The Arian Controversy and the Council of Nicea: The Outbreak of the Controversy, Part 3 (The History of Christianity #114)

Our History of Christianity Scripture passage today is Romans 10:9-10 which reads: “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.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from D. L. Moody. He said: “Salvation is worth working for. It is worth a man’s going round the world on his hands and knees, climbing its mountains, crossing its valleys, swimming its rivers, going through all manner of hardship in order to attain it. But we do not get it in that way. It is to him who believes.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Arian Controversy and the Council of Nicea: The Outbreak of the Controversy, Part 3” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

Although these were the issues debated in the course of the controversy, quite possibly at the heart of the matter was also the question of how it is that Christ saves. For Alexander, and particularly for those who subsequently defended his views – especially Athanasius – Christ has achieved our salvation because in him God has entered human history and opened the way for our return to him. Apparently Arius and his followers felt that Christ’s role as Savior was imperiled by such a view, for Jesus had opened the way for salvation by his obedience to God, and such obedience would be meaningless if he himself was divine, and not a creature.

The Arian Controversy and the Council of Nicea, Part 3 (The History of Christianity #113)

Our History of Christianity Scripture passage today is John 1:14 which reads: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Ephrem of Edessa. He said: “God’s Word is an inexhaustible spring of life.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Arian Controversy and the Council of Nicea – The Outbreak of the Controversy” – Part 2 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 controversy itself began in Alexandria, when Licinius was still ruling in the East, and Constantine in the West. The bishop of Alexandria, Alexander, clashed over several issues with Arius, who was one of the most prestigious and popular presbyters of the city. Although the points debated were many, the main issue at stake was whether the Logos, the Word of God, was coeternal with God. The phrase that eventually became the Arian motto, “there was when He was not,” aptly focuses on the point at issue. Alexander held that the Word existed eternally with the Father; Arius argued that the Word was not coeternal with the Father. Although this may seem a very fine point, what was ultimately at stake was the divinity of the Word. Arius claimed that, strictly speaking, the Word was not God, but the first of all creatures. It is important to understand at this point that Arius did not deny that the Word existed before the incarnation. On the preexistence of the Word, all were in agreement. What Arius said was that, before anything else was made, the Word had been created by God. Alexander argued that the Word was divine, and therefore could not be created, but rather was coeternal with the Father. In other words, if asked to draw a line between God and creation, Arius would draw that line to include the Word in creation, while Alexander would draw it in a manner that would place all of God’s creation on one side and the eternal Word on the other.

Each of the two parties had, besides a list of favorite proof-texts from the Bible, logical reasons that seemed to make the opponents’ position untenable. Arius, on the one hand, argued that what Alexander proposed was a denial of Christian monotheism – for, according to the bishop of Alexandria, there were two who were divine, and thus there were two gods. Alexander retorted that Arius’ position denied the divinity of the Word, and therefore also the divinity of Jesus. From its very beginning, the church had worshiped Jesus Christ, and Arius’ proposal would now force it either to cease such worship, or to declare that it was worshiping a creature. Alexander concluded that, since both alternatives were unacceptable, Arius was proven wrong.

The Imperial Church — From Persecution to Dominance, Part 1

The History of Christianity #86

Our History of Christianity Scripture verse today is Acts 17:23 which reads: “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Constantine. He said: “I am most certainly persuaded that I myself owe my life, my every breath, in short, my very inmost and secret thoughts, entirely to the favor of the Supreme God.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Imperial Church — From Persecution to Dominance” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

Although Constantine was certainly an important turning point in the life of the church — to the extent that one may properly speak of a “Constantinian era” stretching from his time until the early twentieth century — he did not make Christianity the official religion of the empire. Constantine himself remained a pagan priest, as befitted his role as emperor, and was not baptized until he was about to die. His sons Constantine II, Constantius, and Constans were baptized, and certainly several of their edicts favored Christianity. But their rule was marked by dissension as the church was bitterly divided over the issue of Arianism (a view of Christ and the Godhead) and imperial religious policies focused on that dispute. In 356 AD, Constantius, by then sole emperor, declared the worship of images to be a capital crime; but the law was generally ignored. Then Constantine’s nephew Julian — who had been baptized — led a pagan reaction, and is therefore commonly known as “the Apostate.” After Julian’s reign, Jovian and Valentinian II continued the earlier policy of supporting Christianity — most often in its Arian version — while not taking stern measures against paganism. Christianity and paganism were generally on an equal footing before the state, both allowed and both supported by it. It was in the last years of the reign of Emperor Gratian (375 AD-383 AD), who had called on Theodosius (379 AD-395 AD) to share his rule, that decisive measures were taken to place paganism at a disadvantage. In 382 AD, Gratian decreed an end to governmental financial support for paganism and its priests, and he also ordered that the altar to the goddess Victory be removed from the Senate-House. In 391 AD, Theodosius outlawed pagan sacrifices and ordered the templates closed or devoted to public use. In 392 AD, all pagan worship — private as well as public — was forbidden.