Sunday, November 07, 2010

Warriors for Doctrine

In lieu of my usual weekend post from The Fundamentals, I am going to take a brief detour and put up a clip from Philip Schaff's "History of the Christian Church."

Born in Switzerland, Schaff eventually came to the United States and was a professor at Union Theological Seminary until his death in 1893. In Volume 3 of his church history, he takes up the issue of the early church and the battles over doctrine. It's worth reading.

The Nicene and Chalcedonian age is the period of the formation and ecclesiastical settlement of the ecumenical orthodoxy; that is, the doctrines of the holy trinity and of the incarnation and the divine-human person of Christ, in which the Greek, Latin and evangelical churches to this day in their symbolical books agree, in opposition to the heresies of Arianism and Appolinarianism, Nestorianism and Eutychianism. Besides these trinitarian and christological doctrines, anthropology also, and soteriology, particularly the doctrines of sin and grace, in opposition to Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, were developed and brought to a relative settlement; only, however, in the Latin church, for the Greek took very little part in the Pelagian controversy.

The fundamental nature of these doctrines, the greatness of the church fathers who were occupied with them, and the importance of the result, give this period the first place after the apostolic in the history of theology. In no period, excepting the Reformation of the sixteenth century, have there been so momentous and earnest controversies in doctrine, and so lively an interest in them. The church was now in possession of the ancient philosophy and learning of the Roman empire, and applied them to the unfolding and vindication of the Christian truth. In the lead of these controversies stood church teachers of imposing talents and energetic piety, not mere book men, but venerable theological characters, men all of a piece, as great in acting and suffering as in thinking. To them, theology was a sacred business of heart and life, and upon them we may pass the judgment of Eusebius respecting Origen; "Their life was as their word, and their word was as their life."

The theological controversies absorbed the intellectual activity of that time, and shook the formation of the church and the empire. With the purest zeal for truth were mingled much of the
odium and rabies theologorum, and the whole host of theological passions; which are the deepest and most bitter of passions, because religion is concerned with eternal interests.

That last line really arrested me. "Religion is concerned with eternal interests." When I consider how loosely some in today's evangelical church throw doctrine around, I have to wonder whether they really have eternity in view at all.

On another note, I think we can also see that theological controversies never go away. That's because we have an enemy of our souls whose zeal to deceive has never relented. All the more so in these last days, and that makes it all the more important to hold on to biblical truth.

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