The Church In The Second Century Part 1

20 Jul

The Church In The Second Century

By: Bob Gersztyn

St. Florians, Hamtramack, Michigan

Over the decades my theology has evolved, just as the church itself has evolved over 2 millennia. Back in 1979 to 1981 I was in the last days of my academic period, as I was enrolled in California State University at Los Angeles, where I was pursuing a Masters Degree in Ancient History, while I was an associate pastor at an inner city church in Los Angles. The last class that I took, before I dropped out of the program, was an independent study course, for which I did my own research and then wrote a paper about. I submitted that paper in February 1981, after I wrote it while moving from Los Angeles, California to Toledo, Oregon and then to El Paso Texas and then back to Los Angeles, California within an 8-month period with 4 children ranging in age from 6 years old and under. I paid all my own expenses, so by the time that we got back to Los Angeles, we were broke and without a car.

However, what the hell, I was following God’s will and always believed that to truly serve God, you had to stand naked without any possessions in the middle of the desert. So that is where I found myself, as I continued to work on my paper, which I had a year to complete. That year would end in May 1981, but I finished it in February and was living back in Los Angeles, California at the time. The title of the paper was “The Church In The Second Century.”

The reason why I decided on my subject, was just like everything that I did, it was for my own personal satisfaction and increase of knowledge. Ministers were always talking about getting back to the first century church, so I thought to myself – when did the change take place? The logical place to start looking was the 2nd century, so that’s what I did. It was supposed to be ten double spaced pages, but I submitted over forty. I received an “A” from Dr. Malik, my instructor, but it was as if that was the parting gesture of my ministry years, because I never was employed again as a clergyman, didn’t get my Masters Degree, and went back to work at the Post Office until I retired.

It’s ironic that the paper proves that the first century Church evolved into the Roman Catholic church, less than 100 years after the death of Jesus Christ. Roman Catholicism is where I came from before I rejected it to join the Jesus movement in 1971. I found it confusing, yet realized that it was just another part of the truth about life, existence, religion, and spirituality. So without any further explanation I offer the transcribed copy of my research paper in 2 installments. This is Part One and includes the introduction and chapters 1 & 2.

California State University At Los Angeles

The Church In The Second Century

A research paper submitted to
Dr. Butrus Abd_Al_Malik
As required for
Independent study course 499

Department Of History

By
Robert Louis Gersztyn

Los Angeles, California
February 1981

Contents

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (1)

Chapter I. The Secular circumstances ( The Emperor and the Empire.) . .2
Introduction (2)—Trajan (3)—Hadrian (4)—Antoninus Pius (5)—Marcus Aurelius (6)—Commodus (7)—Pertinax (8)—Julianus (9)—Septimius Severus (10).

Chapter II. Church Structure and Theology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Introduction (11)—Apostolic Succession (12)—Determining the New Testament Canon (14)—The Rule of Faith (15).

Chapter III. Church Personalities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Introduction (18)—Aristedes (19)—Athenagorus (20) —Justin Martyr (21)—Tatian (23)—Theopolis (24)—Clement of Alexandria (25)—Tertulian (27)—Origen (29).

Chapter IV. Conflicts: External and internal . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Introduction (31)—The Mystery Religions (31)—Gnosticism (33)—Marcionism (35)—Montanism (37).

Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (40)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sources Consulted . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(41).

Mitchell, Nebraska Corn Palace

Introduction

The first century Church’s emphasis after Christ’s death and resurrection was to evangelize the civilized parts of the Roman Empire. It’s method was to establish churches in major cultural and trade centers. By the second century the rural areas surrounding those major centers were effectively reached. The emphasis of the second century Church changed from that of primarily evangelizing to that of organizing the subsequent loose structure which existed. One reason for the need to organize was due to the fact that according to the interpretation of Pauline theology, the church was the body of Christ, and therefore needed to be joined together in loving one another. Organization was also needed to protect the church form numerous heresies which were materializing.

The second century saw the development of a universal organization (the Catholic Church) based upon the structural framework which then existed in the Roman government’s political system. A carefully thought out theology came into being by the apologetic theologians who defended the faith against the pagans and the heretics. The purpose of this paper is to elaborate upon the details within and surrounding the second century Church In order that its historical importance may be fully understood.

CHAPTER I

THE SECULAR CIRCUMSTANCES (THE EMPERORS AND THE EMPIRE)

In order to gain a larger picture of the historical context of the second century Church, it is necessary to look at the period in which it existed. The second century saw a total of eight Roman emperors. Politically this period was highlighted by two important factors.

First, due to the fact that no offspring were born to the first three second century emperors, they were free to choose successors, or appointment by the Praetorian Guard as was often the case in The first century emperors. “While the principle was maintained it gave Rome “ the finest succession of good and great sovereigns the world has ever had. ‘”1 The second situation which occurred was one of gradual development of an organized bureaucracy that was controlled by a hierarchy, “. . .

While the self-complacent local magistrates and town counselors of the once self-governing city-states had been degraded into becoming the unwilling instruments of the central exchequer for extracting ruinously heavy taxes from the local notables.”2
__________________

  1. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Volume III: Caesar and Christ ( New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944). 3:408.
  2. Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, (New York: Weathervane books, 1972, Pg. 278.

Although each of these factors appear to contradictory to the other, the development and result in both cases were unplanned. The first area temporarily gave strength and stability to the Empire; while the second planted the seeds of decay.

The first century had seen: strong leadership in Augustus and in Tiberias, the assassination of Caligula, the Praetorian Guard’s appointment of Claudias, the suicide of Nero, the civil war and the successive assassinations of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius ending the Julian dynasty in A.D 69. The remaining thirty years were controlled by the Flavian dynasty beginning with Vespasian and his modest rule, followed by the ascension and premature death of Titus, the insane rule of Domitian ending in his assassination, and the Senatorial appointment of Nerva, the last of the Flavians.

Not having an heir, Nerva chose as his successor Marcus Ulpias Nerva Traianus ( Trajan A.D. 98-117) to succeed him with the consent of the Senate. Trajan was a military man, born in Spain of a Roman family. During his reign he carried out extensive military expeditions and equally extensive building programs, whose cost was met not by taxation, but by plunders of war. Prior to his death in A.D 117 en route to Rome, there was preparation being made by the senate for the greatest triumph since the time of Augustus. This was a reflection of his universal popularity with both Plebeians and Patricians.

Trajan’s correspondence with a special envoy to Bithynia forms some of the most important documents which the world has today from the first century Roman archives. The envoy’s name was Pliny the younger. One of Pliny’s letters to Trajan deals with the problems of Christians. He asks the emperor’s advice and describes his previous actions. One important point in Pliny’s letter is that he states, “It is not only the towns, but villages and rural districts too which are infected with this wretched cult.”

In Trajan’s reply three directives are given to Pliny, two of which are in favor of Christians:

“These people must not be hunted out; . . . In the case of anyone who denies that he is a Christian, and makes it clear that he is not by offering prayers to our gods, he is to be pardoned as a result of his repentance however suspect his past conduct may be. But pamphlets circulated anonymously must play no part in any accusation. They create the worst sort of precedent and are quite out of keeping with the spirit of our age.”2

We have evidence of two martyrs of prominent status in Trajan’s time. First Simon, Bishop of Jerusalem, and second Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch.

Following Trajan’s death his nephew Publias Aelius Hadrianus (Hadrain A.D. 117-138) ascended the throne. There was some amount of controversy over whether or not Trajan actually chose Hadrian; however, history reveals that he was one of the most brilliant Roman emperors. He was opposed to the imperialistic ways of his uncle, Trajan, and put an end to all wars of expansion. He withdrew the legions from the far reaches of the Empire and began a new peaceful administration based on the principle of defense rather than expansion. He personally traveled to all the provinces of the Empire with a group of architects, builders and engineers to examine their condition and needs and helped them where possible. This was unprecedented since the reign of Augustus. The only record of an execution for being a Christian is of Telophorus, Bishop of Rome.
_________________

  1. Pliny the Younger, The Letters of the Younger Pliny. Translated by Betty Radice ( London: Penguine Books Ltd., 1963), Pgs. 294, 295.
  2. Ibid., Pg. 295

Hadrain’s reign was one of peace until A.D. 132 when Simon bar-Chochba led the Jews in Jerusalem to a second revolt against Rome sixty-two years after its destruction by Titus. This revolt lasted until A.D. 135 when Hadrian had it ruthlessly put down. The revolt took place over the issue of Hadrian declaring “his intention to raise a shrine to Jupiter on the site of the destroyed temple.”1

Simon bar-Chochba means “son of a star” and was the result of a name change from Simon bar-Kosiba. This name change was encouraged by Akiva the leading Jewish rabbi after Gamaliel. Simon bar-Kosiba believed himself to be the promised Jewish Messiah and Akiva encouraged this belief in order to foster support in the revolt which became the Jews last effort in antiquity to regain the Promised Land. Hadrian died shortly after this in A.D. 138 of a disease “akin to tuberculosis and dropsy—which slowly crushed his body, his spirit, and his mind.”2 Before he died he chose Titus Aurelius Antonius to succeed him.
___________________

  1. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), Pg. 548.
  2. Ibid., Pg. 421.

Titus Aurelius Antoninus (A.D 138-161) was referred to by the Senate as “Pius” as a model of the milder Roman virtues, and “Optimus Princeps” as the best of princes. Because of this, history refers to him as Antoninus Pius. History also records little of his reign, this is due to the fact that it was the best period that Rome had ever known. There were no wars, save minor skirmishes; internally there was harmony and efficiency of government. The harshness shown to the Jews by Hadrian was reduced, and Christians were tolerated. Taxation was light and the needy were provided for. Antoninus reigned twenty-three years and chose Marcus Aurelius Antoninus to succeed hin, prior to his death at seventy-four years of age. Marcus Aurelius ( A.D. 161-179) fulfilled Plato’s ideal of a philosopher-king.

“Historians of philosophy have repeatedly pointed out out the dramatic fact that the two leading Roman Stoics were Epictetus, a slave, and Marcus Aurelias, an emperor, and that emperor was in his youth a pupil to the slave.” 1

He was a pious man and even in his later adult life when he grew skeptical. He was a student of philosophy and a practitioner of the state religion and he never discontinued performing the rituals of the ancient faith. He also showed every honor and courtesy to the Senate.

Marcus’ reign saw a great deal of war both in the East with Parthians and in the West with the Germans. Along with war came much pestilence. As many as two thousand people died a day, many of which were of the aristocracy. 2 From A.D. 167 until the end of his reign in A.D. 179
__________________

  1. Marcus Aurelias, Marcus Aurelias and His Times: Meditations (Rosalyn, New York: Walter J. Black, Inc., 1945), Pg. 3.
  2. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), Pg. 429.

Marcus was practically continually involved in warfare with invading German tribes.

“Never before had the German tribes moved with such unity or so closely threatened Rome. Marcus acted with surprising decisiveness. He put away the pleasure of philosophy and determined to take the field in what he foresaw would be the most momentous of Roman wars since Hannibal.” 1

There is evidence, although it is uncertain that Marcus assented to or possibly even approved of Christian persecutions. However, it appears that he knew relatively little about Christianity doctrinally. “ The distinction of Marcus lies chiefly in his book and personality.”2 Marcus Aurelius became the first second-century emperor to name his son as heir to the throne. This act took place during the Third Marcomannic War in the area of Bohemia. At that time Marcus became seriously ill and being aware that his malady was terminal, he presented his son, Commodus, to the army as the new emperor. Then,

“Returning to his couch he covered his head with the sheet and soon afterward died. When his body had reached home the people had already begun to worship him as a god who for a while consented to live on the earth.” 3

Lucius Aurelius Commodus (A.D 179-192) assumed command upon his father Marcus’ death while they were both in the Danube. Upon his ascension to the throne, he immediately offered the enemy terms of peace. This enraged the generals and the political machinery of Rome since total victory was within his reach. Commodus However, though not a coward, was tired of war.
_________________

  1. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944) , Pg. 429.
  2. Classics Club, Marcus Aurelius and His Times. (roslyn, New York: Walter J. Black, Inc., 1945), Pg. 6.
  3. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), Pg. 432.

Surprisingly the terms of peace were not violated by the Danubian tribes for the extent of his reign. During his reign Commodus snubbed the Senate and poured out gifts upon the Plebeians. He was an outstanding sportsman and spent most of his time involved in related activities. Records indicate that he was an exceptionally cruel emperor who indiscriminately killed people for sport. He appointed a prefect to execute his governmental duties; and according to tradition, he became totally involved in sexual dissipation. 1 Like Domitian he grew paranoid of conspiracies and had anyone executed who was suspect, to the point that there very few surviving who were in power during his father’s reign.

There was no official persecution of Christians during his reign; in fact, the only records on his relations with them is one of pardoning some who were condemned to the Sardinian mines for the sake of Marcia, one of his mistresses, who some believe was a Christian herself, or at least sympathized with them. When a list of those suspected of conspiracy reached the hands of Commodus containing the name of Marcia, she acted with the support of the others accused by giving him a cup of poisoned wine.

“Commodus retired to sleep; but whilst he was laboring with the effects of poison and drunkenness, a robust youth, by profession a wrestler, entered his chamber and strangled him without resistance.”2 He was thirty-one years of age.
___________________

  1. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), Pg. 447.
  2. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I (Chicago, Ill.: William Benton, Publisher, 1952), Pg. 39.

Upon the assassination of Commodus, the Senate elected Publius Helvius Pertinax as emperor in A.D. 192. He was one of the last survivors of Marcus Aurelius’ reign and had been Prefect of Rome. Within eighty-six days of Commodus’ death, a general sedition broke out in the Praetorian Guard camp. The issue at hand was that “the officers wanted either power or inclination to supress.”1 Somewhere between two and three hundred soldiers marched at noonday on the palace; and when Pertinax came out to meet them, they killed him and put his head on a lance carrying it to their camp.

After Pertinax’s execution, the Praetorian guard offered the throne to the highest bidder, and Marcus Didius Salvius Julianus Severus (Julianus A.D. 192-193) won by offering 6,250 drachmas per man. Rome was enraged and appealed

“to the legions in Britain, Syria, and Pannonia to come and depose Julianus . . . The Pannonian commander, Lucius Septimus Severus Geta, gained the principate by boldness, expedition and bribery.”2

When Septimus Severus entered Rome, a Tribune beheaded Julianus in a bathroom where he was found in tears terrified. Lucius Septimus Severus (A.D 193-211) became the last emperor of the second century. He favored the poor and soldiers to the Senate and Patricians. He had many Senators put to death upon his ascension to the throne and ruled by the army. He established a hereditary, military monarchy and made military service compulsory. However, the inhabitants of Italy were forbidden to enter the army. This was because he was of Semitic origin, and to insure the emperor was chosen by provincial legions. Of his eighteen-year reign twelve were given to war. He died in bed at York while on a military expedition against the Scots in Britain. During his reign there was a brief period of Christian persecution. In this persecution Clement of Alexandria fled his post, and Origen, a student of his, succeeded him. Origen’s father was put to death in this persecution.
___________________

  1. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. I (Chicago, Ill.: William Benton, Publisher, 2952), Pg. 39.
  2. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Vol. III: Caesar and Christ ( New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), Pg. 620.

CHAPTER II

CHURCH STRUCTURE AND THEOLOGY

The structure of the first century Church was very loose and flexible. The services themselves were modeled after the Jewish synagogue and were comprised of singing, Scripture reading, and homily, which altogether culminated into the love feast of common meal. The leadership in the beginning was the apostles themselves. When the size of the church grew to the point that they were unable to meet all its needs, they chose assistants named ‘diakonos’: servants, helpers ( Acts 6:1-6, 1 Timothy 3:8-13).1 As the church spread especially under the efforts of the apostles Paul, and the apostles could not personally oversee the congregations anymore, alternate leadership had to be appointed. This leadership was titled ‘presbuteros’ or ‘episkopos’: elders, bishops, overseers (Acts 14:23, 1 Timothy 3:1-7).2
__________________

  1. William F. Arndt and Wilbur F. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (16th Impression, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1974), Pgs. 183 & 184.
  2. Ibid., Pgs. 706, 707, & 299.

By the beginning of the second century, the apostles had all died. The leadership of the church was comprised of bishops who had been directly appointed by the apostles themselves. Kenneth Latourette states that

“a structure was in evidence which, at first not universal, eventually became normal for ecclesiastical Christianity.

“The church in Antioch had at least one bishop, Ignatius, who acted as though he had the acknowledged right to address himself with authority to the other churches. On his way under guard to Rome for martyrdom, Ignatius wrote letters to several churches. He commanded that nothing be done without the bishop and declared that the Eucharist, or lord’s Supper, was to be administered by a bishop or by someone delegated by him. Ignatius also spoke of presbyters and deacons as officers of the Church. Eventually and perhaps at that time a city customarily only had one bishop. Ignatius spoke of the ‘Catholic Church’ ‘saying that wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic church.’ By the end of the second century the term ‘Catholic’ was increasingly applied to the church, with the sense that the Catholic church was both universal and orthodox. In the course of time the district over which the bishop presided became known as a diocese. The term was borrowed from the Civil Administration of the Roman Empire, especially as it was organized in the fourth century. To this day the majority of the Christians are in churches in which the three major ranks of clergy are bishops, priests, and deacons, and organized by diocese presided over by a bishop.”1
___________________

  1. , 2., & 3. Kenneth Scott Latourette, Christianity Thought the Ages, Volume 1 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1965, Pg. 40.

The need for this ecclesiastical structure was generated by the internal conflict which existed with the church in the second century. Some of the early church fathers listed as many as twenty different heresies which resulted from these conflicts. Later in this paper the content of those heresies will be discussed. At this time, however, investigation will be limited to the effect that these heresies had upon the Catholic church. The ramification are threefold: (1) Apostolic succession, (2) Determination of authoritative Scripture, (3) Condensing of the Apostles’ teaching in its Simplest form. It should be understood that

“These three features of the Catholic Church were by no means entirely due to the effort to ascertain what the truth is: They were already present in Embryo. However, their was assisted and their form in part determined by the struggle to ensure the Gospel should be preserved and transmitted in its pristine integrity. “1

The first area of investigation is that of apostolic succession. Ever since the Protestant Reformation the validity of this issue has been hotly contested and denounced by Protestantism. However, it should be understood that it was by this very practice that the purity of the faith was preserved. The question which needs to be asked is, at what point in time did this practice cease to be in the church’s best interest? Not, was this practice ever valid, since history does authenticate that it was. One of the early church fathers already mentioned, Ignatius of Antioch, who was martyred in A.D 108 under Trajan, actually claimed “that the bishop is God’s representative on Earth, an earthly counterpart corresponding to the heavenly Monarch, so that we ought to regard the bishop as the lord himself.”2
__________________

  1. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. I: Beginnings to 1500 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1953), Pg. 131.
  2. Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1967), Pg. 41.

The concept of the apostolic succession was one of the most formidable weapons used in opposing the Gnostic heresy whose threat presented the greatest danger within the Church. Iraneaus, Bishop of Lyons (France), the theologian who summed up the thought of second century Christianity and dominated Christian orthodoxy before Origen, insisted that the Apostles had accurately transmitted what had been taught to them by Christ. He said that there existed unbroken lines of succession from bishop to bishop which if necessary could be presented in list form for all the churches.

“He singles out that of the Church of Rome, which he holds to have been founded and organized by Peter and Paul. Peter and Paul, so he says, appointed Linus. Linus in turn so Iraenaeus declared, was followed by others in unbroken line to the twlefth in succession who was bishop when the book was being composed.”1

Although the issue of apostolic succession was important, it was only one feature of the developing Church. A second feature was that of determining the contents of the New testament Canon. The Orthodox Catholic Church had already universally accepted the Jewish scriptures said to have been finally ratified by the so-called Synod of Jamnia in A.D. 90-100.”2 However, there were many writings which were also read in services that were specifically written to the Church of Christ. By the middle of the second century, the list was quite large. The first person to organize a collection of these writings was Marcion, a heretic whose teaching were often confused with Gnosticism. He included the letters of Paul and the gospel of Luke, after he edited out all of the portions that contradicted his own teachings, which “he held to be the corrupting addition of later hands.”3

[It is ironic or very synchronistic, that right now that is exactly what I’m doing. It is July 2015, but it was back in July 1999 that I had one of my sons take my original paper that I submitted back in 1981, and transcribe it into MS Word. Since he copied it onto a floppy disc, I eventually transferred it to a CD and flash drive and decided to post it on my “Jesus Rocks The World” blog. Prior to posting it, I am reading it and comparing it to the printed-out copy of the original paper I wrote. I am occasionally finding mistakes, like misspelled, missing, or interpolated words, so I can understand how a text that is not that old could be flawed.]
_____________________

  1. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. I: Beginnings to 1500 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1953), Pg. 132.
  2. J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Fransisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960), Pg. 52.
  3. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. I: Beginnings to 1500 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1953), Pg. 131

It is felt by some that perhaps Marcion’s action was the motivating force which caused the church to begin determining it’s new Testament Canon. Both Justin Martyr and Iranaeus supported the fourfold Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Tertullian, a late second century, early third century theologian supported twenty of twenty-seven New Testament books.

“Yet nothing like an official catalogue appears in his works. The earliest such catalogues of which we have evidence is the Roman one contained in the so-called Muratorian fragment, late second century in date and authoritative in tone.”1

It recognized twenty-three of the New Testament books along with three apocryphal books. It also condemned the Marcionite and the Gnostic books. However, in order to find a listing of our present twenty-seven books, one has to jump two hundred years ahead to the time of Athanasius, who in the year 367 in his Easter Letter listed our present twenty-seven books as being the sole canonical books of the New Testament, “but the process was not every where complete until at least a century and a half later.”2

Thirdly was a condensation of the apostles’ teachings into what was called the rule of faith, later becoming known as the Apostles’ Creed, and finally the Nicene Creed in A.D. 325.
_______________________

  1. J.N.D Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Fransisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960), Pg. 52.
  2. Ibid., Pg. 60.

“This rule (Iranaeus claimed) is what the bishops teach now and therefore comes down from the apostles. In content it is akin to the formulas used in the questions put to candidates for baptism and is simply the creedal pattern based on the New Testament. Tertullian trusted as independent of scripture because, in argument with heretics, it was a better defense than the Bible, over the interpretation of which one can argue long with the sole effect of the bewildering simple folk who want a short and direct answer.”1

The rule of faith clearly refutes the false teachings of the ideal of the leading heresies of the second century, especially Marcionism and Gnosticism. At that time it read as follows:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty and in Jesus Christ his son, who was born of Mary the Virgin, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, on the third day rose from the dead, ascended into heaven sitteth on the right hand of the Father, from which he cometh to judge the living and the dead, I believe in the Holy Spirit, and the resurrection of the flesh.”2

Essentially the rule establishes the fact that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that god the father created the world and will judge it; that Jesus was a real historical person; and that God continues to work in men’s lives through His Holy Spirit. It is interesting to note what Paul Tillich, a protestant (Luthern) theologian says concerning the early church:

“If someone says that we should unite by going back to the development which runs from Iraenus to Dionsius, The Areopagite, I would say that he had better become a catholic, because protestantism cannot do that.” 3
__________________

  1. Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1967), Pg. 41.
  2. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol. I: Beginnings to 1500 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1953), Pg. 131.
  3. Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought. Edited by Carl E. Braaten (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967), Pg.50.

The issue is this — the second century Church developed through the stimuli which surrounded it at that time; however, when those stimuli were no longer there, the structure remained and continued to evolve as the Roman Catholic Church. However, the fact remains that in order to stay fresh and allow the Christian spirit of each period to become significant to its own time, the Church must re-evaluate itself and apply the basic principles of Christianity to its own age; not re-evaluate basic theology, which must remain the same, but to re-evaluate traditions, governmental structure, etc. The Catholic Church became the Christian counterpart to legalistic Judaism, while the Protestant movement later became the converse of the legalistic, works theology by emphasizing God’s grace. Both concepts contain truth and are part of Christian theology.

[To Be Continued.]

Detroit, Michigan church

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