Doctrines that remains essential to Christianity
Doctrinesthat remains essential to Christianity
TheChristianity doctrine had been in existence from the beginning.However, after the death of Jesus some definitions and explanationsof Christianity dogma were still unresolved. In particular, the dogmaof incarnation and trinity doctrine, the divinity of Christ the maindoctrines that separates Christians from other religions was stillunresolved. History records that, by fourth century, there was noexisting church structure that could effectively resolve these issuesand spoke to everybody (Anatolios23).To this end, ecumenical councils were established to address theurgent matters affecting Christianity dogmas and theologicaldevelopment. Towards the fourth and fifth centuries four councilswere established to deal with doctrines that would shape Christianitytheology. The four councils were Nicaea 325, Constantinople 381,Ephesus 431 and the Chalcedon 451. The focus of this essay is on twocouncils Nicaea 325 and Constantinople 38, the issues dealt with,various positions taken and the decisions made by these councils.
Theformation of Nicaea 325 was an attempt by the first Christian generations to preserve and transfer the Christianity theology as hadbeen received from the Apostles. Nicaea 325 was the first councilestablished by the early Christians in effort to find consensus onmatters of divinity and Christ trinity. Most importantly Nicaea 325or the first council as it is often referred led to the formation ofthe first Christian doctrine (Nicene Creed) (McGrath43). One of the purposes of the Nicaea council was to resolve thedisagreement that was arising from the Church of Alexandria over thedivine nature of Jesus the son and the relationship with the Father(God). The contentious issues was that the son had been begotten forthe Father in his own being, without any beginning, was begotten intime and was created out of nothing (Norman45).
EarlyChristians were monotheist just like the predecessor Jews andexperienced Christ as divine but different from the Father. The HolySpirit was conceived a divine but different from God-Father(McGrath75). This was the first dogma for early Christians especially on thedivinity of the Trinity (Son, God and Holy Spirit). Several proposalswere advanced in response to this dogma with many like theMonachianism, Modalism and Arianism believing that there was only oneGod, but the son and the Holy Spirit as lesser being, playingsubordinate role and with no divine powers (Anatolios63).The Nicaea 325 council rejected these proposals and instead endorsedthe proposals that, the Holy Spirit Son are equal God in divinity andsubstance. God is one, same with Son and Holy Spirit. The overallapproval being that the Unity and diversity of God is personified(Norman23).
However,critics did not accept this version of story as depicted by Arius whoobjected the teachings that God is Trinity (three in one Father, Sonand the Holy Spirit). In particular, Arius quotes the gospel of John14 28 where Jesus says, ‘The Father is greater than I.’ However,this is cancelled out by John 10 30 which quotes Jesus saying, ‘TheFather and I are one…whoever has seen me has seen the Father’(McGrath87). To this end, the council of Nicaea objected the Arianism beliefsthat tried to separate the son and Father. In conclusion, Nicaea 325council supported the ‘one in being’ homoousios- Greek word thatmeans made of same substance. In summary, the Nicaea 325 councilresolved the Arianism (divine nature of Son) and the modalism issue(God is one and appear in different forms son, God and Holy Spirit).
Afterthe dogma of the Son divinity was resolved by the Nicaea 325 council,another issue had to be resolved on relationship between human natureand divine nature.TheConstantinople 381was convened in Constantinople by emperorTheodosius. The Constantinople 381was the second council in effort toreach a consensus on unresolved matters arising from Nicaea 325council. In particular, the council of Nicaea 325 had not clarifiedon the nature of Holy Spirit in the Trinity dogma. Controversy hademerged after the Nicene Creed from pro-Nicene theologians such asApollinaris, Macedonians and the Arianisms who still insisted thatGod was not three in one the son and the Holy Spirit weresubordinate beings with Jesus being half human and half divine. Thegeneral issue was that, Jesus was both divine and human(Norman 84).
However,the nature of Holy Spirit and its place in the Trinity dilemma wasmore contestations and unknown. As such, the Constantinople381council debated and clarified the divine nature of the Holy Spiritand Son. The position of the council was that Jesus is both human anddivine one person, Jesus, the God assumed the human form throughHoly Spirit without diminishing the divine trinity nature(Anatolios 23).In respect to the divinity of Holy Spirit, the council’s positionwas that the Holy Spirit is one and God rejecting the argument thatsince the Holy Spirit is sent by God, it is a lesser God. Overall,the Constantinople 381 council approved the fact that God was God inall forms in Holy Spirit, Son and the Father, and none is lesser Godthan the other because God is one and not limited to particular form.
Anatolios,Khaled, RetrievingNicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine,Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.2011.
McGrath,Alister.HistoricalTheology, an Introduction to the History of Christian Thought.Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. 1998.Chapter1. Print.
NormanTanner and Giuseppe Alberigo, eds. Decreesof the Ecumenical Councils.Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. 1990, p. 1-84.Print.