The gospel of John was then tragically distorted, I now believe, by the Nicene and post-Nicene fathers, who used it to formulate their creeds. As Greek thinkers, these early Christian leaders had little appreciation for things Jewish and as far as we can tell no understanding whatsoever of Jewish mysticism.John Shelby Spong, Bishop of Newark, The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic
Very little of what is now orthodox Christianity is obvious from a reading of the Gospels. The “standard view” is based on centuries of splicing together a narrative that seemed to fit as close as possible a bunch of independent works that contradicted one another. This view was created through a political process known as the seven ecumenical councils.
When hundreds of people get together to try to solve a problem, you get the U.S. House of Representatives, not Newton or Einstein. Much of the decision making was political, with factions, enemies and ultimately some very bad decisions.
The most important outcome from the Reformation was the turn toward each person going directly to original sources in order to draw his or her own conclusions — we were not to grovel to an authority where God was concerned. Unfortunately, the reformation just ended up creating more “authorities” and more factions.
The most egregious error made by the church councils was made at the first one, where they tried to define the exact nature of Jesus. Without the ability to understand the essentially mystical nature of Jesus — that a human could unite with God — the councils instead decided that Jesus himself must be a God. But, given the obvious monotheistic basis of Judaism, they had to twist their logic into the pretzel that became the doctrine of the Trinity.
Even though the First Council of Nicaea (and the later Council of Constantinople) supposedly concluded the trinitarian doctrine once and for all, “protest-ant” versions of Christianity continued to survive throughout the middle ages. One even almost beat out the orthodox version (see my post The Original Lord of Light).
TAKE AWAY: Whenever possible, refer to the original sources, and always try to read them with fresh eyes.
IMAGE SOURCE: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nicea.jpg ATTRIBUTION: Fresco in Capella Sistina, Vatican [Public domain]