The Brokenness Behind Nicea
God works despite our weak human frailty.

by Scot McKnight

Whether we heard it first in Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code, in a Church history class, or in a book, most of us were probably surprised by the political machinations behind The Nicene Creed. I first heard about it from theologian Harold O.J. ("Joe") Brown. More than once I've told my audiences that Constantine should have kept his nose out of the Church's business, that there was too much political unity in mind, and that some of those theologians were anything but noble. It seems most everyone agrees with me. But there it is - the faith we all confess - debated and drafted up in extraordinary lines by ordinary human beings who were embroiled in more than exegesis and theology.

Most explanations I've heard try to hide the obvious: "Constantine's impact was actually minimal," or "that's the way they did things back then." Perhaps we need to ask what folks would like to have happened. If we had our wishes, The Nicene Creed would have been drafted by theologians without spot or wrinkle, men (and women) in whom their was no guile, church leaders who resisted every attempt to grasp power, and political leaders who know the difference between the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of the world to come. In other words, we'd prefer The Nicene Creed to have been drafted by God Incarnate.

Wishful thinking.

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December 05, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 14 comments


December 10, 2011  1:40am

I just cant stop reading this. Its so cool, so full of information that I just didnt know. Im glad to see that people are actually writing about this issue in such a smart way, showing us all different sides to it. Youre a great blogger. Please keep it up.

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Banquet Hall Toronto

October 22, 2010  12:23am

It all depends on when the house was built as to the code. The code changes every three years; this year is one of them. The technical answer is that it probably was not out of code at the time but would now be.

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October 13, 2010  3:48am

There are a lot of environmental factors but ultimately you chose your lifestyle. As for your parents you haven't given us any information as to how you were raised, so that question would be impossible to answer.

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Sound Proofing

October 13, 2010  1:02am

In other words, you want to find an excuse to do nothing for chirst, who has done everything for you, and you are looking for a scripture to justify your ommissions.

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iphone life

March 05, 2010  11:01am

The real point here is whether a document that's the result of a political power play should be used in worship. WORSHIP!

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Seiko bake

March 05, 2010  10:59am

Yes, Constantine wanted to know what to believe about his new faith. And if in fact these Aryans were heretics then the world did need to know.

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December 08, 2008  9:36pm

What a sad, sad, sad commentary on what passes for a grasp of history by some evangelicals: A rigorous theological summation against heresy is now nothing more than politics. I would suppose you would rather have a Christ that was nothing more than a human made divine? And if you do, then we can say without doubt that you are not a Christian. Is that being too political to say so?

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December 07, 2008  1:28pm

I am no expect with the history of Christianity but I do think that God, despite man's "fallenness" used the situation to form the Nicene creed. The Arians were a heretical force that the "Nicene" church continued through many years to fight. Constantine for sure stuck his nose in - but then that is expected when he declares himself & Rome Christian thus beginning the unity of church and state. However, the Holy Spirit has continued throughout the centuries to work in regular human beings and that gives me great assurance that he is still at work this day! Perhaps we need to understand this more instead of expecting writing on the wall and perfection by all within Christianity. I understand too that the Nicene creed was later formally accepted at another council.

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December 06, 2008  1:36pm

Chris S., what are you talking about? Who was doing all the wrestling with the nature of the Trinity? You seem rather dismissive of creeds and confessions (not to mention the history behind all of it) without cause. Rather than dismissing the work believers before us have done, you might consider how we stand on the shoulders of the brethren. Are you implying that you would have figured out the Trinity from the NT all by yourself. (I'm skeptical, but I'll concede it's possible.) To be honest, personally I would probably have arrived to one of the many heresies that the Church has had to face down – I'm not so bright. I appreciate hearing that those who came up with the Nicene Creed were flawed. I'm certainly in the same boat. Thanks, Scot.

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Louis Vigo

December 06, 2008  12:32am

Yes, Constantine wanted to know what to believe about his new faith. And if in fact these Aryans were heretics then the world did need to know. So the creed was a tool, and indirectly it was a tool of worship because it told what the majority of the church already believed which cleared the stage for worship to take place.

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