Sunday, July 22, 2007

Da Vinci: Constantine and the Council of Nicea

I've run across this argument dozens of times, and I responded to it when I was reviewing The Battle for God. In short, we can't trust the Bible because the books of the Bible were chosen by the Council of Nicea, which was made up of human men, and it was called by Constantine the Great, who was at best a recent and dubious convert with pagan beliefs and political machinations, although he was in the wrong place at the wrong time to do what the Da Vinci code has him doing.

Yet for the sake of argument, I'll pretend that Constantine did what Brown said he did. My response in The Battle for God was that, if you were an omnipotent God, don't you think that you could influence the decision of the council? I believe that argument still stands in this case.

However, there are several other things which I have learned since that time. First, the Council of Nicea fits very well with what we know about the actions of God. For reasons which I cannot understand, God very rarely intervenes directly in his creation. Typically, he uses intermediaries, angels or men, to carry out his bidding on earth. Again however, his intermediaries are not always the most savory of characters. As we see throughout the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, God very frequently used pagan kings to carry out his judgment on Israel. In the Book of Job, God uses Satan himself to accomplish his ends. If God can manipulate the Father of Lies to serve him, surely a quasi-pagan emperor is no challenge.

So why would God bother using Constantine? If you read through the Old Testament history, spiritual warfare is evident throughout. Move, counter-move, move, counter-move. God creates. Satan tempts. God promises a Savior. Satan has Abel killed. God begins the line through Seth. Satan leads his descendants astray. God floods the earth. Satan tempts them to challenge God at Babel, etc. Why do we think this warfare stopped in A.D. 32? Satan saw his kingdom collapsing under the growth of Christianity, spread by men carrying the Gospels. Satan inspired numerous false Gospels. God used Constantine, the only man fit for the job, to create a definitive Scripture. Satan used Constantine's political power to imbue the church with pagan symbols, rites, and traditions. God used these trappings of paganism to spread the truth--it became all things to all men. Pagan symbols were adopted by Christianity, and purified so their original meaning was lost, and their only meaning is Christian. Move, counter-move.

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Blogger Prof. Roger Kovaciny said...

The Council didn't "create" a definitive Scripture, it "recognized" what God had inspired. After writing a long technical paper on this subject, I can briefly state these conclusions: Catholicism accepts the Apocrypha because the pope tells them to; Protestants accept the 66 canonical books because millions of scholars, pastors and laymen looked at the evidence and individually recognized these 66 books, and no others, as canonical. The Pope did not raise the Apocrypha to the level of Scripture; he brought Scripture to the level of the Apocrypha, something that is true only because he recognizes it. (There are four Gospels instead of three or four because the Pope recognized only four.) Both Scripture and the Apocrypha are subject to ratification and interpretation by the pope.

3:05 PM  

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