COUNCILS, CREEDS AND CONVENTIONS

 

Whenever the Southern Baptists have a convention it is always big news in Texas. I can recall a preacher A few years ago from another denomination commenting that conventions were not scriptural and the Baptists were not following the Bible by having them. On a similar note I have seen over and over again comment on the ancient councils and how unbiblical they were and how they would stray from or contradict biblical truth in their "ordinations". Some may try to make a clear distinction between a council and a convention but I think they are somewhat similar creatures. Historically councils were called in times of crisis. Usually to address a heresy that was occurring at that time. Contrary to many assertions that I have read and heard, the "council" is very scriptural. The Book of Acts records the very first council in chapter 15. Indeed the scriptural method of settling disputes is by council. Orthodox Christianity owes much to the early councils for it was through them that many of our standard doctrines were fought over and defined. Much to the chagrin of fundamentalists, it must be noted that the New Testament canon that we receive today was a result of a council held in Carthage in 395 AD, for before that there was no specific, agreed upon canon. The truth is, that no council should ordain anything, only clarify the position of the Church. For an example some fundamentalist sects will reject the reciting of creeds because they are "human in origin"; if one would inspect the Nicene Creed which is a product of a council, it should be obvious that all the assertions made by the Creed are not "human ordinations" but have a very sound scriptural basis and are a wonderful tool to discern orthodox Christianity.

I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man: and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried: And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures: And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the father: And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead: Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the Prophets: And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church: I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins: And I look for the Resurrection of the dead: And the Life of the world to come.

There were hundreds of councils that have taken place over the centuries. Some councils were well known, but most are now quite obscure. I have learned more about various obscure councils from reading fundamentalist writings than I ever imagined existed. They are a common straw man on fundamentalistís attacks on traditional Christianity. Is there a doctrine or practice that a particular fundamentalist doesnít like? Simply find some obscure council where that subject was addressed and then claim the doctrine has its origin at that council. To me this is bad if not certainly revisionist history. I am tempted to reveal the names of the various writers who have practiced this so they be shamed. In general the ancient councils are a reliable source of authority as compared to scripture, which is an infallible source of authority. This is how they should be received. I do recall one Internet site that was sponsored by one such group where a pastor was warning his readers not to reject the substance of the Nicene Creed just because they reject the basic concept having a creed. He took the Nicene Creed and showed its biblical authority. I say hooray for him.

As far as the validity of conventions and scripture are concerned, I think the only thing that doesnít have a scriptural basis is the regular scheduling of a convention. Historically and Biblically councils or conventions were called, not scheduled. Although it is a wonderful thing when the Body of Christ gathers, communes, and tries to work out problems, I think that most conventions probably occur much too often and have become a tool for those who push for change outside of Apostolic tradition. Over the past 20 years I have seen many denominations stray from their scriptural roots and with every convention it gets worse and worse. Even to the point where the convention has unofficially become authoritative over scripture and tradition