The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

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Councils of Faith: Lateran I - III

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Our series on the Ecumenical councils of the Church here on Godzdogz has so far been dominated by the controversies in the Greek speaking East. The first three Lateran councils, convoked in a 60 year period between 1123 and 1179, mark a shift in focus towards the west. In these councils we see the Church wrestling in a very practical way with the question of authority. In the wake of the Western Roman Empire’s fall, the Papacy had stepped into a power vacuum at the heart of western European society. Yet as the centuries passed and European culture saw a political renewal the Church found it increasingly necessary to resist secular attempts to curtail its autonomy. Lateran I – III, then, can be seen as part of a broader project led by a number of reforming Popes in the eleventh and twelfth century to assert the independence of the Church from the crown and tighten clerical discipline.  Read more

Councils of Faith: Constantinople IV (869-70)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
This council was centred around whether Photius ought, or ought not, to be Patriarch of Constantinople.  It involved clear political interactions and, what is more, the political situation was complex, and changed significantly over short periods of time. An interaction with actual ‘secular’ politics and civic life is a feature of many of the ecumenical councils. An awareness of political factors is probably common to them all. After all, the Church exists in and interacts with the world. In common with other councils, it passed canons that have proved important over time, and often of more significance and use in theology, than the central business for which such councils were principally called. Read more

Councils of Faith: Nicaea II (787)

Tuesday, January 08, 2013
The question of the use of images in the worship of God is one which pre-dates the coming of Christ: the First Commandment forbids the making of ‘a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth’ or the worshipping of them (Ex 20: 4-5). Idolatry is one of the charges frequently levelled against Israel by God, speaking through the prophets, in the Old Testament (e.g. Ezek 23: 49, Jer 16: 11-13), and several of the Psalms mock and condemn the practice of idol-worship (e.g. Pss. 105 [106], 113 [115). However, when the salvation which those same prophets had promised came, it came not by returning Israel to the rejection of any image of God, but rather, God sent his only Son, ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Colossians 1: 15), to reveal to the world the truth of the Trinity, of God who is Love. Read more

Councils of Faith: Constantinople II (553)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

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Councils of Faith: Chalcedon (451)

Thursday, November 15, 2012
The ‘Christological Settlement’ promulgated by the Council of Chalcedon is one of the most decisive texts of Christian theology, serving as the point of reference for the resolution of all future Christological disputes. Chalcedon was principally attempting to respond to a new heretical view espoused by a certain Archimandrite from Constantinople called Eutyches, who proposed that in the incarnation the divine and human substances somehow became ‘mixed’ as a ‘tertium quid’ (a third thing), something more than human but less than divine. Chalcedon’s decree, however, effectively summarises the whole trajectory of Christological thought that developed through four centuries of sustained reflection on the Church’s faith and practice, as has has been reflected in the first three Ecumenical Councils. Read more

Councils of Faith: Ephesus I (431)

Wednesday, November 07, 2012
The dogmatic definition of the Holy Trinity in the Nicene Creed did not shut down debate in the Church, but enabled theologians to explore ever deeper the mystery of God. In particular, how was it possible for divinity and humanity to be reconciled in the one person, Jesus Christ? Read more

Councils of Faith: Constantinople I (381)

Thursday, November 01, 2012
The question that dominated the First council of Nicaea (325) was in essence: Is Jesus merely a super-being that God created, or is he God himself? The Arians had insisted that if Christianity is to be consistently monotheistic it must acknowledge that only God the Father is Divine. For the Arians, then, the Son and Spirit are more like immensely powerful angels. As we have seen in a previous post, Nicaea forcefully rejected this idea and preserved the scriptural truth of the Divinity of Christ via a non-scriptural term: homoousios, translated into English as ‘consubstantial’. The Son is consubstantial with the Father, God from God, begotten not made.  Read more

Councils of Faith: Nicaea I (325)

Thursday, October 25, 2012
Some time before the year 322, a dispute arose in the Church of Alexandria over the preaching of the presbyter Arius, whose account of the relationship between God the Father and the Son had been condemned by his bishop: what particularly attracted censure was the assertion that the Son’s existence was not co-eternal with the Father’s, but that, in the catchphrase which the Council picked out for an anathema, ‘there was a time when he was not’. Read more

Councils of Faith: Introduction - 2

Sunday, October 21, 2012
What is an ecumenical Council? Why are there 21 Ecumenical or General Councils? Read more

Councils of Faith: Introduction - 1

Wednesday, October 17, 2012
What is an ecumenical Council? Why are there 21 Ecumenical or General Councils?  Read more
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