Book Plunge: Decoding Nicea

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 The appendices are filled with several historical documents as well.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.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth.)
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Deeper Waters Podcast 8/10/2019

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Due to technical difficulties last time we recorded, this post is a repost of a prior post as we rescheduled our guest.

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christianity has had a rich tradition for 2,000 years. That tradition has included several great thinkers as well. Contrary to what many people think, it’s not the case that church history began with your pastor.

It’s also not the case that church history began with the Reformation. It did not happen that the apostles died and then the gospel was lost and then the Reformers restored it. This is not to say the Reformers didn’t do a great work that I think was important and needed, but it is to say that Christianity did not cease to exist.

Another great tragedy is that if you tell people there have been great Christian thinkers throughout history, they will likely think that such is antithetical to Christianity. You can see that and think “Well, yes Nick, there are plenty of atheists out there who think Christianity and sound thinking don’t go together at all.” Unfortunately, I’m talking about Christians as well. There are too many Christians who are anti-intellectual in their approach.

We ignore this great intellectual heritage we have to our own downfall. Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. We should be seeking to learn from these people who went before us. Many of the battles that they fought are being fought today and we can learn from how they won those battles so we can be better prepared today.

Not only that, many of their spiritual struggles can be ours today. Could you find something you can relate to in Augustine’s Confessions? Would you be like Martin Luther and struggle with the idea that God is always ready to punish you? Can you be a person with a fervent imagination like C.S. Lewis?

To discuss these great thinkers and others, I am bringing on someone who recently wrote the book Classic Christian Thinkers. This is someone who is a thinker himself being a philosopher. He is also a Christian who will be guiding us on how we are to look at this issue? His name is Ken Samples from Reasons To Believe.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Philosopher and theologian Kenneth Richard Samples has a great passion to help people understand the reasonableness and relevance of Christianity’s truth claims. He is the senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe and the author of several books, including Christian Endgame7 Truths That Changed the World, and God Among Sages

Dr. Samples and I will be discussing nine great Christian thinkers in history. These are people generally recognized across the board. We will be seeing what we can learn from them and why we should really care about these old dead guys so some would see them today. What difference do they still make in our culture today?

Please be watching for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Also, please consider becoming a partner with us in this work by making a donation to Deeper Waters and also leaving a positive review of our podcast on iTunes. It means so much to us!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Classic Christian Thinkers

What do I think of Ken Samples’s book published by RTB Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For some people, to think of a Christian thinker sounds like a contradiction in terms. Sadly, some of those people are also Christians. After all, aren’t Christians supposed to be people of faith? This assumes that faith is something anti-intellectual when it isn’t. Our Christianity has a rich heritage of great thinkers and we should embrace them.

It would be too much to list all the great Christian thinkers, but in this book, Ken Samples has chosen to give nine. Each chapter covers one thinker and is a brief portrait of their life and how they contributed to apologetics and philosophy. He also lists the best books to read by these thinkers and works to go to to understand their life and impact all the more.

He also goes across traditions for this. There are people in this list that Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox are likely to admire. Perhaps not all of them, but anyone from any of these traditions will find someone they can support. So who are the people he covers?

He starts with Irenaeus and then Athanasius. Next in line are the big free of Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas. A lot of people in Catholic and Orthodox circles might not be happy with Martin Luther and John Calvin next, but each were great thinkers who have shaped the Christian world. After those is Blaise Pascal and then to top it all of is a great mind who has found support from all three branches and that is C.S. Lewis.

Samples’s book is also easy to read and understand. The reader will walk away with a greater appreciation of who the person is. Also, any reader can just read each chapter on its own if you want to get a brief overview of a certain figure in church history.

The book is also good for group discussions. This is a book that small groups could get together and read about the life of one thinker and then discuss the impact of that thinker with the discussion questions. I am sure Samples would love to see this happen and I know that I definitely would.

The book is also really trying to be more ecumenical than one might think. Martin Luther will not be the favorite of Catholics and Protestants, but Samples does not go after Catholics or Orthodox in the chapter. He also gives us the interesting idea that it could be that more works have been written about Martin Luther than about any other figure in history apart from Jesus Christ.

The real goal of the success of this book will be seen in one way. That will be in how many people go to these great writers themselves and at least read some of their works. Samples would be disappointed to know readers used his book to learn about the thinkers without going to the thinkers himself. As Lewis said, “Read Plato. Not books about Plato.”

I encourage anyone interesting in Christian thinking to read this book. Those interested in church history should read it as well. Remember to use it as a stepping stone though to get to the other books that Samples would say are far more important.

In Christ,
Nick Peters