PODCAST: Further Theological Debates, Part 1 (History of Christianity Podcast #194 with Daniel Whyte III)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #194, titled, “Further Theological Debates, Part 1.”

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.

Our Scripture for today is Psalm 25:5 which reads: “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from John Chrysostom. He said: “The Holy Scriptures were not given to us that we should enclose them in books, but that we should engrave them upon our hearts.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Further Theological Debates, Part 1” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

The Chalcedonian [KAL-SEH-DON-EE-UHN] Definition did not put an end to christological debates, particularly in the East. There were many in Egypt who considered Dioscorus [DEE-OH-SKOR-US] a martyr, and believed that Flavian and Leo were heretics. A large number of believers in Syria held similar views. In both cases, their theological objections were also spurred by resentment against the central government in Constantinople, which collected taxes in the provinces and did not return to them proportional benefits. To this were added cultural and ethnic tensions that existed since the time of the first Roman conquests, and had never been resolved. In order to regain the loyalty of these people, the emperors sought theological compromises that would satisfy both them and those who held to the decisions of Chalcedon [KAL-SEH-DON]. It was an impossible task, for the reasons for disaffection were not purely theological. On balance, all that the emperors achieved was to alienate both the Chalcedonians [KAL-SEH-DON-EE-UHN] and the others, and to force the church into endless controversy.

The first to follow this unwise policy was Basiliscus [BAH-SIL-IS-KUS], who had deposed Emperor Zeno [ZEE-NO], and who in 476 annulled the decisions of Chalcedon [KAL-SEH-DON] and called a new council. But this never met, for Zeno [ZEE-NO] regained the throne and Basiliscus’s [BAH-SIL-IS-KUS] projects were abandoned. Then Zeno [ZEE-NO] himself published a Henotikon [HEH-NO-TI-KUHN] (“Edict of Union”) in 482, in which he simply directed that all should return to what was commonly held before the controversy. But this created a new stir, for many, particularly Pope Felix III, declared that the emperor had no authority to prescribe what was to be believed. Since Zeno [ZEE-NO] had the support of Patriarch Acacius [UH-CAY-SHUS] of Constantinople, the dispute resulted in an open breach between the bishops of Rome and Constantinople. Called the Schism of Acacius [UH-CAY-SHUS], this separated the East from the West until 519, well after the death of both principals. At that time, Emperor Justin and Pope Hormisdas [HOR-MIS-DAHS] reached an agreement that was in fact a return to the decisions of Chalcedon [KAL-SEH-DON].

Justin was succeeded by his nephew Justinian, the ablest emperor of the Byzantine Empire, who restored its military glory by reconquering North Africa and Italy, rebuilt Hagia Sophia, and codified the entire system of law. He was convinced that the differences between Chalcedonians [KAL-SEH-DON-EE-UHN] and Monophysites [MO-NOF-UH-SITES] were mostly verbal, and that the two parties could be reconciled through a series of meetings and dialogues. Much later, historians of Christian thought would come to the conclusion that on this score he was probably correct. But he seems not to have realized that to a great extent what appeared to be purely theological disagreements were in fact the results of much more difficult and intractable cultural, social, economic, and political conflicts. Thus, Justinian restored to their sees several of the Monophysite [MO-NOF-UH-SITE] bishops who had been deposed during the reign of Justin, and some were even invited to visit the emperor and his wife Theodora at their palace, where they were received cordially and respectfully.

In 532, at the emperor’s urging, a theological conference took place in Constantinople. The most distinguished Chalcedonian [KAL-SEH-DON-EE-UHN] theologian of the time, Leontius [LEE-ON-TEE-UHS] of Byzantium, interpreted the Chalcedonian [KAL-SEH-DON-EE-UHN] Definition in such a way that some of the leading Monophysites [MO-NOF-UH-SITES] declared that the way was open for a rapprochement. One of them even declared that he was ready to accept the Chalcedonian [KAL-SEH-DON-EE-UHN] Definition. At the end of the conference, many hoped that the schism would soon be healed.

Next time, we will continue looking at “Further Theological Debates.”

Let’s pray.


Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.