Who Says God has No Son?
If you would like to read more on the Council of Nicaea and the history surrounding the 4th and 5th centuries, go to www.nicaeaandtheworld.com It is heavy reading, but for readers and those who enjoy history, it is fine.
The Catholic Church arose during the early years of the Christian era. In AD54, the apostle Paul stated that it did “already work”, although in embryo form. The seeds were being sown to prepare the way for Satan’s masterpiece of deception, the “Man of Sin”, who would oppose and exalt himself “above all that is called, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3.4.7.
Certainly this false god in the midst of Christianity would have vast repercussions on whether the God of the universe had a divine Son.
What does the Catholic Church believe?
“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things both visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only begotten, that is to say, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made….” Nicene Creed.
In 1998, Pope John Paul 11 said, “At Nicaea and Constantinople it was affirmed that Jesus Christ was ‘the Only-begotten Son of God’. Born of the Father before all ages… Begotten, not made, of one being with the Father; by Whom all things were made.” (Nicene Creed) Crossing the Threshold of Hope p46.
Does the Pope mean that Jesus was actually born of the Father at some point in the ages of eternity?
“Of the Only-Begotten Son, God from God, the apostle Paul writes that he is “the first-born of all creation”. (Col 1:15) God created the world through the Word. The Word is Eternal Wisdom…
Eternally begotten and eternally loved by the Father, as God from God and Light from Light, he is the principle and archetype of everything created by God in time.” The Third Millennium p11.
The above words are based on a similar creed to the Nicene Creed, but by a fifth century Athanasius. “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one Being with the Father, that is to say, of the substance of the Father…” Creed of Athanasius
How were these creeds formulated?
The latest Catholic Catechism states the following, (249) “From the beginning, the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity has been at the very root of the Church’s living faith… (250) during the first centuries the Church sought to clarify its Trinitarian faith, both to deepen its own understanding of the faith, and to defend it against the errors that were deforming it. This clarification was the work of the early councils, aided by the theological work of the Church Fathers and sustained by the Christian people’s sense of the faith.” New Catholic Catechism p66.
During the third and early fourth century, the Christian church was suffering from the developing apostasy, especially in the Western Empire, of which Rome was the centre. However, the church in Rome did not as yet have total ruling power, although it was slowly beginning to speak with authority.
In AD264, Lucius, a presbyter of Antioch, opposed bishop Paul for teaching that the Father and the Son were ‘homoousian’, a Latin word meaning ‘one substance’ or ‘consubstantial’. This belief was known as Modalistic Monarchianism, one that denied the existence of the Son as a separate and distinct Person from the Father.
A synod was called in Antioch to deal with Bishop Paul and in their deliberations, the council condemned the use of the word ‘homoousian’, making it clear that although the Son was of the same substance as the Father, He was “not a part of the Father – the same Being”. Letter by Eusebius Pamphilus of Caesarea to the church at Caesarea. Quoted in ‘A Historical View of the Church of Nice’. Translation by Isaac Boyle p44-46.
Another presbyter, Arius, a student of Lucius, opposed his bishop (Alexander) in the city of Alexandria, for believing that Christ was begotten of the Father eternally. He charged him with believing in an “unbegotten begotten one”. The Two Republics A.T. Jones p333.
Arius put his protest in writing and published songs on the subject. His most popular work was ‘Thalia’ (Song of Joy), in which he set forth his beliefs. Soon men and women all through the region were singing the disputed doctrine. As a result “the controversy spread everywhere, and as it spread, it deepened.” Ibid p332.
Unlike the reaction in AD264 with a council to condemn the bishop for teaching error, instead the Emperor Constantine summoned a Church Council to oppose Arius!
This council was not a small synod, but the first General or Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church. It was held at Nice, and composed of 318 bishops. (This is called a Christian council because Christians from all over the world were invited, however, it was organised and conducted by the Papal sector of the world church. The longterm result was the uprooting of three Arian nations who opposed the Papal stand on the Son of God. Daniel 7:8.20)
As Constantine desired a Christian Empire, he wished to see it firmly based upon the one orthodox faith. Therefore, “It was the duty of the Nicene Council to elaborate the content of that faith.” The Orthodox Church. Timothy Ware p27.
At this council there were three parties:
Those who sided with Alexander.
Those who sided with Arius.
Those who were non-committal or middle ground.
Arius was not a bishop, but he was invited to the council by the command of Constantine. During the proceedings, he was frequently called upon to “express his opinions”.
When it came time for a decision, a creed was drawn up, and after signatures had been attached, it was discovered that eighteen Arian bishops had signed it. The opponents broke into a wild uproar, tore the document to pieces and expelled Arius from the assembly!
In the commotion, Eusebius of Caesarea presented an old creed to try and bring the parties together. As soon as this new statement of belief was read to the council, the party of Arius all signified their willingness to subscribe to it. “But this was the very thing Alexander and Athanasius did not want, and they determined to find some form of words which no Arian could receive.” Two Republics p348. A.T.Jones.
Obviously the Catholic sector of the church wanted the Arians condemned, and not unity. In this way, an anathema could be pronounced against the opposing party, and they could be expelled from their bishoprics.
In the discussion, one of the Arian bishops happened to state that the word ‘homoousian’ (one substance) was an absurd proposition. It was just what the Catholic party wanted. (The Arians preferred the word ‘homoiousian’, meaning ‘like substance’, if such a word needed to be used at all. Neither word is in Scripture)
As Constantine had already approved the creed presented by Eusebius, it was now decided to insert the word ‘homoousian’, thus gaining the assent of the most powerful orthodox part of the assembly. “Constantine ordered the addition of the disputed word, and the party of Alexander and Athanasius, now assured of the authority of the emperor, required the addition
of other phrases to the same purpose, so that when the creed was finally written out in full….”, the Arians would object. Two Republics p348. Of course, this is what happened, and the Arian party refused to sign.
However, although the Catholic sector was more than willing to adopt the creed, there was concern by some over the meaning of the disputed word ‘homoousian’. After all, the Antioch synod in AD264 had condemned the word for implying that the Father and the Son might be viewed as the same Person.
When it came time for the signing of the creed, seventeen bishops refused to sign. “The emperor then commanded all to sign it under penalty of banishment. This brought to terms all of them but five.” Two Republics p350. These five men were removed from their bishoprics, and assenting Catholics put in their places. (Most say only two were banished, as well as Arius, however, two others were banished at a later date, bringing the figure to five)
(Arius is charged with believing that Jesus was a created being, but many historians are convinced this is a false charge made by his enemies. “Generally, those evangelical bodies who opposed the papacy and were branded Arians confessed both the divinity of Christ and that He was begotten, not created, by the Father.” Truth Triumphant. Wilkinson p92)
Of course Arius was likewise banished. In a letter he wrote, “He has even expelled us from the city as atheists, because we do not assent to…’God is always, the Son is always. The Father and the Son are co-existent. The Son unbegotten, co-exists with God, and is always begotten; without being begotten, He is begotten…’.”
This challenge of Arius echoes down through the centuries, as the Son is still believed to be the “unbegotten begotten one”.
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