COMING TO KNOW CHRIST

Monday, December 26, 2005

THE FOUNDATIONS OF CHRISTIANITY

THE FOUR BASES FOR THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION

Christianity appears as a confused mixture of religions ranging from the Roman Catholic to the sect of the Church of Latter Day Saints – the Mormons. Mixed within are churches such as a multitude of “faiths” including various forms of the Anglican and Episcopal, Methodists, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist and Evangelical.

Christ’s Church relies on four main determinations that came to be understood in the period following the Reformation. These determinations represent the “essential” Christian Church and the writer believes they are the basis of major precepts for religious practice and governance.

- The establishment and tradition of using the Scriptures as the basis for the precepts of religious belief as established during the period of approximately 60 to 200 AD.

- The definition of the Trinity and the nature of Christ, starting with the Arian controversy and Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.

- The establishment of the Doctrines of Mankind, Sin and Grace as a result of the Pelagius/Augustine confrontation consummated at the Council of Orange in 529 AD.

- The confluence of religious understanding and the reconciliation of mankind’s subordination to God’s sovereignty based on Scripture’s revelation in the period 1500 to 1600 AD.

A deviance from the lessons of these determinations obstructs the understanding of the wonder and magnificence of the true Christian faith as presented and verified by the Scriptures, the constitutional basis for Christianity.

THE EARLY WRITINGS

The evolution of the Christian Bible begins with the Hebrew Scriptures, that are characterized in the book of Romans in the New Testament as being the “Law and the Prophets.” (Rom 3:21). The reason for this is the simple fact that Christians were first of all Jews.


But the new Church was not founded on the Hebrew Scriptures. It was established on the distinctive being of a person - to Jesus of Nazareth, crucified, dead and buried, but “designated Son of God in power...by His resurrection from the dead.” (Rom 1:4)

Jesus wrote no book. His teachings were conveyed by word of mouth and personal example. What Jesus said, the word-of-mouth conveyance of His teachings, the historical events pertaining to what He said, were lovingly recollected and documented by His hearers, His Apostles and Disciples.

THE CONFESSION OF FAITH


These early writings became with various letters the eventual “confession of Faith,” the inspired written Word which now comprises the New Testament. The exalted process leading to the formalization of the Canon of Scripture evolved over the first four hundred years of Christian history.

The Bible was held as an exclusive intellectual property of the Church, until the coincident development of the printing press and the explosive generation of the Protestant movement in the early 16th century, a period of twelve hundred years.

Nevertheless, the Bible served as the foundation for the developing theology of the Church during this extensive time period by a small number of thoughtful, literate theologians who studied the Word and used it as a foundation for their speculations on what it taught.

CHRISTOLOGY AND THE TRINITY

The first major resolutions in the developing theology of Christianity dealt with two mighty struggles regarding the nature of Christ and the Trinity. These struggles are characterized as the Trinitarian and Christological controversies. They vigorously evolved during the second through the fifth centuries (400 years!) within the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches as we know them today.


The Trinitarian definition dealt with the relationship of Jesus Christ, the Son, and the Father as persons. It determined that Christ was of the same essence as the Father and not subordinate to Him. The Trinity, as a Biblical doctrine, came into effect recognizing this Truth while, at the same time, determining the Holy Spirit as the third person of one God in essence.


The resolution of the Trinitarian conflict, at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., marked a major event in the Church’s and Western civilization’s histories. It initiated the reconciliation of the informal structure of the Christian Church and the formalized secular institution of the Roman Empire through the remarkable leadership of the Emperor Constantine, who is reputed to be not overly religious, whose wife was. Constantine’s political power became a significant instrument of the Holy Spirit in exercising this stage of God’s plan for mankind and His Church.

The result of this was the eventual structuring of the Roman Catholic Church, where the Church and the Roman Empire joined as partners in the conquering, subjugation and conversion of the European nations and peoples. The resolution of the conflict was finalized at the council of Constantinople in the year 381, and resulted in the following doctrine within the Niceno - Constantinopolitian Creed:


“We 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, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;”

The formulation of the Trinitarian doctrine framed the definition of the complex person of Jesus Christ.

The famed reformed theologian, Louis Berkoff, instructs us in his History of Christian Doctrines, “The decision to which the trinitarian controversy led, namely, that Christ as the Son of God is consubstantial with the Father and therefore very God, immediately gave birth to the question of the relation between the divine and the human nature in Christ.”

The Christological events dealt with the person of Jesus Christ and the logical contradiction suggested by one having both a divine and human nature, a problem that still bothers some religions today, religions that either deny Christ being the Son of God (Joshua’s Witnesses; Islam, 7th Day Adventist, Mormonism, Islam) or deny His divine and human nature.

As with the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451 provided the beginning for the final resolution of the Christological definition by the issuance of the following specific statement of the doctrine of the person of Christ:

“We then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and also truly man, of reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with us according to manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably, the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, the Only-begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the Holy Fathers has handed down to us.”

The Christological and Trinitarian disputes were fundamental events that brought the Church to a point of understanding itself, in a very important sense. The developing doctrines pertaining to God (Theology Proper), Jesus Christ (Christology), the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) and the Church (Ecclesiology) found their beginnings in the inspired consensus facilitated by these centuries of Spirit led dialectics.

DOCTRINES OF MANKIND, SIN AND SALVATION

At a later time, starting in the fifth century, another important controversy immerged that dealt with what now relates to the doctrines of Mankind, Sin and Salvation. This controversy eventually became the basis for the evolving definition of Anthropology (The doctrine of mankind), Hamartiology (The doctrine of sin), and Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) within the discipline of Systematic Theology as studied today.
These theological disciplines evolved exclusively in the Roman Church as a result of a momentous confrontation between the ideas of an English monk named Pelagius and the revered promulgator of Christian theology, Augustine.


This confrontation specifies an important contrast in the theological interpretation of God’s Grace, as Grace interacts with a man’s or woman’s freedom and ability to choose. The confrontation was so intense on the issues of human freedom and Grace that it appeared to subordinate the witness of Jesus Christ to the intense doctrinal struggle between opposing factions within the Christian Church. The heritage and wounds of this struggle persists to this day.

Following the rationalism of the Gnostic heresies that occurred at the beginning of Christianity, the Pelagian conflict provided a dialectical arena in a historic framework that has pulled on theology’s intellectual coattails for over fifteen hundred years regarding Sin, Salvation, mankind’s freedom to choose, Predestination and Grace!

The answers for many questions remain confused today regarding the relationship of God and humanity as we know and understand it. The peculiar, antagonistic, and substantial differences between various Christian religions, as to how and why they celebrate God, and how they understand His purpose in Salvation, have their delineated heritage from the Pelagian/Augustinian conflict.

But there is one aspect of this that is not confussed, and that is Jesus Christ's committment to you, personnaly, if you believe in Him!


1 Comments:

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