The Basic Controversies in Christian Theology


The Christian theology, as presented by various writers, had countless controversies, especially in the period between the first and the fifth centuries. Accordingly, while some believers supported some of the contentious religious beliefs, others had opposed opinions. Therefore, the differences threatened to hamper the spread and unification of the Christian faith across the world as was intended. There was the need for the church councils and relevant authorities to devise ways by which to settle the controversies. In essence, one could be interested in understanding the basic controversies and resolution councils that were noted in the initial five centuries of the Christian doctrine.

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The Consensus on Christian Expressions, Beliefs, and the Church Structure

Although the Christians had the earlier conviction that their faith was centered on Christ, they had the challenges of relation with other contemporary religious movements, beliefs, and structures. The controversy was especially pronounced because Christ did not write any book, and his teachings had little input towards the cause of differences (Latourette 1). However, Christ’s disciples, who represented the first believers, were instrumental in writing the gospel, which would become the foundation of the Christian faith. The message preached by the gospels and the believing Jews differentiated the system of faith from the rest of the religious cults and movements.

The New Testament

In the early days, the believers started grumbling on the documents that preserved the faith as taught by Christ. While the letters of the Apostle Paul were widely read in the church, Irenaeus was of a different opinion that only four gospels could be accepted (Latourette 1). However, a gradual consensus by the church leaders was reached in the second century, and twenty-seven books as contained in the New Testament were settled and adopted.

Treating the Repentant Sinners

There were differences that arose among the early believers, especially on how to treat the persons who sinned after baptism. To some people, any sin that was committed after one was baptized could not be forgiven. However, the majority of the Catholic believers held that a person could be restored after confirmed repentance (Morrison 9). However, the councils of the Catholic Church later ruled that acceptance into the church for the sinners and their baptism could not depend on the moral character of the people through whom they were converted.

Achievement of the Ethical Standards

The early Christians had a great commitment to ethical behavior, and the leaders were specifically expected to set the ethical standards among the believers. The common belief was that baptism worked to cleanse an individual of the sins committed before. However, a controversy arose regarding the attitude towards individuals who sinned after baptism. In fact, in the fourth century, one of the guiding beliefs stated that an individual could be allowed to repent only once after baptismal (Clark 27). The controversy was explained by legalism, which taught that God’s favor was to be earned by works as against the grace. At other times, the believers argued that a person could be restored to fellowship through severe punishment to guard against a repeat of the sin. The group also supported the public confession, and the Bishop was the only one entrusted with the responsibility of discipline and restoration.

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As indicated in the analysis, the early days of the Christian faith were faced with differences in practices, doctrines, and hierarchical structures. The discussion presented highlights some of the major controversies observed in the first five centuries of the Christian faith. Firstly, the issues included the consensus on Christian expressions, the church structures, and the beliefs. Secondly, differences were noted in the acceptance of the composition of the New Testament. Moreover, the paper evaluated the controversies in treating repentant sinners and instituting moral and ethical standards among the believers.


Works Cited

Clark, Elizabeth A. The Origenist Controversy: The Cultural Construction of an Early Christian Debate. New Jersey, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014.

Morrison, Karl F. Tradition and authority in the western church, 300-1140. New Jersey, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.

Latourette, Kenneth Scott. Christianity through the Ages. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1965. 2016. Web. 21 Sept. 2016.

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