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ISBN: 9781608445202
232 pages
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Excerpt from the Book

Chapter 1: The Birth of an Empire

The Great Controversy

The non-biblical history of the early Christian church, later known as the Roman Catholic Church, was written in Rome. Christianity was founded in Palestine during the first century by the disciples of Jesus. Even though the Romans greatly persecuted the Christians, missionaries successfully spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.

The early Roman church was “plagued by heresies”1 (religious beliefs that oppose the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church) concerning the divinity of Jesus and the doctrine of the Godhead. These conflicts and doctrinal variations caused much controversy in the Roman church, and in AD 313, they attracted the attention of Constantine the Great, Roman emperor from AD 310-337. Constantine wanted to become a Christian but to please his polytheistic subjects he favored the theology of some of the Gentile Christians over that of the Jewish Christians by declaring two persons in the Godhead: God the Father and Jesus, the Son of God. Many church members dissented because they did not believe Jesus and God were two separate entities in the Godhead. Early on, the fathers of the Roman church determined they would condemn or excommunicate all those who opposed the doctrinal teachings of the Roman church.

Simultaneously, the strong and determined anti-Trinitarian believers began to strive with the Roman church in order to assert and practice their own sets of belief. The Arian believers taught that God created Jesus, a “supernatural being, not quite human, not quite divine.”2 They taught that Jesus did not previously exist in Heaven; He was created by God. The third-century Monarchian, Modalistic, and Sabellian heretics, who later joined together under Sabellius, believed with minor variations that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh. Monarchian believers taught that “God the Father and Jesus were one person. . . . Modalistic Monarchians taught that God was unknowable except for his manifestations, or modes; Christ was one of these.”3

Sabellius, a Libyan priest who was visiting Rome, became the leader of all Monarchians. In AD 220, Pope St. Calixtus excommunicated Sabellius for heresy. Sabellius held to the end that “God was one indivisible substance, but with three fundamental activities, or modes, appearing successively as the Father (creator and lawgiver), as the Son (the redeemer), and as the Holy Spirit (the maker of life and the divine presence within men).”4 These anti-Trinitarian believers were determined to practice their own sets of belief.

The dogma concerning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost was “defined by the early general councils of the Christian church.”5 As “founder of the Christian Empire, Constantine began a new era”6 by settling the controversies that were causing so much dissension among the members of the Roman church. In AD 325, Emperor Constantine convened and presided over the first ecumenical council, the First Council of Nicea. This council rejected Arianism, banished Arius, and “established the divinity and equality of the Son in the Trinity.”7 Trinity became the word used to express the idea that there are three persons in the Godhead.

Constantine used unlimited powers to rebuild the empire on a basis of absolutism. The newly formed Christian empire quickly “achieved expansive influence at all levels of the imperial government. As Bible-believing Christians separated themselves from the Church of Rome, which they saw as apostate [guilty of abandoning their faith], they represented a formidable potential threat to the official new religion. Persecution in varying degrees of severity was instituted”8 over the following centuries as the powerful, domineering Catholic hierarchy began its long dictatorial rule with condemnation for all those who did not agree with its Trinitarian dogma.

Fifty-six years after the Council of Nicea, Emperor Theodosius I convened the second ecumenical council called the First Council of Constantinople (AD 381). The church fathers of the second council drew up a “dogmatic statement [an opinion based on assumption rather than empirical evidence] on the Trinity and defined the Holy Spirit as having the same divinity expressed for the Son by the Council of Nicea 56 years earlier.”9 They established the Son and the Holy Ghost as divine and equal to the Father. The Roman council members established three persons in the Godhead because it was difficult for them to give up their traditional, heathen customs. The First Council of Constantinople also condemned Apollinarianism and ascribed to the Nicene Creed that declares the Holy Spirit to be “co-equal and co-essential to God the Father and God the Son. [The First Council of Constantinople] was the origin of the doctrine of God in three persons, holy trinity, the doctrine that is popular even in today’s information age.”10 Clearly, the early councils of the Roman Catholic Church established the Trinitarian doctrine.