« Prev Introduction. Next »

The extent and authority of the Catholic authorities were already substantially fixed at the beginning of the fourth century, though their mutual relations and the manner of using them in detail were not.393393See the account given in Vol. II., pp. 18-127, and elsewhere. Among the parties which contended over the correct definition of the dogma of redemption, they had to a certain degree become undoubtedly subjects of controversy. The great opposition between a more liberal theology and pure traditionalism was based upon a difference in the way of looking at the authorities. But this opposition never culminated in a clear contrast of principles. Consequently, theologians had no occasion to frame a special doctrine of the Church and the authorities—Scripture and tradition. The need was not, as in the case of the dogma of redemption, so pressing as to lead men to adopt the perilous and obnoxious course of formulating laws of faith anew. The petty skirmishes, however, with more or less obscure theologians and reformers, who point-blank objected to this or that portion of the traditional basis, did not come before the great tribunal of the Church, and the conflict with Manichæans, Paulicians, Euchites, and Bogomilians, has left no trace in the history of dogma.394394The opposition to the Eustathians and Andians (see the Acts of the Synod of Gangra and Epiph. H.70) does not belong to this section; for it arose from a different conception of the obligatoriness of the monk’s life on Christians. On the contrary, it is noteworthy that Aërius, once a friend of Eustathius (Epiph. H.75) not only maintained the original identity of bishops and presbyters—that had also been done, and supported from the N. T., by Jerome and the theologians of Antioch—but he made the question an articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiæ. We cannot now determine what motive influenced him. The attack of Marcellus of Ancyra on the foundations of the prevalent theology, and his argument that the dogma was essentially ἀνθρωπίνης βουλῆς τε καὶ γνώμης, are of incomparably greater significance in principle. But his arguments were not understood, and produced no effect. Meanwhile, the basis of the whole structure of the Catholic Church in the East was at no time left unassailed. The Church has never embraced everything which was, and might be, named Christian. After the Marcionites and the older sects had retired from the stage, or had fused with the Manichæans, Paulicians, Euchites, and Bogomilians, etc., came upon the scene. These Churches contested the Catholic foundations as the Marcionites and Manichæans had done; they accepted neither the Catholic Canon, nor the hierarchical order and tradition. They succeeded, in part, in creating lasting, comprehensive, and exclusive systems, and afforded work to Byzantine theologians and politicians for centuries. But important as it is to assert their existence, they have no place in the history of dogma; for at no time had they any influence whatever on the formation of dogma in the East; they have left no effect on the Church. Therefore general Church history has alone to deal with them.


Still, changes took place in the period between Eusebius and Johannes Damascenus. They followed simply the altered requirements of the Church. They gave utterance to the increased traditionalism. Necessity became a virtue, i.e., every new point which was felt to be needed in order to preserve the unity of the Church, or to adapt its institutions to the taste of the time, was inserted in the list of authorities. This method was in vogue even in the third century. It was now only further and further extended. But it is hard to fix its results, since at that time there was no fixity and there could be none, from the nature of the principle that the state of the Church at any time was to be declared as in every respect the traditional one.395395The view held of the apostolate of the twelve first fully reached its Catholic level in the fourth and fifth centuries. The Apostles were (1) missionaries who had traversed the whole world and performed unheard of miracles, (2) the rulers of the Churches, (3) teachers and law-givers in succession to Christ, having given in speech and writing to the least detail all the regulations necessary to the Church for faith and morals, (4) the authors of the order of worship, the liturgy, (5) heroic ascetics and fathers of monachism, (6) though hesitatingly, the mediators of salvation.

« Prev Introduction. Next »


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |