Critique of THE PROTESTANT'S DILEMMA by Devin Rose
Chapter 3 - Ecumenical Councils
Page 39: For the first several
centuries of the Church’s existence, bishops gathered in councils to
define true doctrines and condemn heresies, issuing decrees that were
recognized as binding upon all the faithful. But at a certain point in
history, these councils must somehow have ceased to carry that
universal teaching authority. Instead they became mere ceremonial
gatherings of the Church’s bishops – or worse, cabals of an apostate
church taken over by traditions of men.
Note: The only council in recorded in Scripture was attended by all Christians of one church.
Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send
chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas,
namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among
the brethren. They wrote this, letter by them: The apostles, the
elders, and the brethren, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in
Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings. Acts 15:22-23.
Note: The author continually makes false assumptions.
Pages 39-40: Protestants
contend that no council of the Church, even the ones traditionally
deemed ecumenical (universal), carry any authority – except insofar as
they accurately interpret Scripture, in which case the authority is the
Bible’s, not theirs. Thus the first four councils of the Church, which
largely answered Trinitarian and Christological questions, are
considered “authoritative” only insofar as they are accurate deductions
from the words of God in the Bible. Most Protestants allege, however,
that even these early councils contained errors. For example, few are
willing to accept that Mary is the “mother of God,” as the third
ecumenical council in Ephesus declared.
Note: Scripture never referred to Mary as the “mother of God.”
These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with
the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. Acts
Pages 41: After much debate
among the apostles and elders, Peter stood and explained how God gave
the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles, and that salvation comes by grace
through faith – not by following the Mosaic Law. The apostles then
drafted a letter, to be sent out to the churches, in which the men
making these challenges were rebuked as having gone out without the
authority of the apostles.
Note: The men had been sent out by James of the Jerusalem Church.
Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face,
because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he
would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and
separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.
Page 42: The first ecumenical
council to be convened was at Nicaea in the year 325. It was attended
by more than 300 bishops, including Hosius, bishop of Cordova and Pope
Sylvester’s representative (or “legate”). The primary purpose of the
council was to determine whether the teachings of Arius, a deacon from
Alexandria who denied the divinity of Christ and his consubstantial
relationship with God the Father, were heresy. The truths of Christ’s
divinity and of his consubstantiality (“same substance” or “one in
being”) with the Father were consequently confirmed as dogmas.
Protestants accept the standard for Trinitarian orthodoxy. Most
Protestants today still recite the Nicene Creed, the first part of
which was formulated at Nicaea.
Note: Roman Catholics today are in violation of the First Council of Nicaea.
The council promulgated twenty new church laws, called canons, that is,
unchanging rules of discipline. The twenty as listed in the Nicene and
Post-Nicene Fathers are as follows: 20. Prohibition of kneeling on
Sundays and during the Pentecost (the fifty days commencing on Easter).
Page 42: They also accept the
second ecumenical council, held in Constantinople in the year 381,
which dogmatically affirmed the truth of the Holy Spirit’s divinity,
condemning the heresy of Macedonius. The second half of the Creed was
drawn up at this council, and the vast majority of Protestants proudly
recite it as a profession of their most fundamental beliefs.
Note: The Pope began to lose influence of the eastern churches at this council.
David Eastman cites the First Council of Constantinople as another
example of the waning influence of Rome over the East. He notes that
all three of the presiding bishops came from the East. Damasus had
considered both Meletius and Gregory to be illegitimate bishops of
their respective sees and yet, as Eastman and others point out, the
Eastern bishops paid no heed to his opinions in this regard. Wikipedia
Page 42: The First Council of
Ephesus in the year 431 was the third ecumenical council, which
condemned Nestorius’s belief that Mary was the mother only of Christ’s
human nature. Such a notion would have mortally wounded the true
theology of the Incarnation, making it impossible to say that “God died
on the cross for our sins.”
Note: The promotion of Mary was not needed to proclaim the divinity of Christ.
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the
Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with
child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is
translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:22-23.
Page 42: The fourth ecumenical
council occurred in Chalcedon in the year 451, rejecting monophysitism
– the belief that Christ had only one nature – and affirming that Jesus
had two natures in one person.
Note: The Catholic Church is in violation of the Chalcedon Council.
The work of the council was completed by a series of 30 disciplinary
canons the Ancient Epitomes of which are: 15. No person shall be
ordained deaconess except she being forty years of age. If she shall
dishonor her ministry by contracting a marriage, let her be anathema.
Page 43: More problems remain
for Protestants who seek to accept the first four councils while
rejecting others. The fifth ecumenical council, Constantinople II,
declared that Mary remained a virgin her whole life, a belief
strenuously rejected by most Protestants.
Note: Scripture strenuously rejects this notion.
Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord
commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know (had sex) her
till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name
Jesus. Matthew 1:24-25.
Page 43: Yet the next one, held
in the seventh century, condemned the monothelite belief that Christ
had only one will. It decreed that Christ had two wills – one divine
and one human – a truth that Protestants believe as another essential
component to Christological orthodoxy.
Note: The Third Council of Constantinople was lightly attended.
On 7 November 680, a mere 37 bishops and a number of presbyters
convened in the imperial palace, in the domed hall called the Trullus.
The Patriarchs of Constantinople and of Antioch participated in person,
whereas the patriarchates of Alexandria and Jerusalem were represented
by Byzantine appointees (because of the Saracen Muslim conquest there
was at this date no patriarch in either of these sees). The Pope and a
council he had held in Rome were represented (as was normal at eastern
ecumenical councils) by a few priests and bishops. In its opening
session, the council assumed the authority of an Ecumenical Council.
The Emperor attended and presided over the first eleven sessions, took
part in the discussions and returned for the closing session on 16
September 681, attended by 151 bishops. Wikipedia Encyclopedia.
Pages 43-44: Does it make
sense, as Protestants argue, that ecumenical councils are authoritative
only insofar as they accurately represent scriptural truth? When we
look at the Council of Jerusalem, we see that the Church settled the
matter in question by reference to the apostles’ God-given authority
within the Church and not by reliance on the Old Testament (which was
the only “Scripture” in existence at the time, with only a few epistles
having been written to date and a settled canon still many years away).
Indeed, the Old Testament was at best unclear on the matter, both
requiring circumcision and foreshadowing Gentile salvation. So the
claim that councils are authoritative only when they agree with
Scripture – by which the Reformers meant both Old and New Testaments –
makes little sense when applied to the prototypical council.
Note: The first century A.D. was revelation directly from God to individuals.
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—
if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which
was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the
mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read,
you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in
other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been
revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the
Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His
promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister
according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective
working of His power. Ephesians 3:1-7.
Note: Later “councils” sometimes rediscovered Scriptures written by the Apostles.
Page 44: But there’s a second
problem with this theory. Who has the authority to accurately interpret
the scriptures (and therefore rule whether a council affirms or
contradicts their truths)? Luther erred and that they had the correct
key to Scripture’s meaning. The problem of varying Protestant
interpretations of biblical truth persists to this day. Without a
standard for interpreting Scripture, then, according to this test it’s
impossible to say with certainty whether a given council teaches
Note: Ruling authoritatively is anti-Christian.
Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them,
“What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept
silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be
the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If
anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of
all.” Mark 9:33-35.
Page 45: If none of the
Protestant theories makes sense, what makes a council ecumenical and
thus authoritative? Quite simply: the pope. The bishop of Rome is the
successor of Peter, to whom Christ gave the “keys to the kingdom of
heaven” as well as the authority to bind and loose (cf. Matt. 16:18-19).
Note: Whoever confesses Jesus Christ is saved in Scriptural context.
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your
heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you
confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that
God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart
one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made
unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will
not be put to shame.” Romans 10:8-11.
Note: Sadly, the author is confessing the Roman Catholic Church.
Page 46: The bishop of Rome is,
by God’s grace, the final guarantor of orthodoxy. Even when the bishops
of the other major sees fell into heresy (for example, during the Arian
crisis in the third and fourth centuries), the pope did not. The only
criterion for a council to be considered ecumenical that makes
historical sense is the approval of the pope. Even in the council of
Jerusalem in the book of Acts, we see that Peter is the first to speak
and declare the orthodox belief, a foreshadowing of the role of the
bishops of Rome in later councils.
Note: The author neglects to mention the numerous anti-popes that have existed.
An antipope (Latin: antipapa) is a person who, in opposition to the one
who is generally seen as the legitimately elected Pope, makes a
significantly accepted competing claim to be the Pope, the Bishop of
Rome and leader of the Roman Catholic Church. At times between the 3rd
and mid-15th century, antipopes were supported by a fairly significant
faction of religious cardinals and secular kings and kingdoms. Persons
who claim to be pope, but have few followers, such as the modern
sedevacantist antipopes, are not classified with the historical
antipopes. Wikipedia Encyclopedia.
Page 46: The Catholic Church is
the only Christian Church or community that still holds ecumenical
councils today. No other group dares to claim that it has held one,
which makes sense when you realize that no other group is led by the
bishop of Rome.
Note: Literacy and accurate Scripture translations has broken this ungodly authority.
In 1521, Martin Luther was placed under the Ban of the Empire, and he
retired to the Wartburg Castle. During his time there, he translated
the New Testament from Greek into German. It was printed in September
1522. The first complete Dutch Bible, partly based on the existing
portions of Luther's translation, was printed in Antwerp in 1526 by
Jacob van Liesvelt. Wikipedia Encyclopedia.
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