The First Ecumenical council of
Nicaea was called by emperor Constantine. The council met to deal with the
schism created by Arianism. The Arians wished to avoid the heresy of
Sabellius who believed in a divine monad which, by expansion, projected
itself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit--a form of Modalism. The Arians
separated the Son from God entirely so that they believed he was a
creature having a beginning. "There was when he was not." The Son was but
God's first creation, yet out of nothing and hence has preeminence over
the rest of creation.
The symbol answers the question,
"Who is Jesus Christ."
Its answer: God
-- The Nicene Creed --
Constantinopolitan Creed -- Creed of 150 Fathers
Usually associated with the
Council of Constantinople this symbol is an expansion and revision of the
earlier Creed of Nicaea with which it is often confused. This is the creed
recited in churches. The council met to refute Apollinarianism.
Apollinarius taught that Jesus was a combination of the divine Logos
spirit, a sensitive human soul and a human body. He taught that Jesus did
not have a human spirit. His views were based on the platonic tripartite
view of human nature. The council condemned this view in order to show
that Christ, as truly human, could redeem the whole person.
The symbol emphasizes the
The symbol is very suitable for
liturgical use and was used as an early baptismal and eucharistic creed.
It goes beyond the Creed of Nicaea in its affirmation of the full deity of
the Spirit though it uses biblical rather than philosophical terms to do
so. The filioque clause found in the Western version of this creed
is one of the major disagreements between the Eastern and Western branches
of Christianity. This clause was not accepted even by the Western Church
until the turn of the first millennium.
The council of Chalcedon met to
resolve the Monophysite controversy in which Eutyches had refused to
confess the existence of two natures in Christ both after the union as
well as before. The definition summarizes the Church's teaching on the
natures of Christ largely in negative terms.
The Council of Orange was an outgrowth of
the controversy between Augustine and Pelagius. This controversy had to do
with degree to which a human being is responsible for his or her own
salvation, and the role of the grace of God in bringing about salvation.
The Pelagians held that human beings are born in a state of innocence,
i.e., that there is no such thing as a sinful nature or original sin. As a
result of this view, they held that a state of sinless perfection was
achievable in this life. The Council of Orange dealt with the Semi-Pelagian
doctrine that the human race, though fallen and possessed of a sinful
nature, is still "good" enough to able to lay hold of the grace of God
through an act of unredeemed human will. As you read the Canons of the
Council of Orange, you will be able to see where John Calvin derived his
views of the total depravity of the human race.