Schaff: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity


The Nicene world gives us the good and bad of Christian praxis.  We get Athanasius and the worship of relics, the deity of Christ and prayers to Mary.  But Schaff doesn’t scorn the papacy in its infancy.  The early popes functioned akin to the law for Israel: they tutored the barbarians, kept Eastern heresies at bay, and provided the foundation for church governments in Europe. Schaff’s style, as well as his content, reflects that “manliness of spirit” for liberty and legitimate human development.  We find a similar style in W.G.T. Shedd and Edward Gibbon.

Section 88.  Miracles.  Schaff takes a balanced view on continuing miracles.  Unlike the Deist, he acknowledges that they can (and probably do) happen today.  He even notes there is no text saying they stopped.

Nonetheless, he does contrast gospel miracles with “monkish miracles.”  Gospel miracles are above the law of nature.  Monkish ones are often against the law of nature (463).  The latter do not serve to confirm the Christian faith, but rather the ascetic life (see John Cassian for an example).

He ends this section with a rather perceptive comment: “[B]etween the proper miracle and the fraud there lie many intermediate steps of self-deception, clairvoyance, magnetic phenomena and cures, unusual states of the human soul, which is full of deep mysteries, and stands nearer the invisible spiritual world than the everyday mind of the multitude suspects” (465).

In other words, the Deist wants to reduce every miracle to “Confirming God’s Revelation, aka the Bible, which has now stopped.”  Of course, that redefines the word miracle to something foreign to the New Testament, and in any case is an arbitrary definition.  On the other hand, the Kingdom Empowered Believer must realize that not everything is a miracle.  We are only beginning to tap the depths of the human soul.

Nicene Doctrine of the Trinity

essence/ousia: “denote a genus or a species” (672).  Not unum in numero, sed ens unum in multis.  All men partake of the same substance.  This can be tricky: the divine ousia is a numerical unity (one God), yet human ousia is more of a generic unity in Chalcedon.

“Nature is the totality of powers which constitute a person” (751).

Person: the Ego, the self-conscious, self-asserting, and acting subject” (751).

There is no person without nature, but there can be natures without a person.  The human nature of Christ has no independent personality of its own

Section 91.  Sacraments in General.

Augustine: sacraments work grace/condemnation according to the condition of the believer (De Bapt. Contra Donat.).  Not their efficacy, but their result.

Section 157: Augustine’s doctrine of Grace.  Roman Catholics can legitimately claim Augustine on grace.  It is a creative power of God that transforms men from within (844-845).  It produces the negative effect of forgiveness of sins, then the positive communication of a new principle of life.  It “makes” men righteous.  This is *not* what Protestantism teaches.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s