The Origenists and the Council of Constantinople
By 553, orthodox Christians were in dispute with a group known as the Origenists, whose views had little to do with Origen. Their view was that after a series of incarnations a person could be equal to Christ. Effectively, they were claiming that humans could reach divine status. This view was unacceptable to orthodox Christians, who believe that Christ, while human, is also divine and as such cannot be equaled, merely emulated.
The dispute simmered until the emperor, Justinian, infamous for interfering in religious disputes, called a council. Constantinople Two was held contrary to the wishes of the Pope, who was imprisoned by Justinian at the time and refused to attend. It was mainly attended by Eastern bishops, there being but few from the West.
To get rid of the Origenists, the council condemned the belief in the pre-existence of the soul, and with this went reincarnation, which requires the soul to pre-exist its present incarnation. It is doubtful, however, that the council actually passed these verdicts in full session; they were probably passed at an extra-conciliar meeting after the council had finished. From then on the church taught that a new soul is created every time a child is conceived, as God’s blessing on the union.
Constantinople Two allowed Justinian to stifle theological discussion, and we lost an interesting religious idea at the time. Fortunately Justinian is long gone, along with his murderous invasions and theological interference. The council is testimony to the fact that while there may be problems when religion becomes involved in politics, there are also problems when politicians interfere in religion.
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