The Arian controversy, theoretically resolved at the Council of Nicaea in 325, was a crossroads in the development of Christianity. There is virtually nothing else that all Churches, east and west, cite as the absolutely non-negotiable litmus test of Christian orthodoxy than the acceptance of that first ecumenical Council held under Imperial auspices early in the fourth century. What is most remarkable about the irrevocability with which the Council’s declarations have been embraced is that they represented an unprecedented innovation in Christian doctrine.
The Council condemned the teachings of Arius of Alexandria who said that Christ was “God” only in a derived sense; like everything that exists, he was a creature. The Council declared, to the contrary, that Christ was not only divine but that his divinity was “the same as that of the Father.” That had never been explicitly stated by any Christian theologian prior to the Council without being condemned, and, it may be presumed, had never before been the officially sanctioned object of universal belief.
The canons of Nicaea represent the clearest and possibly most important example of a change that is rationalized in orthodox terms as “the development of doctrine.” Richard Hanson in The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, says the story of Nicaea
… is not a story of embattled and persecuted orthodoxy maintaining a long and finally successful struggle against insidious heresy. It should be perfectly clear that at the outset nobody had a single clear answer to the question raised, an answer that had always been known in the church and always recognized as true, one which was consistently maintained by one party throughout the whole controversy. Orthodoxy on the subject of the Christian doctrine of God did not exist at first. The story is the story of how orthodoxy was reached, found, not of how it was maintained.
There is no doubt that the pro-Nicene theologians throughout the controversy were engaged in a process of developing doctrine and consequently introducing what must be called a change in doctrine.
Arius and Nicaea deals with the Arian dispute of the fourth century which occasioned the Council of Nicaea and the dogmatic declaration that Jesus was “God” of the same nature as the Father.
The book is a combination of historical and philosophical reprise designed to reconstruct the mindset and intentions of the actors in this ancient drama that settled Christianity’s core identity and decided the destiny of Eurasia for the next two millennia. We, in our day, are its direct inheritors. The analysis in the book uses this understanding heuristically: as a guide for our own deliberations about the present and future of “religion.”
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I hope you can find the time to read it. It will be well worth your while … you won’t encounter this perspective anywhere else.
 Richard Rubinstein, When Jesus Became God, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. NY, 1999, p. 80. “Homoousios [the word that defined the divine “sameness” at Nicaea] … had been associated with the heresy of Sabellius: the idea that Jesus Christ was an aspect or activity of God lacking any real existence of his own.”
 RPC Hanson The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318-381, T&T Clark, Edinburgh, 1988 p.870
(Cover photo: “PANTOCRATOR,” mosaico nel Duomo di Monreale, Provincia di Palermo, Sicilia, AD 1180.)