Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea
Over at The Christian Humanist, a good, meaty conversation is developing about how we should define “heresy” and how we should assess the role of the ancient creeds today.
A week or so ago I worked through these questions on this blog in my series on early theological controversies (part I of that series is here).
Here’s a bit of the conversation on The Christian Humanist (but I recommend heading over to that blog to reading the rest of Nathan Gilmour’s post and the responses that ensued):
Michial’s working definition of heresy is that which stands against the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, while my own definition was that which, if taught to a generations of Christians, would result in something other than the Christian church. Continue reading →
Justin Martyr, the Christian philosopher, about to say something profound about the Logos
This post follows from “Who do you say that I am: Controversies about Christ in the early church“:
[The following paragraph is adapted from an appendix to Philip Jenkins’s fascinating new book, Jesus Wars:How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 years. I do think this subtitle is significantly misleading–these decisions were in fact made “ex corde ecclesia”–out of the heart of the church. But Jenkins tells a rollicking tale, and with scholarly care–a rare combination]
The emperor Theodosius I called the second ecumenical council of the church, called the First Council of Constantinople, in 381. This council met mainly to settle continuing debates concerning the Trinity. Arianism remained powerful long after the Council of Nicea, while some groups denied the full divinity of the Holy Spirit. The Council of Constantinople tried to resolve these issues, and it defined the role of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity. Continue reading →
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Tagged Apollinarianism, Apollinaris, Christology, First Council of Constantinople, heresy, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Justin Martyr, Logos, Nicene Creed
Luke Timothy Johnson, in his book The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why It Matters (Doubleday, 2003), deals concisely with objections to the “novelties” presented by the Nicene Council and its creed, and answers anti-creedalists on the importance of creeds:
The creed formulated at Nicea was an innovation in at least three ways
- “It clearly brought the church into a position of cooperation—it could even be argued cooptation—with the state”
- “It imposed a universal creed to take precedence over treasured local versions” (though note this creed was not actually made universal until the later Council of Constantinople)
- “It used philosophical language within a profession of faith that was supposed to articulate the Christian story in the language of Scripture.” Continue reading →
It's not pretty, folks!
This article is continued from “Debunking the Protestant ‘T’ word: An edifying tale, part I,“ “Debunking the Protestant ‘T’ Word part II: How to spot a heresy, and “Debunking the Protestant ‘T’ Word part III: What was the beef at Nicea?“
This was the sort of problem that was on the minds of bishops all over the empire when Constantine stepped in and invited them to his summer palace in Nicea for this major meeting. At least 200 bishops attended, mostly from the Eastern part of the empire, but some from Italy, North Africa, and other Western places. Counting all the bishops’ fellow presbyters and deacons, scholars believe there were close to a thousand people at that meeting. The sheer size of this assembly had no precedent in church history.
If you think about it, this must have been just an awe-inspiring gathering for those simple pastors. Most stunning was that just over a dozen years before the council, the largest persecution in the history of the early church had been raging. In fact, some of the bishops at Nicea had been tortured during that persecution. Some bore horrible scars; some were even missing eyes. And here they were, summoned by the emperor, with all their expenses paid, laden with the traditional gifts that followed an invitation to the imperial court. Some, legend has it, received the kiss of peace from Constantine himself. It must have been just a breathtaking moment for those who had remained faithful through the recent persecution and now saw God working in this amazing way. Continue reading →