Theological Anthroplogy (Sources of Early Christian Thought)


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During his earthly life, Morris proposes, Jesus Christ had two minds, with consciousness centered in the human mind. This human mind had partial access to the contents of the divine mind, while God the Son's divine mind had full access to the corresponding human mind.

The chief difficulty this view faces concerns the threat of Nestorianism the view, formally condemned by the Church, that there are two persons in the incarnate Christ. It is natural simply to identify persons with minds—or, at the very least, to assume that the number of minds equals the number of persons. If we go with such very natural assumptions, however, the two minds view leads directly to the view that the incarnation gives us two persons, contrary to orthodoxy. Moreover, one might wonder whether taking the two minds model seriously leads us to the view that Christ suffers from something like multiple personality disorder.

In response to both objections, however, one might note that contemporary psychology seems to provide resources which support the viability of the two minds model. As Morris points out elsewhere, the human mind is sometimes characterized as a system of somewhat autonomous subsystems. The normal human mind, for example, includes on these characterizations both a conscious mind the seat of awareness and an unconscious mind. It does not really matter for present purposes whether this psychological story is correct ; the point is just that it seems coherent, and seems neither to involve multiple personality nor to imply that what seems to be a single subject is, in reality, two distinct persons.

Morris proposes, then, that similar sorts of relations can be supposed to obtain between the divine and human mind of Christ. First, a brief note about terminology. But it is not a neutral term. Rather, it already embodies a partial theory about what human salvation involves and about what the work of Christ accomplishes.

In particular, it presupposes that saving human beings from death and separation from God primarily involves atoning for sin rather than say delivering human beings from some kind of bondage, repairing human nature, or something else. Obviously these terms are not all synonymous; so part of the task of an overall theology of salvation—a soteriology—is to sort out the relations among these various terms and phrases is salvation simply to be identified with eternal life, for example? That said, however, we do not ourselves intend to advocate on behalf of any particular terminology.

In what follows, we shall discuss only three of the most well-known and widely discussed theories or families of theories about what the work of Jesus accomplishes on behalf of human beings. All take the suffering and death of Jesus to be an integral part of his work on our behalf; but the first theory holds Jesus' resurrection and ascension also to be absolutely central to that work, and the second theory holds his sinless life to be of near-equal importance.

Discussing these theories under three separate headings as we do below may foster the illusion that what we have are three mutually exclusive views, each marking off a wholly distinct camp in the history of soteriological theorizing, and each aiming to provide a full accounting of what Jesus' work contributes to human salvation from death and separation from God. As we have already indicated, however, a variety of terms and images are used in the Bible to characterize what Jesus accomplished and, in contrast with the doctrines of the trinity and incarnation, we do not have for the doctrine of salvation an ecumenical conciliar prononouncement i.

Consequently, it is no surprise that many thinkers appropriate imagery from more than one of the theories described below or others besides to explain their understanding of the nature and efficacy of Jesus' work. The ransom theory, also known as the Christus Victor theory is generally regarded as the dominant theory of the Patristic period, and has been attributed to such early Church Fathers as Origen, Athanasius, and especially Gregory of Nyssa.

One might question, however, whether any of these theologians ever intended to offer the ransom story about to be described as a theory of the atonement, rather than simply an extended metaphor. What does seem clear, however, is that they at least intended to emphasize victory over sin, death, and so on as one of the principle salvific effects of the work of Christ. The ransom theory takes as its point of departure the idea that human beings are in a kind of bondage to sin, death, and the Devil.

The basic view, familiar enough now from literature and film, is that God and the Devil are in a sort of competition for souls, and the rules of the competition state that anyone stained by sin must die and then forever exist as the Devil's prisoner in hell. As the view is often developed, human sin gives the Devil a legitimate right to the possession of human souls. Thus, much as God loves us and would otherwise desire for us never to die and, furthermore, to enjoy life in heaven with him, the sad fact is that we, by our sins, have secured a much different destiny for ourselves.

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God's Many Splendored Image: Theological Anthropology for Christian Formation

But here is where the work of Christ is supposed to come in. According to the ransom view, it would be unfitting for God simply to violate the pre-ordained rules of the competition and snatch our souls out of the Devil's grasp.

(1) Systematic Theology I - Anthropology (The Doctrine of Man)

But it is not at all unfitting for God to pay the Devil a ransom in exchange for our freedom. Christ's death is that ransom.

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By living a sinless life and then dying like a sinner, Christ pays a price that, in the eyes of all parties to the competition, earns back for God the right to our souls, and thus effects a great triumph over the Devil, sin, and death. The moral exemplar theory, pioneered by Peter Abelard, holds that the work of Christ is fundamentally aimed at bringing about moral and spiritual reform in the sinner—a kind of reform that is not fully possible apart from Christ's work.


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The Son of God became incarnate, on this view, in order to set this example and thus provide a necessary condition for the moral reform that is, in turn, necessary for the full restoration of the relationship between creature and Creator. On this picture, Jesus' sinless life is as much a part of his soteriologically relevant work as his suffering and death on the cross. Thus far, it may sound as if the exemplar theory says that all there is to the efficacy of Jesus' life and death for salvation is the provision of a fine example for us to imitate.

According to Philip L. Quinn , however, to present the theory this way is simply to caricature it. According to Quinn, the dominant motif in Abelard's exemplar theory is one according to which human moral character is, in a very robust sense transformed by Christ's love. He writes:. In Quinn's hands, then, the exemplar theory is one according to which the life and death of Christ do indeed provide an example for us to imitate--and an example that plays an important role in effecting the transformation that will make us fit for fellowship with God.

But, in contrast to the usual caricature of that theory, the exemplary nature of Christ's love does not exhaust its transformative power.

Theological Anthropology

Satisfaction theories start from the idea that human sin constitutes a grave offense against God, the magnitude of which renders forgiveness and reconciliation morally impossible unless something is done either to satisfy the demands of justice or to compensate God for the wrong done to him. These theories go on to note that human beings are absolutely incapable on their own of compensating God for the wrong they have done to him, and that the only way for them to satisfy the demands of justice is to suffer death and eternal separation from God. Thus, in order to avoid this fate, they are in dire need of help.

Christ, through his death and, on some versions, through his sinless life as well has provided that help. The different versions of the satisfaction theory are differentiated by their claims about what sort of help the work of Christ has provided. Here we'll discuss three versions: St.

Anselm's debt-cancellation theory, the penal substitution theory defended by John Calvin and many others in the reformed tradition, and the penitential substitution theory, attributed to Thomas Aquinas and defended most recently by Eleonore Stump and Richard Swinburne. According to Anselm, our sin puts us in a kind of debt toward God.

As our creator, God is entitled to our submission and obedience. By sinning, we therefore fail to give God something that we owe him. Thus, we deserve to be punished until we do give God what we owe him. Indeed, on Anselm's view, not only is it just for God to punish us; it is, other things being equal, unfitting for him not to punish us.

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For as long as we are not giving God his due, we are dishonoring him; and the dishonoring of God is maximally intolerable. By allowing us to get away with dishonoring him, then, God would be tolerating what is maximally intolerable. Moreover, he would be behaving in a way that leaves sinners and the sinless in substantially the same position before him, which, Anselm thinks, is unseemly.

But, of course, once we have sinned, it is impossible for us to give God the perfect life that we owe him. So we are left in the position of a debtor who cannot, under any circumstances, repay his own debt and is therefore stuck in debtor's prison for the remainder of his existence. By living a sinless life, however, Christ was in a different position before God.

He was the one human being who gave God what God was owed. Thus, he deserved no punishment; he did not even deserve death. And yet he submitted to death anyway for the sake of obeying God. In doing this, he gave God more than he owed God; and so, on Anselm's view, put God in the position of owing him something. According to Anselm, just as it would be unfitting for God not to punish us, so too it would be unfitting for God not to reward Jesus. But Jesus, as God incarnate, has already at his disposal everything he could possibly need or desire.

So what reward could possibly be given to him? None, of course. But, Anselm argues, the reward can be transferred; and, under the circumstances, it would be unfitting for God not to transfer it.

Theological Anthroplogy (Sources of Early Christian Thought) Theological Anthroplogy (Sources of Early Christian Thought)
Theological Anthroplogy (Sources of Early Christian Thought) Theological Anthroplogy (Sources of Early Christian Thought)
Theological Anthroplogy (Sources of Early Christian Thought) Theological Anthroplogy (Sources of Early Christian Thought)
Theological Anthroplogy (Sources of Early Christian Thought) Theological Anthroplogy (Sources of Early Christian Thought)
Theological Anthroplogy (Sources of Early Christian Thought) Theological Anthroplogy (Sources of Early Christian Thought)
Theological Anthroplogy (Sources of Early Christian Thought) Theological Anthroplogy (Sources of Early Christian Thought)
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