You have now read about the impact of various theological movements on Christian thought throughout the centuries. List and discuss the key factors that you think have influenced the shaping of Christian theology during the past 2,000 years.
The council of Nicaea is a key factor not only because of the development of the creed, but also because of the position of Constantine against Arianism and his efforts to look for the truth.
Constantine’s work was very intense towards the shaping of Nicene Creed. He appointed a commission of bishops to write up the creed to be signed by all the bishops, including those who were unable to attend the council.
The book says: “For better or worse, Emperor Constantine presided over an ecumenical council and enforced its doctrinal decisions.” The council of Nicaea was considered with the council of Constantinople in 451 the two truly ecumenical councils of the church.
The second key factor that I see was the appearance of a particular theologian that became the standard and norm for thological thought in the West, his name is Augustinus Aurelius. In a time of divisions between Rome and Constantinople (West and East), Augustine’s theology became pervasive in Western Christianity.
Even though, his influence in the East was not as big as it was in the West, Augustine was one of the most influencial theologian that ever existed in Christian history. Many theologians that came after Augustine did not produce their own theology, but rather, they were working to interpret Augustine’s theology.
He wrote books in several areas like philosophy, ethics, theology, but his major contribution was in issues like sin and salvation – soteriology.
The book says on page 255: “Augustine is the end of one era as well as the begining of another. He is the last of the ancient Christians writers, and the forerunner of medieval theology. The main currents of ancient theology converged in him, and from him flow the rivers, not only of medieval scholasticism, but also of sixteenth-century Protestant theology.”
The third and last key factor that influenced Christian theology was the Reformation of the Church. This was the third great schism of the Church. The first was the split between East and West in 1054. The second was the medieval struggle between two and then three popes from 1378 to 1417. The third was the division between Roman Catholic and Protestant churches in Europe aroun 1520, with Martin Luther excommunication from the church of Rome.
Three major Protestant principles are usually identified as setting them apart from the church of Rome and its official theology: sola gratia et fides, sola scriptura and the priesthood of all believers.
It is not different with me. As brazilian, I bring with me the reality of a third world country. All the social injustices, corruption and abuse of power from the authorities produces a community that claim for some kind of divine justice in the future. Even though they are conformed with their situation in the presence. Liberation theology has not influenced me more because I wasn’t a good Catholic, and also because I was raised in a middle class family. But, when I converted to Christ, another very strong theology in south america was presented to me, the pentecostal theology. This theology was in my first years of conversion the only true concerning to the things of God. Christians that were not Pentecostal, were considered for me too “cold”. Then, I listened to God’s call and went to a seminary in my country. In this seminary I was introduced to Calvinist theology(Reformed) and I converted from Pentecostals to Calvinist, but I still attending in a Pentecostal church. This two theologies together helped me to open my life to other kinds of theology during my first year of study in Brazil. Then I came to US, to continue my studies. Here I became Baptist. And the freedom that Baptists give to you, make your life more and more opened to the varieties of theologies that exist in the world.
I’m not saying that after I became Baptist I quited my Calvinist with pentecostals tendencies, I just became more open to study different kinds of theology withouth the judgement of thinking that the only sound theology was mine.
However, I trully believe that John Calvin’s theology and its classical view of salvation reflects better the teachings of the apostle Paul in the Scriptures.
My first question is this “I would like to know why the apostolic fathers became little by little legalistic people, changing the grace of God for a moral code?”
The book says in page 52 “Some of the church fathers are considered heroes of orthodoxy. Why don’t consider them heretics? Certainly compared to the gospel of grace, their messages seem severly moralistic, focusing on conduct rather than mercy and on salvation as a struggle rather than a gift. But it is important to keep in mind that they were attempting to counter rampant antinomianism (rejection of law and commandments) among Christians. The attitude that pervades them grows out of the same concern as the book of James in the New Testament: “Faith without works is dead”. However, their prescribed antidote to the poison of antinomianism seems at time as bad or worse than the poison itself.”
Another question that I have is this: “I would like to know if the apostolic fathers are the first writers of the moral theology of cause and effect?”
After I asked this question, I started thinking about the friends of Job, and I realized that a way before the church and the apostolic fathers, Job’s friend were already speaking in a legalistic way. Cause and effect were their principal concern. To them, Job’s hard situation was because of his sin, but what they didn’t know was that Job’s did not do anything to deserve that curse. They did not know anything about the argument between God and Satan, and they were trying to justify all that suffering as a consequence of Job’s bad behavior. Because of this example, I do not think that the apostolic fathers were the first to bring up this theology of cause and effect.
My question in the second Journal was: “why Tertullian was so vehemently against Greek philosophy?”
Tertullian is the church father who more than any other has been taken to epitomise the anti-intellectualism of the early Church. Tertullian wrote:
“For philosophy is the material of the world’s wisdom, the rash interpreter of the nature and dispensation of God. Indeed heresies are themselves instigated by philosophy… What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What has the Academy to do with the Church? What have heretics to do with Christians? Our instruction comes from the porch of Solomon, who had himself taught that the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart. Away with all attempts to produce a Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic Christianity! We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after receiving the gospel! When we believe, we desire no further belief. For this is our first article of faith, that there is nothing which we ought to believe besides.”
For Tertullian Greek philosophy was “an amalgam of rival world-views, based on premises that are very different from the biblical revelation.” He believed that “heresies are themselves instigated by philosophy. However, himself made use of philosophical (particularly Stoic) ideas in his writings. He agreed with Plato on the matter of the immortality of the soul. He even claimed (as Philo and Justin Martyr had before him) that the philosophers borrowed from the Jewish Scriptures. Like all writers, he assumed that he was able to write theology without incorporating his own presuppositions.
Elsewhere Tertullian does not always speak in such robust terms of an unbridgeable chasm separating Athens and Jerusalem. He was as well educated as anyone of his time: a competent lawyer, able to publish his writings in both Latin and Greek with equal facility, acquainted with the current arguments of the Platonic, Stoic and Aristotelian schools and also possessing some knowledge of medicine.
Throughout church history Tertullian has received condemnation for two main reasons: his association with the Montanist movement and because of his supposed anti-intellectualism.