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The History of Christian Doctrine. “History is written by the victors.”. Caveats and Disclaimers. This is a presentation not a Bible Study Other than the bible, all references are to be treated as historical references.

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the history of christian doctrine

The History of Christian Doctrine

“History is written by the victors.”

caveats and disclaimers
Caveats and Disclaimers
  • This is a presentation not a Bible Study
  • Other than the bible, all references are to be treated as historical references.
  • Just because a certain historical figure shares your view of the scriptures does not make them completely appealing as individuals.
why is this subject important
Why is this Subject Important?
  • Doctrine really does matter.
    • Believing in Jesus is not enough.
  • For confirmation
  • To know who and what has affected Christianity

Night 1: Introduction, Gnostics

Night 2: Post-Apostolic Writers, Early Heresies, Greek Apologists

Night 3: Old Catholic Age, Origins of the Trinity, Monarchianism, Arianism… Part 1

Night 4: Old Catholic Age, Origins of the Trinity, Monarchianism, Arianism… Part 2

Night 5: Council of Nicea

Night 6: Post-Nicene Developments

Night 7: Skip to The Great Reformation

Night 8: Pentecostalism

  • The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Volume 1 The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600) By Jaraslov Pelikan
  • A History of Christian Doctrine: The Post-Apostolic Age to the Middle Ages A.D 100 – 500. By David K. Bernard
  • “When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity During the Last Days of Rome.” By Richard E. Rubenstein
  • “Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism” by Kurt Rudolph
  • “The Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages upon the Christian Church” By Edwin Hatch
biblical translation
Biblical Translation
  • Philippians 4:6mhden merimnate all en panti th proseuch kai th dehsei meta eucaristiaV ta aithmata umwn gnwrizesqw proV ton qeon
  • Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (KJV)
  • Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (NIV)
  • Philippians 4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (NRSV)
recent discovery
Recent Discovery
  • Around the time of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and around the same, time there was a similar discovery
    • Nag Hammadi Texts
    • Written in Coptic (Egyptian)
1 st century gnostic heresy
1st Century - Gnostic Heresy
  • Several groups of Pseudo-Christian and/or Judaic Sects.
  • Much later, they were all lumped under one term, Gnostic.
  • During the time of the early Church they were in their infancy and not much written documentation about specific 1st Century groups have survived.
  • At their time, they were known by the person that started their particular sect.
  • The most well known, Gnostic leader in the 2nd Century is Valentinus. The Ophites were a 1st century sect classified under the Gnostic label.
gnostic beliefs
Gnostic Beliefs
  • The Gnostics received their name from the Greek word gnosis, which means “knowledge.”
  • The essence of Gnosticism was the teaching of salvation (or cosmic redemption) by higher knowledge. The Gnostics held that, while a person could experience salvation by faith, the true way of salvation was by supernatural knowledge.
  • Irenaeus cited certain devotees of Valentinian Gnosticism who taught that “the knowledge of the ineffable greatness is itself perfect redemption …. Knowledge is the redemption of the inner man. This, however, is not corporeal, since the body is corruptible; nor is it animal, since the soul is the result of a defect, and is, as it were, the habitation of the spirit. The redemption must therefore be spiritual; for they claim that the inner, spiritual man is redeemed through knowledge, that they possess the knowledge of the entire cosmos, and that this is true redemption.”
gnostic beliefs cont d
Gnostic Beliefs cont’d
  • This knowledge was even hidden from other Christians “….. which only the Gnostics had received by their own succession. It seems that one of the purposes of composing special gospels was to convey “the secret words which the living Jesus spoke and Didymus Judas Thomas” or some other evangelist (besides Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) wrote down.
  • This saving knowledge did not come through study of the Scriptures but through divine, mystical revelation, an idea similar to the concept of enlightenment (like Hinduism and Buddhism). “But we speak wisdom among those that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world. (I Corinthians 2:6)”
  • They believed that the world is composed of two distinct entities, spirit and matter.
  • Spirit is good, pure, and holy, while matter is evil.
their belief in creation
Their Belief in Creation
  • Originally we were pure spirit beings, but in a great conflict between spirit and matter we became entrapped in matter.
  • But in the theology of Ptolemy “aeon” became “an emanation from the divine substance, subsisting coordinately and coeternally with the deity.” By emanation the aeons came forth from depth and silence, two by two, until there were thirty of them; together with the Supreme God, these constituted the pleroma, the fullness of the divine reality. Their names were the personifications of divine attributes and titles, as well as of other abstractions; in each pair one had a masculine name, the other a feminine one.
the demiurge
The Demiurge
  • The creator of this world was actually an inferior enemy to us.
  • He was not the supreme God, or else He would not have created such an evil thing as this world.
  • The supreme God is pure spirit, and out of Him came various emanations, a progression of lesser and lesser divine beings called aeons.
  • The most inferior of these is Jehovah, also called the Demiurge (creator, maker) “the Father and God of everything outside the pleroma [fullness].” He is the Creator and in essence responsible for our current predicament because he created the world of matter in which we have become imprisoned.
  • To them, the Demiurge is the “prince of this world” (John 12:31; 1430; 16:11) or “god of this world” (II Corinthians 4:3)
the redeemer
The Redeemer
  • According to the Gnostics, the Redeemer, whom they identified with Christ, is the highest aeon or emanation from God. He came down to earth to redeem or emancipate us from the world of matter. He is not actually God Himself, because the supreme Deity is so pure that He could never have direct contact with this sinful world.
it had pagan philiosophical roots
It Had Pagan Philiosophical Roots
  • According to Hippolytus, one major difference between Valentinus and Basilides was that the former ”may justly be reckoned a Pythagorean and Platonist” while “the doctrines advanced by Basilides are in reality the clever quibbles of Aristotle.”
believed in a preexistent son
Believed in a Preexistent Son
  • Ptolemy, the Valentinian theologian, posited “a perfect preexistent aeon, dwelling in the invisible and unnamable elevations; this is the prebeginning and forefather and depth. He is uncontainable and invisible, eternal and ungenerated, in quiet and in deep solitude for infinite aeons. With him is thought, which is also called grace and silence.”
the source of their revelation
The Source of Their “Revelation?”
  • As one Gnostic teacher counseled “Abandon the search for God and the creation and other matters of a similar sort. Look for him by taking yourself as the starting point. Learn who it is who within you makes everything his own and says, ‘My God, my mind, my thought, my soul, my body.’ Learn the sources of sorrow, joy, love, hate. Learn how it happens that one watches without willing, rests without willing, becomes angry without willing, loves without willing. If you carefully investigate these matters, you will find him in yourself.”
their view of the logos
Their View of the Logos
  • The Gospel of Truth (a Gnostic Gospel) announced the message of “the Logos, who has come from the pleroma[fullness] and who is in the thought and the mind of the Father; he it is who is called ‘the Savior’, since that is the name of the work which he must do for the redemption of those who have not know the Father. For the name of the gospel is the manifestation of hope.”
other opponents against gnosticism
Other Opponents Against Gnosticism
  • Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons in his work Against Heresies 2:Preface:1 spoke against Valentinus
  • “In the first book, which immediately precedes this, exposing "knowledge falsely so called," I showed thee, my very dear friend, that the whole system devised, in many and opposite ways, by those who are of the school of Valentinus, was false and baseless.”
knowledge falsely so called
Knowledge falsely so called…
  • Biblical Attack on Gnosticism
    • “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science [gnosis, knowledge] falsely so called: (1Timothy 6:20 )”
    • Colossians – The first chapter purposely goes against Gnosticism by showing that not only is the Creator of the World the Supreme and Righteous God (not the Demiurge), but He is also the Redeemer (Jesus Christ).
    • I John – Spoke against these “antichrists” that said Christ was not flesh.
they deceived many
They Deceived Many
  • Many Christians left the truth to follow Gnosticism. It was so common that modern (non-believing) historians recognize Gnosticism as an early offshoot of Christianity.
  • “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (I John 2:18-19)”
judeo christian gnostics and angels
Judeo-Christian Gnostics and Angels
  • Some sects of Gnosticism took on a Judaic form. These Gnostics put undue religious emphasis on angels.
  • “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping [religion] of angels,… (Colossians 2:18)”
the gnostic lifestyle
The Gnostic Lifestyle
  • The Gnostics were not an organized group. There were many separate groups that taught the same basic teachings, but had different lifestyle guidelines. The two types of rules can be distinguished as being ascetic on the one hand and extremely liberal on the other.
  • Some Gnostics believed that since the spiritual man was more important, the flesh was not to be allowed any pleasure. Even further, the flesh should be punished. Some even believed that sex came from the Devil. In the case of the Galatians, Paul was very specific that the false teachers were Jews preaching the law. Here he speaks about a more mystical false teaching.
  • “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,…. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh. (Colossians 2:18, 20-23 )”
extreme liberalism
Extreme Liberalism
  • Others also believed that the only thing that mattered was the spirit man so it didn’t matter what you did with your body. Gluttony and fornication were all within our rights, because all things were lawful with your body.
    • “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. (1Corinthians 10:23 )”
    • “Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. (1Corinthians 6:13 )“
the resurrection
The Resurrection
  • They believed that the resurrection that was promised by the apostles in scripture was not a physical but a spiritual resurrection that occurred when you received the spirit of God. Therefore the resurrection was already passed.
    • I Thessalonians 4:9-18 goes into detail about the resurrection of the dead. Ending with “…comfort one another with these words.”
    • “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. (I Corinthians 15:29-31)”
baptism for the dead
Baptism For The Dead
  • The Gnostics also believed in baptism for the dead.
    • “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. (I Corinthians 15:29-31)”
they trivialized communion
They Trivialized Communion
  • To the Gnostics, the communion was just another meal. Meals were made of matter, not spirit.
    • “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not. (I Corinthians 11:18 - 22 )”
denied the humanity of christ
Denied the Humanity of Christ
  • The Gnostics believed that their Redeemer (Christ) was not flesh, but a manifestation that looked like flesh. In their eyes, because He was spiritual, He also did not suffer on the cross, only appeared to suffer.
  • In the theology of Ptolemy, the Savior “remained impassible, for it could not experience passion, since it was unconquerable and invisible; therefore when he [Christ] was led before Pilate, that Spirit of Christ set in him was taken away …. what suffered was [only] the psychic Christ.”
    • “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world (1 John 4:1-3 ).”
    • “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. (2 John 7)”
the gnostics affect on christian doctrine
The Gnostics Affect on Christian Doctrine
  • First use of the term Logos in the same way as Greek Philosophy.
  • Doctrine (dogma) had to be developed to combat these false teachers.
lessons to learn from gnosticism
Lessons to Learn From Gnosticism
  • Knowledge can be overemphasized
  • Spiritual Experiences can be overemphasized.
  • You can get “revelation” without God.