Posted: March 13th, 2023

What was Arianism and how did the Council of Nicaea in 325 attempts to resolve the issue? When was the issue actually resolved?

Arianism was a 4th century Christian heresy named after the Alexandrian priest Arius. It denied the consubstantiality and co-eternality of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as proposed by Nicea I (325 CE). The doctrine of Arianism argued that Jesus Christ, although divine in some sense, was not equal to God because he had been created by God. This belief clashed with the Nicene Creed’s assertion that Jesus is “of one substance with the Father”, or homoousios (“same substance”).

When Emperor Constantine called for an ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325 CE, he hoped to resolve this controversy over Arianism. By convening 318 bishops from all around the world, who met over a period of five months debating this issue, they were able to reach agreement over what came to be known as Nicean Creed. This document declares that: “We believe…in one Lord Jesus Christ… begotten of his Father before all worlds; God of God; Light of Light; Very God of very God; Begotten not made; Being of one substance with the father.” In doing so it affirmed that Jesus is both divine like His Father and also distinct from Him in some way – yet both are still united together eternally as one.

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What was Arianism and how did the Council of Nicaea in 325 attempts to resolve the issue? When was the issue actually resolved?

The Council then went on to condemn any opinion which should assert either ‘that there was once when He [Jesus] did not exist’ or ‘that He [Jesus] was made out of things which had no existence’ as being heretical. In this way it clearly rejected Arianism’s view that Christ had been created at some point before time began (Richardson & Bauckham 2020).

Despite its success at resolving much of the conflict surrounding Arianism in 325 CE however, there were still divisions within Christianity concerning this issue up until 381 CE when Constantinople ratified another creed declaring similar beliefs about Trinity which cemented their victory over those who held to Ariansim beliefs (Keener 2018). So while Nicean creed laid down foundations for resolution between these two factions within Christianity it wasn’t until later date that final reconciliation between them took place.

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