The Great Controversies, Third Century, A History of the Christian Church, Lesson 4, 9-12

There was much writing during this century. Much of the writing has come down to us in such small bits that the whole of the writing can not now be interpreted. A few writers have left the whole to us. Almost all of the writings of this century are a mixture of Christianity and pagan philosophies. There were two reasons for this and the first was that there were many enthusiastic writers who were not yet fully aware of the nature of Christianity. There were many other writers who were purposefully trying to inject some philosophy into Christianity.

There were three great controversies in the church during this century. The first of these did not create any great amount of heat and anger at the time, but its doctrine was one that split the Christian church. This doctrine was concerning the rule of 1000 years. It had always been assumed in the early Church that Christ would return and rule 1000 years before the end of the world. However, in this century, there were some writers who began to disagree with this.

A controversy that caused a lot of bitterness was over the baptism of heretics. There was no express law about receiving an unbeliever into the church and the custom varied. The Eastern and African churches generally followed one method, and the European churches followed another. The argument became so hot that the Bishop of Rome cut off from communion with the Roman Church all the Eastern and African churches.

The third controversy concerned Origen, the writer, whom we have mentioned several times. Origen was a teacher and writer in the Christian school in Alexandria. Once he took a trip and because he was well known and loved, he was made a Presbyter in several of the churches he visited. His bishop, Demetrius of Alexandria, said that he had no right to be made a Presbyter or to increase to any higher Episcopal rank without Demetrius’s approval in advance. In order to spite Origen, Demetrius convened two councils and had Origen deprived of his office. We should note here, though, that Origen about this time published a book which had several dangerous tendencies in it.

There were a number of changes in the ceremonies of the church during this period. For one thing, baptism was administered twice a year to those who had proven themselves during the previous six months. Incense was burned in some of the churches for the first time. During this time, the sermons and prayers began to be much longer. Fasting began to be held in more esteem. The sign of the cross was supposed to administer a victorious power, and no Christian undertook anything without arming himself with this sign.

There were many false doctrines put forth by writers of this period. Some found their way into and affected the doctrines of the church. Others were rejected, but we should remember that any belief that we hold today should be based on the scriptures and not on what the thousands of religious writers have written.


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