The Grand Finale of Pride

The Church Fathers All Disappeared!

Someday all the creeds and traditions we know will vanish into dust but what God has said will remain. After all the church fathers left the Reunion and went to their long home it was up to simple people like fishermen, tentmakers and carpenters to make sense of the things they left behind. These were the folks charged with cleaning up the mess (physical and spiritual) that was left once the reunion ended. Pragmatticus was a janitor who could see things that escaped the notice of the wise and learned. His friend Meticulus was a clear-eyed scribe who had learned to see things for himself.

Did God Ever Call Himself an Essence or a Substance?

They wondered what was so wrong with the simple truth of scripture that declared just one God. This was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and He was the God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush. He was none other than the God of Israel. They knew for sure this God never described Himself as an essence or a substance that “subsisted” in three distinct persons. He alone is God and He is known to us as the Father. His name is YHWH. The janitor and the scribe knew God is not a substance or essence to be analyzed and divided into portions! He is “someone” to be worshipped.

Jesus Offers The Promise of Immortality

In His eternal plan to redeem us to Himself, YHWH fathered a Son (Jesus). This happened when Mary was visited by God’s Holy Spirit and the Virgin conceived God’s one and only Son. We know Jesus as our Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ and our Kinsman Redeemer. He went about doing good and spoke truth to religious authorities and they hated him for it, so they killed him. Jesus rose from the dead though and became the first fruits of God’s great plan. He is immortal and offers immortality to those who believe in Him, trust His words, and obey Him. Jesus is God’s unique agent on our behalf who speaks and acts with God’s authority because that has been given to Him.

We Do Not Worship a Divine Trio

The simplicity of all this is far beneath the sophistication of the learned ones who are “Ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). When scripture says, “There is One God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5) we are among those who simply choose to believe it. We believe in one God and His only begotten Son Jesus Christ. There is no room in our hearts for homoousious and we do not worship a trio of co-equal divine persons.  Like the Apostle Paul we purpose to know nothing more or less than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Philosophy is a Miserable Substitute for Scripture

It is a radical approach indeed that believes God is well able to express Himself perfectly, just as He chooses. As for God, His way is perfect and His word is flawless. Some translations say His word is pure, others say it is faultless.  God’s word is precise, refined, reliable, trustworthy, tried, tested and true. We cannot say this about the words of the church fathers or the platonic philosophy that inspired them. This may be why scripture cautions us to shun philosophy as a miserable substitute for the things God has said.

Church Traditions and Creeds Were Swept Away

Pragmatticus’ final duty was to walk through the meeting halls of the great Reunion with a dustpan and a broom. He swept all the philosophical ideas and jargon, along with the pride of the church fathers into his dustpan.  Then he put it all in the waste bin of history where it belongs while Meticulus looked on with appreciation and respect.

The Things That Remained

When the janitor and the scribe inspected the final result of all their work there was nothing left but the words and teachings of God and His Son Jesus. They both thought that looked pretty good and realized their work was done. The Allstars Reunion had finally come to its proper end.

Dear Reader,

This post concludes the Theology Allstars Reunion and the official account of what happened there. Thank you for coming to visit! We hope our efforts have blessed and cheered you, and perhaps given you a few insights that will help you on your way home to God. If you enjoyed the Reunion you are sure to love our brand new companion website.  You can find it at www.wonderfultheology.com   Please come and visit us there… and bring someone with you.

God Bless!

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

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

 

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

 




 

Let’s Ignore Jesus!

Jesus Was a Radical Non-Trinitarian

One of the touchiest issues that came up at the All Stars Reunion was how to deal with all the disruptive things Jesus taught. Our discussions about His radical ideas were spirited and controversial to say the least! Everyone knew that Jesus Himself had never espoused anything remotely like the Trinity.  Even though we voted it into existence by a clear majority Jesus Himself was the “odd man out” on this issue. This created no end of theological problems for us but we never gave up on it. No sir! If anything, whenever anyone challenged our formulation of God it just stiffened our resolve! The challenge Jesus presented to our theology was altogether different since He was the Son of God and all. At first it was hard for us to resist His teachings but eventually we figured out a way. We just ignored them!

Was Jesus a Heretic?

There were a few stalwarts who actually thought we should excommunicate Jesus because of His unorthodox claim that the Father was greater than He. After all, our creeds insist Jesus and the Father are co-equal and we had a long history of excommunicating people who dared to disagree with us. The proposal caused quite a stir at first but was finally rejected because it seemed too crazy, even for us. Cooler heads realized that officially banishing Jesus from the faith meant we’d have to excommunicate the apostles too! We knew in our hearts that excommunicating Jesus and the apostles to preserve our creed would be terribly unpopular with the masses, so we didn’t do it.

Ignoring Jesus Works Just Fine!

We decided it would be much better to simply ignore the teachings of Jesus rather than oppose them directly and openly! Fortunately, there was a lot of precedent for this and it has the distinct advantage of being something many believers are already familiar with! The essence of this approach has been most eloquently expressed by Rev. D. James Kennedy, the once famous (but now deceased) religious broadcaster.

The Apostles’ Creed Ignores Jesus’ Teachings!

“Many people today think that the essence of Christianity is Jesus’ teachings, but that is not so. If you read the Apostle Paul’s letters, which make up most of the New Testament you will see that there is almost nothing said about the teachings of Jesus. Throughout the rest of the New Testament, there’s little reference to the teachings of Jesus, and in the Apostles’ Creed, the most universally held Christian creed, there’s no reference to Jesus’ teachings. There is also no reference to the example of Jesus. Only two days in the life of Jesus are mentioned – the day of His birth and the day of His death. Christianity centers not in the teachings of  Jesus, but in the Person of Jesus…

Ignoring Jesus is a Clever Idea!

To this we simply say WOW! THANKS A MILLION REV. KENNEDY! It is truly clever to say that Jesus is central to the faith but His teachings aren’t really so important! Once we were able to dispense with Jesus’ teachings it was a piece of cake for us to create creeds, doctrines and traditions that we liked better. It took a lot of doing at first but we reinforced our own teachings by discouraging believers from even reading the words of Jesus. We encouraged people to trust in us instead of trusting in scripture! We really got our point across by killing anyone caught owning or reading the Bible in spite of our orders. This was a brilliant move and it worked like a charm!

Some Good Old Theological Razzle Dazzle!

Eventually most people were so under our sway that even if they did read the Bible it didn’t really matter.  All it took was some good old theological razzle dazzle and people believed whatever we told them while they still claimed to believe in scripture alone! People would read a verse and fail to see what it said! They would listen to the words of scripture and not hear them! “They have eyes to see but they see not and ears to hear but they hear not.” Maybe they didn’t hear what Jesus said but they sure heard us!

Jesus Says God is One…  We Say God is Three

Jesus teaches that God is One but we teach that God is Three… and just ignore what Jesus said! This works so well that most Christians solemnly affirm that God is three persons and not one. When some people protest that the Bible says something different than our trinitarian dogma we tell them their problem is that they want scripture to mean what it says. Then we patiently and cleverly explain that scripture does not always mean what it says and they believe us!

Don’t Argue With Jesus… Just Ignore Him!

We never argue with Jesus’ teachings!  We have found it is better to just ignore His words and promote our own ideas instead. Some complain that Jesus warned us not to call Him Lord Lord unless we actually follow His teachings, but we have learned to ignore that too! After all, if the Apostles’ Creed can completely ignore the teachings of Jesus why can’t we?

PS: It’s hard to imagine that people believe “in” Jesus… but ignore the things He taught! Maybe that good old razzle dazzle is more potent than we like to think. While you’re considering these things would you be willing to take a minute to share a link to  theologyallstars.com with a friend or two? That would be nice and we’ll thank you if you do!  God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes

The Final Excommunication

What came next at the All-Star Theologians Reunion was almost beyond belief! There had been a few strained moments to be sure but by and large the church “fathers” had behaved themselves reasonably well in spite of old disagreements. That all changed dramatically when Athanasius asked for a few moments to address the group “from the heart”. He said he didn’t have any carefully prepared remarks but simply wanted to share his feelings. This was an exceptional request from a man who had spent his entire life speaking “from the head.” Now he wanted to share what was in his heart!

Athanasius Liked to Argue!

A few people thought Athanasius might have mellowed since the great Ecumenical Council in Nicea. His request to make a few remarks at this particular session was taken by some as a clue that he wanted to sow peace and reconciliation in the Body of Christ. It turned out they were wrong. He still felt like arguing! Interestingly enough, the session he chose for sharing his heart was listed on the Reunion Program as “The Mark of the Lamb“. The theme was “By this shall all men know you are my disciples if you have love for each other.” The irony of what followed was exquisite.

Athanasius Against the World!

Athanasius’ adversaries had some pretty uncharitable nicknames for him! (you’ll have to research them yourself if you’re interested). Suffice it to say his enemies were not shy about using well-placed insults when it suited them. History tells us that Athanasius was known for his adversarial and confrontational approach. It seems he was a pretty argumentative fellow! Maybe it was his basic temperament or maybe he just liked arguing since he was so good at it. This had even earned him his own brand name! He became known as “Athanasius Contra Mundum” which meant “Athanasius Against the World”.

Athanasius Argued With  Everyone!

Athanasius argued with just about everyone! His most notable conflicts were with Arius, Eusebius, Emperor Constantine, along with Emperors Constantius II, and Emperors Valens and Julian too. Whenever he was in favor with a particular Roman Emperor he used his political connections to excommunicate and banish his religious rivals. Sometimes though, the political tides would turn against him and then his rivals would exile and excommunicate him! His career was an ongoing drama of forced exiles followed by a return to ecclesiastical power… until the next time. Then the cycle would start all over again. He was excommunicated and banished 5 times by four different emperors! That’s just how it goes when you hitch your wagon to an earthly star and Athanasius had hitched his wagon firmly to the power of the Roman empire.

Heretics, Scoundrels and Traitors

Athanasius: Beloved friends and brothers!  You all know it is my custom to bring you well-reasoned and eloquent arguments for our doctrines and traditions. Today though, my heart is stirred and the time has come for something more. I have a few things to get off my chest and want to clear the air about how some people have treated me. Most of you already know that Eusebius is a scoundrel through and through! If he wasn’t I wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of having him banished and excommunicated in the first place. It was a great disappointment to me when afterwards he got Constantine’s ear and had me excommunicated and banished. What a rat!

Arius, Constantine and Eusebius Were All Against Him!

I was faced with Arius the heretic, Emperor Constantine the backstabber and Eusebius the weasel and they were all against me! I’m not going to bore you with all the sordid details of how they shamelessly disagreed with some of my finest theological arguments for the trinity. It is enough to say they did and they were not the only ones! Emperors Constantius II, Valens and Julian also banished me a few times after I’d been excommunicated by some second-rate bishops and councils who were jealous of my prominence.

Athanasius Excommunicates Everyone!

What really gets under my skin is that the reunion organizers allowed some of these characters to come to this reunion and even let them speak!  I can’t even tell you how ticked off I am about that! Anyway, they are such colossal disappointments I have decided to excommunicate all of them personally and permanently. Yes, that includes the reunion organizers too! I have made up my mind so there is no need to convene a council or take a vote or anything like that. Don’t go running to old Constantine either! His days are over and his power is broken. I’m warning you ahead of time. Don’t even try to argue with me because it won’t do you any good. Just remember that the creeds you know and believe in were my writings and ideas!

A Janitor Rebuked the Great Theologian

Pragmatticus was up in the rafters again and had heard all he could take. He didn’t start cussing but he did have something to say. “That’s the whole problem Smarticus! The things you argued for and established were your ideas and that’s why they caused so much trouble. You were smart enough to overwhelm your human opponents but you will never overwhelm God! If the things you taught were simply God’s words they would have brought peace and blessing to those who heard them. Your prideful words only brought division and bloodshed. The legacy of your dogma started with your arrogant claim that to be saved men had to think of God in the incomprehensible way you declared. You will be remembered for your brazen desire to banish and excommunicate anyone who disagrees with you. Thank God the Kingdom is not yours!

Athanasius: I recognize that voice! That’s the janitor Pragmatticus! Who does he think he is to disagree with me? People like him who don’t even have an advanced degree in theology really aggravate me! How did he get invited to our reunion anyway? I hereby excommunicate him too. No one gets in the Kingdom unless I say so…  and I say it takes understanding and complying with the creed that bears my name!

A Still Small Voice Was Heard…

A Still Small Voice was heard saying, “Truly, truly I tell you I am the door of the sheep. I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me. I am the door. If anyone enters by me he shall be saved and shall go in and out and find pasture.”

Some listeners decided there was a big difference between what was in the heart of Athanasius and what was in the heart of God.

PS: We don’t think the Athanasian Creed expresses what is in the heart of God at all! That’s our honest opinion anyway. What’s yours? By the way… we’d sure appreciate it if you would share this website with a friend. Believing Christians should at least be aware of the perspective we try to share at    theologyallstars.com    Thanks and God Bless.

Copyright 2021 by Bob Shutes