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Catholics/When Jesus became God in A.D. 325


"Isn't it true it took hundreds years before Jesus, a son of God, became the one and only God? The meaning of the term son of God evolved as hundreds of years passed by and social changes took place. There were various Christian sects who had very different opinions as to who Jesus was and what he taught. Some Gnostics claimed Jesus never died on the cross. If I remember correctly, some claimed Jesus was not a human being at all. The Early Christian Gnostics believed that salvation lay not in faith in Christ, but in Gnosticism, learning to free themselves from the material world via the revelation. The Ebionites believed in the Messianic character of Jesus, but denied his divinity and supernatural origin. The Ebionites revered James the Just and rejected the teachings of Paul the Apostle. Finally Christian bishops, by popular vote, officially proclaimed Jesus both "human" and "God" at a Church council, A.D. 325. The First Council of Nicaea was a council of Christian bishops convened in Nicaea in Bithynia ( present-day İznik in Turkey) This put an end to the then theological argument that Jesus was of a lower rank and a submissive subordinate to God. See: Arianism.

The Council of Nicaea did NOT put an end to any arguments.  In fact Arianism became worse after the Council of Nicaea.  It took around 100 years for the heresy to subside.  Arianism had infected the Church after the council so much so that Saint Jerome made the remark "The whole world groaned and marveled to find itself Arian."  Here is your first lesson about councils, the authority of the Church and history: Usually whatever it was that necessitated the calling of an ecumenical council gets worse AFTER the council has defined the official position of the Church for a time.  Vatican II by the way was no exception.  Look at the period of craziness and nuttiness that followed the council.  While much of the craziness has began to wane, it has not subsided completely.  

Catholics do not believe that Dogmatic definitions either by the pope or Council put an end to arguments or heresy.  Catholics only claim that Dogmatic definitions take away the justification for the arguments or heresy.  

One need only look to today for an example.  It has been made clear time and again that the Church has no authority to ordain women.  Did that put an end to arguments for women's ordination?  No.  People go right on making the same tired, worn arguments they always have. Some break away and form their own Church (The Women's Ordination Conference for example)  Does the existence of the Women's Ordination Conference disprove the Catholic Church?  Does the existence of the Women's Ordination Conference somehow prove that the Church "made up" her teaching on women's ordination?  No. All it proves is that people will often place their ideology ahead of obedience.  

It is the same thing with the Arian heresy.  The fact that there were break away groups before or after the council in no way disproves the teaching.  It just proves there are dissidents who didn't submit to the authority of the Church. The definition didn't stop the dissidents, it just took away the justification for their dissidence.  

Hence, I wanted to refute the idea that the Council of Nicaea ended all arguments.  It didn't.  It only took away the justification for them.  People being people will do what they want.  You can't force compliance.  This does not disprove the Catholic Church, nor her teaching.  

What about before the council? I am well aware of the Gnostic heresies and the different sects that were around, along with their teachings, having taught Church history for a number of years.  

Catholics believe that Jesus founded a visible Church with visible leaders endowed with his authority in order to protect, guard, teach and hand on the Faith. Catholics also believe that those leaders (the bishops in union with the pope) are the successor of the Apostles.  Catholics believe that the Church is indefectable and thus infallible.  Catholics believe that the leaders themselves must teach and act in union with the other leaders and the pope.  Catholics believe that the Church is the pillar of Truth. When they break this unity, their teaching looses credibility and they also loose their authority, as they are not in union with the pillar of Truth, the Church. Jesus taught that the Spirit will lead you into all Truth.  Hence, the beliefs of the Church and what Christ revealed will become more clear as time progresses, not less clear.  

Just because Revelation has ceased with the death of the last Apostle does not entail the Church comprehends all of the implications of what Christ has revealed at once, or even comprehends the meanings of the truths all at once or perfectly.  That is why it is necessary for the Holy Spirit to lead us into all Truth, why the same Spirit guides and protects the leaders, and why the same Spirit brings to mind what Christ has taught in every generation. The Church in every generation guided by the Holy Spirit, manifest in the universal teaching of the bishops in union with the pope more deeply penetrates the mysteries of Salvation. This often leads to Dogmatic definitions, when the time is ripe for such definitions.  Most times what propels the necessity of a definition is a controversy that affects the unity of the Church.  

What is ironic is that the accusation you make---namely that the Church invented the doctrine of the Divinity of Christ at Nicaea is the same accusation the Protestants make against Catholics regarding other teachings defined at council or by pope.  Protestants accuse us of having "invented" the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception because it was defined in 1854.  (They make accusations about other doctrines as well--Papal Infallibility, etc) The same Protestants seem to have no problem with the fact that the complete, full, absolute and perfect Divinity of Christ was not formally defined until 325.  If we take their criticisms to their logical conclusion, they prove too much: namely that not only did the Church invent the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception, but the Church invented the doctrine of Christ's divinity at Nicaea.  

It is my belief that one can only make such accusations if one does not believe that Jesus founded a visible Church, with visible leaders, endowed it with his authority, breathed his Spirit into the Church, etc.  

I reject the notion that the Church invented anything at Nicaea. I believe that the Church defined what she had believed from day one, namely: that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. I believe this definition was necessary precisely because of the competing Christian sects, whose existence and teachings were affecting the unity of Faith.

How do we recognize the one true Church from the competing sects?  In general we look to the four marks: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.  There is, however, I believe a fifth mark: suffering.  Christ told his followers that they will be hated and persecuted just as Christ was hated and persecuted.  The true Church of Christ, therefore embodies this in her life in every generation in some way.

In the writings of the early Fathers, you see from day one they are refuting the Gnostic claims. They contrast Catholic Tradition with Gnostic Tradition by claiming Catholic Tradition is public, unlike the Gnostic tradition which is not.  Many of these sects also caused the fathers to begin formulating a theology of the episcopacy and emphasizing the bishops as the bulwark against untruth and heresy---everything Catholics continue to believe today.  

If one accepts the premises upon which Catholicism is founded, namely, that Christ founded a visible Church, endowed this Church with his authority which is manifest in the bishops in union with the pope, I fail to see how one can possibly believe that the doctrine of the divinity of Christ was invented at Nicaea. Furthermore, I fail to see how anyone could possibly think that the competing Christian sects at the time like the Gnostic sects could in any way possibly be a possible competitor with the Church in terms of legitimacy.  


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Father Dave Bechtel


I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.


I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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