PODCAST: Further Theological Debates, Part 2 (History of Christianity Podcast #195 with Daniel Whyte III)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #195, titled, “Further Theological Debates, Part 2.”

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 John 10:37-38 which reads: “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from St. Ephraim [EE-FRUHM] the Syrian. He said: “Thou, O Christ our Savior, hast become for me the path of life which leads to the Father. There is but one path, and it is my joy, and at the end of it is the heavenly kingdom.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Further Theological Debates, Part 2” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

But the emperor erred in thinking that he could regain the allegiance of his subjects who still rejected the council of Chalcedon [KAL-SEH-DON] by condemning, not the council itself, but the writings of three Antiochene [AN-TY-AH-KEEN] theologians who were particularly distasteful to those who rejected the council–Theodore of Mopsuestia [MOP-SUE-ES-TEE-AH], Theodoret of Cyrus, and Ibas of Edessa [EE-BAHS of ED-ES-AH]. What ensued is usually called the Controversy of the Three Chapters. Justinian was correct in that these three were among the Antiochene [AN-TY-AH-KEEN] theologians whose christological views most offended the Monophysites [MO-NOF-UH-SITES]. But this created such a stir that eventually Justinian was forced to call a council, which gathered at Constantinople in 553. At Justinian’s prodding, the council, which eventually came to be known as the Fifth Ecumenical Council, condemned the Three Chapters. (Many objected to the condemnation of people who had been dead for quite some time, and whose contemporaries did not consider heretics. Therefore, rather than condemning them, the council condemned those among their writings that the Monophysites [MO-NOF-UH-SITES] found most offensive.) But this did not satisfy those who wished to see the decisions of Chalcedon [KAL-SEH-DON] withdrawn, and therefore Justinian achieved little for all his efforts.

The last emperor who sought to regain the allegiance of those opposed to Chalcedon [KAL-SEH-DON] was Heraclius [HER-UH-KLY-UHS], early in the seventh century. Patriarch Sergius [SER-JEE-US] of Constantinople proposed that, while there are indeed two natures in Christ, there is only one will. Although Sergius’s [SER-JEE-US] position is not altogether clear, it seems that he meant that in Christ the divine will took the place of the human will. In any case, this was how he was interpreted, and thus the objections raised against his view were similar to those raised earlier against Apollinaris [UH-POL-EE-NAHR-IS]: a man without a human will is not fully human. Sergius’s [SER-JEE-US] position, which came to be known as Monothelism [MAA-NUH-THEE-LI-ZM]–from the Greek mo-nos (“one”), and the-le-ma (“will”)–gained the support of Pope Honorius [HOH-NAWR-EE-UHS], and long debates ensued. But then came the Arab conquests, which overran Syria and Egypt. Since those were the areas where opposition to Chalcedon [KAL-SEH-DON] was strongest, imperial policy no longer sought to reconcile the anti-Chalcedonians [KAL-SEH-DON-EE-UHNS]. In 648, Constans II prohibited any further discussion on the will or wills of Christ. Finally, the Sixth Ecumenical Council, gathered at Constantinople in 680-681, condemned Monothelism [MAA-NUH-THEE-LI-ZM], and declared Pope Honorius [HOH-NAWR-EE-UHS] to have been a heretic. (Much later, in the nineteenth century, this condemnation of a pope as a heretic came to the foreground in the discussions surrounding the proclamation of Papal Infallibility.)

Then came the controversy regarding the use of images. In a way, this was a final episode in the christological debates. In the early church, there seems to have been no objection to the use of images, for the catacombs and other early places of worship were decorated with paintings depicting communion, baptism, and various biblical episodes. Later, when the empire embraced Christianity, several leading bishops expressed concern that the masses now flocking to the church would be led to idolatry, and therefore they preached, not against the images themselves, but against their misuse as objects of worship. In the eighth century, several Byzantine [BI-ZUHN-TEEN] emperors took steps against images. Emperor Leo III (who ruled in 717-741, and is not to be confused with the pope of the same name, who ruled in 795-816) opened the controversy when he ordered the destruction of a statue of Jesus that was highly regarded by many of the faithful. In 754 Constantine V, Leo’s son and successor, called a council that forbade the use of images and condemned those who defended them. The reasons for these decisions are not altogether clear. Certainly, the presence of Islam, with its strong teaching against any physical representation, was a factor. Also, the emperors may have wished to curb the power of the monks, who were almost unanimously in favor of images–and part of whose income came from the production of images or icons. In any case, the entire empire was soon divided between “iconoclasts”–destroyers of images–and “iconodules”–worshipers of images.

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.