Monday, January 21, 2013

An Eastern Christology - Part I

The First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, 325 AD

The Doctrine of the Person of Christ

Sacred Scripture does not record everything that we as Christians have come to believe about Christ God. Sacred Scripture gives us the essential overview of Our Lord's Person, but prior to the compilation of the Bible, specifically the New Testament, there was a lot that was passed down to us from Jesus Christ to the holy Apostles as well as those that came after them. So many things were taught but it just was not possible for all of it to be written down (see John 21: 25). Sacred Tradition (not traditions of men) is that which has been divinely revealed to us and transmitted down through the ages by those who initially received it and passed it along. 

When questions of uncertainty began to spread in the fourth century due to heterodox teaching about the nature of the Divine Person of Christ, it became important for all the Successors of the Apostles (Hierarchs/bishops) to come together from around the world (an ecumenical council, a coming together) in order to define in the best known philosophical and theological way, the divine nature of Christ, in order to keep the Church faithful to orthodoxy (correct teaching). The first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 AD set forth the language to help define and clarify the Church's belief from those who were going astray. The Council was not creating a new belief or revealing anything new, but defining that which had been divinely revealed in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. 

"I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, 
the Only-begotten of the Father before all ages. 
Light of Light. 
True God of True God. 
Begotten not made: 
of one essence with the Father; 
through whom all things were made." 
~Nicene Creed

In order to make sure at this point nobody tries to claim that the Fathers of the Council were making up a new teaching, let us take a brief look at the Scriptural accounts in the New Testament whereby one can find an almost verbatim match with the fourth century creed. I will not write them all out but leave it up to you to look them up and read them for your own benefit:

John 3:16; 18: 1, John 5: 1, John 17: 5-24, 1 John 1: 5, John 8: 12, 1 John 5: 20 and John 1: 3.

In addition to the beginning statement of the creed the first Ecumenical Council clarifies the revelation of the Person of Christ's nature even further: 

"Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven; 
and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, 
and became man."
~Nicene Creed

Once again let us look at the texts in Sacred Scripture that correlate with the work the Fathers of the Council did to more clearly put into language what had been divinely revealed:

The following New Testament accounts correspond to the text of the Creed: "Who for us men...": John 3: 17, 6: 38, 1 Timothy 2: 5-6 and others.

It is clear from both Sacred Scripture and the Church that both sources are united on who Christ is as true God assuming human nature. In the reality of man's sinfulness and the broken human condition we inherited from the first Adam, it became salvifically essential that the divine righteousness broken by man's disobedience be reconciled and restored through the second Adam, who assumed our broken humanity, 'the Just One for the sake of the unjust,' suffering obediently even unto death, for the sake of our redemption.

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