ONE GOD IN THREE PERSONS: THE EARLIEST CHURCH COUNCILS
From the very beginnings of the Church, Christians had called Christ the 'Son of God' or 'God the Son', and had spoken of - and prayed and baptized in the name of — 'the Father, Son and Holy Spirit'. Before the Edict of Milan in 313, however, Christians rarely had any opportunity to discuss in what sense they understood Jesus to be divine, or what precisely they understood the relation of the Father to the Son or of either to the Spirit to be.
(BUT NOT SO IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. IT IS MADE CLEAR WHO CHRIST WAS, THE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THE FATHER, AND THE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE FATHER - Keith Hunt)
With the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine, however, it became possible for matters of doctrine to be debated openly and thoroughly, and Christians soon discovered that they had many significant disagreements among themselves regarding many of the most basic elements of their faith. Scripture and the traditional liturgical practices of the Apostolic Churches had established certain general theological terms that all Christians accepted, but provided very little in the way of a conceptual clarification of those terms.
The Son of the One God
The old Greek way of speaking of the most high God was to refer to him by the definite article - 'the God', 'ho Theos' - while a god was simply spoken of as a 'theos'. In Christian usage, the name 'ho Theos' was generally applied only to the Father, while Christ (or occasionally the Spirit) was more cautiously called 'theos'. This rule, however, was anything but absolute: in the Gospel of John - where the pre-incarnate Son is identified as the divine 'Logos' who 'was with God' and who 'was God (theos)'— the Apostle Thomas addresses the risen Christ as 'my Lord and my God (ho Theos)'. And, also in the Gospel of John, Christ declares 'I and the Father are one'.
(SO IT ONLY TAKES ONE "HO THEOS" TO BE USED FOR CHRIST, AND THAT PUTS HIM IN THE SAME "GODHEAD" AS THE FATHER - Keith Hunt)
The painting in the dome of St Isaacs Cathedral, Saint Petersburg, Russia, illustrates Christ, the saints and the holy family. Divergent views on the nature of Christ soon emerged as the early Church debated the tenets of the Christian faith.
What did this mean? In what way was Christ God? Was he equal with the Father, or a lesser emanation of the Father, or a kind of secondary God? And, if the latter, what was the nature of his divine status in relation to the 'proper' divinity of the Father? Various answers to these questions had been ventured during the first three centuries of the Church. Some theologians (particularly in Rome) had proposed one or another species of 'modalism': that is, they speculated that the one God assumed different modes of existence for various purposes, now existing as Father, now as Son. Others advanced one or another version of 'adoptionism': they believed that Christ had been a man who had been adopted into divine Sonship by the Father. Still others were 'subordinationist': they claimed that the Father alone was God in the fullest sense, that the Son was a lesser expression of God, and the Spirit a still more diminished expression of the Son.
(AGAIN THE NEW TESTAMENT ANSWERS THE QUESTION. READING IT ALL, YOU SHOULD CLEARLY SEE BOTH ARE THE ONE GOD, BOTH ARE ETERNAL, BOTH ARE THE ONE GODHEAD. BUT THE FATHER IS SUPREME. JESUS, GOD THE SON, SITS ON THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER, NOT ON TOP OF HIM, NOT INSIDE HIM, BUT ON HIS RIGHT HAND. THE TRUTH OF THE GODHEAD IS EXPOUNDED IN MANY STUDIES ON THIS WEBSITE - Keith Hunt)
The subordinationist tendency was especially pronounced in Alexandria. In fact, it was typical not only of Christians, but of Jews and Pagans also. The great Jewish scholar Philo, a contemporary of Jesus, had already argued that, intermediate between God and this world, was the divine Logos, the 'Son of God,' through whom the world was created and governed; for God himself, in his transcendent majesty, could not come into contact with lower reality. The Pagan Platonists believed that the ultimate divine principle - the One - was utterly transcendent of the world, and was 'related' to it only through an order of lesser, derivative divine principles. Within this environment, it was natural for many Christians to think of the divine Logos as a sort of heavenly high priest who acted as an intermediary between creatures and the inaccessible Father. Even the greatest of pre-Constantinian Alexandrian theologians, Origen, was a subordinationist.
(IF WE MEAN GOD THE FATHER IS THE GREATEST IN AUTHORITY IN THE UNIVERSE, THEN YES, THE NEW TESTAMENT MAKES THIS VERY CLEAR IT IS SO - Keith Hunt)
Controversy and Creed
Theological opinions so vastly different from one another could not coexist indefinitely after the conversion of Constantine, now that the Church enjoyed the luxury - and bore the burden - of defining its beliefs with genuine precision. And, as chance or providence would have it, no sooner had the Church been granted legal rights and imperial favor than it suffered an enormous doctrinal crisis.
An Alexandrian priest named Arius (c.250-336) began to preach what can only be called a form of radical subordinationism: unlike, say, Origen, he not only denied the perfect coequality of Father and Son, but denied even that the Son was co-eternal with the Father, or even really 'divine' except in a purely honorific sense.
According to Arius, the Logos (the Son) was in fact a creature; he was the highest of creatures, admittedly, brought into being before all other things, and so exalted as to be called 'God' in relation to all other creatures, but nonetheless — to quote Arius' most notorious maxim - 'There was a time when he was not.' Only the Father, he taught, is 'unoriginate'.
(THIS TEACHING IS STILL TAUGHT TODAY BY SOME; EVEN SOME IN THE 7TH DAY SABBATH ORGANIZATIONS. SOME CLAIM JESUS DID NOT EXIST FROM ETERNITY, BUT WAS "CREATED"; SOME OTHERS TEACH CHRIST DID NOT EXIST UNTIL BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY. THESE IDEAS ARE MASSIVE "HERESY" TEACHINGS. THE CHURCH OF GOD SEVENTH DAY IN DENVER, TAUGHT THIS FOR NEARLY 150 YEARS. IT WAS ABOUT 1987 THAT THEY RESTUDIED IT ALL, ADMITTED THEY WERE VERY WRONG; THEY PRODUCED A VERY FINE BOOKLET ON THE SUBJECT I RECOMMEND YOU OBTAIN. THEY ANSWER ALL THE ARGUMENTS OF THE "ARIUS" TEACHING. I HAVE ALSO MANY STUDIES ON THIS WEBSITE THAT PROVE THE "ARIUS" TEACHINGS TO BE VERY WRONG, EVEN "HERESY" - Keith Hunt)
'Alexander [bishop of Alexandria] attempted one day too ambitious a discourse about the unity of the Holy Trinity. Arius, one of the presbyters under his jurisdiction, a man possessed of no inconsiderable logical acumen, said:
"If the Father begat the Son, the one that was begotten has a beginning of existence and from this it is evident that there was a time when the Son was not. It therefore necessarily follows that he had his essence from nothing". Alexander convened a council of many prelates and excommunicated Arius and the supporters for his heresy.' [Socrates Scholasticus, The Ecclesiastical History, c.440]
Arius' views were condemned and he was expelled from Alexandria in 321, but he spent his time in exile composing a long defense of his views - in prose and verse - entitled the Thalia ('Banquet') and in composing popular songs by which to spread his ideas among common Christians. When Constantine defeated Licinius in 324 and assumed control of the Eastern Christian world, he discovered that his newly adopted faith was convulsed by internal dissensions. He was not amused. He required unity of his Church no less than of his empire, and so at his command the first 'Ecumenical Council' (that is, a Council of the universal Church) was convoked in 325 to resolve the dispute. Three hundred and eighteen (almost exclusively Eastern) bishops gathered at Nicaea, near Constantinople, with Arius in attendance.
A depiction of an early Ecumenical Council. The first and second Councils of Nicaea (in 325 and 787, respectively) were the first and last of seven such meetings convoked, three of them in Constantinople.
Once again, Arius' teachings were condemned, and a common statement of faith - the first version of the 'Nicene Creed' - was produced. It not only affirmed that the divine Son was 'begotten, not made', and was 'true God from true God', but described the Son as 'consubstantial (homoousios)' with the Father. This was an audacious formula in the eyes of many — the word occurs nowhere in scripture -but ultimately all but seven of the bishops present subscribed to the new creed, and Arius was sent away to Illyricum (the Rojnan province covering much of the Balkans).
The controversy, however, did not end there. In the wake of the Council of Nicaea, any number of theologians proposed alternative solutions to the controversy. Among those who rejected the Nicene formula, there were the 'homoeans' who preferred to describe the Son as being 'of similar substance (homoiousios)' with the Father; and there were the 'anomoeans' who regarded the Son as being altogether 'unlike' the Father. More importantly, the emperor was persuaded by certain women within his household to turn a kindlier eye on Arius; in 336, he even commanded the bishop of Constantinople to give Arius communion. Arius entered the city in triumph, and would indeed have received communion, had he not suddenly died of natural (though rather grisly) causes the night before. Still, at the time of Constantine's death in 337, it was the Arian position that enjoyed the favour of the imperial court.
The Final Settlement
For many decades, the most redoubtable champion of Nicene orthodoxy was St Athanasius (c.296—373), a brilliant theologian who, as a young deacon, had been present at the Council, and who had been installed as patriarch of Alexandria the following year. Athanasius's fortunes in many ways were a perfect reflection of the fortunes of the orthodox party. With an almost comic regularity — no fewer than five times — he was deposed as bishop or forced to flee his see and was then restored, according to the inclinations of whichever emperor was in power.
The 'Arian controversy' did not reach its conclusion until Theodosius I (347-95), a Nicene Christian, had assumed power in the East, in 379. An uncompromising 'anomoean' named Eunomius insisted that God is, by definition, the 'ungenerated'. Hence, neither the Son nor the Spirit can be God in any proper sense, and must be essentially unlike the Father. The great opponents of 'Eunomianism' were three remarkable theologians, known collectively as the 'Cappadocian fathers': St Basil of Caesarea (329-79), his friend St Gregory of Nazianzus (c.330-c.389), and (the most brilliant of the three) Basil's younger brother St Gregory of Nyssa (r.335—c.394). It was their theology - marked as it was by an extraordinary clarity and profundity - that shaped the outcome of the second Ecumenical Council in 381, the First Council of Constantinople, which produced the final version of the Nicene Creed, and which affirmed once again that, in Christ, no less than the eternal God had entered into human history.
'We believe in One God, the Father, Almighty, Maker of all that is. seen and unseen. And in One Son of God, begotten of the Father. Only begotten, that is from the substance of the Father; God from God. Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made, both things in heaven and in earth. who for us and for our salvation came down and was incarnate, was made man, suffered, and rose again on the third day, ascended into heaven, and is coming to judge living and dead. And in the Holy Ghost.' [Creed of the Council of Nicaea, 325]
Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, was exiled repeatedly from his see — when his views were at variance with those of the incumbent Roman emperor — so giving rise to the phrase Athanasius contra mundum ('Athansius against the world'). However, his position prevailed, and he became known as the 'Father of Orthodoxy' for his implacable opposition to Arianism.
(WE MUST NOT FORGET THAT THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH DOES HAVE SOME TRUTHS. THE ABOVE NICAEA CREED CONTAINS THE BASIC TRUTH ABOUT GOD AND THE SON OF GOD. IT IS PUTTING JOHN 1:1-14 INTO SIMPLE FORM. NOTE ALSO, TO THE SHOCK OF MANY FUNDAMENTAL CHRISTIANS, THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH TEACHES THE LITERAL COMING OF JESUS CHRIST BACK TO JUDGE THE EARTH, THE LIVING AND THE DEAD. AGAIN MANY STUDIES ON THIS WEBSITE PROVE JESUS IS A PART OF THE ETERNAL GODHEAD, WHICH WAS FROM THE BEGINNING, ETERNAL PAST, AND WILL BE FOR THE ETERNAL FUTURE - Keith Hunt)
'GOD BECAME MAN THAT MAN MIGHT BECOME GOD'
That the Church spent the better part of a century agonizing over the difference between words like 'homoousios' and 'homoiousios' — a difference on paper, after all, of only a single letter - has frequently been an object of scorn and incredulity to those who see it as a contest between indistinguishable abstractions. But, for the Christians of the fourth century, the entire intelligibility of their faith was at stake. Many issues informed the debate - scripture, liturgy, the common understanding of the faithful - but chief among them was the nature of salvation.
If one thinks of salvation in the rather trivial sense of being allowed to go to heaven, then one will not be able to understand the prevailing mindset of the fourth-century Church. For the theologians of that time, salvation meant an intimate and immediate union with God, by which the human being would literally be 'divinized': that is, made to become (in the language of II Peter 1:4) a partaker of the divine nature - not, of course, to become God (ho Theos), but to become divine (theios or thieos). They believed that Christ had assumed human form so as to free humanity from bondage to death and make it capable of a direct indwelling of the divine presence. This has always remained the explicit teaching of the Eastern Churches, and has never ceased to be the theological position of the Roman Catholic tradition (though it has often been forgotten).
(AND THIS SHOULD SHOCK AND SURPRISE SOME OF YOU! DO YOU SEE WHAT IS BEING SAID HERE? THE HUMAN CAN HAVE THE DIVINE NATURE.....MEDITATE ON WHAT THAT REALLY MEANS. MOST CHRISTIANS TALK ABOUT BEING "THE SON OF GOD" OR "THE CHILD OF GOD" BUT DO NOT STOP TO THINK WHAT THAT REALLY IS SAYING.....READ ON - Keith Hunt)
For Athanasius or the Cappadocians, the paramount question was how such union with the transcendent God was possible for finite creatures. If - to use a formula that they and many others accepted - 'God became man that man might become God', could it possibly be the case that the Son or the Spirit was a lesser God or, even worse, merely a creature? Only God is capable of joining creatures to God; any inferior intermediary will always be infinitely remote from God himself. The Cappadocian arguments against the Eunomians were many, complex. and subtle; but perhaps the most effective was the simplest: if it is the Son who joins us to the Father, and only God can join us to God, then the Son is God; and if, in the sacraments of the Church and the life of faith, it is the Spirit who joins us to the Son, and only God can join us to God, then the Spirit too must be God.
THE SON, WHO IS GOD, CAN JOIN HUMANS TO GOD THE FATHER, THEN ALL BECOME MEMBERS OF THE FATHER'S FAMILY. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD IN THE SENSE THAT THE SPIRIT COMES FROM GOD. AS PROVED IN OTHER STUDIES ON THIS WEBSITE, THE SPIRIT IS NOT A SEPARATE BEING FROM GOD THE FATHER AND GOD THE SON. THE SPIRIT IS THE NATURE AND POWER THAT COMES FROM THE GODHEAD, AND CAN BE ALL OVER THE UNIVERSE AT THE SAME TIME.
GOD THE FATHER IN CREATING THE HUMAN KIND WAS GOING TO REPRODUCE HIMSELF; HAVING CHILDREN BORN INTO HIS VERY LEVEL OF EXISTENCE; NOT THE ANGEL LEVEL, BUT THE HIGHEST LEVEL......THE GOD LEVEL. GOD THE FATHER WILL ALWAYS BE THE SUPREME IN AUTHORITY IN THE UNIVERSE; THE SON JESUS CHRIST WILL BE NEXT IN AUTHORITY, AS SHOWN CLEARLY IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION, FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE END.
THE NEW TESTAMENT MAKES IT VERY VERY CLEAR AS TO WHY YOU WERE BORN; WHY MANKIND WAS CREATED.
YOU CAN FIND THIS WONDERFUL TRUTH IN MY STUDY CALLED "A CHRISTIAN'S DESTINY" ON THIS WEBSITE.