Trinity, Incarnation, and Original Sin in Christianity

Please Read the textbook chapter and listen the lecture. After that, watch a video from youtube v=KQLfgaUoQCw
Part1: For the first page of the assignment, please write three really short responses about the text, lecture, or video you’ve done.
Part2: Complete all the questions with really thoughtful answers.
*Please write everything in very easy understanding English, use simple grammar and vocabulary.

Christianity Reading Questions
1. Define the following terms, COMPREHENSIVELY:
Original sin
2. What were the various challenges in the modern period to traditional Protestant evangelical and Catholic worldviews (pp. 152-57)
3. When did the New Testament first begin to take the form we have it now
4. What kinds of texts are found in the New Testament
5. Make an outline of the main events of Jesus life as described in the New Testament. (pp. 158-61)
6. Who was Paul Why is he important Be specific.
7. What is the meaning of the term supercession as used in this chapter
8. What is the meaning of the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of two natures, one person
9. What year did Christianity become the official religion of the Roman empire
10. Who was St. Augustine What was Augustine s view concerning the relationship between church and state (religious and secular authority)
11. What is monasticism What gave rise to it, and what were the consequences of monasticism
12. What are the seven sacraments What function do they serve List and describe them.
13. Who was Thomas Aquinas What was his attitude toward reason
14. Who were Martin Luther and John Calvin What were their attitudes toward reason How, according to Luther, is one saved
15. What is the meaning of the term justification
16. What event happened in 1517
17. How did Luther criticize the teachings of the Catholic Church What was the result of these criticisms
18. Who were the Anabaptists and Anglicans
19. What happened at the Council of Trent
20. What are the four key concepts of Enlightenment thought What impact did these Enlightenment ideas have on Christian thought
21. What is deism
22. How does pietism respond to these rationalist/Enlightenment ideas
23. What is liberation theology

Trinity, Incarnation, and Original Sin in Christianity

NOTE: The material written in red is a bit advanced for the purposes of this course, so you can skip it if you prefer. That material is there for your own edification, and to give you a more complete picture of these complicated theological issues.

I. The Doctrine of the Trinity
As you probably know, Christians believe in the Trinity. This is one of the beliefs that distinguish Christianity from Judaism and Islam. So, what exactly is the Trinity Let s first define it, and then we can ask why Christians would believe such a thing.

So, the doctrine of the Trinity states that there is one God who is three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person is fully divine, eternal, and distinct; however, they are not three gods, but one God, since they are all of the same substance (Greek: homoousios). In other words, there is one God but three persons, each of whom is fully God and yet distinct from the other persons. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, but the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father.

Now, you might be wondering how God can really be one if the three persons are really distinct. How can God be both one and three at the same time Isn t that illogical Well, Christians don t believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is illogical; rather, they would say that the trinity is a mystery. What does it mean to call something a mystery Quite simply, it amounts to saying that it is something that one cannot fully comprehend, and that therefore must be taken on faith. This may sound like taking an easy way out; can t you get people to believe anything by calling it a mystery It is hard not to come to this conclusion. However, one thing that must be kept in mind is that for all monotheists, Jew, Christian, or Muslim, God is transcendent, which means that he surpasses our understanding precisely because he is not like anything else in creation. So ultimately, our language and our ideas are not up to the task of describing God; we cannot form an idea of him that does justice to his true nature. So for all monotheists, it will be no surprise that when we really try to understand God, we reach a point where we are forced to acknowledge that he cannot be understood. So Christianity is not unique in thinking that God is in some sense mysterious. And Jews and Muslims do not object to the Christian idea of God because it is mysterious, but rather because they believe that some of the things that Christians say about God violate a strict monotheism, namely that there are three distinct persons who are each fully divine. The Qur an is very clear in rejecting this idea. Of course, Christians really do believe that the doctrine of the Trinity does not compromise a strict monotheism. Who is right It s not our job here to reach a verdict, simply to understand the various positions.

The doctrine of the Trinity is not found explicitly in the New Testament, though there are many passages from both New and Old Testaments that Christian theologians have used to support this doctrine. The doctrine of the Trinity was forged by the Church Fathers through intense debate and controversy with numerous rival factions that would ultimately be declared unorthodox and heretical. In fact, the explicit formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity came in response to the ideas of Arius (c.250-c.336), a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt, who denied the divinity of Jesus, arguing that Christ was created by God. His position can be summarized as follows:
1. The Son and the Father do not have the same essence (ousia).
2. The Son is a created being, even though he is to be recognized as first and foremost among created beings.
3. Although the Son was the creator of the world, and therefore existed before the world, there was nevertheless a time when the Son did not exist.
The bottom line here is that Jesus was, according to Arius, a creature, and therefore not God. For Arius, it was absurd to think that an immutable God could become incarnate and be subject to pain and death. Ultimately, however, Arius denial of the divinity of Jesus was rejected, and the orthodox formulation of Trinitarian doctrine, as expressed in the Nicene Creed, was developed as a response to his ideas.

Nicene Creed:
We believe in one God, the Father, the almighty, the maker of all things seen and unseen. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the son of God; begotten from the Father; only-begotten that is, from the substance of the Father; God from God; light from light; true God from true God; begotten not made; of one substance with the Father; through whom all things in heaven and on earth came into being; who on account of us human beings and our salvation came down and took flesh, becoming a human being; he suffered and rose again on the third day, ascended into the heavens; and will come again to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit.

As I have said, there is something paradoxical, or even contradictory or illogical, about the idea that God is both three and one. So you might imagine that when Christians tried to explain how this idea of the Trinity works, they frequently found themselves unwittingly emphasizing the three at the expense of the one, or alternatively, the one at the expense of the three. The question is: how does one maintain the distinctness of the persons without collapsing into tri-theism, the idea that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three equal, independent, and autonomous divine beings

One of the ironies of Christian theology is that there are many people who, in the attempt to avoid heretical or unorthodox ideas, produced ideas that themselves came to be regarded as heretical. A case in point here is the heresy called modalism, also known as Sabellianism. What this heresy says is that the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit is to be explained in terms of three different ways or modes of God s self-revelation. God reveals himself as creator and lawgiver (God the Father), savior or redeemer in the person of Jesus Christ (God the Son), and as one who sanctifies and gives eternal life (God the Holy Spirit). This modalist view has the benefit, as you can see, of avoiding tri-theism; but it came under criticism precisely because, in its attempt to avoid tri-theism, it failed to maintain the distinctness of the three persons. Sometimes you just can t win.

In any case, the doctrine of the Trinity provides a good example of the role of creeds in Christianity. A creed, for example the Nicene Creed, spells out what the correct belief is; in the case of the Trinity, the correct belief is the idea that God is one substance but three persons. And any attempt to explain exactly how this works, any attempt to explain it or provide a visual model to understand it, must conform to this language set forth in the creed. In this way, the church leaves some room for theological speculation, yet draws the boundaries within which this speculation can take place.

II. The Doctrine of the Incarnation
The second feature of Christian monotheism that sets it apart from Judaism and Islam is the doctrine of the incarnation. This is the idea that God specifically the second person of the Trinity, God the Son took on human form in Roman Palestine shortly before the dawn of the first millennium, and for 34 years or so walked the earth.

Of course, the idea of divine incarnation, while it may be strange from a Jewish or Muslim perspective, was hardly an unusual idea in the ancient world. In ancient Greek and Roman thought, there are plenty of myths about gods who have children, or even gods who mate with humans and produce divine/human hybrids. It was also possible for a god to take the form of a human or even an animal. And in some cases, humans could become gods; some Roman emperors declared themselves divine, for example.

Nevertheless, as the notion of the incarnation began to pervade early Christian thought, Christians began to ask: what exactly is the relationship between Jesus humanity and his divinity Here are a number of unorthodox ideas that came to be rejected by the church:
1. Docetism: Jesus was not human; he only seemed to have a human body (the Greek verb dokeo means to seem or to appear ).
2. Adoptionism: Jesus was a regular man who had been divinized by God; Jesus became divine when God adopted him as his Son.
3. Apollinarianism: Though Jesus was human, the Word itself took the place of his human soul or mind. In other words, Jesus was a divine mind in a human body.
4. Nestorianism: The human essence of Jesus Christ and the divine essence of Jesus Christ are separate, and therefore there are two persons, the man Jesus Christ and the divine Logos (the second person of the Trinity) that dwells in the man. Consequently, one cannot say that God suffered, or God was crucified, because it was the man Jesus Christ that suffered and was crucified. Likewise, one cannot refer to Mary as theotokos, Mother of God, since she was the mother of human person of Jesus Christ, not the divine one.
5. Monophysitism: There is only one nature in Christ, a divine one. His human nature was absorbed into his divine nature like a cube of sugar dissolved in water.
The orthodox position was that Jesus Christ was to be regarded as having two natures, one human and one divine (against Monophysitism), united in one person. While these two natures are indeed different, they are nevertheless mysteriously united in one person (against Nestorianism). One can indeed say, then, that when Jesus Christ suffered and died, God suffered and died. This formulation, much like the orthodox formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity, is paradoxical insofar as it involves an apparent contradiction: the human and divine natures are separate yet united. God became truly human without thereby ceasing to be truly God.

III. The Doctrine of Original Sin
Soteriology is the part of Christian theology that deals with salvation. It attempts to explain: 1) what salvation is; and 2) how one attains it. As for the first question, the answer is fairly straightforward: for Christians, salvation consists in winning eternal life in heaven, and avoiding eternal damnation in hell. But how, precisely, is one saved This question is a bit more difficult to answer for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that many different answers are found within the Christian tradition. One point to keep in mind, however, is that the question, How do humans attain salvation presupposes that humanity in its current state is not saved, but damned. And this is indeed the Christian view.

Another way of formulating this problem is to say that the relationship between God and humanity is broken on account of human sin. In order to be saved, the human being must be reconciled with God; another word for this reconciliation between God and the human being is atonement, which literally means at-one-ment, being at one with or in harmony with another being. (William Tyndale, the first person to translate the Bible into English directly from the original Hebrew and Greek, coined this word in 1526 to translate the Latin word reconciliatio). Now, this reconciliation can only take place if this sinful humanity can be made righteous, or justified. But how does this justification take place For Christians, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to reconciliation with God. But how precisely does Jesus death and resurrection bring about this atonement To understand why Jesus death and resurrection is necessary, it is first necessary to understand the problem that his death and resurrection solves: original sin.

St. Augustine on Original Sin
For St. Augustine (354-430 CE), Bishop of Hippo (present-day Algeria), Adam and Eve were created with free will, but as a result of their sin, this free will was weakened and incapacitated (though not totally destroyed). As a result of our damaged free will, we have a tendency to choose evil; evil impulses, one can say, exert a more powerful influence over us than good ones. This human being is born in this general state of sinfulness, and it is something over which human beings have no ultimate control. Augustine therefore frequently talks about original sin as a hereditary disease passed down from Adam to all subsequent generations, weakening and incapacitating them. Jesus, then, is a physician who heals humanity from this disease.

Given this bleak state of humanity, Augustine says that humans are completely dependent upon God for their salvation. God acts to save humanity through an act of grace (gratia), which, Augustine emphasizes is freely given (gratis) in other words, we have done nothing to merit God s grace, and so it is a gift freely given rather than something we have earned. God is under no obligation to save us, and Augustine in fact insists that God is perfectly within his right to damn us eternally on account of our sinful nature. This last point may seem objectionable; if we are born with original sin and are by nature unable to resist sin, then how can God hold us accountable for it Nevertheless, Augustine believed that humanity not only inherited a sinful nature from Adam and Eve, but inherited Adam and Eve s guilt as well. (It should be said that Augustine s view here is a fairly extreme one; not all Christians accept the idea that human s share in Adam and Eve s guilt; the Reformation theologians Martin Luther and John Calvin, however, heavily emphasized this Augustinian view.) Augustine argues that it is through Jesus death and resurrection that God grants salvation to human beings, even though they have not earned it and do not deserve it, but in fact deserve condemnation and damnation instead.

The Pelagian Controversy
Augustine found himself in an intense debate with Pelagius and a number of his supporters, who held a set of beliefs quite contrary to those of Augustine. Their beliefs can be summarized as follows:
1. Humans possess a complete and uncorrupted free will, and are therefore fully responsible for their sins.
2. Humans have no inherent disposition towards sin, and it is always possibly for them to be righteous before God.
3. God does bestow his grace upon us, but this grace only consists in a) guiding us as to how to be righteous by revealing his laws and commandments; b) providing us an example of a righteous life in the person of Jesus Christ; and c) graciously forgiving our past sins when we sincerely repent and as forgiveness.
Even though Augustine s views were not universally endorsed in the Christian church, Pelagianism was nevertheless universally condemned as a heresy precisely because it amounts to a denial that Jesus death and resurrection plays a necessary role in salvation; Pelagius essentially reduces Jesus life to nothing more than an example of perfect behavior. Of course, all Christians do believe that Jesus life and death provides a perfect example for the human being to follow; but they believe it is something more than that as well.

Theories of Atonement
While all Christians agree that atonement comes through Christ s death and resurrection, we still have not answered precisely how his death and resurrection accomplishes this. The fact is that there is no universal agreement on the how; one finds many different explanations throughout the history of Christian theology. Here is a selection of theories that have been offered by theologians to understand how Jesus death and resurrection brings about reconciliation with God:

Jesus Death as Sacrifice: The New Testament frequently depicts Jesus death as a sacrifice offered to God on behalf of humanity. Jesus is thus acts as a mediator between God and humanity by acting as both the sacrificial victim and the priest performing the sacrifice. While this idea draws upon the Old Testament notion of sacrifice, it differs in that Jesus sacrifice is understood as a once-and-for-all sacrifice.

Jesus Death and Resurrection as a Victory over Satan (Ransom Theory): In Mark s gospel, Jesus says that he has come to give his life as a ransom for many (10:45). This word ransom refers to an amount of money that is paid to free someone from captivity or slavery. The obvious question that Jesus words raise is: to whom is this ransom being paid Who is it that holds humanity in captivity For a number of Greek patristic writers, there was an obvious answer: Satan. While there are a number of variations in this theory depending upon the particular author, the general idea is that through Adam s sin, Satan acquired rights over sinful humanity. However, when Satan tried to claim Jesus, who was sinless, he overstepped his bounds, and thereby forfeited his rights over humanity. One proponent of this theory, Gregory of Nyssa, used the image of a baited hook to explain this: Satan went after the bait (Jesus humanity) thinking he had rights over it, but then got caught on the hook of his divinity. As such, the power of Satan over human souls is broken.

Jesus Death as Rendering Satisfaction for Humanity s Offense against God (Satisfaction Theory): This theory of atonement finds its classical expression in St. Anselm s (c.1033-1109) book, Why God Became Man. Anselm himself did not accept the ransom theory, because he found the idea that Satan can have rights over humanity to be objectionable, as well as the idea that God had to deceive Satan to redeem humanity (deception is not something usually associated with God). His argument is complex, but basically runs as follows: While God created humanity for the purpose of living in a state of eternal blessedness, this blessedness is nevertheless contingent upon obedience to God. However, human disobedience (sin) stands in the way of the fulfillment of God s plan for humanity. This situation can only be remedied if humanity pays for its sin. Humanity, however, does not have anything with which to pay for its sin; only God has the resources to pay. Therefore, the incarnation must take place; as God, Jesus Christ has the resources to pay, and as a human being, he can make the payment on behalf of humanity. This theory, then, is called a satisfaction theory of atonement because it understands Jesus death as a payment on behalf of humanity that satisfies the debt, as it were, that humanity incurs through sin.

Jesus Suffering and Death as a Punishment Received on Our Behalf (Substitution Theory): According to this theory, Jesus was punished for our sin our place, taking our guilt upon himself. The righteousness before God that humans thereby acquire through Jesus death is not their own righteousness (because human s are sinners), but the righteousness of Jesus Christ, who was obedient to God to the point of death. This view is particularly associated with the Protestant Reformers.

This is not a complete account of all of the theories of atonement that one finds in the Christian tradition, nor does it account for all of the subtleties introduced by various theologians throughout the centuries. But it should give you a sense that there are many different ways in which Christians have explained how Jesus death and resurrection brings about our salvation. And for many Christians, these are so many attempts to explain what is fundamentally a mystery; in other words, some Christians simply believe that Jesus death and resurrection makes our salvation possible, without claiming to understand exactly how it makes salvation possible.

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