Christian Tradition course exposed me to the Christian Tradition based on Biblical and church history. The course taught me the differences and similarities of Christian Tradition from other major world religions. I learned about the significance of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Trinity based on the teachings of the Bible. The course also briefly covered 2,000 years of church history but with emphasis on the impact of the Council of Nicea, Council of Chalcedon, and John and Charles Wesley on Christianity. The professor emphasized the importance of the reformation that sparked a revolution in the church.
The course began by distinguishing Christianity from other major world religions both in similarities and differences. Major religions included Judaism, Buddhism, and Taoism just to name a few. All religions are similar in that they believe in a higher power. They have doctrines and teachings about salvation and a code of conduct for living. Christianity is unique in that the people believe in theism. Theism is the belief that God created the world and actively rules over and cares for the world. Christians also believe in deism which is the belief that God is absent in the world that he created but allows his creation to develop with direct interference and no revelation or miracles. Another belief that makes Christianity special is the belief in pantheism. Pantheism is the belief that God and nature is one and the same. All these distinctions make Christianity the most unique religion compared to other major religions.
The course emphasized the significance of God. God created the earth, heavens and living creatures of the world. God also created the first people on earth, Adam and Eve who bought sin into the world. God is father to his children or people that believe in him. He is caring, eternal and infinite. He asks us to trust him and ask him for forgiveness when we sin. His forgiving ways are revealed in Genesis 3 when he looks for Adam and Eve after they ate the forbidden apple. He still seeks to have a relationship with them even though they sinned. God “banished him from the Garden of Eden” (Genesis 3:23) in order to discipline them out of love and for Adam and Eve’s own sake so they can’t eat from the tree of life. We know God through his blessings and good intentions. He wants the best for his children and does everything out of love.
Jesus is God’s son that was sent to earth to be crucified on the cross for the people’s sins. The reason for his birth is because of all the corruption and evil of the people. Jesus is significant in that he is the answer to salvation and entrance to heaven. Jesus is the Messiah and also claims his own coming as the Messiah in the New Testament. The people’s faith in Jesus promises rescue and the key to heaven. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus, the prophecy of the Messiah could not be fulfilled and mans’ destiny would remain a mystery. Jesus refers to himself as “the light of the world” (John 8:12) because darkness does not lie within him. Jesus is God in human form because Jesus possesses human characteristics in the Bible. Jesus faced temptation, vulnerability and hunger when Satan tried to seduce Jesus to sin in Matthew 4. His significance is observed on Christmas which marks the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in the city of Bethlehem.
The third existence of God is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth, love, life and power. He is co-existent, co-eternal, and co-equal with God and Jesus. The Holy Spirit is sent by God through Jesus to reprove the world of sin and prepare the church for Christ’s return. Jesus said before he ascends into Heaven that he will send the Comforter and Counselor. The Holy Spirit enters our hearts when we think about a truth. He is the spirit of God and his role is to guide us to on the path to God.
God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit together are called the Trinity. The Trinity describes the three-in-one unity of three person joined by the closest ties of love and common purpose to appear as one. The role of the father is sovereign king and eternal lover of our souls. The role of the son or Jesus is the savior and teacher. The role of the Holy Spirit is the empowerer and evangelist. All these roles combined equal a mystical element that describes the Trinity or another name is Godhead. To understand the Trinity, God is the sun that shines while Jesus is the rays of the sun and the Holy Spirit is the warmth that is felt from the sun. All personalities are equal and combined together called the Trinity.
The role and purpose of the Church is to create a community of people who believe in the same faith of God. The Church is a foundation of the faith in God. The Church allowed people to unite on common grounds and follow the words of God. The place of worship made people feel accountable because they were in it together. The Church raised the importance of prayer and spirituality because that is how one communicates to God. The Church emphasizes fellowship, dedication to the faith, selflessness. The Church gives power to the Christian people because they are a group and not individuals anymore.
One of the most important events in church history includes the Council of Nicea. The First Council of Nicea happened in 325 and involved the first gathering of Christian bishops and the Roman Empire not as enemies but as allies. The bishops wanted to solve the dispute over Arianism. Arianism is the belief that Christ was more than human but something less than God. Arianism taught the people that Jesus was created being subordinate to God while the bishops believed Jesus was fully divine and fully human at the same time. The Emperor Constantine summoned the Council of Nicea in order to agree on a universally accepted definition of Jesus Christ. As it turned out, the gathering did not settle the disagreement between the Arianist and the bishops for another century they battled for supremacy.
It wasn’t until the Council at Chalcedon in today’s Turkey that the church fathers concluded that Jesus was completely and fully God. They decided that this “this total man and this total God was one completely normal person” (1990, Shelley, p. 11). Jesus unites two personality and characters of human and divine into one person. The Council of Chalcedon established an agreement of who Jesus is. “Jesus was a normal being, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, he could fulfill every demand of God’s moral law, and he could suffer and die a real death” (1990, Shelley, p. 11). On the other hand, since he is also God, Jesus’s death on the cross was capable of fulfilling Godly righteousness. The Council of Chalcedon was possible as a result of the first Council of Nicea. The Council of Nivea paved the way for the orthodox or conventional understanding of Jesus Christ.
The Reformation began after Johann Guttenberg invented printing from movable type. His new process sparked a revolution in society and in the church because books were produced in large numbers and at lower prices. Literacy and education spread as more Bibles were printed, as more people became readers and as readers demanded more books. As a result, not only did scholars and monks have access to a Bible, the common people did as well. In the Church, Gutenberg’s invention made the Reformation possible because the Reformation was in some ways a battle of books and pointing out errors in someone else.
The Reformation began in 1517 when Martin Luther posted his theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Martin Luther was a former monk who demanded for radical changes in the corrupted church. He was against the church who granted forgiveness called indulgences in return for monetary sacrifices from the people. Luther believed baptism is the only indulgence necessary for salvation and trusting in God alone will save oneself. He basically said indulgences do not remove guilt, Pope could not God, and the Pope could only ask for his own forgiveness. Luther eventually attacked the church with his Ninety-Five Theses that described all the wrong doings of the church. Luther represented Christian freedom and the courage to “honor no power other than the power of the Word of God” (1990, Gritsch, p. 37). Luther was the catalyst that bought on a chain reaction of events that tore Western Europe away from the Roman Catholic Church.
The Reformation shattered the long-established unity of Western Europe and spread into smaller and reformed religious groups. The Reformation marked the recruitment of Protestantism such as Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, and Anabaptist to name a few. If not for the Reformation, people today would all be Roman Catholic who is ruled by the Pope and there would not be denominations in the Church. There would not be a Bible present in schools or homes and scripture would not be taught. The Reformation basically spitted the Church and its impact was drastic in the Christian Tradition.
John and Charles Wesley were two ordained ministers whose conversion to the faith has made a great impact of Christianity. John and Charles Wesley were brothers who lived by good works and not by faith in Jesus until they converted. John experienced a personal conversion within himself after his trip from Georgia when he felt his heart warmed. Charles experienced Pentocost on May 21, 1738 and documented his experience in his journal that the Spirit of God “chased away the darkness of my disbelief” (1990, Green, p. 44). Charles wrote six to seven-thousand hymns and preached over 40,000 sermons to lay people such as coal miners and commissioners.
The Wesley brother’s lives continued to affect the church such as the Methodist denominations that was still comprised of Wesley’s teachings. Their teachings emphasized upon preaching, benefit of small prayer groups that called attention to accountability and community, and the concern for the poor and oppressed people. John and Charles highlighted the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and the church. They stressed the importance of literature and education in the common man and even formed many colleges and seminaries. One great example is the Eastern Nazarene College which is a Wesleyan educational school.
Overall, the course effectively taught me the key elements in Biblical events and Church history. In addition to learning about the Christian faith and what God has to offer to me, I was introduced to the most important major events in church history that made an impact on Christianity today from Luther’s Ninety-Five Thesis that sparked the Revolution to John and Charles Wesley’s conversion. The course emphasized the impact of these events and how it has shaped Christianity to become what it is today. I did not have prior knowledge about Christianity but I learned more than I expected to gain from the course.
Green, R.J. (1990). John & Charles Wesley Experience Conversions. Christian History, 28, 11.
Gritsch, E.W. (1990). Luther Posts the 95 Theses. Christian History, 28, 35-37Shelley, B.L. (1990). The First Council of Nicea. Christian History, 28, 11.