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Describe the development of the doctrines of Christ and of the Trinity during the Councils of the 4th & 5th centuries. What were the political and religious movements and ideas leading to the Councils of the 4th & 5th centuries?

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Introduction

BA Divinity First Year. Neil Lincoln. Module: Church History. 17 November 2002 Describe the development of the doctrines of Christ and of the Trinity during the Councils of the 4th & 5th centuries. What were the political and religious movements and ideas leading to the Councils of the 4th & 5th centuries? Introduction Through describing the Church history leading up to the 4th and 5th century ecumenical Councils this essay will attempt to outline the cause of the split over different perspectives of the Holy Trinity that eventually lead to the Great Schism of West and Eastern Churches. On closer reflection it is clear that the human element in any appraisal causes views that will differ. Over the years these views have had to be assessed, refined and concluded. After two thousand years this in reality has only partially been achieved and the schisms still exist although the basic theme may concur. The term Great Schism refers to either one of two schisms in the history of Christianity. Most commonly, "Great Schism" refers to the "great East-West schism", the split between the Eastern and Western churches in the eleventh century; the second schism, the "schism of the west" in the fourteenth century, refers to a time when three (claimant) popes were elected simultaneously (Great). But the main concern in this essay will be the split preconditions that occurred in the 4th and 5th century. It should be said at this point that the word schism should not be confused with heresy. It is a divide within the church and not outside from the church. The early period of the Christian church was troubled by a number of dissensions about the nature and relationship of the three Persons of the Trinity. In the West the Holy Spirit was seen as coming from the Father and the Son, though subordinate to neither. In the Eastern part of the (as yet) undivided Catholic Church the spirit was seen as coming from the Father through the Son. ...read more.

Middle

"Ambrose and the Catholics of Milan occupied the church which Justina had surrounded by troops". (Bertram, P.43). There ensued a standoff and by Good Friday the Empress Justina gave way. She did attempt a second time a year later but again was foiled by Ambrose. " Meanwhile, we may take comfort in reflecting, that, though the present tyranny has more of insult, it has hitherto had less of scandal, than attended the ascendancy of Arianism; we may rejoice in the piety, prudence, and varied graces of our Spiritual Rulers; and may rest in the confidence ,that should the hand of Satan press us sore, our Athanasius and Basil will be given us in their destined season, to break the bonds of the Oppressor, and let the captives go free." (Newman, 1890. P.394). Even Paganism was still in great evidence, even when Constantine converted to Christianity. "It probably remained the religion for the majority well into the second half or the 4th century" (Richardson-Bowden. 1983. P153). "With Emperor Julian (361-3) dead, his successors increased the measures against paganism and against Christian heretics". (Comby, 1985.P74). All pagan custom was banned in 392. The next problem to occur was, now the Son and Holy Spirit were agreed on, was "how to explain the union between the divinity of the Word and the humanity of Jesus". (Comby, 1985.P.95). The problem was how to explain that God was both divine and human. There were two explanations put forward. In Alexandria that Christ was the Word in human form. "That was the condition for the divinization of man". (Comby, 1985.P.95). In Antioch the view was of two natures in unity. " for some people there were two natures for others there was one." (Comby, 1985. P.95). These differences soon led to discord between two bishops. Cyril of Alexandria and Nestorius of Constantinople. Nestorius attacked the view that Mary was therefore Mother of God. ...read more.

Conclusion

If they can be trusted with knowing and discerning which works of the Old and New Testaments are inspired and from God, why cannot they also be trusted to define authoritatively the doctrine of God? We can probably say that from the practice of only having bishops decide matters in a council, what was considered the majority were the bishops. Here are the opinions of a number of scholars. H.B. Swete, for example, comments, "Whatever individuals may have thought, the consensus of opinion in the ancient Church supported a belief in the personal subsistence of the Holy Spirit" (Swete, 1912. P. 375). "Those who took Him [the Holy Spirit] for an energy were probably a small minority of persons who were either infected with Sabellian views, or sought to escape from the controversy of the hour by denying that the Holy Spirit was an entity of any kind, created or Divine. Such a rejection of the personal life of the Spirit must have been rare within the Catholic Church" (Ibid. P. 375). It is little wonder that there discourse during this period. Given the magnitude of the subject councils which threw people together to discuss and argue their views. In the time between it must have been difficult to expand theories outside of the group to which they were part. It is easy in this day and age to miss the communication problems of the era. Communication to the other side of the world in seconds is the norm. In the 4th and 5th centuries it would have been months for much lesser distances. Thankfully they persevered. The political verses the religious authority was deeply felt. Both parties could be accused of using the power they had for personal gratification. I prefer to think of them as having the faith of their conviction and in their love and understanding of God. It is the Holy Spirit that guided them. The truth may remain hidden temporarily and cannot be depressed. Ingenuity may flourish temporarily and cannot linger permanently. ( De Doctr, Christ, ii) Word Count 4986. ...read more.

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