The Apostasy that Wasn’t Part II: The Council and the Martyrs (Repost)

For the first part:

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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