In this lesson we will be discussing when the Trinitarian doctrine first came into existence, by briefly explaining to you the two councils which eventually brought forth the Trinitarian Doctrine, and pointing out some key elements about the people of those councils and the Emperors influence within those councils.
This can be found by reading and studying the two councils that ultimately brought forth a Trinitarian point of view. The first council, The Council of Nicea took place in 325 AD. Unlike what you may be thinking, this Council was not over a debate of a Oneness point of view versus a Trinitarian point of view. However it was because of a man named Arius who believed that the Son (Jesus) was created out of nothing before the world was called into being, and for that very reason was not eternal nor of the divine essence. For his argument he referred to Proverbs 8:22, which reads, 22 The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. The Hebrew word translated for possessed, he said, could also have meant created or brought forth. Thus Arius, interpreted the passage that the Son was created at some point by God before the creation of the world. This was the reason for the first council.
The council convened in 325 AD in Nicea. It lasted for just about six weeks. It has been said that 318 persons attended, but a more likely number is 225, including every Eastern bishop of importance, four Western bishops (among them Hosius of Córdoba, president of the council), and two papal legates.
Papal: Of, relating to, or issued by a pope.
As the Council began to unfold, it was found that there was mainly three points of view. The first group was a minority led by Athanasius who argued that the Father and the Son were of the same substance. The second group was the Arian group which believed the Son was of a different substance from the Father. And the third group was the majority, in which case the majority of them never fully understood the issues at hand but wanted peace. The majority of them never agreed with Arius, but they also never agreed with Athanasius. Thus later in history they received the nickname of Semi-Arians.
Finally Emperor Constantine, hoping to obtain the most unanimous decision possible, introduced a word called homoousios, which means of the same substance. This was considered controversial because it was used by some people to support a Oneness doctrine of the Godhead, known as Sabellianism, against those with a Trinitarian position.
Upon conclusion of this first Council, the position of Athanasius prevailed. At this time Emperor Constantine sealed the victory by threatening to banish all dissenters. However there were two Bishops who would not sign the creed along with Arius. One of the two Bishops was Eusebius of Nicomedia and these men were placed in exile.
Emperor Constantine then declared that the decrees of the council were divinely inspired, declared them as laws of the empire, and made them punishable by death. The creed that was created from the Council of Nicea was not, however, the creed generally circulated today as the Nicene Creed.
In summary up to this point, this council was mainly those of a Trinitarian mind set concerning the Father and the Son being of the same substance, where as the Arians were of the mind set that the Father and the Son were of a different substance. During their debates, the Emperor Constantine introduced a word that those of the Trinitarian mind set did not like, because a group of people of the mind set that God was not only of one substance, but he manifested himself as the Son, so he was not two separate persons of one substance, but rather one person who manifested himself as the Son and the Father. These people were known as Sabellianism or Oneness people.
The original Nicene Creed that came out of this Council stated: We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only begotten of the Father; (they then clarify what they mean concerning Jesus Christ) that is (He, Jesus is) of the essence of the Father, (He is) God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, (He was) begotten, not made, from the substance of the Father, by whom (Jesus) all things were made both in Heaven and on Earth; who for us men, and for our Salvation, came down and was incarnate (that means he was robed in flesh) and was made man; he suffered, and the third day he rose again, (He) ascended into heaven; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost.
Remember this creed was to refute Arianism. And again, Arianism was those who believed that the Father and the Son were of a different substance. Due to the fact that during this council, the Trinitarian people as they were trying to refute Arianism, were speaking in a manner that actually was supportive of the Oneness or Sabellianism people; this led to the bishops signing the creed so that they would not be exiled, but to continue teaching the Godhead the way that they always had, which was somewhere between the teachings of Arianism and Trinitarianism. This also sparked the Arians to continue to pursue their doctrine, thus in 381 AD there was a second council that convened.
The second council that convened was the council of Constantinople. This council was summoned by Emperor Theodosius I in 381 AD. Theodosius was a staunch supporter of the original Nicene Creed. So he was biased already. Only Eastern bishops were summoned to this council, but the Greeks claimed that it was ecumenical. Even though they never invited anyone from the West.
Ecumenical: Of or relating to the worldwide Christian church.
So basically the people of this council were claiming that it represented the worldwide Christian Church, even though no one from the Western portion of the Mediterranean was invited.
This council was not truly ecumenical and there were only about 150 bishops in attendance. It gave the bishop of Constantinople honour second only to that of the pope. Even though the Western church did not accept the ranking of Constantinople as second to Rome until the 13th century. Hear what was just said. It took close to nine hundred years before the West finally agreed that the bishop of Constantinople was second only to that of the pope. This Council declared, and the Emperor made it law, that there is one Godhead, Power and Substance of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; the dignity being equal, and the majesty equal in three perfect persons. This is how the Trinitarian Doctrine was born and was the first time the Holy Spirit was even considered a third person in the Godhead.
However it wasn’t until some time in the fourth century that the Nicene creed that we use today, came into existence. That’s right. Four hundred and some odd years after Jesus’ death, the Nicene creed we use today, based off of these two councils that were both completely biased and declared law by the Emperors of Rome, with adjustments to the creed as late as 589 AD at the Synod of Toledo, became the common doctrine of the Trinitarian today.
The Nicene creed in use today omits (that means that they removed it from) the original clause in the first Council of Nicea that stated that Jesus was of the essence of the Father, because it left open the possible interpretation of a Oneness point of view. Yet everyone was taught that the first council was divinely inspired and here they are making adjustments to it, to continue to support their doctrine.
And then they added to the original creed, concerning the portion that stated, And in the Holy Ghost.
The addition reads: And [I believe] in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified.
It also confessed one Baptism for the remission of sins.
This information is readily available at any library or by searching online about these two councils. Due to the fact that there is no mention of Trinity or Triune in the Bible, and the fact that these councils were not divinely inspired, there is no reason to believe our God is three co-equal persons.
In an in-depth study of these two councils, you will find that many scriptures Athanasius used in the original council of Nicea, and explained their meanings according to the Godhead, to establish his stance against Arianism, that the Trinitarians of today use those same scriptures, to substantiate their arguments against Oneness believers; yet they have already been defined by Athanasius in the council of Nicea stating the opposite meaning that the Trinitarians of today are using to defend their stance against Oneness believers.
In conclusion, what we should have learned from this condensed version of how the Trinitarian Doctrine was born, is that these councils were not divinely inspired, but rather were conducted in a very controlled environment, with Emperors of Rome establishing them as laws, and they are the people who claimed these councils were divinely inspired.
We also learned that the first council had nothing to do with Oneness versus Trinitarianism, and for this very reason, the original council defined scriptures, and built a defense system, that ended up supporting a Oneness point of view. So in the next council, they made the necessary changes to try to alter this point of view, even though they claimed the first council was divinely inspired, it never stopped them from altering it. They also claimed that the second council was ecumenical, yet they did not even invite the bishops from the Western Mediterranean area, who never fully accepted what they concluded at this council until the 13 century, some 900 years later.
And finally, due to the amount of time that has now elapsed since these councils and in our present time, the Trinitarians of today don’t even hold true to their original roots, but have changed the meaning of the scriptures around that were already defined in the council of Nicea, to mean something else that was not established in this council. Thus, if you will, the Trinitarians of today would not even agree with the Trinitarians of 400 AD.
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