From the beginning of the fourth century, the purity of the churches had been almost entirely washed away through internal corruption. The teaching of the apostles had been superseded by the canons of multiple synods of the intelligentsia, to seize upon an anachronism. The overseer’s office of the local churches had been turned into chorespiscopals, episcopals, bishops and later archbishops, and finally one out of place assumed the seat and title of metropolitan (city bishop), which office would in time give over to that of cardinal. And all of this was moving long before the founding of the Holy Roman Empire (where Charlemagne was crowned emperor by the Pope Leo III on Christmas Day 800).
The apostate church had overthrown the truth in every location where the machinery of state usurped the purpose of the assembly and assigned to the greedy among them the business of providing funding for the palaces. In short order other palaces appeared for the masters of the churches matching the opulence of the feudal kings. Thieves are never in contest with one another. But there was a contest of cities to see which set of church masters would hold sway over the entire “empire” of this illegitimate form of Christianity.
There always existed extreme divides between the political Eastern and Western Roman Empire, since early times – cultural, moral, geographic, nationalistic, social, and even religious differences. To start with, the East mainly spoke Greek and the West Latin. There had been Caesari, Augusti, and sometimes Antonines found off-and-on ruling from either Rome or Constantinople (or both) since early in their collective history. And as time went by, Asia Minor, Eastern Europe and Constantinople continued to prosper while Rome and Western Europe steepened in decline. Yet in spite of any decline, the leaders of both state and the new church flexed their fiscal might in the now fully developed and still growing apostate version of Christianity. By 350 the financial mechanism was fully integrated into the feudalistic Greek and Latin state machine.
In charge from the religious side had been the five patriarchs of the churches in Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, Antioch, and Jerusalem along with lesser patriarchs across both east and west. Both sides of the Bosporus aligned to these heretics. Yet doctrinal differences also were starting to cause divisions, including Trinitarianism and allegiance to particular patriarchs, where Rome by 380 was aligning exclusively with the patriarch of Rome – now the Pope; while the east was following the remaining four and refusing to accede to the authority of Rome. The true church and the vestiges of the NT assemblies were swept from the record of secular and religious history from the mid fourth century until the twelfth. You end up with two Roman capitols, one in decline; and two religions feeding the funding, but with no religion for truth and salvation.
In time the schisms began to run deeper. Since the first council of Nice (325), east and west had disagreed even on the dating of the newly appointed holy days of Easter and Christmas. Alignment to the authority of the various patriarchs continued, and the inevitable consequence of such things began to show. The simple word changes made in the Nicene Creed, itself a blatant addition to the teaching of the NT, reveal the growing break between the two denominations that was taking place.
The earliest historical version of the Nicene Creed reads: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten of his Father, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. By whom all things were made, both in heaven and in earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down (from heaven) and was incarnate and was made man. He suffered and the third day he rose again, and ascended into heaven. And he shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead.
And (we believe) in the Holy Ghost. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not, or that before he was begotten he was not, or that he was made of things that were not, or that he is of a different substance or essence (from the Father) or that he is a creature, or subject to change or conversion – all that is to say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.”
By 381 as it was recorded at the synod of Constantinople, the “same” creed now read: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of this Father before the worlds, Light of Lights, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified by Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he ascended into heaven and sitteth at the Right Hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead. Whose Kingdom shall have no end.
And (we believe) in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father, who is with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. And we believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins and look to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen”
By design and from the first, the language of scripture had been discarded for the language of men’s ignorance. One participant, the church “patriarch” Athanasius, recorded that certain council members at Nice would be “nodding and winking to each other when the orthodox proposed expressions which they had thought of a way of escaping the force of.” Surely we can distinguish in both of these clear and disturbing departures from the Word of God. We can now find virgins and the Holy Spirit caught between two persons God. And we should be able to locate the considerable differences between these two listed versions of the same creed. There are at least another dozen extant versions.
The eastern churches now were aligned fully behind the patriarchs of all but Rome and the leaders of the Empire in the East. These supposedly came to object seriously to the inclusion of the phrase: “…who proceedeth from the Father, who is with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.” The insertion of “and the Son” is known as the filioque, Latin: “and (from) the Son.” One side it seems believes that the Spirit of God emanates singly from the Father, while the other makes him a shared aspect of both Father and Son (We here have posted some blogs and essays on this topic and what the Word of God actually states). It is all about the shades of Trintarianism and the divisions caused by and within it.
On this single note of heresy nations divided and digressive churches fractured even deeper, departing from the truth at a now ravening pace. Eastern Catholicism rejects any version with the filioque of the Nicene Creed while the Western Roman Catholic Church upholds it.
Brothers and sisters: both Western and Eastern Catholicism is so far removed from the simplicity that is in Christ, it is almost not worth the time it takes to comment upon. My prayer is that we will all awake from our slumber of centuries and sweep away the cobwebs of heresy and apostasy, from wherever and whenever they have formed, out of every corner of our lives; and seek to serve God and honor Christ using the pure instructions of the NT and the Apostles as our only guide. Friends, we are so blessed to have the Holy Scriptures within hands’ grasp, where many of our forebears did not. And many of us won’t spend time understanding either it or the rocky road of our combined historical background and that of the many religious apostasies that have overthrown the simple. Were it not for the loss of souls it would all be worth absolutely nothing; and would not be fit to take up a minute of anyone’s time. Unfortunately, nameless and countless millions have been led straight through the gates of Hell under these high sounding words and lofty formulas and their like. I would like to say that in a nicer way – but there simply isn’t one. You see, Satan never takes a holiday.