Marcion and the first ecumenical councils

Dear Mitchell, Thank you for you comment, I would just be careful about not stating falsehoods. The OT clearly says there are many gods.

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; (Exodus 20:1-5)

And in the NT Jesus tells us there are more than one god. Jesus also clearly says He is not the Father. (Luke 22:41–43)

He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err. (Mark 12:27)

I would thank you for not stating irrelevant falsehoods.

Whether the OT says there are many gods is irrelevant to the fact that the doctrine of the Trinity teaches that there is only ONE God.

But as for the “OT clearly says there are many gods,” there is is big difference between a recognition of the fact that many gods are worshiped and actually teaching that many gods are real or that the worship of many gods has any positive value. It is irrefutable that the OT teaches over and over that there is only ONE God which is real and only the worship of this one God is acceptable: Deuteronomy 4:35,39, 6:4, 32:39, 2 Samuel 7:22, 1 Kings 8:60, 5:15, 19:15, 1 Chronicles 17:20, Nehemiah 9:6, Psalm 18:31, 86:10, Isaiah 37:16,20, 43:10,11, 44:6,8, 45:21, 46:9, Hosea 13:4, Joel 2:27, Zechariah 14:9.

For the NT, ditto! Mark 12:29-34, John 17:3, Romans 3:30, 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, Galatians 3:20, Ephesians 4:6, 1 Timothy 1:17, 2:5, James 2:19

And that is precisely what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches also. Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are all ONE God, but three distinct persons. Jesus is not the Father. The Father is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not Jesus. BUT Jesus is God, the Father is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet, there is only One God. This is what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches. Is it very strange - like the quantum physics of theology. There is nothing in the pagan religions or any of the other religions like it. And to be sure the God of Christianity is nothing like us – not a God made in our own image at all.

And… Jesus teaches that He and the Father are one. When you see Him you see the Father.

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So you are using the mystery trump card. Regardless what the Bible says, the manmade doctrine trumps it? There is no need to teach me the trinity doctrine. I grew up with it and I know its intimate details. I reject the trinity because it diminishes the King of Heaven and His host of angels that carry out His will. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are all holy spirits doing the Will of their King. And yes, the King is at one in Will with the Father. But since we were made in God’s image, we know that God is an individual, as is Jesus the King and each and every Archangel and angel.

I do not want to debate this, I was just giving a friendly suggestion. If you wan to say there is only on God, then you should say there is only one Father.

Best Wishes, Shawn

It is the best one in the deck, you know.

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I don’t appreciate you making up things rather than addressing what I actually said. It is extremely dishonest. If you want to know my position on something, then you should ask. And then and only then you can make a comment on it. But these fantasy discussions where you make up both sides of the discussion are not good.

For example, you could ask me…

Does the Bible teach the doctrine of the Trinity? And I would answer, No.
Does the Bible teach the theory of evolution? And I would answer, No.
Does the Bible teach mathematics? And I would answer, No.
Does the Bible teach logic? And I would answer, No.
Does the Bible teach that the Earth is round? And I would answer, No.

If YOU want to derive conclusions from these then it is up to you do justify them. Though how you can justify some of the things you have been saying, I cannot even imagine since it would involve some very silly premises.

Or maybe you want to ask the following…
Is everything I believe found in the Bible? LOL LOL LOL No.
Can everything ANY Christian believes be found in the Bible? No. Not even the bizarre belief that everything he believes is in the Bible, if he happens to have that delusion.
Where is the doctrine of the Trinity taught? It is essentially in the creeds defining the Christian religion as agreed upon by the ecumenical councils starting with Nicea in 325AD.

That is like saying you reject the number 2 because it is less than the number 1. You can reject whatever religious beliefs you choose, whether it be theism, salvation, a spiritual dimension to existence, heaven, or Christianity. There is no objective evidence for any of it. But the “reason” you give here for rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity is not very reasonable. Say you just don’t like it, and I can say nothing to that.

These are angels and yes the angels are ministering spirits created by God to do His will.

I do not know any such thing. I have heard this reasoning used to justify just about everything from the belief that God has a body, to the belief that God is male (or that he is both male and female at the same time). But I think that just reflects a typical human obsession with superficialities. I believe this image of God stuff means something quite different.

God’s most fundamental nature as I see it is that He is infinite – actual infinity in His very being. But how could we be created in the image of that when we are most definitely finite? And how is it that we are created in the image of God, but the angels who are spirit just as God is spirit are not created in the image of God? Well an image is not the same as equivalence – it is a reflection. In this case we reflect the infinite actuality of God for we embody the nature of infinite potentiality. By growth and learning we become more than we are, and thus like mathematical concept of addition, it marches to infinity. It is also connected intimately with God’s purpose in creating us because it means that we can receive all the endless gifts which an infinite God has to give. Indeed this is the substance of eternal life.

Yes, it sounds to me like you have remade them all in your own image with that justification. But I am very leery of such anthropocentric impulses.

I do not want to debate this either. By all means believe what you want. I have no condemnation for different beliefs when their is no objective evidence for any of it. If I were to make a friendly suggestion, it would only be to decide for yourself what to believe about the things of religion, just as I have. But I will not alter my beliefs to suit you in any way whatsoever. And my belief remains the doctrine of the Trinity that Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct persons but only one God. I like it.

I like it for what you would probably consider some very odd reasons.

  1. I like it because it is not in the Bible, and yet it practically defines Christianity.
  2. I like it because it is messy, confusing, and strange.
  3. I like it because it portrays God in a way that cannot be said to be made in our own image.

Your interpretation of this passage from Mark 12 is an example of cherry-picking verses without regard for the context (though admittedly Mark 12:24-27 isn’t the easiest of passages).

Jesus isn’t talking about two different gods in this passage. He’s talking about how to understand the one god we have and how to understand the afterlife. Jesus’ point here is that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are already in the afterlife (and have been there for a long time, since they were already there during Moses’ lifetime), an afterlife where God considers these souls to be “living” rather than “dead.”

I’ve been thinking for a while about the comments you’ve made here, Shawn, and what I’m sensing here is that you’re placing Origen on a level that’s quite extraordinary for a person who says he wishes the Word of God to be infallible:

How is it that you’ve chosen Origen as the one who fulfilled what you believe Jesus promised? Have you really listened to what this says about Jesus? It says that both Jesus and God were too stupid to say what they wanted to say so they needed an extra helper (Origen) to step in and finish the job that Jesus couldn’t finish on his own. (In this way, your thesis reminds me very much of Marcion’s, as Marcion decreed that Jesus had to ask Paul to step in to finish what Jesus couldn’t.)

There are many difficulties with the Bible (both Jewish Scriptures and New Testament). There are many contradictions and confusing bits, and we aren’t always sure what Jesus meant. But Jesus and God knew what they were doing, and they didn’t screw it up.

It’s up to us – up to each new generation of Christians – to keep trying to figure out what Jesus was saying about God and why it’s still so important to our lives.

Yes, like the apostles, we often don’t understand. Jesus told us what we need to know, but we can’t hear it unless we listen with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. When we do hear it, though . . . it IS a mystery.

Excellent sermon series, Randy! Thanks again for sharing that. And now that I’ve had a chance to listen to all three, I do feel free to recommend him without reservation.


Thanks. I listened to #2 and I think that’s right. I see how some people are very worried about what he says. I don’t think he had enough time to address all the concerns, but it appears he has thought through them much. he does a good way of addressing things positively rather than getting muddled in the nettles. However, he very courteously and kindly talks about Sam Harris (whose podcast he listens to, and who he quotes apparently frequently) and is addressing real concerns. I think that this addresses concerns that many of us have–though I am not completely sure that the youngest generation really listen to the New Atheists much any more either.

I did not say that Origen was the only one to fulfill Jesus promise to send the spirit of truth. Jesus taught for three years and Origen for 50 years unifying Judaism, Christianity and Platonism. Jesus promised that His Word would never die. So after the emperor destroyed most of Origen’s work, Jesus sent more spirits of truth, He sent the reformists to restore His Word.

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. John 16:13

Can you help me? I have trouble using this verse this way, Mr Murphy. @Korvexius can attest to how many people have tried to use this as a proof for others…but a he who is a spirit does not fit this to my mind. Are there theologians and Bible scholars who can comment? Muslims consider the paraclete to be Mohammed, for example. Thanks.

I did not say that Origen was the only one to fulfill Jesus promise to send the spirit of truth. Jesus taught for three years and Origen for 50 years unifying Judaism, Christianity and Platonism. Jesus promised that His Word would never die. So after the emperor destroyed most of Origen’s work, Jesus sent more spirits of truth, He sent the reformists to restore His Word.

Good sir, the Spirit of John is the Holy Spirit. I’d be careful not to idolize or put on any pedestal any church father. The idea that Origen was so thorough that he just completed all Christian analysis is far from true. Have a good look at the writings of Augustine, Gregory the Great, Thomas Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, etc.


Now you got me watching the video finally. I think a lot of what he says comes rather naturally to me since I wasn’t raised Christian. The Bible was never the foundation of my faith. Heck, the first time someone asked about the Bible I compared it to others in my usual genre of science fiction. I read the Bible to see if I could see anything of value there, which led me to seek whether there was any way this stuff could make sense. AND asking someone else to answer these questions and make some sense of it was never on my radar – not that I didn’t listen to what people had to say who came my way like Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons.


That’s an interesting contrast to what a lot of the “Christian-since-childhood” experienced. They are given a “holy book” with expectations of perfection about how this book must deliver, then, on its pre-assigned reputation. You, on the other hand, had the bottom-up approach of asking - “so is there anything in here worthwhile?” And for you the Bible had to earn your attentions - which it did! That probably goes a long way to explain all the problems so many pick up along the way as they are tasked with always defending a “perfect text” cover-to-cover.

One knee-jerk reaction Christians might have to Stanley is to compare his sermons with Marcionism. But there is a major difference as I see it (those of you who have studied some of this more than I have, please correct me as necessary.) But Marcion as I understand it, tried to insist that between the old and new testaments we are dealing with two entirely different gods. Stanley here, on the other hand, is saying “no -it’s definitely the same God - but with two very different covenants.” [In fact Stanley highlights that there were three covenants - the first with an individual (Abraham), the second with a nation (Israel), and the final one with all nations (all of us!) - we could argue about other earlier permutations of covenants in there too e.g. with Adam or Noah - but these don’t figure into his message as all the old covenants are now obsolete]. It’s in our attempted mixing and matching of old and new covenants that Stanley insists we get into trouble. (Trying to put new wine into old wine skins might be one way to look at this I think!) Stanley is spot on so far as I can see.


First of all Jesus is the Word (Logos) of God, not the Bible. Origen was a great teacher rather than a heretic. The authorities did not destroy his writings.

You need to start your understanding with the Council of Nicea. The Council of Nicea was called against Arius and Arianism who were found in Alexandria Egypt. Arius said that the Father was superior to the Son, so the God was not truly God, only the Father was.

The proof of this fact was his claim that Christ was created by the Father after the Creation. It should also be noted that Arius was a legalist reformer, so bad ethics was tied to bad theology, which is usually the case.

However the main problem was that many people did not want to say that Jesus Christ was God, almost God but not God. Indeed most people today refer to the Father as God, when Jesus is God just as much as the Father is.

The Council of Nicea led by Constantine found against Arius, which was fine for the most part, but many were not satisfied with language which said that the Son is the same substance with the Father.

Athanasius is accepted as the Father of the Trinity was a great theologian. He became the Patriarch of Alexandria after the Council and was often the only supporter of this view for many years in the East.

However after a while most people accepted a new way of thinking. Great thinkers, and spiritual leaders under the guidance the Holy Spirit put the finishing touches on the great doctrines of the Trinity and the Two Natures of Jesus Christ during the first Ecumenical Councils.

Augustine finished his definitive De Trinitate on 430 shortly before his death. The book has been the basis of the understanding of Trinity in the Western Church. The Cappadocian Fathers wrote for the Eastern Church about the same time. The Trinity is the intellectual foundation for Church, which is required because Philosophy’s foundation no longer holds and Science’s never was.

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Dear Roger,
I was speaking of The Anathematisms of the Emperor Justinian Against Origen in 543 AD that destroyed Origen’s teachings. How can you deny this? I was then referring to the reformists Calvin, Zwingli and Luther who overturn some of the doctrines created by Rome. Zwingli actually overturned the trinity doctrine in his work.

Dear Shawn,
I was speaking about Arius, Athanasius, and the First Ecumenical Council, which is the true story. The Trinity and the First Ecumenical Council have little to do directly with Marcion and Origen despite the title of this blog. They were not directly involved on the Council of Nicea.

Justinian was long after this as was the Reformation, so I really don’t know where you are coming from.

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Dear Roger,
The title of the thread says “councils” so I assumed it was about the first seven. Regardless, Origen has everything to do with Nicea. This happened after his death, but his followers were out numbered and not invited to Constantine’s house for his political maneuvering. I mentioned the reformists specifically because Zwingli overturned the trinity doctrine I his translation of John 1:1.

My cousin George wasn’t invited either.

Invitations went to all the bishops of the church. If they were not bishops then of course they were not invited.

The point was to get a consensus from the church not invite the opinions of Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Dear Shawn,
If you want to have a separate discussion on Zwingli and the Trinity, but stop confusing things by going off topic as with Emperor Justinian.

The fact of the matter was that the issue was Arius, not Marcion, and Arianism, not Gnosticism. Arianism was a more serious threat than Gnosticism, and probably still is.

Everyone in that day was a student of Origen, including Athanasius, who was an African, also from Alexandria. Origen was a teacher who sought the Truth, not a heretic who organized a sect.

There was a terminology factor which caused problems for the students of Origen, but they were not Arian. I do not know what you have been reading, but you need to read some good history, instead of conspiracy theory based speculation.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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