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5/24/2006

DA VINCI: THE COUNCIL OF NICEA

Let's hold a few more parts of chapter 55 up against traditional church history and show the flaws in the theory that is espoused in Dan Brown's book.

DA VINCI: "During this fusion of religions, Constantine needed to strengthen the new Christian tradition, and held a famous ecumenical gathering known as the Council of Nicea." (Sir Teabing in ch. 55)

CHURCH HISTORY: The Council of Nicea was held in 325 and was called by Constantine to settle several disputes that were being debated in the church. The primary discussion was over the deity of Christ and the teachings of Arius, who taught that Jesus was not one with God and did not believe that Jesus was divine. The Council met for two months and was attended by 318 bishops from Eastern and Western Churches. One important note here is that there was no such thing as the 'Roman Catholic Church' at this point. The church was 'catholic' in the sense that it was universal but the schisms that created Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholic were still hundreds of years away. Many historians, and bishops of the time, were disturbed by the fact that Constantine called and led this Council. Many parts of Christianity still do not recognize the authority of the Council of Nicea because of the emperor's role in the Council. However, the council's influence on Christianity and heresy in the church is undeniable.

DA VINCI: "At this gathering (Council of Nicea)", Teabing said, "many aspects of Christianity were debated and voted upon...and, of course, the divinity of Jesus."

"I don't follow. His divinity?" (Sophie)

"My dear," Teabing declared, "until THAT moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet...a great and powerful man, but a MAN nonetheless. A mortal." (ch. 55)

CHURCH HISTORY: Believing that Jesus was just a mortal until the Council of Nicea would have been news to John the Apostle (see John 10:30), Thomas the Apostle (see John 20:26-28), Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Clement, Ignatius, and Irenaeus. The divinity v. humanity of Christ was passionately debated in the first few centuries with opposing views to his deity coming in the forms of Sabellianism, Arianism, and Gnosticism. But to claim that nobody believed in the divinity of Christ before the Council of Nicea is ignoring 300 hundred of years of documented church history.

Read the rest of Brian's post at ikonblog.

16 Comments:

Blogger Jeffrey J. Stables said...

Excellent coverage. Allow me to also add that the Council did not take a vote--they wrote the Nicaean Creed and then voted assent to the creed--not to Jesus' divinity. The creed was affirmed by 316 of the 318 delegates, with the dissenting 2 delegates being followers of Arius. Also, the root of the Arian heresy was not denying the divinity of Christ--he agreed that he was God--but that Arius taught that Christ wasn't always God but became God, that He was not existent from eternity past. That's why the Nicaean Creed says He is "eternally begotten of the Father, God from God...begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father." It was never a vote on divinity--it was a response to the Arians saying that Christ was created and was not always God.

5/24/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Honestly, Brian knows far more about the details of this stuff than I do. Hope he visits to discuss with historians like you.

SG

5/24/2006  
Blogger Seth Ward said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5/24/2006  
Blogger Seth Ward said...

Jeffrey

Actually Arius described the Son as a "second, or inferior God, standing midway between the First Cause and creatures; as Himself made out of nothing, yet as making all things else; as existing before the worlds of the ages; and as arrayed in all divine perfections except the one which was their stay and foundation. God alone was without beginning, unoriginate; the Son was originated, and once had not existed. For all that has origin must begin to be."

You are thinking of the Semi-Arians who wished to reconcile the two views of Jesus as God. They "affirmed the likeness, either without adjunct, or in all things, or in substance, of the Son to the Father, while denying His co-equal dignity and co-eternal existence."

5/24/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Is that English?

5/24/2006  
Blogger Seth Ward said...

nope, Catholic encyclopedia.

I don't trust my memory so much these days.

translation: Arius= believes Jesus somewhere between God and Man. the hyrbid. Half God and Half man.

Semi-Arians=Jesus Was God but became God probably at the Baptism. Still made though.

Honestly from what I have read it seems that the Semi's (chuckle) never could come to an agreement on what worked.

5/24/2006  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Shaun,

I'll send you the book I'm reading when I'm done. It's great and easy for us non-historians to understand.

Beth

5/24/2006  
Anonymous AFRM said...

Good, nerdy discussion going on and I like it.

here is a quote from Arius:

"And Christ is not true God, but by participation...'

The phrasing battle of Nicea was begotten v. made. The orthodox (what was known as Alexandrian view) believed in John 1:1 that Jesus was the 'logos' that existed before the creation of the earth. The Arian view believed that Jesus was 'made' and thus was subordiante to the Father. Yes, even Arius held Jesus in high regard but he does not view Jesus as fully divine. The greek word 'homoousis' (of one substance) was key in the Alexandrian view and ultimately the word that caused Ariansim to be viewed as heresy.

The 'vote' at Nicea was an affirmation of the Nicene Creed and not a specific vote against Arius. Excellent point. However, the bishops that agreed with the creed were required to sign it and all but 2 signed it. The creed was written primarily to summarize the debate over Arianism and articulate the orthodox view. Thus, it can be seen as a 'vote' for or against Arianism.

The problem was that the creed is somewhat ambiguous and opened the door to Seballianism and is also looked upon as tainted since Constantine is the one who called the council and helped write the creed..but that is another day and post.

Brian

5/24/2006  
Blogger Seth Ward said...

tainted by whom?

5/24/2006  
Anonymous AFRM said...

Tainted by Constantine.

The 'free-church' tradition (many Baptists, Church of Christ, Mennonites, etc.) don't recognoze councils of any kind as authoratative. That does not mean they disagree with the theology but it means they disagree with the way the councils were run. Constantiniasm to many people in the church is a negative idea because it mixes the pagan and the secular.

Luther based much of the Reformation on 'sola scriptura' and most protestants to this day ignore the councils and creeds. How many times in a Baptist church have you heard the Nicene Creed?

Brian

5/24/2006  
Blogger The Cachinnator said...

I wish someone would describe me as a hybrid. I want to be a hybrid something.

Brian, you're my kind of geek.

5/25/2006  
Blogger Seth Ward said...

Never, (accept for the other night when we sang it) but that does not make the claims in the Nicene creed less true or beautiful or harmful for that matter. (which is what you meant by not disagreeing with the Theology)

Most times I wish it were said. I also wonder if Modalism is not running rampant in many non-denom Protestant churches (and many Baptists I know do and don't know it) because of a lack of an across-the-board accepted doctrinal statement like the Nicene Creed or the Apostles Creed. What is so wrong with these Creeds or reciting them? Would anyone here disagree with 99 percent of the two big ones? It is funny to me that most Christians believe what is said in them but do not use them.

It seems that in the Reformation the Creeds were saw as extraneous because no one had access to the Bible and the were lumped together with those who abused their authority therefore discarded. Bathwater right out with the baby. Sola Scriptura became the Creed of the Reformation. And nobody really practices a true Sola Scriptura anymore. I mean, can we all be right?

Finally, (tryin' to be as brief as possible) I still am not convinced the councils were not valid. I am not convinced of Constantinianism. This idea that the Church got into bed with evil in the 4th century and never never got out, even after Luther. For me this goes against the statement made by Jesus in Matthew 16:18 and borders on claiming the church Apostate.

Thanks for the discussion btw, really interesting.

5/25/2006  
Blogger Thomas said...

Beth, what is the name of the book on church history you are reading?

Thomas

5/25/2006  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

Thomas,

It's called "Church History in Plain Language" by Bruce L. Shelley. It's the updated 2nd edition and published by Nelson. I'm really finding it facinating. It's very easy to read and understand and isn't there to persuade, but to accurately inform. Great stuff.

Beth

5/25/2006  
Blogger The Cachinnator said...

Seth, I'm quite certain modalism is running rampant along with a dozen other easy heresies. Ask 10 people in a baptist church to describe the doctrine of the Trinity, and you'll get 10 different answers.

5/25/2006  
Blogger Jeffrey J. Stables said...

Thanks for the additional information, Seth. I haven't had access to any of Arius's writings, but that makes sense that his position was a bit more "hardline" than the position I described. Perhaps it is true that the two delegates who dissented from the Nicaean Creed were semi-Arians? I'll have to do some more research. Either way, both parties would (and did) have a problem with the Creed.

It's most certainly true that the Semi's must have a problem reconciling the mechanics of Christ's God/man "limbo." Our doctrine of the Trinity solves most of these problems, but still leaves the hypostatic union. (Yikes. Let's not get too far off-topic with that one.)

It's interesting to note that Mormons, Muslims, and Jehovah's Witnesses hold positions very close to that of the semi-Arians: they believe that Jesus was a man who was very good and perhaps even became Godlike. It's a great witnessing point with them to go through the passages that show Christ's divinity and get them to admit that He was either always God or never God.

AFRM, good points. I'm not familiar with Seballianism, but I don't think you can say that the Creed had a problem--we can't hope for our human attempts at synthesizing creedal affirmations of Scripture will ever be perfect. I'd say the Nicaean Creed is a pretty good one, really. But I must call you on this:

"Constantine is the one who called the council and helped write the creed"

Sure, Constantine called the council. But could you cite your sources for the fact that he authored part or all of the creed? I have not encountered any credible evidence that this was the case. In fact, I am under the impression that he relied completely on the delegation to write and affirm the statement.

Nobody's saying that the Creed is perfect, but I would counter that it's not tainted, either. I can unabashedly affirm everything it says, regardless of who wrote it. So what if Constantine had these ulterior motives or coerced the council into agreeing with him (which I don't believe he did)? Even Paul was able to utilize truths spoken by secular poets (Acts 17:28), regardless of their motives or contexts.

Seth, it seems you with my skepticism of the "tainted" nature of the Nicaean Creed. I am not convinced, either, that Constantine had any role in the content of the Creed, either.

Great discussion!

5/30/2006  

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