Rejecting Nicea

The Ecumenical Councils condemned specific doctrines, not merely denominations.

In the year 325 A.D., the First Ecumenical Council was convened in the city of Nicea. In an effort to accurately articulate the doctrine of the Trinity, the first draft of the Nicene Creed was composed. Immediately after the text of this Creed, the Council of Nicea made the following declaration:

And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not, or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion — all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.

Any student of early Church history knows that these statements were directed against the Arians, an early group of “Christians” who denied the divinity of Christ.  They believed that Jesus is the Messiah, but they did not believe that Jesus is God.

This decree from the Council does not specify the label, “Arian”.  Rather, it simply identifies those doctrines which are associated with Arianism, and which constitute heresy. It is these false doctrines–and not the title “Arian” itself–which are anathematized.

Therefore, condemnation falls upon all who hold these false doctrines, whether they call themselves Arians or not.  Modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses have been around less than 200 years.  But they teach that Jesus is not God.  They teach that He is merely a creature. They teach that there was a time when He was not.  Therefore, they are under the condemnation of the First Ecumenical Council.  They are anathematized because of their false doctrine, regardless of whether they call themselves “Arian”, or whether they call themselves “Jehovah’s Witnesses”.

In the year 787 A.D., the Seventh Ecumenical Council was convened in the city of Nicea.
In an effort to accurately articulate the doctrine of the Incarnation, and its bearing on the usage of holy images in the context of worship, the Second Council of Nicea made the following declarations:

  • We salute the venerable images.
  • We place under anathema those who do not do this.
  • Anathema to them who presume to apply to the venerable images the things said in Holy Scripture about idols.
  • Anathema to those who do not salute the holy and venerable images.
  • Anathema to those who call the sacred images idols.

Any student of early Church history knows that these statements were directed against the Iconoclasts, an early group of “Christians” who denied that honor should be given to images of Christ and the Saints.  They believed that Jesus had become incarnate, yet they did not believe that any images should be made to depict Him.

These decrees from the Council do not specify the label, “Iconoclast”.  Rather, they simply identify those doctrines which are associated with Iconoclasm, and which constitute heresy. It is these false doctrines–and not the title “Iconoclast” itself–which are anathematized.

Therefore, condemnation falls upon all who hold these false doctrines, whether they call themselves Iconoclasts or not.  Modern-day Protestants have been around less than 500 years.  But some of them teach that it is wrong to venerate images of Jesus and the saints, and that such images should not be used in the context of church services.  Their teaching implies that Jesus did not really become incarnate. Therefore, they are under the condemnation of the Seventh Ecumenical Council.  They are anathematized because of their false doctrine, regardless of whether they call themselves “Iconoclasts”, or whether they call themselves “Reformed Protestants”.

Some people reject the deity of Christ, denying His full divinity.
Some people reject images of Christ, thus denying his full humanity.

Either way, they are rejecting Nicea, and are rejecting what the Holy Spirit has spoken to us through these two Ecumenical Councils.

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About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in 325 A.D. - Nicea I, 787 A.D. - Nicea II, Church History, Heresies, Holy Images, Icons, Sculpture, The Seven Ecumenical Councils. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Rejecting Nicea

  1. tpkatsa says:

    “Some people reject images of Christ, thus denying his full humanity.”

    The reason Protestants do this is of course based on the commandment prohibiting graven images. While I agree that Protestants misunderstand the commandment, perhaps in a future post you could make the connection for readers as to why those who reject images of Christ in turn reject His humanity. The connection is not necessarily obvious to those who are not theologically informed.

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