Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Constantine and the Council of Nicaea

In Protestant, Evangelical and Hebrew Roots sects of Christianity it is popular to vilify Constantine.  I consider myself to some decree part of the last two of those groups.  Yet my view of Constantine is different.

I'm by no means inclined to view Constantine as the ideal Christian or an Ideal Ruler.  But I think the extent to which many people pin everything they don't like about mainstream Christianity on Constantine greatly oversimplifies things.

All the core doctrines of Catholicism had their seeds planted among the Church Fathers who came before Constantine.  The reverence for the Greek Philosophy of Plato, Aristotle and Philo had already started.  And to varying decrees so did the desire to reconcile Christianity with Rome.

Constantine did not formally make Christianity the state religion.  In fact the Edict of Milan was actually an edict granting Freedom of Religion to all Religions.
"When you see that this has been granted to [Christians] by us, your Worship will know that we have also conceded to other religions the right of open and free observance of their worship for the sake of the peace of our times, that each one may have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases; this regulation is made that we may not seem to detract from any dignity of any religion."
The common statement that Christianity didn't become the State Religion till Theodosius I is also perhaps an oversimplification.  Christianity had certainly become a state sponsored religion before then.  But only Gratian removed the state sponsored status of any element of the old Roman Religion.

It is with Theodosius I that Christianity as the state religion to the exclusion of other faiths began.

The original Nicene Creed of 325 AD contains nothing I object to (I just did a post defending the Homoousion doctrine).  Nor anything I would expect to be objected to by most Protestants, Evangelicals, or other Christians who like to vilify Constantine and use Pre-Nicene and Post-Nicene to distinguish which Early Church Fathers they consider worth quoting.

"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. 

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

And in the Holy Ghost.

[But those who say: 'There was a time when he was not;' and 'He was not before he was made;' and 'He was made out of nothing,' or 'He is of another substance' or 'essence,' or 'The Son of God is created,' or 'changeable,' or 'alterable'— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]"
Later the Creed was revised at the Council of Constantinople of 381 AD under Theodosius I.
"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (├Žons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; from thence he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead. ; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.

In one holy catholic and apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen."
I don't mind the removing the Condemnation part.  As a supporter of Eternal Security and now a Universalist, I have no desire to question the Faith of people I disagree with, even Arians.

It is mainly the last paragraph I object to, firmly establishing a terrestrially organized Church.

The other differences seem to be influenced by the earlier Old Roman Symbol and Rule of Faith creeds that goes back to the Second Century.

The Donations of Constantine were a forgery made by the Roman Catholic Church, though it gets used by Papal Antichrist theorists.  That Constantine moved the Capital from Rome to Constantineople makes him if anything more a founder of the Eastern Orthodox Church then the Roman Church.

Theodosius I made Christianity the state religion and outlawed other faiths with the Edict of Thesselonica.  I'm surprised more Historicists and other Papal Antichrist theorists haven't made a big deal out of that Edict being in the same city Paul directed his most Eschatologically concerned Epistles to.

However I feel Justinian's reign was equally important to formalizing what I consider corrupt mainstream Christianity.  It was under his reign that Universalism was first condemned as a Heresy.

What do I think of the Doctine of Traducianism?

I'm not sure.  But I'm kind of leaning towards it.

Traducianism
"In Christian theology, traducianism is a doctrine about the origin of the soul (or synonymously, "spirit"), holding that this immaterial aspect is transmitted through natural generation along with the body, the material aspect of human beings. That is, an individual's soul is derived from the souls of the individual's parents.[1] This implies that only the soul of Adam was created directly by God (with Eve's substance, material and immaterial, being taken from out of Adam), in contrast with the idea of creationism of soul (not to be confused with creationism as a belief about the origin of the material universe), which holds that all souls are created directly by God (with Eve's substance, material and immaterial, being taken from out of Adam).[2]"
In other words the Soul/Spirit reproduces the same way our bodies do.

This isn't like my other blog posts.  I don't have much of my own insights to add.  So I'll be quoting Wikipedia's section on the Biblical Arguments for it.
Supporters of traducianism present arguments from the Bible such as the following:
  • Begetting includes the image and likeness of God (Genesis 5:3), but since God is spirit, this must mean the immaterial aspect of human beings.
  • God's creation is finished (Genesis 2:2), thus no new souls are created directly, but are instead transmitted by natural generation just as the body is.
  • Creationism destroys the idea of the miraculous and supernatural, since it incorporates God's supernatural, miraculous creation of the soul (out of nothing or himself) into the natural process of reproduction. This is inherently contradictory, since it makes that which is against natural law a part of nature: it is against natural law that something is created out of nothing.
  • God created all things "very good" (Genesis 1:31), yet many Christians understand the Bible to teach that after the fall, all are sinful at birth (Job 14:1-4; 15:14; Psalm 58:3; John 3:6) and from conception (Psalm 51:5). Since most theologians hold that God would not have created something sinful, it follows that souls are not created directly but are generated. Those who adhere to Roman Catholicism believe that it is possible for God to create a soul that simultaneously takes on a fallen nature, much like He can create a soul that simultaneously is prevented from taking on a fallen nature (see The Immaculate Conception); this view is not typically held by Protestants or other Christian denominations.
  • Genesis 46:26 can be understood to teach that souls are already present in the loins, and Hebrews 7:10 ("When Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.") seems to take this view.
  • In Genesis 6, some interpreters see the traducian model as the best explanation for the begetting of monstrous offspring with human bodies and demonic souls by the angels that took wives of the daughters of men. The soul-creationist's difficulty of God creating souls for such monsters may be why most later churchmen rejected the literal interpretation of Genesis 6 as referring to angels interbreeding with human women.
The first of these arguments is perhaps the least likely one I'd use myself, since it sounds like diminishing the significance of our Physical Bodies being Made in God's Image.  The last one I'm also hesitant to use since my position on the Genesis 6 issue has become complicated.  And the third isn't much of a Biblical argument at all.  But the rest are pretty solid.

The Wikipedia section on the arguments against it don't mention any that impress me.

This view was supported by Augustine of Hippo.  A person I have generally emphasized my disagreements with in the past.  But I've never said he was wrong on everything.  Similar with Tertulian though I have recently questioned how sure we are he wasn't a Universalist.  Gregory of Nyssa was a Universalist who supported Traducianism.

The Godhead, what does that mean?

Godhead is a word that appears three times in the KJV, and in all three it is a different word in the Greek (though all of them were derived from Theos, meaning God or god).  But first we need to discus the English word itself.

Originally, Godhead was just a variant spelling and pronunciation of Godhood, and so carried the exact same meaning as that word, referring to the status of divinity.  But that's not how it's usually used today.

I've seen people who agree with he doctrine of The Trinity as it's usually defined, but don't like the word "Trinity" for whatever reason, say we should say The Godhead instead.  And even others not suggesting we use it as a synonym for Trinity, still seem to mean something similar by it.

Let's look at all three verses it is used in and their corresponding Greek words.

Acts 17:29
"Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device."
Godhead here is Theion, Strong Number 2304.  This is the only of the three words used more then once, though the others is a slightly different form.  Theios in 2 Peters 1 verses 3 and 4, there it is translated "divine".  And I think likewise "the divine" is how it should be rendered in Acts 17.

Romans 1:20
"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:"
Here it is Theiotes, Strong Number 2305.  Here I agree with the Strongs that it should be rendered "Divinity".  And so it would be here that the "Godhood" meaning would be accurate.

Colossians 2:9
"For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily."
Here the Greek word is Theotes, Strong Number 2320.  This word is a bit more mysterious.  One website says it also means divinity but with "abstractly" in parentheses.  I've also seen it defined as "The substance of being God".

In this case it is useful to talk about some of the Greek words around it.

The word for "fulness" is Pleroma.  Because the Gnostics used Pleroma a certain way, it suits some people to say Paul is using it that way here.  But this is the same word for "fulness" used when he refers to the "fulness of the gentiles" in Romans 11:25.  It just means fullness.

The word translated "Bodily" is Somatikos Strong Number 4985.  It's a variation of Strong Number 4984.  It could also equally accurately be translated Corporeally or Physically.

The term Homoousion "of the same substance" was a key focus of controversy at the First Council of Nicea in defining The Trinity.  While I can sympathies with those who objected to the word because it was not used in The Bible and seems to have been coined by Gnostics.  The point of the Nicean Homoousion doctrine is supported by Colossians 2:9.

If I were to make my own translation, Colossians 2:9 might likely be the only place where "The Godhead" is used.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

My Evangelical Universalism does not contradict Free Will

I made a brief post on Free Will before Pelegius once.  I decided that I didn't need much of a separate post proving Free Will Biblically because those Church Fathers themselves quoted Scripture in those quotes.

Since then I've become a Universalist.  And in the Evangelical Universalism group on Facebook I joined, there seems to be a lot of hostility towards Free Will.  My differences from a lot of other modern Universalists I think has a lot to do with my not being as fond of Origen and closer to agreeing with the Antiochian school.  Though at the same time Origen did refer to Free Will.  It is still the Platonic influence on the Early Church he reflects that allows rejection of Free Will seep in.

The Pagan Greek mindset always rejected Free Will.  The Oedipus Legend is all about how Man can't escape the Fate that the gods decreed for him.

I do believe there is a difference between those who Believe in Jesus in this Life and those who didn't.  I believe only those who enter a Covenant Relationship with Him become Citizens of His Kingdom, and eligible to become Co-Rulers.  Revelation 21-22 refers to "Nations of the Saved" outside New Jerusalem.

The idea that you must be rejecting Free Will if don't think God is going to punish unbelievers  eternally for their choice.  I think is an abuse of what Free Will means.  Traditional Arminians believe in theoretical Free Will, but they don't actually believe God respects it, because they say if you make the Wrong Choice he will either annihilate or eternally torment you for it.

My point is, True Free Will is ONLY believed in by those who reject Eternal Punishment.  The same passages in The Bible that I consider the strongest proofs of Unviersalism, also clearly show that people will make different Choices.  Like Sodom being Restored (Ezekiel 16), and that verse from John 12 I made a post on recently.

It is God's Will that none should Perish.  I unlike Calvansits and Amrinians believe that can be accomplished without rejecting Man's Free Will. We won't Perish, but we do have choices.