LEADER’S GUIDE

JONATHAN K. DODSON
& BRAD WATSON

WELCOME to Know the Creeds and Councils, the first book

in the KNOW Series by Justin S. Holcomb. This guide is designed to
be a helpful addition to the author questions at the end of each chapter,
in order to facilitate discussion and learning around the content of the
book. Because the chapters are arranged in a repetitive manner—
historical background, content, and relevance—this guide will follow
along according to the established pattern.

INTRODUCTION

WHAT ARE CREEDS, CONFESSIONS, CATECHISMS, and COUNCILS?

1. What does the author hope the reader comes away with after reading the book (p 10)?

2. Key terms are important. How does the author define and describe…

CREEDS?

What may be some biblical examples of Creeds in the Old Testament

and New Testament?

CONFESSIONS?

Does your denomination have a confession? If so, what is it?

CATECHISMS?

What are the purposes of catechisms?

COUNCILS?

Describe the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15.

3. What are the “seven ecumenical councils” (see p 172, note 17)?

CHAPTER 1

THE APOSTLES’ CREED CA. 140

Read the Apostles’ Creed (p 27) and discuss the author questions on page 30.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
1. What was the legend about the origin of the Apostles’ Creed?
2. What is a “rule of faith” and how was it used in the early church?
3. Why was important to link Christian beliefs with the original Apostles?

CONTENT
1. What are the indications of the doctrine of the Trinity in the Apostles’ Creed?
2. What are the meanings of the phrase “descended into hell”?
3. Why do both Roman Catholics and Protestants believe in “the holy catholic church”?

RELEVANCE
1. “Much of the genius of the Apostles’ Creed is in how it shows the supernatural
significance of historical events” (p 29). Explain.
2. What two challenges—one in the early church and one today—does the Apostles’
Creed address?
3. How did you respond to the quote of C. S. Lewis on page 30? Why? How does the
quote connect to creeds, councils, catechisms and confessions?

CHAPTER 2

COUNCIL OF NICAEA AND THE NICENE CREED 325

Read the Nicene Creed and discuss the author questions on page 39.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
1. What was the key issue of the Councils of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381)?
2. What did Constantine do in 324 and why?
3. Who was Arius and what did he teach about Jesus?
4. How can we worship the Father who is fully God and the Son who is fully God
without compromising the biblical truth that there is only one God?

CONTENT
1. Why was the Nicene Creed “not an innovation” (p 36)?
2. What was the new content of the Nicene Creed regarding the Son’s relationship with
the Father?
3. What were the “two types of divinity” being debated?
4. How did the council understand the term monogenous (pp 36-37)?
5. Why is the phrase “one substance with the Father” (or, one in essence, homoousios)
a challenge to the Arian view?

RELEVANCE
1. Orthodoxy is Trinitarian. What are some contemporary faiths that deny the deity of
both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit?
2. Without the precision and clarity of the Nicene Creed, what may have become of the
Christian faith (pp 38-39)?

CHAPTER 3

COUNCILS OF EPHESUS 431, 449, 475

Discuss the author questions on page 50.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
1. Having established that Jesus was equal in essence to the Father (Nicene Creed), what
questions logically would follow (p 42)?
2. Describe the two personalities—Nestorius and Cyril—who clashed over
“christological” issues.
3. Why were the two cities—Constantinople and Alexandria—politically involved with a
theological debate?
4. Describe Nestorian Christology. What two heresies was Nestorius opposing?
5. Describe Cyrilline Christology. How did Cyril’s views counter Nestorius’ views?

CONTENT
1. Why did Nestorius object to the title theotokos for Mary, Jesus’ mother?
2. What was Nestorius’ “unfortunate blunder” and how did it get him cast into the
“adoptionist heresy”?
3. What is the “legacy of Ephesus”?

RELEVANCE
1. With the clash of personalities and politics, can we be sure that the agreements
reached at Ephesus truly reflect the leading of God?
2. What were the controlling questions debated at Ephesus?
3. What are “dialogical virtues”? Why are they important?

CHAPTER 4

COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON 451

Discuss the author questions on page 61.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
1. With the incarnation unquestioned, the Trinity affirmed, the full deity and humanity of
Jesus Christ settled, what were the questions the church faced at Chalcedon?
2. How did gnosticism address the question regarding Jesus’ humanity?
3. What was the view of Eutyches, a monk outside Constantinople, called and why?
4. Why did the emperor want a new creed?

CONTENT
1. Read the Definition of Chalcedon (p. 56). How did the Definition walk the fine line
between Nestorianism (Christ was two persons) and Eutychianism (Christ had only
one nature)?
2. What were the important Christological statements in the second part of the Definition
of Chalcedon?
3. How did the Council maintain a clear distinction between the concept of a person and
the concept of a nature?

RELEVANCE
1. Do you think that the use of extra-biblical terminology helped the Council members to
express truly biblical concepts about Jesus Christ? Why?
2. Why does the author suggest that the Definition of Chalcedon was not so much a
definition as it was a set of boundaries?
3. How could “the bony-kneed Jesus be at the same time the Holy One of Israel”?
4. How does the Definition of Chalcedon have a direct bearing on our salvation?

CHAPTER 5

ATHANASIAN CREED LATE 400S TO EARLY 500S

Read the Athanasian Creed and discuss the author questions on page 70.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
1. Discuss the origin of the Athanasian Creed. Why was it considered non-Athanasian?
2. What was Caesarius of Arles’ connection to the Athanasian Creed?
3. What was Anselm’s connection to the Athanasian Creed?
4. What was Martin Luther’s estimation of the Athanasian Creed?

CONTENT
1. What are the three parts of the Athanasian Creed?
2. What does the term “aseity” mean? How does it relate to God—the Trinity?
3. What was the error of neo-Arianism?
4. Who was Sabellius and what is “modalism”?
5. Regarding the Son, how do you understand “not made, nor created; but begotten”?

RELEVANCE
1. How seriously did the Athanasian Creed take the doctrine of the Trinity (p 69)? Do
you agree with that assessment?
2. What is “the awful responsibility of …fundamental belief” (p 70)?
3. We are not saved by trusting a set of beliefs. Regarding the Athanasian Creed,

how are we saved?

CHAPTER 6

COUNCILS OF CONSTANTINOPLE 381, 553, 681

Discuss the author questions on page 84.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
1. Why was Constantinople “the symbol of imperial Christianity”?
2. Who were the semi-Arians and what did they believe?
3. How did Gregory of Nazianzus counter the beliefs of the semi-Arians?

CONTENT
1. What was the Constantinople I’s view of the Holy Spirit?
2. What was Emperor Justinian’s hope for Constantinople II 553 ?
3. What were the three doctrinal factions debated at Constantinople II?
a. What was the Nestorian view?
b. What was the Monophysite view?
c. What did the council conclude (p 80)?
4. What was the new concept introduced at Constantinople III 681 ?
5. Did Constantinople III agree that Christ’s human will was overwhelmed by and
passive to his divine will?
6. Who were the “dyothelites”? What was Maximus’ view?
7. In his suffering, did Jesus just pretend to be like us or did he really suffer?

RELEVANCE
1. What are the “lessons” from Constantinople I? Constantinople II? Constantinople III?
2. What does it mean that the Constantinople Councils wanted to give as much
theological space to differ without compromising the truth (pp 83-84)?

CHAPTER 7

COUNCILS OF CARTHAGE 419 AND ORANGE 529

Discuss the author questions on page 96.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
Having reached orthodox views on the Trinity and the Person of Jesus Christ, the church councils
now engage “theological anthropology”—the doctrines of man (free will), sin, and grace.
1. Who was Pelagius and what was his view? What prompted him to understand
Scripture the way he did?
2. What was Pelagius’ pastoral concern about inherited/original sin?
3. Who was Augustine and what was his view? What was his story?
4. How did Augustine view God’s grace?
5. How did the Councils of Carthage and Orange rule?

CONTENT
1. Eight canons were passed at Carthage, three against Pelagius. What were those

three canons?

2. Why did Pope Zosimus consider Pelagians “fools, not heretics”? What did the Pope
admire about Pelagius and his followers?
3. What was John Cassian’s view based on Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus?
4. Did the Council of Orange accept all of Augustine’s views?

RELEVANCE
1. How and why did Augustine’s experience and theology win the day (p 94)?
2. What did both sides, Pelagians and Augustinians, agree on at both Carthage and
Orange (p 95)?

CHAPTER 8

COUNCIL OF TRENT 1545-1563

Read and discuss the author questions on page 111.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
1. What are some of the major historical events between 549 and 1545? What was the
“Holy Roman Empire?”
2. Who were some early reformers and how did they attempt to reform the church? How
did the Church respond? Why?
3. Who was Martin Luther, what did he do, and when? What was the Colloquy of
Regensburg?
4. Why was the small city of Trent chosen for the Council called by Pope Paul III?

CONTENT
1. The Council of Trent did not “repair the fractures” between the Catholics and
Protestants; the Council was a reaction to the Reformers. What did the Council of
Trent accomplish…

• regarding reforming the clergy?

• regarding Scripture, Tradition and Revelation?

• regarding justification? What was this major debate about?

• regarding church and sacraments? How many did the Reformers accept?

RELEVANCE
1. As a result of the Council of Trent, what happened to the authority of the Pope? Why?
2. What were the missional results of the Council of Trent?
3. How did the rulings of the Council of Trent earn back the trust of the people in the Church?
4. What is the Joint Declaration on the Decree of Justification (1999) and why is it
important to the Catholic/Protestant rift?

CHAPTER 9

HEIDELBERG CATECHISM 1563

Read and discuss the author questions on pages 120-121.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
1. What was happening in Europe as the Protestant Reformation spread like wildfire?
2. List and define the “five solas” of the Protestant Reformers.
3. What were the three primary Protestant views of the Lord’s Supper and who promoted
those views? What did Frederick III attempt to do by calling for a catechism from the
theological faculty at Heidelberg?

CONTENT
1. How is the Heidelberg Catechism arranged? Be specific.
2. What does the second part of the Heidelberg Catechism contain (p 116)?
3. What was the goal of the Heidelberg Catechism?
4. Why was the Heidelberg Catechism “soft” on predestination and the ordo salutis?
5. What was the Heidelberg Catechism’s position on the doctrine of the Eucharist (Lord’s Table)?

RELEVANCE
1. Why has the Heidelberg Catechism “enjoyed such a long period of relevance” among
differing Protestant factions?
2. What two contemporary issues are directly addressed by the Heidelberg Catechism?
Read “Question 1” and “Question 28” on page 119.
3. How did Heinrich Bullinger, Zwingli’s successor, praise the Heidelberg Catechism?
4. Read the entire Heidelberg Catechism.
https://www.ccel.org/creeds/heidelberg-cat.html

CHAPTER 10

THE THIRTY-NINE ARTICLES OF RELIGION 1563/1571

Read and discuss the author questions on page 130.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
1. According to the author, what is the best way to describe the Thirty-nine Articles of
Religion? Why?
2. What was at the core that led to the establishment and adoption of the Thirty-nine
Articles? Explain both the political aspect and the religious aspect.
3. Who was Elizabeth I and what did she accomplish? Define the via media.

CONTENT
1. What did the Thirty-nine Articles seek to avoid in Catholicism and in other Protestant
expressions?
2. What was the place of “tradition” in the Thirty-nine Articles?
3. How do the Thirty-nine Articles “lean much more toward the Protestant side” in terms
of theology?
4. How did the Anglican Church (the Church of England) distance itself from the

“feared Anabaptists”?

5. How are the Thirty-nine Articles “the most Erastian of the confessions”?
6. Discuss some the features of the “legacy” of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion.
What is one point of controversy in the Thirty-nine Articles?

RELEVANCE
1. How does the “middle ground” of the Thirty-nine Articles provide guidance in
religious debate?
2. How limited is the Church of England (Anglican Church) to the British Isles?
3. What does the author suggest is “the most relevant section of the Thirty-nine Articles
for today’s church”? Why?

CHAPTER 11

WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH 1646

Read and discuss author questions on page 139.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
1. Who were the Puritans and what did they want? How was social status reflected in
Anglicanism and Puritanism?
2. Why did Parliament convene a council of 121 theologians and others in 1646?
3. What was the influence of the Westminster Confession in view of the Church of
England’s alliance with the Church of Scotland?

CONTENT
1. What were some of the “housekeeping issues” the Westminster Assembly sought first
to address? Because of rival groups, what did the assembly primarily focus on?
2. Regarding Calvinism, what did the Westminster Assembly attempt to do?
3. What does TULIP mean?
4. What is the doctrine of reprobation?
5. What are some of the aspects of “broadly orthodox theology” that the Westminster
Confession addresses?
6. What was the Westminster Confession’s position on the Lord’s Supper?
7. What did the Confession teach about the accessibility of the Bible to the ordinary person?
8. What was the influence of the Westminster Confession beyond England and Scotland?

RELEVANCE
1. What is remarkable about the Westminster Confession in view of the extreme political
turmoil in which it was created?
2. What is the “most enduring aspect of the [Westminster] Confession of Faith”?
3. How does the Westminster Confession “open up its readers to seeing Christian life in
a more all-encompassing way”?

CHAPTER 12

SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL 1962-65

Read and discuss the author questions on pages 148-149.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
1. What historical dynamics prompted Pope John XXIII to call for Vatican II for the
purpose of aggiornamento (“bringing up to date”) of the Roman Catholic Church?
See pages 141-42, 143.
2. Pope Pius IX wanted Vatican I 1870 (the first sanctioned council since Trent) to
address what two major issues?
3. How did John XXIII demonstrate that he was more than “merely a caretaker pope”?

CONTENT
1. What were John XXIII’s three specific goals for Vatican II (p 144)? What were the
reforms in terms of …

• liturgy?

• importance of Scripture?

• revelation?

• bishops and Mary?

• non-Christian religions?

• Dei Verbum?

• social justice (Gaudium et Spes)?

RELEVANCE
1. What were the differing responses to Vatican II?
2. Were all issues between the Protestant Church and the Great Schism (with the
Orthodox Church) settled by Vatican II? Why?
3. What is the most important aspect of wisdom that non-Catholics can take away from

Vatican II?

CHAPTER 13

MODERN CONFESSIONS: LAUSANNE COVENANT AND CHICAGO
STATEMENT ON BIBLICAL INERRANCY 1974 AND 1978
Read and discuss the author questions on page 164.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
1. What were the two challenges of the modern world that prompted Protestants of most
denominations to call joint assemblies to maintain doctrinal unity?
2. What historical dynamic prompted the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy?
a. What had been the enduring historical position of inspiration and inerrancy?
b. What “modern” criteria called into question the inspiration and inerrancy of the
Bible? What was the extreme fundamentalists’ response?
3. What historical dynamic prompted the Lausanne Covenant?
a. What were the controlling questions that shaped the Lausanne Covenant?
b. What two aspects of “witness” were clarified in the Covenant?

CONTENT
1. What phrase is key in understanding the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy?
2. What seven statements of the CSBI are mentioned by the author?

3. If only the “original autographs” were inerrant, how can we trust
the accuracy of our (English) Bibles today?
4. What was the five-point definition of evangelicalism that shaped the Lausanne Covenant?
a. What doctrinal truths are expressed in the Lausanne Covenant?
b. How did the Lausanne Covenant address both evangelism and issues of social justice?
c. How did the Lausanne Covenant address “syncretism” and “cultural imperialism”?

RELEVANCE
1. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy walks what fine line?
2. What does the Lausanne Covenant mean by “the corporate character of evangelism”?