Responses to Jamal Badawi's "Radio Al-Islam Channel RA 200"

Deification of Jesus : Its Evolution VI - The Council of Nicaea


In this segment, Dr. Badawi will attempt to discredit the Council of Nicea based on a conspiracy theory surrounding the Emperor Constantine. Many of his statements are either historically false or based purely on conjecture and personal opinion.

Host: Who was invited to the Council of Nicea?

Jamal Badawi: The number of people has been debated, Encyclopedia Britannica says that 220 Bishops, others say 318. The most important people there included Arius who believed in absolute monotheism and Athanasius who came as the representative of Alexander, the Bishop of Alexandria. The advisors to the Emperor where two important people, one was Eusebius of Caesarea and Hosius from Cordoba. The stage was is an oblong hall in the imperial palace with a big pile of Gospels in the middle, the smallest estimate was 270 different Gospels. Everyone say around the tables with their eyes on the head of table where the seat of the Emperor was, the Emperor entered with great fanfare, surrounded by advisors. The representative of the Pauline Church began to prove the existence of the Trinity, he gave no conclusive evidence from the Bible. Even the weak evidence could support the divinity of the Father and son but could offer no evidence for the Holy Spirit. The monotheists argued with the Trinitarians and were able to force the Paulines to shift from impossible position to another without any good explanations.

As usual, Dr. Badawi interprets history to fit his agenda. Let's look at the issues which he raises.

1. Arius did not believe in "absolute monotheism" in the sense that Badawi uses the term. Arius believed that Jesus was the Son of God but denied that He was of the same substance as God. In other words, Jesus was created by God the Father to be an instrument in the creation of the world. According to Arius, Jesus is neither fully divine nor fully human. It is important to remember that Arius believed that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected on the third day. Clearly, Dr. Badawi's appeal to the views of Arius do not support the teachings of Islam.

2. The Council of Nicea was not called to debate the Trinity, in fact no such controversy even existed at that time. During this first age of the Christian Church, the main topic that was debated by orthodox Christians and various heretics, was the issue of the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ. These debates did not extend beyond the consideration of the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus. The formulation of the Trinity was a explanation of the nature of God that was derived completely from the Bible.

3. What reference do you have that supports the statement the there were "270 different Gospels" at Nicea? Christians agreed on the Gospels long before the Council of Nicea. There were some discussions concerning Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, the letters by Jude and James, and the Revelation at the Nicean Council however all the other books were unanimously accepted by the Church long before the Council.

Host: Do you have any examples of the debates that went on?

Jamal Badawi: Historians mention some arguments. The Trinitarians said that the Son was of God, Arius said that in the Bible all things are of God, so how can Jesus be divine when all things are from God? The Trinitarians said that Jesus was from God and was of the essence of God. But again the monotheists said that this was their own word and does not appear in the Bible. Trinitarians said that the Bible says that Christ is the eternal image of the Father, the monotheists said that the Bible says that all men are the image of God. The discussions spread. The mother of Constantine supported the Paulines while his sister supported the monotheists and Arius, believing that he taught what Jesus taught. She hated the politics. The Emperor did not show his tendencies to indicate that he was objective. When it became clear, Constantine noted that everyone was trying to please him because he did not persecute the Christians and might start to do so if he became disenchanted. Eusebius, even though he supported Arius, he told him and the supporters of Arius said that there could be some harm to the Christians, so Arius decided to disassociate themselves and adopted a passive role.

There was some debate among Fathers of the Council at Nicea concerning the using only scriptural expressions in their definitions. After a series of attempts it was found that something clearer and more unequivocal must be adopted if real unity of faith was to be attained; and the word homousios was adopted. The Council intended this expression to be defined as Athanasius described:

"That the Son is not only like to the Father, but that, as his image, he is the same as the Father; that he is of the Father; and that the resemblance of the Son to the Father, and his immutability, are different from ours: for in us they are something acquired, and arise from our fulfilling the divine commands."

Dr. Badawi might to interested to know that the word homousios existed before the Council of Nicea. In fact, this word is used four times by Irenaeus (who Dr. Badawi implied was anti-Trinitarian in an earlier segment). Even more interesting if the fact that Pamphilus the Martyr is quoted as asserting that Origen (another alleged Unitarian according to Dr. Badawi) used the very word in the Nicene sense! Tertullian also uses the expression "of one substance" (unius substanticoe) in two places, and it would seem that more than half a century before the meeting of the Council of Nicea, it was a common one among the Orthodox. Vasquez treats this matter at some length in his Disputations, and points out how well the distinction is drawn by Epiphanius between Synousios and Homousios, "for synousios signifies such an unity of substance as allows of no distinction: wherefore the Sabellians (who Dr. Badawi mentioned in an earlier segment as Unitarians) would admit this word: but on the contrary homousios signifies the same nature and substance but with a distinction between persons one from the other.

Host: Does this mean that the Trinity was finally and officially endorsed?

Jamal Badawi: It was accepted as the official dogma and was expressed in neo-Platonic terms to the point where many who were present did not understand the terminology and many who signed the document did not know what they were signing and did not know the magnitude of change and many signed under duress. The volume by Toland talks about this. Many did not agree with the Trinity but wanted to satisfy the Emperor. The Council of Nicea failed to achieve its objective of unity of Christians. Everyone wanted to satisfy the Pagan Emperor on top of Christianity in an attempt to define orthodox Christianity. A Pagan presided, some believe that the things that emerge were surprising whether they were monotheists or Trinitarians, directly condemned Arius because of Athanasius' opposition to Arius. What happened was not unity but imposition, as if the belief in God must be subjected to democratic voting. Even though there is absence of any proceedings of the meeting, as early as the 4th century, they couldn't find the proceedings and many say that the will of the Emperor was decisive.

Dr. Badawi loves to read things into history which are simply not recorded. Who was forced to sign under duress? Also, with the exception of a few small heretical groups, the Council of Nicea did unite Christians. In fact, millions of Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants recite the Nicean creed every Sunday!

Host: What have historians said about the role of Constantine?

Jamal Badawi: Many things have been said. I will refer to Encyclopedia Britannica said that Constantine "took an active part in the discussions", he did not just watch, "it seems to have been his personal influence which caused the Council to accept almost unanimously the Creed supported by his advisors, and containing the word homoousinos which means one in substance with the Father. No one knows if Constantine understood what was at stake. "Many eastern Bishops did not want to accept the word and their acceptance was not due to theological conviction". Some historians believe that it was the support of Constantine. The Bishops of small minority did not despair if they could get the Emperors support. It is possible that the Trinitarians were closer to Constantine because he was a Greek Pagan who believed that Gods became man. It is possible that the Trinity argument appealed to Constantine more than monotheism.

More conjecture! Incidentally Dr. Badawi, I see no evidence that Constantine attempted to impose any Pagan ideas or compromises on the Church. You might want to compare this with Muhammad's near compromise with Paganism in the incident of the Satanic verses.

Host: How about the choice of Gospels in the Council, was any procedure followed?

Jamal Badawi: One of the things that Constantine wanted to impress is that he was not attempting to force the Council, which he was. In his own heart he probably knew that many of the Bishops who signed did so under duress and mental reservations, so he wanted something different that might give it authority, there must be a miracle to support the decision. As we said earlier, there were 270 Gospels in the middle of the room, how could he give an authority of a creed that had no authority in the Gospels. Many of these Gospels may have spoken about Jesus as a man. Some scholars say that the existence of these Gospels may be an embarrassment so they were put under the table and the room was locked and the Bishops were told to pray that the true Gospels would come out and the next morning the four Gospels were there on the top of the table. There was no record who was keeping the key but they were the ones favored by Athanasius because they supported the Trinity especially John. The rest were burned, there may be copies that are very different, all other opposing gospels were burned.

This is, without a doubt, Dr. Badawi's most bizarre statement! The Gospel canon was neither disputed nor was it decided at Nicea - it was only officially confirmed. This canon had accepted for at least 150 years before Nicea. The Council at Nicea did not make any "new" decisions in about what was to go into the Bible. They did not have a big pile of gospels from which they then selected the current four. No other gospel has ever had any acceptance in the Church. The only [minor] debates concerned only Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, the letters by Jude and James, and the Revelation. Even many of the men that Dr. Badawi incorrectly claimed were Unitarians wrote commentaries on the four Gospels long before Nicea, including Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and Origen.

There are also records from the Council of Nicea which can be found on-line.

Host: Why is that?

Jamal Badawi: After Nicea, it was a capital offense to possess one. Some historians say that 1 million Christians were killed after Nicea. This is how orthodoxy was decided. Even after the Council, the battle still went on with those who supported Arius. Even some of the followers of Athanasius were in doubt. It was not enough to accept the Trinity, the Church must be obeyed. Anyone who refused to sign were exiled by Constantine.

As a Christian, I do not support behavior which goes against the teachings of Jesus. It is immoral to kill anyone for their beliefs. It is also immoral to turn a blind eye and deaf ear when others are being persecuted for their beliefs, such as the . Would you agree with that Dr. Badawi?

Andrew Vargo

Responses to Jamal Badawi's "Radio Al-Islam Channel RA 200"
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