We need to decide some things about our understanding of God, so let’s call a council and decide these issues.
Since humans are finite and God is infinite we just cannot understand all there is to know about God. We also cannot have a complete understanding about what we do know concerning God. For instance, we know God is eternal, but what exactly does it mean for a being to exist and have no beginning or ending. All we humans have ever dealt with are things having a beginning and an ending. There are all kinds of ideas about God that throughout history have needed to be wrestled with in order to be as biblical as possible.
2 rules concerning understanding and expressing a difficult theological issue.
When I was attending seminary way back in the dark ages (the 1990’s), I was given many words of advice when it came to wresting with, understanding, and expressing ideas about God. 2 of these were rules by which I filter all my contemplation: 1. say what the Bible says as clearly as possible, 2. say no more and no less than what the Bible says. It is imperative that one states the issue and the answer clearly and precisely. It is equally important to not say anything the Bible does not say.
How does this advice play into the Council of Nicaea?
Honestly I believe that since the beginning (yes, even with the Apostles) the followers of Jesus did not fully understand who he was and were really lost for precise expressions of his uniqueness. So after the apostles died (the last one was John the Apostle who died around AD 100) the followers of Jesus thought about, debated, and argued about the person of Jesus. One of the most important issues is: is Jesus fully God or just the highest of all created beings? Around the year AD 300 a man named Arius had decided he had the answer to the above stated question. Arius was so tenacious about the biblical teaching that THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD that he was convinced (and convinced a lot of others) that Jesus was the highest of all created beings, yet created nonetheless and therefore not eternal. Arius made this statement about Jesus: ‘The Son of God was a created being, made from nothing; there was a time when he had no existence and he was capable of change and of altering between good and evil’. Arius emphasized the oneness of God to the detriment of the threeness of God. He was not comfortable with the idea that ‘the Father was God, the Son was God, and the Spirit was God, yet there was only one God’.
Emperor Constantine assists in the debate
In AD 325 the Roman Emperor Constantine (no not John Constantine, that’s a TOTALLY different guy) called a council of pastors to meet in the city of Nicaea (in modern day Turkey) to debate the issue of the relationship between the Father and the Son and come to the precise biblical statement.
There is so much that could be said (and probably should be said) about the Council of Nicaea who were the main participants, what they discussed, and the conclusions they came to. But for our purposes let me just state it as simply as I can, the council’s statement which was put into the Nicene Creed: We believe . . .
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
(this is just a portion of the creed, but the portion that is pertinent to our discussion here).
The conclusion from the majority of the pastors is that Jesus is fully God and not a created being.
Here are the 3 bullets for the Council of Nicaea:
The council was called by Emperor Constantine to produce a definitive statement about the eternality of Jesus.
A man named Arius was condemned by the council to be a heretic because of his unwavering denial of Jesus being of the same essence as the Father
The council’s conclusion is that Jesus was begotten not made and of the same essence as the Father.
Please tell me a story of how you wrestled with this issue and what helps you in understanding the person of Jesus.