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Friday, May 20, 2016

What Happened at Nicea?

A recent blog by Fred Sanders at "The Scriptorium" gives a nice synopsis of the Council of Nicea -- which began on May 20, 325.

Athanasius in particular perceived that if Christ truly reveals God and reconciles us to God, then Christ must be fully divine, must in fact be homoousios, of one essence, with God. Many theologians in the fourth century continued to be squeamish about applying this metaphysical “substance” language to God and Christ, but the strategy of Nicaea was to adopt it as a necessary implication of Christian commitments. Once Arius had raised the ontological question so forcefully, it could only be answered in ontological terms. Earlier theologians, even one as great as Irenaeus, did not use such explicitly ontological terms to describe the Son’s relationship to the Father; nor did they use explicitly ontological terms to deny the Son’s unity with the Father. Arius started it. When he innovated, Nicaea innovated right back. You might be able to do theology without the help of categories like substance, but once you invoke them, there are wrong answers and right answers.