Skip to comments.The Top Ten Most Important Church Councils
Posted on 10/29/2012 1:25:18 PM PDT by NYer
To be deep into history, John Henry Newman wrote, is to cease to be a Protestant. Put another way, to be deep into history is to become stronger in the Catholic faithsomething we are all called to do in this Year of Faith.
To make that journey into the history of our faith is to discover anew its most basic tenets. Who was Jesus really? How can God be three persons in one being? What is the proper role of the Church in salvation? And how does Mary fit into all this?
These questions, and many more, were raised and answered in the ecumenical, or universal, Church councils.
Ironically, one key to understanding the orthodox teachings of these councils is heresy. The councils, especially the earliest ones, were essentially anti-heresy conventions, called to sort the wheat of dogma from the chaff of heresy. This could be a dizzying and disorderly process: no sooner had one bastion of orthodoxy had been defended, than the Church had to rush to the defense of another. So, while one council had to correct heretics who falsely divided Christ into two persons, the next council had to make a course correction in the other direction, reining in heretics who falsely united His human and divine natures into one.
To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame, G. K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.
In all, there were 21 ecumenical councils. All were important in their time, but only some of them stand out for the lasting significance they have had on the faith and life of the Church today. Here, then, are the top ten must-know councils, listed chronologically by the date they were convened:
1. First Council of Nicaea, 325: One of the earliest heresies to rear its head was Arianism, which asserted that Christ was created by the Father and later adopted as His Son. Refuting this heresyby declaring Christ one in being with the Fatherwas the chief task of the Council of Nicaea. In the process, the Nicene Creed was born.
2. First Council of Constantinople, 381: This council defended dogma on two fronts. It affirmed the divinity of the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity. And it condemned a new heresy that claimed Christ was part man and part God but not completely one or the other. Instead, the heresy, known as Apollinarism, put forward the harebrained theory that Christ was comprised of a human body and a divine mind.
3. Council of Ephesus, 431: This council defined the dogma that Christ is one person, not two persons, as the heretical Nestorians claimed. This council also has the distinction of being the only ecumenical gathering that made any dogmatic statements about Mary, declaring her to be the Theotokos, or Mother of God. The other great achievement of this council is its least known: repudiation of one of the most insidious of heresies in Christian historyPelagianism, which denied original sin and said men can use their free will to attain salvation on their own merits, without Gods grace.
4. Council of Chalcedon, 451: After Ephesus declared that Christ was one person, some Christians took that teaching too far, concluding that He also had just one nature, a mystical blend of the human and divine (this heresy was known as Monophysitism, from the Greek words for one and nature). That obviously throws a wrench in the entire message of the gospel. If Christ wasnt fully man, had mankind really been redeemed? If He wasnt fully divine, had God really saved us? Needless to say, the Church quickly pulled together another council to clarify its earlier teaching: Christ was one person, but had two natures. The council ended up achieving more than it bargained for, in ways good and bad. On the upside, it helped to cement the primacy of the Pope as the leader of the Church. But it had the tragic and unintended consequence of sending the Orthodox churches in Syria, Egypt, and Ethiopia into schism.
5. Third Council of Constantinople, 680: This council squashed a new heresy about Christ called Monothelitism, which held that Christ had just one will. You may be thinkingnow were really getting into the weeds, arent we? But Monothelitism was a serious heresy that was a throwback to Monophysitism (the heresy that Christ had one nature). In saying Christ had one will, the Monothelites were essentially saying he had one nature. In rejecting this heresy, this council closed a major chapter in Church history, putting to rest any major lingering debates over who Christ was.
6. Second Council of Nicaea II, 787: This council declared that venerating icons was not only permissible, but also necessary. And it lambasted anyone who claimed that veneration was akin to worship of God or that veneration of icons violated the Old Testament commandment against worshipping false idols. Protestants who repeat such accusations today could use reminding that this controversy was settled centuries ago.
7. Fourth Lateran Council, 1215: By all accounts, this was an epic council. Both St. Dominic and St. Francis attended; a Holy Roman Emperor was named; and the council helped launch a new crusade. In matters of strictly faith and morals, its achievements were equally staggering: the council defined the doctrine that there is no salvation outside the church, approved the use of the term transubstantiation, mandated that Christians go to confession at least once a year, and condemned the erroneous Trinitarian teachings of Joachim of Fiore, calling them heretical and insane.
8. Council of Florence, 1431: This council is important for two apparently unrelated reasons. First, it decided what books belong in the Bible. Second, it made a heroic attempt to reunite Catholic Church with the Eastern Orthodox Greek churches that had broken off several hundred years earlier. But the reunion was short-livedalmost immediately dissolving after the council ended.
9. Council of Trent, 1545: Its hard to imagine a more influential council. Trent defined and defended a whole swath of Church dogmas and teachings about the Eucharist, the authority of the Church, the role of Scripture, and the nature of the Sacraments. The council also led to a standardized Mass, launched the Counter Reformation, and inspired the baroque movement in the arts. In short, Trent gave Catholicism its definitive shape and substance for the next half millenniumat least, up until Vatican II. (But thats another story.
10. Vatican I, 1869: Although it had been an article of faith since the earliest times, it wasnt until Vatican I that the Church defined the dogma of papal infallibility. Two criteria were put in place: the Pope had to be speaking in an official capacity, that is, from the chair, or cathedra, of St. Peter and he had to be speaking about matters of faith and morals. Since that council, there has been only one infallible papal statement, in 1950, on the Assumption of Mary. (The other commonly cited ex cathedra statement, on Marys Immaculate Conception, was in 1854.)
Why Vatican II didnt make the list: Obviously, Vatican II looms the largest of all the councils not only because it was the most recent one but also because it brought sweeping changes to the Church. The significance and salience of those changes remain a subject of controversy and confusionand therefore the lasting impact of Vatican II is unclear. If those changes mark the beginning of a new course for the Churchwhatever that might bethen Vatican II will go down as a pivotal moment. But history has yet to render its verdict.
[ Put another way, to be deep into history is to become stronger in the Catholic faithsomething we are all called to do in this Year of Faith. ]
He must mean “in Roman Catholic Church History”..
Because accurate church history is much different.. much much different..
RCC church history is one thing, actual church history is something else..
There are some places where they both more or less agree somewhat but vast areas where they don’t agree..
Only way to know this is to read them both(all).. almost nobody does that..
I know that the RCC needs to support its hierarchy and dogma I appreciate that..
And other church historys needs to support some biblical view.. which they all say they do..
My point is their are several views of church history not just the RCC one..
WHOs RIGHT!... Ah! thats what dreams are made of..
Conevntional Wisdom (that is to say, the slander of Protestants and secularists) is that Vatican I was an incredible power grab of the papacy. The reverse is actually true: By delimiting the infallibility of the pope, all other matters of the church became open to ecclesiastical introspection. Which is not to say that all ecclesiastical introspection is valid, or that any challenges to theology which has not been doctrinally asserted is valid; it is a grave heresy, inconsistent with the magisterium, that any matter not infallibly resolved is questionable. Quite the opposite: Vatican I affirmed that deference must be made to tradition. One can deny with intellectual honesty theology which has not been ruled infallible, but which represents the current theological consensus any more reasonably than one can doubt any other science which represents the current scientific consensus.
To delve really deep into history and you’ll realize Martin Luther was not only right but only halfway through the tangled webs of deceit and confusion spun by the church he loved. To follow the Word of God or to follow church “tradition” is a choice we all have to make. They lead to different destinations.
Did you miss that?
Are you saying that you would rather believe in heresies than the truth?
“To be deep into history, John Henry Newman wrote, is to cease to be a Protestant.”
Ha! I JUST finished making a short reformation day workbook for my youngest to do on Wednesday. I read a lot of history. I am more a Protestant than ever.
Did I say that? No. I'm saying I believe more in the plain truths of the Bible than 100 of these self important councils. The Word of God trumps the councils and papal edicts any day of the week.
The Top Ten Most Important Church Councils
On the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council
Vatican II, 50 Years Later : The council brought great controversy, but eventually, a greater gift
It is the Decision of the Holy Spirit and Us .On the Council of Jerusalem...(Catholic Caucus)
Catholic Biblical Apologetics: General Councils of the Church, 1870-1962
Catholic Biblical Apologetics: General Councils of the Church, 1123-1545
Catholic Biblical Apologetics: General Councils of the Church, 49-870
Catholic Biblical Apologetics: Acts 15 Model: General- Ecumenical Councils of the Church Universal
Catholic Biblical Apologetics: The Biblical Model for Handing On Truth and Refuting Error: Acts 15, The Council of Jerusalem
A Timeline of Catholic Church history, 1-500 A.D. (includes Councils, Canon of the Bible)
MAJOR COUNCILS OF THE CHURCH - 1st Council of Nicaea - 325 A.D. (1st in a series)
MAJOR COUNCILS OF THE CHURCH - 1st Council of Constantinople - 381 A.D. (2nd in a series)
MAJOR CHURCH COUNCILS - The Council Of Chalcedon - 451 A.D.
Perhaps the first Council of Carthage (AD 397) should also be included, because that’s where the books of the Bible were arranged in the order in which they exist today.
In the tautology of Protestant education there is a tendency to believe that Church doctrines emerged at the first Pentecost wholly intact awaiting only the Reformation to add their brilliance to it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Early Church Fathers taught that Catholic doctrine was more like a sculpture than a painting. Just as a stone must be challenged by a hammer and chisel to reveal the complete beauty hiding within it, Orthodoxy must be challenged by controversy and heresy to reveal the complete beauty previously hidden. It is not what the artist or the reformer adds to doctrine that strengthens and reveals it, but it is what is stripped away over time that reveals it.
Over time, each of the Councils stripped away heresy, error and uncertainty, adding to the understanding. They added nothing new, the Church doctrine was always there, it was just clouded.
Peace be with you.
To follow the Word of God or to follow church tradition is a choice we all have to make. They lead to different destinations.
Everyone who worships their own, Most High and Holy Self says their own personal interpretation of Scripture is the Word of God.
Therefore, everyone is right, no one is wrong, and no one can be wrong, because there is no authority other than personal authority.
Like Eve, all such folks see nothing wrong with modifying His Word here and there, interpreting things to fit their personal preconceptions, or even throwing portions of the Scripture into the trash, in order to rationalize whatever they want to do. Once people decide their personal authority trumps Scripture every time by granting themselves the final word in all matters of interpretation, they're at the very least on the fast track to Self Worship if they're not already there.
For example, prior to 1931, every single Protestant group taught that contraception was a sin. After 1931, they all reversed themselves and to this day teach that there's nothing wrong with contraception, much less that it's a sin.
Were all Protestants basing what they believe on Scripture as they were led by the Holy Spirit prior to 1931 and have now gone astray, or were they all wrong prior to 1931 but are now in agreement with Scripture and the Holy Spirit?
Or do the majority of history scholars believe that the Holy Spirit occasionally reverses what it is Truth the same way Mooze Lames say All Uugh does?
Here's a little history tidbit. In March of 1931, speaking to Catholics with regard to all Protestant groups, Bishop Fulton J Seen said, "Since a week ago last Saturday, we can no longer expect them to defend the law of God. These sects will work out the logic of their ways and in fifty or a hundred years there will be only the Church and paganism. We'll be left to fight the battle alone and we will.
It's about eight years since then and only The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church Jesus Christ Himself founded is still standing against paganism and the mass murder of infants with contraceptives.
He was right, no one can any longer count on folks who wake up one morning and teach the exact opposite of what they said was based on Scripture and the Holy Spirit the day before. Unfortunately for those who have fallen prey to the family of heresies Wycliffe and Luther spread, the Bible teaches that the Church is the rightful interpreter of Scripture which means that those who each interpret it for themselves are acting in direct opposition to the Word of God.
Are you doing OK? Just stormy where you are, no huge drama I hope?
It's too bad that question of whether Protestants were in touch with the Holy Spirit when they interpreted Scripture prior to 1931 requires ultra enlightenment and ultra inspiration to answer. Mere enlightenment and mere inspiration, though, obviously doesn't count for too much given the fact that huge numbers of enlightened and inspired people approve of ordaining queers and even of marrying one queer to another.
So, while I was very interested in whether Protestants are right now or were right before they reversed themselves on contraception, it was good of you to agree that no one can be wrong when personal interpretation trumps Scripture itself.
Do you have these conversations with yourself much? Remember this my literary friend, one + God is always a majority.
Protestant bashing is a popular sport. How dare they only worship God through Jesus, don’t they read the Bible says you have to worship Popes, Bishops, Councils, Icons and weeping toast-Jesus??
Asking the sort of folks who claim their personal authority exceeds the authority of all Scripture a question is pretty much like talking to oneself..
I guess such folks can't rely on the Holy Spirit to lead them to the Truth so they go along with whatever spirit is hanging from a tree in their backyard.
Clarity in writing is not your long suit but I take this as a reprimand of sorts. I'm sure you are sincere in your beliefs and love your church very much. I disagree with much of what your church teaches but that doesn't mean I dislike you. God has a judgement coming and all will be judged individually NOT by denomination. Be prepared.