I am getting far along now in my discussion of how the Trinity developed. A major development occurred in the fourth century that, remarkably, that many people still have heard about, seventeen hundred years later. Unfortunately *what* they typically hear about it is completely wrong.
This is the “Arian controversy,” which was the dispute that let to the calling of the Council of Nicea in 325 CE by the Emperor Constantine, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. (After his conversion *every* Roman emperor was Christian except his nephew Julian, who ruled briefly – from 361-63 – before being killed in battle; his death was not mourned by the Christians. He had tried to stamp out Christianity and reinstate paganism as the state-approved religion. Who knows what would have happened if he had ruled for 33 years instead of 3….)
Many people think that the Arian controversy was over the issue of whether Jesus was God or not. According to that inestimable authority of all things ancient, Dan Brown, in The Da Vinci Code, the council was called to determine if Jesus was the “Son” of God (not God!). Yikes. Brown says before that everyone believed that Jesus was just a human. He also says that it was put to a vote and it was a close outcome.
Yeah, none of that is true. Also, it is NOT true that the Council of Nicea decided which books would be in the Bible, that this is when the New Testament was formed. (One of Dan Brown’s many other fine points.) They didn’t talk about the canon at the Council, so far as we know. And we have records.
In any event, the Arian controversy. Here I’ll explain what it actually was about. It’s true it was about the identity of Christ in relationship to God. But it was NOT about whether he was God himself. Everyone at the council *agreed* he was God. The issue was “in what *sense* is he God. The issues may seem a bit picayune to modern observers, but they were enormously significant at the time.
The issue that erupted is one of the most significant in Christian history. But very few people know what it was actually about. Want to be one of the chosen few with insider knowledge? Join the Blog! Click here for membership options