• Know the Creeds, Councils, Confessions, and Catechisms Part 6: Second Ecumenical Council

    Posted Jun 4th, 2017 By in Pastor Brian's Blog, Why We Believe What We Believe With | Comments Off on Know the Creeds, Councils, Confessions, and Catechisms Part 6: Second Ecumenical Council

    By the time of the fourth century the city of Constantinople was a major player within Christendom. When Donald Trump builds hotels he puts his name — in all caps — on the front of them. Trump’s got nothing on Constantine. He named a city after himself, one that would become the heart of the empire for the next thousand years and would be universally recognized as a “symbol of imperial Christianity” (Holcomb). As such it was a place that was filled with massive Christian symbols—such as cathedrals—and a place that spawned many of the leading theologians of the church.

    It’s not surprising, then, that this city would become the place where the second (381), fifth (553), and sixth (681) ecumenical councils of the church would be held. At the first meeting (381)—which was the Second Ecumenical Council and will be the topic of this article—the issue at hand was the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy and Trinitarianism had won the day 50 or so years earlier at Nicaea (325). But old theological errors die hard and there arose a group that confessed the Nicene Creed and “believed in the Holy Ghost” but defined that phrase entirely different from orthodox Christians. That, by the way, is always how it goes. Theological liberals and heretics are cheaters and cowards who say they believe what the confession or creed says, but know all the while that they really don’t believe what the actual original intention and meaning was. They were around then and they are around today.

    For this group, the Holy Spirit was indeed a reality but he was more like a force than a person. For this group, the Holy Spirit was regarded more like a tool in God’s hand rather than a divine person. In response to this, the council decided with the orthodox and the creed was expanded to say, “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father [the Western later added the clause, “and the Son” which is known as the filoque clause and is perhaps three of the most important words in church history because, as a result of their addition, the church split between the east and the west in 1054] who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.” This expansion of the creed left no room for theological errors when it came to the Holy Spirit.

    It is fitting that we pause to remember the person and work of the Holy Spirit on this Sunday. Today is Pentecost, the day when Christendom around the globe will pause to remember the historical events 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection recorded for us in Acts 2. It’s also the time we remember the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives — he has made us alive, united us to Christ, and leads us and guides us along our pilgrim way. It’s the day that we are reminded that our ascended Lord has not left us as orphans but has overcome his absence in the third person of the Trinity who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

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    Pastor of New Life La Mesa Presbyterian Church in San Diego, CA.

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