Chalcedon and the Condemnation of Nestorianism

The Council of Chalcedon took place a mere twenty years after the Council of Ephesus.  Its impact on Christology and doctrine is one that cannot be understated.  The council came about because of a new teaching on the nature of Christ by a monk by the name of Eutyches.  To summarize his view, he taught that Christ had two natures, but after they were united they were only one.  He was an opponent of Nestorius, and his way of describing the nature of Christ was damaging.  This way of putting it seems to destroy both the humanity and the divinity of Christ. Sadly, this is not far from the belief of many Christians today.

Chalcedon affirmed that the natures of Christ do not change, and in doing so they avoided Nestorianism.  However, the story of the council started before that with the afore mentioned story of the monk Eutyches.  Upon hearing of Eutyches explanation regarding the nature of Christ, Patriarch Flavian felt he had to respond to the matter.  Flavian, then patriarch of Constantinople, held a synod and condemned the teaching of Eutyches.  Flavian was upholding orthodox teaching, but issues of Christology were still being worked out in the ancient world.  Eutyches would find an ally in the bishop of Alexandria by the name of Dioscorus, who just happened to be Cyril of Alexandria’s cousin (Norris 29).  According to Richard Norris, “Dioscorus, with imperial support, presided over a council in Ephesus” (Norris 29).  This council deposed of Patriarch Flavian and restored Eutyches.

Prior to this deposition, Pope Leo had sent a letter of support to Flavian accepting the decision of the synod he held on behalf of the whole church.  Pope Leo called the council that reinstated Eutyches a “rubber synod” and invoked the authority of the Roman church (Norris 29).  Leo’s demand for a new council was answered and Bishop Dioscorus was removed from his bishopric immediately.

The council’s statement of faith was not trying to declare how the natures of Christ could be, but was declaring what over 400 years of Christian witness could not deny.  The council reiterated the two natures of Christ, which was a concern Nestorius had though he argued for it in a heretical manner.  The council also affirmed the view held by Cyril at the Council of Ephesus within the tradition established at Nicea.  The Tome of Leo was also a factor in the definition at Chalcedon.

The “definition” at Chalcedon affirms the creeds of Nicea and Constantinople when it comes to defining the redemption and the person of Christ (Norris 30).  The council also stated that the extreme forms of Christological tradition in the Antiochene and Alexandrian schools were now condemned (Norris 30).  The definition is closed with a statement that was composed based on the wishes of the emperor.  As Norris writes, “This statement, draws for its language on Cyril, Leo, and the Formula of Reunion” (Norris 30).  It emphasizes the Unity of Christ in his complete deity and complete humanity.  More importantly it says that Christ exists in two natures and not out of two natures.  It is because of this language that the definition accepts the emphasis of both Antiochene and Alexandrian schools.

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Works Cited

Norris, Richard A.  The Christological Controversy.  Fortress Press Philadephia: PA, 1980.  Print.

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Questions and Christological Development

Children are full of questions.  They are beautiful little creatures as babies who make cute sounds.  When they reach the toddler age they start to ask more questions.  When they reach the age of five or six the questions come at a rapid-fire pace.  This happens as their brains develop, and they are starting to learn and investigate the word around them.  As a child asked many questions to learn, the Church did something similar when developing a proper Christology.  The role of questions in the development of New Testament Christology is something that cannot be underestimated.  In his book, Jesus:  A Portrait, Gerald O’Collins examines seven key questions that helps establish who Jesus was.

The questions that O’Collins discusses in his section titled “Jesus the Questioner” come from the Gospel of John.  John is laid out in such a way that it makes a clear statement about the divine nature of Christ (O’Collins 202).  The first questions that Jesus poses in the Gospel in found in John 1:38. Jesus simply asks Andrew “What are you looking for?” (NRSV). In the early Church they were striving to understand Christ in a deeper way.  It is important to note that when these questions were being asked the whole New Testament had not been formally compiled.  So, looking solely to scripture would not have been possible, but apostolic tradition played a big role in the process.  We are all looking for something, and that something is the savior.  Jesus asks this question in such a way that he is not forcing himself on anyone but challenges us (O’Collins 203).

The above question is only one that Christ asks in the Gospel of John.  The following are the remaining six questions:

Will you also go away (John 6:67)?  Do you believe this (John 11:26)?  Do you know what I have done for you (John 13:12)?  Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Phillip (John 14:9)?  Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you looking for (John 20:15)?  Do you love me (John 21:15-17)?

Questions in the Bible are not an obtuse thought or a New Testament invention.  Many questions are asked, and many truths and commands are conveyed through their use (O’Collins 202).  Christ was God incarnate, came to earth, and started asking questions.  O’Collins brilliantly states, “The God who says to Adam ‘Where are you?’, and to Job ‘I will question you’, has come among us and slips at once into the divine habit of asking questions” (O’Collins 202).

Likewise, the Church followed the example of its founder and started asking questions.  These questions led to inquiry, scriptural exegesis, and a deeper consultation of Sacred Tradition.  Because of questions there were various heresies that popped up.  Some of these, such as Arianism, were very popular and lasted longer than anyone would have thought.  These heresies also brought up more questions about the nature of Christ, and the Church was forced to answer more questions.  This led to a better understanding of Christology and served as the foundation for our understanding today.  Questions were vital in this process.

Works Cited

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

O’ Collins, Gerald. Jesus: A Portrait. New York: Maryknoll, 2013.  Print

Apostolic Succession and the Arian Controversy

To those who study Church history the Arians are a familiar foe of orthodoxy.  The heresy came to the forefront in the 4th century, and was declared heretical at the Council of Nicea in 325 and again at the Council of Constantinople in 381.  How was the proper view of Christ upheld?  Was it strictly by St. Athanasius’s brilliant exposition of scripture?  No doubt that was part of the equation, but Arius was also pleading his case from sacred scripture.

By all accounts Arius was also a brilliant orator, and was able to get crowds riled up into a frenzy (Olson, 141).  He was a charismatic individual who was also able to coat his words with enough of a shadow of orthodoxy to get some bishops to agree with his opinion.  So who was Arius, and what was he propagating?  Though that question will be answered, the most interesting question is how the heresy was thwarted?

St. Athanasius gets a lot of credit, and deservedly so, for championing orthodoxy against the false view of Christ that Arius was teaching.  As previously stated he did so using scripture, but the canon would not have been declared until the Council of Rome is 382 (Marshall).  The unsung hero during the whole Arian controversy of the 4th century is apostolic succession, and the teaching authority that springs from it.  In this paper, I will look at Arianism and how it is still a factor today.  I will also look at the sources from Church history that show how apostolic succession was used to combat the heresy.

WHAT IS ARIANISM?

            As previously stated, Arianism is a heresy that became popular in the early Church in the fourth century.  It is tempting to say that Arianism was a denial of the full divinity of Christ (Cross, 100).  To get the full story of the Arian controversy it is necessary to dig a little deeper.  This deeper exploration will assist in understanding, not only the nature of the heresy, but the role that apostolic succession played in getting it condemned.

The beginning of the controversy can be traced to the earliest patristic fathers such as St. Justin, St. Clement of Alexandria, and Origen.  This is not suggesting that they were denying the divinity of Christ, but has to do with the idea of the Logos (Gonzalez, 182).  The Greek philosophers saw God as immutable, and the philosophers were told that Christians believed in such a God.  In regard to the Logos Richard Norris writes, “Logos was the divine reason uttered as the divine Word for the sake of forming and governing the world (Norris, 6).  At least that is the understanding that the Stoics and Platonists had as this is not orthodox teaching.  This was dangerous as some Christians began to say that the Father was impersonal while the Son, or Logos, was capable of human relationships.

It was hard for a pagan people to understand the Trinitarian concept.  Specifically, that the Father, Son, and Hold Spirit have always existed in unity.  It was easier to accept that the Son was somehow subordinate, and this is where a priest named Arius enters the doors of Church history.  To these pagan converts Arius made Christ out to be a type of divine hero, and that was easier for them to grasp (Shelley, 100).

Arius was a student of Lucian of Alexandria, and while studying under Lucian he became friends with a man by the name of Eusebius of Nicomedia.  This Eusebius must not be confused with the great church historian of the same name.  Eusebius plays an important role in the promulgation of the Arian heresy.

Arius was a priest who was ordained in Alexandria is 311 (Olson, 144).  He was a charismatic individual who came to openly challenge the doctrine of the Trinity that his Bishop, Alexander of Alexandria, was teaching.  Many of the locals relayed behind Arius because of his persuasiveness as a public speaker, and used verses such as Proverbs 8:22 to support his doctrine.  Proverbs 8:22 states, “The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old” (RSV).  This basis for Arius’s argumentation continues through Proverbs 8:31, and it describes the role of wisdom in creation.  Since Christ is the Logos he is God’s personified wisdom, or reason, on earth.  Since this passage of scripture says that he was created then he must not be the same substance of God.  If he is not the same substance of God then he must not be fully divine.  In this regard Arius writes, “Before he was begotten or created or ordained or established, he did not exist (Pelikan, 192).

In Arius’s view Christ was a created being and he had the tendencies that created being have.  This meant that he was even liable to change or even to sin.  Saint Athanasius sums up the views of Arius quite nicely.  In his first discourse against the Arians he writes:

For what can they say from it, but that ‘God was not always a Father, but became so afterwards; the Son was not always, for He was not before His generation; He is not from the Father, but He, as others, has come into subsistence out of nothing; He is not proper to the Father’s essence, for He is a creature and work?’ And ‘Christ is not very God, but He, as others, was made God by participation; the Son has not exact knowledge of the Father, nor does the Word see the Father perfectly; and neither exactly understands nor knows the Father. He is not the very and only Word of the Father, but is in name only called Word and Wisdom, and is called by grace Son and Power. He is not unalterable, as the Father is, but alterable in nature, as the creatures, and He comes short of apprehending the perfect knowledge of the Father (Schaff, 310).

PASTRISTIC RESPONSE

 

The temptation when looking at the Arian controversy is to immediately look to the Council of Nicea, but there is much more to the church’s response.  As any good Pastor would be, Bishop Alexander became concerned by the teaching of one of his priests.  This error has eternal consequences for those who became wooed by this new doctrine.  Alexander admits that he initially ignored the false doctrines and hoped they would die out on their own.  Plans changed when Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia came to the aid of Arius.  To This Alexander of Alexandria writes:

But seeing that Eusebius, now of Nicomedia, who thinks that the government of the Church rests with him, because retribution has not come upon him for his desertion of Berytus, when he had cast an eye of desire on the Church of the Nicomedians, begins to support these apostates, and has taken upon him to write letters everywhere in their behalf, if by any means he may draw in certain ignorant persons to this most base and antichristian heresy (Schaff, 69).

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 Seeing that a fellow bishop is no longer teaching doctrine that is part of scripture, or sacred tradition Alexander used his authority, received via Apostolic Succession, to try to correct the situation.  Alexander of Alexandria called a local synod that formally condemned the teachings of Arius, and letters were sent to surrounding bishops to inform them of the synods conclusion (Ferguson, 192).  The way that Alexander pleaded his case against Arius was nothing short of brilliant.  As previously stated, Arius said that Jesus could not be God because God is immutable.  Alexander’s argument was polemical in nature, but very effective.  He said that Arius denied the immutability of the Father by saying that he was not immutable until the son was created (Olson, 148).  According to Alexander, “Now when Arius and his fellows made these assertions, and shamelessly avowed them, we being assembled with the Bishops of Egypt and Libya, nearly a hundred in number, anathematized both them and their followers” (Schaff, 70).

Over one hundred bishops exercised their authority that they received by apostolic succession to anathematize Arius and his followers.  The teaching that was contrary to the apostles was to risk the salvation of souls.  The early fathers had no choice but the exercise their authority.  According to the synod there was one view of Christ which was handed down directly from the apostles.  Sadly, this would not be the end of the heresy.  Though the synod had a near unanimous ruling, the eastern bishops were split.

We look back on this event now and say that this was a serious situation, but a schism this early into the Christian era could have been disastrous.  Emperor Constantine heard of the controversy from his Bishop named Hosius (Olson, 148).  Regarding this the ancient church historian Socrates Scholasticus writes, “To this end he sent a letter to Alexander and Arius by a trustworthy person named Hosius, who was bishop of Cordova in Spain, and whom the emperor greatly loved and held in the highest estimation” (Scholasticus, 17).  Constantine needed Christianity to be unified in an already crumbling Roman empire.

To maintain unity the emperor called all the bishops in the empire for a council.  This council would become known as the first ecumenical Council of Nicea.  The council commenced in 325 and set a precedent for all other ecumenical councils.  This council was so important that all other councils would reference it as being so (Sanders, 18).  The council was made of 318 bishops.  The Holy Father was absent from the council, not because he was not invited, but because he was too elderly to make the trip.  In his place he sent two priests to be legates, and to act in his place and authority.  Church Historian William Carroll writes, “The recommendation for a general or ecumenical council . . . had probably already been made to Constantine by Ossius [aka Hosius], and most probably to Pope Silvester as well.  Ossius presided over its deliberations; he probably, and two priests of Rome certainly, came as representatives of the Pope” (Carroll, 11).

Championing the orthodox cause at the council was St. Athanasius.  Athanasius was a brilliant theologian who argued from scripture the case that Christ is eternal.  He argued that terms in scripture such as “was handed over” do not imply that the Son was not divine (Norris, 95).  The Council fathers rallied behind St. Athanasius, as he was preaching the faith that had been handed on to them (Schroeder, 14).  The great saint said many things, but one struck the heart of Arius’s argument.  Regarding the Logos Athanasius said, “It is plain, therefore, to everyone that not knowing is proper to the flesh, whereas the Logos, insofar as he is the Logos, knows all things even before their origination” (Norris, 97).  Only God knows all things before their origination.  This was a statement of deity that had been passed on from the beginning of the church (Bokenkotter, 51).

Both sides of the controversy appealed to scripture, but the orthodox side coined the usage of a term that is not in scripture to describe Christ’s deity.  This Greek work word is known as homoousios.  The term means that the Son is of the same substance, or consubstantial, as the Father (Sanders, 18).  These are the same words we use at mass when we recite the Nicean creed.  The teaching was passed on by valid apostolic succession.  The irony is that while the bishops condemned Arianism, the term was a source of controversy.  The terminology and definitions were defined more narrowly in 381 at the Council of Constantinople thanks in part to the Cappadocian fathers.  Regarding the definition St, Gregory of Nazianzus writes, “Because they are from him, though not after him.  Being unoriginate necessarily implies being eternal, but being eternal does not entail being unoriginate” (Nazianzus, 71).

 

WHY APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION?

            In the previous pages thee has been much said about apostolic succession, but I think some clarification is in order.  Apostolic succession is much more than one taking an office from a predecessor, though that is part of it.  In combating the Gnostics, St. Irenaeus listed apostolic succession as a reason, and boasted in each bishop being able to trace his lineage to the apostles.

In the early days of the church succession and tradition were like terms and were synonymous with the Greek word diadochí (Benedict XVI, 23).  Tradition involves teaching, but again it is much more than that.  It is forever linked to the person from whom that teaching derives.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes that tradition is “linked to a person, is a living word, that has its concrete reality in faith” (Benedict XVI, 23).  Succession is proclaiming something that had been entrusted to someone by Christ himself.  In Apostolic succession the lineage is not mutually exclusive from the teaching.  They both go hand in hand.

Throughout the Arian controversy, and the modern variations there has been one constant.  There was deviation from what was taught in the beginning.  Apostolic succession is “holding fast to the apostolic word, just as tradition means the continuing existence of authorized witnesses” (Benedict XVI, 24).  Apostolic succession and apostolic tradition assist in defining each other.  The succession is the form of the tradition, and the tradition is the content of the succession (Benedict XVI, 28)

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CONCLUSION

            It is very tempting to look at the Arian controversy and think that it is a thing of the past.  To do so would be irresponsible from a theological and historical perspective.  The denying of the divinity of Christ is still something that is an issue among those who call themselves Christians.  Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons have a view of Christ that is contrary to scripture and to the tradition of the Church.  What would Christianity be like today if the bishops in Alexandria and Nicea not exercised the authority given to them by apostolic succession?

The infant Christian church would have experienced a sizable schism.  The Roman empire may have possibly collapsed and been thrown into utter chaos.  It would have been a disaster.  There were men who resisted the temptation, stayed faithful, and championed the cause of apostolic teaching.  That is the way the Christ set things up.  He established a Church with Apostolic Succession to help guide the flock in the way of the master.  As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI states, “Apostolic succession” is by its nature the living presence of the word in the personal form of the witness. The unbroken continuity of witnesses is derived from the nature of the word as authority and oral statement” (Benedict XVI, 31).

 

WORKS CITED

Benedict XVI. God’s Word: Scripture—Tradition—Office. Ed. Peter Hünermann and Thomas Söding. Trans. Henry Taylor. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008. Print.

Bokenkotter, Thomas.  A Concise History of the Catholic Church.  Image Books.  New York, NY:  2004.  Print.

Cross, F. L., and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church 2005 : n. pag. Print.

Denzinger, Henry, and Karl Rahner, eds. The Sources of Catholic Dogma. Trans. Roy J. Deferrari. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1954. Print.

Ferguson Everett.  From Christ to the Pre-Reformation.  Zondervan.  Grand Rapids, MI:  2005.  Print.

Fred Sanders & Klaus Issler.  Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective.  B&H Academic.  Nashville, TN:  2007.  Print.

Gonzalez, Justo L.  The Story of Christianity, Volume 1:  The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation.  HarperOne.  New York:  2010. Print.

Gregory of Nazianzus.  On God and Christ.  St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.  Crestwood, NY:  2002.  Print.

Norris, Richard.  The Christological Controversy.  Fortress Press. Philadelphia, PA:  1980. Print

Pelikan, Jasoslav.  The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition.  University of Chicago Press.  Chicago:  1975.  Print.

Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace, eds. St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters. Vol. 4. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892. Print. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series.

Schroeder, H. J. Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: Text, Translation, and Commentary. St. Louis, MO; London: B. Herder Book Co., 1937. Print.

Shelby John.  Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism. Harper Collins.  New York: 1991. Print.

Shelley, Bruce L.  Church History in Plain Language.  Thomas Nelson.  Nashville, TN:  2008.  Print.

Socrates Scholasticus. A History of the Church in Seven Books. London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1844. Print.

William Carroll.  The Building of Christendom.  Christendom College Press.  Front Royal, VA:  1987.  Print.

Theotokos and the Council of Ephesus

Within the early church there were many issues when it came to Christology.  Some would take a piece of scripture and develop a whole theology without properly exegeting or considering what other scriptures say on an issue.  To put it in modern terms it was proof texting, but on a grandiose scale.  A scale in which souls were at stake.  The Council of Ephesus was called to discuss the unity of Christ.  More specifically, how can he be truly God and truly human?  As if this issue were not enough to cause division there was a political component as well.  The Christian patriarchs of Antioch, Constantinople, and Alexandria had a rivalry which stemmed from Constantinople calling itself the “New Rome”.  At the center of the council were two bishops by the names of Nestorius and St. Cyril of Alexandria.

Nestorius was a priest who became the patriarch of Constantinople.  He was trained in Antioch which had a very good reputation of defending the humanity of Christ.  Nestorius starts with diversity in Christ (two natures) then gets into trouble when trying to explain how they come together.  In attempting to explain the humanity of Christ, Nestorius looked at the blessed virgin Mary.  Most churches at the time called Mary the theotokos, or mother of God.  Nestorius made the suggestion that Mary should have the title of theodochos, or the recipient of God (Norris 26).  Later on he would make the suggestion to call her Christotokos, or the mother of Christ.  By doing this Nestorius was making an attempt to preserve the humanity of Christ, but the way he did so was complex and in the end failed to preserve the unity of Christ.

Nestorius used a Stoic concept of what makes an individual in his argument.  Properties are inseparable to the person, and Nestorius believed that Christ should exist as two individuals (hypostasis) or two person (prosopon).  He didn’t believe that natures changed which is good because that would make him just like Apollinaris about a century earlier.  Since natures can’t change Nestorius proposed that there was a third person involved (Lecture Notes).  Problem is Christ only has two natures, and third nature or person being involved is a big Christological problem.

Hearing the argument of Nestorius, Cyril took the opportunity to say that Christ was one individual.  He did this by employing the term mia physis, or one nature.  To Cyril, the view of Nestorius implied that there were two different Christ’s.  By saying that there is one nature, Cyril is not saying that Christ did not have a human nature.  He is saying that there is a human soul that is in union with his divinity.  This term is known as the hypostatic union and is still a term that is used today.

Nestorius was eventually condemned at the Council of Ephesus for his “two sons” doctrine (Norris 28).  Cyril, who by all accounts was very uncharitable to Nestorius, called him a “New Judas”.  The council righty confirmed the orthodox position of Mary being the theotokos.  She gave birth to the whole person of Christ, not just his humanity.  To think the divine came later would be a type of adoptionism.  The council was crucial in upholding the humanity and the divinity of Christ, and it is one we can look to today for those who deny the theotokos. 

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Works Cited

Norris, Richard A.  The Christological Controversy.  Fortress Press Philadephia: PA, 1980.  Print.

 

The Importance of the Resurrection

Every Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  It is the foundation of our faith, and without the resurrection are faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:14).  Beyond proving that Jesus is the Christ, what does the resurrection prove?  The resurrection is about much more than the eyewitness accounts of the Apostles seeing the risen Jesus.  It is also about the new life that is present in every believer throughout time.

We have finite minds, and it is hard for us to grasp the miracle that is the resurrection.  Jesus is a divine being, and as a divine being he resurrected from the dead to prove who he was.  Though theologically true, this view leads to a somewhat simplistic understanding of the event.  The resurrection can also be seen in the transformation of the believer.  It is about the new life in Christ and not what the ocular vision of the disciples has perceived.  Saint Paul also echo this sentiment in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:  everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (NRSV).

The resurrection is a religious experience of one who has come to faith in Christ, and is much more than something that happened to those who physically encountered the risen Christ.  According to Scholars such as Luke Johnson this is a common theme in the Pauline Corpus.  Regarding this Dr. Johnson writes, “The resurrection experience, in Paul’s letters, is not something that happens to Jesus alone” (Johnson 25).  Every Christian with a genuine faith in Christ experiences the resurrection in a special way through baptism.  Through the sacrament of baptism original sin is wiped away, and we are raised in the newness of life.

Within the context of introducing the resurrection to Christian audience there are a couple of things to keep in mind.  From an apologetics standpoint, it is important to know the reasoning as to why the resurrection is the foundation of the faith.  One can go into the martyrdom of the early church because they were attesting to the resurrection.  People do not die for a lie.

Secondly, it is more important to assist the audience in learning to relate to the resurrection in a deeper way.  A way that is more personal, and something that they can share.  Everyone has something deep in the recesses of their mind that they are ashamed of.  It may be an addiction, adultery, or a gambling problem.  These things are destructive, but when one comes to faith those things are in the past.  They still may struggle, but through Christ they are resurrected and forgiven for those things that they have done.  Those types of experiences are the modern-day equivalent of the disciples physically seeing the resurrected Jesus.  Our former selves are dead and gone, but we were resurrected spiritually into a new creation.  The disciples’ experience of Jesus raised and exalted is the difference between their faith in the gospel.

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Works Cited

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Johnson, Luke Timothy. “How Jesus Became GodCommonweal. 2/3/2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

 

Council of Chalcedon

The Council of Chalcedon took place a mere twenty years after the Council of Ephesus.  Its impact on Christology and doctrine is one that cannot be understated.  The council came about because of a new teaching on the nature of Christ by a monk by the name of Eutyches.  To summarize his view, he taught that Christ had two natures, but after they were united they were only one.  He was an opponent of Nestorius, and his way of describing the nature of Christ was damaging.  This way of putting it seems to destroy both the humanity and the divinity of Christ. Sadly, this is not far from the belief of many Christians today.  In this paper the roles of Pope Leo and Patriarch Flavian will be discussed, along with how the council balanced the concerns of Cyril and Nestorius.

Chalcedon affirmed that the natures of Christ do not change, and in doing so they avoided Nestorianism.  However, the story of the council started before that with the afore mentioned story of the monk Eutyches.  Upon hearing of Eutyches explanation regarding the nature of Christ, Patriarch Flavian felt he had to respond to the matter.  Flavian, then patriarch of Constantinople, held a synod and condemned the teaching of Eutyches.  Flavian was upholding orthodox teaching, but issues of Christology were still being worked out in the ancient world.  Eutyches would find an ally in the bishop of Alexandria by the name of Dioscorus, who just happened to be Cyril of Alexandria’s cousin (Norris 29).  According to Richard Norris, “Dioscorus, with imperial support, presided over a council in Ephesus” (Norris 29).  This council deposed of Patriarch Flavian and restored Eutyches.

Prior to this deposition, Pope Leo had sent a letter of support to Flavian accepting the decision of the synod he held on behalf of the whole church.  Pope Leo called the council that reinstated Eutyches a “rubber synod” and invoked the authority of the Roman church (Norris 29).  Leo’s demand for a new council was answered and Bishop Dioscorus was removed from his bishopric immediately.

The council’s statement of faith was not trying to declare how the natures of Christ could be, but was declaring what over 400 years of Christian witness could not deny.  The council reiterated the two natures of Christ, which was a concern Nestorius had though he argued for it in a heretical manner.  The council also affirmed the view held by Cyril at the Council of Ephesus within the tradition established at Nicea.  The Tome of Leo was also a factor in the definition at Chalcedon.

The “definition” at Chalcedon affirms the creeds of Nicea and Constantinople when it comes to defining the redemption and the person of Christ (Norris 30).  The council also stated that the extreme forms of Christological tradition in the Antiochene and Alexandrian schools were now condemned (Norris 30).  The definition is closed with a statement that was composed based on the wishes of the emperor.  As Norris writes, “This statement, draws for its language on Cyril, Leo, and the Formula of Reunion” (Norris 30).  It emphasizes the Unity of Christ in his complete deity and complete humanity.  More importantly it says that Christ exists in two natures and not out of two natures.  It is because of this language that the definition accepts the emphasis of both Antiochene and Alexandrian schools.

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Works Cited

Norris, Richard A.  The Christological Controversy.  Fortress Press Philadephia: PA, 1980.

Who was Arius?

Over the course of Church History there were many issues and false teaching that arose.  One such false teaching involved a priest by the name of Arius.  Arius was a student of Lucian of Alexandria and ordained around 311.  He started to make waves when he publicly denied the teaching of the Trinity which was being taught by his bishop Alexander.  He was able to do this because he was a brilliant orator, but also because he laced his verbiage with just enough orthodoxy that some bishops fell his teachings.  Through the whole Arian controversy, the Church was forced to clarify the relationship between the Son and the Father.

Arianism was a big issue that had the potential to rip the infant Church apart.  What was he teaching that was so bad?  In short, Arius was teaching that Christ was not divine, or more specifically not the same substance as the Father.  The Father existed first and created the Son who in turn created everything else.  He took passages of scripture, such as Matthew 28:18, and took it to mean that Christ was somehow less than the Father (Norris 83).

Arius’s bishop, Alexander, became very concerned about the teachings of Arius.  For time he ignored them and though they would just cease, but when it became apparent that Arius was becoming more influential Alexander had to act.  Bishop Alexander called a synod that publicly anathematized the teachings of Arius.  One of the ways that Bishop Alexander and the synod did this was interesting.  Alexander took Arius’s Christology to task by showing that Arius denied the immutability of the Father.  Arius did this because, in his view, the Father was not immutable until the Son was finally created.

Though this synod acted swiftly to defend orthodox Christology from Arius, his teaching would remain for a while.  This came to the attention of the emperor Constantine via his bishop Hosius.  As previously stated this issue had he potential to end in schism, and this would have had horrible consequences for a young church, and the entire empire.  The Council of Nicea was called, and in all 318 bishops were in attendance, and two papal legates were in attendance because Pope Sylvester was to elderly to make the long journey.

The council fathers heard what Arius had to say, but they also listened to what St. Athanasius has to say.  They defended the doctrine of Christ by declaring that he is of the same substance of the Father, but not the Father.  Since he is of the same substance he has always existed and is eternal.  The Logos knows all things before their origination, and St. Athanasius showed that this was an attribute of God since God alone can know all things (Lecture Notes).  The council declared that Christ was of the same substance by using the Greek word Homoousios which means “of the same substance”.

In Conclusion, the teaching of Arius regarding Christ forced the church to formally define the nature of Christ.  The council fathers used a combination of sacred scripture and sacred tradition to defend the deity of Christ.  The canons that they laid out at Nicea are still binding on the church and is what the church teaches today.  In fact, we recite the Nicean creed at mass as a statement of Christian belief.

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WORKS CITED

Norris, Richard.  The Christological Controversy.  Philadelphia, PA:  Fortress Press.  1980.  Print.

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