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History, according to one cynic, is nothing but the succession of one d___ thing after another. Unfortunately, most Christians would agree, although one hopes they wouldn't use precisely the same terminology! The fact is, people wonder why the history of Christian theology is worthy of our time and energy. Facts, dates, and dead people do not inspire much excitement, and many doubt the practical value of spending time on something that cannot be changed. Alister McGrath ...Read More

Although it is to some degree artificial and inaccurate to break down the history of the Christian church into distinct periods or ages, it is, nevertheless, a helpful tool for envisioning the development of church life over the past two millennia. Most church historians recognize three general periods:   I.              Patristic Christianity - a.d. 95 to a.d. 590   (So called because of the ...Read More

It is fair to say that no doctrine of the Christian faith was subjected to as penetrating analysis in the early church as was the doctrine of God. This lesson will highlight the development of Trinitarianism in the patristic age.   The history of this doctrine falls into three stages.   ·First, there is the Pre-Nicene period, extending from the death of John the Apostle to a.d. 325.   ·The second stage focuses on the climactic encount...Read More

A. The Council of Nicea (a.d. 325): the Contribution of Arius and Athanasius to the Development of Trinitarian Thought   1. Arius and his Theology - The details of Arius’s life are unknown. Some speculate that he was born in what is now Libya in North Africa. Arius was a presbyter over the church district of Baucalis in Alexandria, who was asked by his bishop to explain Prov. 8:22-31. Arius affirmed, among other things, that "the son, born of the Father befo...Read More

A.            The “Doctrine” of the Holy Spirit in the Post-Apostolic Fathers   The fact is, there was no “doctrine” of the Spirit, per se. References to the HS were personal, experiential, catechetical, and doxological. The focus is on his activity and work but not his nature or relationship to Father and Son. For example:   Clement of Rome coordinates three persons in an oath: ...Read More

The relevance of the debate between Augustine and Pelagius may be seen from the following list of questions that emerged then and continue to be asked today:   ·Are infants born innocent or guilty? ·Are those who die in infancy saved or lost? ·Are people morally and spiritually corrupt? ·What affect did Adam’s fall have on the human race? On you? ·Is sin only an act of will or a character flaw? ·Is grace essenti...Read More

A. Augustine’s Theology   It will help if we review the main points in Pelagius' theology and then observe Augustine's point by point response.   ·First, Adam was created neither holy nor evil. His will was in a state of moral equilibrium or moral indifference.   ·Second, Adam would have died physically whether he sinned or not. Physical death is not a penalty for sin but is the inevitable corollary of being a creature.   &...Read More

A.            Medieval Theological Controversies   The first two controversies were particularly significant in terms of the role they played in dividing East from West (something we will address more thoroughly in our study of Eastern Orthodox theology).   1.             The Iconoclastic Controversy [The word iconoclastic = lit., "image-breake...Read More

  "When picturing Christ in the way I have mentioned, and sometimes even when reading, I used unexpectedly to experience a consciousness of the presence of God of such a kind that I could not possibly doubt that he was within me or that I was wholly engulfed in him. This was in no sense a vision: I believe that it is called mystical theology" (The Life of St. Teresa of Avila [Doubleday Books, 1960], 1.10; p. 119).  A. Towards a Definition of Mysticism Wh...Read More

There are @ 6 million people in the U.S. (among whom are Peter Gillquist and Franky Schaeffer) who identify with the Orthodox faith, and @ 200-215 million worldwide (70 million of whom are in Russia alone), all of whom are gathered into one of the 13 autocephalous or "self-governing" Orthodox churches throughout the world. The head of each autocephalous church is called a Patriarch. The Patriarch of Constantinople is given greater honor but has no authority to interfere ...Read More

Anselm (1033-1109)   Anselm was born at Aosta in Piedmont (northern Italy) two years before William the Conqueror became Duke of Normandy. He was a studious youth, amiable, and often displayed a profound tenderness for animals. In despair over his relationship with his father he left home at the age of 23 and traveled north to Bec in Normandy. After the death of his father (who finally converted), Anselm became a monk (1060).   In 1063 he succeeded Lanfran...Read More

Aquinas (1225-74)   Thomas Aquinas was born at Roccasecca in Italy. His father was Count Landulf of Aquino (thus the name Aquinas). He joined the Dominican order of monks in 1242 against his family’s wishes. His father sent his brothers to kidnap him in an attempt to “deprogram” the young man. They even tried, unsuccessfully, to lure him into sin with a prostitute, thinking that he would then regard himself as unfit for the ministry! Aquinas was...Read More

An Introduction to the Protestant Reformation   "The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history. It marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization" (Philip Schaff, VII:1).   A.&...Read More

A.            The Early Life of Luther   1.             Early Academic Life - Luther was born on Nov. 10, 1483, at Eisleben in Prussian Saxony. He died in the same city while passing through it on Feb. 18, 1546. [Michelangelo was born in 1475.]   After the reformation began, Luther was frequently slandered by his RC opponents. In particular, ...Read More

1. The Sufficiency of Scripture - It was Luther's insistence on SOLA Scriptura, Scripture alone, that was crucial. Neither church fathers nor papal decrees nor ecclesiastical tradition nor church councils stood on a par with the authority of the Bible. This concept of Scripture has been misunderstood. Sola Scriptura is not meant to suggest that there is no other religious authority, but that there is no higher religious authority.   2. The Inerrancy of Scripture -...Read More

From the Early Church to the Council of Trent   A.        Justification in the Early Church   The early church fathers did not use the concept or vocabulary of “justification” to express their understanding of the nature of salvation. As Alister McGrath notes, “justification was simply not a theological issue in the pre-Augustinian tradition” (Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Ju...Read More

The Life of John Calvin:   A.            Calvin's Early Life and Education (1509-1536)   1.             Home Life - Calvin was born on July 10, 1509, at Noyon in Northeastern France. Unlike Luther, Calvin was born into the professional class and received an excellent early education. [His name has come to us via a process: Cauvin is French; Cal...Read More

A.        The Institutes of the Christian Religion   "Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion," writes McNeill, "is one of the few books that have profoundly affected the course of history" (119). The first edition of 1536 contained only 6 chapters. The final edition of 1550 had 80 chapters.   The first edition had a two-fold purpose: 1) to explain the faith so as to exhibit its true essence as opposed to the caricat...Read More

Huldrich Zwingli (1484-1531) and the Swiss Reformation   and   The Anabaptists   A. The Reformation and Zwingli 1. Zwingli's Life Zwingli was born into a wealthy family, just 7 weeks after Luther's birth, on January 1st in Wildhaus, Toggenburg, in the eastern part of Switzerland. He began formal studies in Vienna (1500-02) and later studied at the University of Basel where he received his Bachelor of Arts (1504) and Master of Arts (1506) (Luther r...Read More

Roman Catholicism & the Reformation The Catholic Counter-Reformation & the Council of Trent   A.            The Catholic "Counter"-Reformation The term "Counter"-Reformation, when used of developments within the Catholic church of the 16th century, is somewhat misleading. Steven Ozment explains: "Modern historians interpret the Counter Reformation of the sixteenth century as less a reaction to the s...Read More

and the Anglican Tradition With the English Reformation we come to the fourth major tradition to emerge from the events of Oct. 31st, 1517 (Lutheran, Reformed [Calvinistic], and Anabaptist being the other three). The reformation in England differed from that on the continent in three ways: 1) The English reformation was dominated by political events. 2) There was no one figure who stood out in the way Luther, Calvin, or Zwingli did in Europe. 3) The struggle in England ...Read More

Protestant Scholasticism A. The Theology of Puritanism   Despite Elizabeth's efforts to unify the people of England, some did not think the spirit of the Reformation had gone far enough. The Puritans, as they came to be called, did not believe Elizabeth's attempt at compromise (Via Media ) was sufficient. Elizabeth's settlement "was based on the assumption that while Christian doctrine is found only in the Bible, such secondary matters as liturgy and Church org...Read More

The Nature of Theological Heresy   The founder of the Socinian movement was Faustus Socinus (or, Sozzini; 1539-1604), nephew of Laelius (Lelio) Socinus (1525-1562), whose writings were so inflammatory that they were never published. The best sources for understanding the Socinian system of thought are Faustus Socinus’s De Jesu Christo Servatore (1594), his commentary on the prologue to John’s gospel, and the Racovian Catechism, a manifesto of the Polis...Read More

Hugo Grotius and the Governmental Theory of the Atonement   Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was a distinguished Dutch jurist and statesman, theologically Arminian, who undertook a rebuttal of the Socinian theory of the atonement. Grotius is often thought to have sought a via media, a middle way, between the penal substitutionary theory of the reformed and the view of Socinus. Grotius himself, however, believed that he was simply defending the historical doctrine of the c...Read More

The Arminian Controversy   Up until 1525 those who turned to the Protestant faith in the Netherlands were followers of Luther. From 1525 to 1540 the Anabaptists gained a strong foothold through the influence of Menno Simons. From 1540 on the Calvinists grew in number. By 1560 the majority of Protestants were Reformed with a few Anabaptists and even fewer Lutherans.   Our main concern is with the theological developments that occurred. At a national synod in...Read More

The Reformation in France and the Amyraldian Controversy The Reformation initially reached France through the influence of Luther's writings. Protestants there were severely persecuted, the culmination of which came in the infamous St. Bartholomew's Day massacre (August 23-24, 1572) when nearly 20,000 were martyred. The Edict of Nantes granted toleration in 1598. Our concern is with the man Moise Amyraut (also read as Moses Amyraldus) (1596-1664). He was quite studious...Read More

Its Impact on Christianity   The Enlightenment was not a movement per se, but a cluster of ideas, conceptions and attitudes that were most dominant in Europe in the 18th century, primarily 1720-80. Some insist it began with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and ended with the Thirty Years’ War and Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason in 1781 (others would more broadly date the Enlightenment 1650-1800).   The term enlightenment comes from the German Aufk...Read More

Christology: The Person of Christ   Our focus here is on the more significant post-reformation developments in Christology, specifically, the person of Jesus Christ. We begin by noting several important developments in 19th century German thought.   A. Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834)   Schleiermacher, often referred to as the father of modern liberal theology, sought to relocate the focus of true religion away from cognitive affirmation of orth...Read More

Christology: The Work of Christ   In this lesson, we will look at the significant post-reformation developments concerning the work of Christ, specifically, his atoning sacrifice.   A. Theologians and Theories Emphasizing the Objective Nature of Christ's Atoning Death   Perhaps the best example of this tradition is found in 19th century America among Reformed theologians.   1. William G. T. Shedd (1820-1894) - Shedd followed the reformers by ...Read More

Developments in the Doctrine of Scripture Although our focus is on post-reformation developments in the doctrine of Scripture, we must begin with the reformation itself. It is important to remember that the inspiration of the Bible was not the central issue at stake in the 16th century. The RCC fundamentally agreed with the reformers on the nature of Scripture but differed over the latter’s sufficiency. In other words, it wasn’t the noun Scriptura but the...Read More

The Emergence of Modern Theological Liberalism   The emergence of religious liberalism in America was the product of numerous forces, the more important of which are noted below.   A. The Origins of American Religious Liberalism   1. New England Theology - The emergence of New England Theology is generally dated from the death of Jonathan Edwards (1758). The principal contributors to the demise of Edwardsian Calvinism include:   ·Joseph...Read More

Liberation Theology Most forms of liberation theology were born in the social turmoil of the 1960s. It wasn’t the intellectual challenge posed by atheism and secularism that concerned these new thinkers but the social and economic and political oppression experienced by people in the present day. For liberation thinkers, theology needed to shift its focus from abstract speculation on the nature and existence of God to the concrete realities of how the gospel might...Read More

Black Theology   The emergence of black theology is owing largely to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The latter awakened in blacks a new self-consciousness and sense of personal dignity that was distinctly tied to their ethnicity and social plight. Grenz and Olson:   "Black theology was not concerned with the intellectual problems of secularized culture; its concern lay instead with the realities of the experience of Blacks in America. As a result, ...Read More

Feminist Theology Grenz and Olson point out that “late twentieth-century feminist theology shares certain similarities with North American Black theology and Latin American liberation theology. Like they, it begins with a situation of oppression, thereby becoming critical reflection on praxis – the experience of oppressed persons freeing themselves from domination” (225-26). The principal difference is found in the identity of the “oppressed&rd...Read More

Post-Reformation and Contemporary Developments in Evangelicalism The word is often used in a number of ways. Robert Webber (The Younger Evangelicals) notes four: (1)           Biblically - as a reference to the gospel (euangelion), i.e., the "good news" that God has acted savingly in Jesus Christ (2)           Historically - as a reference to any movement o...Read More

Post-Reformation and Contemporary Developments in Roman Catholic Theology A.            Seventeenth-Century Developments 1.             Jansenism – The movement was named after Cornelius Jansen (d. 1638), bishop of Ypres, Holland, and professor at Louvain University. Jansen was a thoroughgoing Augustinian/Calvinist whose theology was incompatible w...Read More

Post-Reformation and Contemporary Developments in the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements   The influence of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement is so widespread and pervasive that some historians are beginning to speak of it as the third great epoch of church history, the first two being the Age of Catholicism (a.d. 100 to 1517) and the age of the Protestant Reformation (1517 to the present). Our survey will touch only the spread of the movement in America,...Read More

Alister McGrath has defined postmodernism as “the general intellectual outlook arising after the collapse of modernism” (Historical Theology, 244). Thus, if we are to understand the essence of postmodernism, we must first understand modernism, which it purports to succeed. Several factors are involved. (1)        The “modern” or “enlightenment” mind assumes the objectivity of reality. Reality is &ldq...Read More

We live in a world that is growing increasingly uncomfortable with religious exclusivism. The traditional Christian claim that Jesus Christ is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" and that salvation is available only to those who consciously put their faith in Him is now regarded as both arrogant and offensive. The "scandal of particularity," as it is commonly called, may well be the most volatile and urgent issue facing the church in the 21st century. There are a number o...Read More