question about Constantine

Discussion in 'History Forum' started by jhsif, Dec 7, 2007.

  1. jhsif

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    As a street preacher a lot of heathen just enjoy bashing Constatine saying how rotten and evil and bloody he was, even after getting saved, i've even heard he was a mithriast, something to do with (supposedly) the real origin of real Christianity, where did this come from and what are the facts? Like a book that can verify his life?
    Please let me know
    Thanks
    Jason
     
  2. Palatka51

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    I hope that there are a lot of posts regarding Constantine, as I to would like to clear up some myths about him as well.
     
  3. Pilgrimer

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    Hello Jason,
    One of the earliest and most reliable accounts of the life of Constantine (in so far as his interactions with the churches are concerned) is the works of Eusebius Pamphilus (c. 250 - 340 A.D.), the bishop of Caesarea, a Palestinian, Christian theologian and the "Father" of Ecclesiastical history. I would recommend that you first research what the ancient histories say about Constantine before reading any contemporary author's account of events which are often colored by doctrine.
    On the issue you raised about the oft-repeated charge that Constantine and the Roman Catholic Church "adopted pagan beliefs and practices" in order to "make Christianity more palatable to pagans," that is an old (and patently false) charge I first encountered over 20 years ago being promulgated by the Watchtower Society literature, an organization that views all of Christendom as apostate and traditional Christian practices such as the observance of Christmas and Easter as well as the Lord's Supper as idolatry. As a New Testament historian and archaeologist I cannot tell you how disheartening it is to see these same distortions of history recently being advanced by mainstream Christians to support a particular eschatological agenda, with little apparent regard for what those distortions do to the most fundamental doctrines of our faith.
    I wish you all the best in your research, and hope that you will avail yourself of all the ancient testimonies you can obtain and then form your own conclusions about the history of our faith. I am confident that the works of Eusebius will be sufficient to give you a general and in many respects a very accurate understanding of the very limited role Constantine played in the history of the formation of early Christian doctrine and practice.
    In Christ,
    Deborah
     
    #3 Pilgrimer, Dec 7, 2007
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  4. Gold Dragon

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    #4 Gold Dragon, Dec 7, 2007
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  5. Deacon

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  6. Pilgrimer

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    An excellent online academic resource which contains all of the writings of the early church fathers down to 324 A.D. is linked below. For the works of Eusebius scoll down to "Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers" and select Volume I. Eusebius. Book 10 of the Ecclesiastical (Church) History contains information about Constantine as well as various other documents, letters and supplemental material.

    Again, I cannot stress firmly enough how important it is for a student to learn first hand what record history has left us about our faith. Such a good working knowledge of history will then equip the student to read the works of contemporary authors with a critical and discerning eye.

    http://biblestudy.churches.net/CCEL/FATHERS2/INDEX.HTM

    In Christ,
    Deborah
     
  7. Bro. James

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    Emperors, Watchtowers and Discerning Eyes

    "It is no wonder, Satan, himself is become an angel of light"

    Secular history is a curious body of information. It is written mostly by the victorious. That written by the vanquished is usually burned. Curiously, English Bibles(containing Divine, unbiased history) have been destroyed--by "Christians?"

    Sorting through the maze of historic misinformation looking for the truth of the matter is extremely difficult. There are a couple of basic paradigms which must be followed:

    1. The Word of God is the only unbiased source of information. That which was written in 90 A.D. by John on Patmos covers even today in terms of what has happened and will happen in terms of our cosmos.

    2. Secular history has a pseudo-bias especially since the period when the Emperor of Rome(Constantine, The Great One) foisted the "chi-rho" on his battle flags. There is evidence that he also called the Council of Nicea, in 325 CE, an interesting ecclesiastical(?) discussion in itself.(a state church?)

    This will have to be related in several chapters. Saturn's Days are very busy--especially near Saturnallia.(X-mas, there is that chi-rho again) All hail, Pontifex Maximus.

    What if the Chi Rho is pagan? It would be consistent with the lifestyles of many Roman Emperors, Constantine included. That he was ever a real Christian is probably an untenable position--outside the annals of the Catholic Encyclopedia.

    This is not the Watchtower.

    Selah,

    Bro. James
     
    #7 Bro. James, Dec 8, 2007
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  8. Matt Black

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    I would endorse what Pilgrimer has said; Eusebius' Historia Ecclesiastica is an excellent contemporary primary source. It on its own debunks the ludicrous theory put about by the JWs and other associated nutters that Constantine somehow 'founded' the Catholic Church
     
  9. Pilgrimer

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    Hello Bro. James, it is very nice to meet you.

    >There is evidence that he also called the Council of Nicea, in 325 CE, an interesting ecclesiastical(?) discussion in itself.(a state church?)


    Yes, Constantine did in fact convene the council of Nicea, but not for the reason so often put forth by the detractors of Constantine and Roman Catholicism. But before I share the fruit of my own study on the history of that period, allow me to make a couple of brief comments that are very important to keep in mind when researching this period.

    First, one will have to address the issue of the “authority” of the Catholic Church. Catholics, and particularly Catholic historians, in their treatment of history, especially this important early period in the development of Christian theology and practice, tend to interpret events in the firm belief that the Roman Catholic Church, being God’s authority on earth, was in fact responsible for deciding matters of doctrine and practice for all of Christendom. However, the record of history shows that was not the case, in fact, quite the opposite.

    And second, it’s equally important to keep in mind that the anti-Christian forces (outside the church) and anti-Catholic forces (inside the church) are more than willing to accept this claim of the “authority” of the Catholic Church during these early years without question because it supports their particular doctrinal view.
    So saying, let me offer a brief synopsis of the history of this period from neither a pro-Catholic nor yet an anti-Catholic perspective.

    Prior to the time of Constantine the churches had suffered often brutal persecution by the Roman state. The Edict of Milan, known as the “Edict of Tolerance,” issued by Constantine, put an end to the arrest, imprisonment and execution of Christians and restored to the Christian churches the homes and church property which had been confiscated under previous law. The years that followed was a period of time when the churches “had rest” and, as we Christians are wont to do, as soon as we were free from the threat of imminent death, we turned our attention to fighting over doctrine!

    In the following years a number of issues surfaced, but two particular issues became a real bone of contention for the churches; the proper time to observe Easter, and, even more volatile, the divinity of Christ. There were two basic views about the divinity of Christ, “Arianism,” which was the view that Christ was a created being, not eternally existing with the Father, developed by a man named Arius (c. 250 – 336 A.D.) in the city of Alexandria, Egypt, and the opposing “Trinitarian” view which sees Christ as uncreated, pre-existing his incarnation. This second issue soon spilled over from the arena of theological debate into the pulpit and finally into the pew and began to tear the church apart.
    Seeing this sad course of events, and having trusted that the Christian faith could be a stabilizing influence on a shaky Roman society and which could bind the far-flung provinces more securely together, Constantine convened a council of Christian bishops from all over the empire, and beyond, to settle the dispute. Here is an excerpt from a letter Constantine wrote to all the churches everywhere which states the purpose and decisions of that council:

    Constantine, august, to the Churches,
    Having experienced, in the flourishing state of public affairs, the greatness of the divine goodness, I thought it especially incumbent on me to endeavor that the happy multitudes of the Catholic Church (the term “Catholic Church” referred not the church at Rome, but the universal body of Christ) should preserve one faith, be united in unfeigned love, and harmoniously join in their devotions to Almighty God. But this could not otherwise be effected in a firm and solid manner, than by an examination for this purpose, of whatever pertains to our most holy religion, by all the bishops, or the greater part of them at least, assembled together. Having therefore convened as many as possible, I myself being present, and, as it were, one of you, (nor do I deny that I exceedingly rejoice in being your fellow-servant,) every thing was examined, until a unanimous sentiment, pleasing to God, who sees all things, was brought to light; so that no pretense was left for dissention or controversy respecting the faith.”

    The Council of Nicaea was thus convened and there were 318 pastors from all over the Roman Empire, including all of Asia, Africa, Egypt, Palestine, Spain, Galatia, Arabia, all of Europe, and beyond the Roman Empire, from Mesopotamia to Persia, and on and on. The list reads like a “Who’s Who” of the entire Christian world. The only notable bishop who was not in attendance at Nicea was Victor, the bishop of the church at Rome! Constantine attended the council and was a spectator to the debate which followed. The council was presided over by two pastors, both from the church of Palestine; Theophilus, pastor of Caesarea, and Narcissus, pastor of Jerusalem.
    At that council the unanimous consent of all the Christian churches (not decreed by Constantine nor dictated by the church at Rome) was that Easter should be celebrated on the first Sunday following the 14 Nisan in commemoration of the Resurrection (our English word, Easter, is a Saxon translation of the German cognate Ostern, derived from the old Teutonic form of auferstehn, which means “resurrection”).
    However, the churches of Asia Minor continued to observe Easter on the 3rd day after Passover, whatever week day that might have fallen on. Victor, the bishop of the church at Rome, attempted to coerce the opposing churches into complying with the unanimous consent of the whole body of Christ but was quickly reprimanded by the other bishops and finally told by Constantine to leave the matter alone:

    “Upon this, Victor, the bishop of the church of Rome, forthwith endeavoured to cut off the churches of all Asia, together with the neighboring churches, as heterodox, from the common unity. And he published abroad by letters, and proclaims, that all the brethren there are wholly excommunicated. But this was not the opinion of all the bishops. They immediately exhorted him, on the contrary, to contemplate that course that was calculated to promote peace, unity, and love to one another.”

    Continued in Part 2
     
  10. Pilgrimer

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    Part 2

    Victor and the church at Rome was thus overruled, and the Asian churches continued their customary observance, while all the rest of the churches observed Easter on Sunday, including the churches of Palestine and Egypt, which is attested to in an excerpt from a letter written by the bishops of Palestine:

    “The bishops indeed of Palestine, whom we have just mentioned, Narcissus and Theophilus, and Cassius with them, the bishop of the church of Tyre, and Clarus of Ptolemais, and those that came together with them, having advanced many things respecting tradition that had been handed down to them by succession from the apostles, regarding the Passover, at the close of the epistle, use these words: ‘Endeavour to send copies of the epistle through all the church, that we may not give occasion to those whose minds are easily led astray. But we inform you also, that they observe the same day in Alexandria, which we also do; for letters have been sent by us to them, and from them to us, so that we celebrate the holy season with one mind and at one time.”

    Thus the practice of celebrating Easter on the first Sunday following the 14th Nisan is amply attested to as the historical practice of the early churches at a time when Christianity's detractors claim the churches were adopting pagan spring rites!

    But that was the secondary issue that was settled at this council. The primary business of the council was to settle, as a matter of Christian doctrine, the issue of the divinity of Christ, which resulted by unanimous approval in the document known as the “Nicene Creed,” a doctrine to which I give my most grateful and hearty Amen!:

    “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things, visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance of the Father; God of God, light of light, true God of true God; begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made, both in heaven and in earth; who for us men, and for our salvation, descended, was incarnate, and was made man, and suffered, and rose again the third day; he ascended into heaven, and shall come to judge the living and the dead: And in the Holy Spirit. But the holy catholic and apostolic Church of God anathematizes those who affirm that there was a time when the Son was not, or that he was not before he was begotten, or that he was made of things not existing: or who say, that the Son of God was of any other substance or essence, or created, or liable to change or conversion.”

    The Nicene Creed is the only universally agreed upon statement of faith of the Christian religion. It is a beautiful creed and must have been the inspiration behind one of my favorite hymns, a link which I include below.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=xDhUnfHoMrQ

    So, the sum of the things which I have found is this: 1) neither Constantine, nor yet the church at Rome, had the authority to impose either doctrine or practice upon the universal body of Christ, which history demonstrates they did not do, and 2) that this period of time, rather than being an age of compromise and adoption of pagan beliefs and practice, was instead a fruitful age of Christian theological debate and development when the great truths of the Gospel were being jealously and faithfully defended.

    And I would remiss if I did not mention that these same bishops and clerics who attended the council of Nicea from all over the Christian world and who vigorously defended the faith against heresy bore in their own bodies the proof of their faithfulness to the Gospel, and yet many are the detractors who would have us believe these saintly men of God were instead compromising the Gospel and adopting pagan doctrines and practices!

    In Christ,
    Deborah

    P.S. I cannot fail to mention the presence of one particularly venerable old saint of God who attended the Council of Nicaea, especially because his mere existence is so often disputed. He was the bishop of the city of Myra, in Asia Minor, and his charity to the poor, especially children, became the stuff of legend. He was later declared a saint by the Catholic Church . . .Saint Nicholas, more commonly known as Santa Claus.
     
  11. Bro. James

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    Potentates+Popes+Councils+Tradition=The Church of The Lord Jesus Christ?

    I don't think so. This whole discussion is based on supposition and unneccessary inference.

    1... That the Church is somehow universal. Such is considered heretical by those who know the difference. There is no such entity, visible or invisible. This is, however, one of the first errors to creep among the churches.
    2... That the religious sect set up by Constantine the Great was a true Christian group. If they took State support, which they apparently did, they violated Jesus' command to keep God and Caesar separate. How can they be considered New Testament Church? Further study: Holy Roman Empire; Inquisitions.
    3...That all bishops and therefore all churches were represented at Nicea. Those churches who disavowed state/church arrangements probably were not there. They were still out there keeping the faith--not forcing their beliefs on anyone.

    I would contend that what Constantine started was a paganized form of something which is difficult to tag--it is filled with ever changing contradictions. Connie, The Great One lived like a pagan and died pagan, baptized or not. Has he not been beatified and cannonized yet? That which he birthed in Nicea can still be found throughout the world. Visit Rome and Istanbul--the icons are everywhere.

    Did not God forbid icons?

    The real question here one that of authority. Whence came Constantine's authority and that of what he started? The Holy See, a remnant of the Bride of Constantine(I just coined that phrase), is still alive in a place called the Vatican, not far from the Circus Maximus(another big circus).

    Sorry, this is not a joking matter.

    By whose authority do we do these things????

    Holy See says they get theirs from Mt. 16:18... St. Peter being the first Pontiff and his mantle being handed to every succeeding Pope even until Gregorious #16, who claims to be the vicar of Christ also.

    If the Holy See is correct, all those who do not come under the authority of the Pope are apostate, anathema, and/or heretical--this includes those who would reform the Holy See. If the Holy See is not correct, therefore having no divinely appointed authority, she is a usurper with no authority whatever, along with those who would reform--they can get no authority from Rome--she has none.

    Next chapter: Who has Church authority?

    Selah,

    Bro. James
     
    #11 Bro. James, Dec 8, 2007
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  12. Matt Black

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    And I'm afraid that what follows from you is based on ahistorical supposition and conjecture

    On the contrary, the Church, both in Scripture (eg: Matt 16:18 and Col 1:18) and later Apostolic Tradition has always and correctly interpreted ecclesia as being not just a local congregation of believers but also the universal Body of Christ
    I think that it has already been amply demonstrated on this thread by others that Constantine set up no sect whatsoever.
    Please therefore list those bishops, apart from the bishop of Rome, who did not attend Nicaea I in support of your contention.

    As already shown, Constantine started nothing; his primary achievement was to legalise what already existed.
    Actually, no He doesn't.

    Good for you. Never mind that such a term is totally ahistorical and has no merit. But do go on...
    Easy! The successors of the Apostles.
     
  13. Pilgrimer

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    Hello Bro. James,

    >This whole discussion is based on supposition and unneccessary inference.

    I will allow that appears to be the case on your part. Everything you stated in your post is what you think "probably" happened but for which you cannot provide any supporting documentation, and that in spite of all the historical evidence to the contrary.

    As I stated earlier, I am neither pro-Catholic nor yet anti-Catholic in my reading and conclusions on history. Rather, I am pro-truth, and since I believe that God is active in history, especially among his people, I am thrilled to be able to look back at the history of my Christian faith and see God moving and working and inspiring men and women to great and noble thoughts and deeds.

    But perhaps your view of history is derived from the Arian/Trinitarian conflict itself, which was the impetus for convening the council of Nice. Would I be far remiss if I took a shot here and asked if you are Arian in your Christology? In that case, one can well understand why the purpose and decisions of the Council of Nicea would be anathema to you.

    But that also argues against your hypothetical scenario because the Bishop of Constantine and of the royal family and imperial court was not Victor or any of the bishops of Rome, but a distant relation to the royal family, Eusebius of Nicodemia and later of Constantinople where the imperial court was located. Your contention that Constantine was personally involved with the Roman church is not historically accurate. It was Eusebius who was the spiritual “father” of Constantine, not the Roman bishops, further demonstrated by the fact that it was this same Eusebius who baptized Constantine before his death.

    Now you really get into a quandary with your scenario because the bishop who had the ear of Constantine was one of the primary leaders of the Arian sect, and the Arian view dominated the royal family for many years even after the decisions of the Nicene Council. And yet, the unanimous consent of the churches at the Council of Nice was to proclaim a Trinitarian Christology that would have been in direct opposition to the view held by the Imperial family and court and its bishop.

    In Christ,
    Deborah

    P. S. Eusebius of Nicodemia is not to be confused with Eusebius Pamphilus whose history I have been referencing.
     
    #13 Pilgrimer, Dec 9, 2007
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  14. Bro. James

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    How is it that your conjecture is better than mine?

    Some say Constantine was baptized by Papa Sylvester while kneeling--there is a prominent statue to that effect in the Vatican. Others say he was baptized by one Eusebius--on the deathbed. Some one speaks with forked tongue.

    The Vatican/Holy See still occupies the property donated by Helena, mother of Constantine, with the consent of her son. We are to believe the State/House of Caesar was not actively/passively supporting Papa Sylvester?

    That Constantine was a bit puzzled regarding Christology is evident in his own writings where he refers to the worship of Sol and of Christ in the same context as if they are equal. This is like saying Jehovah and Allah are the same.

    The Chi Rho which Constantine placed on his banners was a pagan symbol. This makes the whole system corrupted from the beginning. Just because it has survived nearly 1700 years does not establish verity. Satan himself still survives--he too, has become an angel of light. Now what?

    Behold, the Bride, the Lamb's wife; she is still here, pillar and ground of the Truth, without spot, wrinkle or blemish.

    That which started in Rome was considered anti-christ in the fourth century and even today by precious few. The ecumenical movement has watered this down in our age. The Holy See has not recanted--probably won't.(Bankrupting the Archdiocese for hush money is not a recant.) She will let the departed brethren back--on her terms of course. See Vatican II.

    Beware the wolves dressed like sheep.

    Selah,

    Bro. James

    P.S. To read only things not pro or con Holy See is to have a lot of time with nothing to do. There is no middle ground.
     
    #14 Bro. James, Dec 9, 2007
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  15. Pilgrimer

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    Hello Bro. James,

    >Some say Constantine was baptized by Papa Sylvester while kneeling--there is a prominent statue to that effect in the Vatican. Others say he was baptized by one Eusebius--on the deathbed. Some one speaks with forked tongue.

    LOL. Well I did warn "let the student beware." But I don't believe I would go that far . . . it is true that Catholic history tends to be predisposed toward a firm conviction of the historic authority of the Catholic Church so naturally they tend to view history through that prism. But then are you not doing the same . . . just for a different reason?

    For example, you point to the actions of Helena in donating the property on which the Vatican is built as evidence of some sort of authority Constantine exercised over Rome and yet the truth is Helena donated property and actually built many beautiful churches, all with the consent of her son, especially in the Holy Land. I have a special affinity for Empress Helena, she was the first Christian archaeologist! and if that weren't enough to endear her to me, the fact that she tore down the pagan temple to Aphrodite that had been constructed on the site of the tomb of the Resurrection and replaced it with the Church of the Holy Sepulcher earns her a special place in my book of great women.

    But regardless of how you might judge the woman's motives, archaeology owes a debt of gratitude to the Lady Helena for preserving so many of the sites associated with our Lord's life and ministry. The path Helena's "pilgrimage" took through the Holy Land was the route followed by other pilgrims from all over the world for centuries afterward.

    >Behold, the Bride, the Lamb's wife; she is still here, pillar and ground of the Truth, without spot, wrinkle or blemish.

    And who, in your estimation, would that be?

    In Christ,
    Deborah
     
  16. Bro. James

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    Behold the Bride

    That would be the New Testament Churches--in every generation since the first one gathered by Jesus on the shores of Galilee. Yes, the one whose members all forsook Him and fled from Gethsemane--they came back--even Peter who denied Him with cursing. We see the first Church and the second and others in the Book of Acts. The Apostle Paul was used of God to start many churches. He wrote inspired letters to many of them--Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, Colossae, etal. There were churches in people's houses. Then there are the seven churches of Asia in the Book of Revelation. As the Gospel spread so did the churches. Jesus said He would never leave them nor forsake them. He gave them The Holy Spirit to lead them and bear witness to His Word which he also gave to the churches. The Bible came from God not the Holy See.

    Some churches fell away early on--Corinth is a good example. The scripture says there will be apostasy. There will also be persecution--and how. Persecution by Pagan Rome began early on, then Christian(?) Rome picked up the sword and the flame and the flood against those who would not bow to the Holy See. Then some one tried to reform the Holy See. Cannot be done. Many Romish priests struck out on their own--without Roman authority. The true churches were not reformers. In fact, they got persecuted some more--for re-baptizing folk from other faiths if they gave evidence of having been born again. Many are still trying to reform the reformed apostasy. It does not work.

    All of this persecution actually made NT churches stronger. They are still here--keeping The Faith, once for all delivered to the saints, Jude 3. This is fulfillment of prophecy: Jesus said He would build Her and keep Her. He has kept His promise. She awaits His return.

    You will not find Her listed in the Yellow Pages--it is about a Faith and Practice. She does have a traceable history--much of it written with blood.

    Selah,

    Bro. James
     
  17. Matt Black

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    Historical evidence, please. What were the names of the bishops and Roman priests who dissented in the manner alleged by you?
     
  18. Bro. James

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    A Preponderance of allegations

    Greeting Matthew,
    Alleged, alleged, alleged. My allegations are as valid as the one about all of the churches were represented at Nicea. Sure seems the burden of proof should be born by those who say all were represented there. Who made the list and checked it twice? St. Nike to be sure. That is an interesting word study: Nike, Nicolaus and Nicolaitan.

    When one considers the preponderance of circumstantial evidence of dissent available before and after Nicea, one would certainly doubt the unanimity of any of the so-called church councils. There are several different accounts of who may have attended. Interestingly, the Vatican II is being challenged as bogus--by another group of Catholics. The LDS has a similar problem--is the authorized version in Missouri or Utah. Some sure seems to have divine authority problems.

    How does one re-organize something apostate?

    Shalom,

    Bro. James
     
  19. Bro. James

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    A Preponderance of allegations

    Greeting Matthew,
    Alleged, alleged, alleged. My allegations are as valid as the one about all of the churches were represented at Nicea. Sure seems the burden of proof should be born by those who say all were represented there. Who made the list and checked it twice? St. Nike to be sure. That is an interesting word study: Nike, Nicolaus and Nicolaitan.

    When one considers the preponderance of circumstantial evidence of dissent groups which is available, before and after Nicea, one would certainly doubt the unanimity of any of the so-called church councils. The powers that be succeeded in destroying much of the evidence along with the dissenters. The Lord has preserved a remnant.

    There are several different accounts of who may have attended. Interestingly, the Vatican II is being challenged as bogus--by another group of Catholics. The LDS has a similar problem--is the authorized version in Missouri or Utah? Some sure seem to be have divine authority problems.

    How does one re-organize something apostate?

    Shalom,

    Bro. James
     
    #19 Bro. James, Dec 10, 2007
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  20. Matt Black

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    On the contrary there is ample evidence as to who attended Nicaea I. 'Nice' word game by the way (geddit?) but it doesn't hold any water. The dissent which led to the Council is well-documented and took hold of the Constantinian dynasty for a while - but the dissent was not what you would hope it to be. There's no proto-Baptist or proto-evangelical movement there, just Arianism.

    [ETA - now, if you want to assert that the opponents of Nicaea I - the Arians - were the True New Testament Church(TM), then that shifts the debate into a whole new ball game....Well, do you...?]
     
    #20 Matt Black, Dec 10, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 10, 2007

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