In 325 AD the Council of Nice was called over the Arian controversy. What was this controvery about?

Before 325AD almost all of Christendom was united in the belief that Jesus Christ was begotten by God before creation. To see what Christians believed up to one hundred and fifty years prior to the Creed of Nice, I submit to your reading the following.

{Most of the following articles were taken from the book: The Two Republics, written by A. T. Jones

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things both visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God of God, Light of Light, Life of Life, the only begotten Son, the First-born of every creature, begotten of the Father before all worlds, by whom also all things were made.. (Pages 347, 348)

     In 325 Eusebius of Cęsarea put this ancient creed forth in an attempt to re-unite Christendom at the counsel of Nice. The creed was atleast in use in the third century (250 AD), and possibly was older than this. Clearly the early christians accepted what the bible said, That there was ONE GOD ALMIGHTY the Father, and that he beget a Divine SON before creation; Christ Jesus. This same Eusebius wrote the following paragraph, in which he clearly declares the understanding of the early church.

The second cause of the universe next to the Father, the true and only Son of the Father, and the Lord and God and King of all created things, who has received power, and dominion with divinity itself, and power and honour from the Father; Where he introduces the Father and maker as the Ruler of all, commanding with His sovereign nod, but the divine word as next to Him, the very same that is proclaimed to us, as ministering to His Father's commands Of Him, Moses obviously speaks as the second after the Father in trusted with the second rank of sovereignty and rule over all, the captain of the Lords host; (Eusebius; Ecclesiastical History, pages 15-17)

It may surprise many people that the dispute was not over Christ being begotten! Even though many "professed" trinitarians today actually deny this biblical truth. So if the dispute was not over the Son being begotten by GOD, then what was it over?

"Whether the Son of God, therefore, is of the same substance, or only of like substance, with the Father, was the question in dispute. The controversy was carried on in Greek, and as expressed in Greek the whole question turned upon a single letter. The word which expressed Alexander's belief, is Homoousion. The word which expressed the belief of Arius, is Homoiousion." Gibbon Decline and Fall,; chap. v, par. i.

So we begin to see exactly what the Controversy was over: Was Jesus of the same substance as His Father, or of another? Was he begotten from NOTHING, thus a common creature? Or was he truly born from GOD, thus truly Divine. The Arians taught that Christ was begotten from nothing by an act of Creation. Thus a Creature. The Church taught rather that Christ was begotten from the Father, thus truly God.

Here is a statement from Alexander, the Leading man in the Controversy. Alexander declared:"
The Son is immutable and unchangeable, all-sufficient and perfect, like the Father, differing only in this one respect, that the Father is unbegotten. He is the exact image of His Father. Everything is found in the image which exists in its archetype [original]; and it was this that our Lord taught when He said, My Father is greater than I; And accordingly we believe that the Son proceeded from the Father; for He is the reflection of the glory of the Father, and the figure of His substance. But let no one be led from this to the supposition that the Son is unbegotten."

The following is what Arius replied,
"For He was not unbegotten. We are persecuted because we say that the Son had a beginning, but that God was without beginning. This is really the cause of our persecution, and likewise, because we say He is from nothing. And this we say, because He is neither part of God, nor of any subjacent matter.; (Page 333)

Thus we see that both men believed that Jesus was begotten. One understood begotten to be brought forth from the same substance as the Father, the other brought forth from nothing.

Though Arius' group and the Homeans accepted the creed by Eusebius, Alexander rejected it, and sought to add the following statement of one substance; "Homoousion"with the Father'.

The following is the original Nicea creed, which included the phrase from Alexander. (Please note that the modern creed has been greatly altered from the original).
"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages. Light of light, true God of true God. Begotten not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made."

Eusebius Pamphilus of Cęsarea along with several other Church Bishops refused to accept the creed without an adequate explanation for the term "Consubstantial" with the Father.


"But by the expression consubstantial with the Father; nothing else is intended, than that the Son of God has no similitude with created beings, but resembles in all things the Father only, by whom He was begotten, and that He is of no other substance or essence than that of the Father. The proposition being thus explained, we thought that we might justly accede to it" (Taken from a letter written by Eusebius Pamphilus of Cęsarea to the church at Cęsarea in A Historical View of the Council of Nice with a Translation of Documents, pages 44-46 by Isaac Boyle)

Clearly Eusebius would not of adopted the Nice creed if the term consubstantial had meant the same person. Thus he was assured by Constantine that it only meant OF the same substance

"Eusebius of Cęsarea, In his deliberation he consulted the emperor, who so explained the term Homoousion that it could be understood as Homoiousion. He declared that the word, as he understood it, involved no such material unity of the persons of the Godhead as Eusebius feared might be deduced from it."-- Stanley History of the Eastern Church, Lecture iii, par. 34. It was in this sense that, Eusebius adopted the creed.

If we misunderstand the meaning of Consubstantial we may be lead into the error of Modalism which teaches that the Father and Son are twoe modes of one person. But the propper doctrine teaches that the Father and Son are two persons, and both are of the same Godhead [Divine Substance/Essence].

The following are statements Concerning the Father and Son prior to Nicaea

Justin Martyr, quoting from Proverbs 8, refers to Christ in the following statement:
"The Lord [possessed] me the beginning of His ways for His works. He begets me before all the hills. He adds: You perceive, my hearers, if you bestow attention, that the Scripture has declared that this Offspring was begotten by the Father before all things created; and that which is begotten is numerically distinct from that which begets, any one will admit. (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter CXXIX)

Theophilus: He that is uncreated stands in need of nothing. God, then, having His own Word internal with in His bowels, begat Him, emitting Him along with His own wisdom before all things.--Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, II:10 (c.A.D. 181), in ANF, II:97-98

Irenaeus of Lyons wrote: For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, Father Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them; and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Against Heresies 1:10:1, A. D. 189)

Tertullian wrote: We do indeed believe that there is only one God, but we believe that under this dispensation, or, as we say, oikonomia, there is also a Son of this one only God, his Word, who proceeded from him and through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made.(Against Praxeas 2, A. D. 216)

Origen wrote:The specific points which are clearly handed down through the apostolic preaching are these: First, that there is one God who created and arranged all things. Secondly, that Jesus Christ himself, who came, was born of the Father before all creatures; and after he had ministered to the Father in the creation of all things, for through him all things were made.(The Fundamental Doctrines 1:0:4, A.D. 225)

Novatian wrote: God the Father, founder and creator of all things, who alone knows no beginning, who is invisible, immeasurable, immortal, and eternal, is one God. Neither his greatness nor his majesty nor his power can possibly be I should not say exceeded, for they cannot even be equaled. From him; the Word was born, his Son. (Treatise on the Trinity 31, A.D. 235)

Epiphanius of Salamis wrote:
We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of all things, both visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of God the Father, only-begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father; God of God, light of light, true God of true God; begotten, not made; (The Man Well-Anchored 120, A.D. 374)

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