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ECUMENICAL COUNCILS

The early church councils:


Christological controversy and
definition

The Council of Nicea


The Council of Nicea was called in order to address the Arian
controversy.
There is a very real sense in which the Arian controversy
uncovered some metaphysical difficulties which had accrued
with acceptance of the Hellenistic conception of God as pure
and changeless Being.
While the Arians themselves seemed to be defeated at Nicea,
the impulse to emphasize the humanity of Christ would
continue to manifest itself in other thinkers for another
generation.
The Arian heresy would finally be conclusively and explicitly
condemned at the Council of Constantinople called by
Emperor Theodosius in 381.

The Nicene Creed as formalized in 381


We believe in one God, the Father All Governing, creator of heaven
and earth, of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all time, Light from Light, true God
from true God, begotten not created, of the same essence [homoousion] as the Father, through Whom all things came into being. Who
for us men and because of our salvation came down from heaven, and
was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became
human. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and
was buried, and rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures, and
ascended to heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father, and will
come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom
shall have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and life-giver, Who proceeds
from the Father, Who is worshipped and glorified together with the
Father and Son, Who spoke through the prophets; and in one, holy,
catholic, and apostolic Church. We confess one baptism for the
remission of sins. We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and
the life of the world to come. Amen.

The four major Ecumenical Councils


dealing with Christology

The Apollinarian and Nestorian


Heresies and the Council of Chalcedon
After Nicea, the orthodox were concerned to maintain
that Jesus was really divine and that he was really
human.
Asserting this is one thing, but it is quite another to
explain how these two natures could be kept together in
the one person of Jesus.
Attempts to do so led to two opposite tendencies which,
their critics claimed, degenerated into clearly
unacceptable (and therefore, heretical) positions.

Christology in practice
The matter of Christology was not merely some abstract
discussion happening only among the elite theologians of the
Church.
The Cappadocian Father, Gregory of Nyssa, wrote that
debates on the nature of Christ were happening at every turn
in common society in Constantinople.
Both the Alexandrians and the Antiochenes worshipped Jesus
Christ.
Though their metaphysical theories about the object of their
worship were different, there was unity in their practice.

Summary of main points


1. Arius took commonly held presuppositions about God to
what he understood to be their logical conclusions, resulting
in a theological crisis.
2. Nicea defined the relationship of the Son to the Father as
homo-ousios.
3. The polar extremes of Apollinarius and Nestorius regarding
the nature of Christ created the tension in which the
Definition of Chalcedon was held.
4. Despite the politics and division, this period was remarkable
for its unity in practice: Jesus Christ, the God-man, was the
object of worship.