Age of Catholic Christianity 70-312 AD

Notes from Pastor John Gruel’s lecture at First Pres Edmond 9/20/2006

Stratification of church which evolved during this period:
– Martyrs: (the Saints) those who died for the faith
– Confessors: those who stood
– The lapse: those who sin / fall short

Question came up: can renouncers be forgiven?
1- one answer: the church can’t forgive, only God can forgive
2- some said yes, the church can forgive sin
— at one time, a Bishop that was forgiving people who had been caught in the sin of adultery (Callistus)
— made analogy to Noah’s ark, clean and unclean animals together

2 groups
– those who said church must be kept pure, society of saints
– church is school of sinners, we need to be able to forgive

Sense that martyrs for who they were had a special level of holiness, had extra merit
– started talking about “treasury of merit” that eventually led to the selling of indulgences, praying to martyrs

Confessors were also thought to have a higher status

Cyprien, bishop of Carthage, said he wasn’t sure about martyr and confessor thing
– if you could make the penance match the level of sin, then you could forgive
– the decision of whether someone could be readmitted into the church laid with the bishop
– church started becoming this mix of worthy and unworthy
– power of the bishop to convey divine forgiveness

Main body of the orthodox church marched forward with “school of sinners”
– penance became a sacrament during this era
– salvation was at that point in the hands of the church, and specifically in the hands of the bishiop

When the church granted the power of forgiveness to the bishop, catholic christianity was complete

this model of leadership drove the church well through the era of the Roman empire

Christianity caught on, there was increasing interest among people of reason, the intellectual class
– some people like Paul began to write in a fashion more understandable to Greeks, communicating the gospel in a contextual way
– Tertullian was against this, didn’t want to reconcile the teaching with greek thought and philosophy

Are faith based approaches during this time, and reason-based approaches like what Paul wrote
– go to Acts 2 and read Peter’s sermon at Pentecost (fidaistic – faith based, more from the Hebrew tradition)
– go to Acts 17 and read Paul’s sermon in Athens (more contextual style)

These shows the contrast in these two preaching styles

struggle with gnosticism
– showed that greek thinking could be a threat, because of an inability to engage greek thought leads to heresy

Had a school developed in Christian gnosticism, was engaging the gnostic thought but providing orthodox answers
– fast forward to the 20th century
– think about CS Lewis: doing the same thing that Pandues was doing
– communicating with the philosophers of the day with where they are, he speaks their language, and inserts an orthodox theology
– read some of “The Abolition of Man”
– Francis Shaeffer also did the same thing

Sept 19th in Wall Street Journal
– what Pope Benedict thinks
– Christianity is informed by dialog between reason and revelation, the dialog between Athens and Jerusalem
– faith and reason are essential in the Pope’s view now

Student Clement become one of the first really Christian scholars
– combines with Christian thought and scripture
– “Just as the Jew had the law to teach his heart and guide him to the gospel, so too the Gentile had philosophy”

Origin succeeded Clement around the year 200
– carried on his work
– trying to bring all Christian truth into focus
– both stressed the aim of philosophy as the ethical, by focusing on that ethical they could reject the gnostic claim that creation is evil

Origin is noted for system for interpretation of scripture, threefold model
1- literal and plain meeting
2- moral application
3- spiritual and allegorical application (how does it relate to Jesus)

Origin: not all his allegories are as direct as Nathan’s story of the sheep to David, relating to Uriah and Bathsheeba

Origin was one of the first to do systematic theology
– at a basic level: this is taking the things we know from scripture, the doctrines we develop from those (revelation, creation, etc) and try to make those fit together in an organized way
– a system of thought that it all links together
– challenge is: there are always grey areas
– Origin did this for his desire to fit this into greek thought and philosophy
– got himself in trouble because he was kind of a universalist

Universalism holds that some day God will reconcile all people to himself

Clement and Origin took that risk of going too far to accommodate Hellenistic thought

Different philosopher-theologians crop up in history to interact with different types of thought: St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas