Summary: How did the Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed help establish the teachings of the early church? In addition, what controversies were dealt with? This lesson explores this important turning point in Christian history.
The creeds affirm that Christ is “from” God the Father, in that He shares His essence.
But they reject that He is part of the created order; because He shares the essence of the Father, He is coequal and coeternal with the Father.
NOTE: Some people reject the phrase “begotten God”, but it is a phrase used in Scripture
John 1:18 (NASB) “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” [[ monogenh\ß qeo\ß ]]
Note regarding the Filioque Clause.
Certain versions say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. This is certainly in keeping with some of the Scriptures wherein Jesus made the point that He would send us another Comforter.
However, within the history of the church there were those who believed that such language made the Holy Spirit subservient (and lesser) to God the Father and the Son. As such they rejected that clause in the creed.
The Controversies Surrounding the Council
Contrary to popular belief, the Council of Nicea had nothing to do with the choosing of the books which would be included in the Bible
This is a major controversy which is often espoused by those who want to attack the faith (It was even used by Dan Brown in the Davinci Code).
Many people want to charge Constantine with suppression of certain books and establishing his own historical Jesus with the Gospels of Matthew - John.
This is a historical inaccuracy, and anyone who states such is ignorant of the facts. There is nothing in the Nicene documents to indicate that anything regarding the Canon of Scripture was discussed or decided.
The council is also not responsible for “making Jesus God”.
Many liberal scholars say that Jesus was “made God” at the council, which is absurd.
This, again, demonstrates a serious ignorance of history.
The Church had understood Christ as both Lord and God since His resurrection (Consider the testimony of Thomas!).
One simply needs to read the writings of those who were Christians in this early period to understand what the Doctrine concerning the Trinity was.
Justin Martyr (100-165 AD): "...the Father of the universe has a Son; who being the Logos and First-begotten is also God" (First Apology 63:15).
Irenaeus (130-200 AD): (referencing Jesus) "...Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, . . ." (Against Heresies I, x, 1)
Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD): "Both as God and as man, the Lord renders us every kind of help and service. As God He forgives sin, as man He educates us to avoid sin completely" (Christ the Educator, chapter 3.1). In addition, "Our educator, O children, resembles His Father, God, whose son He is. He is without sin, without blame, without passion of soul, God immaculate in form of man accomplishing His Father's will" (Christ the Educator Chapter 2:4).
Hippolytus (170-236 AD): "And the blessed John in the testimony of his gospel, gives us an account of this economy and acknowledges this Word as God, when he says, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.' If then the Word was with God and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not, indeed, speak of two Gods, but of one; of two persons, however, and of a third economy, the grace of the Holy Ghost" (Against the Heresy of One Noetus. 14).