Episode 16: Original Sin and Grace – SoundCloud

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What is Pelagianism?

Many Protestant Christians say that the Catholic church teaches Pelagianism, or at the very least semi-Pelagianism.  This line of reasoning shows a fundamental misunderstanding of not only what the church teaches, but what Pelagianism is.  Pelagianism is a heresy that was condemned by the church and is superfluous for beatitude.

What is Pelagianism?  It is a system that relies on the sufficiency of man’s will (Hardon).  Pelagianism was started by a Bishop named Julian who had been a friend of St. Augustine.  It would later become more popular by a British theologian by the name of Pelagius.  At the heart of the movement were two issues:  the denial “for the need of divine grace and the doctrine of the generative transmission of original sin” (Ireland 38).

As noted above, Pelagianism teaches that original sin does not exist and that Adam left us a bad example.  Since his sin was merely a bad example, our nature is not corrupted, and we acquire the penalty of sin by our misdeeds.  This has huge ramifications when it comes to the concept of grace.  At its root it teaches the unrealistic thought that we can get to heaven by what we do, without the help of God.  Regarding this John Hardon writes, “We can always will and do good, even when de facto we will and do otherwise, depending entirely on our own moral strength” (Hardon).

Since we can do it on our own it lends to the ineffectiveness of sacraments, particularly that of baptism.  In this system baptism becomes a public declaration of faith and an incorporation into the church.  In fact, this is eerily similar to most Protestant denominations today.  Pelagianism makes grace superfluous to beatitude because it removes the need for grace.  If one can do it himself what is the need for God to be involved.  It makes Jesus into a wise moral teacher instead of the divine Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world.

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Works Cited

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Ireland, Patricia.  Guardian of a Pure Heart: St. Augustine on the Path to Heaven.  Staten Island:  St. Pauls/Alba House, 2009.

Grace and Liberation

In the New Testament there are many passages that speak of grace as liberation.  Sin is a plague that has overtaken the world, and it enslaves us (Stevens 9).  We are born in original sin, and though that is washed away through the sacrament of Baptism, concupiscence remains.  Concupiscence is the tendency to still drift toward sin.  This concept of liberation is seen in Romans 5:17 where St. Paul writes, “because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (NRSV).  St. Paul states this again in Romans 7:6 where he says we are no longer slaves and held captive.

In bestowing grace, the Blessed Trinity looks to the bounty, or freedom of the one who receives (Hardon).  In the grace of God, we discover our true freedom.  When we have a new life in Christ the destructive power that evil had over us is no more (Stevens 10).  Some may call this being born again, and it is a concept that is discussed frequently throughout the New Testament.  When we have this new birth the bonds that held us captive to sin are now shattered.  Just as God gave life to Adam in the garden of Eden, we are given new life through grace (Stevens 11).  Adam sinned, and through his sin death came into the world.  Through Christ we are free from that and we can live.  Regarding this Charles Journet writes, “Since the soul of Christ is so close to the person of the Word, grace finds there its true home, and there unfolds itself in perfect freedom” (Journet 2.12).

This liberation is also much more than being free from the bonds of sin.  Liberation in the New Testament grace established a union between the Christian and Christ (Stevens 17).  This is open to all men who are seeking the light of Christ and not seeking the attachment to sin (Stevens 17).  Grace is thus liberation because it breaks the bonds of death and united us fully to the source of life.

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Works Cited

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

Stevens, G. The Life of Grace. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1963. 1-65. Print.

Chalcedon and the Condemnation of Nestorianism

The Council of Chalcedon took place a mere twenty years after the Council of Ephesus.  Its impact on Christology and doctrine is one that cannot be understated.  The council came about because of a new teaching on the nature of Christ by a monk by the name of Eutyches.  To summarize his view, he taught that Christ had two natures, but after they were united they were only one.  He was an opponent of Nestorius, and his way of describing the nature of Christ was damaging.  This way of putting it seems to destroy both the humanity and the divinity of Christ. Sadly, this is not far from the belief of many Christians today.

Chalcedon affirmed that the natures of Christ do not change, and in doing so they avoided Nestorianism.  However, the story of the council started before that with the afore mentioned story of the monk Eutyches.  Upon hearing of Eutyches explanation regarding the nature of Christ, Patriarch Flavian felt he had to respond to the matter.  Flavian, then patriarch of Constantinople, held a synod and condemned the teaching of Eutyches.  Flavian was upholding orthodox teaching, but issues of Christology were still being worked out in the ancient world.  Eutyches would find an ally in the bishop of Alexandria by the name of Dioscorus, who just happened to be Cyril of Alexandria’s cousin (Norris 29).  According to Richard Norris, “Dioscorus, with imperial support, presided over a council in Ephesus” (Norris 29).  This council deposed of Patriarch Flavian and restored Eutyches.

Prior to this deposition, Pope Leo had sent a letter of support to Flavian accepting the decision of the synod he held on behalf of the whole church.  Pope Leo called the council that reinstated Eutyches a “rubber synod” and invoked the authority of the Roman church (Norris 29).  Leo’s demand for a new council was answered and Bishop Dioscorus was removed from his bishopric immediately.

The council’s statement of faith was not trying to declare how the natures of Christ could be, but was declaring what over 400 years of Christian witness could not deny.  The council reiterated the two natures of Christ, which was a concern Nestorius had though he argued for it in a heretical manner.  The council also affirmed the view held by Cyril at the Council of Ephesus within the tradition established at Nicea.  The Tome of Leo was also a factor in the definition at Chalcedon.

The “definition” at Chalcedon affirms the creeds of Nicea and Constantinople when it comes to defining the redemption and the person of Christ (Norris 30).  The council also stated that the extreme forms of Christological tradition in the Antiochene and Alexandrian schools were now condemned (Norris 30).  The definition is closed with a statement that was composed based on the wishes of the emperor.  As Norris writes, “This statement, draws for its language on Cyril, Leo, and the Formula of Reunion” (Norris 30).  It emphasizes the Unity of Christ in his complete deity and complete humanity.  More importantly it says that Christ exists in two natures and not out of two natures.  It is because of this language that the definition accepts the emphasis of both Antiochene and Alexandrian schools.

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Works Cited

Norris, Richard A.  The Christological Controversy.  Fortress Press Philadephia: PA, 1980.  Print.

Eschatology, Apocalypse, and Daniel

The book of Daniel is very interesting in regards to its Old Testament counterparts.  The Hebrew version was written in Hebrew and Aramaic and is placed among the writings.  The Greek version has stories that are not included in the Hebrew version.  Bel and the dragon, and the prayer of Susanna are examples of these.  The Greek version has Daniel listed as one of the Major Prophets.  It is also ground breaking in that it is the first Apocalyptic work in sacred scripture.  In Daniel we have Messianic prophecy, and the beginnings of eschatology.

Eschatology literally means doctrine of last things.  After the exile the people of Israel shifted their thinking to things of the future instead of the past.  It is also important to note that although the exile was over the Davidic kingdom had not been reestablished, and in a way the people were still in exile.  In due time YHWH will restore everything to himself and YHWH will reign over everything.  In a way Israel was anxious for this to happen.  They knew the only way they could have any kind of peace was if YHWH was reigning over all.

The focus on the future is the beginning of Apocolypticism, and will eventually fully develop to it.  This literary form focuses on the “end time, which is expressed in mythical and symbolic language and revealed by a heavenly being (Study Notes).”  It also included the judgment of nations and of the dead.  Collins states “the judgment of individual dead is the motif that distinguishes the expectations of apocalypses from biblical prophecy (Collins, 564).”

The book of Daniel is a very important book in sacred scripture and to the development of Christianity.  It is here that we have the first clear teaching on the resurrection of the dead, that angels are messengers of God, and it introduces the messianic ideal for Israel’s hope of salvation.

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 Works Cited

Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

The Second Temple Period

The second temple period of Israelite history may be misunderstood as being a small period of time.  Though it is a period of time it is more accurate to state that the period is divided into four distinct sections.  Those sections are the Persian period, the Greek period, the Maccabean period, and the Roman period.  These periods started in 538B.C. and ended is 70 A.D. with the destruction of the second temple.

The Persian period lasted from 538 B.C until 332 B.C.  In this time the Persians conquered the Babylonians and freed the Jews from the oppression under that regime.  The Persian king Cyprus was very tolerant of other religious groups and sanctioned the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  Cyprus permitted the exiles to return to Judea, to rebuild the temple at state expense, and to return the temple vessels plundered by Nebuchadnezzar .  Serious work began on the temple in 520 B.C, and there were some economic and religious problems.  The neighboring Samaritans offered to help and were denied.  Thus started the divide between the two groups and a schism was the result.

The Greek period was characterized by the diaspora which is otherwise known as the dispersion.  When king Cyprus invited the Israelites back not all of them returned.  The Greeks were, for the most part, tolerant of other faiths of those that they conquered.  The Jews were still allowed to worship in the temple.  However it was during this time from 332-165 B.C. that something was compiled that may have changed history.  Seventy Jewish scholars gathered in Alexandria to translate the Jewish scriptures to the Greek language.  The dispersed Jews no longer spoke Hebrew and were thus in need of the scriptures in their own language.  This would become known as the Septuagint, or LXX.  Approximately 300 of the 385 Old Testament verses mentioned in the New Testament came from this translation.

The Maccabean period was from 165-63 B.C and is Jewish rule from the Maccabean family.  They rose up against the Hellenists, or Greeks, that started to persecute the Jews toward the end of their reign.  They rose up to protect their traditions and the temple from desecration.

In 63 B.C. the Romans took over and we some details of their reign sprinkled throughout the New Testament.  The Romans had a tradition of allowing their subjects to maintain their lifestyle, and religion, as long as it did not conflict with that of Rome.  The Jews were allowed to worship at the Temple, observe their own laws, and live their lives as long as they paid taxes.  The problems came, especially in 70 A.D., when they tried to revolt. As a result of that revolt Jerusalem was ransacked and the Temple was destroyed.

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