Thursday, October 30, 2008

Article Reviews: "Conversion of Constantine and Pagan Rome," "Western Roman Empire," and “Eastern Christianity on the Eve of Islam.”

The Conversion of Constantine
In this article, Whitney Oates reviews the book “The Conversion of Constantine and Pagan Rome,” by Andrew Alfoldi. In the book, Alfoldi speak about the theory of a genuine religious conversion of Constantine at the Battle of the Mulvian Bridge in October, 312 AD. The book also hints at Constantine progressing through 4 phases in his life, slowly ridding himself of paganism, and moving from tolerance to a thorough opposition and persecution of the religion in the final years of his life prior to his death in 337 A.D. Oates communicates the problems other scholars would find with this theory of conversion in light of the murder of Constantine’s wife and son, as well as the retention of the title of pontifex maximus. Also in this article, Oates reviews the book, “The Age of Constantine the Great,” by Jacob Burckhardt.
The Impact of the Fall of the Western Empire on the Church
In this article, various Wikipedia contributors discuss the background, dynasties, rebellions, and eventual fall of the Western Roman Empire. The time period discussed is from 259-480 AD. Also discussed in the article are the Roman Republic, tetrarchies, non-dynastic emperors, economy, and the legacy of the Western Empire. Part of that legacy included the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. The various provinces and regions within the Western Empire were slowly conquered by invading Germanic rulers, however, these rulers’ “tribes were already Christianised [sic], though most were followers of Arianism.” These rulers converted to Catholicism, gaining loyalty from the Roman populace, and enabling the Roman Catholic Church to replace many Roman institutions in the West, so that the majority of Europe was converted as well.
“Eastern Christianity on the Eve of Islam”
In this article, Dr. George Khoury explains several Christological heresies that occurred prior to the coming of Islam. Focusing in particular upon the Syrian Church, Khoury briefly discusses Arianism and Apollonarism before discussing Nestorianism and Monophysitism. Following Monophysitism, the “Jacobites” transferred the influence of Greek thought to Syria and then to Islam. Following a short discussion on Islam, Khoury closes with a brief discussion of the Armenian, Coptic-Ethiopic, Maronite, and Melkite Churches, which are independent descendents of the Monophysitic churches of Syria.

Oates, Whitney Jennings. 1950. "Conversion of Constantine and Pagan Rome." Theology
Today 7, no. 3: 423-427. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost
(accessed October 29, 2008).
Wikipedia contributors, "Western Roman Empire," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, ht
223 (accessed October 29, 2008).
Al-Bushra. “Eastern Christianity on the Eve of Islam.”

Friday, October 24, 2008

Article Reviews: “Persecution in the Early Church,” “Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ,” and “The Road to Nicaea.”

“Persecution in the Early Church”
In his article, Dr. William Frend gives a recap on the first 300 years of growth and lulls in persecution with the advent of each new emperor, leading up to what he entitles the “Great Persecution.” Following 43 years of relative peace, in 303 AD, Dr. Frend describes the beginning of this persecution related to a history of opposition just below the surface of an apparent acceptance, the coup d’etat of Diocletian and appointment of his co-emperor Maximian, and subsequent appointments of Constantius and Galerius as their assistants (Caesars). Galerius’ popularity due to a victory over the Persians, and the illness of Diocletian in 304 AD led to Galerius seizing “his chance and imposed a universal obligation to sacrifice on pain of death.” Galerius and Constantius assumed the positions of Diocletian and Maximian upon their formal abdication. The “Great Persecution” ended with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, signed by Constantine, the son and successor of Constantius, and Licinius, the successor of Galerius. Constantine defeated Licinius in 324 AD, unifying the empire under his rule and establishing Christianity as the religion of the Empire.
“Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ”
This article is a review of the book “Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ” by Klaus Wengst. The reviewer, Edgar Krentz, notes that Wengst examines Christian attitudes toward Pax Romana according to social status and geography. In the book, Wengst considers all benefits regarding the Pax Romana as evil, in spite of the majority of scholarship. Krentz notes that Wengst compares Christ to a political protestor that does not encourage rebellion, Paul as ambivalent, and Luke as an upper-class pro-Roman. It seems that in spite of these Biblical characters being attributed to different periods and geographical regions during this earliest of Church history, the gospel is spread through the empire as the Church adapts and responds to the Roman political environment.
“The Road to Nicaea”
This article, by John Anthony McGuckin, explores the reasons and path to the First Council of Nicaea in 325AD. McGuckin indicates that the Council was called over the dispute of, “one apparently simple question: in what way is Jesus divine?” The problem arose when Alexander, the Archbishop of Alexandria, held one of his common seminars with senior clergy in which he articulated the eternality of Christ in common with the Father. Arius, a senior priest of Alexander’s, argued that Christ might have existed before the rest of creation; however, that it wasn’t appropriate to believe that he shared the Father’s divine pre-existence. After gaining his parishioners in a party cause, Arius was deposed by Alexander to avoid the public fallout. Arius appealed the decision to Eusebius of Nicomedia, a powerful bishop and kinsman of the Emperor Constantine, who ultimately called the Council as a 20th anniversary of his having taken the throne in 305 AD and to solidify his rule. A majority agreement was made over the use of “homoousias” (of the same substance as) in the creed and all remaining dissenters were excommunicated and deposed.

Frend, William H.C. 1990. "Persecution in the early church." Christian History 1990.
Christian Periodical Index, EBSCOhost (accessed October 23, 2008). http://searc
Krentz, Edgar. 1989. "Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ." Currents in Theology
and Mission 16, no. 6: 459-459. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials,
EBSCOhost (accessed October 23, 2008).
McGuckin, John Anthony. 2005. "The Road to Nicaea." Christian History and Biography
Winter 2005. Christian Periodical Index, EBSCOhost (accessed October 23, 2008
). b=33h&AN=33h-6182D2B2-0F5317A2&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Image of God

In their book, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology, Boyd and Eddy indicate three views concerning what the imago Dei (image of God) could refer to: The Soul (the Substantival View), Our God-given authority (the Functional View), and our relationality (the Relational View). It is my conviction that this “image” refers to the human soul, and therefore I agree with the Substantival View. In defining how the imago Dei is the human soul, Boyd and Eddy comment, “the spiritual substance of humans sets them apart from all other animals as beings who are uniquely created in the imago Dei (emphasis in original).” Considering this “spiritual substance,” Boyd and Eddy describe five Biblical aspects which support this view. These five aspects are the following: “…humans are beings who shall never cease to exist spiritually…humans have the capacity to think rationally…humans possess a capacity for moral goodness…Humans can and should sense God’s Spirit calling them into relationship with him…humans possess the capacity to love.” It seems that the strongest argument to me for this view, apart from the Biblical evidence, is the essence of human beings. Boyd and Eddy remark that, “If we associate the imago Dei with something humans do rather than with who they are, then individuals who cannot or do not perform these tasks cannot be regarded as truly human (emphasis in original).” This is an excellent argument not only for supporting the Substantival View of the imago Dei, but also for supporting the sanctity of human life in our secularized post-modern culture. The first of three examples that come to mind are the 50,000,000 (fifty million) children aborted since the U.S. Supreme Court established abortion-on-demand in their infamous Roe v. Wade decision. The second example would be the value of physically/medically disabled individuals whose lives are considered below the acceptable norm. One of the saddest and most frustrating recent examples of this was the nationally-televised torturous death of Terry Schiavo by withholding both food and liquids to an alert and conscious woman because her estranged husband was waiting for the insurance money to enjoy with his adulteress companion and new family. The nation stood by and watched as Jeb Bush, several judges, Michael Schiavo, and medical doctors did nothing to stop the wicked destruction of a human life, but rather allowed the bedridden Terry to simply waste away. The third and final example is the value of the lives of mentally challenged/mentally unstable individuals. The US has seen in decades past the institutionalization of individuals with Down’s Syndrome or simple learning disabilities because they have been deemed a burden to society. Additionally, a common practice for mentally incompetent individuals who have been arrested is to simply put them in lockdown in the infirmary of the local county jail as state-run mental hospitals do not have the bed space. It is quite easy to see the complications we encounter when the value of human life and the image of God in that life is based upon either what we do (the Relational View) or how we act (the Functional View). As a final argument, Scripture tells us that, “You shall not murder.” In determining why God would command this of us, we can understand that if human beings are made in the image of God, this means to murder an individual is to profane the image of God. Therefore, if the image of God is based upon what we do or how we act, it would be illogical for God to command this. However, because the image of God is the human soul, prohibiting the destruction of that image by the sin of murder makes perfect logical sense. This is why I believe that the image of God is the human soul, because it is the only way to agree with God that human beings are of infinite value and worth, as we bear His holy image.

Boyd, Gregory A. and Eddy, Paul R. The Divine Image Debate. Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.
MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur Study Bible. Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006.

Friday, October 10, 2008

McDonald's Recants its Support for the Homosexual Agenda

After approximately five months, it appears that McDonald's has felt enough pressure from their primary market (traditional families with traditional values) that they have ended their association with the pro-homosexual activist group National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Richard Ellis, a McDonald's VP, resigned from the board of directors of NGLCC and his seat on the board will not be replaced. Officials have also stated that McDonald's will not be renewing their membership come December. This is a step in the right direction for the fast food giant and AFA (American Family Association) has ended their boycott.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Charismatic Gifts Debate

In answering the question of whether or not the sign gifts are present today, I categorize myself as a cessationist. Because cessationism can mean more than one thing, my conviction resembles that of a Classical Cessationist (while the sign gifts have ceased with the office of Apostle and the closing of the canon, I do not limit God’s ability to perform independent miracles today). The other cessationist positions are Full (no more miracles at all), Concentric (while miracles [sign gifts] have ceased, they appear in unreached areas to further the Gospel), and Consistent (both sign gifts and the ministries listed in Ephesians 4 have ceased; i.e. not just apostles, but pastors, teachers, and evangelists).1 As a cessationist, I look to Scripture to verify my own personal convictions.

First, 2 Corinthians 12:12 and Ephesians 3:4-5 demonstrate that the sign gifts are associated with the office and ministry of Apostles and Prophets. This is important as only 14 men have ever held the office of Apostle according to Scripture (Luke 6:13, Acts 1:26, and 1 Corinthians 9:2). The argument that the office of Apostle continues today is not reasonable as the personal experiences of the twelve (disciples/apostles) along with Paul, in addition to the requirements for selecting a replacement for Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:22 indicates this had to be someone who was a witness of the entire ministry of Christ from John’s Baptism to the Ascension), attest to the limit of this temporary office. Additionally, Ephesians 2:20 demonstrates that the office, along with that of Prophet in the Old Covenant, is for a foundation upon which the Church is built (this would include the canon of Scripture as foundational as it was the written teaching, inspired by the Holy Spirit, of the Prophets and Apostles or someone directly related to them). So then, if the offices of Apostle and Prophet have ceased, it is reasonable to infer from Scriptural evidence affirming this point that the sign gifts associated with this office have ceased as well. As a side note, prophecy includes two things: foretelling and forthtelling. Because all orthodox Christians rightly believe that there is no new revelation, the foretelling aspect of this gift is no longer functioning. However, the forthtelling or proclamation of the Gospel will continue until the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).

Second, Hebrews 2:2-4 refers to signs, wonders, and miracles in the past tense as a confirmation of the message of salvation first coming through Christ and then His apostles. This passage affirms others such as 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. Here, Paul makes the point that prophecy and knowledge will be “done away,”2 while tongues will “cease.”2 Two verses later, in verse 10, Paul refers to both prophecy and knowledge as partial, being done away with at the coming of the perfect. MacArthur raises an important point here in that, “There may be a distinction made on how prophecy and knowledge come to an end, and how the gift of tongues does. This is indicated by the Gr. verb forms used.”3 Later, he points out that this difference indicates that the gift of tongues will cease by itself.3 Although the gift of tongues, along with other sign gifts, has ceased, it does not seem that the coming of the perfect described in these verses is the completion of the canon. Rather, Scripture indicates that the perfect has come when we see face to face (verse 12), and this occurs in the eternal state (Revelation 22:4).

Finally, 1 Corinthians 14:22 states that tongues is a sign for unbelievers. While the continuationist uses Paul’s emphasis upon tongues in this chapter to support their position, this is not the context of the message. Paul was communicating two things here: First, if tongues occurs at all, it should not be practiced in an unorganized or chaotic fashion; Second, prophecy is an altogether better and more desirable gift. So then, if tongues is a sign for unbelievers, and this along with the other sign gifts are associated with the office or ministry of Apostle, and the offices of both Apostle and Prophet have ceased, the sign gifts are no longer active today.

In conclusion, many detractors label cessationist congregations as either quenchers of the Spirit or not experiencing the same Spiritually-active worship as continuationist congregations. Boyd and Eddy indicate that, “All [evangelicals] believe the Holy Spirit supernaturally works in human hearts to bring people to the point of faith in Christ. All believe the Holy Spirit gives certain gifts to people to carry out ministry, such as teaching, preaching, administration, and hospitality. And all agree that God can and does at times miraculously intervene in the affairs of people.”4 I agree with this statement and believe that using Scripture to come to the conclusion that certain sign gifts have ceased with certain offices does not make one believer any less alive in the Spirit than another. God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are alive and well in today’s fallen world.

[1] "Cessationism." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 23 Sep 2008, 17:15 UTC. 3 Oct 2008 <>.

[2] 1 Corinthians 13:8, The MacArthur Study Bible (La Habra: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 1718.

[3] John F. MacArthur, 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 Notes, The MacArthur Study Bible (La Habra: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 1719.

[4] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, The Charismatic Gifts Debate, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 213.