In Dorothy Sayers's imaginative play, The Emperor Constantine, the defining role of the Nicene creed is put into words when Constantine criticizes a group of bishops for their indecisiveness: "Our Lord said to the Samaritan woman, 'You worship what you know not, but we know whom we worship.' Do you know whom you worship? It would seem you do not. And it matters now that you should." The question, "Do you know whom you worship?" has been a perennial one for Christians, but it came to the forefront at the beginning of the fourth century when there was as yet no doctrinal consensus about the divinity of Christ.

All Christians asserted that Jesus was God and worshipped Him as such, following the understanding laid down in an early second-century sermon known as II Clement: "brethren, we ought to think of Jesus as we do of God." However, those baptismal creeds which have come down to us from local churches said very little beyond the basic wording: "of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary" (Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus).

Such confessional statements left many questions unanswered. How could the Son, who was born a human being, suffered and died, also be God in relation to God the Father? Which Bible passages were speaking about the Son's divinity and which were about the Son's humanity? When Jesus declared his dread of the "cup" before him (Matt. 26:37-38), or displayed ignorance about the time of his second return (Mk. 13:32), surely these experiences were applicable to his human self, but what did that mean for his divinity? If Christ suffered on our behalf did that mean he was different from God who, by virtue of his immutability and eternality, cannot suffer? There was no ...

Subscriber Access OnlyYou have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Already a CT subscriber? for full digital access.