The Arian Controversy and the Council of Nicea, Part 4 (The History of Christianity #112)


Daniel Whyte III
Daniel Whyte III

Our History of Christianity Scripture passage today is John 1:1 which
reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and
the Word was God.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from St. Jerome. He said:
“I beg of you, my dear brother, to live among these books
[Scriptures], to meditate upon them, to know nothing else, to seek
nothing else.”

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

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
Outbreak of the Controversy” 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 roots of the Arian (a-re-an) controversy are to be found in
theological development that took place long before the time of
Constantine. Indeed, the controversy was a direct result of the manner
in which Christians came to think of the nature of God, thanks to the
work of Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Origen (awr-i-jen), and others.
When the first Christians set out to preach their message throughout
the empire, they were taken for ignorant atheists, for they had no
visible gods. In response, some learned Christians appealed to the
authority of those whom antiquity considered eminently wise: the
classical philosophers. The best pagan philosophers had taught that
above the entire cosmos there was a supreme being, and some had even
declared that the pagan gods were human creations. Appealing to such
respected authorities, Christians argued that they believed in the
supreme being of the philosophers, and that this was what they meant
when when they spoke of God. Such an argument was very convincing, and
there is no doubt that it contributed to the acceptance of
Christianity among the intelligentsia (in-tel-i-jent-see-uh).

But this was also a dangerous argument. It was possible that
Christians, in their eagerness to show the kinship between their faith
and classical philosophy, would come to the conviction that the best
way to speak of God was not in the manner of the prophets and other
biblical writers, but rather in the manner of Plato (pley-toh),
Plotinus (ploh-tahy-nuh-s), and the rest. Since those philosophers
conceived of perfection as immutable, impassible, and fixed, many
Christians came to the conclusion that such was the God of scripture.

Two means were found to bring together what the Bible says about God
and the classical notion of the supreme being as impassible and fixed:
allegorical interpretation of scriptural passages, and the doctrine of
the Logos. Allegorical interpretation was fairly simple to apply.
Wherever scripture says something “unworthy” of God – that is,
something that is not worthy of the perfection of the supreme being of
the philosophers – such words are not to be taken literally. Thus, for
instance, if the Bible says that God walked in the garden, or that God
spoke, one is to remember that an immutable being does not really walk
or speak. Intellectually, this satisfied many minds. But emotionally
it left much to be desired, for the life of the church was based on
the faith that it was possible to have a direct relationship with a
personal God, and the supreme being of the philosophers was in no way
personal.

There was another way to resolve the conflict between the
philosophical idea of a supreme being and the witness of scripture.
This was the doctrine of the Logos, as developed by Justin, Clement,
Origen (awr-i-jen), and others. According to this view, although it is
true that the supreme being – the “Father” – is immutable, impassible,
and so on, there is also a Logos, Word, or Reason of God, and this is
personal, capable of direct relationships with the world and with
humans. Thus, according to Justin, when the Bible says that God spoke
to Moses, what it means is that the Logos of God spoke to him.

Due to the influence of Origen (awr-i-jen) and his disciples, these
views had become widespread in the Eastern wing of the church – that
is, that portion of the church that spoke Greek rather than Latin. The
generally accepted view was that, between the immutable One and the
mutable world, there was the Word, or Logos, of God. It was within
this context that the Arian (a-re-an) controversy took place.

Next time, we will continue looking at The Outbreak of the Controversy.

—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.


Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in over twenty-five foreign countries. He is the author of over forty books including the Essence Magazine, Dallas Morning News, and Amazon.com national bestseller, Letters to Young Black Men. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry.

He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts/podcasts, which include: The Prayer Motivator Devotional, The Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report, the Second Coming Watch Update and the Soul-Winning Motivator, among others.

He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, a Master’s degree in Religion, a Master of Divinity degree, and a Master of Theology degree from Liberty University’s Rawlings School of Divinity (formerly Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary). He is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Ministry degree.

He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica since 1987. God has blessed their union with seven children.