ONE GOD IN THREE PERSONS: THE EARLIEST CHURCH COUNCILS


From the very beginnings of the Church, Christians had called Christ the 'Son of God' or 'God the Son', and had spoken of - and prayed and baptized in the name of — 'the Father, Son and Holy Spirit'. Before the Edict of Milan in 313, however, Christians rarely had any opportunity to discuss in what sense they understood Jesus to be divine, or what precisely they understood the relation of the Father to the Son or of either to the Spirit to be.


(BUT  NOT  SO  IN  THE  NEW  TESTAMENT.  IT  IS  MADE  CLEAR  WHO  CHRIST  WAS,  THE  RELATIONSHIP  WITH  GOD  THE FATHER,  AND  THE  RELATIONSHIP  WITH  THE  HOLY  SPIRIT  AND  THE  FATHER  -  Keith Hunt)


With the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine, however, it became possible for matters of doctrine to be debated openly and thoroughly, and Christians soon discovered that they had many significant disagreements among themselves regarding many of the most basic elements of their faith. Scripture and the traditional liturgical practices of the Apostolic Churches had established certain general theological terms that all Christians accepted, but provided very little in the way of a conceptual clarification of those terms.

The Son of the One God


The old Greek way of speaking of the most high God was to refer to him by the definite article - 'the God', 'ho Theos' - while a god was simply spoken of as a 'theos'. In Christian usage, the name 'ho Theos' was generally applied only to the Father, while Christ (or occasionally the Spirit) was more cautiously called 'theos'. This rule, however, was anything but absolute: in the Gospel of John - where the pre-incarnate Son is identified as the divine 'Logos' who 'was with God' and who 'was God (theos)'— the Apostle Thomas addresses the risen Christ as 'my Lord and my God (ho Theos)'. And, also in the Gospel of John, Christ declares 'I and the Father are one'.


(SO  IT  ONLY  TAKES  ONE  "HO  THEOS"  TO  BE  USED  FOR  CHRIST,  AND  THAT  PUTS  HIM  IN  THE  SAME  "GODHEAD"  AS  THE  FATHER  -  Keith Hunt)


The painting in the dome of St Isaacs Cathedral, Saint Petersburg, Russia, illustrates Christ, the saints and the holy family. Divergent views on the nature of Christ soon emerged as the early Church debated the tenets of the Christian faith.


What did this mean? In what way was Christ God? Was he equal with the Father, or a lesser emanation of the Father, or a kind of secondary God? And, if the latter, what was the nature of his divine status in relation to the 'proper' divinity of the Father? Various answers to these questions had been ventured during the first three centuries of the Church. Some theologians (particularly in Rome) had proposed one or another species of 'modalism': that is, they speculated that the one God assumed different modes of existence for various purposes, now existing as Father, now as Son. Others advanced one or another version of 'adoptionism': they believed that Christ had been a man who had been adopted into divine Sonship by the Father. Still others were 'subordinationist': they claimed that the Father alone was God in the fullest sense, that the Son was a lesser expression of God, and the Spirit a still more diminished expression of the Son.


(AGAIN  THE  NEW  TESTAMENT  ANSWERS  THE  QUESTION.  READING  IT  ALL,  YOU  SHOULD  CLEARLY  SEE  BOTH  ARE  THE  ONE  GOD,  BOTH  ARE  ETERNAL,  BOTH  ARE  THE  ONE  GODHEAD.  BUT  THE  FATHER  IS  SUPREME.  JESUS,  GOD  THE  SON,  SITS  ON  THE  RIGHT HAND  OF  THE  FATHER,  NOT  ON  TOP  OF  HIM,  NOT  INSIDE  HIM,  BUT  ON  HIS  RIGHT  HAND.  THE  TRUTH  OF  THE  GODHEAD  IS  EXPOUNDED  IN  MANY  STUDIES  ON  THIS  WEBSITE  -  Keith Hunt)


The subordinationist tendency was especially pronounced in Alexandria. In fact, it was typical not only of Christians, but of Jews and Pagans also. The great Jewish scholar Philo, a contemporary of Jesus, had already argued that, intermediate between God and this world, was the divine Logos, the 'Son of God,' through whom the world was created and governed; for God himself, in his transcendent majesty, could not come into contact with lower reality. The Pagan Platonists believed that the ultimate divine principle - the One - was utterly transcendent of the world, and was 'related' to it only through an order of lesser, derivative divine principles. Within this environment, it was natural for many Christians to think of the divine Logos as a sort of heavenly high priest who acted as an intermediary between creatures and the inaccessible Father. Even the greatest of pre-Constantinian Alexandrian theologians, Origen, was a subordinationist.


(IF  WE  MEAN  GOD  THE  FATHER  IS  THE  GREATEST  IN  AUTHORITY  IN  THE  UNIVERSE,  THEN  YES,  THE  NEW  TESTAMENT  MAKES  THIS  VERY  CLEAR  IT  IS  SO  -  Keith Hunt)

Controversy and Creed


Theological opinions so vastly different from one another could not coexist indefinitely after the conversion of Constantine, now that the Church enjoyed the luxury - and bore the burden - of defining its beliefs with genuine precision. And, as chance or providence would have it, no sooner had the Church been granted legal rights and imperial favor than it suffered an enormous doctrinal crisis.


An Alexandrian priest named Arius (c.250-336) began to preach what can only be called a form of radical subordinationism: unlike, say, Origen, he not only denied the perfect coequality of Father and Son, but denied even that the Son was co-eternal with the Father, or even really 'divine' except in a purely honorific sense.


According to Arius, the Logos (the Son) was in fact a creature; he was the highest of creatures, admittedly, brought into being before all other things, and so exalted as to be called 'God' in relation to all other creatures, but nonetheless — to quote Arius' most notorious maxim - 'There was a time when he was not.' Only the Father, he taught, is 'unoriginate'.


(THIS  TEACHING  IS  STILL  TAUGHT  TODAY  BY  SOME;  EVEN  SOME  IN  THE  7TH  DAY  SABBATH  ORGANIZATIONS.  SOME  CLAIM  JESUS  DID  NOT  EXIST  FROM  ETERNITY,  BUT  WAS  "CREATED";  SOME  OTHERS  TEACH  CHRIST  DID  NOT EXIST  UNTIL  BORN  OF  THE  VIRGIN  MARY.  THESE  IDEAS  ARE  MASSIVE  "HERESY"  TEACHINGS.  THE  CHURCH  OF  GOD  SEVENTH  DAY  IN  DENVER,  TAUGHT  THIS  FOR  NEARLY  150  YEARS.  IT  WAS  ABOUT  1987  THAT  THEY  RESTUDIED  IT  ALL,  ADMITTED  THEY  WERE  VERY  WRONG;  THEY  PRODUCED  A  VERY  FINE  BOOKLET  ON  THE  SUBJECT  I  RECOMMEND  YOU  OBTAIN.  THEY  ANSWER  ALL  THE  ARGUMENTS  OF  THE  "ARIUS"  TEACHING.  I  HAVE  ALSO  MANY  STUDIES  ON  THIS WEBSITE  THAT  PROVE  THE  "ARIUS"  TEACHINGS  TO  BE  VERY  WRONG,  EVEN  "HERESY"  -  Keith Hunt)


'Alexander [bishop of Alexandria] attempted one day too  ambitious  a  discourse  about  the  unity  of  the  Holy  Trinity.  Arius, one of  the  presbyters  under  his  jurisdiction, a man possessed of no inconsiderable logical acumen, said:

"If the Father begat the Son, the one that was begotten has a beginning of existence  and  from this it is evident that there was a time when the Son was not. It therefore necessarily follows that he had his essence from nothing". Alexander convened a council of many prelates and excommunicated Arius and the supporters for his heresy.' [Socrates Scholasticus,  The Ecclesiastical History, c.440]


Arius' views were condemned and he was expelled from Alexandria in 321, but he spent his time in exile composing a long defense of his views - in prose and verse - entitled the Thalia ('Banquet') and in composing popular songs by which to spread his ideas among common Christians. When Constantine defeated Licinius in 324 and assumed control of the Eastern Christian world, he discovered that his newly adopted faith was convulsed by internal dissensions. He was not amused. He required unity of his Church no less than of his empire, and so at his command the first 'Ecumenical Council' (that is, a Council of the universal Church) was convoked in 325 to resolve the dispute. Three hundred and eighteen (almost exclusively Eastern) bishops gathered at Nicaea, near Constantinople, with Arius in attendance.


A depiction of an early Ecumenical Council. The first and second Councils of Nicaea (in 325 and 787, respectively) were the first and last of seven such meetings convoked, three of them in Constantinople.


Once again, Arius' teachings were condemned, and a common statement of faith - the first version of the 'Nicene Creed' - was produced. It not only affirmed that the divine Son was 'begotten, not made', and was 'true God from true God', but described the Son as 'consubstantial (homoousios)' with the Father. This was an audacious formula in the eyes of many — the word occurs nowhere in scripture -but ultimately all but seven of the bishops present subscribed to the new creed, and Arius was sent away to Illyricum (the Rojnan province covering much of the Balkans).


The controversy, however, did not end there. In the wake of the Council of Nicaea, any number of theologians proposed alternative solutions to the controversy. Among those who rejected the Nicene formula, there were the 'homoeans' who preferred to describe the Son as being 'of similar substance (homoiousios)' with the Father; and there were the 'anomoeans' who regarded the Son as being altogether 'unlike' the Father. More importantly, the emperor was persuaded by certain women within his household to turn a kindlier eye on Arius; in 336, he even commanded the bishop of Constantinople to give Arius communion. Arius entered the city in triumph, and would indeed have received communion, had he not suddenly died of natural (though rather grisly) causes the night before. Still, at the time of Constantine's death in 337, it was the Arian position that enjoyed the favour of the imperial court.


The Final Settlement


For many decades, the most redoubtable champion of Nicene orthodoxy was St Athanasius (c.296—373), a brilliant theologian who, as a young deacon, had been present at the Council, and who had been installed as patriarch of Alexandria the following year. Athanasius's fortunes in many ways were a perfect reflection of the fortunes of the orthodox party. With an almost comic regularity — no fewer than five times — he was deposed as bishop or forced to flee his see and was then restored, according to the inclinations of whichever emperor was in power.


The 'Arian controversy' did not reach its conclusion until Theodosius I (347-95), a Nicene Christian, had assumed power in the East, in 379. An uncompromising 'anomoean' named Eunomius insisted that God is, by definition, the 'ungenerated'. Hence, neither the Son nor the Spirit can be God in any proper sense, and must be essentially unlike the Father. The great opponents of 'Eunomianism' were three remarkable theologians, known collectively as the 'Cappadocian fathers': St Basil of Caesarea (329-79), his friend St Gregory of Nazianzus (c.330-c.389), and (the most brilliant of the three) Basil's younger brother St Gregory of Nyssa (r.335—c.394). It was their theology - marked as it was by an extraordinary clarity and profundity - that shaped the outcome of the second Ecumenical Council in 381, the First Council of Constantinople, which produced the final version of the Nicene Creed, and which affirmed once again that, in Christ, no less than the eternal God had entered into human history.



'We believe in One God, the Father, Almighty, Maker of all that is. seen and unseen. And in One Son of God, begotten of the Father. Only begotten, that is from the substance of the Father; God from God. Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made, both things in heaven and in earth. who for us and for our salvation came down and was incarnate, was made man, suffered, and rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven, and is coming to judge living and  dead. And in the Holy Ghost.' [Creed of the Council of Nicaea, 325]


Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, was exiled repeatedly from his see — when his views were at variance with those of the incumbent Roman emperor — so giving rise to the phrase Athanasius contra mundum ('Athansius against the world'). However, his position prevailed, and he became known as the 'Father of Orthodoxy' for his implacable opposition to Arianism.


(WE  MUST  NOT  FORGET  THAT  THE  ROMAN CATHOLIC  CHURCH  DOES  HAVE  SOME  TRUTHS.  THE  ABOVE  NICAEA  CREED  CONTAINS  THE  BASIC  TRUTH  ABOUT  GOD  AND  THE  SON  OF  GOD.  IT  IS  PUTTING  JOHN  1:1-14  INTO  SIMPLE  FORM.  NOTE  ALSO,  TO  THE  SHOCK  OF  MANY  FUNDAMENTAL  CHRISTIANS,  THE  ROMAN  CATHOLIC  CHURCH  TEACHES  THE  LITERAL  COMING  OF  JESUS  CHRIST  BACK  TO  JUDGE  THE  EARTH,  THE  LIVING  AND  THE  DEAD.  AGAIN  MANY  STUDIES  ON  THIS  WEBSITE  PROVE  JESUS  IS  A  PART  OF  THE  ETERNAL  GODHEAD,  WHICH  WAS  FROM  THE  BEGINNING,  ETERNAL  PAST,  AND  WILL  BE  FOR  THE  ETERNAL  FUTURE  -  Keith Hunt)


'GOD BECAME MAN THAT MAN MIGHT BECOME GOD'

That the Church spent the better part of a century agonizing over the difference between words like 'homoousios' and 'homoiousios' — a difference on paper, after all, of only a single letter - has frequently been an object of scorn and incredulity to those who see it as a contest between indistinguishable abstractions. But, for the Christians of the fourth century, the entire intelligibility of their faith was at stake. Many issues informed the debate - scripture, liturgy, the common understanding of the faithful - but chief among them was the nature of salvation.

If one thinks of salvation in the rather trivial sense of being allowed to go to heaven, then one will not be able to understand the prevailing mindset of the fourth-century Church. For the theologians of that time, salvation meant an intimate and immediate union with God, by which the human being would literally be 'divinized': that is, made to become (in the language of II Peter 1:4) a partaker of the divine nature - not, of course, to become God (ho Theos), but to become divine (theios or thieos). They believed that Christ had assumed human form so as to free humanity from bondage to death and make it capable of a direct indwelling of the divine presence. This has always remained the explicit teaching of the Eastern Churches, and has never ceased to be the theological position of the Roman Catholic tradition (though it has often been forgotten).


(AND  THIS  SHOULD  SHOCK  AND  SURPRISE  SOME  OF  YOU!  DO  YOU  SEE  WHAT  IS  BEING  SAID  HERE?  THE  HUMAN  CAN  HAVE  THE  DIVINE  NATURE.....MEDITATE  ON  WHAT  THAT  REALLY  MEANS.  MOST  CHRISTIANS  TALK  ABOUT  BEING  "THE  SON  OF  GOD"  OR  "THE  CHILD  OF  GOD"  BUT  DO  NOT  STOP  TO  THINK  WHAT  THAT  REALLY  IS  SAYING.....READ  ON  -  Keith Hunt)


For Athanasius or the Cappadocians, the paramount question was how such union with the transcendent God was possible for finite creatures. If - to use a formula that they and many others accepted - 'God became man that man might become God', could it possibly be the case that the Son or the Spirit was a lesser God or, even worse, merely a creature? Only God is capable of joining creatures to God; any inferior intermediary will always be infinitely remote from God himself. The Cappadocian arguments against the Eunomians were many, complex. and subtle; but perhaps the most effective was the simplest: if it is the Son who joins us to the Father, and only God can join us to God, then the Son is God; and if, in the sacraments of the Church and the life of faith, it is the Spirit who joins us to the Son, and only God can join us to God, then the Spirit too must be God.

..............................


THE  SON,  WHO  IS  GOD,  CAN  JOIN  HUMANS  TO  GOD  THE  FATHER,  THEN  ALL  BECOME  MEMBERS  OF  THE  FATHER'S  FAMILY.  THE  HOLY  SPIRIT  IS  GOD  IN  THE  SENSE  THAT  THE  SPIRIT  COMES  FROM  GOD.  AS  PROVED  IN  OTHER  STUDIES  ON  THIS  WEBSITE,  THE  SPIRIT  IS  NOT  A  SEPARATE  BEING  FROM  GOD  THE  FATHER  AND  GOD  THE  SON.  THE  SPIRIT  IS  THE  NATURE  AND  POWER  THAT  COMES  FROM  THE  GODHEAD,  AND  CAN  BE  ALL  OVER  THE  UNIVERSE  AT  THE  SAME  TIME.

GOD  THE  FATHER  IN  CREATING  THE  HUMAN  KIND  WAS  GOING  TO  REPRODUCE  HIMSELF;  HAVING  CHILDREN  BORN  INTO  HIS  VERY  LEVEL  OF  EXISTENCE;  NOT  THE  ANGEL  LEVEL,  BUT  THE  HIGHEST  LEVEL......THE  GOD  LEVEL.  GOD  THE  FATHER  WILL  ALWAYS  BE  THE  SUPREME  IN  AUTHORITY  IN  THE  UNIVERSE;  THE  SON  JESUS  CHRIST  WILL  BE  NEXT  IN  AUTHORITY,  AS  SHOWN  CLEARLY  IN  THE  BOOK  OF  REVELATION,  FROM  THE  BEGINNING  TO  THE  END.


THE  NEW  TESTAMENT  MAKES  IT  VERY  VERY  CLEAR  AS  TO  WHY  YOU  WERE  BORN;  WHY  MANKIND  WAS  CREATED.


YOU  CAN  FIND  THIS  WONDERFUL  TRUTH  IN  MY  STUDY  CALLED  "A  CHRISTIAN'S  DESTINY"  ON  THIS  WEBSITE.


Keith Hunt