Early Church Councils: Nicea, Chalcedon, Orange

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Humblesmith, Jun 5, 2010.

  1. Humblesmith

    Humblesmith
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    I finally got around to doing a little digging concerning the relative support of the early church councils. I think the following info speaks somewhat clearly about how much support was given by the church as a whole to the various councils. Here are the councils and their attendance:

    1st Council of Nicea, 325 AD: 318 bishops.
    Council of Chalcedon, 451 AD: 600 bishops.
    Council of Orange, 529 AD: 14 bishops
    2nd Constantinople, 553 AD: 165 bishops (in the last session)
    2nd Council of Nicea, 787 AD: 330 to 360 bishops.

    The Council of Orange in 529 did indeed condemn semi-pelagianism, and affirmed that grace operates first, which then results in justification, and a host of other benefits.

    It also affirmed that grace and justification are conferred in infant baptism, and all who get this grace through infant baptism are able to do enough good works to eventually be saved. It was used in drafting the statement at the Council of Trent.

    Personally, I'm not putting a lot of support for the conclusions drawn by Orange.
     
  2. Zenas

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    I'm having trouble following you here. Are you suggesting Orange was wrong because it was poorly attended?
     
  3. Dr. Bob

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    I think it allowed a "minority" view to become entrenched theology of Christianity of the era.

    It would be like the Wyoming Reformed Baptist Churches meeting and passing resolutions on xyz subjects - then people find out there are only 3 churches!! Not really reflective of all Reformed Baptists, eh? ;)
     
  4. Zenas

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    Would you accept these doctrines if the Council of Orange had been attended by 500-600 bishops?

    Much of what was pronounced by the early councils has become bedrock Christianity today, e.g.,the Trinity and the books of the New Testament. Although the books of the N.T. is kind of a hybrid because you can't really use scripture to determine what does and does not belong, the other doctrines either are or are not supported by scripture as we understand it. Those doctrines for which we find scriptural support we embrace; those doctrines for which we find no scriptural support we reject. So what is the point of invoking the authority of a church council to support certain doctrines?
     
  5. ReformedBaptist

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    These things seem good to see how some Christians worked on issues in their day. But it the Scripture that is the only and final rule of authority to the Church.
     
  6. Humblesmith

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    For years we've all heard semi-pelagianism rebuffed with the comment that it was declared a heresy at the Council of Orange. The strong insinuation has been that semi-pelagians are heretics. I've seen it dozens of times, and not infrequently on this board.

    Once we do a little research, we find that Orange only had 14 leaders, compared to the 300 and 600 that attended the more important councils of Nicea and Chalcedon. Those councils represented the decisions of the entire church, Orange did not. Further, Orange had teachings that most of us would reject, especially those who hold strong reformed theology. I just find it inconsistent to pick and choose portions of these documents.......yes to piece here, no to a piece there, using portions of them as a tool for our own purposes. Accepting the parts of Orange we like and rejecting the parts we don't does not align with the findings of the council. If the reformed theologian can reject the findings of Orange about baptism and good works, the semi-pelagian can reject the other parts of Orange. All we can do is go back the scriptures. We just can't use Orange to determine doctrine, at least while being consistent. We can use Nicea and Chalcedon, for those are consistent doctrines held by the church universal across all time.

    And what is even more telling of our own weaknesses, we hear someone say something we like, and we repeat it without question and without checking the sources. I've likely been guilty of the same thing, and it shows poor scholarship.

    So if semi-palagianism is wrong or right, let's prove it from scripture, and stop tossing around the Council of Orange as if it was authoritative. It's not.
     
  7. Zenas

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    You think so? This is part of the Confession of Chalcedon:
    Or maybe I'm missing your point. If so, maybe you could explain a little further.
     
  8. rsr

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    Does it depend on how one renders theotokos?

    Is that any better, or do you still have an objection?
     
  9. Zenas

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    It means the same thing and I don't have a serious problem with either rendition, but I expect Humblesmith does have a problem with it based on other posts he has made.
     
  10. Humblesmith

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    The idea of theotokos for Mary was originally in a context of working out who Jesus was. As part of the discussion, they wrestled with original sin, how to communicate that Jesus was both God and man and not just a mere man on whom the spirit of God came upon, etc. Nicea and Chalcedon were called to counter heresies that had cropped up around the issue of who Jesus was.

    The emphasis on Mary was to teach Jesus' divinity. Mary did not bear a mere man, but bore God in human flesh. So she was called "God bearer" which is what theotokos literally means. The term was used to emphasize that she didn't bear a mere man, but bore God. The term was officially used for Mary at the council of Ephesus in 431.

    But men being men, they eventually started to idolize Mary, and the English rendering "mother of God" seems to emphasize Mary more than Jesus. Origen (c.250), who was a heretic, referred to Mary as sinless. By the Second Council of Nicea in 787, Mary was called "undefiled."

    So when Chalcedon refers to Mary as theotokos, it's not going so far as to support all the false teaching that was later added to Mary, but was merely trying to support that Jesus was truly God, born without sin. 1st Nicea (325) and Chalcedon (451) are the standard definitions of who Jesus is, and can be used with confidence today to distinguish heresy from orthodoxy surrounding the person of Christ.

    Excellent question, and an important distinction.
     
    #10 Humblesmith, Jun 12, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 12, 2010

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