Lesson 12B Preview: Socrates Scholasticus, a Selection from his “Ecclesiastical History”; John Ankerberg Interviews Garner Ted Armstrong; David Couchman Video “The Council of Nicaea”; Michael Haykin Audio Lecture “The Trinity in History”
Chapter XXVI.—Arius, on being recalled, presents a Recantation to the Emperor, and pretends to accept the Nicene Creed.
They having drawn up a declaration to the following effect, presented it to the emperor.
‘Arius and Euzoïus, to our Most Religious and Pious Lord, the Emperor Constantine.
‘In accordance with the command of your devout piety, sovereign lord, we declare our faith, and before God profess in writing, that we and our adherents believe as follows:
‘We believe in one God the Father Almighty: and in the Lord Jesus Christ his Son, who was begotten of him before all ages, God the Word through whom all things were made, both those which are in the heavens and those upon the earth; who descended, and became incarnate, and suffered, and rose again, ascended into the heavens, and will again come to judge the living and the dead. [We believe] also in the Holy Spirit, and in the resurrection of the flesh, and in the life of the coming age, and in the kingdom of the heavens, and in one Catholic Church of God, extending from one end of the earth to the other.
‘This faith we have received from the holy gospels, the Lord therein saying to his disciples: “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” If we do not so believe and truly receive the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as the whole Catholic Church and the holy Scriptures teach (in which we believe in every respect), God is our judge both now, and in the coming judgment. Wherefore we beseech your piety, most devout emperor, that we who are persons consecrated to the ministry, and holding the faith and sentiments of the church and of the holy Scriptures, may by your pacific and devoted piety be reunited to our mother, the Church, all superfluous questions and disputings being avoided: that so both we and the whole church being at peace, may in common offer our accustomed prayers for your tranquil reign, and on behalf of your whole family.’
Put on your heresy detector headset and get ready for key excerpts from John Ankerberg’s interview of the late Garner Ted Armstrong (1930 – 2003), son of Herbert W. Armstrong (1892 – 1986) and leader of the Church of God, International. The Church of God, International formed after Garner Ted broke with his father Herbert W. Armstrong who had established the original Worldwide Church of God in 1934. Following his death, the Worldwide Church of God splintered into numerous factions and ultimately metastasized into Grace Communion International (CGI). Grace Communion is based in Glendora, CA with 48,000 members in 900 congregations around the world (Wikipedia).
You will find, as you listen to Garner Ted explaining his theology, that these seven short excerpts offer many opportunities to apply Olson’s insights to a variegated, contemporary heterodoxy.
David Couchman of the UK-based Evangelical Alliance (they offer a “Bible-based response to the challenges of contemporary culture”) provides additional insight (five minutes) into the Council of Nicaea.
Michael Haykin delivers an extraordinary lecture on Athanasius and the Trinitarian debates in his lecture The Trinity in History.
A Quote for Your Consideration: “The Son of God, did assume the human nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, so that there are two natures, the divine and the human, inseparably enjoined in one Person, one Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the Virgin Mary, truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, that He might reconcile the Father unto us, and be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.” From The Augsburg Confession
Discussion questions for lesson 12B Correlated Readings.
1. Socrates Scholasticus refers in his chapter heading (see selection above) to Arius’ pretense of recantation. How did Arius and Euzoïus (deacon and supporter of Arius) in their seemingly orthodox statement nevertheless allow themselves “wiggle room” for deviating from the traditional Trinitarianism that theologians like Athanasius were advancing?
2. Can you name some heretical cults that contended with early church teachings, described by Roger Olson, which seem similar to Garner Ted Armstrong’s Church of God, International?
3. Can you explain the key doctrines of these early, heretical sects and the parallels to Armstrong’s theology?
4. David Couchman discusses Arianism and Gnosticism at the Council of Nicaea. To what extent did the Gnostics influence the discussions of doctrine at the Council, according to Couchman?
5. Michael Haykin makes several comments about the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the witness of the New Testament. How would you challenge a Jehovah’s Witness, or any modern Arian using New Testament verses, in light of Haykin’s comments? That is, which specific verses that Haykin cites seem most effective in countering the claims of modern Arians you might encounter?
6. Athanasius is often tied to the phrase “a creature can not save a creature”. What does this mean and how is this phrase used by Athanasius in his zealous, protracted defense of the church’s traditional Trinitarian theology? What are the implications of this phrase for a cogent response to this question: “If Christ was less than a God how would that make any difference in salvation”?
7. Prof. Haykin points out that early on Athanasius decided to “export” his Christology to the rest of the eastern branch of Christendom. What were the consequences of his decision?
8. Athanasius had two charges brought to Constantine against him by the Arians. What were they? What happened during the proceedings that sheds light on Athanasius and the Arians who opposed him? What was Constantine’s ultimate decision after hearing the evidence?