The Nicene Creed And Truth About The Trinity
This article covers The Nicene Creed and Truth about the Trinity.
“God can in no way be described.”
— Plato (Father of the pagan Trinity)
In the preface to Edward Gibbon’s History of Christianity, we read: “If Paganism was conquered by Christianity, it is equally true that Christianity was corrupted by Paganism. The pure Deism of the first Christians . . . was changed, by the Church of Rome, into the incomprehensible dogma of the trinity. Many of the pagan tenets, invented by the Egyptians and idealized by Plato, were retained as being worthy of belief.”
“Christendom has done away with Christianity without being quite aware of it”
(Soren Kierkegaard, cited in Time magazine, Dec. 16, 1946, p. 64).
“The three-in-one/one-in-three mystery of Father, Son and Holy Ghost made tritheism official. The subsequent almost-deification of the Virgin Mary made it quatrotheism . . . Finally, cart-loads of saints raised to quarter-deification turned Christianity into plain old-fashioned polytheism. By the time of the Crusades, it was the most polytheistic religion to ever have existed, with the possible exception of Hinduism. This untenable contradiction between the assertion of monotheism and the reality of polytheism was dealt with by accusing other religions of the Christian fault.
The Church – Catholic and later Protestant – turned aggressively on the two most clearly monotheistic religions in view – Judaism and Islam – and persecuted them as heathen or pagan. The external history of Christianity consists largely of accusations that other religions rely on the worship of more than one god and therefore not the true God. These pagans must therefore be converted, conquered and/or killed for their own good in order that they benefit from the singularity of the Holy Trinity, plus appendages.” — The Doubter’s Companion (John Ralston Saul)
Why not the Bible?
Have you ever noticed that Bible Dictionaries and most scholarly religious encyclopedias and reference works don’t use scriptures when discussing the Trinity? Why is that? Because they don’t prove a trinity. For a trinity you need “THREE”. But if the Trinity is not in the Bible, then where did we get it from? Book of Deuteronomy 6:4-5,
HEAR, O ISRAEL: THE HaShem OUR GOD, THE HaShem IS ONE. And thou shalt love HaShem thy G-d with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (JPS 1917)
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (KJV ~1611)
The nature of Christ: Was He the same substance as God? or was He created by God?
Different schools of thought were developed by the 4th century. In Antioch, literal interpretation of Scripture was emphasized, putting the writings in a historical context. Arius, a native Libyan, went to school in Antioch. He argued that the Father alone is true God, and Jesus was not God. Since Jesus was created by God, there would be a time when Jesus did not exist and Arius used Proverbs 8:22 and John 14:28 (the Father is greater than I) as his proof text. In Alexandria, Egypt, allegorical (mystical) interpretation was taught and Alexandrians could then spiritualize the text so they could explain away (make excuses, reject reason) any unwanted literal reference by claiming it was allegorical.
They both relied on the Gnostic John 1:1 written by a Greek around 100 CE. Much of their philosophy was based mainly on Plato and Egyptian paganism. Alexander of Alexandria issued a statement that Christ was homoousios (same substance) to describe the relationship between Son and Father and thus Jesus was also the Father or God come to earth as a man. Arius thought that was dangerously close to heresy and plain stupid, so he said that the Father alone is true God more in line with reason and the content of the Bible. This controversy was tearing the church apart, so Constantine issued an invitation to settle this dispute at the Council of Nicaea.
Alexander of Alexandria: Bishop of Alexandria. Said Christ was the ‘same substance’ as the Father. Convened a council of bishops from Egypt and Libya to anathematize Arius and excommunicate him and his followers.
Athanasius: served as a deacon at the Council of Nicaea. He was strongly opposed to Arianism. He helped the Council decide against Arianism, and was later exiled.
Constantine: Emperor of Rome. He called the Council of Nicaea to settle the dispute over Arianism. He was the Emperor who recognized Christianity as a legal religion and later tried to make it the state religion.
Eusubius, Bishop of Nicomedia and a supporter of Arius, would later baptize Constantine. Contrary to popular Christian myth, Constantine was a pagan and was baptized on his deathbed. He also never really made Christianity a state religion because Christians couldn’t even agree on anything. The power grab of the pagan Trinitarians would be completed after his death.
“In his theological interpretation of the idea of God, Arius was interested in maintaining a formal understanding of the oneness of God. In defense of the oneness of God, he was obliged to dispute the sameness of essence of the Son and the Holy Spirit with God the Father, as stressed by the theologians of the Neoplatonic influenced Alexandrian school. From the outset, the controversy between both parties took place upon the common basis of the Napoleonic concept of substance, which was foreign to the New Testament itself. It is no wonder that the continuation of the dispute on the basis of the metaphysics of substance likewise led to concepts that have no foundation in the New Testament–such as the question of the sameness of essence (homoousia) or similarity of essence (homoiousia) of the divine persons.”
It was 325 A.D. at Nicaea that the doctrine of the Trinity was rammed through by Athanasius (using Mafia tactics) in a Council that was overseen by the Emperor Constantine who, ironically enough, thought of himself as God-incarnate. (Constantine was a Sun Worshiper and only made an official conversion to “Christianity” on his deathbed). Roman coins of the period still portrayed the image of the sun God despite the alleged sudden adoption/conversion of Christianity. Many of those present at the Council Of Nicaea were opposed the doctrine of the Trinity, siding with Arius. Even after the Nicene Creed, the Trinity was still hotly debated for decades and centuries after.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHURCH AFTER NICAEA
325 AD – Constantine convenes the Council of Nicaea in order to develop a statement of faith that can unify the church. The Nicene Creed is written, declaring that “the Father and the Son are of the same substance” (homoousios). Emperor Constantine who was also the high priest of the pagan religion of the Unconquered Sun presided over this council.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:
“Constantine himself presided, actively guiding the discussions and personally proposed the crucial formula expressing the relationship of Christ to God in the creed issued by the council, `of one substance with the Father’.”
The American Academic Encyclopedia states:
“Although this was not Constantine’s first attempt to reconcile factions in Christianity, it was the first time he had used the imperial office to IMPOSE a settlement.”
At the end of this council, Constantine sided with Athanasius over Arius and exiled Arius to Illyria.
328 AD – Athanasius becomes bishop of Alexandria.
328 AD – Constantine recalls Arius from Illyria.
335 AD – Constantine now sides with Arius and exiles Athanasius to Trier.
337 AD – A new emperor, Contantius, orders the return of Athanasius to Alexandria.
339 AD – Athanasius flees Alexandria in anticipation of being expelled.
341 AD – Two councils are held in Antioch this year. During this council, the First, Second, and Third Arian Confessions are written, thereby beginning the attempt to produce a formal doctrine of faith to oppose the Nicene Creed.
343 AD – At the Council of Sardica, Eastern Bishops demand the removal of Athanasius.
346 AD – Athanasius is restored to Alexandria.
351 AD – A second anti – Nicene council is held in Sirmium.
353 AD – A council is held at Aries during Autumn that is directed against Athanasius.
355 AD – A council is held in Milan. Athanasius is again condemned.
356 AD – Athanasius is deposed on February 8th, beginning his third exile.
357 AD – Third Council of Sirmium is convened. Both homoousios and homoiousios are avoided as unbiblical, and it is agreed that the Father is greater than His subordinate Son.
359 AD – The Synod of Seleucia is held which affirms that Christ is “like the Father,” It does not however, specify how the Son is like the Father.
361 AD – A council is held in Antioch to affirm Arius’ positions.
380 AD – Emperor Theodosius the Great declares Christianity the official state religion of the empire.
381 AD – The First Council of Constantinople is held to review the controversy since Nicaea. Emperor Theodosius the Great establishes the creed of Nicaea as the standard for his realm. The Nicene Creed is re-evaluated and accepted with the addition of clauses on the Holy Spirit and other matters.
If Nicaea just formalized the prevalent teaching of the church, then why all the conflicts? If it were the established teaching of the church, then you would expect people to either accept it, or not be Christians. It was not the established teaching, and when some faction of the church tried to make it official, the result was major conflict.
It was a theological power grab by a faction of the church. A major complication throughout all this was that the emperors were involved and directed the outcome. At Nicaea it was Constantine that decided the outcome. Then we have the flip-flopping of opinion with the result that Athanasius is exiled and recalled depending on who is in power. In 357 AD the declaration that homoousios and homoiousios are unbiblical, and that the Father is greater than His subordinate Son. This is 180 degrees from Nicaea.
In 380 AD Emperor Thedosius declares Christianity the state religion. One can come to the conclusion that whichever way Theodosius favors, that is the way in which it is going to end. This is exactly what happened next.
In 381 AD the struggle was finally ended by the current emperor, Theodosius the Great, who favored the Nicene position. Just like at Nicaea, the EMPEROR again decided it. The emperors were dictating the theology of the church.
The big difference now was that there was not going to be any more changing sides. It was now the state religion. You cannot make Christianity the state religion and then change its beliefs every few years. It would undermine its credibility as the true faith. The Trinity was now the orthodox position, and the state was willing to back it up with force.
For the most part, the Trinitarian church has silenced critical thought and dealt treacherously with anyone of open mind and free thought. In the 1670’s, Isaac Newton quietly studied the Trinity and came to the conclusion that the doctrine was foisted on the Church by Athanasius in order to swell the numbers and fill the coffers.
He concluded Arius was right and he claimed that the Bible had prophesied the Rise of Trinitarianism(“this strange religion of the west”, the cult of 3 equal gods) as the abomination of desolation. — The Rise of Science and Decline of Orthodox Christianity. A study of Kepler, Descartes and Newton. After Newton, others such as Matthew Tindal, John Toland, Gottfried Arnold, Goerg Walch, Giovanni
But, Henry Noris and Hermann Samuel Reimarus argued Arianism (Unitarianism) and opened up a new era of criticism. It is only logical for people to argue after this, “What else has the Church lied to us about?” This unfortunately led to Higher Criticism of the bible in the 19th century which in turn, paved the way for evolutionism and Nietzsche’s death of God. Is it not logical that to replace a polytheistic trinity, man would have to become gods themselves.
Albrecht Ritschl (1822-89) saw the Trinity doctrine as flagrantly Hellenistic. It had corrupted the Christian message by introducing an alien “layer of metaphysical concepts, derived from the natural philosophy of the Greeks,” and it had nothing to do with early Christianity.
“The Chalcedonian formula [the council’s decision declaring Jesus both God and man] makes genuine humanity impossible. The councilor definition says that Jesus is true man. But if there are two natures in him, it is clear which will dominate. And Jesus becomes immediately very different from us. He is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent.
He knows the past, present and future…He knows exactly what everyone is thinking and going to do. This is far from ordinary human experience. Jesus is tempted but cannot sin because he is God. What kind of temptation is this? It has little in common with the kinds of struggles we are familiar with.” To Know and Follow Jesus, Roman Catholic writer Thomas Hart (Paulist Press, 1984), 46.
Historian Will Durant: “Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. . . . From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity.” And in the book Egyptian Religion, Siegfried Morenz notes: “The trinity was a major preoccupation of Egyptian theologians . . . Three gods are combined and treated as a single being, addressed in the singular. In this way the spiritual force of Egyptian religion shows a direct link with Christian theology.”
“The doctrine of the Trinity has in the West come into increasing question…there has for long been a tendency to treat the doctrine as a problem rather than as encapsulating the heart of the Christian Gospel.”
The Promise of the Trinity, Gunton, p.31
“Despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere monotheists. We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.” Karl Rahner, The Trinity, J. Donceel, trans, p.10
“But how can such weak creatures ever take in so strange, so difficult and so abstruse a doctrine as this [the Trinity], in the explication and defence whereof multitudes of men, even men of learning and piety, have lost themselves in infinite subtleties of dispute and endless mazes of darkness? And can this strange and perplexing notion of three real persons going up to make one true God be so necessary and important a part of that Christian doctrine, which, in the Old Testament and the New, is represented as so
plain and so easy, even to the meanest understandings.”
William G. Eliot, Discourses on the Doctrines of Christianity (American Unitarian Association, Boston,1877), pp. 97, 100
The Eastern Theologian John of Damascus (c. 675-749) once used a very curious argument in favor of icons…John replied to the criticism are unscriptural by admitting the fact, and adding that you will not find in scripture the Trinity, of homousian or the two natures of Christ either. But we know those doctrines are true. And so, having acknowledged that icons, the Trinity and the incarnation are innovations, John goes on to urge his reader to hold fast to them as venerable traditions delivered to us by the Fathers…
He was not the only one to use this argument: Theodore the Studite (759-826) adopted it too. It brings out an odd feature to Christianity, its mutability and speed with which innovations come to be vested with religious solemnity to such an extent that anyone who questions them find himself regarded as the dangerous innovator and heretic.” The Christ of Christendom by Don Cupitt, as used in The Myth of God Incarnate, p. 133
“In brief, the ante-Nicene Fathers taught the real distinction and divinity of the three persons . . . but in their attempts at a philosophical interpretation of the Dogma, the ante-Nicene Fathers used certain expressions which would favor sudordinationism. In the late 17th century, the Socinians cited these expressions that the ante-Nicene tradition agreed rather with Arius than with Athanasius . . . Catholic theologians commonly defend the orthodoxy of these early Fathers, while admitting that certain of their expressions were inaccurate and eventually dangerous.” — Colliers Encyclopedia
“No historical fact is better established, than that the doctrine of one God, pure and uncompounded, was that of the early ages of Christianity . . . Nor was the unity of the Supreme Being ousted from the Christian creed by the force of reason, but by the sword of civil government, wielded at the will of the Athanasius. The hocus-pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands of martyrs . . .
The Athanasian paradox that one is three, and three but one, is so incomprehensible to the human mind, that no candid man can say he has any idea of it, and how can he believe what presents no idea? He who thinks he does, only deceives himself. He proves, also, that man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such person, gullibility which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck.” — Thomas Jefferson: Letter to James Smith, Dec. 8, 1822
“The doctrine is not taught explicitly in the New Testament, where the word God almost invariably refers to the Father” — MS Encarta 99
“The word itself does not occur in the Bible…The explicit formula was thus formulated in the post-biblical period, although the early stages of its development can be seen in the NT. Attempts to trace the origin still earlier (to the Old Testament literature) cannot be supported by historical-critical scholarship, and these attempts must be understood as retrospective interpretations of this earlier corpus of Scripture in the light of later theological developments.” The Harper Collins Study Bible Dictionary
“We are judged to be heretics because we can no longer believe in essence, person, nature, incarnation, as they want us to believe. If these things are necessary for salvation, it is certain that no poor peasant Christian be saved, because he could never understand them in all his life.” — Francis David (1510-79)
Catholic theologian Hans Küng in Christianity and the World Religions, “Even well-informed Muslims simply cannot follow, as the Jews thus far have likewise failed to grasp, the idea of the Trinity . . . The distinctions made by the doctrine of the Trinity between one God and three hypostases do not satisfy Muslims, who are confused, rather than enlightened, by theological terms derived from Syriac, Greek, and Latin. Muslims find it all a word game . . . Why should anyone want to add anything to the notion of God’s oneness and uniqueness that can only dilute or nullify that oneness and uniqueness?”
“The word Trinity is not found in the Bible . . . It did not find a place formally in the theology of the church till the 4th century.” — The Illustrated Bible Dictionary
The Catholic Encyclopedia also says: “In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together. The word [tri’as] (of which the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A. D. 180 . . . Shortly afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitas in Tertullian.” However, this is no proof in itself that Tertullian taught the Trinity. The Catholic work Trinitas – A Theological Encyclopedia of the Holy Trinity, for example, notes that some of Tertullian’s words were later used by others to describe the Trinity. But then it states: “But hasty conclusions cannot be drawn from usage, for he does not apply the words to Trinitarian theology.”
The New Encyclopedia Britannica: “Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament.”
Yale University Professor E. Washburn Hopkins: “To Jesus and Paul the doctrine of the trinity was apparently unknown; . . . they say nothing about it.” — Origin and Evolution of Religion.
Tom Harpur states, “As early as the 8th century, the Theologian St. John of Damascus frankly admitted what every modern critical scholar of the NT now realizes: that neither the Doctrine of the Trinity nor that of the 2 natures of Jesus Christ is explicitly set out in scripture. In fact, if you take the record as it is and avoid reading back into it the dogmatic definitions of a later age, you cannot find what is traditionally regarded as orthodox Christianity in the Bible at all.” — For Christ’s Sake.
Historian Arthur Weigall: “Jesus Christ never mentioned such a phenomenon, and nowhere in the New Testament does the word ‘Trinity’ appear. The idea was only adopted by the Church three hundred years after the death of our Lord.” — The Paganism in Our Christianity
The New Encyclopedia Britannica: “Neither the word Trinity, nor the explicit doctrine as such, appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord’ — Deut. 6:4
. . . The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies . . . By the end of the 4th century . . . the doctrine of the Trinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since.” — Micropædia, Vol. X, p. 126. (1976)
The New Catholic Encyclopedia states: “The formulation ‘one God in three Persons’ was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title the Trinitarian dogma. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective.” – (1967), Vol. XIV, p. 299.
The Encyclopedia Americana: “Christianity derived from Judaism and Judaism was strictly Unitarian [believing that God is one person]. The road which led from Jerusalem to Nicaea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching.” — (1956), Vol. XXVII, p. 294L.
The Nouveau Dictionnaire Universel, “The Platonic trinity, itself merely a rearrangement of older trinities dating back to earlier peoples, appears to be the rational philosophic trinity of attributes that gave birth to the three hypostases or divine persons taught by the Christian churches . . . This Greek philosopher’s [Plato, fourth century B.C.E.] conception of the divine trinity . . . can be found in all the ancient [pagan] religions.” — (Paris, 1865-1870), edited by M. Lachâtre, Vol. 2, p. 1467.
“The belief as so defined was reached only in the 4th and 5th centuries AD and hence is not explicitly and formally a biblical belief. The trinity of persons within the unity of nature is defined in terms of “person” and “nature: which are Gk philosophical terms; actually the terms do not appear in the Bible. The Trinitarian definitions arose as the result of long controversies in which these terms and others such as “essence” and “substance” were erroneously applied to God by some theologians.” Dictionary of the Bible by John L. McKenzie, S.J. p. 899
Regarding the Nicene Council and those that followed, Hans Kung in Christianity says, “The councilor decisions plunged Christianity into undreamed-of theological confusions with constant entanglements in church politics. They produced splits and sparked off a persecution of heretics unique in the history of religion. This is what Christianity became as it changed its nature from a persecuted minority to a majority persecuting others.”
“Anyone who can worship a trinity and insist that his religion is a monotheism can believe anything.” — Robert A. Heinlein