Explain the purpose of each of the first seven councils of the church.

The first seven councils of the church were convened between 325 and 787 and were intended to unify the doctrine and practice of the Christian faith throughout Christendom.

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The first seven councils were an ongoing attempt to unify the Christian church, which took place over several hundred years, the initial council being convened by the Emperor Constantine. These councils were as follows:

  • The First Council of Nicea (325), which drew up the Nicene Creed and established the nature of Jesus Christ as the only begotten son of God. The council tried, and failed, to reconcile the preaching of Arius with orthodox doctrine
  • The First Council of Constantinople (381), which approved the Nicene Creed in its final form and rejected the idea that Christ did not have a human soul
  • The Council of Ephesus (431), which repudiated Nestorianism, a doctrine that objected to Mary being described as "Theotokos," the Mother of God
  • The Council of Chalcedon (451), which repudiated doctrines that described Christ as purely divine and established the orthodoxy of the Hypostatic Union, stating that Christ combined wholly human and wholly divine natures in one
  • The Second Council of Constantinople (553), which followed the Council of Ephesus in rejecting various writings in defense of Nestorianism
  • The Third Council of Constantinople (680–681), which rejected the doctrine called monothelitism, that Christ had only one unified will. The council ruled that Christ had both human and divine wills
  • The Second Council of Nicea (787), which ended the period of iconoclasm that had followed the Synod of Hieria (753) and restored the practice of venerating icons of Christ and Mary.

Source: The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787): Their History and Theology by Leo D. Davis

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