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HISTORY of Christian Theology

1 – Polytheism

In order to understand the origins and revolutionary nature of Christian theology, it is important to view it in proper relief against the religions in the region at the time of Jesus’s birth. Besides Judaism, which we will discuss in a subsequent lecture, various forms of polytheism dominated the religious landscape at the time Christianity came on the scene. . . . more

2 – The Greco-Roman World

Judaism gave birth to Christianity in a Greco-Roman world where Christianity’s Jewish roots merged with the Roman imperial culture and Greek philosophical ideas to mold Christianity into the institution it became in the early Church and through the Middle-Ages. . . . more

3 – Christianity’s Jewish Roots

In order to understand Christianity, it is essential to grasp the importance of the following concepts and history to the Jewish community at the time of Christ’s birth:

4 – A World in Conflict  

Jesus was born into a Jewish world swirling with conflict from the tensions created by:

5 –  The Messiah

The Son of God was born and lived in Judah where he quietly changed the world. Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus established his divine role as the Savior of the World. He:

6 – The Apostolic Period – Growth and Transformation  (pending)

During the Apostolic Period Christianity was transformed from a small localized Jewish cult into a rapidly growing multi-cultural religion sustaining pressures from outside persecution and internal conflict due largely to the following factors:
  • Jewish persecution
  • Paul’s mission to the gentiles
  • Paul’s epistles
  • Judaizers
  • Rise of the Greek Gnostic influence
  • The written Gospels and epistles from other Church leaders
  • Roman persecution

7 –  Gnosticism and Other Heresies 

As the number of gentile converts began to outstrip the number of Jewish members, the influence of Neo-Platonist and other heretical ideas infiltrated the Church giving birth to a number of popular heresies, including:
  • Docetism
  • Adoptionism
  • Gnosticism
  • Marcionism
  • Montanism
  • Neo-Platonism
  • Manichaeism

8 – Roman Persecution ― Martyrdom  

As the movement grew, Christian’s refusal to pay homage to Caesar’s divinity drew the ire of Roman emperors who unleashed waves of intense persecution for nearly two hundred and fifty years. However, instead of hampering the growth of Christianity, often the blood of the martyrs seemed to fertilize the seeds of faith sown by the testimony of its believers including the following Apostolic Fathers:
  • Ignatius of Antioch
  • Polycarp
  • Clement of Rome

9 – Apologists & Internal Debate  

This period of persecution and internal divisions inspired apologetic and theological writing from several Christian intellectuals including:
  • Justin Martyrs
  • Irenaeus
  • Origin
  • Tertullian
  • Cyprian
  • Historians

10 – Early Developments in Church Structure & Practices

The rapid growth of Christianity strained its fractured leadership organization resulting in various developments in its structure and practices, including:
  • Method of selecting priests and bishops
  • Geographical hierarchical units
  • The Easter Controversy
  • Baptism of infants and by sprinkling
  • Pageantry incorporated

11 – Constantine  

The Emperor Constantine’s adoption of Christianity as the state religion ushered in the greatest changes to the Church that had occurred since the death of the Apostles. This dynamic period changed the course of history, so it is essential to study what happened in order to fully understand our world today, including a review of the following issues:
  • Constantine’s Conversion Story
  • From Outlawed to Favored Status – Material Benefits
  • Conversion for convenience
  • Radical shift in internal attitudes
  • More organizational and ceremonial developments

12 – Early Monasticism  (pending)

Little did the hermit, Anthony, imagine that he would inspire arguably the greatest influence on Christian Theology since the Apostles.
  • Inspired by pilgrimages to Greek oracles and
  • In a reaction to the less arduous Christian life after Constantine
  • Many devote Christians sought unity with the divine by withdrawing from society through monastic living.
  • They became the foot soldiers of orthodoxy who even defeated the Roman Army at Alexandria.
  • The monastic system that they established became the source of the majority of subsequent popes, scholasticism and the advent of universities.

13 – The Donatist Controversy  

A local dispute regarding a congregation’s rejection of a new bishop because he had not been faithful during a period of persecution led to a Churchwide pivotal controversy regarding:
  • Worthiness and Authority
  • The validity of ordinances
  • Local autonomy verses the pre-eminence of the Bishop of Rome
  • Councils
  • Ties between the Church and State

14 – The Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed, which grew out of the Arian controversy, replaced the dominate Logos-centered Christian theology which placed Jesus as an intermediary between humans and God and subordinated the Son to the Father. . . . more

15 – The Incarnation Controversy  

16 – Councils, Emperors and the Rise of the Roman Papacy  (pending)

17 – The Bible  (pending)

18 – Augustine  (pending)

19 – The Incomprehensible God and the Supernatural  (pending)

20 – Original Sin, Grace, Predestination, and the Pelagian Controversy  (pending)

21 – Spread of Christianity beyond Imperial Borders  (pending)

22 – Islam  (pending)

23 – Eastern Orthodox Church and the Iconoclasm Controversy  (pending)

24 – Popes and the Holy Roman Empire  (pending)

25 – The Great Divorce  (pending)

26 – The Seven Sacraments  (pending)

27 – Life and Piety in the Middle-Ages (Mass, change to confession, three estates, etc.)  (pending)

28 – Monastic Reforms, Mendicant orders and Church Organization in the Middle-ages  (pending)

29 – Thomas Aquinas and Scholastic Theology  (pending)

30 – Anselm and Substitutionary Atonement  (pending)

31 – Abelard and the Moral Influence Theory of the Atonement  (pending)

32 – Other theories regarding Christ’s Atonement  (pending)

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Preliminary Overview

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Period II – The Reformation

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