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Previous article in this series: April 1, 2023, p. 298. The Janssen controversy in the Christian Reformed Church (1920-22) concerned the erroneous teaching of a professor in the theological school. Dr. Ralph Janssen’s higher critical view of Scripture and his naturalist explanation of miracles were condemned by the CRC Synod of 1922. So serious were his errors that synod removed him as professor. However, his justification for these teachings, namely, common grace, was not addressed either by the special study committee that investigated his teaching or by the Synod of 1922. Even during the controversy, the Revs. H. Danhof and...

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How many ecumenical councils have been held? The Roman Catholic church gives the number as twenty-one, the last being the Vatican Council (1962- 65). Protestants consider only the first seven to be ecumenical. We come now to the Seventh Ecumenical Council. It was quite different from the first six in two ways. First, the issue it faced was very different. The first six councils dealt with doctrinal issues: Is Christ God? Is the Holy Spirit God? How can Christ be both human and divine? Is Christ one person or two? Does He have one nature or two? Does He have...

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Previous article in this series: March 1, 2023, p. 258. Our last article noted that Jesus Christ has two wills, a divine will and a human will, both of which work in harmony with each other. Some in the early church had taught that Christ has only one will; these were Monothelites. These included the Emperor Heraclius, who was looking for political unity in his empire, and Pope Honorius, who supposedly spoke with apostolic authority. But Sophronius, who would later be the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and Maximus the Confessor, staunchly defended the two-wills doctrine. Meeting called Emperor Heraclius and Pope...

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Previous article in this series: March 1, 2023, p. 260. As noted in the last article, in 1924 Herman Hoeksema was the pastor of the largest Christian Reformed Church in that day with over 500 families and 1300 members. He was a regular contributor to The Banner, and a member of the Curatorium of the Seminary. He was unquestionably one the most capable theologians and preachers in the CRC in that day. But in 1925, Herman Hoeksema was deposed by a Classis of the CRC, as were Revs. Henry Danhof and George M. Ophoff as well as the respective consistories...

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The Fourth Ecumenical Council (451) produced the Creed of Chalcedon, which teaches how Christ’s two natures are united in the one person of the Son of God. The Fifth Ecumenical Council (553) upheld the teaching that Christ has two natures, over against the Monophysites, who insisted that He has one nature. Does one’s will belong to one’s nature or person? Specifically, does Christ have only one will, a divine will, because He is a divine person? Or does He have two wills, a divine and a human, because He has two natures? That is one of the main questions that...

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In harmony with the gracious, eternal plan of God, the Protestant Reformed Churches in America approach the one century mark of existence as a denomination. This is amazing, and a reality that can only be ascribed to the grace of God. From every human point of view, these churches should not have continued to this point. Troubles and hardship have been a part of her experience all through her history. These churches were born in controversy over the doctrine of sovereign, particular grace, resulting in three ministers and their congregations being cast out of the Christian Reformed Church. The subsequent...

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Previous article in this series: December 1, 2022, p. 106 The last article noted the meeting of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, and its main decisions. This article concludes our examination of that council. Was the council sympathetic to the Monophysites? I find the Fifth Ecumenical Council the most difficult to evaluate. Yes, it opposed the teachings of some who said that Christ has two natures and, therefore, two persons. And yes, it defended the decisions of Chalcedon. But was it sympathetic to the Monophysitists who taught that Christ has only one nature? Philip Schaff suggests that the council’s renunciation of...

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Previous article in this series: August 2022, p. 439. The last article set forth the context for the meeting of the Fifth Ecumenical Council. The Monophysites were teaching that if Jesus was one person, He necessarily must have one nature (mono = one; phusis = nature). Other theologians took the opposite position: because Jesus has two natures, He is two persons. These latter set forth their position in “The Three Chapters,” or “Heads.” Without question, the Three Chapters contained error, and Emperor Justinian condemned it. But why did he condemn it: because he saw the truth of the matter, or...

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Prof. Douglas Kuiper, professor of Church History and New Testament in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary and member of Trinity PRC The Creed of Chalcedon set forth the doctrine of the person and natures of Jesus Christ as fully as any creed or council had done. Surely, one might think, that creed would put an end to all controversy regarding Christ’s person and natures. But it was not so; the controversy continued. The controversy had to continue, in God’s providence. For one thing, Jesus promised that the Spirit would guide the church into all truth (John 16:13). By AD 451...

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Prof. Douglas Kuiper, professor of Church History and New Testament in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary and member of Trinity PRC Previous article in this series: March 1, 2022, p. 249. As we noted in the last article, the most significant work of the Fourth Ecumenical Council was to formulate the Creed of Chalcedon. But the Council finished this work at its sixth session and would meet for nine more sessions. What else did the delegates accomplish? Just as the Councils of Nicea (325) and Constantinople (381) had done, the Council of Chalcedon faced church political issues as well as...

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