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To make this point clear, look at the way the Christian Right approaches the question of abortion. At the outset I want to be clear that the discussion that follows is not intended as an argument on one side or the other of the abortion debate, but merely intends to point out that the moral issues involved are far from simple or clear and that the legal or public issue is one that cannot be resolved by a religious claim to hold the moral high ground against the wishes of those with whom it disagrees. The anti-abortion argument depends upon several premises some of which are not self-evidently true or universally-agreed to be true: a.

The key premise is that the fertilized egg, which begins the life of the embryo, is a human being, a child. That is not a statement about which there is universal agreement. It is not self-evidently true. It is not a scientific statement. Throughout history and across cultures it is more common to look at the moment of birth as the beginning of a new human being.

The second premise, that abortion involves killing a child, only follows if the first premise is valid, and it is clear that the first premise is not a scientific statement but rather an assertion that is controversial at best. The third premise, that killing is always wrong, seems to be unsupported by many in the Christian Right as a matter of practice.

International Social Justice Commission: The Salvation Army and Social Justice

Many among the Christian Right have argued in favor of the death penalty and support engaging in war even when it results in the death of innocent civilians as well as combatants if it is in the national interest or if it is arguably in self defense. So apparently the Christian Right presumes the right to choose which killings are acceptable and which are not. The fourth premise is absurd on its face.

Law exists in a society to preserve the social order and prevent social chaos. It regulates traffic so that we do not run into each other. It is quite clear that abortion is an issue of morality that arises out of religious faith but it is important to realize that it is a religion-based moral position that applies only to those that believe that it is morally wrong. Persons who believe that abortion is wrong are entitled to that belief and it is their religious duty to refuse abortion for themselves and refuse to perform an abortion or assist others in performing them.

Such a position involves interfering with the freedom of others to live according to their morals, and as such is an inherently immoral position. It makes no more sense for those who are opposed to abortion to try to impose their views on others or interfere with the rights of those who have a different religious view about that issue, than for Muslims or Jews in the U. It is reasonable to assert that each of us has a duty to live a moral life and that therefore each of us must determine as best we are able, in accordance with some value principle, how we will decide what is right and what is wrong behavior for us and therefore how we choose to act in matters of public and private morality in a particular situation.

This is how we expect the moral person to act. It is quite a different matter for any individual or group to compel others to live according to its particular sense of right conduct under threat of penalty or force of law. Moral values defining right and wrong conduct are valuable for individual and personal guidance in determining how an individual or member of a group should act in a particular situation, and moral values may have universal value as moral principles that should obligate all members of society.

It is the simple acknowledgement of a logical difficulty, that in the face of two competing value claims that conflict with each other there is no arbiter between them and one is obligated to do the best he can with the limited truth that is available to him, but not to claim more for himself or for his piece of truth than the circumstances warrant. When you see the world and its problems in stark black and white terms, good guys and bad guys, friends and enemies, those who are for us and those who are against us, it is difficult to argue for rational principles and constructive steps in dealing with social problems, and it makes it impossible to discuss how Christian personal or social ethics might impact the way we approach difficult issues.

To those who see the world in black and white, this is a confrontation of the good guys against the bad guys, the champion of the forces of right against the evil and satanic Islamic rulers of the Middle East. The misuse of Christianity for partisan political purposes by the Christian Right in pursuing the war against terrorism is a specific instance of the misunderstanding of Christianity by the Christian Right that requires us to be clear about what Christian morality is and what it implies about war and peace, and to state forcefully that a Christian Crusade was not Christian in the medieval period of the first Christian crusades against Islam and it is no more Christian today.

The fundamental principles of Christian ethics, which we can extrapolate from the life and teachings of Jesus, are integrity and love. The word love in English has several different meanings depending on the context. It is helpful in distinguishing between these various meanings to go to the ancient Greek, which used different words that have all been translated into English as love.

These Greek words are philia , eros , and agape. Philia means the love that exists between friends, the relationship with a dear friend. We see the word in combination as in philosophy , the love of wisdom. Eros means erotic love, the passion of lovers, the attraction of sex, physical sexual love. But when he put his hand in the Lord's side, he reacted with a beautiful profession of faith: "My Lord and My God" John Thomas traveled through Chaldea and Persia all the way to India! Little is known about Simon the Zealot or Matthias.

The early Christian Church was faced with spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ throughout the world, often during a time of martyrdom and intense persecution. The Apostolic Fathers were a group of early Christian writers who knew one of the Apostles and lived about AD, and sought to define, organize, and defend the faith, such as Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, and the author s of the Didache.

Ignatius of Antioch was designated Bishop of Syria by St. Peter on his trip to Antioch to meet St. Ignatius was the first to use the term Catholic Church in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans. The word catholic means universal and refers to the universal Church of Jesus Christ. Ignatius of Antioch would not worship the Emperor Trajan, and thus was placed in chains and martyred in Rome when thrown to the lions in the Coliseum. He wrote seven letters on his trip to Rome, which proved to be a unifying event for all of the early Churches. He established the Church hierarchy of bishop, priest, and deacon for the early Churches, the pattern which still exists today.

In his First Apology written in , he described the Memorial of the Last Supper on Sunday, one that would be called the Divine Liturgy in the East and the Mass in the West, an event which has remained essentially the same for nearly years. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these, but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God Christianity spread throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa.

The Eastern Christian Churches are characterized by a rich heritage with Apostolic origin, and are treasured by the universal Church, for the East was the home of Jesus Christ our Redeemer! Jerusalem is the birthplace to all of Christianity throughout the world. The Levant, the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, served as the cradle of Christianity. Antioch, Syria became an early center for Christianity, especially following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Indeed, followers of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch Acts They also became known as Nazarenes Acts , particularly in the East.

Mark the Evangelist founded the Church of Alexandria, Egypt. Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesiastical History reported that King Abgar of Edessa was afflicted with illness and contacted Jesus in the hope of a cure. Upon his healing by St. Jude Thaddeus , King Abgar converted to Christianity. Edessa became home to such writers as St. Ephrem wrote his beautiful hymns and religious poetry in Syriac, a dialect of the Semitic language of Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Syriac became the biblical and liturgical language of early Christian Churches in the East. The theology of Eastern Churches often developed independently, outside the sway of Roman and Byzantine thought.

Eastern Christian Churches allow clerical marriage , for they accept the gift of human sexuality given by God, who said, "It is not good for the man to be alone" Genesis Christians were severely persecuted through three centuries of the Roman Empire, especially at the hands of Nero 64 AD , Trajan , right up to Diocletian But their powerful witness through martyrdom only served to spread Christianity!

Constantine became Emperor of the West in As he was in Gaul at the time, he still had to capture Rome where Maxentius held sway. Welcome relief from Christian martyrdom came with the Edict of Milan in , through which Constantine and Licinius, the Emperor of the East, granted Christianity complete religious tolerance. His defeat of Licinius in made him sole Emperor of the entire Roman Empire, and he moved the seat of the Empire to Byzantium in and renamed it Constantinople. Constantine considered himself Christian and did much to protect and support Christianity.

Sunday as the Lord's Day was made a day of rest, and December 25 was celebrated as the birthday of Jesus. He restored property that once belonged to Christians. Peter in Rome. Christianity remain undivided until mankind sought to define the hidden nature of God and the mystery of Christ.

A dispute concerning the relation of the Father and the Son arose in Egypt known as the Arian controversy. The Nicene Creed was expanded and finalized at the Council of Constantinople in to include homoousios for the Holy Spirit as well, by quoting John , "the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father," to form the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed still called the Nicene Creed.

Constantine considered himself both head of state and father of the Christian Churches. There were three stages in the formation of the Gospels: the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, the oral tradition of the Apostles, and the written word. The Tradition of the Fathers of the Church was important to early Christianity, for they were the ones who chose those inspired books which best reflected the life and teachings of Jesus Christ in the formation of the canon of the New Testament, and were also involved in the interpretation of Scripture.

Jerome that "Matthew put together the sayings of the Lord in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could" Papias, in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History , III, 39, Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Jerome was commissioned by Pope Damasus in to produce a new Latin translation of the Bible. Jerome completed the translation of the New Testament Gospels into Latin in , and finished his translation from both Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament by In view of his work, St.

Jerome was named the Father of Biblical Scholars. The Latin Vulgate Bible published by St. Jerome served as the standard Bible for Western Christian civilization for over years. He was born in Tagaste, near Hippo, in north Africa. His mother St. Monica was a devout Christian and taught him the faith. However, when he studied rhetoric in Carthage, he began living a worldly life.

He obtained a post as master of rhetoric in Milan, accompanied by an unnamed woman and child Adeodatus, born out of wedlock in The woman soon left him and their son, and Monica joined them in Milan.

Religion and Morality

Under the incessant prayers of his mother, and the influence of St. Ambrose of Milan, he eventually converted at age 32 in AD. Perhaps the most eloquent examination of conscience is found in The Confessions of St. Augustine , where he describes his moment of conversion in the garden reading St.


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Paul to the Romans , But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh. Both his mother and son died soon afterwards and he returned in to his home in Tagaste. He was ordained a priest in , and became Bishop of Hippo in Augustine was people-oriented and preached every day. Many of his followers lived an ascetic life. He had a great love for Christ, and believed that our goal on earth was God through Christ himself, "to see his face evermore.

Augustine was one of the most prolific writers in history, and his writings show an evolution of thought and at times a reversal of ideas, as seen in his Retractations. His Scriptural essays on Genesis and Psalms remain starting points for modern Biblical scholars.

The church and its history

His commentary on the Sermon on the Mount is still read today. Perhaps most debated are his views on predestination. Augustine is the doctor of grace. In his book Grace and Free Will , he explained simply why he believed in free will. If there was no free will, then why did God give us the Ten Commandments, and why did he tell us to love our neighbor? Augustine's arguments against the Pelagian heresy set the doctrine of grace for the Catholic Church to the present day.

Pelagius thought that man could achieve virtue and salvation on his own without the gift of grace, that Jesus was simply a model of virtue. This of course attacks the Redemption of man by Christ! If man could make it on his own, then the Cross of Christ becomes meaningless! But Augustine saw man's utter sinfulness and the blessing and efficacy of grace, disposing man to accept his moment of grace, and hopefully ultimate salvation.

Grace raises us to a life of virtue, and is the ground of human freedom. Perhaps one of his greatest works was The City of God, which took 13 years to complete, from to History can only be understood as a continued struggle between two cities, the City of God, comprised of those men who pursue God, and the City of Man, composed of those who pursue earthly goods and pleasures.

He refers to Cain and Abel as the earliest examples of the two types of man. The Roman Empire was an example of the city of man which had just been sacked by Alaric in and was the occasion of the book. Augustine was a living example of God's grace that transformed nature. He died August 28, , during the sack of Hippo by the Vandals. August 28 is celebrated as his Feast Day in the liturgical calendar. Pope Leo entered the Papacy at a difficult time. Alaric had sacked Rome in , and the Huns and the Visigoths were gaining strength. However the Pope proved to be a master statesman and history has deservedly accorded him the title of Pope Leo the Great.

One of his first actions in was to bless the missionary efforts of St. Patrick and to ordain him as Bishop of Ireland. A tension in Church authority between papal leadership and collegiality of the bishops was developing over theological questions. Rome was the place of martyrdom for Saints Peter and Paul. Rome's position as the capital of the Roman Empire was also supportive of a leadership role for the Bishop of Rome. The Bishop of Rome as successor to St. Peter was the Pastor and Shepherd of the whole Church, as seen with St.

The independent Church of the East in Persia believed in two distinct natures dyophysite in Christ and did not accept the wording. Pope Leo synthesized the thought of the differing Schools of Antioch and Alexandria in a letter known as the Tome. The Council of Chalcedon in was the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which supported Leo's stance that Christ had two natures, Divine and human in perfect harmony, in one Person or hypostasis. This set the theology for Roman and Byzantine theology and was important for European unity.

Just one year later , Attila and the Huns were threatening outside the walls of Rome. Pope Leo met Attila, who decided to call off the invasion! The Monastic Orders have been a premium influence on the formation of Christian culture. For not only have they been islands of asceticism and holiness that have served as ideals to a secular world, but also they have provided many if not most of the religious leaders within each historic age, especially during times of renewal and reform. The word monos is the Greek word for one or alone. Monasticism began in the East and spread throughout Europe and saved European civilization.


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  • The practice of leaving the ambitions of daily life and retreating to the solitude of the desert was seen throughout Palestine, Syria, and Egypt, St. John the Baptist Mark an early example. The father of Christian monasticism was St. Antony of the Desert , the first of the Desert Fathers. Antony of Egypt took to heart the words of Christ to the rich young man, " Go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven" Matthew He headed across the Nile to a mountain near Pispir to live a life of solitude, prayer, and poverty.

    Soon many gathered around him to imitate his life, living as hermits in nearby caves in the mountain, and in he emerged from solitude to teach his followers the way of the ascetic. He then moved further into the desert by Mount Kolzim near the Red Sea, where a second group of hermits gathered and later formed a monastery.

    He lived there for 45 years until his death in Maron , a contemporary of St. John Chrysostom, was a monk in the fourth century who left Antioch for the Orontes River to lead a life of holiness and prayer.

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    As he was given the gift of healing, his life of solitude was short-lived, and soon he had many followers that adopted his monastic way. Following the death of St. Maron in , his disciples built a monastery in his memory, which would form the nucleus of the Eastern Catholic Maronite Church of Lebanon. The fall of the Roman Empire to the barbarian invasions left European civilization in disarray, for the social structure under one ruler in Rome was destroyed. The preservation of culture and the conversion of the barbarians to Christianity was left to an unlikely group: the monastics of Europe.

    Their missionary efforts converted one tribe after another, so that eventually all of Europe was united in the worship of the one Christian God. Patrick as Apostle to Ireland founded the monastery of Armagh in and other monasteries throughout Ireland.

    As the social unit in Ireland and much of Europe at the time was the tribe in the countryside, the monastery was the center of Church life and learning. The Irish monks that followed him converted much of northern Europe. The lasting legacy of the Irish monks has been the present-day form of confession. In early times, penance was in public and severe, often lasting for years, such that Baptism was generally postponed until one's deathbed. The Irish monks began private confession and allowed one to repeat confession as necessary.

    The monk St. Benedict was born in Nursia of nobility but chose a life of solitude in Subiaco outside of Rome. Soon he moved nearby to build a monastery at Monte Cassino in and there wrote the Rule of Benedict. Monte Cassino placed all of the monks in one monastery under an abbot. The guiding principle for the monastery was ora et labora , or pray and work.

    The monastery provided adequate food and a place to sleep and served as a center of conversion and learning. Known for its moderation, Monte Cassino and Benedict's rule became the standard for monasteries throughout Europe and the pattern for Western civilization. The first monk to become Pope was St. Gregory the Great Born to Roman nobility, Gregory at first pursued a political career and became Prefect of Rome. However he gave up position and wealth and retreated to his home to lead a monastic life.

    He was recalled to Rome and soon was elected Pope in and served until his death in A man of great energy, he is known for four historic achievements. His theological and spiritual writings shaped the thought of the Middle Ages ; he made the Pope the de facto ruler of central Italy; his charisma strengthened the Papacy in the West; and he was dedicated to the conversion of England to Christianity.

    Gregory sent the monk Augustine to England in The conversion of King Aethelbert of Kent led St. Augustine to be named the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Soon English Benedictine monks were being sent to convert the rest of Europe, such as the English monk Winfrid, better known as St. Boniface , who served from as the Apostle to Germany. Boniface in his conversion of Germany. His son Pepin and the Papacy formed an historic alliance. Pepin needed the blessing of the Pope in his seizure of leadership of Gaul from the Merovingians.

    Pepin died in and divided his realm between his two sons, Carloman and Charles. Charles, known as Charlemagne , took over all of Gaul upon the death of his brother in , and soon conquered most of mainland Europe. He was a vigorous leader and ruled until Charlemagne was a strong supporter of Christianity. During his reign, Christianity became the guiding principle of the Carolingian Empire, as the Church established a powerful presence throughout Europe.

    He instituted a school of learning in his palace at Aachen. In the Middle Ages there was in theory a division between temporal power and spiritual authority, but in practice one saw a strong Emperor take control of some spiritual affairs and a strong Pope take control of some affairs of state. Charlemagne, as Constantine, considered himself the leader of Christendom as political head of state and protector of the Church.

    The historian Christopher Dawson called this the beginning of medieval Christendom. The Byzantine Empire of the East, with its capital in Constantinople, flourished for a thousand years. The Empire reached its zenith under Emperor Justinian, the author of the Justinian Code of Law, who ruled from to Justinian built the beautiful Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople in , which became a center of religious thought.

    The Byzantine or Greek liturgy is based on the tradition of St. Basil and the subsequent reform of St. John Chrysostom. The Byzantine missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius brought Orthodox Christianity to Moravia, and Cyril created the Cyrillic alphabet for their liturgy, which became the basis of the Slavic languages, including Russian. Kiev was once the capital of the country of Kievan Rus, which comprised the modern nations of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. In the sixteenth century, a Russian mystic Philotheus of Pskof noted that Rome and Constantinople, the second Rome, had fallen, but "Moscow, the third Rome," stands.

    The Russian Orthodox Church today is the largest Eastern Orthodox faith with over million members. One of the most tragic events in Church history has been the Schism of between what is now the Catholic Church in Rome and the Byzantine or Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople. The actual event occurred on July 16, The abrasive Cardinal Humbert laid a papal bull of excommunication after Pope Leo had died on the altar right during the Liturgy at the Church of Hagia Sophia, which led the Eastern Church to excommunicate the envoy.

    While the event did not end the relationship between the Eastern and Western Churches, it became symbolic for the distrust and strain between the East and the West that developed through the centuries. The break was sealed in with the sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. Rome and Constantinople had been able to agree through three more Councils.

    The fifth ecumenical council at Constantinople II in was called by the Emperor Justinian and reaffirmed that there is only one person or hypostasis in our Lord Jesus Christ. In response to the Monothelites, that Christ had only one will, the sixth ecumenical council affirmed the efforts of St. Maximus the Confessor at Constantinople III in and confessed that Christ had two wills and two natural operations John , divine and human in harmony. The seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea II in resolved the iconoclast controversy thanks to the writings of St.

    John of Damascus: since Jesus had a true humanity and his body was finite, it was only proper to venerate holy images of the human face of Jesus, as well as Mary and the saints. However, the language of Rome was Latin, and that of Constantinople Greek. There was a difference in perception of Church authority between the East and West. Latin Rome believed the Pontiff, as the representative of Peter, was Pastor and Shepherd to the whole Church, whereas the Greek East saw the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and representative of Peter, as presiding with love in the sense of collegiality, as a first among equals.

    This difference in perception of Church authority produced the conflict over the addition of the word filioque - and the Son - to the Nicene Creed by the Roman Catholic Church. Theological thought on the Trinity had progressed with time, particularly with St. Augustine, who saw the Holy Spirit as an expression of love between the Father and the Son. King Recared and his Visigothic bishops converted from Arianism to Catholicism at the Third Council of Toledo, Spain in and were required to add the word filioque to the Creed. Charlemagne in insisted on its addition, so that the phrase read "the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son".

    The Eastern Orthodox Churches claim that the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is the common possession of the whole church and that any change must be made by an ecumenical Council. Catholic Spain was the first European territory to suffer Islamic invasion in when the Berber general Ibn Tariq conquered nearly all of Spain except the northern rim. The discovery of the relics of St.

    As recorded in the late ninth-century Chronicle of Alfonso III, Pelayo became the inspiration for the rightful recovery of Spanish territory lost to Muslim invasion. Spain was troubled in when the Moor Almanzor usurped the power of the Caliphate and sacked the city and Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the northwest tip of Spain, but spared the tomb of St. James Santiago in Spanish. With the loss of respect for the Caliphate, Al-Andalus fractured into multiple petty states, known as Taifas.

    El Cid held off the Muslims in Valencia until his death in The Reconquista of Spain, or the unification of Spain under Christian rule, was not formally completed until the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, when Granada was captured from the Moors on January 2, Pope Urban II, in one of history's most powerful speeches, launched years of the Crusades at the Council of Clermont, France on November 27, with this impassioned plea. In a rare public session in an open field, he urged the knights and noblemen to win back the Holy Land, to face their sins, and called upon those present to save their souls and become Soldiers of Christ.

    Those who took the vow for the pilgrimage were to wear the sign of the cross croix in French : and so evolved the word croisade or Crusade. By the time his speech ended, the captivated audience began shouting Deus le volt! The expression became the battle-cry of the crusades. Three reasons are primarily given for the beginning of the Crusades: 1 to free Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; 2 to defend the Christian East, hopefully healing the rift between Roman and Orthodox Christianity; and 3 to marshal the energy of the constantly warring feudal lords and knights into the one cause of penitential warfare.

    The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was once again in Christian hands and restored. The Kingdom of Jerusalem lasted 88 years, until Saladin recaptured the city October 2, The four Crusader states eventually collapsed; the surrender of Acre in ended years of formal Christian rule in the Holy Land. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries were the peak of the Medieval Age. It was the flowering of Christendom, a time of extraordinary intellectual activity, with the rise of the University and the introduction of Arabian, Hebrew, and Greek works into Christian schools.

    A new form of order arose whose aim was to pursue the monastic ideals of poverty, renunciation, and self-sacrifice, but also to maintain a presence and convert the world by example and preaching. They were known as friars and called the Mendicant Orders Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, Augustinians, and the Servites , because of begging alms to support themselves. Francis of Assisi was born to wealth. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

    This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Anthony Reddie, ed. Google Scholar. For the story of one refugee, see Google Scholar. CrossRef Google Scholar. Portes and J. Douglas Massey, ed. Parish Strategic Plan, Mark D.