WTC Theology: Week 7: Creeds (@WTCTheology)


Once again, these are my notes from the videos (not any readings) – and you can join the latest one by checking out OpenWTC.

Session 7.1: The Context of the Creeds (Lucy Peppiat)

How did colleges/councils seek to conceptualise faith for their time(s).

4th/5th Centuries – lots of debate over nature of Trinity/Christ (against many ideas that were plausible but wrong), as the Middle-Eastern/Mediterranean world sought to understand how Jesus had challenged much of their thinking. Particularly in Alexandria and Atntioch, and Constantine and other Emperors took an active interest, as peace in the church affected peace in the nations (politics)

The Ecumenical Councils – binding upon the whole church – to the present day = foundational:

  • Nicaea 325
  • Constantinople 381
  • Ephesus 431
  • Chalcedon 451

Arian Heresy – c300 .. downplayed the full divinity of Christ – a key figure in these debates. The Son and the Father were not of the same essence, but Son created by the Father. “A demiurge” = a lesser divinity, a mediating second power, not God himself… but also not fully human as ‘Logos’ took the place of the human soul…. Generated from ‘non-existence’. At stake here is the ‘eternity of the Son’ – if not eternal = not fully God. Was ex-communicated, but got backing of a number of bishops. Called to Nicea to develop ‘the creed’ (325, note modified later). Unique as it used special Greek language/concepts, and not just Biblical language.

Session 7.2: Homoousios

The words of the Creed of Nicaea. ‘Very God of Very God’ – if a candle is lit from a a candle from a candle – the light comes from the original candle. Designed to be very clear against heresy’s circulating.

  • Ousia (of one being with the Father)
  • Gennetos agenetos (begotten not made)
  • Homoousios (consubstantial with God) – still used currently

Didn’t solve all the problems in 325, but most took it to mean Father/Son = equally divine. Word under considerable dispute so needed further clarification. [Some said – homiousios – was seen as ‘of similar substance’ but not the same].

  • The full divinity of the Son
  • The pre-existence of the Son
  • The fully humanity of the Son
  • No polytheism (just one God)

Expressing the orthodoxy of the creed with one word.

Athanasius = Bishop of Alexandria – an enemy of Arianism, and the champion of orthodoxy – was exiled over various times by Roman leaders…

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The implications if Jesus is not homoousion – the whole Christian messages falls flat.

Alastair Heron – not about the word, but that of which the word speaks. Dogmatic (descriptive) rather than kerigmatic (in preaching). God come in solidarity with us, and made us his own, through which our lives sanctified…

Session 7.4: On the Road to Chalcedon

The unity that had come through = quite short lived. Lots of difficult debates over nature of faith – mostly in the East, but also tipping into the West – and thinking seemed to return to much Arian heresy…

Before Chalcedon, the Capodocean Fathers

  • Gregory of Nyssa
  • Basil of Caesarea
  • Gregory of Naziansus

Council of Constantinople 381 – added clause about Holy Spirit being Lord and giver of life. If God/man weren’t the same (homoosion), what did that mean, how did that work? Why did he have to submit his will if he was one, etc?

Apollinarius (310-390) – believed had found a solution – Jesus had a human body and soul, but a divine mind – a monist Christology. A shell housing the divine logos (for the Greeks the heart of the soul). The human mind is that which sins, rather than the body, so lots of implications for Jesus/salvation – as Jesus takes our sin on .. if he doesn’t: Gregory Nazianzus – the unassumes is the unhealed.

Nestorius (d.451) Christotokos – saw Mary as the Christ-bearer, and Jesus as ‘two persons’. Cyril of Alexandria wanted to make clear that Jesus is one person, and Mary is the God-bearer (Theotokos).

Utikes (monstic community in Constantinoples) – saw 2 natures before the union, and one after it – seen as the monofisite heresy.

In this context called The Council of Chalcedon in 451 – responding to ‘wrong ideas’

  • Fully God and fully man.
  • Made known in two natures (different emphases)
  • Without confusion, change, division, separation

Returns to the question of Jesus “Who do you say I am?”