Developments in Christian Thought


The Person of Jesus Christ 1

''Jesus Christ founded his empire on love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him.'' - Napoleon.

Jesus was recorded in historic books written by Sutonius, Tacticus and Pliny the Younger (Romanian Historians).

Jesus as the Son of God= in the gospels, Jesus is referred to as God's Son in stories such as his baptism (''This is my son whom I am well pleased.'') and transfiguration. Jesus is part of the doctrine of the holy trinity in which he is referred to as the son. Paul speaks of Jesus as God's own Son in his letter to the Romans. Jesus did not refer to himself as the Son of God.

Jesus' knowledge of God and his own nature= Biblical writers speak of Jesus as 'the word' if God, suggesting the words spoken by Jesus were the very words of God- giving Jesus' teachings divine authority. This also suggests that Jesus was present at the time of creation.

O'Collins- believed that Jesus was subconsciously aware of his divinity,'' it was rather a self-consciousness and self presence in which he was intuitively aware of his divine reality.''

The early church developed the doctrine of 'hypostatic union' between Jesus and God, where two natures are united in one person.

Questions of Jesus'' knowledge raise a number of issues such as the question of his omniscience and whether he knew he was going to be crucified and whether his expressions of emotion were genuine if he knew how situations would turn out.

Rahner- used the analogy of an onion to suggest that Jesus had layers of consciousness, with human self- conciousness  nearer to the surface and God's- consciousness deep within him.

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The Person of Jesus Christ 2

Jesus as God and man- Christians believe that only God has the power to save humanity from sin- so if Jesus saved people from sin then he has to be God. Christians also believed Jesus has to be human in order to live on earth as we do, suffer pain for the sake of humanity and submit to human death. Jesus did not have a sinful nature that other human beings have, he was capable of being tempted by evil but he rejected the temptation and so was able to bring humainty to reconciliation with God. Medieval Christian theologians thought that Jesus might have knowledge of God in three ways: scientia visionis (face to face knowledge of God), scientia infusa (knowledge that is not learned but given by God) and scientia experientiae (knowledge gained through experience). Christians today believe in the doctrine of homoousios - that Jesus was 'of the same substance' as God, as one being.

O'Collins - (book= 'Interpreting Jesus') - believed that we cannot draw conclusive answers about the inner life of anyone; knowledge and how it is gained is an extremely complex subject; but we can conclude that Jesus knew he had a unique relationship with God and had a mission.

The Miracles of Jesus- Jesus walked on water, calmed the storm, raised Lazurus from he dead. healed the sick, fed the 5000, turned water into wine e.t.c.

Hume - argued that when presented with an account that says a miracle has taken place, we should always treat it with sceptism and believe a more likely explanation of the event.

Schillebeeckx - argued that miracles should be interpreted as having a spiritual, metaphorical meaning rather than a literal meaning.

N.T.Wright - suggests the miracle stories should be understood in terms of the intentions of the writers as showing that Jesus had the power and authority to unite people and restore communities.

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The Person of Jesus Christ 3


Jesus as rabbi - in Judaisim, 'rabbi' means teacher or leader. The disciples sometimes addressed Jesus as 'rabbi'. He taught in synagogues and in the open e.g. Matthew 5:17-48 = The Sermon on The Mount -- teachings such as 'turn the other cheek.' His teachings were about the importance of love in the face of hatred, forgiveness of sins, love of enemies, love of God, inclusion of outcasts e.t.c.

Lewis - it does not make sense to accept Jesus' moral teaching but not accept that Jesus was the Son of God because of the claims Jesus made of himself such as ,'I am the bread of life' if he was telling the truth, then he is the Son of God, if he was lying, then he is not the kind of person whose moral messages should be followed.

Bonhoeffer -  (book= 'The Cost of Discipleship') linked the idea of incarnation with the idea that we meet God in other human beings; the incarnation of Christ allows us to encounter God in human life and in a special way.

Hick - (book= 'The Myth of God Incarnate') argues that the idea of Jesus being God incarnate is best understood mythologically. Hick argues that the kind of moral taching given by Jesus could also be found in others such as Moses and Jeremiah. Hick argues that the idea of transformation from self-centeredness to love-centeredness in many world religions show that there are different paths to salvation. He believed that the idea of God coming to the world as a human should be understood as a metaphor rather than literal truth.

Christians who reject Hick's view argue that Jesus' moral nature cannot be separated from his divine nature. They argue that God in Christ sacrificed himself to save the world from sin, in a single act that goes beyond a personal decision to be less selfish and more loving.

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The Person of Jesus Christ 4


Christians often present Jesus as a liberator who challenged social conventions as well as in a theological sense because he liberated humanity from the imprisonment of sin and death. Jesus spoke out against the domination of the rich over the poor, he included social outcasts such as tax collectors and Samaritans in his mission. Christians have been inspired by Jesus' teachings and created charities such as Christian Aid and Salvation Army in order to achvieve social change. Jesus also included women in his mission, who were not considered equals to men in his day.

At the time of Jesus, Palestine was under the control of Romans, although the Jews were allowed to continue their traditions. However the situation was uneasy and after Jesus' death in AD73 the Temple of Jerusalem was burnt down. During Jesus' lifetime, Jews hoped for a Messiah who would lead them to victory over the Romans. One group of militant Jews at the time of Jesus was the Zealots, who called for violent revolution.

Aslan - (book= 'Zealot: the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth') suggests that Jesus was involved in a much more confrontational resistance to Rome than portrayed in the New Testement. Aslan thought that the early church tried to hide Jesus' revolutionary side to avoid persecution. His revolutionary side is shown in parts of the gospels such as-

Matthew 10:34 - 'I did not come to bring peace but a sword.'  In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus' disciples drew weapons showing that they carried daggers so they may have been Zealots. The Romans put the name 'King of the Jews' on Jesus' cross so perhaps Jesus was seen as a leader of a political revolutionary group.

However, Jesus stopped his disciples from being violent during his arrest and he did not accept or use political titles for himself showing he wasn't a political revolutionary.

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The Person of Jesus Christ 5

Webb - suggests that at the time of Jesus there was a movement of 'social banditury' which sought to free the peasants from a life of poverty.

Jesus' challenges to religious authority- Jesus challenges some of the rules about religious rituals,''Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath.'' Jesus speaks in a way that suggests he has authority to say when a rule should be strictly obeyed and when it needs to be broken.

Jesus associated with people that were traditionally 'unclean' such as Samaritans and a woman with a haemorrhage.

Jesus suggests that the Temple will be replaced by something better.

Jesus came into conflict with religious leaders and was called to the Sanhedrin (the Jewish court) to answer accusations.

Sanders -  believes the gospel writers may have exaggerated Jesus' conflicts with Judaism in order to fit their own Christian agenda, and that Jesus was more Jewish in his outlook than the New Testement suggests.

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Christian Moral Principles 1

Using the Bible as a source of moral guidance-

Mouw - (book= 'Biblical Imperatives') argues that Christians need to be aware of different commandments and stories in the Bible, and not just take something like the rule of love and try to apply it without studying different passages.

Messer - (book= 'SCM Study Guide to Christian Ethics') argues that moral guidance in the Bible can be found not just in the commandments, but also in other passages. Figures could be seen as role models and stories of history could have a moral implication for modern political life.

The Bible can be approached in a propositional way in which you accept that the words of the Bible are true messages from God or a non-propositional way where you look at biblical stories such as the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as speaking to a Christians own life and experience.

The Bible as a direct word of God- the Bible is understood as the literal, inspired 'breathed in' word of God. It is believed that the human authors simply wrote down the words as God told them, without adding their own interpretation. In this view the Bible is an infallible guide to life and its commandments apply at all times- this would influence peoples opinions on homosexuality e.t.c. This view is popular amongst evangelical Protestant Christians.

Criticisms of this view- there are many contradictions within the Bible- 'An eye for an eye' then 'Turn the other cheek.' If the Bible is the direct word of God, then it is difficult to understand why it contains so many different styles of writing and interests- this shows some degree of human authorship. Some of the facts of the Bible do not match modern scientific knowledge.

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Christian Moral Principles 2

The Bible as the interpreted word of God - for other Christians, the Bible is a source of moral guidance but does not have to be understood literally. Those Christians believe that it was written by authors inspired by God, but using their own words. It is believed that the Bible was written in particular times and cultures- some parts of it are more appropriate for the past.

Hays (book= 'The Moral Vision of the New Testament') - points out a number of factors that can affect a Christian's reading of the Bible. For example, a Christian might use only a narrow range of texts or favourite images and stories, so that even Christians who take the Bible literally are probably being selective and bringing their own judgements and biases to it.

Criticisms of this view - it can lead to disagreements and disunity due to different interpretations of different verses such as views on homosexuality. It can be seen as 'cherry picking', where Christians ignore the parts of the Bible they find too challenging to adopt in their own lives. It is not alwys easy to tell which parts of the Bible are meant to be for all time and which can be understood as cultural or as myth.

Church tradition and the Bible - Catholic Christians believe that the Bible grew out of teaching of the Church, because the Church made decisions about which pieces of writing would form scripture. Protestants often hold the view that the Church grew out of the Bible and that the Bible is the principal source of moral and religious authority.

Hays - notes the interpretation of the Bible does not happen in a vacuum but is shaped by the teaching of the Church.

Spohn - points out that scripture cannot be examined in isolation from the Christian communities and traditions in which it functions.

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Christian Moral Principles 3

Church tradition in Anglican understanding - Anglicans believe that the Bible comes first but it is not the only source of understanding. Influences from the Bible and Church tradition are combined when making moral decisions or decisions about practices within the Church. Anglicans see Church tradition as a shared understanding of the kind of community the Church is, including were it has come from, its prayer life and its teachings. It should be seen as a vital, living part of the Anglican community today.

Church tradition in the Catholic understanding - Catholics see tradition as having a precedent over the Bible, because it was the Church community that decided which texts should be considered sacred and form the Bible. The authority of the Church gave the Bible its authority. They believe Sacred Tradition is a means of coming to know the revelation of Jesus. It follows the oral tradition handed down by Jesus to the first Church leaders in an unbroken chain of Apostolic Succession, which is the line of priests ever since the first apostles. Tradition is seen as a way in which the Holy Spirit works in the world. The Council of Vatican II declared that Sacred Traditon and the Bible cannot stand without one another. Sacred Tradition is seen as a binding authority on moral life. The Catholic Church draws on natural law as a method of ethical decision making.

''And I will tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.'' - Matthew 16:18 (Peter= Pope)

Issues raised by the idea of Church tradition - Protestants have problems with the view that Church tradition is equal to the Bible. The concern comes from the Reformation, which said that the practices of the Catholic Church are not in accordance with the teachings of the Bible but had been invented to enable the Church to keep hold of its power. In his teachings, Jesus sometimes criticises traditional teachings because people have become too entrapped in their own rigid interpretations of the law and forgotten about caring for others.

Radford Reuther - criticises the Church traditions for ignoring women's perspectives.

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Christian Moral Principles 4

Reason - reason is used for logical decision making.

MacIntyre and Hays argues that reason is not objective or neutral, but operates according to our culture and biases.

Reason can present different interpretations of the Bible and different responses to ethical dilemmas, for example some might lead a 'just war' approach and others may lead a pacifist approach. In moral decision making, Christians need to find a route that uses their reason alongside biblical principles and church traditions.

Catholics use reason alongside the Bible and Sacred Tradition in natural law ethics. Catholics use their reason to determine the right course of action. Reason is understood to be a gift from God to enable humanity to access God's revelation.

Protestants see the Bible and reason as primary sources of moral decision making. When making moral decisions, they will use prayer and Bible study to help them to work out what to do.

Some Christians have concerns about reason being set in opposition to faith. Debates about the relationship between science and religion sometimes suggest that there is a choice between 'common sense' reason and 'blind' faith. Christians would argue that their faith is not blind and that it is both reasoned and reasonable.

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Christian Moral Principles 5

Love (agape) as the only Christian ethical principle - the principle of unconditional love is central to Christian morality. It is at the heart of Jesus' teachings and actions and is a prominent theme in the New Testament. Jesus' summary of the law was that people should love God and love their neighbours as much as they love themselves. Christians are told to love their enemies and do good to them.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul spells out the nature of Christian love.

1 John 4:8 says that people who do not love cannot know God, because God is love.

Bultmann -  pointed out that Christians are challenged not only to be kind to others but to forgive wrongs. Christian moral behaviour should not be about law and being judgemental, but should focus on God's forgiveness.

Tillich - suggested that Christians should use three ethica principles: justice, love and wisdom. Love is the most important. He criticised 'moral Puritanism' for being too closely tied to fixed rules, and argued instead for love guided by wisdom as a person- centered approach to ethics. He thought people should not feel compelled to follow traditional laws unconditionally.

Fletcher - advocated using agape as the guiding moral law in his situation ethics.

Pope Francis - criticises aproaches which take an authoritarian, rigid attitude and aims to show compassion and openness to the grace of God.

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Christian Moral Action 1

The German Church at the time of Hitler - Bonhoeffer was ordained as a Christian minister in 1931. In the 1930s, when Hitler and Nazism were rising in popularity in Germany, the German Protestant Churches were divided. Some German Christians joined the Nazi Party, believing that Hitler was an embodiment of Christian values. They prohibited ministers with Jewish ancestry from working for the Church and some tried to remove the Old Testement from the Bible because it is the holy scripture of Judaism. Other Christians, including Bonhoeffer, disagreed with Nazism and saw it as contrary to the Christian message. A new church called the Confessing Church was formed which rejected Nazi ideology. It called Christians to confess their faith, be true to their calling of discipleship and keep their commands of God. Bonhoeffer's criticism of the Nazis brought him into conflict with them as soon as they came into power. He saw enthusiasm for Hitler 'the fuhrer' as cult-like. He criticised their distortion of the Christian call to discipleship and their persecution of the Jews.

Bonhoeffer's call to obedience and discipleship - basing his teaching on the gospels, Bonhoeffer believed that all Christians are called to discipleship- they are called to be followers of Jesus. He pointed out that Jesus' first followers did not accept a set of doctrines but responded to Jesus' authority immediately with obedience to Jesus' call. The call to discipleship is a call to leave an old life behind and move into the unknown. All responsibilities to other forms of authority are abandoned. Christians should not try to fit their faith around their prevous existence in a way that is convenient for them but should leave all that behind and instead be obedient to Christ. This caused controversy for Bonhoeffer becaue he was saying that Christians do not need to feel that they have to obey laws such as the laws of the land and this leads to civil disobedience. Bonhoeffer stressed that Christianity demands immediate single minded obedience to Jesus. Bonhoeffer thought that obedience is learned and understood by practicing it.

BOOK = 'Nachfolge' or 'Cost of Discipleship'

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Christian Moral Action 2

Civil Disobedience - is an active and open refusal to obey certain laws set down by the government. Bonhoeffer thought that civil diobedience was sometimes necessary as duty to God is far more important than duty to the state. He wrote to his friend, Reinhold Neibuhr, that German Christians had to make a choice between wanting their nation to be defeated so that Christianity could survive, or, wanting their nation to win but losing Christian civilisation as a result. He did not think that there was a third option. He argued that Christians needed to make active challenges against injustice. Bonhoeffer's own acts of civil disobedience= Bonhoeffer became a double agent, working for German military but actually linking with the Resistance and with the allies. He used Church meetings to smuggle Jews as members of military intelligence and smuggled them across the border to safety in Switzerland. He openly prayed for the defeat of his country and called Hitler the anti- Christ.

The role of the Church - Bonhoeffer saw the role of the Church in terms of a community of believers and as a source of spiritual discipline. He used the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 as inspiration for the idea that followers of Jesus must be like 'salt' and 'light'. The metaphor of salt shows that Christians need to add 'flavour' to a community by leading exemplary Christian lives, and the metaphor of light is used to show that Christians must be a leading example for others and not try to keep their beliefs hidden. Bonhoeffer notes that Christians do not have the salt, they are the salt. They are not just called to share Christian teaching with others, but are to do it themselves. Bonhoeffer lists some of the 'good works' that Christians are asked to do and to suffer, including persecution, poverty, peacelessness and rejection. He wrote of a 'religionless Christianity', looking forward to a time after the war when Christians would focus on their call to discipleship rather than on being 'religious'.

Matthew 5:10- ''Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.''

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Christian Moral Action 3

Bonhoeffer's role in the Confessing Church and at Finkenwalde - The Confessing Church was formed in 1934 as a breakaway from the national Reich Church in Germany. The Reich Church would not allow ministers who had a Jewish or 'non-Aryan' ancestry, and they merged their Church youth grops with the Hitler Youth. The leaders of the Confessing Church were under increased pressure from Hitler as he became more powerful. Bonhoeffer opposed taking a civil oath in support of Hitler. Bonhoeffer was asked in 1935 to run a secret training school, or seminary, for new pastors, This school was secret and illegal because it was not applying 'Aryan restrictions'. The school for pastors met in a disused school in a town called Finkenwalde. Bonhoeffer advocated a life in the seminary which was monastic (monk-like). The trainees were encouraged to spend their time in prayer, Bible study and reflection, as well as singing 'spirituals' the religous songs of the black community in America. The training at the Finkenwalde seminary was controversial- some poeple said that in Nazi Germany there was not time for quiet reflection. However, Bonhoeffer thought it was essential for the next generation to be trained to listen to God. At Finkenwalde, Bonhoeffer experimented with ideas about Christian community, which he thought should be the source of spiritual renewal and a refuge for those who were persecuted. It should train Christians to be a caring service under the word of God. The Gestapo under Himmler discovered Finkenwalde seminary in 1937 and shut it down, arresting many former students. Bonhoeffer became disappointed with the Confessing Church because he thought that the leaders were weak for not criticising Nazi policies.

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Christian Moral Action 4

Cheap Grace - Bonhoeffer called 'cheap grace' the 'deadly enemy of the Church.' He used the term to descrbe what he saw as the habit amongst Christians of accepting the freely given gifts of God, but not bothering to do anything uncomfortable or risky in their Christian lives. Bonhoeffer thought that people were imagining that, because Jesus had paid the price for sin, they were off the hook and did not need to make any changes or be sorry for their wrong actions or even notice God at all. The reliance on cheap grace made the Church secular, willing to take on beliefs and values of the modern world. Bonhoeffer wrote of 'millions of spiritual corpses'.

Costly Grace - Bonhoeffer thought that people should be prepared for 'costly grace'. The grace of God is something worth sacrificing everything for. Grace is costly because it calls Christians to follow Jesus and make changes to their lives and decisions. Bonhoeffer said that Christians should reflect on how God sacrificed his only Son to save people from sin, and people should respond by being ready to sacrifice everything to God in absolute obedience.

Sacrifice, suffering and the cross - For Bonhoeffer, the call to Christian discipleship is closely linked to the passion of Jesus- his rejection, suffering and death. Anyone who follows Jesus must pick up the cross and follow Jesus' path of rejection, suffering and death. Discipleship and costly grace involve self denial and endurance. Rejection for the sake of Christ is a central part to Christian life. Being Christian is a life of suffering for Christ.

Solidarity - 'existing for others' or 'solidarity' was a central part of Bonhoeffer's theology as he believed it was closely linked to the idea of discipleship. Bonhoeffer was offered the opportunity to stay in London and learn from Gandhi about the principles of non-violence, but he instead chose to run the Finkenwalde seminary, Bonhoeffer could have escaped to safety in the USA, but he stayed only three weeks before returning to Germany to share in the suffering of other German people. He argued that the purpose of Christian life is not to be 'religious' but to be in a relationship with God through living for others. This life for others allows Christians to participate in the being of Jesus, For Bonhoeffer, solidarty led him into the Resistance movement in Germany against the Nazis. He was accused of conspiring to assassinate Hitler and sent to a concentration camp to await execution. Bonhoeffer was hanged on the 9th April 1945 without a trial, just two weeks before American soldiers liberated the concentration camp.

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Christian Moral Action 5

Alexander Campbell - several times expressed the idea that ''Sinners are justified by faith, and Christians by works.'' (said originally by Cottrell in 'The Faith Once for All') - supports the idea of costly grace.

Martin Luther - Bonhoeffer was influenced by Martin Luther who said that we need to look to the Bible, not to the state. He believed that divine law was above human law.

The Barmen Declaration 1934- was based on the 1 Peter 2:17- ''Fear God, Honour the emperor.'' - Karl Barth argued that although we have the verse, the Nazi Regime should not be followed as it has corrupted The Church- the Reichskirche is a religionless Christianity.

Bonhoeffer- ''Salvation is free, but discipleship will cost you your life.''

Like Kant, Bonhoeffer believed that a Christian can recognise that they act out of duty when they act along with the rest of humankind.

Stanley Hauerwas - Bonhoeffer's care for truth in politics is a much-needed challenge to the pragmatism of democracy in the West.

Joseph Fletcher - interpreted Bonhoeffer as tolerant of other people's relativest morals only so far as they do not pose harm on others.

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Augustine's Teaching on Human Nature 1

Jean- Jacque Rosseau - in their natural state, humans are essentially generous creatures and only act otherwise when situation and circumstances cause them to,''Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.''

Thomas Hobbes - in their natural state, humans are not co-operative but selfish and brutish, ''The life of man, solitary, poor, brutish and short.''

Karl Marx - believes that there is no such thing as human nature. Humans have to work and create to guarentee their survival, everything else they do is just a product of their environment.

Augustine's life and influences (book= 'Confessions') - Augustine's mother was a Christian. In his early life he followed the thinking of the Manichees, who taught that the universe was a battle between forces of good and evil, that human appetites trapped the body into a world of darkness but human reason could lead to enlightenment. Augustine was also very influenced by Plato and his follower Plotonius , who taught that human appetites were shameful and that study could lead people to the Form of the Good. The preaching of St Ambrose and the letters of Paul were instrumental in converting Augustine to Christianity. Augustine rejected Manchaeism because he came to believe that the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus was needed to bring people to wisdom, not just human reason. Augustine became a priest and then a bishop. Some of his confessions included the fact that he had a child out of wedlock and stole a pear from a neighbour's orchard.

Human nature as created by God - Adam and Eve, were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27- imago dei) and for Augustine, this meant that they share some of the characteristics of God such as rationality, moral nature and freedom of choice. They have a special place in the universe. They are given responsibility of stewardship over the earth, told to be fruitful and multiply, and told not to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden.

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Augustine's Teaching on Human Nature 2

The Fall - the serpent tempts Eve to eat the fruit and disobey God, and then Adam chooses to be disobedient too. This is called 'The Fall' of Adam and Eve because they fell away from their perfect nature through their own free choice and disobedience. Augustine taught that the Fall was catastrophic for humanity. They are banished from the Garden, made to work for a living, Eve is given pain in childbirth, the serpent has to crawl and people no longer have the same access to God that they had before. The Fall was the turning point for the whole of creation, in Augustine's view.

Human relationships before the Fall, according to Augustine - in Genesis, before the Fall, Adam and Eve are depicted as having a close relationship with God. Thy can see God and walk and talk with God easily. Augustine thought people must have lived in a state of loving friendship before the Fall. This he called 'concordia'. He thought that they must have lived in a 'state of perfection' and in accordance with God's plans. They must have lived comfortably with their physical bodies and not worried about being naked. People were able to live in a peaceful society without the need for repressive political authority, but they would have still needed some sort of leadership.

Human relationships after the Fall, according to Augustine - the human will could be pulled in different directions after the Fall, and flawed human nature makes it inevitable that people do wrong. There are two different types of love : CUPIDITAS- this is love of worldly, impermanent things and selfish concerns. CARITAS- this is a generous love for others displayed through the virtues (prudence, fortitude, temperance and justice) which gives people spiritual happiness. The sin of Adam and Eve corrupted everything and passed on the tendency to sin to future generations so that everyone is now born with Original Sin.  People are unable to live morally pure lives, they can only be saved by the grace of God through Christ. People have a divided will, they argue with themselves- an inward moral battle. Augustine could relate to the spiritual struggles in Romans 7- where Paul longs to be free from sin but he feels chained to it. Augustine thought that people struggle with concupiscience- uncontrolled desires for sex, food ,power e.t.c.

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Augustine's Teaching on Human Nature 3

Augustine's teaching on grace - he taught that the only way people can be restored from the effects of Original Sin is through the grace of God- God's generous giving of love. Without this, people are doomed for eternal punishment. He believed in limited election- God would only save a limited number of people through grace. Augustine believed that God's grace gives moral guidance, is love and mercy, helps the soul understand sin and calms the soul with forgiveness and hope.

Strengths of Augustine's ideas on human nature - he encourages humanity to take responsibility for its own actions and recognise its failings. He understands and attempts to account for human emotions, especially the contradictory ones. He makes valuable distinctions between love of material goods and love for others. He recognises his own weaknesses and is willing to engage with everyday human experience, He does not pretend that anything is possible for humanity as long as they try hard enough; instead he emphasises human dependence on the grace of God.

Weaknesses of Augustine's ideas on human nature - the idea of Original Sin can seem unattractive in an era when we are used to thinking of ourselves as individuals, rather than part of a species. The idea of a loving God punising people for sins commited by others seems hard to accept. The theory of evolution might make it difficult to accept that humanity is so very different in nature and purpose from other animals, and it calls into question the historical truth of the story of the Fall. Some argue that Augustine's focus on sin and corruption distorts the hopeful Christian message of goodness and the love of God and the promise of salvation. Some argue that Augustine assumes there is such thing as 'human nature'. Jean Paul Sartre held the view that we are each free to create our own natures.

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Augustine's Teaching on Human Nature 4

Dawkins - believed that the notion of corporate responsiblility of all humanity for Adam and Eve's sin goes against our contemporary understandings of justice and fairness. Evolutionary biology shows that humans emerged from much less sophisticated animal forms that lacked the kind of consciousness needed to make moral choices. The idea that God restores human nature by killing Jesus on the cross is sadomasochistic and irrational.

Neibuhr - argued that humans must come to understand their imperfect and flawed nature and establish a relationship with God. Only then can they realise their true limits and possibilities.

Freud (book= 'Sexuality and the Psychology of Love') - agreed with Augustine that sexual desire was an essential quality of human behaviour. But disagreed that what was needed was guilt and atonement for these urges. He thought that unfufilled desires could lead to mental illness and neurosis in later life and psychotherapy could be used to help channel the sexual urges.

Hitchens - believes that central moral lessons derived from stories such as the 'Fall'. He argues that religious concepts degrade and undermine humanity as outdated values compete with more modern commitments such as equality and diversity. ''The invention of religion was the original sin.''

Pinker - argues that irrational superstitions such as Origianl Sin should be replaced with the Humanitarian Principle - the idea that it is possible to seek and live a good life without religious or superstitious beliefs. ''You and I are better off if we share our surpluses, rescue each other's children.''

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Knowledge of God's Existence 1

Bonaventura believed there are 3 different ways of seeing:

1. The Eye of The Flesh= incorporates empiricism, knowledge of the physical world.

2. The Eye of Reason= using logic to work out mathmatical and philosophical truths.

3. The Eye of Contemplation= gaining knowledge of God through faith.

Polkinghorne's binocular vision= he sees science through one eye as it shows him the physical world and the laws and processes behing it. In the other eye, he sees spiritual truths about God as is shows him the purposefulness of the world in context to the creation of God.

Natural Theology= is about gaining knowledge of God through observation and reason. Some Christians reject natural theology. Paley's design argument relied on natural theology; he thought that observing the natural world showed clear evidence of the existence of a loving God. In Romans 1, the Bible suggests that God can be made known through the natural world, ''For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, ''- Romans 1:21 and Psalm 8,''You have set your glory in the heavens.''  Aquinas used natural theology to show that Christian belief is reasonable and does not have to contrast with logical philosophy or common sense. Swinburne argues that we have good reason to think that the world shows signs of order, regularity and purpose. Reason therefore leads us to conclude that there is probably an intelligent being we call God. Calvin argued we have 'sensus divinitus' - an innate sense of God and therefore everyone could access him. He thought the natural world was a 'mirror' of God or a 'theatre' for God so everyone can see it. Calvin argued that any 'epistemic distance' between humanity and God arises because of humanity's misuse of free will.

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Knowledge of God's Existence 2

Natural Theology - some people such as Calvin believe that human beings are born with an 'innate sense of the divine.' Cicero argues that in all times and cultures, people have had a sense that there is an infinite being in control of the universe, even when these cultures have never met. They often develop religious beliefs that are remarkably similar. The idea that we are born with a sense of the divine could be supported by Genesis 2:7 where God breathes into Adam with his own breath. Calvin wrote, ''There is within the human mind, an awareness of the divine'' Calvin thought this was universal to all beings, not just Christians, so there is no excuse to fail to worship God. Some thinkers extend the idea to argue that we all have an innate sense of morality which comes from our sense of the divine. Butler, Newman and C.S.Lewis argued that we instinctively feel guilt when we have done something wrong, and this 'inner voice' is evidence of the sense of God within us.Some argue that God can be clearly seen in the order, beauty and purpose of creation (teleogical arguments). It is argued that we naturally recognise that there must be a God behind the beauty, purpose and order of creation. When we look at the natual world it must be obvious to us that this could not have happened by chance. Aquinas, Calvin, Paley and Tennant argue that the natural world reveals the existence of God.

Revealed Knowledge of God - revelation literally means 'uncovered'. This is when God chooses to let himself be known. This has created ideas such as the doctrine of the Trinity and life after death. Revealed theology is said to be available to everyone through faith. Immediate revelation is the name given to direct encounters with God through religious experience such as in Exodus 3, with the story if Moses and the burning bush. Mediate revelation is where someone gains knowledge of God in a secondary or non-direct way, an example is hearing of someone else's religious experience. Barth argued that God can only be known through revealed theology and not through natural theology. Barth argued that God reveals himself to us when he chooses, and we should not claim to be able to gain knowledge of God through our own efforts. Revealed knowledge of God is said to be the result of God's grace in choosing to show himself to people. It has to be accepted through faith as it cannot be supported by reason.

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Knowledge of God's Existence 3

The Grace of God - in Christianity, the grace of God is understood to be God's unconditional love and undeserved gifts to humanity. The grace of God is shown in the gift of wisdom, in the gift of faith, through words of scripture and through bringing people to salvation.

The Bible and knowledge of God - The Bible does not make distinction between natural and revealed theology. It teaches that knowledge of God can be gained in ways such as: the events of history, the beauty of the world, the words of prophets, religious experience, the person of Jesus and scripture.

Acts 17:24 = ''The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human minds.'' -shows natural theology.

Acts 17:31 = ''He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him (Jesus) from the dead.'' -shows revealed theology.

Calvin refers to Acts 17 where he uses it to argue that everyone has the capacity and the disposition to believe in God.


Dawkins - ''Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence.'' according to Dawkins, faith does not just provide insufficient reason for belief but is actually harmful, encouraging people to be lazy in their thinking

Hume - ''a wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.''

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Knowledge of God's Existence 4

Counter-argument to Dawkins and Hume - the balance of probability (if the sun will rise e.t.c.) based on our past experiences lead us to carry on our daily lives. However, our faith that the future will resemble the past and that our past experiences act as some kind of guarentee is not firm evidence.

Criticisms - Augustine argued that Original Sin prevented people from being able to know God because they are corrupted and not holy enough to approach God through their efforts.

Counter-argument - Aquinas believed that we should use revealed knowledge to guide us when we use our reason to work out natural knowledge of God, but both can be used to complement each other.

Further criticisms - some people argue that God cannot be trusted because of the problem of evil and suffering.

Support - Anselm believed that God is 'that which nothing greater can be thought' and God must exist in order to be 'twngcbt' otherwise he wouldn't be 'twngcbt' then a belief in God cannot lead anywhere other than trust in him.

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Death and Afterlife 1


  • Christians believe that after death, people will have a new life in a new kind of existence.
  • They reject the ideas of rebirth or reincarnation and platonic ideas.
  • Instead, they believe the soul will be given a new spiritual, glorified physical body to continue life after death (resurrection).
  • They believe thaat the person who lives after death is still the same person but will be incorruptible.
  • They believe that resurrection is a miracle from God.
  • Before Jesus, Pharisees believed in resurrection and it is mentioned in the OT in Daniel.
  • The gospels say that Jesus was crucified and died, his body placed in a tomb with a heavy stone. On the third day, the stone had been rolled away and the tomb empty. Jesus was seen and heard by his followers, as a man in a physical body.
  • Christians believe that the Resurrection of Jesus demonstrates that they too will be resurrected after death.
  • 1 Corinthians - Paul uses the metaphor of a seed transforming into the new plant it will become, to show how the physical earthly body will be transformed to fufill its potential.
  • 2 Corinthians - he uses the metaphor of  tent being replaced with a solid house, to show how lifein this world is temporary and will be replaced by something long-lasting, life after death will provide a new home.
  • 2 Corinthians - uses the metaphor of being naked in this world but clothed in the afterlife, to show that we will no longer need to be ashamed.
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Death and Afterlife 2


  • Traditionally, Christians describe the afterlife in terms of 'going to heaven'.
  • Some symbols of heaven include: the idea of a place where there will be no suffering, the idea of plenty, the idea of being surrounded by angels, the idea of meeting God the Father who will be seated on a throne.
  • Heaven is the state in which a person recognises and accepts God's grace, and is forgiven and made whole.
  • Some Christians understand heaven in terms of an eternity of endless days in which to praise God, whilst others understand it as timeless, often in terms of Aquinas' beatific vision.
  • The Bible gives people ideas about heaven in symbolic language such as 'The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazurus' in Luke 16:19-31.
  • People criticise the idea of heaven, saying it raises more questions than answers, relating to physical bodies in heaven- what and how would people eat and whether they would age.
  • It is difficult to see how we could be 'the same person' in heaven if we have a different 'glorified' body and are eternal. Some people argue that this makes heaven nonsensical and others argue that it is a mystery which we cannot expect to understand in this life.

Williams - criticised Christian ideas about heaven by saying that it would get boring after a while due to people running out of things to do and wouldn't have the exciting challenge of deciding how they use a limited lifespan. Some repond by saying that being in the presence of the wonders of God could never get boring, and that God would ensure humans never felt boredom just as they would never feel pain.

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Death and Afterlife 3

Aquinas and the Beatific Vision-

  • Aquinas thought of the afterlife in terms of a beatific vision, in which people come face-to-face with God for all eternity.
  • He thought that it would be a timeless vision. There would be no more time, but the past, present and future would all be brought together. This might avoid problems of the possibility of heaven getting boring or taking up room.

Rahner - supported the view of a timeless afterlife, agreeing that the idea of endless days had too many problems.

  • However, it raises issues such as how people might be resurrected into physical bodies for the beatific vision- given that physical bodies exist in time- and how people could continue to be the same person as they were before death, when so many human characteristics are directly related to living within time.


  • Traditional Christian teaching presents the idea of hell as a place of eternal punishment, separated from God's presence.
  • In the Bible, it is sometimes described in terms of fire and torture, darkness etc. It is often described as being in a downward direction from this world.
  • The concept of hell raises issues about whether the idea of it is compatible with the idea of an omnibenevolent God.
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Death and Afterlife 4


Hume - raised the question of whether there could be anything a human being could do that would justly deserve eternal punishment. Some argue in response that wronging God deserves infinite punishment because God is infinitely good.

Hick - argued that a loving God would not allow his creatures to suffer for all eternity; he was a universalist, believing that there would eventually be salvation for all people and that the afterlife is an opportunity to continue a spiritual journey. Some argue that there would be no point in having eternal punishment as it would achieve nothing- this has led to the argument that notions of hell were invented as a form of social control.


  • Does not appear explicitly in the Bible, was developed by thinkers like Origen and Augustine. In 16th century, Pope Gregory understood the verse from Mattew's Gospel (12:32) to mean that there could be forgiveness after death.
  • Purgatory is traditionally understood to be a place of pain and cleansing, where the soul recognises its sin but isn't punished forever. Catholic Church teaches that prayers of the living can aid the souls of the dead to endure the experience.

Raher - explored the doctrine of purgatory and argued that it should be understood as a metaphor for the soul's greater awareness of the consequences of sin and the holiness of God.

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Death and Afterlife 5

Election -

  • Election/ predestination is the belief that God chooses the eternal destiny of each human soul, God knows, before people are born, whether or not they will go to heaven.
  • Some Christians argue that God's omniscience means that he must know the future and his omnipotence means that he can control people's future.

Augustine - taught the doctrine of 'limited election', claiming that God would save some people through grace, but only a limited number. He argued that no-one could deserve salvation due to Original Sin. Believed election was a sign of God's grace and love.

Calvin - taught that God chose some people for eternal life in heaven and some for eternal punishment.

Barth  - taught the idea of unlimited election, saying that Jesus brought salvation for the whole world and anyone who accepted the Christian message would be saved.

Hick - taught that everyone would be saved eventually, whether Christian or not. Everyone will continue their spiritual journey after death - an omnibenevolent God would ensure that everyone is saved.

Pope Benedict XII - criticised Hick, and said that if everyone is saved regardless of their faith, then Christ's death seems pointless.

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Death and Afterlife 6

Judgement -

  • Christians believe that after death there will be judgement from God. Different ideas include:
  • Idea 1= some people, such as prophets and saints, might have a kind of fast track to heaven whilst others have to wait until the time of God's choosing once the world ends.
  • Idea 2= everyone has to wait until the end of time, for Judgement Day.
  • Idea 3= each person goes to heaven or hell straight after death, and others join them after their own deaths.

Matthew 25:31-46: The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats -

  • This parable describes what will happen when 'the Son of Man comes in his glory' - Christians interpret this to be a reference to Jesus himself.
  • It describes a judgement when people are sent to heaven and others are sent away to eternal punishment. There is no middle state.
  • Those who go to heaven are chosen because of the way they have treated others when they are in need, and those who go to hell are sent there because they have ignored those in need. Doing something for people in need is seen as doing something for Jesus himself.
  • The parable says that God has 'prepared' a place for those who go to heaven, suggesting that God knew they were coming.
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