THE PROGRESS OF THEOLOGY IN CHURCH HISTORY
The study of theology began in the second century and has been progressing from one stage to another stage. It began with the study of the Trinity and the person of Christ. The study of the person of Christ is called Christology.
In A.D. 325 a council at Nicea was convened. At that time Constantine the Great was the ruler of the Roman Empire. He observed that Christianity was a great influence in his empire, and he also realized that Christianity, due to the debates among the church leaders, was being broken up and fragmented. There was no unity. This shortage of unity affected the peaceful situation of the Roman Empire. Therefore, in order to restore peace within his empire, Constantine realized that he must first unite all the different Christian parties. This was the main reason the Nicene Council was called. The primary outcome of this council was the formulation of a creed, which has been called the Nicene Creed. The two main subjects of this creed are the Trinity and the person of Christ, but such items as the seven Spirits (Rev. 1:4; 4:5; 5:6) and the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45b) are not mentioned at all. Thus, the Nicene Creed is incomplete. Even today, the Roman Catholic Church, as well as many of the Protestant denominations, recite the Nicene Creed each Sunday. The creed itself does not contain anything wrong, but the omission of the seven Spirits and of the life-giving Spirit is its shortage.
Those who studied theology were mainly occupied with the Trinity and Christology until the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church with its papal system at the end of the sixth century. Then during the Dark Ages, when the Roman Catholic Church became very prevailing, there was little progression in the study of theology. Actually, during this period of time, there was degradation.
In the Dark Ages before the Reformation, the Bible was not available for most people to read because it was locked away in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. But in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, some lovers of the Lord, who also were scholars, began to unlock the Bible by translating it into the common languages. There was the need to release the divine revelation into the modern languages of the people. This translation work was a real battle. Brothers such as William Tyndale were martyred for their translations of the Bible.
At the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, the study of theology progressed from the Trinity and Christology to include justification by faith. This was a great step. But after this advance, there were only small discoveries for a long period of time. After Martin Luther, the theologians began to see matters such as the presbytery and baptism by immersion. The Presbyterian church and the Baptist church were each formed around these doctrines.
In the seventeenth century, there was a reaction to the deadness of the reformed churches. This reaction was with some saints referred to as the mystics, who remained in the Roman Catholic Church after Luther left. The mystics were prominent, spiritual persons who advanced in the mystery of the inner life. This was an advance in the study of theology.
(The Triune God to Be Life to the Tripartite Man, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)