1% Christian History

My old college roommate and I started a tradition last year. Each Christmas, we buy each other a book that we think would be beneficial reading. I didn’t know what to expect from my greasy friend but waited patiently for my gift to arrive. One day, I walked up to my porch and saw a package that looked like a wrapped encyclopedia. I wasn’t too far off; my dirtbag roommate bought me a 1000 page book on the history of Christianity – Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch. This book loomed over me all year and I kept putting off what seemed like a Sisyphean task. By the end, it took me about 50 hours spread over a month.

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Christian history is difficult because it isn’t like normal history – it is a weird dance of facts, figures, and eternity. Having eternity involved complicates everything because you either have to take the Thomas Jefferson route and get rid of all supernatural events or take the Jack Van Impe route and prepare for the apocalypse. These two extremes frame the gamut of Christian beliefs and preface why Christian history is one continuous story of division. From the moment Jesus died on the cross, his disciples went out and preached the Gospel – within a generation, groups were already disagreeing on the intricacies of theology. The Christian church as we know it today is like a box of peanut-brittle that has been shaken by a two-year-old. Originally there was one solid chunk but now there are thousands of variant morsels. This post will only focus on one tiny but very important nugget of Christian history – as the title surmises, this book could fill 99 more blogs.

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The 1% we will cover is one of the most important moments in the Christian church – the Chalcedonian Schism. The Council of Chalcedon met from October 8th to November 9th in the year 451 AD. This Council was called by the Roman Emperor Marcian as an ecumenical meeting for all the important churches at the time – the Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Oriental Orthodox. At this point in history, the Christian church needed to clarify theological doctrine and adjust the power roles of western and eastern leaders. The main reason for this meeting was to clarify the true nature of Jesus.

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How could Jesus be both God and man? Before the meeting, there were groups who believed Jesus appeared on earth as a man disguised as God (Docetism) while other groups believed Jesus was, in reality, a normal man chosen by God (Adoptionism). These beliefs led to Nestorianism (which viewed Christ as having some mixture of divine and human elements) and Eutychianism (which viewed Christ’s divinity as completely consuming his humanity like a drop of vinegar in the ocean).

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The Council of Chalcedon sided with a watered down Nestorian view which became known as Dyophysitism – which states that Christ is one person in two natures – “distinctively” man and God in one. This led to the creation of Miaphysitism which held the belief that Christ is one nature and that nature has “inseparable” components of man and God. Confused yet? Again, Dyophysitism believes that Christ is one person with two separate natures while Miaphysitism believes that Christ is one nature which is both divine and human.

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This Dyophysitism decision at the council was agreed upon by the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. However, the Oriental Church broke off from this definition and became known as Non-Chalcedonian. The Oriental Church includes the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, and the Armenian Apostolic Church. This schism had drastic effects on the eastern church as a whole by shifting power to the west and decreasing overall cooperation. This separation was one variable that allowed the new religion of Islam to take over eastern strongholds of Christianity; the west would not realize their mistakes until the first crusades 600 years later.

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Our current world is shaped by the decisions at this council: The politics of countries, the religious makeup in the Middle East, and the West’s ignorance of the Oriental Church. So what can we learn from the Council of Chalcedon? One huge lesson is that Christianity can come in many different flavors, shapes, and sizes. Christians shouldn’t be divided into little pieces of peanut brittle. Christians should work together under one absolute truth – Jesus is the son of God who died for our sins so we can have eternal life and spread His message of grace; in a world still divided, we need to focus on that point more than ever. Don’t get hung up on the details and throw your hands in the air thinking religion is stupid. If you focus on loving others, you will obtain the other 99%. 

 

The Poison of Unconditional Love and Earned Respect

The wife just doesn’t get why her fat-lazy husband never picks up his clothes. She has berated him over and over about cleaning up after himself and she is at the point of treating him like an over-grown child. The husband on the other hand hasn’t been attracted to his wife ever since she became a frazzled-OCD soccer mom who reminds him of his naggy mother. The closest they get to intimacy now is accidentally touching hands when reaching into the popcorn bowl while watching reruns of Big Bang Theory. This is a fairly common occurrence among married couples and it comes down to two major problems-the wife doesn’t feel loved and the husband doesn’t feel respected. This conundrum was the subject of my most recent book Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I really enjoyed this book because it gives a different message then the usual rhetoric of, “…you need to unconditionally love each other and pray and kiss and have your penis inverted :).” The focus that love is the primary thing men and women desire is just flat out wrong. Dr. Eggerichs uses the acronym C-O-U-P-L-E to describe the love women need for a healthy relationship: C is for Closeness, O is for Openness, U is for Understanding, P is for Peacemaking, L is for Loyalty, and E is Esteem. Men in general desire respect and the acronym for this is C-H-A-I-R-S: C is for Conquest, H is for Hierarchy, A is for Authority, I is for Insight, R is for Relationship, and S is for Sexuality. Now obviously both genders desire love and respect but in general they find one more important than the other. The point Dr. Eggerichs makes is that women need to change their thinking that respect needs to be earned while love is unconditional; both need to be unconditional to get out of the crazy downward spiral of fighting and misunderstanding. The cycle goes like this-without love she reacts and doesn’t show respect which then makes him react and not show love. This goes round and round and usually ends with the wife thinking “he doesn’t love me,” and the husband thinking “she is not the women I married.”

A healthy relationship has the energizing cycle-with his love she is motivated to show respect and her respect motivates him to show more love. Alright, how do you get on the cycle of true marital bliss. Well, first off, you have to be patient and be the mature one in the relationship to start showing love/respect even if it is not immediately reciprocated. If you are a wife I suggest going up to your husband and saying “…honey I respect you because of (fill in blank).” I bet your man will be surprised and feel great after this comment. If you are a husband go out and buy a card and write one thing you love about your wife. Place the card somewhere she will find it and booyah your wife will feel pretty awesome. Keep up the love/respect attitudes and like a snowball that is rolling down a hill it will grow into a perpetuating cycle of positive feelings. For husbands this may be difficult because your wife is a fat devil and treats you worse than a dog. For wives this may be difficult because your husband is a moron and only associates love with eating chicken wings at Hooters. Alright, you need to step up, be mature, and know that God will be with you through the process. Women, you may have to fake respect for a bit but stick with it because if your husband is good natured he will eventually reciprocate love. Also for those strong willed women out there, it is not chauvinistic or anti-feminist to let your husband make the decisions. A husband will feel immensely respected knowing that you trust his judgement. Think of the power in a relationship as 50-50 with the final decision going to the one who desires respect the most. Let’s all try to improve our relationships with this knowledge. I am going to lift Christina up by giving her kisses and hugs whenever she wants them-even when she puckers her lips half way across the room. Christina is not going to bash me in front of other people because I’m a cheap fricker. Remember, love comes slow but it can be destroyed in a second. Cherish your relationship and treat it as your most valuable possession on this earth.

“Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

-Ephesians 5:33