Church Fathers' theology

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Milkman | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Aug 9 2019 5:42 AM

Does FL have an up to date resource(s) that lays out the theology of the Church Fathers?

mm.

mm.

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 9 2019 6:34 AM

The Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity has theological entries. The Ancient Christian Doctrine Series is great for primary sources.

More cheaply, you have Learning Theology with the Church Fathers, along with other volumes in that series.

Posts 3036
Milkman | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 9 2019 7:02 AM

The Ancient Christian Doctrine Series looks good. May have to sell more milk to pick that one up. Put it in my wish list. I do have all the vols in the Learning theo...

Thanks.

mm.

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David Wanat | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 9 2019 7:58 AM

Interesting. Looks like if I get the XL Church Fathers library, I can get the Ancient Christian Doctrine series for only a quarter of the price that it costs on its own. Thanks for the tip 👍

Mark Barnes:

The Encyclopedia of Ancient Christianity has theological entries. The Ancient Christian Doctrine Series is great for primary sources.

More cheaply, you have Learning Theology with the Church Fathers, along with other volumes in that series.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 9 2019 2:54 PM

In my experience, there is no single theology of the Church Fathers, rather it is a constellation of views with some weird outliers that were ultimately rejected. The common way to research them is through indices such as:

  • Willis, John R., ed. The Teachings of the Church Fathers. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2002.
  • Bercot, David W., ed. A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs: A Reference Guide to More than 700 Topics Discussed by the Early Church Fathers. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.
  • Jurgens, W. A., trans. The Faith of the Early Fathers. Vol. 1–3. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1970–1979.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Milkman | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 9 2019 3:30 PM

But don't you think that at the end of the Fathers' era there WAS a coherent stream of thought in doctrines? How far apart could they have been as to warrant a: "gee the Fathers weren't all together in their beliefs so a 'single theology' couldn't be gleaned from their writings?'

Are their writings that far off from each other to give the impression that to study them closely there ARE NO solid bands of agreements or can we read them diligently, thoughtfully and astutely as to see in fact that the constellation of views are really not that far separated? Could it possibly be that  those constellations are much closer than we think. Instead of far outreached nebulae maybe their thoughts are not so clouded.

When we say there is 'no single theology' of the CF are we saying that some viewed the deity of Christ in a non-deified way? ETC? OR, Can we read them within an 'evangelical' paradigm? I'm taking it for granted that evangelical means what the Church Fathers were in fact the forerunners of our current evangelical paradigms.

anyway supper is ready - got to go...

mm.

mm.

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 9 2019 3:44 PM

Milkman, need more milk sales. There's never been a theology. They literally killed each other (periodically) over their differences. 

But suppers are always good.


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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 9 2019 4:28 PM

Milkman:
I'm taking it for granted that evangelical means what the Church Fathers were in fact the forerunners of our current evangelical paradigms.

I won't grant you that assumption not even that there is an evangelical paradigm given their diversity. However, the description I have always relied on when speaking of the theology of the church fathers (and contemporary Catholic and Orthodox) is that of a phonograph record if you happen to remember what those are.

  • the hole represents that which is simply "mystery"
  • the red label represents what everyone agrees on although they may use differing terminology
  • the smooth black around the label is where everyone agrees on what they are trying to answer (think state of infants who die before baptism, state of the dead who have unconfessed sins, state of holy non-Christians . . .) but have wildly different hypotheses representing similar values
  • the grooved area ... a wide variety of divergent views that are nearer or further from the truth ... too many of them in the same area and the record tilts precipitously.
  • the outer edge ... enough divergence to throw one in to schism
  • slide off and you are a heretic

What I'm saying is what the Church Fathers, using Scripture and Tradition, defined well is the hole and the label. But they discussed many other possibilities up to and including falling off the edge.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 9 2019 4:47 PM

Not arguing. But the song changed while the record was playing? Origen started near the label, and got pushed off. And some hopped on at the last minute (go Tertulian, go!).

I like to view protestants as throwing rope and anchors over top the Church, trying to reach a perceived Bible. Most often they missed, landing in the Fathers, so another sect was born, to try yet again. Emphasis on perceived.


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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 9 2019 4:54 PM

Yes

Yup, you get it.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Milkman | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 9 2019 8:22 PM

Hey Denise. They 'literally' killed each other...?

2 questions then: 1. What's your time line for the Church Fathers Age?: 2. who killed who and over what? I guess that's 333 questions.

mm.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 9 2019 9:26 PM

I should wait to see what examples Denise picks. From Wikipedia:

"Constantine initially persecuted the Arians but eventually ceased the persecution and declared himself a convert to their theology. Sectarian violence became more frequent and more intense during the reign of Constantius II. When Paul, the orthodox bishop of Constantinople, was banished by imperial decree, a riot broke out that resulted in 3000 deaths. Paul was deposed five times before finally being strangled by imperial decree. Monks in Alexandria were the first to gain a reputation for violence and cruelty. Although less frequent than in Antioch and Constantinople, sectarian disturbances also racked Antioch. At Ephesus, a fight broke out in a council of bishops resulting in one of them being murdered. Gibbon's assessment was that "the bonds of civil society were torn asunder by the fury of religious factions." Gregory of Nazianzus lamented that the Kingdom of heaven had been converted into the "image of hell" by religious discord.

Athanasius of Alexandria

Statue of the saint in St Athanasius' Roman Catholic Church in Evanston, Illinois.

There are at present two completely opposite views about the personality of Athanasius. While some scholars praise him as an orthodox saint with great character, others see him as a power-hungry politician who employed questionable ecclesiastical tactics. Richard Rubenstein and Timothy Barnes have painted a less than flattering picture of the saint. One of the allegations against him involves suppression of dissent through violence and murder.

Arianism

Following the abortive effort by Julian the Apostate to restore paganism in the empire, the emperor Valens—himself an Arian—renewed the persecution of Nicene hierarchs. However, Valen's successor Theodosius I effectively wiped out Arianism once and for all among the elites of the Eastern Empire through a combination of imperial decree, persecution, and the calling of the Second Ecumenical Council in 381, which condemned Arius anew while reaffirming and expanding the Nicene Creed. This generally ended the influence of Arianism among the non-Germanic peoples of the Roman Empire.

Circumcellions

The Circumcellions were fanatical bands of predatory peasants that flourished in North Africa in the 4th century. At first they were concerned with remedying social grievances, but they became linked with the Donatist sect. They condemned property and slavery, and advocated canceling debts and freeing slaves.

Donatists prized martyrdom and had a special devotion for the martyrs, rendering honours to their graves. The Circumcellions had come to regard martyrdom as the true Christian virtue, and thus disagreed with the Episcopal see of Carthage on the primacy of chastity, sobriety, humility, and charity. Instead, they focused on bringing about their own martyrdom—by any means possible. They survived until the fourth century in Africa, when their desire for martyrdom was fulfilled due to persecution.

Council of Chalcedon

In 451, Pope Leo I urged Anatolius to convene an ecumenical council in order to set aside the 449 Second Council of Ephesus, better known as the "Robber Council". The Council of Chalcedon was highly influential and marked a key turning point in the Christological debates that broke apart the church of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 5th and 6th centuries.Severus of Antioch is said to have stirred up a fierce religious war among the population of Alexandria, resulting in bloodshed and conflagrations (Labbe, v. 121). To escape punishment for this violence, he fled to Constantinople, supported by a band of two hundred Non-Chalcedonian monks. Anastasius, who succeeded Zeno as emperor in 491, was a professed Non-Chalcedonian, and received Severus with honor. His presence initiated a period of fighting in Constantinople between rival bands of monks, Chalcedonian and Non, which ended in AD 511 with the humiliation of Anastasius, the temporary triumph of the patriarch Macedonius II, and the reversal of the Non-Chalcedonian cause (Theophanes, p. 132). At the Council of Constantinople in 518, Syrian monks placed the responsibility for the slaughter of 350 Chalcedonian monks and the appropriation of church vessels on Severus' shoulders. The associated theological disputes, political rivalry, and sectarian violence produced a schism that persists to this day between Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian churches."

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 9 2019 9:45 PM

Milkman:

Hey Denise. They 'literally' killed each other...?

2 questions then: 1. What's your time line for the Church Fathers Age?: 2. who killed who and over what? I guess that's 333 questions.

I think MJ racked up more than I knew about. I liked the Alexandrian battles, with hot sins being carefully targeted, where death might not be good. Like a video game.

Regarding an 'age', that's an MJ or Sinenome question.  My impression is the 'fathers' transitioned into hierarchy, with the theology transitioning apace. So, an 'age' is largely historical collections of writings, not theology per se.

This illustrates one of my frustrations .... Christian theology is largely just a string of random guys. It's hard to find how the theology transitioned, and why.  For example, Marcion went off the deep end, but a sizable portion of Christianity agreed ... why? How could that happen, if you assume a regularized theology-flow?


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Richard Villanueva | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 9 2019 10:55 PM

Milkman:

Does FL have an up to date resource(s) that lays out the theology of the Church Fathers?

mm.

Perhaps this may help? I must admit, I have not read these titles in particular (though they are on my list) but have read the authors and have enjoyed their work.

Justo Gonzalez... History of Christian Thought - V1

https://www.logos.com/product/145178/a-history-of-christian-thought-volume-i-from-the-beginnings-to-the-council-of-chalcedon 

Or 

Alister McGrath's Historical Theology (not in Logos.) His Christian Theology Introduction charted the historical development of theological themes, emphases, and doctrines.  

https://www.amazon.com/Historical-Theology-Introduction-History-Christian/dp/0470672862 

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 9 2019 11:26 PM

Denise:
Regarding an 'age', that's an MJ or Sinenome question.

I know of no specific event marking the end of the era although the 2nd council of Nicea and the iconoclastic debate are sort of markers that don't apply to the Syriac Fathers ... and there are a number of authors and documents are of uncertain dates. Some say that the Latin Catholic use John of Damascus as a marker ending the Church Fathers. Some say the Eastern Orthodox say the age is continuing. But if you think of various sources using actual cutoffs often in the late 700's but sometimes pushing it to nearly 900 you're in the generally recognized ball-park. That seems to work reasonably well for the Syriac Fathers as well as the Latin and Greek. But I don't know Armenian, Georgian, Coptic ... fathers. Maybe it is better to think of them in terms of mindset.

And I can't resist pointing out the late Matthew (SuperTramp), Denise, and I share a Stone-Campbell background. One thing it taught us was to look facts directly in the face even when uncomfortable ... something about the influence of Locke. If you ever need help making things look messy like people were involved ... too many histories try to smooth things over to make a more understandable story line, essentially smoothing out the data points. Denise's response is 

Denise:
This illustrates one of my frustrations .... Christian theology is largely just a string of random guys.
; mine is to seek the label of the record when relatively flat.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 3036
Milkman | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 10 2019 6:36 AM

Thanks Richard,

I forgot I had all three volumes in soft cover. I'll have to skim (not the milk) over them and see if I can understand a bit more of my op.

thanks again,

Richard Villanueva:

Milkman:

Does FL have an up to date resource(s) that lays out the theology of the Church Fathers?

mm.

Perhaps this may help? I must admit, I have not read these titles in particular (though they are on my list) but have read the authors and have enjoyed their work.

Justo Gonzalez... History of Christian Thought - V1

https://www.logos.com/product/145178/a-history-of-christian-thought-volume-i-from-the-beginnings-to-the-council-of-chalcedon 

Or 

Alister McGrath's Historical Theology (not in Logos.) His Christian Theology Introduction charted the historical development of theological themes, emphases, and doctrines.  

https://www.amazon.com/Historical-Theology-Introduction-History-Christian/dp/0470672862 

mm.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Aug 16 2019 4:14 PM

Too good an answer so I resurrect the thread . . .

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

Posts 3024
SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 17 2019 11:54 AM

Denise:

Milkman:

Hey Denise. They 'literally' killed each other...?

2 questions then: 1. What's your time line for the Church Fathers Age?: 2. who killed who and over what? I guess that's 333 questions.

[...]

Regarding an 'age', that's an MJ or Sinenom[in]e question.  My impression is the 'fathers' transitioned into hierarchy, with the theology transitioning apace. So, an 'age' is largely historical collections of writings, not theology per se.

While MJ is quite correct that different scholars (living and--especially--deceased) will tell you different things about when the Patristic Age ended, the 'standard' answer within the field is that in the West it ends with the death of the English monk Bede the Venerable in 735 and in the East with the death of the Syrian monk John of Damascus [Damascene] near Jerusalem at the close of 749.

As such, it's quite reasonable to say that the Patristic Age ended ~750.

For reference and context, you will find a pretty clear and well-established ecclesiastical hierarchy in the extant Christian documents of the second century, with more surviving evidence from later in the century than earlier in it, while the earliest known list of the exact books now recognized by nearly all Christians as the New Testament appears in a letter from 367, written by the Egyptian bishop Athanasius of Alexandria on the occasion of Easter.

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Milkman | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 17 2019 12:23 PM

Alright. Sounds good and thanks for all the info. Beer

mm.

Posts 3024
SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Aug 17 2019 6:34 PM

Milkman:

Alright. Sounds good and thanks for all the info. Beer

You're most welcome. Smile

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