How Many?


“For a period of more than 1,600 years, the Catholic church has assembled at ecumenical councils its patriarchs, cardinals, bishops, abbots of male religious orders, and others nominated by the pope to discuss issues of faith, church doctrine and discipline, often defining heresies within the church. The pope must approve the decisions of the council. The first was the First Council Of Nicaea (or Nicea), convened in 325 after Christianity came under the protection of the Roman emperor Constantine, which produced the original Nicene Creed, still used (with some modifications) as the Christian profession of faith today (Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2012).”

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

The Nicene Council in 325 A. D. was of great interest to Rev. S. G. Norris so he directed his Apostolic Bible Institute students to give it diligent attention. They concluded that the results of that council were incorrect as it stated that “God exists in three eternally, co-equal persons.”

Emperor Constantine attempted to bring consensus in the Christian church by calling a council of bishops. All 1800 were invited (about 1000 in the East and 800 in the West), but only 318 showed up, said Athanasius. The debate was very heated with Nicholas of Myra slapping Arius in the face. (Years later Nicholas was canonized!)

Two thoughts were prominent. Athanasius was champion of “God exists eternally co-equal as Father, Son and Holy Ghost”, while Arius insisted that the scriptures state otherwise. John 14:19 “he who has seen me has seen the Father”, John 14:28 “the Father is greater than I”, Colossians 1:15 “Jesus is the first born of every creature”, and John 10:10 “I and my Father are one.” This position is called, “Oneness,” and “Modalism.” Simply put it says that God reveals himself in different ways: Father in creation, Son in redemption, Holy Spirit indwelling humans. There are neither three Gods nor three persons comprising a Holy Trinity, but only one God manifested in the flesh. (Colossians 2:9) “In him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” The body is named Jesus and baptism is to be administered using that name.

Arius, Theonas, and Secundus were exiled to Illyna and excommunicated because they refused to accept the Creed. The works of Arius were ordered to be burned and all persons found with his teachings were to be executed.

There were 21 councils, but the one in Nicea did great harm to the church.

Rev. Raymond Parnell is Pastor Emeritus of Christ Memorial Temple in Lafayette, Indiana.

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