Arians and Sabellians fight for their doctrines at the Council of Nicaea. Questions for Discussion: Lesson 12A- “Chapter 10 “The Church Responds at the Council of Nicaea” from  The Story of Christian Theology by Roger E. Olson

1. Olson observes that 318 bishops of the Great Church traveled to the Council of Nicaea that Constantine convened in 325, but many arrived there not understanding “the importance of the matter at hand”. They soon learned, yet some remained reluctant to condemn the subordinationism of the Arians “in very strong terms”. Why? What caused them to be ambivalent about condemning the Arians?

2. What issues of the Empire were also influencing Constantine as he weighed the Arianism controversy?

3. Olson states that the Arians argued “strongly for use only of biblical wording” when developing a creed at the Council of Nicaea. What was their strategy in making this request? How would strict adherence to biblical wording serve their interests?

4. What does the Greek word “homoousios” mean and why did it become central to the debates at the Council? The word “horrified” the Arians? Can you explain this reaction?

5. As we learned in Lesson 11B, the specter of Sabellianism hovered in the background during the intense debates at Nicaea? What distinguished Sabellianism from the traditonal church teachings about the Father? Why did Sabellianism affect the bishops on both sides of the debate?

6. Olson quotes the historian Justo Gonzalez on the “great ambiguity in the Nicene formula.” From what did this ambiguity arise? What was the ultimate impact of the ambiguity on the establishment of harmonious relations within the Great Church?

7. Another ecumenical council was convened in Constantinople in 381. What was the major accomplishment of this Council?

8. A Sunday School participants asks, “I understand that some churches – I think they are called ‘non-creedal’ or ‘free churches’ – don’t recognize the creeds as authoritative. Why not? Why won’t they acknowledge the authority of these statements?”

See Lesson 12B for Correlated Readings:

Selections From The Ecclesiastical History by Socrates Scholasticus

Bible Verses for Reflection


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