The Sovereignty of God According to Paul the Apostle and Justin the Martyr

      Compare Paul's concept of God's sovereignty in Romans 9:1-23 with Justin's concept of God's sovereignty in Chapter XLIII: RESPONSIBILITY ASSERTED

      Justin's concept of God's sovereignty in Chapter 43 of his First Apology differs greatly from Paul's Biblical account. Justin takes a very un-Biblical approach in claiming that man has the ability to choose whether to be good or evil, which directly contradicts what Paul writes in Roman 9:17-18, "'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.' Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens." The Bible declares that, because all men exist to proclaim God's glory, God has supreme sovereignty over all of them. Justin the Martyr says the opposite, claiming that man has the ability to reject God's authority in this area of his life – meaning God is not sovereign at all, if this were the case. In essence, Justin paints a picture of a God who is not sovereign over His own creation, and Paul writes of God as He Himself declares Him to be.


Misconceptions About the Crusades, and the Speech of Pope Urban II

      What are some common misconceptions about the Crusades, and why are they incorrect?
      The Crusades are a well-known piece if Western history, although there are many misconceptions today about what they actually were and what caused them. A popular one claims that they were an unprovoked, unwarranted attack on Muslim nations. The reality was that the Christians and the Muslims had had peace with one another for many years until a more warlike group of Muslims, the Turks, conquered the Muslim lands. These new conquerors were not as peaceful or tolerant of Christian pilgrims as the old Muslims had been. They began assaulting ancient cities in Asia Minor such as Ephesus, Antioch and Nicaea that were important to the Catholics of the West. The Byzantine emperor of the time, Alexios I Komnenos, sent word to then-pope Urban II to beg for help against the Muslim invaders.
     Another common misconception is that the Catholic crusaders were second- or third-born sons of nobles who were not likely to inherit any land from their fathers, and so set off to Muslim countries to conquer and bring back wealth. Recent research shows that this is not actually true; most of the crusaders were actually first-born nobles with plenty of wealth already. A long and costly trip such as a crusade, where victory was not guaranteed and many men and resources would be lost, was not a good idea to attempt if one was simply looking for wealth. Most crusaders returned home poorer than when they had left, if they returned at all.
      A third popular misconception concerning the Crusades is that the Christians' attacks angered the Muslims so much that they were an indirect cause of modern-day terrorism on Western countries. This would be sound reasoning, save that for the Muslims, the Crusades were a tiny blip of their history that were barely even worth mentioning. The Crusades did not have any lasting effect on Muslim history; indeed with the majority of Muslims, for hundreds of years the Crusades were nearly forgotten.

      Based on the different versions of Pope Urban II's speech, discuss the main themes in the Pope's remarks.
      Although there is no official record of what Pope Urban II said in his speech, various people who heard or heard about the speech have written it down in their own versions, so from them we can glean an idea of what the pope's words were. A major theme of his speech seemed to be a charge to punish the Turks, whose atrocities towards Christians Pope Urban listed in graphic detail. This part of the speech appeared designed to incite the crowd to anger, being "filled" as it were with the righteous anger of God.
      But that wasn't the only part of Urban's speech; in fact, most of the sources do not even record it as the longest part. Much more of the pope's words were directed towards encouraging peaceful Christian behavior in kindness towards one another. The pope called out the knights and men-at-arms of the day, saying that they had become plunderers and murderers, using their strength to oppress the weak in contrast to their oaths as knights. Urban rebuked them for this abominable behavior and charged them to turn their energies towards reclaiming the Holy Land. Meanwhile he encouraged those left at home – the elderly and the infirm, women, children and clergymen – to remain at peace with one another and support the crusaders with prayer. Urban was equally occupied with sending soldiers on Crusades and with keeping a holy peace at home.
      Although we have no way of knowing exactly what Urban said, we do know the reaction he received: Upon hearing the words of the pope, the crowd cried out, "It is the will of God! It is the will of God!"
      The pope was so moved by this outcry that he closed his speech by saying, "Let this then be your war-cry in combats, because this word is given to you by God. When an armed attack is made upon the enemy, let this one cry be raised by all the soldiers of God: It is the will of God! It is the will of God!"


The Great Schism, Sacraments and Indulgences

      What was the Great Schism? What factors brought it on?
      The Great Schism was a division between the East and West Christian Churches that occurred because of differences in how they worshiped and lived out their faith. Because of the geographical distance between the two major churches (the Western Church based in Rome and the Eastern Church based in Constantinople), such differences were hard to work out, and each church felt that its example should be the one followed by the majority of Christians. The Great Schism found its beginning when a man of the Eastern Church, named Michael Cerularius, began shutting down churches in the East that worshiped in the Western way. The Pope in the West sent men to try and reason with Celarius, whose refusal to negotiate led the Pope to excommunicate him from the Church. Until that point Christians from both the East and West Churches had seen themselves as one brethren, different in some aspects but united under the same God. Now tensions only escalated between the two Churches, with aggressions on both sides that ultimately led to the Churches separating themselves from each other once and for all. Even today, the Catholic Church in the West and the Orthodox Church in the East do not see themselves as one Christian brethren.

      What are the sacraments?
      According to Roman Catholic religion, the sacraments are "sensible revelations of insensible grace," meaning that they are visible and audible signs of God's nonphysical grace of salvation in a believer. The Roman Catholic Church holds that every sacrament relates to a particular significant event in the life of each believer. The Sacrament of Baptism signifies the washing away of the stain of Original Sin, while the Sacrament of Penance signifies the removal of every successive sin confessed to a priest. The Sacrament of Holy Communion signifies the sacrifice of God's Son on the cross, and the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, or anointing the sick, signifies the washing away of sins in the very old or ill. The sacraments are meant to follow Catholics from their birth to their death; an entire lifetime of signs of God's grace.

      What is an indulgence?
      An indulgence is an often-misunderstood piece of Catholic doctrine introduced in the Early Middle Ages. The widest belief about indulgences is that they are bought by people who want their sins forgiven; therefore, an indulgence is the forgiveness of sins bought with money. This is not, however, what the Catholic Church teaches. To them, one's Original Sin is already washed away at baptism, and every mortal sin thereafter is confessed to a priest, who then gives the sinner penance to wash away these new sins. As long as Catholics are faithful in confessing their sins, the Catholic Church teaches, they are forgiven as a matter of course. No one has to purchase with money what they can get for free in a confessional. Indulgences, then, do not relate to actual sins but to time spent in Purgatory. According to the Catholic Church, if a person dies or is killed before they can complete their next confession of sins, their soul – burdened with unforgiven sins – goes to Purgatory to do penance for those unconfessed sins and wait. Indulgences are granted to shorten the length of a soul's stay in Purgatory, thus quickening their trip to heaven. While indulgences could indeed be bought for money, most indulgences were granted for free to those that the Church deemed worthy. Indulgences could also be acquired for someone already dead, whose friends or family worried that their soul might be in Purgatory, as a kind of last favor to those loved ones who are deceased.


Christian Life From Pliny to Constantine

      What was Christian life like between the famous letter of Pliny until the reign of Constantine?
      Christian life between Pliny's letter and the reign of Constantine was a constant stream of persecution, but the level of persecution through the ages fluctuated from the barely noticeable to the highly dangerous. Pliny's letter to the Emperor Trajan inquired about the empire's legal stance on Christians, how they were to be found, and what kind of punishment they should receive. Trajan's response told Pliny that Christians ought not to be sought out, but if their practices happened to be observed, then Christianity was punishable by death – meaning that the empire had adopted a sort of "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding Christianity.
     Later emperors, however, were not so relaxed in their persecutions. There were several emperors, such as the military-appointed Diocletian and the famously mad Nero, who actively sought out Christians and had them tortured and killed for their faith. Diocletian's persecution, which lasted from 303AD to 305AD, became known as the Great Persecution. But even in times of relative peace Christians had to live in a state of constant vigilance, because even when Christians were not actively being sought out for their faith, Christianity was still officially a crime. Christian persecution finally came to an end with the reign of the Emperor Constantine, who believed that he had been told in a dream to carry a cross, the symbol of Christianity, into battle. His victory on the battlefield convinced him that Christianity was the true religion, and his subsequent baptism put an end to the persecutions of Christians throughout the empire.


Cicero's Rhetoric

      How important was the rhetorical context of Cicero's orations: his listeners' fear of Catiline's conspiracy and army?
      Cicero's rhetoric was his major advantage in his case against Catiline. Cicero, who was equipped with very little real proof, had to rely on his skill with words and rhetoric in order to ensure the success of his case against Catiline. Cicero was a master of rhetoric. With it he was able to stir the emotions of his listeners to fear Catiline and his army; without it he would not have got very far in trying to put a stop to Catiline's conspiracy. The rhetorical context of Cicero's orations was possibly the most important and effective factor in his arguments against Catiline.


Cicero's Writings Against Catiline

      If you had been Catiline, what would you have said to undermine Cicero's case?
      Cicero's case against Catiline was primarily based on intimidation. Cicero employed many tactics to discredit Catiline which involved descriptions of Catiline's despicable behavior, loose morals, and selfish ideals in order to paint a picture of Catiline that was unfavorable at best and loathsome at worst. Cicero approached the matter this way because, in his case, he presents very little real proof. What he was trying to accomplish was the destruction of Catiline's character and reputation, because he knew that his concrete evidence was very slim. If I had been Catiline, I would have attempted to undermine Cicero's case by demanding he back up his accusations with proof before the Senate, which of course Cicero would have been unable to do. If I could prove by Cicero's lack of proof that I was innocent of his accusations, then Cicero's case would have very little real weight.

Christian Teachings vs. Religions of the Past

      How would you compare the teachings of Christianity to the values cherished by earlier civilizations (particularly the Greeks, and the values expressed in Homer's works)? Conversely, can you see anything in common between Christianity and some of the great ancient thinkers we have discussed?
      Christianity is interesting in its teachings because it was one of the very first religions that taught of a single, all-powerful God (as stated clearly in John 1:1-5), whereas most religions before it had been founded on ideas of many gods, each of whom had power over only a handful of aspects of life. The Greek pantheon is an excellent example of this, containing such familiar gods of myth as Apollo (god of the sun), Athena (goddess of wisdom, war, and homemaking), and Zeus (king of the gods). This is the most obvious difference between the teachings of Christianity and the religions of earlier civilizations: the belief in one all-powerful God rather than many lesser gods.
      Another significant difference is the attitudes of the deities themselves. The Greeks believed in gods that were rather childish in their behavior; they were selfish, easily angered, and prone to scheming against each other and the humans they were meant to rule over. Christianity teaches that God is wise, all-knowing, just and fair, and does not give in to the temper-tantrum-like outbreaks that characterized the Greek pantheon.
      There are similarities between Christianity and older religions and beliefs, because Christian teachings embody all that humans value as good and virtuous thinking and behavior. Honesty, love, kindness and charity, as well as many other positive values, are encouraged by both Christianity and several older religions. But while most older religions required strict obedience to a ritualistic set of laws in order to be "right" with one's gods, Christianity teaches that one only has to be saved and made clean by the grace of God – no sacrifices, rituals, or ceremonial laws to keep.
      While similarities between Christianity and older belief systems do exist, I feel that the differences are greater, because there has never been a religion like Christianity since its founding with the birth of Jesus Christ, and there was never one before (save the religion of the Jews, which shared the same teachings and values of Christianity but with more ceremonies and rituals – all of which were made obsolete after the birth of Jesus Christ fulfilled the coming of the Messiah for the Jews).