People of History / Christianity


Adolf von Harnack – 1851 – 1930 CE – within the context that Chrisitan doctrines have evolved through the centuries, Harnack felt the development of dogma was the gradual abandonment of the faith of the early church, moving away from the teachings of Jesus to being teachings about Jesus. Harnack– Jesus taught the fatherhood of God, universal brotherhood, the infinite value of the human soul, and the commandment of love. It was over many years that this had evolved into faith in Jesus himself and became the center of the Christian message.


Albert the great – Reintroduced Aristotelian philosophy as a fundamental tool for theology. He wrote about God, philosophy and animals.


Albrecht Ritschl – 1822 – 1889 CE – Harnack called him “the last of the fathers of the church.” For Ritschl, religion– particularly Christianity– was neither a matter of rational knowledge (such as espoused by Kant) nor of subjective feeling (such as espoused by Schleiermacher) but of practical life. (More like Kierkegaard’s theories.) Christianity is lived out in the practical, moral life. What is important in a practical Christian life is the example lived out in the life and teachings of Jesus about the Kingdom of God and its ethics, “the organization of humanity through action based on love.” Thus, the role of community in Christianity must not be denied by an individualistic understanding of the faith. It was this aspect of Ritchl’s theology that served as the basis for Rauschenbusch’s ‘Social Gospel.’


Auguste Comte – nineteenth century, one of the founders of modern sociology. If it was true that society was progressing, why not try to produce further changes. He proposed a change in society that placed society in the hands of capitalists and merchants.


Augustine of Hippo – Nov. 13, 354 CE to Aug. 28th, 430 CE – born in the small town of Tagaste in North Africa, Augustine was an early Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. He was the bishop of Hippo Regius, located in Numidia, North Africa. Lived as a monk until he was forced to take a more active role in the church. Augustine was baptized by Ambrose. Augustine abandoned his career as a professor and devoted himself to the service of God. As a young student in Madaura he boasted of his sexual adventures and joined in capers he would one day regret as signs of his sinfulness. At 17, he went to Carthage to study. Soon he had a concubine who bore him a son, Adeodatus (“given by God”). Influenced by Manichaeism (rather Platonic thinking– light is spirit, darkness is matter), at this time Augustine was having difficulties with Christianity– first, that the Bible was a collection of inelegant writings, and second was the question of the origin of evil. He spent time as a teacher in Carthage, then Rome, and then Milan where he was introduced to the writings of Neoplatonists, and became one (through study, discipline and mystical contemplation it sought to reach the ineffable One, the source of all being). He found his answer to the origin of evil– evil, though real, is not a thing, but rather a direction away from the One. He listened to Ambrose’s sermons in Milan and this resolved Augustine’s problems with Scripture. After some internal struggle he decided he could commit himself to Christianity. He took on a new life, resigned from his teaching post and headed for Cassiciacum in North Africa, where he wrote his first Christian works. In 391 CE he visited Hippo, where he was made bishop and began writing most of his works that has made him so important in western theology. Augustine became a champion of the freedom of the will– acting out of our own will. He insisted there is only one God, whose goodness is infinite. Our will is created by God, and therefore God, and free to make its own decisions. The origin of evil then is to be found in bad decisions. Evil therefore is a decision, a direction, a negation of good. He said that the validity of any rite of the church does not depend on the virtue of the person administering it. Augustine developed the “just war theory”– war may be just if certain conditions exist: the purpose of the war must be just (not satisfy territorial ambition), must be waged by the properly instituted authority, and most importantly that even in the midst of violence the motive of love must be central. He wrote against the Pelagians– Pelagius, a monk from Britain, who believed that by constant effort one’s sins could be overcome and salvation attained. Augustine believed that there are times when our will is powerless against the hold that sin has on us, and therefore sin cannot be overcome as easily as Pelagius intimates. The most we can accomplish is a struggle against the sin that holds us, between willing and not willing. Before we have God’s grace we are trapped in sin. We we are redeemed we have choices– we are free to chose between alternatives, both to sin and to not sin. When we are redeemed, the grace of God works in us, leading our will towards God. Augustine states the initiative in conversion in not human, but divine, that grace is irresistible, and God gives it to those who have been predestined to receive it. (Pelagians claimed that we have complete freedom to sin or not to.) In 529, the Synod of Orange upheld Augustine’s doctrine of the primacy of grace in the process of salvation. Throughout the Middle Ages, no other theologian was quoted more often than Augustine. He became one of the great doctors of the Roman Catholic church, and a favorite theologian of the Protestant Reformation. Thus he has been the most influential theologian in the entire Western church, both Protestant and Catholic.

Writings:

“Confessions” – a spiritual autobiography, addressed in prayer to God, which tells of how God led him to faith through a long and painful pilgrimage.

“The City of God” – a vast encyclopedic history. Impelled to write it by the Fall of Rome in 410 CE. He claims there are two cities– two social orders– each built on a foundation of love. The City of God is built on the love of God. The earthly city is built on the love of the self. There is fight to the death between these two types of cities, in the end only the City of God will remain. Human history is full of cities and nations built on the love of self, all of which will whither and pass away, until the end of time.


Bonaventure – 1221 CE to 1274 CE – Saint Bonaventure, born Giovanni di Fidanza, was an Italian medieval Franciscan, scholastic theologian and philosopher. The seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, he was also Cardinal Bishop of Albano. Attended the University of Paris.


Charles Darwin – in 1859 publishes “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life.” Published during the nineteenth century and the Industrial Revolution when there were mass movements of people, traditional values were seen as questionable, and society and history becomes seen as an evolving progression. Central to Darwin’s theory is the struggle of competition– survival and social Darwinism. Ecologically competition is a lower level of ecology– pioneer species are competitive, but as ecological environments mature they become co-dependent and co-operative system rather than competitive. This analogy can be applied to social structures and cultures.


David Hume – 1711 to 1776 CE – Scottish philosopher – criticized Empiricism, Deists and other rationalist thinkers. He pointed out that part of what the philosophers thought could be based on irrational mental habits, and that no one has ever seen or experienced what we call ’cause and effect,’ which has no basis in empirical observation. The same could be said of ‘substance’– when we observe color, form, weight, flavor, smell, etc. and that these attributes coincide in one place– but again, we have not experienced the substance ourself. James Reid (1710 – 1796) thought that Hume’s theories were flawed, and Reid argued for the value of self-evident knowledge or common sense, which came to be known as ‘common sense philosophy.’ (Hume brought scholastic theology to an end really.)


Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam – 15th century – Holland – Leader of the humanist reformers. Known as the ‘Prince of Humanists.” He published: “Dagger (or Handbook) of the Christian Soldier.” He viewed the purpose of the commandments of Jesus was to subject ‘passion’ to the rule of ‘reason’ (like Stoicism and Platonism). Asked to side with the followers of Luther, and by the Catholic church, he decided to stay out of the argument. He believed the church needed reformation but refrained from siding with either party, who he saw as inflamed by passion, lost reason, and arguing (which wasn’t Christian). In the end he was admired by both Protestants and Catholics– a great man, with a great heart.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer – 1906 – 1945 CE – (see John Nelson’s timeline of his life). In 1937, he published “The Cost of Discipleship” at the age of 31. In 1939, he published “Life Together” at the age of 33. He died at the age of 39– he was hanged in prison, shortly before the Allied troops reached the prison he was in, on April 9th, 1945. (Hitler committed suicide on April 30th of the same year.) He was involved in the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. Arrested by the Gestapo in April 1943. He founded Underground Seminary in Finkenwalde, which was disbanded by the Gestapo in 1940. He was an early pioneer of ‘contextual theology,’ although it wasn’t called that at the time, says Pastor Jin. Bonhoeffer spoke of a “religionless Christianity.” In other papers that he left behind, he was grappling with new ideas, he spoke of the world “coming of age,” of God’s presence in the world being like a wise parent, who recedes into the background as a child grows.


Duns Scotus – died 1308 CE in Cologne, Germany – John Duns, commonly called Duns Scotus, is generally considered to be one of the three most important philosopher-theologians of the High Middle Ages. Scotus has had considerable influence on both Catholic and secular thought. Influenced: William of Ockham, René Descartes, Martin Heidegger, Gilles Deleuze, Antonius Andreas. Education: University of Oxford. Influenced by: Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, Augustine of Hippo.


F.C. Baur – 1792 – 1860 CE – looked at New Testament theology using Hegel’s scheme– Peter’s Judaizing Christianity (thesis) and Paul’s universal perspective (antithesis), was resolved in a synthesis that some said was the Fourth Gospel, and others said was second-century Christianity. Baur’s scheme led to scholarly discussion regarding the dates and authorship of each book of the Bible. These debates led to the refinement in the tools of historical research, and to a better understanding of the Bible and its times.


Frederick Schleiermacher – that “feeling” leads to our dependence on God. A feeling that all existence depends. This feeling is profound realization of the existence of the One. The feeling of dependence on God occurs at three levels: the self, its relations with the world, and its relations with God. Anything that cannot be shown to be related to the feeling of dependence has no place in theology. He is the father of liberal, open Christianity, one that emphasizes love for all.


G.W.F. Hegel – 1770 – 1831 CE – proposed that reason is reality itself, and the only reality there is. Reality must not be seen as a disconnected series of things and events, but as a whole (for Descartes its not the whole, reality/reason is solely located in one’s head). He said, “What is rational exits, and what exists is rational.” When speaking of ‘reason’ Hegel was referring the process of thinking. We pose an idea (thesis), in favor of another idea (antithesis), and reach a third idea which includes what is of value of the previous two ideas (synthesis). Therefore reason is dynamic, a movement that is constantly advancing. It does exist exclusively in the human mind, there is universal reason– the Spirit– is the whole of reality. All that exists is that dialectic and dynamic thought of the Spirit. Hegel was convinced that Christianity was the culmination of all other religions. The dialectic of the Trinity includes three parts: 1) God is the eternal idea, apart from the rest of creation (Kingdom of the Father), 2) Kingdom of the Son is what we call creation, the world as it exists in time and space, 3) The Kingdom of the Spirit, where the divine and the human meet, made manifest in the presence of God in the community. This progression culminates in the State. Hegel’s system forced philosophers and theologians to take history seriously– the locus in which eternal realities are known. This has helped later theologians recover much of the biblical perspective. The positive is that he moves us away from Descartes towards history, the negative is fitting understanding of reality into a system (which is like moving society towards societies like the Roman Empire). Hegel is responsible for “dialectical idealism.”


Henry VIII / The Church of England – 16th century – Henry’s father, Henry VII, arranged for his eldest son, Arthur, to marry Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand & Isabella of Spain. A few months after the wedding Arthur died. Arthur’s younger brother, Henry, was married to Catherine after Arthur’s death (with papal dispensation), and then became King of England as Henry VIII. Catherine and Henry did not produce a male heir to the throne, so Henry requested an annulment of his marriage to Catherine, from the pope. Henry was not in favor of reformation of the church, in fact he published a treatise against Luther, and the pope at the time, Leo X, gave him acclaim and the title “defender of the faith.” Henry VIII broke with the church in Rome in 1534 for political reasons, namely that he wanted to annul his marriage and marry someone who provide him a male heir. Therefore, Parliament enacted laws forbidding payments and contributions to Rome, annulling Henry’s marriage to Catherine, announcing his daughter Mary was not the legitimate heir to the throne, and that the king was the “supreme head of the Church of England.” (Sir Thomas More opposed these laws. He was tried and executed. In 1935, Sir Thomas More was made a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.) After breaking from the church in Rome, Henry married Anne Boleyn. Anne did not provide him with a male heir either, only a daughter Elizabeth, so Anne was condemned for adultery and executed. Then Henry married Jane Seymour, who gave him a son, who would become King Edward VI. After Jane’s death, Henry married Anne of Cleves, to form a relationship with German Lutherans, since he was concerned of the threat posed by Charles V of Spain and Francis I of France. He divorced Anne of Cleves as soon as he realized the marriage wouldn’t serve his purposes and he broke with the German Lutherans. He took steps to make the Church of England conform to Roman Catholicism, except for the authority of the pope. Catherine Howard fell into disgrace and was beheaded. Henry then married Catherine Parr, a supporter of the Reformation. Henry VIII died in 1547. By the time of Henry’s death advocates of the reformation had ample support throughout the kingdom. Under Edward VI’s reign the reformation made great advances. Then under Mary Tudor’s reign, England returned to being under authority of the pope and returned to Roman Catholic ways. Many Protestants were persecuted under Queen Mary, earning her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” Mary was succeeded by Elizabeth I, who was a Protestant. Under Elizabeth Roman Catholicism was rejected as well as extreme Protestantism, a new book of Common Prayer was published (with an inclusive form of wording for communion), and the ‘The Thirty-Nine Articles’ (in 1562) which would serve as the doctrinal foundation of the Church of England.


Henri de Lubac – 1896 – 1991 CE – a Catholic priest, also a French Jesuit and a friend of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Together with Jean Daniélou (1905 – 1974 CE)  edited a voluminous series of Christian writings. At this time period the theologians were trying to lift up the older traditions. He too believed that all of humanity has a single goal– none other than Jesus Christ. The church is the mystical body of Christ, is a sacrament in the midst of the world. He participated in the Second Vatican Council and did much to influence the outcomes.


Henri Nouwen – 1932 – 1996 CE – a Dutch priest who freely expressed the joy and the agonies of his inner life. He devoted his life to the service of people with disabilities, first in France and then in Canada.


(St.) Ignatius Loyola – Oct 23, 1491 to July 31, 1556 CE – Saint Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish priest and theologian, who founded the religious order called the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and became its first Superior General. A scion of an ancient aristocratic family, he had hoped to attain glory through a military career. These dreams were shattered when he was injured at the siege of Pamplona in Navarre. He limped for the rest of his life. While convalescing he read devotional books and had a vision. Speaking of his experience, he said, “Lying awake on night, he clearly saw the image of Our Lady with the Holy Child Jesus, and with that vision he received remarkable consolation for a long time, and was left with such repugnance for his former life, and especially for things of the flesh, that it seemed like all the images that had been painted on his soul were erased.” Ignatius Loyola devoted himself to the service of his Lady, the Virgin. His spirit was tormented (as Luther’s had been earlier) by a profound sense of his own sin. He was not at peace. He thought of killing himself, but that would be a sin, so he didn’t– “Lord, I shall do naught to offend thee.” He found peace in the grace of God eventually– “from that day on he was free of those scruples, being certain that our Lord had wished to free him by His mercy.” The Spaniard no longer devoted his life to the monastic quest for his own salvation, from then on he devoted himself to the service of the the church and its mission. First, he went to the Holy Land, then decided he must learn theology. He studied beside younger students at the universities of Barcelona, Alcala, Salamanca, and Paris. He gathered a small following. In 1534, he and his followers returned to Montserrat and made solemn vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to the pope. Pope Paul III gave his approval to this new order, the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). The Jesuits came to be one of the main instruments of the Catholic offensive against Protestants. Soon, hundreds of Jesuits were missionaries in the Far East and the New World. Ignatius was beatified in 1609, and then canonized, receiving the title of Saint on March 12, 1622. His feast day is celebrated on July 31.

Quotes from St. Ignatius:

“Go forth and set the world on fire.”

“Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God.”

“Love is shown more in deeds than in words.”

“Laugh and grow strong”

“Teach us to give and not to count the cost.”

“He who goes about to reform the world must begin with himself, or he loses his labor.”

“If our church is not marked by caring for the poor, the oppressed, the hungry, we are guilty of heresy.”

“My birth is imminent. Forgive me, brethren. Do not prevent me from coming to life.”

“Try to keep your soul always in peace and quiet, always ready for whatever our lord may wish to work in you. it is certainly a higher virtue of the soul, and a greater grace, to be able to enjoy the Lord in different times and different places than in only one.”


Immanuel Kant – a German, reads David Hume, critiques pure reason and proposed a radical new system. Proposed structures of the mind that our thinking is put into– segmentation of thoughts. He dealt a deathblow to rationalism. He was wrestling with “reason.” Kant emphasizes “ethics” (which Bonhoeffer criticizes Kant’s definition of ethics).


John Calvin (Jean Calvin) – born in Noyon, France, on July 10th, 1509, died on May 27th, 1564 – the most important systemizer of Protestant theology in the 16th century, during the Reformation. He attained a Masters of Arts, and then studied law. He joined the Protestant cause. Francis I had shown relative tolerance to Protestants, but changed his policy and in January 1535 Calvin went into exile in Basel, Switzerland. He wrote “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” published in Basel in 1536. It aimed to clarify Christian faith from the Protestant viewpoint. It contained 516 pages in 6 chapters– chapters dealing with the Law, the Creed, the Lord’s prayer, the sacraments, the false sacraments of Rome, and Christian freedom. He worked on successive volumes, which grew in size (to four books containing a total of 80 chapters), throughout the years. The four books are on: 1) God and revelation, creation, the nature of the human nature, 2) God as Redeemer and how this is made known to us, 3) how we can share in the grace of Jesus Christ through the spirit, and the fruits this produces, 4) the external means of that sharing– the church and the sacraments. He was persuaded to stay in Geneva by William Farel, leader of the Protestants in Geneva. Calvin became known as the Reformer of Geneva. He wrote “Ecclesiastical Ordinances” which distributed responsibilities in the church into four areas: 1) pastors in charge of the ministry of the Word and the sacraments, 2) the teachers responsible for the education for the community of faith, 3) elders would supervise the religious life of their neighborhoods, 4) deacons who were in charge of the social services of the church.


John Locke / Empiricism – Great Britain – In 1690, published his “Essay on Human Understanding.” He agreed with Descartes that the order of the world corresponded to the order of the mind, but (differing from Descartes) he held that all knowledge is derived from experience, both the outer experience of the senses, and the inner experience of our minds. The only true knowledge is based on three levels of experience: our own selves, outer realities that are presented to us, and God, whose existence is proven by the existence of the self and its experiences. Plus, another level of knowledge: probability, where we apply our judgement. Reason and judgement must be used in tandem to measure the degree of probability of what we are asked to believe by faith. In 1695, John Locke published “The Reasonableness of Christianity” in which he claimed that Christianity is the most reasonable of religions. John Locke advocates for reasonable revelation. In his terms there are different levels of reasonable revelation:

  • Most reasonable – Mainstream Christianity – (most analysis / philosophy / dualism)
  • Lesser reasonable – Pietists
  • Lesser reasonable – Spiritualists
  • Totally unreasonable – pagans
  • (Personal comment on the above: I see the most reasonable as the most analyzed and disconnected from gut feeling, what we know at our core. Pagans (tribal and indigenous peoples) it could be said are most connected to the land and non-dual thinking. In these terms, the most rational people would be the pagans/indigenous peoples.

Karl Barth – 1886 – 1968 CE – he is Swiss which means that he is a Reformed theologian. Princeton Seminary relies on Barth’s theology. He has a big influence on the PCUSA also. He was interested in the social issues of his parish. He writes a ‘Commentary on Romans’ (he published 6 editions, but the one most commonly known is the second edition). Originally written for his own use and a small circle of friends, was published in 1919. It challenged the whole liberal enlightened project. He declared that the Spirit is not subject to human manipulation, but is always and repeatedly a gift of God. He’s challenging religious subjectivism and that religion is a private affair. Salvation is not about the individual, it’s about a corporate body of the church. He felt that he had not gone far enough in his Commentary to underscore the otherness of God, and the liberal tendency to see the goodness in human nature. He became convinced that the Kingdom of God is an eschatological reality. Strong emphasis on the judgement of God who stands above humanities efforts. Kierkegaard is an influence in his writings. His second edition of his Commentary was his Kierkegaardian attack on Christendom. Barth was being credited with having begun a new theological school that some called ‘dialectical theology’, others called ‘crisis theology,’ and others ‘neo-orthodoxy’. In 1927, he published the first volume of ‘Christian Dogmatics’, where he declared that the object of theology is not the Christian faith but the Word of God. Later he changed the name of this to ‘Church Dogmatics.’ He declared that the Word of God not only provided the answers but also the questions. What convicts us of sin is God’s word of grace. Without knowing that word, we cannot know neither grace nor sin. Ultimately, John Nelson feels that Barth is Docetic and also a little Marcion. ‘Church Dogmatics’ is unquestionably the great theological monument of the 20th century.


Karl Marx – published his “Communist Manifesto” in 1848. This was the year of revolutions across Europe. His manifesto included an analysis of history and society on the basis of what he called “dialectical materialism”– the notion that idea have social and political functions. The dominant class develops an ideology whose function is to bolster the existing order. Religion is part of this structure of support for the powerful– religion is the “opiate of the people.” Marx stated that history moves on and the next step would be a vast revolution, leading first to the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and eventually to a classless society in which the state would be superfluous– the true Communist society.


Karl Rahner – 1904 – 1984 CE – the most influential Catholic theologian of the 20th century. Also participated in the Second Vatican Council. Wrote more than three thousand books and articles.


Martin Luther – born in 1483 in Eisleben, Germany – In July 1505, at the age of 22, he joined the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt, led there by a concern for his own salvation. Then attended the University of Wittenberg where he received his doctorate in theology in 1512. His great discovery that “the just shall live by faith” (“justification by faith”) came after lecturing on the book of Romans. He came to the conclusion that the “righteousness of God” is that which is given by God to those that live by faith, not earned, but simply because God wishes to give it. He said, “I felt that I had been born anew and that the gates of heaven had been opened.” He pinned his “Ninety-five theses on the power and efficacy of indulgences,” written in German, directly opposing Pope Leo X’s authorized great sale of indulgences, on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg on October 31st, 1517. This date is generally accepted as the date of the beginning of The Reformation of the church.


Mother Teresa – 1910 – 1997 CE – devoted her life to serving the sick and the destitute in the city of Calcutta, where she established the Missionaries of Charity.


Pope Pius IV  – called the Council of Trent, 1545 – 63 CE that set the policies for the Catholic church for the next four hundred years.


Pope John XXIII – pope 1958 – 63 CE – called and opened the Second Vatican Council, 1962 – 65 CE.


Pope Paul VI – pope 1963 – 78 CE – in 1968 he issued the encyclical “Humanae vitae” in which he banned all artificial methods of birth control. He continued the work of the Second Vatican Council, which finished its work in 1965 CE.


Pope John Paul II – pope 1978 – 2005 CE – the first non-Italian pope since Pope Adrian VI (1522 – 1523 CE). A Pole, played a vital part in the fall of Communism in Poland– along with Lech Walesa, a Catholic layman. This had a knock-on effect and ultimately led to the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. He issued the encyclical “Ut unnum sint”, calling for greater efforts to bridge the distance between Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. He was forced to face the accusations of rampant sexual abuse in the Catholic Church– the Church paid vast sums in reparations. He was forced to face the issue of women’s ordination, which he rejected. He also reaffirmed the condemnation of abortion. He stood up for social justice, the poor and the oppressed.


Pope Benedict XVI – pope 2005 – 2013 CE – German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the second non-Italian to be elected pope since the 16th century. In 2009, while insisting that celibacy be a requisite for priesthood, he allowed married Anglican priests who converted to become Catholic priests. He dropped the title of patriarch of the West– some saw it as a gesture of openness to the Eastern Church, the Eastern Church saw it as an expansion of the claims of the papacy since he still retained the titles of ‘supreme pontiff’ and ‘vicar of Christ.’ He was characterized as a conservative and a progressive. In 1981, he headed the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, a body created to guard Catholic Orthodoxy in lieu of the Inquisition. In this role he became known for his conservative stance, particularly his two directives against liberation theology.


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin – 1881 – 1955 CE – ordained as a Catholic priest in 1911. Son of a family of French aristocracy. Member of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. He had always been interested in the theory of evolution, not as a denial of God or creation, but to understand it. He said that Jesus was the ‘omega point’– the point that all evolution that is moving towards. He proposed the “cosmic law of complexity and consciousness.” His emphasis is not on the survival of the fittest but of the increasing complexity and higher consciousness. He sees Jesus as the last man. His theory of stages: Geosphere – Biosphere – Noosphere – Hominization – Omega Point – Christosphere. (See page 451 of The Story of Christianity for a full explanation.) In the end each of us will be perfectly united with Christ, perfectly united with God, while also being perfectly ourselves. We are part of an ongoing evolution, which in hominization we are aware of our evolution and a part of it. (Fidel– quantum physics, where we observe our own evolution and have an effect and choice in how it progresses.)


René Descartes / Cartesian Rationalism – 1596 to 1650 CE – France – Cartesian Rationalism.Descartes was a profoundly religious man who hoped his philosophy would be helpful to theologians. When his theories were criticized by theologians, he was surprised and he moved to Sweden and lived there for the rest of his life. His philosophy:

  • His starting point was to doubt everything, until something could be proved beyond doubt.
  • His first undeniable existence he discovered was his own mind– “I think, therefore I am.” “Cogito, ergo sum.”
  • His mind was was real, but what about his body?
  • Before proving the existence of his own body, he would prove the existence of God. If the idea of God was in his head, an idea of a perfect being superior to himself, that thought could only have been put there by a higher being– God. So, God must exist.
  • Descartes theorized: that humans consist of two parts: one that thinks (“res cogitans”) and one that occupies space (“res extensa”). Or, soul and body.
  • Others wondered how the soul and body communicate. Three solutions were put forth:
    • Occasionalism – Arnold Geulincx – the soul and body don’t communicate directly, God makes it happen.
    • Monism – Benedictus de Spinoza – he denied that there is more than one substance, thought and physical extension are not two different substances, but are two attributes of a single substance (like ‘red’ and ’round’ are attributes of an apple).
    • Pre-established harmony – Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz – there are infinite number of substances (monads) that are independent of each other, they do not communicate with each other, but instead they act according to the universal order (like clocks all keeping the same time in a shop).

Sigmund Freud – nineteenth century. Became interested in the manner in which the human mind functions, particularly at the subconscious level. Came to the conclusion that the psyche is moved, not only by what it consciously knows, but also by other factors that never emerge from the level of the subconscious. This is particularly true of experiences and instincts that the mind suppresses due to social pressures, but never destroys– such as the instincts of sex and aggression. He wrote, “Civilizations is Discontent”. My own insight into Darwin, Marx and Freud– Freud had some insight into the fact that the unnatural, competitive nature of “progress” and “civilization” forces people to fit into unnatural social structures. The subconscious balks against this, knowing that it is unnatural, and hence many of our psychological problems. Repression is a problem of the West, whereas other societies do not have a system of thought where we judge ourselves, or split our view of ourselves into subject and object.


Soren Aabye Kierkegaard – 1813 – 1855 CE – convinced that his intellect set him on a special mission of faith. He broke off his engagement with a woman he loved, a great sacrifice he later compared to Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac. He said that Kant’s pure reason cannot prove or disprove God, but faith knows God directly. Christianity is a matter of faith. And faith is not easy, it’s always a risk, an adventure that requires the denial of oneself and all the joys of the faithless. He was a Christian of profound conviction who felt called to show the radical nature of Christian discipleship. For him, the greatest enemy of Christianity was Christendom– cheap Christianity is the “crime of Christendom” and “takes God for a fool.” His calling was to make Christianity difficult– one must become aware of the cost of faith and pay the price. True Christianity is to do with a person’s very existence (he rejected Hegel’s “system”). This emphasis on existence made Kierkegaard the founder of existentialism. Existence is a constant struggle, a struggle to become, to be born. Although reality may be a system for God, it can’t be seen as such from the perspective of one living in the midst of existence. Christian existence can’t be reduced to a system– a system of morality and doctrine. It needs to be a adventure and constant risk in the presence of God. Kierkegaard posed his great problem: how to become a true Christian when one has the disadvantage of living in the midst of Christendom.


(St.) Thomas Aquinas – after the reformation of the Catholic church in the Middle Ages, it was predominantly the doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas that the Catholic church followed, until Vatican II in the 1960s. Reintroduced Aristotelian philosophy as a fundamental tool for theology.


Tomás de Torquemada – 15th century – Spain/Castille – Dominican friar, known for his uncompromising love of orthodoxy, appointed head of the Spanish Inquisition in Castille, famous for the zeal with which he persecuted those he considered heretics. Waterboarding was a torture technique he used.


Ulrich Zwingli – born in 1484 in a small Swiss village – led the Reformation in Zurich, Switzerland, at a time parallel to Martin Luther in Germany. Zwingli and Luther differed on aspects of how the church should be reformed. Zwingli insisted that anything that did not appear in scripture should be rejected, e.g. organ music in church, he rejected celibacy for the clergy. He died in 1531 when the Catholic cantons of Switzerland marched on the Protestant cantons. Zwingli went to battle and was killed. He agreed with Luther that predestination was biblical. Zwingli was a humanist influenced by the classical philosophy of Plato, placing emphasis on the spirit rather than the material/senses. He believed that the elements in communion are symbolic. He supported infant baptism.


John Wycliffe – 1320 CE to Dec 31, 1384 CE – United Kingdom – envisioned a reformation of the church, including the creation of a national church under the direction of civil authorities. John Wycliffe was an English scholastic philosopher, theologian, Biblical translator, reformer, and seminary professor at Oxford. He was an influential dissident within the Roman Catholic priesthood during the 14th century.


Voltaire – mocked the English Deists. Voltaire and his followers were rationalists in their own way. He was witty, funny. He was like a Mark Twain, or an Oscar Wilde. His thinking and actions lead towards the French Revolution.


Yves Congar – 1904 – 1955 CE –