Did Constantine Invent the Divinity of Jesus?
There is not a single shred of historical evidence for such a notion.
BY: Erwin W. Lutzer
Church historians agree that next to the events in the New Testament, the most important event in the history of Christianity is the conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity in AD 312. In brief, here's the story: Constantine's troops were positioned at the Milvian Bridge just outside of Rome, where they were preparing to overthrow the Roman emperor Maxentius. A victory would, in effect, make Constantine the sole ruler of the empire. But the night before the battle Constantine saw a vision that changed his life and the history of the church.
In the words of Eusebius of Caesarea, who was both a historian and a confidant of Constantine, the emperor was praying to a pagan god when "he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross in the light of the heavens, above the sun and an inscription,Conquer By This
attached to it.Then in his sleep the Christ of God appeared to him with the sign which he had seen in the heavens, and commanded him to make an likeness of this sign which he had seen in the heavens, and to use it as a safeguard in all engagements with his enemies.
To make a long story short, Constantine crossed over the bridge and won the battle, fighting under the banner of the Christian cross. Later he issued the Edict of Milan, decreeing that Christians were no longer to be persecuted. And now, although a politician, he took leadership in the doctrinal disputes that were disrupting the unity in his empire.
Let's travel back to Nicaea (modern-day Iznik in Turkey, about 125 miles from modern-day Istanbul) to find out what happened there 1,700 years ago.
Welcome to the Council
Those of us reared in a country where religion is largely private and where diversity is gladly tolerated might find it difficult to believe that in the early fourth century, doctrinal disputes were tearing Constantine's empire apart. It is said that if you bought a load of bread in the marketplace of Constantinople, you might be asked whether you believe that God the Son was begotten or unbegotten and if you asked about the quality of the bread you might be told that the Father is greater and the Son is less.
Adding fuel to these disagreements was a man named Arius, who was gaining a wide following by teaching that Christ was not fully God but a created god of sorts. He believed that Christ was more than a man but less than God. Arius was a great communicator, and because he put his doctrinal ideas into musical jingles, his ideas became widely accepted. Although many church bishops declared him a heretic, the disputes nonetheless continued. Constantine called the first ecumenical council at Nicaea, hoping to suppress dissent and unify Christianity. In fact, the emperor even paid the expenses of the bishops who gathered.
Constantine did not care about the finer points of theology, so practically any creed would have satisfied him-as long as it would unify his subjects. As one historian has said, "Christianity became both a way to God and a way to unite the empire." He gave the opening speech himself, telling the delegates that doctrinal disunity was worse than war.
This intrusion of a politician into the doctrines and procedures of the church was resented by some of the delegates, but welcomed by others. For those who had gone through a period of bitter persecution, this conference, carried on under the imperial banner, was heaven on earth.