the ecumenical councils n.
Skip this Video
Loading SlideShow in 5 Seconds..
The Ecumenical Councils PowerPoint Presentation
Download Presentation
The Ecumenical Councils

Loading in 2 Seconds...

play fullscreen
1 / 54

The Ecumenical Councils - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

  • Uploaded on

The Ecumenical Councils. “Christianity’s Roman Holiday, Or, How We Stopped Worrying about Being Jewish & Learned to Love the Pagans”. The Ecumenical Councils Nicaea (325) to Chalcedon (451)‏.

I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.
Download Presentation

PowerPoint Slideshow about 'The Ecumenical Councils' - floria

An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Presentation Transcript
the ecumenical councils
The Ecumenical Councils

“Christianity’s Roman Holiday,


How We Stopped Worrying about Being Jewish

& Learned to

Love the Pagans”

the ecumenical councils nicaea 325 to chalcedon 451
The Ecumenical CouncilsNicaea (325) to Chalcedon (451)‏
  • A “Council” is a gathering of all bishops to discuss important question of church teaching and practice.
  • The Councils are the culmination of a move toward unanimity rather than multiplicity of interpretation
  • The early Councils focus on the “being” of Jesus as Christ rather than on his actions (teachings, ministry, or death)‏

They are part and parcel of the changing status of Christianity in the Roman Empire: from illegal to indispensable and from “Jewish” to “Greek”

  • Their language and concepts must be addressed by all Christian theologies that follow

They draw on Greco-Roman philosophical ideas that contradict some and support other key aspects of Jewish thought

  • They establish the fundamental doctrines of:
    • Jesus Christ as fully divine
      • (Nicaea 325)‏
    • Jesus Christ as fully human
      • (Constantinople 381)‏
time line

Canonical Gospels written Ecumenical Councils

(“redacted”) 300's - 400's CE

70-100 CE (1st century) (4th & 5th Centuries)‏

70+ 80’s 90’s 314 318 324 325381 [431] 451

_|__|___|___|150-300ish|___|__|_ |_ |____|_____|____|___

Mark Matthew John [Pre-Nicene | Arius’ | NICAEA CONSTAN- [EPH- CHALCEDON

Luke Controversies] | pamphlet | TINOPLE E SUS] | |

| |


of MILAN Defeats Licinius



Political Aspects of the 4th Century Councils: Part I

setting the stage time and place
Setting the Stage: Time and Place

The Roman Empire – 1st century CE


Question: How did a tinyJewish sect move from being first, ignored, then persecuted, to become the official religion of Rome, brutal ruler of the most powerful empire on earth?

A. Political Backdrop (broad background)

  • 1. Internal political instability
    • (So, you want to be emperor????)‏
  • 2. External threat of foreign invasion
    • (Hordes of Huns)‏

Answer: “It’s complicated.“

Harry Potter to Griphook; Griphook to Harry Potter

“Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows,” film version

  • For the Empire:
    • The desire for stability
    • Unity grounds stability
  • For Christianity:
    • Use as a point of shared unity
    • Push for “uniformity”
    • Constantine: One God, One Emperor, One Church.
b theological philosophical background
B. Theological & Philosophical Background

1. Church traditions already in place:

  • a. Baptizing in the name of F, S & HS
  • b. Praying to Jesus
  • c. Jesus as "Logos" in

Gospel of John

Fresco from catacombs showing Noah in the traditional “orans” or “orante” prayer posture.

Image source:

2 monotheism
2. Monotheism
  • Brought forward into Christianity from its origins in Judaism
    • The SHEMA: "Hear O Israel, the Lord Our God is One."

Image sources: ‘ ;ttp://*7MZeouoVT5Xwurbs7OGn1ltceLCAG5P8nXwwwnkk3jWMfhR1JxFZgGoVeZU0VcUC4EpdjTuZ3/TheShema.JPG

3 greek ideas of divinity and humanity
3. Greek Ideas of Divinity and Humanity
  • a. Greek idea of "being“ = essence
      • The “Platonic Tradition” –

a theory of knowledge (aka, an epistemology)

        • ousia (GK)‏
        • Contrast with: hypostasis (GK),

persona (LT)‏

Wow! We’re all horses!

Hmm..How do we know that?

greek ideas of divinity and humanity cont











Greek Ideas of Divinity and Humanity (cont.)
  • Hierarchy of being
    • Some “essences” are better than others!
greek ideas of divinity and humanity cont1
Greek Ideas of Divinity and Humanity (cont.)
  • Idea of God: Negative Attribution

Human characteristics Divine characteristics

(known) (inferred)‏

  • Mortal _____________
  • Weak _____________
  • Limited in knowledge _____________
  • Located, in only 1 place _____________
  • Multiple , divisible _____________
greek ideas of divinity and humanity cont2
Greek Ideas of Divinity and Humanity (cont.)

Logos: a shared word; different meanings

1) Greek: Divine Mind (Mind of God)‏; Reason

2) Jewish: Pre-existent Wisdom

3) Near Eastern: Heavenly Person

The word “logos,” written in Greek

Image Source:

4 pre nicene controversies
4. Pre-Nicene Controversies

a. Justin Martyr (2nd century)

  • Christ , the Logos, is a bridge between God and humanity (a demiurge)

b. Monarchians (3rd century)‏

  • 1) ModalistMonarchians(e.g., Sabellius)‏
    • (See following slides)
  • 2) Dynamic Monarchians, aka, Adoptionists(e.g., Paul of Samosata)‏
    • (See following slides)
modalist monarchianism version i god the father s pizza pie
ModalistMonarchianismVersion I: God(the)father’s Pizza Pie

Modalist Heresy #1:

The Trinity is like a pizza with 3 equal slices! The 1 God is represented by the 3 members of the Trinity – Each is 1/3 of God. No conflict with monotheism!

God the


God the God the

Son Holy


The Church REJECTS Modalism #1


  • God cannot be divided. God is one.
  • Each member of the Trinity is God-entire, not just a “part” of God.
  • Each member of the Trinity is a separately-existing entity, not part of a larger whole.
  • The logical problem with monotheism remains.
ModalistMonarchianism: aka, Patripassianism or SabellianismVersion II: God Visits the Halloween Adventure Store

Modalist Heresy #2 :

The Trinity is like God with three different Halloween masks. God appears in different masks or modes at different times and places. That is, God has 3 aspects or “faces.” But, God can only wear one mask at a time or be in one mode at a time. No conflict with monotheism.

The Church REJECTS Modalism #2


  • All 3 members of the Trinity co-exist at the same time and eternally.
  • Each member of the Trinity makes God fully present to creation, not just one aspect or mode of God.
  • Suggests that God suffers when Christ suffers on the cross. God cannot suffer.
  • The logical problem with monotheism remains.

God the Father? God the Spirit? God the Son?

dynamic monarchianism aka adoptionism god the adoptive father
Dynamic Monarchianism, aka AdoptionismGod the Adoptive Father

Types of Adoptionism

Version 1: God adopts Jesus

as his “son” at his baptism

because of his exemplary life

Version 2: God adopts Jesus

as his “son” at his birth

In both versions, “sonship does not equal “being divine”. “Logos” is an honorary title.

Image Source:


The Council of Nicaea: Prelude




& Events

Constantine the Great,

c. 274-337


The Road to Nicaea:

  • Constantine and Christianity
  • Credits the “God of Christ” with his military victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge (312)
  • With Licinius, issues the Edict of Milan (Edit of Toleration (313)
  • Defeats Licinius (324)
  • Looks to Christianity as the “glue” to unite his Eastern & Western empire
  • Calls the Council of Nicaea in 325 to stop inter-church fighting and force a decision on the status (“essence”) of Jesus Christ in relation to God the Father

Supplementary: Constantine’s “Conversion”

Eusebius: The Conversion of Constantine

[Eusebius of Caesarea (4th century) was a Christian bishop and author of the Ecclesiastical History, from which this is an excerpt.]

BEING convinced, however, that he needed some more powerful aid than his military forces could afford him, on account of the wicked and magical enchantments which were so diligently practiced by the tyrant, he sought Divine assistance. . . . He considered, therefore, on what God he might rely for protection and assistance.

ACCORDINGLY he called on him with earnest prayer and supplications that he would reveal to him who he was, and stretch forth his right hand to help him in his present difficulties. And while he was thus praying with fervent entreaty, a most marvelous sign appeared to him from heaven,

HE said that about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, CONQUER BY THIS.



Arch of Constantine, c. 315

built in honor of his victory

supplementary the edict of milan 313 ce
Supplementary: The Edict of Milan (313 CE)‏

When I, Constantine Augustus, as well as I, Licinius Augustus fortunately met near Mediolanurn (Milan), and were considering everything that pertained to the public welfare and security, we thought, among other things which we saw would be for the good of many, those regulations pertaining to the reverence of the Divinity ought certainly to be made first, so that we might grant to the Christians and others full authority to observe that religion which each preferred; whence any Divinity whatsoever in the seat of the heavens may be propitious and kindly disposed to us and all who are placed under our rule And thus by this wholesome counsel and most upright provision we thought to arrange that no one whatsoever should be denied the opportunity to give his heart to the observance of the Christian religion, of that religion which he should think best for himself, so that the Supreme Deity, to whose worship we freely yield our hearts) may show in all things His usual favor and benevolence…. we have also conceded to other religions the right of open and free observance of their worship for the sake of the peace of our times…. In all these circumstances you ought to tender your most efficacious intervention to the community of the Christians, that our command may be carried into effect as quickly as possible, whereby, moreover, through our clemency, public order may be secured. Let this be done so that, as we have said above, Divine favor towards us, which, under the most important circumstances we have already experienced, may, for all time, preserve and prosper our successes together with the good of the state.

the council of nicaea 325 ce
The Council of Nicaea – 325 CE

The Church Declares the Divinity

of Jesus

The Council of Nicaea

a short timeline
A Short Timeline …

…and Locations

Map inset

the road to nicaea the big theological question
The Road to Nicaea: The BIG Theological Question
  • If we want to know who Jesus, the Christ, is….
  • If we want to know what it means to says that he is the Logos, the Word of God, the Son of God is….
  • We have to know his “essence”!
  • Therefore, the theological question of the Council of Nicaea is:
  • “What is the essence of Jesus Christ, the Logos, Son of God?”
    • Does he have A DIVINE essence?
    • Does he have A HUMAN essence?

The Council of Nicaea (325):

Key Players And Their Points

  • ARIUS (the loser)
  • Starting point: monotheism
  • "There was when he was not."
      • There is only one God: God, the Father
      • Thus, the Son (the Logos) cannot be God
      • The Son (the Logos) is created perfect,
  • but not divine.
      • Son does not have same essence as the Father.
        • Not homo (Grk: same) + ousios(essence)
      • How Jesus saves us:
  • he teaches us the path to God.

Christ is

NOT Homo-ousios

with God the Father

(Not same essence;

NOT Fully Divine)



The Council of Nicaea (325): Key Players And Their Points:


Concern: RATIONAL monotheism:

  • God cannot be divided.
    • This God = God theFather.
    • Thus, Son = Logos = a creature (perfect).
  • Created from nothing before time by the Father:
    • "There was when he was not."
  • Subject to physical and moral change.
    • Draws on Scriptures such as Prov. 8:22, Acts 2:36, Romans 8:29, and Colossians 1:15.
  • Son does not have same ousia(essence) as Father.
    • Titles given to Jesus are courtesy titles.
    • NOT homoousios.
  • How Jesus saves us: teaches us the way to get to God.

The Council of Nicaea (325):

Key Players And Their Points

  • ATHANASIUS, Alexander & Friends (winners)
  • Starting Point: human salvation
  • If Jesus is not God, then we are not saved.
    • Athanasian syllogism (if “a” and “b,” then “c”):
      • a. Only God can save us
      • b. Christ (the Logos) is the Savior
      • c. Therefore, Christ , the Logos, is divine
      • Son and Father are of the same essence
      • Homo (Grk: same) + ousios(essence)
      • How Jesus saves us:
    • he reconnects humanity to God

Christ IS


with God the Father

(Same essence

= Fully Divine)



The Council of Nicaea (325): Key Players And Their Points:


Concern: REDEMPTIVE monotheism

  • If Jesus is not God, then we are not saved.
  • Christianity is a monotheistic faith:
    • Accuses Arius of polytheism: Jesus the Logos a demiurge (demigod)‏
    • Says Arius undermining the Christian doctrine of God by saying Father, Son and Holy Spirit aren't eternal
    • Says Arius undermining Christian liturgical custom: baptism and prayer in Jesus' name.
        • Son and Father ARE of the same ousia (essense)--ARE homoousios
        • How Jesus saves us: by reconnecting us to God, Godself.
  • Arius condemned.
  • Language of homoousios adopted.
  • The Nicene Creed begins its development, based on an earlier creed, and adding anti-Arian language.
from nicaea to constantinople
From Nicaea to Constantinople
  • Review: At Nicaea (325 CE):
    • Jesus Christ, the Logos, is declared to be fully divine (homoousios with God the Father)
  • Roman emperor is now Theodosius I

(who makes Christianity the “official”

religion of the empire)

  • After Nicaea, 2 new questions for the bishops:
    • Is the divine Christ also fully human? How can a being have two identities?
    • Review: Is the Holy Spirit also fully divine?
      • (See Doctrine of God slides)

Emperor Theodosius I


the council of constantinople 381
The Council of Constantinople (381)

The Humanity of Christ

(also featuring, The Doctrine of the Trinity!)

Detail from “The Supper at Emmaus” by Rembrandt van Rijn (1648)


All participants in the Council of Constantinople agree that the decision made about Christ’s fully divinity is CORRECT!


The Council of Constantinople (381)

Part I: The Trinity

  • Declaration on the Holy Spirit:
    • The Holy Spirit is also of the same essence as God the Father and Christ the Son: fully divine




Father, Son, & Holy Spirit

Co-equal and Co-existing

Q: But what about MONOTHEISM? Doesn’t Christianity have 3 Gods now, instead of 1 ?

A: No, see the Council of Nicaea!

the council of constantinople 381 part ii
TheCouncil of Constantinople (381) PART II


  • Apollinarus: Jesus’ body is human; but the “divine Logos” (the Word of God) takes the place of his human mind. Thus, he is one person with only one essence (one nature) – a fully divine one.
  • Gregory of Nazianzus (representing the Cappadocian Fathers): “What is not assumed (taken on) is not redeemed.” In order for us to be fully saved, Jesus as Christ must assume (take on) our whole humanity, not just part of it. By doing so, all of our humanness (body, mind and soul)– which has been separated from the divine – is reunited with God in one

person with two essences (two natures):

fully human and fully divine.

Gregory of Nazianzus at Constantinople


Jesus Christ’s full humanity is affirmed.

Nicaea + Constantinople =

The Christological Formula:

“Jesus Christ is one person with two natures

(2 essences, 2 ousia, 2 natures):

full divinity & full humanity.”

Christological Results of Constantinople:

1. Nicaea re-affirmed: Christ is fully divine.

2. New affirmation: Christ is ALSO fully human.


what does the christological formula do
What does the Christological Formula do?
  • Names the status of the Christ in relationship to God and to human beings
  • Identifies Jesus as the definition both of what God is like and what human beings can become like (Karl Rahner, SJ)
  • Claims that God experiences human joys and sufferings with us
  • Affirms that the path to the divine is through our own humanity and the human relationships around us

The First Four Ecumenical Councils:

The Limits of Appropriate Speech

Jesus Christ is fully divine

  • Homoousios (of one essence) with God the Father (Nicaea 325)

Jesus Christ is fully human

  • In all things like us (but without sin) (Constantinople 381)

God is a Trinity:

  • One God (monotheism) = one divine essence, undivided, in Three distinct Beings: Father, Son, Holy Spirit (Constantinople 381)

Mary is the Mother of God:

  • Theotokos-- God-bearer (Ephesus 431)

The Final Formulae: from Greek to Latin

  • Jesus Christ is two natures in one person.
  • God is one nature in three persons.

(Chalcedon 451)

Constantinian Church at Trier

the language of christology in the west from greek to latin
The Language of Christology in the West: From Greek to Latin

Latin Terms

  • natura, substantia
  • persona


  • essence, nature
  • entity, person, being
  • same substance
  • like substance
  • Mother of God (God bearer)

Greek Terms

  • ousia
  • hypostasis, prosopon
  • homoousios
  • homoiousios-rejected)
  • Theotokos

The Language of Mystery

The Council of Chalcedon (451):

Mystery is that which we cannot

understand, but accept on faith.

Karl Rahner, S.J. (20th-c.):

Mystery is not that which we cannot

understand, but that which

we cannot exhaust.

all slides from this point are supplementary
  • The declaration of the doctrine of the Trinity (God is 3 in 1, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 3 co-equal persons with the same (divine) nature) is the other major Christological issues that emerges from the Council of Constantinople.
  • The slides that follow are from my THE 154 class’ study of the Trinity. You may find them interesting and useful.
father son holy spirit creator redeemer sanctifying spirit
Father = Son = Holy SpiritCreator = Redeemer = Sanctifying Spirit

God as Trinity:

A Singular Christian Claim


A Wee Bit of History

Canonical Gospels written Ecumenical Councils

70-100 CE 300's - 400's CE

(1st century) (4th & 5th Centuries)‏

70+ 80’s 90’s 150-300ish 324 325381451


Mark Matthew John [Pre-Nicene Constantine Council of Council of Council of


Divinity Doctrine of the

of Jesus X TRINITY

declared formulated


Some Historical Background

  • Jewish traditions of the Spirit, Wind, Breath of God: Ruach,
  • The NT witness to the experience of Jesus’ early followers
    • Early church experience – Jesus as revelation of God
    • Baptism in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit
    • Jesus promise of the Paraclete (the Comforter)
    • The presence of Christ after his ascension
    • God’s spirit alive and always new in the world
  • The Council of Nicaea (325)
    • Jesus is “divine,” of the same “divine” essence as God the Father
  • The Holy Spirit
    • The next logical question: what is the relation of the Holy Spirit to God the Father and Jesus the Christ?
the church s theo logical claim
The Church’s Theo-Logical Claim
  • The doctrine of the Trinity (God is 1 essence in 3 persons):
    • is not arithmetically logical (1 + 1+ 1 = 3), but…
    • is logical in a different kind of way:
      • It is theo-logical. That is, in order for early orthodox Christians to express their experience of Jesus and his importance for their lives, they find it necessary to understand him as God-truly-with-them in the world. The same goes for the Holy Spirit as the presence of God within and around them in all times and places.
  • Its monotheism is:
    • not about there being 3 members of the Trinity…
    • but about each member of the Trinity: (Creator, Redeemer, Spirit) fully expressing the one essence of God’s infinite love multiplied throughout creation (1 x 1 x 1 = 1)
two aspects of trinitarian relationship
Two Aspects of Trinitarian Relationship
  • The Economic Trinity – the members of the Trinity in relationship to the world
  • The Immanent Trinity – the members of the Trinity in relationship to one another
god and christ as male and female julian of norwich 1342 1423 english benedictine mystic

Implications for Justice I

God and Christ as male and femaleJulian of Norwich(1342-1423)English Benedictine mystic

The Trinity as moving beyond only male images

to embrace new images of God

  • God as Mother and Father
  • The nature of God is goodness
  • Jesus as our Brother and Savior
  • Jesus as our true Mother
  • We as children of God and Jesus
implications for justice i cont
Implications for Justice I (cont.)

The Trinity as moving beyond only male images

to embrace new images of God

Contemporary Feminist Philosophers & Theologians:

Mary Daly, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ

  • God as Creator, Teacher, Mother, Artist, Friend
  • God as Redeemer, Child, Teacher, Guide, Model
  • God as Spirit, Comforter, Sanctifier, Presence, Newness

Meinrad Craighead, “God, the Mother”

implications for justice ii
Implications for Justice II

Catherine MowryLaCugna:

The Trinity as a model of hospitality and openness

  • Abraham and Sarah visited by Yahweh

and two angels in disguise. (Gen. 18:1-15)

  • Rublev’s icon of the Trinity based on

the Abraham and Sarah story

  • God may be among us as a stranger
  • God is among us in community
  • God is revealed “in the breaking of

bread” with others. (Luke 24:13-35)

Icon: Andrei Rublev, early 15c, Russia. Three angels at Eucharistic table, inspired by Genesis 18:1-15.

implications for justice iii
Implications for Justice III

Leonardo Boff:

The Trinity as a model of equality and

inclusivity for human relations

  • All persons should be treated as

of equal value: the poor & oppressed

have the right to life’s basic needs:

food, shelter, safety, meaningful work

  • All persons should have the power

of participation: the voices of the poor

and the oppressed must be listened to

and heard

source notes for trinity slides
Source Notes for Trinity Slides
  • Background image for all Trinity slides:
  • The mathematical formula: 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 as an analogy for the Trinity was suggested to me by one of my former students.
  • Slide “Implications for Justice I “(cont): Image,
  • Slide “Implications for Justice III”: