Identifying a Counterfeit Gospel

Christian Life & Theology, Podcast Episodes

The early church faced a lot of heresies in their first 500 years. Arianism, Gnosticism, and Docetism threatened the church’s teaching and forced them to refine their teaching to match the gospel. In this episode, you’ll journey through three major creeds and five major councils!


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Welcome to Verity podcast. I’m your host, Phylicia Masehimer, and I am here to teach you how to know what you believe, to live it boldly, and to communicate it graciously to the world around you. I believe that women are ready to go deeper in their faith than ever before. And they don’t have to go to seminary to do it. I am so glad you’re here, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey because every woman is a theologian.

Hello, friends, and welcome back to Verity podcast. We are in episode 3 of our church history series studying the early church from AD 33 to AD 500. And today, we’re talking about the creeds and the councils. So when I was thinking about how to break down this entire series, I thought, you know, when you’re looking at a 500 year chunk of church history, there’s just so much to cover. And if you listen to last week’s episode on the world of the early church, you know, I was trying to race through all of this context, all of this history. And I mentioned several of the councils and creeds along the way. But this week, we’re going to do a deeper dive into those councils and look at some of the creeds that our churches are still saying during worship today. So we’re going to start with the Apostle’s Creed. 

The Apostle’s Creed is something that most of us are familiar with. But if you’re not familiar, it’s simply a statement of faith or a statement of beliefs summing up Christian fundamentals. And this one was probably taken from something called the old Roman creed, which we don’t have written down, but was likely the origin of the Apostles’ Creed and developed sometime in the 1st or 2nd century, so very, very early, as a way to summarize what Christians hold to. So this is the oldest called the Apostle’s Creed because a 6th century tradition attributes the 12 articles of the creed to the 12 apostles. So the idea is that 1 of the apostles submitted one of the statements in the creed so that you have 12 statements and 12 apostles. It’s probably not true, but it’s an interesting legend. 

Essentially, the Apostles’ Creed sums up the rule of faith transmitted from the Apostles. So what they were teaching to early converts is summed up in the Apostle’s Creed, the bare bones basics as we might say. And this creed was passed down through the Middle Ages. Monks in the Middle Age would actually recite the creed as a part of their daily liturgy as they went about their prayers are about their work. And it’s also one of the most unifying ecumenical creeds.

So when we look at the next creed, the Nicene Creed. We’ll see that this is actually the most accepted creed, but this one is its foundation and the basis for it. Now it’s a short little statement, so I’m actually going to read it right here, and it will probably sound pretty familiar. 

I believe in God, The father almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only son, our lord, who was conceived by the holy ghost, born of the virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and buried. He descended into hell. The 3rd day, he arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of God the father almighty. From then he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, in the life everlasting. Amen.

So this particular creed sums up the essentials. Talking about the life of Jesus, his ministry, his nature a little bit, and then talks about his death, burial, resurrection, and his coming judgment. It’s interesting that this is the kind of thing that was summarized in Hebrews 5 and 6. When it talks about moving on from the elementary teachings of the faith, The things listed as elementary teaching line up very well with the Apostles’ Creed. Now you might have some questions about what you heard in that creed. One of the things that often comes up is holy Catholic church.

What does that mean? Does that mean the Roman Catholic church? Well, actually, no. Because at the time that the apostles creed was developed, there was no Roman Catholic church. There was only the whole church across Israel and Africa and Egypt and India and Europe. So there was no one Roman Catholic church. So what does Catholic mean? Well, Catholic means universal or global. The word is taken from 2 Greek words meaning according to the whole. So when it says holy Catholic church, it simply means the holy global church referring to all Christians. 

The other part of the creed that is puzzling to many people is the section that says Jesus descended into hell. In the Catholic tradition, so Roman Catholic tradition, and this is taken directly from the Catholic catechism, The idea is that Jesus experienced death and his soul joined others in the realm of death. And so the catechism points out that he descended there as savior and then preached the good news to the spirits imprisoned there. This idea that Jesus descended into hell, preach the good news to those who were imprisoned there, most likely old testament saints, is taken from 1st Peter 3:19 which says after being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits. 

So the idea in the Roman Catholic tradition is that when Jesus died, he went to hell. He went to Hades, Sheol, the grave. He preached the good news to the spirits imprisoned there, whether they were righteous or unrighteous. They’re in, like, what’s called Abraham’s bosom in Jewish tradition. They’re just waiting for judgment and he preached the gospel to them.

But in Protestant tradition, the descended into hell phrase is taken to mean he died or passed into the grave. So that word for hell, Sheol, the grave. When he died, he passed into the grave for 3 days, and then he rose again. He did not preach the gospel to anyone who was in hell. 

So the Apostle’s Creed sums up the basics of Christianity for the early church. But what needs to be clarified, and we’ll get to this in a minute, is the relationship of Christ and God and the nature of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. At this juncture in the early church, it’s simply except that it’s pretty straightforward. It’s pretty simple. But as time goes on, confusion, false teaching, people who are trying to kind of meld together Gnosticism and Christianity or come up with new ideas about Jesus’ nature, these present challenges to the church. In the 1st 500 years of the church is this journey of refining Christian teaching, and saying, oh, nope. That’s not it. Oh, that’s not it either. Nope. You’re wrong over here. This is what we believe. This is what was handed down from the apostles.

And as you’re gonna learn as we get into some of these councils and and learn about what was happening, these are imperfect bishops, church leaders who are participating in this. And I think when you look at church history and you study it out. It can be a little alarming at first to realize just how flawed some of the people involved in the church really were. But here’s the thing I come back to. When we have an inflated view of ourselves and our own propensity to sin, it’s very easy to look at people in history, to look at people in the Bible and think, well, I would never do that. I would never sin in that way. And really, a lot of us would. A lot of us do make similar decisions, maybe not as boldly, maybe not as openly, but the heart is the same.

We make decisions that have an impact on our faith, on our community, on our church, on our relationships. And we make decisions out of selfishness or out of selfish ambition or pride, and that’s ultimately at the root of every negative thing that we see in church history. So when we have a right view of our own propensity to sin, we can have a better understanding of why people made the choices they made in history. Yes. They should know better. Right? They’re super close to the gospel. They’re involved in the church. But unless somebody stays grounded in the true gospel and in relationship with God, understanding that they are deeply loved and seen and known and sharing that with others, they will very easily be led astray into power politics, into manipulation, and selfish ambition.

And that’s what we see later on. So that’s a little rabbit trail away from the Apostle’s Creed, but that’s our our foundation stone here is the basics of Christianity and and what is taught about Jesus, about God, about the Holy Spirit, telling the story of Jesus’ ministry and the communion of the saints, forgiveness of sins, and resurrection eternally with God. 


So the next council and creed I want to talk about is the Nicene Council. The Nicene Council helped shape and form the Nicene Creed. And this creed is extremely important. It is the most famous and influential creed, and it improved the language of the Apostle’s Creed. So as I said earlier, what was happening in these 1st 500 years is we had these doctrines handed down from the apostles, taught by Jesus, and the early church is having to refine how they present those doctrines. They’re having to refine their theology, their rational thinking about the gospel.

Theology is thinking about God, the study of God, and so they’re having to argue, okay, Jesus is fully divine and he’s fully human. He’s not 1 or the other. And so in the Apostles’ Creed, that really isn’t explicit. It just says, you know, There’s Jesus. There’s God. There’s the Holy Spirit. The Nicene Council settled the question of how Christians can worship 1 God in 3 persons. And another author put it this way.

The Nicene Council settled the fact that Christ is fully divine. That was what was under question. Now as I mentioned in last week’s episode on the world of the early church, Constantine called the council, but he did not do this to create a Bible or create Christianity or come up with any doctrines himself. He had nothing to do with the doctrinal part of this, he called the council, and there’s a real reason for this, he needed to stabilize his empire. There was a controversy coming alive in the churches. And it’s called the Arian controversy. We’re gonna learn about Arius in a second and what he was up to. But the controversy caused the cities in the Roman Empire to be disturbed by riots, and there were these battles between the different sides.

Bishops were being exiled, and they were being replaced by Arian bishops, so teaching a different doctrine about Jesus’ deity. And so with all of this conflict in the empire, Constantine says, you know what? You guys need to get together and figure your stuff out. I want you to call a council of all of these bishops, and so they do. They get together. And together, they hash out what Arius is teaching about Jesus and what the gospel truly teaches.

So let’s talk about Arius a second. Arius was publicly proclaiming a theory that Jesus was not God. He said he was essentially this glorified prophet or a celestial servant of the true most high God who alone is almighty. He’s the creator. He’s the first of all things. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it should be. This is the same teaching that we hear in Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witness theology. It’s the same kind of thing we’ll hear sometimes in Gnosticism. This is one of those age old heresies that likes to resurface with a new dress on, so to speak. 

So Arius is teaching this, and Arius didn’t start out as a heretic. Arius started out studying the work of Origen, a church father who came before him. And as he’s studying this, he’s thinking, oh, I’m reading Origen’s writing, and and he takes a little bit of his work and he expands on it and he goes way further than Origen did. Arius was a popular priest in Alexandria. He was well liked, and he taught that the son was begotten of the father, so he is the son of the father, but there must have been a time when the son did not exist, so a time before he was begotten. So if Jesus is the 1st born of all creation as scripture says, then he’s a creature. He’s like God, but he isn’t God. He’s not equal with God. Arius had a bishop over him. And his name was Alexander. And Alexander pointed out that Oredin also said that father is an internal attribute of God. So this means that It’s not possible to be a father without having a son. Right? And the fact that God is eternally a father means that he also eternally has a son. This is Alexander’s argument. He also argued that God is perfect. He doesn’t change. So how could God change from not being a father to being a father. And this is taken from Zondervan academic.

The main difference between this creed and the Apostles’ Creed then had to do with the relationship between Jesus and the father. They had to kind of hammer out who Jesus is and explain that Jesus is forever and eternally one substance with the father. He’s not sub to the father. He’s not eternally submitted to the father. He’s equal to the father. And so at the Nicene council, they rejected the Arian view and affirmed that the father is not quote unquote more god than the son. God is god in trinity. And so this council refined the Nicene Creed, created it. And then in the council of Constantinople in 381, they refined it even further. 

So at this council, we’re gonna move to the next council. We just did Nicene council. Now we’re at the council of Constantinople, and there were multiple of these, this is the one in 381 AD. The council of Constantinople updated the creed to reflect the deity of the Holy Spirit and Christ’s humanity. Pause. Remember that the Nicene council focused on Christ’s divinity. He is God.

He’s equal with God. But when we get to the council of Constantinople, they realized they had another thing they had to hash out, and that is the deity of the Holy Spirit and also Christ’s humanity. So at Constantinople, the council bishops who are there add to the creed that the Holy Spirit is the, quote, lord and giver of life who proceeds from the father. So you might notice this is actually different from how the creed states it today. Today, the Nicene Creed says that the spirit proceeds from the father and the son. Pause. Let’s read the Nicene Creed Because this one, it’s longer, but it’s not extremely long. It’s readable. And I think that it will help give a little picture of what we’re dealing with here. 

I 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, God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of 1 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 spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man, was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. In the 3rd day, he rose again according to the scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of the father. And he shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the father and the son, who with the father and the son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Catholic and Apostolic church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen. 

So notice that there’s this addition on The Holy Ghost, the lord and giver of life who proceeds from the father and the son. This is a later edition. And so while the church fathers followed scripture in identifying the spirit as the spirit of Christ, the way they talked about the nature of the father, the son, and the spirit was different if you were a Greek church, so an Eastern church, versus a Latin Western church. So the Greek fathers would be Athanasius and the Cappadocian fathers, saint Basil, saint Gregory, and saint Gregory of Nyssa.

They said that the spirit proceeds from the father through the son. But the Latin or Western fathers like Tertullian, Saint Hilary, and Saint Augustine tended to say that the spirit proceeds from the father and the son. So it’s a very subtle difference, but it is a difference saying the spirit proceeds from the father and the son versus the father through the son. And this is called the filioque clause. This debate between the Greek church and the Roman church over this clause and the difference that it has on the relationship between the members of the trinity was a factor in the upcoming split of the Eastern church and the Western church. So we’re gonna get there in the middle ages section. But in 1054, the church split between the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox, and that split remains to this day. You might find it interesting if you’ve ever talked to a Orthodox friend or you’ve talked a Roman Catholic friend, they both will say that they are in the one true church.

They both will trace their patriarch or their pope back to an apostolic person. So in the Roman Catholic church, it’s Peter. And in the Orthodox church, it is the patriarch Mark. In both cases, they have history. They have a rich liturgy similar in many ways in the way that they go about their ceremonies. Of course, there are many, many differences too. All of this to say that this split in 1054 was a long time coming. It took a 1000 years, but little things like this clause in the Nicene Creed, and the differences between the churches and their practice. And as we’ll see in a moment, the pressure of the Roman church to try to control the Eastern churches all played a factor in that future split. 

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Okay. So that’s the Nicene Creed and the Nicene Council followed by the Constantinople council in 381. Now let’s look at councils of Ephesus. These previous councils or gatherings of bishops settled the issue of Jesus as Divine and then Jesus as human and the Holy Spirit as Divine. But now at the Council of Ephesus, We’re going to look at the first one in 431 AD. Christ is a unified person. So he’s not mostly human and mostly divine, one or the other. Now there are 3 councils at Ephesus in 431, 449, and 475. Clearly, they had some problems. But the 1st council is the only one considered ecumenical or churchwide. This was a major period of discussion about Christology. Christology is the theology of Jesus. And so between 405100, lots of discussion about who he was, what he did, what’s crucifixion for, you know, how is he divine and human.

 So at the council of Nicaea, God and man is confirmed in the nature of Jesus. But now the question is, how much of God is in Jesus and how much of man? So the council attempted to kind of wrestle out whether Jesus was 2 persons, essentially, whether he was to distinct entities, spirit being God and human being his physical body. And this came out in a debate between Nestorius, the patriarch of Constantinople, and Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria. So for context in picturing this in your mind, Constantinople is in modern day Turkey. Alexandria is in Egypt or the Northern African church.

So let’s talk about Nestorius for a minute. Nestorius promised the emperor Theodosius the second that the empire would triumph if heretics were killed. Okay. Little problem right there. Nestorius was a guy who wanted to grow in his political influence as a bishop. Remember from last week’s episode that for 300 years, the church is massively persecuted, absolutely run out of town, killed, lit on fire, thrown to the lions, horrible persecution for 300 years. And then when Constantine comes to power, he finds it’s in the best interest of his kingdom to legalize Christianity, to tolerate Christianity. And at the end of his life, it is believed that he converted himself. 

So he legalizes Christianity in 313 AD. And very quickly after that, there’s a complete flip where the church is now integrated into the government and bishops who are being killed and chased out of town are now in influential positions of power. Well, a 100 years have passed by, and so Nestorius wants a little piece of that power. And so he’s talking to the emperor saying, look, your empire will triumph if you kill all the heretics. And so he was one of the people who initiated and encouraged killing people who did not align with orthodox doctrine. He burned Aryan chapels and, unfortunately, in the process of doing so, lit the city on fire, which earned him the nickname Torchy. I have to tell you guys, this cracked me up so much. I think it’s so funny how humanity doesn’t change. Like, when you think about our government officials or, you know, even pastors who make really terrible choices and get involved in politics in a negative way, and they’re made fun of online or mocked online. Like, this this is human nature. It was happening back then too. They’re calling Nestorius the bishop of patriarch of Constantinople, Torchy. Oh, it kills me. Okay. 

So he made a lot of enemies through his pride, unwillingness to listen, and he was backed by the Syrian church. The Syrian church backed him. But he also was extremely intelligent and he really emphasized Jesus’ humanity. What often happens in church history is the culture surrounding a individual. They’re the pressures that they’re experiencing in their city, their culture, their immediate area, the politics, all of it influences how they communicate about their theology. So if they’re living in a time where Jesus’ humanity is questioned, they will probably overemphasize that issue because that’s where the battle is for them. 

This is something that’s really helpful for understanding why individuals, pastors, teachers, missionaries talk about things the way they do nowadays too. You might feel like, well, they’re not talking about this topic enough, or why are they so, like, hard on this one issue? Well, it’s probably because that’s what they’re seeing in their sphere of influence. That’s the issue. That’s the question. That’s the struggle. And so this is the case for Nestorius, and he really emphasized Jesus’ humanity.

Cyril is down in Alexandria. He had his own set of problems. He was guilty of murdering a pagan philosopher, ordering her to be murdered. He also raised up militant monks a la the crusades. He also had more political experience than Nestorius. He was older. He had been in politics before he became the patriarch of Alexandria, he was in politics for 25 years, so he had a lot more influence and experience behind him in this debate. He was also backed by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans in the church and actively slandered Nestorius in Rome to the patriarch or pope, Celestine. I might be mispronouncing Celestine’s name. It could be Celestine. 

So he was in Rome and he slandered Nestorius to the pope. So now the pope, patriarch, is pretty upset. And naturally, they want to settle this dispute, this debate about the nature of Jesus. Because Cyril is saying, Nestorius is not teaching accurately on Jesus’ humanity and his deity. 

Justin Holcomb says this, that both Nestorius and Cyril believed that the empire had to hold proper ideas about Christ for the people to prosper. So they felt like a lot was at stake here. Like, if they didn’t take care of this, like, what’s gonna happen? What are we gonna do? The empire is gonna fall apart. And Bruce Shelley says that to this day, it is unclear to what extent Nestorius’ teachings were actually heretical and to what extent he suffered as a victim of misunderstanding and misrepresentations. So he was condemned at this council of Ephesus, his views were condemned and the Nestorians were persecuted. So here’s what’s fascinating about this. They hash out Jesus’ humanity, and that’s a good thing. They needed to do that. The pressure of these 2 flawed men forced the church to deal with an issue, and to move forward in refining their theology. Out of this, the Nestorians were persecuted.

This is just how the church did things when it was intertwined in government. Not a good idea. But where did they go when they were persecuted? The Nestorians fled to Persia. And then from there, Nestorian missionaries went to Malabar, India, and Turkestan. Between 780 and 823 AD, missionaries from the Nestorian church came to Tibet and Central China and grew and remained there until the Middle Ages when a Muslim dominance eradicated them. This is fascinating, and we’ll get to this in the mission movement episode in the early church. But if you ever wonder, well, what was happening in Asia. When did Asia receive the gospel? Here you go. Very early. The Nestorians were forced out by persecution. It caused them to spread. And if you remember last week’s episode on the world of the early church, that is almost always how the gospel has spread is persecution. It spreads and it spreads because when we are not persecuted, it can be very easy to get lazy and comfortable to look for ways to, quote unquote, spread the gospel, or change society through politics thinking that that’s the way to influence the world when in the gospel itself mainly says make disciples, not change laws. Sometimes the laws are changed as a reflection of God’s sovereignty and the prayers of the people. And that’s a good thing. But more often than not, it’s hearts that change first. So the Nestorians spread, and they spread the gospel all the way to China. 

The next council is the council So in this one, all the previous work of the previous councils gets kind of combined together in this very important council that decided that Christ is human and divine in one person. There were 400 bishops called to this council. Most Christians today, scholars, look to Chalcedon as the foundation for the doctrine of salvation. But really what came through in this council after everything was debated, everything was hashed out was what was talked about in the earlier councils regarding Arius and his teaching on the nature of Christ. 

I’m going to read to you a new definition that was formed by the 400 bishop to supplement the Council of Nicaea this was formed at the Council of Chalcedon.

We all with 1 voice confess our lord Jesus Christ, 1 in the same son, at once complete in godhead and complete in manhood. Truly god and truly man. Acknowledged in two natures without confusion, without change, without division or without separation. The distinction of natures being in no way abolished because of the union, but rather the characteristic property of each nature being preserved and coming together to form 1 person. 

So when he says the distinction of nature’s being in no way abolished but preserved means that him being God did not make him less human and him being human did not make him less God. But even then, the council acknowledged that this is a mystery we can’t fully understand. We will never fully understand it. He’s fully human, fully divine, fully mystery. 


The next one I want to touch on, and we’re getting close to the end here, is the Athanasian Creed. So we talked about the Apostles’ Creed. We talked about the Nicene Creed. Now I wanna talk about the Athanasian creed. This is attributed to church father Athanasius, one of my faves. I love him, but it’s probably not written by him. Other possible authors are Ambrose of Milan or Augustine of Hippo. Some think it was the French Saint Vincent of Loraines. So this creed does not really show up in history until 633 AD at the 4th council of Toledo, but they believe that it was written much earlier. I won’t read it to you.

It’s very long, But it stresses the doctrines of the trinity that were outlined in the 4th century at Nicaea, which is where Athanasius was. And that’s why it’s attributed to him. Because Athanasius wrote extensively to defend the trinity and this creed emphasizes a trinity. That’s why it was attributed to him. And so everything that was said at the council of Chalcedon, at the council of Nicaea, about the nature of Christ, about the trinity is affirmed in the Athanasian Creed and outlined in a much more lengthy fashion.

 Alright. Let’s head to our very last council in the 1st 500 years. This is the council of Carthage. This is a Northern African council held in AD 397. And in the document Codex Canonum Ecclesiae Africani, There’s a record of the ordinances from this council. And one of the most significant things that came out of this council was a list of books that were considered canonical. Note, this is before 400 AD. These are the books that the church is considering canonical. But it’s not the 1st list that we have of canonical books. In the 300’s, we have a letter from Athanasius that he sent to the churches around Easter time and it held a list of books that very closely matches our New Testament. And then if you go back even further, there are partial lists like the Meritorian Fragment that show us that the church very, very early on was holding to the Old Testament scriptures and then also to a New Testament that looked very similar to what we have today.

So I’m going to read to you the section from the Council of Carthage talking about the books of the Bible. Quote, it was also determined that besides the canonical scriptures, nothing be read in the church under the title of divine scriptures. Pause. What he’s saying here is besides the canon of the Bible, Nothing that is called divine scriptures should be read. What’s he referring to? Probably the gnostic gospels, The gospel of Thomas, the gospel of Mary Magdalene, those that are called divine but are not canonical are not to be used in the church. Okay. Quote, the canonical scriptures are these, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, 4 books of Kings, 2 books of Job the Psalter, 5 books of Solomon, the books of the 12 Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 2 books of Estras, 2 books of the Maccabees. Of the New Testament, 4 books of the gospels, 1 book of the Acts of the apostles, 13 Epistles of Paul, 1 Epistle of the same writer to the Hebrews, 2 Epistles of the apostle Peter, 3 of John, 1 of James, 1 of Jude, 1 book of the apocalypse of John or Revelation. Let this be made known also to our brother and fellow priest Boniface or to other bishops of those parts for the purpose of confirming that canon because we have received from our Fathers, that those books must be read in the church. Let it also be allowed that the passions of martyrs be read when their festivals are kept. End quote. 

Okay. So if you’re like, what? Who’s Tobit and Judith and Estrasse and Maccabees? These are the apocryphal books. And if you listen to the Canon series or read my book the Bible came to be. You’d be familiar with these. The apocryphal books were considered historical but not inspired. And so they were included in Protestant and Catholic Bibles all the way up to about 1920, 1930, even later for some editions. The King James version also included the apocryphal books. So these books were not considered inspired by the Jews, but they were considered historically helpful, and they translated forward to the Christian community. So that would be why they’re included here. So this is very similar. If you look at the table of contents in your own bible, you can see most of these books right there. When it says 4 books of kings, It’s talking about Kings and Chronicles, so 1st, 2nd Kings, 1st, 2nd Chronicles. So you have a little bit of different language, but still the same books. And this is before 400 AD. That is crazy. I love it. It’s amazing. 

Alright. The last Council I wanna mention. I’m not gonna get super in-depth on this with you, but let’s last council is another council of Carthage in 418 AD. This one was to condemn a man named Pelagius. I talked about this in the Calvinism and Arminianism episode all this long time ago. But Pelagius was a monk who was really frustrated with the lack of holiness or excuse me, he was a bishop who was frustrated at the lack of holiness in his congregation. And he started to notice that his congregation didn’t seem to care about becoming holy because they’re like, I’m just a sinner. What can I do? This is just who I am. So he, again, reacting to the situation in front of him developed a theology that basically said, well, you’re not actually born sinful. You become sinful by your choices. 

So the reason that Pelagius came to believe this was not because he thought humanity was all that great. It was because he was concerned at their depravity. And he was trying to encourage them to take responsibility and ownership for their actions. But in so doing, he went against many fundamental doctrines of the Christian church. And so if you were to read through, the canons of the Council of Carthage, May 1st 418 AD, this was translated by Reverend Charles Joseph Hefeld. I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly. When he translated it, He translated all of the canons that were produced. There’s 19 canons, and these are just basically little sections or paragraphs describing what was talked about at the counsel on what was decided. But for instance, canon one is if any man says that Adam, the first man, was created mortal so that whether he sinned or not, he would have died, not as the wages of sin, but through the necessity of nature, let him be anathema. Anathema means let him be excommunicated or separated from.

What’s being said here is that Pelagius was teaching that Adam wasn’t but created immortal and then lost his immortality through sin. He was created mortal and he would have died anyway whether he sinned or not. So, like, Pelagius was teaching stuff about sin nature and human nature that was going against everything the church had ever taught about original sin, about, you know, needing redemption about Christ’s atonement. It affected so many different doctrines that it became a major issue that the church had to confront in 418 AD. 

Pelagius had an extreme version of what we would call freewill theology. Like, he took it so far that’s basically you are the master of your own destiny and God gave you this will so you can just do whatever you want. Oftentimes, Armenians are mistakenly called Pelagian or semi Pelagian, taking from Pelagius’s teachings when that is not what Armenians believe or teach. So I wanna make that known. I go more into that in the Calvinism and Armenianism episode, but that was dealt with at the 2nd council of Carthage in 418 AD. 

Alright, you guys. This is a lot of information. I know that this whole series is just a lot that we’re talking about. But in this episode, What we looked at was how the church identified counterfeit gospels and confronted them. And I hope it encourages you to know that this is not new. Like, this is not something that the church is just now facing, false teaching everywhere. It’s always happened. It’s always been around. It’s always divided the church. It’s even upset countries and nations and kingdoms. It’s even gotten to the point where it affected pagan kings, this kind of false teaching had to be faced and had to be wrestled with, and people got really upset, angry, divided from one another over it in order to preserve what Jesus taught. Going back to the word of God, back to the gospels, back to the testimony of the apostles, back to what does the ecumenical church, the global church, What do we overall see in scripture, and how can we fight for that?

 It’s not a matter of like, oh, well, you know, Cyril was not a great guy, and he was bossy, and so he won at the council. There’s an element of his sinfulness. There’s an element of that impact in his persecution of Nestorius. But the theology that Nestorius was promoting, if even if he was misrepresented, the theology that they ended up dealing with and confronting was flawed. Was Nestorius possibly ill treated in the process? Absolutely. But look what happened out of that. 

Nestorius helped spread the gospel to China. Because deep down, I’ll be honest, I don’t think that Nestorius’ Theology on this was as wrong as he was presented. I think that he he was misrepresented. But through that, the council dealt with a theological issue that had to be dealt with.

 And so as we look at these unhealthy movements in church history, these unhealthy people and their sins and their the grievous things they do. What you can come back to is, But how did God redeem it? Where is the scarlet thread of redemptive history that pulls through this? The same way that thread of redemption pulled through David’s sin with Bathsheba, his sin against Bathsheba, against Uriah. How does this pull through the story of Solomon and all of his sin or through the Judges. When we see God redeeming, restoring, continuing to strive with people through church history, when we recognize our own propensity to sin and see that we’re not so much better than these people. We can see the goodness of God and his striving and seeking and carrying the gospel forward even when we didn’t deserve it. So, yes, today, We’re still having to identify counterfeit gospels. We’re still having to keep an eye out for the new Arians and the new Gnostics and be aware of what they’re teaching. That’s why. It’s not about memorizing what’s evil in the world or constantly paying attention to the latest false teaching. It’s about knowing the gospel so well, so truly that when a false one comes along, you can’t help but recognize it.

Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of Verity podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, would you take the time to leave us a review? It helps so many other women around the world find out about Verity and about Every Woman a Theologian as a ministry in a shop. We appreciate you, and I hope you’ll be back next week as we continue to go deeper into God’s word and the heart of Jesus Christ.


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