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Dirty Politics And The Doctrine Of The Trinity

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http://www.realchrist.info/4-5.html

 

4-5 Dirty Politics And The Doctrine Of The Trinity

 

A review of the "Letters concerning the Decrees of the Council of Nicaea", published in English translation in the Collection Of Nicene And Post-Nicene Fathers, reveals that Athanasius kept insisting that the church had the right to definitively interpret Scripture, and it was their authority to interpret it as they wished, and therefore no great weight should be placed on the fact that at times their conclusions and dogmas weren't supported by the Bible text. Letter 5.20,21 reads: "The bishops... were compelled to collect the sense of the Scriptures... the expressions [of the proposed doctrine of the Trinity] are not in so many words in the Scriptures". It was not a question of those men being 'compelled' at all- they ought to have been faithful to the Biblical text, rather than demanding that others accept their "sense" on pain of being called non-Christian and cast out of the church. It is this attitude to the Bible itself which ultimately determines whether we accept or reject the Trinity.

 

The argument between Arius (non-trinitarian) and Athanasius (trinitarian) was more political than it was theological or Biblical. There was a power struggle between the two men. Once Christianity became the state religion of the Roman empire, power within the church became political power. These two Christian leaders both had significant followings; and they both wanted power. The followers of the two groups fought pitched battles with each other in the urban centres of the empire. There are numerous accounts of Athanasius’ followers beating and murdering non-trinitarian Christians in the lead-up to the Council of Nicea, torturing their victims and parading their dead bodies around (1). The trinitarian Athanasius was by far the more brutal. “Bishop Athanasius, a future saint… had his opponents excommunicated and anathematized, beaten and intimidated, kidnapped, imprisoned, and exiled to distant provinces” (2). As in any power struggle, the opponents of both sides became vilified and demonized; the issue of how to formulate a creed about the nature of Jesus became a matter of polemics and politics, with the non-trinitarians being described in the most vitriolic of language. Non-trinitarians were accused of “rending the robe of Christ”, crucifying Him afresh, and far worse. Sadly this spirit of vilification of those who hold another view has continued to this day, with many trinitarians refusing to accept any non-trinitarian as a Christian. Arius complained in a letter that “We are persecuted because we say that the Son had a beginning, but that God was without beginning” (3). At the Council of Nicea, Bishop Nicholas- who later became the legendary saint of Christmas in much of Europe- slapped Arius around the face (4). It would be wrong to think of the dispute as a matter of learned men of God disagreeing with each other over a matter of Biblical interpretation. Athanasius, who had the ear of Constantine more than Arius, was out for victory. He therefore emotionalized the issue and used every manner of politics and destruction of his opponents in order to get Constantine to come down on his side, exile Arius for heresy, and therefore leave him as the senior churchman of the Roman empire- which meant major political power, in an empire which had newly adopted Christianity and sought to enforce it as the empire’s religion. It's highly significant that the draft 'creed' relating to the Godhead was initially acceptable to Arius; but because Alexander and his side simply wanted Arius 'out', they made the language more extreme; so that reconciliation wouldn't be achieved. And so they added the clause that Jesus was homoousios, of the same substance, with the Father- knowing Arius would have to reject this (5). Again, this was no outcome of sober, sincere Bible study. It was pure politics.

 

Often I hear the comment ‘Well this matter was all looked into long ago, and wise Christians weighed it up and came to a prayerful conclusion, which tradition Christians rightly follow and uphold’. The history of the matter is quite different, and those who make such statements are sadly ignorant. Athanasius compounded his physical attacks on Arius’ supporters, his burning of their churches etc, with a series of personal slanders against the leading non-trinitarians, calling them seducers, rapists, frequenters of prostitutes, etc (6). If the argument was really just about the interpretation of Scripture, there needn’t have been all this personal attacking and politicking and rioting. Clearly, the issue of accepting the trinity was all about power politics. In any case, we simply cannot allow our personal faith and understanding of God and His Son to be dictated and defined by a church council of many centuries ago. Reviewing the history of the Christian church hardly gives much reason to trust its "councils" to come up with Godly, Biblical decisions. Just think back through the burning of heretics and suspected witches, torture to the death of non-trinitarians such as Michael Servetus by Luther, anti-semitism, the crusades, the Inquisition, church support for Fascism, for war and violence, for making black people stay out of white churches in the USA and South Africa... high level "Christian" decision making has a pathetic record. We really have no reason at all to allow "church councils" to define our view of the Lord, Saviour and Master with whom we are to have an intensely personal relationship mediated by His word. I cannot rest my faith on the shoulders of men; true faith cannot be a secondhand faith. It must trace its origins directly back to the Lord Jesus and His word, rather than back to some cranky guys playing church politics in the fourth century.

 

Constantine was a politician, not a Bible student. "Constantine's goal was to create a neutral public space in which Christians and pagans could both function... creating a stable coalition of both Christians and non-Christians" in the Roman empire (7). He also realized that Christianity itself had to be united if it were to be the state religion, and so he wanted there to be only one view on this contentious issue of who Jesus was. It was intolerable for him that Christians were rioting against each other over it. The matter had to be resolved. One side had to be chosen as right, and the other side must be silenced. He came down on the side of Athanasius for political reasons- adopted the trinitarian creed for the church, and exiled Arius. And so, Jesus ‘became’ God because of that. In the same spirit of wanting a united church at all costs, Constantine agreed at Nicea to a whole range of other measures which were likewise not Biblical- e.g. that anyone excommunicated by a Bishop in one province could never be accepted in another province, and the appointment of “superbishops” in Alexandria, Rome and Antioch who would decide all contentious issues in future. Personal conscience and understanding didn’t matter; all Constantine wanted was a united church, as he believed it would result in a united empire. One empire, one religion- and therefore, that religion had to be united, and dissent had to quashed. Someone had to be made out as totally right, and someone as totally wrong. Sadly one sees today the very same mentality in so many churches and local congregations. It’s all about power. The mess made in early Christianity remains our sober warning in these last days.

 

Constantine's Legacy

 

Constantine's integrity is for me self-questioned by his claim to be "the thirteenth apostle". Such a person can hardly be taken as a founding father of the true church. And add to this his murder of his rivals, boiling his wife to death in her bath and murdering one of his sons. Paul Johnson documents all this, and in the context of the trinity [and other] political agreements, comments: "His abilities had always lain in management... he was a master of the smoothly-worded compromise" (8). Indeed, Constantine wrote to both Arius and Alexander that he considered the theological issues themselves to be of no importance: "Having inquired carefully into the origin and foundation of these differences, I find their cause to be of a truly insignificant nature, quite unworthy of such bitter contention" (9). It really was all just dirty politics- for soon after writing this, non-trinitarians were cast out of the church as infidels and heretics, over an issue which Constantine considered "insignificant". It wasn't many centuries later that the Crusaders raped and pillaged both Moslem and Jewish cities, in the name of the Trinity and justified by the idea that those who didn't accept it, and were monotheists, should be put to the sword. John Calvin, in this spirit, ordered the destruction of Michael Servetus, because he too came to deny the Trinity. For this, he "deserved to have his bowels ripped out and to be torn in pieces" (10). So much for Calvin as a father of the so-called reformation. Nothing very fundamental was reformed. And Michael Servetus was taken to his execution in a dung cart, and burned alive with his anti-trinitarian writings, and the flames were fed with every known copy of his book Christianismi Restutio- a book which called for the restoration of Christianity to its non-trinitarian original form. The downright nastiness of many Trinitarians to non-Trinitarians today, branding them as cults etc., is a continuation of this spirit.

 

Theodosius And AD381

 

The Nicaea decree of AD325 was set even further in stone by the decree of Constantinople, issued by the emperor Theodosius in AD381. This edict condemned all other Christian beliefs as heresy, punishable by both the Roman state and also, so he claimed, by God's condemnation. The historian Charles Freeman argues at length that this edict brought about what he calls "the closing of the western mind" (11). All Bible study, theology etc. was now done within the tramlines of the Trinitarian dogma; fear of being accused heretical permeated Christianity. The state controlled the church, and thus the Roman empire became as much a 'one church' state as it did a one party state. Secular law upheld church law. Loyalty to the empire thus became the same thing as loyalty to the church. Once the empire pronounced God as being a Trinity- anything else was seen as subversive and dangerous. And so "'Having faith' could be defined as the virtue of believing what the church believed, and 'the sin of pride' as thinking for oneself" (12). The 'orthodox', Trinitarian bishops were empowered to confiscate the churches and property of heretics, and punish and slay them as required. The libraries and writings of 'heretics' were destroyed. The tradition of intellectual free thought and debate that Rome had inherited from Greece dried up; even Christian art became influenced and limited by the Trinity, triple tiaras started appearing everywhere... and the slide into the dark ages was perhaps hastened by this clampdown on Christian thought. The divisive and condemnatory language used by Theodosius and his supporters in condemnation of non-Trinitarian Christians bears quoting at length: "We shall believe in... the Holy Trinity. We command that persons who follow this rule shall embrace the name of catholic Christians. The rest, however, whom we judge demented and insane, shall carry the infamy of heretical dogmas. Their meeting places shall not receive the name of churches, and they shall be smitten first by Divine vengeance, and secondly by the retribution of hostility which we shall assume in accordance with the Divine judgment... [Arians] are wolves harrying the flocks, daring to hold rival assemblies, stirring sedition among the people and shrinking from nothing which can do damage to the churches" (13). This kind of vitriolic recalls the way the Trinitarian Athanasius spoke of non-Trinitarian Christians like Arius: "In every respect his heart is depraved and irreligious... utterly bereft of understanding, heretics show no shame... they are hostile and hateful to God" (14). And so the art of heresy hunting by Christians against other Christians began in earnest. There was no category in Roman law to condemn wrong belief; there were only articles against sorcery. Understanding the Lord Jesus in a non-Trinitarian way was therefore elevated to a seriously criminal offence. Burning alive was the traditional Roman punishment for counterfeiting coins- and this was applied to those who 'counterfeited Christ' by rejecting the Trinity. There arose, therefore, a fear of asking too many questions- as the Bishop of Melitene observed: "We uphold the Nicene creed but avoid difficult questions... Clever theologians soon become heretics" (15). Yet asking questions is a basic tool in the search for Truth, for God, in exploring His word for ourselves. Yet to simply be, in all spiritual, Bible-believing honesty, a non-Trinitarian was painted as an awful sin... and in some quarters, Trinitarian Christianity has the same aggressive, intolerant spirit to this day, associated with a total closedown of thought and intellectual integrity when it comes to the issue of the Trinity.

 

Why did Theodosius act like this? Why did he begin this process of persecuting anyone who didn't accept the Trinity? It wasn't the outcome of Biblical study, but rather political fears and ambitions. The Roman empire was breaking up, and he urgently wanted to unite the empire through enforcing unity of belief. Further, it had been pointed out that the Gospels present Jesus as a rebel against the Roman empire, a man who claimed to be King in contradistinction to Caesar. The response of Theodosius was therefore to insist that Jesus was God, and His human side was to be downplayed. One recalls the way that the Nazis, in a desperate attempt to get the German church onside with them, likewise ordered the Divine side of Jesus to be emphasized and His humanity as a Jew to be diminished. For one could hardly expect a Christian church to support the extermination of Jewry if the Christ of Christianity were to be title-roled as a Jew. Further, the empire of Theodosius was under attack from the Goths, who had been converted to an earlier, non-Trinitarian form of Christianity. Rather than justify a war of Christians against fellow Christians, it was expedient for Theodosius to slate the Goths as apostate Christians, deserving of Rome's brutality to suppress them.

 

Notes

 

(1) See Richard Hanson, The Search For The Christian Doctrine Of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1988) p. 386.

(2) Richard Rubenstein, When Jesus Became God (London: Harcourt, 2000) p. 6.

(3) Quoted in Rubenstein, ibid p. 58.

(4) Mentioned in Rubenstein, ibid p. 77.

(5) As documented in Charles Freeman, AD381: Heretics, Pagans And The Christian State (London: Pimlico, 2008) p. 54.

(6) These things are chronicled extensively in T.D. Barnes, Constantine And Eusebius (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981) pp. 18-27 and throughout T.D. Barnes, Athanasius And Constantius: Theology And Politics In The Constantinian Empire (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993).

(7) H.A. Drake, Constantine And Consensus (Oxford: O.U.P., 1995). The same author concludes that Constantine realized that Christianity was unstoppable, and therefore it was better to merge with it than seek to destroy it. See his Constantine And The Bishops: The Politics Of Intolerance (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 2000).

(8) Paul Johnson, A History Of Christianity (New York: Atheneum, 1976) pp. 67,68.

(9) Quoted in Ian Wilson, Jesus: The Evidence (London: Harper & Row, 1984) p. 165.

(10) As quoted in A. Buzzard and C. Hunting, The Doctrine Of The Trinity (Oxford: International Scholars Press, 1998) p. 155. For more on Calvin's persecution of Servetus, see Marian Hillar, The Case of Michael Servetus (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997).

(11) Charles Freeman, The Closing Of The Western Mind (London: Heinemann, 2002) and also AD381: Heretics, Pagans And The Christian State (London: Pimlico, 2008).

(12) Charles Freeman, The Closing Of The Western Mind (London: Heinemann, 2002) p. 341.

(13) As quoted in Charles Freeman, AD381: Heretics, Pagans And The Christian State (London: Pimlico, 2008) pp. 25,101. There are many similar quotations on record- see Richard Hanson, The Search For The Christian Doctrine Of God (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1988) p. 828.

(14) Quoted in Freeman, op cit. p. 70.

(15) As quoted in Henry Chadwick, The Church In Ancient Society (Oxford: O.U.P., 2001) p. 591.

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Yikes!

 

I always suspected the Nicene Creed wasn't formed in a nice tearful bible study meeting, but I had no idea it was that ugly. Great article, thanks for posting.

 

This was my favourite part:

the Bishop of Melitene observed: "We uphold the Nicene creed but avoid difficult questions... Clever theologians soon become heretics"

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This article was a very interesting peek into the tactics of spiritual thugs.

 

...Often I hear the comment ‘Well this matter was all looked into long ago, and wise Christians weighed it up and came to a prayerful conclusion, which tradition Christians rightly follow and uphold’. The history of the matter is quite different, and those who make such statements are sadly ignorant.

 

Yes, this mantra is has been repeated so many times, and even recently on this forum it surfaced again.

The official line goes something like this:

The Bible represents sound theology because the Church carefully poured over all the manuscripts, researched and investigated everything, and interviewed eyewitnesses to the eyewitnesses.

They sought only accurate truth and history.

Things like vanity, power, and authoritarian ambitions had nothing to do with the establishment of the Trinity, the canon of the Bible, or any other dogmatic Christian teaching.

The traditions are fully trustworthy, and the majority of scholars agree it's sound theology as well as convincing history.

Christianity has more solid evidence behind its doctrines and history than any other religion.

Blah, blah, blah, the propaganda talking points just go on and on.

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The argument between Arius (non-trinitarian) and Athanasius (trinitarian) was more political than it was theological or Biblical. Once Christianity became the state religion of the Roman empire, power within the church became political power. These two Christian leaders both had significant followings; and they both wanted power. Athanasius, who had the ear of Constantine more than Arius. He therefore emotionalized the issue and used every manner of politics and destruction of his opponents in order to get Constantine to come down on his side, exile Arius for heresy, and therefore leave him as the senior churchman of the Roman empire- which meant major political power."

 

Gee, let's look to see what other scholars have written about this issue. I quote from Dr. Justio Gonza'lez (M.Div & PhD from Yale in Historical Theology, former prof of Church History at Emory) and Dr. Bruce Shelley (M.Div Fuller Theological Seminary; PhD from Univ of Iowa - Church History Sr. prof @ Denver Seminary). Since this post is a bit lengthy, I will write 2 posts.

 

Athanasius was a man so dark and short that his enemies called him 'the black dwarf.' Born along the Nile, he spoke Coptic - therefore he was from the lower classes in Egypt. He had close contact with the monks of the desert, and Jerome affrims that he once gave a cloak to Athanasius. From the monks, Athanasius learned a rigid discipline and an austerity that earned him admiration and respect. He was the most feared opponent of Arianism, as his monastic discipline, his roots among the people, his fiery spirit, and his proud and unshakable convistion made him invincible. He had written Against the Gentiles & On the Incarnation of the Word. These works displayed his theology, no Clement or Origen were found there. For Athansius the central fact and heart of Christianity was the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. As such, we are now free to be what God intends - beings capable of living in communion with the divine.

 

Arius, an influential pastor, came into open conflict with his bishop, Alexander, around 318AD - asserting the Word (Logos) who assumed flesh in Jesus Christ was not true God, He was a lesser Being, the first created Being, saying, 'The Son had a beginning, but God is without beginning.' Such teaching was appealing to Gnostics, who taught there is one supreme God, who dwells alone; and then a number of lesser beings who do God's work and pass back & forth between Earth & Heaven. Arius' views were all the more popular because he combined an eloquent preaching style

with a flair for public relations, he put indeas into jingles people could sing. But Alexander called a synod in Alexandria in 320AD and the assembled churchmen condemned and excommunicated Arius for heresy. Arius turned to his friend, Eusebius - Bishop of Nicomedia (the political capital), and won his backing. Arius returned to Alexandria and riots erupted in the streets.

 

Athanasius saw Arianism as a grave threat to Christianity, and it was unacceptable to him and the desrt monks who loved the God Incarnate. The very core of the Christian message was at stake.

 

Eusebius of Nicomedia and other Arians knew Athansius was a formidable enemy so they began to circulate rumors that he dabbled in magic and that he was a tyrant over his church. Constantine ordered him to appear before a synod in Tyre. The Arians also accused him of killing Arsenius, the bishop of a rival group, and cut off his hands to perform magic with them. Athanasius went to Tyre with a cloaked man - after making sure that several present knew Arsenius - he uncoverd the cloak from the face of Arsenius. Then some cried out, 'Show us his hands!' - he showed one, then they cried, 'It was the other hand!' And he showed the other - at which point Athansius joked that maybe Arsenius was a three-handed monster - laughter broke out, and those who had been deceived by the Arians became enraged that the Arians had fooled them.

 

Athanasius decided to go to Constantinople to present his case. Eusebius of Nicomedia had great influence in the court and Athansius found ot impossible to get a hearing. ONe day, the black dwarf stepped in front of Constantine's horse, grabbed the bridle, and would not let go until he was granted an audience - this convinced Constantine that Athansius was a dangerous and impulsive fanatic.

 

This is the end of the frst post - I appreciate your patience.

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The argument between Arius (non-trinitarian) and Athanasius (trinitarian) was more political than it was theological or Biblical. Once Christianity became the state religion of the Roman empire, power within the church became political power... they added the clause that Jesus was homoousios, of the same substance, with the Father- knowing Arius would have to reject this. Again, this was no outcome of sober, sincere Bible study. It was pure politics."

 

Constantine was a politician, and as emperor of Rome he was hoping that Christianity would be ‘the cement of the empire.’ He called for a council in 325AD to resolve this divisive issue, inviting about 300 churchmen – many of whom had fresh wounds from the persecution by civil gov’t. But now they assembled together – with expenses paid by the emperor. Constantine sat in the council with jewel-crusted, multicolored brocades; he instructed the churchmen to reach an agreement, then left the resolution in their hands.

 

Since Arius wasn’t a bishop, Eusebius of Nicomedia presented Arian views clearly. The Son of God was a created being, there was a time when he had no existence, he was capable of change – even alternating between good & evil. The assembly denounced this angrily as Blasphemy! You lie! Heresy! The Trinitarians were led by Alexander of Alexandria, and a deacon – Athanasius. Each party had favorite proof-texts and logical arguments – and Arius was proven wrong. Eusebius of Caeserea, a learned bishop and friend of the emperor (and a half-hearted supporter of Arius) put forward his own creed. But most of the pastors recognized something more was needed to exclude this heresy. They inserted the words, ‘True God of True God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father.’ The word homoousia, one substance, was probably introduced by Bishop Hosius of Cordova (Spain), who had great influence with Constantine, and he in turn demanded its adoption. And from there emerged the Nicene Creed. All but Eusebius of Nicomedia, Arius, and another bishop signed the creed, and they were exiled.

 

There was a banquet of celebration – with the emperor and bishops sitting together. But after Nicea, Constantine and his successors stepped in again by banishing and returning from banishment various clergy – depending on the emperor’s favor. Athanasius, at age 33, became bishop of Alexandria. But for the next 50 years, no one could predict who would win this doctrinal struggle. Athanasius was banished 5 times.

 

Eusuebius of Nicodemia was a distant relative of the emperor – and he was allowed to return, and he again presented Arianism to Constantine – who decided he’d been to harsh on the Arians. Alexander dies in 328AD – and Athanasius became bishop in Alexandria. But the Arians told Constantine that Athanasius had said he could stop wheat shipments from Egypt to Rome – so he was banished.

 

After Constantine died, all bishops were returned. But the Arians claimed that Athanasius was not the legit bishop – but his rival claimant Gregory had gov’t support. Athanasius wouldn’t give up his church buildings – so Gregory decided to take them by force. Athanasius decided to avoid further conflict and left, he was smuggled to Rome. In Rome, both Arians and Nicenes sought support from Julius, Bishop of Rome. Athanasius presented the Trinitarian position, and Roman clergy agreed (Nicene was in agreement with what Tertullian taught). They declared Athanasius was the legit bishop of Alexandria.

 

I will need one more installment - I'm trying not to exceed the per post limit. Sorry.

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The argument between Arius (non-trinitarian) and Athanasius (trinitarian) was more political than it was theological or Biblical. Once Christianity became the state religion of the Roman empire, power within the church became political power. It would be wrong to think of the dispute as a matter of learned men of God disagreeing with each other over a matter of Biblical interpretation. Athanasius, who had the ear of Constantine more than Arius, was out for victory. He therefore emotionalized the issue and used every manner of politics and destruction of his opponents in order to get Constantine to come down on his side, exile Arius for heresy, and therefore leave him as the senior churchman of the Roman empire- which meant major political power. It was pure politics."

 

When Constans became emperor of the West, he asked Constantius, emperor of the East, to return Athanasius. The mismanagement of Gregory in Alexandria had been such that the people received Athanasius as a hero – many desert monks joined the celebration. There was peace for 10 years.

 

But Constantius was a convinced Arian, and he endured Athanasius as long as Constans lived. In 353AD, Constantius unleashed his pro-Arian policy, and Jerome said, ’the entire world awoke from slumber and discovered it had become Arian.’ Nicene leaders had to leave their cities. Many bishops accepted Arianism and signed letters condemning Athanasius under threats and use of force.

 

When Athanasius was celebrating communion, the governor ordered the building to be surrounded and burst into the room with armed soldiers. Athanasius instructed his congregation to sing Psalm 136 – ‘for His mercy endureth forever.’ The clergy formed a tight circle around Athanasius and carried him to safety. He took refuge among the desert monks for 5 years. The Nicene cause suffered setbacks, several synods declared themselves Arian – and Hosius of Cordova and Liberius of Rome were forced to sign Arian confessions. Though many bishops and church leaders saw Arianism as unacceptable – it was difficult to oppose. A council was convened in Sirmium, which openly rejected Nicea. This is now known as ‘The Blasphemy of Sirmium.’

 

Between 325 – 381, the Cappadocian Fathers, Gregory of Nazarius, Gregory of Nyssa, and Basil the Great, led this debate. They understood; God is one Divine Being with three carriers, one Godhead in three persons – three personal disclosures of God that correspond to what he is really like. Athanasius came to see that some opponents were concerned that homoousia would lead to a lack of distinction between the Father and the Son. In 362AD, he called a synod that declared is was acceptable to say the Father, Son & Holy Spirit were ‘one substance’ so long as their distinctions were not obliterated. And it was acceptable to say three substances, so long as three gods were not taught. And eventually, the Second Ecumenical Council, gathered in Constantinople in 381AD and ratified the Nicea doctrine.

 

And prior, a group of semi-Arians had suggested the Son was homoiousia, of similar substance, with the Father. But Athanasius insisted on homoousia, same substance. If the Arians or semi-Arians had succeeded, it would have degenerated Christianity into paganism – with 2 gods and a Jesus that was neither God nor Man. And with a God totally unapproachable and removed from man. Arianism was consistent with Gnosticism – which had one supreme aloof God with many lesser beings who serve god and go back & forth from Earth & Heaven.

 

Conclusion: Theological debate is a rough & tumble world – not for the faint-hearted. Because extremely weighty matters are in the balance and passions run high. But to think that politics was the determining factor to establish Trinitarian doctrine – that does not match history. Politics became involved – but God overrules in the affairs of men to accomplish His purposes.

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God overrules in the affairs of men to accomplish His purposes.

 

Yes, even through letting his followers murder and torture each other over a polytheistic doctrine found nowhere in the bible. Hallelujah!

 

 

churchlady.jpg

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Constantine's integrity is for me self-questioned by his claim to be "the thirteenth apostle". Such a person can hardly be taken as a founding father of the true church. And add to this his murder of his rivals, boiling his wife to death in her bath and murdering one of his sons.

Constantine was keeping in line with his predecessor, Saint Paul, who was a serial killer vs Christians. Paul made himself an apostle and even to this day we find others claiming to be an apostle of Jesus or an apostle of the end times.

 

The doctrine of the trinity and the doctrine of Jesus as God, and other doctrines, including the Logos, are derived from ancient Greek writings of the philosopher Heraclitus. His works were well-known several hundred years before Jesus. The writer of the Book of John, in the NT, takes great liberties to interpret Heraclitus work as the description of Jesus as the creator of the world. This adopted pagan teachings concerning Zeus also influenced the churches doctrine of the Trinity. The writer of John was a pagan convert, and some claim was in reality Mary Magdalene. The Trinity, books of the Bible, and the personification and incarnation of Iesus were only a few of the topics the Council of Nicea argued over.

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but God overrules in the affairs of men to accomplish His purposes.

 

:lmao:

 

And how is that working out? Y'all are finally in agreement as to what the Bible says? The Holy Ghost has taught you all the same things? The contradictions and mistakes have been resolved?

 

What could 'His Purpose' possibly be if it isn't to confuse and befuddle this miserable creation of His?

 

Face it. If there were a god who wrote a book to educate his creations, that book would make a little more sense than the Bible does, and everyone who believes in it would see the same message. If a 'Holy Ghost' was schooling the believers, they wouldn't get unclear and contradictory information from him.

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The doctrine of the trinity and the doctrine of Jesus as God, and other doctrines, including the Logos, are derived from ancient Greek writings of the philosopher Heraclitus."

 

Surely, you jest!! Heraclitus was in no way a progenitor of Christian theology. See the following quotes and analysis of Heraclitus:

Heraclitus expresses the principles of his cosmology in a single sentence:

'This world-order, the same of all, no god nor man did create, but it ever was and is and will be: everliving fire, kindling in measures and being quenched in measures.' (DK22B30)

This passage contains the earliest extant philosophical use of the word kosmos, "world-order," denoting the organized world in which we live, with earth, sea, atmosphere, and heavens. While ancient sources understand Heraclitus as saying the world comes to be and then perishes in a fiery holocaust, only to be born again (DK22A10), the present passage seems to contradict this reading: the world itself does not have a beginning or end.

Heraclitus recognizes a divine unity behind the cosmos, one that is difficult to identify and perhaps impossible to separate from the processes of the cosmos:

'God is day night, winter summer, war peace, satiety hunger, and it alters just as when it is mixed with incense is named according to the aroma of each.' (DK22B67)

Evidently the world either is god, or is a manifestation of the activity of god, which is somehow to be identified with the underlying order of things. God can be thought of as fire, constantly changing, symbolic of transformation and process. Divinity is present in the world, but not as a conventional anthropomorphic being such as the Greeks worshiped.

Heraclitus' book was reputed to be difficult to understand. It is not surprising that he is referred to in the history of philosophy as "the obscure one" (ho skoteinos). Timon the satirical poet of third century CE says of Heraclitus, "In their midst uprose shrill, cuckoo-like, a mob-reviler, riddling Heraclitus" (Lives, 9.6),

Possessing only fragments of an obscure work makes the task of reconstructing Heraclitus' philosophy difficult, if not impossible. Although there are several summaries of his philosophy by later philosophers, Heraclitus' interpreters at times seem perplexed about his meaning. Needless to say, any proposal for the correct reconstruction of Heraclitean philosophy must remain hypothetical.

For Heraclitus, sense data is worthless, unless one has an proper understanding of one's true nature. Understanding comes when one turns from the outward, from the objects of historia, and contemplates oneself; in so doing one discovers one's true nature, the key by which all else makes sense. (This method has parallels to Mahayana Buddhism.) As Guthrie argues, the verb used in the phrase "He inquired of himself" (oizemai) suggests a probing, a searching for what lies "beneath the surface"

Heraclitus, upon turning inward and probing his true self, discovers the Logos. The Logos is the principle according to which all things change, that which determines the nature of the flux that resides in all human beings. Three fragments in particular suggest this:

'Listening not to me but to the Logos it is wise to agree that all things are one.' (Hippolytus Refut. 9. 4 )

'Of the Logos which is as I describe it men always prove to be uncomprehending, both before they have heard it and when once they have heard it. For although all things happen according to this Logos, men are like people of no experience... when I distinguish each thing according to its constitution and declare how it is; but the rest of the men fail to notice what they do after they wake up just as they forget what they do when asleep.' (Sextus, adv.math. VII, 132)

'but although the Logos is common the many live as though they had a private understanding' (Sextus, adv.math. VII, 133)

The Logos is common to all human beings, because all possess reason or Logos, although they may not make much use of it (Fr. 2). The statement that 'All things happen according to this Logos'

' should probably be interpreted to mean that the Logos is the principle of the organization of the all things in flux. The Logos common to all human beings gives order to the cosmos.

Logos is not an immaterial principle, spirit permeating matter, as later Idealists conceived it, but is one of the four elements, fire - not only the intelligence present in the flux, but actually is that of which all things consist. This is the meaning of fr. 30: 'This world did none of gods or men make, but it always was and is and shall be: an ever living fire, kindling in measures and going out in measures.'

 

Heraclitus was closer to Buddhism/Hinduism - much of what he said is pantheistic. But all of what he said is obfuscation. At best, he seems to have ripped off Solomon's book of Ecclesiastes for some of his philosophy.

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Constantine's integrity is for me self-questioned by his claim to be "the thirteenth apostle". Such a person can hardly be taken as a founding father of the true church."

 

What would lead anyone to consider Constantine a founding father of the Church? In 35 years as a Christian, I have not come across anyone who thinks this of Constantine. In fact, many evangelical Christians doubt whether Constantine was even a Christian - based on his 'conversion testmony' of seeing a cross in the sky, and his lifestyle susequent to his supposed conversion.

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What could 'His Purpose' possibly be if it isn't to confuse and befuddle this miserable creation of His?"

 

I'm not confused about His purposes, what seems to be confusing you?

 

"Face it. If there were a god who wrote a book to educate his creations, that book would make a little more sense than the Bible does"

 

What doesn't make sense to you?

 

"and everyone who believes in it would see the same message. If a 'Holy Ghost' was schooling the believers"

 

This assumes that all believers were at the same level of maturity and study; and that all 'walked in the Spirit' to the same degree.

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This assumes that all believers were at the same level of maturity and study; and that all 'walked in the Spirit' to the same degree.

 

And there we have it. I assume you are at this elusive level of maturity and study, and walk in the spirit?

 

What makes you think we haven't walked at the same level, or perhaps higher than you before we became "wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever?"

 

What makes you think you have the monopoly on truth? Don't you realize how arrogant you sound? Aren't the meek supposed to inherit the earth? Doesn't pride come before the fall? Doesn't humility come with wisdom?

 

Don't feel too bad. Some of us used to think as you do, scrounging through academic texts and playing dueling scholars to convince ourselves that the bible makes sense, and has a coherent message, and that it's not just a collection of bronze-age myths, revisionist history, quasi-spiritual songs, sayings and poems, titillating stories and novellas of propaganda masquerading as testimonies.

 

I always wondered why if god spoke through the bible, the average dumb schmuck needed to have a seminary-trained pastor interpret it for him. Doesn't that seem odd? That the only way to really understand the bible is to have an entire subculture and industry of academia to make sense of it? A new priesthood? Sounds like a pretty good scam to me.

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:whs:

 

 

I remember when I thought I was all that. That's how I know a meaningful dialog can't happen.

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The doctrine of the trinity and the doctrine of Jesus as God, and other doctrines, including the Logos, are derived from ancient Greek writings of the philosopher Heraclitus."

 

Surely, you jest!! Heraclitus was in no way a progenitor of Christian theology. See the following quotes and analysis of Heraclitus:

Heraclitus expresses the principles of his cosmology in a single sentence:

'This world-order, the same of all, no god nor man did create, but it ever was and is and will be: everliving fire, kindling in measures and being quenched in measures.' (DK22B30)

This passage contains the earliest extant philosophical use of the word kosmos, "world-order," denoting the organized world in which we live, with earth, sea, atmosphere, and heavens. While ancient sources understand Heraclitus as saying the world comes to be and then perishes in a fiery holocaust, only to be born again (DK22A10), the present passage seems to contradict this reading: the world itself does not have a beginning or end.

Heraclitus recognizes a divine unity behind the cosmos, one that is difficult to identify and perhaps impossible to separate from the processes of the cosmos:

'God is day night, winter summer, war peace, satiety hunger, and it alters just as when it is mixed with incense is named according to the aroma of each.' (DK22B67)

Evidently the world either is god, or is a manifestation of the activity of god, which is somehow to be identified with the underlying order of things. God can be thought of as fire, constantly changing, symbolic of transformation and process. Divinity is present in the world, but not as a conventional anthropomorphic being such as the Greeks worshiped.

Heraclitus' book was reputed to be difficult to understand. It is not surprising that he is referred to in the history of philosophy as "the obscure one" (ho skoteinos). Timon the satirical poet of third century CE says of Heraclitus, "In their midst uprose shrill, cuckoo-like, a mob-reviler, riddling Heraclitus" (Lives, 9.6),

Possessing only fragments of an obscure work makes the task of reconstructing Heraclitus' philosophy difficult, if not impossible. Although there are several summaries of his philosophy by later philosophers, Heraclitus' interpreters at times seem perplexed about his meaning. Needless to say, any proposal for the correct reconstruction of Heraclitean philosophy must remain hypothetical.

For Heraclitus, sense data is worthless, unless one has an proper understanding of one's true nature. Understanding comes when one turns from the outward, from the objects of historia, and contemplates oneself; in so doing one discovers one's true nature, the key by which all else makes sense. (This method has parallels to Mahayana Buddhism.) As Guthrie argues, the verb used in the phrase "He inquired of himself" (oizemai) suggests a probing, a searching for what lies "beneath the surface"

Heraclitus, upon turning inward and probing his true self, discovers the Logos. The Logos is the principle according to which all things change, that which determines the nature of the flux that resides in all human beings. Three fragments in particular suggest this:

'Listening not to me but to the Logos it is wise to agree that all things are one.' (Hippolytus Refut. 9. 4 )

'Of the Logos which is as I describe it men always prove to be uncomprehending, both before they have heard it and when once they have heard it. For although all things happen according to this Logos, men are like people of no experience... when I distinguish each thing according to its constitution and declare how it is; but the rest of the men fail to notice what they do after they wake up just as they forget what they do when asleep.' (Sextus, adv.math. VII, 132)

'but although the Logos is common the many live as though they had a private understanding' (Sextus, adv.math. VII, 133)

The Logos is common to all human beings, because all possess reason or Logos, although they may not make much use of it (Fr. 2). The statement that 'All things happen according to this Logos'

' should probably be interpreted to mean that the Logos is the principle of the organization of the all things in flux. The Logos common to all human beings gives order to the cosmos.

Logos is not an immaterial principle, spirit permeating matter, as later Idealists conceived it, but is one of the four elements, fire - not only the intelligence present in the flux, but actually is that of which all things consist. This is the meaning of fr. 30: 'This world did none of gods or men make, but it always was and is and shall be: an ever living fire, kindling in measures and going out in measures.'

 

Heraclitus was closer to Buddhism/Hinduism - much of what he said is pantheistic. But all of what he said is obfuscation. At best, he seems to have ripped off Solomon's book of Ecclesiastes for some of his philosophy.

 

Wow! You got all that from my statement? Impressive! Except, I did not make the claim Heraclitus was a progenitor of Christian theology. I claim the writer of the book of John interpreted Heraclitus' writings to be that of jesus instead of Zeus. But if you got your rant from that statement, that is ok with me too. Heraclitus was a pagan, a Greek Gentile and was not a believer of the Hebrew religion. I don't know how you went off on your merry-go-round rant? I thought my comments were fairly straight forward and to the point. Sorry if the idea of pagan philosophy clouds your idea of Christianity. Heraclitus was one of the foremost philosophers of the ancient world and his philosophy was well-known at the time of Iesus and hundreds of years before him. Because he was not a Jew, Heraclitus would not be reading Ecclesiastes for his own enlightenment, considering perhaps many Greeks were not that fond of Jews to read their writings. The description of Iesus as the Logos, is almost word for word what Heraclitus wrote concerning the Logos. Except Heraclitus wrote of the Logos as his idea of Zeus and how Zeus brought all things into existence. The writer of the book of John was a pagan convert who brought the philosophy of Heraclitus with him when he wrote the book of John, or whoever forged the book claiming it was written by John.

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It is also from the philosophy of Heraclitus that the church developed its doctrine concerning the Trinity.

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What makes you think you have the monopoly on truth? Don't you realize how arrogant you sound? Aren't the meek supposed to inherit the earth? Doesn't pride come before the fall? Doesn't humility come with wisdom?

 

What exactly is your definition of humility and meekness? I do not believe that certitude is incompatable with humility. Humility/meekness = strength under control. It is using your strength in a wise & prudent manner - but it's not just being some kind of mealy-mouthed milque-toast afraid the engage in public discussion. Was Jesus humble? Didn't He turn over the money-changers tables and thoroughly disrupt the Pharisee-operated Temple market? Didn't He often take on the hypocrisy of the political & religious ruling elite?

 

I always wondered why if god spoke through the bible, the average dumb schmuck needed to have a seminary-trained pastor interpret it for him. Doesn't that seem odd? That the only way to really understand the bible is to have an entire subculture and industry of academia to make sense of it? A new priesthood? Sounds like a pretty good scam to me.

 

Are not mathematics and science and engineering inherently rational, logical, etc. If so, why do we need teachers & professors to instruct us? What a SCAM! Let's just all buy the textbooks and teach ourselves. No more defaulting on student loans!

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What exactly is your definition of humility and meekness? I do not believe that certitude is incompatable with humility. Humility/meekness = strength under control. It is using your strength in a wise & prudent manner - but it's not just being some kind of mealy-mouthed milque-toast afraid the engage in public discussion. Was Jesus humble? Didn't He turn over the money-changers tables and thoroughly disrupt the Pharisee-operated Temple market? Didn't He often take on the hypocrisy of the political & religious ruling elite?

 

Nice, you don't just cherry-pick your bible, you cherry-pick your dictionaries!

 

From the Canadian Oxford Dictionary:

 

humility: 1. humbleness, meekness. 2. a humble condition. [Middle English from Old French humilite from Latin humilitas -tatis (as HUMBLE)]

 

meek: 1. humble and submissive; suffering injury etc. tamely. 2. piously gentle in nature. meekness (noun) [Middle English me(o)c from Old Norse mjukr soft, gentle]

 

I think you've been listening to too much Mark Driscoll, or at the very least using his "Macho Jesus" dictionary.

 

Are not mathematics and science and engineering inherently rational, logical, etc. If so, why do we need teachers & professors to instruct us? What a SCAM! Let's just all buy the textbooks and teach ourselves. No more defaulting on student loans!

 

You're comparing apples to oranges. Actually, more like apples to potatoes. Comparing biblical interpretation, which is rife with personal opinion, to mathematics, where the numbers don't lie, is a non-starter.

 

And yes, I probably could teach myself mathematics from a textbook if I really wanted to, but it would be really hard. A teacher would help me learn more quickly, and more efficiently.

 

And someone with no prior exposure to Christianity could teach himself about god just by reading the bible, although he would come to some vastly different conclusions than those the seminary-trained pastors would have him believe.

 

The difference is the math student studies the components of the question, then figures out the answer. The bible student has the answer first, then manipulates the question to make it fit the answer.

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Was Jesus humble? Didn't He turn over the money-changers tables and thoroughly disrupt the Pharisee-operated Temple market? Didn't He often take on the hypocrisy of the political & religious ruling elite?

 

I think you've been listening to too much Mark Driscoll, or at the very least using his "Macho Jesus" dictionary.

 

Then let's not limit ourselves to Jesus - look at Moses >> he was said to be the meekest man on Earth; and yet he single-handedly ground up the golden calf, threw the powder in the river, and made all the sons of Israel drink the water. See Exodus 32:19,20

 

And yes, I probably could teach myself mathematics from a textbook if I really wanted to, but it would be really hard. A teacher would help me learn more quickly, and more efficiently.

I whole-heartedly agree - and the same principle applies to Bible study.

 

And someone with no prior exposure to Christianity could teach himself about god just by reading the bible, although he would come to some vastly different conclusions than those the seminary-trained pastors would have him believe.

 

In some areas, but not in the major tenets of the faith - and this has been proven many times over in practical experience.

 

The difference is the math student studies the components of the question, then figures out the answer. The bible student has the answer first, then manipulates the question to make it fit the answer.

 

Huh?

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Then let's not limit ourselves to Jesus - look at Moses >> he was said to be the meekest man on Earth; and yet he single-handedly ground up the golden calf, threw the powder in the river, and made all the sons of Israel drink the water. See Exodus 32:19,20

 

Guess my dictionary's wrong then, good thing your selective biography of Moses cleared that up! And FYI, if church tradition is true, "he was said" to be the meekest man on earth by himself (the verse you didn't bother to quote is Numbers 12:3). Kind of ironic.

 

And someone with no prior exposure to Christianity could teach himself about god just by reading the bible, although he would come to some vastly different conclusions than those the seminary-trained pastors would have him believe.
In some areas, but not in the major tenets of the faith - and this has been proven many times over in practical experience.

 

Really? Where? When? By whom? And you're on a website full of people who will tell you how reading the bible for themselves objectively led to their deconversion. If it wasn't so cruel, I would love to see what happens if someone who had never been exposed to Christianity before was locked in a room with a bible for a week. I bet it wouldn't be conversion to evangelical Christianity.

 

The difference is the math student studies the components of the question, then figures out the answer. The bible student has the answer first, then manipulates the question to make it fit the answer.
Huh?

 

Math = logic

 

Bible study = making bible verses fit your opinion; i.e. NOT LOGIC

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In some areas, but not in the major tenets of the faith - and this has been proven many times over in practical experience.

 

Really? Where? When? By whom? And you're on a website full of people who will tell you how reading the bible for themselves objectively led to their deconversion. If it wasn't so cruel, I would love to see what happens if someone who had never been exposed to Christianity before was locked in a room with a bible for a week. I bet it wouldn't be conversion to evangelical Christianity.

 

There are a myriad of accounts from people of all backgrounds taking a Gideon Bible in a hotel/motel room - or of Bibles being left in villages with little explanation beyond the fact that the Bible is 'God-talk'- and the people reading the Bibles come to faith in Jesus Christ, and practice Christianity as simply spelled out on the pages of Scripture.

 

In fact, there have been occurences in Polynesia when missionaries have taught the Bible in a 'Creation-to-Christ' format; that the people have reasoned out before you even get to the New Testament that God will send a substitute sacrifice for sinners to pay for sin. And that this Messiah must Himself be God - as only God has sufficient resources to pay a debt that is owed to Himself.

 

Math = logic

 

Bible study = making bible verses fit your opinion; i.e. NOT LOGIC

 

Bible study = reading books and/or passages many times to observe the facts presented and then drawing out the meaning see what God is doing - and then determining how we can apply these truths and please God in our particular situation.

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Bible study = reading books and/or passages many times to observe the facts presented and then drawing out the meaning see what God is doing - and then determining how we can apply these truths and please God in our particular situation.

 

Why is not just one reading sufficient? Why is it so difficult to determine "what God is doing..." ? He seems incapable of making his meaning clear. Christians simply cannot even agree among themselves. Who in fact is qualify to interpret the Bible?

 

Why is it necessary to "please God"?

 

I seriously don't understand why a perfect and complete God would require worship. Makes no sense....

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In fact, there have been occurences in Polynesia when missionaries have taught the Bible in a 'Creation-to-Christ' format; that the people have reasoned out before you even get to the New Testament that God will send a substitute sacrifice for sinners to pay for sin. And that this Messiah must Himself be God - as only God has sufficient resources to pay a debt that is owed to Himself.

If that's actually true, they would have had to ignore multiple statements from God that contradict such conclusions.

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In fact, there have been occurences in Polynesia when missionaries have taught the Bible in a 'Creation-to-Christ' format; that the people have reasoned out before you even get to the New Testament that God will send a substitute sacrifice for sinners to pay for sin. And that this Messiah must Himself be God - as only God has sufficient resources to pay a debt that is owed to Himself.

Doesn't that mean that God is the only one who is capable to also forgive and forget sin, without having the debt paid? Or that he could have calculated and known about the debt before it actually happened and prevented it? All-in-all, the Bible God wanted us to be in debt, and wanted to create this weird and strange "sacrifice" ritual to satisfy his own anger/disappointment/whatever. If humans are so dirty that he can't touch us, or see us, how come Jesus was human and yet God? Strange ideas that just don't really fit together.

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I'm done with this topic. I found the original post about the origins of the Trinity very interesting, and it has been totally side-tracked.

 

Ray, post links for your "myriad occurrences" and everything else you claim or I'm not going to bother reading your nonsense. The burden of proof is on you, not me. Argue all you want, if you're not going to provide links i.e. factual examples of your claims, then just be silent. We're not here for you to practice your apologetics "skillz" winning arguments and saving souls by tap-dancing around and avoiding straight answers.

 

Bible study = reading books and/or passages many times to observe the facts presented and then drawing out the meaning see what God is doing - and then determining how we can apply these truths and please God in our particular situation.

 

That's funny. See what I put in bold? And it's exactly the same as what I said -- bible study = making bible verses fit your opinion.

 

Again, links or GTFO.

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