CHRISTIANITY FROM THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA UNTIL PRESENT
The Christians had covenanted that they would be abiding by God's commandments communicated to them by Jesus Christ, but had failed to do so. As they interpreted God's revelations as they suited best their interest, great schisms had taken place among them. « From those, too, who call themselves Christians, We did take a covenant, but they forgot a good part of the message that was sent them: so we estranged them, with enmity and hatred between the one and the other, to the Day of Judgment. And soon will Allah show them what it is they have done.» (Qur'an 5/14).
Those that had strayed from the true path had been overwhelmed by worldly passions; which, in turn, had ggiven rise to hostilities. Schism meant a break in the unity of the church. In the early church, schism was used to describe those groups that broke with the church and established rival churches. This caused clashes between schismatic groups that fought each other. Even today we can see its evolution in the conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants in Northern Ireland. It seems that this dispute will continue eternally.
The doctrine of Trinity has been refuted by many goups or sects within the Christian cummunities of the world which have been subjected to oppressions, exiles and excommunications. They were burned and tortured to death. Nevertheless, the communities remained faithful to their creed and did not recant. The Arianists, whose motto had been God is One, whom the Nicene Council had condemned, have been the forerunner of the anti-Trinitarians.
Priest Nestorius, a forerunner of Arius, was born in Syria, he was a monk brought to the position of bishop of Constantinople in 428. However, soon after his appointment he had launched an attack against clerical hierarchy. He argued that Mary was not Theotokos, i.e. mother of God. The Roman Church had given Mary this attribute in the fourth century and had declared her the eternal virgin drespite the fact that she had given birth not only to Jesus but also to his brothers. He claimed that Mary was a human being and should not be called as Theotokos.
Nestorius had opposed to a tiny portion of the heretical doctrine of the Church. Yet, the Church vehemently reacted against this and declared Nestorius as a 'heretic' like Arius. This led to his excommunication by the Council that met in Ephesus in 431. Nestorius was relegated to his former monastery near Antioch. After languishing there in exile for four years (431-435), he was transferred to the Great Oasis (now the Oasis of Kharijah) in the Libyan Desert about 436 and was later removed to Panopolis in Upper Egypt. The Persian Church eventually adopted the views of Nestorius, while the Egyptian Church opposed to the view of the Roman Church who had accused him of heresy and severed his ties with the latter and became an independent church, referred to as the Coptic Church. The Nestorian Church has continued until today and its center is in San Fransisco.
The Celtic Church of Ireland was another succeesor of the Arius movement. It developed independently. Up until 664 the date at which the Catholic Church took it under its protection, the doctrine of Trinity had been an alien concept for it.
The Church of Ireland had an important characteristic that displayed its parallelism with the Nestorian doctrine: faithfulness to Jewish tradition. The Church of Ireland believed that Jesus Christ had strictly conformed to the Law, therefore it attached great importance to the Old Testament. This tendency was so strong that even after the Church had been sheltered under the wing of Rome, it persisted. In 754 there were catholic priests who complained about the fact that the Irish priests snubbed the sacred texts of the Church and the writings of the prominent clerical members as well as the decision of the councils. Nevertheless, this opposition of the Celtic Church gave way not long after. In this way, the Catholic Church had eliminated the so-called heretics by a process that had been initiated in the fourth century. These movements had opposed to the glorification of Christ and promoted the belief in one God.
The first Christian Church had been founded in Jerusalem. But, after the Romans ransacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the churches proliferated abundantly spreading from Asia to western territories. The political sovereignty in the world belonged at the time to the Romans. The Christians had been under the terrible oppression of the Romans who persecuted them. However, upon Constantine's conversion into Christianity in the beginning of 312 A.D. the situation underwent a complete change.
Emperor Constantine presented the archbishop of Rome the Lateran Palace as a gift. The Roman Church was founded based on the doctrine of the Paulinist Christianity. The word 'catholic' meant 'universal'. The Church claims that it has pursued from the very beginning to this day the doctrines and the Acts of the Apostles. The Church is presided over by the pope (father) who is the representative of Jesus Christ on earth until his decease. The Catholic Church, strengthened by the support of the Roman State, became the highest authority of the Western world. The Catholics are acknowledged by the Christians to have the largest congregation.
In 395 A.D. the Roman Empire broke up into eastern and western empires, the capital of the former being Constantinople (Istanbul), and of the latter, Rome. The eastern part claimed to be the religious centre while the western insisted that Rome is the religious centre. This dispute lasted until 1054 A.D. when the priest of the Romish Church reminded the patriarch of Constantinople that the Church had but one single universal pope and desired that he accept this fact; but the eastern churches refused to comply with this request. This led the parties to excommunicate each other. The result was the separation of the Churches into the eastern (Istanbul, Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria) churches designated under the name of 'orthodox churches', and the western Romish Church. The name 'orthodox' means conformity to doctrines or practices especially in religion that are held as right or true by some authority or tradition. The eastern churches failed to organize into a unity. Although the patriarchate in Istanbul has at times appeared to have the supremacy over the rest, the others kept their autonomies. There have been occasional breaches of unity among these people of the same religious faith that resulted into the formation of National Churches like the Armenian, Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian and Russian churches.
Differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy
Barring aside Pope's infallibility and his universal authority, the following characteristics separate the Orthodox practices from the Catholic practices:
The Catholic Church remained the undisputed authority up until the 16th century. In 1520, a monk by the name of Martin Luther renounced allegiance to Pope. He was followed by such Protestant priests as Calvin and Zwingli. The clash, that lasted longer than a century, at times turned into armed conflicts. However, behind these apparently religious controversies lay political concerns. The princes reluctant to pledge allegiance to the pope were loath to pay him tribute on the The Protestants, while rebelling against the papal authority, had not attempted to substitute any other authority for him. Thus, in contradistinction with the strict discipline and order of the Catholicism, the Protestantism developed as an indulgent and tolerant religion. Almost every nation built up its own church. Next to such national churches, hundreds of sects and movements cropped up. Therefore, today there are hundreds of protestant churches around the world of which the greater part happens to be in Northern Europe and U.S.A.
The rise of Protestantism was also important in terms of anti-Trinitarian movements. As we know, the basic doctrines of Protestantism at the Reformation, in addition to those of the creed, were the supremacy of the Holy Scripture in matters of faith and order, the justification by grace through faith, and the priesthood of all believers. They read the New Testament and made their own commentaries. Even though their number was few, some among them realized that the Trinity forming the basis of Catholicism was devoid of any documentary evidence in the New Testament, let alone that certain passages of it categorically belied it. It was expressly stated that God was the One and the only God; the basic logic of the New Testament had no room for the 'Three in One'.
Certain Protestants whose number was but few were led to the conclusion of denying the Trinity altogether. The consequence was the rise of Unitarian Churches
Christians proponents of Unitarianism
Socinians were members of a rationalist Christian group in the 16th century that embraced the thought of the Italian-born lay theologian Faustus Socinus. They taught a rationalist interpretation of the Scriptures, and they accepted Jesus as God's revelation but a mere man, divine by office rather than by nature; Socinians thus rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. One of the Socinians' central doctrines was that the soul dies with the body, but that the souls of those who have persevered in obeying Jesus' commandments will be resurrected. The Socinians also advocated the separation of church and state. The movement originated in Italy with the rationalist thought of Laelius Socinus (Socini) and his nephew Faustus Socinus.
Servetus forwarded the manuscript of an enlarged revision of his ideas, the Christianismi Restitutio, to Calvin in 1546 and expressed a desire to meet him. After their first few letters, Calvin would have nothing more to do with him and kept the manuscript. In the book, Servetus argued that both God the Father and Christ his Son had been dishonoured by the Constantinian promulgation of the Nicene Creed, thus obscuring the redemptive role of Christ and bringing about the fall of the church; Servetus felt he could restore the church by separating it from the state and by using only those theological formulations that could be proved from Scripture and the pre-Constantinian fathers. When some of Servetus' letters to Calvin fell into the hands of Guillaume de Trie, a former citizen of Lyon, he exposed Servetus to the inquisitor general at Lyon. Servetus and his printers were seized. During the trial, however, Servetus escaped, and the Catholic authorities had to be content with burning him in effigy. He appeared in Geneva and was recognized, arrested, and tried for heresy from Aug. 14 to Oct. 25, 1553. Calvin played a prominent part in the trial and pressed for execution, although by beheading rather than by fire. Despite his intense Biblicism and his wholly Christocentric view of the universe, Servetus was found guilty of heresy, mainly on his views of the Trinity and Baptism. He was burned alive at Champel on October 27. His execution produced a Protestant controversy on imposing the death penalty for heresy, drew severe criticism upon John Calvin, and influenced Laelius Socinus, a founder of modern Unitarian views.
The Unitarians were especially influential in the Anglo-Saxon world in the 18th and 19th centuries. The devotees of this movement built churches first in England then in U.S.A. These people, who believed that not only the Christians but also the entire humanity who believed in God would be saved, called themselves 'Universalists'. The two churches, namely the Unitarian and the Universalist, which were independent from each other, were united in 1961. The New Catholic Encyclopedia summarized the common creed of the Unitarian Churches as follows: Jesus Christ is not the unique Son of God but a religious leader in the line of the Jewish tradition. Therefore the traditional Christianity must be changed and substituted with the religion preached by Christ. The Holy Bible must be revised and examined in the light of reason and science and should be considered not as an immutable source but a human work.
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Süleyman Ateş, Yüce Kur'an'ın Çağdaş Tefsiri Cilt 2, s. 291 »