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3. Christian doctrine


i) What it is to be human.

Most Christian theologians, following the culture and habits of their day, used the general term man to cover both sexes when referring to human beings. The literature on the subject consistently refers to anthropology in theology as "the doctrine of man," but it must be understood as that of "human" or "human being." The starting point for the Christian understanding of what it is to be human is the recognition that humans are created after the image of God. This idea views God and humans joined with one another through a mysterious connection. God is thought of as incomprehensible and beyond substance; yet God desired to reflect the divine image in one set of creatures and chose humans for this. Man as the image of God belongs, therefore, to the self-revelation of God in quite a decisive way. God, being reflected in the human creature, makes this being a partner in the realization of the divine self; there is constant interaction. God and humans belong so closely together that one can say that they are intended for each other. For this the statements of the great mystics are of significance. Man finds fulfillment in God, the divine prototype, but God also first comes to the fulfillment of the divine essence in relation, in this case, with the human.

ii) The human as a creature.

The idea of the human being as the creature created according to the image of God was already being interpreted in a twofold direction in the early church. For one thing, man, like all other creatures of the universe, is a creation of God. According to human nature, the creature is thus not divine but at the same time is not created out of nothingness; as creatures human beings stand in a relationship of utter dependency on God. They have nothing from themselves but owe everything, even their being, exclusively to the will of the divine Creator; they are joined with all other fellow creatures through a relationship of solidarity. Later, this idea of the solidarity of the creatures among one another almost completely receded behind the idea of the special position of humans and their special commission of dominion. The idea of solidarity with all creatures has been expressed and practiced by but few charismatic personalities in the history of Western piety, such as by Francis of Assisi in his "Canticle of the Sun": "Praised be Thou, my Lord, with all Thy creatures, especially with our sister sun."

The second aspect of the idea of the human being as a creature operated very much more emphatically: the superiority of humans over all other creatures. God placed humans in a special relationship to the divine. God created them in the divine image, thereby assigning to humans a special commission vis-à-vis all other creatures.

iii) The human as the image of God.

Under the influence of the dualistic philosophy of Plato, Christian theology attempted for some time to regard the image of God in human beings as restricted simply to their intellectual capability and faculty of perception. In his work De Trinitate, Augustine attempted to ascertain traces of divine Trinity in the human intellect. Christian mysticism confronted this dualistic view of humans. It understood humans in their mind-body entirety as being in the image of God. The image of God is stamped all the way into the sphere of human corporeality. The idea of human creation according to the image of God is already based upon the intention of the Incarnation, the self-representation of God in corporeality. Even according to their somatic (bodily) condition, humans are the universal form of being, in whom the powers and creative principles of the whole universe are combined in a personal unity of spirit, soul, and body. (see also Index: dualism)

The Christian understanding of evil is also linked with the idea of human creation according to the image of God. Evil cannot, in the Christian view, be derived from the dualistic assumption of the contrasts of spirit and body, reason and matter. According to the Christian understanding, the triumph of evil is not identical with the victory of matter, the "flesh," over the spirit. Such a dualistic interpretation has frequently been furthered by the fact that for many centuries the Christian understanding of sin, even among many of the church's teachers, was influenced by the philosophical assumptions of Neoplatonic dualism. Moreover, in Augustine there are still the aftereffects of Manichaeism, which--out of the dualistic conceptions of Zoroastrian religion--ultimately viewed the main motive force of sin in "concupiscence"--i.e., the sex drive. (see also Index: good and evil)

The only genuine departure point for the Christian view of evil is the idea of freedom, which is based in the concept of the human being as the image of God. The human is person because God is person. It is apparent in Christian claims that the concept of the human as "being-as-person" is the real seal of that human as "being-as-the-image-of-God," and therein lies the true nobility that distinguishes human beings from all other creatures. If the Christian faith is differentiated from other religions through the fact that for the Christian God is person, then this faith takes effect in the thereby resulting consequence that the human being, too, is person. (see also Index: free will)

God at the same time entered into a great risk in creating the human as person. The real sign of God as personal being is freedom. When God created humans according to his image, he also gave over to them this mark of nobility--i.e., freedom. This alone constitutes the presupposition of love. Only through this freedom can the human being as partner of God offer free love to God; only in this freedom can God's love be answered through free love in return. Love in its fulfilled form, according to the Christian understanding, is possible only between persons; conversely, the person can be realized only in the complete love to another person. Humans can use this freedom to offer God, their Creator, their freely given love.

Yet, in the gift of freedom itself there also lay enclosed the possibility for humans to decide against God and to raise themselves to the goal of divine love. The event that is portrayed in the Mosaic creation story as the Fall of man (Genesis, chapter 3) is essentially the trying out of freedom, the free decision of humans against God. This rebellion consists of the fact that human beings improperly use their God-given freedom to set themselves against God and even to wish to be "like God."

iv) Human redemption.

This special interpretation of sin likewise renders understandable the specifically Christian understanding of human redemption, namely, the view of Jesus Christ as the historical figure of the Redeemer--i.e., the specifically Christian view of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.

Members of Asian high religions have found it difficult to understand the fundamental Christian idea of the incarnation. The religious person of the East is inclined to understand the Christian idea of incarnation as an analogy to the Hindu concept of the avatara(best rendered as incarnation). The starting point of the latter is that the divine descends to Earth ever again and is constantly clothed anew in a human figure, in order to reveal the heavenly truth to every era and all people in a manner comprehensible to them. Thus, it was natural to understand the figure of Jesus Christ also as such an avatara, as a form of descent of the divine to mankind. In the realm of Hinduism ever-new attempts are found to comprehend Christology in this sense.

The Christian understanding of the incarnation, however, is based upon a fundamentally different idea, which is enclosed in the simple saying of the Gospel According to John: "The Word became flesh" (chapter 1, verse 14). Whereas the avatara concept assumes that the divine appears in the cyclic lapse of time periods--continually occurring, now in this, now in that earthly veil--the incarnation of the divine Logos in Jesus Christ is, according to the Christian view, a definitively unique happening. One might say that the Christian view of incarnation has an extremely material, even materialistic, feature. In Christianity, it is not a transcendent, divine being that takes on the appearance of an earthly corporeality, so as to be manifested through this semblance of a body; instead, God himself as human, as member of a definite people, a definite family, at a certain time--"suffered under Pontius Pilate"--enters into the corporeality, carnality, and materiality of the history of mankind. In the midst of history God creates the beginning of a thorough transformation of humans that in like manner embraces all spheres of human being--matter, soul, and mind. Incarnation so constituted did not have the character of veiling God in a human form, which would enable the divine being to reveal a new teaching with human words. The incarnation is not the special instance of a cyclic descent of God always occurring afresh in constantly new veils. Instead, it is the unique intervention of God in the history of the human world. Therein God took the figure of a single historical person into the divine being, suffered through the historical conditions of being, and overcame in this person, Jesus Christ, the root of human corruption--the misuse of freedom. God thereby established the dawn of a transformed, renewed, exalted form of human being and opened a realm in which love to God and to neighbour can be tranquilly fulfilled.

v) The problem of suffering.

Here is raised the decisive question of the place of suffering within the Christian anthropology. Christianity's opponents have ever again reproached it with glorifying suffering instead of overcoming it. This reproof seems to many to be not entirely unjustified. There have in fact been eras in the history of Christian piety in which suffering as such underwent a frankly ecstatic glorification. This was especially so in several periods of the Middle Ages, in which the Christian Church was convulsed by the severest inner and outer crises and Christ appeared predominantly in the figure of the man of suffering.

The starting point for the Christian understanding of suffering is the messianic self-understanding of Jesus himself. A temptation to power and self-exaltation lay in the late Jewish promise of the coming of the Messiah-Son of man. The Gospel According to Matthew described the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness as a temptation to worldly power. Jesus himself deeply disappointed his disciples' notions aiming at power and exaltation, in that he taught them, in accordance with Isaiah, chapter 53: "The Son of man will suffer many things." Already in Jesus' announcements of suffering the Christian understanding of suffering is brought clearly to expression: suffering is not the final aim and end in itself in the realization of human destiny; it is the gateway to resurrection, to rebirth, to new creation. This idea receives its clarification from the Christian understanding of sin. Sin as the misuse of human freedom has led humans into total opposition against God, who in return delivers them over to death. Turning to God can therefore take place only when the results of this rebellion are overcome in all levels of human being, all the way to physical corporeality.

In the early church the sign of the cross was not considered a glorification of suffering but a "sign of victory" (tropaion) in the sense of the ancient triumphal sign that was set up at the place where the victorious turning point of the battle took place. The cross was likewise considered the "dread of the demons," since as a victory sign it struck terror into the hitherto ruling demonic powers of the world. An ancient church hymn of the cross spoke of the "cross of the beauty of the Kingdom of God." Christ generally appeared upon early church representations of the cross as the crowned victor, who in such figures is represented as the lord of the new eon, the new age promised in the coming of Christ. The emperor Constantine thus fastened to the standards of the imperial legions the cross, which was considered the victory sign for the community of Christians hitherto persecuted by the Roman Empire, and elevated it to a token of military triumph over the legions of his pagan foes that were assembled under the sign of the old gods.

In the Christian understanding, suffering also does not appear--as in Buddhism--as suffering simply under the general conditions of human existence in this world; it is instead coupled with the specifically Christian idea of the imitation of Christ. Individual Christians are called to become imitators of Christ; incorporation into the body of Christ is granted to those who subsequently are ready to carry out within themselves Christ's destiny of suffering, death, and resurrection. The early church's characterization of the Christian was that of Christophoros--"bearer of Christ." Suffering was an unalterable principle in the great drama of freedom, which was identical with the drama of redemption.

vi) The resurrection of the body.

Just as clear, however, is the real, indeed materialistic, significance that lies in the Christian understanding of the resurrection. A dualistic understanding of what it is to be human, which assumes an essential difference between the spiritual and the material-bodily sides of human existence, necessarily leads to the idea of the immortality of the soul. According to this view, imperishableness belongs to spiritual nature alone. The Christian hope, however, does not aim at the immortality of the soul but at the resurrection of the body. Corporeality is not a quality that is foreign to the spiritual. Everything spiritual presses toward corporealization; its eternal figure is a corporeal figure. This hope was expressed by Vladimir Solovyov:

What help would the highest and greatest moral victory be for man, if the enemy, "death," which lurks in the ultimate depth of man's physical, somatic, material sphere, were not overcome?

The goal of redemption is not separation of the spirit from the body; it is rather the new human in the entirety of body, soul, and mind. It is appropriate to say that Christianity has contended for a "holistic" view of the human. The Christian image of the human being has an essentially corporeal aspect that is based in the idea of the incarnation and finds its most palpable expression in the idea of the resurrection.

vii) Progressive human perfection.

For a long time Christian anthropology in academic theology was dominated by static thinking. The human appeared as a complete being, placed in a finished world like a methodically provided-for tenant in a prefabricated, newly built residence ready for occupation. Redemption was understood just as statically: salvation appeared in the teachings of church dogma as restitution and restoration of the lost divine image and often in fact more a patching up of fragments through ecclesiastical remedies than as a real new creation.

Although it is not an uncontroversial point, there is in the New Testament, in the observation of many, a progression of salvation in history. Indeed, there is a progress of both the individual human being and of mankind as a whole, what might be thought of under some terms and conditions as a potential for the progressive perfection of the human being. This characteristic stands out already in the proclamation of Jesus. He promises his disciples: "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." (Matthew 13:43). In the Gospel According to John, Jesus promises his disciples an increase of their divine powers that is to exceed even the spiritual powers at work in himself (John 14:12). Similar expectations are also expressed in the First Letter of John: "Beloved . . . it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (chapter 3, verse 2).

The idea of the Christian "superman," which was expressed by Montanus, is a result of this view. In connection with the breakthrough of the idea of evolution through Darwin in the areas of biology, zoology, and anthropology, the tendency asserted itself--above all in 19th-century American theology--of interpreting the Christian history of salvation in terms of the evolution and expectation of future human perfection in the form of reaching even higher charismatic levels and ever higher means of spiritual knowledge and communication.

In and after the mid-20th century a number of theologians, some of them of schools called "process theology" and some in evolutionary camps, have used these biblical clues to develop new understandings of Christian anthropology. These understandings challenge old orthodoxies, and it cannot be said that any of them have securely been worked into the development of classical thought. Yet these schools, influenced by thinkers such as the British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead or the Jesuit paleoanthropologist Teilhard de Chardin, see the human progressing toward later stages of fulfillment "in Christ."

In such forms of Christian natural theology, Christ is not only a past reference point through the incarnation and a present experience in worship and devotion but also a focal point of the collective salvation of the world. In Teilhard's term, this is the "Omega Point" toward which creation is striving and in respect to which it is unfolding. Such Christian naturalists refer to the New Testament Letter to the Ephesians, where the goal of Christian motion is described: "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:13). It must be said that evolutionary theology also met reaction and resistance from many more traditional Christians who operated with other (some would say more scholastic or more static) metaphysics, or who found fault with the thought of Whitehead or Teilhard. At the same time, it is safe to say that through the centuries of change in scientific thought, and with the enlarged cultural experience of Christianity apart from the Western world, ways of thinking about God are certain to be altered. (see also Index: Ephesians, Letter of Paul to the)

viii) The justified human.

Since the Reformation of the 16th century in the West, the Christian anthropology of Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin has been oriented primarily toward the schema of justification. The Christian is the one to whom the righteousness of God is ascribed in faith for the sake of the merit of Jesus Christ, which he earned for himself through his expiatory sacrifice on the cross. In the 20th century, however, the schema of justification seems less understandable as the starting point for a Christian anthropology, because Jewish law and the Roman Catholic concept of penance based on Roman law (against which the Reformers fulminated) are scarcely found any more in religious consciousness. Paul only speaks of justification when he becomes "as a Jew to the Jews," but if he speaks to Gentile Christians, then he becomes "as a Greek to the Greeks" and talks to them in ideas and images that are more suitable to the Greek ways of thinking in terms of the mystery religions: the new being, the freed and ransomed human, the new creation, the resurrection with Christ, the process of human transformation and supra-formation, and the Sonship and friendship of God.

ix) The "new man": The human being in the light of Christ.

Probably no idea and no sentiment in the early church dominated the Christian feeling for life so thoroughly and comprehensively as the consciousness of the newness of the life into which persons viewed themselves transposed through participation in the life and body of Christ. The newness of the Christian message of salvation not only filled the hearts of the faithful but was also striking to the non-Christian milieu. The new humans experience and recognize the newness of life as the life of Christ that is beginning to mature in themselves, as the overwhelming experience of a new state already now commencing. In the New Testament statements about the new man, it was not a settled, complete new condition that was being spoken of, into which people are transposed through grace, but rather the beginning of a coming new state, the consummation of which will first take place in the future. The new human is one who is engaged in the process of renewal; new life is a principle of growth of the Christian maturing toward "perfect manhood in Christ." The new situation of human beings, for their part, works anew as fermenting "leaven" within old humankind, as "fresh dough," and contributes to transforming the old form of humanity through its fermentation into the state of the Kingdom of God.

x) The "reborn human."

"Rebirth" has often been identified with a definite, temporally datable form of "conversion." Especially the pietistic and revival type of Christianity has contributed to a certain leveling of this concept. In the history of Christian piety a line of prominent personalities experienced their rebirth in the form of a temporally datable and also locally ascertainable conversion event. Fixation upon a single type of experience, however, is factually not justified. There are numerous other forms of completion of that mysterious event characterized with the expression rebirth. The mode of experience of rebirth itself is as manifold as the individuality of the person concerned, his special intellectual or emotional endowment, and his special history. The different forms of rebirth experience are distinguished not only according to whether the event sets in suddenly with overwhelming surprise, as when one is "born again" or "sees the light," or as the result of a slow process, a "growing," a "maturing," and an "evolution." They are also distinguished according to the psychic capability predominant at the time that thereby takes charge (will, intellect), the endowment at hand, and the personal type of religious experience. With the voluntaristic type, rebirth is expressed in a new alignment of the will, in the liberation of new capabilities and powers that were hitherto undeveloped in the person concerned. With the intellectual type, it leads to an activation of the capabilities for understanding, to the breakthrough of a "vision." With others it leads to the discovery of an unexpected beauty in the order of nature or to the discovery of the mysterious meaning of history. With still others it leads to a new vision of the moral life and its orders, to a selfless realization of love of neighbour. In the experience of Christian rebirth, the hitherto existing old condition of humanity is not simply eliminated so far as the given personality structure is concerned--a structure dependent upon heredity, education, and earlier life experiences. Instead, each person affected perceives his life in Christ at any given time as "newness of life."

xi) Human liberation.

The condition of "fallen" humanity is frequently characterized in the New Testament as "slavery." It is the slavery of human willfulness that wants to have and enjoy all things for itself: the slavery of alienated love, which is no longer turned toward God but toward one's own self and the things of this world and which also degrades one's fellows into the means for egoism and exploitation. The servitude of people fallen away from God is much more oppressive than mere slavery of the senses and of greed for life. It is the enslavement not only of their "flesh" but also of all levels of their being, even the "most spiritual."

In a bold reversal of the language of Platonic dualism, Luther expressed it thusly in his commentary to the Letter of Paul to the Romans: "The entire man who is not reborn is flesh, even in his spirit; the entire man who is reborn is spirit, even when he eats and sleeps." Only from this perspective do Martin Luther's words about the "Freedom of a Christian Man" (1520) receive their true meaning. The freedom that Christians receive is the freedom that Christ, spoken of by Paul as the new Adam, gained for them by fighting. The freedom of Christians is the freedom reattained in Christ, in which the possibility of the misuse of freedom is addressed and overcome.

In the initial centuries of the church a special significance fell to the evangelical schema of liberation--and to the corresponding schema of ransom--in a society that, in its social structure, was constructed entirely upon the system of slavery. On the one hand, wide strata of the population lived in the permanent state of slavery; on the other hand, on the basis of the prevailing usage of war, even the free population was constantly exposed to the danger of passing into possession of the victor as a slave in case of a conquest. The schema of liberation could therefore count upon a spontaneous understanding.

Freedom alone also makes a perfect community possible. Such a community embraces God and the neighbour, in whom the image of God confronts human beings in the flesh. Community is fulfilled in the free service of love. Luther probably most pertinently articulated the paradox of Christian freedom, which includes both love and service: "A Christian man is a free lord of all things and subordinate to no one. A Christian man is a submissive servant of all things and subject to everyone." Christian freedom is thus to be understood neither purely individually nor purely collectively. The motives of the personal and the social are indivisibly joined by the idea that each person is indeed an image of God for himself alone, but that in Christ he also recognizes the image of God in the neighbour and with the neighbour is a member in the one body of Christ. Here, too, the evolutive principle of the idea of freedom is not to be mistaken; in it, for example, lay the spiritual impetus to the social and racial emancipation of slaves, as it was demanded by the great Christian champions of human rights in the 18th and 19th centuries and, through great efforts, pursued and achieved.

xii) Joy in human existence.

Friedrich Nietzsche summarized his critique of the Christians of his time in the words of Zarathushtra (Zoroaster): "They would have to sing better songs to me that I might believe in their Redeemer: his disciples would have to look more redeemed!" The critique is to the point. In the New Testament testimonials, joy appears as the characteristic mark of distinction of the Christian. It is the spontaneous result of being filled with the Holy Spirit and is among the main fruits of the Holy Spirit. Joy was the basic mood of congregational gatherings and was often expressed in an exuberant jubilation; it has its origin in the recognition that the dominion of evil is already broken through the power of Christ, that death, devil, and demons no longer possess any claim upon believers, and that the forces of forgiveness, reconciliation, resurrection, and transfiguration are already effective in humankind. This principle of the joy of the Christian is most strongly alive in the liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The roots of a specifically Christian sense of humour also lie within this joy. Its peculiarity consists of the fact that in the midst of the conflicts of life the Christian is capable of regarding all sufferings and afflictions from the perspective of overcoming them in the future or from the perspective of victory over them already achieved in Christ. In Christian humour, freedom and joy are combined. The Christian does not let himself be confused and tempted through cross and suffering but already perceives in the cross and in suffering a foretaste of eschatological triumph and joy. At one extreme the humour of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard is too dialectical and too bitter to exhaust the entire fullness of the Christian joy. More of it is found in the "hallelujah" of black spirituals. (see also Index: black American)

xiii) The charismatic believer.

In the New Testament the Christian is depicted as the person who is filled with the powers of the Holy Spirit. The view of the gifts of the Spirit stands in a direct relationship with the understanding of the human as the image of God. For the believing Christian of the original period of the church, the Holy Spirit was the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is already now made manifest in his body, the community of the faithful, as the miraculous principle of life of the new eon. Throughout the centuries the Holy Spirit has remained the ferment of church history--all great reformations and numerous foundings of new churches and sects stand under the banner of new charismatic breakthroughs.

xiv) Christian perfection.

The demand for perfection is frequently repeated in the New Testament and has played a significant role in the history of Christian spirituality. In the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus directs the demand to his disciples: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (chapter 5, verse 48). This demand seems to exceed by far the measure of reasonableness for man. Yet, it is meant literally, for it is asserted again in the writings of the New Testament. The meaning of this claim is recognizable only from the understanding of the human as the image of God and from the apprehension of Christ as the "new Adam." The perfection of believers is the perfection with which they reflect the image of God. They have, to be sure, disfigured this image through willful alienation from the original, but in Christ they recover the perfection of the image of God.

The idea of the deification of man, which captures the Greek notion of "partaking" of the divine character, also points in the direction of perfection. Post-Reformation theology, out of anxiety before "mysticism," struck almost entirely from its vocabulary this concept that originated in the techniques of the mystical experience. In the first one and a half millennia of the Christian Church, however, the idea of deification--of partaking in God's being--constituted a central concept for Christian anthropology. Athanasius created the fundamental formula for the theology of deification: "God became man in order that we become God." In the theology of the early church these words became the basis of theological anthropology. Only the idea of perfection makes understandable a final enhancement of the Christian image of the human--the intensification from "child of God" to "friend of God." This appears as the highest form of communion reached between God and human beings; in it love is elevated to the highest form of personal communication between prototype and image.

xv) Fellow humans as the present Christ.

That revolutionizing idea, which constitutes the basis of Christian ethics, also becomes comprehensible through the foundation of Christian anthropology in the image of God: in the eye of Christian faith Christ is present in everyone, even the most debased. According to Matthew (chapter 25, verses 40 and 45) the Judge of the world says to the redeemed: "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me," and to the damned: "As you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me." Another saying of the Lord is cited by Tertullian: "If you have seen your brother, you have seen your Lord." For the Christian the fellow human is the present Christ himself. In the fellow, Christians see, under the wrapping of misery, degeneration, and suffering, the image of the present Lord, who became human, who suffered, died, and was resurrected in order to lead all humanity back into the Kingdom of God.

In the self-understanding of the Christian community two tendencies battle with one another from the beginning of church history. They lead to completely different consequences in the basic orientation of Christians toward fellow Christians and fellow human beings.

The one attitude stands under the governing idea of election. God chooses some out of the human race, which exists in opposition to all that is divine, and erects a Kingdom from these elect. This idea underlines the aristocratic character of the Kingdom of God; it consists of an elite of elect. In the Johannine apocalypse the 144,000 " . . . who have not defiled themselves with women" (Revelation 14:4) constituted the picked troops of the Kingdom of God. For Augustine and his theological successors up to Calvin, the community of the elect is numerically restricted; their number corresponds to the number of fallen angels, who must again be replaced through the matching number of redeemed men so that the Kingdom of God would again be restored numerically as well. The church is here understood as a selection of a few out of the masses of perdition who constitute the jetsam of the history of salvation. A grave endangering of the consciousness of community is concealed in this orientation, for self-righteousness, which is the root of self-love and thereby the death of love of neighbour, easily enters again via this consciousness of exclusive election. (see also Index: Revelation to John)

The other attitude proceeds from the opposite idea that the goal of the salvation inaugurated through Jesus Christ can only be redemption of all humanity. According to this view God's love of humans (philanthropia), as the drama of divine self-surrender for human salvation shows, is greater than the righteousness that craves the eternal damnation of the guilty. Since the time of Origen, this second attitude is found not only among the great mystics of the Eastern Church but also among some mystics of Western Christendom. The teaching of universal reconciliation (apokatastasis panton) has struck against opposition in all Christian confessions. This is connected with the fact that such a universalistic view easily leads to a disposition that regards redemption as a kind of natural process that no one can evade. Such an orientation can lead to a weakening or loss of a consciousness of moral responsibility before God and neighbour; it contains the temptation to spiritual security and moral indolence.


The Christian view of the church was influenced by the Old Testament concept of the qahal, the elected people of God of the end time, and by the expectation of the coming of the Messiah in Judaism. The Greek secular word ekklesia, the term used for the church, means an assembly of people coming together for a meeting. (see also Index: chosen people)

In Christianity the concept received a new meaning through its relationship to the person of Jesus Christ as the messianic inaugurator of the Kingdom of God: (1) with Christ the elected community of the end time has appeared; (2) the church is the eschatological gift of the Holy Spirit, which already flows through the life of the church (Acts 2:33); (3) the community of the end time consists of those who believe in Jesus Christ--both Jews and pagans; the idea of the elected convenant people (i.e., the Jews) is transferred to the "new Israel"; (4) the church forms the body of its Lord; and (5) the church consists of "living stones," from which its house is "built" (1 Peter 2:5).

Jesus himself created no firm organization for his community; the expectation of the immediate imminence of the Kingdom of God provided no occasion for this. Nevertheless, the selection of Apostles and the special position of individual Apostles within this circle pointed to the beginnings of a structuralization of his community. After the community was constituted anew because of the impressions made by the appearances of the Resurrected One, the succession of the appearances apparently effected a certain gradation within the community.

The unity of the church, which was dispersed geographically, was understood from the viewpoint of the Diaspora (James 1:1--the scattered churches of the new Israel represent "the twelve tribes in the Dispersion"). The Didacheor the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (late 1st century), viewed the church in terms of the bread of the Eucharist, whose wheat grains "are gathered from the mountains." The idea of the preexistence of the divine Logos brought into existence the concept of the preexistence of the church, which included the view that the world was created for the sake of the church. The earthly church is thus the representative of the heavenly church.

i) Normative defenses in the early church.

Establishment of norms for the church was necessary because diverse kinds of interpretations of the Christian message were conceived under the influence of the religions of late antiquity, especially Gnosticism--a syncretistic religious dualistic belief system that incorporated many Christian motifs and became one of the strongest heresies of the early church. In Gnostic interpretations, mixed Christian and pagan ideas appealed to divine inspiration or claimed to be revelations of the Resurrected One. The church erected three defenses against the apparently uncontrollable prophetic and visionary efficacy of pneumatic (spiritual) figures as well as against pagan syncretism, which was represented by a mixing together of many divine images and expressions: (1) the New Testament canon, (2) the apostolic "rules of faith," or "creeds," and (3) the apostolic succession of bishops. The common basis of these three defenses is the idea of "apostolicity."

The early church never forgot that it was the church that created, selected the books, and fixed the canon of the New Testament, especially because of the threat of Gnostic writings. This is one of the primary distinctions between the Orthodox Church vis-à-vis the Reformation churches, which view the Scriptures as the final norm and rule for the church and church teaching. The Orthodox Church, like the Roman Catholic Church, emphasizes the fact that the Christian Church existed prior to the formation of the canon of Scripture--that it is indeed the source and origin of the Scripture itself. Thus, tradition plays a significant role alongside the Holy Scriptures in the Orthodox and Roman churches.

The apostolic rule of faith--i.e., the creed--issued from the apostolic tradition of the church as a second, shorter form of its solidification, at first oral and then written. It also served as a defense against Gnosticism and syncretistic heretical interpretations of the Christian faith.

The third defense that the church used against both Gnostic and syncretistic movements and free charismatic movements within the church was the office of bishop, which became legitimized through the concept of apostolic succession. The mandate for missions, the defense against free prophecy, the polemics with Gnosticism and other heresies, the persecution of the church, and, not least of all, management of church discipline--all allowed the monarchical episcopacy to emerge as a strong jurisdictional office in the early centuries. The bishop, in his capacity as leader of the eucharistic worship service, as teacher, and as curer of souls, became the chief shepherd of the church and was considered its representative.

The basic idea of apostolic succession is as follows: Christ appointed the original Apostles and entrusted to them his full spiritual authority; the original Apostles then appointed overseers (bishops) for the churches founded by them and passed on to them, through the sacramental laying on of hands, their authority of office. These men transmitted the office of overseer to their successors also by the laying on of hands. In this manner, apostolic succession guaranteed the legitimacy of episcopal church government, episcopal doctrine, and the validity of the sacraments dispensed by the bishops.

ii) Evolution of the episcopal office.

The evolution of the episcopal office followed a different development in the East and in the West. The Orthodox Church accepts the monarchical episcopacy insofar as it involves the entire church, both the visible earthly and the invisible heavenly churches bound together inseparably. The monarchical principle, however, finds no application to the organization of the visible church. The latter is based upon democratic principles that are grounded in the polity of the early church. Just as all Apostles without exception were of equal authority and none of them held a paramount position over against the others, so too their successors, the bishops, are of equal authority without exception.

Thus, the politics of the Eastern Orthodox churches have a decidedly synodal character. Not only the priesthood but also the laity have been able to participate in Orthodox synods. Election to ecclesiastical offices (i.e., pastor, bishop, or patriarch) involves participation by both clergy and laity. The individual polities of modern Orthodox churches (e.g., Greek or Russian) are distinguished according to the amount of state participation in the settlement of ecclesiastical questions.

The ecumenical council, which consists of the assembly of all Orthodox bishops, constitutes the highest authority of Orthodox synodal polity. The bishops gathered at an ecumenical council resolve all questions of Orthodox faith as well as of worship and canon law according to the principle that the majority rules. The councils recognized by the Orthodox Church as ecumenical councils are: Nicaea in 325, Constantinople in 381, Ephesus in 431, Chalcedon in 451, second Council of Constantinople in 553, third Council of Constantinople in 680, and second Council of Nicaea in 787. No council since then has been regarded as ecumenical by Eastern Orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy was divided into various old and new types of churches. Some of these were "patriarchal," which meant that they were directly responsible to a patriarch. Others were "autocephalous," which has come to mean in the modern world that as national churches they are in communion with Constantinople but are responsible for authority to their own national synods. This division, plus the fact that Orthodoxy has so often been the victim of revolutionary change and political onslaught, has served as a hindrance against any new ecumenical council, even though many Orthodox have asked for such a council.

On the basis of the joint action of special circumstances, in the Roman Church the papacy evolved out of the monarchical episcopate. Rome, as the capital of the Roman Empire, in which a numerically significant Christian community was already formed in the 1st century, occupied a special position. A leading role devolved upon the leading bishop of the Roman community in questions of discipline, doctrine, and ecclesiastical and worship order. This occurred in the Latin provinces of the church in the West (Italy, Gaul, Spain, Africa), whose organization followed the provincial organization of the Roman Empire. A special leadership position devolved upon the Roman bishop after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. The theological underpinning of this special position was emphasized by Petrine theology, which saw in the words of Jesus, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18), a spiritual-legal instituting of the papacy by Jesus Christ himself. In the Greek Church of the East (e.g., Origen) and also in Augustine in the West, however, these words were referred to Peter's confession of faith; since the time of the popes Gelasius I (reigned 492-496), Symmachus (reigned 498-514), and Gregory I (reigned 590-604), these words have served as the foundation for the claim of papal primacy over the entire Christian Church. (see also Index: Petrine theory)

iii) Authority and dissent.

Christianity, from its beginning, tended toward an intolerance that was rooted in its religious self-consciousness. Christianity understands itself as revelation of the divine truth that became human in Jesus Christ himself. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). To be a Christian is to "follow the truth" (3 John); the Christian proclamation is "the way of truth" (2 Peter 2:2). Those who do not acknowledge the truth are enemies "of the cross of Christ" (Philippians 3:18) who have "exchanged the truth about God for a lie" (Romans 1:25) and made themselves the advocates and confederates of the "adversary, the devil," who "prowls around like a roaring lion" (1 Peter 5:8). Thus, one cannot make a deal with the devil and his party--and in this lies the basis for intolerance in Christianity. (see also Index: religious toleration)

Christianity consistently practiced an intolerant attitude in its approach to Judaism and paganism as well as heresy in its own ranks. By practicing its intolerance vis-à-vis the Roman emperor cult, it thereby forced the Roman state, for its part, into intolerance. Rome, however, was not adapted to the treatment of a religion that negated its religious foundations, and this inadequacy later influenced the breakdown of paganism.

Early Christianity aimed at the elimination of paganism--the destruction of its institutions, temples, tradition, and the order of life based upon it. After Christianity's victory over Greco-Roman religions, it left only the ruins of paganism still remaining. Christian missions of later centuries constantly aimed at the destruction of indigenous religions, including their cultic places and traditions (as in missions to the Anglo-Saxons, Germans, and Slavs). This objective was not realized in mission areas in which Christian political powers did not succeed in conquests--e.g., China and Japan; but in Indian Goa, for example, the temples and customs of all indigenous religions were eliminated by the Portuguese conquerors.

The attitude of intolerance was further reinforced when Islam confronted Christianity from the 7th century on. Islam understood itself as the conclusion and fulfillment of the Old and New Testament revelation; from the Christian view, however, Islam was understood eschatologically--i.e., as the religion of the "false prophets," or as the religion of the Antichrist. The aggression of Christianity against Islam--on the Iberian Peninsula, in Palestine, and in the entire eastern Mediterranean area during the Crusades--was carried out under this fundamental attitude of intolerance. Intolerance of indigenous religions was also manifested in Roman Catholic missions in the New World; these missions transferred the methods of the struggle against Islam to the treatment of the Native Americans throughout the Western Hemisphere and destroyed their cults and cultic places. Against Protestants, the Counter-Reformation displayed the same kind of intolerance and was largely equated with the struggle against the Turks.

The idea of tolerance first arose during a series of historical catastrophes that forced Christianity into self-reflection: the devastating impressions of the military proceedings of the Inquisition troops against the heretical Cathari, Albigenses, and Waldenses during the Middle Ages; the psychological effect of the permanent inquisitional terror; the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks; the fratricidal struggle among the churches that arose during the Reformation; and the battles of the Protestant territorial churches against the sectarian and Free Church groups in their midst.

Thus, for Nicholas of Cusa (1401-64) the conquest of Constantinople became the occasion to demand, for the first time, the mutual toleration of Christianity and Islam as the presupposition for a religious peace. When the Reformation churches asserted the exclusive claim of possessing the Christian truth, they tried to carry it out with the help of the political and military power at their disposal. In the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, Christian intolerance developed into an internal fratricidal struggle in which each side sought to annihilate the other party in the name of truth. Only the fact that such attempts did not succeed led to new reflections upon the justification of one's own exclusive claim to absoluteness.

The intolerance of the Reformation territorial churches found its counterpart in the intolerance of the revolutionary groups of the Reformation period, such as that of the German radical Reformer Thomas Müntzer, which wanted to force the coming of the Kingdom of God through the dominion of the "elect" over the "godless." In the intolerance of the ideology and techniques of many modern political revolutions and authoritarian regimes some see either a legacy or a mimicking of old Christian patterns and methods (e.g., inquisition or brainwashing).

Among those who first spoke up consistently for tolerance were the Baptists and Spiritualists of the Reformation period. Their most important contribution consisted in that they stood up for their constantly reiterated demand for tolerance not only through their preaching but also through their courageous suffering.

The victory of tolerance contributed especially to the recognition of the evident contradiction between the theological self-conception of Christianity as a religion of love of God and neighbour and the inhumanity practiced by the churches in the persecution of dissenters. Recognition of this contradiction even provoked criticism of the Christian truths of faith themselves.

The Roman Catholic Church in the past has consistently opposed the development of religious toleration. Its claim to absolute power in a state is still practiced in the 20th century in some Catholic countries, such as Spain and Colombia, in relationships to Protestant minorities. Since Pope John XXIII and the second Vatican Council (1962-65), however, a more tolerant attitude of the Roman Catholic Church has been demanded that is appropriate both to the ecumenical situation of Christendom in the latter part of the 20th century and to the personal character of the Christian faith.

iv) Creeds and confessions.

The faith of Christendom is present in the confessions of faith and the creedal writings of the different churches. Three creeds find general ecumenical acknowledgment: the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (also called the Nicene Creed), and the Athanasian Creed. The Apostles' Creed is the baptismal confession of the Roman Catholic community; its original form as a Greek hymn can be traced back to the apostolic tradition (of the 2nd century). The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is the confession of faith of the ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325, which was later supplemented at the ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381. Its principal use is in the liturgy of the Eucharist. The Athanasian Creed is a Latin creed whose theological content can be traced back to Athanasius of Alexandria (4th century) but that probably first originated in the 5th century in Spain or southern Gaul. It contains a detailed formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity and Christology (the two-natures doctrine), which was influenced by Augustine. All three creeds were accepted by the churches of the Reformation.

Around central confessional statements about Jesus as the Christ in the New Testament--e.g., "Jesus is Lord" (Romans 10:9); "You are the Christ" (Matthew 16:16)--are concentrated a series of further assertions that laud his significance for salvation and concern his suffering, death by crucifixion, Resurrection, and his exaltation to God. This tradition, through Mark, Luke, and Paul, was called "gospel," or kerygma (proclamation).

The original form of the creed possessed not a didactic but a hymnal character and had its locus in the worship service. Regular use of a creed as a baptismal confession, and, accordingly, in the preparation of candidates for baptism in catechetical instruction, influenced its fixed formulation. This was also true of its use in the eucharistic worship service as an expression of the congregation's unity in faith before receiving the elements of the Lord's Supper as well as its use as testimony before the world in times of persecution and as norm of faith (regula fidei) in the altercation with heresies.

Development of confessions of faith into theological didactic creeds, which began during the Christological controversies of the 5th century, was continued in the Reformation. The relatively short creedal formulas grew into extensive creedal compositions, primarily because the Reformers conducted their battles with the Roman Church as a struggle for "pure doctrine" as well as for a foundation for the unity of the church. In the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 the feuding ecclesiastical parties were induced to deliver a presentation of their faith. Though the Roman Catholics did not accede to this challenge, the Protestants offered the Confessio Augustana (or the Augsburg Confession). First planned by Philipp Melanchthon, a follower of Luther, as a creed for union, it later became the basic confessional statement of the Lutheran Church.

The formation of various Protestant confessions was achieved in the individual territorial churches and led to the development of diverse corpora doctrinae ("bodies of doctrines"). The differences of the traditional creeds and adherence to them are still clearly noticeable in the ecumenical movement of the 20th century. (see also Index: Protestantism)

A similar development of doctrinal confessions occurred in Calvinism. The idea of the completion of confessional writings is missing in the Lutheran churches but not in Calvinistic churches: the revision of old and the formation of new creedal writings are permitted and in part are provided for in the rules of the church. Thus the Barmen Declaration in 1934, against the "German Christians" and the Nazi worldview, arose primarily from Reformed circles. The Anglican Church incorporated the Thirty-nine Articles (a confessional statement) and a short catechism into The Book of Common Prayer of 1559/1662 (revised in the United States by the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1928 and 1979) and thereby emphasized the unity of doctrine and worship. (see also Index: Reformed church)

Of the denominations that arose out of the Reformation churches, most created doctrinal documents that are comparable to the reformational confessional writings (e.g., among Methodists, Baptists, and Congregationalists). Some denominations (e.g., the Quakers, the Disciples of Christ, and some Baptists), on the other hand, have rejected any form of creed because they believe creeds to be obstacles to the Christian faith, thus conflicting with the freedom of the Holy Spirit.

The shifting of the chief emphasis in church life to "pure doctrine" in the 16th and 17th centuries also obliged the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches to formulate their teaching in confessional texts. Thus, under the influence of the reformational creedal writings, the Eastern Orthodox Church developed confessional texts. An example is The Orthodox Confession of Faith(Confessio orthodoxa) of the metropolitan Peter Mogila of Kiev against Cyril Lucaris, a Calvinist-influenced patriarch of Constantinople; it was approved in 1643 by the Greek and Russian patriarchs. At the Council of Trent (1545-63) the Roman Catholic Church countered the Protestant doctrinal creeds with a Professio fidei Tridentina ("The Tridentine Profession of Faith"), which at the end of every article of faith respectively anathematizes the dissenting Protestant article of faith.

In modern Christendom, creedal formulation is continued in two areas. (1) Within the ecumenical movement, since the formation of the World Council of Churches in 1948 there have been attempts to create a brief uniform confession as the common basis of faith for the Christians in that council. These efforts have not yet been concluded. According to its constitution, the World Council of Churches is "a fellowship of Churches which accepts our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour." In 1960 at St. Andrews, Scot., the World Council's central committee unanimously accepted an expanded draft of the "basis":

The World Council of Churches is a community of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ, according to the Holy Scriptures, as God and Savior and therefore seek to fulfill that to which they are jointly called, to the glory of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

This new version ensued mainly at the instigation of the Orthodox churches, for whom the hitherto existing form of the "basis" was not adequate.

The movement of Roman Catholicism into the interconfessional orbit after the second Vatican Council complicated attempts to draft a modern ecumenical confession. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the World Council, but conciliar Protestant and Orthodox members are reluctant to make major moves without considering Roman Catholic interests.

(2) There are great numbers of churches--the majority, many would contend--that are products of missionary endeavours by the West. For a time they were called "the younger churches" but are now more frequently referred to simply as Asian or African churches, or churches in developing nations. Among them the doctrinal disputes and confessional battles of Western Christendom have often been viewed as alien, imported, and frequently incomprehensible. The union of churches in South India into the Church of South India (1947) occurred only on the basis of the participating churches dismantling their traditional creedal differences. The Church of South India's scheme of union substitutes biblical revelation for doctrinal formulation. Similarly, the United Church of Christ in Japan (Kyodan) renounced drawing up a new creed and limited itself to a preface to the Apostles' Creed. In the churches of Africa, the inadequacy of the confessions of the 16th century also has been strongly recognized as a result of their own indigenous cultural presuppositions.

v) Organization.

In the early church, discipline--qualified by the ideal of holiness demanded from baptized Christians--concerned four areas in which there arose violations of the demand for holiness: (1) the relationship to the pagan social milieu and the forms of life and culture connected with it (e.g., idolatry, the emperor's cult, the theatre, and the circus); (2) the relationship of the sexes within the Christian community (e.g., rejection of polygamy, prostitution, pederasty, sodomy, and obscene literature and art); (3) other offenses against the community, especially murder and property crimes of all kinds; and (4) the relationship to teachers of false doctrine, false prophets, and heretics.

Employment of church discipline at an early date led to the formation of a casuistry that at first consisted simply of the distinction between "mortal" and "not mortal" sins (1 John 5:15 ff.)--i.e., between sins that through their gravity resulted in loss of eternal life and those with which this was not the case. In earliest Christianity, the relapse of a baptized Christian into paganism (i.e., apostasy) was believed to be the most serious offense. In the Letter to the Hebrews one who is baptized irrevocably forfeits salvation through a relapse into grievous sin. The various difficulties in substantiating the theory and practice of a second repentance were solved by Pope Calixtus (reigned 217/218-222). This question was especially important in Rome because of the great number of offenses against the idea of holiness. Pope Calixtus granted to bishops decisions about definitive exclusion from the congregation or readmission as well as the evaluation of church punishments. Among all the factors that led to the power of the episcopacy, the concentration of penitential discipline in the hands of the bishop probably contributed more to the strengthening of episcopal power and to the achievement of the monarchical episcopate in the church than any other single factor. This development did not take place without fierce opposition (e.g., Montanism).

Attainment of the church's demand of holiness was made more difficult in the large cities, especially in reference to sexual purity. The period of persecution by the pagan emperors and the legal constraint to performance of sacrifice before the altars of the emperor's images brought countless new instances of apostasy. The so-called Lapsi (Lapsedones), who had performed sacrifices before the emperor's image but, after persecution, faded away and then moved back into the churches again, became a serious problem for the church, sometimes causing schisms (e.g., the Donatists).

The execution of church discipline by the clergy was subordinated to the regulations of canon law provided for priests. A genuine practice of church discipline was maintained in the monasteries in connection with the public confession of guilt, which was made by every monk before the entire assembly in the weekly gatherings of the chapter. A strong revival of church discipline among the laity also resulted from the church discipline pursued within monasticism.

On the whole, the casuistic regulation of church discipline led to its externalization and devaluation. The medieval sects, therefore, always stressed in their critique of the worldly church the lack of spiritual discipline and endeavoured to realize a voluntary church discipline in terms of a renewed radical demand of holiness based on early Christianity. The radical sects that emerged in the Reformation reproached the territorial churches by claiming that they had restricted themselves to a renovation of doctrine and not to a renewal of the Christian life and a restoration of the "communion of saints." Different groups of Anabaptists (e.g., Swiss Brethren, Mennonites, and Hutterites), especially, attempted to realize the ideal of the purity and holiness of the church through the reintroduction of a strict church discipline.

The Reformed churches in particular endeavoured to make church discipline a valid concern of the community. In Geneva, church discipline was expressed, at the instigation of Calvin, in the establishment of special overseers, who, in the individual districts assigned to them, had to watch over the moral behaviour of church members. There likewise came about the creation of such social arrangements as ecclesiastically controlled inns and taverns, in which not only the consumption of food and drink but even the topics of conversation were subject to stern regulation. The cooperation of ecclesiastical discipline and state legislation found its characteristic expression in the United States in the Prohibition amendment to the Constitution. Its introduction came most strongly from congregational churches, above all those characterized by Evangelical, Fundamentalist, or Pentecostal outlooks. They united forces with more moderate or liberal churches that were experienced in trying to affect the social order through legislation. Together they battled against the misuse of alcohol as part of their ideal to extend Christian norms and influence to the whole of society.

In the 20th century, church discipline, in the original spiritual sense of voluntary self-control, is practiced only in smaller communities of evangelical Christians, in which the ideal of holiness of the community is still maintained and in which the mutual, personal bond of the congregational members in the spirit of Christian fellowship still allows a meaningful realization of a church discipline. It is also practiced in churches in developing nations. In these churches the practice of church discipline still appears as a vitally necessary centre of the credible self-representation of the Christian community. Characteristically, therefore, these churches' main criticism of the old institutional churches has been directed against the cessation of church discipline among their members.

vi) Episcopacy in Anglican and other Reformation churches.

The development of the episcopacy in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches has been covered in the general introduction of this section under evolution of the episcopal office. Occupying a special position is the episcopal polity of the Anglican Communion. Despite the embittered opposition of Puritan and independent groups during the period of the Reformation and Revolution in England, this polity has maintained the theory and practice of the episcopal office of apostolic succession. The Low Church tradition of the Anglican Communion views the episcopal office as a form of ecclesiastical polity that has been tested through the centuries and is therefore commendable for pragmatic reasons; the Broad Church tradition, however, emphatically adheres to the traditional worth of the episcopal office without allowing the faithful to be excessively dependent upon its acknowledgement. The High Church tradition, on the other hand, values episcopal polity as an essential element of the Christian Church that belongs to the church's statements of faith. The episcopal branch of the Methodist Church has also retained in its polity the bishop's office in the sense of the Low Church and Broad Church view.

In the Reformation churches an episcopal tradition has been maintained in the Swedish state church (Lutheran), whose Reformation was introduced through a resolution of the imperial Diet of Västerås in 1527, with the cooperation of the Swedish bishops. In the German Evangelical (Lutheran and Reformed) territories, the bishops' line of apostolic succession was ruptured by the Reformation. As imperial princes, the Roman Catholic German bishops of the 16th century were rulers of their territories; they did not join the Reformation in order to avoid renouncing the exercise of their sovereign (temporal) rights as demanded by Luther's Reformation. On the basis of a legal construction originally intended as a right of emergency, the Evangelical rulers functioned as the bishops of their territorial churches but only in questions concerning external church order. This development was promoted through the older conception of the divine right of kings and princes, which was especially operative in Germanic lands. (see also Index: Sweden, Church of)

In matters of church polity, controversial tendencies that began in the Reformation still work as divisive forces within the ecumenical movement in the 20th century. For Luther and Lutheranism, the polity of the church has no divine-legal characteristics; it is of subordinate significance for the essence of the church, falls under human ordinances, and is therefore quite alterable. In Calvinism, on the other hand (e.g., inthe Ecclesiastical Ordinances [Ordonnances ecclésiastiques] of 1541 and in Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion [1536]), the Holy Scriptures appear as a codex from which the polity of the congregation can be inferred or certainly derived as a divine law. Thus, on the basis of its spiritual-legal character, church polity would be a component of the essence of the church itself. Both tendencies stand in a constant inner tension with one another in the main branches of the Reformation and within the individual confessions as well.

Even in Lutheranism, however, there has been a demand for a stronger emphasis upon the independent episcopal character of the superintendent's or president's office. Paradoxically, in the Lutheran Church, which came forth with the demand of the universal priesthood of believers, there arose the development of ecclesiastical authorities but not the development of self-contained congregational polities. When a merger of three Lutheran bodies produced a new Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1988 it established the bishop as leader of the synodal jurisdictions. In Lutheranism these bishops replaced presidents. Bishops were regarded there, as in Methodism, as part of the bene esse, the well-being, and not the esse, the essence, of the church. More or less self-contained congregational polities were developed in many Reformed churches because the Reformed Church congregation granted greater participation in the life of the congregation to the laity as presbyters and elders. Furthermore, the Reformed Church areas in Germany, France, England, and Scotland, as well as in The Netherlands and Hungary, had to build up their own ecclesiastical structure without dependence upon state authorities.

Among the conservative but often spontaneous evangelical Protestant churches diverse forms of polity have developed. They have all been founded with an appeal to the Holy Scriptures. Their prototypes can, in fact, be identified in the multiformity of congregational polities in the first three centuries before the victory of the monarchical episcopal office. (see also Index: evangelical church)

Presbyterian polity appeals to the model of the original church. The polity of the Scottish Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian churches of North America is primarily based upon this appeal, which was also found among many English Puritan groups. It proceeds from the basic view that the absolute power of Christ in his church postulates the equality of rights of all members and can find expression only in a single office, that of the presbyter. The calling to this office is through election by church members, formally analogous to the democratic, republican political mode, and, accordingly, in contrast with the monarchy of the papal and the aristocracy of the episcopal church polity. In Presbyterian churches the differences between clergy and laity have been abolished in theory and, to a great extent, in practice. A superstructure of consistories and presbyteries is superposed one upon the other, with increasing disciplinary power and graduated possibilities of appeal. Through their emphases upon the divine-legal character of Presbyterian polity, the Presbyterian churches have represented a Protestant polity that counters the Roman Catholic concept of the church in the area of ecclesiastical polity. In ecumenical discussions in the 20th century, the divine-legal character of this polity is occasionally noticeable in its thesis of an apostolic succession of presbyters as a counter-thesis to that of the apostolic succession of bishops.

Congregationalism stresses the autonomous right of the individual congregation to order its own life in the areas of teaching, worship, polity, and administration. This demand had been raised and practiced by the medieval sects and led to differentiated polities and congregational orders among the Waldenses, the Hussites, and the Bohemian Brethren. Congregationalism was advanced in the Reformation period by the most diverse parties in a renewed and reinforced way not only by "Enthusiasts" (or, in German, Schwärmer) and Anabaptists, who claimed for themselves the right to shape their congregational life according to the model of the original church, but also by individual representatives of Reformation sovereigns, such as Franz Lambert (François Lambert d'Avignon), whose resolutions at the Homberg Synod of 1526 were not carried out because of a veto by Luther. The beginnings of modern Congregationalism probably lie among the English refugee communities on the European mainland, in which the principle of the established church was first replaced by the concept of a covenant sealed between God or Jesus Christ and the individual or the individual congregation.

The basic concepts of Congregationalism are: the understanding of the congregation as the "holy people" under the regent Jesus Christ; the spiritual priesthood, kingship, and prophethood of every believer and the exchange of spiritual experiences between them, as well as the introduction of a strict church discipline exercised by the congregation itself; the equal rank of all clergy; the freedom of proclamation of the gospel from every episcopal or official permission; and performance of the sacraments according to the institution of Jesus. By virtue of the freedom of self-determination fundamentally granted every congregation, no dogmatic or constitutional union but rather only county union of the Congregationalist churches developed in England. North America, however, became the classic land of Congregationalism as a result of the great Puritan immigration to New England, beginning with the Pilgrims on the Mayflower (1620). In the 20th century, acknowledgement of the full authority of the individual congregation runs through almost all Protestant denominations in the United States and is even found among the Lutherans. Congregationalism participates in the ecumenical movement, within which it presses for awakening the independent activity of the Christian churches in the entire world in terms of a proto-Christian ideal of the congregation.

Numerous other forms of congregational polity have arisen in the history of Christendom, such as the association idea in the Society of Friends. Even Pentecostal communities have not been able to maintain themselves in a state of unrestrained and constant charismatic impulses but instead have had to develop a legally regulated polity. This was what happened in the early church, which likewise was compelled to restrain the freedom of charisma in a system of rulers and laws. Pentecostal communities either have been constituted in the area of a biblical fundamentalism theologically and on the basis of a congregationalist church polity constitutionally or they have ritualized the outpouring of the Spirit itself. Thus, the characteristic dialectic of the Holy Spirit is confirmed: the Spirit creates law and the Spirit breaks law even in the most recent manifestations of its working. (see also Index: Pentecostalism)

vii) Liturgy.

The central focus of the liturgy of the early church was the Eucharist, which the Christian community interpreted as a fellowship meal with the resurrected Christ. Judaism at the time of Christ was dominated by an intense expectation of the Kingdom of God, which would be inaugurated by the Messiah-Son of man. The early Christian Church appropriated this expectation, which revolved around the image of the messianic meal in which the faithful would "sit at table" (Luke 13:29) with the coming Messiah-Son of man. At the centre of Jesus' preaching on the Kingdom of God is the promise that the blessed would "eat bread" with the exalted Messiah-Son of man (Luke 13:29). The Lord himself would serve the chosen community of the Kingdom at the messianic meal (Luke 12:37 ff.), which bears the features of a wedding banquet. The basic mood in the community gathered about him is thus one of nuptial joy over the inauguration of the promised end time, which Jesus emphasized in Matthew, chapter 9, verse 15: "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?" The supper that Jesus celebrated with his disciples "on the night when he was betrayed" (1 Corinthians 11:23) inaugurated the heavenly meal that will be continued in the Kingdom of God. Decisive for understanding the original meaning of the Eucharist are the words of Jesus in Matthew, chapter 26, verse 29: "I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." (see also Index: Last Supper)

The death of Jesus at first bewildered his community in the face of his promise, but the appearances of the Resurrected One, beginning with Easter morning, confirmed their expectations about the messianic Kingdom. These appearances influenced the expectations about the messianic meal and the continuation of fellowship with the exalted Son of man in the meal. Faith in the Resurrection and an expectation of the continuation of the fellowship meal with the exalted Son of man are two basic elements of the Eucharist that are a part of the liturgy from the beginnings of the church. In meeting the Resurrected One in the eucharistic meal the community sees all the glowing expectations of salvation confirmed.

The basic mood of the community at the eucharistic meal is thereby one of joy. "And breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God" (Acts 2:46). The Orthodox liturgy has maintained this original Christian mood of joy as at a wedding feast until the present. In Reformation churches, however, a mood of repentance and sorrow over sin often diminished and suppressed the original Christian attitude of joy.

What the Christian community experiences in the eucharistic meal is basically a continuation of the appearances of the Resurrected One in its midst. Thus, many liturgical forms developed, all of which served to enhance the mystery of the eucharistic meal. In the magnificent liturgical creations from the 1st to the 6th century, diversity rather than uniformity was a commanding feature of the development of worship forms. The eucharistic mystery developed from a simple form, as depicted in the 1st-century Didache, to the fully developed liturgies of the 5th and 6th centuries in both the East and the West.

This diversity that was demonstrated in the liturgies of the early church is still preserved in the Clementine liturgy (Antioch), the Syrian liturgy, the Liturgy of St. James of the church of Jerusalem, the Nestorian liturgy in Iran, the Liturgy of St. Mark in Egypt, the Roman mass, the Gallic liturgies, and the Ambrosian (Milanese), Mozarabic (Spanish), and Scottish-Irish (Celtic) liturgies.

In the 6th century two types of liturgies were fixed by canon law in the Eastern Orthodox Church: the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (originally the liturgy of Constantinople) and the Liturgy of St. Basil (originally the liturgy of the Cappadocian monasteries). The Liturgy of St. Basil, however, is celebrated only 10 times during the year, whereas the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is celebrated most other times. In addition to these liturgies is the so-called Liturgy of the Preconsecrated Offerings, attributed to Pope Gregory I the Great of the 6th century. In this liturgy no consecration of the eucharistic offering occurs--because the eucharistic offerings used have been consecrated on the previous Sunday--and it is celebrated on weekday mornings during Lent as well as from Monday to Wednesday during Holy Week. (see also Index: Basil, Liturgy of Saint)

The period of liturgical improvisation apparently was concluded earlier in the Latin West than in the East. The liturgy of the ancient Latin Church is textually available only since the 6th century. Though the Gallic liturgies are essentially closer to the Eastern liturgies, the liturgy of Rome followed a special development. From the middle of the 4th century, the Roman mass was celebrated in Latin rather than in Greek, which had been the earlier practice. The fixing of the Roman mass by canon law is congruent with the historical impulse of the Roman Catholic Church to follow the ancient Roman pattern of rendering sacred observance in legal forms and with stipulated regularities.

Because of the authority inhering in the sacred, every liturgy has the tendency to become fixed in form, and any alteration of the liturgy can thus be regarded as a sacrilege. The spiritual-legal fixation of the liturgy, however, through the process of constant repetition and habit, led to an externalization that can transfer the liturgy into a lifeless formalism for both the liturgist and the participating community.

viii) New liturgical forms and antiliturgical attitudes.

Characteristically, all reformation eras in the history of Christianity, in which new charismatic impulses arise in the areas of piety and theology, are also periods of new liturgical creations. Thus in the late 16th-century Reformation a great diversity of new liturgical forms emerged. Luther in Germany restricted himself to a reformatory alteration of the Roman Catholic liturgy of the mass, whereas Zwingli in Switzerland attempted to create a completely new evangelical liturgy of the Eucharist based upon a New Testament foundation. The Free churches also showed a strong liturgical productivity; in the Herrnhut Brethren (Moravian) community, Graf von Zinzendorf ushered in the singing worship services. Methodism, influenced by the Moravian spiritual songs and melodies, also produced new liturgical impulses, especially through its creation of new hymns and songs and its joyousness in singing.

The innovative religious bodies, especially those that arose in the 19th and 20th centuries, have been especially productive in this area. The Mormons, for example, developed not only a new type of church song but also a new style of church music in the context of their liturgical new creation (e.g., "sealing"). The mood of charismatic, liturgical new creations has also been preserved in the Baptist churches of American blacks, whose spirituals are the most impressive sign of a free and spontaneous liturgy. The Pentecostal churches of the 20th century quite consciously attempt to protect themselves against liturgical formalism. The free, often spontaneously improvised liturgy of the Pentecostal tent missions was transformed into patterns that became familiar to a wider audience through televised evangelism, which was often of a Pentecostal nature. Often ecstatic, strongly rhythmized music endeavours to retain certain features of the charismatic spontaneity of the early Christian worship. (see also Index: Pentecostalism)

Traditional liturgy fixed by canon law, which could develop into a lifeless formalism, occasionally led to the adoption of a fundamentally anti-liturgical attitude. Zwingli's reformation, for example, exhibited an emphatically anti-liturgical tendency in that it reduced the intricate Roman Catholic order of service to beginning song, prayer, sermon, concluding prayer, and concluding song. In many Reformed churches, some anti-liturgical currents developed, which, in terms of visual art, have been directed against encouraging expressions that might distract from the preached and prayed Word. In more radical instances this has even meant protests against the use of the organ in the worship service. The Society of Friends radically eliminated the liturgy and replaced it with mutual silence, expecting the spontaneous activity of the Holy Spirit.

Though definite and obligatory liturgies have been established as normative, the forms of the liturgy continue to develop and change. The impulse toward variations in worship services has been especially noticeable in the latter part of the 20th century. In the Eastern Orthodox liturgy, in the Roman Catholic mass and breviary, and in Anglican and Lutheran liturgies, there are both fixed and changing sections. The fixed parts represent the basic structure of the worship service concerned, and the alternating parts emphasize the individual character of a particular service for a certain day or period of the church year. The changing parts consist of special Old and New Testament readings that are appropriate for a particular church festival, as well as of special prayers and particular hymns. (see also Index: Anglican Communion, Lutheranism)

The eucharistic liturgy consists of two parts: the Liturgy of the Catechumens and the Liturgy of the Faithful. This basic liturgical structure goes back to a time in which the church was a missionary church that grew for the most part through conversion of adults. The latter were first introduced to the Christian mysteries as catechumens through instruction in religious doctrine. They also received permission to take part in the first part of the worship service (which was instructional), but they had to leave the service before the eucharistic mystery was celebrated. The first part of the Orthodox worship service still ends with a threefold exclamation, reminiscent of pre-Christian, Hellenistic mystery formulas: "You catechumens, go forth! None of the catechumens (may remain here)!"

The eucharistic liturgy of the Orthodox Church is a kind of mystery drama in which the advent of the Lord is mystically consummated and the entire history of salvation--the incarnation, death, and Resurrection of Christ the Logos, up to the outpouring of the Holy Sprit--is recapitulated. The Orthodox Church also attaches the greatest value to the fact that within the eucharistic mystery an actual transformation of the eucharistic elements in bread and wine takes place. This is not the same as the Roman Catholic dogma of transubstantiation, which teaches that the substance of the bread and wine is changed into the body and blood of Christ, though the properties of the elements remain the same, when the priest consecrates the bread and wine. According to some Orthodox authorities, the Orthodox view is similar to the Lutheran doctrine of the Real Presence. The essential and central happening in the Orthodox liturgy, however, is the descent of the resurrected Lord himself, who enters the community as "the King of the universe, borne along invisibly above spears by the angelic hosts." The transformation of the elements is, therefore, the immediate emanation of this personal presence. Thus, the Orthodox Church does not preserve and display the consecrated host after and outside the eucharistic liturgy, as in the Roman Catholic Church, because the consecrated offerings are mystically apprehended and actualized only during the eucharistic meal.

In the Roman Catholic mass, the sacrificial character of the Eucharist is strongly emphasized, but it is less so in the Orthodox liturgy. This is because in the Orthodox liturgy the Eucharist is not only a representation of the crucifixion sacrifice (as in the Roman mass) but also of the entire history of salvation, in which the entire congregation, priest and laity, participates. Thus, the Orthodox Church has also held fast to the original form of Holy Communion in both kinds.

The Orthodox Church still preserves the liturgical gestures of the early church. Though in many Protestant churches parishioners sit while praying, the Orthodox worshiper prays while standing (because he stands throughout the service), with arms hanging down, crossing himself at the beginning and ending of the prayer.

The prayerful gesture of folded hands among Protestant churches derives from an old Germanic tradition of holding the sword hand with the left hand, which symbolizes one's giving himself over to the protection of God because he is now defenseless. The prayerful gesture of hands pressed flat against one another with the fingertips pointed upward--the symbol of the flame--is practiced among Roman Catholics as well as Hindus and Buddhists. Other liturgical gestures found in many Christian churches are crossing oneself, genuflecting, beating oneself on the chest, and kneeling during prayer or when receiving the eucharistic elements. Among some Holiness or Pentecostal churches spontaneous handclapping and rhythmic movements of the body have been stylized gestures in the worship services. These gestures are often familiar features of worship in churches in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Liturgical dancing, widely spread in pagan cults, was not practiced in the early church; vestigial remnants of this ancient practice, however, have been admitted in liturgical processionals. In the latter part of the 20th century, liturgical dances have been reintroduced in some churches but only in a limited fashion. Among the many other gestures of devotion and veneration practiced in the liturgically oriented churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, the High Church Anglican churches, and the Orthodox Church, are kissing the altar, the gospel, the cross, and the holy icons.

Liturgical vestments have developed in a variety of fashions, some of which have become very ornate. The liturgical vestments all have symbolic meaning (see below Church year: Liturgical colours ). In the Orthodox Church the liturgical vestments symbolize the wedding garments that enable the liturgists to share in the heavenly wedding feast, the Eucharist. The epitrachelion, which is worn around the neck and corresponds to the Roman stole, represents the flowing downward of the Holy Spirit (see also RITES AND CEREMONIES, SACRED ).

ix) The sacraments.

The interpretation and number of the sacraments vary among the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Eastern independent, and Protestant churches. The Roman Church has fixed the number of sacraments at seven: baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, holy orders, matrimony, and anointing of the sick. In the early church the number of sacraments varied, sometimes including as many as 10 or 12. The theology of the Orthodox Church, under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, fixed the number of sacraments at seven. The classical Protestant churches (i.e., Lutheran, Anglican, and Reformed) have accepted only two sacraments--i.e., baptism and the Eucharist, though Luther allowed that penance was a valid part of sacramental theology.

The New Testament mentions a series of "holy acts" that are not, strictly speaking, sacraments. Though the Roman Catholic Church recognizes a difference between such "holy acts," which are called sacramentals, and sacraments, the Orthodox Church does not, in principle, make such strict distinctions. Thus, though baptism and the Eucharist have been established as sacraments of the church, foot washing, which in the Gospel According to John, chapter 13, replaces the Lord's Supper, was not maintained as a sacrament. It is still practiced on special occasions, such as on Holy Thursday in the Roman Catholic Church and as a rite prior to the observance of the Lord's Supper, as in the Church of the Brethren. The "holy acts" of the Orthodox Church are symbolically connected to its most important mysteries. Hence, baptism consists of a triple immersion that is connected with a triple renunciation of Satan that the candidates say and act out symbolically prior to the immersions. Candidates first face west, which is the symbolic direction of the Antichrist, spit three times to symbolize their renunciation of Satan, and then face east, the symbolic direction of Christ, the sun of righteousness. Immediately following baptism, chrismation (anointing with consecrated oil) takes place, and the baptized believers receive the "seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit."

x) Tradition.

The disposition of Christianity toward tradition has exhibited a characteristic tension from its very beginnings; it has broken tradition and it has created tradition. This tension, which is grounded in its essence, has been continued throughout its entire history. It began with breaking the tradition of piety described and prescribed in the Hebrew Scriptures and synagogue practices, which to the followers of Jesus looked legalistic. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus set forth his message as a renunciation of the Old Testament tradition of the Law. Yet, with his coming, new revelation, life, death, and Resurrection, he himself created a new tradition, a "new law," that has been carried on in the church. The dogmatic controversies of the Reformation period give the impression that the tradition of the church has to do primarily, if not exclusively, with ecclesiastical doctrinal tradition. Tradition, however, includes all areas of life of the Christian community and its piety, not just the teachings but also the forms of worship service, bodily gestures of prayer and the liturgy, oral and written tradition and the characteristic process of transition of the oral into written tradition, a new church tradition of rules for eating and fasting, and other aspects of the Christian life. (see also Index: Judaism)

The break with the tradition of Jewish legal piety was not total. The Old Testament was adopted from Jewish tradition, but its interpretation was based upon the concepts of salvation that emerged around the figure of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament book of Psalms, including its musical form, was taken over in Christian worship as the foundation of the liturgy. The new revelation became tradition in the oral transmission of the words of the Lord (the logia) and the reports (kerygma) concerning the events of his life that were important for the early church's faith in him; his baptism, the story of his Passion, his Resurrection, and his Ascension. The celebration of the Lord's Supper as anticipation of the heavenly meal with the Messiah-Son of man in the coming Kingdom of God, even to the point of preserving in the liturgy the Aramaic exclamation maranatha ("O Lord, Come") and its Greek parallel erche kyrie ("Come, Lord!") as the supplicant calling for the Parousia (Second Coming)--all this became tradition.

In addition to the traditions of the Old Testament synagogal worship service, traditions of the Hellenistic mystery cults also were absorbed and reinterpreted in Christian forms. Among the traditions taken over from the mystery religions were: the arcane discipline--the distinction between the true mystae (those initiated into the secrets of the Christian faith), who were permitted to participate in the esoteric worship service (i.e., the Eucharist), and the catechumens; the introduction of hymn singing dependent upon the melodic style of the mystery hymns (in addition to the Jewish Psalms); the retention of the ancient gesture of upraised hands during the epiclesis, the prayer that calls down the Holy Spirit upon bread and wine as they are consecrated in the sacrament; and many others.

Of special significance is the oral tradition of doctrinal transmission and its written record. Judaism over the centuries had developed its own unique tradition of the oral transmission of teachings. According to rabbinic doctrine, orally transmitted tradition coexisted on an equal basis with the recorded Law. Both text and tradition were believed to have been entrusted to Moses on Mount Sinai. Within the unbroken chain of scribes the tradition was passed on from generation to generation and substantiated through scripture and exegesis. The doctrinal contents of the tradition were initially passed on orally and memorized by the students through repetition. Because of the possibilities of error in a purely oral transmission, however, the extensive and growing body of tradition was, by necessity, fixed in written form. The rabbinic tradition of the Pharisees (a Jewish sect that sanctioned the reinterpretation of the Mosaic Law) was established in the Mishnah (commentaries) and later in the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmud (compendiums of Jewish Law, lore, and commentary). Because the essence of tradition is never concluded--i.e., by its very nature is never completely fixed in writing--the learned discussion of tradition by necessity continued in constant exegetical debate with the Holy Scriptures. The written record of tradition, however, never claimed to be equal to the Holy Scriptures in Judaism. A similar process of written fixation also occurred among the sectarians of the community at Qumran, which in its Manual of Discipline and in the Damascus Document recorded its interpretation of the Law, developed first orally in the tradition. (see also Index: oral literature)

In the Christian Church a tradition also was formed proceeding from Jesus himself. The oral doctrinal transmission of the tradition was written down between the end of the 1st and the first half of the 2nd century in the form of various gospels, histories of the Apostles, letters, sermonic literature, and apocalypses. Among Christian Gnostics the tradition also included secret communications of the risen Christ to his disciples.

A new element, however, inhered in the Christian vis-à-vis the Jewish tradition. For Jewish piety the divine revelation encompassed two forms of divine expression: the Law and the Prophets. Nevertheless, this revelation is considered concluded with the last Prophets; its actualization further ensues through interpretation. In the Christian Church the tradition is joined not only to the teachings of Jesus and the story of his life as prophet and teacher that terminated with his death but also to the central event of the history of salvation, which his life, Passion, death, and Resurrection represent--namely, to the resurrected Christ who is henceforth present as the living Lord of the church and guides and increases it through his Holy Spirit. This led to the literary form of church tradition--the Holy Scripture. As the "New Testament," it takes its place next to the Holy Scripture of Judaism, henceforth reinterpreted as the "Old Testament." The tradition of the church itself thereby entered into the characteristic Christian tension between spirit and letter. The spirit creates tradition but also breaks tradition as soon as the latter is solidified into an external written form and thus impedes charismatic life.

Throughout church history, however, the core of this field of tension is formed by the transmission of the Christ event--the kerygma--itself. On the one hand, the kerygma is the bearer and starting point for tradition; on the other hand, it molds the impetus for ever-new impulses toward charismatic, fresh interpretations and, under certain circumstances, suggests or even enforces a conscious elimination of accumulated traditions. Decisive in this respect is the self-understanding of the church. According to the self-understanding of the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches, the church, as the institution of Jesus Christ, is the bearer of the oral and the written tradition. It is the church that created the New Testament canon. The selection of canonical writings undertaken by it already presupposes a dogmatic distinction between "ecclesiastical" teachings--which, in the opinion of its responsible leaders, are "apostolic"--and "heretical" teachings. It thereby already presupposes a far-reaching intellectualization of the tradition and its identification with "doctrine." The oral tradition thus became formalized in fixed creedal formulas.

Accordingly, in the history of the Christian Church a specific, characteristic dialectic has been evidenced between periods of excessive growth and formalistic hardening of tradition that hindered and smothered the charismatic life of the church and periods of a reduction of tradition that follow new reformational movements. The latter occurred, in part, within the church itself, such as in the reforms of Cluny, the Franciscans, and the Dominicans; they also took on the form of revolutionary movements. The Reformation of the 16th century exhibited various degrees of positions toward tradition. All of the Reformers broke with the institution of monasticism, the liturgical and sacramental tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, and certain elements of doctrinal tradition. Luther, however, was more conservative in his attitude toward the Roman Catholic Church than were Zwingli and Calvin. He was thus especially hated among the representatives of the radical Reformation--e.g., the Anabaptists and Enthusiasts (Schwärmer), who demanded and practiced a revolutionary break with the entire Roman Catholic tradition. The new churches that arose from the Reformation, however, soon created their own new traditions. This was made necessary by the predominance of both the didactic, doctrinaire principle and the founding of one's own church upon one's own "confessional writings." Practical manifestations against the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church also had public effects--e.g., the eating of sausage on fast days in Zürich at the start of Zwingli's reformation or the provocative marriages of monks and nuns.

In the 19th century, the period of a progressive revolutionizing of political life in Europe and North and South America, the Roman Catholic Church sought to safeguard its tradition--threatened on all sides--through an emphatic program of "antimodernism." It endeavoured to protect tradition both by law and through theology (e.g., in returning to a strict, obligatory neo-Thomism). The representatives of this development were the popes from Pius IX (reigned 1846-78) to Pius XII (reigned 1939-58). With Pope John XXIII (reigned 1958-63), a dismantling (aggiornamento) of antimodernism and a more critical attitude vis-à-vis the "tradition" set in; this extended to traditional dogmatic views as well as to the liturgy and church structure. The second Vatican Council (1962-65) guided this development into moderate channels. On the other hand, an opposite development has taken place in the Soviet Union and the eastern European countries. In these nations the remains of the Orthodox Church, which survived extermination campaigns of the Leninist and Stalinist eras from the 1920s to the 1950s, preserved themselves in a political environment hostile to the church precisely through a retreat to their church tradition and religious functioning in the realm of the liturgy. In the World Council of Churches, the Orthodox Church in the latter part of the 20th century has viewed its task as the bearer of Christian tradition over against the predominant social-ethical tendencies of certain Protestant member churches that have disregarded or de-emphasized the tradition of the church in a wave of antihistorical sentiment.

xi) Scriptural traditions.

The most important creation of church tradition is that of the Holy Scriptures themselves and, secondarily, the exegesis (critical interpretations and explanations) of the Scriptures. Exegesis first appeared in Christian circles among Gnostic heretics and the church catechists (teachers)--e.g., in the Christian school systems, such as in Alexandria and Antioch. The heretics, who could not claim the unbroken apostolic tradition maintained by the Orthodox Christian churches, had a necessary interest in claiming the tradition to justify their own movements. Thus, exegesis was directly related to the development of a normative scriptural canon in the Orthodox churches. A similar need for the interpretation of an ecclesiastically fixed scriptural canon resulted in the Christian school system.

The first representatives of early church exegesis were not the bishops but rather the "teachers" (didaskaloi) of the catechetical schools, modeled after the Hellenistic philosophers' schools in which interpretive and philological principles had been developed according to the traditions of the founders of the respective schools. The allegorical interpretation of Greek classical philosophical and poetical texts, which was prevalent at the Library and Museum (the school) of Alexandria, for example, directly influenced the exegetical method of the Christian Catechetical school there. Basing his principles on the methods of Philo of Alexandria and Clement of Alexandria, his teacher, and others, Origen--the Christian Catechetical school's most significant representative--created the foundation for the type of Christian exegesis (i.e., the typological-allegorical method) that lasted from the patristic period and the Middle Ages up to the time of Luther in the 16th century. Origen based his exegesis upon comprehensive textual-critical work that was common to current Hellenistic practices, such as collecting Hebrew texts and Greek parallel translations of the Old Testament. His main concern, however, was that of ascertaining the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures, the trans-historical divine truth that is hidden in the records of the history of salvation in the Scriptures. He thus developed a system containing four types of interpretation: literal, moral, typological, and allegorical. (see also Index: typological interpretation)

The view of "teachers" as charismatic figures (i.e., those gifted by the Holy Spirit with the ability to uncover the hidden spiritual meaning of the letter) long hindered Western theologians in developing their own exegetical works. Exegetical literature was restricted to "chains" (catenae), in which excerpts from commentaries or homilies of the charismatic Fathers were joined together in a "chain" for the individual words and sentences of the Holy Scriptures. This was similar to the way in which early medieval theological works were composed of "sentences"--i.e., individual doctrinal definitions from the writings of authoritative church teachers along with a limited commentary. Typological exegesis attained special significance for medieval Christian mysticism, which was inspired to a great extent by the allegorical interpretation of the Song of Solomon as the wedding between Christ and the soul.

Only with the Reformation, under the leadership of Luther, did there emerge an emphatic turning away from the allegorical exegesis and a turning toward the literal meaning of the Scriptures. This had its beginnings in the early church in the theological school of Antioch. In contrast to the Platonic tradition of the school of Alexandria, the school of Antioch was guided by Aristotelian philosophy. In place of allegorizing, which was consciously rejected, Antiochene exegesis was very much occupied with textual criticism. Both traditions often were included together in the so-called glosses of the Latin Middle Ages, such as in the Glossa ordinaria ("Ordinary Glosses"), edited by Anselm of Laon (died 1117), and the Postillae--the first biblical commentary to be printed (1471-72)--of Nicholas of Lyra (c. 1270-1349). (see also Index: literal interpretation)

According to his own statement, Luther's reformational breakthrough came about through a fresh exegetical reflection--legendo et docendo ("by perusing and teaching")--in connection with his lectures on the Bible at the university of Wittenberg in Germany. He used the preliminary work of humanist philologists for the restoration of the Old and New Testament text (e.g., Erasmus' 1516 edition of the Greek New Testament in the lectures on the Letter of Paul to the Romans). Luther replaced the traditional schema of the fourfold meaning of the Scripture with a spiritual interpretation of the letter--i.e., one based on Christ. Inasmuch as the letter, which speaks historically of the work of Christ, at the same time always means this work as the salvation event that has happened "for us," it always contains the spiritual meaning in itself. In debates with the Spiritualists and Enthusiasts, who made use of the allegorical-tropological (figurative) method, Luther appealed ever more strongly to the unequivocal "clarity" of the letter of the Scriptures, which contains the "clarity" of the "subject" expressed by it. His exegesis is thus also a dogmatic one. The struggle between historical and tropological exegesis was emphasized in the debate between Luther and Zwingli over the understanding of the Lord's Supper.

During the early 18th century, biblical interpretation free of dogmatic interest was achieved among theologians accused of heresy by orthodox colleagues of their confession, such as among the Dutch Arminians (e.g., Hugo Grotius and Johann Jakob Wettstein). Interest in the history of the Old and New Testament period was growing; ancient Middle Eastern history, biblical geography and archaeology, and the history of the religions of the ancient East and Hellenism were being included in the interpretation of the Scriptures. Under the influence of the Enlightenment, the historical criticism of the Bible, which was independent of the moral and edifying evaluation of the Holy Scriptures, was established. Soon including criticism of early church dogma, it led directly to the rise of historical criticism of the Bible in the 19th and 20th centuries.

xii) Veneration of places, objects, and people.

In addition to the tradition of the Holy Scriptures and its interpretation, traditions centring on holy places also developed. The veneration of holy places is the oldest expression of Christian popular piety. From Judaism the Christian Church adopted the idea and practice of venerating holy places. In post-exilic Judaism (i.e., after the 5th century BC), Jerusalem became the sanctuary and the centre of the Jews in Palestine as well as the goal of the pilgrimages of Jews of the Diaspora. After the destruction in AD 70 of Jerusalem, which was the holy city for the early church, it remained for Christians--as the site of the suffering and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and as the place of his return in glory--a holy city and a goal of pilgrimages. Such early bishops as Melito of Sardis and Alexander of Jerusalem and such theologians as Origen embarked on pilgrimages to Jerusalem. When the Christian Church became the state church in the 4th century, pilgrimages to the holy places in Palestine became popular. (see also Index: sacred place)

The journey of the empress mother Helena to the Holy Land before AD 330 inaugurated the cult of relics through the alleged discovery of the holy cross. Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (335) and the Church of the Nativity over the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The numerous other biblical commemorative places of the Old and New Testament history soon followed.

The cult of martyrs and saints led to establishment of shrines outside Palestine that were developed into pilgrimage places. The idea that the martyrs are present at the places of their martyrdom (e.g., Peter's tomb at the Vatican) secured a prominent position for holy places connected with the cult of saints and martyrs. The cult of the martyrs was developed especially in the Roman catacombs, and it contributed to the formation of the Petrine doctrine and the teaching of the primacy of the Roman bishop. After the 4th century the cult of martyrs spread further and created an abundance of new holy places in the West: thus, Santiago de Compostela in Spain was connected with the tomb of James, to which equal rank with Rome and Jerusalem was later accorded; then Trèves in Germany, with the tomb of Matthew, which exerted a special power of attraction through the relic of the holy robe; and Marburg in Germany, with the shrine of St. Elizabeth. In the Middle Ages, during the development of the Roman Catholic sacrament of penance, holy places became places of grace, the visitation of which was considered a work of penance.

The original historical consciousness of the Christian Church is also alive in the cult of relics. In the relics of the body in which the saint suffered martyrdom, the saint himself is believed to be present, or at least something of the power of the Holy Spirit that filled him. The cult of relics began as a result of veneration of a martyr at his or her tomb, over which later was erected an altar of the church built to honour the saint. From the 4th century on in the East, and later also in the West, the remains of the martyrs were distributed in order that as many as possible could share in their miraculous power. Fragments of relics were sewn into a silken cloth (antimension), and the Eucharist could be celebrated only upon an altar that was covered with such an antimension. In times of persecution the Eucharist could be celebrated upon any table, as long as it was covered with the antimension and consecrated through the presence of the martyr. In the Latin Church the relics are enclosed in a cavity (sepulcrum) in the altar top. During the deconsecration of a church, the relic is again removed from the sepulcrum.

In the late Middles Ages the character of the pilgrimage, just like the veneration of relics, underwent a degeneration in connection with the degeneration of the sacrament of penance because of the abuse of the indulgence. Luther's critique of the indulgence began with a criticism of the display of the elector of Saxony Frederick III the Wise's imposing collection of relics in the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) of Wittenberg on All Saints' Day (1516). Over against the attacks of Luther, the Council of Trent declared that

the holy bodies of the holy martyrs and others living with Christ, whose bodies were living members of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit, and will be by him raised to eternal life and glorified, are to be venerated by the faithful, since by them God bestows many benefits upon men.

In order to avoid the development of a holy place at his grave and a reliquary and saintly cult around his person, Calvin arranged by will that his body be buried at an unknown spot. The erection of the giant monument to the Reformer at the supposed place of his burial shows the futility of his effort and the strength of the Christian consciousness of tradition.

xiii) Monasticism.

Monasticism, an institution based on the Christian ideal of perfection, has its roots in New Testament Christianity, in which the baptized were designated as the "perfect ones." In the early church, monasticism equated perfection with world-denying asceticism, along with the view that perfect Christianity centred its way of life on the maximum love of God and neighbour.

Monastic discipline, in the course of time, became an external means for the attainment of this ideal of perfect love of God and neighbour. Only a few especially disciplined persons, however, have been able to live according to the path that leads to the ideal of perfection. The masses, on the other hand, are inwardly and outwardly incapable of exercising ascetic discipline. Therefore, the monastic rules of life were not generally binding "commands" but rather only "counsels" directed to those called to lead an ascetic life. The essential distinction between command and counsel is found in the words of Jesus: he did not command men to "make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven," but rather he recommended this condition only to those who were "able to receive this" (Matthew 19:12). Unmarried ascetics were recognized as a special class in the early church, forming the core of many churches. Later, with its distinction between counsel (suasum) and command (iussum), as in the writings of Tertullian in the late 2nd century, the church found itself in full accord with the oldest Christian view. During the latter part of the 2nd and the beginning of the 3rd century, the combination of asceticism and mysticism, which was to become the spiritual basis of later monasticism in the East and in part also in the West, was emphasized by Clement of Alexandria and Origen.

By the 4th century, monasticism had become an established institution in the Christian Church. This was not because of the decadence of the people of late antiquity, as has often been asserted, but rather because monasticism was sustained by the resilient and culturally unexhausted rural populations of Egypt and Syria, who had developed an enthusiasm for asceticism itself. Out of the desire for still further advanced isolation, ascetics moved from areas in proximity to inhabited places and established themselves in tombs, abandoned and half-deteriorated human settlements, caves, and, finally, into the wilderness areas of the deserts. The main task of the ascetics--i.e., struggle with the demons--thereby underwent a heightened intensification: the desert was considered the abode of the demons, the place of refuge of the pagan gods falling back before a victorious Christianity. Hence, the expansion of Christianity in the cities of Egypt and the rise of Egyptian desert monasticism in the 4th century occurred both because the masses streamed into the churches as a result of the official imperial toleration and support policies and because ascetics striving for perfection left the cities and moved into the desert in significant numbers.

Certain writings that captured the spirit of monasticism further enhanced the development of this way of life in the church. Athanasius of Alexandria, the 4th century's most significant bishop spiritually and in terms of ecclesiastical politics, wrote the Life of St. Antonywhich described the eremitic (hermit) life in the desert and the awesome struggle of ascetics with the demons as the model of the life of Christian perfection. This work indicates that the church sanctioned and propagated monasticism.

A former Roman soldier of the 4th century, Pachomius, created the first monastery in the modern sense. He united the monks under one roof in a community living under the leadership of an abbot (father, or leader). In 323 he founded the first true monastic cloister in Tabennisi, north of Thebes, in Egypt, and joined together houses of 30 to 40 monks, each with its own superior. Pachomius also created a monastic rule that, however, served more as a regulation of external monastic life than spiritual guidance. During the remainder of the 4th century, monasticism soon developed in areas outside Egypt. Athanasius brought the monastic rule of Pachomius to the West during his banishment (340-346) to Trèves in Germany--as a result of his opposition to the imperially sanctioned heretical doctrines of Arianism. Mar Awgin, a Syrian monk, introduced the monastic rule in Mesopotamia, and Jerome established a monastic cloister in Bethlehem.

Basil the Great, one of the three Cappadocian Fathers of the 4th century, definitively shaped monastic community life in the Byzantine Church. His ascetic writings furnished the theological and instructional foundation for the "common life" (cenobitism) of monks. He became the creator of a monastic rule that, through constant variations and modifications, became authoritative for later Orthodox monasticism. The Rule of Basil has preserved the Orthodox combination of asceticism and mysticism into the 20th century. (see also Index: Eastern Orthodoxy)

Western monasticism, founded by Benedict of Nursia (Italy) in the 6th century, has gone through a double form of special development vis-à-vis early church monasticism. The first consists of its clericalization. In modern Roman Catholic cloisters, monks are, except for the serving brothers (fratres), ordained priests and are thereby drawn in a direct way into the ecclesiastical tasks of the Roman Church. Originally, however, monks were laymen. Pachomius had explicitly forbidden monks to become priests on the ground that "it is good not to covet power and glory." Basil the Great, however, by means of a special vow and a special ceremony, enabled monks to cease being just laymen and to attain a position between that of the clergy and the laity. Even in the 20th century, monks of the Orthodox Church are, for the most part, lay monks; only a few fathers (abbots) of each cloister are ordained priests (hieromonachoi), who are thus allowed to administer the sacraments. (see also Index: ordination)

The second special development in Roman Catholicism consists of the functional characteristics of its many orders. The individual orders aid the church in its various areas of activity--e.g., missions, education, care for the sick and needy, and combating heresy. Developing a wide-ranging diversification in its structure and sociological interests, Roman Catholic monasticism has extended all the way from the knightly orders to orders of mendicant friars, and it has included orders of decided feudal and aristocratic characteristics alongside orders of purely bourgeois characteristics. To the degree that special missionary, pedagogical, scholarly-theological, and ecclesiastically political tasks of the orders increased in the West, the character of ancient monasticism--originally focused completely on prayer, meditation, and contemplation--receded more and more in importance. Few monastic orders--the Benedictines and the Carmelites are notable exceptions--still attempt to preserve the ancient character and purposes of monasticism in Roman Catholicism in the 20th century.

xiv) The saintly life.

In Christian popular piety the saint plays a very significant role. Originally a self-designation of all Christians collectively, "the saints," understood in this broad sense, are "sanctified through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God," according to the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 31. On the one hand, the saint may be understood as a Christian who endeavours to fulfill the binding demand of moral holiness in obedience to God and in love of his neighbour (2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:3), or a charismatic figure in whom the gifts of the Holy Spirit operate according to the personal and temporal circumstances of such an individual. Because of certain views on being "called to holiness," members of many radical sects have designated themselves as "the saints"--from Oliver Cromwell's "saints" in 17th-century England to the Mormon "latter-day saints" in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The general meaning of "saint" was transformed during the period of the persecutions of Christians in the Roman Empire. The martyr, the witness in blood to Christ and follower in his suffering, became the prototype of the future ideal of the saint. Veneration of the saints began because of a belief that martyrs were received directly into heaven after their martyrdoms and that their intercession with God was especially effective--in the Revelation to John the martyrs occupy a special position in heaven, immediately under the altar of God (Revelation 6:9). Veneration of confessors (i.e., those who had not denied their belief in Christ but had not been martyred), bishops, popes, early Church Fathers, and ascetics who had led a godlike life was established soon after cessation of the persecutions.

In the Greek church the saints were regarded as charismatic figures in whom the prototype of Christ is reflected in multifarious images. Veneration of the saints in the Orthodox churches was thus based more upon the idea that the saints provided instructional examples of the Christian life of sanctification. In the West, however, cultic veneration of the saints, the concept of patron saints, and the view that saints are helpers in need became predominant. The cult of the saints gradually came under the control of the papacy, which regulated cultic veneration of a saintly personality extolled in popular piety by means of a process of canonization strictly defined by canon law. The saints thus dominated the church calendar, which notes the names of the ecclesiastically recognized saints of each day of the year. They are venerated on a particular day in the prayer of intercession, and references are made to their deeds, sufferings, and miracles in the liturgy.

Under Pope Paul VI, the Roman Catholic Church attempted to reduce the significance of the veneration of saints--and thereby emphasize the idea of their historical exemplariness--by deleting some unhistorical, ostensibly mythological figures from the calendar of saints. The difference between historical and mythological saints, however, is difficult to maintain in details because mythological features from pre-Christian hero myths had often been intermixed, even in the lives of demonstrably historical saints. Thus, deletion of saints from the calendar has had little success in popular piety. Pope John Paul II, fully respectful of the directions of the second Vatican Council, did, however, pay renewed respect to some of the pre-council forms of devotion which the reformers had tended to displace.

In the early church the veneration of saints at first was restricted to celebrations at their tombs, but the cult of saintly relics soon spread the veneration of particular saints to many areas. The Martyrdom of Polycarp, for example, called the remains of the bishop Polycarp of Smyrna, martyred in 156/167, "more precious than costly stones and more excellent than gold." A belief in the need of special protection by saints is the basis of the system of patron saints: most Roman Catholic churches have a saint as their patron, whose presence in the church is represented by a relic of that particular saint. Saints, however, became patrons not only of churches but also of cities, regions, vocational groups, or classes. Saints also won a special significance as patrons of names: in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches a Christian generally received the name of the saint on whose holiday (day of death) he is baptized. The believer is thus joined for life with the patron of his name through the name and the name day, which, as the day of rebirth (i.e., baptism), is of much greater significance than the natural birthday.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, relics of saints appear less frequently, but icons of saints appear in greater numbers. Though cultic veneration of saints as patrons, tutelary saints, and helpers in need has increased through the centuries, the view that the saints are examples of the Christian life of sanctification has been preserved. The Roman Catholic Church, through its use of the canonization of saints, has constantly established new models for practical religiosity and morality to meet contemporary needs--raising to the position of sainthood personages all the way from the holy king to the holy servant girl.

In view of the excess of the veneration of saints, the Reformation not only eliminated the cultic veneration of saints but also images and relics of the saints from the churches and homes. Although the Reformation did not theoretically deny the saints their significance as historical witnesses to the power and grace of God, through such radical measures it virtually eliminated the meaning of saints as guiding images and examples of Christian life. Under the influence of Luther's view that all believers are saints, the veneration of the saints and their relics also was either de-emphasized or eliminated. The experience of martyrdom in the times of persecution in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation encouraged the development of a new saintly ideal in the radical Protestant sects in connection with the renewal of a strict demand for sanctification. Such was the case in the Baptists' "Chronicle of the Martyrs" as well as in Spiritualism. The Swedish archbishop Nathan Söderblom's attempt at awakening in Protestantism in the 20th century a new understanding of the saint received notice in Protestant ecumenical circles and led to a rediscovery of saints in the Protestant realm (e.g., through Walter Nigg's book Great Saints). In modern Roman Catholicism, emphasis is increasingly being placed upon the charismatic aspects of the saints and their significance as models of a spiritual, holy Christian life.

xv) Art and iconography.

Christian art constitutes an essential element of the Christian religion. Until the 17th century the history of Western art was largely identical with the history of Western ecclesiastical and religious art. During the first three centuries of the Christian Church, however, there was no Christian art, and the church generally resisted it with all its might. Clement of Alexandria, for example, criticized religious (pagan) art in that it encouraged people to worship that which is created rather than the Creator. About the mid-3rd century an incipient pictorial art began to be used and accepted in the Christian Church but not without fervent opposition in some congregations. Only when the Christian Church became the Roman imperial church under Emperor Constantine in the early 4th century were pictures used in the churches, and they then began to strike roots in Christian popular religiosity. (see also Index: Early Christian art)

Later, however, when pictorial art was publicly placed in the service of the church, warnings against this development were voiced by leading theologians. The church historian Eusebius, the most diligent glorifier of Constantine, characterized the use of images of the Apostles Paul and Peter as well as of Christ himself as a pagan custom. Asterius, bishop of Amaseia in Pontus during the late 4th and early 5th centuries, similarly stated in a sermon:

Do not picture Christ on your garments. It is enough that he once suffered the humiliation of dwelling in a human body which of his own accord he assumed for our sakes. So, not upon your robes, but upon your soul, carry about his image.

Epiphanius (c. 315-402), bishop of Salamis in Greece, also energetically opposed in word and deed the disposition toward images in the imperial church:

Have God always in your hearts, but not in the community house, for it does not become a Christian to expect the elation of his soul from recourse to his eyes and the roaming about of his senses.

Christian art developed at such a late stage because of its origins in Judaism and its opposition to paganism and the emperor's cult. In addition to a faith in God the Father, Creator of heaven and Earth, and faith in the uniqueness and holiness of God, Christianity also received from its Jewish origins a prohibition against the use of images to depict the sacred or holy, including humans, who were created in "the image of God." The early Christian Church was also deeply involved in a struggle against paganism, which, to the Christian observer, was viewed as idolatry in that its many gods were represented in various pictorial and statuary forms. In early Christian missionary preaching, the Old Testament attacks upon pagan veneration of images were transferred directly to pagan image veneration of the first three centuries AD. The struggle against images was conducted as a battle against "idols" with all the intensity of faith in the oneness and exclusiveness of the imageless biblical God.

Abhorrence of images also was furthered because the emperor's cult was so despised by Christians. Christians were compelled, through anti-Christian legislation, to venerate the imperial images by offering sacrifices to them. Refusal to make the sacrifice was the chief cause of martyrdom. Characteristically, thus, the Christian Church's reaction after its public recognition was expressed in the riotous destruction of the pagan divine images.

In spite of these very strong religious and emotional restraints, the church developed a form of art peculiar to its needs. Protestants often have held that the development of ecclesiastical art was a part of the entire process of the inner decay of the Christian Church when it was elevated to the position of the officially favoured religious institution of the Roman Empire. In other words, some groups within Protestantism have claimed that the development of church art was part of the process of the church's inner paganization.

The starting point for the development of Christian pictorial art, however, lies in the basic teaching of the Christian revelation itself--namely, the incarnation, the point at which the Christian proclamation is differentiated from Judaism. The incarnation of the Son of man, the Messiah, in the form of a human being--who was created in the "image of God"--granted theological approval of a sort to the use of images that symbolized Christian truths. Clement of Alexandria, at one point, called God "the Great Artist," who formed humans according to the image of the Logos, the archetypal light of light. The great theological struggles over the use of images within the church during the period of the so-called Iconoclastic Controversy in the 8th and 9th centuries indicate how a new understanding of images emerged on the basis of Christian doctrine. This new understanding was developed into a theology of icons that still prevails in the Eastern Orthodox Church in the 20th century.

The great significance of images of the saints for the Orthodox faithful is primarily expressed in the cultic veneration of the images within the worship service. Second, it is expressed in the dogmatic fixation of the figures, gestures, and colours in Eastern Church iconic art. In the West, the creative achievement of the individual artist is admired, but Orthodox painting dispenses with the predominance of the individual painter's freely creative imagination. Throughout the centuries the Eastern Church has been content with reproducing certain types of holy images, and only seldom does an individual artist play a predominant role within the history of Orthodox Church painting. Most Orthodox ecclesiastical artists have remained anonymous. Icon painting is viewed as a holy skill that is practiced in cloisters in which definite schools of painting have developed. In the schools, traditional principles prevail so much that different artist-monks generally perform only certain functions in the production of a single icon. Style motifs--e.g., composition, impartation of colour, hair and beard fashions, and gestures of the figures--are fixed in painting books that contain the canons of the different monastic schools of icon painters.

The significance of the image of the saint in the theology, piety, and liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church can be judged historically from the fact that the struggle over holy images within Orthodox Church history brought about a movement whose scope and meaning can be compared only with the Reformation of Luther and Calvin. In the 7th century a tendency hostile to images and fostered by both theological and political figures gained ground within the Byzantine Church and upset Orthodox Christendom to its very depths; known as the Iconoclastic Controversy, it was supported by some reform-minded emperors. Although opponents of icons had all the political means of power at their disposal, they were not able to succeed in overthrowing the use of icons. The conclusion of this struggle with the victory of the supporters of the use of icons is celebrated in the entire Orthodox Church on the first Sunday of Lent as the Feast of Orthodoxy.

Orthodox icon painting is not to be separated from its ecclesiastical and liturgical function. The painting of the image is, in fact, a liturgical act in which the artist-monks prepare themselves by fasting, penance, and consecrating the materials necessary for the painting. Before the finished icon is used, it likewise is consecrated. Not viewed as a human work, an icon (according to 8th- and 9th-century literature) was understood instead as a manifestation of a heavenly archetype. A golden background is used on icons to indicate a heavenly perspective. The icon is always painted two-dimensionally because it is viewed as a window through which worshipers can view the heavenly archetype from their earthly position. A figure in the three-dimensionality of the plastic arts, such as sculpture, would thus be an abandonment of the character of epiphany (appearance).

Ideas of the iconic liturgy dominate the manuals of the Orthodox icon painters. The model of the Christ figure for icon painters was found in an apocryphal writing of the early church--the Letter of Lentulus, which was a legendary letter supposedly written by a certain Lentulus, who was named consul in the 12th year of the emperor Tiberius. As the superior of Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Judaea, he by chance was staying in Palestine at the time of the trial of Jesus. In an official report to the Emperor about the trial of Jesus, Lentulus included an official warrant for Jesus with a description of the Christ. This apocryphal description furnished the basic model for the Byzantine Christ type.

The Trinity also may not be represented, except in those forms in which, according to the view of Orthodox church doctrine, the Trinity showed itself in the divine Word of the Old and New Testaments. Early church theology interpreted an Old Testament passage (Genesis 18:1 ff.) as an appearance of the divine Trinity--namely, the visit of the three men with the patriarch Abraham at Mamre in Palestine. Also included in icons of the Trinity are the appearance of the three divine Persons--symbolized as a hand, a man, and a dove--at the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16 ff.) and the Pentecostal scene, in which the Lord, ascended to heaven, sits at the right hand of God and the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) is sent down to the Apostles in the form of fiery tongues (Acts 2). Another Trinitarian iconic scene is the Transfiguration of Jesus at Mount Tabor (Matthew 17:2).

Icons of Mary were probably first created because of the development of Marian doctrines in the 3rd and 4th centuries. The lack of New Testament descriptions of Mary was compensated by numerous legends of Mary that concerned themselves especially with wondrous appearances of miraculous icons of the mother of God. In Russian and many other Orthodox churches, including the monasteries at Mount Athos, such miraculous mother of God icons, "not made by hands," have been placed where the appearances of the mother of God took place.

The consecration liturgy of the icons of saints expresses the fact that the saints themselves, for their part, are viewed as likenesses of Christ. In them, the image of God has been renewed again through the working of salvation of the incarnate Son of God.

xvi) Theology of icons.

The foes of images explicitly deny that the New Testament, in relation to the Old Testament, contains any new attitude toward images. Their basic theological outlook is that the divine is beyond all earthly form in its transcendence and spirituality; representation in earthly substances and forms of the divine already indicate its profanation. The relationship to God, who is Spirit, can only be a purely spiritual one; the worship of the individual as well as the community can happen only "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). Similarly, the divine archetype can also be realized only spiritually and morally in life. The religious path of the action of God upon humans is not the path of external influence upon the senses but rather that of spiritual action upon the mind and the will. Such an effect does not come about through the art of painting. Opponents of icons thus claim that the only way to reach an understanding of the truth is by studying the writings of the Old and New Testaments, which are filled with the Spirit of God.

The decisive contrast between the iconodules (image lovers) and the iconoclasts (image destroyers) is found in their understanding of Christology. The iconodules based their theology upon the view of Athanasius--who reflected Alexandrian Christology--that Christ, the God become human, is the visible, earthly, and corporeal icon of the heavenly Father, created by God himself. The iconoclasts, on the other hand, explain, in terms of ancient Antiochene Christology, that the image conflicts with the ecclesiastical dogma of the Person of the Redeemer. It is unseemly, according to their views, to desire to portray a personality such as Christ, who is himself divine, because that would mean pulling the divine down into the materialistic realm. (see also Index: Alexandria, School of, Antioch, School of)

The theology of the iconoclasts of the Reformation period in the West made use, for the most part, of the same arguments. For the radical Protestants, the realization of God is only in the Word and sacrament.

After iconic theology had overcome opposition in the Byzantine imperial church, there were numerous Christian groups--especially in Asia Minor--in which the old hostility toward church icons was still maintained and which, in part, already had been forced into positions of heresy, such as the Paulicians (members of a 7th-9th-century dualistic sect).

The history of iconoclasm began in the early church with an emphatic (and, from the viewpoint of lovers of Greek and Roman culture, catastrophic) iconoclastic movement that led to the annihilation of nearly all of the sacred art of the pagan religions of the Roman Empire. In Western Christendom, an iconoclastic attitude was again expressed in various medieval lay movements and sects, such as the Cathari and the Waldenses. Iconoclasm underwent a revolutionary outbreak in the 16th-century Reformation in Germany, France, and England. Despite the different historical types of iconoclasm, a surprising uniformity in regard to their affective structure and theological argumentation exists. The Iconoclastic Controversy of the 7th and 8th centuries also became a point of contention in the Western Church. To be sure, the latter had recognized the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787), in which iconoclasm was condemned. Nevertheless, an entirely different situation existed in the West. The Frankish-Germanic Church was a young church in which images were much more infrequent than in the old Byzantine Church, in which holy icons had accumulated over the centuries. In the West there was still no Christian pictorial art as highly developed as in the East. Also, Christianity there did not have to struggle against a highly developed pagan pictorial art. Donar, a Germanic god, reputedly whispered in a holy oak, and Boniface merely had to fell the Donar oak in order to demonstrate the superiority of Christ over the pagan god. Among the Germanic tribes in the West, there was no guild of sculptors or goldsmiths, as in Ephesus (Acts 19: 24 ff.), who would have been able to protest in the name of their gods against the Christian iconoclasts.

The Western viewpoint is revealed most clearly in the formulations of the synodal decisions on the question of images, as they were promulgated in the Frankish kingdom in the Libri CaroliniCharlemagne's code of laws. In this work it is emphasized that images have only a representative character. Thus, they are understood not as an appearance of the saint but only as a visualization of the holy Persons for the support of recollecting spiritual meanings that have been expounded intellectually through sermons. Hence, this led to an essentially instructional and aesthetic concept of images. The Western Church also viewed images as the Holy Scriptures' substitute for the illiterate--i.e., for the overwhelming majority of church people in this period. Images thus became the Bible for the laity. Pope Adrian I, who encouraged Western recognition of the iconodulic Council of Nicaea, also referred to the perspicuity of the icons. This idea of perspicuity--i.e., the appeal to one's imagination to picture the biblical persons and events to oneself--enabled him to recognize the Greek high esteem for the image without completely accepting the complicated theological foundation for icon veneration. The ideas articulated in the Libri Carolini remained decisive for the Western tradition. According to Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest medieval theologians of the West, images in the church serve a threefold purpose: (1) for the instruction of the uneducated in place of books; (2) for illustrating and remembering the mystery of the incarnation; and (3) for awakening the passion of devotion, which is kindled more effectively on the basis of viewing than through hearing.

In the Western theology of icons, the omnipotence of the two-dimensionality of church art also was abandoned. Alongside church pictorial painting, ecclesiastical plastic arts developed; even painting in the three-dimensional form was introduced through the means of perspective. Art, furthermore, became embedded in the entire life of personal religiosity. The holy image became the devotional image; the worshiper placed himself before an image and became engrossed in his meditation of the mysteries of the Christian revelation. As devotional images, the images became the focal points for contemplation and mystical representation. Conversely, the mystical vision itself worked its way back again into pictorial art, in that what was beheld in the vision was reproduced in church art. The burden of ecclesiastical tradition, which weighs heavily upon Byzantine art, has been gradually abolished in the Western Church. In the Eastern Church the art form is just as fixed as ecclesiastical dogma; nothing may be changed in the heavenly prototypes. This idea plays little or no role in the West. There, religious art adjusts itself at any given time to the total religious disposition of the church, to the general religious mental posture, and also to religious needs. Religious art in the West also has been shaped by the imaginative fantasy of the individual artist. Thus, from the outset, a much more individual church art developed in the West. Thus, it became possible to dissociate sacred history from its dogmatic milieu and to transpose it from the past into the actual present, thereby allowing for an adaptable development of ecclesiastical art.

xvii) Missions.

The missions and expansion of Christianity are among the most unusual of historical occurrences. Other world religions, such as Buddhism and Islam, also have raised a claim to universal validity, but no world religion other than Christianity has succeeded in realizing this claim through missionary expansion over the entire world (see also below The Christian community and the world: Christian missions ).

The unique global expansion of Christianity is directly related to its expectation of the end time, in the imminent expectation of the return of Christ. The Christian expectation of the end time never consisted simply of a passive yearning for the coming Kingdom of God. Being grasped by faith in its immediately impending arrival was expressed instead in an intense activation and acceleration of efforts to prepare the world for the return of Christ and the coming of the Kingdom. This state of being grasped transformed itself into the pressing duty to "prepare the way of the Lord" (Matthew 3:3) and to remove all resistance to the establishment of the Kingdom on Earth. (see also Index: eschatology)

This eschatological pressure stands behind both the earlier and the later achievements of an ever wider expansion of Christianity. Columbus, in undertaking to cross the ocean in a westerly direction in the 15th century, for example, believed that Satan had settled in India, thus successfully disrupting the extension of the gospel and delaying the return of Christ. According to his eschatological calculations, the time for the return of Christ was nearly at hand; thus, India had to be reached by the shortest way possible so that the last bulwark of Satan might be removed through Christian missions. The same eschatological expectation drove the Spanish Jesuit Francis Xavier to India and Japan in the 16th century. Protestant world missions, commencing a century later, also were influenced by the eschatological expectation of the end time (e.g., the missions of the German Lutherans Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Plütschau in India in the early 18th century and the missions of the Puritans among the Indians in Massachusetts in the late 17th century). The first seal of Massachusetts displayed an Indian with a beckoning hand and the inscription "Come over and help us"--the words of the Macedonian who appeared to the Apostle Paul in a night vision (Acts 16:9).

The leading missionaries of all times have accomplished great feats of extensive travels. On his numerous missionary journeys, the Apostle Paul showed a greater accomplishment in distances traveled than any known general of the Roman army, official of the Roman Empire, or trader of his time. Francis Xavier also traveled more than any other known person in his times and endured intense physical exertions on land and sea. John R. Mott, founder of the World's Student Christian Federation, was the most widely traveled man of the first half of the 20th century. The catchphrase coined by him, "Jesus Christ to the nations in this generation," has been the basic principle of all the great and small missionary impulses that have contributed to the worldwide expansion of Christianity.

This eschatological aspect of Christian missions has continued through the 20th century, especially among Pentecostals and Adventists. The missionary institutions of these churches come from the tradition of the conservative evangelical churches, which maintain a strong inclination toward an imminent expectation.

Related to the eschatological motif in missions is the ideal of ascetic homelessness. In imitation of the homeless Christ, who "has nowhere to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20), the early medieval Scots-Irish monks--as radical Christian ascetics--demanded the renunciation of that which is dearest to humans: one's own home. "For the sake of Christ" they assumed ascetic homelessness by leaving their cloisters--often in groups of 12 under the leadership of a 13th--and ventured abroad. They traveled to continental Europe--especially in Celtic areas--as far as Switzerland and over the Alps and also went to Iceland. Similarly, Russian Orthodox hermits and monks, who often had to flee because of repressive measures by the state and the state church, conducted missions in areas northeast of the Soviet Union, Siberia, the Aleutian Islands, and Alaska. An example of a modern ascetic missionary is the French nobleman Charles-Eugène de Foucauld (1858-1916), who became a martyred anchorite missionary among the Bedouin of the Sahara.


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