SOLUTION: CCC World Religions the Sermon on The Mount Christianity & Roman Catholic Discussion

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REL104
Lecture 5
Now that we are moving onto Christianity, I have added some extra information to what our
author has presented. The author covers the history and follows his usual scheme, but also
misses some important information.
First, I want to note the use of the word “orthodox.” We have seen this word in the previous
reading on Judaism and we see it again in the reading on Christianity. In Judaism, it denoted the
most conservative branch of Judaism; those with the strictest interpretation of Torah. The word
itself means “correct teaching,” and Orthodox Jews believe they are correctly following Jewish
Law. The word is used in a couple of ways in Christian parlance. It is used to express a correct
teaching: “Christians believe in God as Trinity” would be an orthodox statement. In this context,
orthodoxy is often contrasted with heresy. A heresy is a teaching that the larger body of the
Church determines to not be orthodox, or “correct teaching.” Heresies come from within the
Church, meaning a person or group of people start speculating about elements of the faith and
makes statements that do not accurately reflect the tradition of the Church. Both the reading and
the lecture below mention the heresy of Gnosticism (belief that the created/material world was
evil, and therefore, Jesus couldn’t have been both human and divine). Gnosticism was deemed a
heresy because it went against two important teachings: God, who is absolute goodness, created
every material thing and therefore every material thing is also good (material things can be
twisted to become bad, but are not so in their creation), and Jesus was both fully human and fully
divine. Interestingly, very few people set out to be heretics! Most people branded as such were
honestly trying to interpret the teachings of Christianity in a way they thought was best. With
Gnosticism, that meant interpreting Christian teachings through the lens of the Greek mindset
that found the material world evil. Even Martin Luther (who as we read was branded a heretic)
was interpreting Christian teaching from the lens of the Gospel and God’s grace. His heresy was
denying the role of authority and tradition in the interpretation of the Scripture.
The word orthodox also refers to the groups of Eastern Christians who split from the Roman
Church in 1054. These Eastern Churches are largely organized around ethnic/national lines.
They do not have a central authority that speaks for all of Eastern Orthodoxy. So, the Russian
Orthodox Church has its own head that is not related to the Serbian or Greek Churches, and vice
versa.
Second, I would like to make a brief statement on the relationship between Judaism and
Christianity. Jesus/apostles were Jews; Christianity began as a Jewish sect and the religion holds
the same early sacred scripture, in what is called the Christian Old Testament. Also, Christian
ritual comes from the Jewish style of worship. Early Christians gathered as they would have in
synagogue to listen to readings about Jesus and then share a blessing and a meal.
Christian concerns for health care-not too many. Most of them revolved around the notion of
fasting and prayer. Many Christians fast. The main time for fasting in the contemporary
Christian world is during Lent. This is a time of repentance and preparation for the
commemoration of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. During Lent, there is also a practice of
abstaining from meat on the Fridays in Lent. There are also rules for Catholics to fast 1 hour
prior to receiving Holy Communion as a way to signify the sacredness of the Body of Christ.
Religious fasting is mainly a way to spend time focusing on God instead of ourselves and our
physical needs. The concept is that by putting the body’s needs “in their place” we can allow
ourselves to contemplate and pray. For Christians, fasting during Lent also has the element of
remembering the suffering of Jesus in relation to the suffering found in the world.
Lecture notes for sections
11-1 through 11-3
1. Christianity is founded on the teachings of Jesus, a Jew who drew people to him by teaching a
reform of Jewish understanding of correct action. His understanding of God’s Kingdom and
God’s will for creation eventually led to Jesus’ death at the hands of Roman authorities. He was
crucified and died, but something miraculous happened: God resurrected him. Resurrection is
not the same as reanimation. The Christian Scripture is quite clear that the resurrected Jesus was
physically different (glorified) and that it took a while for his followers to recognized him. After
appearing to his followers several times to provide guidance, Jesus was taken up bodily into
heaven. It should be noted that the understanding of Jesus as the Son of God did not begin until
after the resurrection and ascension. And even after that, it took some time for the full Christian
teaching on the matter to become solidified. The story of Jesus is communicated to Christians
through the four Gospels which are designated as the most important elements of the Christian
New Testament.
-Why 4 gospels? They narrate history as perceived after the event, but with a purpose that is
meant to help Christians understand and articulate their beliefs. This is important, the Gospels
were not written down until after Jesus died, and then they were written once Jesus’ first
disciples started to die. Christianity was a largely oral tradition until the reality that those who
walked and talked with Jesus would no longer be around. It was at this point that the Gospel
writers started to record the stories. The Gospels are written with the eyes of faith, post-Easter,
so the events of Jesus’ life are seen in the context of his resurrection. Each one offers an
important view of Jesus and a confession of the Christian faith. Each Gospel also gives us
insight into the community for whom the author wrote. This context influenced the way their
Gospel was written.
-Mark is oldest gospel, from 65 CE. It is believed that Mark was writing for a group of
persecuted Christians, hence Jesus suffers a tremendous amount of opposition in this
gospel, and offers Christians a model of courage and hope in the face of persecution.
-Matthew and Luke come next, 80-85 CE. They have some different and unique
elements that help scholars envision their audience. Matthew was most likely writing for
a group of Jewish Christians, hence Jesus is portrayed as a Rabbi, a knowledgeable
teacher in the Jewish tradition, and in the genealogy he traces Jesus back to Abraham,
father of the Jews. Jesus also fulfills the Hebrew Scriptures and is the Messiah who the
Jewish people wait for.
Luke is considered the universal Gospel, he traces Jesus’ lineage back to Adam. It is
believed that he was writing for a group of gentile Christians, and he focuses on Jesus’
message to everyone, even non-Jews. Luke is the gospel of sinners and of the poor and
lowly, especially women.
-John is the youngest gospel, written in 90 CE. John is the most theological, that is, it
writes from a distance of the actual event and presents very clear religious overtones. He
has fewer stories of Jesus and focuses on Jesus sharing his knowledge with his disciples.
It is hypothesized that John may have been written by a group of Gnostic Christians, as
his Jesus is constantly referring to what he knows versus what the apostles do not know.
-Other New Testament writings are also important, and some of the most important writings are
the letters of Paul. As noted in the book and in the video, Paul was originally a persecutor of
Christians but had an experience with the resurrected Jesus that caused his conversion. The
authentic letters of Paul (some letters attributed to him were actually written by his disciples)
represent the earliest Christian writings from around 60 CE.
2. Early Church
Christianity spread very quickly after the death of Jesus. The work of Peter and Paul to
evangelize both Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews in the Greek world) in addition to the work of other
missionaries was quite successful. Christianity held a number of attractive teachings. It did not
discriminate by class or ethnicity. In fact, the stories of Jesus that were told included his
reaching out to those cast out of society. Christianity taught a love of neighbor that allowed it to
create a supportive social environment for the groups of Christians who gathered together. The
parables of Jesus reminded Christians to also care for those outside of their group in an effort to
be God-like and evangelize to those not yet converted. Finally, Christianity taught that death is
not the end. Everyone who hears the Good News and believes will live in the heavenly realm
until Jesus comes again to bring the fullness of God’s righteous kingdom. Now, for the early
Christians, they thought the kingdom was coming soon…as in next week. That obviously wasn’t
the case, but they continued to teach the coming of the kingdom and still do.
Christianity faced opposition from Judaism and this is one reason why it left its Jewish context
and moved to become a separate religion. The opposition and persecution from Jewish circles
mirrored the persecution Christianity faced in the Roman world. Rome demanded that all people
follow the state religion unless they were members of other “approved” religions. Judaism was a
recognized religion but Christianity was not. At various times, Christians faced very serious
persecution from Roman authorities. This led to Christianity being practiced and secret and the
phenomenon of being martyred for the faith.
This all changed when Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the state religion. Christianity
became not only legitimized but influential. This was both good and bad: good in that it was
able to spread practice was able to happen without fear of death; bad in the way that Christian
authorities used the opportunity to turn around and persecute those of the Jewish faith.
Additionally, Christianity becoming so closely connected to the ruling power probably sowed the
seeds for schisms that would happen later.
3. Reformations
The Reformations of the Christian Church were brought about in part because of abuses within
the Roman Church. As the reading and the video on Martin Luther note, the Church had found
an odd way to raise money: sell indulgences for a price. An indulgence was a way to “buy” time
off of your stay in purgatory. By the Middle Ages, the view of humanity was that it was so
corrupt and so sinful that even a “good” person would not be able to enter heaven immediately
upon death. God was perfect and therefore one must also be perfect to enter heaven. Purgatory
then was the place where the human soul was purged of its sinfulness so that it could be ready to
stand in the presence of God. An indulgence would carve time off of your stay in purgatory.
Martin Luther found this ludicrous. Now, Luther also believed that human beings were very,
very sinful, but he chafed at the thought that a human structure (the Church hierarchy) could
pardon someone for their sins in such a manner. Such salvation came only from God.
The Reformations also happened because of cultural shifts:
-Humanism was a philosophical and societal movement that put humanity at the center. Society
at this time was looking to scripture for a morality that allowed humans to treat one another in a
more human way. Humanity may be bad, but that meant they had to rely on God even more!
-Literacy was also on the rise. In the Middle Ages, very few people could read. The only time a
person heard the Bible was at Mass because no one could read it on their own. As literacy
increased, people wanted to have access to Scripture in the new national vernacular languages
and not just in Latin. Church authority at the time did not want people to have access to
Scripture for fear they would interpret it in a way that was different from the tradition of the
Church authority.
After Luther’s Reformation, other groups also decided that Christianity needed a thorough
“reboot.” The Anabaptists were trying to recreate the authentic Church as they understood it
portrayed in the Acts of the Apostles. This is why they focused on adult baptism. A person must
have a true conversion experience to become a Christian.
The Roman Catholic Counter Reformation
Without acknowledging that the Protestant reformers were correct, the Roman Catholic Church
sought to clean up the abuses from which it suffered. This was done through the Council of
Trent (1545-1563). The council reformed the liturgy, set up official seminary guidelines for
training priests and reiterated some of its most foundational doctrines. The Tridentine Mass and
decrees were basically unaltered for over 4 centuries.
4. Modernity
Modernity is the cultural shift after the Renaissance and Enlightenment: humanism/human
centered issues, philosophical reaction to the meaning of humanity, the new sciences of
psychology, anthropology and sociology expose that reality has spatial and cultural context.
This was a time of academic and scientific thought. Many theologians tried to approach the
Christian tradition in such a manner. One thing this led to was the contextualization of the Bible
and the historical/critical method of Biblical interpretation. This is still the academic approach,
but the effect of this approach on many Christian denominations was problematic. It caused
many people to question their faith.
This in turn led to a split in Christian denominations and the rise of evangelicalism and
fundamentalism. Both may take a literal approach to Scripture, and may not agree with modern
biblical scholarship that contextualizes the Bible. Both see evangelization as the primary goal of
Christians. Fundamentalism goes beyond just biblical inerrancy to include requiring a life style
that is also in line with Biblical teachings. Fundamentalism is more extreme, and reacts towards
“alien” principles in a stronger manner.
The Roman Catholic Church was very much against modernism until the 1960’s and the Second
Vatican Council. This was a chance for the RC Church to finally embrace some important
philosophical and sociological aspects of modernity. The Church accepted the historical/critical
method of Bible interpretation and tried to make the pope’s role more collegial.
Women-Another issue of modernity, is the Church’s inclusion of women. Many, but certainly
not all, Protestant denominations began including women in Church hierarchy and even in
ministry. This is not entirely the case with the Roman Catholic Church as only men can be
priests. Other issues include the use of inclusive language; referring to God in masculine terms
can be seen as problematic as the Christian concept of God is that God is without gender.
5. Christian theology-transcendence vs. immanence.
Christian teaching follows its Jewish roots in the belief that God is the creator of all and is
beyond all things. God is a Being, but a perfect Being who never changes. That God is above
all things makes God transcendent.
However, Christianity also teaches that God has become a human in the person of Jesus. This
would make God immanent: immediately close to the world. This is a radically different
perspective of God. The experience of the early followers of Jesus and the early Church was that
this man Jesus was also divine. This really set Christianity apart from its Jewish roots.
In section 11-3, the author uses the Creed to explain these foundational Christian teachings. In
the section on God the Son, he explains the difference between the school at Antioch and the
school at Alexandria. The difference in their two approaches to Jesus is part of the study of
Christology. Each school took a different view towards the humanity and divinity of Jesus.
Those who stress the importance of the divinity of Jesus over his humanity (he knew he was
God, example of John’s Gospel, etc.) follow a High Christology. Those who stress the
importance of Jesus’ humanity (Jesus did not know he was the Son of God, the synoptic Gospels,
Jesus was just as surprised by the resurrection as anyone!) follow a Low Christology. The goal
is to always maintain a balance between these two extremes. This is what the first Church
councils sought to maintain when creating creedal formulas. This is orthodox. The Church
reacts to any thought that throws them out of balance as something that is heretical. Yet, it is
difficult to maintain this balance, and some ebb and flow is found throughout the history of
Church teachings.
Lecture notes for sections
11-4 through 11-6
6. Ethical Monotheism
The foundation of Christian ethics begins in the ethical monotheism of Judaism. Christians hold
the 10 commandments to be central to ethical/moral life. In Judaism, God is seen as being
perfect and righteous, and people should follow that example to be righteous as well.
Christianity also believes this, but the teachings of Jesus also add the loving dimension to God.
So God is radically good and radically loving. This is what Christians are to be. This was the
example of Jesus’ death: God so loved us that the Son of God died for our salvation. This is
radical love!
In addition to the 10 commandments, Christians also follow the beatitudes and the lessons taught
by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. The summation of Christian ethics can be found in the
Great Commandment (also known as the Love Commandment)-Love God above all things and
love your neighbor as yourself. This commandment was not unknown in the Jewish world, but
Jesus’ example gave it new and broader meaning. In essence, your neighbors are not just those
you like and approve of. Your neighbors are everyone, and often your neighbor is the person
you find difficult to love.
7. Saints
Historically, saints have had a large role in Christianity. The Early Church counted among the
saints all of Jesus’ apostles and many of those who were martyred for the faith during Roman
persecution. As time went on, and Christianity spread, saints came from specific regional areas
(the example of St. Patrick from Ireland is a good one). Saints were often those who spread the
faith or those who lived particularly pious lives of devotion to God. Saints often also had
miracles associated with them either when they were living or after they had died. Mary, mother
of Jesus, is the prototypical saint. This is why the Gospel of Luke includes the story of Mary
accepting the gift of the Spirit to become the Mother of God. Christianity believed in the power
of saints to intercede with God on their behalf. Christians have never worshipped saints
(worship is for God alone) but they have venerated them and prayed for their intercession with
God.
Not surprisingly, the veneration of saints came under deep scrutiny during the Reformation. If
Luther and other like-minded reformers believed that salvation came from God’s grace alone, it
would make sense that they found the veneration of saints problematic. Veneration of saints and
the role of Mary are still strong features in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
Such practices have largely disappeared from mainline and evangelical Protestant churches.
REL104
Lecture 5 CBM
Now that we are moving onto Christianity, I have added some extra information to what our
author has presented. The author covers the history and follows his usual scheme, but also
misses some important information.
First, I want to note the use of the word “orthodox.” We have seen this word in the previous
reading on Judaism and we see it again in the reading on Christianity. In Judaism, it denoted the
most conservative branch of Judaism; those with the strictest interpretation of Torah. The word
itself means “correct teaching,” and Orthodox Jews believe they are correctly following Jewish
Law. The word is used in a couple of ways in Christian parl …
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