The Janitor and the Servant Girl were both at the First Great Church Council (in Nicea 325 A.D.) and the much later All Stars Reunion in Las Vegas. Since they were already dead they felt they could talk about things freely. The Scribe just wanted to listen and write it all down for posterity.
The Janitor, the Servant Girl, and the Scribe
Pragmatticus (the Janitor) was a practical sort of guy who only cussed when provoked. He struggled to avoid swearing too much at church councils but sometimes all the nonsense just got the best of him. Historical accounts suggest he cussed a lot in Nicea.
Sally (the Servant Girl) witnessed the ecclesiastical combat and maneuvering going on in Nicea. She was injured in the legendary social hour brawl that took place just after the welcome prayer. Sally is still afraid of Churchmen and stutters whenever she tries to say words like denomination, tradition or creed. Theological terms are especially hard for her. Medication has failed to control her twitching when she hears the words, “Let us pray.” She still feels uncomfortable around Christians and tries to avoid religious types.
Meticulus (the Scribe) was a clear-eyed reporter who tried to see as much as he could and write it all down. He was known to be pretty serious in a light-hearted sort of way and was called Ticulus by his friends.
Church Councils Don’t Bring Peace
Pragmatticus and Meticulus met at the first Council a very long time ago and realized they had a lot in common. We found Pragmatticus cleaning up the social hall and getting things ready for the Reunion. His encounter with Meticulus and Sally follows in its entirety.
Meticulus: Well Prag you old cuss! It’s good to see you! This promises to be quite an event.
Pragmatticus: Only time will tell Ticulus, only time will tell. I sure hope things turn out better than last time they got together. I never saw a crowd who could make a bigger mess out of things! I thought they were supposed to straighten out all those big religious issues they were so worked up about! You know, stir up some harmony and peace, but all they did was fight! They sure despised each other.
The Nicene Council Was Divisive
I wonder if they knew or even cared how bad they looked to the rest of us. They were excommunicating each other left and right and then things really started getting ugly. That old Athanasius has a mean right hook and Arius could kick like a mule! They were kicking and scratching and gouging like nobody’s business. The brawl they started left the whole place in shambles. It took all the strength I had to keep from cussing a blue streak in Greek. They didn’t even try to clean up the mess they made. Sally was so put off by all their bad manners she figured the best thing was just to avoid Christians altogether, especially the ones who think they’re important.
The Meek Inherit the Earth
Meticulus: Hey isn’t that Sally setting up the punch bowl over in the corner? She sure looks nervous about something!
Pragmatticus: You probably shouldn’t call it a punch bowl around her Ticulus. Sally was just starting to serve punch when the first brawl started in Nicea and she took more than a few stray punches by the time it was all over. She still flinches when anyone even says the word punch around her. Might be a good idea to call it the beverage bowl when she’s in earshot. Poor girl still twitches a lot even on a good day.
Meticulus: Servants aren’t much good in religious fights are they Prag? They probably shouldn’t even be in places like this. Meekness is just fine most of the time, “inherit the earth” and all that but around here it’s not worth a plug denarius. I think we should get her a set of earplugs. I worry about the poor girl Pragmatticus. The more she hears the more she twitches.
Pragmatticus: Those hi-tech noise-cancelling headphones are nice but they’re pretty conspicuous. I’d hate to see her get thrown out of here just for trying to cut down on all the noise coming her way.
PS: The Reunion is just getting ready to start and there’s lots more to come! Come back soon to see what happens next… and if you have a few moments please share a link to theologyallstars.com with someone you know.
Copyright 2022 by Bob Shutes
Continued…Click for Part II
Love this! 🙂
Welcome aboard Lori and thanks for the kind words! Greet Nate for me.
Paul, thanks so much for your interest. I’ll briefly address your points below. But before I do, my overarching comment is I too had a vague belief that these things, especially my creed, was God inspired, so it ought not be criticized. You, though, went far beyond my simple comprehension with your six good points. I have come to realize that history informs each and every point is dead wrong.
1) Did the leaders despise one another. Absolutely they did! The First Nicaean Council of 325 pitted Arius against Athanasius. This lead to murder, arson, theft, expulsion and all other ugly dealings. Just search the names Arius and Athanasius. You will find Arius held a view that Jesus was divine but created. Athanasius held a co-equal Trinitarian view. The second view was voted in as correct. Books have been written about how they despised one another and the widespread physical violence that ensued. Our essays will get into the politics of the physical violence.
2) Did this really lead to fisticuffs? That is an understatement! The Second Council of Ephesus of 449 was so violent the bishop was beaten with fists so badly that he died a few days later. This makes for future essay material.
3) Did the creeds simplify belief for the common man? Absolutely not. Beliefs about Christ’s hypostatic union hinged on the little “i” in homoiousia but not in homoousios. Whatever stance you take on the “i,” the other side considered you a pestilence that must be stamped out. Factions of those believing in Jesus as partly man fought to the death with those believing Christ was wholly divine and fought with those believing Jesus acquired Godhead from birth to baptism to crucifixion to resurrection. The creeds worked to hold power through fancier and fancier words. The creed you recite today has far reaching ramifications that has split the Christian community. What you deeply believe is heresy to someone else. Its a bitter pill to swallow. By the way, these theologians cited chapter and verse from the Bible – but they could not leave it at that.
4. Did the authors of creeds have good intents? They certainly did – if you were on their side. Otherwise they were using whatever coercion they could, including politics, to hold their power. The eastern church of Antioch was so split from the church of Alexandria, and that continues to this day.
5. Did creed writers pray? No doubt they did. The councils had three flavors of intelligentsia. There were political leaders that wanted their power protected. There were brilliant philosophers trained in Aristotelian logic that helped craft the creeds using more and more refined and invented theological terms that could not be refuted (unless you were on the other side). And, there was the garden variety bishop from a backwater in Rome attending in Constantinople that really didn’t care about the outcome or deeply understood the big words. I suppose they prayed – for their point of view.
6. Did the Holy Spirit guide the creeds? In my opinion its a flat no. I don’t believe the Holy Spirit created extra-Biblical words that moved believers further and further down the rabbit hole with more and more confusing and dense words. Jesus never said, “I forgot to tell you a few things, so please write a creed to clear up what I didn’t teach you. Please explain what I didn’t have time to tell you.”
So, Paul, thanks for your interest. We will get to your points in detail as we move along. Please keep reading. But at this time, suffice it to say you are dead wrong on all points.
Greg, I really liked your 6 points!
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