The First Four Ecumenical Councils as Ineffective Means to Control the Rise and Spread of Heterodox Christian Ideologies
AbstractSponsor, Bernice Forrest; Professor, Department of History, University of Colorado Colorado Springs (HIST 499)
This paper is essentially an examination of the doctrine produced at the first four Christian ecumenical councils, and whether the codification of the theological constructs therein served the purpose for which they were designed. At the councils of Nicaea in 325 C.E., Constantinople I in 381, Ephesus in 431, and Chalcedon in 451, attempts were made to establish a correct, and therefore universally acceptable, form of the Christian faith. Any divergent beliefs, as well as those individuals who harbored them, were considered heretical. While the bishops at the councils desired to eradicate heresy and institute orthodoxy, the most common outcome was both the perseverance of existing heterodox positions and the birth of new ones. As a direct result, further councils were convened in response to the ongoing predicaments, and the Orthodox Christians were consequently required to alter their creeds. Given this combination of the persistence of heterodox ideas and the resulting instability of orthodox doctrine, Hasbrouck concludes that the first four ecumenical councils were an inadequate method by which to restrict heresy.