Constantine called the 325 ad council at Nicaea (now in Turkey) when the Arians (now considered heretics, then, just another denomination of Christianity) and the Nicenes (who eventually won the debate-cum
-war, now counted as orthodox–"history is written by the winners") appealed to the emperor for a final determination as to which would be the "acceptable" version of what had already become the apostate Church of Jesus Christ. No one denies, at least not I, that all the participants were sincere in their beliefs, and that each side was genuinely concerned for the other's welfare. (This concern had already resulted in horrific atrocities on both sides: the burning of buildings, resort to arms, massacres of women and children. Each felt so strongly that his interpretation of the scriptures — not the Bible as we know it, since it had not yet been compiled — was correct, that killing dissenters was preferable to letting the "false doctrines" they espoused promulgate.)
In his well researched and heavily footnoted book, Constantine and the Bishops
: The Politics of Intolerance
, H.A. Drake (Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara), Chapter Seven, "Consensus Politics" (p. 256~7), tells us:
From the letter [Constantine] wrote to the principals [the bishops he convoked to the council under the implied, and eventually realized, threat of imperial power] only months earlier, it is safe to say that the theological implications, one way or the other, would not have bothered him. But the whole purpose of the council, to his mind, was unity, and homoousios was chosen specifically to drive a wedge into the assembly.
Two considerations bring the dynamics of the debate into focus. First, it is necessary to discard the assumption of a clear divide between orthodox and Arian position, such as came to be perceived in retrospect, when positions had hardened and a more sophisticated theological vocabulary developed. At the time, not only were there compelling arguments on both sides, but also the technical language did not exist to bring into sharp relief the cause of the division. Both sides, for instance, were accused of "Judaizing"—in fourth-century Christian vocabulary the equivalent of seeking regnum in the Roman republic or being a Communist or Fascist in twentieth-century American politics. The Arians were like the Jews because they minimized the divinity of Christ, the Nicenes because they emphasized the Oneness of the Divine Being. The reaction of any Jewish listeners can only be imagined, but a century later, Christians looking back on the charges and countercharges leveled during this likened the two sides to armies groping their way in the dark, neither side exactly clear what it was fighting about.1 The majority of bishops at the council, it is generally conceded, were as confused by the theological intricacies of the question as a modern layperson is likely to be, and they were ready to support anything that was not patently heretical. Eusebius ... described the reaction of the bishops to the emperor's summons: "As soon then as the imperial injunction was generally made known, all with the utmost willingness hastened thither, as though they would outstrip one another in a race; for they were impelled by the anticipation of a happy result to the conference, by the hope of enjoying present peace, and the desire of beholding something new and strange in the person of so admirable an emperor."
Note  Socrates Scholasticus, Historia Ecclesiastica 1.23
... Constantine's motive is a bit harder to tease forth, only because it must be deduced from the scanty evidence that survives. His preparations for the council, and the outcome he desired, involved concessions to both sides. The outline of his concessions to "the party of Eusebius" is fairly clear: he gave them the choice of venue and undertook to restrain the more virulent voices of the opposition. What had he given to bring the "the party of Alexander" to the table? Only one conclusion accords with the outcome. At the end of the day, they would have a creed that clearly branded Arius a heretic. Like all catchwords, homoousios was defensible only in the entire context of debate and study that led to its choice. But it had the one advantage of being a word that exposed and isolated Arius. When all the arguing and cajoling was [sic] done, only two bishops, both of them among Arius's original supporters, refused to sign. By imperial decree, they were sent into exile, along with Arius (who, as a presbyter, did not participate in his own condemnation) and a miscellaneous group of priests and students loyal to his cause.
Notice the recurring theme of imperial coercion, of a predetermined, political outcome. Notice, too, how, by their notorious absence
, inspiration and divine guidance
are screaming for our attention because the participants in 325 paid them no heed whatsoever. In all Eusebius's account (nor any other, for that matter) there is no mention of such guidance
, and none at all that gives any indication that the council had any Celestial authority to dictate a creed, none to consign Arius to exile, none to define God. Yet all creedal Christianity (from the eastern, Coptic, English, and Roman Catholics to the Holy Assembly of the Sacred Name and other Pentecostals, including all, or nearly so, Protestant sects) accepts this travesty of a council
as binding as to the nature of God, the relationship between the Father and the Son, and theirs with the Holy Ghost.
Finally, notice that "Christian theology
" was non-existent in the IV, and that, even at that late date, the Gospel of Jesus Christ (however much altered by the traditions and philosophy of the Greek intellectual world it inhabited*) had not needed scholars and a "technical vocabulary" to interpret or understand it. This confusion and complexity came later as men added to, modified, and deleted the simple, plain words of scripture and denied contemporary revelation.
* See also Augustine of Hippo, A Biography by Peter Brown, Rollins Professor of History at Princeton University, for supporting data.
The Council of Nicaea (and all of the others before and since) is simply antithetical to the plain and biblical method God had used for 4,000 years when He had something to tell His children, or when they had strayed and needed setting right: In every case prior to this, He had called a prophet, sometimes more than one. There was never a case of a "council" of this sort, called by the political ruler to regulate (not "correct", just "normalize") His kingdom.
Let's recall that, in the ancient world, all political power and all ecclesiastical power were combined in one person: the god-king. To a certain extent, we have the same structure today: our Head is Christ Whom we recognize as "King of kings" and "Lord of lords" on the one hand, and as "Savior", "High Priest", and "God" on the other. Indeed, we frequently say, "O, Lord, my God" referring to Him. The tradition goes back at least as far as Shem/Melchizedek in the Salem of Abraham's day: he was the "Prince of Peace" and the "King of Righteousness", as well as the High Priest to whom Abraham paid his tithes. It goes back further in recorded time, too, since Pharaoh was a god, and so were most other kings. But I use Shem/Melchizedek to make the point that its origin is divine, however distorted it became over time.
Constantine saw himself as a sort of re-incarnation of Christ
. Drake plucks this string on his harp in dozens of places. Eusebius, while never actually saying so, paints the emperor as both a regal and a celestial personage
. Paintings and mosaics from the period show him with halo-like radiances emanating from his head. Constantine's world was one where political power was almost always cloaked in religious garb, and he used this tradition to its fullest extent to cement his own secular hold on the fracturing empire of decadent Rome.
People who claim the Bible is their only source of theology sadly neglect the fact that no scripture really says what it says: all scripture must be interpreted to have any meaning at all. And the filter or bias through which creedal Christianity reads scripture is that of Constantine's coerced council 1687 years ago.
The public school system: "Usually a twelve year sentence of mind control. Crushing creativity, smashing individualism, encouraging collectivism and compromise, destroying the exercise of intellectual inquiry, twisting it instead into meek subservience to authority".
— Walter Karp