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History Corner






Will Durant On The Council Of Nicaea: 325


Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Part III: Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon and Schuster; 1944), pp. 659, 660.


‘To the Church the question of the “consubstantiality” (homoousia) as against the mere similarity (homoiousia) of the Son and the Father was vital both theologically and politically.

If Christ was not God, the whole structure of Christian doctrine would begin to crack; and if division were permitted on this question, chaos of belief might destroy the unity and authority of the Church, and therefore its value as an aide to the state.

As the controversy spread, setting the Greek East aflame, Constantine resolved to end it by calling the first ecumenical universal council of the Church.

He summoned all bishops to meet in 325 at Bithynian Nicaea, near his capital Nicomedia, and provided funds for all their expenses.


‘The Council met in the hall of an imperial palace. . . . Arius reaffirmed his view that Christ was a created being, not equal to the Father, but “divine only by participation.”

Clever questioners forced him to admit that if Christ was a creature, and had had a beginning, he could change; and that if he could change he might pass from virtue to vice.

The answers were logical, honest, and suicidal. Athanasius, the eloquent and pugnacious archdeacon . . . made it clear that if Christ and the Holy Spirit were not of one substance with the Father, polytheism would triumph.

He conceded the difficulty of picturing three distinct persons in one God, but argued that reason must bow to the mystery of the Trinity. All but seventeen of the bishops agreed with him, and signed a statement expressing his view.

The supporters of Arius agreed to sign if they might add one iota, changing homoousion to homoiousion. The Council refused . . . .’