Constantine’s Last Words

Emperors Demand Respect

Constantine got off to a pretty rocky start when he tried to check in to the reunion!  He was deeply upset by his arrest and at being held against his will. Emperors are not used to that kind of treatment! We were all relieved to see that after some counseling and medication he was right back to his old self. He was eager to return to the reunion and the church fathers were  looking forward to seeing him too. Rumor had it he was still miffed about all the indignities he suffered during his mental health hold so that was a bit of a worry. No one knew what to expect when he finally made an appearance… and what an appearance it was!

A Royal Robe and a Golden Throne

Constantine entered the reunion hall wearing a royal purple robe lavishly encrusted with jewels and gold. It looked just like the royal robe he wore at the first council of Nicea! (except that the gold and jewels were fake and the fabric was a close out from a local upholstery shop) In spite of that he looked truly regal! In their lifetimes the church fathers admired his style so much they adopted it for their own ecclesiastical garments. The casino also found a nice golden throne for the emperor to use and the church fathers thought this was another very nice touch. They liked having thrones in their churches because it sent such a powerful message about their importance!

Constantine Controlled the Nicene Council

The All Stars Reunion featured a lot of important people and that created a big problem. When everyone is important it can be hard to tell who is really important! Constantine decided it was time to show who was in charge. That issue was never in doubt at the first Nicene Council. Not even a little bit! After all, Constantine had convened the council and the church fathers came at his invitation. He provided their transportation, security, lodging and then set a sumptuous table for them to enjoy. Best of all, it didn’t cost them a penny! The emperor also set the agenda and laid out the goals of the council. He was their host, moderator and the final judge of all their decisions! To seal the deal, Constantine even began paying the salaries of church officials which effectively made them his employees!

Pomp and Circumstance

Moderator:  We are honored by the presence of our benefactor and the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire! May I present Constantine the Great! The sounds of a trumpet fanfare played impressively over the world class sound system and everyone immediately stood to their feet. Then the emperor strode into the room in all his glorious apparel and sat down on his golden throne. Caesar’s Palace had even provided a troop of Roman soldiers holding spears with concealed microphones for the event. It was a thrilling display of pomp and circumstance! 

The Emperor Remembers Nicea

Emperor Constantine the Great: Beloved subjects! It is so good to be here with my soldiers, my robe, my golden throne and all of you. I’m almost beginning to feel at home here in Sin City! When I heard the trumpets and saw all of you kneel before me it was such a relief! What a strange world the centuries have wrought! Who would have ever thought an emperor would get arrested and locked up just for acting like an emperor? Go figure!

I do regret missing the reunion sessions with Athanasius, Tertullian, and Origen, along with Eusebius and Arius.  I heard that a very interesting character named Lewis Carroll showed up too. The reports I’ve heard about the Reunion have been so complimentary! Let me first congratulate you for crafting the dogmas and creeds that shaped civilization and preserved my empire for so long. Your labors at the Great Council in Nicea will never be forgotten!  People who claim we ultimately did more harm than good are just jealous of our success.

The Theology All-Stars Reunion Was a Mystery to Him

No one has really explained to me how we got here since we have all been dead for so long! Sadly, the reunion committee tells me we are all headed back to our graves any day now. I hope we have the chance to play at least one more round of golf before then! I really enjoyed that crazy game. When I first got here to Las Vegas I confess to being a little concerned about the cost because my empire is bankrupt and doesn’t even exist anymore. Fortunately, the organizers told me lots of people leave this town deeply in debt so I guess we’ll have lots of company! Luckily for us we’re all dead so when we do leave town we’re going where no one will ever find us!

What Was The Real Reason for the Nicene Council?

Some people think I convened the Council in Nicea to further the Kingdom of God.  Others claim it was really called to help preserve my empire. I guess that’s a question you’ll just have to answer for yourself! Some have even questioned the sincerity of my conversion to Christianity since I didn’t get baptized until I was on my deathbed. That did give me more time to do what I wanted and then have it all forgiven right at the end! All in all it was a pretty clever move on my part if I do say so myself! I only hope God never figures what I was up to!

Without Warning Emperor Constantine Began Fading Away!

With that, the lights began to dim without warning and the emperor and all the church fathers started fading away! All their pomp and all their glory slowly evaporated into nothing!  Soon there was nothing left but an empty room! Their authority, their powerful intellects and their influence had become little more than a memory. The curtain had finally dropped on the Theology All Stars Reunion! Its fine buffets and great speakers became a thing of the past. But it was a fine past indeed!  We are glad it took place and we’re glad you came to read about it!

The Nicene Council Created a Religious Mess

Someone had to clean up after the reunion and that chore was left for the janitor Pragmatticus. (We’ll hear from him in a week or two.) After that we have something quite wonderful in store for you! We are planning a brand new companion site to the All Stars Reunion called wonderfultheology.com. You can reach it directly or by way of the link we’ve included right here on our homepage.

PS: Please be sure to come back for the final installment of the Allstars Reunion and take a look at our companion site too. You’ll be glad you did.
PPS: Before you leave today please invite someone else to read about the Reunion too. Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

 

Is the Trinity a Religious Relic?

Is Archaic Theology Obsolete?  or Just Irrelevant?

Dearest Reader,

We trust you are enjoying our account of the All Stars Reunion! However, it has recently come to our attention that a growing number of people are no longer impressed with the “church fathers”. This is shocking news! Those who are devoted to the writings of prestigious theologians from antiquity may find this very upsetting! If believers begin to doubt the relevance, indeed even the truth, of archaic theology what will become of us? Could the Kingdom of God survive such a calamity? In the spirit of brotherly love we invite you to consider a perspective that is sure to provide a measure of comfort.

Ancient Theologians Did All The Thinking For Us!

Theologians from the distant past felt free to think for themselves, but modern believers should not attempt this on their own! Everyone knows that ancient theologians were probably a LOT better at thinking than we are. All the really good thinking was done long ago and we should just leave well enough alone. It is our duty to faithfully repeat their words and thoughts and that is enough! Sensible people know this is true. Perhaps their ancient ideas don’t make any sense but we should trust them anyway.

Obsolete Dogma #1         The Earth is Flat

The ancients believed the earth was flat. (There are still some who believe this very thing today!) Everyone knew that if you sailed too far you would sail right off the edge of the world. Interestingly, no matter where you are, the world still looks flat today! It took a long time before people realized the earth is actually a sphere. That, however, is no reason at all to lose confidence in the wisdom of those who said it was flat! Who knows how many lives were saved and how many disasters were averted by believing in a flat earth? Perhaps the earth changed from flat to spherical and we just don’t know how or when it happened. It is a great mystery! This should not shake our confidence in ancient ideas. No! Not in the least! Perhaps the ancients didn’t get this issue right… but who’s perfect?

Obsolete Dogma #2        There Are Four Elements

The ancient Greeks believed earth, air, fire and water were the four elements that make up everything in the world! Aristotle added ether and made it five elements since he figured the stars couldn’t be made of the same stuff we have here on earth. Modern science claims the four “elements” of the Greeks aren’t elements at all but so what? The Greek theory sure makes more sense than believing in a bunch of invisible atoms when you’re sitting around a campfire! Besides, do you really want to disagree with someone as smart as Aristotle? If you insist on thinking like people thought a few thousand years ago, we say go right ahead!

Obsolete Dogma #3         Women Are Imperfect Men

Plato and Aristotle had some pretty stunning ideas about women too. Plato was known to have said, “I give thanks to nature that I was born a human being and not a dumb animal, and that I was born a man rather than a woman.” The Greeks were convinced that men were superior to women! Aristotle wrote, “A woman is an imperfect male. She is female because her body is not properly made.” I beg to differ! To my eyes they look just wonderful and they are certainly not inferior to men. Could it be that Grecian thought about women was misguided and wrong? Who are we to question?

Obsolete Dogma #4         God is a Triune Pantheon

Greek philosophers were very sophisticated and their religion was intricate and complicated. It took a lot of personalities (persons) to make up the Greek Pantheon of Gods. Is it any surprise that the trinity they proposed for Christianity was cut from the same cloth? They mixed Greek philosophy with the Bible and came up with some of the most scholarly unbiblical ideas ever invented! The Triune Pantheon (trinity) they proposed even sounded Biblical in a strange kind of way! You have to love those Greek philosophers!  They took themselves very seriously… and expected everyone else to take them seriously too.

Were the Dogmas of Antiquity Just Plain Wrong?

Is it true that ideas from the distant past are better than anything we can envision today? Based on the wisdom of many centuries ago can we safely assert that the earth is or was flat?  Do we believe the four elements that make up the world are earth, air, fire and water? Is it true that men are superior to women? Are we convinced that God is a trinity of three “persons” just like those Greek philosophers said? Or was the ancient world of Greek thought wrong about a lot of things… including the nature of God?

Does Archaic Theology Really Matter?

Can anyone even imagine a gospel of salvation that dares to ignore what those old Greeks had to say? Shockingly, some modern believers have actually decided to read the Bible for themselves and reach their own conclusions! These radicals view the “church fathers” and their thinking as relics from a bygone era that have become irrelevant. This is an appalling trend!  Greek thinking people should reject this approach before it completely ruins their appreciation for Platonic philosophy and trinitarian thought!

Please Update Your Thinking!

The earth is a globe and was never flat after all! There are many elements that make up the world but they are certainly not earth, air, fire and water. Women are not defective men. Most importantly, God is not a pantheon of three divine persons! He is one God! The God of Israel is the singular and supreme Being that created everything.  We know Him as the Father, and Jesus Christ is His only Son!  Jesus is the uniquely and miraculously conceived human Son of the God of Israel. He is our Messiah, and Mediator and Kinsman Redeemer. This may not square with the trinitarian view of God inspired by Greek philosophy but it squares very nicely with the Bible. There now! Doesn’t it feel good to bring your thinking up to date?

PS: Do not be afraid of sailing away from the flat earth theology we inherited from long ago! You will not fall off the edge of Christianity. In fact, there’s a very good chance you will sail right into the faith that was once delivered to the saints!

PPS: These thoughts will not hurt you… and they won’t hurt your friends either. Why not send them a link to wonderfultheology.com today? Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

Origen of the Trinity

Origen Is Called the Father of Biblical Theology

Origen was an important theologian who managed to slip under the radar for a long time. He wasn’t officially declared a heretic until he had been dead for three centuries… but by then it was too late! He was already famous! Origen was heir to both Socrates and Plato and is regarded as the greatest philosopher/theologian of the early church.  He also produced its first systematic theology. It is not an exaggeration to call him the Father of Biblical Theology! Many have viewed him as “the greatest genius the early church ever produced.”

Origen Became a Heretic 300 Years After He Died!

In order to be deemed an official heretic you just need to disagree with the majority. That is exactly what happened to Origen! He was mostly acceptable in his lifetime but the opinions of church leaders changed in the centuries after he died! Eventually his work fell out of favor with most theologians and there wasn’t much he could do about it. His story is interesting because it took the church 300 years after his death to brand him a heretic. There is no doubt Origen had some pretty wild ideas!  He never achieved sainthood, and like Tertullian, he wasn’t granted the title of church father either. In spite of his tremendous influence Origen never won any official honors! Fortunately, he was already dead by the time he was excommunicated so it probably didn’t bother him too much.

Origen Mastered Greek Philosophy

Moderator: Well brethren, it’s time to honor another old heretic who achieved a lot in his life but never quite made the grade. He was a notable scholar and at least during his lifetime he seemed like a pretty respectable guy! His epic work On First Principles developed a foundation for the Trinity based on Platonic philosophy. Even his critics acknowledged that he had mastered the Greek philosophical tradition in his interpretation of the Bible! Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to keep him out of trouble. He upset a lot of people by denying the co-equality of “persons” in the Godhead! Eventually, his chances of becoming an official church father went right out the window.

Origen Wrote More Than Anyone

You all know who I’m talking about! It’s none other than Origen of Alexandria! We thought long and hard about what kind of award you give to a man who wrote so much that some legends say he kept seven secretaries busy! We created a special Windy Award just for him! It’s the Origen of the Trinity Award! How’s that for a nifty play on words!

Audience: Groaning and rolling of the eyes.

Moderator:  Well sorry about that but it’s the best we could come up with! Here to accept his award is Origen of Alexandria!

Audience: How come we keep giving awards to people like Tertullian, Arius and now Origen? None of them agree with our creeds! This is really going to upset Athanasius!

Origen Was Surprised to Be At Caesar’s Palace

Origen:  Greetings everyone! I am so glad to be at this reunion and I’m as surprised as anyone to be here at all! That seafood buffet is sure better than anything I ever had in my lifetime! It’s almost too good to be true. Now that I’m dead I’ve pretty well decided to give up on asceticism, as long as we’re here in Las Vegas anyway. It was just great to be allowed to come here in the first place and then I found out I’m even getting an award!

Can Anyone Think Like Athanasius?

I have to admit I was pretty surprised to learn that I had become a heretic after I died. I was just talking about this very thing with Tertullian and Arius at dinner. Tertullian was surprised when he learned he had become a heretic too!  Arius knew his reputation was in the tank after the Nicene Council so he was really surprised to get an award. It’s a good thing that the theologians who decide who is approved and who isn’t don’t speak for God! Athanasius still says that unless you think of the Trinity like his creed says you can’t be saved. I say no one can think like that! Jesus said no one should!

Origen Pioneered Hypostases and Homoousious

Athanasius’ insistence on the co-equality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit was based on just one word! Using homoousious to make that claim still seems a bit over the top to me! After all, I was the first Christian philosopher to ever use the term homoousious! I was also the very first Christian philosopher to use the term hypostases to describe the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Where did Athanasius ever get the idea that his theories were any better than mine?  We had a very nice schematic of God in Platonic philosophy that made a lot of sense to us.  I imagined God as a descending triad just like in classic platonic philosophy! The Father is greater than the Son and the Son is greater than the Spirit. What’s so bad about that? It sure made sense to us!

Origen’s Descending Triad Was a Platonic Theory!

We thought we had a fine theory about God and a lot of people signed on to our ideas. Just because some later theologians disagreed was no reason to start all the name calling! I don’t think any of them wrote nearly as much stuff as I did.  Besides, without the foundations I laid for the Trinity I don’t think Athanasius would have ever hit the big time in the first place!

Origen Gave Thanks to Philo, Plato and Aristotle Too!

In closing I want to thank all the people who helped me win this award. I want to thank my Mom and Dad, Philo, Plato, Socrates and Aristotle too. I would also like to thank the Awards Committee for such a great play on words and naming my Windy Award after me! Finally, I want to thank all the great cooks and staff who put together that incredible buffet! Good night everyone! It has been great to be here!

PS: Some say truth is stranger than fiction and church history is pretty strange. It’s also pretty entertaining! (except of course, for all the violence and hatred that resulted from the creeds and dogmas of our fiercest theologians.) Modern Christians should at least know these things. Why don’t you help them out and share a link to theologyallstars.com with a few of them? Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

To be continued…

History’s Most Famous Heretic

 

Arius Was Called 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 Wordy 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, like all the other theologians at the Allstars Reunion!  Like them, he 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 Niceae 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.

 

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

 




 

Tertullian’s Trinitas Award

Tertullian Was the Founder of Western Theology

Tertullian has rightly been called the Father of Latin Christianity and the founder of Western Theology. Although he was not at all a trinitarian in the modern sense of the word he was the first theologian who ever used the Latin word trinity (trinitas) in his writings and that is a big deal. It’s even more impressive when you consider that not even Jesus Himself used the word!  None of the disciples of Jesus Christ ever heard him speak the word trinity either before His crucifixion or after His resurrection! No wonder the Reunion organizers felt Tertullian deserved a Windy Award! His thinking may not have been biblical but it was definitely original.

Tertullian Wasn’t a Saint!

Tertullian was Augustine’s predecessor. Historians tell us he eventually joined the Montanist movement that swept through the early church. The Montanists were similar to today’s Charismatics and Pentecostals and were regarded as a bit too extreme for most people. Although Tertullian was a very important theologian he was never granted sainthood! He wasn’t even recognized as an official church father by the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Catholic church. He really aggravated both churches by his insistence that Jesus was subordinate to the Father! This was seen as a direct assault on the Trinity and it definitely hurt his book sales.

Tertullian Wasn’t Even a Church Father!

The Awards Committee felt Tertullian made such a huge impact on Christianity that an official Windy Award was long overdue. He was like one of those famous actors who make a lot of memorable films but never quite win an Academy Award.  He wasn’t an official “Church Father” but he definitely deserved some recognition. Everyone knew Tertullian was at least a Church Uncle! His speech on the “Parables Jesus Forgot to Teach” was an instant hit and was destined to become a classic.

Critics Called Tertullian a Heretic!

Moderator:  Tonight we want honor a theologian everyone has heard of! Tertullian was never officially honored as a Church Father but we all know he really is one. He was always something of a wild card as theologians go. Most Christians think he is so famous that he must have been the real deal! His critics call him a heretic but his fans just call him Uncle Turtle. The Awards Committee has voted to give him a Windy Award for creating the Best Brand Name Ever!  Let’s give a warm welcome to our controversial but always interesting colleague, Tertullian!

Audience:  Generally warm applause with a few holdouts here and there. Some theologians were clearly unhappy to see Tertullian get any recognition at all.

Tertullian Was More Like a Church Uncle

Tertullian: Thanks everyone! It feels good to get some official recognition but I’m a bit uncomfortable about being called a “Church Father”.  I’d like it better if Jesus hadn’t said, “Call no man on earth father for one is your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9) I do enjoy being a “Church Uncle” though so please just call me Uncle Turtle. Winning this Windy Award is sure more pleasant than getting excommunicated!  (Modern scholars acknowledge that Tertullian wasn’t a Trinitarian!).

The Threeness of God Startled Most Believers!

I remember when we first started kicking around our new ideas about the threeness of God. I knew this wasn’t going to go over very well with the average believer on the street. When I wrote  Against Praxeas I tried to make that clear. “The simple, indeed (much less will I call them ignorant and uneducated), who are always the majority of believers, are startled at the arrangement (of the Three in One) the very rule of faith directs them away from the world’s many gods toward the one and true God…”

Trinitas Was a Great Brand Name!

I knew that our new theological “arrangement” forming God into a tri-personal being was going to be a tough sell. I figured such a big idea called for a new “brand name”. Trinitas has a nice ring to it and was the best Latin word for the job. The rest is history! Once believers began using  the word trinity I knew we had a winner on our hands. Trinity sounds so spiritual and scholarly that it’s hard to resist! It’s also so hard to define that people who don’t understand it go along with it anyway!

Tertullian Rejected the Co-Equality of the Son

My adversaries should stop arguing with me about co-equality but we can talk about that another time.  For now all I can say is thank you for this terrific Windy Award! May God bless all of you except for “you know who” over there in the corner. He is still glaring at me after all these years! I do hope he comes to his senses someday and quits being so argumentative!

PS: Who would have ever guessed Tertullian was such an interesting character and a heretic to boot! He may be famous but according to Athanasius, Uncle Turtle isn’t even saved! We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime why don’t you share a link to  theologyallstars.com with a few friends and see what they think? Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

To be continued….