I recently finished a course on the history of Christian theology. I’ve concluded that most councils and creeds have been about defining borders. Borders are necessary; they encircle citizens and exclude foreigners. Those included are orthodox; those outside are heretics.
What I find interesting is the criterion used to demarcate the faith. They have nothing to do with following the example of Jesus or obeying his commands. They have everything to do with believing the right things ABOUT the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Belief in—and obedience to—the Sermon on the Mount, the Olivet Discourse, the Upper Room Discourse or any other of Christ’s teaching aren’t required by the creeds. What is essential are the correct beliefs about Jesus’ origin, nature, will and current disposition: subjects about which he said almost nothing.
Proper beliefs about the Father and the Holy Spirit are just as important, and just as esoteric. Case in point: Does the Holy Spirit proceed “from” or “through” the Father and the Son?
Therefore the Latin Church professes that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (qui a Patre Filioque procedit) while the Orthodox Churches profess from the Father through the Son. He proceeds “by way of will,” “in the manner of love” (per modum amoris). This is a sententia certa, that is, a theological doctrine commonly accepted in the Church’s teaching and therefore sure and binding.
We need borders. Doctrine has to be defined. But let’s not lose sight of what Jesus focused on while he was here.
By their fruit you will recognize them.