Traditions of Spirituality - Lesson 1
The Apostolic Age
The Apostolic Age, the Ancient Church, the Apologists, and the Great Tradition.
The Apostolic Age
The Apostolic Age, the Ancient Church, the Apologists, and the Great Tradition.
Monastic writers have had a significant influence on the development and transmission of theology in the Medieval and Reformation periods in church history.
The postmodern challenge is simply stated: every attempt to describe ‘what it meant’ is in fact only an assertion of what it means to me, or worse, what we will it to mean. Stated in these terms, the real issue comes to light: the question of authority and the locus of the word of God.
We should listen with respect to the voice of the past, but we are not bound by it. The teaching of the past must be tested: not by our prejudices; not by its applicability to our situation today (for which it was not written); but by the word of God, the Scriptures.
The purpose, elements, and advantages of shared spirituality. The presence of God is usually and normally experienced in the context of Christian community which reflects and reenacts the life of Christ in the world.
Dynamic church planting movements embody and defend both the canonical Scriptures and the Great Tradition.
Sowing good seed: First steps in recapturing the Great Tradition through shared spirituality.
Dr. Davis emphasizes the ways in which evangelical Protestants, especially those who are only loosely connected to a particular Church tradition, can be renewed and revived through a retrieval of the Great Tradition. Of great interest in this class are the elements, purposes, and ramifications of sharing a distinct spirituality grounded in that Tradition, and what the impact this sharing can have on our individual, family, and congregational lives.
Let me say a few things right up front. I apologize for the volume of stuff you're going to get. We're going to cover we're going to cover from the apostolic age, quite literally, to 2008 in three sessions. I'm going to do it. And the vast majority of our time is going to be spent on me trying to persuade you that we need at least for the urban for the urban church. We need to rediscover the great tradition, which I am going to argue is what Christians it is that tradition behind all traditions that really essentially begins from the time of Christ to the middle of the fifth century. Virtually everything that we believe in, everything that we hold dear as Christians, was given to us in that time. On your Bible, of all the doctrines of the Trinity and Christ, virtually everything that Christians of every group agrees on wholeheartedly the Orthodox, all forms of Protestantism, the Anglican Church and the Orthodox Church. All of us in some ways are indebted to and draw from the great tradition. Now, this to me, this teaching for us here at the Institute is the climax of everything that we've done since we started in 1995. I mean, this is in fact my most important theological reflections. So I really want us to have a conversation together about this. And I'm going to make tons of claims, claims about everything. I mean, if the the matter in the syllabus, I will leave to you. We have we don't have that much time. Quite literally, most of my colleagues would say that this is a crazy thing. No one can can deal with church history and the implication of it for urban ministry in a day. I'm going to do that and we're going to actually hopefully do it well enough that we will be able to have a conversation together.
Let me be explicit if I am going to be disappointed, if at the end of this time you don't feel a deep, deep need to identify with some tradition in the church. As a matter of fact, I will say that if you can hear everything that we discussed and you still have no sense of your own identity or your place in the great tradition or what group you share a fundamental spirituality with, then you, you to me have misheard the entire point. The point of this of I imagine it's 330 and you're completely drained is I think you will be. If you at at this moment, 330 in the future, if you're not completely convinced that the most important thing that we can do is to share a spirituality that is rooted in a great tradition, then I will feel like I have not really made a case. I am not covering facts. Make no mistake, we're going to cover all the facts that we need to. But that's not the point of what I am saying. Dear friends, I love the city. My my great nephew was gunned down on the streets of Wichita a night ago. And I my family has gone through a lot and I am an urban kid. If you ask me, what does the urban church need? What what do urbanites need? What is what is the thing that is most important in their life, not just here in America, but all around the world? I would say that they need a rediscovery of real spirituality based on the revelation that God gave Christ and what the early Christians understood and reflected upon and actually lived out. The early church is very much like urban, urban ghettos today all around the world. They were persecuted, they were poor. It was an amalgam of kids and women. Nobody respected it. They were really most of their leaders were tortured and abused. And yet, arguably, they are the most significant generations of Christianity that we've ever had. I think that many of us have no tradition. Many of us have no identity. You don't know what you are. Even if you said you thought what you were, you might have been affiliated with something, but you don't know it well enough to really be affiliated. You're a Baptist but a non Baptist Baptist, or you one of these weird Mennonites who is a mennonite, but not really, you know what I'm saying? You don't really do anything Mennonite. You don't you have no identity as Mennonite. You know, your folks were Mennonite. My cousin or my third side had a she was a mennonite. Maybe you are a Lutheran and you sort of you know, you have a little bit understanding of that, but you've forgotten about it. Or maybe you'll see them. And I'm going to try to trace for you the entire map of world Protestantism. I'm going to make some some huge claims. I want you at the end of this to understand how Christianity evolved then I'm going to make in the end, in the last three sections that we have to make claims that says, Look, this is an urban ministry institute. I'm not here just generically, I'm here because I love the city and I'm reflecting on what is it going to take in order to transform the city? Are many of us in this class are missionaries, and I want to be very plain about that. I want to address you, especially if you are a missionary and have no understanding of tradition.
Really, you have a target on your back. For me, I'm serious. If you don't understand tradition, you won't understand what it means to multiply. And really, honestly, I think if we're going to do what God wants us to do, you can ask the Tumi staff. Toomey has to train a million workers and we have to we have to plant 300,000 churches. And that's just to begin the sort of thinking that many of our missionaries have is just unacceptable. They don't think like church men and women. They think they really are going to make a lot of claims. And I hope I hope that you can you can bear with me. The point is that I am I am not going to be shy. And I think that at the end of this, there will be some who are either glad, sad or mad, but no one will be neutral. And that is my intent in this. Okay, we are going to fly you as long as you hurt. Long, too long to sort of ask you not to ask questions. She didn't have to ask that. I'm going to ignore your questions. As a matter of fact, we have set up a time later this afternoon after our very tasty catered lunch for us to sort of spar over these ideas. But candidly, there is so much that needs to be done. There's really no time. So what I'm going to do is try to go as quickly as possible. Again, I apologize that a seminar like this is of no value to to everyone. So if you feel equally swamped and I don't understand anything, then just know that your colleagues next to you feel the same level of frustration. I would like you if you could go to page 27.
It's the apostolic age. This is the first session of seven, the apostolic age, the ancient church in the apologies. The apologists in the great tradition and where we are going to go in the first three sessions is essentially walk through as quickly as we can what the church is we're going to begin. Let's begin with the apostles and walk through church history. Let's look at what God has been doing and what God is up to in this world. In a real sense, I hope that of my my I have enlisted my male colleague and friend, Mark Noble, who I would argue is the finest Christian historical mind in North America. He just took a coveted chair at Notre Dame. I stayed in his home. He invited me to speak at the Eddie Hi Mark, a mock banquet of scholars. And I went and stayed with him and he's a real dear friend. I took many courses with him at Wheaton. I'm hoping that your own reading of Know in Gonzalez and some of the books that I gave you, especially the reading list for someone who doesn't have any history of the church, they will be good. Noel is very good because he doesn't cover everything. He just covers turning points, milestones, critical things that every Christian who is literate in church history should know. I'd like us throughout this time to come and sit at the feet of the ancients there on your on page 27, we may view the Christian past. This is no like a gigantic seminar where trusted friends who have labored long to understand the scriptures hold forth in various corners of the room. It's wonderful. I love that image. Let's. Let's sit and talk. There is Augustine discoursing on the Trinity here, Patrick, Saint Patrick and Count Vanzant and Dwarf comparing notes on the power of Light over Darkness over there, Catherine of Siena and Phoebe Palmer discussing the power of holiness across the room.
Pope Gregory the Great on the duties of a pastor of the Orthodox Monts, Saint Herman of Alaska, and the first African Anglican Bishop, Samuel Ajayi Crowther on what it means to carry Christianity across cultural boundaries here. Saint Francis on the garden and goodness of the earth in a in a hot in a huddle. Thomas Aquinas, Simeon, the new theologian, and Blaise Pascal talking about the relation of reason to revelation. Here they are, Hildegard of Bingen and Johann Sebastian Bach on how to sing the praises of the Lord here, Martin Luther. On justification by faith there, John Calvin on crisis, Prophet King and priest there. Charles Wesley on the love of God there, his mother, Susanna on the communication of faith to children and on and on. And I would say and on for the last years. To me, we celebrate All Saints Day together and we remember as many saints as we can. We read about them. To be a Christian is to be a part of a line. It means that I am not isolated. I do not believe and I will reject with my whole heart any form of Christianity that makes me in my Bible alone, the absolute authority of my Christian life. I don't believe it. It's not right. It is un-Christian. If I attain anything, I do so because I, in fact stand at the feet of and frankly, on the shoulders of those who have gone before. Well, what we're going to do in this very quick session is the goal essentially through the apostolic age, the ancient church. And I've given you some some outlines that you can do some study on your own. Again, let me say these first three sessions are preparatory work for what we do, but we can't really have the conversation if you don't sort of understand the nature of church history and what is going on.
So what we are about to do, I'm going to just give you a broad outline of the church beginning at the apostolic age. Now, Tony Lane is a book that I think that every Christian, there's probably no book that you own exploring Christian thought will get it right. This book is the finest book that I've ever seen on church on Christian thought. It has over 118 authors. It covers everyone in every period. It is truly one of the most extraordinary books I've ever seen. I've used it since the early eighties, and it's absolutely superb. It's called Exploring Christian Thought. If we could return. There is a there is an on your on your sheet. There's a very nice paragraph, quote of the essence of the apostolic age from 100 to 500 between two years, A.D. 180 500, the Christian church changed almost beyond recognition. In 8100, the church was a small minority, spasmodically persecuted, while the Gospels and epistles were in circulation, they had not been gathered together to form a New Testament. While there were brief affirmations of faith, like Jesus Lord, there was no formal creed to be recited. The organization of the church was still fluid and varied from region to region, as in the New Testament times. And finally, there were no set forms of worship, although particular prayers like the Lord's Prayer might be used. One of their earliest accounts. Quite literally. The church from an outsider mentions that from the very beginning, Christians were worshipers. They were hymn singers. There was this there's this one from Pliny the Roman governor to the province of Pontus, was describing to Emperor Trajan what he learned. And he said that Christians on an appointed day were accustomed to meet before daybreak and recite a hymn Antiphonal lead to Christ as a God.
In a real sense, the early church, the apostolic age is known for worship of Christ. We are Christians because of what we believe in Jesus of Nazareth, the fullness in the fullness of time. We believe that the coming of Jesus of Nazareth is the end of history. As far as we are concerned, Jesus is the Lord the Messiah, the Biblical promise of Messiah and the primacy of of of the divine narrative, the canonical narrative, the promise that was given to Abraham, we believe, was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. And so, in a real sense, the incarnation of Jesus in the inauguration of the Kingdom of God are one and the same for us. With the coming of Christ into the world, the end of time has come. Come on. We. We. It's over for us with the coming of Jesus. Oh, the fullness of time is here. In the fullness of time. This wonderful text in Galatians four, it's in the fullness of time had come. God sent forth this one born of a woman born under the law during the peace of Rome. It came at a very opportune time where the world was connected. It had common language, common commerce, common economy in a real sense, when Jesus was born in in and in Judea at the time that he did, which scholars call the Christ event, there couldn't have been a more opportune time. And for us, that is the beginning of the end of the world. So in a real sense, the emergence of the Apostolic Church, its leaders and the traditions that flowed from it for us is the most significant act in history. Let's make that plain very clear for us. The fact that God has come to us in Jesus of Nazareth and that the apostles were given that revelation and now speak that authoritatively.
And we have it has been handed down to us and we have given it throughout thousands of cultures over these last 2000 years is the most significant thing. If you look at the Book of Acts in Christian history, it's divided neatly into two, virtually two halves. Acts one through 13 deal primarily with Peter and the rest of the book deals with Paul. Peter, as you know, and the apostles really opened the door of Christian faith. Paul is the is is the apostle to the Gentiles. And he really the most of the book of Acts sort of chronicles what he does in that the Jerusalem Council shows how the church was organized. The church, the ancient church had a center in Jerusalem and in Antioch, the place where all of the missionaries return. And the modern missionary movement really was born out of that. In a real sense, the patterns of authority in this age are very clear, and you will see one of the great conversations we need to have is how do we recover a spirituality that is worthy of that of the urban community? See, I am convinced I've been an evangelical, I'm an executive in an evangelical thing. I've got I have advanced degrees at evangelical schools. I believe that evangelicalism is in trouble. It's never been more fragmented. It's never been really less clear to me wholesale, including my own colleague Terry Cornett, Wholesale of Fine Minds and Deep people are leaving evangelicalism. I don't know if you guys know that. I mean, in droves, they're going to come to the Catholic faith or to orthodoxy and other things. It it appears as if just being by yourself alone with you in your Bible is not enough for many very deep people.
We need to talk about that. Should we reproduce? What we've learned in the city? Is the city waiting on us simply to reify and to contextualize the latest evangelical ideas. I think this is a very important question, especially for me as a person who was interested in winning the lost and really planting churches throughout urban America. Well, to me, the easiest way to begin is where the apostles began. Jesus was, in fact, the very heart of of apostolic faith. And what the Apostle said really became in the ancient church, the rule of faith. You can see this over and over. The the Lord could say in John 17, I don't ask for these only speaking of the apostles, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they all may be one just as you, father and me and I and you, that they also may be one of us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. In a real sense we would have no canonical scriptures. And by that, by canonical I mean the books in your Bible of the Apostles. The early church quite literally selected the books that are in our Bible based on what they believe came from apostolic use in apostolic churches, verified by apostolic doctrine to be a Christian. Really, if you look at both the Catholics, the Orthodox and the Anglican traditions especially, they are very, very concerned about what they do tying into the apostles. Quite literally in our settings, it's more important that our individual conscience is true to the Bible. Is that right? That's the way we have learned it is what I do and whether or not I can verify that for my own conscience and mine.
According to Scripture, the early church really believed in the Scripture, but the canonical scriptures were rooted in what they believed about Apostolate City and so Jesus of Nazareth in a. Real sense is the end of Revelation and the apostles, as the ones who were given that revelation, are the final witness to it. And so there can be no church. There could be. This is the oldest and simplest way of understanding the ancient church. If there's any term that you actually get out of this course that you should remember, it's the term a past Felicity. It is the most formative principle in all of the thinking of the fathers, the apologists and the theologians and the ancient church. It's only true for them if it can be verified to have come from be rooted in and sustained by apostles, preached and worshiped and lived in apostolic churches. You find this everywhere in the New Testament. Hebrews one says that God spoke in many ways to the fathers in the past, but in these last days He's spoken to us by some of we've already look at John 17 and how Jesus transferred the authoritative power of his witness to them in an amazing text in Ephesians two. Paul actually says that the Christ is the cornerstone and the church itself is built on the apostles and the prophets. It was a foundation of the church's faith, which is pretty amazing. You look at Ephesians two there beginning of 19. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but your fellow citizens with the saints and members of God's household built on the foundation of the apostles, you see that built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone in the whole structure.
Thank you. Being joined together grows into a holy temple in the Lord. So in a real sense there is acres and acres we could see about the ancient church, the apostolic age. But that is as much as we need to say that Jesus came, that he gave an authoritative testimony to the Apostles after he had risen and ascended, and that they were given the right to take that word and to make disciples to the very ends of the earth and for the for the church that became the standard bearer of what is true and what is authoritative. The ancient church is is therefore that formative period that follows the apostolic age. You know, since you can see what goes. GONZALEZ One of your textbooks says about this period, it was the formative period that set the tone for the entire history of the church. For even today, we live under the influence of some of the decisions made. At that time, Christianity was born in a world that already had its religions, cultures and social and political structures. And he goes on in that quote to say that really quite literally what the ancient church did for us, we are absolutely indebted. I gave you a quote from Preaching now a newsletter on persecution, because if there's anything that you can say about the early church, everything that they did was crafted, informed and persecution. They were a church that deeply believed in Jesus of Nazareth that were apostolic to the core, and yet everything in them was built on the sort of misery and the suffering that they went through. This is why missionaries, I am convinced that you need to study the fathers, the apologists and the theologians of this period. There is no one who spoke clear to what it means to be urban and poor like these guys.
I don't know if you know that. Unfortunately, our reading habits don't include the apostolic fathers and the apologists, but I'm hoping to change that. Now, there are three categories, essentially, that you can think about during the ancient church. The apostolic fathers, those who wrote from 880, 95 to 150, the apologists, those who took on the key heresies and issues of their time, 150 to 300 and the theologians from 300 to 600, who essentially laid the foundation for everything virtually, that we believe. Tozer I put an article in your appendices that you you just have to enjoy. It's a it's a on page 182 appendices 28. 182. Appendices Appendix 28. It's a it's a very nice little essay by A.W. Tozer that essentially captures what I believe all Christians should say. Just look at this for a moment. It has been suggested here that before Life, for all its apparent complexities, is at bottom very simple indeed. If we could only realize it, thank God only a few things matter. The rest are incidental and unimportant. Nothing that matters is new. You know, I'll. I'll let you read the rest of this. The point is, he says, name a single thing that you believe in that is key to eternal life. That is new. They all happen. They all happened long ago. To be a Christian is to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is alive. Right? That happened a long time ago. I hope you all are awake because we got a lot of archeologists looking at me like you. I don't believe none that Negroes see as a lot. What are you sitting over here looking at me like, bruh? I am not going to agree with anything that he thinks. He's got another thing coming.
If that's what y'all are looking, maybe you'll. You'll get a little more relaxed as we go. The point is this is that to be a Christian is understand that there are very few things that matter. And I agree with Tozer that nothing that is new matters at all. Quite literally, what we need to make certain heresy, by definition, is innovation on what is old. Here, I see by definition is trying to come up with something new that is not related to really matters the most. Now, Tony Lane talks about the fathers, the apologists and the theologians, the apostolic fathers, or the earliest Christian writers outside of the New Testament. We learn acres and acres about what we believe about them. They are called this area called the Sub Apostolic Aides or writings bridge between the New Testament and the apologist who wrote later in the second century, the most notably noteworthy being Justin Martyr. They help us to understand the transition of the Apostolic Church of the first century to the Catholic Church. And he means by that, not the Roman Catholic Church will make these distinctions as we go. Described by Iranians. All I can do and this is wrong and I apologize, but give you a simple summary of what these fathers are. What I've given you is an outline that you can use for yourself if you're really interested in really understanding this. Here are in fact, a list of the Key Apostolic Fathers Clement of Rome. It's a letter written from Rome in about 1896, an emphasis on the order of the church and the orderly succession in the Christian ministry. Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch. He wrote at the beginning of the second century, all he was taking to Rome for martyrdom.
You'll find that many of our leaders during this time were murdered. They were just viciously, cruelly murdered. They were flayed. They were just, you know, reading these guys is one of the most heartening things in my life. I mean, because they were so noble, so passionate, so courageous, so clear. It's the sort of faith, frankly, that we need to get back to something that has teeth, that is meaty and beefy and substantive. Ignatius is worth your read. Shepherd of Hermes, A.D. 50. He's a freed slave. It's a wonderful it's a very strange little piece. It's sort of patterned off of John's apocalypse. It emphasizes repenting from sin and living a holy life. Probably one of the most important works of figures of this time is Polycarp. He was a bishop of Smyrna. He sat at the feet of John. He met Iranians who was arguably the most important figure of the second century. There's a wonderful letter, speaking of Polycarp, where of his martyrdom. And right at the point right before he was, he was massacred. He said, oh, when the when the emperor said, if you would just renounce, I will set you free. He said, 86 years I've been his servant, speaking of Christ, and he has done me no wrong. How can I then blaspheme my king who saved me? This is just like the coin of the realm of these people. Big people, large people, Catholic people. Not not some small, narrow. But they really understood the apostolic faith. The did okay is a is something that I think that you should read. A dictionary of early, early Christian beliefs. If you really don't have time to read the voluminous multiple volumes of the fathers, how about having the Cliff Notes of the fathers? This is a unique book.
It's called A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. It's quoted throughout your your outline. It's absolutely. It's for preachers, Matt. It's topically arranged. You want to know what the what the father said about any subject? It's there. It's really just. And that was written for me, I must admit. Well, in every way. The dead AK is the oldest surviving manual of church discipline. We're on page 30. Now, there were a number of enemies that were famous outside of the ancient body. There were heresies, there's manicheism of teachings. There was all sorts of dualities of light and darkness, spiritualism. There was neoplatonism. Plato was a huge influence in the ancient church, and there were all kinds of varieties of weird of views built on his sort of Plato's understanding of everything being absorbed into the one. There was Gnosticism, which in some ways reached its height in the second century and a doctrinal, I remember in a lecture at Wheaton said Gnosticism. Gnosticism was really the greatest threat in all of the history of Christianity. It was a dualistic view of reality. It had belief in a supreme God that was totally remote from the world. It really made a dualism between the material world, which was evil and the material world which was good. It asserted that Jesus only appeared in a body, and if you read the Epistles, you can see that these doctrines were already there. Read the epistles of John. John, the the first episode of John, he said. Anyone who says that Jesus has in common the body is not of God. It was the beginning of Gnosticism. It was a huge problem in and of extraordinary amounts of of of Christian apology and defense were made against. There were also all kinds of internal issues of Well, before I cover those, let me say just briefly, the division between Jews and Christians, along with the Roman persecution make this a unique age.
There were there was really some of the most vicious and cruel persecutions. I kid you not even as a scholar. It's hard to read about it, do you? Do you guys know that the room at the height of the of some of the worst forms of Roman persecution, Christians were impaled. They sharpened spears and stuck them on it. They set them alight and use them as lamps in the street. They fed them constantly in the circuses, in the arenas. Christians we are. I absolutely identify with them. I they belong to me. For me, this is not just history for me. I am a Christian. And so what they experience is what I experience. It's not just history and facts. They love Jesus. And because of that, they were murdered. Thousands and thousands of them, all of their leaders. I'm telling you that we can learn something about what it means to live well in hard situations in the cities of America, from the fathers and the writings that came out of it. We can learn some things. Well, there were challenges that they face within the body. And rather than go through all of these names, you'll hear tons of names that you probably will forget very readily. But my duty is to give them to you. Marcion ism. He was a second century heretic. He really believed the God of the Old Testament was capricious, and the God of the New Testament was the true God. It was very, very powerful. Every night and every evening, a mysticism. You'd actually believe that Jesus was merely a man who kept the law. It was sort of a Jewish form of of of a heresy. And mountain ism was a sort of early. How would you see it in our time? An early Pentecostal heresy.
I had a real sense of the Holy Spirit. But in some ways, Martinus was the anointed messenger, and everyone who followed God was to listen to him. It's sort of interesting reading this. It sounds very, very much like us. You know what I mean? Same kooks, same weirdos, same oddballs as we had. Well, their apostolic fathers are just great. And you'll see as we go through the day why they're important. Let me just say a few words about the apologists in the great tradition. The apologist sought to defend the Christian faith in the face of various accusations made against him, and some, such as Justin, were really the first apologists and martyrs They created some of the earliest theological works of Christianity. Let me give you a quick listing of them. Justin Martyr, who really essentially was one of the finest minds of his period. And really he really he taught Jesus is the fulfillment of all that is best in Greek philosophy here. And this was the bishop of the third century. He really bridge between Greek theology and West and Latin theology. He succeeded Polycarp and he died at the beginning of the third century, in some ways erroneous as one of the most important people to really establish and speak strongly for the tradition of the apostles. And I give you a quote on verse on page 37 of some of his thinking regarding the Apostles. All who wish to see the truth can clearly contemplate. In every church the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the world. Tertullian is absolutely my favorite of all the apologists. He had a chip on his shoulder. He was a he was a North African fellow, born about 160. He must have had a constitution that like to fight because he just constantly picked on everybody and was afraid of nothing.
He was if he I imagine Tertullian being the perfect example of what an urban theologian will be, the sort of person who comes to to me and distances us. He had no problem in seeing it like it was on page 32 at the top. Look what he said. He was strongly critical of Greek philosophy. He said, what indeed is Athens to do with Jerusalem? What accord is there between the academy and the church? Whatever heretics to do what Christians are. Instruction comes from the courts of Solomon, who himself taught that the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart, away with all attempts to produce a stored platonic and dialectic Christianity with our faith, we desire no further belief. In one of the quotes that we will read later today, you will see that Tertullian is just he's just he's just he's the brother is just crazy. He says in this one thing. He says, The seed of our growth is the blood of the Christians you persecute. He said, We infest every place in Rome. Now the Senate, the form. You can't go nowhere where we are, you know, As a matter of fact, the only place we've left you guys is the stinking idolatrous temples that you guys still frequent. I like. Totally, Totally. And it's my kind of bro. I really. I really do. I think that you will find that I say this, guys, for those of us who are studying, I think that the fathers offer us unusual resources for us to really train urban leaders. Clement of Alexandria was a was one wonderful of a defense. If you ever have a chance in these books to read them. Origin who was really the first systematic theologian in the Bible born around 185, did just voluminous writing.
He was he was just it's he was prolific he wrote so much that you have to really literally divide his works into groups, biblical works, first principles practical works and and he wrote a fine defense against Celsus who was a anti-Christian it's an anti-Christian work. He replied to someone who says that Christianity is filled with kids and slaves and nothingness. Christianity is a religion of street people, and it's on classy and a jacked up religion that only fools and little kids frequent origin took him on and wrote nice. But you see in in what celsus a sound like the inner city of Saint Louis known. Come on, now. It does. We can learn some things from these guys. It'll take us some time, but we can learn. Cyprian who We'll talk about a little more. Cyprian was the brother. He was the third born in the third century. He came to be known for the more were the church Eusebius of Caesarea, who was the father of church history, wrote. Still to this day, one of the definitive work. He was born in the 1860s that essentially covered of of from traces the project. The progress of the church from earliest has to 324. And it was really frankly, I might just say it was in response to all of these issues that we really come to the point where the Nicene Creed was really meant other creed of Nicaea. We're going to talk about the Nicene Creed throughout the day. Let me just mention that at this time around three 2501 of the first council that the church ever had was was given. There were so many errors in so many ideas. That is, the church really grew. It was important, quite literally, for us to get clear who Jesus of Nazareth was on on.
In your appendix on pages 196 and 197, you will see I have included for you the text of the Nicene Creed and also of a text that we use here. To me, the Nicene Creed, what scriptures? So you'll be able to use for your own memorization and instruction. The Nicene Creed was essentially about Arius, who really is in some ways a forerunner of the modern day Jehovah's Witnesses. Their areas argue for a radical monotheistic faith that the father created the universe through the son and who himself was a creature, and he wasn't God. As a matter of fact, Arius could say we are persecuted because we say that the son had a beginning, and likewise because we say that he was made out of nothing. He really, in every way is just like the modern day Jehovah's Witness as well. A council was called in, I see. In 325, Constantine called it 220 bishops, mainly from the Eastern Church, attended the day, condemned Arius, is teaching and came up with a formula. The Homo Uzi is essentially a Greek understanding the crisis of the same essence as the father. It is, in fact one of the most important and I would say arguably the most well documented and accepted theological statement of the church from that time to this, there is no virtually no tradition of any kind that does not recognize the Nicene Creed as the distinctive, final and authoritative confession of Christian faith. Well, this time was so thorough, glowingly ambitious. Let me just tell you guys all I can say. And of course, like this, since we're going so quickly, is to say that during this time of the great tradition, formative things were happening. There are three theologians called the three Cappadocia Inns in two schools, the School of Alexandria and Antioch, that were completely key to everything that we believe.
Even now they are the three Cappadocia and two two who were brothers, Basil and Basil of Cicero and Gregory of Nyssa, and then Gregory of Nazianzus. These three, probably more than any other theologians in the history of the church, mapped out our current doctrine of the Trinity. They are just stunning, by the way, young people in the room. These guys were young. You know that in many of the actual traditions throughout history, some of the most robust, fruitful and inventive things came from some of the youngest people. As a matter of fact, I will check it as we go. But the slight Heine confession. Now, some of you who are Mennonites, you know, the slight hide confession, you probably don't do it, is the confession that all Mennonite Anabaptists radical reformers accepted was written by 220 year old God. Graham Brothers wrote it. Cole wrote it so cool that Middle Simon's put his stamp of approval. It goes to show that you can be very young and very, very productive. Frankly, it would be very good if Capstone was included in history courses one day. It probably won't, but we can always hope. There were two schools of Alexandria, Alexandria, which emphasized Christ's divinity, sometimes at the expense of his humanity. And then the Antioch in school, which emphasized the unique distinction of Jesus as two natures. And finally, right at the end of what I call the great tradition, the fourth Council, the Council of Chalcedon 451, there were 400 leaders who came and condemn various heretics. But it was there that it was finally affirmed that Jesus was both God and man in a single person that is divine and human natures were joined in a way that neither undermines damages or effects either wrongly.
In a real sense, you will see why these things are important as we go. Let me make a few notables about this unbelievably prolific, fruitful time of church history. Ambrose, who was the forerunner of of Augustine. He was appointed bishop in Milan, was a great Western leader, and probably his most important contribution is his argument for the independence of the church. John Chrysostom, whose prayers are still being sprayed by Christians in the Orthodox Church or throughout. Oh, there's Jerome, who wrote the Vulgate, who translated the Bible into Latin. And Leo, the bishop of Rome, who really in some ways laid the foundation for the teaching of the Roman papacy, probably during this time, for my money, one of the most significant things that came out of this time is the ancient legend of the Apostles Creed. I recited it every week in my AME church where we set the Creed. Every week we would go to church and every service we would have the creed. And so as a little boy, I just mouthed the Bible, I believe in God, and you've got to abide by George IV word, you know. You know, as little kids do, having no idea that this this, this beginning of a creed really built on what was called its ancestor, the old creed, which in some ways is heightened and informed by the Nicene Creed, would become one of the most cherished things that Christians have ever had. Let's recite this together. You want to do something before we assume the Apostles Creed? I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born from the Virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, died and was buried and descended into the underworld.
On the third day, he rose again from the dead, ascended to heaven and sits on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the flesh and the vernal life. Amen. What a significant thing. Well, the apologist, in a real sense. Let me just sort of in this period would probably what is arguably the most significant Christian theologian in all of church history. His works deserve the most learned and critical study from scholars and at least some by lay folk. Augustine. It is. It is. Augustine of Hippo really occurred. He came into being and wrote during that period when Rome was sacked and out of out of this whole turbulent situation, he wrote certain things that quite literally would go on to affect the church for the next eight centuries. Augustine is the greatest Christian theologian since the apostle Paul. He is the father. He is the father of the Western Church. This is the lane his thought dominated the Middle Ages, the good and the bad alike. In the 16th century, the Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation were both rediscovery of Augustine. One writer has described the reformation of as Augustine's doctrine of grace, rebelling against Augustine's doctrine of the church. Augustine is the greatest single influence in the Western Church since Paul, and I must admit it's just wrong for us to spend only a couple of minutes on him. But for for the sake of time. And what we are about to do, I think is very important. He was born in 354. He has a thrilling testimony. You can read it in his book Call Confessions.
If you would like to read it, you can pick it up at Barnes Noble of The Confessions of Augustine. He had a very a Catholic of a godly Christian mother, Monica. He himself was disillusioned as a Catholic when he was going to be baptized. The Old Testament to him was crude and on spiritual. He was trained in rhetoric. He was a brilliant person. The language of the Bible was you can't compare the low street, corny Greek of the New Testament to the hard Greek of classical, of classical Greek. You just can't compare. He thought it was madness, saying this ain't much enough. And so he really rejected Christianity. He was appointed professor of rhetoric at Milan. He had a lot of problems. He he really Augustine was a person of our time. He shacked up. He had a baby out of wedlock. I believe he was converted in the midst of inner turmoil. He was he was struggling because he struggled so much with sexual temptation. One day he was thinking about celibacy and he rushed into a garden and he was struggling. And he heard this child's voice say, take up and read in the open the Bible to Romans 13, where it is, you know, of, you know, close yourselves with the Lord Jesus and don't think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. He said, After you read that, instantly I finished as I finished the sins I didn't I didn't want nor need anything further. The light of confidence flood in my heart and all the doubt darkness of doubtfully. He became a presbyter and then a bishop finally and and was Bishop of Hippo until 430. He really, frankly, developed most of the doctrines that we take for granted in evangelicalism.
He was the first person to talk about. Let me give you just a few things that Augustine is known for and that he influences. Even to this day, the doctrine of the invisible church came from him. The doctrine he really, in his own time, dealt with the whole thing of Pelagius, who really, frankly said that we can live without sin. Most of our doctrine of original sin came from from August, and he taught salvation all of God's grace. That is that is, frankly, all the reformers borrowed from that. He taught election. He taught cooperating Grace. He gave the definitive work on the Trinity. In some ways, it's virtually impossible to understand the influence of an Augustine on our faith. Probably the most important thing. And as I close this section. Is between 413 and 427. He wrote the longest work that he did at the City of God. Rome fell to barbarian invaders in 14, and Augustine, really, frankly, many other people were saying Rome fail because Christianity has given itself over to the Rome became Christian. We fail because we gave up our commitment to the gods. And if we hadn't given up our commitment to our gods and ran after this, this, this Nazarene, then things would have been good. And so Augustine responded by writing the City of God. That really would be. It's been called the greatest apologetic work of the early church. But I can tell you this, that it, more than any other document, influenced the next eight centuries of western of of of the western church history is since me in it he said that the city there are two cities or societies they can be traced from creation the city of God in the city of Satan, that the heavenly in the earthly city, Jerusalem and Babylon. They're really not nations organization. There are two groups of people and they're marked by two different loves of it. At the bottom of page 38, we read Two cities have been formed by two loves the earthly city, by the love of self, leading to contempt of God and the heavenly city by the love of God leading to contempt of self. These two cities are two communities of men. One is predestined to rain eternally with God, the other to suffer eternal punishment. Citizens are born into the earthly city by nature, spoiled by sin, and but they are born into the heavenly city by grace, freeing nature from sin. Guys in your appendices. Appendix Appendices 38 through 41. And guys, if you could just allow me to brag on the most ingenious, gifted and wonderful sister Carolyn Higgins as we know her here. Carolyn. Carolyn, let me just say this. That. That something this complex and all that we have done, we could not do. I really literally am working with the finest group of missionaries I've ever worked with. I bar none. And the Toomey staff are the hardest working, most focused, devout, intelligent. Wonderful people. I think it's because I am their leader, leading them with such grace and humility. But on page to 13, from page to 13 and through appendix 38 through 41, you will see what what events that you should know about the period that I just covered in these last 40 minutes. Each one of these periods will give you five events. You should know some names that you should know and some terms that you should know. Events. You should know names. You should know in terms you should know. Now it's just again, as you know, it's just wrong and impossible to cover this much material this quickly.
You will see the desk topping skill of Carolyn as we go of. I just so appreciate the work that Dan and Carolyn and Lorna and Tim and everyone on our team does. In volunteers like Melody and Frank, who put your books together. You know, you guys should actually pay us $25 extra for the you know, for the effort and pain that we went through to put your books together. How about that? In the spirit of church history and on page 39, I saw one one person from the ranch. I knew Brother is a Jason. What's get Casey Casey looked at me say, is this common practice, Joe? I'm not giving it not I'm not giving any of my money. You must be crazy. On page 39. Joel, do it on page 39. Let's close this session before break with a simple summary of this. What I believe is the most prolific and fruitful period of Christianity, the period that I am arguing that we need to rediscover in urban ministry and urban myth By the year 500, a very different picture of the church at 100 had emerged. The great majority of people within the Roman Empire called themselves Christian and Christianity had become the official religion of the state. There are also substantial churches outside the bounds of the empires and Ethiopia. In India, the Scriptures consisted of an old and a New Testament, the latter being identical to ours today with a few lingering local variations. There were two major creeds which were widely used. There were also a clear understanding of orthodoxy as opposed to heresy, especially regarding the doctrines of the Trinity and the person of Christ. The Ministry of the Church everywhere took the threefold form of bishops, presbyters or elders and deacons.
Though lesser regional differences remained, the worship of the church was entirely liturgical with fixed form sex for set forms of prayer. Most of these changes came gradually over the 400 years on the whole. They were for the good and reflected healthy growth on the part of the church. But not all the changes were necessarily for the better. Let's take a break and then we will move to our next. That's right. Well, what I am going to advocate the last the last three sessions of this time is to advocate that we rediscover the great tradition as the preeminent resource for making disciples in urban America. I mean, in other words, I'm making the claim that the best way for us to move forward in the city is to rediscover our roots. And what that means is that we have to find some way. I don't believe I really honestly don't believe that many of these works are just equally accessible. That's part of it. I think that there are going to be some some of us who are scholars and have a scholarly bent are going to have to do the work and make this plain and simple and easy to read. There are some really great books. Frankly, this is the most significant book that has come out on the Fathers. This is, in fact, I can't even dream how such a book was made. I just the scholarship of the guys who are doing this work. But this is really important. If I wanted to know what the what the what the early Christians believed on church discipline, on heresy, on on exorcism or of eschatology or church government or marriage and family or anything. It's it's a very powerful thing to see this.
You're exactly right. Many of the books that were written at that time were really unusually difficult, some of them even bizarre, like the shepherd of Hermes. I mean, it's just a very, very difficult, you know, some of that. Frankly, I am not, as you will see, is the further we go on to this. I don't believe we have to accept everything in the great tradition. I think that we are Protestants. I'm a Protestant by choice. I believe in the primacy of Scripture, as you will see. But. But what I don't believe is that I have a right alone with my Bible to reinterpret Christianity, the Trinity, the doctrine of Christ, the understanding of salvation, all the things that I have inherited, I inherited them. You will frankly see in our next session that so that the reformers, the reformers did not intend on giving up everything that we received. So there is a real sense that I think that we can read the great tradition through the reformers, through Calvin. I have some strategies. But the point that you're saying is exactly right. You know, part of this, too, Matt, is that we're very, very shallow. When's the last time that you've had anyone talk to you about There's been more discussion in this room on the fathers than you probably ever heard in the last ten years. Is that right or not? It's as if we just ignored all that blood and suffering to make me a black kid that grew up two miles west of this spot. A Christian. I am not going to ignore what they did. That's. That's where I stand. I begin as a Christian in line with the apostles and the others. That's where we start. So if we make a commitment to that, then we'll do what Christians of all ages have done and pay the price to be deep along with them. To put it simply before break, you, if you want to come to the circus, you've got to buy the ticket. There's no easy, undisciplined, lazy way to be deep in Christ. Let's just make that plain. Let's have a break, a short break, and then we'll come back and continue.