Early Christianity and Late Antiquity - Album

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Part 01 - Introduction to Catechesis and Patrology

Greco-Roman culture had a clear "curriculum" which it taught with great certainty. Dr. John Rao describes here the way in which Christianity came to understand its own need for a training in the new Christian Truth and pathway to God. This catechesis was developed by the men we call the Fathers, whose work is studied by the field called Patrology.

Part 02 - Background - The Roman Empire

Dr. John Rao discusses the character of life and organization of government and society in the two main eras of the Roman Empire: the Principate (from Augustus until the 200's A.D.) and the Dominate (200's A.D. onwards). He describes how the Roman system became more and more "totalitarian" in a way that would clash with the expanding Christian vision.

Part 03 - Creating a Unified Catholic Cathechesis - A Tour of the Ancient Church

A discussion by Dr. John Rao of the different centers of early Christianity--Alexandria, Palestine, Antioch, Asia Minor, Rome, and Gaul--and the key Church Fathers and institutions through whose work Christian theology was developed. 

Part 04- Sources of the Faith - Apologetics

Dr. John Rao describes how the first great Christian writers had to explain why their religion was an acceptable one. The Apostolic Fathers and Apologists sought to show that Christianity was ancient, because it was the completion of Judaism; that it "made sense"; and, perhaps most importantly for practical reasons, that it was necessary for the survival of the Roman Empire and society.

Part 05- The Development of Theology - Part 1 of 2

What was necessary for Christian theology to develop? Dr. John Rao discusses the obstacles that had to be overcome in order even to begin developing a theology, as well as the numerous new problems theological speculation would engender. The idea that the world as we know it was soon coming to an end was one major roadblock to serious theological work. Why bother? this apocalyptic spirit asked. 

Part 06 - The Development of Theology - Part 2 of 2

Dr. John Rao shows that in order for theology to grow, sources of Christian teaching had to be more clearly identified, authoritative interpreters pinpointed, and, inevitably, the value of Greek philosophical language and thought admitted. Alexandria, long a center for Jewish use of Greek Platonic and rhetorical tools, was crucial in Christian theological growth. Africa, too, despite the suspicions of Tertullian, resorted to Roman legal terminology to describe Christian themes more fully.

Part 07- The Schools of Alexandria and Antioch

Dr. John Rao shows that two distinct theological approaches clashed in the early Church. One, emerging from Alexandria and tied with the work of Origen, was highly allegorical in its interpretations of Scripture. The other, coming out of Antioch, was more literal and historical in its methodology. Many of the Trinitarian and Christological struggles pitted them against one another and yet allowed the Church to learn from both their outlooks. 

 Part 08 - Rigorism - The Penitential Controversies and Donatism

One of the greatest early problems of Church History was a rigorism that did not wish to allow Penance to have the role that it must in the life of sinful Christians. Dr. John Rao shows how the Popes fought this rigorism from the earliest times, and how Donatism, which only wished "the pure" to guide the Church, involves a failure to understand the real nature of the Mystical Body of Christ. 

Part 09 - Arianism

Dr. John Rao treats here of the roots of Arianism, its rather simple basic beliefs, and its expansion in the wake of the Council of Nicaea through till the victory of the orthodox at the Council of Constantinople. The Arian Crisis of the 300's is shown to be very much tied in with political machinations and episcopal "empire-building". Reaction to it did, however, lead to a sound development of Catholic doctrine. 

Part 10 - Other Early Christian Heresies

Dr. John Rao presents a summary of some of the Christological heresies emerging out of the earlier Trinitarian battles. These led to the discussions of Christ's divine and human natures and His single divine Personality at the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon.

These talks are taken from: Early Christianity and Late Antiquity - 1993 VonHildebrand Institute

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