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Qualifying Examination Answers, History of Doctrine

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Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr. (Boston University) 

Date: November 20, 1953?

Location: Boston, Mass.?

Genre: Essay

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Education


In this examination King discusses the influence of Augustine on modern theology, asserting that Barth and Niebuhr drew “heavily from Augustinian anthropology.” King was required to answer six of the seven questions. He received a grade of A – .

[1. Discuss the major Augustinian influences discernible in present-day theology.]

  1. There can be no gainsaying of the fact that Augustine has greatly influenced present day theological thinking, particularly what is know as neo-Orthodoxy. These theologians (among the most outstanding are Barth, Brunner and Niebuhr) in an attempt to speak to the crisis of our age and analyze the causes of the crisis have drawn heavily from Augustinian anthropology.

    The first area of Augustinian influence is found in the modern emphasis on the sinfulness of man. It will be remembered that Augustine continually insisted that man after the fall became so corrupted that he could do no saving good without grace (both prevenient and cooperative). Now we find a man like Barth, for an instance, saying the same thing in substance. Barth is convinced that man is so sinful that he can do nothing toward bettering his condition without the aid of the divine. Man is like a desperate being in a deep well who must wait for God to come to him. Salvation is solely in the hands of God (monogism)1 rather than being a result of the cooperative activity of man and God (synergism). Barth says explicitly that we can do nothing to get to good {God}. This same emphasis runs throughout neo-orthodoxy generally. All of these thinkers feel that liberalism has presented a too shallow view of man, often forgetting that man is basically a sinner.

    It will also be remembered that Augustine insisted that sin stems from pride. For Augustine sin means revolting against God, or to put it otherwise, it means turning away from the creator to the creature. In other words sin is man’s failure to accept his creatureliness and his finiteness.

    We do not have to look far to see that this same emphasis runs throughout neo-orthodox thinking. Hardly a page of any of Niebuhr’s books can be read without finding the assertion that pride is man’s chief sin. Niebuhr finds this pride rising to both intellectual and spiritual propotions. Man refuses to accept his creatureliness, and thereby depends on some transitory mutable good rather than the One Immutable God, viz God. This {same} emphasis is found in Barth and Brunner. All of these men by pass Schleiermacher who would say that sin is a sort of lag of nature or a matter of the flesh, and find consolation in Augustine who makes sin a matter of the will.

    Along with this these theologians have been greatly influenced by Augustine’s conception of the fall of man and original sin. To be sure, they would not accept these doctrines in the same form as Augustine presented them, but they all accept that truth implicit in the doctrines. Man misused his freedom and therefore he fell and ever since Adam’s fall this evil tendency has been propagated through the human race. Niebuhr would say that these doctrine are mythological categories to explain the universality of sin. Nevertheless there is believed to be a real truth in the myth. It is very interesting to notice how all of the outstanding Neo-orthodox theologians accept the latest f results of Biblical and historical criticism, and yet hold to the most orthodox and traditional theological view.

[2. Identify each of the following by citing his period and listing some distinguishing characteristic or contribution made by him to Christian thought:

Paul of Samosata Ignatius Peter Lombard
Duns Scotus Socinus Irenaeus
Arius William of Occam Bernard of Clairvaux]
  1. Identify:

    1. Paul of Samosta—He was a member of the early church (3rd & 4th centuries) during the heat of the Christological controvery. His contribution was Christ was a man who been adopted by God to reveal his divine plan to man. Hence his view was known as dynamistic or adoptionistic monochianism. He was attempting to preserve the unity of God.

    2. Duns Scotus—He lived during the great days of Scholasticism. His strong emphasis was that the primary faculty in God and man was will. While Thomas could insist that God wills a thing because it is good, Duns could insist that a thing is good because God will it. Hence Duns Scotus view is usually called voluntaristic, while Thomas view is more intellectualistic (for him God’s will is inseparable from his understanding.) From these two great Scholastics emerged two schools, viz. Scotism and Thomism.

    3. Arius (256–336)—He was at the center of the Christological controversy. He conceived of Jesus as a sort of demi god somewhat similar to the Gnostic demiurge. He was not co equal or co eternal with the father, yet he was more than a mere man. He was a sort of half-God. This view was eventually defeated by the Church because, as Athanasius contended, it lead to practical polytheism.

    4. Ignatius—He was one of the Apostolic Fathers. His chief contribution to Christian thought was in his insistence on the supremacy of the Church and the authority of the bishops. It is probable that he was the first to use the th term “catholic” to designate the universal Church.

      He was also greatly influenced by the Johannine view of a mystical union with Christ.

    5. Socinus—He lived immediately after the reformation period. His chief contribution to Christian thought lay in his revolt against trinitarianism and the two nature doctrine of Christ’ person. For him God was one. Jesus was certainly a revelation of God, but he had no substantial unity with him. From this it is clear that he anticipated modern unitarianism.

    6. William of Occam—He was one of the great Scholastic thinkers. His chief contribution lay in his doctrine of norminalism. This was a live issue during the middle ages. Occam’ contention was that universal are mere abstract names, and from this it is affirmed that only particulars are real.

    7. Peter Lombard—He lived at the beginning of the period of Scholasticism. His chief contribution was not found in his creative thought, but it his ability to systematize the thinking of other. His Four books of Sentences remained a textbook for theological studies for sometimes during the middle ages. It is probably true that through his thinking the seven sacraments were finally formulated.

    8. Irenaeus—He was one of the early Church fathers of Asia Minor. He placed little emphasis on reason in theological thinking. He emphasized a theology of Biblical fact. Moreover, his emphasis was Christocentric rather than Logos-centric. He made it clear that what Adam had failed to do through his diobedence, Christ, the second Adam, had done through his obedience. Irenaeus great work Against Heresies was quite influential in his age.

    9. Bernard of Clairvaus—He lived at the wake of Scholasticism. His emphasis was mystical rather than rational. For him the chief end of life was the love of God. Man, insist Bernard, is a sinner until he rises above the mere love of self to the great love of God.

    [3. Expound the major answers to the problem of the relation of the divine and the human in Christ offered in the 4th and 5th centuries, showing their relation to each other and linking ideas with thinkers.]

    1. In 325 at Nicea it had been affirmed that Jesus was divine. Now the question of his humanity stood before the Church. Appolonius came on the scene affirming that the Logos had united was a human body and soul to form the divine-human being Jesus. In this union the divine had so transformed the human as to leave one divine-human nature. This view was soon condemned because it tended toward docetism.

      The greatest opponents of Apollonarianism were the Antiochans. They were determined to preserve the humanity of Jesus. Chief among the representatives of this school was Nestorius. On the one hand he was strongly opposed to the tendency to speak of Mary as the “Mother of God.” Along with this went his contention that the Logos resided in the man Jesus as in a shrine. So that that divine human relation in Jesus was a relation of grace rather than of essence. The view presented a God-bearing man rather than a God-man. Because of this Nestorianism was soon condemned. He was accused of dividing the one person Jesus into two persons.

      The Alexandrians, represented chiefly by Cyril, came nearer to a satisfactory view. Here it was insisted that the divine Logos had become man, and that that the divine had so united with the human as to leave one person with two nature.

      Eutycles came on the scene arguing that after the incarnation Jesus had only one nature, viz., the divine nature. This view was soon cod condemned. It led to the affirmation at Chalcedon (351)2that Jesus is one person with a human and a divine nature.

      After the Chalcedonian creed there was still conflict. Those who There were still those who believed that Jesus had only one nature (Monophysites). Those who held these views split off from that the state church and formed churches of there own. Even to this day some of these churches still exist.

    [4. Discuss the relation (e.g., similarity, opposition, or some other) which you find between the following:
    Clement of Alexandria and Calvin;
    Anselm and Hegel;
    Pelagius and Arminius; and
    Kantianism and Barthianism today.

    Relation between the following


      1. Clement of Alexandria and Calvin. These two thinkers seem to stand on two different poles at many points. F First we notice that Clement has a very healthy respect for reason. Calvin on the other hand has very little use for reason in theological formulation. He is forever speaking out against idle speculation. Again Clement never shared the pessimism concerning the plight of man as we find in Calvin. There is no sign of original sin or predestination in Clement. Clement insist that man possess genuine free will. On the other hand Calvin speaks of the Fall of man and original sin with strong conviction. Also he believes in unconditional predestination. For Calvin man is free only to do evil.

      2. Anselm and Hegel—The relation between these thinkers is found chiefly in the ontological argument for the existence of God as set forth by Anselm. This argument is based on the view that there is a necessary relation between idea and being. The idea of a being thru which none greater can be conceived proves the existence of such a being. Now the whole Hegelian philosophy is based on this principle. Hegel deifies the idea. God, for Hegel, becomes the “Absolute Idea.” So in a sense the whole Hegelian philosophy (it might be referred to as absolute idealism) is based on the ontological argument.

      3. Pelagius and Arminius—The relation between these two thinker is found chiefly in the doctrine of Grace. Arminius affirmed against Calvin that grace was not irresistable. But this affirmation did not cause him to lose sight of the necessity of grace in the salvation. He held that no man can turn toward the good without the grace of God. Grace for him was absolutely necessary. On the other hand Pelagius looked upon grace as only relatively necessary. He felt that man could lift himself by his own bootstraps.

        Again Arminius accepted a view of original sin. Pelagius, on the other hand, totally rejected such a view. The only relation of Adam’s sin to other men’s sins was the presence of a bad example.

      4. Kantianism and Barthianism—The relation between these two schools of thought is quite striking. It is found in the anti-metaphysical bias of the former. Kant held that theoretical knowledge is limited to phenomena. Such concepts as God, freedom and immortality are metaphysical and therefore out of the domain of pure reason. We cant gain a theoretical knowledge of the Ding an sich. Any attempt to reach the noumenal realm by reason leads to antinomies. Strangely enough we find something of this in Barth. Barth sees man’s reason as so defective that he can never get to God. God is “wholly other” and an attempt to reason about him leads to antinomies. The great metaphysical questions are beyond the domain of man’s reason.

    [5. Discuss the views of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Tertullian on the relation between revelation and reason.]

    1. Augustine places a great deal of emphasis on the place of revelation in theology. After becoming converted he accepted without question the revealed doctrines of the Church. Yet even though we start with that which is revealed, we must suppliment the revelation with reason. Augustine is convinced that the great doctrines of the Church are rational through and through. Therefore he can spend many pages showing the rationality of the revealed doctrine of the trinity. So for Augustine reason and revelation can go hand and hand.

      Thomas Aquinas is probably the first theologian to systematically state the relationship between revelation and reason. For him there are two ways of knowing. The first is philosophy or natural theology. Here knowledge comes from infrances from sense perception. The second way of knowing is through theology or revealed theology as he calls it. Here knowledge comes totally by revelation. In philosophy there is an ascent upward from particular things to God. In theology there is a decent downward from God to particular things.

      Thomas held that many important doctrines can be demonstrated by reason, e.g. the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. On the other hand, there are doctrines which cant be rationally demonstrated, e.g. the trinity and the incarnation. These doctrines come through revelation. Thomas makes it clear that because these doctrines are revealed does not mean that they are irrational.

      So we see in Thomas a harmonious relationship between reason and revelation. Both must exist side by side. They do not conflict; rather they aid each other.

      Tertullian places most of his emphasis on revelation. The more impossible and absurd a doctrine is the more certain it is. Or to put it otherwise, the more irrational a doctrine is the more rational it is to him. One is not to use reason to test the validity. Ones sole obligation is to accept it.

      Here we see very little relation between reason and revelation. Everything came through revelation. However we must admit that Tertullian in his own thinking did not stick to this disdain for reason. We need only notice that his De Anima, for an instance, draws very heavily from Stoic philosophy.

    [6. Discuss in relation to each other the conceptions of Christianity uppermost in Justin Martyr, Gregory the Great, Eckhart, and Martin Luther.]
    [7. Discuss the locus of religious authority as viewed by Calvin, George Fox, Schleiermacher, and the Oxford Movement.]

    1. 3 The Locus of religious authority as viewed by the following:
      1. Calvin found the locus of religious authority in the Bible. He conceives of the Bible as being above the councils or any other external authority. For him the Bible is the sole religious authority. The complete revelation of God is in the Bible, and theology must begin and end with it. Wherein Catholic thought found the sole authority in the Church, Calvin, along with other reformers, found it in the Church Bible.

      2. George Fox did not turn to the Bible for religious authority nor did he turn to the Church. He turned to something within. He found his locus of authority in the inner light. For him religion is an inner light illuminated by God to them that believe. It was through this thinker that Quakerism came into being. In this sect little or no emphasis is placed on sacrement, public ministry, liturgy and oaths. These things are eliminated because the Quaker {does not} finds his authority in an external institution nor in a revealed Book, but in the immediate experience of God, or in the inner light.

        Schleiermacher, like George Fox, found the center of religious authority is something within. He defines religion as a feeling of absolute dependence. It is this feeling or this immediate religious experience that is the true religious authority for the individual. Doctrine and creed are only interpretation of this feeling, and are therefore relative and subject to change. But the experience is absolute.

        It was this emphasis of Schleiermacher that gave rise to modern liberalism. Religion, says the liberal, begin with experience. So the ultimate authority in religion is not the Church, or the Bible, or the creeds; the ultimate authority is found in the religious experience that gave rise to the Church, the Bible, and the creed. Doctrine are only derivation says Schleiermacher, therefore they can never be absolute. They are derived from the feeling of absolute dependence and herein lies the locus of religious authority.

        The locus of religious authority for the Oxford movement was found is the external creed of the Anglo Catholic doctos. The aim of these men grouped under the Oxford movement was not to get to far away for the Catholic Church. They could not find authority within some internal feeling or within reason itself, but only in the liturgy and teaching of the Catholic Church.

    1. An unidentified grader corrected “monogism” to “monergism.”

    2. The grader corrected the date to 451.

    3. The grader corrected the number of this answer to 7.

Source: MLKP, MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.

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