The Council of Nicea, Part 6 (The History of Christianity Podcast #120)


Our History of Christianity Scripture passage today is Zechariah 14:9 which reads: “And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Ambrose. He said: “The Church’s foundation is unshakable and firm against the assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly batter and crash against her, she offers the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress.”

Last time, in the History of Christianity, we looked at “The Arian (a-re-an) Controversy and the Council of Nicea (ni-‘se-a) – The Council of Nicea (ni-‘se-a)” – Part 5.

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Arian (a-re-an) Controversy and the Council of Nicea (ni-‘se-a) – The Council of Nicea (ni-‘se-a)” – Part 6 from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1). And, I want to remind you to take advantage of our special offer. If you enjoy this podcast, please feel free to purchase a copy of the book that we are using, “The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1” by Dr. Justo L. González. The book is available on our website for just $30. You can make your purchase today at historyofchristianitypodcast.com.

The bishops gathered at Nicea hoped that the creed on which they had agreed (together with the clear anathemas appended to it) would put an end to the Arian controversy, and proceeded to sign it. Very few – Eusebius of Nicomedia among them – refused to sign it. The assembly declared those who did not heretical, and deposed them. But Constantine added his own sentence to that of the bishops: He banished the deposed bishops from their cities. He probably intended only to avoid further unrest. But this addition of a civil sentence to an ecclesiastical one had serious consequences, for it established a precedent for the intervention of secular authority on behalf of what was considered orthodox doctrine.

In spite of what the bishops had hoped, the Council of Nicea did not end the controversy. Eusebius of Nicomedia was an able politician, and we are even told that he was distantly related to the emperor. His strategy was to court the approval of Constantine, who soon allowed him to return to Nicomedia. Since the emperor’s summer residence was in Nicomedia, soon Eusebius was able to present his case once again before Constantine. Eventually, the emperor decided that he had been too harsh on the Arians. Arius himself was recalled from exile, and Constantine ordered the bishop of Constantinople to restore him to communion. The bishop was debating whether to obey the emperor or his conscience, when Arius died.

Alexander of Alexandria died in 328 AD, and was succeeded by Athanasius, who had been present at the Council of Nicea as a deacon, and who would now become the champion of the Nicene cause. He soon became so identified with that cause that the later history of the Arian controversy is best told by following Athanasius’ life. We will follow the subsequent course of the controversy in more detail in another podcast. Let it suffice to say that Eusebius of Nicomedia and his followers managed to have Athanasius exiled by order of Constantine. By then, most of the Nicene leaders were also banished. When Constantine finally asked for baptism, on his deathbed, he received that sacrament from Eusebius of Nicomedia.

After a brief interregnum, Constantine was succeeded by three of his sons: Constantine II, Constans, and Constantius II. Constantine II ruled over Gaul, Great Britain, Spain, and Morocco. Constantius’ territory included most of the East. And Constans was allotted a strip of land between his two brothers, including Italy and North Africa. At first the new situation favored the Nicene party, for the eldest of Constantine’s three sons took their side, and recalled Athanasius and the others from exile. But then war broke out between Constantine II and Constans, and this provided an opportunity for Constantius, who ruled the East, to follow his pro-Arian inclinations. Once again Athanasius was exiled, only to return when, after the death of Constantine II, the West was united under Constans, and Constantius was forced to follow a more moderate policy. Eventually, however, Constantius became sole emperor, and it was then that, as Jerome said, “The entire world woke from a deep slumber and discovered that it had become Arian.” Once again the Nicene leaders had to leave their cities, and imperial pressure was such that eventually even the elderly Hosius of Cordoba and Liberius – the bishop of Rome – signed Arian confessions of faith.

Such was the state of affairs when the unexpected death of Constantius changed the course of events. He was succeeded by his cousin Julian, later known by Christian historians as the Apostate. Profiting from the endless dissension among Christians, the pagan reaction had come to power.

Next time, we will begin looking at The Pagan Reaction: Julian the Apostate.

—PRAYER—

Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Who this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today.

First, accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”

Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

Now this is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.

Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His Story.

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