Page 1

Tanya Marchun Global Christianity Paper The Rule of Faith According to Tertullian, “…The Rule of Faith is…namely, that by which it is believed: that there is only one God, and no other besides the Maker of the world… (Fremantle, 343).” During the beginning of the Christian faith, persecution was causing Christians to flee and fear their profession of faith in Jesus. Even though Christianity has its roots within Judaism, there were many activities and events that caused a break between Judaism and Christianity. The Pharisees and Sadducees were two powerful ruling groups in Israel. Both groups believed different things regarding life, God and Jesus. For example, the Pharisees believed in final judgment, resurrection and afterlife. The Sadducees did not believe in any of these. The one thing the Pharisees and Sadducees did agree on was to put Jesus to death for fear of unwanted attention. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation. But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed (John 11:48-50). Both of these groups had different beliefs about Jesus. However, they did not believe Jesus to be the Messiah. This is where Christianity began to split from Judaism. Christianity believed Jesus to be the long awaited Messiah while, Judaism believed Jesus was only a prophet like Muhammad. There is also the matter regarding the delay of Christ’s return. Many early Christians believed that Jesus’ resurrection signaled the beginning of the end of time. Time and the world as Christians knew it would end when Jesus came again, in other words, final judgment.


Tanya Marchun Global Christianity Paper However, time pressed on and many of the first Christians died, which lead many of the other Christians to carry out their duty of preaching the gospel to larger areas of the Empire. During this expansion and time of preaching, Christians were exposed to many challenges and much persecution. In 64 A.D. Nero started using the public’s opinion of Christianity against them. Society believed Christians to be secretive. Also because they only believed in serving one God, they were shunned. Christians were also used as a scapegoat for the great fire in Rome. During this time two of the most important leaders of the church were martyred. Peter was crucified upside down and Paul was beheaded. The persecutions caused many Christians to flee from Rome to other countries. So while some thought this helped lessen the number of Christians, it actually did the opposite. In the early 200’s Christianity expanded into the Greco-Roman world. “This geographic spread covered three main linguistic environments: Latin in the Western Roman world; Greek in most of the Eastern Roman world; and Syriac in scattered parts of the East (Cory & Hollerich, 143).” During this time people were searching for many answers regarding life, church, etc. Christianity had the answers s/he was seeking which lead to a large growth of converts. Many people believed it was either the golden age of the church or it was completely corrupt because the church began taking part in state matters. While some were fond of the idea of the church and state working together, it did not stop the persecutions. The persecutions had a huge impact upon Christianity. These were leading Christians to be seen as outcasts and killed for their “atheism.” In the beginning movements and developments of Christianity, the Romans were tolerant of the new religion. Rome was


Tanya Marchun Global Christianity Paper polytheistic meaning to serve many gods. However, because Christians were monotheistic Romans felt that they were a threat to the wellbeing of the empire. Christians knew that the authority of the state had limitations. The state did not hold religious authority even though the Roman Empire truly wanted to. Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. The persecutions at this time were short lived and sporadic, but that changed as Christianity spread and grew. Complications arose because of the death of the Apostles and first generation followers. During the mid 250’s or end of the third century, many laws came into effect that affected Christianity. There was a decree made that forbade Christians from meeting together and also a decree that targeted the leadership of the church. The bishops and priests were targeted as well as killed to try to bring the Christian followers down, to exterminate Christianity by hurting its power and order. During this time many Christians were martyred for their faith. As stated in the Acts of the Martyrs, “Blessed and noble are all martyrdoms that happen according to the will of God. For we should act with discretion, leaving the power over all events to God. For who can fail to admire their nobility and patience and love of their Master? (Fremantle, 185).” The martyrs were not trying to be noble or looking for acceptance from society, instead they were dying for their beliefs just as Jesus Christ died for humanity. Tertullian’s statement about the blood of the martyrs being the seed of the church is very true. Without the death of people and leaders like Paul and Peter, Christianity would be nothing. The martyrs helped Christianity spread and gave others confidence in the choice to be Christian. To die for one’s faith and belief in Jesus Christ is noble. Many could have easily committed apostasy, but instead held true to the apostolic tradition, teachings and beliefs of Christianity. It


Tanya Marchun Global Christianity Paper ultimately ended with death, but it helped the expansion and foundation of the greatest church in the world. The martyrdoms were necessary for the rest of Christianity to see and feel the presence of God. The Apostles were preaching and spreading His word and even though martyrdoms were devastating events, they also laid the foundation for Christians to come. The martyrdoms lasted for a long period of time, but the beliefs of Christians were becoming stronger. However, under Emperor Decius the first major and long lasting persecution was held against the Christians. The charge most Christians faced was Atheism, not the denial of God but rather the denial of everyone else’s gods. On the contrary, an important accomplishment came in the second and third centuries, the Logos theology. Reason, God is reason; therefore, Jesus is reason and so is a person whose life is ordered toward Jesus and God. Even though the Logos theology was formed Christianity also had many debates and discussions regarding orthodoxy. “The factors that guided the development of orthodox Christian doctrine were many: the church’s preaching, biblical interpretation, standards of discipleship, communal life and ministry, central rituals of Baptism and the Eucharist, and its prayers and hymns (Cory & Hollerich, 150).” The doctrine of the Trinity is not only important in itself but also important in the Christian ritual of Baptism. Christian creeds were also important in Baptism because they were seen as instructions during Baptism of profession faith and belief in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Gregory of Nyssa states, “He who has the universe at His disposal immersed Himself in death – as we immerse ourselves in the water – to return to His own blessedness (Aquilina, 158).” Before being baptized Christians were asked simple questions about their faith and what


Tanya Marchun Global Christianity Paper they believed. This was the beginning of the making of the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. These creeds were helpful in determining the boundaries between genuine Christianity and false Christians. The doctrine of the Incarnation is important because it is the belief that Jesus was not just human and not just divine, but that he was both. The word made flesh. The Incarnation lead to the sacrament of Eucharist which helped keep in mind the idea of Jesus becoming human and His sacrifice for humanity. The bread and wine is celebrated as Jesus’ body and blood given up for humanity. Cyril of Jerusalem says, “So with full assurance let us partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. For given to you in the figure of bread is His body, and in the figure of wine His blood: that you, by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, may be made of the same body with Him (Aquilina, 162-163).” Many groups formed that challenged the Christian doctrines and dogmas of the Trinity, Incarnation, divinity, and humanity. Gnosticism is one of the most notable challenges. Gnosticism did not have unity, it had a dualistic view of the world, and it believed that the human person had fragments of spirituality but were trapped by the body. Gnosticism also had the idea that instead of the ultimate authority being God himself, it was the individual person. Gnosticisms dualistic view of a spiritual and material reality, divine human beings and nondivine and the idea that Jesus was not divine but only human can be defended with the Apostles Creed. All of these things contradict Christianity. In the middle of the 2nd century, Gnostics tried to incorporate their thinking into Christianity. However, this is where the Apostles Creed comes in to defending Christian thinking, faith and fundamentals. This creed along with the Nicene


Tanya Marchun Global Christianity Paper developed later, helps defend the foundation of Christianity. These creeds protect the church and its beliefs from challenges posed by other sects. In Philip Jenkins article the Hidden Gospels the arguments put forth by some of the writers about the Gnostics portraying as an alternate model of Christianity are wrong. They try to discuss the ideas of hidden gospels that actually predate orthodoxy of the Christian church. Between reading the article and watching the film The Lost or False Gospels it is easily dismissed that these newly discovered gospels were never considered for canonicity. Gnosticism did not want to accept the church laws but they still wanted Jesus. Christianity has important and legitimate reasons for having the church laws. And for one group to decide that they do not want to follow those laws but still believe in Jesus is heresy. The evidence from the article and film show that the hidden gospels were written too late in time to even be considered during the same time of Jesus or of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote in response to Gnosticism and Docetic claims. He coined the term “apostolic tradition” to describe the orthodox teachings of the church and Christianity. He also used “the rule of truth” a type of creed to defend the teachings of Christianity against Gnostics. Irenaeus was a leader in the sense that he helped solidify the Christian ideals that the creator and redeemer are one, Jesus is one with God, human and divine, and the Old and New Testaments were not separated. Jesus was returning humanity to its pure state before the fall of Adam and Eve. Another person who served as a building block of the Christian faith was St. John Chrysostom. He preached about being humble and not seeking riches, luxury: to be happy with what one has, Christian marriage, and raising children. Vincent of Lerins served as a man who


Tanya Marchun Global Christianity Paper helped solidify the Vincentian Canon, he writes about how he is trying to find a way to distinguish the Catholic faith from false heresies. “…To keep healthy and sound in a healthy faith, we ought, with the Lord’s help, to fortify our faith in a twofold manner, firstly that this, by the authority of God’s law, then by the tradition of the Catholic Church (Bettenson, 91).” It was not until Constantine came into power that the persecutions stopped against Christians. Constantine favored Christianity above other religions. We saw the first use of the Chi-Rho. This was the first two letters of the Greek spelling of Christ’s name. Constantine put it on armor and helmets for protection in battle. Even though Constantine gave Christianity a better status in society, it was Theodosius I who made Christianity the sole legal religion of the empire. During this span of time there were also many ecumenical/general councils held where the Christian bishops gathered to resolve issues affecting the church. These councils helped maintain peace and unity between the church bishops. Two notable councils that formed important church dogma were the Council of NicaeaConstantinople and the Council of Ephesius. Nicaea-Constantinople developed the Nicene Creed and confirmed and expanded upon it. And Ephesius was where Mary was declared Mother of God. The councils marked the greatest institutional and doctrinal unity that Christianity ever reached. Because of many of the changes within the Christian church, many heretical movements arose against Christianity. Being that Christianity was now the favored religion everything else outside of Christianity was deemed heresy. Some of those heresies were Arianism which argues what the nature of Christ is, Pelagianism which downplayed the notion of original sin, and


Tanya Marchun Global Christianity Paper Donatism which argued that anyone guilty of apostasy that performed a sacrament, such as baptism, was considered invalid. Arianism began with a priest named Arius from Egypt who questioned what the nature of Christ was. He claimed that Jesus was created and that God and Jesus were not of the same substance. They were not co-eternal. This brings in the larger problem of Arius denying the Trinity as well. Constantine’s answer to this challenge was made in the first ecumenical council meeting in 325 A.D. In this meeting the bishops declared that the Trinity is of one substance or as the Greek call it homoousios. The church was challenged in philosophical terms by Arius but the church responds in philosophical terms as well. As Christianity faced more and more challenges the more developed, articulated and clarified its dogma, doctrine and foundation became. Pelagianism began with the teachings of a man named Pelagius. This challenge denied the human weakness and believed that original sin is not what a person is born with. That humanity is capable of knowing and choosing right from wrong. St. Augustine defends Christianity by also helping shape the ideas about sin and redemption. Where sin abides God’s grace abounds even greater. All humanity is stained by sin that is what happened with the fall from innocence, if that did not happen why is it that Jesus was made flesh and came to be sacrificed for humanity? St. Augustine says that God’s grace is necessary for salvation and to live apart from Christ is a life lived as a lie. St. Augustine was very influential. He later became known as Augustine of Hippo. Augustine spent much of his youth going from school to school and it was not until Ambrose of Milan, a Christian bishop would lead Augustine to Christianity. In 391 A.D. Augustine was


Tanya Marchun Global Christianity Paper ordained presbyter of Hippo Regius in Africa and in 396 A.D. he was made bishop. Augustine took vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and called people back to apostolic poverty. He believed that in that poverty one could rightly order one’s life toward God. Donatism went back to the Diocletian persecution against Christians. Because of persecution, some bishops denied their faith to save their own lives; however, after the persecutions were over they were not allowed to return to Christianity. The questions raised were about whether any sacraments performed by the donatist bishops were valid in the Christian faith. St. Augustine also dealt with this issue by telling Christians that the priests or bishops are instruments of God’s work, so the sacrament is still valid in the eyes of the church. Some of the major contributors to the Christian faith were the Cappadocian fathers, St. Jerome and St. Augustine. The Cappadocian fathers, three men Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus came from Asia Minor. “They represent the highest point of advance in the long process by which ancient Christianity gradually appropriated Greek philosophical ideas and incorporated them into Christianity (Cory & Hollerich, 168).” They were very influential in the clarification of the Trinity, developing the idea that God is unknown to all humanity, and that the bible is not good enough on its own one also needs church traditions for fulfillment. What Christians believed needed to be the same as what they worshiped. St. Jerome was very influential in the fact that he became part of the papal court early in his life. He translated the Bible from their original languages into Latin, which, became the translation for Western Christianity for centuries to come. St. Jerome also created a pamphlet about venerating martyrs and saints and seeking their intercession. This is where the communion of saints begins. He describes how there is constant interaction between Heaven and earth.


Tanya Marchun Global Christianity Paper Jerome was the first Christian scholar who learned Hebrew so he could translate the vulgate. He was also important in the laws of how one was ordained. The challenge with Pelagianism was also met by words of Jerome. Jerome says Jesus is the redeemer, how can we people redeem ourselves? These theological thinkers not only expanded the horizons of the Christian church but also helped solidify the principles and fundamentals that Christianity was built upon. In times of crisis everything becomes clearer. Just as seen in the text as controversies arose the Christian laws and doctrine that were already in place are more clearly defined. So while Christianity began as the minor religion in the third century it soon grew to the major religion. The authority, virtues, persecutions, martyrs and challenges articulated the important ideas in Christianity.


Global Christianity  

Paper I wrote for my Global Christianity class.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you