I have always loved history, especially the history of the Church, which is very dear to me. More happened in the first seven centuries of the Church than in the subsequent centuries. In the third century, Alton Gansky noted that.

During the first few centuries, the church focused on two primary matters: spreading the gospel and staying alive.[1]

John Behr writes in his excellent volume 1, Formation of Christian Theology: The Way to Nicaea, that the attitude of the first Christian communities should be a witness to us in that.

The “real Jesus” inscribed in the writings of the New Testament is already interpreted, and to understand him more deeply, we must turn primarily to the symbolic world of Scripture, in and through which Christ is, from the first, understood and explained— revealed.[2]

This is key because we are constantly told that what was explicitly revealed about the Person of Jesus Christ is found only in later centuries. This is not so, as Larry Hurtado wrote,

It is important to note the specific nature of the devotional pattern reflected in these Christian texts. There are two components: (1) a strong affirmation of exclusivist monotheism in belief and practice, along with (2) an inclusion of Christ along with God as rightful recipient of cultic devotion. [3]

In another of his landmark publications, “How on earth did Jesus become a God? Dr Hurtado writes.

It is in this pattern of cultic devotion, with Jesus included programmatically alongside the One God, that probably comprises the most characteristic and most notable feature of early Christianity.[4]

The nature of Jesus was discussed.

The Council wrestled with other issues, such as when to celebrate Easter, the correct manner for consecrating bishops, prohibiting bishops from charging interest on money they lend, denying bishops, priests, and other church leaders from moving from church to church, and the role celibacy ought to play with the clergy: liturgical practices, and much more.

 Constantine was divided on the true nature of Christ.

The Nicene Council was convened on the request of Hosius of Cordova when there seemed to have been a dispute about the place of the Son within the Godhead. Constantine heeded the suggestion for the sake of Unity within the Empire and called for a gathering of bishops in May, which ended in late June in 325 AD. When Constantine became the Emperor, Fourteen years had passed since Emperor Galerius ended the persecutions.

It is important to note that Constantine’s primary concern was unity, not certainty. He did not look for a for or an against outcome. He was mainly concerned with keeping the peace. His insistence after the council that every church bishop should conform was for the sake of peace under his leadership, not as a result of a deep conviction to demonstrate the place of Jesus next to the Father.

It should be noted that many of the men who suffered in the name of Christ survived the persecution and were now representatives at the Council of Nicaea. Constantine did not preside over the Council of Nicaea because of his age (and because he had no theological knowledge) but was represented by two presbyters.

Almost all of the Council consisted of bishops (estimations of 300 or more) from the Eastern churches. He sent an invitation to 1,800 bishops in the empire, but only a little over three hundred attended the meeting.

 Christians currently hold to the Doctrine of the Trinity because of this council.

Christians hold to this doctrine for two reasons: first, it is biblically asserted, and second, it is deduced from the central teaching of Christ. In all fairness, most Christians today do not even know what happened at this council or its significance in Church history any more than Muslims who would know about the Mu’tazila and their assumptions about Allah early on in Islam. What Christians have is a result of the instruction and plain reading of the text.

 Christians came from all over the empire and could not find agreement.

I bet some people do not even know that the Western part of the Church at that stage was unaware of the Arian controversy. It seems like most of the Western Church was not even present.

In the ecclesiastical assembly, the dominance lay heavily in the East, with a relatively limited representation of the Western Church. Hosius of Cordova played a role in championing the emperor’s interests and, one would assume, those of the Church of Spain.

The presbyters, Victor and Vincentius, took on the responsibility of representing the bishop of Rome. In contrast, Caecilianus, the Catholic bishop of Carthage, and figures like Nicasius of Gaul, Marcus of Calabria, and Dornnus of Pannonia added to the diverse assembly. Notably, even the bishop of Thessalonica seems to have lacked substantial evidence supporting their involvement. Richard Hanson writes.

It is more likely that the great majority of Western bishops did not know what all the fuss created by the Arian Controversy was about and saw no strong reason to make a long journey to a Greek-speaking city for so uncertain a purpose.[5]

 Arius: God has a beginning.

In one corner stood Arius (ca. 250–ca. 336), an elderly church leader from Alexandria, Egypt. He was a popular speaker with many followers, but his bishop disagreed, and he attempted to condemn Arius and his views. Arius taught that the Trinity formed a hierarchy, not a composite of equal persons sharing the same essence. God and only God could be called God. Jesus was a unique, created being. He has not always been. He came into existence by God’s will.

 Athanasius: At the Council?[6]

In the other corner of this doctrinal boxing match was the deacon Athanasius, who would one day become the bishop of Alexandria. Khaled Anatolios, in his excellent book, “Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine”, writes that.

Athanasius had been present at the Council of Nicaea as a young deacon accompanying his bishop, Alexander. He succeeded Alexander as bishop of Alexandria in 328, embarking on a forty-six-year reign over the Church of Egypt, punctuated by seventeen years of exile.[7]

 Alton Gansky writes in his book, “30 Events That Shaped the Church”, that.

Athanasius offered a threefold argument.

  • First, Arianism (from Arius) undermined the doctrine of God by assuming the Trinity is not eternal and by creating a new form of polytheism.
  • Second, it rendered liturgical practices such as baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit nonsensical.
  • Third, it undermined the Christian idea of Redemption in Christ “since only if the Mediator was Himself divine could man hope to reestablish fellowship with God.”

 For Athanasius, three concepts needed to be believed. First, Jesus is coequal with God. He is not a level below; he is not less powerful, not less omniscient, and not in any way lesser than God the Father. In other words, Jesus does not stand in the number two position.

 Second, Jesus is eternal, not just immortal. There is a difference. Immortal can refer to someone who is born and lives forever. Part of the doctrine of humankind teaches that every individual has a soul that cannot be destroyed. It lives on forever in the future, but it did not live in the past before the person was born.

 When a theologian says that God is eternal, it means that he has neither beginning nor end, neither birth nor death. God always was, God is, God will always be. The Trinity teaches the same truth about Jesus: Jesus has always been and always will be.

 For the first two propositions to be true, Athanasius argued that Jesus must be consubstantial with God, meaning that he shares the same essence. The word same is vital to Athanasius’ argument. Arius and his supporters would quickly agree that Jesus was “like God” but not the same as God. In making the distinction between the two thoughts, Athanasius and others defending the Trinity used a special Greek word to get their idea across homoousios. The term means “of one substance.” The Arians wanted a different word used, a word with one additional letter: homoiousios— “similar substance.[8]

 Most Bishops agreed with Arius.

Athanasius and his side won out. The bishops agreed that Arius’ teaching was heresy. Only two bishops refused to sign what became known as the Nicene Creed. Those two bishops and Arius were exiled by the command of Emperor Constantine. They may have been sent away, but their belief lingered. Decades later, in 381, another council, this time meeting in Constantinople, reaffirmed the decision made in Nicaea. The Trinity was officially part of church doctrine. Still, the beliefs of Arius remain in some groups to this day.

 The Greek term was imposed upon the bishops.

Athanasius and others defending the Trinity used a particular Greek word to get their idea across: homoousios. The word means “of one substance.” The Arians wanted a different word used, a word with one additional letter: homoiousios— “similar substance.” In some ways, it sounds like attorneys arguing over the wording of a contract, but there was much more at stake. The question at the heart of the matter was, “Who and what is Jesus?


We should remember that even though Constantine tolerated Christianity, he was not associated with it. R. Ross Holloway mentions that.

 It is certain, nonetheless, that Constantine carried a Christian talisman into battle and that he attributed his success to its power. Constantine’s move toward Christianity, however, was far different from the vision that overtook St. Paul on the road to Damascus. Paul’s conversion was the result of an overpowering apparition. Constantine’s approach to the Christian God was no more a conversion than Sulla’s dream in which the Anatolian goddess Ma-Bellona offered him a lightning bolt with which to strike his enemies. It was not conversion; it was accommodation.[9]

Constantine was a rank Pagan, and even though he was given a baptism by an Arian Bishop on his deathbed, he was not a Christian conqueror or emperor. Neither did he formulate any mandate for conciliar Christology.

 Theodosius forced everyone to accept this creed.

 In another clip on my channel, I answer Muslim Ashraf Schreiner on Theodosius and some of the political issues that were prevalent in the Church that day. I would refer you to those clips if you were interested.

 381, the HS became part of the Trinity.[10]

When we relate history, and especially what could be truthfully said about the account of a specific event, it should be noted that we speak in terms that do not simply fuel our bias.

I do believe what Adnan is trying to do here is to speak about an event that determinatively placed the person of the Holy Spirit in the view of the Church only later, where this idea was not in the Church in the previous centuries. Is this true? Let’s look at some of the earliest assumptions about the third person of the Trinity.

Ignatius of Antioch (30–107 AD) writes, “But the Holy Spirit does not speak His own things, but those of Christ, and that not from himself, but from the Lord; even as the Lord also announced to us the things that He received from the Father. For, says He,

“the word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father’s, who sent Me.” And says He of the Holy Spirit, “He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever things He shall hear from Me.” And He says of Himself to the Father, “I have,” says He, “glorified Thee upon the earth; I have finished the work which, Thou gavest Me; I have manifested Thy name to men.” And of the Holy Ghost, “He shall glorify Me, for He receives of Mine.”

 “so also did the prophets and the apostles receive from God, through Jesus Christ, one and the same Holy Spirit, who is good, and sovereign, and true, and the Author of [saving] knowledge. For there is one God of the Old and New Testament, “one Mediator between God and men,” for the creation of both intelligent and sensitive beings, and in order to exercise a beneficial and suitable providence [over them]. There is also one Comforter, who displayed His power in Moses, and the prophets and apostles.”

Clement of Alexandria (153–217 AD)

“Thus also we who are baptized, having wiped off the sins which obscure the light of the Divine Spirit, have the eye of the spirit free, unimpeded, and full of light, by which alone we contemplate the Divine, the Holy Spirit flowing down to us from above.”

Tertullian of Carthage (160-220 AD)

“If the Holy Ghost took upon Himself so great a concern for our instruction, that we might know from what everything was produced, would He not in like manner have kept us well informed about both the heaven and the earth, by indicating to us what it was that He made them of, if their original consisted of any material substance, so that the more He seemed to have made them of nothing, the less in fact was there as yet made, from which He could appear to have made them?”

 “the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, and each is God; but because in earlier times Two were actually spoken of as God, and two as Lord, that when Christ should come He might be both acknowledged as God and designated as Lord, being the Son of Him who is both God and Lord. Besides, if, from that perfect knowledge which assures us that the title of God and Lord is suitable both to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,

 “Then there is the Paraclete or Comforter, also, which He promises to pray for to the Father and to send from heaven after He had ascended to the Father. He is called “another Comforter,” indeed, but in what way He is another we have already shown, “He shall receive of mine,” says Christ, just as Christ Himself received of the Father’s. Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent Persons, who are yet distinct One from Another.”

Novatian, Presbyter of Rome (210–280 AD)

“Moreover, the order of reason, and the authority of the faith in the disposition of the words and in the Scriptures of the Lord, admonish us after these things to believe also on the Holy Spirit, once promised to the Church, and in the appointed occasions of times given. For He was promised by Joel the prophet but given by Christ. “In the last days,” says the prophet, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon my servants and my handmaids.” And the Lord said, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose sins ye remit, they shall be remitted; and whose ye retain, they shall be retained.” But this Holy Spirit the Lord Christ calls at one time “the Paraclete,” at another pronounces to be the “Spirit of truth.” And He is not new in the Gospel, nor yet even newly given; for it was He Himself who accused the people in the prophets, and in the apostles gave them the appeal to the Gentiles.”

Dionysius of Alexandria (200–265 AD).

“For it is essential that the Divine Word should be united to the God of all, and that the Holy Spirit should abide and dwell in God; and thus that the Divine Trinity should be reduced and gathered into one, as if into a certain head—that is, into the omnipotent God of all.”

Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria. (273–326 AD).

“And besides the pious opinion concerning the Father and the Son, we confess to one Holy Spirit, as the divine Scriptures teach us; who hath inaugurated both the holy men of the Old Testament and the divine teachers of that which is called the New.”

It seems clear from the evidence above that the Doctrine of the Trinity and the place of Jesus was clearly established and spoken of way before amongst the earliest Church fathers and their communities, and these councils were merely an attempt to articulate and review with precision what the exact place would be of the Son next to the Father.  

In Conclusion

The Council of Nicaea seems to be a very important point in Church history for both orthodox Christians and critics. With the sheer volume of what could be said about this council, it should be noted that there was nothing discussed or affirmed that the Christian community did not hold dear already in the centuries before these councils. The necessity for these councils emerged because of the new ideas introduced by people like Arius. It should be noted that the Church affirmed that which was already an established fact and very early on affirmed that which was dear to the community.  We can, with evident conviction and clarity of mind, affirm that which was held dear because of the guidance of the Spirit and the affirmation of the early fathers to vest themselves with the truth of God’s own self-disclosure.



[1] 30 Events that Shaped the Church. Pg.67.

[2] Pg.12.

[3] Pg.50.

[4] Pg 26.

[5] The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381. Pg. 156.

[6] https://www.crossway.org/articles/10-things-you-should-know-about-athanasius/

[7] Ibid, Pg.28.

[8] 30 Events that Shaped the Church. Pg.70-71.

[9] Constantine and Rome, Pg. 3.

[10] https://adlucem.co/trinity/the-trinity-in-the-first-three-centuries-of-church-history-by-rudolph-boshoff/


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