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 too 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. When the emperor strode into the room in all his glorious apparel and sat down on his golden throne the audience burst into enthusiastic applause! 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. All 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!  Those 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 mostly 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. I confess 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!

Without Warning the Emperor Began Fading Away!

With that, the lights began to dim and without warning and the emperor and all the church fathers began 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

 

Religion Run Amok

The story of Theodora and Justinian is a hardly known story that reads like a wonderful fairy tale. They ruled the world as the greatest power couple in history at a time when civilization was falling apart. They held it together. As power couples go, no two were ever more powerful; President Kennedy and Jackie, or Prince William and Kate, cannot compare in the slightest. How about Henry and Eleanor (1200), Augustus and Livia (0), or William and Mary (1700)? Not even close. Theodora reigned over the Byzantine Empire from Constantinople as regent along side her husband from 527 until her death in 548. Yet, no two were ever a more unlikely power pair.

By the early 500’s the Roman Empire in the West was well on its way to collapsing into the Dark Ages. Rome’s population fell from 1,500,000 to maybe 30,000 and the grand Forum became an actual garbage dump. Unsavory barbarians demolished civilization in the West. But, Justinian and Belisarius (one of the greatest generals in history) conquered the Vandals in North Africa and booted the Ostrogoths out of Rome, Sicily, Italy, and Dalmatia along with establishing a presence in Spain. That, though, was not all. Two thousand miles to the east Belisarius subdued worse trouble closer to home along the Black Sea by stopping the Persians from toppling western civilization at the Battle of Dara.

Before leaving Belisarius, it is interesting to note his strange life. Born in Germania, he is considered “the last Roman.” As a youth he raised pigs but eventually moved up from the lowliest of military ranks with his better idea. His military success was due to the unique concept of using long range archers with short re-curved bows on war horses to soften up the enemy and then rush them on horseback with long spears. This heavy cavalry of the day is known as the Bucellari. When Rome was recaptured, Theodora told Belisarius, ‘as long as you are there, toss out that pope, Silverius.’ It’s rumored Silverius died of starvation. Belisarius felt bad about that and built a church. Back in Constantinople, his much older and debauched wife, Antonia, cuckolded this powerful general. Eventually, Belisarius was tried for fomenting an overthrow of Justinian, was imprisoned where he became a monk, but was later restored to the court. He is one of many colorful characters of the time.

Flavius Petrus Sabbatius (later Justinian I) was a most unlikely emperor who came from peasant folk who raised pigs. Justin, his uncle, had a similar background rising up through the military ranks to become emperor and took Justinian under his wing. Justinian had a very quick mind and was educated in philosophy, languages, administration, law, and most of all, theology. A gigantic accomplishment of his was to codify the mess of Roman laws into the Code of Justinian, upon which our present day laws are based. As if saving civilization was not enough, he built one of the world’s great churches, the Hagia Sophia. This all took coin, and lots of it. There was no financing, so piles of coin were needed for the wars, the church, and keeping the population intact. Justinian brilliantly expanded the Silk Road exchanging Italian glass for Chinese silk – until a few of the worms were smuggled out in hollow canes, but that is another story. He implemented a bribe free and efficient tax system and shook down the wealthy to pay their fair share, even if it meant torture. He reorganized the entire administration of the empire with a competent bribe free staff. In 536 he had to also deal with the Black Death plague that killed millions, a fifth of the population. The unrealized dream of Justinian was to reunite the East and West into a single Roman Empire. Lucky for western civilization he was a workaholic.

The Byzantine Empire, the eastern half of the Roman Empire, was an amalgam of church and state. There was no church without the state and no state without the church. It was Justinian’s obligation to know as much about theology as he had to know about statecraft. His version of Christianity came by way of the Fourth Council of Chalcedon in 451. The Chalcedonian Definition states, ‘Jesus is actually

God and actually man (the two natures definition) while reaffirming the First Council of Nicaea (325), the First Council of Constantinople (381), and the First Council of Ephesus (431) in that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not created but are rather the eternal same substance as God; therefore, the consubstantiation of the Trinity.’ This is entirely in conflict with the Arian contention that Jesus was a created being, e.g., Docetism. Justinian was a devout Catholic believing in Chalcedon and the two natures of Jesus, and Theodora was a Monophysite believing in the one nature of Jesus.

Not only was Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire a church and a state, there was the unique and curious concept of “demes.” Before Justinian’s time there were four demes: the Reds, the Whites, the Blues, and the Greens. By the 520’s there were only the Blues and the Greens. A deme was a sports club, social group, political group, and the church all rolled into one. In today’s sense it is as though half the population cheers for the only the Green Bay Packers, belongs to only the Eagles club, is only Republican, and they are all strictly Baptists. The biggest sport by far was chariot racing, and this brought the Blues and Greens together in Constantinople’s 100,000 seat hippodrome. It proved to be less than prudent to crowd 50,000 rowdy Catholic/Democrat/Vikings/VFW fans in with 50,000 Baptist/Republican/Packer/Eagles fans. Justinian played the Blues off the Greens and the Greens off the Blues thereby keeping the heat off himself. It was at the chariot races that Justinian met Theodora.

It is difficult to comprehend Theodora came from an even lowlier circumstance than Justinian, especially in light of her becoming the most powerful leader on earth. Her father was a bear keeper in the hippodrome and her mother was a dancer/actress/prostitute. Theodora’s mother prostituted her at too young of an age to be effective. It was said even a slave could afford her. When Theodora was a little older, her mother introduced her to acting where she specialized in a bawdy performance of Leda and the Swan with the comic appeal of a mime. To be an actress often meant being a prostitute for after performance activities. At sixteen she left “acting” to become the mistress to a Libyan governor from Syria by capitalizing on her great beauty. She escaped from him 1,600 miles from home in Alexandria with the help of Monophysite monks. In her gratitude she asked how she could thank them. Their answer was to believe that Jesus had only a single purely divine nature, i.e., Monophysitism. Theodora learned the art of wool dying and made her way back to Constantinople.

At the chariot races, the highest and lowest of the population were crowded together. Movers and shakers would provoke their deme to riot in order to have their political agenda heard by the emperor. Justinian’s heralds would yell back the emperor’s reply to the crowd. Theodora was the most beautiful young woman in the land and caught Justinian’s eye at the races. To the disgust of the high echelon, Justinian carried on and lived with Theodora. By law he was not allowed to marry a prostitute, so just as soon as he became emperor, he changed the law, and they were married. Theodora was not just any prostitute, but one with an exceptionally keen mind. She learned to read and grasped philosophy, economics, administration, and theology. It was a perfect match except for the fact that Justinian was a Chalcedonian Catholic and Theodora was an Alexandrian Monophysite.

Theology was a most serious issue between the demes. The Chalcedonian faction believed Jesus has two natures in one being as Justinian’s believed. Theodora’s Monophysite belief is Jesus has one wholly divine nature. This theological pot boiled over in the second week of 532. Justinian’s fair tax reform so irritated some wealthy Blues that they switched demes to the Greens and lobbied for riots to take down the emperor. In 531 Justinian had enough of the Blues and Greens rioting to the point of murder. Low level riots could be chalked up to hooliganism, but enough was enough when it came to murder. Justinian made an example of the ring leaders by hanging seven of the Blues and Greens. One by one the trap doors opened and down they came – except for the last two a Blue and a Green. Their ropes broke, they landed on the ground gasping, and monks carried them away to sanctuary before

anyone realized what had happened. General Belisarius happened to be in town and had his personal troops surround the church to starve them out. The populous rebelled.

On January 13th of 532 a pent up crowd of Blues and Greens were at the races and hurled unified insults up at Justinian in his palace box attached to the hippodrome. By race twenty-two, both the Blues and Greens were shouting to Justinian “Nika” meaning to conquer, or win, or victory. The Blues and Greens were out of control and attacked the adjacent palace. For five days the palace was under attack, fires burnt much of the city, including the original Scanta Sophia, and hundreds died. Justinian sent his eunuch into the hippodrome with a bag of gold for the Blue section asking them to please leave peacefully reminding them Justinian was himself a Blue. Some Blues sulked out with their small bags of gold. Belisarius stormed in thru the Black Gate and General Mundus stormed the Nekra Gate and more than 30,000 Blues and Greens were systematically slaughtered by 3,000 heavily armed troops.

During the riots many suggested the court flee Constantinople. It was only Theodora that took a stand with her impassioned speech. She refused to run and become a fugitive. “May I never be deprived of this purple robe, and may I never see the day when those who meet me do not call me empress. … royal purple is the noblest shroud.” She held the empire together by shaming the court into staying put, the rioting stopped, and Justinian was never questioned again.

So what went wrong in Constantinople? Sure there were more taxes, but the majority of the population was probably very pleased the wealthy had to now pay their fair share. What really lit a fire under the citizens was this two natures or one nature of Jesus thing. The man on the street certainly did not understand it. Yet, Blues and Greens vehemently shouted at one another, “Our Jesus is One God,” “Mary is Theotokos,” “We will not divide God,” and “Christ is God.” (And, many clergy did not care to understand the homoousios or homoiousios aspect of the Trinity in relation to ek duo physeon or en duo physeon nature(s) of the hypostatic union and prosopon.) Over the centuries people became pretty excited about their religion to the point of clergy and kings burning people at the stake. But, was there ever a time when people went wild over the little “i” in homo(i)ousios or on not?

The Nika Riots were a different animal. Constantinople had an entire population divided by their convictions, even though they did not understand them. On the one hand, it was ever so far from the common sense teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. In another theological sense, it was ever so far from the Bible as a whole. C’mon, when did Jesus ever speak of ek duo physeon? It is absurd to think Jesus would choose sides to the point of rioting, or to think Jesus would ever define Himself – but man did.

Theodora the Monophysite, and Justinian the Chalcedonian inadvertently allowed religion to run amok. Religion aligned the Blue and Green demes one way or another taking them down a path to inevitable conflict. Theodora believed in a theological construct of Jesus that is simply not Biblical. Justinian believed in his non-Biblical creed that existed only because it won the day through bribery, coercion, torture, and murder. These two man-made corrupt versions of the Gospel permeated society to the point of lighting the fuse that literally blew up one of the most powerful cities in the world.

The story of Theodora and Justinian is fascinating and complex. It is the stuff fairy tales are made of. The little guy and little girl from horrid backgrounds find love and grow to rule the world. It’s a great fairy tale like story, but their theological baggage blew up that world. Religion ran amok.

The moral of this fairy tale is read the Gospels plainly without the weird and corrupting influence of theology that only runs religion amok.

Copyright 2021 by Greg Hallback

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, 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 had ruled Christianity for nearly two thousand years! He also knew a thing or two about building and maintaining human traditions!  He 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 sure 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 the defender of trinitarian dogma!  Brethren I give you Athanasius! Let’s hear it for the Jawbone of 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 just 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! Those verses 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 this stuff! These very fine Latin words are your assurance that the traditions we want you to observe are all 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 but things didn’t work out so well 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

Bubbles of Glass

The theological term “Bubbles” is not often used and in fact, this may be the first time. Yet, it may very well be one of the most important terms needed in an honest discussion of religion. The glass bubbles we live in whether large or small tint our own personal spiritual universe. We defend our religious beliefs as vigorously as we defend our family. In these modern times a “live and let live” attitude prevails…. to a point. As long as we are left alone in our glass bubbles, all is well. It doesn’t much matter to a Baptist if a Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal or Catholic exist, as long as they don’t criticize the Baptist.

Seventeen hundred years ago people were murdered if they believed in ek duo physeon instead of en duo physeon, i.e., Jesus has a human and divine nature or a single nature that is both divine and human. This subtle difference is usually ignored in the contemporary culture of our churches, unless someone pushes the point. Will you agree only Jesus the divine can save all of mankind from eternal damnation? If so, will you further agree that Jesus as a co-equal third of the Triune Godhead cannot suffer, and since God cannot suffer, the crucifixion is thereby made an ersatz show? Or, is Jesus an admixture of the divine and human and therefore not a co-equal One in Trinity? Ages ago these questions required deep theological thought, not to mention extreme coercion to the point of torture and murder. This man-made question and other deep ones are answered within our preferred bubble one way or another. To paraphrase one writer, “Orthodoxy is my doxy and heresy is the other guy’s doxy.”

We see clearly through our church bubbles that make complete sense to us. This sense depends on which questions are considered most important, which verses of Scripture are emphasized, and the logic of our man-made arguments. For instance, The Twelve Articles of Faith clearly lay out what it means to be a Catholic. Article 3 addresses the physeon issue in the previous paragraph. It was further addressed by Leo’s Tome as a major topic in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon. Other sects may not have as long of a history as the Catholic Church, but they have equally sound arguments defending their stance on the Bible and their beliefs.

Analogous to the Twelve Articles, but longer, is the Lutheran Book of Concord. This collection of nine writings reacts to the Catholic faith as well as being expressions of doctrine, ecumenical creeds, and confessional writings. This book is the foundation for Lutheranism, but it leaves room for the franchised variations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Missouri Synod.

John Wesley in the latter 1700’s unintentionally broke away from the Church of England. Methodists emphasize Matthew 16:18 and the concepts of “My church,” “practical divinity,” acting on one’s faith, and being social among other believers. Interestingly, Wesley coined the phrase, “agree to disagree.”

It is impossible to explain any bubble in a sentence or two. Trotting out a list of Christian denominations would fill a long chronological book or could come from the perspective of mainstream to the fringe. Many consider Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Latter Day Saints, and Seventh Day Adventists some of the more outlying flavors of Christianity. Nevertheless, once a believer accepts the tenets of a particular bubble, all makes good sense within that bubble, and all is well. How good it is to be accepted and approved by other folks who live in your own bubble!

The logical consistency of a Catholic bubble is certainly there, but that game is played and won only by those living within that rose-colored bubble. The practicing Catholic’s relationship to the church, to the social order, to marriage, and a host of other elements have that Catholic rose tint applied to everything. Unitarians see everything in the orange glow of a non-judgmental God and are concerned with the more worldly matters of human dignity, justice, and peace. Lutherans have a lovely blue bubble wherein the wretched sinner can be saved only thru grace reinforced by sacraments. Conversely, The Salvation Army has next to no sacraments in its green bubble. No one is really quite sure how the Pentecostals and Baptists color their bubbles.

The Catholic Church has the longest history of men defining and refining their belief system. Martin Luther obviously instigated a break therefrom and very quickly the Lutheran sect caught fire. Similarly about the same time, John Calvin and a dozen other malcontents constituted the Reformation Movement which evolved into the Episcopal, Congregational, and Presbyterian churches. Two hundred years later John Wesley began the Methodist church. In modern times William Booth broke from the Methodists to found the Salvation Army, and Charles Russel founded the Jehovah Witnesses. This list of churchmen also extends to volumes.

Glass bubbles are created by men. The tenets of the Bible have not changed in two thousand years, but along the way men built glass walls between themselves and other Christians. The Bible remained clearly laid out, but men said the Trinity must be this way or that, and Jesus must have two natures or a single nature with two elements. As soon as men defined God, Jesus, and how the Bible ought to be read, tinted bubbles were formed separating Christians from Christians. As yet another example, the Mennonites are from the Reformed Movement, but the Quakers were from the Anglican Movement.

A great and ironic example of a significantly tinted bubble is the Separatist Movement of the Pilgrims, the Puritans if you will. It is an inspiring but totally wrong notion to think the Pilgrims came to America for religious freedom. In 1608 a group moved from England to Holland for greater religious freedom. They found the “devil may care” attitude of liberal Amsterdam adversely affected their children with examples of licentious living. They packed up and came to American where they could enforce less religious freedom; where their children could be raised within stricter puritan boundaries.

My hometown was founded in later 1800 by French Catholic fur traders. Soon thereafter immigrants from Scandinavia settled to work the lumber mills in the northern forests of Minnesota. For a hundred years there were Catholics who divided into French and Polish churches and Lutherans separated into Swedish, Finnish, and Norwegian churches. Eventually Presbyterian and Episcopal churches were established. Even among the Lutherans subtle tints of blue separated the lighter shade of the Norwegians from the mid-range of the Swedes from the darker bubble of the Finns. The Finns considered the Norwegians wildly liberal and inappropriate. Even in a small town our glass bubbles separated neighbor from neighbor. We could clearly see the other denominations through our bubbles but not very easily relate to them.

A single Gospel message evolved, or is it devolved, into more than a hundred bubbles of different tints. What should Christians do about this? Does God intend to burst your bubble? In a word, yes! Christians ought to recognize that their bubble is a human construct rooted in how a man lobbied for this or that question and this or that answer. Nothing Biblical can separate one Christian from another. It is only man’s ideas and not God’s that separate us.

Does this mean there should be no bubbles whatsoever? In a word, yes. This, though, does not mean God’s church cannot react to society differently from one time or place to another. The great Gothic cathedrals were a glimpse of heaven on earth during very difficult times. Veritable shacks were the needed solace of exuberant worship on slave plantations. And, storefronts offer refuge to the homeless in inner cities.

Christians should be mindful of seeing the world through the tinted glass bubbles of men’s thoughts rather than God’s principles plainly laid out in Scripture. Is there room for discussion? Of course, but let us recognize that some things are secret to God. For example, men ought not ask nosy questions about His substance and the nature(s) of Jesus. Those questions only create bubbles separating Christians from Christians.

It’s Greek to Me!

Jesus Didn’t Use Theological Terms

Theologians love big words… the bigger the better and words most people have never heard of are best of all! Latin and Greek terms especially have a certain flair. These really showcase the religious expert’s sophistication and intelligence!  This is why it is so frowned upon in theological circles to say things plainly in everyday language. One notable exception to this practice was Jesus Christ Himself! Many commentators have observed that Jesus rarely, if ever, used scholarly theological language! Strangely though, the reason for this is unclear.

Athanasius’ Favorite Word Was Homoousious

Moderator: Greetings everyone! Today’s Panel Discussion is dedicated to the always popular topic of theological terms. Our expert panel members have scaled the frosty mountains of systematic theology and the pinnacles of scholarly thought! Our format is straightforward and simple although our subject matter is anything but! Each speaker will expound on a favorite theological term until they have nothing left to say. Just kidding folks! These experts never run out of things to say! We’ll probably have to muzzle them if we want to get to dinner on time!

The Audience: Polite laughter.

Moderator: Our first presenter this afternoon is none other than philosopher and theologian par excellence Athanasius himself! We proudly hang our hats on the ideas and terms He has bestowed upon the church! The topic he has chosen for today is the ever popular and timeless word homoousious! Let’s hear it for our favorite Ath! Athanasius!

The Audience: A respectful standing ovation.

Homoousious is a Vital Part of Your Salvation!

Athanasius: Thank you my friends, thank you. Please be seated if you can.  Let’s dig right in to our topic and what a topic it is! Today we will talk about the most important word in Christianity! I’m talking of course about Homoousious. It was an essential part of building the trinity! It is astonishing that the primitive church survived so many centuries without it! How sad it is that very few people know what it means much less how to spell it. It would be so wonderful if people just knew how to say it correctly!  We are fortunate to have a word so precise, scholarly and lovely as homoousious! I am living proof that it is possible to build an entire career on this one single word!

We Built Our Creeds Upon Homoousious!

There was a time when homoousious was just another run of the mill Greek word! That all changed at the Nicene Council when I made it the most important word in Christianity! It is not an exaggeration to say that the Nicene Creed is truly a Homoousian Creed. I blush to mention that many people call it the Athanasian Creed but modesty prevents me from drawing any attention to that! By the way, signed copies of my writings are available at the table in the back of the room if you are interested!

Some of you may be wondering how homoousious got to be so important. The truth is it was just another nondescript Greek word until I figured out how to use it against heretics! You all know how much I enjoy a good argument! Homoousious  was a word made to order for someone like me! I don’t mean to brag but I’ve argued with so many people about so many things that I eventually became known as “Athanasius Contra Mundum”. (That’s Latin for “Athanasius Against the World”).

Bend a Knee to Homoousious… or Else!

Heretics have been excommunicated and banished for their willful refusal to bend a knee to homoousious! We’ve had to kill more than a few believers who refused to endorse it, and rightly so. I stand here today to declare that I am a homoousian and trust you are homoousians too! There can be no doubt that God wants everyone to be a homoousian! We stand guard over the Kingdom of God against stubborn contrarians like homoiosians!  They are simply heretics, blighted souls who refuse to applaud the doctrinal statement we worked so hard to build! The true beauty of our Creed is the way it cleverly detects and roots out homoiosians!

Homoousious or Homoiosious. What’s the Fuss?

A Question from the Audience: “Will you please explain the difference between homoousious and homoiosious? I’ve always wondered what all the fuss is about and how one little letter ended up getting so many people killed.”

Athanasius: What a great question! Just remember that homoousious means that Jesus is of the very same substance as God while homoiosious says that Jesus’ and God’s substance are pretty similar but not exactly the same. This is so important that we had no choice but to excommunicate everyone who was thinking the wrong way. Thank God that Constantine’s army stepped in to enforce our view with military power! Once we had the army on our side things started working out pretty well! Our opponents learned to keep their opinions to themselves once the Emperor’s army started stamping them out for us!

A Still Small Voice was heard saying “you make a man an offender for a word?” but the meaning of this obscure phrase was debatable. No one was quite sure what to make of this mysterious statement or where the voice came from.

Saved by Faith in Christ Plus Belief in Homoousious!

Athanasius: Things didn’t turn out so well for Arius and his followers but that’s the price you pay for being disagreeable! It was only a single letter i separating homoousious from homoiosious that caused them so much trouble! They were just too primitive and stubborn to give it up. In closing let me remind you that choosing correctly between homoousious and homoiosious can mean the difference between heaven and hell! No kidding! I really mean it! It is good to believe in Jesus but don’t ever forget that faith in Christ plus allegiance to homoousious is the standard we have set for your salvation. Thank you!

PS: These seemingly obscure ideas are important to talk about! That’s why we do. If you think this discussion matters then why not share a link to theologyallstars.com with others. Thanks and God Bless.

Continued…Click to Read Part II

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes