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Essays Example: Asceticism. Arian-Nicene Controversy in the Fourth Century. Constantine

7 pages
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Middlebury College
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Essay 1: Asceticism

Asceticism is an ancient practice where people abstained from various worldly pleasures often for spiritual purposes.1 The practices have been practiced since ancient times, and even today some people practice for similar reasons it has been practiced since ancient times.

Some of the worldly pleasures that people are practicing asceticism abstained from include but are not limited to sexual acts, indulgence in alcohol, and primitive accumulation of wealth among others. These worldly pleasures were considered an impediment to the practice of religion, and often, against their spiritual beliefs. That was widely used to justify the practice. However, the practice of asceticism was not regarded as virtuous; rather it was regarded as a way of transforming the mind and body, or the purification of the body which established the connection with divine powers. The practice was also considered a way of making inner peace with oneself, and with the faith, one believed. The practice was purposely designed to achieve freedom from worldly pleasures and the temptations that come with them, and in the process, bring peace of mind and body.

The practice has been around since the ancient times, practice by people with diverse religious backgrounds around the world. In fact, the majority of the founders of religions, right from Christianity, Islam, Hindu and other affiliations practiced asceticism, intentionally refraining from things like sexual pleasures and consumption of alcohol, and even refraining from accumulating wealth. To date, most of these religious denominations still have traces of asceticism, particularly among their leaders.

The Hindu Sadhus, also termed as holy men are known to have, for a long time, to be practicing asceticism. Theirs includes extremes forms of self-denial, which include vowing never to use one leg or raise their arm in the air for months, or even years. Similarly, in the same period, the sadhus do not engage in sexual acts, drink alcohol or do any such other things which are against their religious beliefs. These are people who have been initiated into an ascetic religious order, and have accepted the fate thus must practice the asceticism as outlined by their denomination. Sadhus or the holy men mandated to practice asceticism may live together in monasteries, or wander throughout the country either lonely or as a group. Part of their practice also include not accumulating any wealth, and solely depend on the people they visit for food, shelter and any other needs. That has been the practice, and for those still living, they still practice the same.

Asceticism is even more widespread among the faithful members of the Catholic Church, and other Christian denominations. Ascetic tendencies among the Christian faithful are prompted by the will to serve God. Anything that comes in the way, in pursuit of their self-satisfaction which may compromise their faithful is avoided. They believe every early thing is subordinate to the dictates of their reason and the laws of God. The will of God is implicitly expressed by human reason, and to a larger extent is laid down in the Christian writings, for instance as expressed in the Ten Commandments. These laws guide human beings to avoid some earthly things, either to serve God or to avoid temptations. Overall, in fulfillment of those strong religious beliefs, Christian members may find themselves practicing asceticism. Some may last for long, like refraining from taking meat products, to fasting in a different period of the month or year. At least every Christian denomination practices some form of self-denial, from avoiding eating, drinking, to abstaining from sexual activities among other things. This is not limited to Christians alone; Muslims from around the world go into long fasting at certain times of the year. During these times they refrain from taking meals at specific times of the day and refrain from other things like sexual intercourse, unnecessary interactions. Instead, they join other members of the religion to visit the underprivileged, the sick and needy members of the society. They may also converge in central laces to pray and hold special sessions in which they reflect on their relationship with their Supreme Being. Asceticism may be widely known among members of different faithfuls, but leaders in those religions often express some forms of extreme asceticism. For example, the Catholic Church is run by leaders who have avoided marriage and any sexual interaction with members of the opposite sex. That has been the case for extensively a long period. Other religious leaders, from different religions, may also practice some forms of extreme ascetic purely by leading their adherents in living a spiritual life. They avoid accumulating wealth; avoid specific foods among many other things.

Asceticism can be traced back to the start of religion when people engaged in self-denial to fulfill specific spiritual or religious goals. The practice has outlived time, and even today is largely practiced. Some religions still take it very seriously and refrain from things ranging from sexual acts, accumulation of wealth, specific foods, and many other earthly pleasures. However, some other groups have relaxed the practice, and go against what has been traditional in their background. He spearheaded the wars and aggressions that existed, pursuing successful campaigns against tribes that threatened the empire including Goths, Franks, and others. In his military assault, Constantine restored even the territories that had been abandoned in the previous battles.


Essay 2: Arian-Nicene Controversy in the Fourth Century

The central issue in the Arian-Nicene controversy was about the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.The controversy was particularly between Arian and Athanasius, both theological thespians in the advent of Christianity. The deep divisions shown by both parties were due to the need by Emperor Constantine to establish a single Christian ideology. The differences resulted in the establishment of the First Council of Nicaea, partly to sit and try to get a common ideology of the theological issue. The council comprised of theologians and other church dignitaries with the intention to deliberate and reach a common doctrine for the christen faithful. From the first council set up by Constantine, there had been a total of 21 councils, all trying to build a common doctrine for the christen church. All of these councils were involved in one way or the other in trying to find a common Christian doctrine.

When Christianity was introduced in the Roman Empire, adherents had not developed any doctrine which would identify their religion. At the same time, there were too many issues regarding the interpretations of various issues, which they needed to find common ground. Issues emerged when theologians tried to interpret the divine and human aspects of Christ. That was hard to do without making references to the pagan ideologies.

One of the issues that resulted from the interpretation of Christ was how to exhibit the image of God. One of the earlier theologians, whose views were shared by Arian, had taught that the Father and the Son were a single entity, something which received a lot of opposition from other parties. Athanasius and some of the people under his leadership argued that there were three persons in one God. These contravened the beliefs of many others who had said that there was only one single entity on the person of God. Arius accused Athanasius and his group of trying to create extra entities out of one God, something which had been associated with paganism.

The Nicene Council coined a concept that was not supported by the bible teachings that Christ the Son was sharing the same substance with Christ the Father, and there it was impossible to treat the two as different. Arius and his team disagreed, arguing that Christ the Son, the Father and the Holy Spirit were materially different from each other and would not be presented as one. Arius argued that Christ the Father created the son, and that is the synopsis. Arian then wrote a letter explaining the same to Athanasius and his group. Arius and his followers believed that if the Father was equal to the Son, then they could have more than one God, which was against the Christian doctrine. He raised all those issues in his letter, defending his position with the hope of convincing the other side.

The debate as to the nature and difference between Christ the Father and Christ, the son, continues into the fifth century and beyond. In particular, it coincided the period of Emperor Constantine, whose efforts in trying to resolve the controversy and establish a single Christian doctrine did not bore any fruit.

The debate, even though no longer controversial continued to the latter years. Evidently, todays Christians may have adopted the Arians believes, where they believed that Christ the Father, the son and the holy are distinct but closely related. Christians pray and make references to the three, and it has been a common doctrine across the world. The controversy was important in finding common ground. Despite resulting in serious issues, which were debated for centuries, it was instrumental in making everything clear, paving the way for what most christens practice today. The acceptance of the Arians concept (those who followed the beliefs of Arius and his followers), seems to have convinced a majority of theologians of that time, and that is the reason they accepted it. Today, even though the debate lives on, it does not exist in those who ascribe to the Christian faith, but rather to pagans and members of other religious denominations.


Essay 3: Constantine

Constantine was a Roman emperor in the between 306 and 337 AD. As an emperor, he was instrumental in many things ranging from politics, military, social and economy. He is credited with leading government restructuring, initiating economy reforms which introduced a standardized form of money and initiating many other religious reforms. He took over when there was runaway inflation, and initiated a new currency that would be useful for over one thousand years. Immediately, he combated inflation, enhanced trade and promoted the economic wellbeing of the Roman Empire. Constantine also became the firm person in the Roman Empire to convert and embrace Christianity. He did that at a time when there was little tolerance for Christianity and urged people to embrace the religion and those who practiced it.

Constantine called the first council of Nicaea, where they declared the Nicene Creed. Nicene Creed was a symbol of Christianity, which would be used by all Christians in the empire. The adoption of the creed happened in 325 AD in the city of Nicaea, under the guidance of Constantine and the members he had appointed to the council. The purpose of the creed was to provide a standard doctrine for the Christian denomination and give what could be used for indefinitely a long time to identify the religion and the peoples faith. His role in advancing Christina, establishing the Nicaea creed and the many roles he played in the church marked some of Nicaeas success in his reign.

Art of his legacy includes the establishment of a dynastic succession, where he prepared his sons to take over after him. They did, but it took years of preparation during his reign, to ensure they continued to keep his legacy. In the military, Constantine reorganized the military to consist different units, each dedicated to specific roles. In reorganizing the military, he made it possible for them to counter internal aggressions as well as external barbarism. Note that Constantine had come to power when the Roman Empire had established itself and had various enemies with the intent to interfere with its affairs. Con...

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