Thursday, April 21, 2005

My Mid Term Exam in Theology

The difference between Arius and Alexander over the nature of Jesus Christ and the Logos who became incarnate in him had to do with soteriology – the doctrine of salvation. Alexander was assuming the orthodox view of salvation going back to Irenaeus; Arius was assuming a view of salvation that emphasized freely conforming to God’s moral standards. Thus an important difference between the two Alexandrians was that “salvation, for orthodoxy, is affected by the Son’s essential identity with the Father – that which links God and Christ to creation is the divine nature’s assumption of flesh. Salvation for Arianism is affected by the Son’s identity with the creatures – that which links Christ and creatures to God is conformity of will.
Then, Constantine called all the bishops of the church to settle the debate over the person of Christ and the Trinity. The Nicene Creed made clear that Arianism was wrong:
“We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible, And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, only-begotten, that is, from the substance of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father, through Whom all things came into being, things in heaven and things on earth, Who because of us humans and because of our salvation came down and became incarnate, becoming human, suffered and rose again on the third day, ascended to the heavens, and will come to judge the living and the dead; And in the Holy Spirit”.
Athanasius the follower of Alexander of Alexandrian, was a brilliant theologian and after Alexander passed away, he became the bishop of Alexandrian, and he worked hard to defend the faith. It was Athanasius who provided the most famous expression of the theory of salvation: “For He was made man that we might be made God; and He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality.”
Irenaeus also shared the idea that unless Jesus Christ was both “truly God” and “truly human”, salvation simply could not occur.
According to the Alexandrian view, full salvation depends on a real incarnation but not on a full and true human nature exactly like ours. Above all, it did not have to have its own independent center of intellect, action and will. The humanity of Jesus Christ could be and was na impersonal human nature. According to the Antiochene view, full salvation depends on a real incarnation but not on an intimate union of humaninty and divinity that would threaten their real distinction, and the real incarnation must include a fully personal human nature. Jesus Christ had to be a man just like any other man – just like Adam! – although without sin.
My personal understanding of salvation is that just one that was 100% human could substitute the humans. But, to satisfy God, this substitutionary sacrifice should be perfect as the required lamb in OT times. And only God can be perfect and for this reason the savior needed be 100% God. Being fully human, to be one like us, and being fully divine, to satisfy God’s requirement of perfection, Jesus could not be less than that. His deity and divinity has an eternal purpose before God, and if He failed in one of these two characteristics, He wasn’t worthy to fulfill the work of salvation.

This class has forced me to read more than any other class. And all this reading is making the difference. It’s being wonderful to learn about the church fathers and also learn the development of theology. At the same time that the text book is a history book, it is also a very theological book, showing the various types of theologies, as well as the heresies. I have learned about gnosticism, montanism and all the heresies of the first and second centuries. Another great learning was about the Greek philosophy influence in our theology. Many church fathers saw the philosophies of Socrates and Plato, as a preparation for the Gospel.
I think they were important by that time of confusion and misunderstanding of the nature and work of Christ. But at the same time, I see political interests in the called of those councils. Many emperors called councils because they wanted that their own or some other individual or community view prevailed to enforce the people to believe them and have unity. For this reason in 451 the Council at Chalcedon excluded several councils and accepted only Nicaea and Constantinople as truly councils of the church. The four ecumenical councils that even Protestants generally regard as having some special authority for Christian doctrine are Nicaea I (325), Constantinople I (381), Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451).
These councils have their importance only if they are under the teachings of the Bible. The Bible has to be the absolute truth, and any other document with religions statements, has to be under the Bible’s authority.
Scripture is the foundation of our theology. There is not a sound theology without the support of the Scripture. Theology has to be the study of the God revealed in Scripture. Without Scripture, Christian theology cannot exist. For the reasons listed above, Scripture play the main role for a good theology. Now, in matters of shaping our theology, the Scripture should be a book of constantly research and reading, because if we fail in that, we fall in a risk to create heresies. Philosophy is also important for our theology, but when is used as Paul used, to support a biblical truth, not to create a different argument or point of view, that consequently becomes a heresy.
I was raised in a catholic home and I also studied in a catholic school. For this reason, mass, first communion, Mary as the mother of God and all the things from Catholic Church were very common to me. When I converted to Christ, I rejected all those kinds of practices that I’ve learned, and I went to a Pentecostal environment. After almost three year of conversion, I went to a seminary in Brazil and started to reject popular theology and accepted reformed theology. But still believing in the work of the Holy Spirit. Then I came here to US, and I still reformed in my theology, believing in the work of the Holy Spirit, and growing in learning of Scripture and in theology.

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