*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 25th of July. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Adam Francisco in for Dan van Voorhis.
Today on Christian History Almanac, we look back to the fourth century to the closing of the council of Nicaea on this day in AD 325.
The council began in May per the request of Emperor Constantine the Great. He was the first of the Roman emperors to convert to Christianity and was interested in facilitating theological unity across the empire.
Over a thousand bishops were invited—maybe as many as 1800. Around 300 came. Many were disfigured, bearing the scars of the great persecutions of the late 3rd and first decade of the 4th century.
Their charge was primarily to address the heresy of Arianism.
Arianism, so named for Arius, its founding teacher, emerged in Alexandria, Egypt. Its most controversial teaching concerned the relationship between God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. Arius emphasized “the supremacy and uniqueness of God the Father.” For him, this meant that only God the Father was eternal and omnipotent. Thus, his divinity had to be greater than the Son’s. Along with this, Arius taught that Jesus was the created son of God. He had a beginning. He was not eternal, nor was he divine in the way that the Father was. Instead, he was the first creation of God, made to be God by the Father, and thus was the most perfect of God’s creatures.
Debate ensued for nearly a month. In the end, the council found Arius’s teachings to be heretical, not because of some arbitrary choice or democratic negotiation but instead because of its incompatibility with the teachings of scripture. In the end, the council concluded that, like the Father, the Son of God had no beginning. He was coeternal with the Father and equal to God in all respects. This understanding of Jesus was then enshrined in a creed that would later be amended and refined at the Council of Constantinople in 381.
Though the Arian heresy was the top priority of the Council of Nicaea, it did deal with other business. For example, it established general principles for determining when the church should celebrate easter instead of relying on what was deemed to be a corrupt Jewish calendar; it settled on how to handle a particular sectarian group of Christian from Lycopolis, Egypt—the Melitian schismatics, who not unlike the Donatists believed that Christians guilty of apostasy during persecution shouldn’t be received back into full communion before going through the equivalent of a new member program; and, lastly, it issued 20 new rules—called canon law-- for the church, which included the prohibition of self-castration and the establishment of the standard program for new Christians to participate in before their baptism.
We now conclude with a reading of the Nicene 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 only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 25th of July brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie and written by Adam Francisco.
You can catch us here every day. And remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. In the end, everything is going to be ok.