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

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

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.


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 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.


The Teachers of the Church: Irenaeus of Lyons (Part 2)


The History of Christianity #46

Our Scripture verse today is John 14:6 which reads: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

Our quote today is from Irenaeus of Lyons. He said: “Error never shows itself in its naked reality, in order not to be discovered. On the contrary, it dresses elegantly, so that the unwary may be led to believe that it is more truthful than truth itself.”

Today, we are looking at “The Teachers of the Church” (Part 3) from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

Irenaeus of Lyons (Part 2)

Although the actual course of history is the result of sin, the fact that there is history is not. God always had the purpose that there be history. The situation in paradise, as described in Genesis, was not the goal of creation, but its beginning.

From this perspective, the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ is not merely a response to sin. On the contrary, God’s initial purpose included being united with humankind. In fact, the future incarnate Word was the model that God followed in making humans after the divine image. Adam and Eve were so created that, after a process of growth and instruction, they could become like the incarnate Word. What has happened because of sin is that the incarnation has taken on the added purpose of offering a remedy for sin, and a means for defeating Satan.

Even before the incarnation, and from the very moment of the first sin, God has been leading humanity toward closer communion with the divine. For this reason, God curses the serpent and the earth, but only punishes the man and the woman. At the very moment of the fall, God is working for human redemption.

Israel has an important role in the drama of redemption, for it is in the history of the chosen people that the two “hands of God” have continued their work, preparing humankind for communion with God. Therefore, the Old Testament is not the revelation of a God alien to the Christian faith, but is rather the history of the unfolding redemptive purposes of the same God whom Christians know in Jesus Christ.

At the proper time, when humankind had received the necessary preparation, the Word was incarnate in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the “second Adam” because in his life, death, and resurrection a new humanity has been created, and in all his actions Jesus has corrected what was twisted because of sin. Furthermore, Jesus has defeated Satan, and this in turn has enabled us to live in renewed freedom. Those who are joined to him in baptism, and nourished in his body through communion, are also participants in his victory. Jesus Christ is literally the head of the church, which is his body. This body is nourished through worship – particularly communion – and is so joined to its head that it is already receiving the first benefits of Christ’s victory. In his resurrection, the final resurrection has dawned, and all who are part of his body will partake of it.

Even at the end, when the Kingdom of God is established, God’s task as shepherd will not be finished. On the contrary, redeemed humanity will continue growing into greater communion with the divine, and the process of divinization will go on eternally, taking us ever closer to God.

In conclusion, what we find in Irenaeus is a grand vision of history, so that the divine purposes unfold through it. The focal point of that history is the incarnation, not only because through it God’s word has straightened the twisted history of humankind, but also because from the very begining the union of the human with the divine was the goal of history. God’s purpose is to be joined to the human creature, and this has taken place in a unique way in Jesus Christ

Next time, we will look at The Teachers of the Church: Clement of Alexandria.