Christianity is one of the main global religions which has millions of adepts worldwide. At the same time, Christianity has a number of movements and Churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, Orthodox Christianity and others. The difference between Christian movements may be significant but the diversity of the modern Christianity reveals a strong theoretical background of this religion which lays the foundation to Christian theology, which rationalizes, explains and interprets basic ideas and concepts of Christianity to promote Christian faith worldwide. Remarkably, the development of Christina theology did not always bring positive effects since the conversion of Native Americans and other peoples conquered by Europeans led to physical extinction of a considerable of the non-Christian population, namely those people who refused from the conversion to Christianity. Nevertheless, today, Christian theology keeps progressing, but it has become more humanistic and progressive in regard to the tolerance toward other religions and personal beliefs of people. The development Christian theology plays an important role in the promotion of Christianity since Christian theology lays the ideological ground to Christian as the world’s religion and it is due to Christian theology, Christian ideas are spread worldwide.
Historical background of Christian theology
On analyzing the development of Christian theology and its basic concepts and ideas, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the rise of Christian theology is mainly attributed to the Middle Ages, when Christianity was the dominant religion in Europe and its impact expanded not only on the religious life of people but also on the political and social life. On the other hand, it is worth mentioning the fact that the emergence of Christian theology dates back to the epoch of the early Christianity when follower of Jesus attempted to lay the theoretical foundation to Christianity. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the prologue to John’s Gospel as one of the earliest manifestations of Christian theology. Many researchers (Guyatt, 2005: 125) point out that the early Christian theology is closely intertwined with the development of Judaism and Christianity among Jews, while traditional view on Christian theology attributes the emergence of Christian theology to the Hellenistic impact (Hershberger, 1985:144).
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The Middle Ages may be viewed as the Golden Age of Christian theology since it was the time when Christianity was the dominant religion in Europe and influenced practically all spheres of human life, including science. In the Middle Ages, Christian theology developed faster than in the antiquity because Christians did not confront the opposition from the part of the state, they were not vulnerable to repressions they did not face a risk of imprisonment or execution as early Christians did. In stark contrast they could enjoy the total support of the society and political elite that naturally contributed to the fast development of Christian theology. During this time, Christian theology was particularly inclined to theorizing and scholasticism became the mainstream trend in the development of Christian theology in the Middle Ages. It is possible to name Thomas Aquinas, Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, Saint Gregory the Great and others among the most prominent representatives of Christian theology of the Middle Ages.
The Renaissance and the Enlightenment brought consistent changes in Christianity and in Christian theology. This stage in the history of Christianity is known as Reformation, when the traditional views and norms of Christianity, or to put it more precisely views and norms developed by the Roman Catholic Church, were challenged. This was the time of changes not only in Christian rituals and some norms, but also in Christian theology, which also was vulnerable to the impact of new, progressive ideas. For instance, it is worth mentioning works of Marine Luther and John Calvin as major representatives of the Reformation movement. Reformation contributed to the certain liberalization of Christian theology. However, it was not liberalization in its scientific or non-religious form. In fact, it was just a new trend which implied a critical view on dogmas which were taken for granted by the Medieval Christian scholars. The Reformation brought in a new, enlightened view on Christianity.
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The late 19th – 20th centuries were marked by the emergence of modern Christian theology which was characterized by the persistence of Reformist movements and new theologies which were labeled the “Enthusiasts” because of their emotional zeal. It is possible to name the Baptists, the Methodists, the Quakers and other representatives of the modern Christian theology. The development of modern Christian theology occurred in the context of the fast development of science and growing impact of atheism. Nevertheless, Christian theology survived and it still keeps progressing, while many specialists point out that, in the late 20th – early 21st centuries, Christian theology has entered the postmodernist stage.
Basic concepts of Christian theology
One of the basic ideas of Christianity is the idea that a human being, a man was created by the image of God. Consequently a man should strive for being as close to the ideal the God is as possible. For Christianity, it was always important that nobody replaced the ‘true’ God. It becomes particularly important in our age when technologies are so developed and human society lives in the epoch of unprecedented and fast progress.
Naturally, there appeared a tendency to compare a man to God, even replacing them. Obviously it contradicts to basic principles of Christian theology. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the origin of the world and man, since, according to the Christian tradition, the world and man were created by God. In fact, Genesis is one of the major concepts of Christian theology which influenced the development of Christianity and Christian theology. At the beginning of Genesis God is depicted as the almighty creator who has all the power in the world and who has actually created the world. In such a way, God is the generator of life and the world, while humans are depicted as ignorant creatures of God. On the other hand, they are not absolutely inert. In fact, they have certain creative potential (Niebuhr, 1990:210).
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For instance, God granted them with power to name animals and plants. Thus, they can create but their creativity is always under the control of God, while as they taste the forbidden fruit they are expelled from paradise and punished by God, who apparently needs obedience and worshiping.
This trend can be traced in the attitude of God to Cain and Abel. God apparently admits the obedience of Abel to laws established by God and he punishes Cain for the murder of his brother that proves that murder is a terrible crime that should be punished. Similarly, God supports Noah and saves him because of his devotedness to God and his virtuous lifestyle, while others are perished in the result of the flood. The same may be said about the story of Abraham and Isaac, which also reveals the importance of religion in the life of Hebrews because Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son, Isaac because of religious considerations (Bonhoefer, 1995:137).
Also, it is possible to refer to the situation when Esau gets blessing from Isaac instead of Jacob. Esau is cheating but it proves the significance of religious rituals for Hebrews at the epoch. The story of Joseph reveals the main virtues of Hebrews. Joseph is hard working and he is able to forgive his brothers and God rewards such behaviour and helps him through his hardships.
In order to understand man-God relation it is necessary to dwell upon basic convictions of Christians. First of all, in Christian ethics a man value before God “does not depend on mutable circumstances, we can under certain circumstances willfully relinquish life without in any way jeopardizing our being valued by God.” (Ramsey 1950:153).
So, human life is extremely valuable for God, regardless any circumstances. It means that in Christian tradition the attitude of God could hardly be changed radically despite human deeds.
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Secondly, the conviction, which was thoroughly worked out in Paul Ramsey’s covenant-centered Christian ethic, may be said as the principle of fidelity and faith. According to Paul Ramsey, “God has made a covenant with people, who therefore have an obligation to be faithful to that covenant by replicating it in all their relationships with each other. Fidelity to the covenant requires congruent fidelity between persons.” (Ramsey 1950:181).
Taking into considerations both these convictions it may be said that a man is probably the highest values for God, at the same time God demands fidelity from men and not only in relation to him but in relations between themselves. In this context, attempts of men to play God seem to be absurd.
Furthermore, Christian understanding of self is socially oriented that means than an individual has to avoid egoism and nationalism that “often creep into the development and consumption of technologies.” (Ramsey 1950:157).
Consequently, technological progress does not mean that the status of a man has changed somehow and according to basic Christian principles a man was only created by the image of God but he cannot replace him. On the other hand, this idea is reinforced by the attitude to a man as a social being that should avoid being highly individualistic and a man must keep faith and tolerance to God and be a good member of a society, i.e. appreciate values of the community and do not overestimate, or exaggerate personal self, or ego.
Another important question that was and actually remains in Christian theology is the man’s relationship to sin. According to Christian tradition, a human being is thought, as a being that is initially sinful. The concept of original sin is probably the most obvious evidence of this statement. Nowadays the man’s relationship to sin and Christian view on this problem has not practically changed.
For Paul Ramsey the essence of sin, as he sees it, is for human beings to reject “a relationship of responsive obedience” to God’s love and pursue their own course in opposition both to God’s intended order and to “the steadfast love of God which goes out to all men.” (Ramsey 1950:142).
As for sin itself, Paul Ramsey defines it as “any falling short of disinterested love for neighbor for his own sake… any falling short of the strenuous teaching of Jesus, any falling short of the full definition of obligation contained in I Corinthians 13.” (Ramsey 1950:143).
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Furthermore, now the problem of sin becomes one of the central problems of Christian theology because as the mankind progress the more difficult it is for a person to keep from commitment a sin. More importantly, Christian doctrine of the original sin predisposes people to be always alert to the likelihood that technology will be conscripted into evil’s service. That should make people more careful in relation to new technologies at the same time such view may be a kind of warning because a rapid development of technologies as a characteristic of our time, consequently the more is the progress the more difficult it will be for a man to avoid temptations.
On the other hand, not everything is as bad as it may seem to be. Far from thinking of technology and the risks that come with it as inherently evil, the prevailing Christian posture holds that one important dimension of the image of God evidences itself in the imagination and creativity, that research and creativity express, although the Fall has negatively impacted that image.
Thus, being apt to sin from the very beginning of the life, a man now undergoes a big number of risks and temptations mainly due to a rapid progress made by the mankind, its technology, science, culture and morality. But still, it does not necessarily mean that new technologies is evil for a man though a man should remain aware and conscious what is really good and what is evil.
As it has already been mentioned, Christian conception is characterized by a very critical interpretation and attitude to self. Paul Ramsey in “Basic Christian Ethics” also supports such a position and states on the ground of criticism of self-love and egocentrism. As an alternative to self-love he suggested the concept of ‘disinterested love’. By the way, this concept is supported by many other specialists in Christian ethics, such as Hershberger. According to them, the Christian understanding of self as socially constituted and corporately united stands against all atomistic and anarchic estimates of selfhood. As a result self-love in the Christian tradition is not honored, on the contrary, Christian understanding should incline Christians to think and act with global and neighborly interests that moderate individual ones.
The Essay on Religion and Theology: Similarities Between Mere Christianity and the Passion of the Christ
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Quite interesting seems to be Paul Ramsey view on the relation of love and justice. For instance, he states that “the Bible knows nothing, or little, of any conflict between justice and love.” (Ramsey 1950:5).
But at the same time he estimates that love transforms justice and “the social and legal system is moved from below by pressures, and justice is usually found among the jar of opposing forces and between contending factions.” (Ramsey 1961:47).
Also it has to be said that Paul Ramsey is a proponent of permeability of justice to charity and he concedes a kind of priority for justice in normal, sinful society.
At the same time, it is worth mentioning that in Christianity the perspective of the end of the world was constantly present since the moment of the death and resurrection of Christ and, gradually, the date of the end of the world was shifted from the end of the life of contemporaries of Christ to 250 AD, than to 500 AD and later. It is only in the 20th century, the Catholic Church presumed that the concept and prophecy of the end of the world was rather metaphorical than actual prediction (Guyatt 2005).
In such a way, it is possible to speak a consistent shift in the traditional Christian views on the concept of the end of the world that means quite a significant, if not to say revolutionary, change in Christian theology, which traditionally viewed the concept of the end of the world as one of the fundamental concepts of Christianity comparable to Genesis. Consequently, the contemporary Christian theology demonstrates its flexibility and ability to accept changes.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Christianity that is one of the most influential religions in the modern world because despite all technological progress, its norms and ideas remain quite actual for a significant part of population in many countries throughout the whole world. At this respect, particularly important are the ideas which were discussed in this paper such as a man in the image of God, self-love and its repulsion by Christianity, as well as a man’s relationship to sin. However, Christian theology may give much richer material for thought if analyzed in details that is why it seems to be quite a perspective field for study. The development of Christian theology influenced substantially the spread of Christianity in the world. Historically, Christian theology performed the function of the ideological and theoretical basis of Christian religion. At the beginning, the early Christian theology was practically a clandestine movement as early Christianity at large, while in the Middle Ages, Christian scholars were respectable and very intelligent people, who comprised the intellectual elite of the Christian world in the Middle Ages. However, the Reformation paved the way to the diversification of Christianity and Christian theology which persists till the present epoch. Moreover, the Reformation and the development modern and postmodern Christian theology contributed to consistent changes in the basic concepts of Christian religion, such as the concept of the end of the world, which is now perceived rather as a metaphor than a prediction. Nevertheless, Christian theology still supports the fundamental concepts of Christian religion and stands for the basic concepts of the supremacy of God. At the same time, it should be said that today Christian theology tends to the promotion and maintenance of traditional Christian values which are closely intertwined with universal, humanistic values.