The Apostasy that Wasn’t Part II: Traditions, Scriptures and the Council

For the first part: The Apostasy that Wasn’t Part I: The Council and the Martyrs

Traditions, Scriptures and the Council

Rod Bennett shines a bright light on the role of tradition, biblical interpretation and orthodoxy. Biblical interpretation and tradition were at the heart of the dispute between the Catholic understanding of the divinity of Chris and that claims made by a priest named Arius who posited that the Son of God was a created being, albeit with all the attributes of God the Father. A common refrain of the Arians was: “there was a time when the Son of God was not”. Today heirs of the Arian heresy can be found in groups like the Jehovah Witness and the Church of the Latter Day Saints. This is only to the extent that both groups assert that Jesus is a created being. Bennett points out that both camps were well equipped with biblical passages to argue in favor of their respective positions. However, the Arians were introducing novel biblical interpretations to substantiate their positions. Interpretations that directly opposed the traditions that have been taught by the Church since apostolic times:

“What was that tradition? It might well be described simply as stubbornness: a tradition of stolid, donkey-like stubbornness born out of humility and fear of God. There was a list, that’s all-an unwritten list of four rock–solid facts of our Faith, handed down by the saints gone before us. And the list- well, the list was the list:

1. That the Father is God;
2. That Jesus, his Son, is also God;
3. That Father and Son are not, however mere names but real personalities who can
relate not only to us but to one another;

4. Yet there is only one God”.

Rod Bennett
The Apostasy that Wasn’t

It is important to remember that during the time of the Arian heresy there was no theological treaty that harmonizes a philosophical argument with the gospel teachings about the Holy Trinity. As a matter of fact the word ‘trinity’ was not even common in the lexicon of the council’s father neither did it appear in the bible. Instead the early Church faithfully relied on the traditions taught by the Apostles, as St. Paul urged them in 2 Thessalonians 2:15:

“Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours”.

2 Thessalonians 2:15

It is clear from the writings of the early disciples of the Apostles that the Church universally proclaimed the divinity of Christ, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the regenerative nature of baptism, and the authority of the Bishop. It was precisely this stubborn faithfulness of the early Church that preserved the teachings of the Apostles against many unorthodox teachings that disputed the nature of the Divinity of Christ, way before Arius was preaching his views. Gnostic for example, claiming that matter is evil and thereby denied that Jesus was truly man, whereas Sabellianism taught that Jesus and God the Father were not distinct person but two aspects of the same person. As with Arianism the Church stood firm against these heresies.

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This juxtaposition between scripture and tradition evident in the Arian controversy is reminiscent of today’s theological disputes between Catholics and some Protestants. Is the “bible alone” necessary and sufficient to resolve matters of faith or as Jesus said in Matthew 18:17-18, it is the Church that ultimately has that authority? The Church assembled in the council composed of an estimated 300 bishops from around the know-world resoundingly affirmed the gospel as taught by the Church since apostolic times.

The declaration of Arianism as a heresy is not an indictment against the development of doctrine or theological speculations, but an indictment against a world view that divorce scriptures from its apostolic traditions. One that puts in perils the teaching of the Apostle Paul:

“Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours”.

2 Thessalonians 2:15

The First Council Of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed

The Church gathers at Nicaea universally reaffirmed the divinity of Christ except for two holdup Theonas of Marmarica and Secundus of Ptolemais who were anathematized. The council condemned the Arian heresy and gave us part of the Nicene Creed, which is professed by many Christians churches around the world.

As Theodoret writes in his Ecclesiastical History, the council’s father represented an army of martyrs. These were the stoics Christians who survived the blunt of the Diocletian persecution and bore in their bodies the sign of the Cross. They were a living witness for Christ and for his Church. Are we willing to bear the same witness today?

Nicene Creed

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance [ek tes ousias] of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of the same substance with the Father [homoousion to patri], through whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men and our salvation descended, was incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven and cometh to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost. Those who say: There was a time when He was not, and He was not before He was begotten; and that He was made out of nothing (ex ouk onton); or who maintain that He is of another hypostasis or another substance [than the Father], or that the Son of God is created, or mutable, or subject to change, [them] the Catholic Church anathematizes”.

  Nicaea_icon

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2 thoughts on “The Apostasy that Wasn’t Part II: Traditions, Scriptures and the Council”

  1. As I have shared before Caleb, I do not take to heart what man teaches and nor did the early Catholic Church not meaning the Roman Catholic Church who believed and taught error and they still do today. Paul tells us where the Teaching and Traditions that were taught and followed in the early Church came from and it was not a earthly man. (1Corinthians2)

    It is not the Church called by any Denominational Name that has the Authority or any man or woman who is part of it, Jesus is in Authority, He is the Head of the Church and what He tells us is always confirmed in Scripture or shown to be True by Creation and also by what God has instituted in History by His word not mans.

    Without confirming with Scripture in context Caleb do not try to argue in your Churches defense or present others who do the same, be warned you will be accountable for the heresy you propagate unless you repent of doing so and stop doing it but if you have Scripture in context with the rest of Scripture, to support your Denominations beliefs, than I will listen but if not please stop trying to deceive me and others with what you think, you must be very immature to believe that just saying something makes it True even though you have no Scripture or evidence in Creation as confirmation and they will not be in conflict with each other or with Scripture when understood by the empowering of The Holy Spirit 1Corinthians2:9-16.

    As an example of one of the Roman Catholic teaching that is in error, it claims Mary remained a Virgin, this is not confirmed in Scripture the opposite is including the Truth that Jesus had half brothers and sisters, Joseph was their father and Mary their mother, so they like us were Born with Adam’s seed, Jesus was conceived by The Holy Ghost and had God’s seed or Nature although He had the flesh of man too, with Mary being chosen to be His earthly mother who also like Joseph came from the Ancestry of King David and also had Adam’s seed.

    Genesis4:1 And Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and bare Cain and said I have gotten a man from the Lord.

    Matthew 1:24 -25 Than Joseph being raised from sleep did as the Angel of The Lord had bidden him and took unto him his wife and he knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn Son and he called His name Jesus.

    Blessings – Anne.

    1. Dear Anne,

      I wonder if you ever read Peter apologetic exhortation in Peter 3:15:

      “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”

      Peter 3:15

      It is very unfortunate that the tone of your discourse is so confrontational and lacking in charity. It comes across, as you are more interested in winning an argument rather than winning a soul for Christ. Your confrontational approach of accusing people of heresy, misleading people and of scriptural ignorance is a far cry from Peter’s exhortation for gentleness and respect.

      For my part I am not interested in winning an argument with you rather my motivation (in engaging in a dialogue with you) is to share with you the reasons for the hope that is within me. I started blogging because I listen to the movements of the Holy Spirit in my heart. I want to be a light in any way that I can…through my silly comments, my amateur poetry and articles that cover a wide range of topics that interest me. I was fortunate to find your blog and listen to a different Christian perspective but I have found that it is very difficult to sustain a fruitful, civil and rational dialogue with you. This is unfortunate since there is a lot we can learn from each other. I like your zeal for Christ and the bible but zeal should not be confused with a license to insult other people’s faith or question their motivation and hearts, as you just did in your comment.

      I am open to share with you scriptures that confirmed the uninterrupted teachings of the Catholic Church but as previous discussion showed it will inevitably lead to an argument about biblical interpretation. You come from a faith tradition that ignores the role of tradition and denies the role of the Church in guarding such traditions by adhering to a bible alone doctrine. In such world-view (as you demonstrated in your responses) it is the individual who becomes infallible in its interpretation of the bible and anyone who disagrees with their interpretation of the bible is dead wrong and a heretic. Historical evidence about the early church or even the scriptural context is ignored if it does not support a particular interpretation. This is extremely problematic because in doing so you have the potential to make for yourself your own religion based on your own human understanding of scriptures. Peter sternly warned us about this:

      “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”.

      2 Peter 1:19-21

      Many of the early heresies in the early church as it was with Arianism were promulgated using novel interpretation scriptures. It was the witness of tradition that was passed down since the time of the apostles that rebutted such claims and guarded doctrinal orthodoxy regarding the divinity of Christ.

      The problem with the “bible alone” tradition is that it is not biblical. Nowhere in the bible does it says that the bible is the sole rule of faith on the contrary Paul tells us to hold on to the tradition that you have been tough either by the spoken word or by letter:

      “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter”.

      2 Thessalonians 2:15

      Your faith tradition blatantly ignores this allowing for a detrimental fracture of the Christian faith as the number of sects and denominations grows often contradicting each other in matters of doctrine.

      Christ is very clear as to how we are to solve such issues of doctrinal differences:

      “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

      Matthew 18:15-18

      I asked you before and I asked you again what church? Is it the one that denies the real presence of Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist or is it the one that profess the validity of same sex marriage?

      It is Christ’s Church, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth as Paul writes to Timothy:

      “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth”.

      1 Timothy 3:15

      It is the same Church that gave you the Bible and the same Church that has an historic continuity through the succession of the apostles all the way until today, which is the Holy and Apostolic Catholic Church.

      I am willing to continue engaging in a Christian dialogue with you as long as it is civil, rational and charitable.

      Caleb

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