Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Criticizing the Council of Nicaea

This past Sunday I taught a lesson on the Godhead. I began my lesson by discussing the LDS belief that God has revealed truth in the scriptures through his Prophets and Apostles. In contrast, I compared this method to the council of Nicaea which led to the Nicaean Creed, one of the foundational creeds of the Trinity.

I highlighted this contrast by stating God does not present His truth to be voted upon by a group of men without priesthood authority. In times past He has revealed this truth directly to those holding His authority called to lead His Church.

As I said this I realized I was only partially correct.

In today's Church the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles meet together to make decisions and discuss issues. At times doctrinal decisions are made. From comments made by Church leaders in General Conference (see President Hinckley's description of the revelation received for the priesthood to be extended to all worthy males) it appears that before any decision is made a unanimous consent must exist.

This process holds more similarities to the council of Nicaea than some may admit.

The council of Nicaea also consisted of men in the Church that were seen as inspired. While the political reasons behind the council are rightfully criticized, its purpose (as far as the Church fathers were concerned), was to confront a heresy attributed to Arius that the Father and the Son were of different substances. The majority of the Church believed they were not, but of the same substance.

During the council Arius lost several followers and when the vote was taken all but two attendees voted against the Arian doctrine.

The similarities between this council and the councils of the LDS Church are:

1. Consisted of inspired men
2. Doctrinal issues and positions were discussed
3. A vote was taken to get a consensus of the Church fathers

Before I scare some of you into thinking I have lost my testimony, I share this insight only to highlight the core item missing - PRIESTHOOD AUTHORITY.

My fear is that we spend too much time criticizing the council of Nicaea and the Nicaean Creed and should be spending more energy into explaining and testifying of Priesthood Authority. In my opinion it is fruitless to point out the flaws in the council. A simple explanation that those men did not have Priesthood Authority should suffice.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I like you're reasoning here.

The only thing that doesn't work is that the argument will be made that many on the council held the priesthood and therefore had "Authority" to establish doctrine.

Just try convincing a Catholic that they don't have Priesthood Authority and they'll pull out their line of authority in two seconds flat.

Drew E said...

I totally agree. And logically speaking the Catholic Church may have had that authority.

Which to me, makes it much more important to teach members of the Church how to receive a testimony that the Priesthood was restored through the organization of the LDS Church. Too many times I think we stab holes into the council of Nicaea trying to create a logical argument for why it was not of God, instead of a spiritual argument - if that makes sense.

Doc said...

I grow more and more confused at what exactly was the apostasy and what caused it as I age. I believe in prophecy, miracles and have a testimony in the restoration and its brilliant truths and clarity, but I just don't get the revelation and authority of God leaving, nor the people leaving God as I study. When and why did this ever actually happen? It has become a mystery as I have moved past the first naivete.