Saturday, June 15, 2013

( 3 ) " Power, Heresy, and Evolution of Christianity, " (Some Related Knowledge about ISLAM has been Included by the Writer of This Review)

By Sodium

I must admit that reviewing this topic, in more depth, has been much more difficult than I initially realized. I have found it so because of the complex nature of the so many issues connected to one another. In order to make it less difficult to comprehend to the interested readers, I will concentrate on the essences of the topic. In my review, the essences of the topic can be categorized as follows:

~  Two-Way Struggle Over Geopolitical Hegemony.
~  Orthodoxy of the Christian Church.
~  Christology.
~  Variety of Heresies Within The Realm Of The Christian Church.
~  Three-Way Struggle Over Geopolitical Hegemony.

The above list is the core of the essences of the Chapter titled, " Power, Heresy, and evolution of Christianity, " in the book entitled, " A World Without Islam. "

I shall mention, however briefly, Islam's position in some of the issues listed above, in which I may see it appropriate to do so, and leave it to the interested readers to dig into further researches for more detailed knowledge, if they choose to do so.

Not to burden the novice readers with much minute details, I shall attempt to outline the issues in the above list, as briefly as I possibly can:

~  Two-Way Struggle Over Geopolitical Hegemony:
As Emperor Constantine, the Emperor of the huge Eastern Roman Empire, and who had made his seat of power in Constantinople, the present day city of Istanbul in Turkey, had legalized Christianity in his Empire, the cleavage or rather struggle over geopolitical hegemony between him and the seat of power in the Roman Empire in Rome had become greater in intensity over influence. Such a geopolitical struggle between Constantinople in the East and Rome in the West had started almost three centuries before Islam had appeared in the scene. In other words, the Middle Eastern aversion toward the West had nothing to do with Islam, because the aversion was already there, whether Islam had appeared then or not. Therefore, blaming Islam for the turmoil in the Middle East does not really holds water, at all.  In the next Chapter, or topic of the book, "A World Without Islam ", the author dwells deeply on the polarity that had existed between Constantinople and Rome that was, at the start of the long struggle.

~  Orthodoxy of the Christian Church:
The orthodoxy of the church can be summed-up, as demanded/dictated by the church as to how the adherents to the Christian faith should start their prayers and I quote below, exactly as the author of the book has stated such prayers in his book:

" ... the orthodox position of the church that "God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit" have always existed and all continued to exist simultaneously as equals."

Such an orthodoxy has created a series of questions, as will be shown in the next issue below, called Christology. Perhaps, the questions being raised as a result of orthodoxy may be provocative to those adherents to the faith according to the church orthodoxy. However, such questions must be referred to, in order to have a fair or rather reasonable comprehension of all the essences of the issues at hand.

~  Christology:
Christianity has been dealing with the issue of Christology since day one after the death of Jesus Christ. What is involved in Christology, as the author of the book put it," what is the true nature of Jesus Christ ? "  In order to answer such a very difficult question, other questions have been raised such as the following list of questions, and I quote them below exactly as the author of the book presented them:

*  Was Jesus man, or was he God, or both ?
*  Was he truly biologically conceived and born of a virgin, or had he always existed prior to birth ? If he had always existed, had he existed as long as God had existed ?
*  Is Jesus coequal to God, or is he God ?
*  Did God come first and then create Jesus ?  If so, does that not make Jesus " number two " to God ?
*  Is God one, or truly a dual  personality, combining Jesus and God ?  Or a triple personality, combining the Holy Spirit ?
*  If Christ is both man and God, which is the most important element: the element of man, or  God ?  Can God actually come down to earth and live as a human being, be killed, die on the cross ?
*  What happened to Jesus after he died and rose again from the dead ?  Does he still exist independently or did he fuse with God ?  Or has he always had a separate existence ?

A Variety of Heresies Within The Realm Of The Christian Church:
Because of the orthodoxy position of the church and the so many questions raised in Christology, as shown above, theologians in the Christian theology came up with heresy after heresy after heresy etc... through the ages, which in the end had contributed to the total evolution of Christianity as the Christians of the 21st followed. The author of the book mentioned the following heresies, with a brief description of each:

Heresy of Marcionism: the essence of this heresy is that the Hebrew God of violence and vengeance in the Old Testament " is incompatible with the God of love and forgiveness as preached by Jesus, and that therefore the Hebrew God was not the true God,...."

Heresy of Arianism: the essence of this heresy is that " that Jesus was created by the Father, just as the Holy Spirit had been, and that both were therefore subordinate to God the Father, who was the " true " God, the Creator. "

Heresy of Monophysitism: Such a heresy believes " that Jesus did have some human qualities but that he was essentially divine in nature."

Heresy of Ebionism:" It regarded Jesus as a  prophet rather than divine, in rejection of Paul's vision (and directly parallel to Islam's vision of today)"

Heresy of Eutychianism: This heresy " argued that while Jesus possessed some human elements, the divine elements were dominant. Much of the controversy over this issue therefore related to Mary: Was she the Mother of Jesus as God ?  Or Mother only of Jesus in his human aspect ?  Her title in Greek differed accordingly."  On this heresy, the author went on to say the following and I would quote him to make his argument clearer:

" Typically, theological dispute over these issues was bolstered  or even sparked, by geopolitical interest: Eutychianism was closely linked to a quest by the city of Alexandria in 433 CE to confirm its status as the second most important Christian city after Constantinople, a position that was equally sought by its rival Antioch which promoted a more orthodox view of Jesus."

Heresy of Docetism: It " argued that Jesus's body was a physical illusion and that he only seemed to die; he was, in reality, a pure spirit who could not die. This belief  was also linked to the notion that material in the world was inherently evil and thus God or his Son could not be material. Islam, believing that Jesus was only a physical being and not a divinity, shares the view that Jesus only seemed to die in the cross, but was saved by God and taken to Heaven."

Heresy of Pelagianism: According to the author of the book, " A World Without Islam ", this heresy " was derived from an obscure monk who may have been from the British Isles. He denied the central Church teaching that mankind was inherently sinful from the original sin of Adam and Eve. The problem with denial of original sin is that it undercuts the need for salvation solely through faith, as taught by the Church. The view was thus declared heretical in 416 CE. Islam, too, denies the validity of the original sin and of mankind's inherent sinfulness."

Heresy of Monotheletism: This heresy had " unsuccessfully sought a tortured compromise between competing churches in Alexandria and Constantinople over whether Jesus's acts represented one single divine spirit or the cooperation of both human and divine wills. While seemingly abstruse, this doctrine had almost a purely political basis in seeking to heal the split in the Eastern Church brought about by the Monophysite heresy (Monophysitism). In the end, however, this compromise formulation was rejected. Politics trumped theology."

There are other heresies, but the author of the book, " A World Without Islam, " did not mention them. He only said there were more heresies.

In sum, any theological heresy that was incompatible with the orthodoxy of the church was declared heretical and the theologian who believed in it and preached it was denounced by the church as heretic and in some cases was ex-communicated.

As it may be seen that the evolution of Christianity was not a path full of roses, but a tough road that its scholars and theologians had to travel through time, measured not in decades but centuries. At the same time, Christianity had to cope with wishes of the State as the geopolitical ambitions of the State demanded. The end result of all this was the split of Christianity into three distinct rivals: Eastern Orthodox Church in the East (Constantinople), and Protestant and Catholic Churches, respectively in the West (Rome). Thus, Christianity has ended up having, within its fundamental faith, three main churches: Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and Protestant Church, and there are dissensions within these three major Christian churches which everyone of them has ended having its own factions which appears like a mosaic of churches, such as Western Catholic, Maronite church (mainly in Lebanon), Eastern Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Baptist, Methodist, Nazarene, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, Alliance Church, and there are other churches I cannot recall their respective names, at the moment. All these Churches have evolved and developed  through centuries, not decades. The information of this paragraph is not in the book, but mine, based on what I have learned about the History of the Christian Church, through the years. It is fine to know this, but it is more important to know the reasons behind such divisiveness, some of which has already been covered in the foregoing christology and its consequent heresies.

In a similar manner, Islam, too, had to go through the struggle for political power within Islam itself, as the Sunna-Shi'a split had occurred after the death of The Prophet Muhammad shows, especially after the death of the Ali ibn Abi-Talib, the Fourth Khalifa ( Caliph ) in Islam. And such a split had taken place for political power and had/has remained so, among Sunni and Shi'i Muslims till present time of the 21st century.

Another point is worth mentioning, here, is the similarity that seems to exist between Heresies of Christianity and the Methahib ( Schools of Thought ) in Islam. There are differences, however: one difference is that Christianity had encountered so " Many Heresies, " while Islam encountered only four Schools of Thought which were based on years of Ijtihad ( also Ejtihad ), meaning, relentless pursuit in scholarly researches, especially in the interpretations of the verses of the Qur'an. The four Schools of Thought are:

+  Hanafi School of Thought.
+  Shafi'e School of Thought.
+  Maliki School of Thought.
+  Hanbali School of Thought.

Another difference has to do with the fact that The Prophet Muhammad himself asked his followers, from the very beginning of his preaching the Tawheed, ( The Oneness of God ), not to worship him (Muhammad), as the Christians did, ( and still do ), in their worship of Essa ibn Mariam (Jesus Christ, the son of Mary), because he ( Muhammad ) was a human being, as he repeatedly reminded his follew Muslims, during all the years he was actively preaching "Tawheed,"The Oneness of God." Thus, the questions raised in Christology above, about "the true nature of Jesus Christ" had/has no place in Islam, about ( the true nature of The Prophet Muhammad.)  Again, most of this comparison, in similarity and difference, is not in the book, but mine, based on my own knowledge, concerning Islam and Christianity.

At this stage of the review of the book, "A World Without Islam," it is in order to try to remember such differences and similarities between the evolution involved in Christianity and Islam. There are more similarities and more differences that may be encountered later. But for now, try to remember what you can from what have already been covered.

Three-Way Struggle Over Geopolitical Hegemony:
As it has been shown in the " Two-Way Struggle Over Hegemony, " the struggle was originally between Rome in the West, and Constantinople in the East. Hence, the aversion between the two seats of power had already existed, almost four centuries before the appearance of Islam as a new force that the Byzantine Empire had to deal with. The most important point to remember from all of this is that the allegations that Islam had started the aversion of the Middle East toward the West is totally and completely false, since the aversion had grown greatly between the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) in the East and the Roman Empire in Rome in the West.

Since Islam emerged as a new potent force in the Middle East, it is only a fair game to make the " Two-Way Struggle Over Geopolitical Hegemony " to a " Three-Way Struggle Over Geopolitical Hegemony."

In fact, with the appearance of Islam as a new force, the struggle had become a (Four-Way Struggle), if one takes into account the Persian Empire whose geopolitical ambitions were as deep as the Byzantine Empire of Constantinople and Roman Empire of Rome. But, this topic is dealing with the Evolution of Christianity within two competing Roman Empires. Hence, the geopolitical ambition of the Persian Empire was excluded from this discussion. Once more, this is not in the book, but mine, based on my own knowledge of the history of the Middle East.

As both Constantinople in the East and Rome in the West lost the struggle, at the end, to the new potent force, Islam, the hatred of the East toward the West and vice versus had nothing to do with Islam, since such hatred had/has already existed since time immemorial, as recoded human history had/has attested to this very fundamental fact. The next chapter/topic will dwell, somehow, in this important point.

Therefore, blaming Islam for the current human conditions that have prevailed in the world, at present time, is self-deceiving and self-defeating at the same time; and would/will solve nothing.


Next topic will be topic (4) " Byzantium versus Rome: Warring Christian Polarities."


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