Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Today on the Christian History Almanac, we remember the Council of Nicaea (325) and its far-reaching effects on the history of the church.

It is the 12th of June 2024. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac, brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.


As your host and friendly neighborhood historian, I have a number of “Google news alerts” that I have set up for various topics pertaining to the Almanac. “Oh, people are debating the role of the 2nd great awakening,” or “There’s a dustup at Seminary X over the development of the biblical canon,” etc.…

And so, imagine my surprise as I’m working through a show and I get a news alert: “a man running for President of a major evangelical denomination questions the Nicene Creed”… whoa, ok my dude…. And this, just a days before the 12th of June- which you know, or now know as the commemoration of the Council of Nicaea which took place in the early summer of 325 AD.

Listeners of this program will likely remember these terms- “Nicaea” and “Constantine” and “Nicene” or rather “Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed” and might even automatically assign a great importance to these 4th century goings-on.

And the Google News alert continues to give as I find a story from a VERY different perspective than the would-be denominational president and states that neither the content of the New Testament nor the divinity of Christ were agreed upon until this momentous event in 325 AD, thus echoing a certain strain of church history which sees nothing but fog and mud in the earliest church only to be promulgated under the decree from the Empire.

And so, on this, the anniversary of the Council of Nicaea in 325, let’s remember what this momentous event WAS and WAS NOT.

The “Council of Nicaea” is counted as the first “ecumenical” council (that is, 7 early gatherings of churchmen who were called to answer contested theological issues). Still, it was not the “first” council. We see in the book of Acts the early apostles coming together to decide what to do over the matter of, among other things, what to do about circumcision. There, in Acts 15, we see the model set for how to deal with theological division and that we might not get 100% agreement amongst earnest Christians.

It is important to remember that the creed we call today “the Nicene Creed” is only partially from this council. The creed would ultimately be completed in its modern Western form after the Council of Constantinople in 381. But at this council, the term “homoousion” was agreed upon- not that Christ was divine. This was a cornerstone of the faith from the time of his resurrection. “Homo-ousion” referred to Jesus being of “the same substance” as the Father- that is, whatever it is that makes the Father God, so too is the Son. Arius would be popularized for teaching that “there was a time when the son was not”- that is, he is a created being.

The Nicene and later creeds would find ways to clarify and confess what the church had taught regarding the divinity of Christ and his work “for us and our salvation.”

The council was not, however, the slam dunk some believe it was. The questions of Christ’s divinity and the proper dating for Easter were the primary causes for calling the council but neither question was ultimately decided there.

Our chief source for this event comes from Eusebius of Caesarea- the great father of church history who came to the council as a marginal supporter of Arius. The primary reason for writing the history was not then initially to disparage or vindicate one particular theology but rather to watch what the 300 or so Bishops would decide.

Yet, despite the clear anti-Arian decision by the council, it would take some time to root out the heresy. In fact, Constantine, who called the council before he was baptized, would eventually be baptized by an Arian. The fact that we needed more councils only confirms that this would become the model- not for “creating” doctrines but rather to confirm a general consensus on those general topics.

And yes, this momentous occasion raises the question of imperial support for Christianity. While the creed would be of immense importance for the church, it came at a cost as the underground church of the martyrs became the institutional church with state support. The monastic movement would grow as a result of this and as a condemnation of the faithful going soft once given imperial power.

Nonetheless, the council of Nicaea set that standard for theological consensus, continued to fight against any theology that claimed Jesus was not himself divine and laid the foundation for one of the chief creeds of Christendom (and of course, we note that the major schism between Eastern and Western Christianity would be a result of modifying this creed later on).

It’s all a big deal- the commemoration of the Council of Nicaea-  and a big deal because it elevated Christ and our confession of the only begotten (not made) son of God.  


 The last word for today is what came, eventually, from the church councils- the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

I believe in One God,
the Father Almighty, 
Maker of Heaven and Earth, 
and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Son of God, 
the Only-Begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages; 
Light of Light; 
True God of True God; 
begotten, not made; 
of one essence with the Father, 
by Whom all things were made; 
Who for us men and for our salvation 
came down from Heaven, 
and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, 
and became man. 
And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, 
and suffered, and was buried. 
And the third day He arose again, 
according to the Scriptures, 
and ascended into Heaven, 
and sits at the right hand of the Father; 
and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; 
Whose Kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, 
Who proceeds from the Father; 
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; 
Who spoke by the prophets.

And in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. 
I look for the resurrection of the dead, 
and the life of the world to come.


This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 12th of June 2024, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man who acknowledges one baptism for what!?!!?! He is Christopher Gillespie

The show is written and read by a man who also has more interesting Google news alerts- like “bad dolphins” (they are a dangerous species). I’m Dan van Voorhis.   

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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