What do I think of Paul Pavao’s self-published book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
The Council of Nicea and Constantine. These are two subjects where we have a lot of heat and very little light. Look at a work such as The Da Vinci Code and you’ll find nonsense on there such as that the deity of Christ was decided at Nicea by a very close vote. One lady online told me that she abandoned Christianity when she found out the canon was decided at the Council and proceeded to send me a link that said that that was actually a great myth about the Council.
Paul Pavao has a book to help deal with this. A good benefit of his book is at the start, he’s not just trying to tell the facts about Nicea. He wants you to know how the facts are known. As he says:
You don’t have to wonder about what is being said in this book. You can look up every reference I give. There are not any other primary sources. Everything else said about the Council of Nicea that is not from these sources is speculation or wishful thinking.
He does just this. The book is heavily filled with endnotes. He does look at the debate at Nicea and points out it could be more accurately said that it was about what the Son of God was made of, what is His substance. Much was agreed on at the Council, but what was disagreed on was sure substantial.
This book also includes looking at several references in the church fathers to see what they had to say about the deity of Christ before Nicea. It’s easy to see that there were no innovations at the meeting. The appendices are filled with several historical documents as well.
As it goes into church history, there are looks at other questions as well. One such question I liked is the one on the Sabbath, though I wish there had been more on this. The SDA church lists several claims about the RCC supposedly admitting that they changed the date of the Sabbath. Perhaps that was out of the scope of the book though.
There is rather substantial pushback to RCC claims about the Pope. It would be interesting to see some members of the RCC respond to this. I as a Protestant agree with the claims and am skeptical of many of the claims my Catholic and Orthodox friends make about church history.
I also like the response to the idea that Constantine tried to destroy all the Gnostic writings. As Pavao says:
If Constantine was unable to succeed in extinguishing the memory and writings of Arius, just one man, do we really believe that he destroyed all the gnostic writings and there’s no record of his even trying?
What about the canon? Yep. Nothing to do with Nicea. There is an appendix with the canon lists from church history in the back. I do have some pushback here as I don’t think the Muratorian Canon really dates to the time it’s said to date to and is really a forgery.
Pavao also stresses that it’s a shame that Christians got so violent over the question of Nicea. We spent years working on our doctrine, which we should, but we didn’t spend so much time looking at our practice. Sadly, today we are still in the same boat. While we weren’t killing each other, remember the problems from the Inerrancy wars in the past decade? I am not opposed to Christian debate as we should have that, but too often we are ready to shoot our own instead of going after our own common enemies.
That is another great benefit of the book. The work is not only meant to help clear up myths about Nicea, which it does a great job of, but it also is meant to tell us how we should better live as Christians. Not enough study has been done on this topic and definitely not enough practice. What does it matter if we reached the orthodox position at Nicea if we go out instead and live like heathens?
The book is long, but it is worth it. It is also readily readable for the layman. Anyone can pick up this book and understand it. I encourage Christians and skeptics to do so. There are too many myths believed about Nicea.
(And I affirm the virgin birth.)
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