One of the most striking differences between Orthodox and Protestant worship is icons. When one enters an Orthodox church one encounters a profusion of images. One sees the icon of Jesus Christ the Word made flesh. One also sees an icon of the Virgin Mary, icons of the angels, and icons of the saints. On the other hand, when one enters a Protestant church one sees an austere absence of images.
This is not to say that Protestant churches suffer from an absence of aesthetics. There is a certain abstract beauty in the internal architecture of Protestant sanctuaries: the steps leading up to the altar, pulpits standing to the side, the cross hanging from the ceiling, and the interplay of wood, stone, and glass are all beautifully designed.
What accounts for the stark difference between Orthodox and Protestant worship experience? Why did they diverge into two different worship traditions? The answer to these questions can be found in the Protestant Reformation, especially that of the Reformed tradition. Protestantism’s iconoclasm can in large part be traced to John Calvin. In what follows, I will be describing and critiquing Calvin’s argument against the use of icons in Christian worship.
As one of the leading theologians of the Protestant Reformation, John Calvin helped define and shape Protestant theology. One of Calvin’s lasting legacies is Protestantism’s iconoclasm. According to Georg Kretschmar: “Calvin built up the most precise and radical position opposed to the icon theology of the 787 Council of Nicea” (1990:80). Where Luther was quite tolerant of images in churches, Calvin and his followers were much more vigorous in their opposition to images in the church. As a consequence, Protestant places of worship have a stark austerity in comparison to Eastern Orthodox Churches. Among the notable exceptions in Protestantism are the Lutheran and Anglican traditions.
The Seventh Ecumenical Council, Nicea II, stands as a landmark in church history. It was at this council that the Christian Church decisively affirmed the use of icons for worship. It was here that icons were recognized as being an integral part of the historic Christian Faith. Any attempt to disprove the veneration of icons must come to grips with the decision made at Nicea II and early theologians like John of Damascus. Therefore, one of the tasks of this paper is not only to assess Calvin’s position on the icons on its own ground but also in relation to historic Orthodoxy.
The Logic of Calvin’s Iconoclasm
In order to understand Calvin’s opposition to icons, we must first understand the logic of his Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin devotes no little attention to the issue of icons. He devotes three chapters of this book to attacking the icons (Book I, chapters 10-12). Only after we can show that we understand Calvin’s arguments against the icons, can we proceed to critically assess the validity of Calvin’s iconoclasm.
The starting point of Calvin’s Institutes is the question: How can we know God? In Book I of Calvin’s Institutes we see Calvin denying the possibility of knowing God through creation but affirming the possibility of knowing God through the Scriptures.
We have taught that the knowledge of God, otherwise quite clearly set forth in the system of the universe and in all creatures, is nonetheless more intimately and also more vividly revealed in his Word (Institutes 1.10.1).
For Calvin God’s transcendence not only rendered him unknowable, it also made him beyond human comprehension. Therefore, it became axiomatic that any human attempt to depict the transcendent God in a visible representation was not only a gross superstition, it also deformed our understanding of the true God and distorts our worship of the one true God (Institutes 1.11.9).
…we must cling to this principle: God’s glory is corrupted by an impious falsehood whenever any form is attached to him (Institutes 1.11.1; italics added).
This principle is valid in light of the predominance of paganism in the ancient world. The Old Testament injunctions against idols and graven images were necessary in order to protect the purity of Israel’s monotheism. However, it seems that such a sweeping statement about “any form” would even rule out the possibility of the Incarnation of the Word of God. Paul in his letter to the Philippians 2:6-7 described the Incarnation in terms of Jesus having the “form of God” (εν μορφη θεου) and taking on the “form of a servant” (μορφην δουλου). It appears that Calvin has overstated his case.
Calvin seems to have assumed that in both the Old and New Testament worship of God was totally devoid of images: “What punishments do the prophets, apostles, martyrs, deserve, in whose days no images existed?” (Institutes 1.11.16). However, either Calvin is overstating his case or he ignores biblical references to art forms in the Old Testament tabernacles: the sculpted cherubim over the ark of the tabernacle, the faces of the cherubim woven into the tabernacle curtains, and the twelve bulls that held up the Sea of cast metal (see Exodus 26, I Kings 6 & 7). There were also the carved images of cherubim and palm trees in the New Temple (Ezekiel 41:15 ff.).
If Calvin did not treat these verses in his Institutes, did he treat them in his commentaries? An examination of the 22 volume Calvin’s Commentaries series show a number of omissions. Calvin’s exposition of Ezekiel is incomplete. He treated chapters 1 to 20 but failed to treat the remaining chapters 21 to 48, especially chapter 41 which speaks of images in the eschatological Temple. Furthermore, there is no mention of I Kings 6 and 7 which mention the use of images in Solomon’s Temple. Apparently the reason for Calvin’s omission was his untimely death (see Vol. XI, Preface p. v).
Calvin did exposit on Exodus 26 (see Vol. II, page 168 ff.) which talks about the construction of the cherubim for the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle veil with images of the cherubim. In his exposition of Exodus 26 Calvin takes the position that people were not to look at the Tabernacle but beyond it to the heavenly realities (vol. 2 page 174). Calvin here seems to understand that spiritual worship does not depend on visible forms.
…for it is certain that God would never be worshipped except agreeably to His nature; whence it follows, that His true worship was always spiritual, and therefore by no means comprised in external pomp (vol. 2 page 151; italics added).
In many ways Calvin’s exegesis of Exodus 26 is quite consistent with the traditional Orthodox position that it is forbidden to depict God the Father in icons. But Orthodoxy allows for the depiction of God the Son after his taking on human flesh. This is because icons are agreeable to Christ’s incarnate nature.
In Institutes 1.11.3 Calvin takes note of the fact that God did manifest himself in the Old Testament through visual forms but that these do not justify attempts to depict God. For Calvin even the depictions of cherubim in the Old Testament Tabernacle cannot justify the use of images.
Hence it is perfectly clear that those who try to defend images of God and the saints with the example of those cherubim are raving madmen. What, indeed, I beg you, did those paltry little images mean? Solely that images are not suited to represent God’s mysteries (Institutes 1.11.3).
For Calvin the nature and purpose of the Tabernacle was not to manifest the divine presence as to point to its hiddenness. He writes:
The mercy seat from which God manifested the presence of his power under the law was so constructed as to suggest that the best way to contemplate the divine is where minds are lifted above themselves with admiration. Indeed, the cherubim with wings outspread covered it; the veil shrouded it; the place itself deeply enough hidden concealed it [Exodus 25:17-21] (Institutes 1.11.3).
It seems Calvin overemphasized the concealing aspects of the Tabernacle. It is probably more accurate to say that the Tabernacle both revealed and concealed the divine Presence. The divine Presence, the shekinah glory, was situated deep within the Holy of Holies. This was the place where only the High Priest could enter and only once a year. This points to the Tabernacle’s concealing function. However, there is also the Tabernacle’s revealing function. Visual depictions of the cherubim were far more profuse than Calvin lets on. Images of the cherubim were visible on the inner-curtain of the Holy Place and on the curtains that made up the Tabernacle structure (Exodus 26). A more fair reading of the biblical text will lead us to conclude that the visual arts were an integral part of Old Testament worship.
Calvin’s hostility to the use of images stemmed from his desire for the glory of God — soli deo gloria. Anything that detracted from God’s glory or obscured it was to be vigorously opposed. His hostility was also based upon his belief that it is it is impossible to visually depict God who is invisible and transcendent.
We believe it wrong that God should be represented by a visible appearance, because he himself has forbidden it [Exodus 20:4] and it cannot be done without some defacing of his glory (Institutes 1.11.12).
Calvin had no objection to sculpture and paintings in themselves. He recognized them to be gifts from God and legitimate in their own proper spheres (Institutes 1.11.12). But he strongly objected to their use in the realm of religious worship and teaching. Calvin argues that visual representation were allowable with respect to creation but not with respect to God.
Therefore it remains that only those things are to be sculptured or painted which the eyes are capable of seeing: let not God’s majesty, which is far above the perception of the eyes, be debased through unseemly representations (Institutes 1.11.12).
This argument is similar to the position taken by Eastern Orthodoxy. The Orthodox position is that God the Father cannot be represented in the icons. The Orthodox position also holds that because God the Son took on human flesh in his Incarnation, it was possible to depict the Son in the icons. John of Damascus anticipated the main thrust of Calvin’s argument against icons when he argued that the Old Testament injunction against images was given in order to prevent the Israelites from attempting to represent the invisible God. He noted however that the situation changed with the Incarnation.
It is clearly a prohibition against representing the invisible God. But when you see Him who has no body become man for you, then you will make representations of His human aspect. When the Invisible, having clothed Himself in the flesh, become visible, then represent the likeness of Him who has appeared. When He who, having been the consubstantial Image of the Father, emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant, thus becoming bound in quantity and quality, having taken on the carnal image, then paint and make visible to everyone Him who desired to become visible (in Ouspensky 1978:44).
Calvin’s failure to deal with St. John of Damascus probably constitutes the greatest weakness in his polemic against the icons. It is a serious oversight because St. John’s apologia provided the classic biblical and theological defense for the veneration of icons. This gap in Calvin’s arguments against the icons is one of the greatest missed opportunities in church history.
The Philological Argument
As a Renaissance humanist scholar one of the tools that Calvin employed was the discipline of philology or historical linguistics (Bouwsma 1988:12). Calvin’s critique of the semantic distinction between dulia “veneration” and latreia “worship” in Institutes 1.11.11, 1.12.2 and 1.12.3 would seem to be one of his strongest attacks against the veneration of icons. The defenders of icons argued that they were attributing to icons “veneration,” not “adoration.” In response to this, Calvin resorts to a number of proof texts to demolish this claim.
However, Calvin’s philological argument misses the point. The dulia/latreia distinction was unique to medieval Catholicism. John Cochlaeus, a contemporary of Calvin, used this distinction in response to Calvin’s Inventory of Relics (Calvin 1960:111 n. 21). This distinction was not used at Nicea II (Cavarnos 1973:9-10). This tells us that Calvin was not familiar with the official Orthodox position on icons. More importantly, it means that Calvin’s polemic against icons never effectively refuted the Orthodox position on icons.
The closest Calvin comes to rebutting the terminology of Nicea II is in his study of the word proskuneo. Calvin marshals a whole list of proof texts where honor improperly given is strongly discouraged: Satan’s temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:10), John’s prostration to the angel in Revelation (Revelation 19:10 & 22:8-9), Cornelius’ falling before Peter’s feet (Acts 10:25). The word used in these three passages is proskuneo which can have the abstract meaning ‘to worship’ or the more concrete meaning of the act of prostrating one’s self before someone and kissing their feet (see Arndt and Gingrich). It was the custom among the Persians to prostrate one’s self before the king and kiss his feet. Because the Persians saw the king as an incarnate deity, this political act was charged with sacred meaning. Nicea II used the word proskuneo for the veneration of icons but at the same time qualifies it by attaching timetike (to honor) to it. This is the word used in: “Honor your father and mother.” However, it appears that Nicea II did a more than adequate job in defining and circumscribing the terminology for the veneration of icons and so anticipated much of Calvin’s philological arguments.
The Historical Argument
Calvin’s historical argument is seriously flawed. In Institutes 1.11.13, he is under the impression that for the first 500 years the Christian churches were devoid of images and that it was only with the decline of doctrinal purity that images began to appear in the churches.
If the authority of the ancient church moves us in any way, we will recall that for about five hundred years, during which religion was still flourishing, and a pure doctrine thriving, Christian Churches were commonly empty of images. Thus, it was when the purity of the ministry had somewhat degenerated that they were first introduced for the adornment of churches (Institutes 1.11.13; italics added).
However, Calvin seems to be unaware of or he ignores Eusebius’ Church History in which mention is made of colored portraits that were made of Christ and his apostles (7:18). The fact that Eusebius lived c. 265 to c. 339 and that the final version of his Church History appeared in A.D. 325 deals a devastating blow to Calvin’s historical argument. Furthermore, it undermines his theory of church history. The presence of icons in the early church implies either that icons were an integral part of the early Christian tradition or that Christianity had suffered corruption from its early days. To assume the latter position is extremely problematic. It calls into question Christ’s promises to be with the Church always, to guide it by the Holy Spirit, and to establish it in truth.
Calvin’s assumption of the anionic nature of Jewish and early Christian worship is not supported by scientific evidence. Recent archaeological findings show that as late as the third century, Jewish synagogues and Christian churches had images in their interiors, as demonstrated by the findings at Dura-Europos (circa 240-250 AD) in modern Syria.
The presence of sacred images in both church and synagogue tells us that the early Church did not invent icons but carried them over from its Jewish predecessors. This also indicates that the presence of icons in Orthodox churches today represents a profound continuity with Jewish worship. If icons have Jewish roots, Calvin’s historical arguments are rendered nonsensical.
Thus, there are strong historical evidence in support of the use of icons in the early Church. The Dura-Europos church has been dated to the pre-Constantine period which means that the notion widespread among Evangelicals that Emperor Constantine caused the early Church to fall from apostolic purity into the ceremonialism and sacerdotalism of Roman Catholicism is plain wrong.
Did Calvin Understand Eastern Orthodoxy?
The numerous omissions and oversights in Calvin’s polemic against the icons reflect not so much weaknesses in Calvin’s scholarship, but constraints imposed upon him by historical circumstances. It should be kept in mind is that Nicea II was quite new to Calvin. Kretschmar points out that the decisions of Nicea II was published in 1540 and the Libri Carolini became available in 1549 (1990:79). This leads Kretschmar to conclude that Calvin’s opposition to icons was not based upon direct encounters with icons nor was it founded upon familiarity with Orthodox theology.
The way Calvin actually deals with the 8th-century Councils of the iconoclast controversy shows he did not really get to grips with the questions at issue in the Byzantine theology of that age. For that matter he probably never saw an icon in his life (1990:80).
It appears that Calvin was aware of the different ways Catholics and Orthodox Christians venerated the icons. However, there is no evidence of Calvin ever having had direct contact with Orthodox Christians or first hand experience of Orthodox worship. Thus, Calvin’s disparaging remark about the “Greek Christians” in Institutes 1.11.4 can be seen as uninformed stereotyping. Calvin writes:
But we must note that a “likeness” no less than a “graven image” is forbidden. Thus is the foolish scruple of the Greek Christians refuted. For they consider that they have acquitted themselves beautifully if they do not make sculptures of God, while they wantonly indulge in pictures more than any other nation (1.11.4).
Similar constraints probably applied to Calvin’s understanding of Nicea II. Calvin knew of the decision of Nicea II in 787 to affirm the use of icons (Institutes 1.11.14; 4.9.9). To refute the pro-icon stance of Nicea II Calvin cites an early council, the Council of Elvira, and an early church leader, Bishop Epiphanius (see Prefatory Address §4; Battles p. 20). He also drew upon the anti-iconist Libri Carolini.
However, in dealing with patristic literature it is not enough throw out names and councils as Calvin did. One must show how these references demonstrate a universal consensus among the church Fathers (i.e., Vincent of Lerins’ famous canon: “What has been believed everywhere, always and by all” Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus). In the field of constitutional law the legal scholar’s strongest argument rests upon the findings of the Supreme Court, not the lower courts. Calvin’s references to one minor bishop (Epiphanius) or one local council (Elvira) or the polemical work sponsored by a king (Libri Carolini by Charlemagne) are all minor league stuff in comparison to the universal authority of an Ecumenical Council (Nicea II) and the reputation of highly respected church Fathers (John of Damascus and Theodore the Studite).
Calvin’s polemic is understandable as a reaction to the extravagant and excessive ornamentation of medieval Catholic churches. St. Bernard of Clairvaux was troubled by the excessive ornamentation that resulted in the Church “resplendent in her walls and beggarly in her poor” (Coulton 1928:573). The extravagance of religious art was compounded by the absence of a regulating principle. Unlike the Eastern artistic tradition which had an art-manual and a shared understanding about proper iconography, in the West there was no centralization of its artistic tradition (Coulton 1928:243-244). This resulted in Western European religious art being much more free in their depiction of God. Michaelangelo’s depiction of God the Father with the long flowing beard in The Creation of Adam in the famous Sistine Chapel frescoes would not be allowed in the Orthodox tradition. During 1300s the Trinity was often depicted in the form of a man with three mouths, three noses, and four eyes or in the form of a head with three faces! (Coulton 1928:378) These excesses were such that the Roman Catholic Church was forced to curb them during the Counter-Reformation.
Conclusion: Was Calvin Wrong?
In conclusion, I find Calvin’s polemic against the icons unconvincing. They are unconvincing because of four significant flaws: (1) Calvin’s philological argument (dulia vs. latreia) has no bearing on the terminology of Nicea II, (2) Calvin’s historical argument is plain wrong, (3) Calvin’s theological argument failed to take into account the theological implication of the Incarnation as spelled out by John of Damascus and Nicea II, and (4) Calvin’s biblical proof texts overlooked some important passages.
Because Calvin never dealt directly with the Orthodox position on icons, he never effectively refuted the Orthodox position. His polemic are quite valid when viewed against the abuses and excesses of Medieval Catholicism. However, it should be noted that medieval Catholicism by Calvin’s time had diverged significantly from Eastern Orthodoxy and Nicea II. For this reason it can be claimed that Calvin’s polemic against the icons is incomplete and invalid.
Calvin’s polemic against icons flows from the deep structure of his theology. Calvin’s theological system rests on two major premises: (1) that God is utterly transcendent and unknowable, and (2) God’s transcendence is bridged by means of divine revelation, particularly the Bible as the Word of God. The preeminence given to the written Word of God in Calvin’s theological system builds upon Martin Luther’s discovery of the radical power of the Gospel to transform the sinner. In the Reformed tradition the preaching of the Word of God takes priority to the exclusion of everything else: the sacraments, the icons, the saints. Calvin’s emphasis on the written Word of God as the basis for sure knowledge of God leads him to exclude images as means for teaching people about God.
A similar claim can be made for the Orthodox acceptance of icons. The Orthodox Church’s veneration of icons flows from the deep structure of patristic theology. The Orthodox theological system rests on two premises: (1) that God is a Triune Being utterly transcendent and unknowable, and (2) that God’s transcendence has been bridged through the Incarnation of the Son. For Orthodox Christians the Incarnation forms the basis for the icons.
Christianity is the revelation not only of the Word of God, but also of the Image of God, in which His likeness is revealed (Leonid Ouspensky in Forest 1997:53).
The Incarnation was crucial to the theology of the early Church. The significance of the Incarnation was such that one cannot understand the Christology of the early Church apart from it. In the same way one cannot understand the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils (see End Note 1) apart from the Incarnation. The interplay between these two factors helped determine the outcome of Nicea II. Alain Blancy notes,
The Council’s theology was a theology of the Incarnation and it depended directly on the Christology of Chalcedon which had been defined four centuries previously. The canons of Nicea make it clear, in particular, that representation of the figure of Christ was not merely legitimate but requisite, because of and on the basis of the Incarnation (1990:40).
The issue then becomes not just a matter of visual representation but of Christology. If the hypostatic union is indeed (as taught in the Chalcedonian Definition) a personal unity of the divine and human natures of Christ then the icons of Christ and the veneration directed towards them complement each other. Alain Blancy writes: “True God and true man without separation and without confusion: the Christology of Chalcedon fits the case of the icon perfectly and is expressed in it” (1990:40). For Protestants who accept the first four Councils this present something of a challenge (see End Note 2). Nicea II (the Seventh Council) becomes a logical extension of the theology of Chalcedon (the fourth council). The Protestant who accepts the Council of Chalcedon must then ask themselves if accepting Chalcedon leads logically to accepting Nicea II.
From the standpoint of historical theology, the Reformed understanding of the Incarnation represents a major paradigm shift (see End Note 3). Although Calvin did not deal directly with the concept of the Incarnation as providing a basis for icons, the Second Helvetic Confession did (see End Note 4). The Second Helvetic Confession (chapter IV) decisively dismisses any attempt to use the Incarnation to justify icons of Christ:
Although Christ assumed human nature, yet he did not on that account assume it in order to provide a model for carvers and painters.
A further reading of this confession shows that this dismissal arises not out a mere prejudice against icons, but out of a radically different understanding of the Incarnation.
He denied that his bodily presence would be profitable for the Church, and promised that he would be near us by his Spirit forever [John 16:7].
The attitude of the Second Helvetic Confession towards the Incarnation stands in sharp contrast to Nicea II:
One of the traditions which we thus preserve is that of making representational paintings, which is in accord with the history of the preaching of the Gospel, as confirming the real and not merely imaginary incarnation of God the Word (Logos)…. (in Cavarnos 1973:10; emphasis added; see also NPNF Series 2 Vol. XIV p. 550)
Although Calvin and the early Church Fathers believed in the Incarnation, their understanding of the Incarnation led to divergent theologies and practices. Where Calvinism views the Incarnation as a historical fact, Orthodoxy views it as a momentous cosmic event. The Calvinist emphasis on the written Word results in the centrality of the pulpit and the preaching ministry in worship. Orthodoxy with its emphasis on the Word made flesh leads to liturgical worship, liturgical vestments, the use of incense and icons, and most importantly the centrality of the Eucharist in worship.
Can a Calvinist Venerate the Icons?
A few years ago I met a graduate student who grew up Presbyterian and was visiting the Greek Orthodox Church in Hawaii. I didn’t think much of it as this church quite often has visitors interested in Orthodoxy. But one day I saw him go up and venerate the icon. I knew that he wasn’t yet Orthodox, but was he still a Presbyterian, a Reformed Christian?
In the end it must be recognized that anyone who actively venerates the icons has made a decisive break from Calvin and Calvinism. To venerate the icons involves acting on theological principles alien to Calvinism. The veneration of the icons is good example of the principle lex orans, lex credens — the rule of worship is the rule of faith. This ancient theological principle teaches that the way we worship regulates the way we do theology. Conversely, the way we do theology affects the way we worship. This theological principle (which is also good sociology) applies to both Calvinism and to Orthodoxy.
As has been shown in this paper, Calvin’s opposition to the icons arises from the underlying logic of Calvin’s theology. The primary motive for Calvin’s iconoclasm lies his in concern for the recovery of a true knowledge of God which leads to pure worship in the Church as well as the reform of the Church. For this reason Protestant Reformation was concerned not just with the reformation of theology but also with the reformation of worship. Thus, the plain interiors of Protestant churches are not tangential but integral to Protestantism and its theology. The bare interiors are an embodiment of Protestantism’s theology, especially its emphasis on the primacy of Scripture. Therefore, iconoclasm cannot be easily detached from Calvin’s theology.
This leaves Reformed Christians interested in Orthodoxy in a quandary or to put it more positively at a crossroads. They can either follow the modern paradigm of Calvinism or they can follow the ancient paradigm of historic Orthodoxy.
The Challenge of the Icons
Although icons may seem to be a quaint curiosity to many Evangelicals and Reformed Christians, icons in fact pose a profound theological challenge. Icons stand as a significant challenge to Reformed Christianity because it calls into question its Protestant presuppositions. One consequence of this paper is that Calvin’s failure to effectively deal with Nicea II and the Orthodox teaching on icons means that the burden is now on the Calvinists of the twenty first century to pick up where Calvin has left off.
We are living at a historic moment when genuine dialogue can take place between Reformed Christians and Eastern Orthodox Christians. There is an unprecedented openness among Protestants to Orthodoxy. Kretschmar notes that until recently it was only the specialists who were aware of the Orthodox theology of icons (1990:84). There has begun some attempts by Protestants to take icons seriously. Some believe that icons are compatible with Calvinism, e.g., Alain Blancy’s chapter which is subtitled: “Towards a Reformed Theology of the Icon.” However, I am also aware that there will be Calvinists who will continue to insist that the Orthodox position on icons is wrong. It is my hope that Evangelicals and Reformed Christians will not cavalierly dismiss the icons, but take up the challenge to meet and dialogue with Orthodox Christians. The Orthodox position on icons has compelling biblical, theological, and historical arguments that Reformed Christians need to address.
Three Challenges for Reformed Christians
I have three challenges for Reformed Christians. One, I challenge them to address the exegetical issues that Calvin overlooked: Exodus 26, I Kings 6 and 7, and Ezekiel 41. Two, I challenge them to prove that iconoclasm was part of the historic Christian Faith. In addition to the testimony in Eusebius’ Church History and by other early Christians, how do you account for the archaeological evidence of religious images found in the church in Dura-Europos and the Christian art work found in the catacombs in Rome which date back to the second century? Three, I challenge them to respond to deal with the theological defense presented by the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicea II) and other early Church Fathers, e.g., John of Damascus’ classic defense of the icons — that the prohibition against images apply to God the Father but not to the Incarnation of the Son.
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End Note 1: The seven Ecumenical Councils were crucial to the theological development of the early Church. It was at these gatherings that the Church set forth the theological benchmarks of the Christian faith: Nicea I (A.D. 325) which affirmed the full divinity of Christ; the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) which affirmed the two natures of Christ; and Nicea II (A.D. 787) which affirmed the icons. The Ecumenical Councils also defined the parameters of what it meant to be a Christian.
End Note 2: Protestants accept the first four Ecumenical Councils, whereas Orthodox and Roman Catholics accept all seven Ecumenical Councils. Although much of Evangelicalism pay little or no attention to the early Ecumenical Councils, Evangelicals who belong to mainline denominations or who take theology seriously acknowledge to some degree the decisions of the early councils, e.g., the divinity of Christ, the dual nature of Christ as truly divine and truly human.
End Note 3: The phrase “paradigm shift” is taken from Thomas Kuhn’s classic The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
End Note 4: The Second Helvetic Confession has been described as “the most universal of Reformed creeds” (see Leith’s Creeds of the Churches p. 131).