A Conversation for The Council of Nicaea
Rise of Christianity
Norton II Started conversation Apr 6, 2001
A very good book about this is "The Climax of Rome" by Michael Grant. Covers a lot of the same ground that you did. Good article but one complaint- you didn't cover the Arian controversy, which was the reason the council was called in the first place.
Rise of Christianity
Captainkath Posted Mar 28, 2003
As a theologian I find your covering of the council particularly worrying, only one Church father mentioned. Where are Eusebius, Alexander (both of them), Athanasius, Arius himself, Cyril, Theophilus, Emperor Licinius et al! Quite a cast you fail to mention...
This aside, where is information about the build up to the council, the Arian controvesy, the social and political wranglings of the Bishops invovled, the rival schools of Alexandria and Antioch?
Your comments on content of the council seemd to be distincly biased in trying to prove that Christianity 'invented' it's religion, which is hardly an accurate representation of the process of early Christian and Patristic thought. I shant go into the self-definition of the post-easter community, Paul's social ethic as a good example of this, and the gradual conversion of Christ from the saviour of a Jewish cult to the Imperial and Kingly God of the Empire cult of Constantine, but suffice to say at no point did any convergence of Bishops sit down with the intention of 'creating' a history to control the hearts and minds of Christendom.
Even more worryingly you fail to actually mention the conclusion and declaration of the council - the Nicean Creed, '...god from god, light from light, true god from true God...and so on'. Would it not be possible to suggest that the published results of the council might give a hint to it's purpose?
You are also wrong in your representation of the develpment doctrine of the Trinity. There are indeed scant biblical references to the idea of Holy Spirit, the references in John's Gospel to the Paraclete could be refereing to Christ or to a seperate figure, it is unclear. However there is a complex web of religious and philosophical thought lying behind the Trinity (and intiailly it was likely a Binity of Father and Son). It requires an understanding of the development of Jewish monothism, from polytheism, henothism and monolatry. Also an understanding of Greek philosophy, the active gods of the world and the divine monad, a look at the works of Plato and the stoics might prove useful here to look at how they connected the idea of transcendent God with the immanent world. You show no knoweldge of this. To actually graps this topic I would suggest also looking at the work of the Christian apologists, such as Justin Martyr and see how they attempt to integrate their concept of God into the Greek philosophical and metaphysical categories and the tension this produced. It is exactly this tension whcih results in councils such as Nicea and Chalcedon.
Further, Nicea never set out to make a Trinitarian declaration, it's interest was Christological, even Chalcedon many years later did not feel secure enough to fully affirm the divinity of the Holy Spirit, we find it glossed with the words 'who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and Son is worshipped and glorified' - none of which makes the figure of the Holy Spirit co-equal with the rest of the Godhead.
To present the council of Nicea in such terms is dangerous, irresponsible and frankly false.
I feel it also prudent to mention that Christianity and it's leaders are well aware of this history and much modern theology is highly critical of the doctrines and dogma that represent much of its socio-historical context. The work of Don Cuppit, John Hick, Jurgen Moltmann, Maurice Wiles, Paul Fiddes, Elizabth-Schussler Fiorenza, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Daphne Hampson, Paul Tillich and Liberation Theologians would provide ample illustration I believe. Even such staunchly catholic theologicans such as Karl Rahner have sought to question such ideas as extra ecclesia nulles sallus.
Certain branches of Christianity, like any other religion, are characterised by the mindless fundamentalism of dogma, to daub some of its most infulential, intelligent and philsophical thinkers with the same brush as say an evangelical biblical literalist is indefensible and frankly a poor attempt at a cheap blow.
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