Friday, May 13, 2011

Play Nice, Niceans. (Awful Joke)

So. The Council of Nicea. After a friend made some comments about how the Bible is unreliable because of the fact that fallible men compiled it, I did some research. Which was fun because I like research and also I'm a nerd. And here is the results, copied from an email I sent.

Apparently, we (the Church) have been duped -- there seems to be no evidence that the proceedings at the Council of Nicea included the deciding which books would make up the canon of the Bible. From the accounts we have, it seems like the main topic of discussion at the Council was the relationship between God the Father and Jesus, which was in response to a cultish uprising led by a man named Arius who believed that Jesus was not God. There's a bit of an outline here:

They came up with the "Nicene Creed" that we now know about, which outlines that the Father and Son are the same being in two forms. Not a new belief, but they codified it so that the new congregations springing up all over would be unified in this (most important) point of doctrine. There is a list of other canons that were discussed by the bishops in attendance, such as church disciplinary matters (including the notion that at this time, there was no one church who was appointed as "head" above the others). The heretical Arius got the boot, along with his followers.

So, the idea that the books of the Bible were decided upon at the council simply are untrue. This source outlines possible sources for the myth:, along with some useful commentary on the actual events by some of the bishops who were there. This source: gives a handy overview of the fables many in the Church believe about Nicea, and gives rebuttals for them. The inset box entitled "The Real History of the Bible" is useful. Basically outlines the fact that the Bible as we know it has stayed relatively unchanged since the time of the writing of the NT. In the second century, there were other additions, and 2 Peter, James, and Hebrews have been called into question -- but I think it's important to keep in mind that "called into question" does not mean necessarily that these were false teachings/scriptures. Just because someone questions something doesn't automatically mean that the consensus of all early Christians was that it was heretical. I think often we fall into the trap of the "fallacy of tradition", in which we believe that because X is old, X must be true or better. True, the early Christians were closer in chronology to Jesus and the New Testament writers. However, this does not mean that every thought they had was correct or to be accepted on par with what the NT teaches. I understand that humans are fallible, and thus we can expect some error in works written by humans. However: I also think that if God, in choosing the Bible as the main vehicle through which He communicates to His people (He communicates to us through many things, I know, and I don't mean to constrain God to words on a piece of paper, but in the Bible His words are clearly stated), God, in His sovereignty, would see to it that the canon of the Bible is exactly what He wanted it to be. It's about this Bible the prophet Isaiah records God saying "the grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever" (Isaiah 40:8), and to which Paul refers to when he says "all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16), and it is "living and active" (Hebrews 4:12). I don't believe that God would allow the folly of men to override his means of communicating to us.

Oh, one last thing -- I found the reference I was thinking about where Peter refers to Paul's letters as Scripture -- it's 2 Peter 3:16 - "He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." so there's pretty good support in there for Paul's letters being authoritative words from God. And a bit of a warning, too.

Ummmm, sorry for this huge post. I hope you were all able to make it this far. If you did, congratulations!

Love and cannons (HA! Like canons, but different! I'm hilarious!),