Bridging the Ages
“…that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.” – St. Vincent of Lerins
325 A.D. Christianity didn’t start then, no, by that time, the faith which began with the finished work of Jesus Christ had expanded throughout the known world under the pressure of persecution for around 300 years since the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. During that tumultuous beginning, the Apostles of Jesus laid a solid foundation for the new faith by sharing what Jesus had taught them. Of course, they had help – God, the Holy Spirit, had descended dramatically on the first Pentecost, anointing them, to recollect, articulate and demonstrate, through signs and wonders, the truth about Jesus. The original disciples, plus late-bloomer, the notorious Saul of Tarsus, who was to become a follower of Christ after Jesus visited him one day—taught faithful men to share the message of Jesus, and wrote down all that the Holy Spirit led them to compose. Their written work comprised the New Testament scriptures and, when coupled with the Old Testament, completed the revelation of God that began with the Books of Moses.
Now, if men could have just left well-enough alone, all would likely be well with the world and the Church, but alas. It seems that man’s nature has always been to build a better mousetrap. So it didn’t take long for both well-intentioned and not-so-well-intentioned men to begin adding, amending, or adjusting the message of Jesus. These new perspectives and doctrines boiled to the surface when Arius began teaching some things about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that was not in keeping with what had always been taught. This new doctrine prompted a gathering of Bishops of the Church to settle the dispute and decide if this doctrine was right or wrong. Of course, we know from history that the Bishops decided that Arianism was false doctrine and declared it so. And out of this council, held in Nicea in 325 A.D., and a follow-up council held in Constantinople in 381 A.D., came the Nicene/Constantinopolitan Creed, which became the definitive, unanimous, declaration of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and statement of the Christian faith — leaving little room for Arius or those like him to waltz in and change the core beliefs of the Church.
The Creed became known as the Symbol of Faith, or the I Believe. Eastern Orthodox churches and many western churches recite the creed weekly to this day.
Back in the 4th Century, there was still one Church, literally. Scattered near and far throughout Asia Minor, Europe, and beyond, yet one body, in full agreement. Today we yet confess one church universal, but, in practice, we are no longer one. New doctrine has given people the autonomy to create their own truth, interpreting the Bible through selfish flesh, instead of standing on the truth as delivered from the early church through vehicles like the Creed. The Apostle Paul predicted that we would be different — “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5) — but I don’t know if he foresaw the extent to which our differences might influence the Church’s beliefs. Since Martin Luther, one of the original protestants (protest-ants, if you will), who ostensibly helped the western Church by severing ties with Rome, there has been a nearly constant, ongoing, protesting and division in the Church, because of disagreement, enlightenment, newer revelation, or something else.
325 Books launched with what may be an impossible goal, to bridge the unchanging, ancient theology of the early Church based in the Nicene/Constantinopolitan Creed, and 21st century Christians. Much of what we (the Western Church) believe today, doctrinally, has been developed within the last 500 years. That is, in the most recent 25% of church history. While the theology of men and women who forged our faith and taught it with consensus in the early Church are little known and generally unconsidered. If possible, we would like to leap back 1,500 years or so and discover the Early Church’s settled doctrine and follow that. We don’t care to dispute the value of recent doctrine. Instead, we want to focus, as St. Vincent of Lerins said, on “that which has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.” That is the historic Christianity—the faith and practice of the early Church.
If you would like a free copy of “I Believe – Understanding the Nicene Creed” please send us a message (below). We’re happy to send you a copy.
To God be all glory in the Church for ages unto ages, Amen.