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Thomas Buchan on Nicea

Peter Leithart has a summary of Thomas Buchan’s recent conference presentation on the Council of Nicea and the Nicene Creed. In it, Fr. Buchan makes many sound historical points which support our own reading of the early church and the Council of Nicea. Dr. Leithart summarizes:

For starters, he pointed out that the Nicene Creed was not the only creed in circulation. There were many pre-Nicene baptismal creeds, and the effect of Nicea was not to eliminate but to regulate these. The Nicene Creed, further, was not originally intended as a confession for the whole people – not a liturgical creed – but instead a creed for bishops. It was first used as a liturgical creed by the Miaphysites as a protest against Chalcedon; pro-Chalcedon churches began using the creed liturgically as a reaction to the Miaphysite use. It wasn’t until near the end of the sixth century that the Nicene Creed was used liturgically in the West, first in Spain.

Buchan added that, contrary to popular accounts, the term homoousios didn’t immediately win the field, even among pro-Nicene theologians.

In fact, virtually no one particularly liked the term homoousios. During the 330s and 40s, Athanasius devoted his energy to exegetical refutations of the Arians, and rarely used homoousios. It comes to the fore in Athanasius’ work only in the 350s, against the virulent neo-Arianism of Asterius.

This sort of real history is refreshing. We will be looking for the published versions of the papers, as we are sure they will find their way into a book of some sort.

By Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the associate pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Institute.