A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
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I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Theological Showdown in the Wild East

Scot McKnight writes a post on Ronald Heine's new book, Classical Christian Doctrine: Introducing the Essentials of Ancient Christian Faith. Heine argues that the biggest theological showdown in church history was not the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, nor the split between the Eastern and Western Churches in the eleventh century. The most important debate in the the history of the Christian Church took place in the fourth century between Arius and the advocates of what would result in the Nicene Creed. Scot writes,

The issues: the earliest Christians believed in one and only one God. They believed as well that Jesus, the Son of God, was fully God. How to articulate Jesus as “God” and, at the same time, hold firmly to one God? That’s the issue. Some attempts made the Son a second kind of god, while modalism ended up with one God but appearing in different modes over time, while some simply said Jesus wasn’t God like the one God. He had to be human.

Arius of Alexandria believed in one God, and believed the one God was absolutely unique and his term was that this one God was “unbegotten.” The Son, Arius argued, was “begotten.” Since the term “begotten” would have meant the Son had the same “nature” as the Father, which is what orthodoxy affirms, Arius made it clear that his understanding of “begotten” meant “created” and that meant the Father and the Son did not have the same nature.

The debate lingered but this became the orthodox position of the church. This council did not determine this orthodox theology for this theology existed prior to Nicea. This was a precise and clear articulation and an articulation on which the bishops agreed and one that became orthodox christology. It is still orthodox christology.

Athanasius argued, and he was orthodoxy’s most articulate theologian, that death cannot be defeated by a human; only God can defeat and undo death. This is an early glimpse of Anselm. And one can worship Jesus Christ only if he is God.

I quite agree.

4 comments:

John Meunier said...

And we still have lots of Arians running around today.

J. L. Watts said...

The biggest showdown occurred in 346 at the Council of Serdica.

To put it mildly, the East ran off with their tail between their legs... like Duke does every time they play bball.

To John - I would agree. Of course, that is because we rarely teach theology, just let people flounder about in social justice.

David said...

Arius was a presbyter, not a bishop.

Allan Bevere said...

Thanks, David. As one who has taught this for years, it is mystifying to explain the apparent brain hiccup, but thanks for the correction. It has been taken care of.