The following essays present a short history of early Christianity, from the founding of the faith as a religious system to the Crusades, with some additional notes about Reformation theologies. Quotes and references come from Hans Küng’s magnum opus, “Christianity: Essence, History, Future” (1996). This is an interpretive work, and like much of history, is subject to change, opinion, scrutiny, and fault. Take it as you will.
The Judaizing of the Minority
Jewish Christianity was the earliest form of Christianity. Jesus, himself, was a Jew, as were his disciples. Jesus and his disciples practiced Jewish custom, including visits to the Temple, prayer, circumcision, dietary requirements – and although in much of the New Testament, Jesus teaches that not all these need to be followed to maintain a godly life, Jesus and his disciples do follow the Jewish attitude.
However, after Jesus died, his teaching continued in many Jewish communities – during a time of persecution of the Jews by the hands of the Romans and Jews themselves falling to Roman power. These early Christians can be called Jewish Christians, or Judaizers (not as a derogatory term, but as a definition for their connection with the original law of Moses). Paul, the apostle, viewed these Christians as heretics, and adamantly preached against their practice to his followers of a Hellenistic Christianity. Jewish Christians spread as far as Arabia, India, and China, and brought their witness to Christ with them. Jewish Christians, arguably, have inspired such thought and religion as Islam and Manichaeism. Today, a revival has taken place among the Jewish community, and a group known as Jews for Jesus spreads the good news of Christ to their Jewish peers. Whether or not these Judaizers were the true authentic Christians, or are outdated by modern standards, is a question that each Christian must answer for him or herself.
First of all, the Jewish Christians did not believe in a total divinity of Christ. Although they did believe that Christ was in a sense divine, they understood that Jesus was a man who had a great power given to him by God, and declared himself as God’s representative to the world, but by no means, declared himself as God or above God. The Trinity, a Hellenistic Christian principle, was developed by the followers of Peter and Paul to explain the complex nature of Jesus Christ’s power from God. Instead of believing in the full divinity of Christ, the Jewish Christians believed in a unity of message – in that Christ was the representative of God since the beginning, the Logos in flesh, the bearer of God’s will to the people of the world. Jesus was the Messiah – the prophetic figure who is above all prophets and above all Kings, because he brings a truly universal message of freedom.
The Jewish Christians also believed in maintaining the Jewish law. They still went to Temple, and circumcised newborn babies, and ate the correct foods, and spent the Sabbath as a day of rest. They followed Jewish custom, and did not believe that with the coming of Christ meant that they could drop their tradition. They also believed fervently that any believers of Christ must convert to Judaism, and follow the law as well. This was a point of contention in Paul’s letter to the Galatians – Paul wrote to the Galatians and told them to follow the true faith – man is saved by faith alone, not works, which he believed the Judaizers were wrong in continuing their following of the Mosaic law.
In fact, Paul was a general enemy of the Jewish Christianity, in his effort to spread a Hellenistic Christianity that declared itself free of the Jewish law, greater than the Torah or the Scriptures of Moses. He declared that Jewish Christians were wrong in the assumption that Jesus was not important enough to revamp the entire Torah – he declared that Jewish Christians maintained a worship of the Law, when they should change their worship to Christ alone, for with the coming of Christ came the fulfillment of the law, and thus the abolition of the ancient law and the coming of the law of faith and love. The Jewish Christians, because they were the original Christians and separated from the Roman Church, maintained a belief in many non-Canonical gospels, such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of the Hebrews.
Hellenistic Christianity read the Christian life as a christological path – probably the first and foremost difference between early Judaic Christianity and Hellenized Christianity. Early Judaic Christianity still followed the Law of Moses, and believed in the reading from the Torah and following the various stipulates of Judaic life, whereas Hellenistic Christianity, by the most part, was composed of gentiles, not former Judaists. Therefore, the primary component of Hellenistic Christianity was its formation of people unfamiliar with the Jewish life and livelihood. The first Hellenistic Christians were Romans, people who lived near the Mediterranean Sea, the borderlands of Rome.
Hellenistic Christians read the Scriptures christologically, rather than the viewpoint of the early Judaic Christian, who read the Scriptures still with the idea of the Israelites as the chosen people, Israel as the Promised Land, and Christ as the advocate for the Jewish people in the face of tyranny. Hellenistic Christians did not have the dreams of the Jewish people. The Roman Christians believed in Christ not because they hoped for freedom or because they wanted Israel back. They did not believe in Christ because they felt the Torah was incomplete, or the dietary laws were too restricting. They became Christians because they believed in the message of Christ, and the grace of God. Because of this, they were able to move beyond the initial impressions of the Christ-figure, and transform it into something more Roman, more sensible to the general population of the world, something that connected with more people. By no means do I mean to say this was a better way of living – it was one way to live, however, and in the times, they did, as they knew best. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And they did.
First of all, Hellenistic Christians did not understand the Jewish way of life, and thus, they did not understand the symbols of Judaism. So they formed their own symbols eventually, creating artistic motifs for their belief and using Hellenistic philosophy as a basis for theology, such as Logos, Christ, and Spirit, instead of Messiah and Savior. After all, they didn’t need saving, necessarily as much as the Jews did.
Hellenistic Christianity was formed out of gentiles, and in the end, only of gentiles. They believed in the spirit of God – and the early Hellenistic church believed in what is called charisma – the bestowing of the spirit of God to his people. And because the belief in Christ was evangelized and franchised by Paul and the apostles and Disciples of Christ, the people who believed formed churches, and eventually institutionalized them. Judaic Christians were rebels and exiles from the Judaic temples – thus, the impact of institutionalizing, although most likely was there in some fashion, was not needed as it was needed for Hellenistic Christians.
There were three formations of hierarchical institutionalization for the early Hellenistic Christian church. The first of these had Christ in the center, followed by the apostles, then the evangelists, then the presbyters, and finally the community of believers. This was the gentile church in Jerusalem. But as Christianity spread, so did the institutionalization. In Corinth, the evangelists were upgraded to Prophets (evidence of the hellenization and mysticism of the culture), and the presbyters were upgraded to teachers. The community, instead of just brothers and sisters in Christ, became charisma, or the spirit – a loose conglomeration of energy and people, in that God’s power was spread across the entire church. Finally in Antioch, where the first true and written institutionalization began, the Apostles were upgraded to the Episcopate (or bishops, who were the successors of the apostles), the prophets were upgraded to the prebyterate (the priests), the teachers were upgraded to deacons, and the spirit was degraded down to just the people. After all, once a church is so large, there is no need to be so spiritual about things. Let’s be rational, folks.
The movement to the institutionalization at Antioch amended much of the worship, particularly because of the urbanization of bishops from the community. Bishops were now in charge of communities, instead of just a community, and now had to manage entire cities of Christians. Therefore our spiritual leaders became managers. Canon was reformed – whereas in the Judaic Christian church particular Scripture was accepted on a communal basis, now in the Hellenistic church particular Scripture was allowed into the syllabus of teaching, and the other Scripture was declared heretical and wrong to the teaching of the church. The church adopted a confession of faith, the Old Testament, and various books in the New Testament.
The Hellenistic church also began to venerate martyrs and relics – in my opinion, an obvious enhancement from hellenization, but also perhaps because of the urbanization and uniformity forming out of the conglomeration of church. Baptism was elevated as an elaborate ritual, and liturgy began to be used primarily instead of a communal meal. Instead of the communal meal, the Eucharist became a sacrament, or a remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice, a mere symbol. Instead of meeting in private homes, Christians began to meet in the pagan basilicas – after all, the basilicas were larger than a home, and the episcopate could speak to more people at once. Christians also began to form their own artistic motifs, and iconography was soon to become a practice.
All this differed from the Judaic Christians, in almost a foreign aspect. Hellenization deeply affected Christianity, and thus Christianity was dropped from being a rebellious belief system to one of conformity and acceptance among the pagan Romans. Mysticism also affected Christianity – as is evident in one of the earliest breaks from Christianity, Gnosticism, which emphasized duality and a double truth. That double truth spoke of two ways of viewing the same thing – one a general sense of being, and the other, an esoteric understanding. This, in my opinion, was the seeds of Trinitarian belief, or the separation of God into three persons, and the reverence of these three persons separate and together as one.
The Early Christian Ethic
Nothing is simply said, especially regarding early Christianity. During the period of early Christianity, the believers were still being persecuted by the Roman authorities, the Canon has not yet been traditionalized as the letters of Paul and the Gospels were still either being handed out to the Christians are reading material, or were not even written yet. This was a confusing time for the church, but also a time to define itself. Christians had the opportunity to have the first hand in forming what the church would be like for years to come. So, when I assert that I am going to explain the early Christian ethic, I can only say that this is how I think the early Christian church viewed the moral state of things in regards to a generalized understanding of Christ and the followers of Christ. Early Christianity was a confusing time, and I’m not the only one who understands this. Gnosticism, Marcion, the Gospel of Thomas, and many unrecorded ideas were quickly being formed either as a supplement to the Gospel of Jesus Christ or as competition. Therefore, to accurately state what the true early Christian ethic was would be a horrible generalization. But indeed, there were patterns in the early Christian church, and three significant writings tried to explain to their readers what a proper Christian should do and how they should view the divine, specifically “The Martyrdom of Polycarp,’ by an alleged Marcion, “The Didache,” a tract explaining early Christian ethics, and the “Letter to Diognetus,” by an alleged Justin Martyr.
In “The Martyrdom of Polycarp,” martyrdom is a holy calling and an expression of pure love for God. In martyrdom, an example is set for all, that promotes the awe and perhaps, a little bit of envy, in non-Christians as they watch Christians die in the way of their faith, and in that way, help to spread the Gospel. Polycarp was steadfast in his belief, and that was why he was martyred. He was not martyred because he did not want to follow authority, only that the authority did not allow him to choose his own authority (which was Christ) and when he was refused of that basic right he felt compelled to act upon, he would not move from his position. Thus, the Roman authorities persecuted him and killed him. The interesting thing about Polycarp was his response to the Roman officials. When spoken to, or prodded, or jeered at, he remained silent, steadfast in his faith. He did not try to defend himself, or argue with the Roman authorities, or even try and be friendly with them. Polycarp was his faith, and his faith was all that he was. In a certain sense, he loomed above his persecutors, superior to them, because of his silence and his refusal to acknowledge the presence of the Roman authorities.
In “The Didache,” that same superior tone that Polycarp exercised over the Roman authorities comes fully into bloom, and proclaims the beauty and strength of Christianity, and the superiority of belief. In the writing, the author explains that there are two ways to live life: the first is life, and the second is death. There is no question of belief – in life is Christ, and in death is not. The question of whether or not God and Christ are reality is not ever mentioned. Rather, this writing forms a guide for living correctly and morally upright. Commandments include following the commandments from Exodus, in the Torah (the ‘Old Testament’ hadn’t been officially proclaimed), and general moral good sense, such as treating others as you would be treated, loving your enemy, and giving your good prosperity to those around you, as well as staying true to Christ and straying away from other forms of religion, and proverbial standards of etiquette. However, in the way of death, lies the opposite of all this – by either not following these commandments, and following the way of evil and lechery – all that the life section teaches against. Some of the first official liturgy is in “The Didache,” specifically the Lord’s Prayer and the primal stages of the liturgical Eucharist. Finally, “The Didache” explains of the powers and appointments of bishops and deacons, the clergy. Already, even in the early stages, the church has begun to emphasize the important of organization and institutional teaching.
Finally, in the “Letter to Diognetus,” an apology of Christianity is presented, perhaps one of the first non-Apostolic apologies of the church, to the emperor Diognetus. The apology explains to a non-Christian, some of the tenets and beliefs of the Christian faith, including the importance of warding oneself against idolatry, or the worshipping of dead things. Christianity is most definitely not Judaism; while Judaism is a superstitious belief system, Christianity has done away with the old superstitions in exchange for a more modern and true system. Christians are international and interracial, but rather are a group of committed believers who throw aside pithy things like language, country, or custom, and are required to love all men and hate none. Christianity is the first true revelation of God, and that Christians are a special and holy people who are sanctified in Christ. They must be righteous, true, and love all, and they promised eternal life. And they are happy.
This is only a small part of the early Christian faith. These three writings are also heavily interpreted, and much has changed over the years to Christianity. Although the patterns that revolve in their writings, proclaim a sanctified people, who have been promised eternal life through the sacrifice of a divine being, and in response to this, love the world with a fiery love and believe in the total morality of the being and the death of immorality and idolatry. But initially, the early Christians felt like a special, unique people, who would lead the world to salvation by any means: Christ, love, and even death.
The Last Age of Christian Persecution
During the second and third centuries, new trials faced Christians, namely that of Gnosticism, Christian interpretation of the Scriptures, canonization, church organization, and the last threads of Roman persecution. Many thinkers idealized the thought of the church during this time, but there are some seminal people who must be explained for an adequate understanding of second and third century Christianity to be understood in light of the early church growth as a vessel for spirituality.
Marcion was not the founder of Gnosticism – he did not even believe everything that Gnosticism taught. Marcion claimed himself as a Christian, and taught a dualistic theology (much like Gnosticism). Marcion taught that the world was evil, and created by an “evil and ignorant (p.61)” god, the so-called God of the Hebrews (Jehovah). However, Marcion believed the Christians followed a different god of love and salvation. Marcion also taught that Jesus was not human at all – he wasn’t even born from a woman, but rather he appeared when he needed to appear, to say what he needed to say, and then left. Within Marcion, there is a hint of claiming the Trinity was only a façade for a God who wished to appear to the world in different forms, rather than as different persons. Lastly, Marcion created what was the first New Testament, by picking and choosing different Scriptures that fit in with his personal brand of theology, of which the church later copied what he did and formed the true, canonized New Testament. Therefore, Marcion was a threat to the church, and he prompted several changes to church canon and theology, because of his adverse beliefs.
Irenaeus of Lyons was the bishop of Lyons. He wrote a refutation against the Gnostics, as well as an instruction for the faithful called the “Demonstration of Apostolic Faith (p.68).” Irenaeus taught about the existence of angels, and of the future communion with God that people, because of their youth, needed to obtain. Irenaeus taught a “divination” of the human, not in the sense that humans will become divine, but in the sense that humans will grow closer to God throughout time. He also taught that humans will eventually surpass even the angels.
Clement of Alexandria was a philosopher at heart who believed in God. He taught that philosophy must agree with the truth of Christianity, and he also taught that Scripture could have more than one meaning – the literal meaning, and any other meaning a person could receive from God, as long as that truth is in agreement with the teachings of Christ. Clement called himself the “true Gnostic (p.73),” and taught that reason and faith were indelibly interlocked, for reason “builds arguments on first principles, which cannot be proven, but are accepted by faith.” Clement was a man of his culture – of Alexandria, and of philosophy.
Tertullian of Carthage had a legal mind. He believed in absolutes and in the solid truth of Christian theology – he believed that Christians were the last bastion of hope for humanity, in terms of theological truth. He taught that non-Christians could not use Scripture for their own purposes of twisting the Scriptures into rabid modes of interpretation – non-Christians, by the law of the universe and of man, were not allowed to even touch the Scriptures because after two hundred years and a lengthy period of apostolic interpretation and ownership, the Christian church owned the Scriptures as private property. He wrote the “praescriptio (p.74),” or prescription that claimed that the Christians, because they had the Scriptures prior to the non-Christians, had the only legal right to use the Scriptures. Tertullian eventually abandoned orthodoxy in lieu of Montanism, but even today Tertullian’s works are being used in the defense of orthodoxy.
Origen of Alexandria, the student of Clement of Alexandria, taught that people should not abandon Christian doctrine for philosophy, or “Neo-Platonism (p.79).” He taught three absolutes: that there is only one God, that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and that the Holy Spirit, although not mentioned much in Scripture, has the same place as both the Father and the Son. However, Origen also taught that there were two creations, the first creation entirely spiritual, and the second creation a bodily entrapment due to the fallen nature of the human spirit. This brings up uncomfortable parallels to Gnosticism, which believes that all matter is evil, and our bodies contain our spirits, which eventually will be redefined by knowledge into vessels of pure spirit once again. Origen doesn’t teach that through knowledge humanity will be saved – he substitutes God’s love.
During the second and third centuries, Christians followed Marcion’s step and formed the first official canon of the New Testament, as well as forming the first creeds against Gnosticism, so that Christians could identify what the “catholic (p.66),” or universal church truly believed. This creed was known as the Apostle’s Creed, and stabilized the belief that God was the only god, that Jesus was really born and lived a historical life and finally was resurrected by God and sent to heaven after he was cruelly killed by the hands of the Romans, and finally spoke of belief in the Holy Spirit and the sanctity of the church and the eventual eschatological salvation of the Christians in the end of days.
The early Christian church was a church of laymen and lower to middle-class citizens of Rome, often simple people, highly effective spiritual people who lived in cities in communal groups (p.92). It is evident from the beginning that the early Christians were festive people, who segregated the week into different spiritual festivals, exempting Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. In the early church, the ritual was very important, as well as prophesying by certain endowed “ministers” (p.97). In larger settings, bishops were elected by the people to manage multiple churches of people, such as Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria.
The early Christian church suffered from much persecution throughout the second and third centuries, and continued to suffer persecution even after the church was deemed safe by the decrees of Constantine (p.107). Christians were not punished because they were thieves or murderers or bandits, but rather because they refused to give the Emperor his due want of worship, and for a man who constantly wanted to be worshipped as the sun (p.83), the Christians were an annoyance at best. They were used as examples of refusing the Emperor, too often. At first, the Christians were martyred, or killed, which hurt the empire even more because when one martyr died, three rose to take his or her place. Rome eventually learned to curb this, and stopped killing the Christians, only torturing them, now creating “confessors (p.87),” perhaps even more dangerous than martyrs because they were still alive. Eventually, Rome gave up after realizing the futility of such an endeavor, and perhaps in Constantine, beginning to understand the truths behind the Christian message to the world: one of love, and not hate.
Constantine, Eusebius, and the Monastic
Constantine was the emperor of Rome who ended the persecution of the Christians by converting religious emphasis in the Roman Empire from the panthetic pagan gods to the Christian God and Jesus Christ. He was the emperor who for all essential purposes of politics, moved the capitol of Rome to the city of Byzantium, turning the small town into his thriving trade city, imbued with Constantine’s dreams for what a city should be like. Constantine was the “emperor whom God loved (p.117),” the defender of the true faith, as historians and Christians such as Eusebius would later claim of Constantine. However, Constantine was not a baptized Christian, and throughout his life, he partook in ancient Roman rituals. First and foremost, Constantine was a politician, who understood the necessity of equality and religious peace. Constantine was also ambitious, and in order to complete his projects, he needed the support of everyone in his empire.
Constantine believed in the power of Christ, but he also believed in the overall attitude toward both the pagan rituals and the Christian rituals. Constantine was an enigma in many ways. He worshipped both the Christian God and the pagan gods, and tried to bridge the two religions without destroying any of the belief in either religion. He was both the supreme bishop of the church, as well as a high priest of Apollo (p.122). Constantine was always a mystery as to his beliefs, except for his growing faith in Christ. He moved slowly in his faith – as Rome did, and eventually by his death he accepted baptism on his deathbed.
Constantine turned the church from the poor beliefs of persecuted rebels, to an imperial decree and subject of power for those hungry for it. He allowed and even personally involved himself in what would become an “official theology (.124),” advancing Christian practice into what previously the pagan rituals had only had the opportunity of – large temples for worship, elaborate ritual, pageantry and dress for officials of the church, choral liturgy, and the development of the basilica and cathedral as houses of worship, rather than cemeteries and private homes (as was before).
Eusebius was the bishop of Caesarea before and during the reign of Constantine. He was a student of Pamphilus of Caesarea, who in turn was a student of Pierius, a scholar carrying on the work of Origen (p.129). Eusebius wrote a six-book Defense of Origen (p.130) with his teacher Pamphilus, but was most known for his work as a historian of the early church. He was a supporter of Constantine, and there are many in the church who believe that because of this, he was blinded to Constantine’s shortcomings (p.134).
Eusebius believed that Christianity was the goal of human history (p.132), so therefore the conversion of Constantine was very important to the culmination and success of this endeavor. He believed that the peace and unity of the church were of prime importance (p.131). He was a follower of what Irenaeus taught, and believed that humankind was in a constant state of divination (p.133). Beyond all things, however, Eusebius was a bishop and a shepherd, and therefore felt the need to preserve something he believed was helping his fellow brothers and sisters. He was grateful towards Constantine for what Constantine did for Christians, and showed this.
Monasticism fought against the “imperial church (p.124),” rebelling against the conversion of persecution to wealth (p.137). Monasticism surely did not begin with Constantine, however. Christian monasticism can be traced as far back as Paul (p.137), who preached that in order to teach the words of Christ, man must not marry. Monasticism had further been fueled during the persecution with the “widows and virgins” of the church, women who gave up marriage in exchange for devoting a life to the furtherment of the church. There are also many stories of monks who fled persecution in an effort to find solitude with their God, especially in the deserts of Egypt (p.141). Eventually, Pachomius, an Egyptian monk, began the official practice of communal monasticism by inventing a system of discipline and rigor for which the loving Christian man and woman could live their lives with other Christian men and women who sought solitude, while surviving among the empire on their work and worship alone (p.144). The idea of this spread throughout the empire, and finally excelled through the work of Martin (p.148), who popularized the monk’s life as the bishop of Tours.
Issues and People in the Early Constantinian Church
After Constantine moved the ideal of Rome to Byzantium, several important issues were surfaced and threatened to divide the church. The first of these, Donatism, named after Donatus of Casae Nigrae (p.152), dealt with the problem of Christians who served the state ultimately when faced with death, and Christians who served Christ ultimately when faced with death. During the times before Constantine, many Christians were martyred and tortured. Those who survived became known as “confessors,” and when Constantine outlawed persecution of the church, a controversy arose over which party – the “confessors,” or the Christians who succumbed to the State’s demands for sacrificial worship of the pagan gods, would be allowed to lead the church. The Donatists were rigorists who believed that only the righteous should inherit the leadership of the church.
A second issue that divided the church during this time of formation was the Arian controversy. A priest by the name of Arius (p.161) taught, in his home city of Alexandria, that the divinity of Christ was of prime importance to the church. He taught throughout the city that Christ was a creature, created by God to be his divine will, but that in the end, Christ was not created as God, but rather like us, a creation of God. His teaching was taken very strongly to be heretical by certain members of the church, and eventually a council was called in Nicea (p.162) to determine the uniformity of the church. Eventually, the church conceded that what Arius taught indeed was heretical, and that Christ was a part of the doctrinal trinity, a persona of God, for God’s divine will on Earth.
A third issue that threatened to impose upon the church was the scattered remnants of paganism throughout the empire that finally came to fruition with the emperor Julian, known as “the apostate (p.170).” Julian used state policy to publicly humiliate Christians (p.172), as well as hinder their teaching through the state education. He also trained a hierarchy of pagan priests, and built temples to old gods. Some say that Julian’s reaction against Christianity was of revenge for keeping him away from the throne (p.170), while others say that his philosophical learning at Athens during his studies prompted his beliefs (p.169). Whatever the case, Julian was a great threat to the Christian church during the time he was emperor.
There are several key leaders of the church during this period of unrest that should be spoken of – leaders that held together the uniformity of the church, and gave her the tools to grow past these obstacles just described. Athanasius of Alexandria is best known for his staunch orthodoxy and refusal to admit to the heretical Arius and his denial of Christ’s godhood. Athanasius was even thrown in prison for a number of years for rejecting Arius’s teachings, even though he was the presiding bishop of Alexandria at the time when Arius was only a priest (p.178). Athanasius suggested the “of a similar substance” phrase for the Nicene Creed (p.179), and he also fought diligently against Julian the Apostate.
Three important figures, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus, were part of a group called the Cappadocians. Macrina, also known as “the Teacher (p.183),” was the sister of Basil and Gregory of Nyssa, and assumingly the keystone of the reason Basil and Gregory became so important (p.182). Basil the Great was a supporter of the monastic life, and he was known throughout the empire for resisting the call to the priesthood time and time again, and for supporting the Nicene cause of Athanasius during the Arian debacle (p.185). His brother, Gregory of Nyssa, was unwillingly cast into the bishopric by Basil, but throughout his life was a stern supporter of the Nicene way, and thus with his brother, was invited to the Council of Constantinople as part of the Nicene party. During his later years, he was a mystic and he wrote a treatise On Virginity (p.185) – his understanding of monastic life. Finally, Gregory of Nazianzus was a fellow peer of Basil and a supporter of the fight against the Arian theology. He was also a supporter of monastic life, and like Basil and his brother Gregory of Nyssa, resisted it, but also eventually came to accept his duties as a teacher. He was known throughout the area for celebrating orthodoxy in Constantinople, and after his services, he would be profaned an beat by Arian supporters in the streets (p.187).
The last four to be described are Ambrose of Milan, John Chrysotom, Jerome, and Augustine of Hippo. Ambrose of Milan was famous for his resistance to the Arian theology and for his support of his fellow Christians in his home. He was elected bishop of Milan, not by choice (p.189), and is known by his melting of church sacred material to serve as ransom for neighboring Goths who threatened to storm the city if ransom was not paid. When the Empress Justina sought to challenge him on his desecration of church material and demanded the same treatment that was given the Goths, Ambrose refused to do her the same justice, maintaining that “it is better to preserve for the Lord souls rather than gold (p.191),” but that the Empress did not deserve the same treatment since she was not threatening them. John Chrysotom was first and foremost a monk, and he devoted his life to monasticism (p.195). He was elected bishop of Constantinople in 397, and immediately began to reform the corrupt church, receiving a great deal of heat from both the clergy who he sought to reform and the throne, which he also sought to reform. Both were corrupt with wealth and pomp (p.197), but after too much of his preaching, John was exiled. Jerome was the creator of the Vulgate, or the Latin translation of the standard bible (p.204). Augustine of Hippo was the author of The City of God, Confessions (p.215), was a Manichee in his early life (p.210) and later became one of the most important theologians of the church, even to today.
Defining Changes in the Hellenistic Roman Church
During the initial stages of the early Hellenistic Roman Church, I will explain five stages of development, and I will explain some of the teaching and practices that developed during those periods: Origen and scientific theology, Constantine and the abolishing of Christian persecution, the Council of Nicea, the development of the State sponsored church, and finally I will explain the Council of Chalcedon, whereas the Imperial Church split into two bishops. This initial stage of development was important for the church, because the church was able to fight over differences in theology, and arrive at different conclusions apt to each sector of the empire, instead of being forced to follow one uniform belief.
Before Constantine rose to the title of Emperor, Origen lived in Alexandria and taught the theology of scientific theology. Origen taught that the old world and the new world must come together: in other words, the Judaic Christian understanding of Christ sublated with Greek subtext (p.163). Origen taught a form of Christianity that included the Neo-Platonic teachings combined with Christians teachings, and he also taught a systematic method of analysis for the texts which he combined into his Hexapla (p.164). This teaching of Origen’s spread throughout the empire, and fostered a Hellenistic shift of interpretation. Origen taught his students to use the allegorical method to study the scriptures, and he also taught the pre-existence of Christ. Both of these used together inspired the church to develop a biblical canon, a tradition of faith, and an unofficial episcopate. The teaching within the churches also started to use allegorical method as a major source of learning (p.165). Finally, the impact of the hellenization came into fruition with the dramatic movement of the exalted Christ to the pre-existent Christ, from the earthly and resurrected Christ to the heavenly Christ – to the theory of the Father, Son, and Spirit, rather than the Father, the Son and Spirit (p.174).
When Constantine rose to the title of Emperor, he also brought with him the freedom of Christians from persecution. Constantine also brought with him a new symbol of political might: the cross of Christ as a symbol for his rule. Constantine initiated what could be called a “universal religion” among the empire (p.177), establishing across the empire the freedom to abandon pagan ways and delve into the new mysteries of Christianity. Constantine abolished crucifixion and he made Sunday a festival legally supported by the state. The enlightened individuals, mostly prior pagan, were now able to freely delve into another theology – Christianity, and discover the hidden secrets within the holy book of the Scriptures, delve into the mysteries of Christ, and delve into the mysteries of God.
The Council of Nicea was called forth across the empire to settle a theological dispute about the divinity of Christ, fronted across the empire by the fiery Arius of Alexandria, a presbyter. Arius taught that Christ was a creature created by God, but given abilities in the triune Godhead in order to serve God and to serve humanity (p.179). His most famous saying was, “There was a time when he was not (p.178).” This proved to be a great disagreement among orthodox believers, who continued to hold that Christ was actually God in flesh. Arius’s main opponent was Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, and their battles finally caused Constantine to call a Council in Nicea to discuss possibilities of peace among theologies. At the Council of Nicea, Arius was refuted, the Godhead was fully supported as a triune being, and the famous words, homoousias and homoiousias came into official church teaching as support for the substance of God and the substance of Christ (p.181). After the Council of Nicea, the Nicene Creed was released into orthodoxy among the church, and the first step toward formation of a state church had begin. The idea of orthodoxy and heresy came into being, orthodoxy being the belief which the state supported, and heresy being that which the state did not support.
The state church of Constantinople formed, or rather, began it’s forming, after the Council of Nicea. Among the teachings that eventually formed during this time, the Logos of Origen was replaced by the phrase, the ‘Son of God (p.182),’ and a community of being formed, instead of the throne community, previously supported by the Judaic Christian church. As a result of the formation of the state church, heresy became a state crime, a policy against pagans was formed in the coming years, rapidly decreasing the powers of pagan priests and abolishing pagan festivals, such as the Olympic Games (p.184). Public life became increasingly Christianized, and a policy of anti-Judaism became to evolve, as the public Christians became to claim more authority to the Hebrew Scriptures (christologically), and began to blame Jews to the murder of Christ and God. Laws of the state church formed, laws that protected Christians and punished non-Christians. And finally, the state church put into dogma the doctrine of the trinity as an official teaching and practice – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, which leads to the next and final stage of this paper (p.187).
Finally, at the Council of Chalcedon, an issue that had been brewing for some time finally came into the spotlight, resurfacing from the days of Arius, in a different form – the divinity of Christ. At issue was whether or not Christ was fully human and fully divine, or partially in each of his forms, in heaven and on earth. The eastern church maintained that there was a distinction of unity of Christ – in that he was fully divine, and fully human, just not at the same time. The western church maintained that Christ was fully human and fully divine at the same time, and therefore they maintained a complete unity of Christ and God throughout all time. The western church also maintained that Mary was to be revered as the theotokos, or ‘Mother of God (p.190).’ At the Council of Chalcedon, the Emperor confirmed the correctness of the western church, and put into motion a state-wide religious support of the complete unity of Christ and God. However, the eastern church refused, at first quietly, and later, adamantly, to follow the teachings of the western church (p.192). Thus, before the first two hundred years of Christianity as an official religion, the church had already begun to split, even in Eusebias’s Kingdom of God.
Byzant-Roman Mission work during the Barbarian Empires
1. The Western Church
There can be said of the western church, three major missionary influences into the lands threatened by the so-called barbarians: the monastic missionaries, the papal missionaries, and finally (and ironically) the barbarian missionaries.
Some of those famous monastic missionaries were St. Patrick of Ireland, Columba of Ireland, Augustine of Canterbury, and the monk Benedict. St. Patrick of Ireland (p.235) spread Christianity into Ireland. After St. Patrick’s mission work had established in Ireland, Irish missionaries began to be sent into Great Britain and Scotland, notably Columba of Ireland, who witnessed in Iona, in Scotland (p.236). Augustine of Canterbury was sent by Gregory the Great as a missionary to Great Britain, where he convinced the Angles to Roman Christianity, which even to today is a point of conflict between the Scots and the Brits (p.237). Finally, Benedict the monk was the founder of the rule of Benedictine monasteries – monasteries that spread across the continent and were set-up with a unified, singular way of living – the Benedictine rule. Benedict himself wasn’t a missionary; his monasteries soon became self-sufficient and acted as economic stabilities throughout the continent. These monasteries became missionarial in how they scattered across the continents of the middle east and of Europe.
The papal missionary work consisted mostly of the giant of Gregory the Great, the Pope of Rome in 590 (p.236). Gregory the Great was initially a monk, but eventually became Pope and sent out missions to Spain, where he converted the Arian Visigoths, and to Great Britain, where he converted the Angles. He also sent out missions to Africa (the Donatists) and to the Frankish territories, but he was refused in both places (p.246). Gregory the Great was also the first Pope to officially recognize the Augustinian idea of purgatory (p.247), which was to be a doctrine used by the western church, and is still used today.
Finally, the barbarians were missionaries, and after being converted to Arianism, they traveled from Scandinavia all the way down to the shore of North Africa to establish their empires, bringing with them the Christian Arian belief. Some of the most prominent Arian missionaries were the Burgundians, the Visigoths, the Ostrogoths, and the Vandals. The Burgundians eventually were converted to Nicene Christianity eventually (p.234). The Visigoths were converted to Nicene Christianity with the help of Gregory the Great. The Ostrogoths were Arians, but eventually they were conquered by Justinian and converted to Orthodox Christianity (p.237). The Vandals continued their Arian Christianity until they were conquered by the Moslems (p.249). Finally, although they were Christianized, the Irish and the Scots were missionaries in the Isles of Britain, and eventually, the pagan Franks, under Clovis, subsided to Roman Christianity and converted, thus beginning the eventual rise to Clovis’s grandson, Charlemagne, who would be crowned as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire within France.
2. The Eastern Church
The eastern church followed a radically different path, not concentrating as much on mission work as perfection of the doctrine of Christianity. The eastern church focused mainly on overcoming the obstacles of Christological controversies, some of which included the Alexandrine and Antiochene controversy, the Nestorian heresy, monothelism, and the iconography controversy. In addition to those, monophysism resurfaced. However, the eastern church (known as the Orthodox church) did not shirk from the duties of mission work. The most known of the Orthodox missionaries were Cyril and Methodius, the Patriarch Photius, and Vladimir in Russia.
Cyril and Methodius were missionaries to the Slavic people. They wrote down the Slavic language, and also translated the Bible into Slavic (p.263). The Patriarch Photius requested a missionary from the Patriarch Photius, and eventually, an archbishop was sent to the Balkans (p.264). Finally, in Russia Vladimir requested missionaries from Constantinople, and eventually the Russian rulers took the name of Czar (Emperor) and converted to Orthodoxy (p.264).
The Christological controversies are extremely important to this era, and could be considered a missionary expenditure, perhaps in the sense that the Christological controversies allowed Christians to reaffirm their beliefs so that they could properly perform their ecclesiastical duties. However, for the most part, the Orthodox church maintained a “golden age” during this time, concentrating on establishing church law and resting on the laurels of an empire protected by its alliances and power of the church.
The Split Between the East and the West
There are several factors that severely divided the eastern and the western churches. They spoke different languages, Greek and Latin, (p.244) and held different cultural attitudes and cultural views of each other, the Greeks being prideful and haughty and the Latins being uneducated and closer to the ‘barbarians’ (p.244). There were different rites held for the two churches, such as the liturgical calendar and the different liturgical hymns, creeds, law, and basic theology of the church, such as the filioque and the nature of Christ in the trinity (p.245). The church politics were often at each others throats (p.245), between papal authority and the authority of the emperor and the patriarch in Constantinople. Philosophy was a major and decisive factor, the east being influenced more by Hellenistic metaphysical thought, and the west being influenced more my monarchial and single-rule ideas. The east held the community of believers, whereas the west held the pure authority of the pope (p.245). Different laws of the church also divided the church, from the canonistic in the west to Byzantine law in the east (2.46).
The political factors behind the split were the most important. Constantinople increasingly ignored Rome, leaving Rome to fend for itself against the barbarians (p.246). In time, Constantinople became a separate city, and thus formed two ‘Romes (p.247).’ When the Franks gained political power over what used to be Gaul, the church in Rome played into this monarchial ideal and thus separated them even more from Constantinople (p.249). Finally, both churches excommunicated each other, thus proving the final point of disagreement in being one with each other in catholic harmony (p.251).
The Movement towards Romanization
The Latin Roman church, after Constantine moved Rome to Byzantium, went through a transformation from the early Christian church to a Latinized, Romanized Catholic church. This transformation occurred under a series of eight steps: 1) the shift in the center of church power from the east to the west, 2) the establishment of the church state, 3) the separation of the east and west emperors, 4) a liturgical separation of east and west, 5) influence from the bordering Frankish kingdoms, 6) a period of Gregorian reform, 7) the introduction of canonized law, 8) and finally a period of papal world rule that would throw the Latin church into the religious and political world as a political contender for the hearts and blood of the people.
1) When the political capitol was moved to Constantinople, the Latin and the Germanic people merged together as the political army could no longer defend the borders of Rome, thus creating the Romanic people (p.348). The church, although with some support, mainly fended on her own, left alone to rule Rome without an emperor. Thus, the church became self-existent. Missions were sent out from across the empire, Irish and British missionaries to speak to word to the people beyond the Rhine as well, in order to spread the influence of the church.
2) Because of the independence of the church in Rome, the organization of the church eventually became a state organization, organized to handle the people’s physical and spiritual needs. The Benedictine order was of great help, as the monks were totally self-sufficient and could help the poor and needy and also take care of themselves. They also posed as a model of good living in a time of wandering warring Germanic tribes, and they also posed as a model of security. Finally, when the Franks converted to Christianity, the Roman church understood immediately the importance, and backed the Frankish king with their support (p.350).
3) With the crowning of Charles as the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the church finally grew into greater power as the divine ordainer of the new emperor of Rome, now two Roman emperors: one in Aachen, and one in Constantinople. Charlemagne (Charles the Great) became Lord of the Church, merging even deeper into the Roman church. He educated the masses, providing them with a Latinized education with members of the church as teachers (p.354). Finally, a Latin translation of the Bible came out, thus insuring the masses had access to an understanding of God in the proper tongue of the empire.
4) In addition, a liturgical separation of the two churches became evident. The services in the Holy Roman Empire were celebrated only in Latin. A movement from the universal, communal church of the east to a distanced, personal piety was influenced by the holiness the Franks believed the church deserved (p.359). Finally, Frankish traditions began to infiltrate the church even more as the church became more widespread and powerful.
5) Some of the important Frankish traditions that were Latinized for the church were private confession and chant. Private confession revolved mainly around the adherence to sexual purity, for sex was regarded as a sin. The chant was first recognized in the Gregorian monks, who formed a liturgy out of the chanting and formed a monastic order around the chant. Other Frankish traditions included empowering the Pope as a more universal leader instead of mainly a speaker for the clergy of the church. He was regarded more as a king than a priest in this sense, for the years of having to keep security over Rome and the years as the ordainer of the Frankish kings had forged a strong, resilient leader in the Pope. He was supreme among the church, and strong among the people.
6) The Gregorian monks were reformers, and worked on stabilizing the church in Rome and preparing it for what they believed would be a new world order (p.373). Beyond the Gregorian monks, however, the papal reform continued with the Germanic monarchy, and finally the papacy itself as a tool of papal reform. The papal throne was secure by the time the Legates had been elected by the Pope – a group of intelligencia who strengthened the evened the power of the papacy for proper rule.
7) With Gregory VII as pope the Dictates of the Pope were established as canonized church law (p.381). The Dictates of the Pope were a series of laws finalizing the Pope as supreme leader of the church and supreme leader over the world. Some of his powers included being able to depose an emperor, having the immediate power and jurisdiction over any clergy for any reason, and being able to excommunicate any person in his realm of they pose a threat (p.382). Not only this, but the Germanic kings respected the position of the Pope, and when they did not, the Pope could exorcise power against them, thus proving that there is more to the Pope than just church law, but the backbone and spirituality of the people as well.
8) Finally, during the rule of Gregory VII, the lands were expanded and as neighboring princes were captured, tribute had to be paid to the Roman church. By this time, the Pope had become ruler of the world (p.396). The church was now a papal universal church throughout the land (p.392). All popes had legal training in papal law (p.394). There was a compulsory law of celibacy for all clergy, thus leaving the clergy totally at the will of the Pope (p.402). And finally, the Pope could sell indulgences, or items which could forgive sins and prevent a person from going to purgatory or hell and straight to heaven, for military support (p.399). Thus, what would be the most bloody and embarrassing adventure of Christendom was about to arrive on the world scene: the Crusades.
Lutherans believe that the Word of God was actually Christ. They did not rigidly uphold to a policy of Scriptural infallibility however, or to a worship of the Scriptures. Luther said that the Scriptures should only be the Word of God as far as Christ can be found in them. Therefore, he had no problem cutting out books like James, and even parts of Revelation (although he did not cut it out, he still contended with it), in which he was not comfortable with.
Lutherans believe in a “theology of the Cross,” or that God is found not in the work of men but in the suffering of himself. Therefore, although it is possible, as Luther would say, for men to find God using natural means, the greatest way is to find God in his weakness, and therefore a God that acts through a suffering attitude rather than a glorified attitude. Luther did call reason a whore, after all, but he did not totally discount it. Luther taught that we are justified by faith, not works. What this meant was that we are justified even with our sin through faith in God, because of God’s forgiveness. Therefore, although we are still held to the law because we are sinners, we are free because of our justification. This does not mean, however, that we are free to dance in sin – being still sinners, we are held to that same law; however it is through the grace of God that we are saved, not by our excess of sin.
Lutherans believe in the sacraments of baptism and communion. Baptism is a free gift of God, for the members of the community of God. Therefore, infant baptism is practiced, alongside with adult baptism. It is a symbol of death and resurrection with Jesus Christ, and the beginning of the Christian life. Communion, like baptism, is a communal event (the members of the body of Christ) and believed in consubstantiation (although it was not called that at the time), which meant that during the serving of the bread and wine, the literal body and blood of Christ came into the bread and wine.
Finally, Lutherans believe in the two kingdoms – the kingdom under the law, and the kingdom under the gospel. The kingdom under the law served as a device to set limits to human sin, whereas the kingdom under the gospel served as a device of God and Christ. Because man was still subject to sin, he was still subject to the law.
The irony of Lutheranism is that though all of the teaching about the two kingdoms, when challenged against the secular authorities, political circumstance and political alignment was perhaps the biggest reason why Lutheranism was as successful as it was. After the Diet of Worms, Luther went into hiding so that he could not be excommunicated, and during this time finished his German translation of the New Testament. While he was at Wartburg, his friends back in Wittenberg continued to teach his message, even further than Luther taught. Soon, strange occurrences of tearing down pictures of saints and other showings of heretical strength took place, all based from Luther’s teaching; thus he was blamed. Although, as in the Diet of Worms, Luther still had the political connections to Frederick the Wise, and Charles V, who sought to punish Luther, was currently engaged in wars with both Spain and France. he hardly had the time to pay attention to Luther. Eventually, he was also at war with Rome and France as well, and also the Turks. Finally, with the advent of a peasant rebellion in Germany, claiming Lutheran inspiration, Luther was forced into removing his backing of the violent peasants, as well as defending his thesis against Erasmus in a debate. There were also several Diets that were of importance to the development of Lutheranism, and thus, Protestantism. First of all, in the Diet of Worms Luther was convicted as a heretic, to which he escaped with Frederick’s help. In the Diet of Nuremburg, Lutheranism was tolerated. In the Diet of Spire, the edict of Worms was withdrawn, and granted each German state its choice in religious allegiance. In the Second Diet of Spire, the edict of Worms was reaffirmed by many of the German Princes (who chose Catholicism as their religious allegiance) and Lutherans gave formal protest, thus Protestants. In the Diet of Augsburg, Philip Melanchthon presented the Augsburg Confession, which many of the German Princes signed. Because of this, Charles V felt threatened, and told them to recant, but instead of doing so, they formed the League of Schmalkand. Eventually, Charles was embroiled in war again, and sought to unify Germany, initiating the Peace of Nuremburg, which stipulated that Protestants could remain in their faith, just not go outside of their territories.
The Anabaptists believed themselves to be of another society. Although they attempted to live in the society they were born into, their focus was on living truly according to Scripture, and more specifically, to the Sermon on the Mount. They were initially followers of pacifism, although this did not prevent them from proclaiming that Christians who did not follow in their stead were lacking in faith. They were resented in their communities, specifically because of their deliberate pacifism and superior ideal of themselves. Initially, they were persecuted heavily, both by Protestants and Catholics, primarily in Switzerland and Germany. The majority of their teaching, however, circulated around the concept that infant baptism wasn’t enough – that you must be rebaptized, because true Christians had faith before baptism.
To counter this persecution, many Anabaptists took up the opposite sentiments – arms. Melchior Hoffman felt that the Anabaptists were being unjustly persecuted, and began to preach an apocalyptic message of the ending days. Eventually, he was imprisoned, but not before he inflamed a great number of Anabaptists, who proceeded to occupy the city of Münster (which they claimed was the New Jerusalem). They exiled all of the Catholics and moderate Protestants, and destroyed religious items that were contrary to Scripture. However, outside of the city, the exiled bishop waited with an army, and any Anabaptist who ventured outside of the city, he slew. Eventually, the city grew tired of John Matthys (the King of New Jerusalem) and John of Leiden (his disciple) and opened their gates back to the bishop, who marched happily back into the city and executed both Matthys and Leiden and any other of the leadership in the city. Eventually, the Anabaptists found itself again in the person of Menno Simons, and founded the “Mennonites,” a fellowship that once again accepted pacifism as a grounding belief. They were persecuted, but eventually the persecution faded away, leaving them with a legacy of tolerance and good social work.
During the initial stages of Calvin’s theology, Calvinists, or “Reformers,” were Lutheran generally despite a few differences: the importance of scholarly study in Calvinism, a closer relationship of the state and the church, a rigid interpretation of Scripture, and the understanding that communion is the time when believers are spiritually taken into heaven for communion with Christ. Firstly, Calvin emphasized study – in fact, it was a dream come true for him when the Geneva Academy opened (68). Secondly, Calvin had no qualms with excommunicating or exiling people who were not repentant sinners. He even argued in favor of beheading people who broke civil and religious law (67). Thirdly, because of the importance of the academic interpretation, much of Calvinist doctrine is rigid and based directly from Calvin’s own work, The Institutes (66). Fourthly, Calvinists, or “Reformers,” became known in their community because of their belief in communion, not as transubstantiation, or consubstantiation, but rather as a divine action of spiritual importance, whence the believer is taken directly into heaven for a heavenly banquet to share with Christ a feast, spiritually of course (68).
Calvin was not as fiery as Luther, nor as subversive as the Anabaptists – rather, he was a scholar, and at first, did not even want to become involved in politics. Perhaps his only direct confrontation with the authorities was when he accepted Protestantism in lieu of Catholicism, and was forced to go into exile to Switzerland, to the city of Basel, because of a changed policy in France to Protestants. After Calvin left Basel, he made a layover in Geneva, and ended up staying to help William Farel in reforming the city (it was Protestant). Calvin was eventually exiled from the city because of his rigid views towards the unrepentant, and found another home in Strasbourg as a reformer, but later returned to Geneva when he was invited back. While in Geneva, Calvin created the Consistory, a group of elders who also held most of the positions in the government of the church. The church and the government clashed every now and then, but for the most part were not truly put to the test until Michael Servetus was put to death by burning, even with Calvin proposing a less cruel death by beheading. Therefore, mostly Calvin stayed within the limits of the secular government, even working with them.
The Anglican church came into existence because Clement VII, the current Pope, would not validate Henry VIII’s divorce to Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. Anglicanism is similar to Roman Catholicism, except for some points: 1. there is no obedience to the Pope, 2. the order of the monastery abolished, 3. the Bible translated into English, 4. the cup of communion also given to the laity, 5. clergy allowed to marry, 6. images withdrawn from the church, 7. the establishing of English liturgy in the form of the Book of Common Prayer, 8. and a doctrinal foundation located in “thirty nine-articles,” a document that mostly serves to be an equalizer between conflicting forms of communion (the body and blood of Christ is taken in memory through the heart), written in 1562.
Because the Anglican church was formed as a state church, there never was any secular authority to challenge the position of the church. However, conflict between the Anglican church, the Protestants, and the Catholics was always a problem. The Anglican church refused to recognize the Roman Catholic church, and refused to recognize the Protestant church. However, later moderate Protestants were allowed to worship in England, for many years Protestants were persecuted. When Mary Tudor ascended to the throne, she brought back Catholicism as the state religion, and persecuted both the Protestants and the Anglicans. She returned obedience to the Pope, the saint’s feast days, and she ordered clergy to abandon their wives. She practiced widespread Protestant execution and persecution, and even high leaders in the Anglican church were executed if they did not recant their support in the Anglican church. At the end of “Bloody Mary’s” reign, Elizabeth ascended the throne and was more open about Protestant’s and restored the Anglican church.
Orthodoxy and Pietism
Orthodoxy is defined as maintaining a belief in the doctrines taught by the scriptures. These doctrines, although some are universal, many adhere to a specific brand of orthodoxy, be that Catholic orthodoxy, Lutheran orthodoxy, Reform orthodoxy; in this way, there are established doctrines that are taught among the church. Pietism, on the other hand, stresses the emotional, devotional, and personal actions of the individual to God, and teaches that doctrines only go as far as how you use them in your life. Thus, the two seem like polar opposites – one method stressing the adherence to rules and regulations defined in words on paper (orthodoxy) while the other stressing the adherence to personal and spiritual convictions defined by experience (pietism).
Orthodoxy is more than mere doctrine, however. It is the general movement of examining the Scriptures and deciding on absolutes that exist among the Scriptures, and then writing down a systematic program and teaching that systematic program. In Catholicism, Jansenism was a doctrine that concentrated on the ideas of predestination and grace. Quietism, another doctrine that arose during this period, stressed the diminishing of the individual before God, and was taught as a doctrine with the help of Miguel de Molinos’ Spiritual Guide (169). However, these doctrines and other doctrines that also arose during this period were condemned by the church. Beyond all doctrines, the Council of Trent had promoted the centralization of the office of the Pope, a program of reformation, and set into motion a rigid orthodoxy that would control the Catholic church for the next four hundred years.
Lutheran orthodoxy, which arose in Germany, centered on the Loci theologici, written by Luther’s friend Philip Melanchthon, was later to be further shaped with the Formula of Concord. With the finalization of Lutheran unity, a new theology of scholasticism arose, taught through the schools and emphasizing systems of theology based off Luther’s theology of justification by faith and doctrinal truths. Because the theology became academic, the theology eventually removed itself from the experience of people and increasingly became distanced. Lutheran orthodoxy, or protestant scholasticism, proclaimed the doctrines of scriptural inspiration (Biblical infallibility) and stiff confessionalism.
Among the Calvinists (Reform theology), the orthodoxy was founded upon two meetings: the Synod of Dort, and the Westminster Assembly. The doctrines taught through the Synod of Dort were five doctrines: 1. unconditional election, 2. limited atonement, 3. the corruption of the human nature, 4. irresistible grace, and 5. the perseverance of the saints. From the Westminster Assembly, additional orthodoxy was affirmed: 6. the authority of Scripture, 7. the eternal decree of God, 8. and the sanctification of the elect, among many other affirmations from the Synod of Dort and doctrinal and orthodox acknowledgements (177).
Pietism was a break from the scholastic orthodoxy. Pietism affirmed the importance of the Bible, but rather than examining the book academically for doctrine, pietism proclaimed that the Bible should be used as devotional and personal, individual experience. The so-called founder of Pietism, Philip Jakob Spener, was a simple man who was not impressed by the various impressionable doctrines of the Lutheran church, but was impressed by an apocalyptic interpretation of the times. Pietism called Christians to live the life of Christ, different and radical, whereas protestant orthodoxy attempted to produce some sort of universal morality for all Christians. The religious experience of God was more tuned with the pietist than with the orthodox, as the orthodox found truth in the Scriptures and the pietist through devotional life. Although pietism did not abandon scholasticism – pietists stressed the importance of bible studies, but in these meetings the emphasis was not as much on doctrinal and academic research, but rather how God interacts with us (205). Pietism was deeply experiential, and many pietists claim that it was this experience of God that led them to the correct path, some including Ludwig von Zinzendort (founder of Moravianism), John Wesley (founder of Methodism), George Whitefield (Calvinist preacher), and August Herman Francke (professor at the University of Halle).
Pietism, like orthodoxy, was a movement and not a specific doctrine. Just as there are orthodox Muslims and orthodox Jews, there are probably (arguably) pietistic Muslims and pietistic Jews, who instead of focusing on the scholastic attributes of God’s will, focus on the individual experience and day-to-day living of a believer. I would not say the two are absolute opposites, as both remain strongly connected to the idea of Scriptural understanding and Scriptural absolutes, although with the dry scholasticism and the fiery experiential in contrast, orthodox scholasticism and pietism seem to be at odds.