The State intervened in
the life of the Church.
• Convocations of councils
• The Church obtained
certain financial, material
and legal advantages from
• Emperor Constantine made
a great contribution to the
development of the Church
in Christian religion.
Constantine was born in Naissus
or Nish in modern Serbia
probably from 274 to 288 CE.
His parents were Constantius, an
emperor, and Elena, a Christian.
When Constantius died in 306
CE, his troops proclaimed him
In a dream, he saw a cross in the
sky and the words “conquer in this
sign.” When he won over the
troops of Maxentius, Constantine
looked upon his success as proof
of the power of Christ and the
superiority of the Christian
In 312 CE onwards, he favored Christianity
openly and supported it in every way .
In 313 CE, he and Licinius drafted the
program of toleration and sent it to
governors of the eastern provinces,
granting to Christianity full equality with the
religions in the empire.
In 315 CE, he decreed the abolition of
death on the cross.
In 321 CE, he gave the church permission
to accept bequests and donations and
decreed Sunday as a public holiday.
In 325 CE, he summoned the bishops of
the whole empire to the general Council of
Nicea known as the first Roman
ecumenical council to settle an issue on
the Arian heresy.
In this council, Constantine was known as the Pontifex Maximus which
means “the greatest bridge-maker.”
Constantine was wary of alienating his pagan subjects by
seizing their sites and temples.
a prophet of Apollo was tortured at Antioch, another at
Didyma was forced to confess to fraud, and a shrine of
Aphrodite was razed at the site of the crucifixion at
In 356 CE, Constantine’s son Constantius decreed that
all pagan temples should close and he prohibited
sacrifices to the gods on pain of death.
Christians turned from persecuted to persecutors.
• The reverse of the situation was also
administered by Theodosius, a pious and
intolerant Christian and heretic-hunter
who became emperor in 379 CE. He
definitively banned all pagan cults in 391.
Like the Church before them, they were
denied the legal right to own property.
Christians turned from persecuted to persecutors.
• In its original sense, the word “heresy” did not
mean blasphemy. It came from the Greek for
“choice,” and it meant no more than a sect or
faction whose membership involved a choice of
belief, whether good or bad.
The Church found herself
having the responsibility to
safeguard the true faith
inherited from the bible.
The Church is aware of its
mission to carry the treasure
of divine truth in an earthen
vessel. Its task, however, of
keeping that truth
unadulterated remains for all
ages. It has, therefore, the
task of refuting false doctrines.
• The various Gnostic systems are products of syncretism and go back to
the pre-Christian times. Syncretism, in general, is the mixing of elements
from different schools (philosophy) or religious traditions without any
• For the Gnostics, “true knowledge” is open only to the select few.
• Marcion came from a well-to-do native of Asia Minor and was born on 85
• According to Marcion, the Old Testament God was not the true God, the
Father of Jesus Christ, but only the strict and just God who in the Mosaic
Law laid upon the Jewish people an unbearable yoke.
• Only in the 4th century was the
term “Montanism” invented to
emphasize the person of
Montanus as the main
representative. The name “New
Prophecy” aptly describes the
basic idea of this movement.
• Montanus proclaimed to his
fellow Christians with ecstatic
behavior and in strange, obscure
language, that he was the
mouthpiece and prophet of the
• It took its name from its founder,
the Persian Mani or Manes, who
is called in Latin sources
• There are two highest beings or
principles of equal rank, the one light
and the other of darkness.
• Both possess equal power but stand in
irreconcilable opposition to one another,
each in a realm of its own; the region of
light or the good and the reign of evil.
The controversy on Christ and
The adoptionists looked on Christ as a
mere man who at some time, probably
on the occasion of his baptism, was filled
with divine power and transformed into a
God. Thus, he was adopted by God. The
real and original Gad was only the
Father; and Christ was an adopted God.
The modalists saw in Christ only one
form or mode of the one and only God.
This one God manifests himself at one
time as the Father, as another as the
Son, and at third as Holy Spirit.
The controversy on the Trinity
came out in understanding
the unity of the three person
in the Trinity. The controversy
on Trinity was raised on the
questions: (1) How could God
be unique (one) and at the
same time Father and Son?
(2) How could a man was
born, lived and died (Jesus),
be God, if God is by definition
one who is beyond all
Both adoptionism and modalism
were rejected by the
The Arian Controversy
Arius came up with his own theological views on the
Trinity. Arius was a priest and pastor of a certain
church in Alexandria since 313 CE during the time of
For Arius, the Logos was the first created being, and
far superior to human beings, but it was not in itself
divine. Thus, Arius denied the divinity of Christ as
claimed by the opposition.
Alexander, the bishop of Rome, did not accept Arius’
theology. The Logos (Christ) had existed from all
eternity as equal of the Father. Truly, the dispute was
between Arius and alexander. Arius was placed outside
Christianity; a synod of Alexandria condemned his
teaching and excommunicated him.
CHURCH’S COUNCILS: TO SETTLE THE CONTROVERSIES
1. Council of Nicea in 325 CE
This was conducted from 20th
May to 25th July 325 CE to settle
the controversy on Christ’s nature
(human and divine). In the
convocation of the council,
Emperor Constantine provided
the transportation for all the
After the long debate, the side of
Alexander won. Hence, the
Council of Nicea formulated the
Nicene Creed as the doctrine on
Christ’s nature: “Christ was the
only begotten son from the
substance of the Father, God
from God, light from light, true
God from true God, begotten not
made, of one substance
(homousios) with the Father.”
The Word did not co-
exist with the Father
from all eternity.
The Word has co-
existed with the
Father from the
The word was
created from nothing.
The Word was not
created, but the one
who created all
Constantine informed the whole
empire that Arius and his
followers, as the worst
enemies of true faith, had
been excluded from the
Church. Yet after some years,
Constantine permitted the
return of Arius to his office in
“Christ was the only begotten
son from the substance of
the Father, God from God,
light from light, true God
from true God, begotten not
made, of one substance
(homousios) with the
2. Council of
• In the meantime, the
struggle for the Nicene
formula of “one
continued steadily. A
moderate group, Semi-
Arians, broke away from
the strict Arians. They
and wanted arguably to
replace it with “similar”
This debate was called for synods by the emperor but
brought no agreement. Finally, in 381 CE, Emperor
Theodosius summoned the second general ecumenical
council – the Council of Constantinople – to complete the
clarification of the Arian disputes. This time they clearly
defined the terms “persons” and “nature.” The Cappadocian
Fathers contributed a lot to settle this dispute. They were:
(1) Basil the Great (330 – 379 CE); (2) Gregory of
Nazianzus (329 – 390 CE); and (3) Gregory of Nyssa (334 –
394 CE). They saw the distinction between the three divine
persons as existing solely in their inner divine relations.
According to them, there is only one nature, but three
carriers: one Godhead in three persons. The creed adopted
at Nicea in 325 CE received the addition: “…and in the
Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds
from the Father, who with the Father and the son is
together worshipped and together golrified, who spoke
through the prophets…”
3. Council of Ephesus in 431 CE
• The two schools, Alexandria and Antioch, differed in the
interpretation of the relevant passages of the Scriptures
about these two aspects in Christ. The Alexandrians
emphasized the divine nature of Christ; the Antiochian
emphasized the human nature of Christ.
• The debate was between Cyril of Alexandria and
Nestorius of Antioch. They condemned each other. Thus,
Emperor Theodosius II called for this council.
4.Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE
• It became clear that when Eutyches, abbot of a monastery near
Constantinople, continued Cyril’s doctrine of one nature in Christ
(monophysitism). Eutyches taught that the human nature of
Christ is absorbed by his divinity.
• Because of this, Patriarch Flavian of Constantinople called
Eutyches before a synod and condemned him as heretic.
Dioscorus, Patriarch of Alexandria and follower of Cyril’s teaching,
supported Eutyches. Consequently, the issue had been aggravated
again, making Emperor Marcian (450 – 457 CE) called the 4th
ecumenical council – the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE.
5. Council of Ephesus in 431 CE
• In spite of its condemnation, monophysitism
maintained its position in Palestine, Egypt and
Syria. Under Emperor Justinian I (527 – 565
CE), the heresy of monophysites was permitted.
Emperor Justinian I condemned in 543 CE three
heads of the Antiochian school from which
Nestorianism had sprung. They were: Theodore
of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus and Ibas of
Edessa. Pope Vigilius was convinced to give his
consent; yet, the pope refused. Such refusal of
the pope resulted to his maltreatment by the
imperial soldiers. Emperor Justinian I called
the fifth general council in 553 CE which the
pope refused to take part.
6. Council at Constantinople
• Still the Christological question remained unresolved,
Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople proposed the union of
wills: the human and divine wills were so intimately attuned
that in reality only one natural human-divine energy and
one will (monothelism) has been active in Christ. Sergius
succeeded in convincing Pope Honorius whose knowledge
in Greek theology was limited. The sixth general council
held at Constantinople under the chairmanship of papal
legates condemned monothelism together with its
exponents and supporters including Pope Honorius. Pope
Leo II approved the decisions of the council and the
condemnation of Honorius because of his ignominious
treason to stain the pure faith. Afterwards, Pope Leo II
defended him because Honorius happened to be negligent
in guarding the true faith.
In these councils, we primarily see the interventions of
the emperors to settle the controversies on Christ and
the Trinity. With their interventions, we can see how the
State and the Church interrelate in the society.
Despite of such intervention, the heresies (of the
heretics) continued to spread throughout the empire.
Debates and excommunications were the common ways
to resolve the controversy.
As they try to resolve the issue, it took more long
years for them to settle by formulating dogmas or
doctrines recited in the creed. This creed is
faithfully confessed by the members of the Church
even until today.
Because of this creed formulated thousand years
ago, there were “Christians” (we may call them
heretic Christians) sheeding their blood as they
stood up on what they believed to be true.
Thus, to be heretic is to really stand up on what
you believe to be true – that is the choice of the
heretic. In the early period of Christianity, heresy is
the most unforgivable and condemnable choice of