- History of Christian theology
This is an overview of the
historyof Christian theologyfrom the time of Christto the present.
Christianity, the doctrineof the Trinity states that Godis one being who exists, simultaneously and eternally, as a mutual indwelling of three persons: the Father, the Son (incarnate as Jesusof Nazareth), and the Holy Spirit. Since the 4th century, in the vast majority of both Eastern and Western Christian churches, this doctrine has been stated as "one God in three persons," all three of whom, as distinct and co-eternal persons, are of one indivisible Divine essence, a simple being.
The doctrine of the Trinity is the result of continuous exploration by the church of the biblical data, thrashed out in debate and treatises, eventually formulated at the
First Council of Nicaeain 325 AD in a way they believe is consistent with the biblical witness, and further refined in later councils and writings. Oxford Dictionary of the Bible, Trinity Article ] The most widely recognized Biblical foundations for the doctrine's formulation are in the Gospel of John.
Nontrinitarianism is any of several Christian beliefs that reject the
doctrinethat God is three distinct persons in one being, (the Trinity).
The notion of the Trinity is not of particular importance to most nontrinitarians. Persons and groups espousing this position generally do not refer to themselves affirmatively by the term, although some nontrinitarian groups such as the Unitarians have adopted a name suggesting that God subsists as a theological or cosmic unity. Modern nontrinitarian groups views differ widely on the nature of God,
Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Various nontrinitarian traditions, such as
Arianism, existed alongside what is now considered mainstream Christianity before the Trinity was formally defined as doctrine in AD 325.; , and the Epistle of James in general.] The development of doctrine, the position of orthodoxy, and the relationship between the early Church and early heretical groups is a matter of academic debate. Some scholars, drawing upon distinctions between Jewish Christians, Gentile Christians, and other groups such as Gnostics, see Early Christianity as fragmented and with contemporaneous competing orthodoxies.
The process of establishing orthodox Christianity was set in motion by a succession of different interpretations of the teachings of Christ being taught after the
crucifixion. Though Christ himself is noted to have spoken out against false prophets and false christs within the Gospels themselves Mark 13:22 (some will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples), Matthew 7:5-20, Matthew 24:4, Matthew 24:11 Matthew 24:24 (For false christs and false prophets will arise). On many occasions in Paul's epistles, he defends his own apostleship, and urges Christians in various places to beware of false teachers, or of anything contrary to what was handed to them by him. The epistles of John and Jude also warn of false teachers and prophets, as does the writer of the " Book of Revelation" and 1 Jn. 4:1, as did the Apostle Peter warn in 2 Pt. 2:1-3:.
One of the roles of bishops, and the purpose of many Christian writings, was to refute heresies. The earliest of these were generally Christological in nature, that is, they denied either Christ's (eternal) divinity or humanity. For example,
Docetismheld that Jesus' humanity was merely an illusion, thus denying the incarnation; whereas Arianismheld that Jesus was not eternally divine.disputable|date=July 2007 Many groups were dualistic, maintaining that reality was composed into two radically opposing parts: matter, usually seen as evil, and spirit, seen as good. Orthodox Christianity, on the other hand, held that both the material and spiritual worlds were created by God and were therefore both good, and that this was represented in the unified divine and human natures of Christ. [R. Gerberding and J. H. Moran Cruz, "Medieval Worlds" (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004) p. 58] Irenaeus(c. 130–202) was the first to argue that his "proto-orthodox" position was the same faith that Jesusgave to the apostles, and that the identity of the apostles, their successors, and the teachings of the same were all well-known public knowledge. This was therefore an early argument supported by apostolic succession. Irenaeus first established the doctrine of four gospels and no more, with the synoptic gospels interpreted in the light of "John". Irenaeus' opponents, however, claimed to have received secret teachings from Jesus via other apostles which were not publicly known. Gnosticismis predicated on the existence of such hidden knowledge, but brief references to private teachings of Jesus have also survived in the canonic Scripture as did warning by the Christ that there would be false prophets or false teachers. Irenaeus' opponents also claimed that the wellsprings of divine inspiration were not dried up, which is the doctrine of continuing revelation.
In the middle of the 2nd century, three unorthodoxPOV-statement|date=December 2007 groups of Christians adhered to a range of doctrines that divided the Christian communities of Rome: the teacher
Marcion, the pentecostaloutpourings of ecstatic Christian prophets of a continuing revelation, in a movement that was called " Montanism" because it had been initiated by Montanusand his female disciples, and the gnostic teachings of Valentinus. Early attacks upon alleged heresies formed the matter of Tertullian's "Prescription Against Heretics" (in 44 chapters, written from Rome), and of Irenaeus' "Against Heresies" ("ca" 180, in five volumes), written in Lyons after his return from a visit to Rome. The letters of Ignatius of Antiochand Polycarp of Smyrnato various churches warned against false teachers, and the " Epistle of Barnabas" accepted by many Christians as part of Scripture in the 2nd century, warned about mixing Judaism with Christianity, as did other writers, leading to decisions reached in the first ecumenical council, which was convoked by the Emperor Constantine at Nicaea in 325, in response to further disruptive polemical controversy within the Christian community, in that case Arian disputes over the nature of the Trinity.
During those first three centuries, Christianity was effectively outlawed by requirements to venerate the Roman emperor and Roman gods. Consequently, when the Church labelled its enemies as heretics and cast them out of its congregations or severed ties with dissident churches, it remained without the power to persecute them. However, those called "heretics" were also called a number of other things (e.g. "fools," "wild dogs," "servants of Satan"), so the word "heretic" had negative associations from the beginning, and intentionally so.
Before 325 AD, the "heretical" nature of some beliefs was a matter of much debate within the churches. After 325 AD, some opinion was formulated as dogma through the "canons" promulgated by the councils.
Medieval Christian theology
While the Western Roman Empire declined and fell, the Eastern Roman Empire, centred on Constantinople, remained standing until 1453, and was the home of a wide range of theological activity that was seen as standing in strong continuity with the theology of the Patristic period; indeed the division between Patristic and Byzantine theology would not be recognised by many Orthodox theologians and historians.
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite(working c. 500)
Symeon the New Theologian(949-1022)
Council of Chalcedon
The Council of Chalcedon was an
ecumenical councilthat took place from October 8to November 1, 451, at Chalcedon(a city of Bithyniain Asia Minor).
It is the fourth of the first seven Ecumenical Councils in
Christianity, and is therefore recognized as infalliblein its dogmatic definitions by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. It repudiated the Eutychian doctrine of monophysitism, and set forth the Chalcedonian Creed, which describes the "full humanity and full divinity" of Jesus, the second person of the Holy Trinity.
Christological controversy after Chalcedon
Severus of Antioch(c.465-518)
* Leontius of Jerusalem (working 538-544)
Maximus the Confessor(c.580-682)
Iconoclasts and iconophiles
Patriarch Germanus I of Constantinople(patriarch 715-730)
John of Damascus(676-749)
Theodore the Studite(c.758-c.826)
A thorough understanding of the Iconoclastic Period in Byzantium is complicated by the fact that most of the surviving sources were written by the ultimate victors in the controversy, the
iconodules. It is thus difficult to obtain a complete, objective, balanced, and reliably accurate account of events and various aspects of the controversy. [L. Brubaker and J. Haldon, "Byzantium in the iconoclast era (ca. 680-850): the sources" (Birmingham, 2001).]
As with other doctrinal issues in the Byzantine period, the controversy was by no means restricted to the clergy, or to arguments from theology. The continuing cultural confrontation with, and military threat from, the
Islamprobably had a bearing on the attitudes of both sides. Iconoclasm seems to have been supported by many from the East of the Empire, and refugees from the provinces taken over by the Muslims. It has been suggested that their strength in the army at the start of the period, and the growing influence of Balkan forces in the army (generally considered to lack strong iconoclast feelings) over the period may have been important factors in both beginning and ending imperial support for iconoclasm.
Before the Carolingian Empire
When the Western Roman Empire fragmented under the impact of various 'barbarian' invasions, the Empire-wide intellectual culture that had underpinned late Patristic theology had its interconnections cut. Theology tended to become more localised, more diverse, more fragmented. The classically-clothed Christianity preserved in Italy by men like Boethius and
Cassiodoruswas different from the vigorous Frankish Christianity documented by Gregory of Tourswhich was different again from the Christianity that flourished in Irelandand Northumbriain the seventh and eighth centuries. Throughout this period, theology tended to be a more monastic affair, flourishing in monastic havens where the conditions and resources for theological learning could be maintained.
Important writers include:
Caesarius of Arles(c.468-542)
* Boethius (480-524)
Pope Gregory I(c.540-604)
Isidore of Seville(c.560-636)
Theology in the time of Charlemagne
Both because it made communication between different Christian centres easier, and because there was a concerted effort by its rulers to encourage educational and religious reforms and to develop greater uniformity in Christian thought and practice across their territories, the establishment of the
Carolingian Empiresaw an explosion of theological inquiry, and theological controversy. Controversy flared, for instance, around 'Spanish Adoptionism, around the views on predestination of Gottschalk, or around the eucharistic views of Ratramnus.
Important writers include:
* The Spanish Adoptionists Felix of Urgel and
Elipandusof Toledo (late 8th century)
* Gottschalk (c.808-c.867)
Johannes Scotus Eriugena(c.815-877)
With the division and decline of the Carolingian Empire, notable theological activity was preserved in some of the Cathedral schools that had begun to rise to prominence under it – for instance at
Auxerrein the 9th century or Chartresin the 11th. Intellectual influences from the Arabic world (including works of classical authors preserved by Islamic scholars) percolated into the Christian West via Spain, influencing such theologians as Gerbert of Aurillac, who went on to become Pope Sylvester II and mentor to Otto III. (Otto was the fourth ruler of the Germanic Ottonian Holy Roman Empire, successor to the Carolingian Empire). With hindsight, one might say that a new note was struck when a controversy about the meaning of the eucharist blew up around Berengar of Toursin the 11th century: hints of a new confidence in the intellectual investigation of the faith that perhaps foreshadowed the explosion of theological argument that was to take place in the twelfth century.
Notable authors include:
Heiric of Auxerre(c.835-887)
Remigius of Auxerre(c.841-908)
* Gerbert of Aurillac (c.950-1003)
Fulbert of Chartres(died 1028)
Berengar of Tours(c.999-1088)
Scholasticism comes from the
Latinword "scholasticus", which means "that [which] belongs to the school", and was a method of learning taught by the academics(or "schoolmen") of medieval universities circa 1100–1500. Scholasticism originally began to reconcile the philosophyof the ancient classical philosophers with medieval Christian theology. It is not a philosophy or theology in itself, but a tool and method for learning which puts emphasis on dialectical reasoning. The primary purpose of scholasticism was to find the answer to a question or resolve a contradiction. It is most well known in its application in medieval theology, but was eventually applied to classical philosophy and many other fields of study.
Early Scholasticism and its contemporaries
Anselm of Canterburyis sometimes misleadingly called the 'Father of Scholasticism' because of the prominent place that reason has in his theology; instead of establishing his points by appeal to authority, he presents arguments to demonstrate why it is that the things he believes on authority must be so. His particular approach, however, was not very influential in his time, and he kept his distance from the Cathedral Schools. We should look instead to the production of the glosson Scripture associated with Anselm of Laon, the rise to prominence of dialectic(middle subject of the medieval trivium) in the work of Abelard, and the production by Peter Lombardof a collection of Sentencesor opinions of the Church Fathers and other authorities. Scholasticism proper can be thought of as the kind of theology that emerges when, in the Cathedral schools and their successors, the tools of dialectic are pressed into use to comment upon, explain, and develop the gloss and the sentences.
Notable authors include:
Anselm of Laon(died 1117)
Hugh of St Victor(1078-1151)
Bernard of Clairvaux(1090-1153)
Hildegard of Bingen(1098-1179)
Joachim of Fiore(c.1135-1202)
High Scholasticism and its contemporaries
The 13th Century saw the attempted suppression of various groups perceived as heterodox, such as the
Catharsand Waldensiansand the associated rise of the mendicant orders(notably the Franciscans and Dominicans), in part intended as a form of orthodox alternative to the heretical groups. Those two orders quickly became contexts for some of the most intense scholatsic theologizing, producing such 'high scholastic' theologians as Alexander of Hales(Franciscan) and Thomas Aquinas(Dominican), or the rather less obviously scholastic Bonaventure(Franciscan). The century also saw a flourishing of mystical theology, with women such as Mechthild of Magdeburgplaying a prominent role. In addition, the century can be seen as period in which the study of natural philosophy that could anachronistically be called 'science' begain once again to flourish in theological soil, in the hands of such men as Robert Grossetesteand Roger Bacon.
Notable authors include:
Francis of Assisi(1182-1226)
Alexander of Hales(died 1245)
Mechthild of Magdeburg(1210-1285)
Angela of Foligno(1248-1309)
Late Scholasticism and its contemporaries
Scholastic theology continued to develop as the thirteenth century gave way to the fourteenth, becoming ever more complex and subtle in its distinctions and arguments. The fourteenth century saw in particular the rise to dominance of the nominalist or voluntarist theologies of men like
William of Ockham. The fourteenth century was also a time in which movements of widely varying character worked for the reform of the institutional church, such as conciliarism, Lollardyand the Hussites. Spiritual movements such as the Devotio Modernaalso flourished.
Notable authors include:
Marsilius of Padua(1270-1342)
William of Ockham(c.1285-1349)
Julian of Norwich(1342-1413)
Catherine of Siena(1347-1380)
Thomas a Kempis(1380-1471)
Renaissance and Reformation
Renaissanceyielded scholars the ability to read the scriptures in their original languages and this in part stimulated the Reformation, a Theological movement that based its "Protests" on a new understanding of the Bible. Most important were Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli, Melanchthon, Martin Bucerand the Anabaptists. Their Theology was developed by successors such as Theodore Beza, the English Puritansand Francis Turretin.
Lutheranismas a movement traces its origin to the work of Martin Luther, a German priest and theologian who sought to reform the practices of the Roman Catholic Churchin the 16th century. The symbolic beginning of the Reformation occurred on October 31, 1517, which Lutherans and other Protestants regard as Reformation Day, when Doctor Luther posted an open invitation to debate his 95 thesesconcerning the "power and efficacy of indulgences": the idea that time in purgatory could be reduced by making donations to the church.
Luther's insights are generally held to have been a major foundation of the Protestant movement. The relationship between Lutheranism and the Protestant tradition is, however, ambiguous: some Lutherans consider Lutheranism to be outside the Protestant tradition, while some see it as part of this tradition. ["Protestant?" The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod [http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=4409 (Website FAQ)] ]
Between 1517 and 1520, Luther preached and published his criticisms of what he considered false doctrine of the church of his day in
books and pamphlets. His ideas were supported by many other Christian theologians, and they also had a certain populistappeal. As a result, Luther gained many supporters and followers from all levels of society, from peasants who considered him a folk hero, to knights who swore to protect him, to rulers of German lands who wanted more independence from papal interference in their domestic policies. Luther also gained some powerful enemies, including the Popein Rome and the youthful Holy Roman EmperorCharles V.
Concerned about the "problem" of Luther, the
Popeand Roman officials decided to send representatives to Luther to discuss his concerns and to persuade him to retract his challenges to papal authority. The effort was largely unsuccessful. Luther continued to discover new areas in need of reform. Finally, the papal bullcalled the Exsurge Dominewas issued in 1520, calling on Luther to condemn and abandon his ideas. Luther replied by burning the bull and volumes of canon lawin a bonfire at Wittenberg. Finally, a new bull excommunicating Luther and those who agreed with him was issued, Decet Romanum Pontificem(January, 1521).
Charles V wanted to outlaw the now excommunicated Luther and his followers, but he was warned by advisors that doing so outright would cause a revolt, since Luther had become so popular. More importantly, the ruler of Luther's land, Elector
Frederick the Wise, refused to allow any of his subjects to be condemned without trial. So instead, Luther was to be summoned to appear before the Diet of Worms. Luther went to Worms, but when called upon by imperial and papal officials to retract his ideas, Luther replied: "I cannot submit my faith either to the Pope or to the Councils, because it is clear as day they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore, I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture and plain reason ... I cannot and will not react ..." --Martin Luther, April 16, 1521
The emperor had granted Luther a promise of safe conduct to travel to and from his trial, but remembering how a similar promise had been violated in the case of
Jan Hus, Luther's supporters prevailed upon him to escape from Worms in the dark of night, before he too could be seized and executed. Luther remained in hiding for some time at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, all the while continuing to write and develop his ideas. Shortly after Luther escaped, Charles V issued the Edict of Worms, which outlawed Luther and his followers, declared Luther and his followers heretics, and banned Luther's writings and teachings.
What had started as a strictly theological and academic debate had now turned into something of a social and political conflict as well, pitting Luther, his German allies and Northern European supporters against Charles V, France, the Italian Pope, their territories and other allies. The conflict would erupt into a religious war after Luther's death, fueled by the political climate of the
Holy Roman Empireand strong personalities on both sides.
In 1526, at the
First Diet of Speyer, it was decided that, until a General Councilcould meet and settle the theological issues raised by Martin Luther, the Edict of Wormswould not be enforced and each Prince could decide if Lutheran teachings and worship would be allowed in his territories. In 1529, at the Second Diet of Speyer, the decision the previous Diet of Speyer was reversed — despite the strong protests of the Lutheran princes, free cities and some Zwinglianterritories. These states quickly became known as Protestants. At first, this term "Protestant" was used politically for the states that resisted the Edict of Worms. Over time, however, this term came to be used for the religious movements that opposed the Roman Catholic tradition in the sixteenth century.
Lutheranism would become known as a separate movement after the 1530
Diet of Augsburg, which was convened by Charles V to try to stop the growing Protestantmovement. At the Diet, Philipp Melanchthonpresented a written summary of Lutheran beliefs called the Augsburg Confession. Several of the German princes (and later, kings and princes of other countries) signed the document to define "Lutheran" territories. These princes would ally to create the Schmalkaldic Leaguein 1531, which lead to the Schmalkald War, 1547, a year after Luther's death, that pitted the Lutheran princes of the Schmalkaldic League against the Catholic forces of Charles V.
After the conclusion of the Schmalkald War, Charles V attempted to impose Catholic religious doctrine on the territories that he had defeated. However, the Lutheran movement was far from defeated. In 1577, the next generation of Lutheran theologians gathered the work of the previous generation to define the doctrine of the persisting Lutheran church. This document is known as the
Formula of Concord. In 1580, it was published with the Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Large and Small Catechisms of Martin Luther, the Smalcald Articlesand the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope. Together they were distributed in a volume entitled " The Book of Concord". This book is still used today.
Results of the Lutheran Reformation
Luther and his followers began a large exodus from the Roman Catholic Church known as the
Protestant Reformation. In the years and decades following Luther's posting of the 95 theses on the door of the Wittenbergchurch, large numbers of Europeans left the Roman Church, including the majority of German speakers (the only German speaking areas where the population remained mostly in the Catholic church were those under the domain or influence of Catholic Austria and Bavaria or the electoral archbishops of Mainz, Cologne, and Trier). Because Luther sparked this mass movement, he is known as the father of the Protestant Reformation, and the father of Protestantism in general.
Calvinismis a system of Christian theologyand an approach to Christian life and thought within the Protestant tradition articulated by John Calvin, a Protestant Reformer in the 16th century, and subsequently by successors, associates, followers and admirers of Calvin, his interpretation of Scripture, and perspective on Christian life and theology. Calvin's system of theology and Christian life forms the basis of the Reformed tradition, a term roughly equivalent to "Calvinism".
The Reformed tradition was originally advanced by stalwarts such as
Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullingerand Peter Martyr Vermigli, and also influenced English reformers such as Thomas Cranmerand John Jewel. However, because of Calvin's great influence and role in the confessional and ecclesiastical debates throughout the seventeenth century, this Reformedmovement generally became known as Calvinism. Today, this term also refers to the doctrines and practices of the Reformed churches, of which Calvin was an early leader, and the system is perhaps best known for its doctrines of "predestination" and "election".
Arminianismis a school of soteriological thought in Protestant Christian theologyfounded by the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius. Its acceptance stretches through much of mainstream Protestantism. Due to the influence of John Wesley, Arminianism is perhaps most prominent in the Methodist movement.
Arminianism holds to the following tenets:
* Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation
* Salvation is possible by grace alone
* Works of human effort cannot cause or contribute to
* God's election is conditional on faith in Jesus
atonementwas potentially for all people
* God allows his grace to be resisted by those unwilling to believe
* Salvation can be lost, as continued salvation is conditional upon continued faith
Arminianism is most accurately used to define those who affirm the original beliefs of Jacobus Arminius himself, but the term can also be understood as an umbrella for a larger grouping of ideas including those of
Hugo Grotius, John Wesley, Clark Pinnock, and others. There are two primary perspectives on how the system is applied in detail: Classical Arminianism, which sees Arminius as its figurehead, and Wesleyan Arminianism, which (as the name suggests) sees John Wesley as its figurehead. Wesleyan Arminianism is sometimes synonymous with Methodism.
Within the broad scope of church history, Arminianism is closely related to
Calvinism(or Reformed theology), and the two systems share both history and many doctrines in common. Nonetheless, they are often viewed as archrivals within Evangelicalism because of their disagreement over the doctrines of predestinationand salvation.
Anglican doctrine emerged from the interweaving of two main strands of
Christiandoctrine during the English Reformationin the 16th and 17th centuries. The first strand is the Catholicdoctrine taught by the established church in Englandin the early 1500s. The second strand is a range of Protestant Reformedteachings brought to England from neighbouring countries in the same period, notably Calvinismand Lutheranism.
The Church of England was the national branch of the Catholic Church. The formal doctrines had been documented in
canon lawover the centuries, and the Church of England still follows an unbroken tradition of canon law today. The English Reformationdid not dispense of all previous doctrines. The church not only retained the core Catholic beliefs common to Reformeddoctrine in general, such as the Trinity, the Virgin Birthof Jesus, the nature of Jesus as fully human and fully God, the Resurrection of Jesus, Original Sin, and Excommunication(as affirmed by the Thirty-Nine Articles), but also retained some Catholic teachings which were rejected by true Protestants, such as the three orders of ministry and the apostolic successionof bishops.
The fall of
Constantinoplein the East, 1453, led to a significant shift of gravity to the rising state of Russia, the "Third Rome". The Renaissance would also stimulate a program of reforms by patriarchs of prayer books. A movement called the " Old believers" consequently resulted and influenced Russian Orthodox Theologyin the direction of conservatismand Erastianism.
The Counter-Reformation, or Catholic Reformation, was the response of the Catholic Church to the Protestant Reformation. The essence of the Counter-Reformation was a renewed conviction in traditional practices and the upholding of Catholic doctrine as the source of ecclesiastic and moral reform, and the answer to halting the spread of Protestantism. Thus it experienced the founding of new religious orders, such as the Jesuits, the establishment of
seminariesfor the proper training of priests, renewed worldwide missionary activity, and the development of new yet orthodox forms of spirituality, such as that of the Spanish mysticsand the French school of spirituality. The entire process was spearheaded by the Council of Trent, which clarified and reasserted doctrine, issued dogmatic definitions, and produced the " Roman Catechism".
The Roman Catholic
counter-reformationspearheaded by the Jesuitsunder Ignatius Loyolatook their theology from the decisions of the Council of Trent. The overall result of the Reformation was therefore to highlight distinctions of belief that had previously co-existed uneasily.
Though Ireland, Spain, France, and elsewhere featured significantly in the Counter-Reformation, its heart was Italy and the various popes of the time, who established the "
Index Librorum Prohibitorum", or simply the "Index", a list of prohibited books, and the Roman Inquisition, a system of juridical tribunals that prosecuted heresy and related offences. The Papacy of St. Pius V (1566-1572) was known not only for its focus on halting heresy and worldly abuses within the Church, but also for its focus on improving popular piety in a determined effort to stem the appeal of Protestantism. Pius began his pontificate by giving large alms to the poor, charity, and hospitals, and the pontiff was known for consoling the poor and sick, and supporting missionaries. The activities of these pontiffs coincided with a rediscovery of the ancient Christian catacombs in Rome. As Diarmaid MacCullochstated, "Just as these ancient martyrs were revealed once more, Catholics were beginning to be martyred afresh, both in mission fields overseas and in the struggle to win back Protestant northern Europe: the catacombs proved to be an inspiration for many to action and to heroism." [ Diarmaid MacCulloch, "" (New York: Penguin Books, 2004) p. 404]
The Council of Trent
Council of Trent(1545-1563), initiated by Pope Paul III(1534-1549) addressed issues of certain ecclesiastical corruptions such as simony, absenteeism, nepotism, and other abuses, as well as the reassertion of traditional practices and the dogmatic articulation of the traditional doctrines of the Church, such as the episcopal structure, clerical celebacy, the seven Sacraments, transubstantiation(the belief that during mass the consecrated bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ), the veneration of relics, icons, and saints (especially the Blessed Virgin Mary), the necessity of both faith and good works for salvation, the existence of purgatory and the issuance (but not the sale) of indulgences, etc. In other words, all Protestant doctrinal objections and changes were uncompromisingly rejected. The Council also fostered an interest in education for perish priests to increase pastoral care. Milan's Archbishop St. Carlo Borromeo (1538-1584) set an example by visiting the remotest parishes and instilling high standards.
Revivalism (1720 – 1906)
Holiness movementin the U.S. and Higher Life movementin Britain
The Calvinist and Wesleyan revival, called the
Great Awakening, established the Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and new Methodistchurches on competitive footing for social influence in North America. However, as that great "revival of religion" began to wane, a new era of secularism began to overwhelm the social gains that had been experienced by Evangelical churches. Furthermore, that revival had popularized the strong opinion that Evangelical religions were weakened and divided, primarily due to unreasonable loyalty to creeds and doctrines which made salvation, and Christian unity, seem unattainable. This sentiment gave rise to Restorationism.
First Great Awakening
First Great Awakeningwas a wave of religious enthusiasm among Protestants that swept the American colonies in the 1730s and 1740s, leaving a permanent impact on American religion. It resulted from powerful preaching that deeply affected listeners (already church members) with a deep sense of personal guilt and salvation by Christ. Pulling away from ritual and ceremony, the Great Awakening made religion intensely personal to the average person by creating a deep sense of spiritual guilt and redemption. Historian Sydney E. Ahlstrom sees it as part of a "great international Protestant upheaval" that also created Pietismin Germany, the Evangelical Revival and Methodismin England. [ Sydney E. Ahlstrom, "A Religious History of the American People". (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1972) p. 263] It brought Christianity to the slaves and was an apocalyptic event in New Englandthat challenged established authority. It incited rancor and division between the old traditionalists who insisted on ritual and doctrine and the new revivalists. It had a major impact in reshaping the Congregational, Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, and German Reformed denominations, and strengthened the small Baptistand Methodist denominations. It had little impact on Anglicans and Quakers. Unlike the Second Great Awakeningthat began about 1800 and which reached out to the unchurched, the First Great Awakening focused on people who were already church members. It changed their rituals, their piety, and their self awareness.
The new style of sermons and the way people practiced their faith breathed new life into religion in America. People became passionately and emotionally involved in their religion, rather than passively listening to intellectual discourse in a detached manner. Ministers who used this new style of preaching were generally called "new lights", while the preachers of old were called "old lights". People began to study the Bible at home, which effectively decentralized the means of informing the public on religious manners and was akin to the individualistic trends present in Europe during the
econd Great Awakening
The Second Great Awakening (1800–1830s) was the second great religious revival in
United Stateshistory and consisted of renewed personal salvation experienced in revival meetings. Major leaders included Charles Grandison Finney, Lyman Beecher, Barton Stone. Peter Cartwrightand James B. Finley.
New England, the renewed interest in religion inspired a wave of social activism. In western New York, the spirit of revival encouraged the emergence of new Restorationistand other denominations, especially the Mormonsand the Holiness movement. In the west especially—at Cane Ridge, Kentuckyand in Tennessee—the revival strengthened the Methodists and the Baptists and introduced into America a new form of religious expression—the Scottish camp meeting.
The third Awakening or "resurgence", from 1830, was largely influential in America and many countries worldwide including India and
Ceylon. The Plymouth Brethrenstarted with John Nelson Darbyat this time, a result of disillusionment with denominationalism and clerical hierarchy.
Third Great Awakening
The next Great Awakening (sometimes called the
Third Great Awakening) began from 1857 onwards in Canada and spread throughout the world including America and Australia. Significant names include Dwight L. Moody, Ira D. Sankey, William Boothand Catherine Booth (founders of the Salvation Army), Charles Spurgeonand James Caughey. Hudson Taylorbegan the China Inland Missionand Thomas John Barnardofounded his famous orphanages. The Keswick Conventionmovement began out of the British Holiness movement, encouraging a lifestyle of holiness, unity and prayer.
The next Awakening (1880 - 1903) has been described as "a period of unusual evangelistic effort and success", and again sometimes more of a "resurgence" of the previous wave. Moody, Sankey and Spurgeon are again notable names. Others included Sam Jones, J. Wilber Chapman and
Billy Sundayin North America, Andrew Murray in South Africa, and John McNeil in Australia. The Faith Missionbegan in 1886.
Welsh and Pentecostal revivals
The final Great Awakening (1904 onwards) had its roots in the
Holiness movementwhich had developed in the late 19C. The Pentecostalrevival movement began, out of a passion for more power and a greater outpouring of the Spirit. In 1902, the American evangelists Reuben Archer Torreyand Charles M. Alexanderconducted meetings in Melbourne, Australia, resulting in over 8,000 converts. News of this revival travelled fast, igniting a passion for prayer and an expectation that God would work in similar ways elsewhere.
Torrey and Alexander were involved in the beginnings of the great Welsh revival (1904) which led
Jessie Penn-Lewisto witness the working of Satan during times of revival, and write her book "War on the Saints". In 1906 the modern Pentecostal Movement was born in Azusa Street, in Los Angeles.
* See also:
Dispensationalismand Restoration Movement
*Campbellites or Stone-Campbell Churches
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Church of ChristMovement in Britain and the US
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Seventh-day Adventist Church
Jehovah's Witnesses Restorationismrefers to unaffiliated religious movements that attempted to transcend Protestantdenominationalism and orthodox Christian creedsto restore Christianity to its original form. The term applies particularly to movements that arose in the eastern United Statesand Canadain the early and mid 19th century in the wake of the Second Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakeningmade its way across the frontier territories, fed by intense longing for a prominent place for God in the life of the new nation, a new liberal attitude toward fresh interpretations of the Bible, and a contagious experience of zeal for authentic spirituality. As these revivals spread, they gathered converts to Protestant sects of the time. However, the revivals eventually moved freely across denominational lines, with practically identical results, and went farther than ever toward breaking down the allegiances which kept adherents to these denominations loyal to their own. Consequently, the revivals were accompanied by a growing dissatisfaction with Evangelical churches and especially with the doctrine of Calvinism, which was nominally accepted or at least tolerated in most Evangelical churches at the time. Restorationismis historically connected to the Protestant Reformation. [Ahlstrom's summary is as follows: Restorationism has its genesis with Thomas and Alexander Campbell, whose movement is connected to the German Reformed Church through Otterbein, Albright, and Winebrenner (p. 212). American Millennialism and Adventism, which arose from Evangelical Protestantism, produced certain groups such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (p. 387, 501-9), the Jehovah's Witness movement (p. 807), and, as a reaction specifically to William Miller, Seventh Day Adventism (p. 381).]
Although Restorationists have some basic similarities, their doctrine and practices vary significantly. Restorationists do not usually describe themselves as "reforming" a Christian Church continuously existing from the time of Jesus, but as "restoring" the Church that they believe was lost at some point. Restorationists include
Churches of Christwith 2.6 million members, Disciples of Christwith 800,000 members, [ "Statistical Report: Annual Council of the General Conference Committee Silver Spring, Marlyand, October 6—11, 2006"] ] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintswith 12 million members,Adherents.com, [http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html "Religions by Adherents"] ] and Jehovah’s Witnesseswith 6.6 million members. [JW-Media.org [http://www.jw-media.org/people/statistics.htm#Jehovah%Witness%Membership%2005 Membership 2005] ] Restorationist beliefs are sometimes referred to as "Christian primitivism" (cf. " originalism") which describes a number of movements attempting to return to Early Christianity, including the Baptists, Quakers and before them, the Anabaptists. The newer term has special application to the Restoration Movement, and by comparison it is applied to other contemporary groups that are similarly motivated but founded separately. The name Restoration is also used to describe the Latter Day Saint movement. These two movements have a briefly overlapping history. Other groups are also called "restorationists" because of their comparable goal to re-establish Christianity in its original form, such as some anti-denominational "Restorationists" who arose in the 1970s, in Britain, ["Evangelicalism in modern Britain: a history from the 1730s to the 1980s", David W. Bebbington, pub 1995, Routledge (UK), ISBN 0415104645, pg 230,231; 245-249] and others.
Modern Christian theology
After the Reformation
protestantgroups continued to splinter, leading to a range of new theologies. The " Enthusiasts" were so named because of their emotional zeal. These included the Methodists, the Quakersand Baptists. Another group sought to reconcile Christian faith with "Modern" ideas, sometimes causing them to reject beliefs they considered to be illogical, including the Nicene creedand Chalcedonian Creed. these included Unitariansand Universalists. A major issue for Protestants became the degree to which Man contributes to his salvation. The debate is often viewied as synergismversus monergism, though the labels Calvinistand Arminianare more frequently used, referring to the conclusion of the Synod of Dort.
The Nineteenth century saw the rise of
biblical criticism, new knowledge of religious diversity in other continents and above all the growth of science. This led many church men to espouse a form of Deism. This, along with concepts such as the brotherhood of man and a rejection of miracles led to what is called "Classic Liberalism". Immensely influential in its day, classic liberalism suffered badly as a result of the two world warsand fell prey to the criticisms of postmodernism. Vladimir Losskyis a famous Eastern Orthodoxtheologian writing in the 20th century for the Greek church.
Modern Catholic response to Protestantism
Well into the Twentieth Century, Catholics - even if no longer resorting to persecution - still defined Protestants as heretics. Thus,
Hillaire Belloc- in his time one of the most conspicuous speakers for Catholicism in Britain - was outspoken about the "Protestant Heresy". He even defined Islamas being "A Christian heresy", on the grounds that Muslims accept many of the tenets of Christianity but deny the godhood of Jesus (see Hilaire Belloc#On Islam).
However, in the second half of the Century - and especially in the wake of
Vatican II- the Catholic Church, in the spirit of ecumenism, tends not to refer to Protestantismas a heresy nowadays, even if the teachings of Protestantism are indeed heretical from a Catholic perspective. Modern usage favors referring to Protestants as "separated brethren" rather than "heretics", although the latter is still on occasion used vis-a-vis Catholics who abandon their Church to join a Protestant denomination. Many Catholics consider Protestantism to be material rather than formal heresy, and thus non-culpable.
Some of the doctrines of Protestantism that the Catholic Church considers heretical are the belief that the
Bibleis the only source and rule of faith (" sola scriptura"), that faith alone can lead to salvation (" sola fide") and that there is no sacramental, ministerial priesthood attained by ordination, but only a universal priesthood of all believers.
Postmodern Christianityis an understanding of Christianity that is closely associated with the body of writings known as postmodern philosophy. Although it is a relatively recent development in the Christian religion, many Christian postmodernists are quick to assert that their style of thought has an affinity with foundational Christian thinkers such as Augustine of Hippoand Thomas Aquinasand famed Christian mystics such as Meister Eckhartand Angelus Silesius.
In addition to
Christian theology, postmodern Christianity has its roots in post-Heideggerian continental philosophy, particularly the thought of Jacques Derrida. Postmodern Christianity first emerged in the early 1980s with the publication of major books about Derrida and theology authored by Carl Raschke, Mark C. Taylor, and Charles Winquist. Many people prefer to eschew the label "postmodern Christianity" because the idea of postmodernity has almost no determinate meaning and, in the United States, serves largely to symbolize an emotionally charged battle of ideologies. Moreover, such alleged postmodern heavyweights as Jacques Derridaand Philippe Lacoue-Labarthehave refused to operate under a so-called postmodern rubric, preferring instead to specifically embrace a single project stemming from the European Enlightenment and its precursors. Nevertheless, postmodern Christianity and its constituent schools of thought continue to be relevant. Postmodern theologyseeks to respond to the challenges of post modern and deconstructionist thought, and has included the death of Godmovement, Process Theology, Feminist theologyand Queer Theologyand most importantly Neo-orthodox Theology. Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmannand Reinhold Niebuhrwere Neo-Orthodoxies main representatives. In particular Barth labeled his theology "Dialectical Theology", a reference to existentialism.
The predominance of Classic Liberalism resulted in many
reactionarymovements amongst conservative believers. Evangelical theology, Pentecostal or Renewal theologyand Fundamentalist theology, often combined with Dispensationalism, all moved from the fringe into the academy. Marxismstimulated the significant rise of Liberation Theologywhich can be interpreted as a rejection of Academic Theology that fails to challenge the establishmentand help the poor.
From the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth groups established themselves that derived many of their beliefs from Protestant evangelical groups but significantly differed in doctrine. These include the
Jehovah's Witnesses, the Latter Day Saints and many so called " cults". Many of these groups use the Protestant version of the bible and typically interpret it in a fundamentalist fashion, adding, however, special prophecy or scriptures, and typically denying the trinity and the full deity of Jesus Christ. Ecumenical Theologysought to discover a common consensus on theological matters that could bring the many Christian denominationstogether. As a movement it was successful in helping to provide a basis for the establishment of the World Council of Churchesand for some reconciliation between more established denominations. But ecumenical theology was nearly always the concern of liberal theologians, often Protestant ones. The movement for ecumenism was opposed especially by fundamentalists and viewed as flawed by many neo-orthodox theologians.
Liberal Christianity-- sometimes called liberal theology -- has an affinity with certain current forms of postmodern Christianity, although postmodern thought was originally a reaction against mainstream Protestant liberalism. Liberal Christianityis an umbrella term covering diverse, philosophically informed movements and moods within 19th and 20th century Christianity.
Despite its name, liberal Christianity has always been thoroughly
protean. The word "liberal" in liberal Christianity does not refer to a leftistpolitical agenda but rather to insights developed during the Enlightenment. Generally speaking, Enlightenment-era liberalismheld that man is a political creature and that libertyof thought and expression should be his highest value. The development of liberal Christianity owes a lot to the works of philosophers Immanuel Kantand Friedrich Schleiermacher. As a whole, liberal Christianity is a product of a continuing philosophical dialogue.
Many 20th century liberal Christians have been influenced by philosophers
Edmund Husserland Martin Heidegger. Examples of important liberal Christian thinkers are Rudolf Bultmannand John A.T. Robinson.
Christian existentialismis a form of liberal Christianity that draws extensively from the writings of Søren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard initiated the school of thought when he reacted against Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's claims of universal knowledge and what he deemed to be the empty formalities of the 19th century church. Christian existentialismplaces an emphasis on the undecidability of faith, individual passion, and the subjectivity of knowledge.
Although Kierkegaard's writings weren't initially embraced, they became widely known at the beginning of the 20th century. Later Christian existentialists synthesized Kierkegaardian themes with the works of thinkers such as
Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, and Martin Buber. Paul Tillichand Gabriel Marcelare examples of leading Christian existentialist writers.
Continental philosophical theology
Continental philosophical theology is the most recent form of postmodern Christianity. The movement was fueled heavily by the slew of notable post-
Heideggerian philosophers that appeared on the continent in the 1970s and 1980s. Groundbreaking works such as Jean-Luc Marion's "God Without Being" and John D. Caputo's "The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida" ushered in the era of continental philosophical theology.
Radical orthodoxyis a form of continental philosophical theology that has been influenced by the phenomenological writings of Jean-Luc Marion.
Radical orthodoxy is a style of theology that seeks to examine classic Christian writings and related
Neoplatonictexts from a contemporary, philosophically continental perspective. The movement finds in writers such as Augustine of Hippoand Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagitevaluable sources of insight and meaning relevant to modern society and Christianity at large. John Milbankand James K.A. Smithare leading proponents of radical orthodoxy.
Hermeneutics of religion
The hermeneutics of religion is another form of continental philosophical theology. The system of
hermeneuticinterpretation developed by Paul Ricœurhas heavily influenced the school of thought. A central theme in the hermeneutics of religion is that of a Godwho exists outside the confines of the human imagination.
Weak theology is a manner of thinking about theology from a
deconstructivepoint of view. This style of thought owes a debt to Jacques Derrida, especially in light of his idea of a "weak force." Weak theology is weak because it takes a non-dogmatic, perspectival approach to theology. Proponents of weak theology believe that dominant contemporary explications of theology are inherently ideological, totalizing, and militant. In response, weak theology expresses itself through acts of interpretation.
Although postmodern Christianity is inescapably political, postmodern Christianity does not necessarily represent a new
ecclesiastical epoch. It is consonant with postmodern Christianity to work within existing institutions, interrupting business as usual in order to make room for marginalized voices. In such a case, the goal would not be revolution but rather a call to reform and transform existing social structures in the direction of love, hospitality, and openness.
Postmodern Christianity has influenced the
emerging churchmovement. The emerging churchmovement seeks to revitalize the Christian church beyond what it sees as the confines of Christian fundamentalismso that it can effectively engage with people in contemporary society. Critics allege, however, that this movement's understanding of faith has led many of its adherents outside the bounds of traditional Christianity. Brian McLarenis a well-known author and spokesperson for the emerging church movement.
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