Councils and Creeds

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The early church encountered doctrinal controversy that was broader than its battle with apostate Judaism. The Judaizers were dealt with through letters and councils which clarified doctrinal controversies for the first-century church (Acts 15:1-35). As the church extended its boundaries throughout the pagan world, it faced additional challenges to the faith that had to be answered. The Pharisees questioned Jesus' claim that He was the promised Messiah. Here we find the seeds of controversy that were settled in a number of very important creedal formulations. How could God become man? Were the natures of Jesus mixed? Were there two natures present within the one person?

Christians in A.D. 325 met in what has been called the Ecumenical Council of Nicea to settle the question raised by the" Arians:18

17. Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom: With a History and Critical Notes, 3 vols. (6th ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker [1931] 1983), vol. 1, p. 5.

18. The Arian heresy shows itself in nearly every cult. In fact, you can test a suspicious religious movement by asking its members what they think ofJesus. Is He God in human flesh, the Second Person of the Godhead (THnity)? Or is He "a god" or just a great spiritual teacher? Cornelius Van Til was correct when he

Was Jesus really God or was He a creature, albeit the greatest of God's created beings? The Nicene Creed15 stated emphatically that Jesus was "very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father," But there were still questions and disputes. The Council of Constantinople assembled in A.D. 381 to take up the question of Jesus' complete humanity. At this council the true, complete humanity of Jesus was maintained over against Apollinaris of Laodicea who insisted that Jesus was God but denied that He was also man. But the issue of the relationship between Jesus' divinity and humanity was still not solved. Nestor-ianism maintained that the divine and human natures in Christ constitute two persons. This was condemned by the Creed of the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431. The opposite heretical belief was Eutychianism, which insisted that the divine and human natures are so united in Christ that they form but one nature. This was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon, a. d. 451. The conclusion of these debates resulted in the belief that Jesus has two natures in one person. Orthodoxy was measured by these creedal formulations. The orthodox churches have unified around these essential beliefs about the person and work of Jesus Christ for centuries.

argued that all heresies in the church have begun with subordinationism: making Jesus less than God the Father in His very being or essence. Van Til, The Defense of& Faith (rev. ed.; Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1963), p. 25.

The Jehovah's Witnesses have made the Arian heresy famous with their belief that Jesus is "a god" based on a very strained interpretation of John 1:1 and various other verses. To support this conclusion they create a Greek verb tense, the "perfect indefinite" tense, to deaden the effect ofjesus' comments to the Pharisees when He told them: "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM" (John 8:58), an obvious reference to His divinity (Ex.3:14)."I AM" becomes "1 have been." You will find this "Scripture twisting" in the 1950 edition of their New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, now out of print and nearly impossible to locate.

Colossians 1:16-20 states very clearly that Jesus created "all things." But if Jesus is a creature (a "thing"), how can Scripture say that He created all things? Very simple. The Jehovah's Witnesses' own New World Translation inserts the word other" in brackets before the word "things." So now they have Jesus creating "all [other] things" since as a created being He too would be a 'thing."

19. See Appendix A.

Little confusion would have arisen in the church today if the creeds had only been read and studied. The all-important doctrines of the Trinity and Christology (the study of the person and work of Christ) were hammered out and settled long ago. What we are encountering today is nothing new. The same errors have resurfaced. Christians need a good dose of theology in every generation to equip them to fight against "every wind of doctrine" that seems to blow every which way.

Danger: Going Beyond the Creeds Hunt is, from what we can tell from his books, an entirely orthodox Christian. He does not deny any article of the historic creeds. We object, however, to his tendency to test orthodoxy by something more than the creeds demand. We believe that Hunt is generally calling for a return to a sound biblical Christianity. But in the area of eschatology (the doctrine of the end times), he implies that, in order to be orthodox, Christians must subscribe to a particular millennial position. He recognizes that many Christians are turning from the traditional fundamentalist eschatology. He claims that "The views of many Christians concerning the of the world are beginning to have more and more in common with the humanistic hope that mankind can really 'find itself.' W20 He fails to inform his readers that many Christians are returning to a biblically-based, historically-held belief that the kingdom of God operates in the world and that Christians are to live in terms of its ethical requirements (Matt. 6:33).

Mr. Hunt rejects both the optimistic socialism of the evangelical left and the optimistic prosperity gospel of many charismatic.

From their increasingly isolated corner, the fundamentalists warn that neither will succeed because the world is heading for a great tribulation climaxing in the Battle of Armageddon, which will involve the return of Christ to rescue Israel, to stop the destruction, and to set up His kingdom. . . . Whether it appeals to

20. Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon, The Seduction of Christianity: Spiritual Discernment in the Last Days (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1985), p. 215.

our generation or not, the fact remains that the Bible does predict in unequivocal language great judgment from God coming upon planet Earth, and gives us the reasons for this judgment.21

Mr. Hunt believes that this change in eschatology indicates that the "great delusion" is just around the corner. In fact, Hunt and McMahon explicitly equate the 'New Age Movement" with the "great delusion" that they believe will occur near the end of the world: 'What is happening seems to fit the very pattern prophesied for the period of time just before the return of Christ for His own .B22

It is difficult to say how important these eschatological views are to Hunt's argument. Some reviewers have suggested that Hunt's entire diagnosis of New Age seduction is based on his eschatology.

It mayor may not be that the "great delusion" is upon us. But there are. . . major problems with the way Hunt and McMahoil approach this. First, because the field of end times study is filled with controversy among orthodox interpreters, to assume that all Christians should agree with Hunt and McMahon's pretribulational, dispensational eschatology is unwarranted. Seduction's presentation is simplistic to the point of error. A majority of biblical Christians throughout history have held different views of the "end times" than the view represented in Seduction. Hunt and McMahon have centered their whole argument around a view- pretribulational dispensationalism— which, in spite of its present popularity, had no real place in church eschatology for almost eighteen and a half centuries! 21

In other words, these reviewers think that Hunt's books are basically premillennial tracts, on the order of Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth and Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. His gets in the way of objective evaluation.

23. Bob and Gretchen Passantino, Review of "Seduction of Christianity," Forward (Fall 1986), p. 28. For a study of the recent arrival of the pretribulational rapture doctrine see Dave McPherson, The Great Rapture Hoax (Fletcher, NC: New Puritan Library, 1983) and The Incredible Cover-Up (Medford, OR: Omega Publications [1975] 1980).

On the other hand, it is possible that Hunt is only secondarily concerned with eschatology. His second book, Beyond Seduction, in fact, has little to say about the 'great delusion" and the end of the world. The emphasis of the second book is on heaven as the ultimate hope of Christians. Perhaps Hunt is simply calling Christians back to creedal orthodoxy, and his preoccupation with the end of the world is secondary to this aim. If this is the case, we have little quarrel with his diagnosis of the New Age Movement or of aberrant teaching in the church.

Regardless of whether eschatology is intended to be a primary or secondary theme in Mr. Hunt's analysis, we believe that his does affect his understanding of the current state of the church, and it plays an especially important role in his reaction to other eschatological positions. By making his premillennial and dispensational eschatology an important part of his analysis, Hunt has, perhaps unintentionally, made eschatology an implicit test of orthodoxy. He implies that anyone who adopts an optimistic eschatology is moving toward a humanistic view of the future.

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  • phillipp
    What is the 7councils and creeds in reference to christianity?
    2 years ago

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