Who can really understand this theological words and formulations?

It’s Greek To Me – Part II

Arius Was History’s Biggest Loser

Moderator: Well folks let’s keep moving on. Now it’s time hear from our next speaker, Arius. He may have represented most of the Christians of his era but that didn’t keep him from losing his debate with Athanasius. What a shock it must have been to the majority of believers to wake up one morning and discover they had become a heretics overnight! That’s how it goes when your side loses and Arius lost for everyone when he lost to Athanasius! Let’s give a real All-Stars welcome to one of history’s biggest losers, Arius of Alexandria!

Arius’ Writings Were Confiscated, Banned and Burned

The Audience: Tepid applause. One heckler shouted, “I hope you’ve come to your senses Arius!” Another yelled, “It’s a good thing you’re already dead Arius! Otherwise we’d probably have to take care of that for you!”

Arius:  Hello everyone! It is so nice to see you again too! I think you all know the Reunion organizers asked me to take part in this panel discussion as the official ambassador for the ancient theological term homoiousios! I was hoping passions and tempers had cooled down a little since Nicea but maybe not! By the way, I put some of my writings on the back table but I see they’ve already been confiscated so please feel free to distort and censor my comments in any way you like!

Was Jesus Subordinate to His Father?

Quoting Jesus can get you in a lot of trouble! If you stop and think about Jesus’ statement “My Father is greater than I” it doesn’t look like there is any co-equality between the Father and the Son does it? Jesus actually said a lot of things that showed how much He was submitted to His Father’s will.  I know it upsets some people to say that the Father is greater than the Son but it didn’t upset Jesus! It’s pretty clear that’s what He believed. Jesus is the Son of God, the Lamb of God and our Savior, Redeemer and Lord. He is the Messiah and even more, but He is not co-equal with the Father! You can’t create co-equality without homoousious and you can’t create the Trinity without co-equality! That’s why I wasn’t too fond of it… even if it is Athanasius’ favorite word.

Audience:  Heresy! Nonsense! Blasphemy! Why should we even listen to him?

Is Denying Homoousious a Damnable Heresy?

Athanasius: Damnation Arius! Yes damnation upon you and your damnable ideas and your damnable words! If you deny Homoousious you have denied Jesus’ co-equality with the Father! And to deny homoousious is to deny our beloved Trinity! If I had a good stick I’d smite you on the head right now!

Arius: Hold on a minute Ath! I thought we were having a panel discussion and I’m not done talking yet! Don’t you think you should at least hear me out? I want to talk a little about homoiosious and why so many theologians thought it was a pretty good word before and even after the Council in Nicea.

Athanasius: We’ve heard enough Arius! … and don’t call me Ath! I don’t like it.

The Audience: That’s right Arius! He’s not your Ath, he’s our Ath and don’t you forget it!

Athanasius: What say ye everyone? Shall we give him the brass boot of fellowship and send him packing?  Ignore everything he just said! Why I’ve got half a mind to read the Athanasian Creed out loud right now. That way you can all remember how you are supposed to think just in case anyone has forgotten!

The Audience: Great idea! Go ahead Athanasius! Lay it on us!

Athanasius:  (Blushing) Well alright then if you insist. Here goes…

                                     The Athanasian Creed

“ Whoever wants to be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic (universal) faith; which faith unless everyone keeps it whole and undefiled, without doubt he will perish everlastingly. We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance. (and so on and so forth, etc. etc.) But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as was said before, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.”

Pragmatticus thought it sounded like puffed up nonsense and tried not to laugh.

Meticulous said:  That doesn’t sound at all like scripture! Ideas like Divine Substance and Homoousious don’t have anything to do with the Bible!

Arius said: That’s what I’ve been trying to say! Jesus Himself didn’t believe in this co-equality stuff so why should we?

What Does Jesus Think of the Athanasian Creed?

Jesus had not been consulted about the Athanasian Creed and some attendees thought they heard Him say, “My Father is greater than I.”

The Apostle Paul protested:  “Beware lest men spoil you with philosophy and vain deceit! To us there is one God, the Father! There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus!”

The Apostle Peter said:  Amen!

The Nicene Creed Caused a Lot of Trouble

Athanasius: Got red in the face then jumped out of his seat and started choking Arius. This started the legendary Panel Discussion Brawl at the All Stars Reunion.

Emperor Constantine: Showed up just as Athanasius started choking Arius. He had finally been released from custody!  He was a little confused and behind schedule because his medications were slowing him down a bit. When he saw the ruckus starting it reminded him of Nicea and he shouted, “This is just like the good old days!”

Many thought the ugly conflicts resulting from the Athanasian Creed  were unfortunate and deeply embarrassing. These “doubtful disputations” were an ugly blemish on the faith!

A few claimed they heard Jesus say:  “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have love one to another.”

Sally the Servant Girl took it on the chin again and fell to the floor in a heap.

Pragmatticus finally had enough and just started cussing.

Hotel Security Guards did their best to restore order.

And then the Moderator said: This concludes our panel discussion. Will someone please call 911? I think Sally is hurt! We want to thank you all for coming and would like to invite everyone to the fellowship hall for refreshments as soon as the fighting stops!

PS: We wonder if the Athanasian Creed seemed so weak to its authors that the only way to protect it was by burning and banning the writings of those who disagreed. Was it really necessary or even remotely Christian to sentence people to death for reading opposing ideas? That’s what it took though to establish the primacy of trinitarian doctine in the church. We don’t think Biblical truths are confirmed by majority votes in councils or by violence either.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

History’s Most Famous Heretic

Arius Was The Father of All Heretics!

The time had finally come for one of history’s biggest losers to get a little recognition! Arius of Alexandria was certainly considered heretical and was even known as the “father of all heretics”. His adversaries liked to call his followers “Ariomaniacs”! It is hard to know exactly what he believed since all of his original writings were burned on the orders of Constantine. Some people, however, think there is a slight chance he may have been right about a few things! The Awards Committee thought giving him a Windy award was altogether in order.

Arius Had Been Censored and Silenced

Many felt it was time at last to give Arius the chance to speak for himself! He had been vilified, silenced and censored for so long that it just didn’t seem fair to keep it up. After all, Arius was already dead, just like all the other theologians at the Allstars Reunion!  Like them, he also came to the reunion by special permission from God!  Why not give him an opportunity to express himself? What harm could there possibly be in giving him an award?

Maybe Arius Wasn’t Completely Evil?

Moderator: Good evening everyone! Tonight we are going to do something that is almost unthinkable! We are going to recognize someone who has disagreed with us! Let us concede there is a very slight chance that Arius was not totally 100% wrong (just kidding!) about everything.  We all know it is unlikely he got anything right but we should at least consider the possibility. Not only that, we are even going to acknowledge that our theological adversary may not be completely evil! How’s that for being gracious!

Arius Was Theology’s Biggest Loser

We thought about it a long time before giving Arius “The Biggest Loser of All Time” Award! He was a big deal in his home town but was crushed by Athanasius at the Nicene Council. History has not been at all kind to Arius’ memory even though no one really knows what he actually believed.  Thankfully, all his writings were banned and burned after the Nicene Council to prevent the spread of his dangerously heretical ideas! The only thing we really know about his teachings is what his critics had to say about him.  Some modern commentators allege that this may have given us a slanted view but who knows?  Here to accept his consolation prize and finally speak for himself is the “Father of all Heretics”, Arius of Alexandria!

Giving Arius an Award Was Shocking!

Audience: Some clearing of throats. Awkward silence with undertones of murmuring. An award for Arius was a shocking development!

Arius: Well my goodness! I’m as shocked as you are that I’m getting this award! It is a bit of a left-handed compliment but at least it’s better than being ignored! I never dreamed that someday I would win an award for being the biggest loser in history! All I can say is thank you!

Were Arius and Athanasius Both Heretics?

When Athanasius and I began debating homoousious and homoiousious no one had any idea how things would turn out! Constantine was a wily old devil though and all he wanted was an end to the divisions in his empire. When he finally ruled in favor of homoousious at Nicaea I knew my goose was cooked! Athanasius got his goose cooked later when Constantine changed his mind and decided I wasn’t a heretic after all! I guess it remains to be seen how God will sort all this out in eternity. Looking back, maybe none of us at Nicaea had any business being there in the first place!

The God of Israel is the Father and Jesus is His Son

There are a few issues that seem pretty clear cut. The first is that there is just one God and He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God of Israel and the scriptures call Him the Father. That was never too controversial. He had a Son named Jesus who was the promised Messiah and Anointed One, the Christ. The angel Gabriel told Mary that “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and power of the Highest will overshadow you. Therefore also,  that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) That’s when things started to get confusing, especially in the minds of later Christian scholars who were well-versed in Greek Philosophy!

Arius thought “Co-equal” Was a Bunch of Nonsense

Jesus said the first and greatest commandment is there is just one God. “Hear O Israel the Lord our God is One!” That was His creed and it is called the Shema. He also claimed to only say and do what his Father taught him and was pretty straightforward about it. When he said “My Father is greater than I” I believed him!  My theory was we should just take him at his word! That’s why I said the whole idea of Jesus being co-equal with the Father was a bunch of nonsense. Needless to say, that didn’t go over very well with Athanasius and his cronies! They had other ideas!

The Majority of Believers Were Excommunicated!

Next thing you know I was banished, excommunicated and labeled a heretic! Most Christians at the time believed like I did so they all became heretics too! We thought it was pretty strange that one day we were the majority of believers and then boom! Almost overnight we all became heretics! Constantine didn’t really care one way or another. All he wanted was peace and he thought a creed approved by majority vote in Nicea would do the trick. Athanasius just wanted to win the debate and he sure did. That doesn’t mean he won God’s approval though! We’ll just have to wait until Jesus returns to find out about that.

PS: It comes as a shock to realize that Roman Emperors actually had the power to decide if you were a heretic or not! Who knew that Arius and Athanasius were both declared heretics by Constantine? In the long run it’s pretty clear that Athanasius had a much better PR operation but whether or not that means anything at all to God remains to be seen. In the meantime you have nothing to fear from any Roman Emperor so why not just go ahead and be brave and share a link to this website with your friends? We don’t think there’s much chance you’ll  be banished or excommunicated even though some folks may not like your independent ways. God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

The power of religious tradition

The Splendor of Tradition

We all knew the Reunion would have to come to an end someday. Soon the glorious buffets and shows at Caesar’s New Palace would be closed to us forever!  Our grand Las Vegas adventure was about to end and this added an air of urgency to everything we did! An unwelcome gate crasher had showed up and even spoke against our most cherished traditions! We decided that an impassioned talk about the glory and beauty of our traditions was in order! We also wanted to make it known that anyone who did not honor our traditions would be in serious trouble!

People Create Religious Traditions!

The thing traditions have going for them (and why we like them so much) is because we make them ourselves! All you have to do is think of traditions as “do it yourself” religious projects and everything makes perfect sense. That’s why people react so violently when anyone questions their tradition because they take it as a personal attack! “Hey! That’s MY tradition you’re messing with!” And they are absolutely right… it IS their tradition.  People create traditions and people keep them going. God doesn’t generally have much to do with it. Jesus said a lot of harsh things about traditions because they are usually so contrary to God’s ways!

Religious Traditions are Serious Business!

Religious customs are no laughing matter! Traditions are way too important to question. Sometimes traditions are even more important than scripture! No kidding! This is hard for some people to figure out and there are always some who just don’t get it! The question on everyone’s mind was, “What should we do about rebels who won’t treat our dogma with the proper respect?” Our first choice was to smite them with the jawbone of an ass like Samson did but finding a good jawbone from a suitable ass isn’t easy.  Besides, most of the church fathers knew that talking an issue to death is nearly as effective. The next challenge was to figure out who was up to the job!

Jesus Didn’t Love the Traditions of Men

We thought about trying to book one of the Apostles but none of them were trinitarians so that idea fizzled out pretty quickly. No one even considered trying to get Jesus to show up to defend tradition.  He wasn’t a trinitarian either and His stand against Jewish traditions had a lot to do with getting Him crucified.

Athanasius Was the Champion of Tradition!

Someone would have to speak up for tradition and the honor eventually fell to, who else but Athanasius! He once overturned three centuries of church teaching (ie. tradition) with his own radical ideas but he was still a perennial crowd favorite. Athanasius was one of the main architects of the trinitarian dogma that ultimately ruled Christianity for nearly two thousand years! He knew a thing or two about building and maintaining human traditions!  Athanasius was eloquent and bold and not the least bit afraid to promote his own religious ideas in spite of the teachings of Jesus! The jawbone of everyone’s favorite Ath, Athanasius of Alexandria, won speaking honors by a landslide!

Athanasius Was the Defender of Trinitarian Dogma

Master of Ceremonies:  Good evening everyone! We are in for a special treat again tonight! You all know we have had to cope with some unpleasant interruptions in the past few days. We don’t have a lot of time left and we certainly don’t want to spend it listening to things we disagree with! Here to silence the voices we don’t want to hear is our theological heavy hitter and defender of trinitarian dogma!  Brethren I give you Athanasius! Let’s hear it for the Jawbone from Alexandria one more time!

Audience:  Thunderous applause! Stomping of feet! Whistling and shouting aplenty!

Athanasius:  Thank you, thank you! I know we don’t have a lot of time left at this fine Las Vegas Reunion and we all want to enjoy ourselves while we’re still here. I think we have heard  enough unpleasantness from our critics and as far as I’m concerned it’s time to put an end to it!

Audience:  Amen! Amen!

Take Your Pick! Scripture or Tradition

Athanasius:  Brothers we live in two worlds! The first is the world of “it is written” in the holy scriptures. The other world and the one we wish to exalt tonight is the sphere of tradition which is no less important! We know that some people think Jesus condemned tradition saying “by your traditions you have made God’s laws of none effect…you worship God in vain, for the doctrines you teach are the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15). The Apostle Paul wrote, See to it that no one carries you off as spoil or makes you captive by philosophy and vain deceit (fine sounding arguments) according to the traditions of men.” (Colossians 2) We should just dispense with these scriptural objections right now since those verses clearly are not talking about us! They are about other people who are not as right about things as we are! There you have it!

Our Traditions Have a Seal of Approval!

You may be wondering; how can we know which traditions are legit and which are merely human? All you have to do is listen to the certified religious authorities we call the Magisterium! In other words, WE will tell you which traditions are humanly generated and which ones are approved by God. It’s just that simple! Fortunately, our traditions have all been approved by specially trained religious experts! 

Our Traditions Are of the Highest Quality!

We have an official document called a Nihil Obstat that certifies in writing that our traditions are the best available anywhere! They have our own special Seal of Approval and are published and approved under our own Imprimatur (license)!  This confirms we have official permission to publish these things! These very fine Latin words are your assurance that the traditions we want you to observe are of the highest quality. Our theology and creeds have passed all these rigorous requirements with flying colors!

We Only Use Violence When Necessary

Yes, we have used force at times to convince people who wouldn’t yield to us but that’s just how it is sometimes.  Burning at the stake, massacres and torture may seem harsh to some but that’s just what it took for us to finally establish our authority. We mostly only killed adversaries who called themselves Christians. In hindsight we probably should have killed everyone who didn’t believe what we wanted them to! We tried to do just that for a long time but things didn’t work out as well as we hoped in spite of our best efforts. Sadly, the days when we could use lethal force are just a fond memory. Religious violence is frowned upon these days so we are inclined to be much more gentle!

The Trinity is Our Greatest Tradition!

Today I am here to assure you that our trinitarian tradition is undoubtedly the majority opinion. If you want to go with a winner you will go with us! Just consider our Magisterium, Imprimatur and Nihil Obstats.  It is little wonder that our traditions are at least equal to, if not greater in importance than what is written in the scriptures. Traditions and scripture are both important but since our traditions give us the sole authority to interpret scripture we can confidently say that tradition has won!  In spite of what some reckless heretics may say, highly qualified religious professionals like us are the only people who are able determine exactly what you should believe!

In closing I trust that this short explanation has answered all your questions, calmed all your doubts and settled this issue once and for all. Now let’s head to that great seafood buffet!

Pragmatticus was up in the rafters and although he didn’t start cussing he could not keep from laughing.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

Ecumenical Councils… What Good Are They?

 

“My inclination is to avoid all assemblies of bishops, because I have never seen any council come to a good end, nor turn out to be a solution of evils.  On the contrary, it usually increases them”

                                                                  Gregory of Nazianzus

 “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God.  I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.  Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me.  Amen”

                                                                       Martin Luther

 

Modern society holds certain fundamental tenets sacrosanct; the right to vote, democracy, the right to own property, free speech, etc., in other words ‘the unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.’  There is another equally strong tenet that even one with only the vaguest feel for things spiritual has, the concept of the Trinity.  Nearly everyone knows the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are One in Trinity.  This is taken as true without question; it just is.  Christians regularly recite a creed affirming this even though few realize how it came to be, or hard fought the battles were, or how many people were tortured or died in wars for that creed to exist today.  It didn’t have to be that way.

Rome, the Eternal City, is not much dwelt on during the Dark Ages.  It is assumed the classic age of the emperors went by the wayside as the Church emerged from the ash heap of history to encompass all of the Mediterranean to northern Scandinavian and from Russia to England.  It’s a tedious and dull story.  Hardly!  The third thru the ninth centuries were anything but a smooth transition for the Church.  Although Rome was not exactly a backwater, it had lost its glory to Constantinople, Antioch, and Alexandria.  All that Rome had going for it was Peter was crucified there and, he is the rock upon which the church will be built.  Matthew 16:18. Alexandria’s glory was the greatest library of the ancient world and the western center of theology.  Antioch was considered one of the most beautiful of the ancient cities, boasting it had the greatest library, was also a major seat of learning and, the eastern center of theology.  Constantinople was ancient when renamed in 330 and grew to be the largest and wealthiest city in Europe.  Rome was left in the dust, actual dust.

In the third thru the ninth centuries Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople and others like Carthage, Ephesus, and Chalcedon were holy sees, the seats of powerful bishops.  Each claimed to be the center of the Christian world.  Each held to this or that doctrine as absolute spiritual truth, and therefore, ought to be the rightful center of the Christian world.  In hindsight it was unlikely the runt of the group, Rome, would come out on top. That, though, is not the whole of the story.

During this dark period western civilization was being harassed, needled, pillaged, burned, and taken over by the Vandals, Goths, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and Huns, to name a few.  As these frightful fellas came from the north and east deals needed to be made, tributes needed to be paid and, emperor’s sisters needed to be married off to the marauders to stem their unpleasantness.  It did not take long for the whole of Europe to be ruled by warlords linked to civilizing women with children Christianized and educated in what was left of the great schools.  That, though, is not the whole of the story.

Maintaining a bishopric as the seat of the Christian world did not come easy.  A doctrine had to be developed and followed without question as right and true.  This required muscle to keep the differently believed in line, and what a time it was for burly monks to bash heretical heads.  Then there was the curiosity of the unwashed monks who believed in utter self-denial for the sake of continuously contemplating God.  Hard to argue against that logic.  That, though, is not the whole of the story.

Bishoprics were not the quaint and quiet monasteries of the sixteenth century.  They existed at the behest of the warlords and emperors.  Who was paying who was a jumble.  It was prudent to pay a warlord to leave you alone, but it was conversely prudent of the warlord, or emperor, to pay for the privilege of going to heaven or even being crowned emperor by the pope as in the later years.  Money made the world go round.  Peasants revolted against the high taxes, plunder was taken, and powerful bishops skimmed of as much as they could along the way.

It is against this backdrop that Constantine first tried to make peace in the realm, peace with the first encroaching marauders, and peace with theologians who called for Christians to kill one another.  He called together the first ecumenical council to settle doctrinal issues once and for all.  In 325 a number of unifying housekeeping details were taken care of such as setting the date of Easter and putting an end to self-castration.  The primary reason, though, for this council, and others, was to anathematize Arius for preaching Jesus was the Messiah born human to Mary.  This council was to settle all matters for all time.  Too bad it was more like The Great War settling all wars for all time.

So far there have been twenty-one ecumenical councils.  There have also been many smaller synods.  As an aside, the Synod of the Oak is a personal favorite.  In the year 402 it involved forty-two archbishops, bishops, money, bribes, the highest of officials, the patriarch of Constantinople, betrayal, love of an empress, and fun gangs like the “Tall Brothers.”  This was the flavor of the early councils.  Let it be said they were not prayerful and thoughtful equivocations of theological fine points.  In fact, the thrust of the first nine was to anathematize and often kill Christians of a different belief.

Back to the First Council of Nicaea.  Beginning in 325 it was to settle spiritual differences so Constantine could get back to his Pax Romana.  318 bishops, their aids, advisers, and servants were living in Constantine’s lap of luxury.  Even Constantine sat in without guards as this was to be a civil discourse.  The question at hand revolved around how Jesus being a man could not possibly save all mankind, yet if He were God, then it was God that died on the cross and God could not possibly die, plus it would make Mary theotokos, mother of God and not christotokos, Christ’s mother.

Most bishops were moderates looking for some sort of compromise, but there were two firebrands who would not give an inch.  Even though it made many bishops uneasy, Athanasius introduced the term homoousian, meaning Jesus was of the same substance as God.  Some tried to meet in the middle with homoiousian, meaning of a similar nature.  But, the die was cast; either you were with Arius or with Athanasius.  As a precursor to the Synod of the Oak, Athanasius was bribing bishops and making backroom deals slowly bringing enough bishops into his camp for a majority vote.  The Arians were threatened with excommunication (including the loss of perks) and eternal damnation.  Most saw the light.  Only Arius, one deacon, and two bishops refused to sign what became known as the Nicene Creed.  Constantine didn’t much care about homoousios one way or the other, but he was pleased to have settled all matters spiritual and was able to exile Arius.  That, though, was not the end of the story.

Darn it all Eusebius signed the creed but did not entirely renounce Arius.  This was no big deal except that Eusebius was Constantine’s friend, a member of the court, a bishop, and a distant relative.  Confusing Constantine even more was his sister, Flavia Julia, who was a great friend of Arius and a bit of an Arian herself.  Flavia and Eusebius had Constantine’s ear to the point of eventually rigging a trial against Athanasius.  Being hardheaded, Athanasius would not allow a softening of his homoousian position, Constantine got mad, Athanasius was exiled, and Arius was returned.  Now it was Arianism that began to spread.  On Constantine’s deathbed Eusebius baptized his friend.  Constantine’s son was a diehard Arian who further spread the concept of Jesus as a man.  In fact, many Goths were converted to Christianity through Arianism.  Its interesting the Goths never integrated into the Roman world because of this.  The homoousios/homoiousios schism eventually tore western civilization apart.

The First Council of Nicaea was rather mild compared to others.  But, it was typical of how the government, the bishops, bribes, the fight for power, and out and out beating and murder set the stage for writing creeds.  Make no mistake these were not spiritual get-togethers where prayerful meditations led the faithful to God’s intent.  The 431 Council of Ephesus was nearly the same as Nicaea except with different names: Cyril (The Great) from Alexandria in the west and Nestorius from Antioch in the east – same faces, a different time.  At Ephesus Mary became the Mother of God, Christ became one divine person, and Nestorius was anathematized.  Anathematizing the Nestorian heresy was the whole point of this council.  Pope Leo the Great called it the Robber’s Synod.  During the Gangster Council a bishop was so badly beaten that he died a few days later.  Basically Arius and Athanasius came back in different disguises for five hundred fifty more years.

325   First Council of Nicea

381   First Council of Constantinople

431   Council of Ephesus

451   Council of Chalcedon

553   Second Council of Constantinople

680   Third Council of Constantinople

757   Second Council of Nicaea

869   Fourth Council of Constantinople

After the Fourth Council of Constantinople the Eastern Greek church was split for evermore from the western Catholic church of Rome. This was formalized in 1054 as The Great Schism.  From this point on churches would easily get their theological noses out of joint.  Some recognized the thirteen Catholic councils that followed, and some recognized others.  A fun term that really upset the theological apple cart is Filoque; meaning the procession of the Spirit from the Son as well as from the Father.  Even this confusing term has its further nuances and extended nuances – veerrryyy difficult.

Arius and Athanasius rang through the Great Councils one way or another for five and a half centuries.  Even today a Trinitarian creed is recited with the absolute belief it is the absolute truth.  The truth is Christians are reciting the results of murder, bribery, hardheaded theology, and a struggle for temporal power.  It makes no difference which creed one chooses, they were all the result of anathematizing someone or something.  Here are a few:

Apostles’ Creed anathematized Marcion (120)

Nicene Creed anathematized Arius (325)

Nicaea-Constantinople Creed anathematized Nestorius (381)

Chalcedonian Creed anathematized the Monophysites (451)

Athanasian Creed re-anathematized Arius (500)

On top of these five are a hundred others developed by the myriad of Christian sects who may or may not add the Filoque.

 IT DID NOT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY.  Jesus did not ask anyone to write a creed explaining His relationship to the Father and the Spirit.  He surely did not want murder and wars to be in His name.  Jesus, the Great Teacher, would have taught us about the relationships of the Trinity if He wanted us to know?  Some things are secret to God.  These days professors teach endlessly on theological terms.

 These days those in the pews earnestly recite their favorite creed.  These days Christians jump to the defense of their favorite creed.  And, these days Christians mindlessly defend the concept of the Trinity, even though most have no understanding of the dense and conflicting terms or understand how the Trinity came into existence.  All this leads Christians to be at odds with Christians.  It did not have to be this way!

Christians ought to drop the hubris and with humility believe in God the Father, Christ the Savior, and the Holy Spirit as a personal Paraclete.  It’s just that simple; nothing less and certainly nothing more.

Copyright 2021 by Greg Hallback

Faith Without Creeds – Part I

Biblical Religious Creeds

Saved by Faith… Plus the Nicene Creed!

The Reunion Committee knew the right person to give the keynote address just had to be the great theologian Athanasius! His powerful intellect, keen grasp of subtle philosophical issues and his forceful oratory made him the perfect choice. His epic speech “Faith Without Creeds is Dead” may be the most magnificent defense of the Nicene Creed you’ll ever read. His insights and passion truly captured the spirit of Nicea!

The Master of Ceremony’s Introduction of Athanasius was pretty dull and is omitted from this account. The transcript of Athanasius’ glorious speech is presented here in its entirety.

Arius Was a Heretic!

Athanasius:  Greetings and blessings to all! Except of course to Arius and his band of heretics who slithered in here somehow and are sitting with us today. How did he get in here anyway? The Reunion committee must have lost its collective mind to let him in! I see his name is even on the program somewhere! I thought we had banned him from everything we could think of! Well no matter, we’ll deal with him again later. Some of you may recall how, after our first council, we burned his books and made it a crime punishable by death to even have a copy of his writings. It makes me a little nostalgic just to think of it. Those were the days!

What About  Emperor Constantine?

You may be wondering, where is Emperor Constantine? The Reunion organizers have asked me to inform you that he is doing well. The unfortunate misunderstanding that got him arrested when he tried to check in has been cleared up! He may have lost his bearings for awhile but he’s doing much better now that he’s on medications. We all know it was his will that brought us together in Nicea and it was his power that established our teachings!  Thank God for the Emperor! Let us pray for his speedy recovery!

Thank God for the Nicene Council!

It is so remarkable that we are all together again in Caesar’s Palace! Today we want to remember and give thanks for all the wonderful things we said and did in Nicea! Yes, I know there may be critics who whine that all we did was revel in our own intellectualism and sophistication. Well they are simply wrong! They were wrong then and they are still wrong today! You can be sure they will be wrong forever as long as I have anything to say about it! Besides, what’s so wrong with being intellectual and sophisticated anyway?

AUDIENCE:   Thunderous applause!

The Nicene Council Preserved the Kingdom of God!

Never forget that it was our work in Nicea that preserved the very kingdom of God from destruction! The wicked heretic and so-called Christian, Arius got what he deserved when we threw him out on his ear! We are forever grateful to Emperor Constantine who paid all our expenses and fed us sumptuously at his table. We should never lose sight of his kindness to the church when he told Roman citizens to quit killing us! It was Constantine, our beloved patron and Emperor, who took our side in the Nicean debate!  He pledged the power and might of Rome to our cause, and brethren, that’s as good as it gets!

AUDIENCE:   Deafening applause.

The Church Fathers Wrote a Beautiful Creed!

You may be wondering exactly what it was that we did in Nicea to preserve God’s kingdom. What did we accomplish that changed the very course of history? What was our crowning achievement you ask! We wrote a creed and crafted words that could show who is a true believer and who is not! Our words are wonderfully filled with gravity and mystery! (I wrote a lot of it myself by the way) Simply reciting them in public can establish whether you are in or out of God’s Kingdom!

Salvation Depends on the Nicene Creed!

The words we wrote are so important that we decided to establish their authority by majority vote! Our creed must never be disputed even if dimwits like Arius refuse to acknowledge it! We created the undisputed gold standard of faith for untold millions of believers! The Nicene Creed has been the only acceptable way for Christians to think for well over 1500 years now! Thankfully, we have even convinced people that unless they accept our theological formulation they cannot be saved!

AUDIENCE:  Enthusiastic shouting and foot stomping.

Many Christians Refused to Believe in the Trinity!

Thank you. Thank you! Most of you remember the situation we faced. There was trouble in the church! There were churches all over the empire and beyond that didn’t agree with each other! To their great shame there were even some people who stubbornly disagreed with me.  Far too many of them refused to accept my views about the threefold nature of God.

 AUDIENCE:   Booing and hissing.

Those Damnable Heretics Rejected Our Creed!

Athanasius: Damnable heretics like Arius and his followers refused to recognize the brilliance of our creation.  They would not believe in Jesus the right way, our way! Some did not like the idea of God being three “persons” but one substance! They rattled on about how it is wrong to claim God is a substance or essence in the first place. Well, that was our idea and we like it a lot and so does the Emperor! That pretty much settles it once and for all wouldn’t you say? But Arius and the thickheaded imbeciles who were his companions just wouldn’t go along with us. It didn’t matter though because our ideas became the official dogma of the Roman Empire!

AUDIENCE:   Right on Athanasius! God is One! God is Three! Let’s hear it for the Trinity!

The Church Needed Some Platonic Philosophy!

Arius and his accomplices accused us of building our doctrine on a foundation of Platonic philosophy. Well La Ti Da!  We told them, “If you don’t like it we’ll excommunicate you! Then to protect the Gospel from people who disagree with us we condemned and banished them! Just for good measure we made it a crime punishable by death to even have a copy of Arius’ writings! How’s that for taking a firm stand for the truth brethren!

AUDIENCE:   Bravo! Bravo! Well done!

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Continued… Click for Part II

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes