Historical Theology: Church Councils - Intro

We're going to follow a multi-part study of the ancient church councils. There are seven councils (commonly known as the General Councils, Ecumenical Councils, or Catholic Councils) that we will consider ranging in date from 325 A.D. to 787 A.D. There were certainly other councils during that time period, before that period, and since that period, but these seven are generally regarded as the most significant and are accepted by Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox alike. While we certainly do not agree with every single aspect of each of these councils, we can affirm, to a large degree, the major conclusions of all of the seven General Councils.

"Why should I care?" you may ask. In general, we believe that there are many valid reasons that you should care about church history, but these councils are specifically important because of the condemnation of heresy and affirmation of and clarification of specific terminology about biblical teachings (doctrine) that occurred at each of them. As we studies the councils each in more depth, we will see some modern examples of the heresies condemned where they still exist, and we will see the strengths and benefits of the teachings affirmed.

Brief overview of factual data:

Council

Location

Date

People

Summary of Issues

I

Nicea

325

Arius and Athanasius (both of Alexandria)

Arianism vs. Monotheism and deity of Christ

II

Constantinople

381

Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus

Sabellianism and other heresies vs. Theanthropic person of Christ

III

Ephesus

431

Cyril of Alexandria and Nestorius of Antioch

Nestorianism vs. Christ's unified personality

IV

Chalcedon

451

Dioscorus of Alexandria, Eutyches, Flavian of Antioch, Leo I of Rome

Eutychianism vs. Christ as union of divine and human natures

V

Constantinople

553

Emperor Justinian I

Monophysitism vs. Dyophysitism

VI

Constantinople

680-81

Emperor Constantine IV

Monotheletism vs. Dyotheletism

VII

Nicea

787

Empress Irene

Iconoclasm

 

Phew! I know that there are a lot of names, dates, and large words in the chart above, and most, if not all, of it likely means nothing at all to you at this point. That's not a problem! Please resist the temptation to say "I'm not going to understand all this/I don't care about all this" and skip the next 5-7 articles. I promise that the above chart will be not only understandable, but a helpful reference to aid your memory when we are done with our study. You can understand not only all the names/dates/big words on the chart, but, more importantly, why they matter and how they impact your walk with Christ.

 

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