Part 1:Introduction | John Sanders 1 | Chris Hall 1 | Sanders 2 | Hall 2
Part 2:John Sanders 3 | Chris Hall 3 | Sanders 4 | Hall 4 | Sanders 5 | Postscript
Both of us believe the early church provides both helpful and unhelpful models for handling and adjudicating theological controversy. Think, for example, of issues and events surrounding the Arian controversy. In the fourth century, a presbyter by the name of Arius argued that the Son was an exalted creature but not God. As Arius put it, "There was a time when he [the Son] was not." The church rejected the teaching of Arius and affirmed that the Father, Son, and Spirit were all equally one God and shared the same divine nature. The final criterion for the church's rejection or acceptance of Arius's position was whether it fit well with the Scripture and with the church's worship.
However, the final decision regarding Arianism involved years of theological turmoil and debate. Some Christians treated their opponents with respect and integrity, while others acted acrimoniously and deceptively. While acknowledging the key role Roman politics played in the struggle, we believe the final outcome was reached through a thorough reading of the Scripture, years of concentrated thought and lively debate, and viewing the issue through the lens of the church's own worship. In its best moments, the debate was surrounded by prayer and by deep dependence upon the Spirit's guidance. In the debate's worst moments, personal attacks and agendas, political machinations, pride and anger, and, yes, even demonic attack threatened to subvert the search for truth.
How might these early controversies and councils guide us as we debate the openness position today?
First, we observe the importance of ...1