved the ties between many religious groups in America and their spiritual relatives in Europe. This meant the need for new organizations in America. Though the Anglican church had been handed a serious set-back, it didn’t completely evacuate the new Nation. William White & Samuel Seabury attempted to rebuild the Anglican church after the war under the new label of the Protestant Episcopal Church.

Loosed from English Methodism, in 1784 Methodists organized as the Methodist Episcopal Church, under the leadership of Francis Asbury. That same year, American Roman Catholics ended their affiliation with the British Bishop. In 1789 John Carroll became the first Roman Catholic bishop, with Baltimore as his see. The Baptists formed a General Committee in 1784. And the Presbyterians in Philadelphia drew up a constitution for their church at the same time as the national Constitution was being formed in 1787.

The Revolutionary War proved to be hard on religious life in America. Because most local churches supported the Revolution, when the British took an area, they often poured out their wrath on houses of worship. Churches were destroyed when they were used as barracks, hospitals, and storehouses of munitions. Pastors and congregations were absorbed in the cause of the Revolution rather than in building up the churches. French deism and its philosophical cousin atheism became fashionable among certain elements of American society because of new alliance with France. Rationalism took control of the colleges and other intellectual centers. In some colleges, there was hardly a student who’d admit to being a Christian.

Conditions were so bad during the years when the Constitution, politicians and ministers alike virtually gave up hope for the role of religion in American society. Bishop Samuel Provost of the Episcopal Diocese of New York saw the situation as so hopeless, he ceased to function. A committee of Congress reported on the desperate state of lawlessness on the frontier. Of a population of 5 million, the United States had 300,000 drunkards and buried about 15K of them per year. In 1796, George Washington agreed with a friend that national affairs were leading to a crisis he was unable to see the outcome of.

The closing years of the 18th C were dark. But its always darkest just before the dawn.

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This is episode 134-Decline. Following the Great Awakening, which produced a deep-seated sense of Faith in so many Americans prior to the Revolutionary War, as the new nation organized itself around its new national identity, Following the Great Awakening, which produced a deep-seated sense of Faith in so many Americans prior to the Revolutionary War, as the new nation organized itself around its new national identity, it realized something unique was taking place. A genuine religious pluralism had taken root. That was very different from the centuries of conflict that marked the Europe they or their ancestors came from.
There are several reasons for the religious pluralism of the United States. But when we speak of pluralism at that point in history, let’s make sure what we mean is a lack of the establishment of a specific Christian denomination as the National or Federal Church. 18th C pluralism didn’t include other major world religions. There were no Buddhist or Hindu temples; no Islamic mosques nor Shinto shrines. Americans were Christians, if not of the committed stripe, at least nominally.
The first reason for the religious pluralism of the US was the immigration into the colonies after 1690. It brought a mixture of people with various faiths so that no one of them was dominant. The Quakers who settled Pennsylvania opposed a formal church structure which prevented the rise of a State church there. Please note this: While the first Amendment prohibited the FEDERAL govt from establishing a National Church, there was no ban on the States establishing a State Church. Several states in fact HAD State churches. But the Quaker dominance of Pennsylvania resisted an established church. Their presence in New Jersey contributed to the religious mixture in that colony, and Pennsylvania’s control over Delaware during most of the colonial period meant freedom of religion there as well. The French Huguenots took refuge in several colonies. Having suffered brutal persecution in Europe, they had no desire to persecute others.
A second wave of immigrants in 1700, consisted mainly of 200,000 Germans. While most were either Lutheran or Reformed, there were also several smaller sects. What most of them shared as the Pietistic emphasis on a deeply felt personal faith. They had no desire to dominate others’ religious persuasion. These Germans settled in Pennsylvania and northern New York. Last came a wave of about a quarter million Scotch-Irish from northern Ireland. They were nearly all Presbyterians, persecuted by the Anglican Church of Ireland. They spread throughout the Middle & Southern colonies. By 1760the population of the colonies was about 2½ million. A third of them were born in a foreign land.
A 2nd influence favoring religious pluralism was that many of the colonies were Proprietary, meaning it was a business venture. For the sake of the business, religious feuds needed to be tamped down lest they prove a distraction to the profitability of the colony. Even in those colonies where a specific church or denomination was favored, the large numbers of people of others faiths meant the requirement to get along for the greater good.
3rd, the revivals we looked at in the last episode proved a leveling influence throughout the colonies. They crossed denominational lines like there was no distinction whatever. Revival-preacher & promoters universally stressed the equality of all in the sight of God.
4th, the Western frontier was another leveler. Pioneers were self-reliant individualists or they didn’t survive. And in case you haven’t noticed, rugged individualism and religious institutionalism don’t mix. Frontiersmen were suspicious of & opposed to attempts by them City-folk back East asserting their will over the Frontier – in any form, including dictating what church would be built where & led by who.
5th, following the revivals of the 18th C, spiritual apathy began to grow once more. The churches that had filled during the GA, began to empty. And without new ministers in training, it meant more and more churches were left without gifted leaders.]]>
Lance Ralston clean 12:35
133-Awakening http://www.sanctorum.us/133-awakening/ Sun, 24 Apr 2016 20:39:42 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1245 http://www.sanctorum.us/133-awakening/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/133-awakening/feed/ 2 This 133rd episode of CS is titled Awakening. It’s time again for the Podcast Awards. Voting is only from April 15-30, 2016. The rules are a bit different this year, which I won’t bore you with. But please note if you want to nominate CS, you have to do so no later than April 30th. […] This 133rd episode of CS is titled Awakening.

It’s time again for the Podcast Awards. Voting is only from April 15-30, 2016. The rules are a bit different this year, which I won’t bore you with. But please note if you want to nominate CS, you have to do so no later than April 30th. You can only nominate once and one show per category. CS will be in the Society & Culture category. The only podcasts that will make it to the finals are those who receive enough nominations. Then, once that list is made, regular voting will begin. We did well at year & want to see how we’ll do this year.

So if you want, head over to podcastawards.com and nominate CS in the Society & Culture category. Thanks.

The tide of Pietism that swept portions of Europe in the 17th C, arrived in N America in the 18th. Like the Charismatic Movement of the 1960’s, Protestant denominations were split over how to respond to Pietism. Presbyterians were divided between those who insisted on strict adherence to the teachings of Westminster and those whose emphasis was on having an experience of saving grace. The 2 sides eventually re-united, but not before the contention became so sharp, it led to a rift. That rift reached its zenith, or nadir, might be a better descriptive, during The Great Awakening.

As we saw in our last episode, the Half-Way Covenant of New England churches was the result of the collision of the Pietistic requirement of having a conversion event in the believer’s experience with the Reformed commitment to being a Covenant Community. It came over the tension between the necessity to baptize infants so they could be members of the covenant community, but the recognition that baptism was supposed to mark personal faith subsequent to a believer’s profession of faith in response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, something infants can’t do. The Half-Way Covenant allowed people to be members of the Church, without being saved. And that was a formula for disaster!

The Half-Way Covenant, along with the assault of pseudo-intellectualism infiltrating N America from the European Enlightenment, resulted in a growing spiritual lethargy among the churches of the English colonies. Jonathan Edwards, who became one of the main luminaries of The Great Awakening, remarked before it began that the spiritual condition of New England was abysmal.

The first stirrings of revival began as movements in local churches 5 to 10 years before the Great Awakening. There’d even been some minor revivals in Northampton, during the time of Jonathan Edwards’ grandfather, Solomon Stoddard in the 1720’s.

Theodore Frelinghuysen was a Dutch Reformed pastor who’d come to N America to pastor 4 churches in New Jersey. Frelinghuysen was what’s called a Precisionist. That term is the Dutch equivalent of the English Puritan. Puritanism had been exported to Holland by a minister named William Ames where it was referred to as Precisionism.

Pastor Frelinghuysen discerned a general spiritual malaise in all 4 of his congregations there in NJ; an appalling lack of piety & convictions. So he decided to embark on a program of reform. He started visiting people in their homes. He enforced church discipline and he preached fervent evangelistic sermons. A few opposed these innovations, but he persevered and the churches began to grow with genuine conversions that resulted in a warming up of the entire congregation in their fervency for the things of God. It was the first stirrings of revival, which spread to other Dutch Reformed churches. By 1726, Frelinghuysen was recognized as a leader of revival.

The Presbyterians of NJ saw what was happening among their Dutch neighbors & soon joined the revival under the work of the William & his son Gilbert Tennent.

But when it comes to The Great Awakening, the name most closely associate with it is Jonathan Edwards.

Edwards is considered by many to be one of the most brilliant minds in American history. He wasn’t just a great theologian. He was a top-rank philosopher and scientist. Edwards is sometimes presented as a fiery preacher in the Puritan vein. The popular notion of him is that he was a revivalist-preacher of a mien similar to George Whitefield. His most famous sermon was titled Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. The title alone gives one the impression of a wild-eyed & crazy-haired pulpit-pounder. But that image is very far from what Jonathan Edwards was really like. He was reserved and tended toward shyness. He was more at home in his study among his books than in the pulpit. Edwards spent 10 hours a day studying. His messages will filled with theology & their delivery was not the kind of fire & brimstone preaching many assume. His style was to virtually read his messages. This is not to say his delivery was wooden; but descriptions of it remarked on the lack of gestures or inflection. Flamboyance was nowhere in sight when Edwards spoke. Edwards trusted in the eloquence & logic of his message to persuade, rather than by affecting a dramatic persona. If there was grandeur in his message, it was due to WHAT he said, rather than in HOW he said it.

Edwards was a PK; a pastor’s kid. His father Timothy was a minister in the town of East Windsor, Connecticut. By the age of 13 he’d master Greek, Hebrew & Latin. He wrote essays on scientific matters and penned one on the behavior of insects that became famous. As a teen, he read and consumed the ideas of Sir Isaac Newton. He graduated from Yale at 17.

It was during his college years that his relationship with God deepened into a rich intimacy. All of that grew out of the time he spent studying the nature & character of God.

Edwards added 2 more years of post-graduate studies then took a pastorate at a small church in New York for only a couple months. That was followed by a stint as a tutor at Yale for 2 years. In 1727, he became an assistant pastor to his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard at Northampton, Mass. It was also at that time that he married Sarah Pierpont.

When Edwards took up his ministry at Northampton in 1727, he found the church to be spiritually dull, even though it had been the scene of some earlier stirrings of the Spirit under Stoddard’s leadership. When Stoddard died in 1729, Edwards stepped into role as senior pastor.

Edwards decided to address the spiritual apathy of the congregation by preaching a series of 5 sermons on justification by faith. He rightly diagnosed the real problem at Northampton wasn’t laziness or moral sloppiness; it was an absence of good theology. Instead of preaching the need of repentance and obedience, he focused on the glory of God in the Gospel of Christ. Sure enough, a season of renewal came as people recommitted themselves to follow Jesus in 1734-5. The messages weren’t calculated to elicit an emotional response, but they did. People responded with a remarkable moral & spiritual change, often with intense emotion.

After several months, the movement spread out thru Mass & swept Connecticut. After 3 years it began to diminish. But the memory of revival endured so strongly, many hoped to see it renewed.

In 1737, Edwards decided to pen a chronicle of what had happened over the previous 3 years. It was titled, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundreds of Souls in Northampton. That’s the title; not the actual text of the whole thing. The Narrative as it’s more conveniently referred to, is what established Jonathan Edwards as the main person associated with Revival.

In 1739, George Whitefield visited New England. Though Edwards & Whitefield represented different flavors of the Faith, they were both deeply committed to the Preaching of the Gospel. Edwards helped arrange Whitefield’s campaign through the area of Boston then on to Northampton where Edwards turned his pulpit over to the great preacher. The winds of renewal that had waned a few years before strengthened once more.

Then Edwards was invited to speak at the church in Enfield, Conn in 1741. His message was titled, Sinners in the Hands of nan Angry God. Reading the text of the sermon today one might assume it was delivered in the ham-fisted, “fire & brimstone” manner of a fanatic. But as we’ve seen, that was not Edward’s style. Nor did he deliver it in the monotone some later reporters suggest. He spoke as a man convinced of his topic; urging his listeners to make sure they’d embraced the Grace of God. The sermon pains a terrifying picture of eternal damnation; something Edwards calculated to make clear. Because as historian George Marsden says, Edwards didn’t preach anything new to his hearers. They well knew the Gospel remedy. The problem was getting them to seek it.

While revival was already building, Edwards’ sermon at that church in Enfield was a crystalizing moment in The Great Awakening. If the coals had been getting hot they now burst into flames that spread all over New England and to the other colonies, and across the Atlantic to settle in England & several other nations of Europe.

As welcome as The Great Awakening might have seemed, some ministers opposed it. Their opposition stemmed from their resistance to the emotionalism that became a mark of the Revival. People wept in repentance then shouted for joy at being saved. Some were so emotionally wrought over the process of their conversion, they fainted. A few who were psychologically fragile exhibited what can only be called bizarre behavior.

Such reactions led the enemies of the Great Awakening to accuse its leaders of undermining the solemnity of worship, and of substituting emotion for scholarship. Since it’s the tendency to stick labels on movements, supporters of the Awakening were called New Lights, while those who opposed it were called Old Lights.

Edwards made clear in his writings that he believed emotion was important. But emotion, including the intense experience of conversion, should never eclipse doctrine and orderly worship.

At first, Baptists opposed the Awakening, labelling it frivolous and superficial. But so many of the new converts were inclined to agree with Baptist positions that they ended up becoming Baptists. When the Baptist saw all these new members, their opinion of the Revival changed. Most notable was the conviction among the new converts that baptism ought to be of those who profess faith in Christ, not infants. Entire Congregationalists & Presbyterian congregations became Baptists.

The Great Awakening sent Baptists & Methodists to the Western frontier. Settlers continually pushed the Frontier westward. It was Methodist and Baptist missionaries who took up the task of preaching to them & planting frontier churches. So those 2 groups became the most numerous out West.

It’s difficult to estimate how many conversions took place during the GA, but gauging by pretty accurate church records taken over that time indicate a conservative number of 10% across the board, and in some communities much higher than that. Keep in mind that that was in the midst of a society that already considered itself thoroughly Christian.

Besides the obvious spiritual effects of the Great Awakening, it had a notable political impact in the British colonies of N America. It was the first movement to include all 13 colonies. A new sense of commonality developed in which the emerging unique identity as Americans, as opposed to British, took root alongside the idea that to be an American meant to be a Christian of Protestant stripe.

The GA propelled a wave of missionary activity. David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, and others preached to the Indians, and some effort was made to reach blacks with the gospel. Among the colleges birthed at that time were Princeton, Rutgers, Brown, & Dartmouth. Dartmouth was a trained Indians to serve as missionaries to their own people.

Edwards continued in his role as pastor till 1750 when a controversy saw him removed.

Edwards believed Communion ought to be given only to those church members who’d demonstrated a genuine conversion experience, as per the Pietistic belief. His grand-father, who’d been the previous pastor, had relaxed the traditional Puritan practice and allowed what we’ll call ‘unconverted church members’ to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Stoddard regarded Communion as a “converting experience.” He thought regular attendance at the Lord’s Table would be something the HS could use to bring conviction & salvation to a needy soul. Edwards differed and viewed Communion to be open only to those who were converted; and that of course, meaning they’d known a conversion experience.

Well, by 1750, Edwards had come to a position on all this that departed from the practice of the church at Northampton. When he tried to implement a change in practice, they released him. Yep, they canned him. It was then that he embarked on his mission of taking the Gospel to the Indians at Stockbridge, Mass. It was while engaged in that work that he wrote his most famous work – Freedom of the Will.

I want to share a little story from the life of Jonathan Edwards that may give us some insight into the man. After 14 years of marriage, in Jan, 1742, something happened to his wife Sarah. She had an intense religious experience. Some historians go so far as to call it a nervous breakdown. Edward was away on a preaching tour. His pulpit was being filled by Samuel Buell who gave a series of sermons that had a profound impact on Sarah Edwards. She was overwhelmed to the point of fainting. Her condition was such that she was unable to take care of her children, who were sent to stay with neighbors till John returned a few weeks later.

The town was abuzz with the nature of her condition. Was it some kind of spiritual ecstasy or an emotional breakdown? When John returned, he of course immediately went to her to see what was wrong. She related to him that she’d experienced God’s goodness as never before; even more, as she didn’t even know was possible. She said the joy & security she now had was so intense it was at times debilitating.

John’s reaction was interesting. He affirmed that she’d had a visitation from God. Now – keep in mind that we’re talking here about hard-core, strict Calvinists; not Pentecostals or even the more mild version – Charismatics.

After a few weeks, Sarah recovered & returned to the normal activities of life. But John said from then on Sarah maintained a peace & joy that transformed her. In writing about the effects of the revival, while Edwards doesn’t name his wife, it’s clear some of what he chronicled were things he witnessed in his own wife when she was filled with the Holy Spirit in 1742.

In 1757, Edwards was appointed president of Princeton, known at that time as the College of NJ. A short time later, he volunteered to be a test subject for a small pox vaccine. Which instead of inoculating him against the disease, claimed his life in 1758.

One of my favorite teachers is J. Edwin Orr. When Orr died in 1987, he was recognized by many as the 20th C’s foremost expert on Revival, and spent his last years living just a few miles from where I am now, in CA. My good friend and fellow pastor David Guzik befriended Orr’s widow, who passed many of Dr. Orr’s books, writings, and recordings on to him for posterity’s sake. David has faithfully made that material available online at www.jedwinorr.com.

The eminent NT scholar FF Bruce said, “Some men read history, some write it, and others make it. So far as the history of religious revivals is concerned, J. Edwin Orr belongs to all three categories.”

Orr tells remarkable stories of the impact of revival on society. The many revivals he chronicles don’t merely add a bunch of new church members; they have an astounding impact in moral revolution. Orr shares that during some revivals, because there was no crime, the Police organized singing groups to sing in churches because they had nothing else to do. There were a number of business failures; pubs and other enterprises that thrive on vice folded.

One unforeseen effect during the Welsh Revival was that there was a work stoppage in the coal mines of Wales. For years, the mules that pulled the coal carts were used to hearing the miners curse at them. But when so many miners converted during the Revival, they refused to curse anymore and the mules no longer heard the profane commands telling them to move. Work in the mines stalled till the mules were retrained to respond to the now clean speech of the joyous miners.

If you’re interested in more such interesting stories, I encourage you to head over to the jedwinorr site.

And I want to also encourage you to check our David Guzik’s website at enduringword.com.

David is one of the premier Bible expositors online today. His commentaries are used by many thousands of pastors, professors, Bible teachers & students all over the world.

Websites mentioned in this episode – jedwinorr.com  enduringword.com

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This 133rd episode of CS is titled Awakening. It’s time again for the Podcast Awards. Voting is only from April 15-30, 2016. The rules are a bit different this year, which I won’t bore you with. But please note if you want to nominate CS, It’s time again for the Podcast Awards. Voting is only from April 15-30, 2016. The rules are a bit different this year, which I won’t bore you with. But please note if you want to nominate CS, you have to do so no later than April 30th. You can only nominate once and one show per category. CS will be in the Society & Culture category. The only podcasts that will make it to the finals are those who receive enough nominations. Then, once that list is made, regular voting will begin. We did well at year & want to see how we’ll do this year.
So if you want, head over to podcastawards.com and nominate CS in the Society & Culture category. Thanks.
The tide of Pietism that swept portions of Europe in the 17th C, arrived in N America in the 18th. Like the Charismatic Movement of the 1960’s, Protestant denominations were split over how to respond to Pietism. Presbyterians were divided between those who insisted on strict adherence to the teachings of Westminster and those whose emphasis was on having an experience of saving grace. The 2 sides eventually re-united, but not before the contention became so sharp, it led to a rift. That rift reached its zenith, or nadir, might be a better descriptive, during The Great Awakening.
As we saw in our last episode, the Half-Way Covenant of New England churches was the result of the collision of the Pietistic requirement of having a conversion event in the believer’s experience with the Reformed commitment to being a Covenant Community. It came over the tension between the necessity to baptize infants so they could be members of the covenant community, but the recognition that baptism was supposed to mark personal faith subsequent to a believer’s profession of faith in response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, something infants can’t do. The Half-Way Covenant allowed people to be members of the Church, without being saved. And that was a formula for disaster!
The Half-Way Covenant, along with the assault of pseudo-intellectualism infiltrating N America from the European Enlightenment, resulted in a growing spiritual lethargy among the churches of the English colonies. Jonathan Edwards, who became one of the main luminaries of The Great Awakening, remarked before it began that the spiritual condition of New England was abysmal.
The first stirrings of revival began as movements in local churches 5 to 10 years before the Great Awakening. There’d even been some minor revivals in Northampton, during the time of Jonathan Edwards’ grandfather, Solomon Stoddard in the 1720’s.
Theodore Frelinghuysen was a Dutch Reformed pastor who’d come to N America to pastor 4 churches in New Jersey. Frelinghuysen was what’s called a Precisionist. That term is the Dutch equivalent of the English Puritan. Puritanism had been exported to Holland by a minister named William Ames where it was referred to as Precisionism.
Pastor Frelinghuysen discerned a general spiritual malaise in all 4 of his congregations there in NJ; an appalling lack of piety & convictions. So he decided to embark on a program of reform. He started visiting people in their homes. He enforced church discipline and he preached fervent evangelistic sermons. A few opposed these innovations, but he persevered and the churches began to grow with genuine conversions that resulted in a warming up of the entire congregation in their fervency for the things of God. It was the first stirrings of revival, which spread to other Dutch Reformed churches. By 1726, Frelinghuysen was recognized as a leader of revival.
The Presbyterians of NJ saw what was happening among their Dutch neighbors & soon joined the revival under the work of the William & his son Gilbert Tennent.
But when it comes to The Great Awakening, the name most closely associate with it is Jonathan Edwards.
Edwards is considered by many to be one of the most bri...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 21:00
132-Colonies http://www.sanctorum.us/132-colonies/ Thu, 21 Apr 2016 21:23:37 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1255 http://www.sanctorum.us/132-colonies/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/132-colonies/feed/ 0 This, the 132nd episode of CS is titled, Colonies. Two announcements before we dive in. 1) For those who’ve expressed interest in the CS Reformation Tour in March of 2017, we’ll have the airfare portion of the trip nailed down soon, hopefully by the end of April. As soon as we rates, we’ll tell you […] This, the 132nd episode of CS is titled, Colonies.

Two announcements before we dive in.

1) For those who’ve expressed interest in the CS Reformation Tour in March of 2017, we’ll have the airfare portion of the trip nailed down soon, hopefully by the end of April. As soon as we rates, we’ll tell you here and on both the sanctorum.us site and the Facebook page.

2) The 2016 Podcast Awards are taking nominations for your favorite podcasts. If you want to vote for CS, head over to podcastawards.com and do so. Nominated podcasts only make it onto the slate if they receive enough nominations. As a listener, you can nominate Communio Sanctorum once a day for the 2 week nomination period. Both the sanctorum.us site and Facebook page will have more information. Thanks!

The 16th C saw the establishment & growth of the Spanish and Portuguese overseas empires. The Spanish Empire included Mexico, extending well into what is now the western half of the United States. In the 17th C, other Europeans began their own empire building. The most successful of the new colonial powers was Great Britain. Among its first overseas enterprises were the 13 colonies in N America that became the United States.

Though we’ve already talked about the settling of Plymouth & the Puritan settlements of Massachusetts, we’ll do a little review. The first British colonial ventures in N America failed. In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh was granted a charter for colonization. He named the area Virginia, after the Virgin Queen Elizabeth. But his 1st 2 ventures, failed. The first group of settlers returned to England, while the 2nd disappeared.

Then, in 1607 the first permanent colonization of Virginia began at Jamestown, named after the new British King James. There was a chaplain among them, for the Virginia Company who sponsored the venture  hoped to establish the Church of England in the new land, and to offer its services both to the settlers and Indians. It was also hoped the new colony halt Spanish expansion, which was feared for its spread of the dread “popery,” as Puritans called Catholicism. But the colony’s main purpose was economic, not religious. The Church of England never had a bishop in Virginia or in any of the other 13 colonies. The stockholders of the Virginia Company simply hoped trade with the Indians, along with whatever crops the settles grew, would bring a profit.

The founding of Virginia took place at the high point of Puritan influence in the Church of England. Several of the stockholders and settlers believed the colony should be ruled by Puritan principles. Its early laws required attendance at worship twice a day, strict observance of Sunday s a day of rest & worship, the of profanity and immodesty. But King James detested Puritans, and would not allow his colony to be ruled by them. A war with the native Americans in 1622 became the excuse to bring Virginia under his direct rule. After that, Puritan influence waned. Later Charles I, following James’s anti-Puritan policy, carved out a large part of Virginia for a new colony called Maryland, and placed it under the  Catholic proprietor, Lord Baltimore. Maryland was intended to be a Roman Catholic enclave in the British North American colonies. While many Catholics did move there, Protestants always outnumbered them.

The Puritan Revolution in England made little impact on Virginia. The colonists were more interested in growing the new cash crop of tobacco and opening new lands for its cultivation than in the religious strife going on back in merry old England. Puritan zeal lost its vigor in the midst of economic prosperity. One of the things that led to this spiritual decline was the acceptance of slavery.

Tobacco is a labor intensive crop. The importation of cheap labor in the form of African slaves is what allowed the colonists to grow the tons of tobacco that was now all the rage in Europe. But the Protestant work ethic that lay at the heart of so much of the Puritan mindset was gutted by slavery. Simply put, the Puritan colonists lost touch with why the Puritans back in England wanted to reform the government & Church of England.

Prior to Abolition, the Church of England neglected evangelizing slaves. They did so because of an ancient principle prohibiting Christians from holding fellow believers in slavery. If a slave got saved, his owner was obliged to free her/him. Then, in 1667, a law was passed saying baptism didn’t change a slave’s legal status as the property of his owner.

While the new & emerging American aristocracy of Virginia remained Anglican, many in the lower classes turned to dissident movements. When strict measures were taken against them, hundreds migrated to Catholic Maryland, where there was greater religious freedom. The Quakers & Methodists took turns at making successful forays into Virginia’s church scene.

Other colonies were founded S of Virginia. The Carolinas, granted by the crown to a group of aristocratic stockholders in 1663, developed slowly. To encourage immigration, the proprietors declared religious freedom, which attracted dissidents from Virginia & England. It didn’t take long before the people who settled in the new colonies claimed little to no religious affiliation other than Christian.

Georgia was founded for 2 over-arching reasons. The first was to halt Spanish expansion. The second was to serve as an alternative for England’s over-crowded debtors’ prisons. At the beginning of the 18th C, there were many who wanted to help the sorry lot of those in England who’d fallen into poverty and couldn’t get out. One of the leaders of this campaign was a military hero named James Oglethorpe. He thought a colony ought to be founded in N America that would serve as an alternative to the imprisonment of debtors. A royal charter was granted in 1732, and the first convicts arrived the next year. To these, other were soon added, along with a large group of religious refugees. Although Anglicanism was the official religion of Georgia, it made little impact on the colony. The failure of the Wesleys as Anglican pastors in the colony was typical of others. The Moravians had a measure of success, although their numbers were never large. The most significant religious movement in the early years of Georgia was the response to Whitefield’s preaching. By the time of his death in 1770, he’d left his stamp on much of Georgia’s religious life. Later, Methodists, Baptists and others harvested what he’d sown.

As we’ve seen in previous episodes, it was farther N, at Plymouth & around Boston that Puritanism made its greatest impact. When Roger Williams was banished, he settled Providence, around which the colony of Rhode Island eventually coalesced.

The Hutchinsons and their supporters started Connecticut.

The Puritans, who baptized their children, were influenced by the Pietistic belief in the necessity of a conversion experience in order to be a genuine Christian. The question then rose; “Why do we baptize children if people don’t become Christians till they are converted?” Wouldn’t it be wiser to wait till someone was converted, then dunk ‘em – like, BTW, the Baptists do in Rhode Island? Some wanted to follow this new course. But that clashed with the Puritan goal of founding a Christian society, that is one that was in covenant with God & guided by biblical principles. A Christian commonwealth is conceivable only if, as in ancient Israel, one becomes a member of it by birth, so that the civil and the religious communities are the same. So children Had to be baptized, because that’s how you become part of the Church, and the Church and society were one and the same, just as in ancient Israel they entered the covenant by circumcision as infants.

To make matters even MORE complicated à If infants were baptized so as to make them  “children of the covenant,” what was to be done with infants born of baptized parents who never had a conversion experience?

Many came to the conclusion there needed to be a kind of “half-way covenant,” that included those who were baptized but had no personal conversion experience. The children of such people were to be baptized, for they were still members of the covenant-community. But only those who had experienced a conversion were granted full membership in the church, and were vested with the power to participate in the process of making decisions.

This controversy engendered bitter arguments and monumental ill-will which turned the original optimism of the settlers into a dark foreboding. The tension over the half-way covenant spilled over into new debates over how churches ought to be governed & over relations between local congregations who took different sides in the controversies that began to swirl. The majority settled on a form of church government called Congregationalism. They managed to maintain a grip on doctrinal orthodoxy by adhering to the Westminster Confession.

As mentioned a few moments back, the main center of Roman Catholicism in the N American British colonies was Maryland. In 1632, Charles I granted Cecil Calvert, whose noble title was Lord Baltimore, rights colonization over a region claimed by Virginia. Calvert was Catholic, and the grant was made by Charles in an attempt to garner Catholic support. Catholics in England wanted a colony where they could live without the restrictions they faced at home. Since it was politically unwise to establish a purely Catholic colony, it was decided Maryland would be a realm of religious freedom.

The first settlers arrived in 1634, with only a tenth being Catholic aristocrats. The other nine-tenths were their Protestant servants. Tobacco quickly became the colony’s economic mainstay, giving rise to large, prosperous plantations. Maryland was governed by the Catholic landowners, but the majority of its residents were Protestants. Whenever the shifting political winds in Britain gave opportunity, Protestants sought to wrest power from the Catholic aristocracy. They succeeded when James II was overthrown. Anglicanism then became the official religion of Maryland and Catholics rights were restricted.

Because of the religious liberty practiced as policy in Pennsylvania, a good number of Catholics settled there. Catholicism then made significant gains after the Stuarts were  restored to the throne in England. But after the fall of James II, the growth of Catholicism in all 13 colonies was restricted.

The colonies of New York, New Jersey, weren’t, at first, religious refuges for any particular group. Pennsylvania was founded as a home for William Penn’s Quakers. But not solely so. Penn envisioned the colony as a place of religious freedom for all. The same was true for Delaware, which Penn purchased from the duke of York, and was part of Pennsylvania until 1701.

The religious history of New Jersey is complex. East New Jersey fell in with the strict Puritanism of New England, while the West leaned toward the tolerance of the Quakers. Sadly, many Quakers in New Jersey became a slaveholding aristocracy whose relations with the more traditional abolitionist minded Quakers of Pennsylvania became strained.

What became New York was colonized by the Dutch, whose East India Company established headquarters in Manhattan, and whose Reformed Church came with them. In 1655, they conquered a rival colony the Swedes founded on the Delaware River, then they were in turn conquered by the British in 1664 in a minor contest. What had been New Netherland became New York. The Dutch who stayed, and that was most of them, became British; which they happily consented to, since the homeland hadn’t really given them any support. The British replaced the Dutch Reformed Church with the Church of England, whose only members were the governor’s party until more British arrived and settled.

Let’s end this episode by saying that religious motivations played an important role in the founding of several of the British colonies in N America.  Although at first some were intolerant of religious diversity, time softened that policy and the colonies tended to emulate the example of Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, where religious freedom existed from their inception. Such tolerance eased the natural tensions that rival colonies had as they vied for economic prosperity. The colonies also witnessed from afar the religious tensions ripping the mother-country apart. That may have moved them to cool their intolerance in favor of a more liberal policy of religious freedom. But at the same time other factors were at work that combined to erode the religious fervor of the early settles of the 13 colonies. Slavery, the social inequity based on a plantation based economy, the exploitation of Indians & their lands, all combined to work against the conscience of the English settlers. They found it difficult to follow the pattern of NT Christianity while engaging in practices they knew violated the Spirit of Christ. They entered a phase of life where the desire for wealth trumped the conviction of the Spirit. The result was a spiritual malaise that deadened the religious fervor of the colonies.

But as we’ve seen again & again in our study of Church History, a period of spiritual declension either resolves in widespread apostasy or spiritual renewal. What would it be for the British colonies in N America? Let’s find out, in our next episode.

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This, the 132nd episode of CS is titled, Colonies. Two announcements before we dive in. 1) For those who’ve expressed interest in the CS Reformation Tour in March of 2017, we’ll have the airfare portion of the trip nailed down soon, Two announcements before we dive in.
1) For those who’ve expressed interest in the CS Reformation Tour in March of 2017, we’ll have the airfare portion of the trip nailed down soon, hopefully by the end of April. As soon as we rates, we’ll tell you here and on both the sanctorum.us site and the Facebook page.
2) The 2016 Podcast Awards are taking nominations for your favorite podcasts. If you want to vote for CS, head over to podcastawards.com and do so. Nominated podcasts only make it onto the slate if they receive enough nominations. As a listener, you can nominate Communio Sanctorum once a day for the 2 week nomination period. Both the sanctorum.us site and Facebook page will have more information. Thanks!
The 16th C saw the establishment & growth of the Spanish and Portuguese overseas empires. The Spanish Empire included Mexico, extending well into what is now the western half of the United States. In the 17th C, other Europeans began their own empire building. The most successful of the new colonial powers was Great Britain. Among its first overseas enterprises were the 13 colonies in N America that became the United States.
Though we’ve already talked about the settling of Plymouth & the Puritan settlements of Massachusetts, we’ll do a little review. The first British colonial ventures in N America failed. In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh was granted a charter for colonization. He named the area Virginia, after the Virgin Queen Elizabeth. But his 1st 2 ventures, failed. The first group of settlers returned to England, while the 2nd disappeared.
Then, in 1607 the first permanent colonization of Virginia began at Jamestown, named after the new British King James. There was a chaplain among them, for the Virginia Company who sponsored the venture  hoped to establish the Church of England in the new land, and to offer its services both to the settlers and Indians. It was also hoped the new colony halt Spanish expansion, which was feared for its spread of the dread “popery,” as Puritans called Catholicism. But the colony’s main purpose was economic, not religious. The Church of England never had a bishop in Virginia or in any of the other 13 colonies. The stockholders of the Virginia Company simply hoped trade with the Indians, along with whatever crops the settles grew, would bring a profit.
The founding of Virginia took place at the high point of Puritan influence in the Church of England. Several of the stockholders and settlers believed the colony should be ruled by Puritan principles. Its early laws required attendance at worship twice a day, strict observance of Sunday s a day of rest & worship, the of profanity and immodesty. But King James detested Puritans, and would not allow his colony to be ruled by them. A war with the native Americans in 1622 became the excuse to bring Virginia under his direct rule. After that, Puritan influence waned. Later Charles I, following James’s anti-Puritan policy, carved out a large part of Virginia for a new colony called Maryland, and placed it under the  Catholic proprietor, Lord Baltimore. Maryland was intended to be a Roman Catholic enclave in the British North American colonies. While many Catholics did move there, Protestants always outnumbered them.
The Puritan Revolution in England made little impact on Virginia. The colonists were more interested in growing the new cash crop of tobacco and opening new lands for its cultivation than in the religious strife going on back in merry old England. Puritan zeal lost its vigor in the midst of economic prosperity. One of the things that led to this spiritual decline was the acceptance of slavery.
Tobacco is a labor intensive crop. The importation of cheap labor in the form of African slaves is what allowed the colonists to grow the tons of tobacco that was now all the rage in Europe.]]>
Lance Ralston clean 17:16
131-Results http://www.sanctorum.us/131-results/ Sun, 10 Apr 2016 09:01:23 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1229 http://www.sanctorum.us/131-results/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/131-results/feed/ 2 This episode of CS is titled, Results. Now that we’ve come through the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment & considered many but not all of the movements and luminaries of this period, it’s time to hold a brief review of the results of what took place in Europe and the New World following all this turmoil. […] This episode of CS is titled, Results.

Now that we’ve come through the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment & considered many but not all of the movements and luminaries of this period, it’s time to hold a brief review of the results of what took place in Europe and the New World following all this turmoil.

Once we embark in the next Era of Church History, we’ll find ourselves in the weeds of so many movements that we’re going to have to back up and take it in an even more summary form than we have; and that’s been pretty overview-ish as it is. You see, the great warning Roman Catholics gave when the Protestants split turned out to be true. They warned if Luther and the other Reformers left the Mother Church, they would commence a fragmenting that would never end. They foretold that everyone who had their own idea of the way things ought to be would end up running off to start their own movement, denomination and church. The hundreds of denominations and tens of thousands of independent churches today are testimony to that fragmenting. Well, there’s just no way we can chronicle all the different direction the Church went. We’ll need to stand back a only mark the broad strokes.

Though the Enlightenment heavyweight John Locke was an active advocate of religious tolerance, he made it clear tolerance didn’t apply to Catholics. The justified English fear of a Jacobite conspiracy moved Locke and the Anglican clergy to be wary of granting Catholics a full spectrum of civil rights. On the contrary, the English were at one point so paranoid, a 1699 statute made the saying of a Latin mass a crime.

Many of the Roman Church apologists were talented writers and challenged Anglican teachings. In 1665, Bishop Tillotson answered John Sergeant’s treatise titled Sure Footing in Christianity, or Rational Discourses on the Rule of Faith. Sergeant worried some Protestants might convert to Catholicism for political reasons. His anxiety grew in 1685 when the Roman Catholic Duke of York, James II, became king. King James’s Declaration of Indulgences removed restrictions blocking Catholics from serving in the government.

The arrival of William III and the what’s called “Glorious Revolution” ended James’ efforts to return England to the Catholic fold. He was allowed to leave England for France at the end of 1688. Then in 1714 in the Peace of Utrecht which ended the War of the Spanish Succession, King Louis XIV of France, promised he’d no longer back the Stuart claim to England’s throne.

During the 18th C, Catholics in England were a tiny minority. At the dawn of the C, there were only 2 convents in England, with 25 nuns. By 1770, they still numbered no more than 80,000. Catholics lacked civil & political rights and were considered social outsiders. The Marriage Act of 1753 disallowed any marriage not conducted according to the Anglican rite, excepting Quakers & Jews.

This is not to say all English Protestants were intolerant of Roman Catholics. Some of the upper classes appreciated varied aspects of Roman culture. They owned art produced by Catholic artists and thought making the “Grand Tour” to Rome as a vital part of a proper education.

Still, anti-Catholic feelings on the part of the common people was seen in the Gordon Riots  of 1780. When the 1699 statue banning the Mass was removed, a mob burned down Catholic homes & churches. Catholics didn’t receive full civil liberty until the Emancipation Act of 1829.

In England, while Anglicans, Baptists, and Catholics criticized each other, they agreed Deism represented a serious threat to the Christian Faith because it was in England that Deism found its most fertile soil.

In 1645 Lord Herbert of Cherbury, considered the “Father of English Deism,” proposed 5 articles as the basis of his the rationalist religion.

(1) God exists;

(2) We are obliged to revere God;

(3) Worship consists of practical morality;

(4) We should repent of sin;

(5) We’ll receive divine recompense in the world to come according to how we’ve lived.

Charles Blount published several works that furthered the Deist cause in England. John Toland’s Christianity not Mysterious in 1696 opened the floodgates of Deistic literature. Contemporaries of John Locke viewed his The Reasonableness of Christianity as preparing the way for Toland’s explicitly deist work. Locke tried to blunt the accusation by saying while Toland was a friend, his ideas were his own and had not connection to Locke.

The first half of the 18th C saw an onslaught of literature from deists that seemed to batter Anglicans into a corner and make the Gospel seem silly and inspid. So much so that in 1722 Daniel Defoe complained that “no age, since the founding and forming the Christian Church was ever like, in open avowed atheism, blasphemies, and heresies, to the age we now live in.” When Montesquieu visited England in 1729 he wrote “There is no religion, and the subject if mentioned, excites nothing but laughter.”

Eventually, in response to this wave of literature, Christian apologists embarked on a huge campaign to address a number of -isms that had risen to silence the Faith. They dealt with Deism, Atheism, a resurgent Arianism, Socinianism, & Unitarianism. Their task was complicated by the fact many of their Deist opponents claimed to be proponents of the “true” teachings of the Christian faith.

Richard Bentley observed that the claims of deists attacked the very heart of the Christian faith. They said, “That the soul is material, Christianity a cheat, Scripture a falsehood, hell a fable, heaven a dream, our life without providence, and our death without hope, such are the items of the glorious gospel of these deist evangelists.”

A number of Deists argued that God, the Architect and Creator of the universe, does not providentially involve himself in his creation. Rather, he established fixed laws to govern the way the world runs. Since the laws are fixed, no biblical miracles could have taken place. So, the Bible is filled with errors & nonsense, a premise deists like Anthony Collins claimed was confirmed by critics like Spinoza. Prophetic references to a Messiah in the Old Testament they claimed were not fulfilled by Christ.

Deists maintained that salvation is NOT an issue of believing the Gospel. Rather, God requires all peoples to follow rationally construed moral laws regarding what’s right and wrong. Since a measure of reason is given to everyone, God is fair, they contended, in holding everyone accountable to the same rational, moral standards.

The astute listener may note that that sounds close to what some modern scientists are advocating today. We hear much about the growing number of once atheist scientists who are coming to a faith in God. That report is true, but it’s important that we qualify the word “god” with a small ‘g’ not a capital “G” as in the God of the Bible. The god of many recent scientist converts is more akin to the Watchmaker deity of the Deists than the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob & Paul.

Deists believed what they called “natural religion” underlies all religion. We learn about it, not from the special revelation of Scripture, but from, as Immanuel Kant would say “the starry heavens above, and the moral law within.”

Christian apologists unleashed scores of books in an anti-deist counterattack. One of the most effective was Jacques Abbadie’s Treatise on the Truth of the Christian Religion. Published in 1684, it was one of the earliest and most widely circulated apologetics for the truthfulness of the Christian faith based on “facts.” Abbadie was a Protestant pastor in London. He countered deists’ arguments against the resurrection and alleged discrepancies in Scripture. The points he made remain some of the most potent for apologetics today. He pointed out the public nature of Christ’s appearances after the resurrection. The change in the disciples’ attitudes, from trembling on fear to a confidence in the truthfulness and power of The Gospel as evidenced by their preaching and willingness to die for the Faith. In the 18th C, Abbadie’s work was found in the libraries of more French nobles than even the writings of Bossuet or Pascal.

You may remember a couple episodes back, our brief coverage of the work of the skeptic David Hume. Hume attacked the concept of “cause and effect,” claiming that it was only an unsubstantiated presupposition allowing for it, that made cause and effect a rule. Hume’s criticism turned those who bought his ideas into inveterate critics unable to come to conclusions about ANYTHING. John Wesley described Hume as “the most insolent despiser of truth and virtue that ever appeared in the world, an avowed enemy to God and man, and to all that is sacred and valuable upon earth.”

The Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid developed an erudite response to Hume’s skepticism. In his An Essay on Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense, published in 1764, Reid critiqued Hume’s theory: “The theory of ideas, like the Trojan horse, had a specious appearance both of innocence and beauty; but if those philosophers had known, that it carried in its belly death and destruction to all science and common sense, they would not have broken down their walls to give it admittance.” Hume’s principles, Reid showed, led to absurd conclusions.

While Skepticism and Deism gained many adherents early on, and Christianity struggled for a while as it adjusted to the new challenge, it eventually produced a plethora of responses that regained a good measure of the intellectual ground that had been lost. This period can be said to be the breeding ground for today’s apologetic culture and the core of its philosophical stream.

In 1790 Edmund Burke rejoiced that Christian apologists had largely won against the Deists.

At the dawning of the 18th C, the Scottish clans with their rough & tumble culture & warlike tradition continued to reign over a good part of the Scottish Highlands, which accounts for about a third of the total area. In contrast, the capital of Edinburgh was a small city of no more than 35,000 crowded into dirty tenements, stacked above one another.

By the Act of Union of 1707, Scotland and England became one. The Scottish Parliament was dissolved and merged with the English. Scots were given 45 members in the House of Commons. But tension remained between N & S.

In the Patronage Act of 1712, the English Crown claimed the right to choose Scottish pastors; an apparent end run by the Anglican Church of England around the rights of Presbyterian Scotland. Seceder Presbyterians refused to honor the pastors approved by England. They started their own independent churches.

Then, in 1742 the Cambuslang Revival swept Scotland. From 4 months, the church in Cambuslang, 4 miles from Glasgow, witnessed large numbers of people attending prayer meetings and showing great fervency in their devotion to God. In June, George Whitefield visited and preached several times. In August, meetings saw as many as 40,000. The pastor of the church wrote, “People sat unwearied till 2 in the morning to hear sermons, disregarding the weather. You could scarce walk a yard, but you must tread upon some, either rejoicing in God for mercies received, or crying out for more. Thousands and thousands have I seen, melted down under the word and power of God.”

Whitefield then preached to large crowds in Edinburgh and other cities. Other centers of revival popped up.

In the 2nd half of the 18th C, Scotland gained a reputation as a center for the Enlightenment under such men as David Hume, Thomas Reid, Adam Smith, and Francis Hutchison. Voltaire wrote that “today it is from Scotland that we get rules of taste in all the arts, from epic poetry to gardening.”

An interesting development took place in Scotland at that time, maybe born by a weariness of the internecine conflict that was endemic to Scottish history. A cultured “literati” in Edinburgh participated in different clubs, but all aimed at striking some kind of balance where people of different persuasions could hold discourse without feeling the need to come to blows. They sought enlightened ways to improve society & agriculture. In the inaugural edition of the Edinburgh Review, 1755, the editor encouraged Scots “to a more eager pursuit of learning themselves, and to do honor to their country.”

Evangelicals like Edinburgh pastors John Erskine and Robert Walker hoped to reform society using some of the new ideas of Enlightenment thinkers. They embarked on a campaign to safeguard & expand civil liberties. But unlike more moderate members of the Church of Scotland, they believed conversion to a personal faith in Christ was a prerequisite for reform. Erskine appreciated George Whitefield and edited and published a number of Jonathan Edwards’s works.

In Ireland, the Glorious Revolution was not at all “glorious” for Catholics. On July 1, 1690, the armies of the Protestant King William III defeated the forces of the Catholic James II at the Battle of the Boyne and seized Dublin. In 1691, Jacobites in Ireland either fled or surrendered. The Banishment Act of 1697 ordered all Catholic clergy to leave Ireland or risk execution. Poverty and illiteracy made life miserable for large numbers of Irish Catholics.

English restrictions on Ireland were brutal. Power resided in the hands of a small group of wealthy Anglican elite of the official Church of Ireland. Even Scottish Presbyterians who had settled in Ulster were excluded from several civil and military roles. And the Irish had to pay the cost of quartering English troops to keep the peace.

Not to be denied, some Catholic priests donned secular clothes so as to continue to minister to their spiritual charges without putting them in danger.

In the last decades of the 18th C the Irish population grew rapidly. Methodists numbered some 14,000 in 1790 and allied with other Protestants who’d come over from England, settled the N of the Island. Protestants in Ireland, whatever their stripe, typically held fierce anti-Catholic sentiments, just as Catholics were usually hostile toward Protestants.

In 1778 the Catholic Relief Act allowed Catholics to buy and inherit land. In 1782 the Irish Parliament gained independence, and laws against Catholics were changed. But the English monarchy managed to maintain its authority and put down the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

The upshot of all that is this à While The Gospel faced a withering barrage form some of the most potent of Enlightenment critics, skeptics and foes, and it was slow to respond, which allowed the ideas of rationalism to poison the well of much Western philosophical thought, the challenge was eventually answered, not only by an eloquent reply, but by the stirring of the Holy Spirit Who brought winds of revival for which the most elite skeptic had no come back.

Christianity was tested in the British Isles during the 18th C, but it passed the test.

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This episode of CS is titled, Results. Now that we’ve come through the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment & considered many but not all of the movements and luminaries of this period, it’s time to hold a brief review of the results of what too... Now that we’ve come through the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment & considered many but not all of the movements and luminaries of this period, it’s time to hold a brief review of the results of what took place in Europe and the New World following all this turmoil.
Once we embark in the next Era of Church History, we’ll find ourselves in the weeds of so many movements that we’re going to have to back up and take it in an even more summary form than we have; and that’s been pretty overview-ish as it is. You see, the great warning Roman Catholics gave when the Protestants split turned out to be true. They warned if Luther and the other Reformers left the Mother Church, they would commence a fragmenting that would never end. They foretold that everyone who had their own idea of the way things ought to be would end up running off to start their own movement, denomination and church. The hundreds of denominations and tens of thousands of independent churches today are testimony to that fragmenting. Well, there’s just no way we can chronicle all the different direction the Church went. We’ll need to stand back a only mark the broad strokes.
Though the Enlightenment heavyweight John Locke was an active advocate of religious tolerance, he made it clear tolerance didn’t apply to Catholics. The justified English fear of a Jacobite conspiracy moved Locke and the Anglican clergy to be wary of granting Catholics a full spectrum of civil rights. On the contrary, the English were at one point so paranoid, a 1699 statute made the saying of a Latin mass a crime.
Many of the Roman Church apologists were talented writers and challenged Anglican teachings. In 1665, Bishop Tillotson answered John Sergeant’s treatise titled Sure Footing in Christianity, or Rational Discourses on the Rule of Faith. Sergeant worried some Protestants might convert to Catholicism for political reasons. His anxiety grew in 1685 when the Roman Catholic Duke of York, James II, became king. King James’s Declaration of Indulgences removed restrictions blocking Catholics from serving in the government.
The arrival of William III and the what’s called “Glorious Revolution” ended James’ efforts to return England to the Catholic fold. He was allowed to leave England for France at the end of 1688. Then in 1714 in the Peace of Utrecht which ended the War of the Spanish Succession, King Louis XIV of France, promised he’d no longer back the Stuart claim to England’s throne.
During the 18th C, Catholics in England were a tiny minority. At the dawn of the C, there were only 2 convents in England, with 25 nuns. By 1770, they still numbered no more than 80,000. Catholics lacked civil & political rights and were considered social outsiders. The Marriage Act of 1753 disallowed any marriage not conducted according to the Anglican rite, excepting Quakers & Jews.
This is not to say all English Protestants were intolerant of Roman Catholics. Some of the upper classes appreciated varied aspects of Roman culture. They owned art produced by Catholic artists and thought making the “Grand Tour” to Rome as a vital part of a proper education.
Still, anti-Catholic feelings on the part of the common people was seen in the Gordon Riots  of 1780. When the 1699 statue banning the Mass was removed, a mob burned down Catholic homes & churches. Catholics didn’t receive full civil liberty until the Emancipation Act of 1829.
In England, while Anglicans, Baptists, and Catholics criticized each other, they agreed Deism represented a serious threat to the Christian Faith because it was in England that Deism found its most fertile soil.
In 1645 Lord Herbert of Cherbury, considered the “Father of English Deism,” proposed 5 articles as the basis of his the rationalist religion.
(1) God exists;
(2) We are obliged to revere God;
]]>
Lance Ralston clean 18:08
130-Kant http://www.sanctorum.us/130-kant/ Sun, 20 Mar 2016 09:01:14 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1222 http://www.sanctorum.us/130-kant/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/130-kant/feed/ 2 This episode is titled, Kant. At the conclusion of episode 125 – The Rationalist Option Part 2, I said we’d return later to the subject of the philosophy of the Enlightenment to consider its impact on theology & Church History. We’ll do that in this episode. In that episode the past philosopher we considered was […] This episode is titled, Kant.

At the conclusion of episode 125 – The Rationalist Option Part 2, I said we’d return later to the subject of the philosophy of the Enlightenment to consider its impact on theology & Church History. We’ll do that in this episode.

In that episode the past philosopher we considered was the empiricist David Hume, whose skepticism went so far as to suggest that the common sense notion of cause and effect was an illusion. Hume said that all we can says is what we experience, but that we can’t know with certainty that one things gives rise to another, no matter how many times that thing may be repeated. In may in fact at some time and place NOT repeat that pattern. So to draw universal laws from what we experience isn’t fitting. The effect of Hume’s critique was to cast doubt on reason. Empiricists and Rationalists were set at odds with each other.

Hume and his Empiricist buddies weren’t without their opponents. A scotsman named James Reid published An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense in 1764. Reid argued for the value of self-evident knowledge or what he called common sense. His position came to be known as Common Sense Philosophy. I had many adherents among the growing number of Deists.

In France, Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, applied the principles of reason to theories of government. He came to the conclusion a republic was the preferred form of government. Since power corrupts, Montesquieu said government ought to be exercised by 3 equal branches that would balance each other: the legislative, executive, and judicial. He proposed these ideas 30 years before either the Americans or French adopted them in their own political systems.

At bit after Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau suggested that what the rationalists called  progress à Wasn’t! Enlightenment thinkers and thought generally regarded human history as a record of advance form less to great sophistication = Progress! Societies were moving out form a backward barbarianism to advanced civilizations. The Enlightenment’s emphasis on Reason was evidence humanity was emerging from the pre-scientific belief in religious superstition into a new era of rationalism. Rousseau argued that much of what people considered progress was in fact a departure from their natural state that was contrary to human flourishing! He called the modern world and advanced civilization an artificiality. Rousseau advocated a return to the original order, whatever that was. He lauded the noble savage who lived in a pure state unfettered by all the conventions & inventions of modern society. Whatever govt there was ought to serve rather than rule. Religion ought to be a thing of the lowest common denominator with no one telling anyone else what to believe or how to worship. Rousseau said that lowest common denominator was that there is a God, the soul is immortal and there are moral norms. Which sounds an awful lot to me like Rousseau contradicted the very thing he said no one could do – tell others what to believe. “Believe whatever you want, as long as you agree with me,” seems to be the rule of a lot of skeptics.

And then at the end of the 18th C, along came a German philosopher that kinda’ blew everything up. Many consider Immanuel Kant the central figure of modern philosophy.

Before we dive in, I need to pause and say I Kant understand Kant. Seriously – right about the time I think I’m getting a handle on Kantian philosophy, he’ll say something that makes it all slip away. I hope that when I teach, my words make things clearer, not more obscure. I guess Kant is trying to clarify rather than obfuscate, but his thoughts swirl in a realm far beyond my puny intellectual capacity.

So the best I can do is seek to explain Kant’s ideas as others have expressed them.

Kant was born in 1724 in the city of Konigsberg in Prussia to Pietist parents. He was a solid student but no standout. At 16 he began studies at the University of Konigsberg where he ended up spending his entire career. He studied the philosophy of Leibniz [Lib-nitz] and Wolff and the new mathematics physics of the Englishman Isaac Newton. When his father had a stroke on 1746, Kant began tutoring in the villages around Konigsberg.

Kant never married but had a rich social life. He was a popular author and teacher, even before publishing his best known philosophical works.

Kant was a firm believer in rationalism until he was awakened from his, as he called it, “dogmatic slumber” by reading Hume.

In the work for which Kant is best known, his 1781, Critique of Pure Reason, he proposed a radical alternative to both the empiricism of Hume and the rationalism of Descartes. According to Kant, there’s no such thing as innate ideas. But there are fundamental structures of the mind, and within those structures we place whatever our senses perceive. Those first and most important structures are time & space; then follow 12 “categories.”

These categories are unity, plurality, quantity; quality; reality, negation, limitation, subsistence, causality, relation; possibility, & necessity. Did you get that? There will be a quiz.

Kant said time, space, and the 12 categories aren’t something we perceive via our senses. Rather, they’re structures our minds use to organize our perceptions. In order to be able to USE or process a sensation, we have to put it into one of these mental structures. It’s only after the mind orders them within these categories that they become intelligible experiences.

Kant said that no one really knows a thing as it is in itself. What we know is only what’s going on in the activity of our minds. It’s our perception of a thing we know – not the thing ITSELF as it is. Let me use an illustration that may get this across, or not. WE can make this pleasant too. Let’s say you and I are on the Big Island of Hawaii; where my wife and I are when this episode posts on Sunday March 20th. And let’s pretend we’re both looking at a black sand beach at sunset. The sun is half a golden orb settling in the blue ocean. A half dozen palm trees stand in dark silhouette against a multi-colored sky of deep blue, fading to indigo, and morphing to scarlet & orange.

I just gave names to several colors. But those colors are labels that come from categories in my mind I sort what my eyes see into. You do the same. But how could we know if what I experience as orange is the same as what you know as orange. Maybe my orange is your blue. My black might be your white. But since we’ve always labeled what we perceive by those labels, that’s what they are to us. Maybe if what you & I perceive were to be somehow traded, we’d freak out because of the total messing with our categories it just played.

Kant said that in knowledge, what we have isn’t things as they are in themselves, but rather things as our mind grasps them. So, there’s no such thing as purely objective knowledge, and the pure rationality of Cartesians, Empiricists, and Deists is an illusion.

If true, Kant’s work meant many of the arguments used to support Christian doctrine no longer worked. If existence isn’t an objective reality, but just a category of our mind, there’s no way to prove the existence of God, the soul, or anything else. To be blunt, Descartes would be stuck at “I think, therefore I am.” He could go no further than that.

Kant, like so many Enlightenment thinkers, was loath to give up on the idea of the existence of God completely. They wanted to hang on to it. But with Kantian philosophy, faith and reason become utterly separated form each other.

Kant dealt with religion in several of his works—particularly in his Critique of Practical Reason, published in 1788. There he argued that, although pure reason can’t prove the existence of God or the soul, there’s “practical reason” that has to do with the moral life, and whose procedure is different from that of pure reason. But this practical reason, becomes a concession, a nod to those who can’t operate by the higher pure reason. It didn’t take long for others to realize practical reason was like philosophical training wheels that had to come off if humanity was to move forward as a rational creature.

Kant’s significance to religion and theology goes far beyond his uninspired attempts to ground religion in a practical morality. His philosophical work dealt a deathblow to the easy rationalism of his predecessors, and to the notion it’s possible to speak in purely rational and objective terms of matters like the existence of God and the soul. Following Kant, theologians tended to accept his divorce of faith and reason. Eventually some would question the universality and immutability of his categories of the mind, arguing that things like psychology, culture, & even language shape the categories. Kant’s work, which in some ways was the high point of modern philosophy, set the stage for the post-modern critique of the insistence on objectivity and universality as signs of true knowledge.

And though it’s early, We’ll call it quits at this point for two reasons.

1) I’m on vacation and my wife is calling me to go watch that sunset with her.

2) My head hurts. I Kant get all these ideas out of my head.

Okay, I know – bad pun.

]]>
This episode is titled, Kant. At the conclusion of episode 125 – The Rationalist Option Part 2, I said we’d return later to the subject of the philosophy of the Enlightenment to consider its impact on theology & Church History. At the conclusion of episode 125 – The Rationalist Option Part 2, I said we’d return later to the subject of the philosophy of the Enlightenment to consider its impact on theology & Church History. We’ll do that in this episode.
In that episode the past philosopher we considered was the empiricist David Hume, whose skepticism went so far as to suggest that the common sense notion of cause and effect was an illusion. Hume said that all we can says is what we experience, but that we can’t know with certainty that one things gives rise to another, no matter how many times that thing may be repeated. In may in fact at some time and place NOT repeat that pattern. So to draw universal laws from what we experience isn’t fitting. The effect of Hume’s critique was to cast doubt on reason. Empiricists and Rationalists were set at odds with each other.
Hume and his Empiricist buddies weren’t without their opponents. A scotsman named James Reid published An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense in 1764. Reid argued for the value of self-evident knowledge or what he called common sense. His position came to be known as Common Sense Philosophy. I had many adherents among the growing number of Deists.
In France, Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, applied the principles of reason to theories of government. He came to the conclusion a republic was the preferred form of government. Since power corrupts, Montesquieu said government ought to be exercised by 3 equal branches that would balance each other: the legislative, executive, and judicial. He proposed these ideas 30 years before either the Americans or French adopted them in their own political systems.
At bit after Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau suggested that what the rationalists called  progress à Wasn’t! Enlightenment thinkers and thought generally regarded human history as a record of advance form less to great sophistication = Progress! Societies were moving out form a backward barbarianism to advanced civilizations. The Enlightenment’s emphasis on Reason was evidence humanity was emerging from the pre-scientific belief in religious superstition into a new era of rationalism. Rousseau argued that much of what people considered progress was in fact a departure from their natural state that was contrary to human flourishing! He called the modern world and advanced civilization an artificiality. Rousseau advocated a return to the original order, whatever that was. He lauded the noble savage who lived in a pure state unfettered by all the conventions & inventions of modern society. Whatever govt there was ought to serve rather than rule. Religion ought to be a thing of the lowest common denominator with no one telling anyone else what to believe or how to worship. Rousseau said that lowest common denominator was that there is a God, the soul is immortal and there are moral norms. Which sounds an awful lot to me like Rousseau contradicted the very thing he said no one could do – tell others what to believe. “Believe whatever you want, as long as you agree with me,” seems to be the rule of a lot of skeptics.
And then at the end of the 18th C, along came a German philosopher that kinda’ blew everything up. Many consider Immanuel Kant the central figure of modern philosophy.
Before we dive in, I need to pause and say I Kant understand Kant. Seriously – right about the time I think I’m getting a handle on Kantian philosophy, he’ll say something that makes it all slip away. I hope that when I teach, my words make things clearer, not more obscure. I guess Kant is trying to clarify rather than obfuscate, but his thoughts swirl in a realm far beyond my puny intellectual capacity.
So the best I can do is seek to explain Kant’s ideas as others have expressed them.
Kant was born in 1724 in the city of Konigsberg in Prussia to Pietist parents.]]>
Lance Ralston clean 12:05
129-Moravians & Wesley http://www.sanctorum.us/129-moravians-wesley/ Sun, 13 Mar 2016 09:01:37 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1219 http://www.sanctorum.us/129-moravians-wesley/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/129-moravians-wesley/feed/ 2 The title of this episode is Moravians and Wesley. We took a look at Pietism in an earlier episode. Pietism was a reaction to the dry dogmatism of Protestant Scholasticism and the reductionist rationalism of Enlightenment philosophers. It aimed to renew a living faith in a living Christ. As a movement, it was led in […] The title of this episode is Moravians and Wesley.

We took a look at Pietism in an earlier episode. Pietism was a reaction to the dry dogmatism of Protestant Scholasticism and the reductionist rationalism of Enlightenment philosophers. It aimed to renew a living faith in a living Christ.

As a movement, it was led in the 17th C by Philip Jakob Spener & August Francke [frank -uh].

Spener had a godson named Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, a German Count. Even as a young child, Nicholas possessed a deep devotion to God.  His parents were devout Pietists & sent him to the University of Halle, where he studied under the Pietist leader Francke. Later he went to Wittenberg, a center of Lutheran orthodoxy, where he repeatedly clashed with his teachers. After traveling to other countries & studying law, he married and entered the service of the court of Dresden.

It was there Zinzendorf first met a group of Moravians who’d change the course of his life. Moravia lies in the SE of what is today, the Czech Republic. You’ll remember that Jan Hus of Prague was one of the earliest Reformers. The Moravians were Hussites, that is, they were long time adherents to the renewal begun by Jan Hus. They’d been forced by persecution to forsake their native land. Zinzendorf offered them asylum on his extensive lands. It was there they founded the a community called Herrnhut. This community so attracted Zinzendorf he resigned his cushy post in the Court of Dresden and joined it. Under his direction, the Moravians became part of the local Lutheran parish. But the Lutherans were unwilling to trust foreigners who’d been adherents of Pietism.

In 1731, while visiting Denmark, Zinzendorf met a group of Eskimos converted by the Lutheran missionary Hans Egede.  This kindled in the Count an interest in missions that would dominate the rest of his life. Soon the community at Herrnhut was on fire with the same zeal, and in 1732 its 1st missionaries left for the Caribbean. A few years later there were Moravian missionaries in Africa, India, S & N America. They founded the communities of Bethlehem & Nazareth in Pennsylvania, and Salem, N Carolina. In just 20 yrs a movement that began with 2 hundred refugees had more missionaries overseas than had been sent out by all Protestant churches since the Protestant Reformation 2 centuries earlier.

In the meantime, conflicts with the Lutheran authorities of Germany did slaken. Zinzendorf was banned from Saxony, and traveled to N America, where in 1741he was present at the founding of the Bethlehem township. Then, not long after his return to Germany, a peace was hammered out between Lutherans & Moravians. But it didn’t last. Zinzendorf agreed to become bishop of the Moravians, but from a spiritual line of ecclesiastical authority reaching back to Jan Hus. The Lutherans didn’t recognize Hus; they wanted the Count’s authority to link to Luther.

I insert a little personal aside here: What silly things we Christian bicker over. Doesn’t a person’s spiritual authority rest in their being called by God, not man? What matter is it that it comes through this one-time leader or that? It’s the original source that matters.

Zinzendorf died at Herrnhut in 1760, and shortly after his followers broke with Lutheranism. Although the Moravian church never had a large membership and was unable to continue sending so many missionaries, its example contributed to the great missionary awakening of the 19th C. Perhaps the greatest significance of the movement was its impact on John Wesley and, through him, on the Methodist tradition.

In late 1735 & early ‘36, a group of Moravians was sailing to the New World hoping to preach to the Native Americans of Georgia. On board was a young Anglican priest, named John Wesley, whom the Georgia Governor Oglethorpe had invited to serve as a pastor in Savannah. The young Wesley accepted the offer and hoped himself to preach to the Indians. The early part of the voyage was calm and Wesley learned enough German to communicate with the Moravians. Then the weather turned and the ship was soon in real danger. The mainmast split, and panic nearly ruined the crew. The Moravians, by contrast were utterly calm and sang hymns throughout the ordeal. Meanwhile, Wesley, chaplain of the vessel, came to the realization he was more concerned for himself than his shipmates. After the storm, the Moravians told him they were able to brave the storm and reality of death because of their conviction their lives were in God’s hands & should they perish at sea, they would but pass into the Hands of their glorious King. Wesley simply could not relate to that kind of trust in the God he served professionally.

Arriving in Savannah, Wesley asked one of the Moravians named Gottlieb Spangenberg for advice regarding his work as a pastor and missionary. He left a record in his diary of the conversation:

Spangenberg asked, “My brother, I must first ask you 1 or 2 questions. Have you the witness within yourself? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit, that you are a child of God?”

Wesley wrote, “I was surprised, and knew not what to answer. He observed it, and asked, ‘Do you know Jesus Christ?’ I paused, and said, ‘I know he is the Saviour of the world.’ ‘True,’ replied he; ‘but do you know he has saved you?’ I answered, ‘I hope he has died to save me.’ He only added, ‘Do you know yourself?’ I said, ‘I do.’

Then Wesley added this, “But I fear they were vain words.”

These experiences left Wesley both profoundly moved and confused. Wesley had always thought of himself as a good Christian. His father, Samuel, was an Anglican priest, and his mother Susanna the daughter of another. She’d been particularly careful in the religious instruction of her 19! children. When John was 5, fire broke out in their home. He was miraculously saved, and after that his mother thought of him as “a brand plucked from the burning;” no doubt because God had a special plan for him.

At Oxford, Wesley distinguished himself academically & in terms of his religious devotion. After helping his father’s parish work for a season, he returned to Oxford, where he joined a religious society founded by his brother Charles and a group of friends. Its members made a covenant to lead a holy & sober life, to take communion weekly, to be faithful in private devotions, to visit prisons, and spend 3 hrs every afternoon, studying the Bible and books of devotion together. Since John was the only ordained priest among them & since he possessed an aptitude to teach, John became group’s leader.   It didn’t take long before other students mocked the group, calling it the “holy club” & because of their methodical lifestyle è “Methodists.”

All that preceded his trip to Georgia. But now,  he doubts the reality of his faith. Adding to that doubt was the fact that he failed miserably as a pastor. He expected his parishioners to behave as his holy club had back in England. For their part, his parishioners expected him to be content with their attendance in church. John’s brother Charles, also in Georgia serving under Governor Oglethorpe, was disappointed with his work, and decided to return to England. John stayed on, only because he refused to give up. Then he was forced to leave under messy circumstances. A young woman whom he’d courted but broken up with married another. Wesley, judging her to be fickle, denied her communion. He was sued for defamation. Angry at this treatment, though it was largely self-inflicted, he returned to England, to the rejoicing of the people of Georgia.

At a low point and not knowing what else to do, Wesley contacted the Moravians. Peter Boehler became Wesley’s personal contact and counselor. He concluded he lacked a genuine saving faith & should stop preaching. Boehler advised him to continue until he possessed the faith he preached about.

Finally, on May 24, 1738, Wesley had the experience that changed his life. He wrote …

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation: And an assurance was given me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

After that, Wesley no longer doubted his salvation. In fact, the obsession he’d had before about wondering if he was saved was replaced by a confidence that freed him to turn his considerable intellect to other things. Mostly, to the salvation of others.  He went immediately to visit the Moravian community at Herrnhut. Although inspiring, the visit convinced him Moravian spirituality was ill-suited to his temperament and involvement in social issues. In spite of his gratitude, he decided to not become a Moravian.

While all this was taking place, another former member of the “holy club,” one George Whitefield, had become a famous preacher. A few years earlier Whitefield was moved by an experience similar to Wesley’s at Aldersgate. He now divided his time between his parish in Georgia and preaching in England, where he had remarkable success, specially at the industrial center of Bristol. Whitefield’s preaching was emotional, and when critics objected to the way he used the pulpit he began preaching in outdoors; in the open air, as in Georgia. When the work in Bristol multiplied and he knew he’d need to soon return to Georgia, Whitefield asked Wesley to help by taking charge during his absence.

Wesley accepted Whitefield’s invitation. But Whitefield’s fiery preaching was not Wesley’s cup of tea. He objected to open-aire preaching. Later he commented on those early days, declaring that at that time he was so convinced that God wished everything to be done in order, that he assumed it a sin to save souls outside a church. Over time, in view of the incredible results & dramatic conversions, Wesley gave a reluctant nod to open-air work. He was also worried about the response to his preaching since it was so very different form Whitefield’s. But people often exhibited the same kind of response to his preaching they had to Whitefield’s. Some wept loudly & lamented their sins. Others collapsed in anguish. They would then express great joy, declaring they were wonderfully cleansed. Wesley preferred more solemn proceedings, but eventually decided what was taking place was a struggle between the devil & the Holy Spirit, and he ought not hinder God’s work. Over time, these emotional filled reactions of new converts diminished.

Wesley and Whitefield worked together for some time, although Wesley eventually became the leader of the movement. They parted because of theological differences. Both were Calvinists in most matters; but, on the issue of predestination and free will, Wesley departed from orthodox Calvinism, preferring the Arminian position. After several debates, the 2 friends decided each should follow his own path, and that they’d avoid controversies. That agreement was kept well by their followers. With the help of the Countess of Huntingdon, Whitefield organized the Calvinist Methodist Church, strongest in Wales.

Wesley had no interest in founding a new denomination. He was an Anglican, and throughout his life remained so. His goal was to cultivate the faith of the populace of England, much as Pietism was doing in Germany among Lutherans. He avoided scheduling his preaching in conflict with the services of the Church of England, and always took for granted that Methodist meetings would serve as preparation to attend Anglican worship and take communion there. For him, as for most of the church through the centuries, the center of worship was communion. This he took and expected his followers to take as frequently as possible, in the official services of the Church of England.

Although the movement had no intention of becoming a separate church, it did need an organization. In Bristol, the birthplace of the movement, Wesley’s followers organized into societies that at first met in private homes and later had their own buildings. When Methodist societies grew too large for the effective care of their members, Wesley followed a friend’s suggestion and divided them into classes, each with 11 members and a leader. These met weekly to read Scripture, pray, discuss religious matters, and collect funds. To be a class leader, it wasn’t necessary to be wealthy or educated. That gave significant participation to many who felt left out of the Church of England. It also opened the door to women who took a prominent place in Methodism.

The movement grew rapidly, and Wesley was had to travel throughout the British Isles, preaching and organizing his followers. The movement needed more to share in the task of preaching. A few Anglican priests joined. Most noteworthy among them was John brother Charles, famous for his hymns. But John Wesley carried the heaviest burden, preaching several times a day and traveling thousands of miles via horseback every year, until the age of 70.

Conflicts in the movement weren’t lacking. In the early years, there were frequent acts of violence against Methodists. Some of the nobility & clergy resented the authority the new movement gave people from the lower classes. Meetings were frequently interrupted by thugs & toughs hired by the movement’s opponents. Wesley’s life frequently threatened. As it became clear the opposition did nothing to slow or stop it, they gave up.

There were theological conflicts. Wesley grudgingly broke with the Moravians, whose inclination toward a contemplative Quietism he feared.

But the most significant conflicts were with the Anglican Church, to which Wesley belonged and in which he hoped to remain. Until his last days, he reprimanded Methodists who wanted to break with the Church of England. They saw something he seemed unwilling to see, that a breach was unavoidable. Some Anglican authorities regarded the Methodist movement as an indication of their shortcomings & resented it. Others felt the Methodists’ practice of preaching any & everywhere, without regard for ecclesiastical boundaries, was a serious breach of protocol. Wesley saw and understood these concerns, but thought the need of the lost trumps all such petty concerns.

A difficult legal decision came to make matters more tense. According to English law, non-Anglican worship services and church buildings were to be allowed, but they had to be officially registered. That put Methodists in a difficult place since the Church of England didn’t acknowledge their meetings and buildings. If they registered, it would be a declaration they weren’t Anglicans. If they didn’t, they’d be breaking the law. In 1787, after much hesitation, Wesley told his preachers to register, & the first legal step was taken toward the formation of a separate church. 3 years earlier, Wesley took a step that had even more drastic implications, at least theologically. For a long time, as a scholar of patristics, that is, the study of the Church Fathers, Wesley was convinced in the early church the term bishop was synonymous with elder & pastor. That led him to the conviction all ordained presbyters, including himself, had the power to ordain. But he refrained from employing it to avoid further alienating the Anglican leaders.

The independence of the United States, posed different difficulties. During the Revolutionary War, most Anglican clergy were Loyalists. After independence most of them returned to England. That made it difficult, impossible even, for US citizens to partake of communion. The bishop of London, who still had jurisdiction over the former colonies, refused to ordain clergy for the United States. Wesley deplored what he took to be the unwarranted rebellion of Britain’s former colonies, both because he was a staunch supporter of the king’s authority and because he could not fathom how the rebels could claim that they were fighting for freedom while they themselves held slaves. But, convinced communion was the heart of Christian worship, Wesley felt that no matter what the their political stance, US citizens ought not be deprived of the Lords’ table.

So in 1784, he ordained 2 lay preachers as presbyters for the new country, and made Anglican priest Thomas Coke their bishop. Later, he ordained others to serve in Scotland and elsewhere. In spite of having taken these steps, Wesley continued insisting on the need to avoid breaking with the Church of England. Charles told him the ordination of ministers for the New World was a break. In 1786, the Methodist leaders decided that in those places where the Anglican church was neglecting its Gospel duties, it was permitted to hold Methodist meetings at the same time as Anglican services.

Although Wesley refused to acknowledge it, by the time of his death in 1791, Methodism had become a separate church.

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The title of this episode is Moravians and Wesley. We took a look at Pietism in an earlier episode. Pietism was a reaction to the dry dogmatism of Protestant Scholasticism and the reductionist rationalism of Enlightenment philosophers. We took a look at Pietism in an earlier episode. Pietism was a reaction to the dry dogmatism of Protestant Scholasticism and the reductionist rationalism of Enlightenment philosophers. It aimed to renew a living faith in a living Christ.
As a movement, it was led in the 17th C by Philip Jakob Spener & August Francke [frank -uh].
Spener had a godson named Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, a German Count. Even as a young child, Nicholas possessed a deep devotion to God.  His parents were devout Pietists & sent him to the University of Halle, where he studied under the Pietist leader Francke. Later he went to Wittenberg, a center of Lutheran orthodoxy, where he repeatedly clashed with his teachers. After traveling to other countries & studying law, he married and entered the service of the court of Dresden.
It was there Zinzendorf first met a group of Moravians who’d change the course of his life. Moravia lies in the SE of what is today, the Czech Republic. You’ll remember that Jan Hus of Prague was one of the earliest Reformers. The Moravians were Hussites, that is, they were long time adherents to the renewal begun by Jan Hus. They’d been forced by persecution to forsake their native land. Zinzendorf offered them asylum on his extensive lands. It was there they founded the a community called Herrnhut. This community so attracted Zinzendorf he resigned his cushy post in the Court of Dresden and joined it. Under his direction, the Moravians became part of the local Lutheran parish. But the Lutherans were unwilling to trust foreigners who’d been adherents of Pietism.
In 1731, while visiting Denmark, Zinzendorf met a group of Eskimos converted by the Lutheran missionary Hans Egede.  This kindled in the Count an interest in missions that would dominate the rest of his life. Soon the community at Herrnhut was on fire with the same zeal, and in 1732 its 1st missionaries left for the Caribbean. A few years later there were Moravian missionaries in Africa, India, S & N America. They founded the communities of Bethlehem & Nazareth in Pennsylvania, and Salem, N Carolina. In just 20 yrs a movement that began with 2 hundred refugees had more missionaries overseas than had been sent out by all Protestant churches since the Protestant Reformation 2 centuries earlier.
In the meantime, conflicts with the Lutheran authorities of Germany did slaken. Zinzendorf was banned from Saxony, and traveled to N America, where in 1741he was present at the founding of the Bethlehem township. Then, not long after his return to Germany, a peace was hammered out between Lutherans & Moravians. But it didn’t last. Zinzendorf agreed to become bishop of the Moravians, but from a spiritual line of ecclesiastical authority reaching back to Jan Hus. The Lutherans didn’t recognize Hus; they wanted the Count’s authority to link to Luther.
I insert a little personal aside here: What silly things we Christian bicker over. Doesn’t a person’s spiritual authority rest in their being called by God, not man? What matter is it that it comes through this one-time leader or that? It’s the original source that matters.
Zinzendorf died at Herrnhut in 1760, and shortly after his followers broke with Lutheranism. Although the Moravian church never had a large membership and was unable to continue sending so many missionaries, its example contributed to the great missionary awakening of the 19th C. Perhaps the greatest significance of the movement was its impact on John Wesley and, through him, on the Methodist tradition.
In late 1735 & early ‘36, a group of Moravians was sailing to the New World hoping to preach to the Native Americans of Georgia. On board was a young Anglican priest, named John Wesley, whom the Georgia Governor Oglethorpe had invited to serve as a pastor in Savannah. The young Wesley accepted the offer and hoped himself to preach to t...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 20:33
128-The Spiritualist Option http://www.sanctorum.us/128-the-spiritualist-option/ Sun, 06 Mar 2016 09:01:37 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1214 http://www.sanctorum.us/128-the-spiritualist-option/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/128-the-spiritualist-option/feed/ 0 In this episode, we’ll take a brief look at what came to be called Spiritualism. Coming out of the 16th C, the, what seemed to many at the time, endless debates on doctrine & dogma, the intolerance of Christians toward one another, and the lack of any apparent movement toward resolving the mess, moved many […] In this episode, we’ll take a brief look at what came to be called Spiritualism.

Coming out of the 16th C, the, what seemed to many at the time, endless debates on doctrine & dogma, the intolerance of Christians toward one another, and the lack of any apparent movement toward resolving the mess, moved many across Europe and the New World to seek refuge in a more of a religious sentiment, than a faith with clearly defined beliefs. Another factor that led to this movement was the burgeoning middle class that was rising in Europe. You see, it was only the wealthy nobility who possessed the resources for the higher education need to foster the excessive emphasis on correct doctrine. Those who didn’t have that opportunity; who couldn’t wax eloquent on complicated matters of theology, were regarded as unsophisticates who depended on their betters to tell them what to believe.

The Spiritualist Movement of the 17th & 18th Cs attracted people from all classes. From the cultured who’d tired of narrow-minded dogmatism, to uneducated commoners who were tired of having their lands abused by endless religious tussles.

The history of the Spiritualist movement is difficult to trace because it devolved into several streams that constantly mixed. Just as it’s beliefs were a hodge-podge, so is its history. We’ll examine it by taking a look at 3 of its main leaders & groups.

Jakob Boehme was born in Silesia, Germany in 1575. His parents were strict Lutherans of humble means. By all accounts, the young Jakob had a real & rich faith.

The sermons of that time were long dissertations on the theological debates of the day. Jakob was bored to tears by them because they did nothing to stoke his relationship with God.

At 14, he was apprenticed to a cobbler, a shoe-maker, which became his occupation. Shortly after beginning his apprenticeship, he began having visions. It night have been one thing if he’d kept these to himself, but he didn’t; he shared them. His master threw him out, saying he wanted an apprentice, not a prophet.

Boehme became a traveling-cobbler, moving here & there mending shoes. As he traveled and visited different churches, he came to the conclusion Church leaders had built a kind of confusing and confounding Tower of Babel with its interminable doctrinal debates. He determined to set dogmatics aside and cultivate his inner spiritual life.  He read everything he could lay his hands on that might help in that pursuit.

His meditations led him to some conclusions on the nature of the world & man’s place in it. These were then “confirmed” in visions and other spiritual experiences. But he kept his new-found convictions to himself for a time as he plied his shoe-mending-trade.

At 25, he ended his wanderings & set-up shop in Goerlitz, on the border btwn Germany & Poland. He made a comfortable living as a cobbler there.

Although Boehme didn’t see himself as called to preach, he was convinced God wanted him to record his visions. The result was a book titled Brilliant Dawn.  In it, Boehme repeatedly asserts he’s writing what God dictated word for word, and that he’s no more than a pen in His hand. Boehme didn’t publish, but a manuscript reached a local pastor, who accused Boehme to the magistrates. Under threat of exile, Boehme promised to teach or write no more on religious matters.  For 5 years he kept his promise. But in 1618, compelled by new visions and the encouragement of admirers, he wrote anew. Without permission, one of his followers published 3 of his works. These reached the same pastor, who again accused Boehme of heresy. He was forced to leave Goerlitz.

He ended up in the court of the Elector of Saxony, where several theologians examined his teachings without reaching a conclusion.  They confessed themselves unable to understand exactly his meaning. They recommended Boehme be given time to clarify his ideas. Not long after, he became fell ill and returned to Goerlitz to die among his friends & followers. He passed at the age of 50.

The Saxony theologians’ response wasn’t just a dodge to avoid passing judgment on a likeable guy. Boehme’s writings continue to be difficult to sort out. They are a confusing mish-mash of this and that; which, to be frank, is a hallmark of much of what goes under the title “spiritualism.”  Boehme’s tomes are a mixture of traditional Christian themes with others taken from magic, alchemy, occultism, and theosophy. At points, it looks like Boehme gives a metaphor to help explain his point, but it never does. You read it and say, “What does THAT have to do with anything?” So the metaphors, striking as they may be, only serve to add to the confusion. And THAT may very well be the overall point of his inkings. There may not BE a meaning to be parsed from it all. Boehme may have been using words to produce phrases that conveyed singular ideas that weren’t connected.  He may have been aiming for a state of mind that suspended rationality and logic; that out of frustration at trying to make sense of what is senseless, gives up, lays reason down and then becomes hyper-susceptible.

While the specifics of what Boehme aimed for aren’t clear, their basic direction is. He took aim at the lifeless dogmatism of theologians and the empty liturgy of the Church. Against these, Boehme exalted the freedom of the spirit with a belief in direct revelation form God to individuals. He declared that since “the letter kills,” believers ought not to guided by Scripture, but by the Holy Spirit, who inspired the biblical writers and presently inspires believers. He said, “I have enough with the book that I am. If I have within me the Spirit of Christ, the entire Bible is in me. Why would I wish for more books? Why discuss what is outside, while not having learned what is within me?”

Huh – funny then that he wrote books.

Boehme had few followers during his lifetime but later his books gained admirers. In England, some formed a Boehmenist movement. Some of them clashed with the Quakers who we’ll take a look at next. So, the Spiritualist Movement, born in part as a protest against the doctrinal debates of traditional theology, was eventually embroiled in similar controversies.

George Fox was born in small English village the same year Jakob Boehme died, 1624. Like oehme, Fox was of humble origin, and a cobbler’s apprentice. At 19, disgusted at the immorality of his fellow apprentices, he quit & began a life the life of an itinerant religious seeker. He attended meetings of all sorts, seeking spiritual illumination. He devoted himself to the study of Scripture until he’d committed most of it to memory.

Fox’s pursuit of spiritual illumination was a roller coaster of highs & lows. There were times when he had some mystical experience that thrilled, followed by a season where he despaired of finding the path that would lead to what he sought. He came to the conviction all the various sects in England were wrong, and their worship was an abomination to God.

Fox challenged much of traditional Christianity. He reasoned if God doesn’t dwell in houses made by human hands, as the Scripture said, how dare anyone call buildings where they gather “churches”? They are in truth no more than houses with bell-towers.

Pastors who work for a salary are not real shepherds, but “priests” and “journeymen.”

Hymns, orders of worship, sermons, sacraments, creeds, ministers—are all human hindrances to the freedom of the Spirit.

Over against all these things, Fox placed the what he called the “inner light.” This was a seed that existed in all people, and was the true way to find God. The Calvinist doctrine of the total depravity was a denial of God’s love. On the contrary, Fox maintained, there is an inner light in all, no matter how dim it may be. Thanks to that light, pagans can be saved as well as Christians. This light, however, must not be confused with the intellect or conscience. It’s the capability all have to recognize and accept the presence of God. By it we’re able to believe and understand Scripture. So, communication with God thru the inner light is previous to any communication by external means.

Although those close to George Fox knew of the fire burning within him, for several years he abstained from proclaiming what he was convinced he’d discovered regarding the true meaning of faith and Christianity.

At that time there were in England several religious sects, and Fox attended all without finding contentment in any. Finally, he felt called by the Spirit to speak out at a Baptist meeting, announcing the truth he now believed. From that point on, such urgings of the Spirit became more frequent. In gatherings of various religious groups, Fox declared he’d been commanded by the Spirit to announce his new vision of The Faith. He was often received with contempt and hostility, and was thrown out of meetings, beaten, and stoned. But all such didn’t not stop him. Soon he was in another “house with a belfry,” interrupting the service and proclaiming his message.

Fox’s followers grew rapidly. At first they called themselves “Children of Light” but Fox preferred the name of Friends, which later become their official name. They were soon called Quakers by outsiders. The name came from their tendency to tremble with fervency as they prayed.

In 1652, George Fox gained the support of Margaret Fell, a noble-woman who was widowed in 1658, and married him in ‘69. She became a leader in the movement and used her position to lend it an air of credibility and protection. But political opposition to grew and she was arrested for supporting the movement. Her property was confiscated & she was sentenced to life imprisonment. After being released by the king, she married Fox. The rest of their lives were spent teaching & in missions, which were repeatedly interrupted by rounds of imprisonment. Fox died in 1691, his wife Margaret in 1702.

Since the Friends believed structure in worship was an obstacle to the Spirit, their service took place in silence. Any who felt called to speak or pray aloud were free to do so. When the Spirit moved them, women had the same right to speak as men. Fox himself did not prepare to speak at such meetings, but simply allowed the Spirit to move him. There were times when many gathered hoping to hear him speak, but he refused. Also, the Quakers didn’t include the traditional sacraments of baptism & communion. They feared that physical water, bread, & wine would draw attention away from the spiritual.

Fox was aware of the danger his emphasis on the freedom of the Spirit would lead to excessive individualism. Other movements with a similar emphasis hadn’t lasted long. The exercise of individual freedom inevitably leads to the dissolving of the group. Fox avoided this by underscoring the importance of community and love. In Friends’ meetings, decisions aren’t made by a majority. If a unanimous agreement was not reached, the decision was postponed, and the meeting continued in silence until the Spirit offered a solution. If one was not received, the matter was left pending for another occasion.

Many disliked the teachings and practices of the Quakers. Religious leaders resented the way they interrupted their services to preach or read Scripture. Authorities saw the need to teach a lesson to these Friends, who refused to pay tithes, swear oaths, bow to their “betters,” or uncover their head before any but God. Quakers argued that, since God was addressed in the familiar “Thou,” no one else ought to be addressed by the more respectful “You.” Well, to those used to the submission of their “inferiors,” all this was an intolerable insubordination.

So, Fox was repeatedly beaten, & spent years in prison. He was sent to prison the first time for interrupting a preacher who declared the ultimate truth was to be found in Scripture. Fox said that wasn’t true; ultimate truth was in the Spirit who inspired Scripture. On other occasions he was accused of blasphemy, or of conspiring against the government. When the authorities offered a pardon, he refused, declaring he wasn’t guilty. To accept a pardon for something he hadn’t done was to lie. On another occasion, when serving 6 months for blasphemy, he was offered freedom in exchange for service in the Army. He refused, declaring Christians ought not use weapons other than those the Spirit provided, His sentence was prolonged by an additional 6 months.

When he wasn’t in prison, Fox spent his time in Margaret’s home, called Swarthmoor Hall. It became the headquarters of the Friends. The rest of the time he traveled England and abroad, visiting Quaker meetings and taking his message to new areas. First he went to Scotland, where he was accused of sedition; then to Ireland. He spent 2 years in the Caribbean and North America; and made 2 visits to the Continent. In all these lands he gained converts, and by the time of his death, in 1691, his followers were counted by the tens of thousands.

And like Fox, they were persecuted. They were thrown in jail for vagrancy, blasphemy, inciting riots, & refusing to pay tithes. In 1664, Charles II issued an edict forbidding unlicensed religious assemblies. Many groups continued gathering in secret. But the Quakers declared it would be a lie to do so, simply disobeyed the edict. Thousands were imprisoned, and by the time religious tolerance was granted in 1689, hundreds had died in prison.

The most famous of Fox’s followers was William Penn, after whom the state of Pennsylvania is named. His father was a British admiral who tried to secure for him the best education available. While he was a student, William became a Puritan. Then, while studying in France, he came under the influence of the Huguenots. In 1667, back in England, he became a Quaker. His father, not knowing what to do with his “fanatical” son, threw him out of the house. Penn stayed true to his convictions, and eventually spent 7 months in the Tower of London. He sent word to the king that the Tower was the worst of arguments to convince him, so, no matter who was right, whoever uses force to seek religious assent is necessarily wrong. Finally, thanks to the intervention of his father and other well-placed friends, he was set free. He then spent several years raising a family, traveling throughout Europe, and writing in defense of the Friends.

Penn then conceived the idea of what he called his “holy experiment.” Some friends had spoken to him about New Jersey, in North America. The crown had owed Penn’s father a considerable amount of money. When William’s father died, that debt fell to the son. Since the Charles II wasn’t able to pay, Penn asked instead for a grant of land in what is now Pennsylvania. His purpose was to found a new colony in which there would be complete religious freedom. By then other British colonies had been founded in North America. But, with the exception of Rhode Island, all were marked by religious intolerance. In Massachusetts, the most intolerant of the colonies, Quakers were persecuted, condemned to exile, and even mutilated and executed. What Penn now proposed was a new colony in which all would be free to worship according to their own convictions. This seemed bad enough to an intolerant age. But even worse was Penn’s plan to buy from the Indians the land that the crown had granted him. He was convinced that the Indians, and not the crown, were the legitimate owners of the land. And he hoped to establish such cordial relations with them that the settlers would have no need to defend themselves by force of arms. The capital of this holy experiment would be called Philadelphia—the city of fraternal love.

No matter how ill-conceived Penn’s experiment seemed to the more enlightened Brits, soon there were many people, not only in England, but also in other parts of Europe, willing to take part in it. Many of them were Quakers, and therefore the Friends dominated the political life of the colony for some time. But there were also settlers of many different persuasions. Under the leadership of Penn, first governor of the colony, relations with the Indians were excellent, and for a long time his dream of a peaceful settlement was a reality.

The last Spiritualist we’ll look at today is Emanuel Swedenborg.

Born in 1688, 3 years before Fox’s death, Emmanuel Swedenborg was born to an aristocratic family in Sweden. He received an education at the University of Uppsala, and spent 5 years traveling England, the Netherlands, France, and Germany. The goal of these travels was the quest for knowledge. While Fox and Boehme pursued religious enlightenment, the young Swedenborg was after scientific knowledge.

After many years of scientific inquiry, Swedenborg claimed he had a vision of being carried into the spiritual world where saw eternal truths. He wrote expansively on the true meaning of reality and Scripture. He said that all that exists is a reflection of the attributes of God.  Therefore, the visible world “corresponds” with the invisible one. The same is true of Scripture, which reflects truths that can only be known by those who’ve entered the spiritual world.

Swedenborg was convinced his writings would form the beginning of a new era in the history of the world and religion. He claimed what had taken place when he received his revelations was what the Bible meant when speaking of the 2nd Coming of Christ. As expected, these ideas weren’t received well by most of his contemporaries. His circle of followers was small. He didn’t feel called to found a new movement, but to call the existing church to a new understanding of its nature and message.

Since that plan didn’t really work, in 1784, 12 years after his death, his disciples founded the Church of the New Jerusalem, whose members were never many but which has survived to our time. In the 19th C, the Swedenborgian Society was founded with the purpose of publishing and distributing Swedenborg’s writings.

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In this episode, we’ll take a brief look at what came to be called Spiritualism. Coming out of the 16th C, the, what seemed to many at the time, endless debates on doctrine & dogma, the intolerance of Christians toward one another, Coming out of the 16th C, the, what seemed to many at the time, endless debates on doctrine & dogma, the intolerance of Christians toward one another, and the lack of any apparent movement toward resolving the mess, moved many across Europe and the New World to seek refuge in a more of a religious sentiment, than a faith with clearly defined beliefs. Another factor that led to this movement was the burgeoning middle class that was rising in Europe. You see, it was only the wealthy nobility who possessed the resources for the higher education need to foster the excessive emphasis on correct doctrine. Those who didn’t have that opportunity; who couldn’t wax eloquent on complicated matters of theology, were regarded as unsophisticates who depended on their betters to tell them what to believe.
The Spiritualist Movement of the 17th & 18th Cs attracted people from all classes. From the cultured who’d tired of narrow-minded dogmatism, to uneducated commoners who were tired of having their lands abused by endless religious tussles.
The history of the Spiritualist movement is difficult to trace because it devolved into several streams that constantly mixed. Just as it’s beliefs were a hodge-podge, so is its history. We’ll examine it by taking a look at 3 of its main leaders & groups.
Jakob Boehme was born in Silesia, Germany in 1575. His parents were strict Lutherans of humble means. By all accounts, the young Jakob had a real & rich faith.
The sermons of that time were long dissertations on the theological debates of the day. Jakob was bored to tears by them because they did nothing to stoke his relationship with God.
At 14, he was apprenticed to a cobbler, a shoe-maker, which became his occupation. Shortly after beginning his apprenticeship, he began having visions. It night have been one thing if he’d kept these to himself, but he didn’t; he shared them. His master threw him out, saying he wanted an apprentice, not a prophet.
Boehme became a traveling-cobbler, moving here & there mending shoes. As he traveled and visited different churches, he came to the conclusion Church leaders had built a kind of confusing and confounding Tower of Babel with its interminable doctrinal debates. He determined to set dogmatics aside and cultivate his inner spiritual life.  He read everything he could lay his hands on that might help in that pursuit.
His meditations led him to some conclusions on the nature of the world & man’s place in it. These were then “confirmed” in visions and other spiritual experiences. But he kept his new-found convictions to himself for a time as he plied his shoe-mending-trade.
At 25, he ended his wanderings & set-up shop in Goerlitz, on the border btwn Germany & Poland. He made a comfortable living as a cobbler there.
Although Boehme didn’t see himself as called to preach, he was convinced God wanted him to record his visions. The result was a book titled Brilliant Dawn.  In it, Boehme repeatedly asserts he’s writing what God dictated word for word, and that he’s no more than a pen in His hand. Boehme didn’t publish, but a manuscript reached a local pastor, who accused Boehme to the magistrates. Under threat of exile, Boehme promised to teach or write no more on religious matters.  For 5 years he kept his promise. But in 1618, compelled by new visions and the encouragement of admirers, he wrote anew. Without permission, one of his followers published 3 of his works. These reached the same pastor, who again accused Boehme of heresy. He was forced to leave Goerlitz.
He ended up in the court of the Elector of Saxony, where several theologians examined his teachings without reaching a conclusion.  They confessed themselves unable to understand exactly his meaning. They recommended Boehme be given time to clarify his ideas. Not long after,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 20:39
127-Which Witch http://www.sanctorum.us/127-which-witch/ Tue, 01 Mar 2016 22:57:01 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1211 http://www.sanctorum.us/127-which-witch/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/127-which-witch/feed/ 0 This, the 127th episode of CS is titled, “Which Witch?” and is a brief review of the well-known but poor understood Salem Witch Trials. The Salem Witch Trials are often brought up by critics of Christianity as examples of religious intolerance & superstition. And while they did indeed carry a bit of that, they were […] This, the 127th episode of CS is titled, “Which Witch?” and is a brief review of the well-known but poor understood Salem Witch Trials.

The Salem Witch Trials are often brought up by critics of Christianity as examples of religious intolerance & superstition. And while they did indeed carry a bit of that, they were far more an example of a breakdown in the judicial system. The phrase “witch-hunt” refers to an attempt to find something damning in an otherwise innocent victim. What’s rarely mentioned is that while there was a brief flurry of witch-hunting that went on in the New England colonies, it was a long practice back in Europe from the mid 15th thru mid 18th Cs. It reached its peak between 1580 & 1630. It’s difficult to sort out how many were executed but scholars say it was from a low of 40,000 o as high as 60,000.

In light of such large numbers, the 20 who were executed in the Salem Trials seems trivial – but that even a single person was executed on the charge of witchcraft was a travesty of justice.

Witch hunts began in the 15th C in SE France and W’n Switzerland. The European witch craze was further fueled by the publication of The Hammer of the Witches in 1486, by the inquisitors Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger.

The trials included both male & female victims as well as all ages and classes.

In New England, there’d been three hangings for witchcraft prior to Salem. But the first signs of trouble in Salem Village occurred during the winter of 1692, when the 9 yr old daughter of the village pastor, Elizabeth Parris, and her 11 yr old cousin Abigail Williams, began displaying bizarre behavior. The girls screamed uncontrollably, threw things, groaned, and threw fits with wild contortions. Witchcraft immediately surfaced as a possible explanation.

Suspicion soon centered on 3 women who lived on the margins of the village. A homeless woman named Sarah Good. An infrequent church-attender & so suspicious woman named Sarah Osborne. And Tituba, a slave accused of fortune-telling. These 3 were interrogated in March 1692 and sentenced to jail.

Tituba’s ethnic origins are difficult to sort out but she appears to have been an African slave brought from the Caribbean to serve in the home of Pastor Samuel Parris. She regaled the young girls with tales of the occult and indulged their desire to have their fortunes read. When the girls were caught gazing into a crystal ball, they tried to shift blame by affecting bizarre behavior that made them appear victims of spells cast on them by the malevolent.

Well, other adolescent girls saw all the attention this was gaining their rivals, they affected similar behavior to get a slice of the attention pie. They accused the soft targets of women who were already considered odd and suspicious. Tituba was the first to be accused, but soon Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne were also implicated, questioned and remanded to custody.

There was a long-running feud among the Putnam & Porter families in Salem. One of the young girls was 12 yr old Ann Putnam. Some of those who were accused of witchcraft were on the wrong side of that feud.

It didn’t help that Elizabeth Parris’ father, Pastor Smauel Parris used his pulpit to fan the flames of superstition that ANYONE in Salem, indeed, anyone in the church at Salem, might in fact be in league with Satan.

In March, several more women were accused. Then, anyone who questioned the girl’s veracity were suspected. Sarah Good’s 4 yr old daughter Dorothy was arrested and interrogated.

The accusations began pouring in. More arrests made. And the people being arrested weren’t just a fringe element. They were upstanding members of the community and church. As tension grew, Governor William Phips set up a special court to adjudicate the cases. The first to be brought to trial was Bridget Bishop, who was accused of being a witch because of her immoral lifestyle and her tendency for wearing black clothing. She was found guilty and was executed by hanging in June 1692. Five more women were executed in July, and then four men and one woman in August. The last executions took place in September, when six women and three men were hung.

Some of those arrested confessed that they had practiced witchcraft, and accused others of having been their mentors. But scholars now believe these confession were made under duress and with the promise that by implicating others they might be allowed to go free.

Giles Corey, an 80-year-old farmer and husband of one of the accused, was also arrested in September. Corey refused to cooperate with the authorities and was subjected to a form of torture in which the subject is placed beneath an increasingly heavy load of stones in an attempt to compel him to enter a plea. After 2 days, Corey died without entering a plea.

The last trial occurred at the end of April, and all five accused were found not guilty, bringing an end to the episode. In the final count, 20 had been hung, 1 was crushed to death, and 4 died in prison.

20 years later, the Massachusetts court declared the entire ordeal had been a gross injustice, and ordered indemnifications be paid to the victims’ families.

At the time, 2 of New England’s most influential leaders were the father and son, Increase & Cotton Mather. Increase, who became president of Harvard, believed in the reality of witchcraft, and has been blamed for much of what happened in Salem. But Increase Mather severely criticized the proceedings and use of spectral evidence which was central to the case.

Spectral evidence was the testimony of the young girls and their supporters who claimed they saw certain things that must mean the accused were in fact witches bent on the spiritual & social unravelling of the Salem community. They saw what they described as ghost-like images. Increase Mather decried the use of such evidence as being inappropriate to condemn someone to death. His son Cotton took a similar position, first writing against witchcraft, then deploring the manner in which the trials were conducted.

It was the two-fold whammy of the Mather’s condemnation of spectral evidence & that the girls apparently began to stretch out a bit to see just what they could get away with that moved people to begin to wonder what was going on in Salem. It’s one thing to accuse oddballs and misfits of being witches. But when some of the community’s most respected members and people known for their upstanding virtue were accused à Well, maybe we’ve been played by a handful of middle-schoolers!

While religious superstition fueled the panic that fired the Salem Witch Trials, it was in fact a failure of the judicial system that saw 20 people hanged. And while Pastor Parris stirred the pot in Salem with his use of the pulpit to fuel suspicion, it was the work of 2 other pastors, Increase & Cotton Mather that moved the people of Salem and Massachusetts to calm down and end the trials.

Let’s turn now in the balance of this episode to tie off the Puritanism of New England.

Within a single generation, the original Puritan vision was already dimming. A new cosmopolitanism from Europe had transformed cities like Boston. By the early 18th C, American Puritanism had split into 3 factions.

First there were the Congregational churches, which down-played Calvinist doctrines and looked to the Enlightenment. These came to be called the “Old Lights.”

Then there were those who continued to practice the rigid Calvinism of their forebears, referred to as the “Old Calvinists.”

The 3rd group emerged from the “Great Awakening” with its pietistic emphasis on a “new birth.” Adherents were called “New Lights.”

Puritanism wasn’t static on either side of the Atlantic. It couldn’t be since their political contexts were vastly different. English Puritans were engaged in a civil war, while New England Puritans were carving life out of a new world. Despite minor variations like the New England Halfway Covenant, the Puritan theological core remained the same. The Westminster Confession of Faith is a solid guide in identifying the theological tenets of Puritanism.

The Confession was the work of the Westminster Assembly which met from 1643-9.

The Assembly was a committee appointed by Parliament. It was charged with drawing up a new liturgy to replace the Book of Common Prayer and for implementing a new plan for church government. It met in what’s called the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey for the first time on July 1, 1643. Parliament appointed 121 clergy & 30 laypeople to the assembly.

The assembly replaced the Book of Common Prayer with the Directory of Public Worship in 1645, & the 39 Articles of the Church of England were replaced by the Westminster Confession in 1646. The House of Commons returned the Confession with instructions to add biblical proof texts. Revisions were made, and the Confession was ratified by Parliament. 2 catechisms were added. The Larger Catechism (designed for instructing adults) and the Shorter Catechism (a bit easier for children) were approved in 1648.

The Church of Scotland also adopted it without amendment, satisfying compliance with the Solemn League and Covenant. Its work being completed, the Westminster Assembly dissolved in 1649.

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This, the 127th episode of CS is titled, “Which Witch?” and is a brief review of the well-known but poor understood Salem Witch Trials. The Salem Witch Trials are often brought up by critics of Christianity as examples of religious intolerance & supers... The Salem Witch Trials are often brought up by critics of Christianity as examples of religious intolerance & superstition. And while they did indeed carry a bit of that, they were far more an example of a breakdown in the judicial system. The phrase “witch-hunt” refers to an attempt to find something damning in an otherwise innocent victim. What’s rarely mentioned is that while there was a brief flurry of witch-hunting that went on in the New England colonies, it was a long practice back in Europe from the mid 15th thru mid 18th Cs. It reached its peak between 1580 & 1630. It’s difficult to sort out how many were executed but scholars say it was from a low of 40,000 o as high as 60,000.
In light of such large numbers, the 20 who were executed in the Salem Trials seems trivial – but that even a single person was executed on the charge of witchcraft was a travesty of justice.
Witch hunts began in the 15th C in SE France and W’n Switzerland. The European witch craze was further fueled by the publication of The Hammer of the Witches in 1486, by the inquisitors Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger.
The trials included both male & female victims as well as all ages and classes.
In New England, there’d been three hangings for witchcraft prior to Salem. But the first signs of trouble in Salem Village occurred during the winter of 1692, when the 9 yr old daughter of the village pastor, Elizabeth Parris, and her 11 yr old cousin Abigail Williams, began displaying bizarre behavior. The girls screamed uncontrollably, threw things, groaned, and threw fits with wild contortions. Witchcraft immediately surfaced as a possible explanation.
Suspicion soon centered on 3 women who lived on the margins of the village. A homeless woman named Sarah Good. An infrequent church-attender & so suspicious woman named Sarah Osborne. And Tituba, a slave accused of fortune-telling. These 3 were interrogated in March 1692 and sentenced to jail.
Tituba’s ethnic origins are difficult to sort out but she appears to have been an African slave brought from the Caribbean to serve in the home of Pastor Samuel Parris. She regaled the young girls with tales of the occult and indulged their desire to have their fortunes read. When the girls were caught gazing into a crystal ball, they tried to shift blame by affecting bizarre behavior that made them appear victims of spells cast on them by the malevolent.
Well, other adolescent girls saw all the attention this was gaining their rivals, they affected similar behavior to get a slice of the attention pie. They accused the soft targets of women who were already considered odd and suspicious. Tituba was the first to be accused, but soon Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne were also implicated, questioned and remanded to custody.
There was a long-running feud among the Putnam & Porter families in Salem. One of the young girls was 12 yr old Ann Putnam. Some of those who were accused of witchcraft were on the wrong side of that feud.
It didn’t help that Elizabeth Parris’ father, Pastor Smauel Parris used his pulpit to fan the flames of superstition that ANYONE in Salem, indeed, anyone in the church at Salem, might in fact be in league with Satan.
In March, several more women were accused. Then, anyone who questioned the girl’s veracity were suspected. Sarah Good’s 4 yr old daughter Dorothy was arrested and interrogated.
The accusations began pouring in. More arrests made. And the people being arrested weren’t just a fringe element. They were upstanding members of the community and church. As tension grew, Governor William Phips set up a special court to adjudicate the cases. The first to be brought to trial was Bridget Bishop, who was accused of being a witch because of her immoral lifestyle and her tendency...]]>
Lance Ralston clean 13:07
126-A City on a Hill http://www.sanctorum.us/126-a-city-on-a-hill/ Sun, 21 Feb 2016 09:01:33 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1189 http://www.sanctorum.us/126-a-city-on-a-hill/#respond http://www.sanctorum.us/126-a-city-on-a-hill/feed/ 0 This episode is titled, A City on a Hill, and returns to our look at the Propagation of the Christian Faith in the Americas. Back in Episodes 105 & 6, we breached the subject of Missions in the New World. We shared about the role the Jesuits played in the Western Hemisphere. While the post-modern […] This episode is titled, A City on a Hill, and returns to our look at the Propagation of the Christian Faith in the Americas.

Back in Episodes 105 & 6, we breached the subject of Missions in the New World. We shared about the role the Jesuits played in the Western Hemisphere. While the post-modern view of this era tends to reduce all European missionaries in a monochromatic Euro-centrism that leveled native American cultures, that simply wasn’t the case. Yes, there were plenty of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestants who conflated the Gospel with their native culture. But there were also not a few missionaries who understood the different and valued the uniqueness that was native American cultures. They sought to incarnate the Christian message in those cultures and languages. That often got them in trouble with officials back home who wanted to exploit the Native Americans. In other words, it isn’t just modern Liberation Theology advocates who sought to protect the peoples of the New World from the exploitive injustices of the Old. Many early missionaries did as well.

So, we considered the work of men like Jean de Brébeuf  & Madame de al Peltrie in the NE of North America. We considered the work of the Russian Orthodox Church in the far NW and down the western coast to CA. They were met by the Spanish coming North out of Central America.

Protestants were a bit late to the game. One of the first real attempts was led by the Huguenot Admiral Coligny who we encountered in that bloody & tragic story of the Paris Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day.  He attempted a short-lived experiment off Rio de Janeiro when Admiral Villegagnon established a Calvinist settlement in 1555. It folded when the French were expelled by the Portuguese. A more permanent Calvinist settlement was made by the Dutch when they captured Pernambuco, a region at the eastern tip of Brazil. This settlement remained a Calvinist enclave for 40 years.

North America presented a very different scene for missions than Central & South America. The voyage of the Mayflower with its ‘Pilgrims’ in 1620 was an historical pointer to the strong influence of Calvinism in what would become New England. The states of Massachusetts, Connecticut & New Hampshire were strongly Congregationalist or Presbyterian in terms of their church polity and heavily influenced by English Puritanism. At least some of these pioneers felt a responsibility for spreading the Christian faith to the native Americans.

In episode 106, we talked about John Eliot, the Mayhews, William Carey, David Livingstone, David Brainerd, & of course the famous, Jonathan Edwards.

Besides the Presbyterians & Congregationalists, Episcopalians achieved some success in evangelizing Native Americans.

Being that we’ve just come up to the time of the Puritans in England, now would be a good time to take a little closer look at Puritanism in the New World.

During the reign of James I some Puritans grew discouraged at the pace of reform and separated entirely from the Church of England. After a sojourn of about 11 years in the Netherlands, a group of “separating Puritans,” known to us as “Pilgrims,” set sail for the New World. The Dutch were generally pretty welcoming of these English dissenters because they shared the same faith and as the English were such hard workers, added to their booming economy. But the English grew distressed after a little more than a decade that their children were becoming more Dutch, than English. They couldn’t return to England where tension was thick between the Crown and the Puritans. SO they decided to set sail for the New World and try their luck there. They established a Colony at Plymouth in 1620 in what is now southeastern Massachusetts.

While the colony struggled greatly, it eventually succeeded and became something of a model for other English settlements in the region.

Then, back in England, when Archbishop Laud began to suppress Puritans, emigration to the New World increased. As the Puritans’ relationship with the new king soured, a Puritan lawyer named John Winthrop began plans for a Puritan colony in New England. In March 1629, Winthrop obtained a royal charter to establish the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A year later he was joined by 700 colonists on 11 ships & set sail.

While aboard the Arbella, Winthrop preached a sermon declaring to his fellow travelers, “We shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” Others were soon captivated by this vision of a Christian commonwealth, and from 1630 to the beginning of the English Civil War, well over 20,000 Puritans settled in New England. This was known as the “Great Migration.”

These later Puritans were different from the Separatists Pilgrims of Plymouth. They regarded themselves as loyal members of the Church of England, now established in NEW England. They had the chance to install the ideas on reform they’d ached to achieve at home. They may have separated in geography, but not in loyalty to The Church of England.

The New England Puritans held a vision, not just of a pure church, but of a purified society.  One committed to biblical principles, not just in religious life but in all facets of public life. The idea of “covenant” between God and his people was at the center of their enterprise. Following the pattern of God’s covenant with Israel, they promised to obey God and in turn He’d bless them. This is why one often encounters the terminology that Massachusetts was a kind of new Israel. And that required a strict observance of Sabbath. Families were structured as “little churches,” with the father bestowing blessing for obedience and vice versa.

This social structure required public piety. So it prohibited what were called “secular entertainments”, like games of chance, dancing round maypoles, horse-racing, bear-baiting, and the theater. Christmas celebrations were regarded as pagan rituals. Puritans adopted a rich view of piety, that at times became excessive and became à What’s the word? Let’s just call it, odd.

Following the Pietist tradition, New England Puritans required a genuine public declaration of conversion as a condition for church membership. Problems arose when children, who’d grown up in pious homes & had always counted themselves as Born Again, to give testimony to their dramatic conversion event. This led to many of them being excluded from membership in Church, which was the heart and center of social life in the New England town. Divisions erupted, leading Puritan minister Richard Mather to developed the so-called “Half-Way Covenant” to solve the problem. The Half-Way Covenant gave a kind of quasi-membership which included baptism but not Communion to the children of church members. Puritan leaders hoped this would expose “halfway members” to an example that would see them having their own “born again” experience & usher them into full membership.

Some historians assert the Puritans aimed for a theocracy. While Winthrop was governor, he certainly wanted to base the colony’s laws on biblical principles, but he didn’t permit clergy in civil governing. Church officials had no authority over the civil magistrates. Winthrop and government officials sought the advice of ministers, but political authority rested in the hands of laity. Theocratic tendencies certainly existed, but the colony’s congregationalism restrained them. New England never had enough unity to be a theocracy.

A minority in England, Puritans were the majority in New England. A less careful recounting of American history would say they fled the Old World for the New to obtain religious liberty. Not really. They left so they could establish a PURITAN system of church and State. There was no religious liberty as we conceive it today. Puritan New England was quite IN-tolerant of dissenters; like Roger Williams & Anne Hutchison.

Historian Ed Morgan describes Roger Williams as a “charming, sweet-tempered, winning man, courageous, selfless, God-intoxicated — and stubborn.” Arriving in Boston just a year after Winthrop, he was quickly asked to be pastor of the local congregation. Williams refused. He was a staunch Separatists who vehemently disagreed with the Puritan connection to the Church of England. It stunned his fellows that a man would turn down the invitation to be a pastor for such a thing. This and other behaviors so infuriated the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, they expelled him.

5 yrs later, Williams settled at the tip of Narragansett Bay on land purchased from the Indians. He named the settlement “Providence” and declared religious freedom — the first colony in the world in which religious liberty for all was genuine. Infant baptism was banned since Williams believed baptism was for those old enough to make a real profession of faith. He established the first Baptist Church in America in 1638.

The Hutchinsons, William & Anne, arrived in Massachusetts in 1634. They’d followed their minister John Cotton, pastor of a Boston congregation. Like many Puritans, the Hutchinsons hosted a group in their home to discuss Pastor Cotton’s sermon from the previous week. Anne excelled at breaking down the message into topics that were engaging. The group grew to some 80 adults.

Then, controversy arose when Anne began to argue that that all people are under either a covenant of works or grace. She was reacting against the public piety of the people of Boston who assumed good works proved the presence of salvation. She posited that works and grace were opposites and those who depended on works were lost.

But Anne crossed the line in 1637 when she denounced some ministers as preaching a Gospel of Good Works. Critics accused her of antinomianism; that is the idea that the elect don’t have to obey God. It didn’t help her case that a woman was teaching the Bible to men.

Anne was called to give an account before the General Court. She was anything but contrite. Sparks flew when she proved more adept at citing Scripture than her judges. The die was cast when she said that her knowledge of the issue had come “by revelation.” The magistrates, already suspicious of her orthodoxy, seized on this to banish her from the colony.

We’ll pick it up at this point and the infamous Salem Witch Trials in the next episode.

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This episode is titled, A City on a Hill, and returns to our look at the Propagation of the Christian Faith in the Americas. Back in Episodes 105 & 6, we breached the subject of Missions in the New World. We shared about the role the Jesuits played in ... Back in Episodes 105 & 6, we breached the subject of Missions in the New World. We shared about the role the Jesuits played in the Western Hemisphere. While the post-modern view of this era tends to reduce all European missionaries in a monochromatic Euro-centrism that leveled native American cultures, that simply wasn’t the case. Yes, there were plenty of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestants who conflated the Gospel with their native culture. But there were also not a few missionaries who understood the different and valued the uniqueness that was native American cultures. They sought to incarnate the Christian message in those cultures and languages. That often got them in trouble with officials back home who wanted to exploit the Native Americans. In other words, it isn’t just modern Liberation Theology advocates who sought to protect the peoples of the New World from the exploitive injustices of the Old. Many early missionaries did as well.
So, we considered the work of men like Jean de Brébeuf  & Madame de al Peltrie in the NE of North America. We considered the work of the Russian Orthodox Church in the far NW and down the western coast to CA. They were met by the Spanish coming North out of Central America.
Protestants were a bit late to the game. One of the first real attempts was led by the Huguenot Admiral Coligny who we encountered in that bloody & tragic story of the Paris Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day.  He attempted a short-lived experiment off Rio de Janeiro when Admiral Villegagnon established a Calvinist settlement in 1555. It folded when the French were expelled by the Portuguese. A more permanent Calvinist settlement was made by the Dutch when they captured Pernambuco, a region at the eastern tip of Brazil. This settlement remained a Calvinist enclave for 40 years.
North America presented a very different scene for missions than Central & South America. The voyage of the Mayflower with its ‘Pilgrims’ in 1620 was an historical pointer to the strong influence of Calvinism in what would become New England. The states of Massachusetts, Connecticut & New Hampshire were strongly Congregationalist or Presbyterian in terms of their church polity and heavily influenced by English Puritanism. At least some of these pioneers felt a responsibility for spreading the Christian faith to the native Americans.
In episode 106, we talked about John Eliot, the Mayhews, William Carey, David Livingstone, David Brainerd, & of course the famous, Jonathan Edwards.
Besides the Presbyterians & Congregationalists, Episcopalians achieved some success in evangelizing Native Americans.
Being that we’ve just come up to the time of the Puritans in England, now would be a good time to take a little closer look at Puritanism in the New World.
During the reign of James I some Puritans grew discouraged at the pace of reform and separated entirely from the Church of England. After a sojourn of about 11 years in the Netherlands, a group of “separating Puritans,” known to us as “Pilgrims,” set sail for the New World. The Dutch were generally pretty welcoming of these English dissenters because they shared the same faith and as the English were such hard workers, added to their booming economy. But the English grew distressed after a little more than a decade that their children were becoming more Dutch, than English. They couldn’t return to England where tension was thick between the Crown and the Puritans. SO they decided to set sail for the New World and try their luck there. They established a Colony at Plymouth in 1620 in what is now southeastern Massachusetts.
While the colony struggled greatly, it eventually succeeded and became something of a model for other English settlements in the region.
Then, back in England,]]>
Lance Ralston clean 12:02
125-The Rationalist Option Part 2 http://www.sanctorum.us/125-the-rationalist-option-part-2/ Sun, 14 Feb 2016 09:01:54 +0000 http://www.sanctorum.us/?p=1170 http://www.sanctorum.us/125-the-rationalist-option-part-2/#comments http://www.sanctorum.us/125-the-rationalist-option-part-2/feed/ 6 This is part 2 of The Rationalist Option on Communio Sanctorum, History of the Christian Church. In our last episode we took a look at eh genesis of the Enlightenment in England & France. We’ll come back to France  a bit later after taking a brief look at the Enlightenment in German & Russia. Germany […] This is part 2 of The Rationalist Option on Communio Sanctorum, History of the Christian Church.

In our last episode we took a look at eh genesis of the Enlightenment in England & France. We’ll come back to France  a bit later after taking a brief look at the Enlightenment in German & Russia.

Germany took a bit longer to join the Enlightenment. That was due in part to the condition of the land following the Thirty Years War. It’s estimated the population shrank from 20 million to just 7 after it. There’s also the issue of Germany not really being a country. It was at that time a collection of independent statelets, united by language & culture, but divided between Catholics & Lutherans.

The low regard for contemporary culture at that time in Germany is illustrated by the fact that while Newton, Locke & Voltaire were regarded as heroes in their realms, Germany’s equivalent, Gottfried von Leibniz, was never popular during his lifetime. Yet he was he was one of the most brilliant men, not just of his day, but of all time. Born in 1646 in Leipzig, Leibniz was the son of a professor of philosophy. He studied law before taking up with a disreputable group of alchemists, and worked for the Elector of Mainz.

Leibniz came to the attention of the world in 1672, when he was sent on an unofficial ambassadorial mission to Paris. The purpose of this trip was to present Louis XIV with a plan he’d worked out for the invasion of Egypt, by which he hoped to distract the Sun King from ambitions he might have toward Germany. Nothing came of Leibniz’s plans along that line, although Napoleon seems to have adopted his strategy a century later. In any case, while in Paris, Leibniz took the opportunity to meet with all the luminaries in the foremost city of culture in Europe. He studied mathematics, quickly becoming one of the foremost mathematicians in the world, and made a number of important discoveries, including differential calculus, for which thousands of college students have hated him ever since. He also proudly demonstrated an extraordinary mechanical calculator he had built.

Leibniz’s interests were so wide-ranging he could never keep his mind on what he was doing. In 1676, he became Court Chancellor of Hanover, and was put in charge of the library. But he was more interested in the mines at Harz, and spent several years devising increasingly ingenious devices to solve the problem of draining them. He eventually worked for several German states, as well as the cities of Berlin & Vienna, for which he designed a number of civic improvements. In his spare time, he travelled extensively around Europe, meeting other luminaries in the Age of Reason, and carrying out his work in mathematics, chemistry, physics, metaphysics and theology. He produced hardly any books of importance, but his vast correspondence, much of which is still in the process of being edited and published, dwarfed the output of most of his contemporaries; and there cannot have been any subject, however obscure, with which he did not deal, and on which he was not an authority. Leibniz died in 1716, an increasingly marginalized figure, defiantly wearing his long brocade coat and huge wig which had gone out of style decades before.

Despite Leibniz’s virtual single-handed attempt to kick-start the German Enlightenment, it didn’t get rolling until the 18th C. Prussia, largest of the German states, took the lead, as its rulers sought to drag their country into the modern era. Frederick Wilhelm, who came to the throne in 1713, reformed the economy after staying with relatives in the Netherlands.

Wilhelm, a careful Lutheran, had no love for Catholic France, but his son, Frederick II, known as Frederick the Great, was a quite different person than his father. Upon his accession to the throne in 1740, he set about building on his father’s practical reforms with a program of cultural renovation. Among his first acts as ruler was to recall from exile Christian Wolff, the leading German philosopher and Leibniz’s heir. Frederick II’s enthusiasm for French culture meant the usual coldness between the 2 relams saw a remarkable thaw. French was even spoken in his court, and it was at his invitation Voltaire moved to Prussia in 1749. Frederick was also keen to bolster the position of Prussia in Europe, which he did by engaging in a series of wars between the 1740s & 60s.

During the late 17th C, The Russian Czar Peter the Great travelled all over Europe on a mission to learn all he could about the Enlightenment. He was eager to learn what impact it had had on the realms of culture, economics & engineering. His plan was to return to Mother Russia and drag it, if need be, into the modern world.

Although Western Russia geographically was in Europe, it had for centuries been isolated. It was been ruled by the Mongols for much of the late Middle Ages, and was a bastion of Orthodox Christianity, a separate denomination from the Catholics and Protestants in the West. Westerners knew virtually nothing about Russian religion, and Russians cared virtually nothing for the West.

It’s hardly surprising that, when Peter returned home, he had to enforce his reforms with an iron hand if he was going to make headway. Beards, a revered symbol of Orthodoxy, was banned in an attempt to get people to look more Western. Young men were happy to comply, as women preferred. But most older men kept their beards in boxes, fearing they were bereft of salvation without them. Traditional Russian dress, which reaching to the ankle, was banned. Everyone had to dress like the French, and anyone who refused had their clothes force-tailored. English hairstyles were mandatory for women. Schools were built, the calendar reformed, military conscription introduced, and church hierarchy was placed firmly under state control. Like Louis XIV’s France, Peter’s Russia was an avowedly Christian country. As a symbol of the new, Westward leaning Russia, Peter transferred the capital to a new city, St Petersburg, on the Baltic coast.

But Peter was hardly a model of Enlightenment tolerance. In 1718, he had his son tortured to death for treason. But his reforms were extended and completed by Catherine the Great, a Prussian who became Empress of Russia in 1762. She organizing a coup against her own husband. Unlike Peter, Catherine grew up in Western Europe and had thoroughly imbibed the Enlightenment principles. She corresponded with Voltaire & and other leading cultural figures; patronized the arts, & founded the famous Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Catherine was also a skilled diplomat, and as the most powerful monarch in Europe, extended Russian influence throughout the continent.

Okay, so, you’re wondering how this is church history. I thought it wise to spend a little time charting the broad outlines of the Enlightenment so we could see how the thinking it produced effected theology.

That happens with the advent of Rationalism.

Rationalism reached its apex in the 18th & 19th Cs. It’s characterized by an interest in the physical world and its confidence in the powers of reason. In Western Europe, there’d been a growing interest in the nature since the 13th C. That was the era of Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, who reintroduced Aristotelian philosophy as a tool for theology. One of the points of contrast between Aristotelianism and the prior Platonism that dominated theological thought was precisely that the new philosophy emphasized the importance of the senses & perception. The later Middle Ages, with its distrust of speculation, continued in the same vein. The art of the Renaissance, with its appreciation for the beauty of the human body and the world, was an expression of this interest. By the 17th C, many thought the goal of reason was the understanding of the world of nature.

Parallel to that, there appeared a growing confidence in the powers of reason. Often, these 2 trends were combined in an effort to show the degree to which the order of nature coincides with the order of reason. This can be seen, for instance, in the work of Galileo, who was convinced the entire natural world was a system of mathematical relations, and that the ideal of knowledge was the reduction of all phenomena to their quantitative expression. Every success of such efforts seemed to confirm the most optimistic expectations of the power of reason.

This all led to the philosophy of René Descartes in the first half of the 17th C. His system was based on a great confidence in mathematical reasoning, joined to a profound distrust of all that is not absolutely certain. He compared his philosophical method to geometry, a discipline that accepts only what is an undeniable axiom or has been rationally proven.

In applying his method, Descartes felt he ought to begin with an attitude of universal doubt, making sure that, once he found something he could not doubt, he would be certain of its truth. He then found that undeniable first truth in his own existence. He could doubt everything, but not that the doubting subject existed. “I think, therefore I am,” became the starting point for his philosophy. But this I whose existence cannot be doubted, is only the subject as a thinker. The existence of his body wasn’t proven, so m must be doubted.

Before proving his existence as a body, Descartes felt he could prove the existence of God. He found in his mind the idea of a “more perfect being,” and since his mind could not produce such an idea, which was above itself, it must have been placed there by God. Therefore, Descartes’s 2nd conclusion was that God exists. It was only then, on the basis of the existence of God, and of trust in the divine perfection, that Descartes felt free to move on to prove the existence of the world and of his own body.

Descartes was a profoundly religious man who hoped his philosophy would be found useful by theologians. But not all agreed with him. Many theologians feared the challenge of Cartesianism—as his philosophy was called. The universal doubt Descartes proposed as his starting point seemed to some as a kind of crass skepticism. The faculties of several universities declared Aristotelianism was the philosophical system best suited to Christian theology, and there were those who declared Cartesianism lead to heresy. Dismayed, Descartes decided to leave his native France moved to Sweden, where he lived the rest of his life.

But he was not without supporters. In France, those intellectual circles where Jansenism had been popular embraced Cartesianism. Eventually, others among the more orthodox also took it up, and debates continued for a long time.

The main point at which Cartesianism led to further theological and philosophical developments was the question of the relationship between spirit and matter, between soul & body. It’s at this point that we could really get into a sticky wicket as we parse all the various ways theologians & philosophers offered ideas on the inter-relationship between the thinking self and the thing that occupies space in the form of a body. But we won’t go into the theories of Occasionalism, Monism, & Preestablished Harmony.

Let me just say this became a realm of contentious debate between a Dutch Jew named Baruch de Spinoza & our friend Leibniz.

While these philosophical developments took place on the Continent, in Britain philosophy took a different route in what’s called Empiricism. It’s drawn from a Greek word meaning experience. Its leading figure was Oxford professor John Locke, who in 1690 published his Essay on Human Understanding. He read Descartes and agreed the order of the world corresponded to the order of the mind. But he didn’t believe there was such a thing as innate ideas to be discovered by looking inward. He contended that all knowledge is derived from experience; the experience of the senses, and the working of our minds. That meant the only genuine knowledge is based on 3 levels of experience: The experience of self, the experience of the world around us, and the experience of God, whose existence is manifest by the existence our selves & the world.

To this Locke added another level of knowledge, that of probability. Probability works like this; You & I have repeatedly experienced someone’s existence; let’s call him George.

We know George. He’s a friend we see a coupe times a week. When George isn’t standing in front of us, we still have reason to believe He exists, even though at that moment, we have not bare empirical basis to believe him so. Still, sound judgment gives us reason to discern the probability of George’s existence. Locke said that this judgment of probability allows us to get on with the practical affairs in life.

Faith, Locke said, is assent to knowledge derived from revelation rather than reason. Therefore, although highly probable, knowledge derived by faith can’t be certain. Reason and judgment must be used in order to measure the degree of probability of what we believe by faith. For this reason, Locke opposed the “fanatical enthusiasm” of those who think that all they say is based on divine revelation. For the same reason, he defended religious toleration. Intolerance is born out of the muddled thinking that confuses the probable judgments of faith with the certainty of empirical reason. Besides, toleration is based on the very nature of society. The state does not have the authority to limit the freedom of its citizens in matters such as their personal religion.

In 1695, Locke published a treatise, The Reasonableness of Christianity, in which he claimed Christianity is the