The Arrogance of Brevity: Speeding Through the Councils


First Ecumenical Council

How does the Church resolve differences of opinion and clarify the meaning of the Scriptures?

From the time of the Apostles, there have been disagreements among Christ’s followers.  Peter and Paul disagreed, and had to iron out thorny issues such as dietary laws and the circumcision of Gentiles.

From the early days of the Church, Popes have convened great councils—bringing together bishops from around the world who, guided by the Holy Spirit, prayed and discussed, tackled thorny issues and declared heresy.  These councils lasted for weeks or months (and sometimes years).  The decisions were published in weighty tomes infused with grace. 

Years later, encyclopedias and reference books detailed the councils’ findings in lengthy articles of four, maybe five pages, single-spaced in eight-point type.

The Council of Trent

And now I step in with CliffsNotes panache and offer to give you the goods in, say, 500 words.  It seems an arrogance beyond measure, to snip and cut the words of the great leaders of the Church—but there you have it!

As we prepare for the Year of Faith beginning on October 11, I’ll be kicking off a series titled “Think This, Not That”—which offers an in-a-nutshell look at each of the Church’s great councils.  From Arianism to Pelagianism, we’ll discuss.   We’ll cry “Anathema!”   And we’ll understand a little better the faith we hold today, since we’ll understand the crises we faced yesterday.

I tried this little experiment once before but never finished the task—running for cover when the arguments got complicated, and I got busy.  This time, I’d like to make it all the way through.

Please join me—starting later today.


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