I’m reading several books right now. Most of them deal with the Nicene or Pre-Nicene Christians. One thing I have noticed in reading these works is that the earliest Christians did not have a real clear conception of Jesus Christ as “God”–that is, as equal with the Father. It seems that many, like Justin Martyr, saw Jesus Christ as just a small step down from the Father. What I am wondering is: why do we insist that Jesus is God? I’ve been reading a book that deals with all the different Christological views and how many of them, such as Monarchism and Arianism, were rejected.
Ultimately, the Nicenes, after battling with Arians, Apollinarians, Nestorians, and other such “errors,” finally won out. Now here is the problem that I am having, which I hope others might be able to help me with. Today we can easily look back in the Church’s history and point out which councils are orthodox, which ones ecumenical, and which ones local. However, it seems that before and after the Nicene council (which wasn’t regarded as binding by the Arians) there were non-orthodox councils of bishops that rejected the decisions of the now-called “orthodox” councils. In any case, I’m concerned that the status of councils as binding and orthodox depends less on a prior agreement of bishops before the councils, and and more so on how the bishops force other bishops (by force if necessary) to submit to the authority of certain councils believed to be orthodox by the dominant party of bishops. The Arians probably thought they were orthodox while viewing the Nicenes as heretics. And it’s not just with the Arians either. There were many other groups that, although they believed that Christ was divine in some degree, did not see him as equal in substance to the Father, but rather only “like” the Father.
It’s not that I don’t believe Jesus is God; it’s just that I’m a little dissapointed in how we as a Church came to the Nicene understanding of Christ. It just seems that dogma was not created in a peaceful and orderly manner, but rather only after years of deposing “non-orthodox” bishops, who oftentimes began workign for the “orthodox” cause, until the opposing party lost the foundation necessary to expound its views. Has anyone else noticed this, or is it just me?
By the way, the one book I am reading is exclusively on the first seven ecumenical councils and is written by a Catholic priest; so I am just a little surprised at how councils were really run.