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Early Christian Doctrine

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Christian doctrines are the official teachings of the church. These teachings are generally defined by formal councils of bishops gathered for the purpose of officially stating the church's teaching in some area of belief. These gathering mostly occur in times of heresies and controversies that demanded response

Divergent views on the divinity of Jesus arose while Christianity was separating from Judaism. Thus, this struggle resulted in heresies as Monarchianism, Adoptionism, Gnosticism and others. In order to answer these early heresies, the church turned to the notion of logos. The early apologists were concerned with preserving both the humanity and divinity of Jesus, and this they did by using the notion of logos to link the Son of God with the human in Christ. Some of the early apologists are Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, etc

There was a marked shift in theology as heresies about the nature of Christ began to develop, hence the need to defend and present the true position. The major Christological problem started with Arius, who was influenced by Origen. For him, God created everything even the Logos (Christ). But Alexander his bishop rejected his teachings and asked him to recant which he refused, and was condemned. This led to the first council at Nicaea in 325, with 250 bishops in attendance. Arius was condemned and a creed was formulated which is still be recited today but in a reformed manner. Athanasius was the most effective champion of the council that rejected Arian.

Two major schools emerged after this council which was the schools of Antioch and Alexandria. On the Christological controversy, the Antiochene School insisted that Jesus was fully human and thus stressed his humanity, hence lost his divinity, whereas the Alexandrian school stressed the divinity of Jesus and neglected his humanity. The climax of this conflict was reflected between Cyril, from Alexandria and Nestorius of Constantinople who was Antiochene. Nestorius held that Mary was the mother of Jesus and not the mother of God. Cyril responded and rejected his position. This also resulted in a calling of another council at Ephesus in 431 headed by Cyril who disposed Nestorius and another council headed by John of Antioch who disposed Cyril. This led to their arrest by the emperor before a formula of agreement was arranged which nevertheless accepted the position of Cyril. This problem resurfaced again this time by Eutyches, which was later resolved after a council which exonerated Eutyches was called a robber council by the Pope. Thus a new council was called at Chalcedon which condemned Dioscorus and his followers and the letter of Leo was read, which the bishops hold and shouted that "Peter has spoken through Leo".

In summary, one can hold that these early councils represent a beginning stage in the development of the Christian tradition. Each era, with its own unique philosophical tools and scriptural insights has built



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